Forsooth, fivesooth, sixsooth, truthsooth

Today’s the 47th birthday of my first serious college boyfriend. Lost track of him some years back, but I hope he’s happy. Forty-seven! God, that’s old. !!!

[EDIT: I should clarify–he’s older than I am (though not by much), so I’m not quite at that turning-to-dust age. But I did find a wrinkle at the corner of my eye the other day. Horrors!!]

Apparently I can’t stand to read any more new books for a while. But I still like weblogs, LiveJournals, and offbeat little websites. (Whew!)

Check out obscure and archaic English words (my favorite kind) here at

If you can get to Blogspot sites (it depends on the phase of the moon around here, plus holding your mouth just right), you might want to see the queries being critiqued by the Evil Editor. I don’t know who he is, but his e-mail as listed on his profile at Blogger bounces, so I had to leave my query sample in his comments section. Don’t know if he’ll talk about it or even see it at all, but that query gets results. Everybody asks for a partial based on that query. Unfortunately, when they get the book, t’ain’t what they thought they were getting. False advertising! Maybe I could get a job at an ad agency. Sally Felt, where are you when I need you? (Your old email doesn’t work, the sarahverb one.)

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Who knew? Who knew this existed? Wow. That sucked up a couple of hours, just browsing.

It’s fun to look up screenwriters on the Internet Movie Database. My mother is usually not into slapstick comedies, but she loves “The Jerk,” so when it was on the other day, she wanted me to find out who wrote it. When I responded that it was partly written by Steve Martin, she was amazed. “Why is all the other stuff he ever did so BAD?” she demanded of me. “He used to be really good when he started out!” Well . . . I couldn’t exactly disagree with her. *grin* Anyhow, it’s fascinating to see who gets screenwriting credit. Terry Southern got ripped off of all the money he should have made from “Easy Rider” and perhaps several other flicks. I once read an article by his son in the Dallas Observer that talked about this, and it’s really depressing. But then isn’t just about everything?

Oh . . . you mean there are things that aren’t depressing?

Must cogitate upon this. Puppies, kittens, cake, riddles, disintegrating comets visible to the naked eye. . . .


It is what it is . . . and why shouldn’t it be?

It is what it is. “I yam what I yam,” as Popeye said.

My mother has worked all her life trying to turn me from a bookish, basically introverted, overly emotional intellectual into the bouncy, popular cheerleader/Laura Bush type that she always THOUGHT she wanted. But she must’ve really wanted what she got, for the subliminal messages were too strong and I turned out the way I’m made to be. I can do the extroverted thing now for several hours at a time (that’s called “developing your shadow function”), but it’s still not the core of me. It’s not “the Melanie routine,” as I used to call it when I first developed it, after a fellow drama class member who actually WAS like that; now the outgoing bit is part of me. But it’s taxing, and after I do that for a while, I need to recharge. I am what I am (though I don’t know whether that’s ALL that I am.)

When I got back from meeting a few friends for a noontime bookstore expedition (and getting a look at a malfunctioning book signing–we took pity and bought copies), I found the TV tuned to the Robin Williams/Nathan Lane film “The Birdcage.” Although I came in late (missing my favorite scene, in which we realize John Wayne really walked like that), that was OK, as I have it just about memorized. This time through, it made me think about theme.

You’d think the theme of this one is tolerance. Prejudice/not pre-judging. Hypocrisy. Politics. But these are minor thematic material.

The theme of this one is “Be who you really are.” Because it was trying to be someone you’re not that started all the trouble.

Trying to be somebody else doesn’t work for most people. It might work for sociopaths, psychopaths, con artists, and a certain class of method actor who doesn’t have a huge well of “self” inside to access, but can slip into the guise of a character and fill it with unexpected truth. But for most of us, it just won’t ring true. It won’t be fulfilling. It’ll lead to a breakdown or a “going postal” in whatever form it takes. Or, at best, to a shallow, wasted life.

Now, I don’t say that sometimes a person shouldn’t work to find a true self. Some people try on different roles, appearances, careers, and so forth for a lifetime. Jane Fonda recently said to Larry King that when her daughter was told that a biography was going to be made about her mother, she replied, “Why don’t you just have a chameleon walk across the screen for an hour?”

