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The Questions I’m Not Answering

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҉     The Opening Rant   ҉    

I recently received the following correspondence, which caused me to invoke the smiting powers of the FSM before I got to the email’s second sentence.   Forthwith and in all due haste I forwarded the misbegotten missive to SCM, a fellow writer and kindred snarky misanthrope keen-eyed observer of the human condition, with whom often I commiserate about The State of Publishing.

darkstormynightjpg

Oh, yeah, the email:

 (name redacted)

Subject: author questions

 hi, my name is (name not capitalized), I recently became an author and found your name under a list of oregon  authors and i wanted to get in contact with someone to see if they could answer some questions of mine  I  completely understand if your  too busy, but if you could take a little time and possibly answer some questions that would be great.

 How  did you get published? Im  currently using createspace to publish my books.

 How  did you market your book? Did  you have a marketing team or did you self market and what did you do if you did?

 do    you have any tips you could give me for helping my book along.  currently  im  going to faires   and trying to sell them there, but im    open to pretty much anything to help my book along. its  already on amazon, and the createspace marketplace, but I  would love some help as to how to get it moving better into peoples  hands.

compshock

 

Oh, oh, oh, (name not capitalized). Where do I begin?

For one thing, take the time to learn the difference between your and you’re and plurals and possessive plurals – as well as what and when to capitalize (name not capitalized, you are no e e cummings) and how to spell and punctuate – before you plan on soliciting time and advice from a “fellow” author.

If such frank advice (which you solicited, remember) makes you confused or surprised or hurts your feelings in any way, not to worry.  After all, you have it together enough to have learned to use the apps from Amazon and createspace that allow you to claim, “I recently became an author.”

And yes, I am too busy to help you, although I do appreciate the email as a worthy addition to my Exhibit A collection illustrating why I do not want to mentor anyone who intends to self-publish….

*   *   *

Deep, cleansing breath, y’all. I did not say any of those things to (name not capitalized). I did not reply to the email. I could not do so and respect myself without being honest, and really, I’m not that cruel (read: helpful).

If for some reason (name not capitalized) stumbles across this blog posting, I will leave this one piece of advice: one of the most important things a person should to do to “become an author” [1] is to develop a thick yet permeable skin; that is, a hide that can stand up to and appreciate honest criticism and that is porous enough to let seep through a realistic assessment of your innate talents and willingness to learn a craft.

As devoted (or at least sober)  readers of this blog know, I have ooooooooooooooooooodels of complaints about the traditional publishing model and industry.  And yet.  Past and especially recent experience reinforces the need for gatekeepers.  Thanks to the rise of self-publishing services, not only are the barbarians at the gates, they are scaling the fences and crossing the moats, using copies of their young-adult-fantasy-steampunk-speculative-Fifty-Shades of Vampire-murder-mysteries as makeshift ladders and rafts.

Without gatekeepers the entire literary marketplace becomes one big slushpile, deluged by a monsoon of unaudited, unedited work .  Today, someone like (name not capitalized) can “become an author” and “publish” via a few strokes of a keyboard and an EFT to a publishing app vendor.

yourbookhere

 

I don’t care if I rarely showed up to practice, didn’t bother to learn the fundamentals of the game and sucked at defense – I was on the soccer team, my name is on the roster, and dadgummit, I’m going to get a trophy for participating.

When anyone who wants to do so can be a “published author,” where is the merit in being published?  If any (name redacted) can “publish” as long as (name redacted) has the funds to produce a paperback or e-book, having a book published isn’t any more noteworthy than downloading your story and illustrations to a thumb drive and having Office Depot’s Document Printing Services department  run off and bind some copies.

badauthor

*   *   *

҉   The Middle Section’s Short but Heartwarming Family Anecdote    ҉   

 The Upside of the Empty Chateau

What with K and Belle gone to college, MH and I get to feed Andy (ball python) and T’Pol (corn snake).  No grocery list is complete without a reminder to stop by the pet supplies store and stock up on small and medium-sized frozen feeder mice.

T'Pol relaxes at the day spa.

T’Pol relaxes at the day spa.

*   *   *

҉   The Brief Contemplation of a Contemporary Phenomenon    ҉   

 Both Sides Now [2]

sunnycloud

To be described as having your head in the clouds is, by and large, not a flattering assessment of one’s character. The phrase’s various idiomatic meanings include being out of touch, unrealistic, naive, impractical and inattentive. Thus, it strikes me as odd – and, okay, just a teense ominous – that we [3] have adopted The Cloud as an umbrella term to refer to Internet software and services, and that we increasingly entrust our documents and applications to this ethereal location.

