Congratulations to the Class of 2005–ALL of you, in every school

I’d like to congratulate the graduating class of 2005. All of you. You did it!
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My niece SHOULD be the Valedictorian of NorthSide High in Ft. Worth, Texas. When you see the graduation program that we received last night at the ceremony in TCU’s Coliseum, the name in the Valedictory slot of the Class of 2005 should be Elizabeth Ann Weeks. If there were any justice . . . etc.

The staff at the school told her before Christmas that she was a shoo-in, that she didn’t need ANY more credits or AP classes, and that she was far ahead of the closest follower. (According to my brother-in-law; I am going by what he has told me.) She had her speech all written by March. She and her mom brainstormed it early.

BUT . . . the week the list of honorees came out, her name was listed SECOND, as Salutatorian.

Now, it’s still a great honor. A mark of distinction. Don’t get me wrong: we’re not pouting. But the difference between being the #1 and the #2 graduate in Texas is that the valedictorian gets a free pass for four years–tuition, room and board, and fees–at ANY Texas (state-affiliated) university. Not at a private university, but in the University of Texas system and in any state-sponsored school. The salutatorian gets . . . one semester. So there is a difference of more than just one evening’s honor and a symbol on your transcript.

(I know you’re goggle-eyed at this. This program sure wasn’t around back In My Day. I attended SMU on a National Merit Scholarship, which was about the best deal around back then save for an athletic scholarship, only because the athletic scholarships came with room and board, fees, and sometimes a red convertible. I would not have been able to afford the tuition without my scholarship. The same is true of many students today.)

At first, we were just crushed. My brother-in-law had been discussing possibilities with the faculty, because he pointed out that they HAD predicted her win. At first they said, in effect: hey, let it go–that girl (the new winner) is poor and Hispanic, and her parents can’t afford to send her to school.


Immediately, they backed off (“No, no, of COURSE we’re not suggesting anything of the kind”) and began showing him the numbers they had crunched. They were comparing numerical grade-point averages down to several decimal points. Their claim was that the other girl had completed several AP courses and was a few fractions of a point ahead. As I understand it, the girls were “tied” down to five decimal places, and this spring the other girl took an AP class that my niece didn’t. That turned the tide. That was their story, and they stuck to it.

What the staff doesn’t know is that my brother-in-law is not a Rich White Guy. They’ve lived about as poor as anybody most of the time, mostly because of bad luck, I think. He’s had a tough financial time of it since the children were born, in fact. Although the kids have never gone without and have not wanted for anything. The Heroic Parents here deserve some sort of accolade for that.

But without some kind of scholarship, my niece might not get to attend college . . . she might be stuck working for a year or going to a community college. Fortunately, a different scholarship program came through, and she’ll go to a smaller college for two years for free; if she maintains a 4.0 average, she’ll then get to transfer into one of the participating sister schools and complete her junior and senior years free of charge. One of the sister schools is her first choice, TCU. And she also got another scholarship grant of $2500 per semester. That’ll cover books, fees, transportation, and incidentals. So things DID work out. There’s more than one way to skin a Horned Frog, as my sister-in-law said.

Here’s the advantage I have in being paranoid and never trusting in people’s “word of honor.” If they had said to ME that I didn’t need to take extra stuff and AP courses, I would have just smiled and said, “That’s nice to hear, but I am going to sign up for them anyway.” Not only am I a grind/nerd/scholar, but I like to have suspenders AND a belt. Oh, well; they didn’t ASK me.

I can tell you that my niece’s speech was by far the best one. The only thing missing from the ceremony was the (physical) presence of her grandparents, my in-laws. I thought of them as we watched the kids march across the stage. They must be so proud, looking down from Heaven.

But they’d have been incensed because the crowd didn’t know how to behave and made noise (talking, hooting, hollering, shouting) during the entire ceremony. Several of us wished we could stand up with a bullhorn and shout, “Be quiet! I’m trying to HEAR!” Every graduation I was ever in (or attended before this one) was pindrop-quiet until the mortarboards went into the air. I suppose the modern world is different from the one I grew up in, but that doesn’t mean it’s always better.

