Ghosts by Gaslight

My goal for today was to change out of pajamas, and I’m happy to say I achieved that goal. Around noon, after thoroughly dosing myself with Robitussin and Mucinex, I was able to get up. I spent the afternoon in a t-shirt and gypsy skirt, sitting on the bed, making final revisions to the Secret Project. (You know what a gypsy skirt is, don’t you? It’s a skirt in tiers, perfect for dancing and proofreading in. Like the one I tangoed with Genevieve in, at Wiscon.) It took forever, because my brain is working at a fraction of its usual speed. But I’m hoping that yesterday was the worst of it, and that I’m actually starting to get better.

Now, I have to confess something. Every once in a while (which is a euphemism for often), I check my name on Ice Rocket. Do you know what Ice Rocket is? You should, if you’re a writer. If you go to the site and put in your name, you can see where people are mentioning you online: on blogs, facebook, twitter, etc. It’s a useful way to track reviews of stories, comments on blog posts, that sort of thing. And today I noticed that Jack Dann had posted a picture of the cover for Ghosts by Gaslight. Here it is:

Isn’t that a great cover? Here’s what Jack says about the book: “Ghosts by Gaslight, an anthology Jack has edited with Nick Gevers, will be out in September. It has a great line-up of stories by James Morrow, Peter S. Beagle, Terry Dowling, Garth Nix, Gene Wolfe, Margo Lanagan, Sean Williams, Robert Silverberg, John Langan, John Harwood, Richard Harland, Marly Youmans, Theodora Goss, Lucius Shepard, Laird Barron, Paul Park, and Jeffrey Ford.”

Can I just point out what fantastic company I’m in? This is an anthology of ghost stories set in the nineteenth century, and it contains my story “Christopher Raven.” If you’re interested, you can pre-order it here.

(At this point, the post was interrupted by a fit of coughing and another shot of Robitussin. I really am doing better. I even slept most of last night, other than the tossing and turning and waking up before dawn. But this cough is going so, so slowly.)

I mention Ice Rocket because I’ve noticed something interesting. Internet mentions of writers go up when they’ve just had something come out: a novel, a story. For example, right now everyone is talking about Ellen Datlow’s Teeth and the new Bordertown anthology, Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Ellen Kushner and Holly Black.  The writers in those anthologies are getting a lot of mentions. So as a writer, your internet buzz will depend on what you have coming out, when.

I know, you may hate the whole idea of internet buzz. But the internet is where we live nowadays, just as, a hundred years ago, we might all have wanted to live in Paris. And if you think about it, that really is liberating. We don’t have to move into artists’ enclaves in Montparnasse, drink absinthe in cheap bars with showgirls, although some of you might like to. And internet buzz is helpful because it lets people know that you’re out there. Writing, available for projects.

If you blog, you have something coming out, something people can discuss, as often as you post. You can, if you decide, have something coming out every day. It’s not the equivalent of a novel, not even the equivalent of a story. But it’s something. And if people like what you post, they look out for your stories and novels.

I write all this because when I went to the Odyssey writing workshop, I was introduced to the idea of buzz. It was a mysterious thing that writers like Kelly Link and Ted Chiang had, and no one knew exactly how it was generated. At one point, I think around the time my first short story came out, I was told that I had buzz, and I was worried that whatever it was, whatever it represented, I would somehow miss it. Especially since shortly after, I had a child and had to work very hard and did not do much writing for about three years.

Recently, a friend of mine, a very good short story writer who was contemplating writing his first novel, told me that he was afraid he’d missed his opportunity. I told him that was ridiculous. That although chance does enter into writing and publishing, as it does into anything else, more often than not we make our own opportunities. Which reminded me of a post I had read by Dean Wesley Smith on whether or not it was possible to kill a writing career. His response was that the only way to kill a writing career is by not writing. And I have certainly seen writers do that.

There’s no magic to buzz. It depends on the quality of your writing and the frequency with which you get it out there. Talent and frequency together are a magical combination.

And so, whether you’re a beginning writer or a writer whose career isn’t going as well as you would like, you need to do the same things. Write as well as you can. Get your writing out there as often as possible. Chance will still be a factor in the equation. I’ve had a friend tell me that the best story he’s ever written did not get attention when it was first published.  To which I say, offer it for free on your website. Publish it as an ebook. Make it available.  If it’s that good (and it is), it will get the attention it deserves.

For better or for worse, we’re living in a brave new technological world. It offers writers opportunities they’ve never had before. When have writers had the opportunity to be published every single day? And yet, as soon as I click on the “Publish” button to the upper right hand corner of my screen, I will have published what is essentially a short essay. Which is exactly what I’m going to do – right – NOW.

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5 Responses to Ghosts by Gaslight

  1. Since you made such an effort to rise from your sickbed, I thought the least I could do was come see what you were saying!

    I’ve been writing about some of these things, but with somewhat of a tilt toward poetry… Have been doing a blog series about publishing that covered all sorts of things, including nanopress for poetry and people who publish solely on the internet. And the whole business of getting the word out is very complicated with something like poetry. It seems the standard recommendations don’t work. Facebook friends don’t work. Reviews don’t work. Anyway, have had that whole area of thought on the brain since I have a new collection out, and especially since I know small houses and presses who have dropped poetry of late or are thinking about it.

    Glad to be in your company in “Ghosts,” too, Theodora! Feel better very soon.

  2. And I’m looking forward to reading “Christopher Raven.”

  3. sarah says:

    So true. When I found myself too busy to write a “proper” project – ie, novel or non-fiction book – I decided to treat my blog like a “living book”. It keeps me going in writer mode, keeps me encouraged and believing I have not stalled (which I have, but perhaps in an inverse kind of Positive Thinking, if I don’t believe it, it won’t be true!)

  4. Laird says:

    This is a really nice book, judging by the proofs we received. I’m happy to be in this one with you guys. Lovely cover, indeed.

  5. Yes, I’m very excited about this book, and to be in it with the both of you, Marly and Laird!

    Marly, I think poetry is just different. I’ve been thinking lately that the way to publicize it is to focus on the spoken rather than written word. Look at youtube videos. The ones of Billy Collins poems are wildly popular. They’re like poetry versions of music videos. I honestly wonder whether that’s the way to go?

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