Monday, December 26, 2011

(Almost) No One Mourns a Shooter.


On Saturday afternoon, December 10, my daughter's best friend took a gun, shot two people in his house, then turned the gun on himself. In mere minutes, the life of Bart Heller was over.

But the pain he would leave behind was just beginning.

Suicide is a cruel thing for many reasons. It's, of course, the cruelest thing one can do to oneself, and I truly believe that no one can kill himself without being, at least momentarily and partially, out of his mind. The folklore from crime and cop shows is that fully half of suicides change their minds when it's already too late. They've stepped out of the window, they've swallowed too much poison, or the gun has gone off.

I find myself wondering if Bart regretted his decision when it was already too late. I don't like to dwell on that question too much, for obvious reasons.

But that's only one of the questions I have. One of the things that Bart left unanswered. 

None of us will ever know exactly why this brilliant, volatile man took this step, ending two other lives with his. Some people are falling back on a "depression" explanation, but that's not entirely it, either. I've lived with depressed people. I know they can get suicidal. But there's a wide chasm between thinking about it and doing it, and Bart seems to have stepped across that chasm in a matter of moments. Just the day before, he had indicated to Jess that, while he was down, hurting, and angry, he was going to self-medicate a bit—take a "knockout cocktail" which would basically ensure he'd be unconscious for most of two days. He'd wake up Monday sick as a dog, but he'd wake up. And he'd go on.

Something changed in that plan somewhere between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, even though he clearly led Jess to believe that he was literally going "down for the count" late Friday. What happened to change that—or whether he deliberately deceived her out of a last effort to "spare" her anything or reveal what he truly had in mind—I'll never know.

And that's why suicide is so cruel. Because there are so many questions that will never be answered.

So many of us will wonder, for the rest of our lives, if we could have saved him. If one word from us, one more text message, one phone call to the Fort Wayne police a few moments sooner, or one check-in that morning might have made a difference. Perhaps those two people he killed would still be alive if we had done something…said something…made a different decision…

And that's cruel.

It is unspeakably, exquisitely cruel to put people who love you through that. Which is why many people, when confronted with a suicide, blast the person who left them behind for selfishness. Indeed, there is an element of selfishness in it. Bart, for better or worse, is through with the pain he endured on earth. The rest of us are left wondering how he was in so much pain that we either didn't see or couldn't help him deal with. But the fact is, whatever his final destination is for eternity, he has left this world's angst, confusion, and rejection behind. From the sound of it, he had a lot of that to deal with over his life. A lot of wounds. A lot of demons.

In the end, he couldn't lick them.

I've never known a killer before. I never thought in this lifetime I'd know one. But I welcomed into my home and my life a man who, as his final act, committed a double murder and then took his own life. Nothing that comes after this will nullify that fact. Nothing will excuse it. Nothing will assuage the pain of it except the balm of time…and forgiveness.

And that's also a cruel burden to leave behind on people who loved you. Not to mention people who loved the people you killed.

Perhaps I'm in denial, but I don't believe Bart killed these people out of a premeditated, cold anger. I believe he killed one of them because she was what he saw as his last hope for love…and she backed away…and the pain cut too deep for him. Certainly, he had invested too much emotional currency into that relationship. It was too new to have meant either life or death to him, as it ended up meaning.

I would have told him so. I sensed there was too much of his very self being placed into one young woman's hands. But I didn't. I was so tickled to see him happy—radiant, in fact—that I decided to let those thoughts be. I had no idea how fast things went south. Had I known, I would have reached out to him and said, "Talk. Just talk about it. I don't care what you say, but don't hold this inside. It'll kill you."

I didn't know. Maybe because I wasn't a great enough friend. My daughter was, but she felt he was coping. He'd get through it. He'd be in hell for a while, but he'd come out of it.

He didn't. And that's a cruel thing for both of us to live with.

As for the other man who died, I can't begin to guess what was going on in those last fatal moments; I didn't know him, and I cannot make a judgment on that. But I would almost bet my own life that Bart acted out of little more—and certainly nothing  less—than a blinding, searing hurt that made him just want to lash out at the people he saw as contributing to that pain and end it, once and for all.

That's a cruel thing to go through in any life. Or in any death.

Where do I believe Bart is spending eternity? I prayed for him in life, and I continue to pray for him in death. There's an irony—a cruel irony—to praying that a killer goes to heaven in the end. Of course, I pray they all fall under mercy; I would pray that under any circumstances, even for total strangers.

But in Bart's particular case, I pray especially that Jesus was able to touch him in those final moments.

Because no one mourns a shooter.
Except those of us who knew him as more—much more—than that.

Requiescat in pace.

Janny

Monday, November 28, 2011

Well, Okay, Maybe I Don't Need a Spreadsheet Yet!

...but I do need a Google Books page!
...that is, if that's within the scope of my publishing contract to do.
More to come on that.

In the meantime, I've seen a great author "cyber release" party invitation on Facebook. Think I'll set one of those up. Stay tuned here for more details...I LOVE cyber-parties. I poured and served drinks for several cyber-parties in the old AOL Writers Club area, years ago. 25+ people in a chat room is, lemme tell you, chaos personified. I think we almost brought the whole system down a couple of times.

Ahhh, for those glory days of partying like it was 1995. :-) (Actually, it WAS 1995, which helped.)

Anyway, since I have a very, very small list so far of book promotional stuff...maybe I don't need a spreadsheet first. Maybe I just need to set up 1,427 cyber-connections of some kind so that when that magic day of January 15 hits, you can all hit it back...with a show of BOOK ORDERS!

(yesssssss!)
Off to try to make some worthwhile contribution,
Janny

Monday, November 07, 2011

Spreadsheet! I Need a Spreadsheet!

It dawns upon me that with Book Promotion Thingys starting, I need to start actually tracking (as in keeping up with!) what's been done, where I'm scheduled to "appear," etc. Which means...ta-da...a SPREADSHEET!

Don't hate me because I like Excel. It's the administrator in me, I fear. But I don't use it for anything but the most basic of tracking devices. My son, on the other hand, has been known to write and use formulas on Excel that are so complex they actually slow his computer down. There is absolutely no danger of my doing anything like that here. (My computer's slow enough as it is; doesn't need any help.)