In her speech, Elizabeth compares our journey after high school to Dorothy’s quest in the Wizard of Oz. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more.
# # #
During last night’s post-graduation party at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house, I learned these Unusual Factoids:

* If the gummint* puts tracking devices on every car to record whether you are speeding and institutes a national ID card program (as they’re trying to, apparently–witness the national driver’s license match-up database they’re working on now), why do people say it’s BIG BROTHER watching you? Thatt’s a lot more like LITTLE brother is watching you. Isn’t HE the major tattle-tale and the one who always gets you into trouble by spilling the beans?
(The speaker has a point. George Orwell had it backwards.)
*Gummint=Government, pronounced the way Unca Sammy talks it

* There ought to be a measurement called UHU–universal hamburger units–to measure whether McD or BK actually gives you more burger for the buck

* Silence is golden, but duct tape is silver
–courtesy of the non sequitur society (“we don’t make sense, but we love pizza”)

* In Florida, at least, if you see a phone number of the form (aaa) eee-9xxx, it is a PAY phone. Supposedly, whenever 9 is coded in that position, this is the case. aaa=area code, eee=exchange, xxxx=the actual “number.”

* Had you realized that you can put a quarter on the front doorsill of someone you are after (assuming you are a stalker or a bounty hunter or even their landlord), and if it’s still there in a couple of days, you may deduce that people are not coming and going from the house regularly? (Lean the quarter against the door, its edge seated in one of the ridges of the weatherstripping or sill or whatever that strip of metal is called.)
* * *
Another thing I thought about when I was watching the graduation ceremony (and this may stem from their school colors being maroon and white, and their caps and gowns being identical-looking to the ones we of the graduating class of 1977 in Plano, Texas, wore): the man next door. (The one who is to be buried tomorrow.) His daughter was the secretary of our class, and she did some of the introductions during our graduation ceremony. She sat in the row in front of me (with people who were either class officers or getting scholarships/honors). She (like many others) had several bobby pins holding her mortarboard on (because she had it tilted back so as to have her Farrah Fawcett hairstyle intact–many people were doing this in these days). SO when everyone threw their caps up in the air, she ended up pulling a bunch of her bobby pins out and not getting her cap off at all. My friends and I didn’t pull off our caps . . . we wanted to keep them. (Sentimental fools, all.) Also, we knew there’d be photos with the family later. ANYhow, her dad came down to meet us all and fixed her hat back on for her. I thought of him and of many people from my past as I listened to these kids talking about how the future holds endless possibilities. I wish them luck as they start on that yellow brick journey.
* * *
My niece is a good writer for someone her age. But she does something that is one of my major copyediting-brain pet peeves. She tends to put a comma after a coordinating conjunction, even when it begins a sentence.

This is never correct. I always go wild when I see it. I have used gallons of White-Out-Vexing-Errors on such abominations seen in print. I have mailed perfect strangers copies of the Harbrace College Handbook with page flags on the comma rules section in hopes they’ll read it. I don’t know why it is such a bête noire of mine. But then, most punctuation errors push my buttons.

I am upset that the schools/teachers didn’t teach her this, when they saw it all the time in the newspaper editorials she wrote. Maybe they didn’t know themselves. I don’t know how to bring it up, because last night my brother-in-law said several times, “They tell me there isn’t anything more that they can teach her about English.” (Those teachers are falling down on the job, then; for after one has mastered grammar and rhetoric, one then begins assimilating the wisdom of English and American literature. Begin on the literature, I say! But enough from me; go read Dorothy L. Sayers on the Trivium.)

(Yes, that’s *supposed* to be “me.” It’s a direct object, not a subject. Unless, of course, the PNH rule saying that any post correcting someone else’s grammar or punctuation is destined to contain an error of its own holds.)
* * *
And while we’re on that topic . . . PLEASE, writers of the Universe, it’s *bête noire*, and the plural is *bêtes noires* (because of the way plurals are formed en Francais.)

bête noire (noun); pl. bêtes noires
1. A person or thing that especially bothers, annoys or frightens someone. Something or someone especially hated or dreaded; a bugbear.
Etymology: 19c: French, literally “black beast”
* * *
“I didn’t buy anything on eBay yesterday. I am too strong for the devil.”–ShinyPrettyThings, an eBay seller from whom I just bought nearly $80 of rubber stamps . . . when I was supposed to be SELLING rubber stamps on eBay . . . *sob* *wail*

OK, I linked to YOU.* Now YOU link to ME. (*bwa-ha-haa!*)

*Without being asked! I just liked her site.


