Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Puppies Suck

When I was younger (and could still breathe properly … and even sing competently, if not remarkably well), I had this idea that I was going to start a band and call it Puppies.  Chiefly, this would be because I longed to hear people screaming, “PUPPIES ROCK!” – and because nobody could boo us.  Nobody can say “PUPPIES SUCK!”

Who likes a critic, after all?  My imaginary band, Puppies, was critic-proof … and that was really what I wanted – recognition without criticism – not to be a vocalist.  Imaginary creations have a great deal of charm in this – and I imagine it’s this desire to escape negative feedback which keeps so many creative people in the “’nartist” category.

When it comes to Ax, I am intellectually aware that there are going to be guitarists at the back of the bar, snarking on the historicity of my fiction – but I am blissfully ignorant, thus far, of what the reality is going to be when it comes out.  It’s not something we like to theorize about, is it?  People may hate everything from the fact that that I don’t fold in the Merovingian Heresy somehow to the fact that I named Clovis’ horse without research.  There will be those, indubitably, who can’t stand my style of writing, and I expect there will be many who don’t buy into my presumption in writing first-person from a male POV.  Some will find a way to complain that my feminism compromises the book, and others will decry my abandoning it (and, certainly, there are the LGBT issues, though not front and center).

As brave as I am with professionals in publishing, and the work itself, I have to admit to gibbering, if intermittent, horror at reader reviews.  One hopes those I’ll get from reviewers with wide readership for their opinions will be professional, of course – but the individual people on Amazon and the like are the ones that weaken me.  People are emotionally partisan about their opinions on books, and if someone feels their time wasted by some shortcoming, or overlocution, or missed expectation with The Ax and the Vase, I’m going to FEEL their meanness when they unleash it and I make the mistake of not looking away fast.  I can rise above critique, but individual reviews have a unique nastiness to them I’m going to either have to learn how to avoid completely.  Individual reviews are so often *personal*, of the ilk of “this author SUCKS” in just the way I didn’t want Puppies to endure.

Part of the pain is that I didn’t just peel this novel off a large stack, it has meant so much to me and every scene had its place, even the many which ended up, as it were, on the cutting-room floor.  Every edit taught me something – every cut and everything that remains has its considered, deliberate fate.  Yes, some of it is pure fantasy; but I’m not a textbook author.  Yet it isn’t slipshod, it isn’t careless nor even ignorant.  When I look at it, I’m excited by it.  When I think of sharing it, I’m excited by that.  And, when we share something like that, finding that people consider it insufficient – or too much – or distasteful – can be hard to take.  Like a host serving a meal he or she prepared personally, the book was quite literally made to please, and so to be met with offense at its contents or seasoning … or its presenter … is painful.  The work that went in was never meant to upset, but to delight.

Failing to delight, I find, is perhaps the hardest thing in my life.  That sounds unbelievably ridiculous when I read the sentence out loud – and yet, there it is.  I haven’t produced the blessing of children in this world, I don’t contribute a lot to my community nor my country.  I’m an outstanding friend, but even there still find myself impotent to do any good for some of those people I care for most in this world.  The older I get, the more it means to me to bring satisfaction and joy to my friends and family.

Ax is my first real try at bringing it to those I may never meet.  It’s just a story.  But it’s such a story.  And what greater thing is there to offer than a story?  We each are our own story; Ax is just one of mine.  It’s an offering with nothing but its own inspiration and my own goodwill behind it.

And so, as dispassionate as I can be with its bones, with its parts – with Ax itself, in the end, I am profoundly invested, and proud.  I want it loved.  Because:  CLOVIS ROCKS.

Because, if he does – in some way, the shine reflects back on me.  And I’m vain.  I want that, too.

No comments: