A Memory

Almost twenty years ago, I made my first trip to London. My hotel was in Russell Square, and desperate to stay upright and not give in to jet lag, I walked myself over to the British Museum. Then I promptly got lost inside.

I had gone with the intent of seeing the Egyptian artifacts, which I did. But one room led to another and another—the Museum is very different now than it was then—and I couldn’t find my way out!

Then a gentleman—I want to say he was older, but at that time in my life, everyone was older—noticed my distress and asked if I needed help.

And—I kid you not—he was wearing a Derby. (Or, if you prefer, a bowler.)

I remember thinking: They really do exist!

Seriously, it was like seeing a unicorn. This British gentleman in his hat and suit. Or maybe that’s how guardian angels dress in London.

I laughed and blushed and said that I was lost, and this man put his hand on the small of my back (it seems forward now but felt reassuring at the time) and guided me to the exit.

Of course then I had to walk around and try to remember which direction my hotel was but, to paraphrase Dr. Grant, at least I was out of the museum. I spent some time in Russell Square . . . bought a soda from a stand there, as I recall . . . And eventually found my way back to my hotel and collapsed.

Not sure what made me think of that today.

A Scene

“Toya is ‘special’ to Yukito.”

. . . Well, until he heard it from Yuki directly . . .

Toya didn’t distrust Yue, exactly—if he had, would he have given Yue his power?

Yes. To stop Yuki from disappearing, yes. Yue, it seemed, was part of the deal.

“Toya!”

As though on cue, Yuki’s voice rang out, and Toya stopped walking long enough for his friend to catch up. Out of breath but smiling, Yukito halted beside Toya. “You have work today?”

“No,” Toya said. He studied Yuki for a sign that what Yue had told him was true. Was he special to Yukito?

Yuki’s smile faltered under the scrutiny. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” Toya repeated. He started walking again and Yuki kept pace beside him. “You seem more energetic lately.”

The smile returned in full force. “Yes! I was beginning to worry, but I feel much better now, ever since . . .”

Toya found he couldn’t look at Yuki. He stared straight ahead instead. “Since?”

“Toya, I . . .”

Something in Yuki’s tone brought Toya to a halt. He looked into Yukito’s eyes and wondered whether Yue was watching through them.

Yuki’s brow furrowed. He placed a hand on his breastbone as though to clutch—or shield—his heart.

“What is it, Yuki?” Toya asked.

Suddenly Yuki smiled again. “Nothing! I thought I’d forgotten my homework is all.”

Toya eyed him. Everything with Yuki was a negotiation. Toya constantly had to decide when to pursue and when to let go. This time . . .

He reached out and placed a hand on Yuki’s cheek. “Yuki. Whatever is troubling you, you can tell me.”

Yuki’s smile went slack and his eyes shimmered as though he might cry. “Toya . . .”

Toya waited. Why, oh why, did every interaction have to feel like being balanced on a knife blade? It was so exhausting. And yet there was still no one else Toya would rather spend time with.

Toya was about to relent, say something glib and continue walking, when Yuki pushed his cheek further against Toya’s hand. “Toya, I . . . like you.”

The words so startled him, Toya nearly dropped his hand. But that would have sent the wrong message, so Toya quickly overcame the impulse. “I like you, too, Yuki.”

“Really?” The eyes were so wide and searching, so hopeful, it pained Toya, even though the moment was a happy one.

“Really,” Toya confirmed. He felt a tightness release with him, a tension he hadn’t realized he’d been carrying. The hard edges of the world had softened.

Whatever else might happen, everything would be all right.

Toya dropped his hand. “Yuki . . .”

“Yes?”

Did you forget your homework?”

“N-no!”

“Come on, then. Maybe Sakura has made something to eat.”

Groovy!

click here for video

I started my online life as Yukitouya. By which I mean, that was one of my first ever email addresses back in the late 90s. The name is a combination of Yukito + Touya (often also Romanized at Toya, but I used the “u”). Yukito and Touya are characters in Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP and probably remain one of my favorite all-time couples. In fact, it only just now occurred to me that their love triangle may have subconsciously influenced the Cee/Marcus/Diodoric triangle in Changers.

I don’t still have the Yukitouya email address; the site it was on folded ages ago. And honestly, I hadn’t thought about Yukito and Touya in years either. But when Cardcaptor Sakura recently returned, well, I began to fall in love all over again. I’ve been showing the first series to my kids and eagerly watching Clear Card each week on Crunchyroll. And now I’ve had “Groovy” (as heard in the video above) stuck in my head for days. But it IS a catchy little number, and one can’t help but be a little buoyed by it, so I won’t complain.

CDs Save the Day

My car is seven years old, but because I don’t drive very much, it has only 58k miles on it. It’s a great car and will probably last forever at this rate, the one drawback being that, due to OS updates, it can no longer pair with my phone and I can’t use my iPod in it any more.

Satellite radio has its limitations, namely in that it doesn’t play only songs I like and want to hear. It also plays the same handful of songs repeatedly. So while I appreciate the lack of radio advertisements, I still can’t enjoy my satellite radio for any length of time.

BUT. My car is also just old enough to still have a CD player. And I am just old enough to have an album full of CDs that I couldn’t bring myself to part with. Good thing, too! Because I am now enjoying these CDs again and remembering what it was like to listen to a complete album in its intended order.

We have no other CD player, not in another car, not in the house. There’s this idea that everything can exist “in the cloud” or digitally or whatever, but sometimes you actually need physical media. Technology moves so fast that the physical world can’t always keep up. And it doesn’t always need to, either. For me, right now, CDs are fine. In fact, they currently work better for me than the latest, newfangled thing.

