Monday, January 30, 2012

To Friend...Or To Unfriend? That Is the Question!

With great social networking freedom comes great responsibility...right?
Hmmm.
Maybe not so much. :-)

A thought on social networking today, who's a friend...and who gets to stay one.

We're all told we need to Be In As Many Places As Possible nowadays. Only problem is, it doesn't really work that way. In truth, we can all only devote so many hours in a day to "networking" of various kinds. (Unless we are vampires and never sleep, in which case we already have our own glittery network, I'm thinkin'.) Anyhow, I'm already active on Facebook, this blog has been going for years, and for business purposes, I've kept an oar in LinkedIn as well. Long ago, however, I trashed my Twitter account, as well as cleaning out a whole raft of Facebook "friends."

Some people would say that by doing that, I'm being a fool. I think not.
But how do you decide if you might need to pull the plug? Who gets to stay...and who has to go?

Well, first things first. If someone's comments or general posts are making you nervous in any way, unfriend 'em. Doesn't matter if you've known them for 40 years; people can change. Mental states can alter. Emotional stuff can make people do weird things. You may have known this person years ago in grade school, but in grade school he or she may not have discovered alcohol yet. :-) If this person is receptive to a private message discussing this problem, and if you can bring the subject up without feeling threatened, by all means do it...but overall, it's probably best to drop them quietly, without fanfare, and don't look back.

Same thing goes for people who irritate you. Again, sometimes these are long-time or old-time friends who've just happened to change in ways that don't jive with you anymore.  Or they're people with whom you've got a couple of things in common, but overall--meh. You're on opposite ends of the political spectrum and they insist on posting stuff that makes your blood boil. Or you're diametrically opposed in your religious views, and they can't resist poking holes in things you hold sacred. If that happens, in reality, you're not "friends" anyway; you haven't got enough in common to enjoy each other's company without hitting upon some topic that gets one of you either defensive or disgusted. Let 'em go.

Yes, I know some people LIKE to have "different" types of friends on their rosters. They claim to like having people with whom they can vigorously, and sometimes acrimoniously, debate things, with the understanding that their friendship is still intact. Or at least they SAY it is. I personally have my doubts, however, as to whether you can continually clash with someone on basic, gut-wrenching issues and yet still consider yourselves "friends." Seems to me that beyond a certain point there become too many disagreements and/or someone gets hurt...which means the friendship doesn't survive anyway.  To me, it's better to step away from the "friendship" that's more a debating society before a painful break makes it unavoidable.

Besides, call me provincial or narrow...but I find there are already tons and tons of STRANGERS willing to attack you for any stand you take on line anyway. Why you want to court this from so-called "friends" in addition to the constant potential for ambush from people you don't even know...frankly, is beyond me. Give me people with whom I share more than a surface couple of commonalities and/or an occupation. Give me people with whom I share at least part of the heart, and to me, that's a much more fitting example of a "friend" I want to keep around.

Sometimes--way more often, I suspect--the people with whom you have this kind of push-pull going are relatives, and you may feel you have no "right" to unfriend a relative. Nonsense. Of course you have the "right" to unfriend them, if they're basically doing little for you but making you want to talk to your silent computer screen and/or gnash your teeth. Dental bills are expensive, and mental health care even more so. Cut 'em loose.

If they get mad? If your action causes some kind of Major Family Explosion? Chances are it'll be a lot of storm and fury, and then it'll blow over and they'll move on to other stuff. If not, and they declare you persona non grata...well, that's not all bad. Think of all the duty visits you won't have to make anymore!

Finally, there's that wonderful (and large) category--people you don't really know, but who know people YOU know and therefore get "suggested" to you as friends. Therein lies a lot--a LOT--of waste of time and space. Not to mention infinite potential for linking up with people who become one of the previously mentioned trouble spots. Even if they're perfectly sweet folks, if you live in two different worlds that never touch...if they're constantly making inside jokes with their real friends that you neither get nor appreciate...what are they doing in your social network? They don't know who you are; you don't really know who they are...and you're not likely to meet in this lifetime and find any of that out. So do they even really belong in your virtual address book?

I'd say no. Not until or unless they come upon you and get interested in you THEMSELVES, through some other legitimate means upon which you can build some common ground. But merely both knowing a third party doesn't constitute that common ground, and in the meantime, these people you neither know nor care about can easily become folks who a) irritate you, b) post stuff that drives you nuts, or even c) start to sound threatening and/or "crazy" in ways you don't want to mess with.  In this case, as Uncle Bobby used to say, "It's better to stay out than try to get out." If you've friended too many people whose real selves you have no clue about...start culling. They won't miss you. You won't miss them. And you really won't miss the clutter and/or guilt about "maybe I should reach out to these people and find out if we actually have anything in common..."

No, you shouldn't. Let 'em go. If an eventual connection is going to happen, it'll happen whether they're already on your "friend" list or not. And when it does happen, it'll be all the sweeter for them not having cluttered your life or said something you wanted to clobber them for earlier. :-)

Sounds harsh? Sounds too narrow? Too restrictive? 
It's not. It's self-care. It's mental health care. And it's choosing not to waste time at the computer arguing with people, trying to show them the error of their ways, or having them blast you for what they perceive as the errors of YOURS. I don't know about you, but the world jangles me enough already; I don't need to solicit more of it. 


