publishing

Magical Thinking

Reality or Magical–What do you see?

Yes, it’s been a while.  Again.  First I was working on a post that’s still sitting in my drafts folder because I couldn’t beat the words into sense, and then life.  Blah blah, medical mayhem, lots of waiting rooms and doctor’s offices, suffice it to say I’m pretty sure any vision test I take from this point forward is null and void– I’ve seen so many while sitting with my girl, I’ve got every chart memorized. Thank you, my fellow Dems/Liberals for being diligent and insisting on being heard about how disastrous the proposed health care bill was, and thank you, GOP, for being in such a mess that you’ve had to put your we-want-you-to-suffer-painfully plans on hold so I can keep doing this.

And oh yes, I’m writing again.  A secret unless you a) read this blog post or b) follow my twitter feed (which you should, because on the thrice annual occasion that I remember to log on, I retweet with the best of them).  It might be more accurate to say I’m rewriting, because this isn’t a glittery new project, this is the rusty old wreck I tabled a few years back that I’ve already talked about reworking.  I figure I *might* be able to use half of what was there, and overall I don’t yet know if I’m taking something that was meh and making it better, or taking something that was meh and puking weird and unidentifiable bits of acid all over it.

Takes a bit of magical thinking to write a novel, regardless of genre.  More than a bit if you’re writing with an eye towards publication.  If you’re looking at trade publishing (as in–not self-publishing) I’m pretty sure the odds are 843,000,000,000 to one.  A couple of years back I blogged about the need for big brass ones in order to believe this could be done.  Despite regular polishing of my metaphorical testicles, here I am, still one of the unwashed and unpublished wannabe novelists.  Clearly, in addition to working diligently on the MIP (Mess in Progress, since I’m still unsure if I can call it a Work in Progress) the answer is to sprinkle some eye of newt into my word cauldron, maybe wave a bit of sage, and wear my very pointiest hat.

Whatever we’re wishing for, I think most of us engage in a bit of magical thinking.  Like, say, this woman.  This is a hell of a story, an excellent snapshot of why supporting 45 and his merry band of fascists was a bad idea.  She’s an American citizen married to a not-quite-undocumented Mexican immigrant.  She voted for our current regime, because she thought they only meant they would deport the “bad ones.”  Her husband wasn’t in hiding, checked in with ICE when he was supposed to, gainfully employed, paid taxes, legit, provisional Social Security number.  Needless to say he is currently in jail awaiting deportation because ‘Murica.  I’ve seen a lot of people comment on this story, some gleeful at her comeuppance, some who feel sorry for her.  Me? Shrug. I take no pleasure in what has to be a painful and terrifying experience for her husband and their children, but I don’t feel sorry for her.  He was very clear about his beliefs and vision, started his whole damned campaign with racial slurs about Mexican immigrants. This is an example of dangerous magical thinking; belief that no one can see you behind a clear shower curtain, that it’s ok and safe to wish harm on others; ok to strip rights, dignity, even humanity because other.

There were never any real plans offered by this President and his administration regarding how they would make things great. The closest they came to concrete plans involved who they were going to vilify, and how he could do whatever he wanted while keeping his supporters and increasing his net worth.  His net worth, not yours.  I’ve said this many times already, once you say it’s okay to dehumanize this group and that group, it’s a guarantee that more groups will be added to that list, and yours will surely be added sooner or later.  I hope no one reading this is surprised and hurt to discover this, but 45 and his cronies don’t see you as a human being.  You were a vote. If you voted for him, he’s done with you, if you didn’t, you never existed in the first place. Let’s go back to that disastrous bill, HurryUpandDieCare.  This is from a meeting on Thursday night, with a no holds barred attempts to squeeze votes out of those who thought it was still too generous a plan.  “Forget about the little shit.”  The little shit is you, me, and the woman from Indiana whose husband is sitting jail.

A little magical thinking might carry me through months of work on this MIP, enough to (hopefully) craft a cohesive and interesting story, maybe adding the tears of a baby dragon will get me through the querying process. It won’t get me published. Magical thinking got 45 and company into office, it won’t make them responsible, compassionate, or skilled–and it surely won’t protect us from the damage.

The Line Keeps Moving

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of my top ten novels, always comes to mind when someone asks for a recommendation.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of my top ten novels, always comes to mind when someone asks for a recommendation.

