Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Latest Reads

Of course, simply because it's the busiest season of the year doesn't mean we stop reading new books. :-) If anything, we read a little MORE in this time of year, since one needs a nice wind-down after running around like a crazed person all day and/or inhaling flour, cocoa, and sugar in generous amounts. So, here's the latest list: --THE PEARL by Angela Hunt, is tough going on some levels, totally absorbing, not touchy-feely by any stretch of the imagination. Great book, though. If you've never seriously considered all the ramifications of human cloning, this one lays out some eye-opening potentialities...and, IMHO, leaves no doubt as to how bad an idea that is. --MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE, one of four delightful stories in an ooooold Regency Christmas novella collection. Just as I haul out certain movies and rewatch them over Christmas, certain books get the same treatment. This is one of them. If you get a chance to pick up a used copy of this book (I believe it's called A Regency Christmas Carol), do so, just for Carla Kelly's wonderful story. Heartwarming, funny, spirited, and pure joy. Reminds me to go look up that woman and see what else she's written! --SHEPHERDS ABIDING, the wonderful Christmas book by Jan Karon, has been taken out during the last three Advents and savored. If you've never been to Mitford, don't wait another minute to go there....start with AT HOME IN MITFORD and don't stop! --THE CHRISTMAS THIEF, Mary and Carol Higgins Clark, was in my Christmas present collection, and so I dove right into it. My take? Not bad, but not great, either. Rather predictable, rather pedestrian, for MHC fans. I agree with those who opine that Mary/Carol's partnerships are weaker than their individual efforts are. At least in MHC's case, that's true. I have never read Carol Higgins Clark--I find it hard to stomach picking up a book by someone so transparently exploitive of her mother's name. (We should all have that foot in publication's door.) But after reading pretty much everything Mom has ever written, I suspect which parts of the book are Carol's...and they're all elements that weaken it. My Christmas wish? That Mary would quit playing with her kids on these things and just do it herself. (!) Still to come, CROSS by James Patterson. I read one Alex Cross book and I'm hooked; I almost feel like I should read all the other Alex Cross novels before I get to this one (!), but I don't know if I'm going to be able to hold out that long! Not for the faint of heart, but nobody can wrap a story around you like Patterson, so this is one of those things to savor like fine chocolate. The only wish I usually have when reading either MHC or Patterson is that I didn't read so fast...so I could make the books last longer! The only solution? Find some more wonderful authors like Hunt, Higgins Clark, Patterson, and Karon, and build an even more absorbing reading list. Heaven knows I need some more to have on hand...my TBR pile is done. (aaaaaah!) Any new authors looming in your TBR pile for the New Year? Paging along, Janny

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back to the Drawing Board...er, Writing Desk

Well, I'm at the end of the submissions rope with the last agent. Shortly before Christmas, I got a rejection from the #1 agent choice I had out of New York...or at least an agent I thought would be #1 for me. So it's back to square one with that submission. After something like twelve queries, 4 quick rejects, three or four requests for partials, three requests for full manuscripts...I'm batting .000 again. Time to start the process all over again. And in this same time frame I also received a couple of rejections on the Golden Heart book. This, too, discouraged me, until I realized that I was sending out basically eight-year-old writing for these agents to take a gander at. Eight-year-old writing! Suppose it's probably likely that my craft has improved in eight years? I suspect if I took and rewrote the Golden Heart book the way I write NOW... But of course conventional wisdom says, "Start something new." Only trouble with that advice? I don't have any new ideas. Haven't had any for years. A couple of flickers here and there, but no complete books that really at least worked in draft form have come to me in probably three years or more. Almost leads one to wonder just how long a writer's block can last...if one believes in writer's block. Which I don't. I do, however, believe in burnout. Which is probably what I've been through. Considering that over the past three years I've had enough stresses, changes, and general tumult in *real life* to send me off the Richter scale on those Stress Charts they all have. You know, the ones where they give a numerical value to the stresses in your life, and you're not supposed to go over 100 in a 12-month period or you're severely stressed and will probably need help? I saw those and, when I realized that three months into some very recent years I was pushing 400 points... There have truly been times when I could relate to the old joke: Patient: Well, Doc, how do I stand? Doctor: I've been wondering the same thing. So I suppose I should be gentle with myself for the next few days, weeks, months, or years, at least. Maybe confine my writing to this blog. (hah!) But I'd be blissfully happy, truth be told, if I woke up one of these mornings with six great ideas bouncing around in my head, and the only problem was staying awake long enough to write them all down. Heck, I'd settle for ONE great idea bouncing around in my head. Or half a one. So that's the status at this point. I'm not a "half empty" type of person...but I think there are times when our writing is running at "half empty," and unfortunately, this is one of them for me. How are y'all doing? Janny

