If Lies Were Cats…

‎”You will never get the crowd to cry Hosanna until you ride into town on an ass.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Anyone who has ever dealt with the public, on any level, will appreciate this post. Why? Because when you are in the public eye, you’re toast if you don’t watch what you say and do. But, this is a catch 22 because on that same token, what good is exposure and popularity if it’s based on a falsehood?

What good is it to have fans (can I use that word? I don’t think I can, let’s say ‘readers’ instead) if they don’t like you for you? I sound like an afterschool special now and it makes me wanna yack, but really…what good is it? For example, what purpose is there in toning down the prologue in Son of Ereubus, when a large portion of the book has violence and mayhem? It would be nothing but false promises.

 As an author, our public appearance, IS linked to our writing, just like a prologue’s tone is linked to the rest of the book. What do we want to portray? What do we want to promise? 

But how seriously do we take this? How seriously SHOULD we take this? I’ve often joked about being a publicist’s worst nightmare since 99% of the stuff that comes out of my mouth is filter free. So, do I button that mouth and mind my manners for the good of my career? I’ve been told to. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve set several of my posts to private soon after publishing them. This is why. I haven’t changed my mind on any of my previously stated opinions.

Now, before you go thinking that I give a damn what other people think (I don’t, just for the record), you should know that I am only debating this issue because my actions affect those who have invested time and money into my career (my publisher, for example) and I want to be fair to them. Past that…anyone else who gets offended by what I say can take comfort in the fact that I have two cheeks (nothing better than variety) they can choose between when they kiss my ass.

Part of the problem with deciding whether to keep soap on hand or not (to clean your mouth and your public appearance) is that you’ll hear such drastic differences in opinion on this. Some people will tell you, “To hell with the world, be yourself!” Others will say, “Your career and therefore your livelihood depends on how others see you. If you want to succeed, you have to play the game.” It all makes me wonder what people really think—who they really are—because at the very least, a fraction of society, MUST be pretending.

I’m currently undecided on what to do from here. Do I continue with the fire and sarcasm? Do I curb the enthusiasm and start being politically correct? I shared a meaningless joke on facebook and apparently shocked more than a few folks (really guys?) hence the reason for this blog post (that and my sweet & talented author friend Michelle Davidson Argyle wrote a post on a similar issue here that got me thinking).

 It’s funny to me that a good majority of people will respect and appreciate brazen sarcasm until it flows in their direction. You either like my sharp wit, or you don’t. I’m an equal opportunity offender: I don’t care who you are, or why you think you’re special. I’ve certainly had my rear-end handed to me on numerous occassions. Consider it a character-building experience.

This is a subject that will affect all of you writerly folk at some point, so even if you’re not published yet, you’d better start thinking about it now. I’ve been told that it can affect how agents and publishers see you when they are deciding whether or not to sign your work. Clearly it didn’t affect me all that much because I believe my publisher read through some rather snarky blog posts here at The Asylum, before signing me—though, I don’t know this for sure, you’d have to ask them.

Why is there a zombie picture to the right of this little rant? Well, what qualifies a zombie as a zombie?

No pulse
No brain
No sense of humor
No sense of taste (braaaaiiinnnss)
A tendency to eat other people for dinner
A tendency to repeat things
A tendency to mindlessly wander after people with brains 
A cold heart
Cold-blooded (OK, it’s more like jello…but you get the point)
Damn near impossible to discourage from attacking

Soooo…do I need to explain?

I think Scissor Sisters said it best, “It’s a bitch convincing people to like you. If I stop now you’ll call me a quitter. If lies were cats you’d be a litter.”

18 responses

  1. As long as I’ve been laughing and nodding in agreement with your blog, it’s silly that this is the first post I’ve ever replied to. (Actually, I’m supposed to be elaborating on some complicating concepts in my novel and searching for the more subtle plot mistakes that may become plot holes later on, but I’m nodding my head and laughing at your post instead. 😀 )

    But I know what you mean! At least, what you’re saying are my fears exactly. In the first draft of Savior of the Damned, I was afraid to make people curse and act on their lust, but I realized how implausible this was. My main character was once a drug addict prostitute. My secondary male main character is the leader of a spreading gang. The majority of my other major characters are pretty damn psychotic. So why in the world WOULDN’T they curse and murder and act on their lust? I was so afraid of offending others that I messed up loads of characterization. Now, I’m still kinda afraid. I always censor myself with the more explicit terms that I know a character would say. But I’m also setting loose too.

