Thursday, January 29, 2009

Positively . . . Bummed

You know what commercial I hate? Somehow, Just For Men Haircare plunked down enough cash to get Walt "Clyde" Fraiser and Keith Hernandez to forgo their pride and sit in a hockey style booth at a bar. This setting apparently gives them the right to be as catty as women who've tipped back a few too many Cosmos, because they are sitting there, pretending to be watching some sporting event called "One Night Stand Goal!" And some guy who waltzed right over from the Bowflex commercial, pausing only long enough to have his hair spray-painted white, is turned down by the most shallow of all barflies, because his hair makes him old.

And Walt (or is it "Clyde?" I never can tell) and Keith go, "Rejected! No play for Mr. Gray!"

I hate this commercial. Like women don't get enough of this crap; now marketers are doing the same thing to men, and making women look like we have all the depth of a puddle.

And sadly, Walt (Clyde?) and Keith have been in my head for days now. Ever since I got the email.

The Email. From The Agent.


Yup. The Agent is going to pass. And I quote:

"Thank you very much for letting me see your work. Unfortunately the project does not seem right for me, and I am sorry I cannot offer to serve as your agent.

You write well and I usually find Western settings appealing, but the characters are just not working for me.

I do wish you all the best on finding more suitable representation, and thank you again."

Now, this is depressing. Perhaps the Noseless Cowboy isn't as entrancing as I thought; perhaps the things that make sense in my head don't actually make sense to anyone else. This sort of thing could quickly spiral out of control until I've managed to convince myself that I'm just wasting my time and money on the pipe dream of publication.

But this little drama occurred while I was what I like to call "dog-sick." As in, sicker than a dog. Remember last week, when my Mom and Gram and I spent the day shopping? Well, Mom came back up and hung out with us the rest of the weekend.

Bad Idea. Mom doesn't have the natural Kid-Germ Tolerance that those of us who spend all our free time with toddlers do, and she got sick. Very (damn) sick. And then she shared. She feels lousy about that, and I can't blame her, but it wasn't like she did it on purpose.

So I've been sick. Not as sick as Mom was (no one could be that sick) but still, it's been a workout to keep both eyes open AND my head upright for a few days.

Ergo, I've been too damn tired to be depressed. Oh, sure, I sniveled a little, but I felt like poo, I had no idea when my hubby was going to be able to get home, and I was, as Clyde (Walt?) and Keith kept saying, "Rejected!"

But being dog-sick also let me get a little distance. And distance, for me, equals perspective. And perspective equals Becca.

Everyone should have someone like Becca, if not the actual Becca, in their life. One of my oldest, dearest friends, Becca is the Zen-Master of Perspective. She radiates such measured calmness that it actually freaks a lot of people out - which is what initially drew me to her.

Becca has given me immense perspective as she is the living embodiment of "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff." Very handy for someone like me, for whom tizzies are second nature. The woman has talked me down more times than I can count, on everything from grad school rejections (oof, more rejections!) to the fact that a psycho relative of mine who shall remain nameless lest she sue me wore her mother-of-the-bride dress to my wedding, despite the fact that she's not my mother (one of my few wedding freak-out moments).

Becca's perspective is now (almost) second nature. So instead of dwelling on the fact that the agent passed on the book, I'm forcing myself to look on the positive. The agent said I write well. And since she requested the full, my query letters are getting better. The characters aren't working for her; they may work better for someone else. And I never really thought of this book as a Western, because that conjures up spaghetti westerns and Silvardo and Indians who are two dimensional at best, proving once again that I don't write stuff that is easily categorized.

This isn't the end of the line. Just another pit stop on the journey.

But now what? I think I still have two agents out of the initial six I queried who haven't responded. Do I query this book some more? Try to query the Lily and Bobby books (Don't Hold It Against Her and The Best They Could)? My instinct is to bury my head into the Warrior, Lawyer book (no, I don't have a better title yet) and finish it - it's almost done anyway - and query the same agent for that. She might like Nick and Rissa better. Or not.

I don't know. Unfortunately, this journey did not come with a built-in road map. Just a sound track with sports stars of yore shouting "Rejected!" on a constant loop.

Man, I HATE that commercial.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

MIssion Accomplished!

So this is late. My apologies to the two people who looked for a new blog today and didn't find one. But I have an excuse! A lousy one, but still, an excuse!

Today was an example of what you might call Life Happens. But in a good way.

My Mom and Gram (who will be 94 in exactly two months) came up for the day today. I knew they weren't going to get here until 10, but then I remembered some errands I needed to do, and that left me with all of 10 minutes to sit and contemplate blogging. And instead, I spent ten minutes thinking about Lakota cowboys riding horses without their shirts on.

So it's not like I wasted the time.