Bottom line, I say this as one who's slammed with more than enough to keep her busy: Life's too short to waste a moment of it on third-party conversations that mean nothing, endless YouTube forwards from people who clearly need a life, or folks who consistently show themselves to be schmucks (or who think YOU are one!). I don't need to spend my time on schmucks, and neither do you. Don't let anyone guilt or fear or intimidate you into keeping them around "just in case."

"Just in case" is never gonna come with some of these people, and the kindest thing you can do--both for yourself AND for them--is to click that lovely little "unfriend" button.

You'll be the lighter, and the happier, for it.

Thoughts?
Janny

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Put Weights In Your Shoes Today...

...or you'll end up in Kansas. It's that windy.
Of course, if you do end up in Kansas, say hello to Kim Vogel Sawyer for me! :-)


More to come,
Janny

Friday, January 27, 2012

Okay, This Is Tacky

I have the good fortune to be on the mailing list of a well-known, multipubbed author who has the kind of success I'd like to have for just one year. :-) I like hearing about her latest stuff, her travels, her projects...
... but what I don't like is her latest wrinkle. Stickers. With HER BOOK dates on them. Yep. So you can put them on your calendar to remind you WHEN HER BOOKS COME OUT.

Uhh...yeah. Tacky. With a capital T.

I don't care if it was thought up by marketing gurus. I don't care that this woman is wonderful, nice, sweet, and too good to be true otherwise. It's STILL tacky.

To any other authors out there thinking of doing this? PLEASE don't.
You are not important enough in my life for me to stick you on my calendar.
Don't get me wrong. You're important.
But just not THAT important.

Calendars are for doctors' appointments and dentists' appointments and appointments to do things like Get The Car Fixed and Get The Cat's Shots (or vice-versa). They're not for cluttering up with darling little STICKERS saying "Don't forget to run to the store and spend more money on this woman's books!"

Uh...no.
And if I ever get the idea to do this to my readers...you all have my permission to slap me.

Thanks,
Janny

And the Winners Are...

Yes, there are two of them! Even though I know I sold more than 2 books (please God!), only two of you commented here on the blog...so we've decided to award BOTH commenters a yummy chocolate prize.

So, as they say on The Price is Right, Deb Kinnard and Janka Halcinova....come on down!

(Well, okay, you don't have to "come on down" to Indiana; I'll send your chocolate to you. :-))
NOW...your only dilemma is...dark or milk? 
Let me know, and the DeBrand's Shopping Expedition will commence!
CONGRATULATIONS!
Janny

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Friday...

...is NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CAKE DAY!!

And speaking of chocolate...
We will announce the winners of the DE BRAND'S CHOCOLATE giveaway soon!

Stay tuned!
Janny

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nope, Nope, and...Nope.

Every now and then, someone writes an article about how all novelists should "learn to write" by writing short stories. Some people even go so far as to say you shouldn't even consider yourself a writer until you've written and sold short stories...and that it's good preparation for novel writing. Saw another one of 'em referred to today,  by a writer who ought to know better, and figured the time has come for someone to speak the other side.

Because that entire notion is BUNK.

People, people, people. This isn't like moving up in school, okay? You don't start with short, "small" things because they're manageable, and then gradually move on to bigger things until you're finally "grown up" enough to write a novel. If that's the case, then all poets should start with haiku and publish lots of that before they think in terms of free verse or even iambic pentameter. (I knew that lovely term would come in handy some day!) But take that notion to its logical conclusion: Imagine if someone had told Shakespeare (or, for you conspiracy theorists out there, whoever-really-wrote-Shakespeare's-stuff) that.  (Of course, knowing Will, he would have had a much better comeback than "bunk," and it would have been unprintable in polite society.) Would we have some of the richest stuff in the English language today?

Probably not.  And it isn't because haiku hadn't been invented yet.

It never ceases to amaze me how this mindset continues to spread and influence young writers. There are probably writers out there who would love to do novels, who have novels burning inside them waiting to get out, but they're forcing themselves to "do their apprenticeship" and write short stories.

Chances are, they'll never get out of that apprenticeship, either. Especially if that's where they're trying to start as newbies.

Why?  


First of all, because it's much, much, MUCH harder to write "short" than it is to write long.
If you ever doubt this, try writing a bunch of those 200- to 300-word articles that content sites want so many of. There's a reason most of them are awful, and it's not just because they tend to be written  by non-English speakers; it's because it's hard to condense a decent, solid amount of information into a small package and have it work well. Skilled writers can do it. But notice that word. SKILLED. As in, not newbies.

"So what?" say the purists. "That's good training. If you can't write your story in a couple thousand words, you don't know it well enough anyway. Get the thing concise. Get it focused. Then you're ready to actually write a book the way it should be written."


There is a whole host of things wrong with that attitude, not the least of which that it's snot-nosed arrogance. But the main thing wrong with it is the second reason that "write short stories first" is bad advice:


Because short stories and novels require two entirely different skill sets and approaches.

"That can't be," moan the pundits among us. "Good writing is good writing. You need to start small and gain command of the language first.  You need to learn how to write short and sharp and..."

