WHY READERS LOVE MY WRITING

Before any of my readers express concern about my injuring myself by patting myself too roughly on the back, this column is not in any way boasting about my literary prowess. Even though it may sound like that.

No,  this is an attempt to answer a question that’s puzzled me for at least five years. Namely, how could an unknown writer with no publicity, no contacts in publishing, no media reviews, relatively few reviews of any kind, self published, no paid advertising, almost no cheap or free advertising, complete ignorance of virtually all the technical bells and whistles of Internet advising, almost NO use of social media,  possibly have attracted the interest and loyalty of thousands of readers who aren’t related to me by blood or marriage.

Add to those negative factors, the subject matter which fits uncomfortably in established genres. It’s not erotica, although it has sex and rough language. Erotica is fiction ABOUT sex, designed to arouse sexual desires. My work – whatever else it might be – is not designed to arouse sexual desires and while sex is present, it’s not the major element. It has courtroom action, but it’s not about that – or only about that. It has crime ranging from murder to fairly rough sexual assault, necrophilia, mercy killing, drug dealing on the local, state and international level, racial tensions and murders and the international sex trade. But it is not a crime novel. It’s about divorce and marriage and state politics, but not just about those things.

Okay, you might say, but you haven’t seen my name on any best seller lists, no movies have  been announced. How can I say readers love my writing?

From time to time Smashwords and other sites release stats on the typical sales and income for the average reader.  It’s fairly common knowledge that the average Indie just putting a novel out with no advance push may sell 100 or 200 books. In my case the figures are several thousand copies and while the average sales may be only 50 or 100  a month, they continue to sell.

And more importantly, two years after the last book was published under DQS or short story as well and no communication with readers, each week brings in emails wondering when the next DQS work will be released. They come from the US, Canada, Europe, South America. Everything I’ve read tells me the key to keep readership is not to let them forget about you. Publish something every year, if not more often.

I just released a newsletter this month and the response has staggered me. I really was  afraid the newsletter would out in a giant explosion of silence and there would be only the faint sounds of crickets in the night as my name and work were simply forgotten.

And as importantly,while there are a lot of writers who have faithful readers, I don’t have readers who just drop a line and say ‘I liked your latest book,” My readers are more likely to either send me a two page critique of the characters and the plot, or if they hate something, they will unload on me. Bad or good, they care enough to act on their feelings. I don’t know that there is any praise greater than that for any writer.

So, how come?

I had an idea and that was going to be my next post, but this applies more directly. I’m still going to write a post explaining exactly WHAT it is, I write. But this one is WHY my writing has touched a nerve. Today I read http://bigthink.com/ideafeed/is-it-ok-for-men-to-feel-sad and I think it explains why my writing appeals to certain readers.

This intriguing and eye-opening post explains that men can’t cry, can’t show fear, can’t feel or express any deeper emotion. This is a fact that every man – from 25 to 85 – knows in their gut. You can’t express helplessness, even when you’re in a corner and you can’t ask for help. Don’t listen to Millennial crap about women wanting you to share your deepest feelings and fears. Do that and I promise you have a 20 percent or lesser chance of ever getting laid unless you move far away. And try explaining to your wife that you’ve quit your $50,000 a year a job because the soul-sucking routine was killing your soul.

So, if men can’t cry, can’t grieve, can’t communicate any deep emotions, can’t form any attachments outside the bedroom, what purpose do they serve? If you answer a paycheck and sperm, you might be cynical, but would many women in a group away from men argue the point  too strenuously.

So why do readers love my writing? Perhaps because my men are not automatons with genitalia. My men – if they don’t cry – at least mourn and they hurt. They wrestle with rejection and depression and betrayal. They don’t walk away from marriages with the main thought in their head that now they can sample new stuff. They love their children and will fight as hard for them as any mother. They love women long beyond the point they should kick their cheating asses out.

So that’s why men love my writing. There aren’t many places in modern literature or culture where a man can find his humanity recognized. Where they are allowed weakness and courage in the face of defeat and humiliation

And female readers? Of which there are a number. Perhaps it’s heartening to realize that despite 50 years of feminist propaganda,  there are still decent men. And perhaps they can appreiciate reading about women who make mistakes, terrible mistakes, but remain as fallible and human as any man.

