Viking funeral for Year of Our Lord 2007

This post from pretty much sums it up. We’re all glad to see the new year arrive.

The year started to go wrong sometime in late spring. Don’t know why that was. It had such promise! Such potential! But maybe the Devil is allowed to run amok all pitchforky in years that end in “7” or something. Or there was a nasty conjunction of the planets Mongo and Krypton. Or Pluto got really peeved that he’d been removed from the Nine Planets roster (can you even play Holst’s “Planets” now without being Unscientific? Although it never had Pluto at all) and zapped us with quakes from below. Whatever it was, 2007 was very taxing and wearing on most of the people I know in person and via the ‘net.

This morning, in fact, we stepped outside to find that the front tires on my van had gone flat! This is a consequence, most likely, of our having driven my cousin all around town yesterday afternoon and most of the evening, showing him all the new construction and where they’ve torn down gracious older houses to replace them with big squarish McMansions. The nails and screws roll out into the streets anywhere you have that kind of construction activity. We spent the afternoon going to WallyWorld in the *other* car to get a repair kit and a pump thingie to replace the air that has gone bye-bye. I’m sure the year considers that a friendly parting shot.

But anyhow, *whew*. Now it’s time for us all to take a moment to regroup and re-examine our goals for the new year.

We’re not going out anywhere tonight. Just don’t want to fight the crowds. We’ll be at home making a couple of interesting-sounding dishes from Food TV programs and settling in to watch the crowds in Times Square freeze their butts. (It’s cold enough here tonight that I figure it must be pretty COLD there.) I think it’s most prudent to maintain a low profile and just let the old year slip into history without any more opportunities for mischief. . . .

Y’all stay safe if you’re going out, and raise a cold glass for me. Enjoy the last party of the year!

Astounding Things Heard and Overheard

At a family post-Christmas dinner gathering, I witnessed these exchanges:

MY 21-yr-old NIECE: “My professor said, ‘Bad art is good for the soul.'”
SISTER-IN-LAW: “Really?” *skeptically, not getting it*
NIECE: “He also says that irrational decisions seem rational at the time.”
SIL: “Uh-huh.”
NIECE: “And he says, ‘Victory over oneself is the greatest triumph.'”
SIL: “This is your philosophy prof?”
NIECE: “My English lit prof this semester.”
SIL: “He missed his calling.”

FAMILY FRIEND, INDICATING COUSIN’S TACITURN DATE: (whispering) “Is he a mute?”
COMPANION: “No, I’ve heard him talk. It’s just that while he’s here, there’s no use–especially when he’s standing there next to Lee. He wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgewise.”

COUSIN WHO IS GOING TO GRAD SCHOOL IN ARCHITECTURE IN CHARLOTTESVILLE, U of VIRGINIA: “Well, the townhouse is great. We love it–it’s on the National Historic Register. But we only have the two top floors. The basement is an apartment and it’s rented to this guy who rides a Harley and has purple hair. Have you seen that new Quentin Tarantino movie about the serial killer who kills blondes? It’s like that, sort of. He has a different girl down there every night, with black eyeliner and cleavage out to here. But they’re gone in the morning. He talks to us while he’s sitting on his top step smoking pot in the mornings like we’re Close Personal Friends. But he only says two things–‘Word’ and ‘Sweet.'”
MAMA: “Really?”
CUZ: “Yes. ‘Word’ means ‘I understand’ and ‘Sweet’ means ‘I approve.'”

MY 21-yr-old NIECE, when someone complimented her outfit at selfsame dinner outing: “EVERYTHING I have on is new–down to the underwear!” *WINNING GIRLY GRIN*
*Goggly eyes from surrounding guys*
(I hustled her away quickly before they could ask her to prove it, for fear she MIGHT)

Overheard at Chili’s Bar and Grill tonight, source unknown:
MAN: “Her bed is fine. She f—ing doesn’t need a higher sleep number. What it needs is a higher frequency of f—ing!”
ME, AT NEXT BOOTH: *choke*

And the winner for Most Astounding Thing Overheard At A Bar is:

“I dreamed John Lennon came down from Heaven on his cloud and said, ‘I was wrong. Guys, listen to God. Listen for Jesus. Follow the Light and find your way to Heaven.’ [pause] He still looked just like he always did, except for the wings.”
# # #
I wish I had cool dreams like that. I always dream that either I’m lost at some huge complex of school buildings or corporate buildings (somewhere I used to work or go to school, but it has been completely redesigned and isn’t familiar) and am missing an important meeting or class, or that I’m having a party at home (and it’s never this house, but one we used to live in, and it has more rooms that I’ve never even SEEN before) and have completely failed at all the hostessing tasks and I’m trying to make a phone call to Mama or hubby and the phone number buttons are all mixed up and missing a “2” so that I can’t dial out to anyone I need to reach. . . .