Yeah. Sure. Right. You betcha. 
NOT.

If you're a columnist, that advice is spot-on. If you write for the Web, it's even spotter-onner. But what if what's burning to come out of you is a series of sprawling, multi-generational stories about a family with several children, inlaws, outlaws, sisters, cousins, and aunts?  
No matter how skilled you are, telling that story's gonna take more than short story length. Yes, you could write some other "practice" pieces that are shorter, just to "get your feet wet." But why? Why waste your time, your creative juice, and your energy writing something just because someone told you you had to do it that way, when a story is stomping its way through your veins begging to get out?

There is no good reason to do this. No. Not one. NADA. EVER.


You need practice to become a good writer? Of course you do. So practice--but do it in the medium and the word count in which you plan to ultimately make your mark. You'll have plenty of opportunities to do so, and you will learn how to write just as well by focusing on what you love as by focusing on what you're gritting your teeth and telling yourself you have to "get through first" before you can do what you really want. In fact, you'll learn faster doing what you love, because you'll seek out guidance in how to do it properly. You'll hang with other people also wanting to learn how to be novelists. And you'll avoid the tragedy of waking up one morning discovering your writing "juice" is gone because you spent so much time becoming the writer equivalent of the best marathoner in the state...when all you really wanted to do was learn how to perfect the 400-meter hurdles.

Don't do it.

Unless you want to write short stories from day one, and you long for those short-story checks to come in, don't get trapped into thinking one length of story is a necessary prerequisite for the other. Not only is that not true; it can totally screw up your novel-writing learning curve, sometimes forever.

Which--it has to be said--may sometimes be the very point of some of these people telling you to do it in the first place: it removes competition for their novels, also sometimes forever. 
Yes, it's mean. Yes, it's underhanded. But, yes, it also happens. Don't let 'em get away with it.

Write what you want to write, and learn as you do that. If in the course of writing novels, you also discover that you'd like to try your hand at another length, there's time enough to do so. But this isn't grammar school.  You don't have to start with 100 words and "work your way up." That way lies madness, and you'll encounter enough madness in a regular writing career without volunteering for more.

Here's to telling the story in "as long as it takes."

Thoughts?
Janny




Monday, January 23, 2012

Contest Over. (Sigh.) BUT...Good News on Book Options!

Okay...some of you will be chocolate-less for awhile, because I didn't see your combox entries come in for the DeBrand's drawing. I could extend it, but...nah. Ya snoozes, ya loses. :-)
The good news, however, is that Desert Breeze books will soon be available through the Google eBookstore! 

How cool is that?
Added to that some additional venues overseas for the Christian/inspirational lines as well, and it's clear DBP is fast becoming the place to be for overseas and international sales!

Kudos to Gail Delaney for this hard work!

Janny

The Catholic Media/Blog Fast...By Further Explanation

A very quick note on, additionally, why I'm trying to "fast" from most Catholic media this year.

One of the unfortunate tendencies of Catholic blogs, media sites, and writers is to decry the catechesis of young Catholics coming up--and this isn't a new tendency. Even Fulton J. Sheen basically said, "If you want your kids to keep their faith, send them to the public school. If you want them to lose it, send them to Catholic school."
Yeah.


Well, I heard that advice too late. :-P

And so I've looked at some of the gaps in my kids' Catholic education and worried about all the rest. Become convinced that their Catholic educations were sorely lacking, and become angry that the people I trusted to do at least some of the catechesis on my kids apparently didn't know enough about Catholic tradition, prayer, and other richness themselves to pass it on to others.

Partner that with a cynicism that comes through on faith sites, basically telling us that the minute our kids go away to higher education, their faith will be shot to pieces...and you can see where I went with this.  I became on one level almost apologetic (in the bad sense) about the Faith with my kids--assuming that they'd been thoroughly wrung dry of any semblance of real Catholicism and I was gonna have to start over teaching them when it was far too late to do so. On another level, I was hopeful that they may have retained something...but all around me was nothing but bad news that led me to believe any hope I may have had was sheer foolishness.

And I acted on that assumption and leapt to a conclusion I shouldn't have.

I've already apologized to the family member I misjudged; I didn't suspect just how deep the core of his Catholic beliefs went, and how seriously he took them--and how little effect the world was having on his behavior versus what his upbringing had on it. I should have had more faith in all of that; after all, they all tell us that what we see modeled at home is what we end up living, unless we make a conscious decision to defy it. While some kids do, obviously--and while some of us need to defy things we've seen at home, because they're unhealthy--in this particular case, I should have had more faith.

I let myself be swayed by people who were so convinced no kid keeps the Faith from home that I didn't use common sense and/or optimism about my own. And when someone else from outside can make you doubt the very way you've raised your own family...there's something wrong with that balance.

Unfortunately, I'm very impressionable about such things (because I'm a worrying Mom :-)). And I let that bad impression overshadow what I should have known to be true.

Media can do this in many, many ways. (It's the power of advertising, after all: telling us we need something that, thirty seconds before that, we may not have even known existed!) But, even knowing the power of words, I should have known the power of faith, the power of parenting well, and the power of the influence of home standards on kids when they truly internalize them as adults.

