How can it be Autumn already?

(It finally did cool down to get below the triple digits yesterday and today. We spent the day in the seventies, which isn’t bad. Not quite fall-crisp or anything, but not broiling as it has been.)

I’m waiting to hear back from two critiques I “won” in eBay auctions, four agents to whom I sent requested partials, and two agents who have requested fulls (entire manuscripts). It’s really nerve-wracking. It takes forever. I’m working on the second chick lit and the standalone paranormal while I wait.

I need to get out the Hallowe’en decorations. It’s finally time to put everything Fall up.

Orange is my favorite color. It’s so neat that they have orange-only mini lights now and you actually get to put ’em out in October! Black cats are another favorite theme, in honor of the ones I’ve had through the years.
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Market/publication alert! and are two of the headliners on the first web issue of Lone Star Stories, a publication that seems to be SF/F oriented. Here are the guidelines off their website.

Lone Star Stories is a bimonthly webzine that publishes speculative fiction and poetry. Perusing the current issue will give prospective authors some idea of the sort of work that is likely to sell here. Stories and poems of any length are welcome.

Lone Star Stories pays $20 (U.S.) per story and $5 (U.S.) per poem within a few days of acceptance for exclusive electronic rights for a two month period. Works are archived for a year once an issue ends, after which the author may request that the work be removed from the site.

Send submissions in standard manuscript format as .rtf attachments to submissions@erictmarin.com. (Poems may be included in the body of the e-mail.) Include your name, physical address, and word/line count in your e-mail.

Cool. Congratulations to the writers who helped kick off the first issue!

**EDIT**: Turns out this zine has been around since 2003! Why did I not get the memo? *eyeing Eudora junk folder suspiciously* At any rate, I thought it was interesting enough that two of my LJ friends were in the last issue–and now I find a third had a poem in the previous issue! That is really cool.

Do I dare send ’em the story that I wrote for the Marion Zimmer Bradley “Sword and Sorceress” anthologies that didn’t get picked up? *I* like the durn thing, but who knows.

**EDIT**: Nope, he didn’t like it enough to publish it. It’s also a pretty long story, nearly 10K words, almost a novella. The response time was incredibly short, though–two days! I might send something else that’s a lot shorter and completely different, just for fun.

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Writing as Calvinball! Never done the same way twice!

The red stapler . . . this is my stapler . . . give me the stapler

Well, the hurricane blew by to the east of us, and Dallas-Fort Worth didn’t see a drop of rain. Everything went east. We did have an overcast Saturday with gusts of wind that broke a lot of small branches off the neighbors’ trees and blew them into our front yard (we don’t have any trees in the front any more) . . . but that’s about all. The people we were helping take care of went back to Houston (“goin’ back to Houston . . . “–Dean Martin). I cleaned out the back bedroom, but a lot more needs to be done. I’m waiting to hear back from several editors/agents about various projects. The guy at the grocery store who always is running the express lane checkstand when I run in late at night asked me tonight, “So, what do you DO? I mean, so you write, but what else do you DO?”

. . . good question. No easy answer.

It’s not as if I’m a dropout from life. After graduating from SMU with two bachelor’s degrees (computer science and math, minor in English), I worked as a software engineer from 1981 to 1997. I was a misfit as a coder and tester, yet I managed to make money doing it, so I felt I “should” be doing it. I worked at Rockwell International (back when the shuttle was brand-new and all the rage) in defense electronics for a couple of years, went to E-Systems in Garland for eight years, got laid off and worked for a few months as a technical writer for a small firm that makes factory control software (because I was so burned out on software and engineering in general), then got sick and didn’t work for a few months . . . then got on over at a telecommunications firm where hubby worked. Those two years were spent doing software quality assurance and software quality metrics. (Don’t fall forward onto the keyboard asleep just yet. That stuff was just as tedious and boring as it sounds, pretty much.) I was going crazy staring at the screen all day and taking all that rot they said at the meetings “seriously,” and started back to grad school pretending I wanted to get an MFA in Teaching, though I really just needed the intellectual stimulation. Finally I just decided that if I ever wanted to get a serious shot at being a novelist, I needed to stop dividing my energy.

Around that time, though, my mother’s health had become a concern, and we needed to move her out of the large house she couldn’t take care of any longer. So we bought that house from her and gave her our starter home to live in rent-free. She remodeled it (using up a lot of the money she got from the sale of the house, but I couldn’t stop her or persuade her to take it easy) and enjoyed that for a while, but then Don’s startup company closed its Texas offices and he was out of work for three months. We knew we couldn’t make both house payments any more. Mama broke her arm that weekend, and we all decided to sell that house and move her in with us. That took time and changed all our lifestyles slightly. It’s better now, though, because this is a more affordable way to do things. Still, it wouldn’t hurt if I brought in a little income now and then.

