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You Know You’re In an M Pepper Langlinais Novel When

My son was trying to figure out what would make the list. But my books are all so different! There are some things that are in most but nothing, really, that is in all. Does that make me inconsistent? Or just original?

Still, I wanted to try.

  • You are in a big manor house of some kind.
  • Someone nearby is gay. Maybe more than one person, but at least one. Might even be you!
  • You need to solve a mystery or complete a quest.
  • A supernatural or magical element may appear.
  • Snark. You or someone near you has it.

August, Die She Must

I can’t say I won’t be sorry to see the back end of August. While the month started nicely enough with a trip to Santa Cruz, it has dragged on with ear infections, a perforated ear drum, and a scratched cornea. It’s like my body’s warranty ran out and I started falling apart.

The kids are finally back in school, which will allow me to return to a writing routine. I hope. Depending on how many more doctor appointments I have!

By the way, today is the last day to pick up Brynnde for free over on Amazon. So grab it now if you haven’t already!

Back to School Means Back to Work

Today is the first day of school where we live. Seems like we start later than most other places. I really enjoy this time of year because, after a summer of the kids being home, I finally have the house to myself again. And all the writing that I didn’t get done due to other activities and/or constant interruptions can now be tackled.

Of course, today is also the day our painters decided to start painting the house. Well, they’re power washing it now. Which doesn’t make for quality quiet time. But I think I can work through it. After all, I’m still deaf in my left ear, so the noise is only half as obnoxious as it might normally be.

Reflection

I started out writing short stories. I’ll admit they aren’t my strong suit, but at the time they felt like a testing ground and less of a commitment than entire novels. One of my earliest stories was published in Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine (now defunct) in 2004, and that gave me the courage to keep writing.

I put that story in the anthology The World Ends at Five, which I first published in 2008 then republished a few years ago. I think my favorite story in the collection is “Raising the Ruins,” which is told from the point of view of a Jewish-Japanese woman dealing with the loss of her culture because Japan has sunk beneath the waves and her mother is dead. Of course, I am not Japanese, and I’m only Jewish by marriage, so I’m sure some people would find the fact I wrote the story problematic. But I enjoyed exploring the themes of how we connect to our heritages, particularly if and when they are diverse. I myself grew up Creole and . . . Well, I don’t know what to even consider the other side, but my parents came from two very different backgrounds, and I am the result of their struggle to compromise and make something cohesive. Whether they succeeded is still a matter of debate.

I’m not sure why I chose Jewish and Japanese when I wrote “Raising the Ruins” all those years ago except that I very much admire the Japanese culture (what I know of it), and found the touchstones for it and Judaism easier to express in a story than Creole and mutt. I have since started a story called “Voodoo Lessons” that will more explore my Creole heritage; I don’t know yet whether it will be a short story, novella, or novel.

When I look back at The World Ends at Five I both think that the stories are better than I remember, and that they still show the marks of a writer finding her voice and learning her trade. But I’m not ashamed of them. At least one of them found professional publication elsewhere, which is worth being proud of. And I’m able to read the fairy tale “A Tale of Two Queens” to my kids’ classes; it is the only story I’ve written that is suitable for that. (I originally wrote it as a birthday gift for a friend and co-worker.)

Not sure what brought this one to mind today. Guess I was feeling nostalgic.

Winning the [Ear] Lottery

A week ago, I lost hearing in my left ear. Honestly, it just felt muffled, like when you change elevations. But nothing I did could clear it. So I went to the doctor.

She looked in my ear and told me it appeared my eardrum had ruptured.

She wanted me to see an ENT, but of course they couldn’t get me in until yesterday. So for a week I’ve been deaf in one ear, and I’ve also had to take antibiotics because my ear started weeping. Ugh. That, in turn, led to ear pain and jaw pain and a swollen lymph node. I couldn’t chew, so I had to eat only soup and other soft foods like pasta.

It’s been a blast.

