And I must remember that some nice email/comments showed up. On the other hand...so did some not-nice ones.
Naturally, it's easier to talk about the latter than the former, in part because telling the audience that I got a wonderful email from Fan A can be taken (has been taken in the past) as justifying more negative feedback of the "You must be really stuck on yourself to tell us other people like your books" variety. For some people (including a guy who wrote a scathing article on the Huffington Post about overrated, self-promoting writers) the only acceptable attitude for a writer is humility that this person agrees it true humility and not false humility (if your books sell, your humility is false.) FWIW, I never heard of Anis Shivani before this and have no idea why his opinion of any of these writers matters (even where I agree with it, which I did here and there, and particularly because he failed to dump on writers I think are overrated.) (Pauses to go look...hmmm... ) Well...he's in Houston, he's written one novel and some short fiction about multiculturalism and since he slammed the writers on that list who were also writing multiculturalism for doing it wrong, I gather he's sure he's doing it right. He totally ignores genre writing, which is typical for critics who do their critic-writing where he does. And he probably has a crawler-bot who harvests every mention of his name online and will now write scathingly about my books. Too late, Shivani--I've been slammed before.
This, aside from mild annoyance at yet another lump of negativity after a week of 100+F temps and another week of the same predicted, is not what has my hackles up. Neither is the snippy email from the person who is furious with my publisher for how much books cost. (Hey, dude, borrow the book from the library, or complain to my publisher, but don't blame me.) Not even the umpteenth person who's sure I got this, this, and that from D&D (no, I didn't.) No, what has my hackles up is a two-stage put-down involving the an intermediary...a classic triangular communication setup which I should have cut short at stage one, but didn't. It's a weakness. There are social and theological situations in which I don't recognize the game being played, and thus don't react wisely.
The general form of a third-party-putdown goes like this: "This other person (OP) doesn't like/approve of/think well of you because you [various ways of saying, "you aren't the person OP thinks you should be," with a side order of "And I think OP has a point there..."] Sometimes, it's the opening move of "Let's you and him fight," in which the third-party-player (TPP) enjoys controlling the other two and provoking a row. Sometimes it's hostility to the person receiving the message. Sometimes, it's a genuine, if misguided, attempt to get the other two to understand each other. It's always, at least in part, a dominance move: "I have the right to tell you something bad that other people say/think about you." All of us run into this at some point; even the acknowledged Perfect Persons may hear "X doesn't want to be around you because you make him/her look inferior." It's extremely common in childhood, when kids are just beginning to explore the rules of friendship and social climbing--their friendships are fragile and vulnerable to outside tattle-tales and gossips. Some of them never grow out of this.
The only right move is to stop the TPP at the first sentence, gently but firmly refuse to listen to what the OP is supposed to have said or thought or believed, and change the subject. However, there are always reasons why someone (me, in this instance) doesn't think of this in time, and instead falls into the paradigm the TPP has set up. And this time, since I didn't respond the right way, I was sucked into the whole thing, and had (on the emotional side) a very bad week, from which I'm now breaking loose but with difficulty.
Grrr at TPP for gossiping and playing therapist. Grrr at Self for not being alert and pro-active enough to stop it right at the start.
Of course, being a writer, I can use this--it's yet more material on human behavior from direct experience that may someday find itself in a book. I have the whole suite of recently evoked emotions to play with. (Rationalization? Sure. Very much a "Got lemons, make lemonade" situation except I'm thinking lemon meringue pie, lemon curd, lemon cookies, lemon-rosemary roast chicken...)
The bones I pulled from the freezer--vertebrae, angular, spiky-looking, inconvenient and uncompromising--are a good metaphor for all this. There was depressingly little meat attached to them. I put them in an 8 quart stock pot with onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, a quart of beef stock from the freezer, a big can of tomatoes & green chilis, and when the meat (originally tough and adherent) finally cooked off the bones, pulled out bones and things I didn't want (a section of artery big enough to put my thumb in), and reduced it a little. In went the pan juices from this morning's sausages, deglazed with a slug of red wine. Eventually, in went potatoes. The family reaction was to eat two or three bowls full apiece. Those difficult bones needed only a long time in the stock pot to yield flavor and what meat was on them.