Anyway, those are the reasons I think my readers love my writing. I’d be interested to hear any other opinions.

DQS

 

Nobody But A Fool Ever Wrote Except For Love

NOBODY BUT A FOOL EVER WROTE EXCEPT FOR LOVE

Not too long ago I was reading a post about the ghetto that genre fiction once inhabited Maybe the neighborhood was not as sleazy as erotica or porn.  But still, writing or wanting a career in the genres was the kind of thing a nice girl wouldn’t admit to her fiancé’s upper class parents. Anybody who ever took writing or literature classes in college knew enough not to admit to a respected professor the kind of stuff you loved, read or wrote.

Which is only one of many reasons I’m glad I grew up in a lower middle class Southern family. I grew up reading Ace Double science fiction novels,  branching out to HP Lovecraftian horror and then 20th century fantasy and Lord of the Rings, and then private eye novels from the cookie cutter variety to “The Big Sleep.”

I never knew or cared about mainstream fiction and while I made my acquaintance with some real classics, my love was genre. Despite that,  I took writing classes at UF, where I was fortunate enough to meet and know slightly the late HARRY Crews. He was an original. I don’t  think there was a genre bone in his body, but he wrote great novels about guys eating cars and others that simply can’t be described. I knew I could more easily lift myself up by my shoelaces than write his kind of fiction so I didn’t even try. I wrote what I liked, which resulted in my selling  a novel to Doubleday and Robert Hale in England. And later a dozen or so pro short sales in the horror, sf and fantasy genres.

Now to the point of this comment. I never wrote or for that matter read more than a handful of mainstream lit books for most of my life. And then in my early 60s I started reading romance, mainstream male/female stories, some erotic some not. And I wound up beginning a mainstream epic of a modern American marriage that blows up in a cataclysmic divorce and family rupture. It’s up to three novels,more than 500,000 words and it has a long way to go. And is nothing like anything I;ve ever written or wanted to write. Whether it’s good  or not, it has loyal followers literally around the world. Which only goes to show that what you write, what drives you to write, comes from your gut. You can’t make yourself  want to write what’s popular or esteemed or what you SHOULD write. It’s really more like falling in love than anything else. You love what you love and you write what you write, regardless of how much trouble either decision can get you into.

The point of this post, and most of the things I;m currently doing, is two-fold. The first is to be more open and try to strengthen the bonds with my readers. I started writing when the only practical path to publication was to get an agent and then get a publisher so you could sit back and sip mint julips while your publishers did all the hard work of building your career. I never expected and never planned on having to become at least a pseudo public figure. I come from a generation before Facebook and the whole process of discussing your daily meals,  ills and bowel habits still strikes me as more than a little voyeuristic. But I’m trying.

And the second point is to try to provide some information and guidance  for whatever it’s worth to readers and fellow writers. That’s the whole point of blogging. And again, this is not something that comes naturally to me. I’ve read tons of blogs and columns and self help books and they’ve always seriously intimidated me. Not only do I NOT walk around burdened  with  this burning desire to spread the pearls of my hard-earned wisdom about the answers to life’s perplexing questions, I truly have a hard time figuring out what the hell  the questions are.

But, recently I’ve begun examining my life and it seems that I do have observations ,some experiences that may be of  value to others. One directly contradicts one of the most famous pieces of writing advice ever uttered.  Cynics echo Samuel Johnson who famously stated that “nobody but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

I’ve written for money my entire life, but I have never written anything I loved FOR the money. The closest I  came to being paid to write the things I loved were non-fiction that came close to the kind of things I wanted to write as fiction! For most of my life I wrote fiction to satisfying a driving urge to express sentiments that could never be expressed in non-fiction. And with rare exceptions I was never paid. But that never bothered me because I didn’t write for money.

And now for the point of it all. I’ve written tons of non-fiction over the decades. And if some cataclysm were to destroy every word, I wouldn’t lose sleep. Because they were all just jobs. But Ive had novels and short stories published in the conventional press and as e-books and losing those would be like having someone rip the bones out of my body without pain killers.

Writing without love and passion  is like marrying without love and passion. In  the end, all you have is a pale, weak imitation of life.