A Thousand Words A Day

A writing journal _____________________________ PROFESSORBLOG@HOTMAIL.COM

writing: _ Christian Writers _ _ NaNo _

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blogs: _ Lorie Rees_ _Itinerant Iconoclast_ _ Rita's Ravings _
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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Reader, writer, podcast listener, and TV watcher. And real nice guy.

Monday, January 27, 2003

I have been woefully slacking (not just slacking, but woefully slacking, as in full of woe) in maintaining this blog, but I swear it is not because I have not wanted to. I will document my writing efforts over the last few weeks before getting to a particular piece of good news I received recently.

First, I have been doing a lot of reading about writing. Since this entire blog was the result of reading a book about writing by Carolyn See, I can not believe that reading about writing could be ocnsiderd a bad thing. So I do not slack off this blog with impunity, without considering the consequences, and completely without guilt or anything, but I do so with the understanding that reading about writing is still a legitimate writerly, authorly duty. I am now completely up to date on my magazine reading. Thanks to the good graces of the local public library system (which by the way is an excellent, world class, top notch system. Any good writer is only as good as his local public library system), I am a consistent and avid reader of both the Writer and Writer's Digest. I have been readers of these magazines as long as I have been writer, even longer than I have been writing. This is true. I was working as a part time instructor at a college nearly ten years ago, maybe seven or eight years ago now. At some point, the librarian went through her collection and put out a bunch of magazines for faculty to go through and take. Sort of a culling of the herd, as it were. But part of this collection that she was getting rid of were a few years of both the Writer and Writer's Digest. I considered myself a writer, although I had written very very very very very very very little at that time.Yet I had the dream, and something inside me resonated and I snagged about two to three years each of the two mags. I remember a bookbag absolutely stuffed with magazines. It was a little embarassing, being the hidden, anonymous low key introverted embarrassed writer, sneaking out with this magazines. But I have been reading them ever since, and have found a number of useful hints and tips and strategies and motivations. I like both.

The Writer changed its format a few years ago, jumping from the 19th century directly into the 21st, bypassing the 20th. They are now a slick sheet, with pictures and even color. Writer's Digest had always been a slicker more pop stly mag, with contests and regular little features. Writer changed their format to be more like their competition. Both mags are good, although I find the articles in Writer a little more nuts and blots, directly useful for the budding novelist. I am a big fan of Nancy Kress' column on fiction. She is a sci fi writer, and I am a sci fi fan, but for some reason I have never read any of her fiction. It is a little odd that I appreciate and admire her work in a writing mag, but not enough to actually go out and read one of her books. Now if they were on tape, that would be another story. Unabridged, of course, because listening to an abridged book is like not reading it at all. I figure if I have listened to every word of a book, I can honestly say that I have read it, so an unabridged recording would not count. It's sort of like watching the movie or reading the cliffs' notes. They are not the saem thing. Apples and oranges.

So I am completely up to date with that part of my writing life, through the January 2002 issues of both mags. I also have a book on writing checked out from the library and although I have not yet read it, I am looking forward to doing so. Will keep you posted as soon as I get to it. That should be some time over the weekend or early next week.

On another front, the paper I wrote for a conference that is also going to be published was also awarded the conference's "Distinguished Paper" award. So it is not creative work and it is not the National Book Award or the Pulitzer or anything, but I was very excited by that turn of events. I will go to Chicago in a few months to pick up my cash money and plaque, and have something nice to put on my record for promotion and tenure purposes at the University. It was good news all the way around. Not that there is any connection bewtween academic and popular writing, but it must show some promising writing ability of some type, so I am considering that a good thing. I will let you know about the conference and other writing opportunities, so I am set. Another good thing is that this paper contains 2/3 of the data already for what the natural follow-up article is, so that gives me something to do over the Summer, so I should be able to make the rounds next year of conferences, too. Probably not another article for publication, but who knows? I am hopeful, but I will NOT let it distract from my creative work.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

I have tripped into a few writing opportunities. Not necessarily publishing opportunities, mind you, but writing opportunities. That dichotomoy is an important one. I have changed my goals from publishing to writing. I can not control the publication of my work, but I can control the writing of my work. So with that in mind I give you some thoughts about my plans for this year and what I can do with my writings. Keep in mind that I am not a short story writer per se, but 2003 is about revising my two completed novels (I know, I know, only one is actually complete, and the second is 80 per cent or so . . . but I am gong to finish writing it soon), so my actual new writing is going to be of a shorter nature.

I do have an academic article that is scheduled to be published this summer . . . of course there is bad news in the academic publishing industry, one of the distributors has gone bankrupt . . . but anyway that is supposed to some out in July or August. I do a have a little bit of additional research to do and some revising, but that is nearly done. I will keep this blog posted as to when I am done, when I have submitted, and when it is published.

