Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Roller Coaster Year - 200th Post

I've been told recently that I haven't been blogging enough.  Perhaps.  But the reason is I haven't had a great deal to say.  Other things have occupied my mind.  Things over which I am still a bit froggered.

However, in the interest of keeping my fanbase, here are ten random thoughts to close the year.
  • Blogging is a wonderful way to meet new friends.  It is a great place to make yourself known.  And, it seems, there are at least a few people who like me.  However, I think I like the real world better.  Perhaps that's why I haven't been around as much of late.
  • Writing, it turns out, is easy.  Everything after is hard.  And discouraging.  I may not get an agent next year.  I very likely won't get published.  So be it.  Bigger things are coming.
  • No matter how bad things seem, lots of folks have it much worse.
  • Reading is fun.  iPad makes it funner.  My kids will read.  A lot.
  • One of my favorite words is rather.  I rather enjoy rather.  Others include, flummoxed, untoward, and quite.
  • I can no longer abide my neighbors and finally planted privacy hedges.  I haven't written about them recently because it is quite tempting to post pictures of the inside of their hoarding hole of a home.  That would be untoward. 
  • Lest (another favorite) you ever wondered what I look like, I am one of these guys.
  • I rather like my job.  It's full of kooks.  Great research material for a writer.
  • I will turn 38 in a few days.  All my hair is still the original color.  
  • I am going to be somebody's dad.  That's pretty cool.
2010 has been one roller coaster of a year.  It's had some highs, quite a few lows and one extreme WTF element.  As we pull into the station something new is about to open in another part of the park.  It looks like a good one.   I can't wait to ride it.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

My friend Prissy Bower, having forgotten he lived in South Florida for a number of years, asked if people down here put up inflatable (and dare I say lazy) Christmas decorations.

Yes.  Yes they do.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

So Now What Do I Do?

I've been reading some of the books a certain agent I want to query represents.  One I liked.  The other, I've just started, but so far...meh!

Assuming I get through it, and find that this agent is, in fact, a good fit, then what?  What are we supposed to say in our queries to let these agents know we've actually done our homework, without coming right out and saying it, and at the same time, not taking away precious words about our own books?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Work That Kills

Generally speaking, most airline pilots are, by nature, a lazy lot.  This is not to say they won't go out of their way to avoid working hard work.  While this may sound contradictory, it should be noted that any self-respecting pilot will do as much as possible to ensure they work as little as they can.

It is simply in the biology that these souls are unable to maintain monotony for great lengths.  And by great lengths, any thing longer than three hours counts.
This is why it is so darned hard for these people who, once a year, for three days, are forced to endure exhaustive and seemingly endless slide presentations and lectures on topics they have secreted to the recesses of their brain during the preceding twelve months.

Alas, annual recurrent training rears it's ugly head.  How people who work real jobs do this on a daily basis is a mystery.  After ten hours of sheer boredom, followed by rush hour traffic, barely time to eat dinner, and maybe a few minutes to relax in front of the Telly, there is no time for anything more than sleep.  Life must wait.  At least until all the paperwork is filled out.

For those whose lives resemble this, you have my pity.  Good God, it's only three days.  Anything more and you would have me at the end of a rope.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No Blog Love

Notice the lack of activity here lately?  I've been utterly unmotivated.  To write, to blog, to pretty much anything.  Ideas still come.  It's just usually while I'm working.  I'll jot down notes, but I guess it's frowned upon to pull out the laptop and whip off a chapter while cruising along at 39,000 feet.  So what good is an autopilot?

The truth is I'm much more distracted by something else lately, which I will explain at some point, shedding light on why I was so froggered a few weeks back.

The good news, however, is another rejection over the weekend.  How is that good, you ask?  It's been so long since I got any kind of response to a query, I was once again reminded I am supposed to be a writer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

When It Keeps Getting Better

Question for the day:

What does it mean when your critique partners say your latest bit is your best writing yet?

A compliment, for sure, but it leaves me wondering just how godawful everything that came before surely must be.

Does anyone else have this problem accepting praise?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Let It Be. Please. Please Let It Be.

If you haven't been to Awkward Family Photos, do stop by.  It's good for a daily laugh at, well, awkward family photos.  Today, however, they posted this video.  It's a bit different and left me with a few questions.

1. How can Lou Ferigno, who is deaf, keep better time than speed skater Dan Jansen?
2. When did Kelly McGillis become a woman again?
3.  Why?  Oh, why?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Library Frustration

What is it about old books that fosters the weird in both used bookstore owners and librarians?  It seems these places are a haven for the socially awkward.  And the power trip -- oh boy!

"I've got a couple of books on hold," I said, presenting my library card to a man so thin he must have been steam cleaned while clothed, subsequently hung out to dry, and then blown off the line only to land on his librarian stool.

"Did you get a call?" he shouted, from behind a steel bookshelf.

"A couple of days ago."

There was some mad shuffling.  His shaking hands flew above the shelf and then smacked at his sides.

"Howe," he said.  "We got anything for MC Howe?"

"Right here," said another one, wearing baggy pajama pants and a squared off afro, circa 1992.  He waved the books at me as he brought them over.  "It was more than a couple days."

"It was Wednesday," I said.

"You only get five days," he glared

"Okay," I said.  "You called Wednesday.  Thursday was Thanksgiving.  You were closed on Friday."

"We was open Saturday."

"I was out of town."


"I'm here today.  Are those my books in your hand?"

"They might well have been shipped off."

"I suppose, but it seems they weren't."

"Cause you were lucky. You only get five days."

"So I've heard.  I'm blessing my stars.  Can I have my books?"

And now I don't even want to read them.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Joe Gets Married

My friend Col. Joe is getting married.  Whether that is a good idea will play out later.  Joe is something of a stickler for details having retired after a 30 year Air Force career, during which he worked with Colin Powell on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  As you might imagine, The Colonel's wedding has been planned with military precision.  My favorite parts are in red, with my comments in blue.

0930 FRONT DOOR                            -SAME, JENNIFER,SCOTT,JEFF                       
1030 ESCORT ARRIVEES                    -JOHN, TOM, JIMMY,MIKE
1030 SET UP MUSIC                           -RODNEY, TRAVIS, PASTOR, ZYNKO
The wedding is at Disney World.  Joe promised the grandkids will be dressed as the seven dwarfs
1055 PLAY MUSIC                                           -NICK ZYNKO
1100 WALK DOWN THE AISLE                     - LUCY, JOE, JIMMY,MIKE
1100 RINGBEARERS                           -JACOB,JUSTIN,JACK,JOSHUA
1100 FLOWERGIRLS                           -CHLOE,MAYA,CLAIRE     
Quick ceremony.   Joe doesn't fool around.
1120 PLAY MUSIC                               -RODNEY       
 1200PLAY CHRIS BROWN SONG               -RODNEY
WALK KIDS DOWN                             -TRACY, MELISSA, TIFFANY, CHERIE, ANN,                             TONYA
1215 BRIDE ENTERS                          -SHERRY/NJ, TRACY
1215 GUEST REGISTER                                  -SHERRY/NJ                                                   
1230 EVERYONE EATS                                    -JOHN/RODNEY ANNOUNCE
Eat fast.  The next 15 minutes are action packed.
1230 PARENTS TOAST                                    -JIMMY
1245 BEST MAN’S TOAST                  -TOM  
1235 JOE’S TOAST                                                                             
1240 TRACY/MIKE, JOHN SPEAK                                                                                          
1245 FIRST DANCE                             -JOE, LUCY, RODNEY
1245 TABLE WALK                                        -JOE, TOM, NICK, JOHN, JIMMY,JENNIFER  
Apparently Rodney, who I believe is the DJ, will take over dancing with Lucy, since Joe is scheduled for the table walk during the first dance.   
1300 KIDS GAMES                                         -TRACY, MEL, TIF, CHERIE, ANN,TONYA
1345 CUT THE CAKE                           -JOE/LUCY
1350 THANKS TO ALL                         -JOE/LUCY
Hope you enjoyed your 5 minute cake.  Wedding's over.
Let's hope those bridal gummies don't distract the kids.  They've only got one minute to assemble for bubbles.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Turkey And Training Day

Where have I been?  Nowhere special.  I just haven't had much to blog about.  This week being Thanksgiving, I suppose I should be grateful I won't be spending it alone in some generic hotel in some generic city.  However, the reason I am not is that my annual recurrent training falls on Thanksgiving day.  In a 24 hour, 365 days a year industry there are no holidays. 