    However, I’m not published (yet). So I still don’t know how I will take people’s reactions. My stories are pretty dark themed, and it was dark themed when I wrote it as a thirteen year old.

    I have a question: How does your family react to it?

  2. Want my oppinion? You have to be able to play the game… does that mean being false to yourself? Absolutely not. I full heartedly believe in being true to myself… I will not tell you I like something when I don’t. I will not swallow the pill if I don’t want to, and if I feel strongly enough on a matter, you can damn well expect me to stick my nose into it and offer up an oppion. It’s my right as a person, and I don’t quite care what others think about it. I don’t ask people to agree with me, in fact, I encourage people to disagree and offer their own feelings on the matter… but I expect them to do it with respect. Just as I would for them. But… I also must take other people’s feelings into account. If there’s a subject up for comment, and everyone and their brother is agreeing on the matter in the forum/post/or comment section, and I feel my comment may be offensive, I’ll walk away and not post it… no matter how much I want to. It comes down to knowing when to bite your tongue and when you have the ability to be snarky… as you say above… you have other people to think about now. You don’t want to invite en masse all the haters to you, just because they know they can rile you up, and they do so every day. You don’t want to be the bitch in the back row everyone avoids… but you still want to be someone who can be respected for being you, and being true. Its a fine line to walk… but you’re allowed to go off balance at times. Just make sure you bring it back in occassionally.

  3. Tiffany, lol, I’ve had the strangest experience with family…people who I NEVER would have expected to read the book, let alone like it enough to get into the nitty gritty plot aspects of why they liked it, have come seemingly from the woodwork. My 82 year old grandmother, for example. ??? Then there is my aunt-in-law who is probably the sweetest, most kindhearted, gentle person I know—she read it and loved it and it felt like Martha Stewart had read Stephen King. So, despite all the of gore and controversial stuff…it went over just fine. NOT what I expected. At ALL…

    But…my dad combed through this blog and noted that I should take out all of the curse words (um…I learned to cuss from my dad). So, it just depends. He’s never read the book, he’s more concerned with public opinion because of his job (a VP for panasonic). He constantly tells me to watch what I say, where I say it. I think he’s speaking from experience there.

    I’m glad you finally commented! I LOVE comments and I’m not very good at fostering conversations, so I appreciate you speaking up 🙂

    Don’t worry about how people will react to that stuff. If your characters need to say and do certain things, throw caution to the wind. That’s what edits are for. You can ALWAYS go back and tone things down. It’s tougher to spice them up. You know?

  4. Thanks for the reply! Your dad reminds me of my dad, in that one day he looked at me with fatherly concern and said, “You’re such a kind girl. Why do you surround yourself with all these horrible stories about creatures and psychos?” And I laughed because he was the one that introduced me to Stephen King when I was, like, 6. I talked about it on my blog too, but I guess I’m just afraid because there are so many religious people in my family. Now, my story doesn’t attack religion, but it definitely touches on Christianity for the sake of my creatures. I mean, there are angels and demons involved.

    Also, also, did the book get sent? Idk if the mail people are being sucky, but I haven’t gotten your book or that book I won from BDCWB.

  5. I haven’t sent it yet. I owe SOOO many people books. I NEED to take the time to go to the post office in the next couple days. Since I work at home and hubs is a cop, my hours tend to be weird.

    Yeah, there are more than a few religious folks in my family too. That is something to consider. Luckily, I’ve already offended most of the ones who would give me a hard time, so…not much to worry about there. Plus, SOE could technically qualify as christian fiction. I *am* Catholic after all.

  6. My dear!
    “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” Oscar Wilde and look what happened to him!

    An artist’s primary tools are emotions. They must be available. Storytelling is a dramatic art. Most of the arts involve some degree of storytelling . This could make a person a bit dramatic. But there is a LINE.

    There are people in this world just waiting to rip you to shreds, You don’t want to give them ammunition and you don’t want to alienate those who would support you. The is berserker usually gets dead. The strategist on the other hand, lives another day and reaps rewards after rewards as she laughs her way to Oprah.

    Redheads are allowed to be fiery, so you can always tell redhead jokes to diffuse any conflagrations your wit may have caused. Just try to be aware that when your red head rises above the mob, you make a great target.