Besides that, I am turning to short story writing. This is as a result of my Na No Wri Mo writing group, but also as a result of three publishing opportunities I have noted of late. Two were directly from the Na No Wri Mo forum site, which were zines that are publishing Na No excerpts in upcoming issues. One is Bow Wow, which is an extant publication, and the other is a new zine. Between the two, I will submit different excerpts from my (by then, completed) Na No Wri Mo novel, and hope that 1 will be published. You never know. There is a chance. Both will pay in copies, which is all I am looking for, for the time being. I have a job, a good job, don't tell anyone but I actually have a pretty great job. So being paid to write is not what I crave, being published is not EVEN what I crave, but writing good stuff is what I crave. Publication is a verification, an outside source giving a "thumbs up" to my writing, but that is not the goal, it can not be the goal. One of the things I heard someone from the publication industry say recently was "more people need to write things, but fewer people need their things published." I think the dichotomoy between publishing and writing are useful. I do not have my brain around the distinctions yet, and would not want to remain unpublished all my life long days, but for now I have to keep the items separate in my own mind. I hope that I can write that way, and think that way. Paradigms are hard things to shift.

A second writing option is the short story magazine called "The First Line." The premise is for every story in each issue to write a story with the same opening line. They have all four lines for 2003 (it is a quarterly publication) established on their site. So this gives me four potential whort stories to write this year. I will have Na No Wri Mo assignments for the writers group, and if I can double dip these assignments, that would be a good thing. The first lines for the year are: "Paul Fischer was a graduate student studying biochemistry at Emory when he met my mother," -- to be submitted by February 1; "The view from up here is incredible and makes me feel ___ (fill in the blank) -- to be submitted by May 1; "'So, all of it was just a lie?'" -- with the quotations, to be submitted by August 1; and "I opened my e-mail with a mix of apprehension and excitement" -- to be submitted by November 1. I actually like the last one, as I can probably work it into or off of one of my novels in progess, about an online relationship. So that one is actually possible. The one for February may not get done, that is a pretty tight deadline, but the ones for May and August are also possibilities. I like the August one more, so I get 6 months to write one and 9 months to write the other. But I still want to try to write the May one, and maybe even the January one.

I also may revise my last Na No Wri mo short story, and maybe try to submit it to some mags this year, as well. It is not great by any stretch of the imagination, but with some revision it may be publishable. You never know. As a matter of fact, to be quite technical, you never know if you don't submit. So one must submit in order to be rejected, which will let one grow into good enough of a writer in order to be accepted. So that is another item on the list of things to revise. And it is getting to be an awfully long list.

The writing opportunity -- although it won't be credited -- is the online open source encyclopedia, "Wikipedia." I am considering submitting some articles on things I know, and even on more obscure things that I just barely know. I love the concept, love the idea, love the community aspect of it all, and may get myself up for a few submissions. Any and all things I write for them will be dutifully recorded here as well. One of the keys to this blog is that any writing is good writing, and all writing counts towards the daily goal of one thousand words. So anything I can do that counts as writing counts here as writing. We will have to see what happens.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

This is going to be a tough 10 weeks or so. I am teaching four classes, including one that is going to take extra effort to get prepared and deliver. In addition to that, I have a twice-a-month commitment at work that will include extra prep and four+ hours each time it happens. Then, there are the 2 conferences I have to prepare to deliver papers at. At least there is some way in which that relates to thie work of this blog, as it is at least a type of wriitng. Certainly, creative work and academic work are not that closely related, I am certainly stretching a point in order to make a point, but . . .there you go. I will do what I need to in order to get in the requisite amount of words per day (although I confess I may miss a day here or there. The goal is still 5 days a week, but I am recognizing the reality of my current situation and instead of giving up altogether I am trying to grant myself the grace that will keep me going). The impetus of this blog was Carolyn See, who gave this advice in her book on writing. One of the attractions of her work for me were the attitude of grace inherent in it. If you fell behind, you did not need to "make up" the next day. Every day was a new day, every one thousand word goal was a new one thousand word goal. There was no need to struggle to "make up" for lost time, every day is new, and every goal is new. I like that. I really like that. I am trying to live in the grace of that advice.

Of course, on the academic versus creative front, a number of academics have gotten in trouble for being a little too creative. Michael Besailles just lost his job at a university in Georgia (is this right?) for using, shall we say, data that conflicted with the underlying sources. Or to put it more harshly, he made up data to go along with his thesis that America was not actually a "gun culture" when it was founded. A lot of people wished his data was true and that his conclusion was valid, but sadly it was not. It would have made one view of the second amendment to the U S Constitution more likely to have been the founders' intention, but his lack of actual data (and worse, the manufacturing of other data) became an embarrasing problem for those who held his point of view.

