Mis-ka-layneeus musings

Mars sightings . . . everywhere but here. We’ve had serious cloud cover for the past couple of evenings (and days have been humid and polluted, with the high “ceiling” pushing that smog and exhaust down on us–cough, cough). Sigh!

The other night, I taped The Alan Brady Show, the cartoon that’s being done by Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, and other heroes of mine. (I adore the original DvD show, forever in reruns.)

Well, whoever thought up the animated thing should be taken out and dipped in the get-a-clue pool.

Because it’s completely clownshoes. Eew! Take MY name off of that mess! Lose the master tapes!

Enough said. Awkward moment. Ack!

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Hey, now that conservatives and the gun lobby are getting on board to fight the unconstitutional and crazy aspects of the so-called “Patriot Act,” we may have a chance. You can’t do the kind of search-and-seizure they’ve been pulling–that’s unconstitutional! Has anybody read the constitution lately??!! Magnetic fields surround the Founding Fathers, yo.* Please, people. Don’t let them get a record of the books you check out, books you buy, videos you check out, and that kind of stuff. It’s like that’s how the Gestapo started out, man.

* (Because they’re spinning in their graves, for those who never took physics and thus wouldn’t know the right-hand rule for a magnetic field that comes into being around a flowing current*)

** (That’s a metaphor . . . not to be taken literally)

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Ooo–you know that Proposition 13 that the doctors want you to vote YES on here in Texas? Well, it may seem like a worthy idea to help out doctors who have to pay such exorbitant malpractice insurance premiums, but wait. The wording on that one in its current form sets a terrible precedent and basically will allow the legislative branch to overturn decisions by the judiciary–which violates checks and balances.
Remember from Civics class how checks and balances keep one branch of gov’t from getting too powerful? Well, in this case, this particular prop with its wording the way it is will start allowing the lege (which is now Republican-controlled, and that’s probably why this is happening–how long has it been since they read their own Republican platform about how gov’t should stay small and not involve itself in EVERYTHING, and how personal freedoms are paramount? Read the thing, people, if
you’re going to run on the ticket!) to deny decisions made by juries and judges, which ain’t right. There’s a system in place that has worked for two hundred years, checks and balances, and we don’t want to risk losing it or making the Lege run amok. Also, that redistricting thing? It’s a thinly veiled attempt to gerrymander districts in order to cut out majority numbers of African Americans or Hispanics and other minority groups in any district. So if they did what they want to do (and they should be ashamed of themselves), they’d make it so there’d be no African American or Hispanic representative from those neighborhoods with high concentrations of, yes, POOR PEOPLE. (Ack! Eek! Don’t go to the east side of Plano because the poor people might touch us, yikes!) These elitists actually hate poor people and wish they wouldn’t take up space on the planet, unfortunately. Not every one of them (legislators) is like that, but hey, too many are acting that way. Wake up. The Democrats are staying away because they can’t stomach this kind of gerrymandering. It’s kind of a double bind, because they’re continuing to get deeper into the My Side Versus Your Side stuff and playing politics while the issue roils and boils. Hey, people who say “I don’t vote ’cause my vote doesn’t count?” Well, it sure doesn’t if you don’t vote, idiots. Get off your ass, learn a bit about the issues and candidates (or at the very least the party platforms, not that every candidate conforms or has even read the thing), and vote.

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Oh — what was I going to tell you?!?!?! That’s what I get for having low blood sugar. My husband has it, too, now that we’re both on Atkins Induction and have been for weeks (three for me, two for him). He said when he drives home from work, he doesn’t even know where he’s going. Good thing the car has that auto-homing device. I’m kind of worried about this. I think we need our oral diabetes meds adjusted. We’ll have to call the doctor and get an appointment (which is a pain). He won’t go unless I make a big issue of it, though.

Footnote: Turned out he was drinking about 12 diet Cokes a day, which meant he was getting more aspartame than is generally regarded as safe (you get so many grams a day per pound of body weight) . . . as soon as I told him to drink water instead, the nausea “went away.” Sheeeeesh!!!! I put him on Diet RC Cola, which is the only remaining diet cola made with Splenda (made from sugar via a process of chlorination and therefore not expected to be toxic long-term, though one never knows). That’s what I drink. But only a couple a day! When you’re on these oral diabetic meds, you have to avoid dehydration, which is challenging in this “108 Heat Index” heat wave.

