Writing to the Market – Is It *Always* Anathema?

lookout quail This is like one of those “Can you spot the X?” photos. Can you spot the quail in this pic? While the others in the covey are scratching around and eating, one will get in a high spot and be the lookout for predators. At first I thought I hadn’t gotten a good photo – several were out of focus – and then I zoomed in and wow!

Love how he’s looking right at me, too. lookout quail crop

I’m over at Word Whores today, talking about when you *should* write to the market


Yes, I know, what you’ve been thinking. That what this blog needs is more baby quail pictures!

Fortunately a quail family stopped by just in time yesterday afternoon to help us out. Mom and dad escorted something in the neighborhood of a dozen chicks to pick under the bird feeder. It’s really impossible to count them, the way the little puffballs swirl and scatter. They really blend, too.

All gambits to increase survival for these little snack-sized portions.

The sheer number of chicks is, of course, one way that the quail ensure a few survive. Though the parents are also diligent in their care. In population biology, this is referred to as the r-factor. At one end of the spectrum is the capital R, with humans being the most extreme example. Very few young are produced, they are in a helpless state for a long time and require intensive parental investment to survive. On the other end are animals like insects, that birth thousands of offspring that are nearly mature at birth and receive no parental care at all. They’re on their own.

The quail made me think of this, but the discussions on bullying have, too.

A friend I met on the first day of first grade, and who I knew through all of high school and now talk to on the interwebs, posted a letter to several of us on Facebook, thanking us for standing by her while she was bullied all those years. The thing is, I never knew she’d felt bullied. I understand from these stories that people are stepping forward to tell, that often the friends don’t know, that the bullies attack when the victim is alone. And the victims of bullying rarely tell their friends or family how bad things are.

Now, I did know she was kind of a social outcast, but then, so was I. Neither of us were in with the popular girls. I had a particular pack of popular girls who liked to pick on me, but I was arrogant enough to be certain I was smarter than they were and I didn’t hesitate to let them know it when they got going on me. My brand of self-defense. Also my way of protecting my self-confidence.

We don’t like to think of ourselves in terms of population dynamics, but bullying really is the animal condition in action. All animals attack the weak or different. Albinos are expelled from the herd. Males that lose dominance battles become “losers.” There are fascinating behavioral studies showing that, once an animal becomes a “loser” it can’t win a dominance battle even against a smaller opponent. Only unless two “losers” compete against each other can one become a “winner.” Interestingly, that “winner” can then go on to defeat opponents that defeated it before.

Of course, humans bring emotion and psychology into the mix. Thus the bullies are usually those who have been wounded themselves. And those they pick on aren’t necessarily those whose presence weakens the herd, but those who are vulnerable to attack.

We feel like adults in those high school years, but we aren’t. We’re still maturing, under the care of our parents, though these are situations they can’t protect us from.

I know there’s not a clear answer. I like to think if I had known what my friend was going through, I would have stood up for her. Maybe it was enough that we were the friends that we were and that gave her some strength.

Sometimes I think it comes down to surviving until you’re stronger. Hide from the hawks, the coyotes and bobcats until you’re not quite such an enticing snack.

It does get better.

Every Quail Is Sacred

I’ve been trying to explain social media to people lately.

Yeah, you laugh.

And you should, because I am more often the luddite than the gal in the know. And I’m so not the generation of social media — though I notice that mine, the Generation Jones, if you will, has cheerfully glommed onto the concept. Perhaps because we’re all so determined not to become technologically obsolete before we absolutely CANNOT keep up any more. After all, we learned computers when you had to do everything in DOS, dammit. The younger people don’t know what it was like, creating graphics designating the color for each pixel, uphill, through six feet of snow.

Okay, I’m over it now.

I do, however, go to writing conferences where they talk about online marketing. And I go to those sessions, because I’m hopeful of one day having a new book to market. And do a better job of it this time. Though, granted, I used the tools I had at the time.

So, folks in the generations before mine, the Boomers and the Silents, (They all want to be Silent Generation now, have you noticed? No one wants to be a Boomer.) ask me to explain what social media is.