I'll have time this afternoon, I reasoned. Gram is, after all, Old, and will probably need to come home and rest for an hour or so in between bouts of shopping and playing with her great-grandson.

Boy, that didn't happen. Gram is the original frugal German in our family tree - I suppose her parents might have also been frugal, but for me, the line starts with her. A normal shopping expedition with her involves a couple of known events:

1. Searching for something she 'needs' (which is almost always those little old lady double knit pants with the solid band of elastic around the waist - you know the ones)
2. Yelling at hapless clerks who do not understand what she is looking for (which is almost always because the clerks didn't know such pants still existed, more or less that anyone would actually want to BUY them)
3. Sitting down to rest (because she's just not as spry as she was when she was 82)
4. Finally finding what she 'needs'
5. Deciding that she doesn't need the item right now and will wait (thereby guaranteeing a repeat of the entire laborious process)

Always. This is a given when Gram says she wants to go shopping. I suppose it's because the pants are never on sale for $1.98, but I've never seen her buy herself something without major arm twisting on behalf of me or Mom, and even then she will complain that she either spent too much on something she didn't need or didn't get the right version of the item for weeks on end. As you might gather, shopping with Gram is not what some might call "fun."

But today, something magical happened. Well, not at first. At first, we went to a store, Gram yelled at some clerks who were doing their dollar best to find pants with all elastic, not just elastic in the back, and then sat on a bench while Mom and I tried on stuff that was 90% off.

(Side note: Can you smell the desperation in the air at mass merchandisers? Wow. Usually the only time of year you see 90% off is for crappy Christmas decorations no one wants around St. Patrick's Day. But in this economic climate? The stores we were at had racks and racks - and several more racks in the back - of stuff at 70%, 80%, and 90% off. One local department store sent out flyers yesterday advertising 75% off the whole damn store (Levis excluded). Today another store was advertising buy one, get one on just about everything but the diamonds. The clawing hopelessness was contagious. I was morbidly depressed after shopping at one store. But then I bought some pearls and felt much better, because, man, they were on sale!)

Back to the story. After that predictable shopping disaster, we picked up the toddler from daycare and hit the mall. And after a brief stop in the Misses section, we rerouted to the Petites (because Gram was, in her heyday, all of 5 feet tall. She's down to almost 4"10' now. Or is that 4'10"? Whatever. She's short.) We found the pants. In her size. She tried them on (which has only happened about twice before in my memory), and then - this was the shocking part - bought them. No clerks were harmed in the process, even!

My mom - who figured she had about 40 minutes of browsing before Gram decided not to buy pants - wandered over to make sure I still had line-of-sight on a toddler after about 10 minutes. "Where's Gram?" She asked.

"Buying pants."

Mom's jaw hit the ground so fast that it bounced back up and knocked her backwards. "She's buying PANTS?" This after we'd been shopping for pants at other stores for several hours.

Yes, it was a weird day here. Not only did Gram buy pants, but she bought other things as well. She even bought a jacket! Taken together, she bought a whole outfit!

Needless to say, there was no afternoon break to recharge. The closest we got was 15 minutes at the cafe at Sam's Club. (Can you call that a cafe? They do, but I'm not sure it's really a cafe.) She downed half of that massive cup of Coca Cola, and we were off again.

She had fun. Mom had fun. I had fun. Even the toddler had fun (fun helped along with a matchbox car wash set on sale for $1.65, but fun nonetheless). And the truly shocking thing was that we all had fun together.

We got home at 6:40, at least three hours after I thought we would, which barely gave us enough time to turn around and pick up the hubby from his fun-filled 13 hour January work day (it gets better in February; March is a dream come true!)

So, as you can see, I am just now getting around to this blogging thing, because today I had to work on one of my New Year's Resolutions, which was Be a Better Daughter and Granddaughter.

Life Happens. But in a good way.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I'm IT!

A while back, my friend Lucy 'tagged' me. And being me, I had no idea what that meant, and was busy doing all sorts of holiday related, air-craft carrier wrapping. But apparently, being 'tagged' means that you have to post seven random things about yourself, like Lucy did here.

Well, the holidays are over, it's the middle of January and about -6 outside today, and I don't think most people want to listen to me debate the pros and cons of writing shopping scenes in the new novel. So, only a month and a half behind schedule (which is about when I finally get to my thank-you notes), I present seven random things about myself. I apologize to everyone.

1. I do not like coffee. Or beer. I drink a lot of tea - on days like today, up to seven cups. My hubby once wondered how on earth I could have made it through a bachelor's and a master's degree without drinking coffee. I subscribe to this weird theory that I should actually LIKE the stuff I'm consuming, and both coffee and beer taste disgusting. Hence why I was the sober walker back during those heady undergraduate days.