So while I've been studying my arse off in hopes of keeping my job, I haven't done any writing in the past month.  And the research I need to invest in querying is too daunting right now.  Come Friday afternoon all should return to normal, assuming I don't spiral down in a terrific crash of career threatening proportions.

Although that would leave me with more time to write.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Used Bookstore

To make room for our Korean, we spent the weekend clearing out closets and emptying bookshelves, ending up with dozens upon dozens of books.  So, I headed to the used bookstore for an encounter with what must have been the inspiration for The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy.

"Do you buy books?" I asked, thinking it was a stupid question.  After all, where else would they get their inventory?

"Well we don't really buy books," he said, looking up at me, while tilting his head down.

What followed was a ten minute explanation of the bookstore's purchase for credit program, wherein the seller of said books may offer their goods for store credit, equal in value to no less than half the store price of a previously owned and pre-read book, so long as the previously owned book is sold at a 50% discount on the original cover price, and credit cannot be combined for multiple purchases.

"Um, okay," I said, my head spinning.  "I've got some books for you."

"We're not taking any books."

"What?" I said, while the store's credit policy repeated on a loop in my head.

"We're well stocked.  And we're not doing all that well."

"Why didn't you say that when I first came in here?"

He groaned.  "It's our policy."

"So you don't want any of my books?"

He sighed.  Irritation dripped from his pointy beard.  "What have you got?"

"I've got fiction, non-fiction, hardcover, paperback.  You name it.  I've got it all."

"What?  A box?  Two?"


"Well, you can bring in A box.  I'll look through it."

This didn't seem promising, but I'd come all this way.  I was walking out of there with some store credit, so I picked the best looking box of the bunch, certain that when he saw what I had, he'd demand all the rest.  He ran his hand over the lot pretty quickly, setting aside a Spanish-English dictionary and one other small paperback.  Taking the two books over to his computer he spend the next several minutes staring at the screen, while I waited patiently.  Then, he started staring at me, with haughty eyes.  Was he waiting for me to say something?  To ask for help?  Had he forgotten I was the one he was waiting for?  I stared straight back.

Perhaps a mistake.

"I can offer you credit on these two books," he announced.

Only two?!  Out of the dozens I had carefully packaged and transported.

TWO?  For a measly half-credit on the store reduced price of 50% off the original cover price but limited to a cash only purchase not to be combined so I still have to shell out money from my own pocket?

"I mean," he offered.  "If you want I can look through your other boxes.  This didn't take long."

I mulled it over for about half a second and started nodding.

"Tell you what," I said.  "Give me my two books back."

He shrugged and handed them over.  I donated all my books to the local library, to be enjoyed by the masses free of charge.  And I get a lovely tax credit.

Not surprised the used bookstore isn't doing so well.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Advice You Can Trust?

I'm not terribly electrically minded, but I did a bit of re-wiring today. Since I know just enough to let go after it starts tingling, I turned to a reliable source for tips - the Internet, of course. I actually found what seemed like rather sage advice, citing Amps and volts and mathematical equations I had no idea lived in the world of electrical schematics.

It was a very helpful forum, answering some seriously technical questions. And then came the following:

"to get the most productivity out of your grow room..."

Yep. I had stumbled onto a marijuana forum, leaving me to wonder if this was advice worth taking. But I figured this dude likely spent a while pondering this wiring dilemma. So, what the heck? He sounded like a pro. I'll know for sure if my house turns up on those heat sensing devices used to find grow houses.

Maybe that's how I'll end up with a book deal. Infamy seems to be the key. Do something stupid, illegal, give birth to sextuplets, etc...

The good news is yesterday's fortune cookie promised fame and fortune are coming my way. The bad news is I don't believe in superstition. I mean, I not dumb enough to throw the thing away. Then it wouldn't come true. Instead I locked it in my safe. Just in case there's an electrical fire, which there has not been yet, knock on wood.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Am Froggered

When dazed seems inadequate, and confused just won't do; when stunned is off the radar and you find yourself in that place that lies beyond the other side of sense, where the world rushes past at light speed and you shrink down to a singularity, surrounded by a protective, mind-numbing haze that consists of a single question on an endless loop - WTF? - you need a new word.

That word is froggered

Remember the 80s video game where you had to maneuver a frog across a busy street and then over a rushing river, fraught with danger in the form of alligators, snakes and other frog squashing things? Each level got progressively harder. The cars whizzed by faster. The river sped up. As you got deeper into the game, the chances of frogger successfully reaching his destination grew slimmer. Eventually, SPLAT!

Still, mere mortals could get pretty far before becoming road kill. But then, there was another level, one of such ludicrous speed the programmers were the only ones to attempt it, and then, only as a joke. They knew that to include this level in the game would only cause the players to smash the cartridge with a hammer, lest they believe they were actually expected to attempt such inanity.

And so, the word froggered must enter our vocabulary, for I have reached such a place and no existing words cover it. Somehow, I beat the game without realizing I was even playing.

It should not have happened. It could not have happened. And yet it has.

I'm sorry I can't say more.

Please don't ask.

I am much too froggered.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Matt's Final Post

No, I'm not closing the blog, but like Clark Kent wearing glasses, I'm taking on an alter-ego.  I've been thinking about this for a while and couldn't really come up with a reason not to do this now.  In fact, I've just sent my first query as my other self, so now it seems urgent.

Here's the deal:

Publishing is a tough business to break into.  While ultimately it will be my writing that fails or succeeds, I don't need any additional obstacles in my way.  Someone once said, "to make it as a writer you've got to take what someone else did successfully and copy it."  Well, someone once thought she might have an easier time if people didn't know she was a woman, so she used her initials and fooled the whole world hundreds of millions of times over.

Okay.  I'll try that.

From what I can tell, without any scientific research, it's now more of a challenge for men to get published than women.  So, rather than announcing that I am a man, although, I am announcing it here, I'm adopting a pen name, which seemed like a good idea anyway, since my last name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.  Besides, I've written some not so flattering things about real people.  Best to stay incognito.  So, taking my initials, and my wife's maiden name, allow me to introduce myself.

Hello.  My name is MC Howe.  I wrote a middle grade adventure about pirates.  I'm working on a ghost story, a YA zombie teen angst novel, and someday I'll get back to the teacher who falls in love with a nun.

Now I have to fix that damn banner at the top of the page.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Get Down Goblin

by Jan Teri

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Query - Again

Fewer cliches, fewer words (223 down from 262), some different words, here is lucky version 13.

Twelve-year-old Skully longs for the kind of excitement missing from his family's stuffy old mansion. The day he finally meets his father, the abhorred pirate, Captain ‘Mad Grave’ Smith, Skully embarks on an adventure destined for a horrible end—his own.

Skully never heard of a long dead ruler named Grimstoke until his mom died protecting the secrets of his accursed ring. Taking refuge among pirates, Skully finds Captain Smith isn’t such a bad guy after all. But when Grimstoke’s ring ‘accidentally’ finds its way onto Skully’s finger, his dad ends up cursed. Grimstoke’s evil spirit possesses Captain Smith and starts sucking souls from the inhabitants of pirate-controlled San Iguana. Grimstoke will only last so long in Captain Smith’s body. As Grimstoke’s last living descendent, Skully possesses the one thing that can prevent his dad’s death. Torn by his dad’s fate and guilt over his mom’s death, running away looks pretty good. But souls are disappearing fast. The only way to save everyone is to give Grimstoke what he needs—Skully’s soul.

