On Scams: Advice from a Practical Old Dreamer

In my home, we call lottery tickets the poor tax. Not our original phrase, first heard it from the priest who ran my sons’ middle school, who likely got it from someone else. There are all kinds of unofficial taxes like this, often falling under the old “have to spend money to make money.” Yeah ok, maybe. But I’m going to talk about the dream tax here–specifically, the dream of writing/publication. I don’t work in publishing, have limited experience with being published, this is not an advice blog, but I’m old and cranky and know a game of 3 card monte when I see one, regardless of how it’s being billed. By definition, most of us who write are dreamers, whether your goal is a story in The Paris Review, being published by the Online Journal Three People Are Going to Read, having a chapbook of poetry published by a small independent press, or finding Your Name on the New York Times bestseller list.

Listen, you want to stop and try to win money from the guy behind the table of the 3 card monte game on the street, I’ll roll my eyes and think you’re naive, but whatever. If you keep your wallet in your back pocket while leaning over to watch the cards, or have your purse open, then I think you’re an idiot.

There’ve always been scams, vanity presses and such. Vanity presses are obviously predatory, and most of us will recognize them. They go something like this: Receive letter/email with bullshit flattery but no specifics, telling you all about the zillion copies Your Great Novel will sell, and how much you need to pay them. Yawn. But with the internet and online everything, scams have proliferated. Some of this is relatively harmless, clickbait, live and learn. A lot of it involves money. Money to enter contests, money to take online classes with experts who have no expertise, money to take classes about things you don’t need to take a class to learn–be told things that are completely free and learned in a five minute google search, money to take classes from Fantastic Editor who also happens to run Wonderful Contests through her Too Cool for School Online Journal, and whaddya know, the only people published in this cool journal just happen to be those who paid for classes from Fantastic Editor, and the winners of the contests are close friends–perhaps even coteachers–of Fantastic Editor’s classes. All coincidence, I’m sure.

Don’t get me wrong, there are legit contests, small presses, classes, editors, all of it. But just because someone has a Twitter account doesn’t make them legit. Hell, someone could have good intentions in some areas and just not know what they’re doing, not have the expertise and connections to make their offering worth your while. And shady, well. There’s a reason the word shady exists. Shade. Feels good, but you can’t look too closely at the details. Lots of these people and offerings aren’t quite scams, but again, that doesn’t make what they’re offering an actual opportunity.

I’m an old New Yorker, I go back to the days of shell games on the streets, the Bronx on fire, guys whacking off at the other end of the subway car when the train went over the Brooklyn Bridge, take dangling earrings off before you get on a crowded bus and walk like you know where you’re going–no matter how lost you are. I know a lot of you don’t remember those days, but they’ve served me well, not least of which being able to smell a scam even on the sterile pathways of the internet.

Some things are obvious, like the vanity presses. Others aren’t quite as obvious, but you don’t need a fucking MFA to do ten minutes of online research. Does this journal have an actual masthead with the real names of real people attached to it? Does this journal actually take stories from the slush pile, or are they only publishing big names while charging sub fees from all the unsolicited submissions they will never consider publishing. *I’m not against small submission fees, kickstarters, or reasonable contest fees on principle. Beautiful and well respected journals need to make some money, but you should be able to clearly and easily see where that money is going, like, say, paying writers. Is it easily found and clearly stated what rights you’re giving away if they take your story? Clearly stated what/if they pay, contributor copies, etc? Do they state what happens to your submission once you send it to them? How long you can expect to wait? Any warnings about them on the Submission Grinder, or Duotrope, or Absolute Write’s Bewares and Backgrounds forum?

Does this small press make their contract available before you sign on the dotted line? Is their website filled with grammatical errors and statements that go against industry standards? (If you don’t know what the industry standards are, at least a basic grasp, you aren’t ready to submit or query. Sorry, it has to be said. This is a business, and you’re hoping it will be your business, treat it as such.) Have they actually published any books that aren’t written by their owners/publishers/editors? Are they telling you they’ll publish your novel if/when you pay for the editor of their choice (kickback alert)? Do they have a way to distribute your book? Market it? Again, did you do some research to see if there are complaints? Are you able to speak with their previously published authors to find out what their experiences have been? Are there previously published authors, can you purchase their books?