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My obsession with getting a book published has become like Ralphie’s desire for a Red Ryder BB gun. Only I don’t have Darren McGavin to secretly buy one and secrete it behind the desk on Christmas morning. I am asking in prayer (which would seem analogous) for this to happen, but I suppose it isn’t happening because I’d shoot my eye out. <sigh>

* * *

My (elderly) mother is becoming positively wicked. “Have you seen the picture of George Bush as Jesus?” I just stared at her, open-mouthed. “Get on the Internet. You’ve got to see it.” This from a woman
who never blasphemed and is still quite devout. “It’s going to be on the front cover of a magazine!” She has to be confused, because a major
media mag would never do that. It could have been Nat’l Lampoon, I suppose. Never have seen the pic, though.

Well, anyway, I suppose the Prez does get his identity confused from time to time, and this is his rebuke. It’s going to make him really mad when he sees it, though.

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“Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained Angels unawares.”

Hebrews 13:1-2

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Disguised as a normal person. . . . (David Steinberg)

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“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”– Richard Bach

# # #

Yo, dieters: it’s PLATEAU, not PLATTOW. Also, everyone who never took French, pleeeeease, it’s “Voila” with an accent grave on the final A, not “Viola” (a musical instrument) or (aarghh) “Wallah” (and variations thereof), and that one’s just plain illiterate and hillbilly–in fact, it is insulting to barefoot hillbillies for me to say that, so we’ll just say you MUST STOP. NOW.

Help for “its” and “it’s” sufferers is at hand. Simply bear in mind that neither “his,” “her,” nor “its” have need for apostrophes. If you could plug in “her,” then you want “its” to signify a possessive for a gender-free entity. “She has simplified her policies.” “The university has simplified its policies.” (Of course, in British English, they’d say “their,” I think, because they consider groups plural, and the university, to them, would probably qualify as a group, the way a
corporation does.)

 

Now, go look at Mars. I hope you don’t have a thick cloud cover, as we do. It’s too overcast to see the sky very well. But I’ve been feeling Mars’s [yep, that’s correct, says the style manual of today] aggression and influence for a while now. It’s probably why everyone’s at war and blowing each other up. Even worse than usual. lt;sigh> But it’s a pretty sight, they tell me. Those away from urban areas and lightspill should be having a field night!

Musings on the usual on a Saturday morning

I was so thrilled today at the grocery store to hear that I smell like a nig***.

(WARNING: Today’s entry contains sarcasm. If your irony/sarcasm detector is on the blink, don’t even bother to read further.)

Yes, in truth, a young lad informed me of this while sacking up my groceries. I believe he was more than a little tipsy or whacked-out. At the time, I’d just showered (at home) with Origins Ginger Burst shower gel, followed by the same body lotion. And Oprah did make this stuff popular by saying it was the best ever. (I am assuming that was what he smelled on me.) So perhaps this is where he gets the idea.

(If it can be said that an entire group of people smell the same, which I highly doubt. This is where the sarcasm is, folks.)

However, it’s gratifying to have confirmed what I have long suspected: that somewhere up the branches of the family tree, I have a few drops of African American blood. I knew because I’m very spiritual and emotionally so like Mahalia Jackson [grin], love watermelon, and adore most jazz . . . and I also have a Confederate soldier for a [great-great]^2 grandfather, whom we found through finding an old newspaper article in my aunt’s scrapbook (about moving a family cemetery to make way for flooding land for a reservoir.) This ancestor was most likely (gasp) a slave owner and probably had a few dalliances with the slave ladies. And of course those children were usually raised as part of the household, as would be normal, and thus became part of the bloodline. You know the drill. No matter how it happened, it’s there somewhere, and it had to make its presence known sometime.

For the record, though, on one side of the family (mother’s grandparents) I’m Irish, Dutch-English-Irish, English-Irish, and Choctaw (full-blooded). On the other side, it’s German, German, German, German. Sieg Heil.

My mother got the “Indian princess hair.” I suppose mine is somewhat luxe like that. She also has much stronger ESP and herbalism and intuition like the Choctaw nation. But I have the German-engineered brain/intellect and the Irish music (an ability to play just about any instrument I pick up, by ear, and to invent or whistle back tunes after I’ve heard them) and blarney (obvious–as you already know if you’ve been reading me long.) I do have a heavy dose of the Choctaw mysticism, love of nature/Great Spirit, and ESP/intuition and connection to the land (I never wanted to be an astronaut or space traveler, though time travel appeals.)

