Money and Respect

I took this during our photography class break last night at Santa Fe Community College. I love living here because everywhere you look, it’s lovely.

There’s been bruhaha the last couple of weeks over tussles between agents and writers. This is mainly turning up on blogs and the comments to them. This guy gives a good summary of recent events. I’ve never read his blog before and I don’t know him. I don’t really like his tone and attitude, but the links are all there. It’s also a good insight into how some writers are feeling about agents these days. What’s most notable is Michelle Wolfson’s response in the comments.

Michelle is an agent I chat with from time to time on Twitter. She’s amusing and provides intelligent insight to the business. Plus, she doesn’t really handle the kind of thing I write these days, so I can chat with her without feeling like I’m, well, kissing up.

At any rate, Michelle was annoyed about all this on Twitter yesterday and asked where this feeling is coming from, that all these writers think agents don’t respect them.

I told her I think it’s part of an overall trend.

Sure, we can look at social media, the intimacy of the publishing world and other familiarities that breed this closeness. Writers have to believe we’ve written the most fabulous book in the world, or we’d never finish writing it, much less withstand the grueling process of trying to get it published. Unfortunately, not everyone will agree with us on that conviction. When a decision is made based on whether it will make money, and the rejection is handed down, people feel hurt.

When people feel hurt, they lose all sense of humor and perspective. We all know this.

But that’s not my point.

I’m seeing this kind of thing all over. Something about the economic downturn has created an environment where people are wanting everyone to know just how hard their jobs are. One flight attendant I used to follow, both on her blog and on Twitter, finally turned me off because she kept posting about how little respect flight attendants receive, how difficult their jobs are and how much money they don’t make.

I can see, to a point, wanting people to have a realistic view of your profession, that it’s not riches and glamor, but after that point, it gets tiresome. We all struggle with difficulties in our jobs. That’s why they pay us to do them: because we wouldn’t put up with the grief otherwise. I don’t know many people who say that they get paid plenty enough. It’s human nature to dream about what you could do with more money.

It’s also human nature to complain when you don’t have everything you want.

I’m not sure what the ranting does for people, except maybe provide a vent. It reminds me of bitch sessions I’ve heard where people try to top each other with how badly their spouse behaves. People say they’re fighting for respect, but really what they want is validation and admiration. These writers complain that they don’t like agents who don’t show respect for writers. I think what they don’t like is agents who don’t think their book is the Next Big Thing.

It’s notable that the writers who are represented by agents don’t seem to they’re so awful. And no, I really don’t believe it’s because they’re cowed into silence.

So many people now looking at writers like Stephenie Meyer and thinking it should be them. Silly stories and easy money. We all want that job. More, a lot of people feel entitled to it.

The trouble is, none of us are really entitled to anything at all. And all the blog posts and tweets in the world won’t change that.

Smoke in the Valley

There was a controlled burn yesterday in the Santa Fe National Forest. We could see smoke billowing up to the east of us all day. They’re good here, though – they put up highway signs and send tweets telling us that’s the case. Over night, the smoke all settled down into the valley.

It smells like a campfire today. Only without the marshmallows.

I’ve been having different dreams the last couple of nights. Unusual images. Monday night I dreamed that David and I were driving over a bridge, the kind of high, arching white ones that span the waters between the mainland and barrier islands. David was driving. I looked down to see that there were whales teeming in the water below. Great blue whales, hundreds of them. They raised their heads out of the water, splashed their tails, rubbed noses, feeding and frolicking. David asked me if I wanted to pull over to take pictures and I said yes. As I was walking back to the car to change lenses (I know – look at me, even dreaming about changing lenses now!) I saw David talking to our daughter Lauren, her guy Damion and our grandson, Tobiah. I was surprised to see them there, to see there were tons of people there now, and Lauren said, oh yes, people were coming from all over to see the whales, such an extraordinary event.

Last night, the dream seemed more like my usual quest dream. I think we were running around saving kidnapped people. There were Russians involved and a maximum security prison. Your dreams are like this, too, right? Anyway, at the end of the dream, David reached into his bag and pulled out this enormous black frog. From this drawing you should conclude that, yes, my MS Paint skills suck, and that it looked like no real frog on earth. It was glossy and turgid, like one of those balloons you can get at the grocery store.

The frog looked unhappy, so I told David to put it in the sink and fill the basin with water. The frog lay submerged in the water, watching us with crystal blue eyes and smiling.

Yes. Frogs can smile. Especially the big, black ones.

At any rate, I’m taking this as things welling up from my subconscious. Amazing creatures, joyfulness and restoration, emerging from dark and hidden places.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Though I’m willing to entertain other interpretations?