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Twelve Days of Christmas...

...have just begun, so you may appreciate these holiday pointers on how to enjoy them to the fullest! 

If you receive any partridges or pear trees, be sure to feed and/or cultivate.  
If you receive two turtle doves, you'll probably need to pick up birdseed. 
If you receive three French hens, teach 'em English, for Pete's sake...then fricassee 'em. 
If you receive four calling birds, make sure they have good cell phone plans. (And that the French hens don't get a chance to bribe them to call home.)  
If you receive five golden rings, spread them out over fingers...or toes. If you receive six laying geese, collect eggs and make quiche. (French hen goes well with this.)  
If you receive seven swimming swans, make sure you stock adequate towels.  
If you receive eight milking maids, watch out for cow pies.  
If you receive nine dancing ladies, roll back the carpets.  
If you receive ten leaping lords, have yourself a basketball tournament. 
If you receive eleven piping pipers, put them to work decorating cakes. (What do you mean, that's not what they're piping?) 
If you receive twelve drumming drummers, you are very fortunate indeed. Bring out the scented candles, have a drum circle, and feast on aforementioned fricassee and quiche. (And the frosted/piped cakes.) 

Whatever gifts you receive, in other words, make the most of them. Soon, we'll be talking about resolutions for the New Year, some things we've learned in this old one, and what to do about both of these things. But for now, it's time to pack up the tents and get ready to go back to work in the morning. So light up the pear tree (white lights are quite the thing), enjoy the company, the food, and the new jewelry! 