It’s interesting to speculate how much of this is heritage and how much is environmentally shaped. However, I do know that I have been an introvert (INTP) all my life, and Mother was always an extreme extrovert who draws her energy from other people and lives in the “now,” which made for a difficult upbringing. “Why can’t you be NORMAL . . . more like ME . . .your COUSIN is more like me than you are! I got the wrong baby at the hospital, I swan. I’m going to burn all those books and I swear I’m going to close your library card. Get outside here in the Texas heat and bask in the sun with the rest of us!” (An INTP draws recharging energy from introspection, time spent alone studying or with a few intimates nearby–but not necessarily interacting–and time spent inventing or analyzing or constructing theories out of ideas or creating; an INTP lives the inner life and may not be in the present moment, but living in a CASE statement of what-ifs.) I had to develop the inferior “F” function to some extent when I hit middle school to avoid being put into a special “shyness” program to “get rid of that unnatural bashfulness and reticence” (yes, they really believed at the time that extroversion was the ONLY normal mode, and only a few mad scientists and Boo Radleys were left alone w/o therapy.) I used acting techniques that I’d been studying to develop an alternative outgoing persona, which I called the “Melanie routine,” after a girl my friend and erstwhile boyfriend admired much from afar. She was the type who isn’t in a clique, but is “friends with everybody,” and makes you feel that you’re one of her friends, even if you’ve only just met her. Don’t know what she’s like today, but I now have a persona I can go into that’s an outgoing one. (It has grown up somewhat with me, and is thus no longer a Melanie routine so much as it’s an outgoing version of the Shalanna who would be possible if I weren’t deemed fat and unacceptable to talk to . . . and if I wanted to waste all my time on social stuff.) It’s very taxing and tiring to stay in that persona, though, and I need to eventually get home and rest, reverting to my natural b*tch self.

I therefore kind of hover between INTP and INFP on the tests (iN*tP**, for those who understand such strings), and I write fiction and memoir instead of nonfiction. (For more about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is what I’ve been using to describe personality types, and for more about Jungian type analysis, search the Web for “Myers-Briggs” and “INTP” and you’ll probably make some useful hits. There’s a website I know of in the UK that’s pretty good, teamtechnology something or other dot UK. Sorry for not having that at hand, but I’m typing on the AlphaSmart.)

* * *

See what I meant about a blog being like a core dump, or a snapshot of what I’m thinking about at the time? (How do I know what I think until I tell you or write it down? God only knows.)

* * *

The mall was closing. I hurried toward the exit inside Penneys to meet my husband at the car. (I wanted to hide the great pair of shoes and jacket that were on sale before he got to the car. It was on SAAALE:)

The kid holding the door open rolled his eyes, glanced back at his friends, then looked at me full on and did a wolf whistle variation, the kind that goes sour at the end to let me know I’m a dog. Golllee, you mean that at ~200 lbs and 5 ft tall and with 6 ft of hair cascading around my bulk that’s clad in denim shorts and a stretch-cotton shirt and Clarks Springer clogs, I’m not the sex goddess of his dreams, “him” being an 8-yr-old Mexican kid? Seriously, folks. It was a gesture meant to hurt and intimidate a girl his age. I’ve been through so much medically/emotionally that I’m just happy to be alive and have my vision and mobility, so I didn’t grab to take offense. I just nodded at the kids and said, “‘Scuse me, guys,” and went on through. They burst into laughter as my butt retreated into the parking lot. _Gee, that fat old hag didn’t even realize we were making fun of her and laughing at her and looking down on her._ How terrible. Hmm.

What disturbs me is not that I’m ugly or make-fun-of-able (hmm, already KNOW that, thanks for playing) but that they would feel the need to entertain themselves by hurting others. I know they don’t have anything to do, and that there’s nothing in their brains that the media industry didn’t put there, so they can’t think of anything else to say. Or perhaps there’s nothing at all in those central nervous systems, which are operating on an eternal test pattern until it occurs to them to duplicate some mean trick that they’ve seen on television. It bodes ill for our society. Are they in the majority, though?