Best Seller Within

The countdown has begun.

Marcella Burnard‘s first book Enemy Within comes out November 2! What’s more, she’s already has her first review.

RT Book Reviews gave Enemy Within 4.5 stars and called the book a top pick. Unfortunately they won’t let you look at the review itself unless you have a subscription.

But let me liberally quote from the text:

“…smoking-hot new talent Burnard.”

“Burnard does a stellar job with the action and pacing…”

“[the genre] just got a major infusion of talent!”

Pretty fab, yes?

Marcella is laboring under a deadline to finish revisions to the sequel, Enemy Games, so I get to be the bearer of this great news today. Since Marcella’s not available, I can provide some little-known trivia:

No, the plot is not the same as the Star Trek episode where Kirk gets split in the transporter. This was actually the first question I asked Marcella when she told me the title of her book. She frantically looked up the episode and reported back in relief that her novel was nothing like that. She’d had no idea the title had been used before. Apparently not everyone memorized all the titles of the episodes in the original Star Trek series.

Go figure.

Instead it’s about this:

After a stint in an alien prison torpedoes her military career, Captain Ari Idylle has to wonder why she even bothered to survive. Stripped of her command and banished to her father’s scientific expedition to finish a PhD she doesn’t want, Ari never planned to languish quietly behind a desk. But when pirates commandeer her father’s ship, Ari once again becomes a prisoner.

Pirate leader Cullin Seaghdh may not be who he pretends to be but as far as Cullin is concerned, the same goes for Ari. Her past imprisonment puts her dead center in Cullin’s sights and if she hasn’t been brainwashed and returned as a spy, then he’s convinced she must be part of a traitorous alliance endangering billions of lives. Cullin can’t afford the desire she fires within him and he’ll stop at nothing, including destroying her, to uncover the truth.

Finally, Marcella said I could confirm the rumors that she posed for the cover. I’ve actually seen that outfit, as she wears it on her sailboat from time to time. She keeps the blasters locked up, however, so the cats won’t get into them.

And yes, she really is that stacked.

Here’s the draft cover from her modeling session before they retouched it.

Congrats Marcella!

Lamy Llamas & Falling Stars

Yesterday we took a little drive down the road to explore and enjoy the pretty day. There’s a town nearby called Lamy we’d been meaning to see. Not a whole lot there, but this llama seemed quite proud of his domain.

Last Friday, I wrote a post about popularity and how I was a dorky child. My mom worries when I write posts like these, because she thinks it means she was a bad mother. For the record: she was and is a wonderful mother. From cross-comparing with other people, I suspect I drew one of the best mothers out there. It’s probably because she’s such a good mother that she worries about it.

At any rate, she asked me why I never talked to her about feeling like I was such a dork. I said that my great dorkiness seemed so self-evident that it wasn’t worth discussing. It would have been like saying “I have a nose.”

More – I think that the world of children tends to be a place adults can’t quite access.

Literary Agent Nathan Bransford wrote a blog post about dead or absent parents in children’s literature. As he notes, there are sometimes complaints that to have a child or young person’s parents be dead or absent is lazy writing. It allows the writer to skip huge chunks of family dynamics. Bransford argues that it exposes the young person to the world and forces them to be their own hero. He has an interesting point.

But I think it’s more than that.

Just as in the Peanuts cartoons, where the adult voices were a series of nonsensical wah-wah-wah burbles, the world of children excludes adults. Not deliberately, but because what matters to children and what matters to adults diverges wildly. No young person explains to their parents the complex and volatile politics of the playground, largely because it makes no sense in any other context. The small resonance of a lunch shared or stolen means nothing to people dealing with corporate takeovers.

Children’s literature simply creates the analogy by removing the parents. The echoing, insular world of children is replicated emotionally by having the adults be absent or even cruel. Then, when mentors appear, they take on even greater stature, for being the only figure in an empty landscape.

Our parents want to protect us from the cruelties of the world, which is their job. And, as parents, we want to believe we know our children and what they face. But the truth is, we all ultimately face our demons alone. For all the love, the advice and support, the mentoring, it still comes down to the face in the mirror.

Stories simply relate that truth.

Catch a Falling Star and Put It in Your Pocket

We sit up on a hill, with Galisteo Basin and the densest part of Santa Fe below us. The dramatic reverse of heavy rain after weeks of baking sun, leads to fog the following morning. It flowed in rose-tinted waves at sunrise, up and out, back into the vast sky that brought it.

Apparently I’m in a poetic mood this morning.

