And to balance the GOOD NEWS–an EEK

So . . . the swine flu . . . y’know, the global health emergency thing. We were putting along coming back from having picked up some laundry detergent at the corner store (I can drive around this town where I know the area–it’s just on US75 and other freeways where I freak out) when the radio announced, “The Richardson ISD” (!!!) “has just announced the closing of Canyon Creek Elementary” (!!!!) “because two students have been confirmed with the swine flu. The cleaning crew will be sanitizing the campus tonight, and school will be closed until next week. There are 260 students at this school, and when we asked how many might have been exposed, the answer was, ‘Many.'” (!!!!!)

So. WHERE exactly is Canyon Creek Elementary??

Practically in our back yard. ***EEP***

I was about to detour to pick up some nachos to take home to Hubster for dinner at the taco joint that is across the park from that school. I swung around and came home to MAKE him some nachos. Most of the little kids in our neighborhood go to this school. (Those of us on the other side of the ISD line go to the OTHER school in the neighborhood. But this one is just as close.) All the rugrats who ride bikes up and down our street all afternoon . . . are at risk.

Now my mother is in her element–panicking. *gallows grin* She loves it when there is something to Prepare For and when she is Averting Disaster. She’s already decreed no more grocery shopping or fast food in this area. She’s searching cookbooks for various casseroles that can be made with what we have on hand plus some fairy dust. The stupid virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, the newsbots said, and of course our area has a lot of WHATs . . . that’s right, kids!

I ~said~ we ought to go to East Texas to that B&B for a few days, didn’t I?? Didn’t I?? And I had permission to bring La Doggie (since he’s under 12 lbs) because that little cottage has a yard . . . and I would have had my AlphaSmart and hubby’s laptop. But anyhow, the “plague” is going to be around for a while. We wouldn’t have dodged anything.

We’ll have to get some emergency TamiFlu to keep on hand tomorrow morning. If there’s any left within a 40-mile radius!

*sheesh*

Also, *forty* people in NYC who just got back from a trip to Mexico have got it, and that school is also closed for the week. Now, did the State Department not say “Don’t Go To Mexico” just recently because of the gang wars and the shooting?! But people did it anyway. For once, they should have listened to the gubmint.

This could be really scary. I have to keep my Old People (Mama and her friends Pinky, Blinky, and Winky) at home and out of crowds for the duration. They are simply too fragile to have a bad form of influenza. I don’t want the bug, either. But I have three new skeeterbites just from walkin’ down the front walk to get the mail.

There is, I suppose, a kind of ironic/poetic justice about this. The plague is starting in a million-dollar neighborhood instead of in South Dallas or East Garland. Who’d’a thunk it?

(When Mama and Daddy bought this house in 1967, it cost $35K. We bought it from her around 1998 for $160K. Now it is estimated at being worth a lot more than that, but not a MILLION. However, around that school, about ten blocks away from here, the houses ARE million-dollar McMansions. Hence, irony of a sort. . . .)

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Happy Birthday, Mama–79 Today!

My mother, Jodie, turns 79 today!

We were awakened early by the doorbell . . . a floral delivery from her sister, who turns 83 this year. (!!) The dog and I sang the birthday song as best we could manage. The delivery man was fazed.

Out to lunch soon, and then back here to contemplate a post to follow up on the “which scenes are not part of your novel’s throughline” musings.

Losing focus? Get bifocals now!!

I’ve been seeing this phrase in many of the reviews for the Amazon Novel Contest losers, among whose number I reside: “It loses focus around the midpoint and the pace slows down.”

Okay, I can understand what they’re talking about as far as pace . . . they want the Harry Potter speed without any of the musing or figuring-out or what’s called “sequel” in the scene-and-sequel paradigm. Some people don’t care to take a breath when they’re reading. Others do. Sometimes it’s appropriate for a story to proceed at a slower pace. That one I’d have to take on a case-by-case basis.

But the FOCUS issue bugs me. It’s too vague. What IS focus? A few of the books that I read were slammed with this ambiguous hammer, but when I read them, I didn’t find that they meandered, wandered off topic, or became picaresques akin to “Don Quixote.” In a couple of cases, I did find that the protagonist’s goal changed, and therefore the protagonist stopped chasing A and began pursuing B. I don’t consider this “losing focus.” In another book, the protagonist’s life changed and the situation became so different that the earlier goals made no sense. Again, that is CHANGING focus, I would think.