Or maybe everybody but me was mean like that to peers and those weaker than themselves when they were young. I hope not, but I suppose it could just be . . . me. Again.

* * *

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps he hears the beat of a different drum.” (Thoreau, paraphrased.)

* * *

According to Jane magazine (and they’d never lie to me. . . would they?), some woman recently signed a legal document getting herself insurance that she’d remain attractive. Her husband wouldn’t marry her unless she got the policy. It pays off if she gets wrinkled or toothless, and she says she’ll use the money to get herself fixed back up. The criterion is that if she is judged unattractive by a panel of his fellow construction workers, it pays off.

What? Is this on the level? (Who issued that policy?) She had to get ugly insurance before he’d marry her (and she still wanted to marry him, eh?)

I wonder why she didn’t get a policy on him. Oh, of course: pre-existing condition. We also know this guy is not beautiful on the inside, either. I hate to think what’ll happen to them both in years to come, but what can you do but pray for the world?

# # #

Here’s an interesting observation.

I’ve been feeling out friendships with some editors and agents via e-mail lately, and what I’ve realized is that they are far away from me . . . mentally, at least.

For one thing, they’re two generations away from me. My younger cousins, who are in their early thirties, are far enough away from me that they flunk the “yellow 45-RPM record insert” test; they can’t imagine what that little yellow spidery thing is because they’ve never had a “record player” and certainly never used those adapters on singles so they’d fit on the changer spindle. (And if you don’t know what the heck I’m on about, you are also too young.) But my cousins are a generation closer than the twentysomethings who are now starting in publishing as assistants and as editors, and it’s kind of daunting.

Every rejection I get refers to the same stuff. They like my prose (which they feel is smooth) and characters (mostly considered appealing.) They don’t understand my stories, however. They say they don’t understand my cultural references (what–don’t they watch any old movies, haven’t they read any history, didn’t they ever hear of the Great Books program?) and they really don’t “get” my mindset as far as logic (theirs is different, if subtly different) and sleeping with people (I never did that on the first, second, third date . . . in fact, we are such old fogeys that we waited until we were married . . . not that there weren’t make-out sessions, but I’ll also admit that we didn’t know what some of the commonly done maneuvers today were, and so we didn’t go around saying “oral sex isn’t really sex” because to us, anything that involved more than kissing was really sex!) “Random is good,” one cousin assured me when I complained that the trash-TV “reality” show she insisted on watching while they were visiting us didn’t make sense, and that there wasn’t any connection to the events or the discussions. “Old stuff is all logical and shit. But that’s crap. Random is king.” Okay, so now I know.

I have written some stories that assume the “new” mindset, but they don’t go the way they’re apparently expected to go.

Regarding the younger editors, many of my assumptions not only faze them, but (apparently) actually don’t make sense. If my stories were set in the seventies, which might solve the problem, that’d make them “nostalgia” today. And not salable. >Eep< I suppose that’s a “revelation” only to me, but anyhow, I guess I write/am writing/was writing for a “universal” audience who is actually not out there so much any more. The younger set has watched TV all their lives and has been raised on MTV and believes a different set of assumptions. KnowhatImean, Vern? Not that either set should be a “default” set or that either is bad. We’re just different.

(Infinite diversity in infinite combinations–isn’t that what they teach now?)

It *(could)* just be that my work stinks. But that’s not what they’re saying. And why should they spare my feelings?

I was watching “The Philadelphia Story” and then “Holiday” last night with my dog (Mama had her TV tuned to the same programs in her room, but was dozing, and my husband was shooting aliens on his computer), not that I haven’t seen both several times, but I just enjoy the banter and the situations. And what I noticed this time, perhaps because I’ve become more aware of it lately, is that these movies depend mostly on dialogue, not sets. (There’s one set for “Philadelphia,” mostly, and three for “Holiday” that I counted–the mansion, including the playroom, the Potters’ apartment, and the steamship (which is really only one stateroom for set purposes.) In other words, the characters carry these films, not the sets. The dialogue is actually stimulus-response rather than one-liner and zinger, and the way people relate is the story. There isn’t a special effect to speak of, and if there were, it wouldn’t be the focus of the film, what everybody’s waiting for.