SKULLY THE PIRATE AND GRIMSTOKE'S CURSE is an upper middle grade adventure sprinkled with humor and a dash of paranormal fantasy. It is complete at 60,000 words. I am a member of SCBWI and several critique groups. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Query

Nervous about putting this out for the masses?  No.  My mother-in-law is visiting for a week and a half.  Sharing my query is a piece of cake.

Just remember, I'm fragile...

Dear Agent,

Blah, blah, blah...

Twelve-year-old Skully longs for the kind of excitement he’s been denied living in his grandfather’s mansion. The day he finally meets his father, the abhorred pirate, Captain ‘Mad Grave’ Smith, Skully embarks on an adventure destined for a horrible end—his own.

Skully never heard of a long dead ruler named Grimstoke until his mother died protecting the secrets of Grimstoke’s accursed ring. With no choice but to take refuge among pirates, Skully realizes Captain Smith isn’t such a bad guy after all. But his newfound father soon falls under the ring’s curse. Grimstoke’s evil spirit possesses Captain Smith and begins sucking souls from the inhabitants of pirate-controlled San Iguana. But Grimstoke will only last so long in Captain Smith’s body. As Grimstoke’s last living descendent, Skully possesses the one thing that can prevent his father’s death, but the cost will be high. Torn by his father’s fate, and guilt over his mother’s death, running away looks pretty good, but Grimstoke always finds him and souls are disappearing fast. It seems it’s up to Skully to save everyone. The only way to do that, is to give Grimstoke what he needs—Skully’s soul.

SKULLY THE PIRATE AND GRIMSTOKE'S CURSE is an upper middle grade adventure sprinkled with humor and a dash of paranormal fantasy. It is complete at 60,000 words. I am a member of SCBWI and several critique groups, as well as the author of the wildly popular (okay, that might be a stretch) blog, Pensive Sarcasm. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back Together Again

Thanks for all your kind words last week.  I'm feeling much better now.  Amazing what a few days on the road with nothing to do can accomplish.  I keep trying to write something new, but not much headway there.  Instead, I spent the day honing my synopsis.  Frustrating, but more and more agents want to see these things.  A brief synopsis, they call it.  How brief?  Not clear.  I ended up with 1700 single spaced words on three pages.  How does that sound?

And I'm thinking of posting my query.  Anyone want to read it?

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Falling Apart

What a horrible day I'm having.  I've been waking up around six AM all week.  Not because I've been working.  Six comes, I'm done.  Yesterday seemed promising, but I'd committed to flying with my friend Joe.  I hadn't been in a small plane in years, and didn't really want to go.  And guess what?  Small planes behave much differently from large, automated ones.

Then, today, waking early again, I checked email on my iPod.  Another rejection.  Normally, I shrug them off, but this was the earliest I've ever gotten one.  To start the day with it was not good.

I'm depressed.  Ready to quit.  Wasting my time.  The Mrs. and I took a good long walk, which is usually therapeutic.  She's good for stuff like that.  Listening to me whine about why I'm bothering with all this when I have a very good job and why can't I just be happy with that?  It was decided writing is my passion.  That which I do for free.  For love.  With or without recognition.  Which should be something.

But at the moment, it isn't.  Because walking six miles on my feet generally results in some sorry-ass pain.

I have heel spurs -- little hooks of bone on the bottom of each foot, straining tendons that aren't designed to strain.  Standard treatment is a cortisone shot, which was scheduled pre-walk.  Pre-rejection.  A four inch needle plunged into my heel.  Slowly, ever so slowly, the cortisone seeped into the tissue.  Round and round, twisting and pushing, the needle found more and more nerves to terrorize.

The result:  Nothing.  Typical.  I'm the 1% of people typical treatments don't work on.

And November is looming.  I hate November.  I'll be working Thanksgiving.  Again.  I have to study all month for my checkride.  Again.  So I don't lose my job and have the privilege of working on Thanksgiving taken away.  This November, Joe is getting married.  At Disney World.  Thanksgiving weekend.  I can't think of a worse place to go at a worse time.  I want to do NaNo.  Too much going on.

Life sucks.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Something Only You Can Write

I came across an agent's website the other day, in which she described what she wanted to see in a query letter.  It was the standard stuff, until she came to the bio section.  She was quite adamant that your query should include why you are the only person who could have written your book.

That line really struck me.  I'm no expert in the things I write.  I think I'm a pretty good storyteller, but beyond the fact I was the one who came up with it, I couldn't think of a decent reason I was the only one who could write my book.  So I started thinking about what I am an expert in.  Not much, but there is one thing I do know about probably better than most other writers.  And pretty quickly a new story started forming.  It's just a lump of wet clay right now, and who knows what it will end up looking like, but I've often thought, if I could include some expertise in my bio, it might make a difference when querying.

Having said all that, I still need to tell a good story.  And I still need to love the story, otherwise it won't be very good.  So, with NaNo coming up, I may participate after all.  Of course, I also have my recurrent check ride, which has yet to be scheduled, but will be some time in November.  So I'll be doing a lot of studying, but you can also consider it research for my next book.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

...And Stop Calling Me Matthew

My irritation level has soared as high as my plane over the past three days. I can normally tell within 30 seconds whether or not I can stand someone, and while my partner is nice enough, he keeps calling me Matthew. This despite introducing myself as Matt, to him and everyone we've both met. This tells me he hasn't been paying attention to anything, but is reading my ID badge.

I thought I had it licked when the flight attendant, who calls me Matt, yelled 'Matthew' to get my attention. The ID reader commented, "You said that like you really know him."

Aha! An opening.

"Actually," I said. "People who really know me call me Matt."

No effect. Frustrating, but I may be to blame. After all, I once had a neighbor who called me Dwayne for two years. After a while, there's no correcting it without making yourself look like an idiot.

Alas, this trip ends tomorrow. No more Matthew. No more bad jokes or spoken word renditions of obscure songs. And for dinner tonight, Big Boy.

Now, I'm very excited about Big Boy. It's one of those things you take for granted until you move across the country and can't get it anymore. And it's right next to the hotel.

But he says, "We don't have to decide right now, We'll figure it out. We can find someplace nice."

He can do what wants.

Matthew's going to Big Boy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thanks For The Funny

The first rejection came in today.  From an agent I'd assigned to the non-response rejection pile after a year of nothing.  I queried him again, using the same email address from last time.  Only this time it bounced back as a bad address.  Apparently one missing letter makes all the difference.  Oops.

So this time, having read an interview in which he laments the success of Stephanie Meyer against the odds every other writer faces, I threw in what I thought was a funny line referencing what he'd said.  The rejection came back as follows:
Thanks for the funny query letter. I'm afraid this is not what I'm looking for, but I wish you much all the same with your agent search.
At first I thought he appreciated my sense of humor.  Then, like any thinks-he's-a-good writer, examining the long corridor of rejection, I began to wonder what he really thought was funny.  Was it the query itself?  The heart of it?  Did he find it laughable that someone would not only construct such an abominable collection of words, but that they would send it to an expert, who no doubt called in every member of his staff for a group guffaw, forwarded it to every agent and editor in publishing, posted it on a myriad of social networking sites, and is most certainly basing an entire lecture series on that one horrific letter?

Sadly, I may never know.  Much as I may never understand the last line - I wish you much all the same...


At least it's not just me who can't write.

In happier news, today is Mrs. Sarcasm's birthday.  If you come across her, wish her

                          생일 축하

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No Response

I've been through the query ringer before.  Now, as I dive back through, and conduct my research yet again, I find a good deal of agents these days subscribing to the non-response method of rejection.  While I can fully appreciate the amount of work these folks do, and reading hundreds of queries per week, in addition to any manuscripts they have, plus editing, and actually selling these projects, certainly counts as busy work, I can't for the life of me understand this non-repsonse.

