Opening week butterflies

Aaron asked, in the previous comment thread: Do authors get nervous when their works become accessible to the masses? With this book, perhaps less so, considering this is a series work in progress with an avid readership. However, I can’t help but wonder if you (in particular) get butterflies the first “opening days” of your releases.

Since I was more or less thinking about writing about this very thing, it’s the perfect question at this time.

But first, the usual very strong and very relevant disclaimers. I can’t speak for authors in general. No author can. Writing process–from start to finish–is so individual that what works for one author perfectly will cause another to seize up and wordlock. This is true when writing a novel; it’s true, as well, in the ways we react to the entire publication process.

So although it’s never charming when someone is speaking in a way that is “all about me”, this is, in fact, all about me.

I think for the first book there is a huge amount of excitement because it’s the first book, it’s a real book, and it’s often the end-product of years of work; years of learning to write well enough to tell the story, and then years of honing, learning about the business and submissions, finding an agent, etc. There is something enormously special about holding that first book in your hands, because it’s what you’ve been working toward for so long. There are also a lot of nerves. The usual “what if no one likes it”.

For me, this has grown stronger, rather than weaker, with the passage of time. It is not as exciting to hold a finished book in my hands — but it’s still pretty darn close.

I’m always slightly nervous when a book is released into the wild. I am nervous because writing is an act of communication, and there’s no actual communication in isolation, since in theory you need at least two people in order to communicate. Yes, it’s my story; yes, it’s a story I want to tell. But I can’t be certain that I’ve told it clearly enough that it speaks to other people until other people read it. My editor, of course, helps with this, as do first readers. But ultimately, they see the book in so many stages that it’s almost as easy for them to become lost in the process as I am. It’s hard to read each iteration as if they’ve never read it before.

It’s impossible for me to read any of it as if I’m a reader.

When writing a continuing series, like the Cast books, I think the anxiety actually gets stronger, rather than weaker, as the series continues, because the book or the story can go in directions that some of the readers who did like the first book might not enjoy nearly as much.

So, yes, I do get butterflies. I get excited, and I get nervous, and they really can’t easily be separated. Every writer has to tell the stories they can tell, the stories they love, but readers are in no way obligated to love those stories in the same way. As a reader, I don’t feel that sense of obligation when I buy a book or begin one; if the book fails to engage me, I don’t immediately feel that the fault lies with me.

Nor do I feel that the fault lies with the reader if the book they happen to bounce off is one that I wrote. Sometimes, the reader wants things that I’m simply not writing — and that doesn’t really hurt all that much. There are many, many books that I simply have no interest in reading; to demand that readers behave in a way that I don’t as a reader is just impractical.

However, when someone who did love the first book suddenly hates, or is bored, by the second, or third, or one of the subsequent books, that does sting a bit, because I clearly did manage to both engage them in the world and then lose them as it progressed.

At that point, I can sit in a corner and try to enumerate all the things that I might have done wrong–which is often pretty paralyzing–for hours at a time. And it’s not terribly productive, because in the end, I can’t write to a single, specific reader or opinion or I second-guess the book for the entire duration and it slowly gurgles to a grinding halt. Fear, which is not my favourite of human emotions, saps both the joy and the heart out of the book; I can’t write when I feel that inhibited. I can’t spend time thinking about what people will think of me every time I type a sentence, because what ends up on the page if I do that is so horribly superficial I might as well write a book about the weather. Or cooking. Or gardening. (I choose these things because they are not hobbies of mine, so any conversation I have about them is entirely social pleasantry. Or horror story, if you do happen to be an expert.)

This doesn’t mean that there are things that I couldn’t change as I go. Sometimes people have complaints not with the story itself, but with small elements in the way it’s told, and those, I try to keep in mind when I’m moving forward.

And, I suppose I should add that I am overjoyed when the book works for people, and they love it — but, because I’m a writer and all writers are somewhat neurotic, I then look at the work-in-progress and think “but…everyone will be so much more disappointed in this one.” No, this is not rational.

