It’s running up on 20 years, now, since I started writing stories (and then deciding to keep them, and then trying to sell them). Yet, I still feel I am a beginning fiction writer. The number of unsold stories in the trunk and the number of years of writing don’t add “seniority” as a writer in my view of things.
I certainly find fulfillment in writing, whether the stories are sold yet or not, but not in a way that would allow my ego to believe I have achieved the status of an author. I’ve started making some sales of stories submitted to semi-pro magazines; I’ve sold to an anthology, and now I even have my first indie-published e-novelette available for sale on Kindle, Nook and other platforms. But I’m still trying to break the door down on one of the major contests and the pro-markets (for genre that’s regarded as over 5 cents a word and usually over 5,000 circulation).
So, yeah, selling my work is one of the litmus tests for allowing myself to use the word author without blushing. The other test is having fans.
I don’t know how many fans I have, but I feel so gratified to know that I do have some fans. I know because they’ve told me so. And not just my family, and close friends, who are sort of required by law to be my fans.
My first and most memorable “Fan Moment” occurred at “Anticipation,” the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal. NewMyths.com had just e-published the second story I had ever sold. It is called “The Attraction of Heavenly Bodies.” As a self-promotional thing I had made up a teaser page with the opening scene of the story and a copy of the wonderful story-art by Margit Elland Schmitt. The art depicted the characters Shardonna and Bugforn standing in front of Babezilla, the pickup truck, just after it had collided with their guhZuk (flying saucer). I put the leaflets up on the freebie literature rack hoping that someone might pick up a copy and access the story.
To my great surprise, on the afternoon of the second day, a young lady and a few of her companions spotted my name on a program panel and waited patiently for me to exit the meeting room for an autograph on the leaflet. I was thrilled, to say the least.
We talked for ten or fifteen minutes about scifi in general, writing in general, the weather, Canada, and I thanked them. About five minutes after we’d parted ways I realized I hadn’t written the young woman’s name in my little notebook that I often carry. It grieves me to this day that I cannot recall the young lady’s name. I so wish I could recognize her in my blog for the wonderful boost her gesture was for my spirit and writing conviction.
When it comes to personalities and how they relate to success, I think there are a few major groups (based soley on Bob’s view of the world). There are the eminently confident, but self-delusional folks that are not aware of their inadequacy, but don’t care. They feel good about themselves anyway (I kind of envy them). There are those that project self-confidence, do well, but are quivering globs of inner insecurity the whole time nonetheless (sometimes these folks are a pain because they are always scoring points, continuing to try to prove themselves ... to themselves). Then there are the ones that I envy most, the self-confident do-it-alls that do everything well, succeed, know they will succeed, and enjoy every minute of it, and are decent good folks to boot. Lastly there are the people like me who are always convinced they can never do anything well, even as they are functioning and making progress that some folks around them may envy; and even after they have succeeded beyond their own wildest dreams they are still subject to unrelenting self-doubt and rarely able to carry a self confident look on their faces about their “dream.”
I can look back at my professional science career and confess I lived largely in that psychological mode for over 35 years. I am now in phase two of that psychology. Doubting my pursuit of writing, even as the sales and completion rate of writing projects continue to gradually increase. And this brings me back to fans.
It all becomes wonderful for minutes at a time… sometimes hours, days, or even weeks at a time, when someone tells you they are a fan, and turns out to actually be one. You have to understand, most of your close friends and family will typically humor you (at least to your face) about being a writer. But a true fan is capable of quoting your writing back to you, retelling your stories scene by scene, and goes out of their way to introduce you to friends as his / her author friend… and asks them if they’ve read any of your stories yet and convinces them they really should.
My wife’s boss’ husband is just such a fan. Dan, you know who you are. I want you to know you’ve kept me writing on a number of nights when my inner critic would have sent me to bed hours earlier. And I appreciate all the free drinks you buy me as well. There’s nothing quite like sitting and sipping a couple drinks with you that you’ve sprung for and hearing you retell me the stories I’ve written, laughing at all the right parts and oohing and ahhing at all the right parts, and having cool scifi idea conversations as we wait for the hors d’oeurves (that you’ve also bought). If I ever have a fan club, I hope you’ll be the national organization president.
I’ve got a few more fans now, around the world, actually. Although they have seldom posted comments on the blog site, choosing instead to occasionally email me directly. They are still from circles fairly close to my former work-a-day existence. But they are true fans, and I cherish them all, especially when they tell me that they’ve recommended my work to someone I’ve never heard of, and then hear back that they’ve read and liked the stories they’ve looked up. And it appears a few are starting to buy “Feolito’s Gift,” my first indie e-pub. If you are reading this and haven’t bought it yet, what are you waiting for?
But here’s today’s best news for all my fans– weak, strong or obliged fans (I love you all). My latest story sale is up at Perihelion. It is a wry-humored scifi/horror story called “Shit Eatin’ Dog.” I thank Kristine Kathryn Rusch for pushing me (and a dozen other workshoppers) to write a story set in an outhouse, and challenging us to sell it. It was something of a stretch for me, but Kris has a way of demanding that you access things that you feel uncomfortable writing about. She correctly notes it stimulates the muse and forces story power in ways we can’t be aware of consciously.
By the way, if you aren’t a fan of Kris Rusch you really ought to be.
Now, get thee all online to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords and buy “Feolito’s Gift.” Then pop over to Perihelion and read the little dog story.
My most unconditional fan is Lucy, my Atomic-powered lab/border collie cross. She falls asleep every night under the desk as I write. And she is definitely not the inspiration for the dog in the aforementioned story. Thank goodness.