How hard can it be to set up an automatic I DON'T LIKE IT email.  Heck, just have your interns do it.   I've been scouring the threads on Absolute Write and by gum, some folks are complaining they even get no response to fulls and partials.  Seriously, what gives?  You mean to say you're going to take the time to read something that you requested knowing full well that author is biting their nails just waiting to know what you think, and then...nothing.

But we, the querying writers, are expected to maintain professionalism at all costs.

Now, this may seem like an angry rant, and I suppose it is, but it's something of a two way street.  When I see that no response is a no, I lean toward no query.  Of course, leaning is still going, it only results in a more crooked path.  In other words, I still query, because I still want that agent, and lets face it, if we think we're good enough to query, we certainly don't expect rejection.

Except that we do.  And that part really sucks.  In the land of the query, a ten percent request rate is pretty good.  Without trying too hard, I can't think of too many other circumstances where abysmal failure is considered success.  But I suppose that's something to write about.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It Turns Out I Am A Moron

So I'm not writing 10,000 words this week, at least not yet, but I am sending queries.  And after all that work, and all that research, and knowing all the stupid things people do, I went and did one.

Getting an agent's name wrong in a query is often regarded by agents as a surefire path to rejection.  I, of course, to ensure staying on the the path, not only put the name of the agency owner in my salutation, rather than the actual agent's name, which I knew, and had even spelled wrong a few times whilst Googling, I also sent it to the wrong email address.

So I followed up with a quick apology, letting said agent know I was resending my query to the proper address.  That's when I noticed I'd addressed the first, and subsequent second, query incorrectly.  So I sent another one, apologizing yet again.

I expect after four emails, in the span of two minutes, this particular agent will either see through to my gritty determination, or will request a restraining order.

Let's just say, I'm moving on...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm Thinking Of A Challenge

How about ten thousand words in a week?

As an airline pilot, I have lots of downtime in hotels. I'm on a four day trip right now that could almost result in ten thousand words a day. Two long layovers in Washington DC followed by an even longer layover in Detroit. The problem is I have friends and family in both places. And it's not acting like October up here, which means Im not getting any writing done on this trip.

So I'm thinking next week, or some time in the coming weeks, I will challenge myself to write ten thousand words in one week's time. The kind of momentum that would result in would be awesome. I just read an article with Danielle Steele where they asked which of her 113 books was her favorite.

Excuse me? What the frak did they just say?

113 books? In one adult lifetime?

And they must not suck either because apparently half a billion people have read them.

So I'm thinking ten thousand in a week wouldn't be a bad start.

Anyone game?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The First Query Is Away came back pretty quick.  Not a rejection.  Instead, I got an auto reply that the agent in question is on personal leave for a couple of months and for further assistance please contact so and so.

So and so the question is, who is so and so?  Another agent?  What about the agent I want?  The one I researched and fell in love with.  Who I know, without a shadow of a doubt, will fall equally in love with my story.

And what do I say to so and so?  Do I forward my query and say, I really wanted her, but I guess you'll do?  Or maybe so and so is the agent's assistant.  Perhaps all queries are being directed her way anyhow.  But if that's so, why direct me to her for further assistance?

And, suppose I was already a client of this agent, but my book hadn't been sold yet?  What happens during these months of personal leave?  Does my book go on leave with her?  Or is so and so now out trying to sell the book someone else fell in love with?

Oh I'm going nuts!

Time to send the next batch out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Halloween Is Around The Corner

And this is in my backyard.

Hungry for a bee...

It eats the bee.  And, for good measure, a sense of proportion.

And in writing news...

Today is the last day of Patti Nielson's Keep Track of How Much Time You Spend Writing Blogfest.  My total for the week - About 9 hours.

With lots of helpful suggestions, my query is ready to go.  And I wrote such a good query, it helped hone my story just a wee bit better.  I figure I'll wait til Monday morning.  Who reads queries on Friday night?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Three Questions For Query Writers

Thank heavens for fresh eyes, because mine don't know what they're looking at.  After a few attempts at a query I've been directed to answer three questions that ought to help anyone attempting to write one of these godawful things.  As yet, I have only looked at them with the vaguest of answers in mind.
There's more here, but it boils down to this:

  1. What does your protagonist want?
  2. What does s/he have to do to get it?
  3. What happens if s/he fails to get what she wants? (the stakes)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Two And A Half Hours

That's how long I spent revising my query today, after comments from Absolute Write.  So, I've reposted the new version, if anyone cares to look at it.  Thanks for everyone's help.

And why am I telling you how long I spent writing?  Because there's a blogfest going on.  It's not too late to join.  Just visit Patti Nielson to sign up.  It's pretty simple.  All this week, keep track of how much time you spend writing.  That's it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Am The Elite 2%

Yesterday, I attended a class for children's and YA writers.  A lot of it was introductory stuff I already knew, but a few of the tidbits I wrote down:

  • You have to write one million bad words before you can write one good one.
  • Writers come in one of two forms
    • Plotters - extensive outliners
    • Pantsers - make it up as they go
  • Three things every writer must have:
    • Professionalism
    • Optimism
    • A thick skin
  • In order to get published:
    • Write something no one has ever written before. Or,
    • Write a familiar story better than everyone you're competing against.
  • 81% of Americans say they have a book in them.
  • 2% actually write one.
  • In an odd coincidence, 2% of Americans are also commercial pilots.
So how do you like that?

And, it turns out, the writer running the class is represented by an agent who rejected my full manuscript about a year ago, and who, after extensive re-writes, I've decided to query again.  I posted it on Aboslute Write in Query Letter Hell.  If you have a moment, let me know what you think, either there, or in the comments here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Synopsis Update

One page done!

Damn it I have to go to work again. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cruising Along

I'm on a four day trip with long layovers.  Perfect for writing.  I spent the whole day in Atlantic City fixing some minor issues associated with my new first chapter.  Pretty much everything fits and I have a good chunk of time tomorrow in Fort Myers before work to get the thing ship-shape.

Now, here are the problems. 

1. It's been super nice all week.  I hate looking outside at picture perfect days, especially when there are so few of them left before winter takes hold.  And that really is a problem.  I wish it was winter already.  Then, I would have a perfect excuse to stay in and write.  The real problem, however, is...

2. Sometimes I get on such a roll, I can't stop.  I'm cranking along, typing furiously, making lots and lots of headway.  And then, all of a sudden, some other committment comes on like a Mack Truck hitting me head on and I have to stop.  It happened today.  Work.  Bummer. 

I actually like my job, but it can be pretty boring.  Thankfully, I've recently discovered a game for my iTouch called Hungry Shark.  I'm discovering all kinds of nifty hidden things the more I play.  And that two and a half hour flight really soars by.

I know, I know, your thinking, Matt, you shouldn't be playing games while you're flying the plane.  And you're right.  That's a great time for writing.  But there are two of us up there, and I just can't write with someone watching me.

Now, back to Atlantic City for a moment.  It's late September.  Tuesday.  The boardwalk was pretty crowded.  Which means, either people are extending their vacations into fall, or unemployment drives people to the beach.  And there were swimmers.  That water's got to be cold.  Whatever the reason, I noticed quite a bit of New Jersey shining through in passersby.  It seems all those reality shows are giving people the courage to be themselves.

That, by the way, was not a compliment.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Look Redux

Being married to a graphic designer has its advantages.  A simple request like creating a banner for my blog is a snap.  But when she saw the new layout, well, let's just say, I'm glad I'm not a paying client.  And so is she, so she could really tell me what she thinks.  Anyway, with some prodding from my betrothed, we have agreed upon yet another, rather clean looking layout.      I think the new banner rocks.  Agree?

Oh yeah, I'm supposed to mention The Bookshelf Muse's 1000 follower contest and giveaway.  But if I mention it, I fear too many will enter, reducing my chance of winning.  So I won't mention it, but there is a link on the sidebar.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New Look; New Plan

I tried this a while back and ended up with the sterile white blog you may be used to.  I'm thinking branding.  Something that you look at and say, "Hey!  That's Matt!"  So what do you think?