BUT...it remains that one of the first orders of bizness this morning probably should be creating a new spreadsheet with some delightfully esoteric and erudite title, like, oh, say, BOOK PROMOTION FOR VOICE OF INNOCENCE.

I know, I know, the creative brilliance inherent in a Monday morning stuns even me.

:-)

Off to make a living,
Janny

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The New Guilty Pleasure...

...at CFWC place is watching "chick flick" movies on Lifetime Movie Network and the Hallmark Movie Channel.

Uh-yup. The woman who writes psychopaths only a mother could love, in her heart of hearts, also wants to write sweet romantic stuff that makes people cry and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Hmmm.

I consider it filling the well. :-)

Actually, I consider it scoping out the market. I have long thought that my books would translate to the screen with the greatest of ease. When From the Ashes came out, people even told me that they could "see" that book in their heads. Exactly what I wanted. And I've had the opening sequence of one particular book in my head for years. Of course, that book has changed over those years...but...okay, minor detail.

But with VOI on its way to screens, e-readers, and handhelds everywhere soon...why shouldn't it be on its way to a movie option as well?

Anyone have contacts at Lifetime Movie Network or Hallmark Channel? Give me a holler if you do!

Thoughts?
Janny

Friday, October 28, 2011

Note Night!

Heh heh!
This is play off the PTI call of "Puck Night!" (for hockey) or "Ball Night!" (for basketball)...

It's NOTE NIGHT! Time to sing our first concert of the season with the IPFW Choral Union tonight.  Canadian and Korean folk songs and a couple of Mass movements in Spanish.

It's gonna ROCK.

So...if you're in the neighborhood, drop in to IPFW tonight for Note Night! (Note: It won't be called that on the program. Just sayin'.)

Later,
Janny

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Time for the Buzz to Begin!

I am just about to put the finishing touches on the final Author Approved version of Voice of Innocence, and the final version of the cover will be available...shortly. :-) So it's time to start the BUZZ!

Can you BUZZ for me?

I am setting up Around the World in 80 Days for this novel--so if you love novels, if you love romantic suspense with a little "woo-woo" in it, if you love mystery, if you love happy endings...get on board.  I want to get a copy of this e-book in as many hands as I can possibly get, and to do that, I need LOTS of little "elves" to help.

I will send you all the information you'll need as time goes on--all I need you to do is let me know you're willing to plug the heck outta the thing! Indicate which e-mail lists you're on, which you're allowed to post on, what free sites allow book publicity, etc., etc., etc. I'll be researching this as fast as my little hands can type, but it's time to start this machine NOW, so I'll be glad to give it its first push. Wanna help be a part of one HECK of a book launch?

Here we go!

Janny

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fools and Little Children....

My mother used to say, "God watches over fools and little children."
I am afraid I was both last night. :-)

I put my office to bed successfully...except that I forgot I had left a candle burning on my desk. An open flame, not even within a vigil light container, simply a small candle on a china plate.

It burned all night long and no one either noticed it or thought to blow it out. I think I even got up in the middle of the night to make a pit stop, saw the light in the office, and didn't think to investigate. (Lots of light comes into our house at night, due to our being on a corner with a street light and frequent traffic.)

But that shows where my concentration was...so to speak.

Fortunately, there were no papers or anything else near it to catch in any way, and the china plate held up fine.

But still.

I'm never that careless. I must have been preoccupied.
Proof positive that there's always Someone else watching.

I am thankful. :-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Things I Need To Give Up...In No Particular Order

1. Clicking on any political Web site whatsoever.
2. Clicking on any current affairs Web site whatsoever.
3. Clicking on a great number of Catholic blogs.

Reason: They only depress, frighten, and confuse me. :-)

4. Playing computer games. Yeah, I know. I still get my work done. But sometimes, those little buggers are WAY too tempting!
5. Clicking on Craigslist for ANY job at ANY time. I've never yet clicked on a promising link on Craigslist and found it to be anything but a link that goes to a message saying, "This job removed," "This job no longer exists," "This job cancelled," etc., etc., etc.
5. Clicking on Craigslist, come to think of it, for any reason.

Reason: Colossal wastes of time.

7. Clicking on pretty much almost ANY job site anymore.

Reason: Millions of people all looking at that same site. 9.9 million of them will probably apply for the job, even if they don't suit it at all, making the recipients of their resumes curse, try to recover their overloaded e-mail systems, and discard your application without reading it...and you'll never hear back, period, no matter what happens.

8. Staying at my computer all day as if I were in a real "day job."

Reason: I have good productive times of the day and not-so-good times of the day. Staying at the computer attempting to work through lull times is a) no better than putting in "face time" at a cubicle post and b) counter-productive. It leads to mistakes, or at least stuff that comes out of me that could be better.

9. Reading anything, anywhere, that the USCCB puts out.

Reason: should be obvious to anyone with a Catholic brain. See reason behind items #1-#3 above.

10. Maybe...Facebook.

Reason: Clicking "like" to social causes, political causes, or religious causes doesn't change a damn thing in the world; seeing 43.7 people sharing the exact same YouTube video is irritating, to say the least; and gimme enough time, I'll think of plenty more...

Of course, I probably won't give up on some of these things.
But the first few...
about the first nine, to be exact...
I'm going to really try to do.

Life is too short wasting it getting upset at things that there's no way in hell I can change by getting upset about them.
No one is listening to my brilliant posts on these places.
I have better things to do...like minister to the world through baked goods.

Can I get an "amen" on this? (heh heh)

Next, I will come up with a happier list: Things I Need To Do More Of...and More Of...and More Of!

Thoughts?
Janny

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Brilliant!

....or so I've been called, several times, over the past 12 hours.
This is a good thing.
If my brilliance actually pans out and gets someone what we hope for from it...it'll be a even BETTER thing.

Now, to make all this brilliance start paying for a change!

More later. I promise. I won't dangle you for too very long.

Janny

Friday, October 07, 2011

You Get What You Pay For...And That's The Problem.

I am registered at umpty-ump job sites for writers; some of them are overall better for prospecting and actually getting hired than others, but over the past couple of years on them, I've gotten some pretty good gigs.

That being said, however, one question still has to be asked.

Why is it that people think writing and editing should be cheap work?

