Would you consider that a launch problem or a design problem

Hubby jumped out of bed a moment ago, saying he heard water running in the back yard. He has found a leak in the pond-feeding faucet and is trying to make it stop. And he is so sensitive to the cold! Pobrecita.

I am still contemplating the concept of sentences that do more work . . . for particular purposes, I mean. I’m talking about for the query or for synopses. My intuition says that I don’t need to change my normal style (and that it wouldn’t work anyway) in the books themselves. What I’m trying to figure out is the query thing.
I thank everyone who gave me input on that, and have not forgotten about it.

And I wasn’t trying to say that you are wrong about the need to make the query stuff different. What I’m worried about is that I just don’t get it, even after studying Miss Snark and Evil Editor and Editorial Ass. I mean, their query examples look fine. And then I try to do a bit for my query and it turns out more like a blurb for the back of the book or a teaser. When people say “leave out the nonessential stuff,” the problem is that what I see as essential and nonessential is not the same as what they see. This may mean I cannot break in through the query system, or any other way. But I might eventually get the hang of it. You never know.

I said before that I am not trying to buck the system or criticize what everyone’s saying. It’s that I honestly don’t “get” what I’m being told regarding “leaving out the parts that aren’t necessary,” even after studying at the feet of Miss Snark, Evil Editor, Editorial Ass, and many others. What have I concluded? The parts that are necessary for me are not the same as those that seem needed to others (this holds true through most of my pursuits, so it’s endemic.) Once they’ve done an example edit of one or two lines, I can get the gist of what their personal preferences may be, and I can do a copycat on that. But then next time I will write a summary that explains about the birds settling down on the telephone wires in the sunset and how the flock swooped and climbed and circled overhead as our car followed the flock of SUVs down Greenville Avenue, and it will seem important to me and to the characters. This is what I mean when I say “I don’t get it”–I don’t internalize whatever this skill is. The flaw is in me, not in the critiquers.

Words that *I* think work well? Out of my commonplace book [file]:

I have decided most only have a vague idea what an apostrophe is for; thus, they’re spilled like tossed peppercorns across the writing landscape–Barb Jernigan

[Our neighbor was] a dental hygienist with beautiful teeth, her new husband a morose and silent man who never came outside except to shoot arrows into a target–

A rich, mellow cello played a slow and mournful melody while a soprano choir sang wordless vocal harmony. Or perhaps the voices were singing in a language I did not comprehend.–

Story is the river that flows ever on.–

I suspect that when I was being made someone poured a dose of graphomania into my bones. I cannot conceive of not writing. That act, an old and deep magic, has saved me uncounted times, and it continues to save me every day.
You, whoever you are, have something similar inside you. Your bedrock is cracked too, and you have a secret spring. Don’t be afraid of it, or minimize it. Get down there and drink all you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s genius or pedestrian, if it’s novice or amateur or professional, it just doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. There is something inside you that can transform the world. It will always be there for you, no matter what. It’s yours, and nobody can ever take it away. It will remain with you always, and it is never too late to start dipping your cup.–

If I ever start a punk band, “Fatal Porn Fire” will at least be the title of my first album.–anon

“Constantly talking about yourself, interrupting when people are talking and seeming uninterested in the other person with your gaze wandering will cause people to avoid you.” They say that like it’s a *bad* thing.–Thane Plambeck

They’re only WORDS! It’s the context that counts! It’s the user! It’s the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad!–George Carlin

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.–Benjamin Franklin

Something that bothers me a lot more than my words “working” in a query, though, is this.

I have always said (and Believed, amen! Believed!) that if my work could reach regular readers, they’d love it. Because I write the sort of book that I love to read, and I assume that others enjoy the same stuff. BUT! Look at the reviews I’ve garnered for MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS on Amazon.com so far. These are regular readers I’ve reached so far off the DOROTHY-L mystery list.

ONE reader loved the setting and said I evoked it well, so that’s good. But everyone basically gave the caveat that the plot was too convoluted (which is a first, because most agents say I have NO plots) and that the characters Ari meets are too weird, and that she’s neurotic. (That was the POSITIVE review.)

Let me interrupt for a moment to explain that I *know* Ari is not a Mary Sue or a “Jack Reacher” can-do-it-all character. That’s because the book couldn’t be what it is (or about what it’s about) if she were, say, her sister Zoe.

Most readers (including Dennis) report that their fave char is Zoe. EVERYONE SAYS THAT . . . but if Zoe were the POV character, the book could not exist the way it does, as we all =know= Zoe would not put up with Aaron and his crap for ten minutes. She would have had a private detective on his tail the minute he used one of HER credit cards, and she would have had his HIDE. So for the story to go the way it does, we have to have poor neurotic Shalanna-like Ari who lets people take advantage of her and heap guilt trips on her while she second-guesses herself and tries to analyze why people are the way they are (when that simply can’t be done–I gave up years ago). Ha! However, Ari is a good foil for all the weirdos and strong personalities around her. That’s what makes the series what it is, for what that’s worth. If you want a stronger POV character, you’ll have to read my Jacquidon series.

But whatever. The reviews of MARFA LIGHTS all say it’s a cute read, but they don’t really deviate too much, really. Two other listmembers who had posted that they would review it said, “Oh, dear . . . I forgot. I read it and I know I didn’t quit reading and that I finished it, but I’ve forgotten it and could not tell you the plot or a thing about it, and so I wouldn’t feel right making a review.” This tells me that either they hated it and are “trying to spare my feelings,” or they really DID forget the whole thing and were not changed by the experience of reading it . . . which to me is even WORSE than just hating it.

Because if I made them feel hate, it’s at least arousing an emotion and a reaction. They won’t soon forget it. If they just forget it and it didn’t mean anything . . . I hate that. It means that I failed.

This means that I was probably way off base all these years in believing that readers didn’t love that dreck they put on the best-seller lists. They DO. They are not looking for something like the stuff I write. A minority thinks it’s OK. I am way out of step with the way people today read. This is very distressing news.

However, I can’t write something that’s different because I am in all of my books and can’t be extracted. (A non-vanilla extract, no doubt.) A book about vampire Nazis set against a WWII backdrop that’s essentially a “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” with pixies for grown-ups . . . is not in me. A book about a Jack Reacher type is not in me. I like the “endless philosophizing” that John D. MacDonald and Philip K. Dick are accused of including in their novels. I yam what I yam.

(If what I say about best-sellers and so forth upsets you, I apologize, but I think it should be socially acceptable to say you don’t like them.)

I try to be encouragingly polite to everyone up and down the line because you meet the same people on the way down the ladder that you stepped on on your way up. We only have so many days to spend in this reality and we ought to obey the Golden Rule and treat others as we would like to be treated even if they irritate us (and I learn this lesson DAILY with my own MOTHER), but powerful people don’t often subscribe to that.

ANYHOW. I still have not heard from the agent telling me to send the entire manuscript of APRIL, MAYBE JUNE, which is kind of lucky in a way because I started doing a small revision and got all involved in some changes in the midbook. I didn’t want them to break into the warehouse with a tire iron, but instead use magic in some sneaky way. ‘Tis hell being clever. BUT ANYWAY the RWA group where I won the contest did post me as the overall winner (I first typed “winder” and then backed up over it and typed “winder” again, which just reveals my mental state all too well) on the Rose City RWA website. Bless them!


I am the overall winner of the contest AS WELL AS the winner of the YA category. These people “get” me!! I should marry them!!


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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