2. I'm what you might call an extroverted introvert. Which means that, in general, I don't like being around people. This is reflected by my general lack of friends. (Don't get me wrong. The ones I do manage to make, I keep.) But, when situations like the recent three holiday parties in four weekends arise, I put on my game face and channel ... my father. Yes, the man who has been labeled 'gregarious' (by the Christian Science Monitor, no less!) suddenly starts cracking jokes out of my mouth. Granted, my jokes are never as funny as his are, but for relatively short bursts, especially with a glass of wine in hand, I can be sociable. And then I have to go home and not talk to anyone for three days.

3. I'm the oldest. True, my situation is a little different because my sisters are twins, but I'm still the oldest. And I'm a textbook oldest. When I read about birth order studies, I fit the profile perfectly. Responsible? Check. Adult-pleaser? Check. Follows the rules? Usually. Bossy know-it-all? I'd be lying if I said that weren't true. And even though my sisters are twins, they also fit the middle and youngest child patterns perfectly. Turns out, eight minutes can make a world of difference.

4. I love daffodils. More than any other flower, daffodils do it for me. When I was a little girl, my mom and I even had a secret word for them, probably based on my inability to pronounce 'daffodil.' I called them dolly-flods, and still do. (Which I've never typed before. It looks really silly, but it's true!) I probably put close to a thousand in the ground at our old house in Chicago, and have easily passed that here. And I have grand plans to put a few more thousand under our magnolia tree at some point, but that takes time, money, and a lot of Ben-Gay. I also regularly talk to my plants. It's not unusual to hear me yelling at my daffodils and crocuses when they pop their heads out in the middle of February. "NOT YET!" I yell at them. "IT'S TOO SOON! GO BACK IN THE GROUND!" Needless to say, I have very tolerant, amused neighbors. My hubby is used to it by now.

5. I've made peace with washing dishes. In grad school, when I only had a bar sink, I detested washing dishes to the point that things would be growing in that sink and I was eating my dinner off a napkin. I always felt better when they were done, because I do like neat and clean, but I just hated standing in that dark little kitchen/bath combo and washing the damn things. Now, though, I have a nice window that looks out onto a garden I planted last year and two trees with assorted wildlife that frolics in them. In the summer, I open the windows and listen to my son build sandbox worlds and the birds sing. I've come to accept that, as a woman, washing dishes is a direct connection with how my ancestors back to the beginning of time have cared for their families. I wash because I care. And I don't like stuff growing in my sink.

6. I have a strange woman's picture hanging in my office. My lovely co-worker and friend Mary frequents auctions, and I had been looking for old-fashioned picture frames for my stairwell o' family pictures. So Mary found a nice oval one - that came with a picture of a young woman's head and bare shoulders. The date says 1936, Bway NY, but no name. She's not a real looker - her teeth tend towards bucking, her nose is a little large - but she's got a sweet smile and a vintage haircut. Rather than chuck this picture that someone spent a lot of money on in the middle of the Great Depression, I decided to keep her and name her Agnes. She looks like an Agnes to me. She's taped to my filing cabinet. A head shot of my kid is now in the frame in the stairwell.

7. I hate getting haircuts. Back in high school, I got one haircut a year - three inches off the bottom. It was long, beautiful light brown hair that reached 3/4 of the way down my back. And I could do things with it - braids were my speciality. All my metalhead friends were intensely jealous of my hair. But the problem was that, while the hair itself was lovely, it didn't look good on me. I have a wide face that's not traditionally beautiful (one of the reasons I like Agnes so much!) , and all that hair weighing down on it didn't help. In general, shorter hair brings balance to my face. But that requires getting it cut, and then styling it. I love my stylist, Dawn, because she understands I'm barely going to make the minimum effort on behalf of beauty, but still, I only make it in to see her about every three months. In fact, I'm now officially growing it out because I don't want to get it cut right now.

Did you make it to the end? It wasn't so bad, was it? At least it was only seven random things. Trust me, I'm random enough that I could go on all day. But I can't - speaking of random, I have to write scenes of shopping at the Mount Rushmore gift store.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

What day is it?

Seriously, I'm a little confused. If I didn't have that nifty little calendar feature on my computer to tell me that today is Thursday, I'd have no idea. I think it's Tuesday.

The toddler spent the first part of the week throwing up. I spent the first part of the week doing laundry. And for two days, the rest of the time, we spent wedged into my chair watching every Pixar movie EVER MADE. (Except for Wall*E, because Santa forgot that one. Oh well.)

After careful analysis, I have expertly concluded that Dory the Fish is funnier than Mike from Monsters, Inc. But just barely. Rex the Dinosaur is a close third.

So, I've got a kid crammed against one hip, and three-legged wiener dog draped over my lap, and my computer precariously balanced on the arm of the chair, and I spent almost two days typing with one hand, because I already know Finding Nemo by heart. Nothing like pecking out soul-revealing conversations between two characters who have nothing in common but being carbon-based life forms and being stuck in the same car on a road trip while simultaneously comforting a toddler that fish are indeed friends, not food.