Ms. Fonda (whom I admire–no need to argue about it, though) has certainly gone through changes and tried on, if not different identities, at least different projections and self-beliefs. She has finally found peace (and Christianity, she says) and would like to “own her face,” so she isn’t going to continue using up her life-force energy trying to look and be perfect. I applaud her new attitude.

I’d like to be the kind of writer that New York would like me to be, the kind they want to publish. But that isn’t who I am. My voice is not like the ones that are now in demand, and it can’t just morph into something it’s not. I can’t “be” the kind of writer who can do a YA chick lit (the newest “hot property,” soon to burn out, of course.)

I know this because I sent in some samples to an agent who was working with a book packager. It may have been the same packager that’s now in the news. My samples weren’t their bag, which was fine. But an acquaintance of mine did meet with their approval and went into story conferences. She no longer answers e-mail at her old address, but I wonder what life she has taken on, and whether she enjoys it. It sounds as if it could be lots of fun, if you’re the type of person who can work by committee.

My biggest hurdle with YA chick lit is that I wasn’t even like those heroines when I *was* that age. At fourteen-fifteen-sixteen, I was deeply into the theater and into literature. My dad was pretty sick by that time, and I took on some adult responsibilities aroudn the household. I wasn’t interested in what my peers said was The Thing–at the time, mostly pot-smoking, going to the lake to make out, and going to rock concerts. And not being interested in anything scholarly. When I was fifteen, Daddy died, and our lives changed even more. I channeled my energy into preparing for college (including doing the math, as that was his talent, and the family expected that it should be my choice as well) and making sure that our family continued to “make it.” I never felt that I missed anything, though. I mean, I dated; my science lab partner and I went to several dances and to a Science Fair exposition (ha–laugh, go ahead) and played tennis a few times, and we remained friends until he moved away after college. I group-dated with the others in Drama Major Studies. I had a small but tight-knit group of friends who were interested in straight As and knowing everything. We made out just fine. But we were content to wear T-shirts and jeans and listen to the radio. If I wrote about that, it would be nostalgia at best.

Anyway, you can imagine that it’s even tougher now that I’m over-thirty for me to try to put myself into the mindset of the modern fourteen-year-old, a person who never knew a time with no laptop computers or cell phones.

Erotica/romantica is also hot (pardon the pun), but it’s not something I can do well, either.

In fact, I don’t know if there *is* a category where I could fit. I’ve tried most of them on, too.

The worst part about coming to terms with this is that right now, I don’t even like books any more. I mean, it used to be that when I needed renewal, I could turn to books. But when I walked through the bookstore and followed the others around, checking out what they were looking at . . . none of it interested me. What the others handed to me left me cold. When I picked up this or that and browsed through, nothing pulled me in. It’s as though I could see all the scaffolding: start with big-time (false) action, have the hero come in by page three, make them flirt sexily although they don’t even know one another, hurry toward the next plot point.

And everyone writes alike. I can hear the critique groups now echoing through the lines of prose on the page, taking out all those “-ing words” and any “passive stuff,” and substituting only the approved type of language. It was all very tiring. I wasn’t even intersted in browsing around in the classics section. I’m just . . . tired of story? That can’t be. Anyway, maybe what I need is a break.

Or maybe I’ll just go break something.

Deep Thoughts

Thoughts for the Day
* * * * * * * * * * *
Being stoned gives you the power to recognize that “time” is merely a convention and is subjective, despite those terms Einstein insisted on putting into the equations:
“Tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same f***ing day, man.”–Janis Joplin

(I told my physics prof this once. He merely chuckled.)
* * * * * * * * * * *
“Chewing gum helps me think.”–pouty dance boy
“Sweetie, you’re wasting your gum.”–Nathan Lane’s drag queen character
–“The Birdcage”
$ $ $
On the more serious side:
“But what is the difference between literature and journalism?
…Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. That is all.”
–Oscar Wilde

(I told you he’d be the next great craze after Jane Austen, didn’t I?)
* * * * * * * * * * *
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”–C. S. Lewis

(Germane to the previous discussions about not-quite-originality, perhaps)
* * * * * * * * * * *
“You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I were not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.”–Evelyn Waugh
* * * * * * * * * * *
“There is no Dana–only Zool.”–“Ghostbusters”

We meanies were legally in the right

After the beating I took on the ChickLit mailing list over saying that plagiarism isn’t excusable and that they shouldn’t get so huffy in defending the theft, I started to think I was the crazy one.