    • I hope you saw my tongue in my cheek when I wrote this. Irony is sword I always fall upon.
      “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde.

      If you get het up you get het up.

  7. Mmmmmm… fuck that shit.

    There is the Golden Rule, and then there is crap. When talking to your customers (readers), really, it’s the Golden Rule. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Be polite and helpful. Smile, say please and thank you, brush your teeth, hold the door open for the fairer sex.

    Similarity, be professional when working with a bookstore, an agent, an editor, a publisher, etc.

    Beyond that, be yourself. It’s who you are. It’s not simply your brand, it’s raw honesty and many, many people love it.

    This leads me to:

    If you are making a valid, reasoned statement, you will piss people off
    If you use humor you will piss people off
    If you filter yourself into political correctness, you will piss people off
    If you be yourself you will piss people off

    Some people are pissy and there isn’t anything you can do about it. The internet gives them a forum, and they like to piss there. Thus, besides the Golden Rule, and to go totally and completely nerdy with a War Games quote, Political Correctness is a strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

  8. Jschancellor, I love your posts. I hope you don’t let yourself become too domesticated.

    Being on the internet is like living in a fishbowl, and the more well known you are, the more people press their noses against the glass.

  9. Oh my goodness, thank you for this post. You KNOW how close to home this hits. I’ve been close to crying the past few days because I’m going insane over this. I think it is time for an internet break and a step back into reality. Thank you again for your honesty here, Breanne. It really means a lot.

  10. @Michelle—I have cried more since last March, than I’ve cried in the past decade. Just goes to show that the anticipation of an event is every bit as powerful as the event itself. My whole world has tilted on its axis and I’m having to get used to everything again. Tiffany asked about family, and they’ve all been really supportive, but on the same token, it’s brought me to their attention and there is some pressure with that, that wasn’t there before. It’s one thing to talk about being a writer at Thanksgiving…it’s another thing all together to actually have them reading your work and buying it and realizing that you weren’t kidding, or merely penning stuff in a journal, or writing as a hobby. It’s surreal.

    @Alyne—lol, yeah I figured as much. You and I have a similar sense of humor 😉

    @Anthony—Can I just bottle you up and take you with me everywhere I go? If you could arrange that, it would be awesome. An Anthony widget maybe. K, thanks.

    @Tara, Ien and Julie—thanks! (I’ll remind you guys that you love me for me, after I have single-handedly destroyed my career with my foul mouth and fiesty personality, lol). I figure at this point the world will either have to take me as-is, or not at all. Hell or high water…so, good news is, I won’t be curbing anything, any time soon.

    @Justine—I’m never offensive on purpose. That I can recall anyway. I’m sure there are moments where I’ve indulged in a bit too much drink and made a fool out of myself, but overall I’m relatively respectful. But, here’s the truth: The critics will find amunition whether you set it out on the coffee table or not. I may blog about things that get under my skin, but I don’t respond on FB because there’s no point. I make it a matter of special interest, NOT to involve myself with arguments that aren’t worth having. That constitutes 99% of controversial conversations in any public forum. So, yes, I do agree that respect is important, but, only when it’s due. If someone comes to my door, enters my turf, asks me to be utterly honest, then all bets are off. For example: If I see someone getting their butt kicked verbally, without reason, I’ll step in and fight fire with fire. And I don’t play games I can’t win. There has to be a point to it all or I won’t bother ruffling feathers.

    The state our industry is in, deserves some feather-ruffling for certain. But, I’ve got to get close enough to catch the goose first. Thus, I have to mind my manners to a certain extent.

    But, you just wait…the day will arrive that finds me bereft of my current needs and all of those things, for us authors, will be addressed. Someone has to fight for us and I see no reason why I shouldn’t take up my sword and head that way.

  11. I think you’ve made an excellent point. I am not really the person to answer this question for you but I hope you find it soon. Although I believe that one ought to be true to one’s self first, there comes a time when we have to temper our fires and…um…compromise. Not yourself, of course. There is a reason why one of the most famous sayings in the world is “Know Thyself”. I think that the compromise comes with the learning the ropes. I, myself, tend to follow the rules until I know where they really apply and where they don’t. All I can say is, you’re very talented and honest. The comedian Carlos Mancia says that there are always a few out of the bunch that cannot stare a joke–or whatever it is you decide to post–in the face. Whether or not I agree with you, I’m glad you state your thoughts anyway. Good luck and keep up the awesome work! Love your posts!