It's like living in an alternate universe to encounter the pay rates that some people think are justified for a profesional writer. It is not uncommon at all to see things on job bid sites like, "Please bid on the amount you would charge for 10 articles, 500 words each...our budget is no more than $2 per article. If you want more, don't bid."
Or another of my favorites:
"I've written a book of ______ pages (anywhere from 75 to 300+) and want a good editor for it. Just go through, clean up spelling errors, make it read smoothly, etc. Budget is $50."
(Good luck on that.)
Or, the final favorite:
"I've written a fictional novel (sic) that is 65,000 words. Please bid on how many hours it would take you to edit this and get it ready for publication."
And then it's followed by an estimated budget of $100, if that much.

So maybe it's time for some straight talk here.
1) No one, and I mean no one, with decent English skills should be expected to produce 500-word articles on every subject under the sun for $1 or $2. I don't care what country they're from. I don't care what every other article mill pays. If you want quality, you ought to be willing to pay for it. The very minimum a 500+-word article should command on any site is $10. (Even that's low for decent writing.) You say that to these people, they laugh you out of the house. Trouble is, I've also seen what they get for $1 or $2, too. Unfortunately, the joke's on them.

2) No one, and I mean no one, should expect a professional to edit a book for $50. That's a nice price to pay for an initial consultation to see if you and the pro editor should work together at all. It's a nice kill fee, although it's a little low for even that. But that's barely one hour's pay for a freelance editor in some of the smaller markets; to expect an entire book to be edited for that money is an insult. Unless, once again, you really don't care about quality. Trust me. I've seen what a $50 edit looks like. You don't want it.

3) No one, and I mean no one, should put one sentence into an ad describing a book and then expect  an editor to give an intelligent bid on the hours it'll take to edit it. Frankly, I have no idea how long it will take me to edit your book until I see some of it. Yes, that's right. I actually need to see if you can write before I can tell you how long it'll take me to teach you how to do it right. :-) Once I see a couple of pages--or, better yet, a chapter--then I can give you some ballpark figure of potential hours involved. Remember those old standardized test questions where one of the multiple-choice answers was, "There is not enough information here to solve this problem"? Guess what? You've just written another one.

4) No one, and I mean no one, should ever, ever, ever, ever EVER think that it's correct to begin an ad with, "I've written a fictional novel." If you don't know what's wrong with that sentence, your work's not going to be worth the time and blood it'll take out of me to edit it. Period. There are no exceptions. No, not even you. Maybe especially not you.

Does this sound like the ranting of an embittered editor? A wonky writer? A person who's just not familiar with the "global marketplace" and thinks everyone should be paid "inflated" American pay? Or are people in the marketplace just so totally misinformed on how rare really good writers and editors are that they are willing to take schlock and publish it, as long as it fits their budget? Are we really so ignorant about what it takes to write well that we don't know the difference when we see it?

The world at present may be awash in more "information" on the Web than ever before...but the great majority--I don't think its exaggerating at all to say probably 80% of it--is almost unintelligible, it's so badly written and/or edited. You've got so-called professional writers' sites full of typos or mistakes in word usage. You've got people applying for gigs that want "experts" and "native speakers"...only their test scores show English comprehension skills of 17%. And these people get hired...because they're cheap.

What's wrong with this picture?

Apparently, it's a matter of a massive number of potential hirers out there who've never heard, or believed, the phrase "You get what you pay for." If you pay schlock...that's what you'll get. And it must be said that part of the problem is many of the employers involved are so illiterate themselves that they have no way of telling schlock from scholarship.

It's worth remembering....
Just because people can speak English doesn't mean they can write it well.
Just because someone's taken an English test that proves he can write a sentence in English doesn't mean that sentence will make any sense, will flow, or will be something someone actually wants to read.
Some people know the difference. They're worth paying for.

But until the prevailing mindset accepts that, takes a deep breath, notches its belt buckle in by one, raises its bar, and decides to pay good writers what they're actually worth...the cycle will continue.
 
There is a better way. It's sitting here, right in front of you. It looks expensive at first. It's not.
Because quality things always are worth what you invest in them.
And investing in good writers, like me, is the only way this cycle will change.
Don't be cheap.
Be smart.
Go for the good stuff. :-)

Thoughts?
Janny

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Hidee Ho, Neighbors!

Yeah, I know, it's been done. :-)
But I think I've come upon a great way to keep myself blogging more frequently...make this the "home" page of my browser when I go on the 'Net.

Simple, huh?
Yeah, I know. Shoulda thought of this, oh, like five years ago.

Call me deliberate, I guess.

In the meantime...anyone got mortgage money for me? Click the "donate" button. I'm working hard, but the money isn't matching the workday...yet. I can cover ALMOST all the bills...except for the biggest and most important one.

Ain't that always the way?

Anyway...contribute. Buy my books. Everybody bring someone to the blog, read the previous posts, enjoy the tips and publishing opinion contained herein. You won't be sorry. I promise.

Thoughts?
Janny

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Empty.

I've been absent for awhile from this blog for several good reasons, none the least of which is that I'm writing some more of my own  fiction (yay!) and making pretty good headway on it, if I do say so myself. And I do.

I've also been up to my eyebrows (which is fortunately not a very high place to think about) in freelance work, to the point where if I believed in cloning, I'd want one or two of 'em to show up at the door and take over. I've easily got enough work and "chorse" around here to keep three people busy, if I ever wanted to actually get it all done in this lifetime (a nice thought).

And, lastly, I've been reading some of a book I got as a birthday present--just one of those "my husband liked the title" sorts of books: he picked up a book called THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLUB because...well...if you hang around this blog long enough, you know that I am the Cookie Lady every Christmas. He saw the title and thought, "Hey, it might be a fun read."

It's by Ann Pearlman, whose claims to fame earlier have been nonfiction of one type or another, apparently. But the notion of a group of women who get together to do a mammoth cookie exchange every year was intriguing to me. And the gushing on the book jacket about how this was "every woman's story" was almost fatally offputting...but I was curious enough to delve.

Well, my curiosity's been tanked.