And modern films are *nothing* like this. Films made since, say, 1980 are very different. Not one of the “classics” as written (“Some Like It Hot,” “The Apartment,” etc., included, because when I saw them a few days ago, I noticed the long set-up time for each) could even get made today. The rejections would say, “This doesn’t have enough story. The action starts somewhere in the middle–cut out all that talk in the beginning and just SHOW where we are and imply what has happened.” Yeah, I know that’s the way some people see life and that’s what they believe sells now. (It rankled me to read a recent interview in which a youngster editor and her cronies said, “We know what sells now!” as though they are the only people on the planet who can predict such a thing–I think it was actually an editorial in Writer’s Digest telling oldfarts like me to wise up, wisenheimer–but it may be that if you don’t cater to their mindsets, you’re never going to sell.)

I don’t know whether anyone agrees with me, although judging by the photos I’ve seen from the RWA conference, many writers are my age or older (in their late thirties and early forties). So it can’t have escaped everyone that today’s sitcoms, as compared to the ones re-run from the sixties and even the seventies, don’t have setups and logical dialogue, for the most part. They’re hard for me to accept as “real” because they’re mostly one-liners zapping the other characters and sexual innuendoes and references that are delivered as if by a comic waiting for the <ba-dump CHING> of the rim shot from an offstage drummer. The situations aren’t logical at all, and apparently (from context) aren’t supposed to be considered outlandish by the viewer, for the most part. I’m not saying that the fantasy families of earlier eras were realistic (June Cleaver syndrome), but if you accepted their assumptions, their stories made sense and the dialogue furthered the plot in a natural manner. (Does anyone know what I mean, or is this just something I’m experiencing as an insight that makes no difference?)

Yep, I’m unusual in that I don’t watch current TV for escapist entertainment, but to find out what kinds of stories and characters are familiar to the viewing public. I find myself going back to the TVLand and rerun channels for actual entertainment. Those older shows are just funnier. And most of the books I enjoy are not best-sellers or blockbusters, but “quirky” and offbeat books that are midlist at best. I realize what I’m supposed to be doing is something “salable.” (If only I could really figure out what that IS. If anyone could.)

But if that’s not what you like to read, it won’t be what you write. Because you write books you’d like to read. That’s natural. Therefore, my audience is going to be smaller than the blockbuster audience in the first place. And all the advice in the world from all these agents and well-meaning editors (to the effect that my writing skills are fine, but what I write *about* doesn’t interest anyone, so I should write a blockbuster or find a genre that fits) can’t help at all. Even though in my books “I” pretend to be someone else who thinks a different way, these characters don’t act out stories that I couldn’t imagine. What comes to me is what comes to me.

Now, who reads/buys books? Some people our age and older. Others can’t afford to buy lots of books. Maybe they’re my target audience. But I’m told that the entertainment money is in the hands of the people thirty and under, and that I should remember this. I should try to appeal to them. But I can’t really relate to them in the way they want to be related to.

So I suppose this is just a long-winded way of saying, “I’m out of step, as I always have been, but this time, instead of the teachers who are older than I am saying that I’ll make it when I’m grown up, the people in charge are now younger and just shake their heads at the useless old fogey.”

***

There is no perfect time to write. There is only now.

–Barbara Kingsolver, _The Poisonwood Bible_

Musings on sending work into the world

Well, I’m here to say that there still is such a thing as a nice person in the world, even when they have bad news to report.

Remember that literary agency with the high-powered agent (a Publishers Lunch regular) who asked for an exclusive on my other novel, the YA fantasy (which was written about six years ago, before the Harry Potter craze, and which is really the story of character change rather than a high adventure)? The assistant was the person who really liked it, and had been kind of keeping me in suspense, but had written several times telling me the big man would get to it soon. Well, this afternoon around five, I got a call from the 212 area code . . . had a feeling it was “the call.”

