Archive for June, 2012


This weekend it was too hot to do anything but write.

Sure, I recently told you guys I’d be doing some fun Layla-style antiquity hunting (most likely of the unsuccessful variety) on my summer weekends. But that was before we broke a record here in Colorado for the hottest June on record.  More than 100 degrees for several days now.  And I don’t have air conditioning in my car.

But hey, I am SO LUCKY compared to some people in the state.  You’ve probably seen the news reports about the forest fires here.  Well, over the weekend a couple of them got worse and now a few hundred homes are gone.  So if the worst thing that happens to me is I have to stay in town and write and edit and see a movie (The Avengers, which was kinda fun), then life is easy for me.

Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned before now the two manuscripts I’m getting into final shape for self-publishing.  There’s the original novel (Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar) and the sequel, and both are fun historical romps (1867-1869).  I also wrote both of them before turning out The Compass Master.  Funny thing is, they mean more to me than Compass, but hey, it’s still my baby and I’m proud of it and I want everyone who reads it to really enjoy it. Cause don’t we all want that for our books?

So when a couple friends and my Mom (my own mother!) tell me they really prefer Charity to Compass, I’m hurt.  Then again,when a friend and a sister couldn’t be bothered with even picking up Charity, but the friend said she loved Compass and was a real cheerleader for it, I’m grateful but still hurt for Charity.

As a writer, I take all of this way too personally. And neurotically.

So how about you?  Do you have favorite manuscripts or other stories buried in a sock drawer that only you love? How about a novel you wrote straight from your heart and soul but all it receives are emails of rejection?

 

To Cardinal William J. Levada:

I wish to submit my book for consideration of condemnation by Your Eminence’s Vatican office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

I was inspired to take this step upon learning that the office censured a book written by Sister Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M., Ph.D., “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.”  The office did so on the grounds that, among other crimes, Sister Farley writes that there are moral and theological justifications for masturbation and same-sex marriage.

As Your Eminence knows, this censure by the Congregation in Rome of a treatise written by an American nun has caused a stir here in the U.S.  Her book, which had been languishing for years in obscurity, has become an overnight best-seller.  Currently “Just Love” is not far behind “Shades of Grey” on Amazon.com despite the fact that it isn’t available in any e-book format and can be purchased only as an expensive paperback.  And that’s at the discount price.

In addition, my local bookstore is selling copies of “Just Love” so fast the clerks stopped stacking it beside “Weight Loss Boss” and “Game of Thrones” boxed sets and instead keep copies in plain brown wrappers near the cash register.

Clearly censure by the Congregation of this nun’s book has resulted in the kind of sales and red-hot publicity we writers can only dream of.

You see, most of us writers are having a tough time of it these days.  The book publishing business is changing so fast we’ve all but given up on it and are turning to self-publishing.  But because of on-demand digital printing and e-books, everyone and his brother and sister (clerical or lay) can now get their books published.  This is transforming an already crowded literary field into a mob scene.

We writers are also now expected, even by traditional publishers and agents, to advertise our books at our own expense, arrange for our own interviews, and provide local book clubs with free copies.  We are told to mine publicity via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, blogs, and so on.  For social media misfits such as myself (I have no Facebook or Twitter accounts and I’m still figuring out Tumblr), this can be especially frustrating.

Yet these efforts pale in comparison to the media reach possessed by Your Eminence’s office.  After all, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has been in existence since the mid-sixteenth century, when it was more colloquially known as the Inquisition.

Therefore I am eager to submit my book, a fictional thriller with a religious motif (which alone can evoke literary objections) for consideration of the Congregation’s censure.

Although I am a lapsed Catholic, as an author I should qualify because I am the proud niece of a nun who does not lecture anyone about birth control, masturbation, and homosexuality.  Now retired and elderly, my aunt instead spent her last years of activity establishing two schools for the poor in Romania.

In addition, one character in my novel is a nun who battles archconservative archbishops.  Other characters explain how there were women bishops in the earliest years of the faith, and that during the Dark and Middle Ages abbesses of certain convents ruled over local priests and bishops, a situation so anathema to some male clerics that they fought successfully to suppress nuns’ rights and powers.  By writing about these historic facts I have, most likely, already aroused the Congregation’s suspicions.  Personally, I urge it to move into high Inquisitional gear.

Should Your Eminence decide that my book must indeed be censured, which will inevitably result in it becoming a bestseller, I will, in gratitude, start attending mass at the Catholic church nearest my home.  Perhaps I should point out that its parishioners include a few gay couples and that the priest and other parishioners don’t seem to have a problem with this.  If this situation moves Your Eminence to censure the lot of them too, they will probably join me in singing a hymn of thanks.

 

This isn’t good: My throat is sore and I have no energy.

I blame a coworker who decided to work through his bad cold last week by remaining in the office instead of taking sick leave.  If I wake up congested and whimpering tomorrow morning, I’ll go into work just to breath on him and pay him back.

Then there’s my painful tennis elbow, or in my case fencing elbow.  It’s getting better, but because of it I’m carrying that arm kinda bent and up and dangly, the way a T. Rex would.  Yes, I look funny.

But what really kinda got me down this weekend was having a chat with a casual friend who managed, almost before I knew what she was doing, to make me feel like crap.

