Letter to Stacy Taff

Dear Stacy,

I’m wondering why I’ve never given you a copy of the first book in the Karl series, Berserkr Blood, to read. I know you said that you didn’t like reading something from friends and fellow authors, but I’m wondering if there was some aversion to the stuff I wrote, particularly, especially after you told me you read some of it. I’ve always been curious what you thought of, well, anything, and you never said much after I directed you this way of that. Would you tell me the reasonings? Lay it on me, in full. I would love your honest truth. Always have. Always will.

Utterly sincere,

Cole Lemme

 

“Cole,
First, a note: I haven’t written anything in some time. I spin worlds in my head and I dream up characters in all their quirks, and place them in situations, predicaments, etc., etc. Sometimes it’s just moments and fragments that I’d like to weave together, but don’t. It’s self hatred. Pure and simple. I am without doubt the harshest critic I will ever have and until I get out from under this boulder that’s crushing me, I’ll never write anything that will see the light of day. This condition of mine makes it difficult for me to read the work of others I know personally (especially if this person has never written anything and just decided a week ago that they want to be an author) because I think to myself, “But I’m the writer here. Me. What do they know about it?” or “He’s written something else? Already? The last thing I need right now is to be reminded of my own paralysis.” It’s sad. And well…let’s be honest, quite pathetic.

So, knowing that, try to be forgiving if the following offends you in any way.

Still further, you remember that I do understand the depth of what you write and think and I can empathize fully with a person who finds himself struck and propelled by the divine, the cosmic, the eternal, the unfathomable, and the soul-wrenching cruelty and heart-tearing beauty of it all. I can empathize with that person who, at the end of the day, still finds himself anti-climactically and yet mercifully human.

Why kick up all this dust? Well, you kicked it first. What do I think about your writing? I think you are a magician with words. On the other hand, I think you’ll have a hard time finding more than a few people willing to read your writing because 80-90% of what you say is better suited to the philosophical crowd. Personally, I think your work is mislabeled.

Reading shouldn’t be work. Fiction, whether poetry or prose, is an escape. Or rather, it should be. Am I saying your writing is work? Not necessarily. But I will say that you never use one word when twenty (or a hundred) will do. Sometimes, your work takes the reader in circles and perhaps that’s your intention. If so, I guess it calls into question what your aim is. Do you wish to tell stories for the enjoyment and enrichment of others? Maybe you want to shout your pain and confusion from the mountaintop, hoping the sounds will echo throughout eternity in the minds of men? Maybe you simply yearn to be seen this way, a deep, tortured soul, misunderstood, who is destined to write the next culturally significant epic. Who knows.

Remember back when I said you appeared indifferent and yet at the same time heartbreakingly involved? Well that dichotomy, while compelling, is distracting and lends a divisiveness to your writing. I’m mostly talking about what you’ve put on your website, your various musings and that roundabout way you have of getting to the point. There’s deep, and then there’s deep. The former is natural and doesn’t try, or at the very least it allows us to believe it doesn’t. It’s the kind that surprises you during an otherwise laid-back conversation and suddenly you find yourself questioning everything.

In my experience, your brand of depth is the latter. It’s taxing. It’s disorienting and torrential and as a reader I wonder if you, Cole D. Lemme, are drowning in your own ocean of indefinitely delayed gratification and heaps upon heaps of unanswered questions and prayers. It’s honest, naked, and rife with yearning and anguish. In short, your website is basically a journal. It tells more about you than it does about anything else and therein lies your problem.

You want people to read what you write? Quit writing about you. Who are you, that the world should give a damn? What’s ironic is you’ve constantly asked yourself this same exact question. Both internally and throughout your writing.

While I enjoy your ruminations, those who don’t know you will quit three inches down the page. It’s a shame, but there it is. As for your novels? You’re talented and no one can dispute that. I lost Areon and Nothingness when my last laptop crashed, but from what I could remember, the prologue or whatever that was at the beginning stuck out as something special, sharp. Then when you got into the story with Areon, you beat me over the head with medieval quest novel clichés. I stopped reading after a while. Granted, it was well written but it failed to hold my interest. I’ll stop there because it was your first novel and as I haven’t even written one, I can’t judge.

Today’s world has had all of the true art drained out of it. With technology, reality tv, smartphones, high-speed everything and its brother, real literature it losing its place. People want their shit now, like now. I applaud you for writing longhand, because if there happened to be a massive EMP attack, most people wouldn’t even know how to find their assholes without an LED light or touchscreen. However, survival is about adaption. I don’t mean you have to become one with the sheep. On the contrary, because I’d bitch-slap you. You just have to know what people want and give them your own version of it. It sounds like selling out, and maybe it is. But that’s how you sell books and gain fans, which you want, whether you admit it or not.

Take the Hunger Games. You said it yourself, it’s not great literature but you’d be lying if you said you could put it down. Take Twilight. Stephanie Meyer is a Mormon housewife who came out of nowhere. She had a dream about a normal human girl falling in love with a sparkly vampire and now she’s a bloomin billionaire. It’s insipid, but addictive. Harry Potter was better as far as writing goes, but the idea was so awesome and was targeted perfectly it caught on like the macarena.

The message is you have to figure out what people want. No one wanted another story about vampires. I know I didn’t, many years back when I first picked Twilight up off a shelf in some bookstore in Maine. I read the back and it seemed completely commonplace except the phrase, “I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.” It became clear to me that this was a story about star-crossed lovers, living amidst supernatural peril. Can’t beat that. It’s what I wanted. I was on vacation for pete’s sake. To the checkout I went!

Girls don’t really love vampires. They want a man to fall so deeply in love with them that he’d risk all he knows and even eternity itself to be with them. Men are the same, only not with romance. No one, except maybe a LARPer, wants to read about what color Hero A’s jerkin is or how well the author can use a thesaurus and manage to say the same thing twice in the same sentence. There’s a reason James Patterson has published so many damn novels that they all bleed together. His chapters are about three pages on average. He gets to the point quickly and lets the reader fill in the blanks.

Now after having said all that crap, I’m going to say again that the most important thing in all this is finding out what you really want as a writer.

Do you want to sell books and be recognized by the masses? Then adapt and surf the current wave. You can write something short and vivid while still staying true to your message. You’re talented enough to pull it off.

Do you want to lay yourself bare and hope people take notice? Well, either get used to disappointment or do something notorious and completely unrelated to writing to make yourself relevant first (nothing criminal of course). I don’t know. It’s up to you.

Sorry if none of this made sense. I’m just trying to communicate that you seem at odds with yourself. Your desires are incongruous with your methods.

P.S. Most of this was written while I was drinking wine on an empty stomach, so sorry if it doesn’t make sense or if I get a bit carried away  :)

Sincerely,

Stacy Taff

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