“And?” said Serena. “Are you always this difficult to get information out of, or only when it’s someone you only met for the first time yesterday who is trying to prise all the details of your personal life out of you? You probably don’t even have a Facebook page.”
“Well, I do,” I said. “Have a Facebook page. Professionally.”
“Professionally?” said Serena.
“Do you have a web site?” said Gus. “Do you sell things on it?”
“Yes and not exactly,” I said. “I’m, um, a writer. Fiction. I, um, write books. Mostly novels. Mostly fantasy. I had to get an extension on the fourth in the series about a character named Flowerhair because getting divorced turned out to be bad for my concentration. Flowerhair is kind of an anti-babe with a sword. She doesn’t look anything like Lucy Lawless. And Aldetruda, whose next adventure was due to be handed over to my editor about the time that I’ll probably finally get FLOWERHAIR THE DAUNTLESS in, and who attempts to save the world from the vampire hordes, doesn’t look anything like Buffy.”
“Oh, wow,” said Gus. “Wicked cool. Are there zombies?”
“Not many,” I said apologetically. “Aldetruda has had trouble with zombies once or twice but it’s mainly vampires. And there are a couple of free short stories on my web site and a novella that you have to pay about the price of a cup of coffee to download but it’s mostly just a bibliography and some interviews and stuff.”
There was a little silence. I concentrated on my quiche.
“Yes,” said Serena at last. “Wicked cool. Very wicked cool.”
“Sort of,” I said to my plate. “It’s not like I’m sure I’m going to make ends meet even living in an economically despondent backwater. And so, in answer to the question you’re not asking, no, not all authors are wealthy. Most of us have to have day jobs. I’m borderline. Maybe I should talk to Andy Pierpont.” I looked at her. Her expression was a bit wry. “Let Gus build you your web site. What have you really got to lose?”
“I guess,” she said. “Credibility, I suppose.”
“Credibility?” said Gus.
She reached out and patted his arm. “No, I’m not impugning your web skills.” She said to me, “I know I suffer the usual drooling mom thing about my offspring, and so long as it didn’t have flashing blue text on a black background I probably wouldn’t know a good web site from a bad one, but the Cabell High web site keeps winning awards from people besides the East Pretzel group blog, and he and two of his Gothic nightmare cronies run it. All I know about it is that it’s never crashed when I’m looking up the next parents’ open night with plastic wiener barbecue and a conga line. But, you know, web photos make JMW Turner look like the local art show third prize winner, which is of the artist’s miniature Schnauzer in a dress. And the 3D stuff . . . unh. I know there are sites like Etsy and Wilhemina’s Atelier but . . . I just don’t think the web is very . . . favorably disposed to art.”
“Angelfire and brimstone,” said Gus. “What century are you from?”
“The wrong one,” said Serena. “But the idea that someone in Peoria or Lhasa might look at some of my stuff and think twee or cozy or I wonder if she does commissions, I could hire her to paint my miniature Schnauzer in a dress, fills me with terror and despair.”
“We’ll be careful with the photos,” said Gus. “And we’ll put up a disclaimer that you don’t do portraits of small domestic pets in dresses. Unless they pay you really really well. And you’d consider a Mastiff, right?”
“I have raised you wrong,” said Serena. “And I won’t remember any of this conversation in the morning.”
“Yes you will,” said Gus. “Because I have a witness.”
“I don’t think I’ve actually agreed to anything,” said Serena. “So, Kestrel MacFarquhar, it occurs to me that with a name like that you almost had to grow up to write fantasy novels. But if you’re not a wealthy best seller then maybe I can’t walk into Bookfolly at the mall and find—er—the latest Flowerhair face out on the new and noteworthy shelf?”
“That would be a sound and credible prediction,” I said, “unless the book buyer has a nervous tic for genre.” I wondered briefly about Hayley and her brother. “Last time I checked, FLOWERHAIR THE ADAMANT, which came out about six months ago, is ninety-seven gazillionth on amazon.”
“Bookfolly needs its range recalibrated,” said Serena. “It also needs to stay in business, and I admire them for the foolhardy romance of being a small independent bookstore in an area best known for dairy cattle and canoeing. I will special order FLOWERHAIR THE ADAMANT.”
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