This morning, as every morning, after my yoga I sat in front of the laptop and started cruising the news.  I don’t read any one paper/site cover to cover; I hop around, the HuffPo, The Guardian, New York Times, Politico, and any links popped up overnight on my Facebook feed that catch my eye.  And so I saw the headline for this essay in The Guardian, and got excited.  (As excited as I get at pre sunrise, only on my second cup of coffee.)  I am a huge fan of Lionel Shriver, as evidenced by the photo above.  Over the past few years I’ve gotten rid of the majority of my paper books–surprisingly liberating–but I keep a couple of shelves worth, a selection or two or three showcasing authors I worship or individual volumes that have had a huge impact on me, as a person and/or as someone who writes.

When I read the essay, my first thought was, “oh, fuck.”  It’s about the author’s response to part of a speech given by Lionel Shriver, about identity, cultural appropriation, what is or isn’t ok for an author to explore through their fiction.  When I love an author’s work, I want to be one hundred percent devoted to them in every way.  I want them to be the giants I’ve built them up to become in my mind, I want to have faith as I learn more about them that this is someone I’d enjoy having conversations with over tea, coffee, or a glass of wine.  Silly, isn’t it?  Especially silly when I’m someone who still harbors occasional fantasies of being published (well published!), and yet here I am running this blog:  Mrs Fringe of the colorful language, big mouth, strong opinions, and anything but neutral political leanings.  I have no doubt there are many who would not enjoy having coffee with me, maybe even some of the same who enjoy my words when they’re fiction.  I’m the first to admit not everyone finds my sense of humor charming. General publishing wisdom–common sense, really–dictates that anyone hoping to earn a dollar from strangers shouldn’t do anything to actively offend anyone.

The thing is, I’m a person, first and foremost. That’s what Mrs Fringe is about, being a person who wears many hats, plays many roles; complete with disappointments, laughter, mourning, screw-ups, nonsense, inappropriate thoughts, offensive-to-some language, a desire to be heard and understood, a desire to learn and understand more, a desire to connect with others.  Kinda like, oh, say…fiction.  And the authors of said fiction.  Yes, it’s imaginary characters and made up scenarios, but good fiction, enduring fiction, the kind of fiction Lionel Shriver writes, is uncompromising, unapologetic.  She creates characters who are SO real, doesn’t hesitate to use her characters and scenarios to explore who we are as human beings, as a society, to use the mirror of fiction to examine the beauty, pain, and the ugly bits of what it means to be a whole person.  Sure it’s uncomfortable, but it’s also riveting.  This is the fiction that endures, because people are people–now, fifty years from now, two hundred years ago.

So I’m a person.  So, apparently, is Ms. Shriver.  And I read the essay, thinking about the author of the essay, her offense at Lionel Shriver’s remarks referencing how easily, too easily, people are offended now, the idea of political correctness.  Her offense at the idea that a novelist can accurately and appropriately portray someone whose experience of life is vastly different than their own, i.e.: a white novelist writing a person of color, straight novelist writing LGBTQ characters, etc.  Her interpretation of the novelist’s speech as arrogance–maybe it was, because I only have the author’s paraphrasing before she walked out twenty minutes into it, I don’t have enough information to give an informed opinion.

I want to be offended by her offense.  But I’m not.  The truth is, she has a point.  Could a white male have written Their Eyes were Watching God, given the character of Janie Crawford the same depth, the same enduring honesty created by Zora Neale Hurston?  Nope. Could In the Time of Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, have been written by someone who isn’t Dominican, written in a way that allows the reader to come as close to feeling what it would be like living in the shadow of Trujillo as you feel reading her story of the Mirabel sisters?  Nope.  If a white author writes a black protagonist, I’m going to be skeptical, I’m going to be wondering about the character being written in a way that is not only not realistic, but wondering about the icky squicky line of that protagonist being written in such a way that it’s lecturing (subtle or not) the reader on how a person of color should be feeling in this imaginary scenario.  Will that novelist be able to allow the reader to feel the enduring humanity while preserving the reality of life experiences through they eyes and thoughts of a protagonist who isn’t straight and white?

