Friday, February 20, 2009

The Trail of Nerds

Groovy looking, dude, right? I can't remember where I got this picture. I think it was a long time ago, some dude from Match, I think, wanting to date me.

Which leads me to a new and interesting question. It's a question that one of my new "nerds" on-line has asked me, aka, a new guy wanting to meet me and ask me out.

He asked, "What is edgy?" He asked that since it's a requirement listed on my site. It's kind of like one of those things that if I have to explain it to you, you shouldn't be asking in the first place. But it did raise my intelligent ponderings. It could be obviously completely subjective. So this is what I said.

"Well, edgy. . .
John Lennon, not Paul McCartney.
Robert Mitchum, NOT Tom Cruise.
Andrew Dice Clay, not Conan O'Brian (though Conan is funnier and more PC, he's NOT edgy nor hot)
Charlie Sheen, not John Cryer (granted, Sheen's a jerk, but he IS edgy)
Micheal Hutchins, not Huey Lewis
Jim Morrison, not The Beach Boys.
Henry Rollins, not Seinfeld
Quinten Tarintino, not Ron Howard
Cormac McCarthy, not Steinbeck
John Trudell and Russel Means, not Newt Gingrich
Gimme more Rob Zombie, Guy Richie, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood.

Picking a new thrash band to go see, even though you never heard of them before.
Following your passions, your heart, hell may care.
Dressing in all black or wearing something hip and cutting edge, or trippy or rock-star not something conservative that looks like Mom picked it out.That's a start anyway."

I could have gone on and on and on, but I drank too much coffee and shot off the VERY first thing that jumped into my head.

So how do you define edgy?

How to Become a Novelist, or My Experience Anyway

Ever wonder just how a novelist goes about being one? Read on.

I read an article once called, "The 24 steps to Publishing a Novel," and here's how it goes.

The very FIRST step is getting an agent. Then it leads you to the last step which is your novel coming out. However, what they didn't tell you is that there's about 50 steps you take BEFORE you even get an agent (and you have to HAVE to have an agent these days unless you want to "self-publish" known as "vanity publish" like a granny).

Firstly, you must write like a bandit before even trying to get an agent, like, writing thousands of practice pages (that no one should ever read except your best friend, mom and you), and that might mean, you have to write a few, yes, more than ONE, finished novels, and then learn how to REVISE them, (two things they don't teach you in any college). And well, you should probably spend 10 years studying novels in college, too. LOL. Then, after you do all that writing/studying , then you're ready to submit to an agent.

But what the article doesn't tell you is that's VERY hard. Agents on their sites will tell you this: 1. they reject 99% of all manuscripts each month and 2. they get anywhere from 400-5,000 submissions per month.

Yup. Crazy, huh? Also, you just don't send out ten letters then think you're going to bag an agent. My first agent took me about 125 letters/rejections to finally get one to take me on. The second agent took about 200.

Then, you're still not published. You're only at step 1. Then the agent starts submitting to anywhere from 4-15 publishers. If they don't sell your book, the agent drops you like a hot potato, and you start all over again. But guess what? A new agent usually doesn't want your book either if it's been "Shopped" so you have to start over and write a new one. BTW, you don't make a cent, until your novel is SOLD. And often, you have to pay your agent fees (copying, postage) to run out and sell your work.

Then if you do get a contract, you have to give Uncle Sam 30% and your agent 15-30%. Typically, you don't make much on a first novel. What you make is called "an advance," towards future prospective sales. It can be as low as $2,000 or as high as $100,000, usually LOW for a first novel.

I wrote a very commercial (big reading audience) novel, so Victoria was aiming high. I've written: Wide Open Places (a historical western), Eating at the Tall Corn Cafe (women's fiction and all the rest are women's fiction), Searching for Galileo, The Fat Chicks Club (comedy), All My Friends are Men and now . . .Welcome to Rock County.