But at least I am not also nekkid or missing some essential item of clothing in these dreams any more, so maybe that’s progress.
# # #
Final thought: Why does a woman who has in her house a complete service for eight of her wedding-gift Noritake “Shenandoah” china, a service for who-knows-how-many of Franciscan “Apple” (we have a tall stack of plates and dessert plates that I got cheap when Dillard’s at Richardson Square Mall closed some years ago, in addition to the stuff I had already collected), a china cabinet containing her mother’s full service of Franciscan “Starburst” from the fifties, a full set of Christopher Radko “Christmas Tree” stoneware from Target, a stack of Fiestaware plates as long as your arm in the regular kitchen cabinets . . . oh WHY does this woman, when passing the sale aisle at Big Lots, see sets of dinnerware and even stop to look?! Why does this same woman even KEEP a set of cheapie “Texasware” melamine plates? Why doesn’t she USE WHAT SHE HAS instead of hoarding up the good stuff, dusting it, admiring it infrequently, and then leaving it behind someday for the greedy to inherit?!?! So what if something gets broken?

New mantra: Use the good china! What are you waiting for?!

Resolutions in the making.
# # #
Perhaps you’re looking for a New Year’s Eve dinner tradition, if you’re staying home?

Modified from a recipe in the Nokomis Heights Lutheran Church, Mpls, MN, church cookbook:

Great Grandma’s Swedish Meatballs (Brenda Christopherson)
A Christmas Eve supper tradition since our childhood.

Meatballs:
2 pounds ground beef
1/4 pound mild ground sausage (Jimmy Dean-type stuff)
1 slice bread soaked in as much milk as it will absorb
1 small onion, chopped
1 small apple, peeled and finely grated
2 eggs
salt and pepper

Gravy:
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cans water

Combine the meatball ingredients and form into small balls; roll in flour and brown in skillet or Dutch oven. Simmer slowly in gravy for 1 hour. Do not rush.

Serve over flat wide noodles, if you like, or rice.

There are reasons for everything–but not for this hoo-ha

A clever author “cheated the system” and jumped into the limelight, and it’s got the LJ community typing.

The New York Times writes: “It’s hard to say which tale is more compelling: _Marvelous Effect_, the first installment in a fantasy book series begun this year by Simon & Schuster, or the back story of its author, Troy Tompkins, 31, who self-published an initial paperback edition and freely admits he used every trick up his sleeve to attract attention to it.”

Hmm. I think they KNOW which is more interesting: the story of this guy who figured a way out of the “ghetto” of self-publishing and up into a three-book contract. From the descriptions, his book doesn’t sound particularly original or interesting (it sounds to me as if he stole freely from Scientology, H. Beam Piper, and/or Mormonism, and then twisted the mythologies), but it’s “aimed at getting African American kids reading,” and the company saw that as a new demographic. It’s the platform that they really were looking at, IMHO, not the specialness of the writing. Perhaps agents wouldn’t have realized what kind of platform he had that no one else is currently serving. At any rate, that is their approach to marketing the novel–telling this story about how he pulled himself up by his bootstraps.

What I’m waiting to see is whether this demographic they’re targeting (assuming that they’re going to try to market this as “for the forgotten African American reader”) proves to be a group who’ll buy and read books, because I don’t believe they’re historically considered big book buyers. Then again, if they feel these books are “about them,” maybe they will. That’d be nice. But I am skeptical, as it’s not that easy to change an entire culture that seems to say “reading is not important–we are bored by that, we admire gangsta, we admire toughness, we admire sexiness” into one that says “read this for fun on your own time.” We’ll see.

BUT!

I don’t understand the hoo-ha on some writers’ sites about this author and how he self-published his book, invented a publicist, mailed out press releases for public readings, and then got a contract with Simon and Schuster. Several LJers have written that this is somehow “unfair” because he “skipped the tough parts of getting an agent, getting read, etc.” Hmm . . . what I see is that he had a platform that was so attractive to Simon and Schuster that they sent someone out to check him out, and when he turned out to be personable and magnetic (and his book must’ve looked as if it could be whipped into shape–they say it was “edited” by S&S before the hardcover S&S edition came out), they took the chance. It wasn’t really about the publicist thing . . . he could’ve gotten a real publicist, but it doesn’t matter whether he invented one or not, in the end. That’s just like having another pen name, kind of, and plenty of authors do that.

Here are the “headlines” in the press releases S&S has sent out about this author.