Lionel Shriver, as far as I could tell from the essay, had a point, too. If we are afraid to examine any but our own narrow viewpoint, so afraid of using the wrong words we stay silent, we will never understand a damned thing, and our worlds will shrink with the novels in front of us, rather than expanding.  Female authors have written beautiful, powerful strong male characters and vice versa.  What would seventh graders read if Harper Lee hadn’t written To Kill a Mockingbird?  What are we teaching these future generations (*cue thinkofthechildren wail*) if they stop reading it because it might be triggering, or offensive to examine our society’s racism–past and present?  You know what was amazing to me, about Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin?  Reading about her afterwards, and learning she isn’t a parent.  My mind was blown.  But maybe it shouldn’t have been.  Maybe it’s because she isn’t a parent that she was able to take such a hard look at parenthood without turning the mother into a saint or a caricature of a villain (though not necessarily likable).

Would it be the same thing, a white author writing a protagonist who is Black, or Latino, Asian or Indigenous?  No, but it also shouldn’t mean limiting characters to only those who experience life the same way the writer does.  If it did I’d have to give up even fantasizing about having anything published.  I can see it now, the NY Times Best Seller– Mrs Fringe Buys a Slow Cooker.

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Cultural appropriation is a real thing, and it’s something we need to be aware of, and sensitive to.  Maybe it’s harder for whites to understand because so much of the tradition of white, Christian culture involves the attempt to force it down the throats of everyone else.  What the line is, exactly, I’m not sure.  At the beginning of this post I referenced yoga.  Is it cultural appropriation for me to practice yoga?  I’m pretty sure I don’t have that Jane Fonda exercise tape anymore.  Or a beta machine to play it on.  Nerd Child tells me the Weeping Buddha statuette I have on my desk is cultural appropriation.  I don’t know, it makes me feel better to touch it in the early morning, pretend that I really am letting go of any sadness and starting the day with a clean slate.

Mother of God with Child--Kuz'ma Petrov-Vodkin

Mother of God with Child–Kuz’ma Petrov-Vodkin

I saw the above painting recently, wished I could have it hanging in my apartment.  I’m far from a religious anything, let alone Russian Orthodox.  It’s art, and what makes great art (visual, written, or other) is the creator’s ability to preserve the specific subject while transcending it, offering the reader/observer/listener a world outside of her own while tapping into the common themes we all share.

People don’t change, the human condition has had us exploring the same questions for hundreds of years.  Society, though.  Society changes.  The words and language we use changes.  What is acceptable changes.  The line of what is or isn’t ok to do and say moves.  Sometimes it moves quickly.  It behooves all of us to remember this, and if we write, or read, or engage with the world in any way, it behooves us to remember this, like everything else that’s important, involves many shades of gray.

*Follow up: This morning I saw the transcript of Shriver’s full speech in The Guardian.  I thought some of my readers might be interested, and as always, invite all to come back and comment here if you read it.

Afterword

This full moon wasn't last night, but it felt like it should have been.

This full moon wasn’t last night, but it felt like it should have been.

What is stage fright, anyway?

So last night was that thing.  The reading.  I spent the day with my brain in the overdrive of heightened anxiety, changed my clothes three times, my shoes four, and slopped half a gallon of product in my hair, in a futile battle with the humidity.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have to worry about how my words would be received, or how I’d sound, because surely I was going to have a stroke before it was my turn.

Husband offered to meet me down there.  Down, because the bar couldn’t be further from my apartment and still be in Manhattan.  No, thanks.  I’m one of those people.  When I’m nervous about something, I’m better off alone, because your moral support will likely be met by me biting your head off.  Cranky.  Bitchy, even.  That and the fact that I figured the reason I was doing this was to maybe, hopefully, connect with other writers.  I know myself.  If Husband was with me, it would be the perfect excuse to not speak to anyone, revert to my teenaged self, sit in back and make jokes about myself.  Man Child offered to go down with me.  No thanks.  Then he offered to just travel down with me.  Umm, maybe.  No, no, I’m a grown up, I don’t need an escort, I’m fine.  Are you sure?  Yes, thank you.  Are you really sure, because I’m going to start laundry otherwise?  Yes yes I’m sure.

Ten minutes before I left, I’m going to call Husband and have him meet me.  Oops, look at the time, he’s already on his way home, that wouldn’t be nice.  I’m good, I can do this.