Not because the woman can't tell a story; she can, although the story she's choosing to tell and the ways she's telling it are not exactly enchanting to me. When a woman starts out a book with the first line, "I am the head cookie bitch and this is my party," you know you're not in for Betty Crocker...which is fine. Sassy, I like. You can't read Sophie Kinsella without being able to take a few knocks in the head, sass-wise, and I do it willingly. :-)

But what got to me about this book is what gets to me about lots and lots and lots of contemporary fiction now...the utter lack of a faith element in anybody's life. In any character's. And I find that not only increasingly depressing, but...truth be told...increasingly boring. What, after all, do you have if you put together a bunch of women living "contemporary lives" into a book, complete with all the important "women's issues" in there--yanno, pregnancy, married or not married, divorces, children, abuse, deaths of spouses and/or kids, financial problems, fear of commitment, etc., etc., etc.--but without a trace of any kind of higher power support system? Answer--a lot of introspective, navel-gazing, self-absorbed pointlessness. 

And, after 53 pages or so of this book, I'd had enough of it. The characters don't exactly whine; they simply have no direction at all  except what they're trying to provide themselves. I got to the point where there were so many times I just wanted to say, "Honey, this whole thing will make much more sense if you take it to God and let Him deal with it." Only...this isn't a spiritual book. It's a secular book. There's not a mention of God as He truly is so far, and after 53 pages, I'd expect some mention of Him if we were gonna get it at all. We haven't, so I suspect all the uplifting stuff that will take place here will be solely dependent on what these fallible human beings can figure out for each other.

Whoo-boy. Now that's an encouraging thought. Especially since the way some of them are handling their lives already is nothing anyone would want to write home about...much less use as a road map.

Unfortunately, the sad part of this is...that's the way a lot of people really live. And somehow, they still expect their life to make sense. To be rewarding. Or to have "meaning"--when it never even occurs to them to go to the Source of meaning, be it Scripture, prayer, church...in other words, someplace where they can stop pretending to be God themselves. Or you say "God" and they, in Pavlovian style, knee-jerk away and say how they don't want anything "religious" shoved in their faces...

No. They'd rather shove f-bombs, characters who think nothing of sleeping around, gory and gritty descriptions of various tragedy or depravity, and people scrambling for "meaning" in their lives out of things like Tarot cards or the latest sexual position, in someone's face. The message is clear: pretty much anything, in fact, is better shoved in one's face than having God there.

What a farce that is. And what a farce so much fiction turns into, when all the way through, I'm thinking, "Yanno, you're not really alone here. You really aren't. If you're into as much enlightenment as you claim to want to be into, if you're really looking for meaning, look for the One who gives life meaning in the first place. If you really want support, go to the One who will hold you in His hand. If you really want a way out of a bad situation, first admit your part in getting into it, and then surrender it...and then you can find the real way out, rather than scrambling from one dead end to another one."

It's sad. It's sad that so much fiction we see today could be so much more than it is, if it would simply acknowledge and deal honestly with the fact that there are a lot more of us out there who would welcome a touch of God in our lives than those who are running as fast as they can from it. (And there are. Even in this largely atheistic culture, you still ask people, "Do you believe in God?" and most times, you're likely to hear some variation on "Yes.") If it would simply have its characters come to a point where they go from wondering, "Is this all there is?" to actually looking outside themselves and their culture for the answer.

I guess what I'm saying is...I'm tired of fiction that wallows in the shadows of earth but never transcends it. I'm tired of fiction that completely ignores God--or if it talks about Him, implies that overall, it's better for us  if we do our best to shove along without Him. I'm tired of fiction where even where there's a "happy" (or, as the publishing mavens are fond of saying, a "satisfying") ending, the characters still haven't risen outside of themselves and realized they're not the be-all and end-all of their own universes, and their "fellow men" aren't, either.

We frequently bemoan the lack of "realism" in Christian fiction, and that's a valid problem. It's an even sadder problem when we have so many intriguing, wonderful things to share that could bring ordinary fiction into a much higher plane,  even make it more entertaining, without having to resort to a single Bible quotation...simply by bringing in an element or two of a character who's willing to touch on exploring the possibility of belief and/or "transcendence." Having characters who already know they don't have to have, or even find or explain, all the answers...but Someone else has them, and they can approach Him and He won't bite. Having stories where people aren't plaster saints...but they know they're on a journey, they know they're living conversion experiences every day, and they know--they know, not just hope--that there'll be a light at the end of the tunnel that's not a freight train.

Without that sensation--without that presence of the very real God in so much fiction--you can read and read and read horkin' good stories...but they'll still leave you feeling empty.

Which is what this book has left me, after enough reading in it that I should have wanted to come along. But I don't--because I don't want to hang out with a bunch of women who, at the end of the story, won't be any more filled with meaning than they are at the beginning. Who won't know the forest for the trees. And who won't know or care that there's Someone who has more answers than their "community" can ever muster, no matter how hard or earnestly they try. At the end, bottom line...there's still no transcendent hope in their lives. No triumph they can count on from a Someone stronger than themselves. At the end, they're still empty.

I need better than that from my reading.

Which is why it's so damned hard to find really good reading in the secular world...and why a touch of writing from people with faith is so desperately needed. Not preaching. Just damned good writing...with that wonderful undergirding of hope and fulfillment, rather than emptiness.

Are you up to the challenge of filling that void? It's there. First (or second or hundredth) one who figures out the combination, the touch of God without the preaching, and the communication of the hope that doesn't disappoint will sell like hotcakes. And the good news is, with such a tremendously BIG void to fill out there--if we all write as hard as we can from here until the end of our lives, there'll be plenty of room for our good stories and plenty of people who'll want more of them.

Anything's better than running on empty. People know it. They just don't know where to go to get filled. They're afraid that a story with transcendence will be "religious" and preachy; they're afraid that the presence of God in a story will rob it of depth, of realism, or of fun and laughter.

We know better.
Let's prove it.

Thoughts?
Janny

Monday, July 04, 2011

Obviously, I'm in the Wrong Line of Work...

