Monday, October 19, 2015

Bring Your Own Marshmallows

I've decided what I'm going to do for Halloween this year. A bonfire. A big one. I have a free-standing barbeque pit in my back yard - perfect for constructing wood-burning fires, and big enough to accommodate all the copies of my fiction books currently on hand. I estimate there are probably about a hundred books, so it should make for a full evening of roasting weenies and toasting marshmallows and saying goodbye to what I once (foolishly) thought might be my "writing career." Gotta laugh. In reality, of course, one cannot call writing a career, but only an obsolete hobby - at least that is how it has begun to appear in today's "market."

Market.  What market?

I have been doing the fiction writing thaaang for over 35 years, and other than KILLING TIME and a few short stories, I'm sorry to say I have not been especially successful. If I listen to my fans and critics, it's not because I'm not good enough. It's not even because I haven't been especially prolific in the past 10 years (hard to be a full time writer when one actually has to work for a living). It's largely (but not entirely) because the "market" has become glutted with garbage (and most of it actually IS garbage) so that anything with any substance 1) can't be found; and 2) if it IS found, it is generally given a wide berth because the reader has been burned far too many times by all the previous garbage; and 3) even if the book is found and the reader decides to give it a look-inside, chances are high that some clique of trolls has posted so many negative reviews that the reader ends up tucking her tail 'twixt her legs and fleeing in terror. Who can blame her? Certainly not I.

My SO, Wendy Rathbone - who is a seasoned, published professional writer and highly-awarded poet - recently attended a "writer's retreat" in San Diego, which was geared specifically toward the kind of fiction she writes (male/male romance). Aside from the fact that the convention itself was organized in a very peculiar manner (no dealer's room, no place to actually SELL one's books even though readers were there allegedly wanting to BUY books), Wendy had an author signing on Thursday morning (worst possible time, since people are still arriving or won't even show up until the weekend) Not sure whose bright idea that was, but it basically sucks. But no matter...  

After much chaos and fuss to get everything in order, Wendy managed to sell precisely no books whatsoever, even though she had over a dozen titles on her author table, including two brand new ones which just became available this month. She received multiple compliments on the covers, but ultimately it was all for naught. I had originally been scheduled to attend, but as the time approached when I should have been getting in the car, my own "little voices" gave a shrug of screaming indifference and strongly suggested that I stay home with the new puppy and enjoy the rare desert rain. So, as it turned out, my own books weren't even put out (which is no one's fault but my own), but at this point I have no doubt that my sales would have been nada-times-nada as well. As Mr. Spock was fond of saying - "If I drop a hammer on a planet with positive gravity, I don't need to see it fall to know that it has, indeed, fallen."

Lotta truth to that.

Also a lot to be learned from the science of logic. It's one thing to have hope. It's another thing altogether to have false hope. And to be brutally honest with myself - if I haven't made a real dent as a writer in 35 years, logic dictates that I probably ain't gonna. So... no worries, no regrets. Just simply time to put my energy toward something else. Sure - who knows? - maybe I'll start a  new book next week, but right now, I can see no reason to keep writing book after book... only to watch them languish in total obscurity. 

Wendy's words upon returning home from the convention were, "But I had a good time."  Hmmm. The same words spoken by beauty contest runners-up and people who get thrown off the island. That's the difference between Wendy and myself. She's the positive one always finding that golden ray of sunshine and looking to the future, whereas I tend to be the darkling who can predict the future based on the past  - and I must say that the future of writing doesn't look the least bit promising. Wendy is already planning her next novel. And I'm preparing for a bonfire.

Bring your own marshmallows.  (And your own books, if you feel so inclined.)

Being a fickle bitch prone to occasional fits of drama, I reserve the right to change my mind. But right now... I've got a book of matches burning a hole in my pocket.  Bon appetit.

Just a few of the titles that will be smokin' this Halloween!  Get 'em while they're hot!