"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Episode 612: Gayle whines

Lordy, I feel bad for being selfish.

I think everyone is, but I still feel the weight of my sin when I realize I'm thinking about me-me-me nonstop. But I'm having a rough week.

On the horse front, I'm shopping for a new show horse. I've had to retire my love, my baby, my Snoopy, due to the fact that he can't be shown or even ridden without the kind of medical intervention that is sometimes called illegal doping. Which I would never do, for the simple reason that numbing a horse's pain can leave him open to further injury. So Snoopy is in a retirement ranch in Temecula, where he is sharing a paddock with two bachelors and is quite happy about not working anymore.

I visit him once a week.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried out a horse. She is everything I want, and does everything I want, EXCEPT...she won't lope to the right for me. As soon as I ask her, her back humps, she throws her head in the air, and we either long-trot, or "boing," which is a short-strided, quick-legged gait, only suitable to Pepe Le Pew when he's in love.





I know this horse has been shown by a darling young woman who suffered a brain injury when she was young and now wears the sturdiest of helmets to ride. No one would put her on an unsafe horse.

So if she could get the mare to lope, why couldn't I?

To compound my problems, there's the little matter of my manuscript. Between April 20 and May 29, I sent out 50 queries. I've gotten 30 responses. 28 were "No." One request for a full is still waiting for a response. One agent seems interested, except that he's only ever emailed me, and we can't seem to make time to talk (he travels to Germany a lot).

I told myself I'd give this querying business until October. I know this is the way it all works. I know of all the manuscripts that were passed on, yet survived to become bestsellers (hello, Harry Potter). I know this. And yet...

As the doctor told me, I'm older. Even if I get the agent now, they have to get the publisher, and they have a year or so to do that. Even if they get the publisher, my books may not get on their production schedule for two years. That's three years, folks. Do you know how old I'll be?

Maybe not quite hella old, but older.

So I'm in this horrible, downward spiral of, "If SHE can lope this horse, why can't I? If THEY can get an agent, why can't I?"

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME? WHEN IS IT MY EFFING TURN, UNIVERSE?

Tomorrow I shall meditate and do my yoga and go about my day, meeting my appointments, and I shall feel better, I'm sure. Because somewhere along this line I shall take up the reins of my own life and do SOMETHING.

Thanks. I feel better.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The livin' may be easy, but the writin' is not

A quick post here to say that I'll be gone for a week, where I hope to get some writing done in between hiking and hanging out with friends (and taking care of our two maniacal canines). BTW, if you're planning to rob me while I'm gone: 1) the house will not be vacant; 2) our neighbors are very nosy, and 3) there's nothing of value to take (I'm a writer who owns horses--you do the math).

In the meantime, here's a summer song (love that Ella).



And another.



One more (what IS it with the mutton chops?)




Okay, ONE more.




In the meantime, keep cool and keep reading!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Bear with me, I've got some sorting out to do

It's 4th of July weekend, so I suppose this post should be all flag-waving and barbecue goodness. In my own way, it is. I want to talk about last week's ALA Annual Conference.

ALA is American Libraries Association, and their annual conference is huge, and by huge I mean I heard participant numbers of 19,000 (I suppose that includes vendors and workshop leaders). This year's conference in Chicago crackled with the energy of thousands of librarians, all fired up to defend the First Amendment and be part of the village that lifts up their patrons.

Now, before I continue with that, let me digress for a moment. Many, many years ago, I attended a seminar on leadership for women (I still have the cassette tapes). In one exercise, the leader asked us, what is the first thing you notice about a person when they enter a room?

We all got stuck on gender. Surely the first thing you notice is whether someone is male or female. (Please be aware here that she was talking about noticing, not judging. Kind of like when you notice a red dress in the shop window. You file it away in your brain as benign data.)

Actually, she said, researchers found that the first thing we notice is race. She was using this to illustrate how women, people of color, and women of color have to establish their credentials quickly, because strangers have already "catalogued" them in terms of race/gender bins.

I've never been afraid of other races, but I began to notice what I noticed about strangers. When someone walked into the room, I began to think, "Okay, *black/asian/whatever* person, different physical traits than mine, that's interesting, file it and move on."

Okay? Let's go back to ALA...

At this year's conference, I encountered a brand new world. There were people at the conference who did not conform to gender norms. While I'm okay with this, I found myself staring a little too long while my brain did the following:

Are they male or female? I need the data to put in the correct bin. No, I don't. They are human. That's the only bin I need. Oh dear, I've been staring. Stop looking at them. Well, don't look away like you've just been caught spying! Be cool, for Pete's sake. 

So, my dear friends who are gender-fluid, please-oh-please accept my apologies while I acclimate my brain to its new data bins. I'm combining everything into "Plant", "Animal", "Human", and "Miscellaneous." It may take me a while to sort it all out. If I stare, just smile and say hi. I can always use more friends.

In the meantime, here's Earth Wind And Fire. Because you are a shining star, no matter who you are.





Have a safe and sane and happy 4th of July.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Remember them well

I know that today is Memorial Day and we honor those men and women who died in service to our country. In November, we will honor the veterans, who served and were lucky enough to come home.

I don't use the word lucky lightly. In each service person's deployment, I believe there is some randomly special combination of circumstances that keep this one alive, and that one not. War is a uniquely random series of events. Napoleon lost at Waterloo because the fields were too muddy. The British lost the Battle of New Orleans due to a lack of ladders. 

Yes, I've simplified the reasons, but in truth, better weather and proper equipment might have resulted in different outcomes. Random.