Everything must be in retrograde

Something must be in retrograde today. Everything. Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, the planet Mongo.

The planet Mongo. It’s definitely in retrograde.

Because this has been the weirdest couple of days.

To summarize: My mother’s cat is dying. Last stage of kidney failure. We’re watching and keeping her comfortable. (Right now, she still walks around the house and sits on the windowsill and then changes windowsills, so we’re giving her IV fluids once a day.) My mother was distraught about that. THEN we got a call this morning that our next-door neighbor was killed. (We now own my parents’ old house, and Mama had to come live with us a few years ago, so the total is around thirty-five years we’ve been next-door neighbors. I went to school with their daughter.) Before I could even crawl into the shower to go pay a condolence call, my uncle called and said my aunt is in fibrillation and the home health care was there doing an EKG and she might have to go to the hospital. In the middle of this, we were in a controversy about my niece’s graduation–my husband’s family wanted us to come over there TONIGHT (braving the Memorial Day kickoff traffic and going to the southwest side of Ft. Worth at 5 PM) to do a little party. I finally blew up and told them we could not make it then, to plan on seeing us at the graduation itself on Saturday. They seemed not to want us to come to that, but just to the party. But AT LAST, FOR ONCE, hubby stood up to them and said that we would see them at graduation. Whew.

Did I mention that my ankle is swollen and that’s not even on the same foot where I broke my toe and knocked off the toenail on another?

Phooey. But anyhow, I know everything can’t stay in retrograde forever. It’s weird that several neighbors have died over the past four months. All were different causes and it wasn’t related to anything they had in common or whatever–it’s just life and its vagaries/oddities. Still, it’s depressing.

Good thing that I already canceled the get-together we were supposed to have at lunchtime. (A couple of friends were going to meet me to exchange art journals. I thought up an idea for collaborative art journals. I still think those will be fun.)

Remember, a journal is the place to do your whining and working out of issues so you will be free to write when you sit down to write. *wry grin*

Stealing the meme for myself

I didn’t get tagged to do the “five questions book meme,”* but I’m going to do it anyway.

Except for question 1. I really don’t know how many books I own. I have a great number of books. Some are in a storage building now because I had to pack them up in order to move my mom’s bedroom furniture into my old office/gameroom where I had three walls of books.

2. Last book I bought: With Your Own Two Hands by Seymour Bernstein, about piano playing. But that doesn’t really count (because it’s got lots of sheet music and exercises) as a “reader’s book,” so let’s go with the go-go mystery thing that I special-ordered because (1) this lady is a friend of my acquaintance and idol Donna Andrews, and (2) I love the Nancy Sinatra go-go boots era, because I really enjoyed it when I lived through it the first time at age seven, except I didn’t get to be a swinger because I was seven, and I want a do-over.

Ghodz, I loved my white vinyl go-go Nancy Sinatra “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” boots. They had little yellow tassels as zipper pulls (they zipped up along the inner calf). Our neighbors, Nancy and Cathy Wallace, who were also my baby-sitters, were teenagers and got to run around dressed like Twiggy for real, while I had the K-mart versions because I was a little kid. Our friends were in a high school revue of some kind where all the girls marched up and down to the Nancy Sinatra hit. This was long ago and far awhen, years before everyone associated the song with that scene in “Austin Powers.”

Ahem. The book is It’s a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod Murder by Rosemary Martin. (This is, I hear, a pseudonym for a writer who was already published in this or another genre. This is pertinent because I am absolutely convinced that the book, sent in cold to agents, would never have made it to an editor because of the “flaws” it has that are now called flaws, although they are in reality stylistic choices that don’t bother most readers.)