But, it keeps me honest.

So, yes: Butterflies.

Confluence 2009

I’ve posted this over on my LiveJournal as well, so if you read that, you’ve already seen it :).

I really like Confluence, and my husband and I will be heading there this coming weekend, the 24th-26th of July.

My programming schedule for the weekend is:

Friday 5pm Oak
Why are there so many Twits on Twitter?
John Scalzi, Laurie Mann, Michelle Sagara West,Sarah Zettel

I really like reading John Scalzi, and I’m planning on being highly amused.

Saturday 12pm Salon A
Folklore and the Roots of Fantasy
Alan Irvine, Michelle Sagara West, Susan Dexter, Bill Mayhew

Saturday 1pm Oak
Is Amazon “Kindling” a New Generation of Readers
Thomas Seay, Gary Markette, Michelle Sagara West, Jean Goldstrom

Saturday 2:00 PM
Michelle Sagara West

Saturday 4pm Jr Ste
Kaffee Klatsch
Sarah Zettel, Michelle Sagara West

Saturday 5:30 pm Willow
Michelle Sagara Smith

And I hope to see some of you there!

Cast in Silence is in the wilds!

As of last night, Cast in Silence was listed as in stock at Amazon and B&N, and one reader emailed to let me know that it’s hit bookstores in Illinois.  So, we’re live!

There are four things that are always exciting, even after all this time:

1.  Finishing the first draft of a novel

2.  Getting the cover flats of a novel

3.  Receiving my author’s copies, at which point it’s a real book

4.  Having the book arrive in stores, because it’s a real book for everyone else

And now, having jumped up and down like a loud, small child (and I have two, so I have some practice in recognizing this behaviour), I’m now going to go and work on Cast in Chaos and House Name.

Polaris 2009 schedule

This is a bit late, for which I apologize, and it’s probably not of interest to anyone who isn’t already attending the convention, but my schedule for the weekend at Polaris 2009 is as follows:

Print book vs E-book
E-book sales have been steadily increasing over the past few years. Will they endanger physical, paper books, or is there room for both? What are the advantages of e-books and print books?
Panelists: Anna Hatton, Timothy Carter, Michelle Sagara West, Stephen B. Pearl
Scheduled day/time: Friday 9:00 PM

Female superheroes. The few, the love interests, the female versions of male superheroes…
A few years ago Sequential Tart asked their readers to submit a list of top ten favourite female superheroes. Rules: Superheroes, not just comic book characters; no female versions of male characters (a la Supergirl); not created as a love interest; hero, not villain. Most readers couldn’t come up with ten. We know comics are more than superheroes, but it’s how most people think of them and until women have a voice they’ll always be less than they could be.
Panelists: Gemma Files, Clare Moseley, Michelle Sagara West
Scheduled day/time: Friday 10:00 PM

Table Top vs. Desktop: End of an Era?
Once in the far off lands of basement, people gathered socially, rolled their die, and sought quests completed. And then came the MMO. Has the cyberworld defeated the real? Has the Mighty Mouse quashed the pencil? Or is there still hope?
Panelists: Michelle Sagara West (M), Jessa Toomer, Stuart Kenny, Margaret-Anne Park
Scheduled day/time:Saturday 11:00 AM

Scheduled day/time: 3 p.m. Saturday

I loved that when I was a kid!
There are books that we loved as children that upon rereading are horrible, or contain messages we were never aware of. Other times they are still great or even better. Does this affect what you recommend or give as gifts? Is it because these books are bad, or just well focused? Is anything truly universal, and should that be a writer’s goal?
Panelists: Margaret-Anne Park, R.J. Anderson, Deanna Toxopeus, Michelle Sagara West
Scheduled day/time: Saturday 6:00 PM

Scheduled day/time: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

Reacting To Abrams Trek
With reactions to the new Trek film ranging from “OMG u r so brilant!” to “How about I re-imagine your face!?”, surely a discussion panel is warranted. Surely. Did the film live up (or down) to your expectations? Did Zachary Quinto adequately fill Leonard Nimoy’s pointed ears?
Panelists: Nancy Coulter, Vickie Kostecki, Michelle Sagara West, Chris Milloy, Patrick Mazerolle
Scheduled day/time: Sunday 5:00 PM

I hope to see some of you there!