Janny

Friday, December 15, 2006

Advent-ures

My apologies for not posting here for awhile, but I'm into preparations for Christmas now, and that's a special kind of delicious madness. :-) And, yes, they're preparations for Christmas, not for "the holidays" or for "the season" or for any other nonsense. Jesus is the Reason, this is His Season, and it's time we stopped apologizing for that and just wished people what we all wish for them...which is more of Him and less of all the other stuff. Of course, the last time I wished people a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, on a secular writers' board, I was pretty much crucified for it. Not, curiously enough, so much because I spoke the plain truth about Jesus...but because my sig line included a wonderful quote from a wonderful Catholic priest who just happens to be the founder of the company I work for. I had been using that sig as my normal signature line for e-mails, didn't think a thing of it...but, boy, all I had to do was mention the Catholic Church and I got this one guy's dander up big time. He couldn't WAIT to lambaste me for belonging to such a horrific organization. Seems we're responsible for everything from mass murders (the Crusades, doncha know) to sexual improprieties and coverups and despicable politics (never mind the Democratic Party gives out chairmanships and presidencies for that stuff)....and on down the line. In short, people, there is NOTHING worthwhile about the Catholic Church, and the sooner it falls, the better. If we don't get this program, we're just not paying attention. Well, this guy doesn't normally pay attention to anything that doesn't already agree with him, so it was a lead-pipe cinch that he was having none of the facts involved in the Crusades (that they were not imperialist aggression or looting, but a self-defense measure taken in desperation after hundreds of years of harassment by those "enlightened" Muslims in the Holy Land)...or of anything else pertaining to the Church. And he was definitely insulted that I refused to apologize for "imposing" this horrible Catholic quote on them all. Funny thing was, he didn't take issue with the Jesus mention...another poster did that, talking about how "dangerous" I was. I thanked him for the high compliment, which only confused and dismayed him. And it started a series of posts by the previous ranter who continued to bitch, moan, and blast faith in general, long after I had blessed them all and said "let's move on." He even continued to do it long after the list moderator had said "let's move on." So obviously, and clearly, I had hit a nerve, disturbed his conscience, and made him feel compelled to "enlighten" and "educate" me....whether I needed his kind of education or not. Which I didn't, and don't. But this brings up another interesting point to the season. And that's that thank heaven, we're still free to say these things out loud, whether they get people riled up or not. And that more importantly...it doesn't matter whether you choose to believe God or not. The fact is, I still know the future, and He still wins. Doesn't change a thing whether you believe it. Doesn't change a thing if you rail, rant, or rave against His Church. Doesn't matter. Because in the end... ...it all comes down to what you do with Him. Not the people who run His Church. Not the people you know who are "hypocrites." Not any of it. When we get to that last judgment, I think God's going to look at us kindly, pause for a moment, and then ask one question: "What did you do with My Son?" And then, all the intellectual, enlightened, progressive arguments in the world ain't gonna matter a whit. All that's going to matter is what you did with Jesus. Himself. Not the people who claim to belong to him. Not the politics of the Church. Not any of it, but Him. I hope that God will look upon my efforts to talk about Him, in this and other instances, kindly. I hope that He will recognize my intentions, honor my refusal to apologize for invoking His name, and enjoy my enjoyment of pricking those consciences that may need pricking. I don't want it to be about me...but if I am the means of someone having it be about Him, what better use can I make of Advent--or of any other season? So may Jesus, the Reason for the Season, let you know He rejoices in you. And may you be courageous in returning the favor in a world that could sorely use Light in its darkness. Happy Advent...and THINK SNOW!!!!!! Blessings, Janny

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Immaculate Mis-Conception

One of the nicest holy days of the Church year, the Immaculate Conception, is coming up tomorrow! So remember to go to Mass either tonight at the vigil, or tomorrow, and honor Our Lady. And while you're at it, do your part to correct the misapprehensions out there about what this phenomenon is--and what it is not. Just for the record: The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being conceived without Original Sin. It does not refer to Mary's conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit. I wish I had a dollar for every non-Catholic (or, for that matter, ill-informed Catholic) who makes jokes about "immaculate conception" in terms of someone not having sex with an earthly father. The sad part is, I'd be pretty well off right now. The sadder part is, this error occurs as a running joke repeatedly in everything from stage plays to books by Christian authors, who ought to know better (or their editors ought to). Yes, I know many of these people aren't Catholic. All the more reason not to assume you know what that phrase refers to, just because that's the joke that's been made all your life. None of us is a Civil War nurse, but if you're writing a historical novel set in the Civil War and your character's a nurse, you can just jolly well bet that you're doing all kinds of research to find out what that life was like. Well, you need to do the same thing, even with contemporary things you think you "know." More than one thing I thought I "knew," over the years...I actually didn't know. I was actually getting it wrong. Thank heaven I checked--or some very embarrassing errors would go out in books I'm responsible for. And if there's anything I hate, it's errors going out with my name under them, in any capacity. Seems to me when the error comes to something about religion, whether it's our religion or not, we all need to hate errors just as much. So do your part. Don't spread the Mis-Conception about the Immaculate Conception...or anything else you might think you "know." Checking, and double-checking, is never time wasted. While you're at it, even if you're not Catholic...why not stop in to Mass, if for nothing else, just to hear some beautiful Scriptures about Our Lady? That's never time wasted, either. A great book for holiday giving, along those same lines: the Marian Bible Study by Laura Marie Wells...a book I edited, and a beautiful way to honor Our Lady all year. Have a happy and prosperous holy day vigil! Janny

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Vindication...and Rejection (sigh)