I tell them, it’s about creating networks of people, primarily online, and you share information about the things you like and use. And they say, oh, advertising and I say, no, because this isn’t controlled and it isn’t full of tricks. It’s about honest communication. Stuff you happen to buy is just one part of that.

They don’t get it.

I’m probably not explaining it well.

Penelope Trunk, one of my favorite bloggers (for the record, she does not pay me to say that; she barely knows I exist), does a better job of explaining it, though I can’t find the exact post I’m thinking of. She says the younger folks, the Ys, don’t even think about this. It’s just how they are.

What I suspect is, everyone heard in the early days of social marketing how people were paid to talk to their friends about products. Doing the Oh! I’ll have a Beerweiser! I lurv the Beerweiser, don’t you? Maybe this still goes on and I just don’t know about it.

Of course, we all thought this was really icky. Like stealth advertising.

But the thing is, we all do this all the time anyway; we’re just not paid to do it. Which makes it honest. My aunt says she wants to pick my brain on MP3 players — I’ll tell what kind I bought and why. My mom asks which brand of vitamins is the most trustworthy; David has researched it and we can tell her. They don’t know it, but it’s social media.

All of this comes to mind because on yesterday’s post, I mentioned that my internet was slow and carelessly cast blame on either Qwest or Google. (Relax Qwest social media team — you already contacted me!) And, as you can see from my parenthetical comment, someone from the Qwest social media team commented on my blog post offering to check my internet line for problems.

Totally cracked me up.

And then I thought, very cool of them, that they have a team that picks up on mentions of their services and responds. How smart of them to pay attention to honest, if flip, assessments of their service.

I took them up on the offer, too. The ‘net has been slow at our abode lately. I would love for them to fix it. I like Qwest’s service either way and I don’t mind saying so. No, they don’t pay me either.

What’s more interesting to me? Both my mom and aunt reacted to the comment from Qwest as a corporate intrusion. A Big Brotherish “they’re watching you” kind of thing. My mom even said to me (on Yahoo IM, if we’re quoting brands) “Now even I have to watch what I tell you. God only knows who is listening!”

I say, hey, I threw myself, my words and opinions out there. I made my thoughts accessible to the web crawlers. They’re smart to listen. In fact, I think they’d be fools not to.

The best part of social media is it’s FUN. It’s like a big party. Those Gen Y kids knew what they were doing when they started MySpacing and Chatting and FaceBooking and we, the grown-ups, all thought they were nuts.

David asked me how the photo of our Christmas quail figured into my theme tonight and I said it hadn’t come together yet. But you know, if the quail had a way to post “found a great feeder tonight — they’ve got the BEST seed!” — wouldn’t they do it, too?

Hell, maybe they do!

Simple Pleasures

I think it was Alexandra Sokoloff who said in a writing workshop “if you’re not writing down your dreams, you’re working way too hard.”

If someone knows this to be true or untrue, please let me know. That she’s the one who said it, not whether writing down your dreams saves work. Or, actually, you can tell me that, too. At any rate, it seems I heard this third- or fourth-hand, but I liked it, so it stuck.

Many of my dreams have been written down, in various fragments, waiting to be stories. Obsidian started from a dream. From a series of dreams, really. I had another good one the other night and wrote several pages about it. Could be fun to see where it goes.

I have disturbing dreams from time to time, also. Rarely full-fledged nightmares, but things that prey on me.

I dreamed one the other night. That David’s mother told me I was a bad influence. She asked me to leave their house in the middle of the night. I was heartbroken, but I wasn’t surprised. I knew how she felt already.

Isabel goes outside, despite the snow.

She loves to crouch behind the plants and watch the quail feed. Once they collect, she springs into their feathery cluster, sending shooting stars of birds in all directions. It’s her favorite thing to do, even though she never catches any.

Frankly, I think she doesn’t try very hard. They’re big birds, after all. She just loves the game. Snow collecting on her fur isn’t enough to ruin her fun.

