Month: February 2016

Week 8 2016- The Desiderata

My grandmother used to ask what I would like of hers after she died. She was determined to leave each of her grandchildren something to remember her by so she was always asking from even my earliest childhood. I wanted something impossible.

I wanted perfect spring days and our talks on her screened in porch over iced tea as we watched the birds flitting about the fountain in the garden, petted her dogs (there were never fewer than three) laying at our feet, and the occasional graces of the cats wandering in and out to see if there was a bird or a lizard they might be able to catch.

I have come to believe that porch exists in my heaven, and it’s always a fine spring day with birds chirping about and cats hoping for prey while dogs are cradled at my grandmother’s feet. She is young once more, and she always has fine company and new stories to tell. One day I will visit her there again.

As the mysteries of the afterlife were not on the table as things my grandmother might leave me, I asked for the framed poem that hung outside her bedroom. I remember reading it the first time. The peace that came over me was mystical. I asked her about it, and she told me of a trip she took to Baltimore ages before. She liked the poem and purchased it from the gift shop of some ancient, historical church. Whether or not the words of this poem had the same profound effect on her as it did on me, I do not know. Perhaps, she never needed these words and they were already part of her soul.

My grandmother left this world four years ago.  The poem, still in its original frame, dingy with age, now sits above my writing desk. When the world tosses and turns me in its fury, these words restore me and calm me.  This is what keeps me going until I find those perfect spring afternoons with my kindly grandmother in the fullness of eternity.

This week started stormy in my head, full of worry and doubt, and ended with me returning to the peace I find in these words.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Week 7 2016 – The Slush Pile Cafe

SlushPileSo I am opening a café. It’s virtual because my funding for it at this time is virtual (non-existent). It is a café for writers at all stages of their career, and those who help us, delight us, improve us all the while tormenting us (beta-readers, editors, agents, cover artists, marketers, publicists, book critics, and fans.).

After a writer completes a book, most of us would like there to be readers. Lots of them.  This involves a great deal of waiting, and usually that waiting is done at the bottom of a slush pile. This idea came to me when reading this post by Janet Reid about an agented author waiting to hear about her second novel placed with that agent. I just want to hear about my first novel,and realized I am way on the bottom of several slush piles. Hence, I give you the Slush Pile Café.

The Slush Pile Café

SlushCafeFloorPlanImagine a 4-story circular building that opens into a lovely outdoor café and garden at its center. Think miniature pentagon. There is free WiFi (naturally), and it is pet friendly. Writers get awfully attached to their animals.

IMG_0299Note: If you have a horse or a dragon, please call ahead. We can only stable so many horses, and we can only provide so many treasure hordes for dragons. And some people become unglued when they see a dragon outside the pages of books.  Most writers are totally fine with them. The café is divided into several distinct areas to accommodate the entire writing process (from start to fans).

The Query Trenches

SlushMenuThis part of the Slush Pile Café is for writer’s who are deep in the Query trenches or trying to finish their book. The Query Trenches is located next to the coffee and bakery station. If you wish, there is an app available inside the trenches that will hit refresh on your email every two seconds and alert you when an agent or editor has made some reply to your query or request. After 90 days, it will send a gentle follow-up to non-responding agents. If the agent is one of those Normans (No Response Means No), it will pipe sappy love songs from the 70’s elevator music into their office.

The Plot Thickens Craft Bar

IMG_0152In the basement of the café is a craft beer and whiskey bar. This is primarily for writer’s with works in progress. This area seeks to satisfy the writer’s needs so they can keep editing and writing. The beer, various bar classics, and generous offering of typical pub fare should keep them calm or at least inspired until they pass out and dream up that next plot twist. *NOTE: Magic mushrooms are available at additional cost.

The Critique Corner

Both the café and the bar cater to this little corner where beta readers and critique groups gather, discuss, and offer feedback to all those works in progress. Agents and editors are welcome here as well.

The Slush Pile Itself

IMG_0160This room is covered with unread pages and manuscripts waiting for review. There are printers and e-readers, and of course, ample numbers of cushy chairs to allow agents and editors to work their way through their individual slush pile. 

A relaxing atmosphere is provided to keep those gatekeepers at peace as they read their way through. For each manuscript reviewed, the café offers one free beverage of the reader’s choice. Each week, The Slush Pile Café will sponsor one agent or editor to answer writer questions for two hours.