Five minutes before I left, ummm, Man Child?  I changed my mind.  But you can’t stay.  He traveled downtown with me, and then encouraged me when I spent ten minutes standing outside, bemoaning the fact that I had remembered my camera but not the battery that would allow it to work.

I really have great kids.


I’ll be honest, this sign in the window is probably what got me through the door.  That and Man Child’s gentle shove.

At the entrance to the back room, where the event was being held, the producer was checking tickets.  I was nervous about the whole e-ticket thing. My name was already on his list, great. I’m scoping the room behind him, happy to see empty seats in back when he says, “Oh.  You’re reading.”  Was I supposed to mention that?  “Umm, yeah, I guess so.”  Damn, I’m smooth.

It’s a funny thing.  Once I was in, I felt acutely aware that I have never done this before, but not nervous.  Basically I was certain I was going to fuck up, drop my pages, lose my voice, have that stroke, yanno.  It wasn’t crowded, there were two featured writers and several open mic-ers.  The open mic folks were mostly poets.  Excellent, this way I was certain to not fit in.  I liked the way it was organized, open mic readings scattered throughout the evening with the featured writers in between.  (Featured meaning authors with books recently published/about to be published) I’m not sure what I expected, but it was a lively mix of “straight” poetry, spoken word, an excerpt from a graphic novel, excerpts from a flash essay collection, part of a short.  The crowd was mixed in age, sex, and ethnicity, also nice.

There was a microphone! Eek.  And others were introduced by the MC with a bit about them.  Crap, was I supposed to tell them something other than my name and here’s-my-eight-dollars?  Ah well.  I considered plugging Mrs Fringe before or after I read, but therewasamicrophone.  I just did it.  I read the opening few pages to Astonishing (probably about half the first chapter, it’s the one up on the blog here).  Everyone was quiet while I read, so either I held their attention, or they were taking the opportunity for a cat nap. Maybe they just couldn’t hear me, I didn’t get too close to that mic.  I’m from south Brooklyn ferChristssake, I can be plenty loud.

I met a few people who seemed quite nice. Many of those in the audience and those who went up are apparently regulars, but everyone was welcoming.  Not one pointed and snickered, or muttered, “poseur” as I went past.  If they did I didn’t hear them.  Success.

In any case, I felt like it went well.  I was surprised I couldn’t see the audience once I was up there, all I saw was lights, and that made it much easier.  More surprising, I didn’t feel intimidated while I was reading, I just…read.  Scenarios like this always surprise me, no one talking about the angst and futility of trying to get published, trade or otherwise.  It’s as if there’s an assumption that you and everyone else is doing it, you belong there.

I might even say I had fun.

 

We Are Looking For

A clue!

A clue!

Normally, I use this neatogroovycool magnifying glass to examine the minuscule creepy crawlies in the tank.  Today, I’m using it to examine context clues.

I have a Twitter account (@MrsFringe).  I don’t use it much, but I hop on semi-regularly to see what’s trending, and sporadically I’ll spend quite a bit of time for a couple of days having fun with one-liners. Some of those I follow are friends, some are Fringelings, some are people I admire, others are agents/editors who are sharp, or funny, or interesting.  Quite a few publishing professionals will tweet tips–what to do/what not to do, why they’re requesting or rejecting queries, and query trends.

Recently I logged on and happened to catch a tweet at the top of my news feed that’s stayed with me.  While it probably isn’t politic, I’m going to address it.  Since I’m 40,000 years old and not twitter savvy (read: a blabberfingers), I’ll respond here on the blog.  Someone (agent? I think, maybe) tweeted something to the effect of:  Two spaces after a period and I know you’re over 40, don’t do it.

Really?

Well I suppose it’s true, those of us who learned to type on typewriters did learn to put two spaces after a period.  If you learned in typing class and/or did a lot of typing for any reason, it’s kind of ingrained–and if you do think about it, one space often looks “wrong” to us ancients.  Despite my advanced age and inherent slowed mental faculties, I actually understand that things change.  The world changes, advances are made, things that were once acceptable are now either extraneous or completely unacceptable.  Language evolves.