...or at least trying to go at it the wrong way!
From Publisher's Lunch:

Gaby Rodriguez's untitled memoir about her experience faking a pregnancy for 6 1/2 months as a high school senior to determine the sterotypes of unwed teen mothers, unveiling the results at a student assembly weeks before graduation, to Zareen Jaffrey at Simon & Schuster Children's, in a pre-empt, for publication in early 2012, by Sharlene Martin at Martin Literary Management (NA).
Foreign rights: Taryn Fagerness Agency


Now, lemme get this straight.
This girl perpetrates a fraud on her high school, on her friends, on heaven knows who else. Then retroactively (is anyone actually doubting this?) decides it had a Great Social Purpose, and that purpose will be to (of course) point the finger at those people around her who no doubt "judged" her unjustly (meaning they probably gave her some impression along the way of "how could you be so stupid?", which would be entirely justified), and Incriminate Us All Yet Again For Being Pigheaded Closedmineded People...

...and she not only isn't kicked out of school, but she's given a book contract in a pre-empt?

The only people stupider than her high school for allowing this and spotlighting it in an assembly are the publishers and agents who lined up to get this project. And get this: it's going to be in the children's book end of the business.

Yeah, that warms the cockles of my  heart. I'll bet it does yours, too.

A year after this book comes out, there'll be a rash of kids faking all kinds of things with the intent of getting book contracts out of them--or, actually, in attempts to get the money for the books out of them, since there's no way in hell this kid's writing this book entirely herself--and sociologists, school psychologists, and YA experts will all be frowning earnestly and Wondering Why this has become some sort of odd trend.

Someone needs to go back to Child Psychology 101 and do a refresher course, methinks. You know--the part about "If you reward bad behavior with attention, it will continue"?

Yeah, that part.
But...never mind. That was clearly wasted on you the first time you read it.


So it's clear I've completely missed the boat.
I need to go find a fraud to perpetrate. Obviously, writing great stories and sending them out to these places doesn't get attention...but perpetrating a fraud, and then dropping the word "memoir" out there to tell everyone about it, does.
Silly me.
I'll do better from now on.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody. Don't we live in a GREAT publishing country?

Janny

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Has Been All Over the Web...for Good Reason :-)

A nice tie-in to the way I normally begin my Wednesdays...

Eucharistic "Flash Mob" in Britain
Enjoy!

Janny

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What I'm Doing This Morning...

Yanno, if you gotta weed and cultivate and mulch and water and harvest...you may as well have this music in your head to work by...no?

Enjoy!
Janny

Monday, June 27, 2011

On the Verge of a Thrilling, Exotic...STAYCATION!

Just finished a major proofreading project for a major client, and so I'm feeling a little dazed. Want to be lazy. Want to do things like spend 2 hours playing Bookworm. (!) :-) (Don't give me that, you know you do it too.) But I do have a couple of smaller projects to do this week, albeit not high-paying ones. And then...PM is off on vacation from July 1 for almost two weeks, so I need to make a "honeydo" list for him, now, don't I?

Go somewhere on vacation? Yeah, right. When you're underemployed, your idea of a vacation treat is a chocolate dipped cone at the DQ.
 I wish it could be different. But it never has been.

I would actually love to take my husband somewhere really away from here, come to think of it. But I had to rob Peter and Paul both to take us on the one non-sports-related trip we've ever had, other than our honeymoon...to the Smokies, in 1998. For our 20th anniversary, we did a weekend in Chicago (we were in Lombard at the time, so that wasn't exactly getting to the edge of the earth!) ...and then had to come home and have one of our cats put down. (Can we celebrate, or what?) And while I have done my share of writers' conferences, some more memorable than others, those aren't exactly "vacation" trips.

One caveat needs to be said here, though: I will say that 2005 was a treat of a half-year in itself, as we proceeded to see a great deal of Michigan baseball while we had the income to do so. Yes, while that's also not technically "vacation," those memories of seeing #1 son play as a Wolverine were worth every single dollar...and then some.

So I guess it's not like I've never gone anywhere...I've just not gone a lot of different places, just for recreation and fun, over the years!

The bottom line? I don't know why some folks think the idea of a "staycation" has just come about due to various economic crashes or recessions or the like. I guess for some people, the idea of making a "vacation" close to, or at, home is novel enough that it's actually fun.

But for some of us, staycations are mostly all we've ever known. And sometimes, that makes us sad.

Just sayin'.

Off to find a little more cheese to go with this whine. :-)
Janny

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why I'm Glad I'm Not a "Professional Catholic"

Sometimes, you think you'd like to be in a certain circle...until you see what happens within it. And then you thank God you weren't really in there in the first place.

For awhile, I could have been called a "professional Catholic": I made my living doing work that directly connected to the Church, was designed to support the Church, and enlightened people about where the Church stood on things...or at least where some predominant Church minds tended to stand on things. I didn't mind the work that I did--for what it was. I edited nonfiction trade and devotional books, books that I considered to be, on the whole, pretty worthwhile and informative reads.

For while, I also thought it would be really, really neat to be a recognized "Catholic blogger." (After all, a bunch of them got invited to Rome a couple of months ago--great work if you can get it. :-)) In this wonderful medium of electronic communication, with the gift of words God has given me, surely that'd be an outstanding way to serve my Church as well...even after my other "professional Catholic" job ended.

But there's a problem with that status.

Nowadays, being a "professional Catholic" has gained the additional obligation (at least seemingly in most of the "professional" minds) of "engaging the marketplace." In other words, "professional Catholics"--among them many Catholic bloggers--are, more or less, expected to be journalists. And pundits. And, sometimes, activists.

Unfortunately, that much power and prestige...has not been a good idea in some hands. And the result looks bad on all of us.

For those of you unfamiliar with the reasons I say this, Google the name "Father John Corapi."

This man was unashamedly aligned with the teaching Magisterium of the Church...and had a colorful enough past (and present) that he wasn't afraid to call a spade a spade. He frequently called bishops out for doctrinal nonsense and/or heretical behavior--something that probably didn't make him any friends at the USCCB, I'm sure. (Which to me is a point in his favor, not the other way around. :-) ) But for 20 years, this faithful priest taught solid Catholic catechism, devotion to Mary, the power of prayer--especially the Rosary--and a host of other good Catholic Church belief that many of us have been starving for in parishes that seemingly have reduced Catholicism to social justice, "be nice to each other," and butterflies and rainbows.

So of course...someone had to silence him. And someone did.