Okay, so for those of you who have been praying for me to get The Call, the prayer was answered! Prayers work. I did get The Call from this agent’s assistant. We chatted a moment about how Dallas is melting, and then I said, I hope you have good news. He said, well, he did have news. The news is that he doesn’t expect to have an exclusive on this one any more. I am free to send it elsewhere. (Nobody else ever wanted it, either, so I’m not going to waste the postage. It’s the kind of book that’ll either charm an editor with an old-fashioned sensibility, or it will get repeatedly misunderstood as “an action story that doesn’t get going fast enough,” because it isn’t an action tale in the first place. But that’s another tale.) He said that he’d asked the agent to read it, and the guy was about halfway through and not passionate about it, but he did ask the agent to complete reading it, but gets the feeling he’s only doing it to be nice. So I really shouldn’t expect him to pick me up. He kind of fumbled around when I asked him if I could send something else (he already saw the opening of my ChickLit and said the protag seemed too negative for him to spend an entire book with her–I’ve sent it to Saint Jamie since then, who explained how I could fix that, which I’ve done, but the fellow doesn’t want to see it again; I shot my wad with that one). He said that if this agent reps someone, it has to be across the board, and so therefore if he doesn’t take THIS book, they wouldn’t want anything to do with me. (Even if I don’t try to sell that particular book, ever? I tried to ask, but I was taking up his time at that point, on his dime, and it was clearly time to hang up and release him from his task.)

Of course I was crushed and so forth, but with my mother sitting at the table behind me saying she can’t breathe and feels really weird and her stomach is cramping and she might have to go to the hospital, I had to just smile and tell her it was an agent and we weren’t going to work together. What I do feel is that it was very, very nice (read “human,” which is quite rare among agents I have met or spoken with) of him to deliver this news “in person.” It would’ve been even more awful, very cold, to receive this by e-mail or in a letter.

I think I just shouldn’t send that book out any more unless and until I become a viable published author with some other genre, because for some reason people seem to think it defines me. That’s not the case. I wrote it about six years ago because my husband and best friend read nothing but fantasy, and they said, “Why don’t you write something we like? It obviously sells!” So a character came into my mind, and I wrote about her transformation as she comes out from under her daddy’s iron hand and becomes her own person and has an adventure. It was the first runner-up in the 1996 Warner contest, after all. (I would be published if it weren’t for that woman who actually won, is the way I always think of it.) The book is worthy of attention, but it isn’t the kind of YA fantasy that they’re looking for at the moment to share in the success of Harry Potter. They want a certain kind of trilogy. I understand that. I simply thought this book deserved a read, for it does have an audience. (It has sold quite a few copies in its current incarnation at Xlibris, and to people across the country who don’t know me. The audience may be small. That means agencies are not interested.) I don’t want to “revise it so it’s an action book.” It’s not supposed to be one. That would be a different novel.

It was kind of a disappointment when the assistant told me he was so busy with his high-powered big-selling clients who are already pubbed that he really can’t justify looking at my stuff any more, which means he has concluded that all my books will be just like _Dulcinea_ and I won’t be worth anything, ever. That’s kind of depressing, but I’ll bet it’s true of many of the other rejects he goes through. They probably send him the same thing with the same flaws over and over.

This Catch-22 is one reason I had so hoped to get on an editor’s desk with one of my manuscripts through those contests I entered. I wouldn’t have to go through agents who have a certain picture in their minds of what they want–I might hit an editor who has some literary sensibility and just likes my voice. They constantly preach that they want voice. I don’t believe this is actually the case. They want something just like what they already have. I don’t like what they already have, and thus I don’t write it. Maybe that means I’m doomed to toil hopelessly away; there’s really no way of knowing that, and history will be the judge. I’m going to abandon the idea of mailing stuff to agents again and try the few editors left who take over-the-transom. Also, I’m going to send out the books I’ve finished recently (which is what I usually do-this was a special effort because I’d run across this person who has now been re-educated by his boss about what is “good” and what is not!! Hope that didn’t destroy his credibility with the agent.)

But I don’t need any more false hope. I was born too late. I don’t write the kind of thing that sells now, and I don’t want to. It’s not that I’m not good enough (and they SAY this when they reject me; they SAY they LOVE my charming characters and my prose flows smoothly.) I’m just not interested in writing a blockbuster. It’s ironic.

However, it’s nice to know that there ARE a few HUMAN BEINGS out there in publishing who are kind enough to deliver such news in person rather than by just sending you an impersonal form rejection letter. It’s the difference between being dumped by post-it note on the nightstand and having a conversation in person about why you’re being dumped. It still hurts, but it’s the HUMANE way to do it!

Anyway, bless this assistant for giving me some hope, if only for a short time. It kept me going through a few of the usual kicks in the head that life feels compelled to deliver to each of us. It renews my belief that inside many of the cold, corporate people out there beats a real heart that actually has compassion for others. I’d just about lost that belief lately, and needed it re-affirmed.