  12. For some reason I’ve reminded of the Simpson episode where Homer has to kill all the zombies in town to protect his family. He sacrifices himself but there no point: he has no brain so the zombies don’t care.

    But I digress. What I want to say is yes, when to represent something larger than yourself (your publisher, for example) tacit never hurts. In fact, digression is usually a good idea.

    When if it just yourself, do as you please, by all means.

    I suggest you discuss this with your publisher if you can find a way to bring it up. The points you raise are good ones you should know the score before something happens.

    My two cents.

  13. I was at a Writers Conference this past weekend and got food poisoning … ok, clearly that’s not the tale I wish to tell, but it does impact what I must say. Fortunate for me, my partner in crime was able to attend the panel of agents and editors talk about what they are looking for, what repels them, and what intrigues them etc.

    One thing stood out amongst the talk to my cohort, and that is the fact that one agent said she WOULD, and HAS rejected writers based on their blog posts. It got me to thinking, whilst I try to stay within the boundaries of decorum, it chafes and often I find myself wanting to say what I mean – which I do most regularly in my day to day life – not what I think is acceptable to others. Why is it then agents, the ‘Gatekeepers’ if you will have free reign to speak their minds without fear of reprisal? They can craft posts based on writers who actually query them, poke fun, and down right call other agents out in rude, ofttimes, crude manners, but we, as writers, must stay mum.

    The hypocrisy astounds and annoys me. I don’t censor my tongue in my daily life, why must I do so in order to obtain representation? If an agent cannot be passionate about me as a person, why would I want them to represent me?

    Great post, Breanne! Keep saying it like it is.

  14. I am not a regular reader of your column, but I congratulate you in that you wrote a blog entry that I have thought about all day and I think I have finally crystallized my thoughts.

    Note I write this not only as as a short story and novella writer, but also as a reader who likes to attend lit cons and talk to writers and editors. I also give the regular caveat that Actual Mileage May Vary. I am open to the reality I may be overly cynical.

    I’ve discovered that if you write good prose and you are selling books, it probably does not matter how you behave in public or what you post on your blogs.

    Orson Scott Card is a sweetheart and a harsh word has never left his lips. There are many other published authors like him, but having a sanguine personality does not sell books, but only the strength of your storytelling.

    Harlan Ellison on the other hand is caustic and sometimes downright vicious. In the early 80’s Ellison wrote an editorial in Starlog Magazine that blasted his strongest fans and they only loved him more because of it. And Ellison is not alone. There are a number of authors who have caustic personalities and yet they can always depend on their ability to sell because they can tell a good story.

    So it doesn’t matter if you’re a saint or sinner, if you’re a Boy Scout or you fart in public and eat without utensils. If your prose is good, if you can entertain, if you can make your reader lose themselves in your world, you will do well.

    However, whatever path you choose, remember the fandom is rife with political correctness. I know of several authors who dissed what the crowd said was blessed or disparaged what the crowd said was good and holy and they paid in spades for their transparency.

    There is an author I know who writes prose that would make a Dante weep with envy, but raised in the Catholic Church she made a simple statement supporting the institution. The backlash was stunning. She’s not alone. I have a number of examples I can fall back on.

    It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry fandom. So make sure you bless or curse the right people or philosophies because in spite of that fact you don’t care what the people think of you, you just might be a one book author.

  15. Great points Alan! Thank you for taking the time to share them. There is always the danger of losing fans over something seemingly innocent and for my own sanity, I’ll stay away from religion and politics from here on out. Not that I ever really ran my mouth about taboo subjects much anyway. Still, all it takes is once.

    I’ll never care what people think of me. It’s whether or not they’re in a position to do something about it, that concerns me.

    I wish I were a sanguine. Really. I probably wouldn’t be on so much medication, lol. But, really, even saying what I just said could get me into hot water with the right folks. I think it boils down to not biting the hand that feeds you. I can’t EVER see me blasting readers for anything—not after the depth of support and consideration I’ve recieved. Even if I do wind up a one book author (which would be interesting since I’m about to turn in book two to my publisher for a release date next fall), I write for the love of it and little else. Readers are an added blessing, but they’ll never be my motivation. Not for writing anyway. Other things perhaps—like blogging and signings, etc.

    I don’t want to read the work of someone who writes *for* me. It would be like someone saying, “I love you,” just because I wanted to hear it. It’s not the same.

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