The particulars of this case are still not all clear, but you can Google the name and get enough of the gist of what's gone on around this man to wonder about him and the Church he loves. (As in the old quote from the saint, "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them.") What's pertinent to this post, however, is the role that "professional Catholics" have played in supporting this man, praying for him, assuming he's innocent until proven guilty, or any of the other things they urge us as Catholic Christians to extend to our fellow human beings as part of following Jesus.

Except they haven't. Indeed..."ravening wolves" got nothin' on these folks.

I have rarely seen vitriol from the secular press any worse than some of what Catholic bloggers are heaping upon this man for what he's opting to do at this point. I have seldom seen the level of judgmentalism, Phariseeism, and holier-than-thou crap thrown around--even in such well-known anti-Catholic papers as the New York Times--as I've seen from some so-called fellow "Catholics" out there, in some places I used to trust for faithful discourse on faith issues. I didn't always agree with some of them, but at least I could see where they were coming from.
Unfortunately, now I can, too. And where they're coming from...I don't want to be.

So I'm thankful at this point that my heart has led me away from "engaging the markeplace"--if what I'm seeing from these people is a result of doing so. And I'm thankful that, as a result of my dwelling on storytelling and other parable-like activity to the exclusion of dealing in current events...I will probably never be taken seriously enough as a "Catholic blogger" to even be on the radar of "professional Catholics" out there.

Frankly, from where I sit now, I can't imagine why anyone would want to be.

Thoughts?
Janny

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Way Christian Fiction Oughta Be....

...including Catholic fiction, too, for that matter.
You want to know how to write good old-fashioned story, from the viewpoint of faith? Then look up Rochelle Krich--or as she's known on some earlier books, Rochelle Majer Krich. If that name doesn't sound like a typical Germanic-WASP-Amish storyteller's name...congratulations.

The girl is Jewish.
Orthodox Jew, in fact, if she is writing heroines who are like herself (as most of us do).
So how is this the way Christian fiction oughta be, if the person writing it is Jewish?

Let me backtrack a bit.

Recently, I dipped into a book that was highly touted in Christian circles. It's not a new book, by any means, but it was and has been raved about for years...by an author who basically "owns" one of the major Christian publishing houses. If I said her name, and you know Christian fiction, you'd recognize it.

I avoided this woman's work--I admit it. I avoided it partially because of the perverse notion I have that if everyone is raving too much about someone's work, I suspect that either they're all her friends or they all wanna be...and partially because, by nature, I'm a contrarian. You can bet that out of all the bestselling authors in the world, I'll like one or two, be bored by another bunch, and despise one or two at the other end of the spectrum.

And it must also be said that when it comes to bestsellers--especially Christian bestsellers--I am not impressed by the overall body of work. There are a handful of exceptions; I so wanted this gal's work to be one of the handful. I wanted to be proven wrong. And, for an immensely pleasurable time in the book, I was.

For a long ways into the story, it was exceptional. It was full of flawed people who sinned all over the place; it was full of dark murky things people had to "get over" and people who couldn't get past some of those dark murky things. It had fearful people as well as faithful people--sometimes in the same skin. So far, so good...until the last couple of chapters.

At that point, God was reaching into these characters' lives in some very real ways, they were coming closer to Him, and so they had a lot of questions to ask. And they started asking them of the central "Christian" godly woman character in the piece. And she sat down and started answering them.

What followed was something like a dozen pages (I don't know exactly how many; I gave up!) of what we Catholics would have called "Catechism class." Three major women characters in the book sat and talked theology. They sat and talked why God allowed certain things to happen. Why their lives had been the way they had been for the previous, oh, 300 pages or so. The beauty of Jesus' redemption of them all. Whether they could trust God or not. What would happen if they did. Did they need God's help? How could God love them? Was it all for real?

They became talking heads, spouting obligatory Bible truths, and the story stopped dead.
I realized it some distance into the discussion--about three pages or so--when I suddenly looked up from the page and said, "Wait a minute. Has anyone moved from a chair? Has anything happened in these last three pages besides three talking heads having Sunday school? And for whose benefit is this?"

Well, dear reader, the clear answer to that is...it's for your benefit. Yes, in case you hadn't gotten the message that God Loves You No Matter What, Yes, Even You, Yes, No Matter Where Or Who You Are, Yes, Just Trust Him--a message you definitely would have gotten by the way the characters' lives had interacted previous to this, especially the main "saved" character and her frequent spoutings of mini-Bible truths--the author decided to Lay It All Out Here And Show You How Marvelous This Christian Faith Is, By Golly.

But if you would rather the story have kept its intention and let you see that played out the rest of the way in the characters' lives....
Tough.

The author and editors of this fell right into the all-too-common trap of, apparently, believing that for Christian fiction to be really Christian, by golly, you'd better have That Gospel Truth Spelled Out In Plain English So That Your Reader Can Get Saved Reading Your Book...Even If You Have To Stop The Book Dead To Do It, Because It's Too Important To Let Slide, And God Knows We Can't Trust People To Be Intelligent Enough To "Get" That From Our Storyline Alone.

So they took a compelling, absorbing read and turned it into pap.
Just that fast.

This happens so often in Christian fiction that it's become a cliche in itself. And don't even get me started about most Catholic fiction--with a few notable exceptions, it's even worse. Not with the Gospel presentation, so to speak--"conversion scenes" as a rule aren't our stumbling blocks. But if the Catholic is actually writing from the POV of being faithful to the Magisterium--rare enough in itself--all too often, the book is little more than a treatise on Fatima and/or the End Times prophecies and how This World Has Already Gone To Hell, So Get Out That Holy Water And That Rosary OR ELSE.

Like I said...from potentially intelligent story to pap, in one easy and unfortunate step.

Enter the second book from my library bag that week: Rochelle Krich's BLUES IN THE NIGHT.

As a matter of fact, you should do that precise thing: enter the book. As in go to the library, check it out, and enter the world of Molly Blume and Rochelle Krich as her creator. Especially if you're a mystery buff at all--or a crime-solving buff at all. And who isn't, between Law & Order and CSI and all their spinoffs?