A friend of Nerd Child’s is staying with us for a few days.  He hasn’t been here before, and when he first walked in he said, “This apartment is sick.”  Hard to believe, but I didn’t go running for the Lysol, nor did I tell him to get off my lawn.  I thanked him.  Context clues.

I promise you, Fringelings, I am not what anyone would consider a delicate flower.

I checked. Nope, this is not a self portrait, but I may add it to my salad tonight.

I checked. Nope, this is not a self portrait, but I may add it to my salad tonight.

I also understand publishing professionals are inundated with queries, and there are many reasons to reject manuscripts.  What I don’t understand is why someone would think it’s ok, on a public venue like Twitter, to make this type of blanket, ageist statement.  True, I (and others like me) should probably try to break this wasteful habit of two spaces after each period.  All that white space left to rot by the end of a manuscript, shameful.  Also true, there are practicalities and logistics, reasons someone might not want to take on a debut author who’s 90 years old.  You wouldn’t have to dig too deep through my archives to find I’m quite open about not loving some of the facets of aging–oh, those saggy bits!  But these are query letters for manuscripts, not applications for centerfold models.

I had dinner with my journalist friend the other night.  She is (gasp) older than I am.  Not only still writing, but people still pay to read what she has to say, because she’s good at what she does.  If I checked the list of current best selling novelists, I’m certain a significant percentage would include authors over forty.  If I checked tweets of those I follow on Twitter, I’m certain all would include tweets (from men and women) about being feminists, supporting feminism.  You cannot separate feminism from ageism.  I’d like to see that placard carried at a women’s rights march, “Equal Pay for the Perky Now!”  It doesn’t bother me to be told to break an outdated habit, but the implication that my words hold no value because I’m a woman of a certain age?  That bothers the hell out of me.

I think I’ve posted this video before, but you can just go ahead and blame senility for the repeat.  Or, yanno, trust I felt it was appropriate for this piece.

*And yes, I made sure to add two spaces after each period for this post, ’cause that’s how I roll.

Can’t See What’s Ahead

Three nights ago, unusually foggy.

Three nights ago, unusually foggy.

I grew up in Brooklyn, not far from the water.  I had a little terrace off my bedroom, where I spent as much time as possible.  Some things don’t change, heh.  I could and did stand out there and watch the fog roll inland.  Once it reached my area, you couldn’t see through it, but oh you could feel it, a curiously damp blanket you breathed in along with the smell of low tide and the sewage treatment plant, 7 blocks away. For a while, as a young adult, I lived in Washington, where fog was redefined for me.  Never in any other state have I seen fog as thick as they get in the Pacific Northwest. When I drove home from work at midnight, the highway would be at a slow crawl because you literally couldn’t see the tail lights of the car ahead of you if you were more than a foot away.

With the flash on, nothing to see but the individual droplets.

With the flash on, nothing to see but the blur of individual droplets.

Is it too melodramatic to draw a life analogy here? Probably, but I’m doing it anyway. There are certainly twists in the road that no one sees coming.  Illness, accidents, job loss, house fires, even winning the lottery.  Then there are the expected markers, the things you work to achieve–jobs, promotions, education, children, children growing up, literary contracts.  Oops, that last one doesn’t fit, does it?  Not this time, anyway.

I was careful.  Careful to always acknowledge the many factors outside of my control, the certain percentage of luck and timing in this type of endeavor.  But I believed.  Enough blind faith to face the dreaded blank page and fill it, over and over again. To submit, accept rejection is part of the process, and keep submitting.  To dissect personalized rejections and believe they meant more than a bland “no thanks” form letter.  In writing (fiction or otherwise), there’s a lot of talk of “voice”–the importance of.  I do have a clear and definite voice, as do my characters, and I’ve gotten  a lot of feedback on it.  Some love it, some hate it.  I always considered it a “win” either way. In Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino wrote. “It is not the voice that commands the story, it is the ear.”  I believe that’s true; as I’ve said many times, writing is about communication, the two way street between reader and writer.  For me it isn’t about telling a story just to tell it.  What’s written has to resonate, to where the reader feels they’ve not only learned the character’s story, but felt their own. The onus is on the writer, so maybe my it’s my ear that’s off.