First, the vindication: ESPN 1380 out of Warsaw, Indiana...afternoon drive time show host, Eric something--sorry, first time I heard your name, buddy, so I don't have it committed to memory yet--came out with the best rant on the BCS fiasco that I've heard so far. He's point blank said, "Those of you who voted Florida in because you were voting for Anyone But Michigan...you have just fixed college football, and you ought to have your votes taken away from you." AMEN! Preach it, brother! :-) Kudos also to the USA-Today sports writer who said that BCS could just as well stand for "Baloney Cheese Sandwich" for all the effectiveness and success it's had over the years in really giving us the right "championship" game. And as he put it, no year proves that BCS is a failure as thoroughly as this one does. AMEN again! So for those of you who are saying, "All right, Michigan fans, grow up and take your medicine and quit griping," be aware of one thing: it's not just Michigan fans who are upset about this. Far, FAR from it. Out of the potential audience for this big game, probably half of them are fighting, hissing, spitting mad, and they're not even Michigan fans under normal circumstances. But, as one complete stranger said to my daughter at school yesterday after seeing her Michigan sweatshirt, "Geez, I'm so sorry this had to happen to you guys. You got totally screwed." (Note: he used a much stronger word for what happened, but my daughter doesn't say that language normally in front of Mom, bless her heart.) Lost amid this are the Florida faithful bragging about how they're going to put Ohio State away, how dare we underestimate them, how dare we disrespect them, etc. Lost, fortunately, that is. We have a hundred reasons to disrespect Florida, but in the end, it was the coaches we have to disrespect. These men voted, disgracefully enough, on the side of the man who "campaigned" for a team that's a 7-point underdog to Michigan, and one the Ohio faithful WANTED to play because they figure they have a much better chance of beating than they do the Wolverines on a neutral field. As the man on ESPN put it, "Any time you vote in a way that's designed to keep one team OFF the field...you're fixing the game. That's what the definition of a 'fix' is. Rigging the results any way you have to, just so you get the outcome you want." Amen, and amen. Just watch the Rose Bowl and boycott the other one. When the audience numbers go down and the vast CLICK sound is heard from people switching off their TVs, that'll speak the language these people understand. Maybe nothing else will.
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Now, unfortunately...back to the writing aspect of this blog. Unfortunately because I received an e-mail rejection yesterday from Bethany House, citing a plot they considered "convoluted." So it's back to the drawing board, essentially, with the book of my heart, because I really, really DID think that this book would be an excellent match for Bethany. Apparently, though, the Lord thinks differently. Time to figure out where else to pitch this puppy. Or, maybe, just let an agent do it...as I still have to get the final word yea or nay from my #1 choice agent in New York, who's still looking at it. Actually, considering it's been two and a half months :-), it's not a matter of them being incredibly slow readers (!)...it's just that they're swamped, as agencies usually are, and they probably have a stack of things to read ahead of mine. Which doesn't make the waiting any easier, but at least leaves me one last hopeful note out there. Hey, I haven't been rejected by them....YET. More later, gotta go do the day job! Janny