This is a picture of my uncle, Dale Bennett, and his dad, Harry, my great grandfather. Uncle Dale was my grandmother Myrtle's older brother. He was stationed in the Philippines during WWII.

Harry Bennett (left), Dale Bennett (right)


He was lucky. He came home.

I always knew him as a self-important, larger-than-life character. He managed a cemetery, compliments of the Republican Party who was in power in our hometown at the time. There was a huge brouhaha when my grandmother married my grandfather, whose family members were all Democrat, including cousin Adlai Stevenson. 

Uncle Dale was gruff, direct, coarse-spoken. He had at least one wife, possibly more. I'm sorry to say, I've lost that part of the family history. All I have now is this photo of him and his dad, and some of the letters he wrote home to my grandmother.

The letters show him a little differently. Yes, he was still gruff and direct. But he was self aware. In one letter, he's asking Sis (my grandmother) what she did for his girlfriend Inez, because Inez can't stop talking about how wonderful his Sis is. 

"I'm glad she likes you for any body that don't like you or any of the Family has got trouble with me," he writes. "As for myself I guess I can't get along with anyone, not even the damn J*ps." (sorry for the slur--it was as written.)

The other thing I learned is that he loved to write poetry. I always assumed it was just my grandmother who liked to write poems and make up stories, etc. Turns out, it ran deeper in my family than that.

Here's a poem Uncle Dale sent her. Technically, my uncle was a veteran, but he has long since passed. I think I can honor him today. 



(That Postponed Letter)

I ought to write a letter,
But I can't get in the groove;
If I could write some certain things
You'd see my pencil move.

I'd like to tell what town I'm in,
And just what things I do,
But must be content to wait until
These wartime days are through.

I ought to write a letter
And repeat the things you know,
The things they would not censor out
Like how I love you so.

--Cpl. Dale H. Bennett

I look at these letters and can't help thinking of all the men and women writing letters that turn out to be their last communication with loved ones. I think of the families reading their words while a different letter is on its way, one that says there will be no more. 

I pray for their safety, and will always respect their memory.

Monday, May 22, 2017

An even dozen queries

"How's the querying going?"




No one's saying that to my face, but I'm thinking it constantly. Since my last post, I bit a pretty hard bullet and subscribed to Publishers Marketplace. It is possibly the ugliest website in the western world, but it has a lot of information to give you--for a price. 

I got a big fat list of agents who said they represent fantasy, then culled the list down to those who SERIOUSLY represent fantasy, and ended up with about 50-60 names. I've been attempting to query at least three names a day, except for weekends and last week when I was on vacation.

In addition to the three I started with, I've now queried a dozen agents. Two said no. One requested a full. I'm heartened by the "full" request, but I have concerns. 

One is that I am tempted to run through as many of these agents as quickly as possible, because the faster I get rejected, the faster I can self-publish this book and get it all out to you. I want you to read it.


via GIPHY

The second concern is that I'm not hungry for the traditional contract (as you can tell from Concern #1). What if I get a delightful agent who works their tushie off and gets me a deal that they believe is spectacular, and my reaction is, "Yeah, but what about the publicity?" Am I labeled an ingrate who has burned her traditionally-published bridges?

I'm giving it all a deadline of November before I start the self-pub production cycle. That should give me enough time to get everyone queried and get responses back. 

In the meantime, here's a teaser of what awaits. (Note to my readers: this is an R-rated book, unless I get an agent who makes me take all the sex out. Just think you should know.)


BLOOD DRAGON RISING


When I was six years old, a dragon killed my uncle. My parents told me it had been an intruder, an assassin who snuck into our castle in the darkness of the waning moon. Dragons don’t exist, they said, except in bad dreams.
But I was there. After killing my uncle, the dragon came to me. I tried to scream and run, to at least squeeze my eyes shut, but I couldn’t. He was terrifying—and mesmerizing.
The size of a horse, he was crimson and black, with a line of golden spikes down his back to his tail, which he whipped about like an annoyed cat. His coat looked feathered and silky. If I hadn’t been so frightened I would have reached out to stroke it.
His body was a curious mixture: stocky, yet lithe, with enormous lion-paws in the rear. His thick front legs ended in something like hands, bony as bird legs, but covered with feathers like fancy gloves. At the end of each “finger” was a long, curved talon. I could see the lines of his wings, attached to his wide shoulders and tucked against his body.
His head was almost delicate in structure, with the large liquid eyes and wide nostrils of a high-bred horse. The ridge above his eyes drew a line to the two arched horns between his perked ears.
As he sniffed me, the crescent-shaped pupils of his eyes glowed silver. His breath smelled of ashes. He brought one of his oversized “hands” to my chest, pressing me against the wall. Tremendous talons wrapped around my head and shoulders, their tips threatening to pierce me.
I can still feel the cool hardness of claw on my cheek, and the bony pad of his hand on my breast. My heart pounded so violently his hand pulsed to the beat. Tears streamed down my face, but I lifted my chin and glared at him with all the anger and haughtiness of a six-year-old daughter of nobility.
After some moments of what I can only describe as a combination of terror and excitement, he backed away. I stood in awe as he unfolded his enormous wings and revealed his terrifying beauty. He turned and flew, with a cry expressing both anguish and victory. Even if I could have forgotten the smell of his breath, the feel of his talons against my skin, I could never forget that scream.

Now, on the eve of my 18th year, I am a grown woman, preparing to be a bride, and leaving my childhood behind. Still, there is a corner of my heart always keeping watch, both fearing and hoping to see another great beast of fire and claw.

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