Of those novels, I came PAINFULLY CLOSE to getting a big novel deal with Eating at the Tall Corn Cafe. I was VERY lucky to get Victoria Sanders in Manhattan to rep me (she reps huge stars like Queen Latifah and Karen Slaughter). She got the biggest, brightest stars in publishing to READ my whole novel in ONE sitting in a matter of THREE WEEKS. I came so painfully close, my secretaries were notified to get me out of class if my agent called. I made it straight to the top with the readings. First, I got Penguin to almost publish me through Ellen Edwards. She called me, and I almost had a heart attack on the phone. But she was, very, very vague and had poor communication. I couldn't understand what it was exactly that she wanted from me. She wanted me to re-do the storyline, but she didn't tell me 1. why or 2. what she wanted changed. I changed a few minor things, then I was rejected. Heart-breaking!

Then Victoria got Hyperion/Disney/Miramax Film/Publishing interested in me.Again, I got an interview on the phone. This time it looked GREAT! The editor was my age, had grown up in the midwest on a farm like me. She communicated fabulously. We were on the same page, literally. She totally DUG the novel, and with this Miramax connection, if it did well, it would be made into a film! She gave me GREAT notes on how to make the novel's revision even better (you ALWAYS have to re-do the novel, btw, you can NEVER just write it "as is" until you're Cormac McCarthy), and I was ready to go. But she was ONLY a "junior editor" which meant she needed unanimous approval in committee to "buy me." One editor balked because I'm an "unknown," so the contract was cancelled.

Crushing, huh? So you can probably see why I'm NOT ready to throw down my cards, leave teaching and get a 9-5 job just yet. This all happened in 2003-2004. Then I took some time to just develop my craft and I wrote the next few novels.All My Friends are Men, felt like it was worthy, so I gave it to Victoria, but she didn't care for it, and I was dumped. Back to the slate I went and got a new agent, Joan, in Florida. But Joan's not a famous agent, and the novel went no where. So, back to the slate I went and I wrote this new novel Welcome To Rock County in 2007-2008.

I'm now revising it, and I think it's my best work to date.Hopefully, I've learned enough that this will NOW be the break out novel. I'm confused though. When the time comes, which agent should I submit it to? Joan, the nice helpful agent who's a nobody? Or Victoria, the famous ex-agent who's hard to get along with? Victoria is good at what she does, but she's a HUGE crank to work with. That's where I'm at.

I've had some short stories and poems published in academic literary journals which were prestigious (but no pay), like last year I was published in 13th Moon, out of University of New York-Albany. They asked me to present my work with 12 others at a convention in Cincinnati, but my school wouldn't fund my plane ticket to go (cheapskates). So that's it in a nutshell.

Want to know about Welcome to Rock County or ever feel like reading something, just ask.

Anyway, there's your glimpse into the world of a novelist and why I'm not quite ready to abandon it just yet. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nice and Ugly, or Bad but Gorgeous?

Does the face of good looking also have to be the face of trouble? Why is it the better looking the man, the higher incidence of jerkiness, the higher incidence of "issues," depression, moodiness, whatever? Is this a problem only women have, or is it a problem men have equally?

Does it seem the good looking guys are always the jerkiest, or does this also apply to women as well?

If so, I'm confused. I'm good looking (or so I believe), but I'm not a jerk. Hence the last couple of dates I've been on, have been with nice men, but none of them are good looking nor have this edge (as in above photo), this, handsome-dashing thing going on.

So why did I go on these dates? Because they were "nice guys." But I found myself staring at large noses, non-symmetrical faces and yawning, looking at my watch and thinking that even catching Bennie pooping in the living room was more fun than being on a date with no zip-zip.

Not a good sign, I suppose.

So what gives? Does the person have to have an ugly (or least boring) mug to be "nice"? Are all the nice and good looking ones taken?

What gives?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Book, a Series a Food and a Dude

OK, I thought of a good little game. If you were stranded somewhere indefinitely, and you could only be with ONE man, one book, one TV series and one kind of food, what would you pick and why?

My answers:
One Man--Well, if we're talking reality, it would be Scott because as much as he drives me mad, his mind is brilliant and he's gorgeous to look at so I'd never be bored. If it's fantasy, it's John Corbin for the same reasons.

One Book--It'd be Confederacy of Dunces, hands down. Why? The humor NEVER gets old. And weirdly, in many ways, I identify with Ignatious.

One Food--why that would be cheese of course. Why? It's good for you. You can fix it a million ways. It's delicious and doesn't require refrigeration.

One Series--Northern Exposure. Why? Well, not only was each episode kind of a way to view life, they filmed it on location, and when does Alaska (aka, Washington), ever get old?

