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Wednesday Walk (Minor Variations)

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I managed to fit in a walk today in advance of upcoming holiday family time. My iPod was primarily interested in playing The Script.

1. “The End Where I Begin” by The Script
2. “Flares” by The Script
3. “Hail Rain or Sunshine” by The Script
4. “Overjoyed” by Matchbox Twenty
5. “La Eile” an instrumental found on Don Henley’s I Can’t Stand Still
6. “Same Thing Happened To Me” by John Prine
7. “Mississippi” as covered by Sheryl Crow
8. “As Long As It Matters” by Gin Blossoms
9. “You Know Me” by Rob Thomas
10. “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” by Fall Out Boy
11. “Superheroes” by The Script
12. “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon
13. “A Minor Variation” by Billy Joel

“As Long As It Matters” is a song that always kind of makes me want to go slice open my wrists. I’d say I don’t even know why it’s on my iPod except songs like that are good in a way; they focus the dull ache of sadness to a fine, sharp point. It’s easier to treat a single, specific wound over general malaise. And anyway, Rob Thomas has always been a kind of balm to me, even in my dreams, so hearing “You Know Me” after “As Long As It Matters” reminded me . . . Well, at the very least it reminded me that Rob has a new album coming, so I can’t kill myself yet. That’s how one gets through it, you know. Keep setting up things to look forward to.

It’s been a difficult couple days, and I am feeling a bit down. “A Minor Variation” was a good song to end on since it pretty much confronts one’s blues:

Some days I have to give right in to the blues
Despite how I try to keep fightin’
It’s a sure shot I’m going to lose
And I’ll tell you why
You think I’m crazy
It’s such a sad composition
But can you blame me
For what’s been causing my bad disposition?
Ain’t nothing new with my blue situation
And nothing’s fine it’s just a minor variation

When troubles want to find me, I ain’t hard to find
They know where I am
Like a hungry pack of wolves when it’s feeding time
They tear up a man
And it’s a strange thing
‘Cause now it don’t really matter
More of the same thing
Don’t even hurt it’s a part of the pattern
But still in all it’s a small consolation
I just define it as a minor variation

Ain’t no way to fight ‘em, darling
Ain’t no way around ‘em baby
Ain’t no way to take ‘em, honey
No where to hide and believe me I’ve tried to shake ‘em

I’m getting to the point where I don’t feel the pain
And I’ve had enough
I’m ready for the next time it hits me again
Cause I’ve gotten tough
It doesn’t faze me
And now I’ve made my decision
I may be crazy
It’s not as though I don’t know that condition
Until I’m through with this blue situation
Pass me the wine, it’s just a minor variation

Ain’t nobody’s business, baby
Ain’t nobody’s worry darlin’
Ain’t nobody’s problem
No way to win when you’ve already been forgotten

And it’s a strange thing
‘Cause now it don’t really matter
More of the same thing
Don’t even hurt it’s a part of the pattern
Until I’m through with this blue situation
Pass me the wine, it’s just a minor variation

Five Alive

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I saw this on someone else’s blog—it was part of a bloghop or something, but I missed that. Still, I thought it would be a fun question to answer:

Name five fictional characters you would like to have in your life.

1. Sherlock Holmes. Because he’s interesting at least. One never gets bored when he’s around, even if Holmes himself can be rather irritating. There’s nothing I hate more than being bored. I’ll take irritation over boredom any day.

2. Lestat. Because he’s also quite a lot of fun. He’s a lot of trouble too, though, so maybe I’d prefer Louis? Though he might be kind of depressing. Hmm. I’ll split the difference and go with David Talbot then.

3. Methos (from Highlander). Hey, the prompt didn’t say the character had to be from a book, right?

4. Morpheus from the Sandman comics. Though, come to think of it, he kind of IS in my life.

5. The Tenth Doctor!

Hmm. All men. Maybe I should swap one for Elizabeth Bennet or something? A girl needs friends of her own gender, after all . . . I’ll take it under consideration.


A Glass Half Full

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I woke up feeling optimistic and then found a request for my manuscript in my inbox, so . . . Sometimes it pays to get out of bed.

Thinking ahead to the coming new year—it will be here sooner than you think!—my goals are to get an agent for Peter (or, failing that, publish it myself) and finish Changers, hopefully so that it will be in querying shape by this time next year. I have faith in Peter, and I’m already playing with ideas for more in the series, but Changers is probably more commercial. And there’s a chance it could be a series, too.