Does this agent have an actual, easily searchable track record of placing books, and placing books with publishing houses outside of those who accept unagented submissions? If this is a new agency, does the agent have previous experience? If this is a new agent, do they have a working, involved, experienced mentor helping them to build the needed connections? Are they transparent about their vision for your manuscript, plans to submit, who they’ll submit to? If they’re making an offer, have they given you time to check with their other clients, let other agents who have your manuscript know you have an offer and give them an opportunity to offer as well?

Some things do take more than 5-10 minutes of research, and they’re well worth it. Meet and connect with other writers. Take time to build relationships, find *your* community. That’s how you’ll meet and build the relationships necessary for critique partners/beta readers. I know there are people out there charging for beta reads. I find the idea of charging for a beta read shady as fuck. Beta readers are important, not a step that should be skipped. Yes, your manuscript should be complete and polished as you can make it before you hand it over for a beta read (this is basic respect, don’t waste anyone’s time), but a beta is not an editorial report.

Classes. I don’t take classes, because they aren’t something I’ve ever had the money to pay for, and my life is subject to regular skids off the rails that leave me afraid to apply for scholarships I then won’t be able to use. Some of these classes seem fantastic, with respected, interesting writers/teachers and I wish I could. Others, sigh. You don’t need to pay for a class to learn how to read journal’s submission guidelines, and no class will mean you don’t still have to take the time to read each individual journal’s guidelines–and then follow them. You don’t need to pay for a class to learn how to write a 1-3 sentence cover letter for a short story. Hell, you don’t even need to take a class to learn how to write a query letter.

If you’re reading this and thinking, Fringe, time is money, it’s faster if I take a class/pay for an editor, etc, yup, that’s true. If you have the money, go for it–but go for it knowing that not everything paid for is going to give you your money’s worth, and publishing is a slow business. There are some corners that can’t be cut, you have to put the time in. If someone tells you they’re selling a magic formula for success, close your purse and fucking run. If they can’t specify what they’re selling, again, run.

Again, I am not a publishing professional, but I’ve been around this game a long freaking time. Dreams are tricky business, not clearly quantifiable or defined. That doesn’t mean your words don’t have value, that you don’t have value. Know the person ahead of you at the card table, the one who just “won” ten dollars, is part of the game. And whatever you do, don’t let him then stand behind you when your wallet’s in your back pocket.

A few helpful, free resources:

Absolute Write: a writer’s forum that is very active, offers just about everything with members of varying levels of experience and genres.

The Grinder


Query Shark: Janet Reid, literary agent’s blog. A true gift to the writing community. Here she offers helpful, practical, honest time and advice to writers, and has done so for years. Seriously, the archives alone are gold.

Don’t Shit Where You Eat

Welp, normally I’d stick a fabulously lousy photo here, but WordPress has changed their editor since I last logged in and I can’t figure out how to do it.


oh look, I did it! Nope, nothing to do with this post, but I like the way this photo came out. Or maybe this is me, glaring at all the world’s nonsense.

What brings me here after my long months away? I’ve been thinking a lot recently about respect and ever elusive dignity in the writing world. The other day someone tweeted a great thread that’s gone close to writing-twitter viral, and I have thoughts. Ok, maybe not close to viral, but it found its way into my feed a lot, and my standards for numbers (or anything else) aren’t that high. I love what the OP had to say and think these are great guidelines for members of the writing community. The reality for many is they don’t have the bandwidth (mental or otherwise) to make the table bigger.

So I’ll make it even simpler–don’t shit on the table. That’s it. Seems pretty straightforward to me, and yet, basic respect and professionalism is somehow a reach for too many. Writing is weird.