The ENT first gave me a hearing test, which I felt was kind of dumb since it was more than clear I can’t hear out of one ear. The test confirmed this. But it also made clear that (a) my right ear works beautifully, and (b) the problem with my left ear is not permanent. The bone and nerves are fine. It’s the middle ear that has an issue.

Finally, they actually looked in my ear. And it turns out I’d won the lottery. I have an ear infection AND a perforated eardrum. So they sucked gunk out of my ear, then put more gunk into my ear to clear the infection. I have to walk around with this gunk in my ear for a week. Then I get to go back to the ENT and have them suck it out. Hopefully that’s all that will be required. They can’t get a good look at the eardrum until this bit is taken care of. Once it is, they’ll be able to tell whether the eardrum is healing on its own (which is most likely) or will need to be patched.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, I’ve lost a week to having earaches that felt like someone was stabbing me in the ear with a screwdriver. (And now the inside of my ear is crazy itchy, but there’s nothing I can do about it.) The sum total is that I’ll probably have to push back Faebourne‘s release again. Sigh. It’s a mess, I’m a mess, the world is a mess. Best laid plans and all that. But I don’t want to release a half-baked book, so I’m going to take my time and do it right. I thank you for your patience and promise it will be worth it in the end.

Do You Believe in “Meant to Be”?

I’m not talking love, though I guess one could also apply this in that direction. What I’m focused on here is whether I’m “meant” to ever have a literary agent.

I’ve had agents, is the thing, and it’s never worked out. So I’m starting to think maybe I’m just not meant to have one.

The first one was a well-known screenwriting agent who agreed to handle some options for me, but he scared away the directors who wanted my script, so nothing ever came of it.

The second was an agent who admittedly mostly dealt with actors and “personalities.” I was her first writer—she’d been wanting to add a writer to her stable, she told me—and she didn’t really know what to do with me or my work. She was a great cheerleader but no more useful than that.

And the third sent my manuscript to only one place before giving up and telling me she just didn’t have the time.

Maybe I’m just not good enough to attract better agents. But I also have to wonder if maybe I’m just meant to go this alone and continue to self-publish. Am I wasting time and energy looking for a champion and hoping for a bigger, better deal? Maybe it’s time to shrink those dreams down to pocket size and learn to be happy with what I have.

International Cat Day

Crowley

I’ve owned a lot of cats in my life. Socks, Whiskers (aka “Grizz”), Precious, Clotilde, Smudge, Armand (aka “Chook”), Tapette à Mousche (aka “Choo Choo”), Loki, Byron . . . That’s not even all of them. And I’ve loved every last one of them, but you know how these things go—some pets and people leave a deeper impression on you than others. You form a closer bond.

Currently we have two black cats, Crowley and Minerva. Crowley is two and Minnie is three, though we got Crowley first. He was rescued from under a bush, not properly weaned, and he still nurses on my arm, by which I mean he kneads and sucks on my bare forearms. Hurts like the dickens, but I’m unwilling to deprive him. That probably makes me a bad mama.

Crowley is named for the character in Good Omens, though when people hear his name they more often think of the television show Supernatural. Or so I’m told. I don’t watch it. (*gasp*)

Minerva

Minerva, meanwhile, is named for Professor Minerva McGonagall. We got her on Hallowe’en eve, so it seemed appropriate. She, too, was rescued from shrubbery, but she was already 6+ months old at that point. The people who’d found her couldn’t keep her because the wife was allergic, and they were worried the cat would get run over by a car. So we took her in.

Because Crowley was so young when we adopted him, he’s really never known any other life. Minnie, however, had been on her own for quite some time, and it was a difficult adjustment. She lived under my daughter’s bed for several months, only coming out at night to eat and use the litter box. Eventually, she’d stay out longer. Emerge earlier. And now she’s quite comfortable being around us, though she will only allow my daughter to pick her up, and she still sleeps at night in my daughter’s room. I have to schedule Minnie’s vet appointments around my daughter’s schedule because she’s the only one who can get Min into a carrier.