It’s about go-go boots, the debut of miniskirts, and incidentally a murder. Maybe the breezy retro-chick-lit, Twiggy, Beatlemania, breathy young blonde starlet “feel” of the writing is intentional (it probably is), but some of the infodump that she gets away with isn’t cool, although they DID write like that back then. I’m sure you’re not supposed to notice that, but writers do notice this stuff. It’s what we do.

She also commits a few anachronisms (as we say in the SCA–yes, I USED to be in the SCA. Shuddup.) She has the roommate say, “Okay, that works for me,” when that idiom only became common slang during the 1990s and after. Back then, you would not have said that. Also, the father says, “It hasn’t been the same since President Kennedy was assassinated.” Since this takes place in 1964, the wound was still raw . . . I was three when that happened, but even I remember the adults shrieking and putting me in my fenced-off play area and abandoning me while they panicked, and I remember panicking because Mama and our maid and our neighbor were wailing and crying and the television had gone mad. But my POINT was . . . I never heard anyone say anything but “the assassination” until after Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot. People would just say, “since the assassination,” and you knew what they meant. So the copyeditor or the fact checker or someone should have caught those.

You know why they didn’t, of course. Because the copyeditor and fact checker are twenty! And that stuff happened way before they were born! It is not part of their zeitgeist the way it is mine! Anyhow, these niggling little details bothered me.

Also, she is writing in first person past tense and makes a mistake that I see often these days. She writes, “I was afraid Daddy would pull a gun on the man. Guns terrified me.” She should instead write, “Guns terrify me.” The first-person narrator is still alive and is speaking of the present moment in book time, and presumably this fear is a current thing that is still true of the character, so you write it as if explaining a fact in the present. I am not making this up. I see this error about as often as I see people using “spit” where “spat” (the PAST TENSE OF SPIT–look it up) should be. Sigh.

ANYhow. I’m on chapter three and I’ll probably finish the book. I’m enjoying the blast from my childhood, even if memory serves to point out these kinds of errors. And I didn’t say I didn’t like the book or wouldn’t give it to Barb or Linda or my aunt to read next. All I’m saying is that I strongly suspect a book written this way would not have made it to publication through the channels available to an unpublished peon. And that means we’re missing books that are perfectly readable and enjoyable because of the “rules.” They’re missing out on MAKING MONEY because of a “rule.”

So what’s new about that?? (Rhetorical question)

3. Last book(s) I read: See above. Oh, y’mean what I just finished? I re-read The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I still love that book. Sure, it has flaws if you don’t like literary stuff and you don’t like to read about Classics students who read and speak Attic Greek. Before that, I re-read Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and Grapes of Wrath.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me: (assuming here that we mean novels and not the Bible and Shakespeare’s collected plays and the like)

To Kill a Mockingbird
The Boyfriend School
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Egypt Game
Cat’s Cradle

5) Tag 5 people to do this: Nope, I’m not going to do that.

* I wasn’t tagged because (1) I am not very well known nor am I well-connected; (2) people don’t like me, and I don’t blame them–the few who do read me are to be praised for being tolerant of my nonstop whining and constant questioning of everything; and/or (3) no one gives a crap which books I like, although they know I’m going to tell about them despite their obvious lack of interest.

**NOTE** This post may have contained sarcasm, irony, satire, and/or exaggeration for effect. Please don’t take everything so seriously. Except that part about my being unpopular; I know it, and am not particularly bothered by it because I know I cause it, partly by being a nonconformist and partly by speaking my mind. And partly just by not being good-looking or wealthy. So it goes.

More books for the Macy’s sack that’s going to the old folks’ home

I’ve been tossing the books I don’t want to keep (even the crappy, awful ones) into a Macy’s shopping bag so I can carry them to my aunt’s house the next time we run up there. She has a circle of friends (older, all over 70) who can’t afford books (fixed income) and can’t get to the library regularly (and besides don’t really want to read only best-sellers). She asked me to bring her any books I didn’t want, and after she read them, she’d circulate them among her friends. I had to ask myself if I should give her the really BAD ones, but I decided I’d let the little old ladies decide whether to spend time on them or not. If they come up with a rationale as to whether the books are worth reading or not, I’ll listen.

