The dream might have been triggered (if dreams are things which are triggered) by the latest "ghostly" event in our apartment. Saturday night, Spooky and I were sitting at my desk, doing something online, when she felt a sudden pain in her left ankle. Upon inspection, we discovered two very prominent nail impressions in her skin, just anterior of her Achilles tendon, slightly above the talus (ankle bone). There was no mistaking the marks for anything else. They were smallish, crescent nail impressions, most likely middle and ring finger from their relative positions. It was unnerving. We've grown fairly accustomed to the "ghosts" in this place, the glimpses of children, the not-cats, and so forth, but this is the first time anything here has seemed malicious, or shown evidence that it could affect material objects.
The dream might also be related to all the time I've been spending thinking about Daughter of Hounds and the yellow house at 135 Benefit Street in Providence.
It's been a while since I've answered an e-mail in the blog, so how's about a change of pace? Kris (who incuded no surname) writes:
If you'd be so kind as to bear with me, I'm rather curious about your standpoint on this.
On the July 21st entry of your live journal, you say you are writing for yourself. Is it possible to write for yourself and make a career out of fiction writing at the same time?
Does what you want to write frequently conflict with what will sell?
I'm not being snide (I can't stand people who are so quick to throw out the term "sell out", particularly when they have no talent for the craft they are criticizing); I'm just trying to get a sense of how things work once you become an established novelist. It's always been my dream to become a professional writer, but the more I am immersed in this alien world of pushy editors, pretentious, omniscient critics, and well...assholes, I realize it won't be what I've built it up to be. I have to wonder when it becomes about the love of writing vs. what people want you to write, and when you can afford to tell someone to fuck off and when you can't because what you are doing is your primary source of income.
Kris, it has been my experience that it's a very rare day when you can tell someone to fuck off, no matter how much they might have it coming. This was an especial source of frustration during my time at Vertigo. I rarely have serious disagreements with people editing the publications in which my short stories appear, or even with the publishers of my novels. But when those moments come, I yell at someone else, someone who doesn't have it coming and who can't do damage to my career. It isn't healthy, or fair, but transference of hostility to innocent loved ones is the writer's friend.
What I write always seems to conflict with what will sell, as my agent in New York is often quick to remind me. This is something I struggle with constantly. So far, I write what I feel I should write, sometimes to her chagrin. And please understand that I'm not trying to cast my agent as a villian. It's her job to sell what I write and to make us both money from my work; that's what I pay her to do.
So, is it possible to write for yourself and make a career out of fiction writing at the same time? Even now, I'm not sure I can answer that with anything like a simple answer. Obvioulsy there are a few people doing it. I haven't done so badly, these last nine years or so, and only rarely have I written for anyone but myself. But I think there's a very high price to be paid for the luxury. Constant stress. Low sales. Idiot critics. Then again, these are things almost all writers must endure, regardless who they see themselves writing for. In the end, I'm fairly certain that it's all about luck. I've been lucky, so far.
That's not a very good answer. But there you go.
Last night, I uploaded the new manga pages to Nebari.net. Click here to read Chapter Eight. And I also read through chapters One and Two of The Girl Who Sold the World. There's something I wrote purely for myself. It's better than I remember. I did the second chapter months ago, and I feel bad about the way it's been left to languish. I may try to write Chapter Three tonight.
Yesterday, I read "The earliest known member of the rorqual—gray whale clade (Mammalia, Cetacea)" in JVP, the description of a new genus and species, Eobalaenoptera harrisoni, from Virginia. Neat. I also read from Graveyards of North Kingston, Rhode Island by Althea H. McAleer, Beatrix Hoffer, and Deby Jecoy Nunes (research for Daughter of Hounds, but cool reading in its own right).
Oh, and a correction from Bill Schafer at subpress regarding the comma-free edition of The Dry Salvages: "...the No-Comma edition will not be a hc and will be about 20 copies. It'll be printed like one of our rougher ARCs, with color-paper covers. Right now, I'm thinking I may leave one (1) comma in the book somewhere and call it a typo." So, whoops. I really love that one comma will be left in.
I know there's more, but surely that's enough for now.