# # #

After I posted that to my two favorite mailing lists, I felt a little embarrassed about my core dump. I was really just venting. I got back on the computer (after watching my daily dose of “Sanford and Son” and “Bewitched” on the TiVo!) to formulate another post that basically said I could now move on, that the agent’s assistant was good to notify me by phone (as I said), but that Tuesday’s gone with the wind, so the train rolls on.

But instead I checked the e-mail, and there was a note from a published author who offered to ask a friend of hers who is an agent whether he’d be willing to take a look. So I’m waiting to hear whether I will be jumping back on that carousel again. Whee. . . . But wasn’t that nice of her? Again, an affirmation that there are nice ppl in this business.

If this were EASY, everyone would be doing it. (But aren’t they? Everyone with a computer seems to be writing a book.)

I asked her whether I might send along a few pages of my ChickLit and of another contemporary fantasy that could be a paranormal romance (or not–the romance is a subplot and kind of iffy). They are more representative of my current writing style for non-young adult fiction. (As I said, I wouldn’t want to be judged solely on the one book. I can write in various styles.) And of course Dulcinea is still sitting here, in a fine sulk at the moment.

I wouldn’t want to embarrass her/myself by sending something she wouldn’t consider ready for prime time. (As I said, I wrote this one six years ago and I’ve developed different styles for other books; the two sequels to _Dulcinea_ are more tightly written.) Not that I don’t think the book is good. Let me say, though, that this is a character-driven, character-arc story. A reader either is “that kind of reader” and likes this, or he/she says, “Hey, the story begins two hundred pages in. Just skip to that.” Which is perhaps what the market wants. There’s an adventure in the book that happens quite a ways into the story, but the adventure is not really the point of the story. The *story* is her coming of age (not sexually, although the opening scene has a subtext of her awakening as a sexual/sensual being when she meets the first boy she’s ever been attracted to, and she’s sixteen) and figuring out that she’s more powerful than her father (who meant well, but had her under his smothering thumb up until now) and what she should do with her newfound talent. If you miss the vibe throughout the first third of the book that tells you what’s happening with Dulcinea’s emotional maturation, you might think we’re just in the Ordinary World waiting for the Call to Adventure, whereas that’s not really the case (the way I see the book). Know what I mean, Vern? The save-the-world story that’s buried inside the novel is not the tale I wanted to tell. The people who think the action actually starts later in the book are not the audience for this book. If that makes sense.

So here we are tonight, still breathing and kicking. I’ve had my good cry over the lost potential, and like Sisyphus, I’m starting the boulder rolling back up the mountain again. None the worse for wear.

I’d better not tell you guys who the agent is. But as far as that kind assistant, bless him. Put another star in his crown for enduring my pathetic “but what if” questions today after he delivered his news; I know it had to be awkward trying to scrape me off the shoe like a melting wad of bubblegum, ever suggesting that I be allowed to send something else, something else, something elllllse. <wry grin>

When I hung up from that session on the computer and waddled back into the kitchen to get a compress for my strained eyes, Mama was sitting there at the dinner table. She suddenly rallied her forces, feeling better and rising to the occasion. “So, baby, did the agent say he wouldn’t take the book? It starts out kind of slow?”

“Well,” I started, searching for a metaphor that she could graze her cows in, “to readers who don’t get the subtext and don’t have the vibe, it may seem so.”

She chimed in with, “Oh, I was saying it’s that way to some of the people who read it who’re television people and not readers, hon, you know that. You know I don’t mean it’s really slow.”