I forgot all that, and it's a regret I will have to live with.
But I ain't gonna put myself in that position again.

So I'm not hanging out with people, or around verbiage, that's gonna even have a chance to do that to me.

Because some kids lose faith when they grow up doesn't mean all of them do.
And--as I am proof of--because some kids may "fall away" or fall into temptation to look "just like the rest of the world" doesn't mean that they never come back to their senses, either.
But you'll almost never hear that side of the story from much of Catholic media out there. All you'll hear is the deplorable state that the Faith is in among many young people.

Yep, there are mistakes being made.
But there are many good things still happening, too.
And unfortunately, our Catholic media gurus, like so many of their secular counterparts, completely miss that forest for picking out the trees that need cutting down.

I can't waste time feeling that outrage anymore.
And I can't risk hurting or upsetting people around me acting on outrage that's misplaced.

So...if your Catholic media site is largely dedicated to telling me that if I believe the Faith is in good shape, I'm a fool...
...if your blog is dedicated to pointing out all the ways we're gonna fall short...
...if the best you can do is rant, rave, or ridicule...
Sorry, but I don't have time for that. Not anymore. That's not "being informed," that's being discouraged. And as a writer, I've got enough in my profession that will discourage me already, without going and seeking out more of it.
Ergo...the fast.


Hopefully, I'll keep it up all year. Because the "weight" of all that outrage, cynicism, and fear is something I'd just as soon lose and leave behind...permanently.

Thoughts?
Janny

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New EZine Debuts! (with Contribution from Yours Truly)

The official press release:
Port Yonder Press' new quarterly ezine (mainstream, for ALL readers), premieres this Tuesday, January 24th, at 5:00 p.m. CST at www.Beyondaries.com.  Along with nearly two dozen columns, we also have CONTESTS!  One of the two contests is a "first responder" contest - that is, a 3-book giveaway for the one who FIRST fulfills the qualifications listed.  The other is a random free chapter critique for leaving a note on the ezine's blog page.  Further, 2nd quarter TEAM PYP short story contest results will be posted then (look for the TEAM PYP tab when you get there).  Port Yonder Press is "A Horizon Beyond" and we'd love you to join us as we unveil our new ezine - BEYONDARIES!  
And yes, I've written something for it: not sure what the column "series" name will be, but I'm doing nuts-and-bolts writing "tips," with the first column being "Where Do You Get Your Ideas?" This basic material comes from chat and from  the "12 Weeks to Submission" program, with a little dollop of refinement. I anticipate this being a regular feature. :-)
So come on down on Tuesday and check it out! 

Janny


Saturday, January 21, 2012

...And If You Don't Know This...

You can click on the neato Desert Breeze banner on top of this blog page and go right to the catalog! :-)  So click, shop, read, enjoy...


(heh heh)
Janny 

Don't Miss Out!!!

The end of the DRAWING eligibility for free chocolate from DeBrand's is TOMORROW night at midnight! If you've bought VOICE OF INNOCENCE, just comment here on where you got it...and you're in the drawing. Trust me, it's worth posting your comment to be in the running for a good sugar high. :-)


Read on!
Janny

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Creative Process...Okay, Mine, Anyway

If you like insights into a writer's creative process on a novel, you might want to stop by Deb Kinnard's blog today and see our conversation about VOI. And then stick around her blog and read all the rest of it. That's an order. :-)

Seriously, stop by and enjoy. It's a pleasure to talk about the creative process, and I know it mystifies a lot of people outside the writing world. No mysteries here...just a few voices from beyond (heh heh) and a whole lot of work in between!

Thanks for reading!
Janny

Remember the Chocolate!

You have just a few more days to a) buy the book and b) comment about that here in order to be entered in the drawing for DeBrand's CHOCOLATE. (Such a thing deserves all caps.)  Don't let this chance go by without tossing your name into the hat!

(...or I'll be forced to make the sacrifice of eating it myself!)

Thanks for your support!
Janny

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Inevitable...

...has occurred.
There's at least one mistake in Voice of Innocence.

Maybe I should offer a prize to the person who finds it! :-P

Ah, well.
Hopefully, by that point, the reader will be moving so fast through the story she won't notice it....
...and then we can fix on "reprint."

(heh heh)
Janny

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sleeping In

Not sure if this means much of anything, but...
At long last, it appears that I'm learning the art of sleeping in. Until sometimes as late as 8:00 AM.
Don't laugh...for several years, I got up between 5:30 and 5:50 AM. It just worked better for me to get to the day gig if I started my day ridiculously early.
Even for awhile once I began freelancing, I was still getting up at 6 or so.
And I kinda like that.

However, in order to do that and not feel like a bad-tempered lummox by 2 PM, I need to be in bed by 9.
(NOW, you can laugh.)


People have pooh-poohed the idea that I would need to be in bed by 9 to get up at 6. 
Someone once said to me, "But that's nine hours!"
I said, "Congratulations. You pass the math test."
The implication, of course, is that no adult needs nine hours of sleep. Growing children, maybe. But adults? Aw, heck, we should be able to get by on five, six max. Right? We're tough. We can't spend our time sleeping our lives away. There's work to be done!