Weird by definition, it can be lonely, isolating to allow yourself to get lost in your head and create characters, entire worlds. The publishing world, also weird, so much of it balanced on personal opinions, lots of the entry points having different expectations for formatting, guidelines, information required, etc. Tell me about yourself! Don’t tell me about yourself! Query only! Query and first 10 pages! Query, synopsis, and first three chapters! Simultaneous submissions are fine! Simultaneous submissions are never okay! Have your work professionally edited before sending! Never pay for an editor if you aren’t self publishing! Is your head spinning yet? Mine does, all the time. What focuses me is the writing itself, and the writing community.

Like any community, there are constant squabbles, jabs, and disagreements (often referred to as discourse). That’s cool. We’re all individual humans, bringing our individual points of view and experiences. We should, however, not forget our table manners. Personal attacks? Not cool. Bashing a genre you don’t write or read because you don’t write or read it? Yo, who’s farting and blaming the dog? Sending a ranty missive and you’ll-be-sorry-you-wouldn’t-recognize-excellent-writing-if-it-bit-you-on-the-ass threats to an editor or agent who sent you a rejection? Now you shit on the table. There’s the obvious of how unprofessional, disrespectful and downright criminal those follow up to rejection notes are, but there’s also the fallout for the rest of us. Those of us trying to keep straight the individual guidelines and follow them, make connections, build relationships, get an offer of rep or publication? Congrats, you’ve just made it a million times harder for us, because now that agent or editor may stop including a personal note where they otherwise might have, or increasingly, not send a rejection at all, because they’re concerned it will be perceived as an invitation for abuse.

Basic respect is everything. And not just respect for industry professionals, but for ourselves and each other. Know your own limits. I’ve seen a zillion tweets ranting about things that might or might not bother me. Or you. What I perceive as fine, others might perceive as disrespectful. I’ve seen many complaints about wording in rejection letters, sometimes for phrases I know are forms. Rarely has the phrasing in a rejection letter bothered me. I didn’t love this as much as I’d hoped? Cool, I’ve had that thought myself about lots of stories, published and not. Solicitations to buy your mag/take your course within a rejection? Yeah, that bothers me. A lot. Some can’t tolerate submission fees from lit mags. I don’t mind a small (seriously, small, a couple/few dollars, $20 is not only disrespectful, but predatory, imo) fee for a paying market. Honestly I don’t see it as different than an annual kickstarter favored by some of the mags. Others vehemently oppose a small sub fee.

Contest with a significant entry fee but equally significant payoff? Cool. Contest with a significant entry fee and a small payoff? Annual contest where the winners just happen to only consist of those who’ve taken (paid for) the editor’s classes? Contest with a significant entry fee and solicitations for 2-3 more run by the same mag arriving in my inbox before the first one is closed/winners announced…hmm, do you smell that?

Long wait times. Shrug. We all have different definitions of a long wait time. Having the innate patience of a flea, I love fast responses. I’ve seen complaints about mags that respond within a day, or a couple of days. Personal preference. But I’m also fine with mags that take 3-6 months to reply, if they take simultaneous submissions. Over a year to reply to a short story? Yeah, no. Again, that’s me, others are fine with it. Simultaneous submissions. Some won’t sub to mags that are no sim sub places. Honestly, it makes me a little uncomfortable, but often these are the better paying and well known mags, so I can tolerate some discomfort–if/when those mags are straightforward about how long it will take them to respond. Please, magazines/editors: have enough respect for those submitting work to be honest about approximately how long to expect for a reply. I’m an old bag big girl, I know the difference between 2 weeks and 5 months, and know exactly how many markets I may miss/missed submitting to because their sub window closed while I was waiting for your reply. I’m also old enough to understand life happens to the best of us (especially these past years. Oy. Covid, burnout, childcare issues, eldercare issues, the whole fucking world is on fire), including those who run literary magazines. So maybe, for whatever reason (none of my business what that reason is) your usual response time has turned to dust. Send an email letting submitters know you’re behind, expect to have replies out in X months, have a note posted on Duotrope/The Submission Grinder, close your subs until you catch up, and I dunno, is it insane for me to think hey, if you haven’t heard back within three times the amount of weeks/months originally projected, maybe say it’s ok to send the work to other venues? Seriously, I’m asking, is that whiney or is that reasonable?