I get that way sometimes, where I feel an upwelling of something inside, something sweet and bubbly, and I want to send it out into the world. It can take an odd form, depending on where I’m at.

I remember when I was young – maybe 8 or 9? – and we were on a field trip for school. This makes me think I was 8, because in 3rd grade I was in this experimental class where we spent a whole bunch of time traveling around Colorado learning history. I think it was intended to give us hands on stimulation. That was a strange time for me, because there were only two other 3rd graders in this class, a few 4th graders and a whole slew of 5th & 6th graders. We’d all been flagged as gifted or talented or perhaps just oddball. On bus trips, our teachers would have long division contests and kids who got the right answers received prizes. I always put up my hand and guessed answers, even though I had yet to learn multiplication tables, much less division. I always figured I had a shot of getting it right which, of course, I never did. This practice had the additional bonus of annoying the other kids, making me more of a social outcast than ever. In an odd way, though I knew this, it didn’t really bother me.

But that’s all beside the point.

On this particular trip, the teacher announced that this particular girl – older, pretty, very popular – was moving away. Tomorrow would be her last day at the school and we should all be sure to say good-bye and wish her well. She was one of those people who are inexplicably liked by everyone, as if she carried a bit of sunshine with her and people just liked to bask in it. She was likely 11 or 12, but to my 8, she looks like Bo Derek or Farrah Fawcett in my memory.

I went home from school, put Perry Como on my 8-track player (which would cycle endlessly) and set up my little folding table. I made clay animals for this girl whose name I can’t remember. I made probably a dozen of them. Into each one, I poured my admiration for this girl everyone liked so much.

I dried them in the oven, painted them and put them in a little box to take to school the next day. When my mom asked who they were for and I told her, she said she’d never heard this girl’s name before and didn’t know she was my friend.

My mother clearly didn’t understand that a young goddess like this wouldn’t be my actual friend.

You can imagine the scene. I marched up to her at school and gave her this fairly extravagant gift of a box full of little clay animals. I was reasonably good at it and she was surprised that I’d made them. That I’d made them for her. I still remember the surprise and confusion on her face. The discomfort, because what I’d done was clearly weird. But she was a nice person and thanked me.

Still, I understood that this had been over the line.

Looking back, I think what I was giving her was more of a tribute. Perhaps I hoped for some of her charm to rain on me. Frankly, I hadn’t really noticed her much until I saw everyone gathered around her to say how sad they were to see her go. I wanted that in a way I hadn’t known to before.

I still admire those with the gift of popularity. I can see how their natural charm, their sunny attractiveness draw people to them. Sometimes I try to emulate it. But I still have enough of that weird kid in me, the one who can listen to the same favorite soundtrack twenty times in a row, that I can’t quite get there.

(A boyfriend once cited the same tape loop in my car as one of the reasons for break-up – I’m not kidding. I mean, I would have changed it if he’d asked. It just happened to be my favorite album at the time and I wasn’t done obsessing over it and, well, yeah…)

Ultimately it comes back to that I’m still the one who will put up her hand and ask the uncomfortable question. Sometimes I impulsively give gifts that are too much. too out of the blue. I’m very bad about saying things I shouldn’t. Every once in a while, I envy those with the crowds of admirers. I think it must be pretty neat.

I remember that embarrassed girl, with her box of clay animals. I’m still her.

And that’s okay.

Corn Moon

I know a lot of people are calling this the Super Harvest Moon, but it’s traditionally the Corn Moon in September.

This full moon coincided with the autumn equinox, with the moon rising as the sun set – thus the “super” part. I’m not sure who coined that term. It smacks a bit of “super-size-me,” and I kind of doubt the Native Americans of North America, who coined the full-moon names had the concept of “super,” but I could be wrong.

“Ho, Little Elk, did the Great Spirit reward your hunting?”

“Yes, Red Eagle, the Great Spirit sent me a Super-buck deer. We shall eat well tonight.”

See what I mean?

At any rate, this photo of the corn moon is not from last night, but from the night before. We were reliably forecast for rain to come in yesterday, to the tune of 80%. The forecasting types could apparently see this one coming from a long ways off – a long chain of heavy-bellied clouds working like a conveyor belt to bring gulf moisture up to us.

So I took the photo the night before, just in case. Which was a good thing because we had pouring rain all afternoon and night. We never saw the sun, much less the set and the moonrise.

Which was perfectly fine because we hadn’t had any moisture for weeks and weeks. Everything had become dusty, cracking dry.