Yeah. Right. While all the time, doctors keep telling us that over 60% of us never get enough sleep.
We qualify, in fact, as sleep-deprived. 
We need eight to nine hours a night, at least most of us do, to fully allow the body to relax, repair, and renew.
How many of us allow it to do that?

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. It's designed to weaken judgment, defenses, and ability to think clearly. Yet millions and millions of us, every day, willingly torture ourselves this way...thinking we're functional.

We're not.


We're underperforming, we're under-achieving, and what's worse...we're under the level of being truly human and truly healthy. We get sick more easily when we don't have enough sleep. We get irritable faster when we don't have enough sleep. We fly off the handle more easily, we have less patience with people and events, we don't tolerate life's ups and downs as well, when we don't have enough sleep. Lack of sleep can break down barriers of all kinds, leading to injuries, accidents, and even depression. It's a major stressor--and yet so many of us consider it a badge of honor to do that to ourselves day after day after day.

Why?

Yes, I know. Job demands. Family demands. World demands.
But maybe...just maybe...it'd be worth it to stop demanding so much of ourselves until we get a little more rest.

Fortunately, I'm able to answer that malady with a change of lifestyle. Even if I can't get to bed at 9 PM, which I often cannot, I can at least sleep in further at the *other* end of the clock. 
Something I'm still getting used to, mind you.

I humbly submit that perhaps one of the best things the business world could do for their overall growth and prosperity would be to slice into the "work" and "face time" hours they expect employees to put in...and allow them to get home in time so that they can be decently present for a few hours before getting to bed at an equally decent hour.

The rise in productivity, I suspect, would be truly amazing.
It only remains for a forward-thinking company to dare to try it.
To let their employees get more done by "trying easier."

Many, many companies pride themselves on trying to make more "holistic" workplaces. They put in conveniences on the job site from day care to beauty salons to gyms or exercise facilities. They offer healthier foods in employee cafeterias. They provide "nap rooms" or encourage employees to walk outdoors on coffee breaks. 

But we all know in our heart of hearts that  a "nap room" at a place of business will never, ever truly make up for the lack of sleep necessitated by long commutes to a job where one's expected to put in 9 hours of face time a day, if not more.
Better to shut the nap room down and tell everyone to go home an hour or two earlier.
It'll pay off in the long run.
And in healthier, happier people overall...which is nothing to sneeze at, either.

It only takes one company to do this. When the others see the fabulous results that will come of it, they'll follow suit.  I can only wonder who'll be brave enough to "go first."

I am, here at CFWC place. 
Any other freelancers game to start?

Janny

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Okay, So It's Also Bribe Time....

BOOK LAUNCH CELEBRATION THIS WEEK ONLY!

Buy my book, indicate in the combox where you ordered it from, and you'll be entered in a drawing for a generous portion of Fort Wayne's own DeBrand Chocolate!

Trust me, folks...this is something you don't want to pass up. :-)

DRAWING ELIGIBILITY ENDS 1/22/2012 at midnight, Eastern Standard Time. If you buy it at 12:01 AM Monday, 1/23....sorry, no chocolate for you. :-(

Don't be left out in the chocolate-less cold. VOICE OF INNOCENCE, available now!

Thanks a million! (Which is how many people I hope show up in the combox!)