As far as writing goes, still no progress on the synopsis or query, but I have a plan.  In the next several days, I expect to incorporate my new chapters, then write the synopsis, then query.  I have no reason to expect any of it will be as easy as all that, but in order to move on I needed a plan.  (I keep typing plan with an e.  I do have a four day trip starting tomorrow, which is how I expect to get all this work done.)

Once the query is written, and submitted, I must focus on something new.  I've lived with these pirates too long now, to the detriment of other things.  I have several stories in various states of being.  I will pick one, finish it, and do the above for said story.  If I have to shelve Skully, so be it.  Whether it is a good story, it has made me a better writer, so perhaps the next thing I write will get published.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Take 'Em Out Igor

I don't use foul language often, but you don't know how hard it was to not put the word 'fuck' in the title of this post.  I had to count to ten first.  A little trick I picked up a couple of months ago.

Fact:  Howard and Moira take exactly 296 Disney vacations per year.

Fact:  Their daughter, Sammy, misses approximately 1745 days of school per year for said vacations, because she still believes it's real.

Fact:  They are currently on their way to Spain to hop a Disney Cruise ship for a two week sail across the Atlantic.

Fact:  They left their dog, Alfalfa, with a friend, who also has a dog. 

This morning I got a voice mail from Howard.  The two dogs did not get along.  Alfalfa is now home.  By himself.  For two weeks.  So if I wouldn't mind, could I feed him and let him out and such?  If not, it's no big deal.

Are you frakking kidding me?

If not, it's no big deal?

What kind of people treat their dog like this?  And the sad part is, Alfalfa is the best part of the whole family.

So I go over immediately to see how he is.  I'm not a dog person, but come on!  The house, as you might expect, is filthy.  A sheen of grease covers the floor.  There are dirty clothes hanging out of the washing machine.  Used dishes on the counter and in the sink.  Dog food (at least there was some) scattered everywhere.  And, to top it all off, all of their outdoor furniture is now inside and hurricane shutters cover the windows.  Howard, in his paranoia, has taken these precautions in case a storm pops up while he's gone.  But only for the back of the house.  I, along with now caring for the dog, am expected to secure the rest of his house. 

So I bring the dog over to my backyard for some R&R and, although practically blind, he immediately manages to find some raccoon poop, or some kind of poop.  I'm no expert.  Animals don't go in my yard.  They know better.  At least they did.  Now they're conspiring against me because Alfalfa went straight for it and took a bath in it.


I would have sent him home like that, but, as the default caregiver, I don't want to deal with still more crap.  So I hosed the dog off and washed his collar.

I sincerely hope no storm comes ashore while they are gone.  First, because I don't want to deal with it.  Second because Howard already has, and it would please me to think all his work was for nothing. 

Now, I can't blame Howard for his friend being an arse, but the idea I should now be responsible for Alfalfa pisses me off.  There is a storm out there.  Hurricane Igor is so massive, I envision it encompassing the entire Atlantic Ocean just as the S.S. Mickey Mouse sets sail.

This is my dream.  I know it is cruel, but that's what happens when I'm driven to swear.

Oh, and when they get back, Sammy gets held back a year in school.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

That Damn Synopsis - Part Deux

So I sit down to write the damn thing.  And it seems like a decent start, only what I'm writing is a bit different from my actual manuscript.  So I fight the urge, but keeping typing the wrong stuff.  Then I think to myself, I kinda like this better.

Is there a way to make it work?

No dumbass.  Your story doesn't open like that.  Why are you synopsizing what you didn't write?

Well, what if it did?

Then you'd have a better story to sell.  But you don't.  Because you didn't.

Well maybe I will?

But you're supposed to be synopsiszing.  And querying.  Because you found an agent you know is going to want a synopsis.  Don't waste your time.

Isn't it a waste of time to submit a query when my beginning isn't as strong as it could be?

I suppose.  I mean, you're only talking one chapter, right?

Probably.  Maybe two.

And then you can hitch it up to the rest, so it seems all natural-like?

Yeeaahhh...unless...even now I'm changing it some more.

Great!  Here comes another frakking re-write.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One Year In

One year ago today this blog launched with as much fanfare as would greet a fry cook tossing out the grease from last night's fish sticks.

Stumbling block overcome, I think its been a pretty fun year along the evolutionary trail through blogtown.  I suppose I expected to have a lot more writing-related posts, but the truth is, I don't have a clue what I'm doing.  I'm sure not going to pretend to be an expert.  But who knew my wacky neighbors would offer such fodder?  Well, I did.  And Mrs. Sarcasm did.  And really, we haven't even scratched the surface on neighbors' past.  (Should that be possessive?  I'm thinking ghosts of Christmas past.  Probably not.)

I hope I have enlightened you all a bit about who I am, without ever actually revealing who I am, what I do for a living, and what I do for fun.  It's pretty much all here, restricted only by laze and lack of creativity.

So thanks to everyone who has stopped by, become a follower, commented, or just read anonymously.

This next year should be a big one.  We are, after all, expecting from Korea, and Lord knows that will be ripe with the unexpected.  Also, I plan to get an agent soon, and then get published.  Now, if only I could get the agents and publishers to adhere to that plan.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Pillars Of The Earth Have Fallen

Today was D-Day.  No disrespect to 9/11, but as an airline pilot, I constantly live with its reminders.  So forgive me for not partaking in the solemnity of remembrance.  I'll be flying later today.  Don't think it won't be on my mind.

But D-Day for me, is due day; as in, due back to the library day; as in, The Pillars of the Earth, the 973 page monstrosity by Ken Follett, foisted upon me as the greatest book ever written, was due back today after only two weeks to consume its enormity.  I did not. 

I tried.  It's not that it is a bad book.  It was a good enough story, and had I had more time, I would continue right through the end, and then read the sequel that spurred this burden in the first place.  But, the greatest book ever written?  Not so much.  Of course, I'm just one reader.  But one with buying power, which I obviously didn't wield at the library, which likely led to my substandard opinion.

Again, the story is good, but far from a page-turner.  More like a when-is-this-chapter-going-to-end-so-I-can-put-down-this-frakking-book-er.

That makes it sound worse, I think, than it actually is.  So be it.  I don't like leaving a book unfinished.  One I day I will come back to it.  Perhaps when I'm a wealthy author with gobs of cash to fill floor to celing bookshelfs.  Or, more likely, my iPad. 

I wonder if I can get credit for the 283 pages I did read?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

That Damn Synopsis

Natalie Murphy over at The Sound of Rain wrote a deservedly angry gripe on the evils of the query letter.  Now, I've been putting off my own query writing for a while now, and by gum, it's time to man up.  But then I started thinking about how a query is an entire book condensed to one page, which ought to be impossible, and compared it to a synopsis, which is an entire book condensed to several, or more, pages.

Well, that ought to be easier.

Except, having already attempted it a few times, I know it is not easier.  However, I thought, if I can write a successful synopsis, I should, logically, then further be able to synopsize the synopsis and turn it into a query.  And then, a friend asked me to look over his synopsis, which still needed some work, so I let the Google machine guide me to a few synopsis writing sites.

Of course, there is Absolute Write, which is invaluable, but I also came across a few others.

This first one  is a bit bare bones and lists basically what goes into a synopsis and not much more.

This next one gets to the heart of the synopsis a bit more, describing not just what to write, but how.

At any rate, that's  the first few results from the Google.  I imagine there are better ones, but I'm not of a mind to research them for the sake of this post.

So, a-synopsizing I will go.  If you have some advice, toss it my way.  I've got a butterfly net handy.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Strangest Layover Ever

Friday night I flew into Atlanta for a long layover, during which I had hoped to put a dent into the greatest book ever written, which I'm still waiting to become the greatest book ever written.  I had no idea what I was in for.

