You’ve Got Fan Mail

I got some fan mail the other day in the form of a handwritten note that was sent to my mom, who, in turn, forwarded it to me. It’s from a woman who works as a library assistant at the public library in the small town where I grew up. She was also one of my babysitter’s some 40+ years ago.

11 June 2015

Dear J—— & B—,

I just finished reading Pamela’s book, “Blood of the Scarecrow”. It was great and a lot of other library patrons agree. Since we put it on the shelf, it has gone out a lot and got rave reviews. Please tell her how very proud of her I am. And tell her to keep up the good work.

Peace,

Lena S.

Yeah, it chokes me up a little bit. It’s the third piece of “fan mail” I’ve gotten. The first was from my godfather after I’d had a few article published for our local county paper, saying how much he enjoyed the articles and how well written they were. The second was from a distant cousin in regards to the same articles.

These are humbling.

First and foremost, I write because I have to, because I can’t not do it. Second, I write in the deepest hopes that others will read my words and be happily entertained, creepily frightened, and maybe even inspired a little bit. Sharing what I write has not come easy to me. For years I was too self-conscious and deprecating to let others see my stories or poems. If someone found a mistake or typo I took it as deeply personal, instead of them simply pointing out a way to make what I’d done better. Thank God I’ve since gotten over THAT! bit of editing nonsense. Last, I guess I write for the notion of “fame and fortune”. The odds are deeply against me, but I keep playing Submission Lottery and hoping that one of these days another publisher will find me worthy to bear their stamp of approval. Even then, it’s more to make the stories available to all the people who have asked me when the next book is coming out or who have wondered about my current project than the money.

Many people have paid me compliments in the form of Amazon reviews, Facebook posts, emails, or on a more personal level, spoken to me in person to say how much they enjoyed “Blood of the Scarecrow”. I let the compliments pump me up for the next big thing. I need that little charge to realize that what I am doing does matter to others besides myself. It inspires me to plug on with the dream. It makes me realize that I really am blessed as a writer, even if just a tiny bit. Some are never able to finish their novels. Some never get published at all.

I’m always working on it. Even if it looks like I’m staring off into space, chances are my brain is somewhere in the next novel plotting the next scene. Thank you to everyone who has ever complimented or encouraged me with my writing. Thanks to those who have pointed out mistakes to help me improve on my craft. Thank you for being more patient while I try and knock sense into one publisher after another to get that next book out to you. Thank you for being ‘my fans’. You all really mean more to me than words can ever say.

On The Recent Passing of Author Tanith Lee

“Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.” Tanith Lee, 19 Sept. 1947-24 May 2015

Tanith Lee died the other day at the age of 67. Most people I know have never even heard of her, let alone read any of her books or short stories. From what I’ve heard, she was struggling with getting any of her new work published. Hers was an unusual genre and style. Sometimes it was very difficult to read and understand where she was going or where exactly she’d just taken you, but at the same time it was always fun and thought-provoking.

My first exposure to Tanith Lee was a series of short stories called, “Red As Blood, Or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer” back in 1983. It contained some amazing twisted fairy tales that I immediately fell madly in love with. From there I went on to read “Sometimes, After Sunset”, before moving on to “Night’s Sorceries” which was the fifth and final book in her Flat Earth series. Only last year I read the Paradyse series for the first time. With 90 novels and over 300 short stories to her name, I am woefully behind. I fully intend to get to work on correcting that situation.

Her writing has a sort of ‘Modern Art in Literature’ feel to it. You have to stand there and look at it for a while. In just the right light it makes all the sense in the world, but when the sun shifts just a little, you may find yourself lost in another realm, twisted around backwards walking through an upside down haunted forest only to step a few more paces to find your place again and wondering what the hell just happened. It felt weird, but in a good way. I loved that about her. I loved the uniqueness. I loved her voice and her style even if I didn’t always quite get it. Most of the time I was right there with her, wrapped in the images and sounds. She was one of the few who could actually make me see the things in my head she was describing no matter how obtuse.

No one else ever made me ‘see’ science fiction the way Tanith Lee did. It’s no secret that Sci-Fi is NOT my genre of choice for that reason. Visualizing future technology has never come easy to me. Tanith could do it though and she seemed to do it so easily. I’m not sure why, but it worked for me. Perhaps it was just something in the female psyche we shared.

In that regard, she inspired me to write in such a way as to have my readers do more than just see the people and places of my own works. Many have complimented me on that ability and told me, “It was like I was right there while I was reading!” I have Tanith to thank for that, for making me so much more aware of including not just what is visually in a space, but what is there in the other senses. What does the air smell and taste like? What sounds are steady or just passing through? How does that glass of milk feel in the characters hand?

Something that very, very few people know is that Tanith also inspired me on a more spiritual basis. Not so much the actual beliefs, as I have NO idea what sort of spirituality she practiced, but with her name. Tanith. Tanith is likely derived from the goddess Tanit who was worshipped in what is now known as Tunisia. She was the equivalent of the Goddess Astarte, and later worshipped in Roman Carthage in her Romanized form as Juno Caelestis.

I was really getting interested in Paganism around the same time I discovered Tanith Lee’s work. One of the first things many people do is to adopt what is called a “Craft name”. It’s the name you are known by during ceremonies, a name of your choosing, a name you use to keep your mundane identity a secret. The name Tanith fascinated me. It was unique and magical sounding all on its own. But at the same time I didn’t want to copy it completely so I combined it with my Totem animal, the Raven. Using the first three letters of Tanith and the last three letters of Raven reversed, my Craft name became Tannev. Before now, I don’t think more than a handful of people have ever known how that name was created.

Even though I no longer consider myself a pagan, I still hold that name Sacred, as part of who I was, the things I learned during those ten or so years and how those teachings lead me to where and who I am today.

Tanith inspired me to write my own twisted fairy tales. She inspired me to write with all my senses. She inspired me to believe and be part of the magical realm. She made it okay to write weird things that maybe only I would ever really understand. My heart goes out to her family and friends during this sad time.

R.I.P. Tanith, you were a wonderful and will ever be an inspiration to me.