Janny

~~~I'm So Excited...~~~

Yeah, I know, now that song will be running through our heads the rest of the day. :-)
So be it.
It's LAUNCH DAY for VOICE OF INNOCENCE!!!!!!!

Gitcherself over to Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.com and be the first on your block to read it!
Or even the second or third on your block...I won't care. 
Long as you read it, tell your friends, buy lots for early Valentine's Day presents...


Who, me? Overboard?


Janny

Friday, January 13, 2012

Teacher, Teacher!

Today, I interviewed for a contract position teaching romance writing through an online education source...that sells its products to 200+ universities and other schools. :-) I'm figuring that's a heck of a potential market for people who want to buy my books. (hint, hint...)

*(buy my books!)

Only downside? It'll be a loooong time before the course is live. We have to set it up, get it written, formatted, designed, edited, proofed, etc., etc., etc., down the line. It could be a year before this thing is up and running. And that only comes after the educational company's board approves *me* as the instructor.

The good side? Should everything go according to plan, if I'm a hit, this is pretty much guaranteed part-time income for as long as I want to do it.

But...onward to more freelance moneymaking in the meantime.
Of course, if enough people buy my books, I won't have to worry about the time involved in preparation of a course or the like...which is precisely the point of it all, after all.


(*buy my books!)

(*this is subliminal programming, by the way. how's it working?)

heh heh!
Janny

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It...

It's finally snowing!
And blowing...
And getting COLD...
And...
it'll be perfect weather to curl up with a Kindle and read a good romantic suspense!


(heh heh)

Head spinning,
Janny

"Tebowing"? Not In My House, Thanks.

OK, OK, I get it.
Tim Tebow is cute.
He's had some stupendous good fortune as a quarterback.
He's actually proven he can throw a ball to the right color jersey for big plays.

But the slavering that is going on in the Christian community over "Tebowing" needs to stop.

Now.

I've been having "dialogue" (translate: I express myself, and people shoot me down) with various Christians I know about how "wonderful" it is(n't) that Tim Tebow is not afraid to be in-your-face with his faith. That he openly gives praise and credit to God for his success. That he bows himself on the field after every good play and thanks God.

But, for heaven's sake, people...he's not the first one to ever do that. He didn't "invent" giving glory to God for one's achievements on the field. And he's certainly not the first Christian to be open about thanking God for his success on the athletic field.

Say that nowadays, however, at your peril.

Like a bunch of pathetic beggars hoping someone will notice and take pity on us, the Christian population at large seems to be grasping at this kid's actions as "encouraging other Christians to be open about their faith" and "leading people to the Lord."

Uhh...no, people. Tim Tebow is not leading people to the Lord with these things. He's leading people to notice Tim Tebow giving glory to the Lord.

And those two things are not synonymous.

If he were leading people to the Lord with this--if the Lord was truly the important one here--he would hear the term "Tebowing" and recoil in horror. He would have told people to stop referring to it as that, pronto.

The fact that he has not done so is telling. And what it's telling me isn't that this kid is enraptured with what God is doing in his life...but enraptured with the fact that his "faith" is yet another aspect of his "brand" that can make him "special."

That's not Christian witness. That's marketing. And ego.

Worse, this pandering and enthusiasm by the Christian community only reveals how overall ignorant most of them apparently are about just how many athletes have been, and are, Christians and were unapologetic about it before.

Roger Staubach was questioned, years ago, about the rampant infidelity that can come about in athletes' marriages. He merely shook his head and said something along the lines of, "It's not on my radar."
Why? Because he was a Christian. He took that faith seriously, and part of that faith was fidelity to his spouse.

No one picked up the notion of being faithful to one's spouse and called it "Staubaching."
Why not?

Many, many athletes sign themselves with the Cross--especially baseball players, before batting. Do evangelical Christians think this is a wonderful way to show their Catholic faith?

Hardly. In fact, they tend to make fun of it as some kind of superstition or "talisman." They're among the people who decry it.

No double standard there, is there?

Truth to tell, that's probably the worst part of this whole Tebow show. Not that he makes sure he makes a public spectacle of himself "worshiping" after every good play. Not that he hasn't told people to knock off calling worship "Tebowing" and call it what it is. But that Tebow, in his upbringing, has been raised in an ignorant part of evangelical Christianity (and I use that term loosely) that refers to Catholicism as "the whore of Babylon."

In other words, he's been raised as a bigot.
Is this the kind of Christianity I want people being led to?
Is this the kind of Christianity anyone should want anyone to be led to?

Nope.
But that's actually what "Tebowing" represents. An ugly, divisive brand of "Christianity" that is not only ignorant of Church history but of the very Scripture itself upon which it claims to be based.

That should be a problem for the Christians among us.
That it isn't, to so many people, is both disturbing and sad.


Hard fact and bottom line?  

Until and unless Tim Tebow disavows any connection to that ignorant  form of "Christianity" in which he's been raised...
...until and unless he tells people to take the spotlight off him and put it back on the Lord...
..."Tebowing" is not anything any of us should want to encourage, much less imitate.

We can only pray it goes away as fast as it came.
As fads will do.
Because that's all this is, folks.
A fad.
Let's hope we all get over it soon.

Thoughts?
Janny

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

P.S.

One of the harder things I've ever done was to go to Mass this evening and pray for Bart, Erin, and Ryann. I did it anyway.

Praying the Rosary before Mass, which of course entailed the Sorrowful Mysteries (since those are prayed on Tuesdays)...now, that was a killer. No pun intended.

Anytime you are thinking of a loved one who's gone, and you're praying the Passion, it stands to be an emotional wringer. This was no exception.

But I hope it has done some good for a soul somewhere...for mine, if for no one else's. :-)

Onward,
Janny

Whining, Music, and Paying Mind

...when I looked at my last post, it unfortunately sounded a bit, as my crit partner would put it, "waily-waily."
It really wasn't meant to be.