The calendar shows the full moon on one day, but really it’s full for about three days. Depending on how far off of full, you might see it slightly gibbous, with a slight shaving off of one side. It’s not always easy to pinpoint, that exact moment of perfect fullness, when the waxing stops and the waning starts. We’re back to my pendulum now.

I take comfort in that concept, that nothing in nature is ever a fixed point. Instead, our universe is a dynamic system, in constant change.

What appears to be still is simply a snapshot.

Look at This!

I’m a pretty upbeat person.

No, really, I am! I believe in positive thinking, in realizing your dreams, in doing whatever it takes for any of us to make our lives the most wonderful and fulfilling as they can be. I believe doing what I can to support other people in their efforts.

But I just hate inspirational shit.

You know what I mean. The kind of thing some determinedly cheerful person would slap on the photo above that’s meant to draw our attention to beauty and joy and the angels singing.

No no no.

This is possibly tied up with my issues about being nice. I’ve just never been very good at it. At the same time, lately people have been telling me how helpful I’ve been to them. I can see that, because sometimes being helpful means that you can’t be nice. The Taoists say that you have to be very careful about helping people because it’s difficult to know what people really need. Sometimes people need something really terrible to happen to wake them up to their real dreams. Like the proverbial story of the business man who ignores all but his career until the devastating event, after which he quits his job, sells everything and becomes a painter.

None of us wants to be the devastating event. Fortunately the universe generally takes care of that.

So, most people resort to the cheerleader method of helping. The rah rah, you can do it! variety of helping. It’s innocuous. You can’t really lead anyone astray doing that, not like saying “you should really quit your job, sell everything and become a painter.” We all love hearing our supporters cheer us on and it feels good to cheer for other people. It’s all good until someone decides to start making money off it.

This is where the life-coach types come in.

Yeah, the life-coach types bug me like inspirational posters bug me. And lately they’re infiltrating twitter. It’s like a termite invasion, where first you see one, then two, then the walls are covered with them.

Clearly someone pointed out to the life-coach types that twitter is a great place to market themselves. They can post pithy 140-character inspirational sayings (along with a link to their site). They can RT each other and convince us we need them. There’s more of them, too, as people seek careers that will bring income without being dependent on a corporate structure.

What bugs me most – and obviously I have issues here – is that they use command language. Think about this! Be happy and productive! Where you or I might slap the gorgeous sunset pic on twitter and say “gorgeous sunset in Santa Fe last night” they’ll say, Look up more often! See what you are missing??

Oh yeah, I unfollow them. But then people I do follow retweet them, because they think it’s just a happy, positive thing.

It should be a happy, positive thing, but somehow it’s not. It smacks of intrusiveness to me. Of manipulation. At worst, of playing god in other people’s lives. Nobody else can “coach” us into following the path we need to follow. That’s part of the deal: we have to find it for ourselves.

The best we can do is give other people help when they ask for it.

And cheering. Lots of cheering.


There’s this woman who works at the gym we go to. She’s there pretty much every morning starting at 5. Every once in a while someone else is working, but it’s usually this gal. She’s in her 60s, most likely, and looks great with it.

And she’s a talker. She loves noise.

Full disclosure: while I’m a reasonably social person under most circumstances, I’m not so much at 6 in the morning. My brain isn’t firing all neurons yet – only those needed to get me out of bed and to the gym. When I’m lifting weights, I like to concentrate on that. I don’t want to chat.

She does.

I know a lot of people do like to socialize at the gym. I see them standing around and talking for 1/2 hour or more. Me – I want to be there and gone in 1/2 hour.

I’m grumpy that way.

I’m grumpy enough that if she comes over to where I’m working out, I won’t really engage in her conversational gambits. I’ll smile, nod, give her the huh, go figure. David, being much nicer, will talk to her, which just encourages her. Then he grumbles to me later.

Today she went over to where a client was working with a personal trainer, saying something about dancing at nightclubs. I heard the client gal say in a joking voice “hey, you’re distracting my trainer – go away!”

Nicely done, I thought.

But then Chatty Sue came over to us, where David and I were working on neighboring machines.

“Today is the last day of summer!” she announced.

David said, “Oh, is it?”

“Yes! Isn’t that terrible!”

I couldn’t help myself. “It’s the autumnal equinox,” I said, “it’s a day of balance.”

“Yeah – I hate to see summer go,” she complained. And proceeded to tell us about her tomatoes which, incidentally, she’d told us about before.

I didn’t try again.

To think of today as the last day of summer is silly to me. For some of us, the weather lingers hot, for others, snow has already fallen and summer is long gone. The division of the seasons is a mark on the calendar. But the equinox is about the balance of light and dark. Exactly poised. It’s a moment of equilibrium, the pause, the imperceptible hesitation of the pendulum before it swings back the other direction.