Vampires, demons, superheroes, fairies, aliens, ghostbusters, video game characters, starfleet officers, stormtroopers, jedis and more, swarmed the city.  Dragoncon had come to Atlanta and geeks took control of my hotel.  Never in the history of my life have I seen such a spectacle.  70,000 sci-fi and fantasy fans partied like it was 2399.

Now, I've never had much interest in this type of thing, and since it was close to midnight, I was ready for bed.  But when the van pulled into the city and we caught our first glimpse of freaks in costume, I was suddenly wide awake.  I ended up staying out until 3 am.  These geeks can party!  And no matter what you might think of them, they, at least, were having a good time.  And so was I.

There were rock concerts, movies, a 5 hour rythmic drumming session, a parade featuring all the crazy costumes, lots of drinking and the biggest surprise of all -- lots and lots of good-looking women.  I'm talking hot girls in skimpy costumes.  Who knew?  No wonder Dragoncon is so popular.  It seems, at least once a year, geeks can get laid.

They even had a couple of writing seminars, which I snuck into, and learned something.  What I learned is that I knew everything they had to say from attending previous conferences and online research.  Not to say I know everything, but they were talking about the process of getting published, none of which was new to me.  It only confirmed it's time to get out there and do it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Strange And Hazy Blog Award

At some point, after a certain length of time on the road, a weary traveler looks at an alarm clock, unable to understand the colorfully glowing numbers on the display in whatever hotel, in whatever city greets the day.  Invariably, middle of the night tossing and turning turns to fretting when the meaning of the hyroglyphs becomes lost.  Questions arise, such as; What is that infernal machine?  What purpose does it serve?  Why hasn't it done it's job yet?

And then, the weary traveler becomes aware, although not really, that the alarm clock has not failed, but inablity to distinguish meaning from gibberish has resulted from too many nights in strange beds, in strange cities.  This of course, lends to restless nights, spent worrying that in fact the alarm clock will fail and steps must be taken to avoid falling victim to technological fallibility.  Finally, exhausted from standing guard over the very device designed to prevent such worry, slumber takes hold.  The traveler falls deep, untethered to the waking world, enveloped in the boundless land of sleep.  Unencumbered dreaming begins with the most precious of...

And then the alarm rings.

Thus is my burden.  Worst of all, it happens, occasionally, when I am home.  There is no greater dread than to awaken in one's own bed, uncertain of where you are.  Last night was one such night.  I knew I was home, but awaited the alarm with absolute certainty that it would fail.  It was locked in my head that 4:04 AM would come and the radio would not turn on.  I knew, however, that something would happen.  I envisioned a breeze wafting up through the branches of trees, swirling the dust and leaves clinging to the ground, as I clung to the belief that too many recent trips to Haiti had infected my alarm with the technological failures of that poorest of nations.

Suffice it to say, I had a piss poor night.

Strange as it was, it is quite fitting that I have been awarded the Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits blog award.

Thank you to E.F. Collins over at Little Bits and Pieces.

In her own words, E.F is a writer of horror and dark fiction, with the occasional poem of the same darkish nature as her fiction.  You must agree that use of the word darkish qualifies as strange, so it is with great honor I accept this award as bestowed by E.F., or Effie, if you read her profile.

Despising blog rules as I do, I've copied them straight from Effie's blog.

1. Add the logo of the award to your blog post.

2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you (the strange ones will come after you if you don't...well, not really, but it sounds good).

3. Nominate seven other blogs telling us why you think the recipient is strange enough to deserve the award.

4. Leave a message for those nominated on their blogs.

5. And, if you email catephoenix(at)gmail(dot)com and tell her you've received the award for your strangeness, she'll enter you in the biggest kick-ass Strange Men competition ever. Details over at (click on the award link on the home page)

And the nominees are:

Bossy Betty, who once stopped following me because I didn't comment enough on her blog.  Do you realize the lengths it takes to stop following a blog?  Tremendous.  It would be far easier to simply stop reading it. Anyway, she came back because I complained.  Strange indeed!

Matt, over at Cynicus Sarcasmos.  How strange is Matt?  I was the second follower on his blog, which upset him, because he really, really wanted to keep it at one.  Matt is sarcastic, like me, only in Latin, I think.  I'm not certain.  It's all Greek to me.

Ted Cross, a diplomat who has written a fantasy novel that takes place in the future in a Tolkeinesque middle earth type world.  Huh?  Strange, right?

That Amy Saia.  She sings.  She writes.  She loves old adverts.  Strange.

Erica, at Laugh.Write.Play.  I don't actually find Erica strange.  I just dig her blog.  She always starts her posts with an enthusiastic and friendly greeting.  Actually, that is strange.  Nobody is that friendly all the time.

Dana, over at A Squirrel Amongst Lions.  Dig through her posts to discover how she named her blog.  If that's not strange enough, Dana used to go by Girl with One Eye.  Now she's Dana Elmendorf.

Finally, I always love bestowing awards on Travener, aka, the Big Litkowski.  Why?  Because I don't believe that even winning an award he did nothing to deserve could make Travener happy.  I find that strange.

Congratulations to all!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Daunting Deadline

Some weeks back, I took a trip home, and spent some time with a fellow I'd only met a few times before.  Upon parting, he offered the gift of a book, a rather thick tome called World Without End, by Ken Follett.  Having spent such sparse time with this particular gentleman in the decade since our first meeting, I had little grasp of his particular tastes in literature, and no idea if they would mesh with my own.  In fact, there were a few moments during our visit when I actually caused him to count to ten.  You see, my company had just gone through a trying contract negotiation, upon which I offered my thoughts on both the process and outcome.  Well, me being a union grunt, and him being the upper management type, seemed to disagree about a few aspects of the labor process.  I'll admit, I found his counting to ten rather amusing, and while I didn't consciously say anything I knew would lead to such a response, I will certainly be mindful I can do so during any future intercourse. 

Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed our visit and look forward to the next one, but as I accepted his copy of World Without End, he informed me it was a sequel to a book called The Pillars of the Earth, the best book he'd ever read.  This is when a gift becomes a burden.  When you have something you can't enjoy until you take several steps of your own first, costing you time, effort, and in this case, money to buy the first book.   But then, someone else saw my copy of World Without End and, with great fanfare, boasted how The Pillars of the Earth was the greatest book she'd ever read.  Perhaps the greatest book ever written.

Now it seemed I had no choice but to read both books.  For one thing, I had in my possession a gift, and it would be rude not to enjoy it as intended.  For another thing, I had, it seemed, for a good portion of my life, been missing out on the greatest thing literature has ever known.  To be presented with this information and further choose to ignore it would serve a great injustice, not only to myself, but to anyone I might enlighten on the joys of these two books in future endeavors. 

It befell me to seek a copy of The Pillars of the Earth.  I could certainly have purchased and downloaded it to one of numerous e-reading Apps on my iPad, but that seemed almost too easy.  And I'm cheap.  So it was off to the library only to find quite a backlog of people waiting to read The Pillars of the Earth.  I put my name on the list, third in queue and went on with my life.

After our trip to Savannah, a few weeks back, Mrs. Sarcasm and I were both interested in reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt.  Once again, we turned to the library.  It's been an enjoyable and fast read, but today my copy of The Pillars of the Earth became available and I went to pick it up.  I now feel the weight of its 973 pages, due back on September 11.  And it's such a popular book, they won't allow me to renew it.  Apparently there's even a television series based on it, now airing on Starz.

So I'm feeling daunted.  To read a thousand page book, in only two weeks would pose a challenge, but throw in another one with the same return date, add it to my increasingly busy work schedule, set aside time to write my own crap, and critique for my writing partners...

This is why they invented the word frak!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is This Becoming A Problem?

My one year blogiversary is coming up.  To pin down the exact date I went through my old posts and discovered some had far more comments than is the norm here.  I've noticed some spam in my last couple of posts.  This has never been a problem before, but it seems it's becoming one.  I hope not, because the last thing I want is a spam filter.  I hate word verification.  You finish composing this incredibly deep and meaningful comment, hit enter and then -zap- you're right back where you started.  Even more than that, though, I hate the idea of seeing spam and then having to delete it.