I just wonder what exactly they MEAN, because it’s a vague term. I suspect different readers will feel differently about what this means, but I would like to know what it COULD mean when they say that.

In other news . . . LITTLE RITUALS is a free bird again. As soon as it was released from the Amazon contest by not making the finals, I re-contacted an agent who had been interested in it several years ago and who had said that if I revised, she’d like another look. Well, I’ve revised several times, and I think the book hangs together. I queried the agent by email and got the go-ahead to send the first hundred pages and a synopsis. She also wanted to know: “What’s the book about? I don’t want the pitch, but what the story really is–what the heroine has learned–the AHA that we get from reading it.”

Here’s what I ended up putting down for that one (usually, agents don’t want anything that comes close to that, so I had never written a query-graph with that in mind):

The “aha” we get is that if we have been living like Daphne–relying on “luck” and “breaks” to navigate through life–we are making a serious mistake. If we have been living by luck and drifting as Daphne has, it’s time to trim our sails and control that ill wind. Help is available from the most unlikely of sources if we only allow ourselves to SEE it. There is also help that comes from within. Magic is all around us–for what is everyday life but a manifestation of some deeper magic? Tell me that the world itself is not miraculous and sprang out of nowhere with no purpose, and then we’ll sing the Song of Discordia together. But if you believe there is order in the universe and use your little rituals to structure your life rather than use them as a fantasy escape hatch to hide from reality, you can create your entire life the way you want it to be. If that doesn’t work, do the best you can with what you have. (It’s all we’ve got.)

At the end of the novel, Daphne can finally put ritual into its proper perspective in her life. She comes to realize that although luck (as well as all of life’s little rituals) can be good or destructive, we can choose the effect these things have on us. She can move from wishful thinking to working toward goals by taking concrete steps. She can take another chance on love, possibly even with the co-worker who helped her understand that the power to change her luck was always within her grasp. Perhaps she did find that magic she was looking for, after all. It’s all part of growing up and taking responsibility for your own life.

Who knows what all that blather means . . . but it’s the “AHA” I see at the end of LITTLE RITUALS.

My detractors will also be thrilled to hear that I finally received my rejection from the Delacorte First YA Novel Contest, postmarked April 15th. I’ve been monitoring several e-mail lists and boards where people have been reporting in as to when their rejections came, and most of them were received in March or before. The prize is announced on April 30th, so I conjecture that CAMILLE’S TRAVELS made at least the semifinal round of judging. I suspect that what keeps her from hitting a major publishing house between the eyes is the sexual content; there is no explicit sex, but if the book were published by a major house, reviewers or book banners might yell, because (and these are artistic decisions that were necessary for the book to be authentic):

* the reader is told that the reason this sixteen-year-old has run away from home is that her new stepfather started abusing her and her mother didn’t believe her. (Her mother said, “You little liar. You lied about who you were going out with last month, and you lied about where your friends were going before that, and this is just another lie. It’s to ruin my life because you hate me for not mourning your daddy. You can’t stand that Jerk and I are happy.” And so forth. So there was nowhere to turn. She couldn’t get away from him any other way, to her mind.)

* it is implied that in exchange for escaping from a police officer/security guard after she gets arrested for shoplifting, Camille gives him a, um, let’s say a sexual favor that Bill Clinton did not consider sex. The scene is not shown and nothing is said but some slang terms, but that could be a concern for moralists. The ploy doesn’t work, BTW; the guy simply laughs and puts the car back in gear to head for the pokey. That’s when she has to invoke the magic that she doesn’t yet know she is in possession of. . . .

* at the end, she doesn’t See The Error Of Her Ways and go back home, but instead makes a new life on the road with a Renfaire troupe. It wouldn’t make sense for her to go back to the abusive home or into foster care, but some editors want a happily-ever-after ending no matter what. (In other words, have the mother see the error of HER ways, have the stepdad disappear, etc. Not likely stuff to happen. Whereas I have known two cases that are remarkably similar to this–where the aging mother chooses the new husband over the teenager no matter what, even saying in one instance that “she’ll be leaving home soon anyway, and I have the rest of my life to think about.” Yes, I know we don’t think that way, but she did.)

Now, I’ve read a lot of gritty, dark, edgy YA stuff, and so my novel is nowhere near as “dirty” as many of them. But it just makes the hurdles tougher to jump.