I’m sure the grocery guy thinks we’re independently wealthy or something. From his mind to God’s ear! Everyone wonders why I don’t “do something.” It seems to me every day that I do quite a lot, but it’s not stuff that shows. Housework and maintenance and going to the doctor and taking care of the dog and exercising and cooking and cleaning up and stealing time to read e-mail and write or play piano . . . that takes all the time there is. I have to make a special effort if there’s a Mensa board meeting or a book club meeting, because I always seem to be running like a soccer mom. I’m always busy with something, either an obligation or one of my projects. I don’t know how people with children do it! My hat is off to ’em. They are probably organized. (grin)

I do manage to get some writing done just about every day. Checking the e-mail and the web serves as a mental health break a couple of times a day. When I work on queries or write a chapter or edit a manuscript, I count that as working, even though it isn’t officially “work.” It’s tough to explain that to people who don’t do something that takes a lot of time and doesn’t seem to have a lot of results . . . but musicians, painters, sculptors, craftspeople (scrapbookers included), and actors seem to understand better.

Whoever said that if you can do something ELSE other than write, you should do it . . . is right. Most other pursuits are less solitary and more profitable. There are so MANY books being published now that it’s a wonder any of them get any attention. Still, those of us who dream like to dream big. We’re out here plugging away at it.

In our copious “spare time,” I mean.

Mostly link-u-lator

I tend to agree with when she writes:
As soap operas are what actors do when they can’t act, so are trashy romance novels what writers do when they can’t write.
I look at some of the flavor-of-the-month novels and think, “Why? Why? WHY? Why was this published and not something else that would be more lasting, more interesting, not so derivative?” But it’s all so complicated. Dr. Robert Nelsen, one of the sharpest professors of writing I had when I was in graduate school, said that he could write a romance novel or a horror novel (which was “in” at the time), but he wouldn’t be proud of it, and that was why he was working on his literary novel. I thought he had a point. But then the market seems to want the pulp fiction, so there is something to be said for feeding the market. And an easier sale. Editor Christopher Keeslar said in a recent interview that it’s easier for a mediocre writer to sell a book that’s like what is out there, so that probably explains why these books aren’t the pinnacle of prose. (He actually said, “A mediocre storyteller who’s writing what everyone else is writing is much more likely to get picked up than a mediocre storyteller writing something that no one understands.” It’s an interesting interview. Since I’m waiting to hear back from him, I was REALLY interested in reading it.)
But people LIKE the books that seem trashy to me–the erotica/romantica that just tell the same old story of the ol’ beast with two backs, the “Lifetime For Women” movie fodder, the empty ones about shopping and shoes. They sell. It’s work that reaches an audience. An eager audience. So who are we to judge? Would we not like to have so many people hearing our voices in their heads? We would be lying if we said otherwise, and there’s a reason I’m using the royal “We” here.
There’s also the entire screed that I’m gonna skip, the one about how trash isn’t trash and to each her own and the French version of that and the Latin version. It’s all too much for me after hearing of a recent death in fandom, being all upset about Hurricane Rita, seeing the burned bus where the elderly nursing home residents died only a few miles away from the home here in Plano (just north of here) that was waiting for them . . . it’s all getting too much. And ‘s cat, and just everything. So I don’t want to have to argue with people about the relative merits of romance novels. If you like ’em, just page down to the next entry. It might be interesting to hear why you like ’em, but not if it’s just because they give you a tingly feeling Down There. (GRIN) ‘k.

And now for something IMPORTANT. Crayola crayon colors–a timeline (for those of you who remember Carnation Pink and Cornflower/Prussian Blue fondly)

I’m doing my part in the gas crisis. I invented a car that runs on martinis! The only problem is you have to stop every 20 miles . . .

to add OLIVES.

(grinning, ducking, and running)

Time to pray * Sweet hour of prayer * (Big wind a-comin’)

Man. If ‘t’ain’t one thing, it’s another.

Friends and acquaintances of ours are stuck on the road south of Huntsville, headed for Dallas to escape the storm headed for Galveston. Now Houston area residents are being told it’s too late to try to get a-road; some areas of Houston are predicted to get flooding, as well as winds. We rode out Carla in 1961 in the Memorial district (corner of Conifer and Gaywood), when I was a toddler. I don’t even remember it (I’d have been about eighteen months old), but until Mama’s last move, she had a piece of one of our plate glass windows that served as a topper on her dresser. The storm tore off one of the wood panels Daddy had nailed over the window and broke through anyway. I do remember the flash flooding when Camille came through in 1969 and made the name of our neighbor Dan Rather (the Rathers lived three streets behind us off of Gaywood back then.) By then, we’d moved to Dallas (in 1967), but we were there visiting friends. Man, I love that area and hate to see it meet the fate of Mississippi towns. Don’t know what’ll happen.