I saw where Blogger has put together a new spam filter that supposedly dumps anything it deems untoward in a separate folder.  Thus far I haven't seen mine.  Now, I may just be trying to build myself up into something far bigger than my little presence on this world wide web, but I'd like to keep comments free from scrutiny by The Man.  Especially since I am The Man and don't wish to be bothered by it.

For those of you using comment moderation, how much spam do you get?

P.S.  I've been writing today.  Still waiting on my last beta to get back to me on Skully, so I've started a new story (long or short?  I can't decide) about ghosts in Savannah.  Fun times.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What Would Larry Do #7

As happens just about every August, the hottest time of year in South Florida, our air conditioner is on the fritz.  Apparently, with a life expectancy of 8-10 years, ours is dying young.  As if it weren't enough I already replaced it once, and I replaced the air handler (the indoors part) only 2 years ago.  And guess what?  Thanks to government regulation, no new AC unit is compatible with my 2 year old air handler.  So now I must buy a whole new system.  The good thing is, there are federal and state rebates that go into effect on August 30, and may cut my overall cost by close to 50%.  I can wait a week, and am using the time to get some quotes.  So I called the folks no longer associated with Roebuck and set up an appointment for 5 PM.  At 6:15, they called back.

"I thought you were coming at five," I said.

"Well, I'm fighting traffic," he snarled into the phone.  "I'm just the backup, you know.  The other guy canceled."

So be it.  When he finally arrived, he looked friendly enough, even introducing himself as Henry.  Have you ever met a bad Henry?  Seriously, the name conjures up images of a kindly gentleman in a fishing hat, sitting in a rocking chair on a wraparound porch, watching his grand kids chase frogs down by the creek.

But this particular Henry reeked of cigarettes.  I expect his work truck will always smell.  And it's got to be in his clothes.  On his skin.  In his eyes.  How could he ever escape it?  The very thought makes me gag.  And is Henry married?  Does he have grand kids?  Would they even want a hug from a man who smells so bad?  No wonder they're down at the creek.  Probably washing off his scent.

So Henry comes in and I tell him what's what and that I want a quote because I want to take advantage of the rebates that go into effect on August 30.

"Why don't we reschedule then?" Henry said.

"Because you're here now," I said, slowly.

"We're not in the business of putting things off," he said.  "We'll give you a 5% discount on the initial visit.  Better for you to reschedule."

"You can't give me a quote today?  That's the whole reason you're here.  I thought that's what your ad meant by 'free estimate'."

"Look, I just came from another home where someone wanted a free quote.  That does me no good.  We want your business today."

"But if I buy from you today, I can't take advantage of the rebates on the 30th. "

"Then it's best to reschedule."

"So you're not going to give me a price? You're not helping your cause. " 

He had icy blue eyes, and stared at me through wire-rimmed glasses, perched at the tip of his nose.  I could see he wouldn't budge.

"Sure I will," he said.  "I'll even give you 5% for the initial visit."

"But I'd have to pay you now," I said.  "And lose out on the rebates."

"You want to wait a week in this heat?" he asked.

"I'm planning on it," I said.  "Besides, even if I buy it from you now, you don't have the part."

"It takes a couple days to get the permits.  Then a few more for installation."

"There's my week.  That's why I want the price now.   Under your system I have to wait two weeks."

There was a long pause.  Our eyes locked.  Who would blink first?  Henry had it within him to quote me a price.  It was all on paper. He only had to look it up.  Give me a price now, the ball starts rolling.  By August 30, I'd have my new air conditioner and a nice little rebate check to boot.

"We don't want to waste our time," Henry finally said.  "We do business differently."

I nodded, rose from my chair, opened the front door, and said, "Not with me."

With that, Henry was gone.  Now I have to call the fumigator.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

When The Words Come Out Wrong

I'm back to work, after a couple weeks off, and wouldn't you know it, I've been flying with a real gem.  As company goes, she's pretty good, if you're stuck with someone for four days.  But wow!  What a vocabulary she has.  There are a few things she keeps repeating, so they're fresh in my mind. 

For instance: 

  • She must find a UBS (USB) cable to charge her new phone.
  • She has a friend in the Army who speaks Fasari (Farsi).
  • And her favorite TV show is Glee Club (Glee)
I especially like the last one.  One would think that one would know the name of their favorite program, but that would take all the fun out of it for me.  She reminds me a great deal of my neighbor, Howard.  He, too, is linguistically challenged, offereing up such gems as:

  • A fish tank full of allergy (algae).
  • Cabinet draws (drawers).
  • And gran-night (granite) counters.
Not to be outdone, Howard's wife, Moira, once complained of all the d'briss (debris) in the yard after a hurricane.

Life is never boring.  Heard any good ones lately?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ghosts In The Graveyard, And A Dolphin Encounter

No, I haven't lost so much weight as to wither away and die, although I did commune with the dead over the weekend.  On a whim, I and the madam headed north for a few days in Savannah, Georgia.  Never did I expect someplace hotter than South Florida, but my sweat stains the squares, dripping with Spanish Moss, as though the trees themselves were melting under the summer sun.

Savannah is such a beautiful place, if you go there once, you'll be there twice.  Being Friday the thirteenth, it was only appropriate we took a ghost tour through America's most haunted city, and it has inspired a new character and short story, which, knowing me as I do, will likely turn into a long story. 

Then, we headed out to Tybee Island, where we had a lovely, if hot, day at the beach.  Being some 400 miles north, I assumed the water would be somewhat cooler.  I was somewhat wrong.  No matter.  The waters off Tybee Island are home to frolicking dolphins, who frolicked right up to us.  I could tell something was up when the water just in front of me erupted with fish, frantic to escape something.  Then came the dorsal fins, and those smiling snouts, scooping up lunch only inches away.  Okay, maybe feet, but only a few of them.  Everyone on the beach waded out to see, for which I was grateful.  There's something unnerving about being the only biped within striking distance of these close to 500 pound animals.  At one point, one of them floated on his back, just out of my reach, just below the surface, teasing its prey, before snatching it with a flick of the head.  All in all, good fun for everyone.  Unless you happened to be bait.  I only wish I swam with my camera.

I did, however, take some pictures at Colonial Park Cemetery.  You decide if I captured any ghosts.

Look closely.  There's an orb in the center of the picture, just below the top, over the left of the two gravestones in the distance.  A spirit?  That's what they say.

 Here, it seems to have moved off to the left of the tall gravestone, just above the slab on the ground.

They say you can catch a ghost anywhere, so I took a picture of a random window on a darkened street.  Is that a spectre?  Or a spruce?

So, how was your weekend?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Minus 170

No, I'm not under on word count.  Ever since deciding the time was right to become a father I've felt it necessary to get in shape.  Not that I was ever obese or anything even remotely close, but I have let myself go a bit in the last twenty years or so.  Lately I've been exercising almost everyday and do feel better.  This week I added swimming to the routine.  I'm not an Olympian, so don't expect to see me zipping back and forth, but it seems to be working.  Today, I stepped on the scale for the first time in a while, and my thrilled eyes lit up at the number on the dial.  I can't say I actually know how much I've lost because it's not something I ever kept track of, but there have been times when it's hovered just under 190.  I'm a short guy, so that ain't good.  But things are moving in the right direction, and I could use some encouragement.  If it's just me cheering for myself, I'm might not get too far. 

Using a number of random internet weight calculators, based on my height - 5'8" and age - 37 my ideal weight range falls between 125 and 164.  Being rather close to the high end of that scale makes it seem attainable, although even losing a further five pounds wouldn't make me comfortable.  So, I'm setting a goal of 155 pounds.  It's in sight.  I mean, I'm still using binoculars, but there is a hazy shape taking form on the horizon.  So I'm throwing a new meter over on the side bar to help keep me honest.  I had even considered keeping an updated Vlog, but felt bad exposing you, my loyal readers, to such a sight.