About that whole “each other” thing. Honestly, I’m pretty lucky. I’ve got a number of fantastic, long-time writer friends who are incredibly supportive, all at different points on their writing journey, with varying goals. Quite a few where I am literally squealing with joy as I retweet their links and successes, scream about their brilliant words, harass everyone else I know to purchase and read their work. You won’t see every link or success, but you’ll see some–offer the support. Or maybe they aren’t there, so if you have the time to do it well, read and crit for them. Certainly, cheerlead. Do this. Really, it feels good, and we all need it–the giving and the receiving. The success of others, small or large, takes nothing from you or your work. Don’t belittle the accomplishments of others. Unless it’s yet another 6 figure publishing contract for a traitorous bastard trying to step on democracy and strip the rights of others whose book is actually being written by an underpaid & unacknowledged ghost writer.

Some have brought me to tears with their generous thoughts and support for my words, and I’m grateful each and every time. Regardless of where our seat is; writer, editor, publisher, agent, trade published, self published, unpublished, we all deserve some basic respect to be given and received. Most of all, don’t shit on the table.

*WP isn’t letting me see this in preview, so bear with me if there are glaring formatting mistakes and typos.

Caution: Slippery

I’ve never reposted one of my posts before, but I believe this is SO important, and today is the day the movie officially opens.


Pretty, isn't it? Pretty, isn’t it?

Even lovelier close up. Even lovelier close up.

Now let’s change the angle. Same morning, same storm.

Ice encased trees, beautiful. The reality of walking and driving on those icy streets, something else entirely. Ice encased trees, beautiful. The reality of navigating these icy streets, something else entirely.

No, I’m not really going to talk about the weather again. There’s a lot in the world of pop culture I haven’t read/seen/heard because it doesn’t catch my interest. 50 Shades of Grey? Uninteresting, I’ve passed tons of articles, tweets, posts, and discussions without so much as an I-wonder-what-the-fuss-is-about. But then I was on Twitter the other day and saw a link to this blog post. Women and domestic violence? This is interesting to me, worth talking about again.  So here I am, late to the 50 Shades party.  I wasn’t going to talk about and pass judgement on something I hadn’t read, so I downloaded and read the book.


Some writers are more about the writing.  If the writing…

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What Cannot Be Controlled

Still life of the unpubbed life.

Still life of the unpubbed life.

Is there a 12 step meeting for queriers?  Except I’m not really querying now, just waiting for responses on requested material.

Every afternoon, when it’s 6PM and I don’t have any responses in my inbox, I think, “Tonight after Art Child goes to bed I’m going to have a drink, so I will relax and remember only that it’s out of my control at this point.”  I even bought lemonade to go with the gin. Instead, by the time I would do this, I walk the beasts, have my 8000th cup of coffee or tea and go to sleep.  Art Child and Nerd Child have enjoyed the virgin lemonade.

The other day a comment was made by someone on the writers’ forum, to the effect of if the manuscript is good enough and the query letter is good enough, you only need one agent to request…if that agent rejects, the manuscript isn’t good enough.  The type of comment that always makes me freaking nuts. a) It reeks of sanctimonious superiority, and b) it isn’t true.  There are many reasons why a manuscript can be rejected, and not all of them have to do with the writing/story. I didn’t respond to the post, because I know I’m feeling overly sensitive right now as I wait for replies, and didn’t trust myself to do more than splutter.

I was thinking about this yesterday, when I walked past a local church and saw several people waiting to go in the side door.  I assumed for a 12 step meeting, but it could have been Bingo. Or something.  Anyway, it had me thinking about the whole Let Go and Let God approach to what’s out of our control.