DEBUT AUTHOR, TROY CLE, PENS BOOK ONE OF THE PHENOMENAL SCI-FI FANTASY SERIES _MARVELOUS WORLD_, COMBINING HIP-HOP, GAMING, NASCAR AND ANIME!

FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN YOUNG ACTION HERO! INSPIRING YOUTH OF COLOR TO READ!

There’s his platform. Add to that the positive impression he made on the scout(s) (“This guy is good for talk shows–call Oprah!”) and the obvious plus that he’s a self-starter (he self-pubbed and then rustled up all this hype and attention on his own), and there’s your great new discovery. The book could apparently rank at publishable level, or could be fixed up with a little editing, so they saw their chance and took it.

I don’t know how this sends a bad message. I think the guy was really clever. I wish I had such a strong platform.

*shrug*

It did bother me that in one of the comment threads, “aspiring authors” have been tarred with the brush of . . . well, something unsavory and stinky.

Someone wrote: “Let’s face it: self-published screams “I AM CRAP!” It might not always be true, but most of the time it is. Most of the time, editors and agents are going to run the other way (and rightfully so).”

*facepalm*

Way to tar everything YOU don’t anoint with the same brush, eh?

An editor then responded, apparently objecting to the comments that seemed to imply that Troy’s stunt would set a bad example for “aspiring authors.” I agree that Troy’s stunt was clever YET TAKES NOTHING AWAY from people who are doing it the Slow Way. But I was bothered by the tone of the remark made in the comment: “The needs of aspiring writers belong far down the hierarchy . . . well behind those of our colleagues and our readers.”

I’m hoping that I’m misreading this, and that in context it is less nasty than it seems . . . because it is worrisome if industry people say this in general about an entire class of people. As I said in my reply, if this means merely that their first responsibility is to serve the needs of readers and colleagues, and that they don’t have to worry about what those who are not part of the industry may think, then that’s fine. They shouldn’t have to worry about what the unpublished types might think about what they do, and they don’t owe us anything except the respect they’d accord to any fellow human being. (They’re not in the business of setting examples.) But if it’s saying that aspiring writers are such worthless jerks that their needs belong way down below the needs of the Anointed Elect, then it’s worrisome. After all, some of us are also readers, and we’re fellow human beings (mostly.) It would surprise me to hear that from this quarter, frankly. But perhaps I’m wrong.

The next comment praised the editor for saying this.

When I asked, “Why is this quotation ‘awesome’?” I got an unexpected response.

The person who had lauded the quotation as “awesome” replied with something I see as a _non sequitur_ of sorts, targeting “aspiring authors.”

He wrote, “What are the ‘needs’ of the aspiring writer? Does an aspiring writer “need” to be published[?] There is no “need” to be published. There are only wants and desires to be published. Which begs to ask the question of: what is the need behind the need to be published? Attention? Self-gratification? Percieved fame, glory and riches? […] The ugly truth is that aspiring writers, with no history of sales, performance[,] and publications are a liability. […] My observations are that the majority of “aspiring writers” are self-absorbed attention seekers who want a pat on the back and a free ride for being a jolly bloke.”

*headdesk*

He continues: “Disagree? Then why do writers’ conventions and conferences exist if there is no need to be published. It is all about fulfilling a personal desire… a personal desire that is about self and self alone. The ego boost that these conferences provide are the “industry’s” response to the “needs” of the aspiring writer. An entire tertiary marketing industry built around self-importance.”

*revolvertemple*

This guy really knows his stuff. He goes on.

“Most “aspiring writers” do not have the time, determination or willingness to sacrifice in order to learn the trade of authorship. Most “aspiring writers” will give up. Why should any industry professional or paraprofessional waste precious time and energy […] on an aspiring writer [who] has a few chapters and a synops and lacking a P&L from a reputable house? They shouldn’t. Their focus is on the [end user]EU, as it should be. […] So if you want the attention and praise of a “colleague” do the time, put your ass in the chair and quit aspiring and just write damn good (& marketable) fiction.”

Hmm. I think this is a good example of answering a question that wasn’t asked. What I wanted to know is why someone in the industry would say that the needs of “aspiring writers” should rank way down below the needs of colleagues and readers . . . IN GENERAL. It sounded very dismissive. It seemed to deem us an underclass. *This* response is even MORE dismissive. (And what the hell is the “trade of authorship”?)

Even more astoundingly, he states what writers’ conferences are for. Isn’t this interesting? But I must protest.

Writers’ conferences are held to make money, just like anything else. This means that a lot of people who think they can write a book will pay to attend. The sponsoring organization profits by that. But there are also other things going on at a conference. People do meet their agents in person for the first time, people do schmooze and sell books, people do learn from the accumulated wisdom during the panel discussions and speeches. I can’t agree that conferences exist SOLELY because us unwashed rednecks have some sinful and selfish desire to be published.

