Yesterday, two years ago, Sophie died. That damned old cat. How can it have been two years already? We moved her ashes with us from Atlanta. I wasn't about to leave her ghost lurking about that godsforsaken city alone. And who'd have thought this annoying Siamese bastard named Hubero Padfoot Wu ever would have stolen my callous heart? It's a world of damned unlikely twists and turns, I tell you.
And on this day four years ago I wrote the following:
Lately, I can't seem to get past the cold fact of "popularity contests." We tend to use that phrase in a strictly pejorative sense, as in, "I don't want anything to do with that. It's just a popularity contest." And yet, that's what publishing is. If you win, it's because you've cracked the secrets of the popularity contest, and if you fail, it's because you never figured it out, or never tried, or no one ever paid to put you at the top of the list, or whatever. And adding to the frustration is the importance of happenstance in this whole enterprise. How does someone achieve popularity? Well, I have to admit, at least in the short run, money helps. The more money is spent promoting your books, the more chance is weighted in your favour. But it's not at all unusual for books with huge advertising budgets to fail. In fact, that's what usually happens to books with huge advertising budgets, if only because that's what happens with most books (and forget the highly questionable and rarely questioned, even if often parroted, Sturgeon's Law; it's about as useful and relevant here as any adage). What really makes for success is that intangible, elusive ability to appeal to large numbers of people, for whatever reason. Authors tend to achieve success in the marketplace by one of two routes: a) an ability to speak the common tongue and tell stories that resonate with a large number of readers, or b) a knack for being in the right place at the right time. In either case, it's mostly luck. This is not an issue of art, or of quality, or of effort. No matter how hard one tries, or how well one writes, the odds of success are roughly the same. The work ethic fails here, along with all those American fantasies of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps and naive beliefs that quality will out.
Four years on, I still haven't gotten over being appalled at the whole high-schoolish "popularity contest" aspect of publishing. Likely, I never, ever shall.
Now that the heatwave has abated, I am being preyed upon, or falling victim to the seductions of, another of the Nine Seven Deadly Sins of Writing —— Distraction. How am I supposed to sit here, in this tiny office, writing about a fabulous clockwork Western America, an alternate reality with mechanical mastodons and zeppelins and mysterious carnival tents that reek of the ocean, when I could easily be at Beavertail, or the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, or the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, or visiting Lovecraft's grave at Swan Point, or talking with Panthalassa at Moonstone Beach, or meeting Bob Eggleton for coffee to discuss The Dinosaurs of Mars, or taking in a movie at the Avon on Thayer Street, or searching for trilobites at Lionshead on Conanicut Island, or reading old books in the Providence Athenaeum, or taking the train down to Manhattan? I mean, sheesh. There was nothing to do in Atlanta —— nothing worth doing —— but now i am here, and there are a hundred things to do on any given day. What odd gravity holds me in this chair, I'll never know.
Last night, more unpacking, mostly fossils for the big display case, and a few recent skulls. Three starfish from Jacksonville, FL. Then we watched the very first episode of Deadwood for the fourth or fifth time, because I needed a dose of Al Swearengen. Then there was more unpacking, and bed a little after 2 ayem.
The box-flap doodle art auctions have begun! Two of them, which is all there shall be. There's the "Cephaloflap" and the "Monster Doodle." Take your pick, or go for both. All proceeds go to, well, stuff. There's always stuff. Stuff is not free. Except for free stuff, of course. Frell, free stuff is cool, right? So, I'll even throw in a free moonstone from Moonstone Beach, collected by mine own hands, to each auction winner. So there. Go forth and bid, ye bloomin' scallywags.
Also, Spooky's birthday still has not been moved from June 24th, despite appeals to the Homeland Office of Birth Date Relocation, and you can find her Amazon wish list by following the button below. Me, I need more caffeine, obviously.
Shit, it's Friday the fucking 13th. Good thing I'm not triskaidekaphobic or paraskevidekatriaphobic.