Step 12.  Oh 12.  That’s the spiritual awakening.  What is the equivalent of the spiritual awakening here?  It could be an offer of rep, but it could also be the acceptance of when it’s time to trunk the manuscript and move on.  Maybe it’s the (to me) mythical ideal of writing only for oneself, being satisfied with or without validation. Damn. I’m gonna be asleep forever.  Spiritual coma?

To decide to write a book, to do so, to tell people you’re doing it…all of this requires not just a leap of faith but big brass ones.  To query, well, that means polishing them up to put them on display.  But then once the work is out, humility.

For the moment, I will contemplate cleaning the bathroom, and decide what to cook with the goodies I bought at the farmer’s market this morning.  And blast the iPod.  Nerd Child always has interesting new (to me) music.



This is the hashtag making the rounds on Twitter right now.  Yes, sorry, back to back quasi feminist rants.

The Gilded Cage

The Gilded Cage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The hashtag and tweets are in response to this atrocity. A young man went on a rampage and killed seven people, including himself, in Santa Barbara, California.  First and foremost, my heart goes out to the victims and their families, including the family of this young man–who reportedly saw his rantings/manifesto, tried to get him help, reported him to the police.  I’m not sure how this still happened, and I’m not blogging about this to speculate re who dropped the ball.

No matter how many episodes of Criminal Minds I watch I’m not a psychiatrist, not his therapist, not an expert in human behavior, I can’t say if he was a sociopath or plain old crazy.    What I am is a woman.  And this young man’s harmful delusions centered around himself and women, their rejection of him.  His sense of entitlement to “get” hot (or whatever the current catchphrase is) blonde women, and their lack of interest in having sex with him.  Gee, can’t imagine why, his videos make him seem like such a charmer.  #YesAllWomen have said no at some point. If you’re an asshole, you’re going to hear no a lot.

The problem as I see it, the reason #yesallwomen is the hashtag and not something tied in to gun control, or “affluenza,” is that he was so easily able to find his peeps, other men who feel their dangly bits entitle them to say insulting things to and about women, have sex with whatever women they want.  In addition to his 140+ page manifesto, he left a hell of a cybertrail, rants on misogynistic websites.  No, I’m not going to link them, I’m not going to help give them more hits and traffic so easily.

It’s the same sick fountain of bullshit that allowed the man I wrote about in my last post to not see any jail time, for his ex-wife/victim to be told instead she should forgive him. #YesAllWomen are still individual beings with the right to say no, even if we get married

How many women, whether they’re twenty or fifty, can say they’ve never had the experience of being called a bitch or a tease because they didn’t want someone touching them? Or commenting on their bodies?  Because, yanno, we should all be flattered–it’s a compliment, someone wants you.  Yeah.  #YesAllWomen have experienced that moment of fear and tension, hoping the man making kissy sounds and following them will leave them the fuck alone.

Of course, this isn’t limited to misogyny, this young man’s rants had a heaping dose of racism and self hatred (he was half Asian).  Because it all goes together.  Hatred is hatred.  I do believe, I have to believe, that he was mentally ill.  But I don’t believe everyone who agreed with him, egged him on, everyone who is trolling by making provocative and hateful comments in response to the Twitter hashtag, is mentally ill.

Like every other social issue, I don’t think there is one answer, one solution.  So many things feed into these attitudes, beginning with children, teaching little girls to hate their bodies and at the same time teaching them their bodies, their faces, and how they display them are the most important part of who they are.  What? You would never feed into that! Never teach your little girl to objectify themselves, or teach your little boy to objectify girls/women.  Of course not.  So how come there are padded, push up bras in minuscule sizes in the girls’ department of clothing stores?  I’m a shoe gal, I admit it.  Heels are sexy, they make me feel…I dunno, powerful, in a way.  Women are and should be entitled to dress however they’d like.  Women.  Not girls, women old enough to have learned their bodies are a part of who they are, not the sum total.  Sure I’m uptight, sure I’m not an expert, but what is the reasoning behind these types of things beyond objectifying girls?  #YesAllWomen don’t look like the ones in magazines, and it can be a hard battle to find self acceptance.