For months now, I’ve been trying to work towards acceptance.  Acknowledgement and acceptance that it isn’t going to happen.  Can I just say this is fucking hard? No, I don’t have to.  But there’s a point where it feels unhealthy to stay on the same road, at the same speed, and expect the visibility to improve just because I want it to.  I don’t want it to be 40° outside at the end of April, either, but here I am wearing a turtleneck and winter coat, because otherwise I’d be freezing.

I’m hoping to come out of this fog and reach acceptance.  Then what?  I’m told I could have had quite the career as a stand-up philosopher–yanno, a bullshit artist (thank you, Mel Brooks).  I wonder where I should send those queries.

A new dimension to Friday Night Madness.

A new dimension to Friday Night Madness.

One More for the Road, or in this case, Three More

I suppose if you look really hard, a theme could be found on my bookshelf.

I suppose if you look really hard, a theme could be found on my bookshelf.

When we moved into this apartment, I packed away many of my books, and donated many more.  These are what’s left–not including cookbooks.

Followers have been listening to me whine about my writing (non)life, and my plan to take stock and move forward.  One of the ideas I was playing with was the thought of self-publishing short stories in groups of three or so.  Since I knew less than zero about self pubbing, I asked on the writers’ board.  I now know about zero, just enough to confirm that I am indeed too lazy and too broke to pursue self publishing at this time.  I’ve never done much in terms of submitting my short fiction. Most have never been subbed anywhere, the few that were sent out once and then filed away with the inevitable rejection letter that arrived a mere 9, 12, 15 months later.

Apparently my sanity plunged along with this week’s temperatures, so I sent off stories to literary  magazines, complete with crappy cover letters.  What the hell do you write on a cover letter when you’re unpublished and have nothing to say about yourself that ties in with said stories in any way?  “Mrs Fringe here, checking in with ovaries o’ steel.”

Why steel?  Because I will only submit to markets that (potentially) pay.  Doesn’t have to be a lot, doesn’t have to be The Paris Review (no, I didn’t send anything to them), but it is my work.  I’ve seen a lot of quotes go past on my Twitter feed recently, having to do with art and writing for the pure love and satisfaction. Most of these quotes attributed to writers who have reached some measure of success, naturally.

Nope.  My words are mine. I spend time, I edit, I pace, I obsess, I rewrite. They’re work, and if I don’t value my words, why/how would I expect anyone else to do so?  If I meet someone and mention that I walk dogs, and they then ask me to walk their dog, it’s understood that this will be a paid walk.  It has nothing to do with whether or not I love dogs.  I can just imagine it, if you really loved animals, you’d be completely fulfilled picking up my dog’s shit in the rain, just for the love of it, and be thankful for the exposure. The reality of this philosophy is that my already slim odds of having a story accepted go down significantly–there aren’t a whole lot of paying lit mags, and they regularly publish prize winning, bestselling authors.  All self explanatory as to why, though I write and have written shorts on a regular basis through the years, I’ve rarely subbed/queried them.

I expect my sanity to return with the projected rising temps.  I hope.

And because it’s Friday, a few tank photos, white balance adjusted.

IMG_3200 IMG_3201 IMG_3209 IMG_3211 IMG_3216 IMG_3224 IMG_3227 IMG_3233 IMG_3248 IMG_3251 IMG_3254

Enjoy your Friday, Fringelings.  And when it’s last call tonight, tell your bartender drinks should be on him, for the love of it.

Comfort and Screw Ups

Fire shrimp

Fire shrimp

New tank occupant, I’ll call her Celia because I like that name.  Shy and nervous, she spends her days upside down behind a rock.  I asked her to make room for me this morning, but she ignored me, didn’t so much as wave her antennae in my direction.

In my mind, I’ve been working on a blog post about Ferguson, the need to keep this conversation going.  I thought I would sit and write it today, but then this morning I went over my files for Astonishing, to see if there’s anything/one I should be following up with.  Yah. Don’t know if I mentioned it here, but in a moment of I have to try something, I sent a query to a small press a few months ago.  This small press promises a fast response, I hadn’t heard anything, so I pulled up my original email/query to them and found…

…a request for a full from the editor.  In my “junk” folder.  From a month ago.

“You screwed it up, Bobby Terry!”  Does anyone else have random quotes from novels that have stayed with them forever?  That one is from Stephen King’s The Stand, right before Bobby Terry is flayed and flambeed by Randall Flagg– the Dark Man.

