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Now the bull dyke will to do her work.

A very good writing day yesterday. I did 1,530 words and finished "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ghoul." I like it. Despite all the grimness and death which cannot help but attend a story about the ghouls, it is surprisingly...I don't know...sweet. In a good way. Afterwards, with the aid of a Red Bull, I got my second wind, and we worked on the Daughter of Hounds CEM until sometime after seven p.m., making it as far as page 292 (just about halfway through). It is my intent to spend all of today on the CEM and finish up with the copy-editor's marks.

Preorders on the novel remain high for the third consecutive day. Yesterday, the book's Amazon sales ranking went all the way up to 1,242. Is there anyone out there knowledgeable enough about what those numbers mean to tell me how sales ranking translates into actually copies sold? Does jumping from 500K on Saturday morning to 1,242 on Sunday afternoon mean that 20 copies have sold? 200? 2000? I have no frelling clue. Anyway, I do assume this means the first printing, which is usually rather small, will sell out before publication, which has happened in the past with my Roc trade paperbacks. My thanks to everyone who's preordered or who yet intends to.

Not much else to say about yesterday. We're broiling alive here in Atlanta, but I won't complain too much, as I know much of the rest of the country is suffering the same fate. Dinner was a bit of a disaster last night, despite my excellent guacamole. Our kitchen reached temperatures that, I'm sure, put to shame the very bowels of Hell. From here on, I think we stick to salads and other cold meals until the heat breaks. Later, we watched a very good documentary on IFC about the New Queer Cinema, GLBT film in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s.

It's been a while since I've complained about any particular Amazon.com "review," mostly because I've pretty much stopped reading them. But, while keeping up with the sales ranking on Daughter of Hounds yesterday, I allowed myself to stray to Murder of Angels, and came across the following by one Esther Schindler of Scottsdale, AZ (behind the cut, for those with better things to do):



2/5 stars "Well written but depressing" May 23, 2006

Perhaps I needed to have read Silk, first. But I found that this book, while containing some excellent wordsmithing, made me unutterably depressed. Enough so that I gave up on the book before I finished it.

The author has an excellent control of setting, character, storytelling... and she communicated the depression and despair of the main characters with skill. But I don't necessarily *want* to be depressed.

I grabbed this book before a plane flight. By the time the peanuts and juice arrived, I had given up on the book, and I dragged out my laptop computer. ("Ah well, I probably should get some work done anyway" is not my response to a great book -- "just a few more pages..." is more common.) And then I bought another book in San Francisco to tide me over on the way home.

I'll make a point of looking for Kiernan's other novels. But this one didn't work for me.


---

Now, I cannot fault the reader for not liking the book, and that's not what I'm going to take issue with. What I write is not for everyone. I know that. I know that much better know than I knew it only a few years ago. That's fair. And it's true that MoA is a spectacularly grim novel. I am also pleased that this "reviewer" is willing to give my work a second try. And she gets points for, presumably, actually signing her name to the review. What I do take issue with is the fact that she praises the actual writing in the book, indicating that I have done my job quite well. Yet she gives the book only two stars, a score which seems to derive not from the quality of the book, but from her very negative emotional reaction to it. The book is not poorly written. She tells us that. However, the first part of it made her feel bad, so it earns a low score.

In part, I think this problem arises from an expectation and/or need on the part of many readers of "genre" fiction. They want escapism. They want characters they can root for. They want good guys and bad guys. And most of the "industry" is happy to reinforce their expectations, to such an extent that coming suddenly upon a fantasy novel as grim as MoA is, no doubt, a nasty shock to many systems (as would be, say, House of Leaves, Wicked, or much of Angela Carter's work). Here is a fantasy novel centered on a schizophrenic woman and an alcoholic woman in a deteriorating relationship. They are deeply unhappy people. Niki is suicidal. Daria is coming apart at the seams. Nothing's glossed over. Not the insanity, not the selfishness, not the hurt. My challenge was to use fantasy to explore these problems, not escape these problems. For that, we have literally thousands of Tolkien knock-offs, fluffy-bunny epics, and AD&D novels from which to choose. I would hardly be doing myself or the world a service by writing more of the same.

Near as I can telll, the "reviewer" here has felt exactly what I meant her to feel. The problem arises because she didn't want to feel that way and didn't bother to flip through the book before she bought it to be sure it would make her feel the way she did want to feel (whatever that might have been). Personally, I have many times seen a film or read a novel which made me feel much, much worse than I wanted to feel at the time, because that was the goal of the filmmaker or the writer. My response has not been to condemn the work in question as too depressing. I might choose never to see the film again, or I might see it repeatedly. In short, one should not earn a 2/5-star review for having done one's job well. And if one look's to literature as a pleasant way to pass a few hours on plane flight, one should take a little more care with what one chooses to read. The only fault this reader can find with my novel, the only fault she lists while listing many virtues, is that she did not want to be depressed, which is, of course, no fault of the book. And it strikes me as whining.