Children are still told that when they’re shoved to the asphalt on the playground, it’s just because he/she likes you.  The same pressures put on girls are put on boys.  Stop it. Being a man has nothing to do with your girlfriend–who she is, what she looks like, or if she exists.

Women are still attacking each other for individual choices. What do you mean, you don’t want to have children/be married/have a career/use cloth diapers/breastfeed/formula feed? #YesAllWomen are being told they not only can have it all, they have to do and be it all.

With all my waiting on agent replies, I’ve been doing a lot of obsessing thinking.  One of my thoughts (and I’m sorry, I can’t remember how much I blogged about this and I’m too lazy to read my old posts) is about those romance novels that I wrote.  I’m wondering how much our society’s emphasis on romantic love contributes to these delusions.  I know, the romance heroes (mine or anyone else’s) aren’t misogynistic assholes–or if they appear to be at first, they quickly realize the error of their ways and come around to worship the heroine.  On the writer’s forum I’ve seen several instances of people being told by agents or editors they need to add in or increase the romance in their stories to make it more marketable.

Is this true, readers will be unsatisfied without romance in their thriller/fantasy/coming of age story?  Yes, we, as women, have come far.  As a society, we’ve come far.  Most people will at least pay lip service to lifestyle choices. But.  How often do you hear people asking a single woman when they’re going to get married? How about hearing someone ask your 10/11/12 year old if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet–and if the answer is no, why not?  And I’m not referring to Great Grandma asking these questions. If we believe a story is not complete without strong romantic elements, and we are partaking in a steady diet of these books and movies, how far away are we from saying people are not complete if they don’t have a significant other?  Hmmm, somehow this isn’t sounding as far removed from the days of “old maids”  as it should be. #YesAllWomen need to feel good about who they are, not just who they’re with.

Not all men are aggressive, entitled, driven-by-their-gonads jerks.  I believe, at this point, those men are the minority, especially as we look to the younger generations.  But too many still are.  And too many more are given a pass, because oh, well, that’s just men.  No, it isn’t just men.  It’s us, male and female, what we’re willing to say is ok and close our eyes to, and what we’re willing to stand up and say no to. Enough is enough.

#YesAllWomen because

everyone gets rejected. Deal with it.

rape jokes aren’t funny.

we still hear, “all she needs….”

we still hear, “well, what was she wearing?”

men need to know we value those who treat us as human beings, not objects.

you _____ like a girl shouldn’t be an insult.

love doesn’t conquer all.


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Ready for a walk?

Ready for a walk?

My plan was to write.  But it was beautiful outside, a perfect spring day.  So instead of working on the short story, I took a walk through the park and thought about writing, instead.  Sometimes this makes everything click into place, gives me a title and clear direction.  Not this time, but it was still beautiful.

I walked south, and ended up by the turtle pond.

When headed out of the park, I realized it was cat day.  Who knew? I’m kidding, as far as I know there’s no such thing, but I did see a few people walking cats.

This owner was trying to walk, but the cat was not interested in doing anything other than rolling on the ground, enjoying a dust bath.  Sadly, she wasn’t much more interested in posing for a picture, but wow, what a beautiful animal.

Some special breed, I didn't catch what.

Some special breed, I didn’t catch what.

I think the word leopard is in there.

I think the word leopard is in there.

And then at the exit, I saw this. He was eyeing a lively collection of pigeons and morning doves, then turned his attention to one of the old gated tunnels.  I think equipment is stored in there, along with many plump rats.  At first I thought oh, poor kitty is lost, he’s going to get eaten by a raccoon if he doesn’t find his way home soon.  Then I wondered if he was, in fact, a strangely colored raccoon.