But I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t alone in saying that this isn’t OK. I’m relieved to see they’re doing something other than saying we’re mean and jealous for pointing out the problem here.

Novel by Harvard Author Pulled From Stores: Apr 27 8:17 PM
By HILLEL ITALIE : AP National Writer

A teen novel containing admittedly borrowed material has been pulled from the market. Author Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard University sophomore, had acknowledged that numerous passages in “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life” were lifted from another writer.

Little, Brown, and Company, which had signed Viswanathan to a reported six-figure deal, said in a statement Thursday that it had notified retail and wholesale outlets to stop selling copies of the book, and to return unsold copies to the publisher.

This was the important bit–that intellectual property rights be protected.

Another victory for Truth, Justice, and the American Way! You don’t see too many of those any more.

Too bad I didn’t go out and buy up a bunch of copies of the existing version of the book. They might be worth something on eBay.

Juvenilia, for fun

Someone started a meme a long time ago asking us to post some juvenilia. I had this lying around . . . it’s the opening to the sequel to _Dulcinea_. I still think it would be fun to finish, although I don’t think anyone would buy it, because when it opens, my heroine is at the Academy of Magic. I wrote this before Harry Potter crossed the pond and became king, but no one would believe that. (I was taking inspiration from _The Worst Witch_ film and from Diana Wynne Jones’ _Witch Week_ instead.) I was quite passionate about the ideas and story, and I had the voice of the character firmly in my head lo these many years ago. After having so much non-interest from everyone, I finally turned to things that might sell. It’s too bad, but that’s how this business works.

Of course, this bit could be polished up or tightened or whatever. I’m not going to do that at the moment. If I ever get any interest in the series, we’ll talk.

I’ll only post a snippet so as not to clog the feed. I don’t want to stick it behind a cut because then nobody’ll click on it. (GRIN)

DULCINEA’S DRAGON by Shalanna Collins
Chapter One

For what seemed like the eleventy-first time today, I scraped the enchanted chalk across the laboratory tabletop. The runes _thorn_, _gee_, and _yogh_ already glowed dully in what would become the center of my hexagram.

I held in my mind’s eye an image of the lines of force traced green on the smooth slate, lines of majickal force replacing these dusty chalk lines. Briefly my tongue pressed against my teeth as I brought the chalk to the final vertex. I slowly retraced the entire figure, whispering the incantation; then I waited.

And for the eleventy-first time, nothing happened.

“Drat!” I dropped the chalk on the table; it clacked against the marble and broke. “What am I doing wrong?”

Perhaps I had mispronounced something as I recited the incantation. Or I wasn’t, as Raz often teased, holding my mouth just exactly right.

Raz Songstersson could be a trying mentor, one moment tagging me “Dulcinea the Dunce” in front of the class, the next patting my shoulder and calling me his best girl. I knew I’d receive no special treatment while under his tutelage, because now I was merely his student, as I continually reminded myself. Raz was fond of me, but the kind of affection I’d developed for him was not reciprocated. I often struggled to keep my romantic feelings toward Raz at bay.

The glow was already fading from the runes. I ran my fingertips lightly over the outer chalked marks, rubbing them out as easily as any stray lines. My fingers didn’t tingle; the marks hadn’t even a pinch of majick in them, then. For a moment I held my breath, then puffed it out slowly. I spread my fingers on the table, pressing gently, and took another deep breath. I needed to relax before I tried the spell again.

I opened my commonplace book to the explanation of this first laboratory exercise, the one I’d flubbed in front of everyone the previous day. The one that I still hadn’t gotten right yet. I reread it solemnly, running my forefinger under each line. The first few words illumined, indicating the initial step.