Just thinkin.’

stormcloud

*   *   *

҉   The pun-not-intended Pet Peeve    ҉   

I use Nordic trekking poles during my morning walks, for a variety of reasons, and have discovered that, along with increasing the workout and simply giving your arms something to do, they have the unanticipated benefit of protection.  On more than one occasion I have used the poles to fend off an aggressively postured dog.

Yep, a 120 lb canine, ears laid close to head, eyes narrowed and challengingly fixed on mine, lips open and drawn back to expose teeth bared in a snarl, hackles raised and tail fluffed and extended straight out from body, approaches – and is off leash, of course – as its owner calls out to me, “It’s okay, he’s real friendly – DON’T MAKE ANY SUDDEN MOVES!”

You, of course, are not now and never will be this dog owner. [4]

*   *   *

      ҉   The Department of Apropos of Nothing    ҉   

Due to a precipitating incident I cannot now specifically recall, longtime friend JRC once gave me a year’s subscription to National Review .  This was during our sophomore or junior year in college, when JRC was attending UCLA and I, UC Davis.  During one of our periodic phone calls, wherein we chewed the fat about everything in general and nothing in particular and The Big Issues of Life, JRC, an intelligent, witty, creative guy [5]who held inexplicable/WTF [6] conservative political opinions, said he thought I needed to expand my news sources.  At the time I worked in UC Davis’ Periodicals room and regularly read a variety of news journals – certainly more than JRC, I taunted him – including the Wall Street Journal.  But that wasn’t enough for JRC, who said he thought I’d appreciate William F. Buckley’s wit and way with language. I retaliated repaid JRC’s generosity by gifting him with a subscription to Mother Jones Magazine.

As far as I know, JRC received a year’s worth of Mother Jones issues.  I read each National Review that came to me, and although it would have cost me nothing to continue to receive them, I cancelled the subscription after six or seven months.  I tried, I really tried….

It wasn’t the magazine’s conservative slant that bothered me – for crying out loud in a Ronald Reagan film festival, I was born and raised in Orange County – it was the overt, obnoxious, patronizing, dripping with disdain, East Coast chauvinism.  The magazine’s writers oozed a snide, barely disguised contempt when addressing anything having to do with the West Coast.  I felt complicit even reading it.

 

"I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe that scientists have discovered culture west of Boston."

“I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe that scientists have discovered culture west of Boston.”

I am still in touch with JRC, who holds the dubious distinction being the person, other than my siblings, with whom I’ve had the longest peer-type association.  From grade two through high school we shared at least one class.  Imagine all the embarrassing things we might be able to recall about one another, were we not now so decrepit we can only remember the good stuff…right? [7]

*   *   *

      ҉   The Amusing Send-off    ҉  

Friend JWW presented me with a gift when she came to Sunday dinner. Mere words cannot descript my utter bewilderment joy when I beheld the…object; this, pictures will have to do.

JWW said that this gift was to help me with that pesky Empty Nest thing.  I thanked her for the addition to my Rubber Chicken crew. She said it wasn’t just another rubber chicken, and told me to squeeze it.  So, I did, and the chicken laid an egg…sort of.

Yes, I took a video of a rubber chicken’s hinterland. Before you judge me too harshly, remember that you just voluntarily watched a video of a rubber chicken’s hinterland.

*  *  *

On the subject of judging someone, harshly or otherwise, let us all remember the timeworn admonition, an aphorism that uses Shiny Happy treacle to mask a morsel of inadvertently wiseass advice:

Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.

Go ahead, put on the shoes, and then pass judgment.  If the man gets pissed off, well, you’re a mile away and you’ve got his shoes.

angrybarefoot

*   *   *

 

May your footwear of choice give you comfort over the miles to come, and may the judgment-free hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] That is, assuming the magical snap of a finger “There, you’re an author!” is intended to last for more than one book fair weekend.

[2] Three cheers and a big yellow taxi ride for those who get the Joni Mitchell reference.

[3] “we’ as in They, and perhaps you, but not me.

[4] And if you were I’d slap you upside the head with my trekking poles.

[5] And awesome blues guitarist.

[6] IMHO, considering JRC’s family’s impoverished circumstances and resultant need for the much-decried-by-conservatives, social welfare services.

[7] BTW, JRC, I never told your mother that you lied to her about how you broke your leg after you fell while swinging from a tree (which she’d forbidden you to do), although I think you ‘fessed up to her yourself after she didn’t fall for your story about tripping over a bbq grill cover .

The Blog I’m Not (not) Writing.

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THE BLOG I’M NOT WRITING

– Do you know what Annabelle’s doing now?
– A blog.
– Of what?
– What do you mean “of what”? A blog of Annabelle.  Of every thought that passes through her brain. Her stupid, vapid, insipid…I could write a blog!  I have thoughts! 

(from Julie and Julia, written and directed by the late great Nora Ephron)

*   *   *

You should write a blog; you’re a writer!
I can’t believe you, of all people, are not blogging.