This week’s special: Zombie Killer Ale

The Dream Shelf

UnattendedChildrenCurious as to where your book will live on bookstore shelf?  This is the place where anyone can go and do some reading while sipping on Fantasy Mochacinno or Mystery Espresso. There will be displays devoted to writers who have successfully navigated the query trenches and found their way to print. Three times a week, authors will be invited to do book signings and readings of their work. A Slush Pile Café app will be available to mock up a cover for an aspiring author and put it around a standard size debut novel. The author can then put the book where it will one day live on the real world bookshelves just to see what it will look like.

The Board Game Loft

IMG_0452A second bar area will be located upstairs in a two story loft area where writers and readers, agents and editors can unwind with some friendly board game competition. All those hostilities that build up in the glacial process that takes a writer from idea to print, an agent from newly discovered talent to six figure book deal, the editor from the slush pile to the best-seller and movie deal, the reader to the discovery of a new magic in the universe in book form can be distilled in friendly and often humorous competition. Once a year, I will capture (invite) two to three established authors to join us at the Loft for a game of Cards Against Humanity. That will be lots of fun, and we can all learn something from those who have already survived the query trenches and found writer nirvana.

 

I hope to see lots of you at the Slush Pile Café.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 6 2016 – The Divinity of Ants

 

IMG_0433There’s an old saying here in the south, “if you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans.” I make God laugh all the damn time. It’s not a divine giggle, not a holy snort, but deep, side-splitting laughter that has been known to disrupt the space-time continuum. .

I made God laugh so hard once that the Dark Ages kissed this millennia, dropping off a few of its barbarians, a couple of tyrants, and diseases. I am telling you, Einstein’s theory of relativity is nothing but the scientific explanation for what happens when the mighty universal creative force laughs at us insignificant ants.

 

gravitationalwavesBe happy I don’t tend to plan a whole lot or the momentary tear in the space-time continuum would pull velociraptors out of the Jurassic period. They would end up running about eating politicians and energy efficient cars. Not that this would be an entirely bad thing. Just saying.

velociraptor

In order to have a more coherent blog, I jot down possible themes for each week. So far, not one of those ideas have become an actual blog. Which is why so much of this is gibberish. I should stop making plans before someone really gets hurt or disco makes a come back. I’d much rather deal with the velociraptors than go another round with Saturday Night Fever.

 

The plan this weekend was to have the blog done by 3:00 PM Sunday. That didn’t happen. I meant to revise my query and synopsis and organize my next round of queries in case my other requests and this R&R go belly up. That’s not what happened.

 

I ended going to see Deadpool with my brother and nephew. The best things in life are always unplanned. They just are. My daughter, my pug, and going to see this movie today. All happy accidents. A movie hasn’t made me laugh this hard in well, never. Funniest movie ever. If you have a strong stomach and are not easily offended, screw your plans and go see this film. You could use the laugh.

That is not to say, nothing should be planned.  A strategy is necessary to accomplish anything. I am on course to become a fully functioning, successful writer, but it’s not the course I originally set out on. Don’t be too upset when life blows your plans up. Yes, we are all ants in the eyes of Eternity, but each of us, in those unplanned little moments, where we are forced to abandon a plan and react, when we just let go, there’s a bit of something divine in each of us. And it’s that little bit of divine spontaneity in us that makes us create, change, learn, evolve. So let God laugh. Velociraptors and disco are small enough prices to pay.

 

 

Week 5 2016 -Frankie’s Bookshelf

FrankieBookshelfIt’s not been what you would call an organized week. Or life. It’s mostly been like Frankie’s bookshelf. This is the shelf next to the back door with the basket with all of Frankie’s junk; her leash, her collar, her treats, spare toys, and what have you. It’s also one of several bookshelves in the house.

Aside from Frankie’s basket which has earned its place due to convenience, nothing else on my bookshelves are guaranteed their spots. I have never organized books or knick knacks, not by genre, author, or anything else. Not even by series. Books wander about the house freely so they are able to explore various positions on shelves, in the pile next to the bed, in boxes, in bags, in closets, and other dimensions that transect with my living quarters. I really should get more bookshelves.

IMG_0398 I like the chaos. It suits me. Except when I am looking for that one special book and have no idea where it is. That about describes my life. I have all the stuff I need, but it’s never in a place I can find it when I want it. I am pretty sure this is what happened to the pet Scotsman I have always wanted. He ended up on some shelf and I have no idea which one.

I get the feeling my pug knows where any book (or Scotsman) is at any given time, but she’s not going to tell me. In fact, I suspect she takes books out in the night and moves them. She is a very well-read pug. And she definitely does not want to be usurped by a Scotsman so I fear the poor fellow has been sentenced to some parallel universe where we will never meet.

That’s about the story of my week and my life. I seldom get what I want, but I almost always get what I need. Isn’t that the way the song goes?

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”  – The Rolling Stones