(Cross-posted as well to the LJ).

Cast in Silence Chapter & a question

I’m at best a haphazard and slightly under-organized person.  I didn’t realize just how close July the 1st was until, well, today.  June has disappeared in a trail of words, chapters, and the end of school.  I’ve done a fair amount of writing, and I’m three quarters of the way through Cast in Chaos (which I always now type instead of Silence).  I’ve also finished revisions on what exists of House Name, having added some seven thousand words, and I’m now at the point where I’m once again writing new words in that book’s closing arc.

Someone came into the store a couple of months ago and suggested that one of my future Cast novels should be titled Cast in Concrete, which was very funny–and if I can think of a reasonable mafia for Elantra, I swear I’m going to do it.

But that’s not why you’re here.  Today, because it’s Canada Day, I’ve posted the first chapter of the upcoming Cast in Silence.  You can find it under the appropriate book in the Chronicles of Elantra page in the sidebar; it’s in .pdf and .html.


Okay, and now, the question.  Well, first the preamble:

It’s been suggested that I’m not very active on-line, and this is partly true.  I spend time reading on-line, but I don’t post often, and if I do, it’s frequently with a sense of driving outrage.  This implies that I’m normally a fairly silent person, unless pushed, which is sadly not entirely representative of the truth, especially not if you ask my brother.  (Hands up, any brothers who feel that their sisters actually do not talk all of the time).

I’m a fairly housebound person.  But I’m not really a gardener (because I have black thumbs), and knitting is always a proof-in-concept of extra-dimensionality.  I am not a very visual person, and I can draw stick figures on a good day.  I can’t sing, and if I listen to music while trying to write…well, I listen to music.  I don’t travel very much.

I work in a bookstore, which I managed until my oldest son was born.  I like the part-time work there, because I get to handle new books, and I get to see real people.  I understand parts of the writing process, I understand parts of the publishing process, and the business therein.

I do read, because I can’t actually remember a time in my life when I didn’t.  Reading is very much part of what I do, and how I think or feel.  I see movies, but mostly, I see movies that I can take the kids to see.  The two exceptions to that in recent memory that stand out:  The Lives of Others and Il y a Longtemps que Je t’aime.  Both of which were, in their own stark way, so profoundly beautiful I still try to make people watch them.  But I don’t watch very much television at all, and if I do, I play catch-up on series when they’re released as DVDs.

I do have children, and my oldest is now sixteen years of age, and he has given me permission to talk about some of his earlier life and his earlier experiences; I’ve never felt entirely comfortable talking about them in public before because only part of them are my life.  My oldest was diagnosed with Asperger’s, part of ASD, when he first hit school, and some of that experience occupied a great deal of my thought and time.

I also read some manga, and play some computer games.  I spent a number of years playing World of Warcraft, and I have some things to say about the nature of on-line MMO’s in a variety of different ways (gender roles immediately come to mind, and, ummm, I may have been guilty of long, looooong rants about the difference between “male” clothing and “female” clothing in game).

But I’m not sure that any of these things are profoundly interesting to people; they are all, of course, interesting to me.

I understand that it’s important to have samples of actual writing here, because that’s more or less what I do with my day.

Writing is not a terribly entertaining spectator sport, unless it’s been a particularly bad writing day, in which case it’s at least audibly interesting.  At a safe distance.  (My son says no distance is safe at that time <wry g>).

So… what I’m wondering at this point is:  What do you want to see, when you drop by here?  Is there enough here, with the books and the not-perfect-bibliography?  Would posts about the disconnects experienced in raising an ASD child or posts about funny/infuriating things in an MMO, or more frequent ‘read this book’ posts be reasonable?

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