It’s a day of possibility.

Continuous Partial Attention

This is a Colorado short-horned walking stick.

It lives in New Mexico, however. They normally stay camouflaged during the day and move around at night. This one was on our glass front door on Saturday morning. It never moved, even when we transferred it to a piece of paper. It embodies still stick-ness. Even looking at it in real life, it looks like a twig and not an animal.

So many variations in the world.

This weekend I cranked on The Body Gift. I managed to get myself in a bit of a bind: I’d queried a new agent on Friday, just to keep the ball rolling, and she emailed me back within the hour to request the full manuscript.

See, that just never happens.

Okay, clearly not “never,” but very rarely. Usually they ask for something like the first 30 pages or the first three chapters or, if they’re really interested, the first 100 pages. And really, no one else has answered me that fast.

So, while The Body Gift is finished (or I never would have queried otherwise, since it’s a real no-no to query a book that isn’t finished, since finishing a novel is never to be assumed), I was in the midst of rewriting the middle section. My work obviously cut out for me, I spent the weekend writing about 40 pages (a little over 8,000 words).

No, I don’t think I could do this every day.

Well – maybe I could, if I wasn’t working full-time. It would be interesting to see.

At any rate, my online community rallied ’round, sending me Facebook Mojo (which seems to work equally well for writing output as for white-blood cell count). Kerry was fortunately available to read for me as I went and Marcella, also revising, helped me brainstorm through some sticky spots. I pretty much parked myself under the grape arbor all weekend.

When my mom asked me, via instant messenger, how it was going, I said that just then Marcella was helping me brainstorm. My mom asked where she was. I said on her sailboat, but parked in the harbor, or she wouldn’t have internet. My mom thought maybe Marcella was sailing and talking to me on the phone.

Absurd thought.

No, we don’t talk on the phone. We’re all about non-simultaneous conversations, which allows us to have continuous partial attention. My mom was terribly amused and requested that be today’s blog post.

I live to serve.

And no, I didn’t make up that phrase. Someone else did and I thought for sure I’d blogged about it before. But I looked through the blog and I can’t find it. Turns out a casual Google search shows quite a few hits, so I’ll let you do your own research, if you’re fired up. Really, I think “they” all view it as a bad thing, because one never puts their full attention on one thing. For me it means that I have tools at hand that allow me to dip in and out of resources as I need to.

In return, I can be more easily “dipped into,” because helping someone else doesn’t require that I drop what I’m doing.

I realize this way of operating sounds appalling to some people. It has its benefits and drawbacks.

So many variations in the world.

Face vs. Ass

Yeah, this is me, from my sorority pic in college. You know – the array of photos that shows all the gals in the sorority. It’s called a composite, in case that’s a detail you ever need.

And yes, that’s my natural hair color.

I started to clean it up, but I need to be writing, not photo-shopping. And I just wanted to show it to you, my dear blog-gobblers, because of how young I look.

I’ve reached the age where photographs of my younger self look distinctly different than my self of today. That wasn’t true for a very long time. Suddenly I’m noticing that dewy complexion and perfectly taut skin that just isn’t quite so much so these days. Not that I think I look old by any stretch.

But I don’t look dewy, either.

I don’t know if it’s apocryphal or not, but there’s supposedly a French saying that as a woman ages she must choose between her face and her ass.

This is a succinct way of saying that you either get to be skinny or have a youthful face, not both. That’s because subcutaneous fat – that luscious layer under the skin – is what makes us look young. In some ways I like my face of today better, because I always minded the chubbiness of my cheeks then. Suddenly I have cheekbones. And yet I weigh overall, significantly more than I did then.

Ah, to reclaim my 20-year old behind.

It how we age, that we lose fat in our faces first. A woman who viciously diets to maintain that tiny posterior raids the fat in her face. You wonder why the Hollywood actresses are forever getting “plumpers” (lips, cheeks, foreheads), while you’re thinking that plumping injections would be about #50 on your plastic surgery wish list? That’s why. They’ve worked so hard to have the super-skinny, no-fat bodies, that their faces get that weird, dry look. It’s really just skin over bone at that point.

Not a youthful look.

So my point, and I do have one, is that choosing the face isn’t such a bad thing. After all, there’s lots of ways to drape the ass. When I occasionally fret that I’m not as skinny as I could be, I give thanks for the elasticity of my skin, for the fat under my skin that keeps it smooth and vital.

It might not be dewy, but it’s not parchment either. I’ll take it.