And, moreover, one should have the integrity not to review a book one has not actually bothered to read in its entirety (or even its majority).

Last week, I saw an online bookseller (I can't recall who) offering a money-back guarantee. If you don't like a book, for any reason, you can have a total refund. And this struck me as one of the most utterly frelled up things I have ever seen. Have we really sunk that low? Are readers really that incapable of taking responsibility for which books they choose to read that they now want money-back guarantees? I cannot even imagine this mindset.

Anyway, we have only one auction remaining, a copy of the signed limited edition of The Dry Salvages, as utterly depressing a story as you are ever likely to read. Guaranteed. Please have a look. Bid or buy. Just don't come whining to me when it bites your fingers or keeps you awake. Or when it doesn't. Thanks.

Comments

( 20 comments — Have your say! )
xterminal
Jul. 17th, 2006 04:58 pm (UTC)
However, the first part of it made her feel bad, so it earns a low score.

Jeez, she didn't even get to the depressing bits. [snerk]
thingunderthest
Jul. 17th, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC)
There is a bit of an attempt to figure out Amazons sales rankings here.
greygirlbeast
Jul. 17th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
There is a bit of an attempt to figure out Amazons sales rankings here.


Thanks. But gods, that's depressing. Unless you're in the two or three hundred, give it up.
sovay
Jul. 17th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC)
And it's true that MoA is a spectacularly grim novel.

For all that, the epilogue is one of the most lovely closes to a story I've read. It comes earned.
(Deleted comment)
greygirlbeast
Jul. 17th, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC)
I thought so, too. It was a perfect, beautiful ending.

A shame the "reviewer" in question did not read that far.
(Deleted comment)
activistgirl
Jul. 17th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC)
Agreed and agreed. Technically *someone* should report the review because I think you have to attest to actually having read the book when you click on the link that says "I have read this book and would like to review it."
...
activistgirl
Jul. 17th, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC)
Well, I guess they don't have that link-but a review can be reported as inappropriate.
I've got my 2 votes in!
bosstweed
Jul. 17th, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC)
Is there going to be a hardback for DoH? If so, is the release going to be simultaneous or happen later? I can't remember having heard anything about it.
greygirlbeast
Jul. 17th, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC)
Is there going to be a hardback for DoH?

There isn't a hardback edition planned.
bosstweed
Jul. 17th, 2006 05:52 pm (UTC)
Well then, guess I'll buy the paperback. :)
stsisyphus
Jul. 17th, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
And if one look's to literature as a pleasant way to pass a few hours on plane flight, one should take a little more care with what one chooses to read.

Again, Blood Meridian: unrelentingly violent, everyone is a bone-bled bastard, and ruthlessly re-revisionist of the myth of the American west. You're obviously not a timid reader, but I don't know if you're going to be "relaxing" with this novel. Then again, with all these writing obligations you have concurrent with your "vacation", I am (regrettably) doubting that you will have any such time to relax.

To further non-sequitor, what's the possibility of seeing a roll-out on this long-ago mentioned Drow character in time for the WFC?
greygirlbeast
Jul. 17th, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC)
To further non-sequitor, what's the possibility of seeing a roll-out on this long-ago mentioned Drow character in time for the WFC?

Sadly, zero.
bev_vincent
Jul. 17th, 2006 06:45 pm (UTC)
Here's a recent NY Times op-ed piece about how someone improved their Amazon sales ranking. (Requires free registration to read). "By judiciously purchasing one book an hour — something I was going to do anyway, I have free shipping and a lot of relatives — I had managed to raise my rating from 101,333 at 2:25 on June 17 to 6,679 at midnight — a staggering advance of 94,636 places at a cost of only $110.60."

Of course, the effect was only temporary.
greygirlbeast
Jul. 17th, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC)
"By judiciously purchasing one book an hour — something I was going to do anyway, I have free shipping and a lot of relatives — I had managed to raise my rating from 101,333 at 2:25 on June 17 to 6,679 at midnight — a staggering advance of 94,636 places at a cost of only $110.60."


Now, if only buying my own books, on the proceeds of my paltry advances, was financially viable option...
mevennen
Jul. 17th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC)
I have a similar problem - not with the SNAKE AGENT series, which are generally light even if they do take place mainly in Hell, but my more serious SF is usually described as 'bleak.' Fortunately, a lot of reviewers like bleak. But if you choose to explore ideas, deal with situations where everything doesn't come out okay, try to deal with actual human beings and human reactions...it's not going to be as popular as the gung ho fantasy stuff or the feelgood military SF.

What can I say? Keep on doing as you're doing. But you, like me, have bills to pay...
greygirlbeast
Jul. 17th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
What can I say? Keep on doing as you're doing. But you, like me, have bills to pay...