Get a grip, Mrs Fringe.  No evil being is waiting to fly across the desert and eat me because I missed an email that was caught in my spam filter.  If any one of my writer friends came to me melting down about this, I’d reassure them that it happens, in the world of publishing a month’s lapse is not even a blink, any editor/agent/professional will understand. This is nothing in the days of being a wannabe.  This is less than nothing in the face of Ferguson, what the verdict represents and the false focus of so much of our media.

Still, I decided comfort food was in order.  How about if I make grilled cheese for dinner, kiddos?  This, of course, meant I went to Whole Foods on Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend.  Clearly I was punishing myself for not checking that fucking junk mail folder regularly enough.  And why buy 10 items when you can buy 11 and stand on the slower line?

I will be drowning my whining in chocolate pudding this evening. Care to join me?

I will be drowning my whining in chocolate pudding this evening. Care to join me?

When You See a Rock Coming, It Hurts Less

Getting ready to aquascape

Rock

For those of you who aren’t reefers, the backbone of most reef tanks is live rock.  Sounds crazy, I know.  Live rock (and sand) serves as the biological filter in a tank, it’s what coral reefs are formed from–basically the skeletons of long dead corals.  The rock itself isn’t live, but the beneficial bacteria and microscopic organisms that live in it are.  It’s also very expensive.  For this tank, I chose to go with reef rock that isn’t live, but “dry.” All those nooks and crannies in the rock are helpful, providing more surface area for the bacteria to colonize. It will take longer for the tank to cycle and be ready for livestock, but it’s a much more budget friendly option, and I will “seed” the dry rock with just a few pounds of live rock and many pounds of live sand.

I ordered 50 pounds of this rock, expected it to arrive today.  Surprise! It came a day early. My intercom phone rang yesterday, the guard telling me I should come get my package.  Of course this happened after my back was humming from doing a few loads of laundry, and right before I had to leave to pick the girl up from school.  The gloom and rain of the day just added that extra something. I assumed it was a small package, yanno, the two ounce heater, maybe the hose for siphoning water.  This guard is getting up there in years, and tends to get a little ummm, stressed, if you don’t come and take your packages right. now. I thought my back was humming after laundry? Bwahahaha!  I couldn’t even look at the fucking box to open it until this morning.  But now I have, and I had to immediately begin taking pictures because I’m a geek.

I spent last night and this morning thinking about the tank build and my writing.  Both are intense, bring me peace and joy and angst and tears.  Both endeavors I can and do lose hours in, often walking away feeling upside down and inside out. And I wondered, should I not have started this tank? I have people who seem to genuinely love my writing, several of whom have encouraged me to self publish.  I could have put the money I’m putting into the tank into self pubbing Astonishing.  Except it wouldn’t be enough.  I write, and I self-edit what I write, but I’m no editor.  I’m also not a graphic artist, able to design a book cover.  Nor a computer savvy gal, able to convert the file into something readable on Kindle or Nook. Nor a marketing expert, able to get it out there.  All things that need to happen if you’re going to self publish.  If I’m ever published, trade or self, I want it done well.

It’s funny.  Astonishing is magical realism, not a genre that’s popular or clearly defined in the adult market.  Seems like many have their own definition and expectations for it.  Maybe I should define it as written surrealism, instead of magical realism.  Or hyperrealism, based on responses I get in regards to my characters, based on those ordinary people we walk past every day, who are extraordinary in the impact they have on each of us, shaping our lives.  That’s what I love, whether I’m writing, reading, or reefing. Those small moments, how every creature–regardless of how many celled–affects every other around them, causing growth or a crash, it almost doesn’t matter.

Second Hand Life: unsolicited advice

Coat/Wardrobe rack

Coat/Wardrobe rack

Yes, messy apartment, try to ignore the clutter–I do.  Everyone knows I’m waiting to hear about the larger apartment.  In the meantime, I know it will need some work before we can move in, and that means paying on two apartments.  Obviously, I want to minimize the hemorrhage of funds.  I’m not buying anything (what if it doesn’t come through?), but my current place is hung with paint swatches and little floor samples scattered in different lighting.  My kitchen table won’t fit in the new space, and Art Child needs new furniture, so we’re cyber-window-shopping.  We like to look at the web sites for the out of budget stores, and get ideas from those.   One thing we saw that we both thought was a great idea was a wardrobe rack for her bedroom.  The site we saw this on is charging $300. For a coat rack! It’s ok, we aren’t buying anything, just looking.