“Yeah, but here’s the deal. There will be people who don’t see anything but an action story when they read. They read differently from English majors and bookworms, I think. They read for the surface story only. They don’t read for the cadence, the music of language, the delight of a novel metaphor or the fitting phrase or the exact word (Twain’s lightning bug). So also do they read for the plot. What they see is me warming up with lots of Ordinary World and finally getting to a Call to Adventure about a third of the way in. But that’s not really what the story is about. It’s about something else. Like–” I hit on the perfect analogy. “In TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the trial is important and the book is somewhat structured around it to drive the storyline, but it’s not what the book is ABOUT. The story is about Scout and how she comes to understand that the world would be a better place if there were more people like Atticus Finch. It is about honor, and integrity, and human dignity, and man’s inhumanity to man, and the eternal human condition, and God’s hand in the world. It’s about Boo Radley–er, Mr. Arthur, and why a shy person like him is the way he is and why that’s all right. It’s about growing up feeling completely safe and protected and in your proper place in the universe. It’s also about race and unfairness and prejudice and how sometimes the system of justice may not work properly because something’s wrong in people’s hearts. And how there’s a grain of goodness in most people, even if they have to be shamed by a child to let it shine through. But mostly the real inner story is about Atticus Finch as seen through his daughter’s eyes, and Jem Finch as seen through his sister’s eyes, and the town as seen through the maturing Scout’s eyes, and about Scout. That’s what the story is really, truly about. But not everyone sees things the way we do. And therefore they think that the entire storyline of my book should drive that one little internal adventure story. But it doesn’t. And it can’t, if I am to remain true to the artistic vision and keep the novel of whole cloth. You could take out that adventure story, I suppose, and write a different novel. But it wouldn’t be my story, and ultimately it wouldn’t be Dulcinea’s, but one of a girl something like her.” I paused, knowing I’d gone off into another soliloquy. “You know?”

“I know, hon,” she said, rocking back and forth in the rocker, already thinking about the next thing we’d be doing. “You should be proud you’ve had that book published and that people are reading it and that you’re working at what you believe to be your calling. I’m proud of you and I think you ought to be happy with that.”

I was momentarily astounded. She has *never* before said she was proud of me for having written. I paused. Before I could think of anything to say, she continued.

“I know you’re disappointed. But I think it was nice of him to call, don’t you?”

Yes. I do. I said it was mighty righteous of him to have done so.

And then I came back in here to work on a different novel. Man, this thing needs some more polishing. . . .

# # #

When people tell you crazy things that you don’t believe are right about your own work . . . I don’t think you should pay them so much mind. (As Grandmama would say.)

I’m incredibly jealous and weary of seeing the gals on other lists who are getting awarded multi-book contracts, and several of them to boot. It gets so frustrating. And some of the best-selling (according to the lists) work isn’t THAT impressive to me; these blockbuster authors are not such great stylists themselves. I guess I read differently from other people; I read every phrase and I weigh it on its merits as well as comprehending its meaning. I notice the connotations of the words and enjoy the wordplay that occasionally comes up. Others just read solely for story. Whatever that is. Let’s not argue the point.

Anyhow, what are these people who’re getting published so easily (they have four-year plans and sometimes don’t have to spend that long before getting offers)writing? One has two single-title romances (category-style romances with a slightly broader scope) out from one NY house and a Smooch! YA chicklit from another, and has just landed a two-book deal with a different publisher (NAL) for two paranormal vampire romances! She can hardly keep up with writing that many, is my reaction. And she has posted more than once, “It wasn’t that hard to get published.” Like hell it wasn’t. She worked hard, I am certain, but she also just lucked into the proper vibe and now her submissions aren’t cotton-picked to death the way those of “newcomers” like me (ha) are. Okay, I like this lady and she has let me on one of her published writer mailing lists, so I apologize for being openly snarky. But excuuuse me–it IS NOT EASY to get published, normally. I don’t know what charm they’re using. (I sure would do whatever voodoo they’re doing, short of writing erotica and category romance–I just don’t do those two genres well.) Who do I sleep with? Color me nighty-night. If only it were that simple.

People say, “If you’ll just write a good book, it’ll sell.”

I have talent. I have confidence in the work. It isn’t dreck. Though most of my acquaintances say it must be, or I’d be on the NYT list by now. If I say I’m working on a particular style of book, they ask why I don’t write one like Grisham’s? (You might have noticed that Grisham has now written a couple of literary-type novels in a different vein. I’m glad to see there’s more depth to the man than was previously apparent.)

I know, who said life was logical or fair, and all of that. Insert usual crying-into-beer stuff here.

Tuesday’s gone with the wind. Train rolls on.

And lest ye think me elitist for having mentioned a classic work (and note that I did not compare my work to that of Miss Nelle Harper Lee), I also claim that the story of “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” can’t be summarized straightforwardly. It’s got intertextual references and can’t really be understood properly by someone who hasn’t seen the rest of Kevin Smith’s oeuvre. And it could have a few moments that were almost, like, kinda deep.

So there.