Monday, December 04, 2006

#1 versus....#4. Yeah, now there's the BCS at its finest

Okay, I know I can catch a whole bunch of obnoxious comments for this, but so be it. The fact remains, there's NO way Michigan should not be playing in the National Championship game against Ohio State. Oh, yeah, right. Florida had a tougher schedule. By a few thousandths of a percentage point? And how is that computed again, exactly? Oh, by computer. The same computer that came out with Florida and Michigan tied for #2 in the nation? THAT one? Oh, okay. Yeah. I understand. Makes perfect sense then, that Florida should automatically get the bid and Michigan not get it. NOT. Yeah, okay. Florida won their conference, and Michigan didn't. Of course, Florida didn't have to play the #1 team in the nation and knock them off in order to WIN that conference, which Michigan would have had to do. So let me get this straight. In order to earn the right to play in the National Championship game to prove that they are really #1, Michigan would have had to in effect BE #1 already by knocking off the #1 team in the nation so they could win their conference title in the "mediocre" Big Ten. Yeah, that Big Ten. The one that's sending, what, six teams to bowl games? Yeah. That mediocre conference. Yeah, THAT makes sense too. NOT. I will say this just once. If Florida's conference had been the one with the #1 team in the nation atop it, not a SOUL would hold against them that they didn't win a conference title. Not a soul. It wouldn't happen. Because, you see, boys and girls, the SEC is still the best conference in the country. Didn't you know that? If you don't happen to believe it, by the way, you must be from one of those other also-ran conferences and you just don't know football. The PAC-10? Pretenders. The Big Ten? Mediocre. Nah. Never mind that the top two teams in the nation came either from the Big Ten and the Pac-10, or the Big Ten alone. Or that a team from the Big Ten who never even got considered for a national championship game, Wisconsin, also had only one loss. None of any of this matters, because the gospel of college football is that if a Florida team isn't in a major national spotlight bowl game, then the BCS's job is to do whatever it takes to rectify that situation. And what precisely did Florida have to do to climb not one step in the standings, but TWO? Knock off Arkansas. A team that's never been in the top three all year, much less either #1 or #2. Yeah, that proves them to ME. The only thing that kept Michigan out of the National Championship game wasn't losing to Ohio State...it was the coaches' polls. Yeah, the same coaches who never ranked Florida higher than #4 ALL YEAR somehow woke up on Sunday morning and said, "Wait! That team is fabulous! My God, they beat ARKANSAS! That must mean they deserve to play for a National Championship! Let's vote!" So they've got what they want. They've got in effect, a #1 vs. #4--or, if you want to be charitable, #1 vs. #3--game. They've got the national vehicle that will propel Troy Smith right into the Heisman without a prayer for anyone else, and they've restored order to the universe and made sure that an overrated team from the state of Florida has the fun of basking in a national spotlight yet again. Brilliant work, coaches. Brilliant work, pollsters. Prediction: Ohio State 44, Florida 3. Fortunately, there'll be a real barnburner national-championship-caliber football game played earlier than this artificial fiasco. It's called the Rose Bowl. And it'll be a doozy. Watch that one, and skip the other. You'll thank me later. Janny

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Wanderings...

Be sure to stop by Ron Estrada's blog today and read his Friday Top Ten! They're always good, and this one's especially seasonally appropriate. Al Gore, indeed. (ack!) The persnicketyness of search engines being what they are, I was pleased to note that if I Google my full name, I come up with good links such as my website and the Page One mini-site, which I put up years ago when my book first sold. However, if I Google "Jan Butler," it's a whole other story. And not a very pretty one. If you do this, be prepared for some pretty foul language , in that you'll get a good earful of just what some people thought of the RWR letter I wrote. What I'd like to know is how these complete strangers thought they had the right to get personal enough to use a nickname for me...especially since they then proceeded to basically assert that I ought to crawl back under the rock I came from. I also wondered why the RWR editor thought it was okay to print "rebuttal" letters that could very easily be considered personal attacks on me when their official policy is, of course, that no personal accolades OR attacks will be printed. So there'll probably be one more letter I send off to RWR, this time NOT for publication. :-P On a happier subject, however, should you go to my website and look at some of the neato things there, be aware that it's going to be overhauled shortly; I'm getting myself out of the freelance editing business, in order to concentrate more on what God put me on this earth to do, which is storytelling. (Otherwise known as "telling lies for fun and profit.") I will be happy to mentor writers, critique work now and again, and otherwise enrich the writing landscape...but the best way I can enrich said landscape, in the long run, is to get more books out there. So that's where I need to concentrate my energies. There, and of course, on this blog! While you're running around online, don't forget to stop and pray. Kelley Renz's prayerful place is a good starting point, and then you can move on to some others as well. Praise God for Eucharistic Adoration, which I'm lucky enough to do in person every First Friday here at OSV...and while you're at it, don't forget to shop for your Advent Wreath supplies and Advent calendars. This is one of the most wonderful times of the year, and I'm going to make an effort to slow myself down enough to appreciate it and savor the Christmas season. Hope you can join me! Take care, Janny