Yesterday afternoon we splurged and went for tea at our favorite place, lots of fun.  Afterwards, we made our way to the thrift store.  I rarely find anything in there, I think you have to be more of a shopper to do well.  But then, there it was. A perfectly good coat rack.  $30.  How could I not? It’s on wheels, so we walked it home.  Of course, those wheels aren’t meant for city streets, so we lost two screws by the tenth block, and the bottom rack was now perpendicular to the top.  Five more blocks, found a hardware store, where the manager got us two new screws and fixed it. $1.19

Between the find and a conversation with a writing friend, I’m thinking about this second hand life.  For the record, I’m a big supporter of recycling and reusing.  In its way, Astonishing is recycled.  Do you know it’s my fourth completed manuscript?  I want to kick myself, each and every day, feeling like I wasted so much time.  First I felt like I had plenty of time ahead of me to sit down and write that Great American Novel.  Then I started, but practicality (also known as fear and insecurity) had me write romances first.  Romance isn’t easy, or an easy market, but it is a larger market, a bit more open to newcomers.

When I wrote Wanna Bees (third manuscript) it was an attempt to blend my two loves, reefing and writing.  It was also my first experience writing something close to magical realism.  I loved it.  Sent a small number of queries, a couple of requests–rejected–and realized I didn’t care enough.  So I recycled.  Both Wanna Bees and Astonishing begin with the death of a mother (within one year, I lost my mother and learned of the death of my birth mother.  Writing may not be as effective as traditional therapy, but it’s easier on the budget.) both open in New York, both main characters have sisters they’re close with, both have magical realism.  But very, very different books.  I had fun writing Wanna Bees.  I love Astonishing.

Will it get published?  I have no idea.  Is is good enough? Good enough is the underlying theme in all of my manuscripts.  I think so, but I have researched enough, listened to and had enough conversations with the pubbed and unpubbed, agents and editors, to know good enough isn’t always enough.  There are other considerations.  Some of the mistakes I’ve made are part of the process, the only way to learn (unless, maybe, you go the MFA route, have real life mentors and such, but even then I suspect those craft mistakes need to happen).  But waiting so long to take myself seriously?  Avoidable.  Waiting even longer to write a manuscript I really wanted to write?  Avoidable.  This is where I can and you should say, “that Mrs Fringe is a hard-headed woman.”  It’s okay, Husband says it all the time.

Everyone who writes has their own process, what works for them.  Personally, I don’t believe in writing only for yourself if you’re interested in publication.  I write with an eye/ear towards what I think would be interesting to others, intrigue them enough to keep reading.  But if  you want to do this writing thing, if you want to be published–be just hard-headed enough to do it.  Don’t wait for the right time, don’t write what you think is the more practical choice–just because it’s more practical.  Writing fiction isn’t exactly practical.  I saw plenty of items in the thrift store that were still impractical and out of budget, second hand or not.  But when it’s in budget, right in front of you? Grab it and fix the wheels when you get it home.

Mrs Fringe Grows a Pair

IMG_1846

If you’re a Fringeling, regular subscriber, or occasional reader, you know I have a completed novel looking for a home and champion, ASTONISHING.  In the meantime, I’ve decided to post Chapter One here on the blog.

This is the story where I’ve allowed myself to go the furthest with the concept of what-if.  It’s weird, the protagonist is an unreliable narrator, and if you’re looking for romance or happily-ever-after this ain’t your story.

It’s magical realism, my riff on what could happen if someone existed who was indeed a magnet for all the broken in our world–addicts, unmedicated and uncontrolled people with mental illness, those you don’t want to find across from you at the dinner table.  So we’ve got these broken who’ve been flocking to Christina, but she can’t help them.  Twenty-five years of this.  By now she’s more fucked up than they are.

If Christina feels familiar (or for those newer to Mrs Fringe who are interested) “Miserosion”–the story on the page labeled Fiction– takes place 25 years before Astonishing, introducing Christina.  Completely unnecessary to read to understand the novel, but it was a fun twist for me to write, and the original story idea that became the novel.