The main idea is, no matter how much I lose, or how long it takes, I want to be around a long time after our Korean arrives.  And I want to be able to keep up with him/her.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Right-Click That Mouse

There's a new blog in blogland.  Captive Audience.  Her latest post involves strange and seldom celebrated, unknown holidays.  Do check it out.  My friend and fellow author (can I say fellow author when I haven't been published?) had me help set it up, basically, by copying mine.  I thought it looked quite snazzy, then she dressed it up with a mint background and it looks even better.

Jeanne has a twisted sense of humor, displayed throughout her newest book, Wrinkles, Waistlines and Wet Pants.

So, I'm over there teaching Jeanne, a teacher, how to change her layout, add gadgets, post links, etc...And I'm becoming ever more frustrated by a couple of things.  One, she never closes a damn window.  I think I'm a little OCD because I can't stand clutter, even so far as not having any icons on my computer desktop.  One window at a time please.  Close when done.

The other thing I noticed: every time Jeanne wanted to add a link to her blog, she went up to the address bar, highlighted the link by holding down her mouse and dragging it across the entire address.  Then, she went up to file, scrolled down to copy.  Then when placing the link, she clicked file again, then scrolled down to paste.

Now, as long as that paragraph took you to read, I sat through numerous repetitions.  Finally, I said, "Right click it."


"Right click."

"What does that mean?"

Next came a challenging lesson, reminiscent of last week's teaching my mother-in-law how to use an iPod.  But Jeanne actually is computer savvy, and she uses a Mac, so 10 points there.  But how long can a person use a mouse and not know about the right-click?  - 20.

Now, Jeanne still works, so she can't be offended by what I'm about to propose.  But for society's sake, here's a new rule.  Upon retirement, everyone must surrender their technology.

Let's make the world a safer place.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why Did You Write That?

Or, a better question, what was your purpose in writing that?  I didn't think it made a snazzy blog post title, though. 

My every-other-Tuesday night critique group has had a solid core of writers who have been meeting for several years now.  But we still suffer from lack of information each time someone reads.  We limit ourselves to no more than 5 pages.  It can be any five pages, and often comes from the middle of a chapter, somewhere in the middle of someone's book.  This leads to a lot of repeat comments such as, Why did so and so do this? or Who was that?  What is point of that?  Why is he in the scene? and on and on.  If we'd been able to read what came before, or after, these questions would surely have been answered.

Even though we most always offer some form of setup before reading, these questions still arise.  So last night, our esteemed leader instituted a new rule.  Before reading, tell the group the purpose of your piece.  What do you want to accomplish with it.

This got me thinking about writing in general. If we have a purpose before we write something, be it a novel, a short story, a poem - whatever - it seems we can write a more focused piece.  This is not to say we need to know all the details beforehand.  That would certainly make it less fun.  But I do believe our writing can improve.  Even if we don't know where we are going, it will be so much more helpful to know why left.

This may seem obvious and maybe some have approached their writing like this all along.  I have not.  At least not always.  From now on, I'm going to try to.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm Going To Be Rich

Well, by gum, it looks like I'm on the fast track to Easy Street.  I suppose we've all seen those spam emails promising to deposit millions of dollars into our bank accounts, if we only offer our help to someone suffering monetary overload.  But have you ever responded?  I did today.  Here it is.  If Patrick K. W. Chan responds to my response, I will, of course, post it, and any further correspondence.  Just don't tell anyone you saw it here.  It's a secret.  His family is in danger.

He wrote:
MR.Patrick K. W. Chan
(Executive Director & Chief financial Officer)
Hang Seng Bank Limited
83 Des Voeux Road, Central
Hong Kong SAR


It is understandable that you might be a little bit apprehensive 
because you do
not know me but I have a lucrative business proposal of mutual interest 
someone who suits my proposed business relationship.

I am Mr. Patrick K. W. Chan Executive Director & Chief financial 
Officer of
Hang Seng Bank Ltd. I have an obscured business suggestion for you. I 
will need
you to assist me in executing a business project from Hong Kong to your
country. It involves the transfer of a large sum of money.

Everything concerning this transaction shall be legally done without
hitch.Please endeavour to observe utmost discretion in all matters 
this issue.

Once the funds have been successfully transferred into your account, we 
share in the ratio to be agreed by both of us I will prefer you reach 
me on my
private email address below ( and finally 
that I shall furnish you with more information about this 
operation.Please if
you are not interested delete this email and do not hunt me because I am
putting my career and the life of my family at stake with this venture.
Although nothing ventured is nothing gained.

Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.
Best Regards,

Mr. Patrick Chan

So I answered with this, doing my best to sound as illiterate as those who normally send these things:

MR.Patrick K. W. Chan,

HOW FORTUNATE your timing in contacting me at this time.  It is with 
GREAT TREPIDATION I have received many solicitations causing wary 
anxiety from reputed scam artists promising get rich quick schemes.  I 
can tell from your email you are a trustworthy individual, no doubt 
risk life and limb in contacting me.  I sympathize with you and your 

It happens that I have been seeking just such an obscured business 
transaction as the one you are suggesting.  I find the execution of 
just such a transaction most agreeable, and will do everything I can to 
hasten your execution.  Regarding the transfer of large sums, I am most 
agreeable.  Lest you further fear your safety in the event of a hitch, 
be forewarned, I have access to a trailer.  It is meticulously 
maintained and can also accommodate a golf cart, procured under 
questionable circumstances.

I look forward to giving you the business.  Fear not.  This transaction 
will be shrouded in the secrecy afforded by the internet.

Awaiting your response,

You'll notice I included a link to Mr. Chan's email.  Do with it what you will.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Am I Out Of Line

My other next door neighbor, Hotpants, who's never done a lick of work herself (well, perhaps a lick) has her yard maintained by professional landscapers.  Yesterday, they trimmed the ficus hedges, growing haphazardly, along our shared fence.  Some - a lot - of trimmings fell into my yard and the workers left before I noticed.  A bit irked, I couldn't bring myself to clean up Hotpants's mess, even though there was no one else to do it.  Then, today, they came back for more trimming. 

So, I went outside for a little talk, and politely pointed out what happened.  Keep in mind, communicating with local laborers can be a challenge, since most speak limited English and I speak limited anything else. 

"So," the man said.  "You want me clean up for you?"

"I would appreciate it," I carefully urged, "if, in the future, perhaps your guys might be a bit more careful."

Not sure how that went over.

Too much?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trying To Kill Me? Better Do Your Homework

I have made no secret of the fact I don't like creamy white condiments.  Sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ranch dressing...  The list goes on, but I expect you get the point.  I get teased about this, and people can be almost as dense about it as when asking stupid adoption questions.  Someone recently gasped at the sight of me enjoying pie topped with whipped cream.    Get real.  Whipped cream is a topping, not a condiment.  This kind of ignorance is disappointing, but not unexpected, given today's short attention spans.  And last week's incident involving my sister, a shared plate of fajitas and a gob of sour cream was, at best, a display of inconsideration, yet can be forgiven.  I see her maybe twice a year.  If there are no others in her life who abhor creamy white condiments, I don't expect her to remember to accommodate my quirks, by, say, moving the fajitas she wants onto her plate first and then drenching them in appetite killing goo.

Still, someone out there is trying to kill me.  In today's post (not this post, the US Post - at the post box) was a small sample of mayonnaise.  While mayonnaise, in its intended form, will not kill me (I have ingested it), heated to well over 100 degrees, as anything left in the South Florida sun will be, it can do damage.  The implications are obvious.  But so, too, is the ineptitude of the attempted assassin.

Mayonnaise, in any form, is not going in this body.  Please try again.  And do be more clever next time.

I'm headed to Peru tonight.  I must be cautious.  Strange foods abound, although they do make good butter - a spread, not a condiment.