Sometimes we race ahead just to see how far we can go. And that’s fair. It’s natural to test our limits. But just because we can go farther doesn’t mean all the stuff we’ve passed by on the way is worthless.

New isn’t always best, or even better. Sometimes new is just new and nothing more.

False Hope

I think I’ve reached my breaking point.

On Twitter this morning I saw this tweet . . . I don’t want to name names here, so I’ll be somewhat vague, but the gist was that she had been close to giving up on being a writer but then her book or script or something was turned into a major motion picture! “Dreams really do come true!”

Gag.

I’m sorry, but I’m sort of done with all the false hope that successful people like to pedal. I’m a realist. Dreams come true—for some people. Not everyone. That would be amazing, but think about it: Are we all successful? Are we all getting movie deals and making big bucks as writers or artists or [insert personal passion here]? I can wish that for everyone, but I can’t promise that if I (or anyone) work really hard, I’ll reach my goals.

That’s the big lie.

Sometimes we try and still fail, no matter how good we are or how badly we want to succeed.

And it’s nice for someone who has “made it” to encourage the rest of us lowly wannabes. But it would be nicer and more helpful if she’d lend a hand.

That’s how the system works, if and when it works at all: People who’ve climbed up reach down and help someone after them, and then that person reaches down and helps someone, on and on in a chain.

But many times those who have reached the top, or even the penultimate level, are too worried about guarding their position. They’re worried about balancing themselves on that tiny pinnacle.

Words of encouragement are cheap, easy, and safe. They don’t cause the pendulum to swing.

ACTIONS, however, are the only thing that have impact. And this is true in every walk of life. Go ahead and post all your political anger on Facebook and Twitter, but if you don’t go DO SOMETHING, it won’t make a lick of difference.

So thanks, lady on Twitter, for the kind words. But until you prop that door open a little wider to allow more of us in, they mean very little.

“The Zodiac Clock”

I’m currently trying to find a home for this story I wrote called “The Zodiac Clock.” I don’t write many short stories these days, and I only wrote this one because there was an open call for submissions and I wanted to give that a shot. My story didn’t get picked for the anthology, so now I’m like, Well now what do I do with it? I think it’s a good story (though I’m probably biased), and I’ve been told to maybe write more and put out my own anthology, but before I go through all that, I’m looking for a place that might take the story first.

All this is a very long introduction to what I really meant to write about, which is: How I came up with the idea for the story.

I used to see this ad for a book called The Zodiac Cooks. It’s a cook book based on astrology, I guess? The image with the ad showed this blue cake divided into an astrological wheel/chart. Well, every time I saw this ad—every single time, even though I’d seen it a dozen times before—I’d think it said The Zodiac Clocks. Something about a quick glance at the image, and seeing the words out of the periphery of my vision—the cake looked a little like a clock, and “cooks” at a glance can be read as “clocks.” And I was sort of disappointed that it wasn’t The Zodiac Clocks because to me that sounds like an awesome book.

Well, as they say, if you can’t find the book you want to read, write it.

I didn’t write a whole book though, just the story. It does lend itself to expansion however. There’s potential there. I could either turn the story into a full novel or write more stories in the same world. I just don’t know yet if I want to do that.

Hopefully one of the places I’ve sent the story will want it. Otherwise I’ll shelve it for the time being.

Some stories start with the story and the title comes later. But sometimes you’ve got this great title and just have to find a way to make it happen.

In the Query Trenches

It’s been a while since I’ve made the rounds with querying. The last manuscript I shopped was Changers: Manifesting Destiny, which was eventually picked up by Evernight Teen and published *gulp* in August 2016. Has it really been that long? All the more reason to finish Changers 2!

With Manifesting Destiny I sent out 70 queries and received two offers, both from publishers, none from agents. Actually, when I queried The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller, I sent out 100 queries—I had vowed to stop at 100 and self-publish if I didn’t get any nibbles—and despite a lot of agent interest still only received two offers from publishers. (That one came out from Tirgearr Publishing in January 2016.)

I did send Brynnde to one well-known romance publisher. When they passed, I self-published it. I don’t really count that as a round of querying given that I didn’t try very hard. It was more like a shot in the dark.

So. Here I am with Hamlette. I’ve sent 46 queries, was briefly repped by an agent, but am now back in the trenches. I’ve had 19 rejections/non-responses so far, 3 requests for the manuscript, and am waiting to hear from the remaining 24.

I’d forgotten how difficult the waiting part is. I know I should busy myself with other work, but I keep wanting to check my email. Makes it tough to focus on my current WIP.

However, I’ve learned a lot from previous rounds of querying. Back when I was sending out Peter, I didn’t know you aren’t supposed to query agents and publishers at the same time. It makes sense when you think about it, but I guess I didn’t think about it, and therein lies the problem. So now, with Hamlette I’m focused on agents for now and may move on to publishers later, though given my track record, I may do better self-publishing. I think a publisher would have to be pretty special at this point to win me over. (Though of course Evernight will continue to get Changers!)

On the plus side, given how well my Peter query did (I had 17 requests for the manuscript based on the query), I at least have a good sense of how to structure a query in a way that gets responses. Though that may also just have been Peter; I’ve found writing queries for YA is a bit more difficult for some reason.

How about you? Ever run the querying gauntlet? Any tips or tricks? Or do you prefer to go straight to self-publishing? (I decide from manuscript to manuscript whether I’m going to query it or publish it directly.) Any small publishers you like? And if you’re not an author, does it matter to you if a book is self-published, small published, or comes from a major publisher? Where and how do you find/choose things to read? I’d love to know! Tell us in the comments!