I should also make something clear. I am not an “aspiring” anything. I have a command of the language, I don’t have a problem with the mechanics of writing fiction, and I’m not looking for the praise and attention of . . . whatever that convoluted sentence claimed I was. I *am* a writer. My work may never be considered salable by any Industry Professionals or Exalted Poobahs of Big-Time Anointedness, but #$*@%* it, I am already a writer. I may not ever be a Publicated Anointed Master of the Universe, but by Jingo I’m a writer.

This simply points up to me the wisdom of my decision to stop chasing the carrot. If indeed my desire to be published is a selfish pursuit of ego-boosting snake oil, then it is not a worthy pursuit. I don’t see a distinction being made by my correspondent between the reasons an “aspiring author” wants to be published and the reasons that an anointed published author had, either . . . isn’t that strange? Isn’t it strange that the idiots who were going to those conferences were all full of themselves and that’s why they wanted to be published, but the Published Author is somehow exempt from this charge and couldn’t possibly have had those reasons for wanting to be published (what on Mars could those GOOD reasons be? They’re not mentioned, alas.)

Goodbye, cruel world. Don’t forget to write.

Oh, and I’ll be making another PDF file of one of my non-mystery novels as a New Year’s gift. Watch this space.

Gift Guide

Helpful Gift Guide for Last-Minute Shoppers

* Don’t give people gift cards if they’re the type who’re going to try to go Use Whatever They Got on Christmas Day. Teens especially sulk when they don’t have any CDs, DVDs, chocolate bars, or card games to play with on the only day when all the malls are closed. At least give ’em a gift book to read with the card.

* Men don’t like clothes as gifts. Everyone already has too many ties, except maybe Keith Olbermann. No, actually he has way too many ties that match his shirts, and it’s intimidating everyone else. Give him boxer shorts instead with pictures of Homer Simpson on the butt.

* Barbie is always appropriate for girls under 100.

* NO mohair sweaters or scarves for people with asthma!

* Monogrammed M&Ms are just plain silly.

Gifts for Me (* FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY–DO NOT SEND *)

You can’t offer a book contract (and I said I was giving that addiction up for Millennium, anyway), or a zap to my target weight, so. . . .

1. Eichler/Midcentury Modern house in Carmel on coast (such that you can hear/see ocean from windows), not too far from Clint Eastwood o’course (house like he had in “Play Misty for Me” preferred, with courtyard entry and/or atrium

2. Toot Sweet candy whistle maker (makes them out of mini Tootsie Rolls)–sold in 1967-68

3. Hello Kitty toaster

4. Charlie Brown books boxed set (“Happiness is a Warm Puppy,” “The Peanuts Cookbook,” and four others, reprinted for the first time since the 1970s)

5. Rubber stamps of . . . oh, cute stuff and weird stuff, such as the stuff they used to make at StampaBarbara. Or perhaps House-Mouse, though I think I have MOST of their stamps!

6. MTV’s “Daria” episodes on tape, DVD, or whatever. I had the first season on my DVR until it cratered. But I have heard that MTV will not be releasing the series on DVD or on tape because they have a problem paying so many musicians for the use of their songs/music in the episodes. Whatever it is that’s keeping this out of release, make it stop. *sob* I should’ve taped them, I knew it.

7. DejaView-Master, as shown on “The Simpsons”

8. Jeans that fit and don’t make my butt look big (*HA* This would defy the laws of physics) and are the right length (I always have to hem them up so that they hardly flare, although I look best in flares or bells. Hubby was shopping with me today and I picked up a jeans skirt to suggest instead of the jeans he was looking at that were miles long, and he said, “NO, skirts are no good because of your SCAR,” and I said, “You’re ashamed of my knee scar? I consider it a badge of endurance and achievement!”)

9. Date with Micky Dolenz (because Jerry Lewis is too old now) (well, you know what I mean) (Remind me someday to recount the funny dream I had about Micky Dolenz)

10. Minor role or bit part in TV series (any network) (I’ll parlay it into a big role using my naive charm)

11. Steinway baby grand piano (any finish)

10. Marbles (I lost mine ages ago)

Old toys of mine that I loved as Christmas gifts:

Original Easy-Bake Oven

Gaylord, the Walking Basset Hound

Give-a-Show Projector

Silly Sand (they’re making this again! I got some!)

Talking Larry Lion! “Ooh, I scared myself!” Had this at age four/five.

Ka-Bala, the Tarot/All-Seeing Eye that glows in the dark game! (Had this at age nine)