*   *   *

The name of this venture is inspired by my favorite Patty Larkin song, as well as my long-held reluctance to never do…what I’m apparently doing.

I wasn’t going to write a blog, for myriad of reasons.[1] The #1 reason is that you don’t get paid for doing it. There are many, many ways writers don’t get paid for writing.  I’m not keen to take part in yet another.

Professional  excuse reasons?  Despite the plethora of trade publications and associations desperate to sell you a plethora of social media tutorials, a dirty little realization among social media-proficient fiction writers is that author blogs do not sell books.

Perhaps the reasons are more personal; as in, keeping a journal of some sort?  Wait a minute: what about a new way to communicate and reflect on life, one that, if done with discrimination and  integrity, might aspire to be a form of entertainment for readers, more than just a regularly updated entry of events, transactions, or observations, or a chronicle of excessive self-contemplation?  What about an informational and personal site, a log of sorts, published on the web…log…web…log…. 

Why hasn’t someone thought of this before??!?!?!

Reluctance, schmuctance.

I surrender, at least temporarily, to the culture of social MEdia.  After all, I am so significant, my every thought must be documented, and ME is too vast, too important for a mere private journal. I must announce it for the world to see.  Think of what I’ve been missing – what you’ve been missing. No longer shall we live without me posting my every reflection on the smell wafting down the hallway from the unscooped litter boxes.[2]

So, yeah, that will also be the blog I’m not writing.  I’m still refusing to join the tumblr-ing tweeting twats and don’t care to see someone’s pinterest pictures of their pinworms.  A relative latecomer to Facebook, I am a sporadic and not particularly competent FB poster and commentator. And despite me sticking another toe into what I once heard described as the “vast ocean” of social media, the waters I’m testing still remind me of those that pool on portions of the nearby Tualatin Valley Highway after it rains.  From a distance it can look like the deep blue sea, but the closer you get, you see that it’s just a really, really, big puddle – wide, but shallow.

Now that I’ve lowered your expectations to fit my comfort level….

Ground rules/expectations:

1.  I shall attempt to post every Friday.
2.  Except when I don’t.
3. There shall be some regular entertainment features.  Perhaps even recipes:

Now that the Autumn chill is setting in, it’s time for a
Hot pepper jelly glaze and sauce to warm the cockles of your heart

– 2-3 T of your favorite hot pepper jelly (Republic of Jam’s habañero Hellfire & Jamnation is what floats my boat)
– 3T orange juice; 2T fresh lemon or lime juice; 1t low sodium soy sauce
– ~1 c nonfat regular yogurt, drained over a fine mesh colander, or NF Greek-style yogurt 

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Amounts are approximate.  Taste and adjust to get the consistency, flavor and tongue-tickling (or burning) sensation you desire. Use as an accompanying sauce and/or finishing glaze for pan-seared or grilled tofu, chicken, catfish… 

Wondering what to do with the homegrown, truncheon-sized zucchini your vegetable-gardening neighbor foisted off on so generously gifted you? Thinly slice the zucchini, then add it to the compost pile and ask yourself, What was I thinking? Don’t even consider wasting a yummers hot pepper sauce on a vapid, overgrown zucc.

4.  Or maybe just pretty pictures of my mascot.

Everybody loves a new, shiny blue mouse

(everyone loves a new, shiny blue mouse)

5.  There will be the occasional link to recommended books, films, TV shows, videos and music (my daughter made me promise never to link to that Friday song she so loathes )
6. I shall not excessively write about nor embarrass my offspring.
7. Except that it is my parental obligation to embarrass my offspring, or so said the instructional pamphlet that was attached to their respective placentas.
8.  I shall try to respond to insightful and respectful comments, despite my fear of entering into dialog that would take away from what I actually should be writing….
9.  Although I’d’ have to have a certain critical mass of readership before the fear expressed in #8 would be a problem; thus, problem #8 may solve itself by never arising.
10. I am not going to censor myself.
11. Except when I do.
12. This list has no item #12.

*   *   *

The working title of this venture was The F-Blog.  F for Friday, and for the first thing that came to my mind when I realized I might actually try this out (like the world needs another F-ing blogger?).  Also, I am a fan of so many things F [3], including:

– the Fab Four; Tina Fey; flippancy, footnotes [4]; fermentation; forty winks; feasts; FAQ; flamingoes and flamenco; facts; fart jokes; friends and family and felines…

I am fond of many, but not all, F-things.  Some I find downright dreadful to even consider.  Fistulas?  Ick.  And please, don’t feed me fennel.  One especially unpleasant, recently acquired F-thing is partly responsible for me having time to ruminate about finally doing a blog – a fracture (luckily not a femur or fibula).

But I digress.