There was a fun break in the proceedings, when contractors actually showed up and began using a bobcat to dig out frozen earth and frame up brand new, only three months behind schedule, concrete steps.

Is there anything better, for a 3 1/2 year old boy, than staying home, eating blue Popsicles (doctor approved, thank you!) and watching a bobcat work less than two feet from you? If there is, it's watching movies in your jammies all day.

Sadly, the contractors have not reappeared, which means that I have no functional steps. Just a form with gravel in it. And a bobcat in my backyard.

What was that resolution I made? Something about Patience? I gotta get me some of that.

As you can see, things have been a little nutty around here recently. We still haven't gotten our acts fully back together from the holiday crazies. But that's okay, because the book I'm working on (while I wait - PATIENTLY - to hear from the agent) IS actually coming together.

Have you laughed at the title yet? Here, let me tell you, and you can laugh with me:

Warrior, Lawyer

It's even better when you say it like this, in a deep movie trailer voice: "Warrior (comma) Lawyer." The comma is very important to making this a really lame title.

But my Web Honcho, aka Craig, was putting stuff up on the site, and I wanted something up there. And that's what my brain came up with, on short notice.

Doesn't bode well, does it? At least it's funny.

But beyond the awful title, the book is coming together. The Warrior (comma) Lawyer in question is Nick Longhair. Nick barely merited a passing mention in the last book (that the agent is reading in full), as being sent to Harvard Law so that Jacob the Noseless Cowboy would have a top-notch lawyer. But I got to thinking one day, what would it be like to be a Lakota Indian at Harvard Law? The short answer is, it kind of sucks. The long answer is at 298 pages (in five weeks - stupid possessing muse!). I was calling it Lakota Legally Blond, but I figured Reese Witherspoon would beat me up, and she looks like she fights dirty.

So, if anyone else has any other title suggestions - real or hilarious, I'm all eyes. In fact, I dare you to come up with something worse that Warrior (comma) Lawyer.

I Triple Dog Dare You! (Sorry. Still a little nutty around here!)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year Ramblings

It's noon on the first day of the year. I'm fighting a sinus infection, not helped by having to get up with a recalcitrant toddler at 4:37 this morning, a mere 3 1/2 hours after we all finally tucked it in. He did go back to sleep until 8. I got that going for me.

So what I'm saying is, Happy New Year!

But I hope you're not expecting greatness today, because I ain't got it.

I got a picture of an aircraft carrier. THE aircraft carrier:

Yup. Now it didn't go quite as I predicted - he actually thought it was really neat and flew planes around for the better part of the day. Plus, his Mimi got him another plane, so planes have been swooping around and crashing into my tush for a week now. It was cool enough that he didn't remember that Santa didn't give him bike for a few days.

See that one plane? The one that looks like it's got a dinner plate on the back? It's moments like this that my hubby amazes me. He's a pretty atypical guy - I was recently spackling, sanding, priming, and painting a wall while he washed the dishes - but he still has the capacity to surprise me. Like when the toddler busts out the plane with the dinner plate on it and the hubby patiently explains, "Oh, now that's an AWACS plane, probably from 1966."


Is this a guy thing? Like when we'd pass a boat of a vintage car on the highway, and my dad would say, "Now that's a '57 Chevy, because they changed the fins from the '56 by three inches." And, as the car full of confused women (Mom and my sisters) thought, what the heck?, he added, "I liked the '58 better. Of course, they fazed the fins out . . ." he could go on for hours like this.

And my hubby - who makes the best damn chocolate chip cookies in the world - knows them all. All five of our new planes and helicopters. And this knowledge has been passed on to the 3 year old. Although he doesn't pronounce AWACS quite right. But he's got it.


So you got any resolutions? I resolve to be more patient, like when I wait to hear from editors and agents and Oprah's assistant (just kidding!) or when the toddler pushes my buttons or when contractors don't show or when I shatter a crown the day before New Year's Eve and no dentist is in the office until Monday. Patience. Gonna get me some.

I also make my standard resolutions, the ones I make every single year. Better posture (don't laugh, I've made this resolution for going on fifteen years now). Healthier eating. Be a better friend. Be a better wife and mother and daughter.

You know. The standard shift.

I wish I could make resolutions for my toddler - more pleases and thank yous, less whining, more sleeping through the night, picking up toys without being asked - but I know that's a pipe dream. Plus, it's bad for my karma.

So I make them for myself. More pleases and thank yous. Get some more sleep. Whine less. Try to keep my dining room table from becoming the dumping ground for the house.

All I can do is hope I keep them, and hope that it rubs off on my little guy.

I wish you all the best for 2009!