But when I search for something like I've been searching for magic--well, sometimes it comes out sounding like I'm wallowing, and I really don't mean to wallow. Not at all.
It was just...sad.

I figured out part of it, however.
At first, I thought it had to do with cutting the ties and moving to Indiana, now seven years ago November. 

But it has more, much more, to do with music.

I had a golden era of singing great Christmas services at St. Matt's, and I miss that to this day.
That era would be no more, even if I returned to St. Matt's tomorrow, as the minister for whom I sang is retired and a whole new pastor, et al, is on hand at the church. In fact, on the rare occasions when we've gone back to St. Matt's for a Mass, we've almost felt like we were surrounded by strangers.

So it's not possible to "go home" and recreate that experience.
Nor is it possible, for many reasons, to duplicate it here.
So that part IS sad. And that part DOES represent magic I've lost.

I needs put some effective substitute in its place, and I simply haven't found that yet.
I hope if I can, that will restore some of the other old magic as well.

We'll see.
In the meantime...there is Choral Union's new season of wonderment to dive into.
That will have to do for the moment. :-)

A Month's Mind
Today, I observe an instance of a lovely Catholic tradition I didn't even know about until I worked in Catholic publishing. It's called "Month's Mind," a special time of prayer for a departed loved one on the one-month mark after his or her death. Often, it entails saying a special Mass for the Dead on that day.

Today is the Month's Mind for Bart.

So if the urge strikes you, say a prayer or two for the repose of his soul. Some of us have prayed virtually without ceasing since December 10th, but prayer is never...ever...amiss.

More to come,
Janny

Monday, January 09, 2012

Wanted...A Return to Magic.

Christmas is, in all senses but the liturgical one, over. 
(Liturgically, the "Christmas season" is not over until the feast of the Baptism of Jesus, which I believe is coming either this Sunday or next. Yeah, I'm a bad Catholic who hasn't memorized the liturgical calendar. So sue me.)
The end of Christmas is sad.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Or at least it always has been. I get teased about my Christmas spirit, in fact. About having Christmas excitement in July. :-)
Only lately...sometimes...it feels like an act.

Please don't misunderstand me. I do a lot of things for Christmas that I truly enjoy. I bake, I decorate. I'm in charge of putting the lights on the tree, a multi-day endeavor that no one in our family  believes they will ever do as well as Mom does.(!)  I love singing in a Christmas concert, I even love tooling about the stores and looking at Candy Cane Lanes, and a bunch of other things. I want to enjoy every single minute of Christmas, as much as I possibly can.

But for many years, I've been feeling the lack of the "magic" part of Christmas, and I'm trying to get it back.

I can't even explain what I'm missing exactly, but I'll bet some of you are nodding in recognition. Some of you disguise this sadness by muttering, "I hate the holidays...so commercial...we've lost the meaning...it's all just a big stress..." and you at least give lip service to claiming to wish it could be different. You understand, I suspect.

Of course, there are also those of you who say, "Well, Christmas is for children, anyway," or some weak-kneed platitude like that. If you truly believe that latter one, you've missed the point for your entire life, including when you were a child. You don't understand, and you need the magic even worse than the rest of us. :-)

But I need my Christmas magic back, regardless. 


The magic of sitting by the fully-decorated tree, gazing upon the wrapped presents, watching some Christmas special on TV, or listening to Christmas music, drinking hot chocolate...just BEING in Christmas.
The magic of sitting, rapt, looking at the creche. Gazing on the figures, really seeing them.
The magic of taking time to wonder about what Christmas must be like in places I've always wanted to see, places faraway that I only caught glimpses of through Advent calendars from foreign countries.
That magic of spending time paging slowly through Christmas gift catalogs...and remembering when you were a kid, and you wore out the toy section of the Sears book. :-) 
And that breathless magic that takes over when you come into the church on Christmas Eve and it is decked from stem to stern with lights and flowers and evergreens and filled to the brim with music.

Heck, no matter where I am...I need more breathless magic on Christmas Eve, period.

I used to have it. Not so long ago. But I've been noticing it eroding, bit by bit, over the past few years.
So I prayed for it this year. I started praying for it way before Christmas.
What I got was the beginnings of a wonderful season...and then hell broke loose, and we spent the rest of it doing the best we could. 


Again, don't get me wrong. There was a lot I did enjoy.

But the old  "juice" wasn't back the way I remember it.
And I miss it still.

Even a little snow would have helped...but we didn't even have that grace to fall back on. (And is there anything more depressing than rain at Christmastime?)


So now, I've put everything away. The house is back to pre-Christmas normalcy. Gradually, the presents will be integrated into our lives, and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of those things every day.


But something was missing this year, something I still miss.

I want it back.
And it's sad to think that I'll have to wait a whole year more to hope it shows up NEXT time.

Thoughts?
Janny

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Apparently, Ai Ben Doin It Ryt (Translated into Fractured Cheezburger for our LOLcat fans)

So I was moseying along through Facebook when I came upon a repost of a blog entry called something like "Why I Won't Try To Sell You My Book."
To which I thought, "Wazzamattayou?"
But...to be fair...I read further into it, and a few things resonated. 

Despite the tone, which was a bit cloying in its sweetness and light ("I honestly AM happy for others when they succeed!"),  the writer made excellent points, in that she talked about a great, great number of authors out there who use the Internet and social networking for only one thing: commercials. And how that's become such a turn-off that she, and many like her, aren't bothering to read lots of blogs or tweets or updates anymore. Even from people who are their friends.

Because those people have decided that since the social network is all about Networking...
...which is a nice way of saying it's about buttonholing every single solitary person who happens by and giving them a sales pitch...
...by golly, that's what they dare not miss a chance to DO.


And so in the end, what could be a presence of a person online becomes nothing more than the presence of a carnival hawker or snake-oil vendor.