I wanted to like How I Fell in Love With a Librarian and Lived to Tell About It. I really did. Seriously. Reviews said that the book sends a strong pro-library message. The only problem with that is . . . um . . . the people who want to eliminate budgets for libraries aren’t going to sit down and read this book or any like it, so the book is preaching to the choir, at best.

It’s about a librarian who moves to a small town and falls in love with the minister. But you know what? What it IS . . . is the subplot from “The Music Man,” pretty much (except it’s the woman who is new in town), with a few modifications to suit the guy being a minister rather than a Music Man con artist. I don’t know whether that musical was on my mind because my friends in Round Rock/Austin are currently appearing in a production of it, or what. But anyhow, I thought it might have made an okay short story, for people who really loved “The Music Man” except for the songs. (GRIN) The writer inserted, in place of the marches and “Wells Fargo Wagon,” an anti-religion bit for the librarian to show off for a while, but all it took was goin’ to church once and she was burnin’ up the halls every time the church doors opened. Not very realistic.

Besides, I *love* “Wells Fargo Wagon.”

What REALLY bugs me is that the author not only has no ear for cadenced prose, but the book is full of mistakes in usage, sentence structure, and grammar. Anyone who reads will have a sore “mind’s ear” and have to stop reading to throw the book against the wall. Yuck!

But I realize that I was born with not only the spelling gene but with a proofreading gene, and that not all readers are going to be so bothered. I’ve always been majorly affected by the quality of the narrative and the coolness of the writing itself whenever I read, and I know others aren’t. So I can’t say that others will be turned off. Besides, it’s a charming little piece of fluff for the little old ladies. So I tossed it happily in.

Right on top of a couple of suspense/gore novels that an eBay seller stuck into my box of rubber stamps. When I opened the box, I said, “Hey, she sent me books!” A note inside one read, “I’m getting out of the book business, so here are a couple of freebies.” Now, who says eBay sellers aren’t nice?

But they’re not my kind of thing. (The BOOKS, not the eBay sellers!) I get kind of weirded out when I read most horror and some suspense. However, I think a lot of my aunt’s friends and cronies just *bleep* over anything they don’t want to hear, so I don’t feel guilty about throwing that bad trip on them. They’re old enough to know whether they can bear to read that kind of stuff or not. Besides, since they’re so close to Oklahoma, they have Choctaw DreamCatchers hanging over their beds already.

But even as tough as these readers are, I couldn’t toss in one particular horrid piece of yuck that I picked up at a garage sale for ten cents. I won’t publicize it by mentioning the title or the author, but if you’ve heard of it, you’ll recognize it. It’s by this ex-ballerina who wrote a couple of normal books before writing this crazy memoir that has turned her into a laughingstock. The Washington Post reviewer was right, for once . . . this lady has definitely cracked her head on a rock. The french fries fell out of her Happy Meal. Or else she’s putting everyone on. A few people might find it hilarious erotica; I’m thinking Beavis and Butt-head would adore it, if they could read. So anyhow, that one went into the charity sack with the pants that don’t look good on me and those tops that I wish weren’t so scratchy. Maybe some nice, indigent pervert will find it amusing and it’ll make him/her a few happy hours.

Did I mention that it was REALLY dumb?

Even that Running With Scissors thing made sense and had its good points. Augusten didn’t feel the need to carp on derrieres constantly and managed to write an entertaining memoir. One that I didn’t think was a keeper (and that I really wished I hadn’t wasted time reading, once I’d finished it–don’t even know why I kept reading it, other than the narrative drive pushing me along to the end). But still one that was far more worthy to be published than that silly ballerina’s delusional drooling. Good grief. Vitameatavegamin instead of real nourishment. Hic!

(We’ll just skip the moaning and p*ssing and “if this junk is good enough for New York to publish, then why doesn’t my stuff sell, because it’s far better and has no mechanical errors at all” rant and call it a day for a change, OK? I can hear your collective sigh of relief.)

Speaking of getting published, go congratulate ! She’s just had a version of The Call and is busy doing revisions to re-submit. Yay! Sometimes good things DO happen to worthy people.

