Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Tough Thing About Choices

My pick for an overlooked, underappreciated novel is now up on The Rap Sheet, and I have to confess it was a tough question for me. I'll admit it readily: I haven't been reading crime fiction long enough to have much to choose from in terms of older books, or more obscure titles.

That said, I didn't mind selecting something more recent, because perhaps making mention of it actually gives the person a chance of benefiting from some sales.

I strongly considered John Rickards and Steve Mosby as well. In terms of full disclosure, I met John in person at Harrogate and know him a bit from the blogs. I think he gets better and better with every book out, and the good news is that some of John's Hardboiled Jesus will see print in the next Out of the Gutter issue.

Steve Mosby is a friend of mine, and his writing skirts the fringes of the genre more than the works of some others. Because of that, his stuff is always original, and I've gone on the record pegging him as the breakout author of 2007. If there's any justice he will be, and a US deal will follow. Steve and I have a lot in common, and soon we'll share a special day. He's getting married on my birthday, so no excuses for me not to remember and send a present.

Today, I've been working on Spinetingler stuff, and I wrote a review that made some predictions. It was truly one of the toughest things for me to put down. I believe what I said - no question - but one of the things about being out in the public domain is that if you end up with egg on your face, it happens publicly too. I think that's one of the things about the blogs, in a way, that helps people. You see, if you decide to write a novel and do so at home, quietly, and try to get it published by it never happens, if you haven't told anyone you at least don't have to face public humiliation.

But when you're out there, talking about it, if it never happens you carry that with you. People know you failed.

I think that's one of the reasons some people get really sensitive about blog conflicts and accusations. It's definitely the reason I don't read a few blogs. There's almost a sense of... gloating. I find that rather sad. Actually, one thing I found rather sad was an email from someone we're publishing in the next issue, talking about how embarrassed they were to submit work to me, convinced I'd think it was crap.

And it's one of the best stories we've ever had submitted to us. And that's not to dismiss other stuff we've published and accepted - it's just that this story is amazing and this email broke my heart. I think mainly because I completely understood. I got a piece of fan mail today for Suspicious Circumstances. It made me think of how, most of the time, we work in isolation and we don't really get to enjoy any sense of accomplishment.

And then I was talking to Jon Jordan today, and was reminded of how horrid I am about showing my own appreciation for the hard work others put in, and the fantastic job they do. The new issue of Crimespree is out, with the incredible Laura Lippman on the cover, someone I count as a major inspiration. (She's a top-shelf author in this house, a must-buy.) The Jordans do a fantastic job with Crimespree, and it is so important that we have wonderful magazines focusing on the genre. It's worth every cent, and if you don't subscribe you should. (Plus, ordering back issues of #13 from last July is the only way to get a copy of my short story, The Butcher.)

Anyway, I'll go back to my cave now, slogging away on this issue. I still have a few interviews to finish and several reviews to write, so if you don't see me around as much for the next few days you'll know why. And if a whole week goes by, send chocolate. Why is it thinking about failure always makes me want chocolate?


Christa M. Miller said...

Sandra, I think you're well aware of others' hard work. You recently posted something (I think on Crimespace) about how most of the big-name authors have already paid their dues for their success - for years. You have no idea how much comfort that brought me, the way it has helped me knuckle down and work harder at excellence.

Not to mention, sheesh, all the things you already do to bring attention to others' hard work. In for Questioning? The Crime Zine Report? Spinetingler? This blog? I tend to think the attention given an end product is more important than attention for individuals' work producing it, you know?

Sandra Ruttan said...

I find myself thinking that perhaps I shouldn't do so much Christa, that I should concentrate on doing one or two things exceptionally well.

My problem is, being a Gemini, I'm all over the map. I'm interested in everything.

But I am bad for not telling people how much I appreciate what they're doing, and I've just been reminded -again- of how narrowly (and selfishly) we often view people. It's easy to look at a person and thinking they're very successful. If they don't email you back it must be because they don't like you or they don't want to hear from you. The games the mind plays.

Yet some of those very successful people are some of the ones that feel the most isolated. For every bit of fan mail comes even more hate mail.

norby said...

That's part of being a Gemini? Here I thought my sister was just trying to drive us crazy by never sitting still.

I think people have forgotten how hard it is to be successful. How much work is involved. Last summer my husband worked with young men who truly believe that someday they will be big rap stars like Eminem, 50 Cent, and all their proteges. They don't really see the work that Eminem put in, and the luck that placed him with Dr. Dre.

It's the same with authors-they don't see the hours over the typewriters, computers, whatever. That moment of luck when the letter crossed the agent or publisher's desk, or the handshake that prefaced the meeting. Anymore everyone believes that if they have enough presence on the internet and in bookstores then everything will be hunky-dory, they don't realize that there has to be work backing that up, work that can stand by itself without the author pushing it like a drug. It has to be good enough for someone else to want to push it. That's when they fall down.

Sandra Ruttan said...

That Norby, and the stubborn streak. ;)

I agree that the work has to be good enough to stand on its own. And that we have to respect the luck the helps us along the way. As well as the support and encouragement we get.

Christa M. Miller said...

You do have a lot going on. But it's all for the crime fiction community. I can't see a single person thinking you're not totally engaged. Actually, I wish I could do more in that vein. I worry that I will be seen as ungrateful to the community - that I don't comment on every piece of flash fiction I read, for instance, or that I'm not on Crimespace as much as I could/should be. When the reality is that I'd be neglecting my boys if I did all that! Now, you folks are incredibly understanding about that. But others might not be, is my fear.

It's true about the games the mind plays, and the successful folks. I got that from a brief email conversation with an author who wrote me about working around kids. She seemed *almost* lonely. Like she's not really, but she could do with a little less focus on her life.

At that point I think it becomes hard for "the rest of us" to think in terms of their hard work, because those elements of their lives are 1) glossed over in favor of the more "entertaining" information, and 2) personal, part of their lives they don't want us to see in some ways.

What's funny to me is that my life is, to some, enviable! I think that more than anything else reminds me to look at others as humans and not success stories.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well Christa, maybe we should just keep the faith for each other. It would be physically impossible to comment on every blog, every forum, every piece of flash fiction, to write to every person when their work inspires me in some fashion, and to report on every single thing happening in the genre. I do what I can. I don't watch tv and I live in the sticks in relative quiet, see no friends on a weekly or even monthly basis, so the internet is my social time. I use it to endorse what I can, but won't let it run my life to the point I can't write.

So, if that's not enough for anyone, if people think I'm not supportive of the genre, I have two words for them, and they aren't "I'm sorry."

But yeah, I've faced criticism. And I'm still thinking about this. In fact, it goes back to something I posted a while back on Crimespace, and it still pisses me off - the lack of support amongst some people. I'm not talking about needing to comment everywhere on everything, but...

Well, it might just spur a blog post in the morning. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

I'm in awe of your energy and the warmth you spread around. Reading your blog reminds me of all the positives there is in being blogger, when at the moment I'm struggling with getting through the day and have no energy left for anything.

Being a Gemini myself can relate to the being all over the map. The big emotions, big passions, big let downs, big blues. Sometimes I really wish for some eveness.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Amra, I hear you about the desire to be level. Oh boy...