Carefully I copied the runes with a new stick of chalk. They took on a faint, almost imperceptible glow; I was definitely getting some majickal signal.

I sketched the six-sided figure around them, then added the equilateral triangles, one bristling out from each flat edge like pointers on a blessed compass. This formed the hexagram in whose center my spellpower should be concentrated. I visualized the practice coin I was to summon into the center of the hexagram, the only coin still remaining in the laboratory supply room from where all my classmates had called theirs. Slowly I retraced the entire figure in one unbroken motion, without recrossing any line, always moving widdershins, and enunciating the incantation exactly as Raz and Majick-Master Nyssa had taught:

“That which I seek,
Our attraction is weak;
Let it grow stronger,
And wait no longer:
Come to me
As I call thee!”


“Blast!” My hand flew to cover my mouth. I knew better than to burst out with curses while spellpower might still shimmer invisibly in the area. Yet this elementary summoning spell was supposed to be simple, as it had been for my classmates. Why was I having so much trouble?

I’d made little progress in Spell Reading and Writing; I suspected I was flunking Introductory Incantations; and I knew I was barely hanging on in Foundations of Spellcraft. The only classroom I hadn’t shamed myself in was Majickal Compounds, all about the uses and making of various preparations of material components for magecraft, but then compounding should come easily to the daughter of an apothecary: I’d been preparing, and sometimes inventing, herbal remedies since I could sit up unassisted in Daddoo’s lap and tie a string around the mouth of a burlap bag.

Behind me, the door scraped open. “Is anyone in here?”
* * *
“How does this thing work, Daddy?”
“Well, sweetie, you type in your messages, and then at night the Data Fairy takes them and sprinkles them into computers all across the world!”
“Wow! I wish I could see her. . . .”
“Maybe someday, son, you will!”

I saw the data fairy once. Then again, it could just have been one of Jack’s drunken pixies on the loose again.
* * *
And now to bed.

Mystery at the mystery conference

Now, this is weird. I have been looking around for some announcement of who won this year’s Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest. But when I ask the people who are posting reports of their conference experiences, they seem not to know what I am talking about. A couple of them sent me the Agatha contest results, but they say they don’t recall the other contest being announced. Could this be? Maybe they didn’t choose any winner this year. It could happen, I suppose.

I just got e-mail from another writer who entered this year and has also been asking around about a winner. Does anyone know who won? Or was there no announcement yet?

The plot thickens.

Of course, the contest may not be something that non-writers follow. Maybe it’s kind of obscure. Still, you’d think they would have a press release out.

Also, I still can’t load any Blogspot sites. I get a timeout 404. I can get to, but not to a Blogspot page. Comcast told me that I needed to edit my registry to reinstall Internet Explorer, but I think that’s bunk, because I’m using Firefox as a browser and still having the same problem. It’s as if Blogger is blocking Comcast sites. We get the IP address and it tries to connect, but zilch. Is anyone else having trouble?

This way, though, I do have more time to write. . . .

Orange you glad I didn’t say “banana” again

To play the devil’s advocate for a moment in the plagiarism scandal case:

The newspapers have published this pair of similar passages.

From page 88 of McCafferty’s second novel: “By the way, Marcus wore a T-shirt that said THURSDAY yesterday, and FRIDAY today.”

From page 170 of Viswanathan’s novel: “He was wearing an old, faded gray sweatshirt that said ‘Tuesday’ on it. Except that today was Thursday.”

Well . . . okay, given the history of these two books tracking each other, I’ll buy this as a possible steal. *But* . . .

Both of ’em play off on the old joke my mother used to tell, an insult to girls she thought were trashy. She’d whisper into my ear, “I’ll bet she’s wearing ‘Wednesday,'”–dramatic pause–“and today’s Friday!” This was to imply that the girl hadn’t changed her undies for three days, and also to imply that she didn’t wear the correct day. Horrors. How trashy can you get? *grin*

Anyhow, THAT one is kind of up for grabs. Had this been an isolated occurrence, I would have blown it off and said that she got a pass. I never heard of this being a T-shirt thing, either. It’s always been women’s underwear. That stuff is cute on babies, but grown-ups who wear that kind of underwear are fair game. (GRIN)