I’d also like to start shopping my TV pilot. I’m going to fix it up a bit per the feedback I’ve received and then see where it goes.

That seems like plenty enough to be getting on with for 2015. I really am feeling quite hopeful about my prospects on all fronts. Chin up, eyes forward, and . . . March!

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There has been a wren visiting the house each morning for the past week, and because I am always on the lookout for signs and totems: http://www.spiracanada.com/ravendreamer/totems/wren.htm

I can definitely relate.

Much Music

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Okay, so I have a lot of playlists from walks here. Last Friday was evidently “Billy Joel Day.”

1. “I Believe In Everything” by Matchbox Twenty
2. “Shades of Gray” by Billy Joel
3. “I Get No Sleep” by Richard Marx
4. “Jehoshaphat” by Don Francisco <—what's that doing there?
5. "A Matter of Trust" by Billy Joel
6. "The Longest Time" by Billy Joel
7. "Everybody Loves Me" by OneRepublic
8. "Home" by American Authors
9. "Human" by The Killers
10. "Love Come Lighten My Load" by Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers

I should maybe explain that "Jehoshaphat" was a favorite song of mine as a kid, and now my kids enjoy it, too, which is why it's on my iPod. Great jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!

On Monday, I didn’t have headphones, so I walked in silence. But on Tuesday:

1. “Stutter” by Maroon 5
2. “Paint Me Blue” by Tabitha’s Secret
3. “Believer” by American Authors
4. “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley
5. “California 37″ by Train
6. “Feels Like (It Feels Alright)” by Collective Soul
7. “Crumblin’ Down” by John Cougar Mellencamp
8. “Soldier” by Gavin DeGraw
9. “I Can’t Let You Go” by Matchbox Twenty
10. “Hands All Over” by Maroon 5
11. “London Homesick Blues” by Jerry Jeff Walker, featuring Gary P. Nunn

Shorter walks on Wednesday and Thursday because on Wednesdays I have library duty at my kids’ school and on Thursdays I have my writers group meeting.


1. “It’s About You” by Train
2. “Remember Manhattan” by Richard Marx
3. “The Man Who Never Lied” by Maroon 5
4. “Falling Farther In” by October Project
5. “Distantly In Love” by Jimmy Buffett
6. “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel


1. “I Am an Illusion” by Rob Thomas
2. “Hello New Day” by Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers
3. “Misery” by Maroon 5
4. “Get Back In My Life” by Maroon 5
5. “To the River” by John Mellencamp (my favorite Mellencamp song)
6. “Love Come Lighten My Load” by Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers
7. “If I Could” by October Project

No walk today because the kids don’t have school and I’m not up for marching them around in the mud. At least we’re getting some much-needed rain.

What Goes Up

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Well, and then I received two rejections this morning. I guess it can’t all be good news.

But I still have six agents reading my manuscript, and I only need one to like it enough to want to take it on. I’ve made it clear I’m willing to do more work on the book. I figure I’ve come as far as I can on my own and with beta readers and whatnot, but that doesn’t mean the manuscript is perfect. And I want to make it the best book it can possibly be.

It’s a juggle. If yesterday’s hopeful feedback was an up, and the two rejections today were downs (neither rejection, I should be clear, was from the agent I heard from yesterday; there’s still hope there), then another ball in the air today includes some promising feedback regarding my original TV pilot. While the reader suggested some tonal changes, on the whole it was mostly positive, the bottom line being it could be good network television material. That’s something at least.

So. More work to be done. On Peter most likely, on the TV pilot, and on my current project as well, which is about one third of the way finished. I’m aiming to have the first draft done by February. With the holidays looming, I know I won’t be hearing much from the publishing side, so I will try to focus on my work. Oh, and spend time with my family, of course.

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Encouraging Words

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I received some via e-mail this morning, and I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, but it’s difficult.

In the meantime, I’ve also turned down a book contract with an indie publisher. That was difficult, too. I had to really dig deep and determine whether it was the best path for me and Peter, and it just wasn’t. Even if all the other interest in the manuscript were to fall through—and I’m knocking on wood now in the hopes it won’t—the contract didn’t offer me anything better than I could do for myself by self-publishing. So, if all else fails, that’s what I’ll do.