An eBay virgin seller and great old comedy films

Last night on the classic movie channel we caught the tail end of “For Pete’s Sake,” which is my least fave out of the three early Barbra Streisand comedy films, but is still fun and worthwhile. I dug out the TiVo tape archives and we saw “What’s Up, Doc?” You MUST see “What’s Up, Doc,” but you MUST (1) love screwball comedies and have seen a number of them before you can appreciate this one, and (2) you really need to know some of the other famous films that this film alludes to, refers to, or satirizes . . . including other famous films that she and Ryan O’Neal had been in around that time. This film also introduced Madeleine Kahn! And you’ll recognize most of the other players, as well.

A little less screwball is “The Owl and the Pussycat,” which she made with George Segal. It is a romantic comedy more in a traditional vein and is also worth seeing. He plays a writer (see why I was drawn to it?) and she plays a . . . well, a lady who gets money by going out on dates with gentlemen. Of course, they end up together.

Barbra Streisand used to just hate her early comedy films, but she had a comedic genius, and I think her new hubby must’ve finally convinced her that these films were classics. So now they’re showing on TV again, after a hiatus of twenty years or so. If you can catch them, do, especially “What’s Up, Doc.” I first saw it when I was around nine years old, and I spent about ten years after that trying to write a novel with a story like that one that was deadpan-hilarious, but never could do it. Still probably couldn’t do it. But I sure love that one.

Remember, now, these films are nearly as old as I am, so expect them to be retro and a little funky (but NOT funky-smelling!)

Note that when I say “we,” kemosabe, I don’t mean my hubby watched them with me. I mean my MOM. She felt nauseated and dizzy after dinner, so I went to sit in her room with her, and then I started feeling dizzy and my stomach bloated out. Apparently, we’re allergic to some spice they are now using in one of the prepared pasta sauces you buy in a jar. We poured it on our baked chicken to make a breaded Italian-style chicken breast dish. Oof.

But anyhow, my husband doesn’t watch movies that I like any more. He says he won’t watch black-and-white and doesn’t like “old stuff.” (sigh) He likes SF/fantasy and some action flicks and most anime. This changed sometime after we got married, for he used to sit through good films willingly. He *does* love “Real Genius,” but then it’s offbeat and about nerds/defense contracts, both of which are up his alley. However, he purely despises Streisand, so I’m just grateful he hasn’t deleted “Owl” and “Doc.”

* * *

Some of you may know that I do a little cartooning and art rubber stamping on occasion, to de-stress. (Though the MESS that artwork makes when you try to ink up stamps and use glue sticks and so forth is very stress-inducing.)

I’ve got SO many art stamps that we’ve never used or maybe used once . . . and I need to get back $ome of the money I’ve put into them (some might say “wasted on them”) . . . so I finally caved in to my friends’ nagging and opened an eBay sellers account.

The eBay servers now know more about me than my own mother. And SHE goes through my purse regularly (to make sure I don’t have anything I have not told her about) and digs through my trash if she suspects I have bought something expensive (to find the receipts) and has often disregarded the federal edict against opeining first-class mail that is addressed to someone else. . . .

So they know a LOT, trust me. *They* can.

Anyhow . . . I put up a group of eleven stamps for auction as a test. No bids yet, but two people are watching it. They may wait until the last moment and bid three dollars. The lot cost almost $70 at retail and really should sell for more than my minimum bid. But, as I said, this is a test to see if it’s worth selling stuff this way, after all the fees are deducted. If you are so inclined, you might like to take a look at my auction.

It’s Item Number 8192415731.

Be careful. Maybe you can handle browsing on eBay. If you’re like me, though, you might go crazy and start bidding on things, so bail out and come right back to LiveJournal–don’t blow the mortgage payment money on items you remember fondly from your childhood. . . . I speak with the voice of experience.

Happy Birthday, Bobby Darin!

Today would/should have been Bobby Darin’s 69th birthday. (Make of that what you will . . . man, it doesn’t seem as if it could have been this many years since the December morning I woke up to find that he had passed to the Other Side. Too soon.) To mark the occasion, I will have an all-BD playlist. Some very kind soul sent me a copy of his “Sail Away” CD (made from his album, in better shape than mine, which came through a house fire.) Love this one.