Although The Blog I’m Not Writing is not the F-Blog it will frequently reference a few of my favorite F-follies:

1.  food
2.  feminism
3.  freethought
4.  frivolity and festivity
5.  fiction feats and frustrations
6.  whatever the f-word is for politics and/or current affairs
7. – 50. there are no follies numbered 7-50.[5]  Oh, but just you wait.

Is it obvious that I enjoy making lists?  Pity, that activity doesn’t start with an f.

*   *   *

This is getting rather wordy for a first post.  I warned you, I’m new at this.

*   *   *

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.
 (Henry David Thoreau)

Or in my case, that require learning new jargon.  I have about a 50 second attention span for tech logistics; they tear me a new one with boredom.  Thus, please excuse the glitches that will inevitably arise.  This won’t be the flashiest blog you’ll read.  But what it will lack in bells and whistles it will make up for with rubber chicken pictures.

*   *   *

Searching the sites, seeking advice for newbie bloggers.  Introduce yourself, they say.

There are blogs I follow on a sporadic-to-regular basis, and I’ve enjoyed reading some of the personal details behind the public opinions. Even with that in mind, composing an author’s bio blurb is one of my least professional favorite tasks.  I’ve been thrown for the proverbial loop when a few editors have requested detailed, personal info along with the standard publication history.  Moiself, I’ve little interest in the personal lives of authors.  Should knowing that a writer spends their spare time volunteering at the Corgi-doodle rescue association affect my appreciation of their latest haiku novella?

Neverthemore, one and all, they clamor for the amazing story of me.  For a meet-the-author blog bio, I need to have some fun to stay on task.  Some of the following is true:

I am the second of four children and the middle daughter, which means I am destined for either ground-breaking gender role usurpations or middle management in Tupperware® Sales.  Orphaned in a tragic Slip ‘n Slide® accident, I was raised by ospreys in Santa Ana, CA.  I live and write in Oregon, in a mid-sized city whose motto is, “Yeah, fine, so we’re not Portland, but at least we’re not Oxnard.”  My blood type is a deep, viscous red, with a bouquet of sun-ripened marionberries.[6] [7]  I like walking along the roses at sunset and always stop to smell the beach.  I’m afraid of anything Fifty Percent Less Filling, of having a supercilious award title (Winner of The Condoleeza Mae Brown Faulkner Prize for Fiction in Support of Social Change and Diverse Personal Hygiene) appended to my name, and of having to pronounce words like supercilious in public.  In my spare time I annoy PETA members by campaigning for the extinction of the spineless weasel.  When not working on innumerable fiction projects I study state and federal Articles of Incorporation, in hopes that by December 2016 I will have opened the doors to “A Goddess in Every Garage,” the nation’s first feminist political consulting firm and[8] auto repair shop.

*   *   *

What else can I add that is of relevance?  I am a W-O-M-A-N, one who can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan,[9]  a writer of fiction, a Southern Californian by birth and Oregonian by choice.  I check the decline to state options when a survey asks me to choose my age, racial/ethnic identity, political affiliation and income categories.

A brief introduction to my family, using their respective noms de blog.  I’ve been married to my husband[10], the lovely and talented MH, for 20+ years.  I am the mother of the national average of 2.06 children, that I know of.  For the .06 I count our four cats, two snakes, innumerable house spiders and dust bunnies.

Son K is a college freshman, daughter Belle a high school junior.  My progeny will undoubtedly, inevitably, find their way into subsequent posts.  For now, suffice to say they are the inspiration for my most recently acquired, custom-made [11] bumper sticker:

Proud parent of students
who do not need their academic achievements
bragged about on the back of my car

There are more bumper stickers.  There will be more bumper stickers.  Many more.  Be afraid, be very afraid.[12]

Thanks for stopping by.  Tune in next week, as hijinks ensue.
Au Vendredi!


[1] Okay, certain person out there, Shelley, enjoy doing your Gloaty Dance (For those unfamiliar with the concept,  it’s like the Antler Dance, only less dignified).

[2] Yep, plural.

[3] I know what you’re thinking. Elevate your mind from the gutter.  Right now.

[4] See?

[5] Yes.  Oh, but just you wait.

[6] A yummers  blackberry cross, a mix between the ‘Chehalem’ and ‘Olallie’ berries, developed at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon.

[7] Yummers = really, really, lip-smackingly delicious. A modifier cross, combining the “yummy” adjective with the surname of the Balmer Word Scientists institute in Manzanita, Oregon.

[8] Nothing to cite.  Just seeing if you’re paying attention.  A gold star for you!

[9] I never do, but I can

[10] How convenient is that?

[11] with a grateful nod to the late, greater-than-great, George Carlin

[12] Did you know that people who read footnotes tend to have higher IQs and mintier breath than non-footnote readers?