When she gets cold and damp enough, she comes back in and curls up near where I’m working to snooze. If I get up, she takes possession of my desk chair, the best place to be.

And when she sleeps, she dreams of catching quail.

First Time’s a Charm

Scaled quail, in case you were wondering.

Not an amazing shot. I probably need a better camera. Or better skills, more likely. It’s not like I’m not taking several shots and picking the best one. Really, I am.
What’s funny is: usually my first one is the best.
I use the wizards on the camera, which I love. I almost always start with “Landscape” which serves me well. I love “Available Light,” too. Which we used almost exclusively during Christmas in Scotland.
Remember how in school the ubiquitous “they” would always tell us to check over our test answers at the end. This was supposed to be good test-taking technique. Save some time for the end and review your answers. Thing was, when I changed my answers, I invariably changed them wrong. My first instinct was almost always correct. It got so that, by college, it was a near superstition for me never to change my first answer. I wouldn’t even look, so I couldn’t be tempted.
I’ve never see the show, but that whole “is that your final answer?” thing gives me the heebie jeebies. My first answer is my final answer. For nearly anything. I’m decisive like that. If it’s a bad decision, I’ll do what it takes to fix it. But indecision? Makes my skin crawl.
So how about that manuscript I’m revising?
Yeah. About that.
It’s not the same. And I don’t know why. Revising isn’t all that hard for me either. (Right, well, once I got over myself, that is.) Maybe because it’s a whole ‘nother round of decision making.
Wow – great!
Ack – must go!
It’s Duck, Duck, Goose all over again. Only I get to be the one walking the circle, tapping heads, controlling who may sit and who must desperately run.
Hmm… a theme emerges.
I’m tweaking the themes in Obsidian. Thinking a lot about love, power and control.
Who makes the decisions has the power. Thus the game goes to the quick and the ruthless.
Is that your final answer?

Now, Where Did I Pack My Writing Career?

I hoped to get a shot of our covey of quail for you today, but I missed them.

Instead you get Teddy watching the sunset. Or maybe looking for quail in the chamisa.

It could have been that it was sunnier and brighter today. The last two days they all trooped by and pecked around in the gravel around 9:15. You can hear them coming, snooting around in the juniper to the west of the house. They chuckle amongst themselves as they approach. Then they scurry into sight from around the yucca plants.

They don’t stay long. Maybe ten minutes, before they head off in a line again, heading farther east. Sometimes I see them come back through in the evening.

Today dawned bright and clear, however, so they might have started their perambulations earlier. Not like the cool misty mornings of the last two days. I, too, am resuming my schedule. As mine solidifies, I should better learn theirs.

We’ve gone running the last two mornings, though we’re not back to getting up at 5:30. I’ve been productive at the day job. And now I’m going to work on my book revision. A file that has not been open since July 19, over a month ago. And I’m reasonably certain, by the timing of that date, that it was only to send it to an agent I met at RWA National. The outtakes file is dated June 2.

A sinking feeling tells me I haven’t worked on it since June.

Time flies when you’re losing your mind.

I had a little crisis this morning. My friend, Leanna Renee Hieber, celebrated the release of her first book yesterday, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. In fact, several friends had releases in the last few days. I tried not to be too envious. But then I also received my “royalty statement” from UNM Press for Wyo Trucks, which shows that the book is really dead to the world at this point. Never mind that I haven’t been putting in ANY effort to sell it lately.

Nor into my revision of Obsidian.

Nor into writing anything new.

Thus: my crisis.

But my friend Allison was on the other other end of the IM with the perfect pep talk. She made me realize that all this means is that I have my head above water again, that I’m even thinking about my writing career again, instead of what box my frying pan might be in. It makes me think of Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs, a model that has served me well all my life. Basically the idea is that, if a lower tier on the pyramid isn’t handled, you can’t possibly reach a higher tier. What sucks for us artist types? Creativity is the very top piece. Which basically means you have to have everything else in your life handled first.

So unfair.

But I have my manuscript open. I’ve got some great ideas from Allison on working my way back in.

Wonder-Twin Power? Self-Actualize!