Sometimes I get embarrassed at writer events. No, make that I often get embarrassed at writer events. You know the type of thing – anything from a panel at a conference to a round table at some local gathering, to a soiree where people come to see the working authors (slightly more amusing than seeing monkeys in a zoo. Or at least, you have less chance of being hit by flung poo. Though no promises made against territory marking, in the way of the great jungle cats. At least metaphorically.)
Anyway, you’ve probably attended one of these: the author gets up and says “hi, I’m so and so and I’ve written this book.” They usually come provided with copies of the book, or at least of the cover, to wave around in a meaningful manner and perhaps convince you to buy it.
As more and more self published authors join the mix, it becomes more a matter of their bringing piles and piles of books to sell.
… and here I am. On a good day, I’ll remember to bring bookmarks and/or one of my business cards. Most days aren’t that good though. Most days it’s just me showing up – usually late – with purse and sometimes with laptop bag (if Dan failed to surgically detach me from it.)
Then the intros start. Some of the authors have written one book. I’ve been at events with writers who have as many as three. Last year, on one panel, I had a co-panelist who had fifteen books out, in one series, but she was older than I, and, let’s face it, the books were ALL in one series.
Then there’s me. I am improbable, bordering on the near-impossible. It starts with “I’ve published twenty three books.” If I slur this, sometimes people think I said “two or three.” This helps because they tend to stare and point less. If they get it, I immediately get the appraising looks, something like “My aren’t you well preserved.”
Mind you, I have friends who have published way more, but they usually don’t have to follow it up with “under three… no wait, four names… that I admit to.” Mumble. “There are others, but that’s more like…” Mumble “Twenty eight? No. Nine.”
By this time I usually can see one person, maybe two, speed dialing the men in white coats. The others are just smiling at me, sure I’m lying and waiting for the punch line.
If sometime during the panel I let it fly that I’ve only been published eleven years next month, it makes it worse.
People seem to think the productivity is at best unlikely and at worst a sign of something deeply broken with me. I’d argue I’ve got friends who write as much (or more) but then again how do I know my friends are normal.
So, instead, I usually end up feeling vaguely guilty and ashamed.
In my defense, therefore, and for all time, I’d like to invoke the following justifications:
1. I never set out to write that much. In fact, I’d love to slow down to a comfortable jog of four books or so a year and offload to an assistant everything else, including putting my old short stories up as ebooks. So far, this goal hasn’t met up with the goal of having three meals a day and a roof over my head. I shall continue trying. Which means… more writing.
2. I never set out to write in multiple genres. Honestly, I set out to write in science fiction and thought I might eventually write one or two mysteries. The fantasy, historical fantasy, historical mystery and romance just sort of… well… some were wished on me by publishing houses… Mostly, though well… They just sort of happen. And don’t tell me writing an accidental novel or two never happened to you, because… well, why do you think they call them accidental novels.
3. I don’t actually have a work ethic, let alone a good one. What I have is a huge, looming fear of failure, which means I must run very hard to avoid failing, and … well… that keeps me working. Unless fear and paranoia are a virtue, it’s not a work ethic.
4. I’m not the world’s laziest writer – well, at least Dean Wesley Smith, who can write circles around me every day of the week and twice on Sunday CLAIMS that title – but I do waste any amount of time. For one I’m a news junkie, and I must check the blogs five times a day, just in case the wheels have come off the world. (They have. I just don’t know what to do to put them back on. It’s not as easy as in my fiction…) For another, I’m still sleeping a good six hours a night. And periodically I just sit and stare at the screen, too. Or watch a movie. In fact, the time I spend not typing probably outweighs the time I spend typing.
5. I don’t know how NOT to write. Trust me. If I did I’d have walked away a dozen times in the last ten years.
6. The dog ate my homework, I have a witlow (also cleaning lady’s knee), I have congenital graphomania, and besides…
Maybe I’ll just start lying and only admitting to the books in the last two years?