They predict the eye of the storm will make it all the way up here to Dallas as a Cat 1 storm. That’s just crazy.

So pray for the people to NOT be stuck on the roads. People are being allowed on evac buses with one suitcase and one caged/crated pet each, so this time there won’t be holdouts because of the pets. As I understand it, you and your kids and spouse can each be holding a small crate with your dogs, cats, and rabbits inside and still go to the shelters in Lufkin, Brenham, New Braunfels, College Station, and so forth. This is good.

Y’know, if the passenger train system were still in place as it was in WWII times, everybody could just be jumping the Katy or the ATS&F. They could be in NYC by now. “She caught the Katy and left me a mule to ride.” Well, I miss the trains. I don’t think we were very wise in letting that entire system go away. (And they have the Amtrak subsidy on the table for cutting so they can pay for Katrina–a big huge mistake.)

We are waiting for word from our friends who are headed up here to stay with a mutual friend. The North Texas Mensa mailing list has been asking for people who have a vacant house or condo for sale to PLEASE let some of the displaced “rent” for a few days, because we are out of hotel space. At least some of our hotels won’t go broke, I suppose . . . many were struggling because of the downturn in business and conferences.

In other news, I just e-mailed my chapters and synopsis to Maggie Crawford’s assistant at Pocket (Simon and Schuster. Swoon! Swoon! Swoon!) She says they arrived intact and are being printed right now. It is very shallow of me to pray that the words go into her heart and strike her fancy . . . but I’m doing it anyhow. My mother-in-law said you can ask God for anything.

I’m putting those prayers in between the ones for the Gulf and the travelers, though. They need ’em right now. Have you seen the CNN/MSNBC pictures of the highway? They’re going to make the southbound lanes northbound, they keep saying, but they haven’t gotten it cleared yet. People have been stuck for 13 hours on the road. And it’s over a hundred degrees. (It’s 104 by my back fence, according to the digital weather station, if you trust that my station’s sensor isn’t exaggerating!)

We’re going to fill up the van in a little while, because gas prices are going up. I guarantee they’ll take any excuse to hike prices. And who knows–we should be ready to evacuate. I suppose the survivalists are a little more rational than we used to think; it’d be nice to have a compound in the country with a generator.

And a shotgun full of rock salt, of course, to keep people playing nice outside your fence! *grin* I loved the sign seen in NoLA a while ago to fend off looters. “Don’t try it–I’m in here with two shotguns, a baseball bat, 2 pit bulls, and an ugly woman!” Something like that. He didn’t get bothered, either.

Succumbing to temptation . . . thirty points

I couldn’t resist running that Tarot website program again to see what it would say to the question, “Will this editor like my book, request the balance, and publish it?”

The program has a basic six-card spread. It’s not quite the same as most of the spreads I see. Of course I don’t know how valid it can be done on the computer, but then again, why not? I always get positive answers about the “outcome” or “result” when I ask it about my chances of getting published by New York.

How you feel about yourself now: The Magician
You feel a sense of purpose and the willpower to get things done. Self-empowerment is the key word here. Any new enterprises in love or career show great potential. You feel that you have the ability to think on your feet and, faced with opposition, the appearance of The Magician is an excellent omen of success. Time to believe in yourself and go for it!

Well, that sounds good.

What you most want at this moment: The Hierophant

The cards suggest that you want someone you can trust and confide in. There are moral issues here, knowing right from wrong.

Hmm.

Your fears: The Devil

You are afraid that it’s out of control–you simply cannot resist this passionate attraction. Try to resist temptations, as they’re unlikely to have a positive outcome. If you’re feeling low in self-belief and self worth and doubt your abilities, don’t; have more confidence. It’s not too late to change direction.

That sounds totally unrelated. I never doubt my abilities–it’s those other people who do that for me. (grin)

What is going for you: Wheel Of Fortune

Call it fate or destiny, but the run of good luck or good fortune you are experiencing or about to experience is mostly not of your doing–enjoy this time. If there seem to be a number of positive coincidences happening in your life this is known as synchronicity, go with the flow and trust it.

THAT sounds good. I’ll take it whether it’s of my doing or not. Can I buy a vowel?

What is going against you: The Lovers

Are you suffering in silence in an unhappy relationship or feeling very lonely? A difficult decision has to be made – have courage and you will achieve emotional happiness.

This seems unrelated, as well. Maybe it’s all about whoever the editor is currently going out with. . . .

Outcome: The Empress

This is a truly creative and fertile time. Expect the best if you are considering having a child, creating a new business opportunity, or starting a creative project. The Empress symbolizes abundance, joy and happiness, and reassurance – a firm foundation for future progress.

