Senga and I had our first actual argument today. Normally she does all the arguing, I ignore her, she goes in a huff for a few days and I use the peace and quiet to get some work done.
This time I made a mistake. I responded. That’s never a good idea, it turns a few minutes of nagging into hours of hysterical shrieking and I can’t be certain of the stony silence this time. If I’m lucky she’ll refuse to speak to me for a week. If not, it could be only hours.
It was about work and money. Senga does not see sitting at a computer as work although I have Norman’s House in full-novel editing stage now and it’s shaping up nicely. If Samuel’s Girl is accepted for publication, something I don’t expect to know for a couple of months yet, Norman’s House will be ready to go. Then there’s Demdike’s Revival which is only sketched, Victor’s Will which is first-drafted and still messy, and others that are only in the planning stage.
Plus, I intend to write the Story of Dume as well as compile all those horror-writing articles into one place. I am waiting to hear whether Fears of the Old and the New has made it through the Smashwords vetting process and the Professor wants his little ghosthunting book turned into a Kindle version as well. I shouldn’t have told him I’d done it with my book. I know he’s working on a revised version and he’ll expect me to deal with that too.
There is also the matter of the writing website. I am hampered here not by HTML, but by not knowing what it should look like nor what I want it to contain. I have at least registered a domain for my writing persona, but hkhillman.co.uk points to a holding page for the moment. Websites are a bit like writing, but actual HTML writing looks like someone has spilled a box of letters at the feet of a line-dancing club. If the letters land in the right order, the website looks right. If not, it doesn’t work at all.
The thing about working on all these things is that I sit down to do them. Writing involves no heavy lifting except when throwing things in frustration, almost no noise apart from the occasional scream of anguish and in fact, hardly any physical movement at all. Senga does not consider any of this as ‘work’, not even the screams. I put a lot of effort into those screams. Sometimes I have to have a lie-down afterwards.
The work aspect of the argument was fine. I let her do all the arguing while I ignored her and things were going well until she shifted to the subject of money. The downside of writing is that you have to do all the work first, persuade someone to publish the work, persuade people to buy the work and then hope they like it and hope word spreads. Getting paid is bottom of the list.
She caught me out with direct questions concerning Jessica’s Trap. Like a fool, I responded, even though I didn’t know the answers.
How well is it selling?
I have no idea. I can see it moving up the Amazon rankings but I have no idea what the total number of books on Amazon is, nor whether one sale or a hundred would be enough to move up one place. It might be selling well, it might be dribbling along. Until it reaches first-quarter sales reports, I cannot know how well it is doing. The publisher won’t know until those results are in, so how could I?
How much do you make per book?
I have no idea. I know the percentage of the list price that should come my way, but books rarely, if ever, sell at list price. Every seller discounts. Publishing and printing costs are fixed and cannot be reduced unless the publisher sacks staff and the printer writes out every copy by hand. So the discount comes off my share. How much? I don’t know. It depends on where they sell and what discount is applied. Until the quarterly sales reports come in from booksellers, the publisher cannot know so how could I?
So how much money is coming in?
I have no idea. To be fair, I have rarely had any idea nor indeed a great deal of interest in this. Income just encourages the taxman to demand more money with menaces. There is no point earning millions to be left with pennies.
These answers were not to Senga’s liking. They reinforced her view that I actually have no idea what I’m doing and am just bumbling through life with no aim or direction in mind at all. She knows me very well indeed. In fact, I can say that my wife understands me, even though I don’t always understand her, but that could be down to the facial deformities.
Writing isn’t just about the money. The money is useful, indeed essential in the modern world, but the main aim of writing is to scare the living daylights out of people. Nothing compares to the satisfaction of a job well done, when people complain of sleepless nights and paranoia after reading my little tales. When psychiatrists call to thank me for sending more frightened patients their way, I admit to swelling with pride even beyond the levels naturally produced by gangrene or even corpse bloat.
The best one for that is still ‘Telephone Pest’ because now that the telesales people use automated machinery, more and more people get those silent phone calls. I still bask in the thrill of the person who told me, with terrified eyes, ‘I had just finished reading that when the phone rang and there was nobody there.’ It’s in Fears of the Old and the New and if FromTheAsylum hadn’t closed, I could have pointed to the archives there.
It is a little strange to find people reading horror stories and complaining that they were scared. I thought that was the whole point. Still, as long as I’m having fun, it’s all good.
Anyway, must get back to work. The cold weather is discouraging visitors so I’ll have to actually buy some food soon. This means parting with cash, a mortal sin in the Dume world and a risk of setting Father off on his threats to call the banshee again. I suspect he fancies her.
Senga is silent apart from rattling pots and pans in the kitchen. She isn’t cooking, just rattling. I don’t think she’s really furious because when she is, she turns the cauldron over and lets little Caligula batter it with a ladle.
She might calm down soon. I have to get working before she starts talking to me again.