Because Molly Blume isn't just any ordinary mystery heroine. She's a published author of true crime stories...and an observant Orthodox Jew...who finds herself embroiled in solving real-life crimes as well. She says regular daily prayers, keeps kosher, and stops her work and ordinary everyday activities for Shabbat. She is very human--which means she's at times flawed, insecure, snarky, scared, and vulnerable...and also sweet, considerate, compassionate, and principled.

But most of all, she's a woman of faith, a faith as integral to her character as her hair color and height and personal baggage. In other words, she's a real woman, and a real Jew--unlike the Pollyanna Christians, Amish bonnet-babes, and/or wild-eyed borderline-personality Catholics we often encounter in so much of what attempts to be "faith-based" fiction. Yes, she's different. Yes, she's countercultural. But she isn't written that way so a reader will get A Message through the story. It's simply who she is, and the stories unfold in the ways they do because of the inevitability that a woman of faith--this particular faith--will have certain approaches to life that will make her story turn out in a different way from one in which there is no faith element present.

It's interesting to note that Ms. Krich's books aren't categorized as "religious fiction." That's because they're not. They're books peopled with Orthodox Jewish folks, they give you a fascinating glimpse into a life and a people many of us know almost nothing about...but make no mistake. They're not tracts. They're stories. And danged good ones, to boot. As in not-put-downable.

Which is a heck of a lot better than I can say for 99% of Christian fiction, past or present.

What we're talking about is special stuff, people: story, first, last, and always...with faith as an integral, inseparable, and sometimes determinant element--and with no need whatsoever to preach.
It's what we as Christians writing fiction ought to be doing.
Unfortunately, we still don't get that.
So I'd recommend we get to know Molly Blume, and see how to do it right.


Thoughts?
Janny

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Why You Don't Want to Be a Betty Neels Heroine

Okay, now, that title ought to get a few people's attention. :-)

From the get-go, let me say this is not an anti-Neels post. This woman was the bestselling author Harlequin had for YEARS, until her death in 2001. All told, she was named as the author of something like 150 books--and she didn't start writing until she was older than I am now. (!) (Yes, I say "named as author." There's a reason for that, which is a whole 'nuther subject.) I myself have several dozen of those books in my possession and have read several more than that, books which for one reason or another didn't "do it" for me. But overall, yes...I can see why this woman was a bestseller. So I'm not here to pan her style, or her stories, per se.

I have, however, come to realize that there's a danger to internalizing these books and their style as much as I found myself doing for awhile--and still have to fight against today. The fact is, a reader who sees Neels' heroines attain true love time after time will start to think, "Hmmm. It worked for this gal, and there are so many of these books written just this way that I'll bet at least some of this is true to life. Maybe that's the way a woman needs to behave in order to get what she needs in this life."

I'm here to tell you that--attractive as that notion might be to many people--that way lies danger.

Let me explain.

A typical Betty Neels heroine is young--although sometimes "not so young" (as in, she may have reached the ripe old unmarried age of 28 or 29)--and basically without much by way of family in the world. If she's not an orphan, she has relatives better forgotten: evil stepmothers, evil stepbrothers, half-sisters who are manipulative and shady, selfish parents who treat her like a slave--so when the hero steps into her life, often it's because she's at the end of a rope and needs a rescuer.

Now, again, there's nothing inherently wrong with that; it's a premise upon which many a romantic tale is based. However, where these gals start to rub many, many people the wrong way is in the aspect of their personality best described as "serene," "calm," or "placid"--even when they're being stepped upon in some of the most egregious ways imaginable. These gals can be lied about, insulted, put down to their faces, manipulated, and ordered around, and they smile and take it. While many times they do speak up for themselves in a "quiet, unassuming" fashion...still, the people around them in the story, even the heroes, are generally allowed to get away with bloody freakin' interpersonal murder on these women...and the way they deal with it is presented as the way a real lady behaves...and earns true love.

You know, of course, that in the end, this heroine's quiet, unassuming nature will prove she's a superior and more feminine character, the perfect wife for the hero to cosset, adore, protect, and provide every convenience for...so if you're a Neels fan, you chuckle and watch the heroine give as good as she gets, in her own mouselike way. But for 200 pages before she finally hits pay dirt--if you read enough of these things--sometimes, you just wanna slap her upside the head and say, "Wake up, you little idiot. Don't let these people manipulate you that way! Speak up for yourself!"

...because in real life, being sweet, unassuming, and docile--conducting your life "without fuss," as Neels is fond of putting it--won't always pay off in the handsome doctor spiriting you away to one of his many mansions to be cosseted, adored, and protected.

Sometimes, it'll just mean you keep getting beat up. And--just in case in your docile, unassuming life, you didn't realize this--that's not a good thing.

(It's a telling point of some of these romances, indeed, that one of the "endearments" a hero can say to a heroine is, "You little idiot." Followed by, "I love you." Always wondered how those two went together. But...I digress.)

Now, this also isn't meant to latch onto the common diatribe against romance novels that goes along the lines of, "These books encourage women to have unrealistic expectations of love." That opinion is just an opinion, it's debatable, and perfectly intelligent people disagree about it every day. But what this post DOES warn against is the unconscious internalization of the notion that the most desirable quality in a woman is for her to conduct her life and affairs "without fuss." That her ultimate "femininity" is defined by how placid, unruffled, practical, calm, and non-combative she is no matter what the circumstances.  

Unfortunately, some of us simply aren't wired that way.

So that even if that kind of child-woman behavior DOES pay off in some instances--and apparently, in many of them, it did, or these books wouldn't have struck the kind of chord with readers all over the globe to sell so well--it can automatically leave some of us feeling...just a little off the radar. It can make us wonder how long some of these women kept their phlegmatic calm, their serenity, and their humble self-effacement before, one day, it boiled over...and Mr. Doctor saw the "shrew" in his wife come out.

And make no mistake--the anti-heroines in these books ARE the types who are not placid. They're the ones who speak their minds, no matter how petty their thoughts might be--and their thoughts are ALWAYS petty. They're stereotypes of the other opposite, in fact: self-centered, self-absorbed, spoiled, and temperamental beyond all reasonable limits. It's as if to contrast with the quietly beautiful, serene heroine--and all the women in the book who are "nice" and who act just like her--the other side of the feminine coin is 100% "bitch." There are no in-betweens; except in extremely rare instances in a couple of the books, there are no sort-of nice girls who occasionally blow their stacks. There are only spoiled rotten little girls who throw tantrums, complete with stamping their pretty little feet, contrasted with the wise, serene heroine material, who shows up not only in the hero's love interest but in pretty much every other female in his family.