Maybe the editor is the Empress. *grin* I’d say that this is a creative project. I do wish this part would pan out.

You just never know with this stuff. But anyhow, if you can’t sleep, consult the Magic 8-Ball or what you will. It’s bound to be interesting. Though I don’t know if you can take it completely seriously. And if you’re leery of the occult, you’re probably on the safe side . . . although the computerized versions seem more for entertainment purposes than actual readings of your subconscious or what-have-you.

A prose sample for those interested parties

I’ve posted a backdated entry that contains the text of the opening chapters of _Unbroken_. Behind a cut; that way, it won’t just jump on everyone’s screens. If anyone would like to take a look and make a few comments, here’s a convenient link to
http://www.livejournal.com/users/shalanna/72903.html. You’ll still have to click to go behind the LJ cut.

eBay–the :e: stands for Evil Expensive Enticing Excessive

Well, I won that charity eBay auction I mentioned earlier. I’ve “bought” (by donating to charity) a critique from a Famous New York Editor. Either Pocket editor Lauren McKenna or her boss, editorial director Maggie Crawford (who is the one billed on the auction–but the info I got indicates Lauren M. will probably do the comments), will see my chapters. I’m going to send the chick lit opening chapters to her, the ones that Melissa saw and made a suggestion about (a suggestion that I’ve already implemented.) Of course I’m hoping that her comments include, “We’d like to offer you a two-book deal.” (That actually happened to a couple of people I’ve spoken to at conferences–they got two-book deals based on their partials!) Of course I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one (apologies to John Lennon). Of course you never know if she’ll actually see it herself or pass it on down to a flunky. Of course I should have paid my CAR PAYMENT with that $366. (!!$366.00!!) Of course I’m completely out of my mind. Of course I’m not telling my husband or anyone else I know InRealLife, but only broadcasting this to my faithful dozen readers or so. (Bless you.) Of course this litany is kind of a scree, as I’m going to send the check and get the critique and see what happens.

I really do think those chapters are tightened up and all that jazz. I guess we’ll see.

But I should never get on eBay. I browsed the site and got to looking at a few charm bracelets. Not only does my character in the chick lit novel have one (and it plays a part in the story), but also I have one that I should wear more often. I realize they’re not in style right now, but I like them. My mother-in-law had one, an old 1950s one that she’d updated and then started wearing again just before she fell ill and passed to the Other Side a couple of years ago. She showed it to me one of the last “good” times I saw her. She had some nurse charms (she was a registered nurse since she was 19, worked in ER and then CCU, taught ACLS, ran the nurses’ training, did just about everything), Texas (naturally), windmill (she loved them), a diploma charm, etc. The bracelet had three of those “child” charms, two boy heads for my hubby and brother-in-law with their names and birth dates engraved on the back and their birthstones, and one girl head for my sister-in-law, who is the one who inherited the bracelet and everything else.*

*(Everything? Yes. I am not making that up–she got the house, the cars, the contents of the house, and everything. My brother-in-law (hubby’s brother, the other son) was pretty upset, but my husband mostly got his FEELINGS hurt, which I regret. I had kind of wanted a book or something just to remember ’em by, and I really wanted the cross-stitched piece I made for my father-in-law on the occasion of his retirement from Westinghouse–I can’t see to do cross-stitch any more, and really couldn’t see that well to do it back when I made the piece, and why shouldn’t I ask for it, but I don’t dare–and I would have really liked some of the childhood photos of my husband. My mother-in-law made albums out of her old photos for her other son and for her daughter, but ours was to be done last (if at all) and fell by the wayside. Again, my sister-in-law is not the type of person who can be asked for such things. I suppose it’s not that big a deal, as we can’t have children to pass this stuff on to, but I’m sentimental.)

That’s why it makes me so melancholy to see people’s bracelets up on eBay. The text says, “This is from an estate sale” or “I came across this in an elderly relative’s things,” and the person doesn’t know the story behind the bracelet, though there obviously is one. It just makes me sad that there’s no granddaughter who wants to have her Nana’s or Memaw’s bracelet just to look at or to wear, to see the family story it tells. If there are charms for each child, for graduation, for marriage, for each anniversary, even for each state visited or Yellowstone or what-have-you, well . . . anyhow, it makes me sad. I’m too sensitive. But still, it’s just sad.

I never bid on any of those. I do bid now and then on something people say they have made up from old stock. Never have won any yet, though I did get a couple of new charms. They’ll be here in the mail this week sometime. I shouldn’t have spent money on those, either. Yikes. Shopping as compensatory behavior, no doubt. (wink) I suppose I can say they’re to celebrate, um. What?! I’ll think of something.