IMG_1113 IMG_1117 IMG_1120

And this concludes today’s pictorial on the floral and fauna of Central Park.  Have a good Sunday, Fringelings!

Oh, Those Twilight Years

Setting Sun

Setting Sun

Sounds so serene, tranquil.

For some, that’s what those last years seem to be, a gentle setting of the sun.  Soft shadows illuminated by fingers of watercolor light. For some.

For the rest these years often involve pain and indignities, menacing shapes refracting through cataract eyes, and confusion.

Not so different for our pets.

I spent this morning at the vet’s office with Big Senile Dog.  My poor beast is not watching a gentle sun.  He’s been miserable, lost more weight over the past couple of weeks, his crying went from the early morning wake up call to protracted through the morning ablution, to holy shit when will he stop? He cries, he paces, lays down and snores for a while and then starts again. He’s miserable, I’m miserable, we’re all miserable.

I actually asked the vet for a mild sedative for him, at least until we can establish if there’s something specific causing this latest decline, and the best course of action.  Yes, I already tried the plug in pheromones, the Bach’s Rescue Remedy, etc. I don’t know if this is “it” or not.  This dog has a strong spirit, twice before we’ve thought this is it, but he’s recovered.  Maybe a little more worn out, but recovered.

We’ll see.


Walking Through Fringeland, Part II

Above were just a few of the hidden paths, nooks and crannies.  Central Park is 843 acres, there’re a lot of them.  The set below are from just outside the park, on my way home.

Scales of Mama

C major scale on guitar

C major scale on guitar (Photo credit: Ethan Hein)

This morning I was chatting in an off-topic section of the writer’s forum, and the subject turned to musical instruments.  One friend posted a photo of her dream flute.  Very fancy.  One friend posted a picture of her dream guitar.  Funny enough, it happened to be a photo of my favorite guitar, a Gretsch.  Yeah, I know I don’t play guitar (or anything else) but I love that hollow body sound.  Then I told her about Nerd Child’s electric guitar, made for him by a super cool luthier in the East Village.  One of those New York secrets,  you have to have a referral, call and leave a message, appointment only, high quality for great prices.

Wish I had a better photo of it.

Wish I had a better photo of it.

I began looking through my photos, trying to find a pic of Nerd Child’s guitar.  I knew I had a few in a folder somewhere.  I found them, but didn’t post or send them.  Because then I just started looking through these photos, all downloaded from my old phone.  And several videos, short clips of Nerd Child playing and singing.

He hates when I video him.  He isn’t shy, never had or has a problem getting up on stage and performing.  This is a kid who didn’t hesitate to quote Eminem when he gave a speech at his middle school graduation.  In church.  At the alter.  Nothing inappropriate, but not what you’d call a shy choice.  Nope.  It’s a mom/kiddo thing.  You know, “Mo-om.”

I adore each of my kids.  They are individuals, and as such, I feel like I have an individual relationship with each of them.  I cook and wax philosophical with Man Child.  I can be smooshy and explore museums with Flower Child.  Nerd Child is the one I was able to share my love of Stephen King with.  Seriously, watching him read The Stand was pure Nerd Mama joy.

I spent a good chunk of the morning watching and listening to these little video clips, thinking about how much I miss him and feeling a bit weepy leaky.  None of the videos are recent.  I don’t care.  He isn’t a hugger.  I get it, neither am I–except for my kiddos.  Yanno, I’m mo-om, so he doesn’t feel the same exception.  But he’s got this rich, deep warm voice that makes me feel like he’s giving me a hug when he sings.  His spring break is about to start but he’ll be gone for half of it, on a service trip to help build a house.

I’m happy he’s happy.  We video chat when we can, or a quick note or link through Facebook, a text…but he’s busy up at school.  That’s why he’s there, so he can do and experience all he wanted to do and experience.  I’m lucky. He’s healthy, a good guy, grounded, great judgement, an excellent sense of humor.  He’s beautifully supportive of my writing, I think he was genuinely happy for me when we spoke the other day and I told him about agent requests.  But I miss his youtube playlists coming from the desktop while I grumble into my coffee and start the day, ranging from classic rock to classical, meringue, show tunes, rap, alternative.  I miss him.  I’m looking forward to him coming home and seeing my funky new glasses, raising that eyebrow and shrugging as he says, “If you like them, Mom.”