So what are yours?

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Perfect Show and the Perfect Man

Remember this?
Ahhhh, the perfect man. NOT that the perfect man exists, but if he did, (and I'll exclude Scott for a moment), it would be this character from the old show, Northern Exposure.

Chris, what made him perfect? Well, clearly everyone's expectations of perfection differ. Some might find Donald Trump to be the perfect man (ewwww), but here's my qualifications why "Chris in the morning" was the perfect man.
1. Super intelligent. Chris was always reading. ALWAYS reading. And not comic book stuff, but amazing stuff from Thoreau to Emily Dickens, from Terry MacMillian to Updike, from National Geographic to Redbook.
2. He really UNDERSTOOD women. He understood emotions. Emotions to him were natural. Nothing to freak out about.
3. He knew how to dress. Even if it was a flannel shirt with the sleeves ripped out and and old t-shirt, it was slick and well put together.
4. He had cool hair. Nuff said.
5. He was laidback. Nothing sent him over the edge, unless he was stuck in a moment of writers' block. Which leads to . . .
6. He was creative. He could write, speak eloquently, and create sculptures and still earn a living (though he did live in a pull-behind trailor, which wasn't very realistic for allegedly taking place in Alaska).
7. He was nice-n-tall. Who doesn't love a Big Boy?
Ahhh, but it was FICTION. Not reality. And the character was supposed to be the paragon of a man like that, not REALITY. Now that the show's been off the air awhile, and I'm much more mature, I can see that the creators of the show were after utopia.
Everything about the show always centered around achieving some sort of lofty ideal. Not that that's bad. It's admirable, but life rarely gives us perfection nor ideals. Nevertheless, "Chris, in the morning," was the "ideal man."

Does this scenario look familiar to you? Is this just me, or does the Mighty Mouse's myopic concerns look a lot like men we've been in relationships with? I can think of the last three men I've known who are like this.

Relationships, and love, for that matter, are about thinking/loving the other person, wanting the best for them, not what they can offer you.

Leslie and I are watching, don't gasp, "The Tool Academy" on VH-1. Yes, I realize it's mind-pollution, but it's sociologically of interest to me. The concept of the show, is that a dozen women who are SICK of their boyfriends' bad behavior, enter them in a charm school for men, to transform them from self-absorbed idiots into kind, caring, stand-up men. Some of the men are un-fixable, have cheated and lied to their women, and they're "Terminated" and kicked out of the school. The better ones go into therapy and the counselors decide which men have made the most progress.

On many levels this is sad: 1. we have a show prostituting men's' bad behaviors? 2. that people watch it for "fun"? 3. that so many women are so sick of being treated badly, that they have come up with a show to illustrate this and reform bad behaviorists.

Sad, isn't it? How about this notion. Men be sweet to your women. Women, quit trying to change men. Wouldn't that be a great world if this could come to fruition?

In the meantime, the show is interesting to watch, so I'll tune in. I guess I'm a full-fledged voyeur, gasping at how awful these men on the show can be and even mortified they'd do this for money.

The Pooper Bowl

Does it get any cuter than this? I'm a mommy now. I took the plunge Nov. 23, 2008.

Bennie and I had fun last night watching the Pooper Bowl. Why the Pooper Bowl? Well, it was the Super Bowl, but Ben customized it to fit his own life-style.

For the past three, LONG months, I've been potty-training him to ring the bell attached to a long string on the front door's doorknob when he has to potty. Bichon's aren't much for barking to tell you things. They're quiet dogs. He rings the bell to potty most of the time, and that's great. The only problem is that he also rings the bell when he's bored. How fun for me, right? So sometimes when he's ringing the bell, you don't know if he's serious or just bored.

While Bruce Springstein was playing at half-time, Ben rang the bell. I said, "OK, Ben, let's go potty," and took him out. Well, it was crying wolf because he didnt' have to potty after all. To my immense aggravation, he did this two more times, so when the third time came and he rang the bell I said, "Quit faking it, Ben. Damn it. I want to watch Bruce." So Ben got a "disgrunted with Mommy" look on his face and took a dump in front of the door.

Mommy's fault, obviously. So it went from the Super Bowl, to the Pooper Bowl over halftime. You gotta love a baby Bichon. But potty training ain't fun!