The Darin website has all sorts of great stuff, if you’re interested. There’s a companion site for Sandra Dee, the love of his life, who (unexpectedly) joined him in Heaven earlier this year. I think the link is somewhere on Bobby’s site.

Do something nice today. A random act of kindness. Your karma will thank you.

Clarification. . . .

Just thought I should add to my previous post that I think Dennis has a great idea there . . . it’s just that I don’t think *I* could do it. If I *could*, it would be great. I could write more like many of the best-selling types if only I could go “bland” or change styles. But it just doesn’t work for me.

I’m going to reply individually to my comments, so worry not. But I also wanted to say that this incident, though it was kind of devastating at the time, is way past any ability to hurt me or make me feel regretful. It was a Learning Experience, or what my father-in-law liked to call a “Wake-Up Call.” The experience taught me that I shouldn’t promise something when I actually have no idea whether I can do it or not (even though youth brings with it all that false confidence, I found that if you never did activity X before, you’d better not give a time estimate or you should pad that time estimate by a few weeks and tell them it’s just a guess.) Also that I should be cautious in all business dealings. Especially with small presses or new start-ups. With a large established house, you may need to be wary, but they generally have procedures in place and you will know where you stand (plus you can call any agent once you have a contract in hand and pretty much get that agent to negotiate for you, which is nice. With a smaller press, maybe you won’t impress any agents because they figure you’re not playing with the big boys yet and this won’t make them any serious money.)

I don’t think that this was intended as a scam (though I’m not entirely sure it was ethical for them to recommend that book doctor right on the rejection letter . . . that smacks of scam agencies.) What I have decided is that this lady was new to the world of being an editor, and she’d just had someone back out of delivering a finished novel, so that she had a “hole” in her spring list. Perhaps when she came across my manuscript, she seized on it because there was nothing horribly wrong with it, the voice was distinct, and the prose “flowed.” (I’ve always at least been able to do that . . . smooth narration, even if the subject is boring. What, this is boring?! *wink*) So, being a little inexperienced and all, she called me and confidently set up my book as the replacement. Then her committee started asking about the book, and when it didn’t show up on time, she panicked. She probably was not a writer, and people who don’t write DO think that all we do is fill out a formula, especially in genre fiction. She most likely honestly thought that “switching locations” would be a case of search-and-replace. *wry grin* I believe that when I didn’t deliver on time, she may have heard an earful from her supervisors (who may or may not have been that experienced in publishing themselves.) They may not have realized that a novel is not a piece of needlework or a skirt that you sew, something that if you just keep typing will eventually be finished properly.

Another consideration I have come up with is that she may not have been all that familiar with the usual conventions of inspirational or Christian category romance. Normally, along with the romance, these books contain at their climax a conversion, either of the hero or the heroine. MY book doesn’t and never did. What happens is that Paige meets Alan-the-skeptic, has several frustrating conversations with him, and although she doesn’t become a doubter, she sees his point, which is that she cannot (as much as she wants to and as hard as she tries) *give* him her faith. It is not like teaching somebody to hit a baseball with a bat or how to factor an equation. There’s NO WAY to MAKE someone know God or see the light or what-have-you . . . at least no way for a mere mortal to transmit this, this gnosis that is what the questioner may seek. That’s up to God or the Universe or whoever/whatever you will; if the conversion is going to happen, it’ll be from forces outside YOU the one who is trying to do the convincing. You might as well just share what you want to share ONCE and then SHUT UP . . . and for that matter, WAIT until you’re asked to share it in the first place. Paige learns that. She also learns that she can fall in love with somebody who seems to have a completely different value structure, but one that works for him. **But** in the course of the book, there is no conversion, and there are several conversations that really don’t fit the mold (where the doubter out-talks Paige, in fact, although she knows there’s something wrong with his argument, even if she can’t come up with a reply off the cuff.)

You can see why my book didn’t really fit the Christian romance guidelines. It might well be that the committee took one gander at the synopsis and realized right then (even without noticing the problems caused by the relocation of the poor little native Texan characters) that it wouldn’t fit the intentions of their line. However, they could have said that in the letter. So who knows? It’s just guessing at this point.

I’m sure just about every author has a number of horror stories to tell. Mine are only interesting when they’re instructive. . . .