Crowley is my cat. I call him, “my baby,” and have as deep an affection for him as any pet I’ve ever owned. And I’ve had a lot of pets in my life. I love Minerva, too, of course, but we haven’t bonded in quite so strong a way. Crowley brings me toys when he wants to play. He follows me upstairs when it’s bed time. Sleeps beside me. Minnie . . . tolerates me. She lets me pet her. She’ll accept treats and will sometimes play if I dangle a toy in her direction. But she’s closest to my daughter and husband. I’m a distant third.

Anyway, it being International Cat Day, I thought I’d share my two sweeties. Do you have cats or other pets? What are their stories?

Success Soup

This article has made the rounds in the writer world today. Most of the attention has been directed at the fact that this author had the misfortune to be represented by Mark Gottlieb, an agent who has since been outed as pretty terrible on many fronts. But what I keyed into while reading it was the despair. The exhaustion. This author has been pushing that boulder up the hill for 11 years, and I get it. I’ve been there myself.

We’re bombarded daily by messages that tell us: “If you just try hard enough, you’ll get there!” That’s patently untrue. If everyone could get there, we’d all be there—wherever it is we wanted to be. But we can’t all make it as actors, writers, musicians, athletes, investment bankers, lawyers, whatever. Telling people they can be whatever they want sets them up for disappointment in the long run.

This is probably not helping anyone feel better, and in fact it angers a lot of people whenever I say it (which is fairly frequently), but I’m a realist.

The thing is: success is not a measure of talent. Success is a byproduct of a lot of ingredients, of which talent is only one (and sometimes not even necessary depending on other ingredients). Luck, timing, connections, serendipity . . . There are so many things that contribute to success. And even if you have a pantry full of talent, if you don’t have at least something to season it with, you can’t make soup.

And a lot of these things you can’t go buy at the corner grocery. You can hone your skills as a writer, you can up the chances of making connections by attending conferences and events, but some of the ingredients for success soup are like lottery prizes. You hope to win some of them, somehow. “A little luck sure would spice this soup up a bit!”

People like to say things like, “Make your own luck,” but those are the same people who already have what they want, often due to privilege (like their daddy owning the company). Again, if making luck were something we could all do, we’d all be lucky.

So before you tell someone they just didn’t try hard enough, or want something bad enough, think about the things you want and don’t have. Why don’t YOU have everything you want? Is it because you haven’t tried hard enough? Are you too lazy to have them? Is it because you lack talent or ability? And if you do have everything you want, how nice for you. But I can bet it wasn’t your own skill alone that got you there.

Don’t let not “making it”—and it’s really important to define success for yourself and not let others do it for you—make you think you’re not talented. Success soup can be made with various quantities of talent and all the other stuff I listed above, but a big bowl of talent alone won’t do it. And your access to other ingredients may be limited by gender, socio-economic status, geography, support systems (or lack thereof), and other biases. Or it may be limited by bad timing or plain bad luck.

Not everyone will make it. Not everyone can; the system doesn’t allow for that. “Anyone can be a writer.” Not true. Many writers can’t be writers, at least not in the sense of making a living at it. Anyone can put words on paper, sure, assuming they’re literate, but in a compelling way? Not everyone can tell a good story. Not everyone can sort through and organize information into a non-fiction book either, no matter how much they know about a subject. It takes skill, if not talent (not all successful people are talented, they just make up for the lack of flavor with many other ingredients). And even then, many will fall short.

Anyone who promises, “You can do it!” is telling you a lie. Sorry if that seems harsh, but let’s get real. Try hard enough, want it bad enough, and you might succeed. Write anyway. Make art anyway. If it’s in you, you won’t be able to stop yourself. Even as your heart breaks because no one else cares, you’ll keep coming back to it, again and again. And where’s the harm, aside perhaps from self-persecution? If you give up, you surely won’t succeed. If you keep writing anyway, just because you love it, you may yet get there, if only by an accidental left turn at Albuquerque.