February 1st, 2005


the sound of a broken record

And it just this second occurred to me, a few more decades, a few more decades at the most, and that phrase will fall out of use — "You're beginning to sound like a broken record." Because no one much will understand what it means. What's a record? What sort of record? How do you break a record? Is this about the Guinness Book? Is there actually a sound that attends the breaking of a record?

What I'm trying to say is that nothing has been written on the preface for To Charles Fort, With Love. I sat here yesterday. I started a second draft. I wrote one paragraph. It stalled out on me. At this point, given my schedule which could hardly be more tightly packed, I either write the damned thing today, or I give it up. I write it today, or the book most likely will not include a preface. I suppose it could be added later, post ARC, but I would like the reviewers to see the entire book, not the book minus preface, afterwords, etc. I'm still not at all sure where the problem lies. We don't use that familiar phrase around here, the one that is generally employed by less superstitious types to describe this inability to write. After my success with chapters One and Two of Daughter of Hounds, it's a little baffling, though. I have come to suspect that it's simply the result of having just read so much of my own material in a very short period of time. I'm being too self-conscious. I'm overwhelmed by me. And I don't want to read any more of me or write any more of me, and I most assuredly don't want to write anything more about me. I have the prologue here in my head. It just doesn't want to be translated into written form. Truthfully, I need a long vacation from me. From Caitlín. She's wearing my nerves and patience to a frazzle.

I hate giving up on something. I loathe failing at anything.

Blah, blah, frelling blah.

Yesterday, Poppy wrote:

Anyway, I saw this friend-of-a-friend's journal entry calling me Goofus for telling readers who write me pointing out typos to blow me, and while I had to laugh -- better "Goofus" than "waaaa, boo-hoo, she's so meeeeeean" -- it made me think perhaps my point had been unclear. As I commented in the FOAF's journal, I make sure my manuscripts are very, very clean when I turn them in. I also proofread each of my books at least three more times before it goes to print. Typo-ridden books, whether fiction or nonfiction, are extremely annoying, and typos are almost entirely the author's responsibility.

My point, though -- and I admit I put it rudely; I am certainly a Goofus sometimes -- was that there is nothing I can do about a typo once the book has gone to print. The publisher is not going to re-typeset the next printing because I found a misplaced comma or a "reigned" where I should have said "reined" (a particular bugaboo of mine, though I think I've finally overcome it). A reader who writes me just to point out a typo is wasting my time and his stamp simply to say, "Ha-ha, you screwed up."

Is this not perfectly obvious? Personally, I've been lucky enough to have received only a very small number of those "you frelled up X on page Y" letters from readers. It's hard for me to understand why anyone would be rude enough to ever write such a letter or to think that they might actually believe there's any purpose served by doing so. As authors, I believe that we have no obligation to be anything but rude when faced with readers who do things like this. Through our rudeness may they gain a better understanding of how publishing works. May they also learn a little tact. I would add that while, in reality, it ultimately falls to the author to catch all the mistakes that may exist in a given manuscript, it's actually the responsibility of copyeditors and editors. I've had a great deal of my time, and the time of those who help me, wasted by copyeditors who wanted to rewrite my prose and couldn't be bothered to catch actual errors. As for the readers, people who have no role in the process of producing a book but sometimes act as though they think they do, I occassionally get a very real sense that there are a considerable number of people, especially online, who hunt mistakes the way a big-game hunter might stalk lions and antelope. When they find one (and it's never difficult), it's a trophy. And, to me, it's both amusing and baffling when these typo hunters get offended that they've offended me (or Poppy or anyone else). To reiterate what Poppy says above, when you write me about a mistake in a published book, the only thing that you're accomplishing is making me feel bad about something I have worked very, very hard to try and insure is as close to perfect as possible.

What else is there to say about yesterday? I baked a spinach and mushroom quiche. Spooky and I watched The Fifth Element again. The "ultimate edition" DVD is really very close to just that. A lot of wonderful extras. I'd forgotten how much this movie meant to me. Anyway, that's about all there was to yesterday.

I've decided to get back to work, at least in a limited capacity, on a couple of the paleontology projects I shelved in 2002. Do I have the time? I'll make the time by cutting out video games. There's nowhere else I can steal it from. I hope to have a paper ready for a conference in Maastricht in 2007. I've been missing paleontology terribly the last few months. And I'm sick of missing things I love.

Check out Lisa Snellings' adorable H. P. Lovecraft rat. I saw the Neil rat in Minneapolis back in November. It's adorable, too.

We still have two items remaining on eBay, a copy of Murder of Angels and a copy of From Weird and Distant Shores. This is the tail end of the auction to pay for Spooky's broken tooth. Please have a look. Bid. Buy it now. Whichever.
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