Yes in-frelling-deed. I want to be one of those idealistic artistes who can afford never, ever to put financial or commercial concerns before My Art. Barring that, I'd gladly settle for feeling moved to write feel-good military sf and gung ho fantasy stuff...
setsuled
Jul. 17th, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC)
didn't bother to flip through the book before she bought it to be sure it would make her feel the way she did want to feel

She was probably fooled by the bouncy and cheerful title.

Really, she's like someone who goes to see The Elephant Man and complains that they made John Hurt look too ugly.
greygirlbeast
Jul. 17th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
Really, she's like someone who goes to see The Elephant Man and complains that they made John Hurt look too ugly.


*snork*
subtlesttrap
Jul. 18th, 2006 03:15 am (UTC)
It feels like so long ago when you first started writing Daughter of the Hounds. I pre-ordered my copy today on Amazon, the best $10 I've ever spent I'm sure. I re-read the outtake chapter from the novel you sent out with the Digest today and if it is a reflection of what is to come then I'm quaking!

Is there still any news on when you'll be doing an in-store in New Enlgand?

vidyarajah
Jul. 19th, 2006 07:49 am (UTC)
A thought or three.
"In part, I think this problem arises from an expectation and/or need on the part of many readers of "genre" fiction. They want escapism. They want characters they can root for. They want good guys and bad guys. And most of the "industry" is happy to reinforce their expectations, to such an extent that coming suddenly upon a fantasy novel as grim as MoA is, no doubt, a nasty shock to many systems (as would be, say, House of Leaves, Wicked, or much of Angela Carter's work). Here is a fantasy novel centered on a schizophrenic woman and an alcoholic woman in a deteriorating relationship. They are deeply unhappy people. Niki is suicidal. Daria is coming apart at the seams. Nothing's glossed over. Not the insanity, not the selfishness, not the hurt. My challenge was to use fantasy to explore these problems, not escape these problems. For that, we have literally thousands of Tolkien knock-offs, fluffy-bunny epics, and AD&D novels from which to choose. I would hardly be doing myself or the world a service by writing more of the same."

From the heart, Miz Kiernan: thank you for this.

I regularly get into (fairly friendly) arguements with a crime fiction writer friend of mine. He's into writing fiction in the honorable vein of the Black Mask pulps, which is fine and dandy, except that he seems to think that socio-political observations and deeply exploring honest human pain and struggling gets in the way of "entertainment"...that in the current era of the crime fiction genre (hey, genre's writing's full of the same BS, yeah? Regardless of the genre...), there is far too much emphasis nowadays on social engagement and true social ills (for example: the collective works of Andrew Vachss, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, etc.)--that the "entertainment factor is lost when you constantly beat a dead horse about how awful the world is".

My response is basically that there are many people who read things that help them *better understand and bear this life*--as opposed to reading for mere escapist "entertainment".

Also, if he's so goddamn set on being "entertaining", what the effin' HELL is he doing writing *CRIME FICTION* (even if it is of the big, bad, burly private dick with a big gun [and a bigger weapon] that all the chicks seem to dig variety)? *shrugs*

Some folks, hell--lots of folks, don't seem to understand how honestly dark writing can *strengthen and console*--how it can make one feel much less alone in the world. How this kind of art can sustain someone in true times of need...these folks like their bad guys to be nasty, their good guys to be rugged, their heroines and femme fatales to be stacked, hot and willing, their action scenes full of derring-do, and their explosions freakin' *huge*.

Maybe your average "genre fiction consumer" is just looking to get distracted and cheerfully numb, as opposed to growing inside--but, thankfully, that isn't *everyone* in the wide, wild world.

Yes, you're a "dark fantasy" writer, Miz Kiernan...I guess that's the going label for what you do in the market, right?

To my mind, for whatever it's worth--your work has the soul-deep honesty of writers like Harlan Ellison, Karl Edward Wagner, Andrew Vachss, Jerry Stahl, Edward Bunker, and Hubert Selby, Jr.. Your stuff has heart, eloquence, insight, and immense compassion--a kind of compassion that maybe won't connect with everyone in Neon-Sweatpants-Amurikkka...but will *mean the world* to the people who read your work and *get it to the core*.

Yeah, sure--you write "dark fantasy", but never once in your writing have I ever gotten the sense that you are *lying*.

So, again: *thank you* for that.

I'm sure I speak for more than myself, here.

I'll leave you with a quote from a piano-playing pop star I've been known to listen to in passing:

"My voice was given to me as an instrument of inspiration for my friends, and a tool of torture and destruction to my enemies. An instrument of truth." - Diamanda Galás, 1988.

Till again, Miz Kiernan, to you and yours--strength and peace.

L.
( 20 comments — Have your say! )

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