Kate Flora: It’s a darn good thing I don’t write cozy mysteries, starting out with a title
like that, right? Well, as another presenter at Murder by the Book this weekend put it, I write medium boiled mysteries in my Thea Kozak series, and pretty darned hard boiled in the Joe Burgess series. The audience on Friday night at the Jesup Library discovered that when I read part of the opening chapter of the next Burgess, And Led Them Thus Astray. No doubt about it, when he’s mad, Joe Burgess uses language I would never use. But there I was, swearing in front of a room full of strangers.
But that, of course, is not what this blog post is about. What it is about is something like (if you inclined to take it that way), an extended whine.
Yes! I have now revealed a deep, dark secret of crime writers: sometimes we whine. Sometimes we whine and dine. Mostly to (or with) each other. Occasionally to a close friend. Far more rarely—to you. Because after all, we want you to believe we are always even tempered, which is mostly true because we can get a whole lot out of our systems by writing crime. And we want you to believe that we are always successful, heaped with praise from our loving readers, and showered with cash from our devoted publishers.
Maybe I should stop right here, and leave you cherishing that notion.
Actually, this blog might not be so much a whine as a question: What am I doing wrong? If I give up a glorious weekend, drive six+ hours, give “good value” on my panels and am cheerful, thrifty, clean, loyal, brave, and reverent, and at the end of the day, I’ve managed to sell two $8.00 paperbacks, this is not a viable economic model. What should I be doing instead?
Stop saying yes, even though I love to talk about writing, love spending time with other writers, and so appreciate the hard work Jesup’s amazing librarians did to put on a great event and draw a crowd? Can I believe that all those lovely people will later log on and buy the e-book? Allow myself a temporary moment of discouragement and frustration?
So yes, as I sit here puzzling my way through how to organize the next book (having given up a couple hours today dealing with the SPOD, or spiraling pinwheel of death that wouldn’t open Microsoft Word), part of me wants to kick the cat. Fear not. I do not HAVE a cat. In one book, I gave Thea a stuffed cat to kick, and if I had one, that would suffice. I do have a stuffed moose…but who has ever heard of “kicking the moose?”
And then, having gotten it out of my system (and writing things out of our systems is why
we crime writers usually are pretty cheerful) I shall go back to trying to find out who is killing those poor women and why he is using a sword?
And you—because you don’t want me to kick that moose—and because you are also cheerful and kindly and well-disposed toward helping writers stay published—will follow this link and order up a copy of a really fun, if slightly outrageous, book I wrote with Katy Munger, Lise McClendon, Gary Phillips, and Taffy Cannon: Beat, Slay, Love. Amazon: http://smarturl.it/BeatSlay
Those of us who’ve attended your panels, Kate, are very grateful that you do come and teach us how to work up to your standards. On the work-it-out-of-your system issue: you left out the upside! There’s also the evil glee of researching splendid ways of getting away with it, whatever It is. You’d be amazed what I now know about getting the goods out of rare books libraries.
How kind of you, Heidi. And yes, there is evil glee all over the place. Like yesterday, when I toured the medical examiner’s office, or met a prosecutor. The world is full of generosity, for which I am very grateful. And opportunities to fictionally bump folks off.
Several years ago, I attended an event featuring you, Lea Wait, and Ruth McCarty at the MacArthur Library in Biddeford. It was a delightful evening and I joyfully purchased books by each of you. Since then I have retired and, sadly, no longer have the money to buy books. I read what I can find at the library and am extremely grateful to have that resource. I also occasionally buy a (free or deeply discounted) book for my Kindle. I’ve always said that I’d rather read than eat, but when push comes to budgetary shove, my body demands otherwise. I feel your frustration. Believe me, I am frustrated, too, that I can no longer support the writers I love.
That was a lovely event…that evening in Biddeford. And I will always have time for libraries. I know it is unprofessional, but I wish I could write and speak and teach and encourage other writers and not have to also worry about marketing and selling books. And believe me, authors understand that not everyone can buy books. You can help by requesting your favorite authors’ books from libraries.
Yes — other authors understand, Kate! (Kate and I just got back spending 5 hours — round trip – driving to a library where fewer than ten people showed up for our panel — and where we each sold another two books.) The upside: the people who heard us talk seemed to love us, and at least one promised to buy us on e-books. The library arranged for us to spend the night in a fantastically beautiful B&B, with a view. And we got to talk with other writers. I brought my husband along on this trip, and we took the scenic trip home — long, but saw places in Maine I’d only heard about on the local news. So — yes. Those are the positives! Negatives? Two days lost writing, $60 of gasoline and 2 meals to pay for, even though we ate pizza. To those librarians reading this and thinking,
“Well, I guess we won’t invite THOSE people to speak –” the answer is PLEASE. DO invite us. If can possibly come, we will. Visiting libraries we make memories, and sometimes notes for future books. We love visiting libraries and meeting readers. It’s just that sometimes … we like to sell books, too. We suspect you understand.
Yes, Lea. I know that I’m probably showing an unattractive side of myself with this post–clearly the verbal equivalent of kicking the cat. But the other 364 days a year I’m a very good sport and hope I won’t be blacklisted for the 365th. And yes, Rangeley was lovely. If only we didn’t have to rush back to our keyboards and our works in progress.
I wondered about the benefit/cost of such talk. As a new author, I take anything that comes at me as far as speaking engagements that don’t cost me to attend other than time and maybe $10.
While I did not buy at the event, I did later purchase a book from an author at the talk to send as a gift.
Writing fiction is such a low return profession. As a reader, I consume books in a fraction of the time spent writing them and a fraction of the price of what it costs an author in living wages. The only thing I can contribute to ease my guilt is buying more books, recommending authors and writing reviews.
Actually, however glum I sounded, Michelle, I love writing, and it is also a high return profession. Not monetarily, always, in the ways that we would like, but being a storyteller is amazing. Don’t feel guilty…and do keep doing those things you’re doing. Reviews and being recommended to other readers are invaluable.
Kate, your blog helps me get back to my writing that I have neglected for the past month. Why do I write? I’m not entirely sure, but your inspiration is helpful.
when will And Led Them Thus Astray be out? And the next Thea?
see you at Crimebake!