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Dumb Dogs

Innocent, I tell ya--and dumber than a box of rocks.

Innocent, I tell ya–and dumber than a box of rocks.

Everyone talks about how smart dogs are.  I don’t get it, and I’m a dog lover.  I know, I know, your dog is brilliant, it’s just my dog.  I’ve had multiple dogs over the years, and between friends’ dogs and dog walking, have known many, many others very well.  Mixed breeds, “designer” breeds (aka mutts), rescue dogs, purebreds.

I think my understanding of “smart” is too limited, I only comprehend it as it applies to people.  And as intelligence is applied to people, dogs aren’t very smart.  They’re cute, loving, protective, smooshable, eager to please, but not intelligent.

Some dogs care a lot about pleasing their owners, keeping us happy.  These are often the dogs considered the smartest, because they learn the most commands.  Then there are the food motivated dogs, who will do anything in the hopes of a treat.  Food motivated dogs are also among the dumbest, because they will eat anything that could be food, once held food, might once have sat in the same garbage bag as food.

Yesterday I was walking a dog, and we stopped for a light.  Dog starts rooting in a snowbank.  Fine, lots of dogs have fun with the snow, like to roll in it, burrow their snouts in it, eat it.  The light changes, we cross the street.  Get to the other side, and I notice the dog has something out of his mouth.  Hmmm. I pay attention, especially if I know the dog is one likely to eat stuff off of the street, but it does occasionally happen.  Is that his collar, did it come off?  No, collar is still on.  My general rule of thumb is not to stick my hand into any dog’s mouth if it isn’t my dog.  Dogs really don’t like it when you stick your hand in their mouth.  I don’t care how friendly the dog is.  If he/she thinks you’re trying to pull a tasty prize out of their mouth, they’re likely to bite.  Because they’re dogs.  I’m paid to pick up dog shit and give the dog some exercise, some company and petting, maybe food and water, not offer myself as a chew toy.

I determine this thing hanging from the dog’s mouth is definitely a strap of some sort, with a small metal loop at the end.  Looks like the kind of thing used to attach babies’ children’s mittens.  Crap.  Can’t let the dog eat a strap.  And metal!  I tell the dog to drop it, leave it, try offering a treat instead.  No dice.  What the hell is this dog doing?  He isn’t chewing or biting, he’s…sucking.  Yes, the dog was sucking on the pacifier at the other end of the strap.  Sigh.


Pacifier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yeah, yeah, got it all away from Einstein and threw it away safely.

Then last night, Little Incredibly Dumb Dog started acting even weirder than usual.  Jumping and barking on Man Child (she’s decided he’s the one who should take care of her needs).  We see no problem, she seems ok, then curls up and goes to sleep.  Fifteen minutes later she’s squatting on the living room floor.  Umm, NO!  I pick her up and bring her to the pad.  By the second nugget the problem was apparent.

Flower Child has very, very long hair.  She doesn’t want any hairs in her brush, ever.  This leaves me finding hairs wherever she might have been when she picked up the brush.  She does try to remember to throw it away, but sometimes, well, sometimes.  Little Incredibly Dumb Dog thinks anything produced by any of our bodies is delicious.  She races to the bedroom when Flower Child wakes up each the morning, to steal those yummy used tissues out of the bag next to the bed.

So that left my little fluff ball, working hard to only semi-successfully evacuate a gut full of doggie gumbo and knitted by her intestinal tract hair.  Yes, yes, I helped her, all better now.  Emergency bath of her back end.

Tell me again how smart these beasts are.

No Dog Poop

No Dog Poop (Photo credit: Sweet One)

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