You know what kind of “friend” I mean.  The kind who most of the time can be decent and goodhearted, and you feel like you owe them to stay friends and hang out once in a while.  But at other times and in subtle, small ways, they can make you feel like a shit sandwich.  You don’t even realize how they’ve drained the energy from you until you’ve walked away and a few hours later you wonder why you feel so down.

We all know people like that, don’t we?

In all honesty I only see this friend anymore because she does my hair and at half the price of a salon.  And most of the time when I’m sitting there we can talk politics and about life in general and I enjoy myself.  But at other times…

Let’s just say this woman knows how to bring up personal issues in a way that make me feel like a loser.

One thing she never, ever talks about is my writing because she just doesn’t care.  I mean, I never bothered even to tell her that I published The Compass Master and that I’ve gotten some great feedback. She knows I write this blog but has never once checked it out.  And I don’t want to discuss this part of my life with her because I don’t want to be hurt when she feigns interest for all of thirty seconds and then just shrugs.

This is something all us writers have to put up with, isn’t it?  Not just rejection in publishing, but the fact that what is so important and personal to us doesn’t even register with some of the people in our lives.  Realistically, we can’t expect them all to care.  They don’t owe us their genuine interest or support.  Still, I find myself more and more quietly walking away from minor relationships that sap my spirit and inflict tiny scratches on my heart.  The older I get, the more I realize I can sometimes choose who to have in my life and who shouldn’t be there.

So how about you? I bet you all have similar stories to tell, and very likely much more painful ones.  My scratched-up heart goes out to you.

It’s June 5th and that means it’s time to celebrate Hart’s release of her very first novel…

THE AZALEA ASSAULT

(Pause for cheers and applause.)

And of course I’m also giving a shout-out to Elizabeth Spann Craig because she’s releasing a whole new cozy series today with her novel….

QUILT OR INNOCENCE

(Again cheers and applause)

Of course all of us are now going to rush out and buy these two books, are we not?  Or if not rush out at least plant our behinds before our computer and download it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.  Meanwhile, in their honor and in the name of this blogfest, here’s my humble entry in the zany cozy mystery pitch.

Cecily Sysiphus has a strange phobia: she can’t stand to talk on the phone. Put a cell in her hand, and she’ll stutter, she’ll mumble, she’ll drip cold beads of sweat and end the conversation before you can say Sorry, Wrong Number, like in the movie with Barbara Stanwyck. If she’s forced to answer a ringing phone, she’ll have a panic attack first. It all started when she saw, at a tender, impressionable age, Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder. Watching the remake years later with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t help, especially with its bloody kitchen scene.

Still, Cecily is now determined to battle her phobia and take control of her life, and to this end she bravely accepts a job as a night manager at a call center. This means working alongside the impossibly handsome and rugged CEO Kirk Cussler, which delights Cecily no end because he’s just the man she’s been waiting for all her life. Yet what neither of them suspect is that someone else in the call center (maybe it’s a him, maybe it’s a her) has also seen those movies, and he (or she), for reasons unknown and that I’m not going to tell you because that would be a spoiler, is starting to murder his (or her) fellow call center employees. Will the murderer attack Cecily before she can solve the untimely deaths of her underlings? Will he (or she) attack Kirk before he has a chance to express his undying love for Cecily? Will Cecily be able to answer that ringing phone before it’s too late?

So there it is:  my cozy mystery pitch.  Needless to say, Hart’s and Elizabeth’s books are much better than this.  You’ll love ‘em.  Here are the links to their bloggie sites:

http://waterytart23.blogspot.com/

http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/

 

So this summer I’m planning to do some Layla-type antiquities hunting around Colorado.


Obviously this part of the old West is nothing like Italy, where Layla’s good friend Paolo is a full-time stromboli (tomb raider/amateur archeologist) because where he lives, a person can almost go out anywhere, start digging, and come across ancient statues or precious items or remains of temples or whatever.

Granted, here in Colorado we at least have some legendary lost gold treasures. But odds are if I find anything it’ll be only arrowheads or evidence that pioneers and Spanish conquistadors passed through.  But hey, for me this can be exciting.

Anyway, I didn’t head up to the mountains or even to some spot in the plains this weekend because thunderheads were in the forecast, and sure enough we got the nasty fierce winds and lightning and thunder but pitifully little rain.  See, when it comes to lightning you really don’t wanna be caught out in the open while up in the hills.

To give you an idea of what that can be like: my Dad had been a geologist with the USGS, and one time he and some other geologists were on a mountain and working away at the dirt and rocks.  Then my Dad noticed thunderhead clouds moving in fast.

He told the other guys that maybe they should get down to lower ground, but they poo-pooed him, said they had plenty of time before any storm began.  So my Dad stood up, swung his geologic hammer around his head, and it made a crackling noise – that’s how much electricity was in the air.  Immediately, the guys quickly packed up and got the hell off that mountain.

Anyway, most weekends around here I won’t have to worry about lightning, so I’ll head off on some fun, short antiquity hunts (and no, I won’t be taking any Indian artifacts or other illegal stuff).  On the other hand, my Dad while on the job often had to carry a gun because of the rattlesnakes or bigger critters that might cross his path.  I probably won’t see any where I’ll be headed, but just in case I might be carrying a nifty weapon I just learned about: wasp spray.  Did you know that wasp spray can hit a target up to twenty feet away and temporarily blind it?  Very handy.

If I ever hafta use the stuff on anything coming at me, I’ll let you know.