CAMILLE may end up having to go to Lulu, no matter what. Even though I believe it is a good YA dark fantasy/urban fantasy.

Haven’t heard from the editor at St. Martin’s about the Marfa Lights novel yet. No news is good news.

Also, 1 + 1 = 3 on alternate Tuesdays, by decree of the Slomo Police.

Whatta they got that we ain’t?

Fame, fortune, and an ad in Variety!

But that isn’t why I’m here today.

The neighbors’ ponies

Cute dog NOT panting (after being bathed)


So why am I beating my head against the impassive rocks of NY publishing, sobbing about never getting published, when I already have more than they have? It defies logic.

I need to just GET OVER that. I need to resolve that it’s OK to just put CAMILLE, MIRANDA, and the two mystery series (four books in all) online for those who like “this kind of book” to download. Although I still believe with all my so-called heart that the Marfa Lights novel is just as good as the “average” traditional category mysteries that are on the shelves, I’ll never have the chance to prove it, so why not invite the audience that I *can* have? Sure, it’ll lead to a lot of talk about how the stuff just isn’t good enough to get an agent, etc., but that’s going on already. I just need to release that need to prove something–whatever–and accept what Is. I’d still like to put the books out there, and if that’s puffery, so be it. If I could just get past the thought that this is giving up, giving in, and admitting defeat.

I need to release the notion that my work needs someone to anoint it, to accept it, to say that it’s “good” by some “standard.” (Scare quotes intentional.) Am I there yet? I don’t think I am, quite.

*sigh*


But I still have the biggest pond and house and yard! So there!!

*Even if it were true, that SHOULD be cold comfort, eh?*

*I suppose not*

The Nuge! In front of the Alamo! What am I doing not THERE?

I should’ve been paying attention. Today I could have driven down to San Antonio for that Tea Party Protest Rally with Glenn Beck and TED NUGENT XOXOX. But not because I particularly believe in the cause or whatnot . . . I haven’t analyzed the taxation changes sufficiently to take a stand, and I am still on the fence about our terrible situation in overspending the taxpayer’s money that hasn’t even been paid in yet. But!! I would have wanted to be there to see all the Alamo historians talk (my friend Elaine Vetter’s sister used to be the Alamo historian–the lady who spoke onstage today might have been her, in fact!) and to hear Ted Nugent playing the Star-Spangled Banner in the manner of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock! Rawr!

[EDIT: I knew it! Somebody YouTubed it. Here ’tis!

(This link will take you away from LJ. I didn’t embed it–I just linked)]

[EDIT2: Just thought o’ something that perhaps not everyone has noticed yet.

Isn’t it WONDERFUL that our conservative brothers and sisters have now realized that peaceful protest and demonstrating against decisions by our government are patriotic and laudable, when a while back it was totally unpatriotic and shameful/sinful and all but criminal when WE semi-progressive-types were doing it against THEIR majority . . . but now that it is THEM, aha, the right of peaceful assembly is once again invoked and loved! Funny, ain’t it, how that works? I had to laugh. This is exactly why I support their right to do it–so later on, I could do it if I needed to! Not that I am all that progressive or liberal any more, or that I am all that conservative, either, but I have ALWAYS supported your/my/our right to peaceably assemble and protest! That is indeed a Constitutional cornerstone of this republic.]

I am not in line with Ted Nugent on many issues, but what we have in common is being nonconforming individualists, opinionated SOBs, and native Texans. I wouldn’t want to shoot anything with ANYthing, let alone a bow and arrow (even though I am 1/16 Choctaw . . . they are peaceable–you’re thinking of the Cherokee, who are more warlike); I think he was unreasonably hard on Barack and Hillary and has said some things I completely disagree with; I don’t even like ALLLL of his political views *grin*, but I tell you the man is an amazing guitar player. And still has long hair! Woo!

Someone will YouTube that segment off of FoxNews eventually so you can hear the Star-Spangled Banner. (DONE–SEE ABOVE!)

And if you don’t know the history of the Alamo, you should find out. It’s fascinating. The original “draw a line in the sand” challenge went out to Santa Anna from William Travis. (Wondered why there’s a Travis street in every Texas town? And a Bowie, a Crockett, a Lamar? It’s all there in Texas history.)

“Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an
unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of
others.”~~Ayn Rand