It becomes a series of tweets about "Guess what number my book is on Amazon today????!!!!"
It becomes status updates that talk about "Want tips on success in the writing biz? See my info offer!!!!"
And nothing else.


Who's responsible for this embarrassing phenomenon? 
Various people opined that it's partially traditional publishing's fault.


N.B.: whenever someone refers to "traditional publishing," almost inevitably it's gonna be the beginning of an insult and/or slam to same publishing venue. It happens so often that it's become a cliche by now, so just be forewarned, and keep the salt shaker handy.  Just sayin'.


That notwithstanding, these criticisms are largely fair. Brick and mortar publishing has, for a long time, shifted the majority of what should have been a marketing department's responsibility onto the prospective author. They want multiple pages of marketing plans, they want "proof" that you will self-promote at all times, and they read all of this as a barometer of how "serious" you are about your publishing career. The fact that all this "stuff" tends to be outdated nonsense never enters their heads; it just becomes yet another hurdle an author is expected to get over in order to "prove" that he or she is worthy of publishing dollars invested in the work.


What about the work itself? Does spending years of solitary writing, subjecting oneself to criticisms and contests and critiques and workshops and classes and submissions and rejections not count as showing seriousness of purpose? Apparently not. Sizzle is the new steak in publishing...or at least the meat they figure they need to emphasize to survive. 
What you put in doesn't matter, honey. What are you gonna do to get it out there?


So authors go figuratively nuts trying to keep up with all the "networking." And heaven forbid they let anyone pass by without subjecting him or her to an exposure to The Book, or The Books (in the case of multipubs) or The Reissues (in the case of really lucky people who are actually seeing backlists released again). By golly, if you get any message at all, it's gonna be that they're an author and they deserve to have your money spent on them!

Now, no one says you shouldn't care about selling books. (Well, some people do, but I don't believe that any more than I believe that professional jealousy never enters their heads, either.)  Selling books enables your publisher to stay open. To stay publishing. And hopefully, selling books helps you keep body and soul together, indulge your penchant for Indoor Living, and all the rest. 

Heck, I want to sell books like crazy. I want every single person in this country and around the world to get a copy of Voice of Innocence. I want to make a ton of money, and I want my publisher to make a ton of money from it.  But that doesn't mean that all I want is for people to meet me and have the sudden urge to shell out $5.99 for my work, either.


Not if that's all they know of me.
If I become a supercilious moron in the process, I don't deserve to have them shell out those bucks.


Fact is, I'm way, way more than just an author of a romantic suspense book and an inspirational romance.

I'm an amateur foodie, a musician, a sports fanatic, an occasional gardener, a swimmer, and a cat lady...among other things.
But for a long time, I worried about trying to keep that stuff off my blog. I disciplined myself to keep it off. Which meant that for long periods of time, I didn't blog at all...because what I was thinking about at the time may not have been writing business, the whole writing business, and nothing but the writing business.

Sometimes, I just want to sit at a football game and eat hot dogs. :-)


That, in many circles, was a supreme no-no.  It was pounded into many of us over time that personal stuff--what you're cooking for dinner, whom you're cheering in the bowl games, what your pets or kids or both are up to--has no place in a writing blog. It should be business. Period. If it ain't business, put it in a second blog that's about you as a person.
(Right. Like any working writer and normal person has time for two blogs?)


So a whole bunch of people did just that..and in the process...they've become snake oil.
And now, lo and behold, what comes along but readers who say, "I don't want to read endless sales pitches from you. I want to know you as a person. I want to like you. Then I'll be inclined to buy your stuff. But if all I ever hear about is your sales figures, or your latest promotional gimmick, or your latest splashy launch...I'm gonna lose interest in you."


In the effort to use networking to its maximum benefit, ironically enough, the pundits forgot one of the basic premises of good selling: that no one is going to care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Yep, it's a cliche.
But it's true.
And it's what's  been forgotten in the networking/promotion frenzy. Everyone wants to promote her book. Everyone is desperate to sell that book, and any other peripherals she can come up with. And everyone's been told that you need at least seven encounters of any sales message before it "sinks in." 


So that's what you get outta these people.

Only I never have been successful at making myself do that.
And recently I gave myself permission to once again go back to writing about things other than strictly The Writing Business.


Putting in thoughts, feelings, events...
...mourning...
...music...
...an occasional squawk...
...and pretty soon, I'm gonna get back to putting food in here, as I did a couple of years ago.


Because I'm made up of all that. 
As an author and as a person.
It all goes into the pot.
It all contributes.
But most of all, it conveys who I am to my readers...and who I am will in the long run sell me more books, and get me more true reader friends, than tweeting about my Amazon sales.


Sharing my thoughts here has gone further with my potential readership than any other sales tool I could use, with the exception of pure advertising--which also has its place.
It just shouldn't be all I'm about.


I've been "erring" on the side of a blog about...everything...for a long time.

Seems that that "error" was, actually, doing it right.
It's nice to have landed on the right side of the debate for a change.


I'm looking forward to continuing to be a whole person here.
If you like that whole person, maybe you'll buy my books, too. I hope so.
If you consider this whole person a nattering imbecile, you won't buy the books.
But that's just as well...because you'd hate them anyway. And you'd write negative reviews...and...
Well, let's just not go there.

Let's stay real.

I'm not gonna try to sell you my book at every turn.
If you like this place well enough, you'll find the links on the sidebar and investigate it for yourself.
But even if you don't, I hope you enjoy these visits anyway. Because I plan to be real--foodie-isms, raving about sports, musical interludes, squawks, and all.

Oh, and yes...writing stuff, too. :-)

I hope this is a breath of fresh air for those of you weary of snake oil.

Thoughts? 

Janny