But the e-mail this morning really has me hoping it won’t come to that.

Meanwhile, there have been many walks and I have many playlists, but I need to eat something and get some more writing done. Stay tuned.



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But this just arrived from the UK, so I’ll be nose deep for a couple days:



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There is a hashtag on Twitter (used to be all the hashtags were on Twitter, but they seem to be expanding): #MSWL. It stands for “manuscript wish list” and is ostensibly for literary agents to tweet what kinds of books they’d like to see cross their desks. You know, like, “Hamlet but with girls and a happier ending” or whatever (I’m just making something up for an example).

The thing is, instead of using this hashtag to find agents, writers have started using #MSWL to pitch their manuscripts. Now, some might be making an honest mistake (I did early on as well), but a few are persistent “violators.” They’ve been told #MSWL isn’t for them to promote themselves, but they keep doing it anyway.

But this post isn’t really about shaming anyone. It’s actually just that this phenomenon got me thinking about hashtags and their uses. You’ll notice I put “violators” in quotes. That’s because there aren’t really any rules to using hashtags. I mean, there may be understandings, but there is no way to enforce a specific use of any tag or label. Public shaming is about as far as one can go. It’s usually effective. But not always.

So. You’ve created a hashtag for a specific use. Then it gets co-opted by people who turn it around and use it another way. What, really, are your options?

Until there’s a way to privatize these things—can you imagine? needing permission to use a hashtag? being fined for misuse of one?—social media frequenters will simply have to put up with those who refuse to follow the rules. After all, some of them are excited by the fact you keep calling them out. In their minds public shaming is still publicity.

We’re relying on a honor system here. But some people have no honor. Just as in the real world we encourage people to throw their trash in bins, you’re still going to find the occasional scrap of litter in the grass. We get angry, maybe, but on the whole we’ve come to ignore it. Assholes, we think. Even as we step around the mess.

The Chinese Restaurant

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Literary agent Melissa Flashman was tweeting yesterday evening:

You may wonder what this has to do with books, but it’s all about meeting expectations in a way that sets you apart from the competition.

San Francisco (the Bay Area, as mentioned in the tweet) has a large Asian population and a well-known Chinatown. So why is it so challenging to be a Chinese restaurant there? Well, for one, the market is saturated. There are a lot of Chinese (and Thai, and Vietnamese, etc.) restaurants in San Francisco, each one offering its version of General Tso’s (or Gao’s, or however that particular restaurant decides to spell it). When there’s a lot of something—more supply than demand—how do you set yourself apart?

The second challenge is that people will already have their favorite places to eat. So these restaurants have to find ways to tempt the clientele away from their usual hangouts.

And then once they’re in the door, how do these restaurants meet the diners’ expectations? By providing what’s familiar—there’s that General Tso’s—while still somehow making it unique enough to set it apart from all the other saucy, spicy fried chicken dishes out there.

The same goes for almost anything you might market, but let’s look at books in particular. You’ve written a paranormal romance. There’s gobs of paranormal romance out there already. How will people find your book? What will make them pick it up instead of whatever is shelved next to it in the same category? And if they already like Patricia Briggs, what can you do to get them to pick up your book instead of hers (or at least after hers)? [A: Get Briggs to blurb your book, if possible, but other than that . . .]

I’m not going to say I have answers to these questions because the answers will vary by book and genre. One can’t market to individuals because everyone is different. The best one can hope to do is get a wide swath of readers with your campaign. And by thinking like a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco:

1. Make yourself attractive and inviting so that the reader chooses you out of the pile of options
2. Provide what the reader craves: something familiar BUT . . .
3. Make sure you’re giving him something unique enough, too, that he comes back for more AND recommends you to friends

It sounds easier than it is. Restaurants are notorious for opening and then folding relatively quickly because if they don’t make it in the first few weeks or months, they never will. Books have a longer, ahem, shelf life and more chances to find that readership, but with more books coming out every day, it’s increasingly difficult to rise to the top of the pile. Of course, writing a really good book helps. But every writer thinks they’ve written a really good book, or at least hopes so. And with so much noise out there, it can be hard to hear/find even the best stuff. So if you’re a writer, you’re really hoping that readers not only discover you but also share that discovery. Word of mouth, good online reviews—this is the stuff that makes or breaks restaurants. And writers.

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