Again...the message here? The desirable--indeed, the virtuous--woman is the one who lives without "fuss." Without, apparently, peaks and valleys of emotion. And most of all, without the need to take up any space, breathe any air that might belong to anyone else, or ask for any rights beyond those of a timid child approaching a parent. In these books, the reward for such behavior is inestimable.

But in real life? Or even--shall we say it--in your novels?

I have come to the conclusion that, in many of my stories, inadvertently I've ended up writing heroines who emulate this self-effacing behavior, this milk-and-water calm; it's hard not to, when you sigh over these good fortunes and realize that this stuff sold like hotcakes all over the world. But inevitably, if you start writing people like this, you may also find yourself trying to hide the places in YOU that aren't up to this unassuming "snuff." And in the process, you'll shortchange both your fiction and your real life...for something that, in all but plaster saints, is almost unattainable--and probably isn't true either about you, where you really live, or your fictional people.

So, as the hosts say on Mythbusters..."Don't try this at home. EVER."
Betty Neels was what you call an "expert."
Her books played under a strict, circumscribed set of rules that sold well in cultures that may be alien to you.
Don't make yourself a stranger in your own skin, or in your own books, by trying to make either your own personality or, by extension, the personalities of your characters fit into that particular box--unless that's how you roll in the first place.

Or you'll spend far too much time retracing, redoing, and rethinking--and having to relearn how to write, and live, "for real."

Thoughts?
Janny

Friday, June 03, 2011

Well, It's Happened....

Someone has bought Voice of Innocence.
No, an agent hasn't responded positively yet.
But Desert Breeze Publishing has.
Long story. Short pier. :-)

I'm off to await the package in the mail that has my contract. Release date: January 15, 2012.
And yes, I should be dancing and shouting and carrying on. But I think it hasn't...still...fully sunk in yet.

More to come!
Janny

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Synopsis Week at CFWC place!

...and we're pulling inspiration from any places we can think of.
First, some nifty pictures of one heroine's name.... 



and then another's.

Why do my heroines have these names? You'll have to sit tight and wait for the stories to come out to know that. (heh heh heh)
Also keyed in the synopsis for the new version of Rainman's Bride. The one with the woo-woo. (Right, like anything I write nowadays doesn't have "woo woo" in it? But...I digress.) (Actually, one of my stories doesn't have any woo-woo in it. It's no accident that one's stalled out right now.)
My only problem now is that I need to be cloned; I have too many stories to write and not enough fingers or hours in the day to do them. This is, of course, working around the attempts to actually do paying work as well...(!)
le sigh.
Updated pitch count: 38 pitches, 20 rejects. Just got one rejection this morning. Happy Monday, non?


More in a bit,
Janny

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Mess that is Real Life

A thousand pardons, faithful readers...for my long absence here.
Yeah, I know I've promised to blog more faithfully before. Yup. Probably won't do a great job of keeping that promise this time, either.
But I'll try.
Really.

I'm thinking this is going to turn into another rambling personal insight blog instead of writing about writing and writing some more.   Just sayin'.

We'll see what happens.
Current totals: 38 agents pitched with VOI, 19 rejections so far.
We press on.

Janny

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Few Cantankerous Thoughts on Publishing...

....in no particular order. (Although they are numbered, that's strictly serendipity.)

1. Book publishing is not dead. Paper books are not dead. And paying an author for content is certainly not dead, assorted screaming meemies to the contrary. How it will all be paid for in the future remains to be seen, but there is still such a thing as intellectual property, and the truly wise "forecasters" among us know that.

2. Editors, agents, and publishers don't get up in the morning and ask themselves, "How can I make an author's life miserable today?" They like things to go well just as much as you do. And they like discovering your brilliant work even more than you like them doing so.

3. Some people will never, as in ever, be convinced of this. This is their loss. 

4. There is truly no such thing as "traditional" publishing. People who use that adjective know little about the publishing industry except in terms of bashing it.

5. You're not actually self-published unless you have personally seen to every detail of the publishing process. Subcontract some, yes. But you're either in charge or you're not. If you've paid someone else to see to these details for you, don't call yourself "self-published," even if your publisher calls you that. It's misleading and unfair to those who truly are.

6. Small presses are not automatically virtuous simply because they're not the monolith on the corporate corner. All they are, in the end, is small. With all that that means.

7. Yes, we all know, e-books are the future. They're all that's going to exist in 20 years. They were all that was going to exist in 20 years...in 1980, too. Forgive some of us for being a bit slower and more cautious about jumping on the bandwagon that many of you have apparently just discovered and/or think you have invented. We've seen this movie start before...we're waiting to see the end before we applaud it too raucously.

8. Those of us who love print would be much more favorably disposed toward e-book advocates if they'd stop talking down to us, belittling us, calling us "dinosaurs who can't adapt," accusing us of clinging to a publishing model that "doesn't work," and screaming the assertions in #1 at us over and over again, just to make sure we hear them. Volume doesn't equal veracity. Enough, already.

9. It's no coincidence that the people who protest the loudest about how publishing shouldn't have "gatekeepers" are the people whose work needs gatekeepers the most. This is true approximately 101.999% of the time. So if you think you're the exception, think again.

10. If you're truly excited about publishing my book and "being my partner in publishing success," then pay me an advance against royalties. If you don't think you'll make enough money off me to cover even a small advance, you don't believe in my book or in me nearly enough to be my partner, and you should pass on it.

11. There's an odd notion in some circles that publishers should practically give away e-books because "it doesn't cost the publisher anything to do them." Whoever started this nonsense knows nothing about either publishing or economics, and less than nothing about the combination of the two. Don't give this lie credibility by perpetuating it.

12. I still believe that I can beat the odds and be the one who sells the story people will talk about for 100 years after I'm gone.  If that makes me a fool, so be it. I'm at least a fool who believes in something, rather than being the one insistent on dumping cold water on others' dreams. I know which person will be remembered in 100 years, too. Just sayin'.

Okay, I feel much better now. :-)

Thoughts?
Janny