Then there was the case of Joseph Ellis, a historian at Mount Holyoke College, who peppered his lectures with stories of his own life in the trenches during the Viet Nam War. Sadly, as it later turned out, Professor Ellis was actually not a combatant in that or any other war. There was no evidence that the good professor ever was less than truthful in any of his academic writings. So he just lied a bit in the classroom (not a little puffery here and there like everyone does, not a little exaggeration of some underlying truthful fact, but an out and out lie), but at least his academic work (including the hugely popular "Founding Brothers") was never called into question. He was suspended from his job at Mount Holyoke for a year, but is now back at work and back on the payroll. The royalties from "Founding Brothers" were plenty to meet his basic needs, but save your tears.

Then there were the cases of faulty references, which when I was in college was called plagarism, but maybe I digress, which got Doris Kearns Goodwin and the late Stephen Ambrose in a bit of trouble last year. They plunked passages out of books that others had written, which they had listed in the reference section of their works, but which were not specifically noted as coming from those sources. Both authors passed off the problems to faulty notations, not plagarism or any other major academic fault such as that. The most interesting defense of this practice I ever heard was Tom Clancy on Book TV on C Span 2 a few months ago. He admitted that he had been a friend of Ambrose, so his comments should be taken in that light. But what he said amounted to something like, not a direct quote you understand, "how many different ways are there to write about the Normandy landing. The weather was what it was, the formations were what they were, the soldiers were who they were. How many different ways are there to write about that?" That was the best defense a friend could offer?

But at least Ambrose had Clancy to defend him. Kearns did not have anyone that I heard. She dropped quietly off the "talking head" circuit, showing up only very rarely on NBC and their cable step children, MSNBC and CNBC. I did not know what to make about Michael Beschloss showing up on the air without Kearns. I had long thought that the pair was joined at the hip. But as soon as Kearns got into trouble, we learned that Beschloss could appear on TV (and even do so reasonably well) all by his lonesome. Considering that MSNBC lets Mike Barnicle, disgraced former reporter from Boston, fill in as substitute host (not as guest, not as occassional commentator, but as actual substitute host) for Chris Mathews on his HardBall show, it is hard to believe that they are keeping Kearns at a distance. Barnicle actually made up sources for his reportage, not just a little swipe of prose from someone else, he actually made up quotes and put them in the imaginary mouths of imaginary sources, but maybe because he was a journalist and not an academic, the forgiveness standards were different.

But let's put in a good word again for Beschloss and one for bestseller David McCollough. Here are two popularizers of academic fiction who have never gotten into trouble for sourcing or other issues. Keep up the good work, gentleman.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

We had another writing group meeting on Tuesday. This was the second one that I have attended, having missed the first, back in October. I have no experience at all with writers' groups, so I have no idea what to compare my experiences to. That having been said, I had quite a good experince. There were six in attendance, and now we can see if I can remember their names. This is not my strength, never has been, and who knows, maybe never will be. But here we go. Amy, Kris, Tim, Me, Heather, and Michele. And I did not even have to cheat and look at my notes or check out our group web site on Yahoo or anything. That was lefit, right off the top of my head. Pretty impressive, I would say. This group was about half the size of the first group, maybe a little less. That meeting may have had closer to fifteen. From what I understand, about four or so did not make it who were palnning to. Sickness in them or the family, something like that. But there are natural aspects of groups, dropping out, it not working out, personality conflicts, scheduling issues, losses of interest, whatever. So maybe this group ends up between six and ten, something like that. Whatever. I ahve an open mind.

What we did for this meeting was write a short story of one thousand to five thousand words. You can find what I did in the last two posts on this blog. Five of the six at the meeting did the assignment. What we did was pass our stories around and actually read them out loud, then comment on each others; stories. I do not think that this completely qualifies as a classic "crit group" but it was about all the feedback I could handle on a first try. And I have to give the people at Border's their props, as they gave us free beverages. In order to show my grateful attitude, I took my free hot chocolate and bought a blueberry scone. I am a scone kind of guy, if the truth must be known. As soon as I got my scone, I saw that they also had apple crisp that looked quite yummy. So now I know that I have to get back to the group next time so I can snag myself an order of apple crisp. By the way, the scone was fine, and I'll let you know about the other desert after the next meeting. I suppose that this is not the BEST reason to attend a writers' group, but if it gets me writing and gets me to know other writers, does the REAL reason really matter? just kidding, of course.

What we did for the group was read our short stories. I think all five were pretty good, and all certainly had potential for achieving very good status. I thought that mine was pretty much in the middle of the pack, which was about all I was shooting for. It was not embarrassingly the most obviously worst story of the bunch, which to be honest was a concern I had. I was a little nervous wandering around the store beforehand knowing that my work would undergo the scrutiny of strangers. That is never a good feeling, especially if the strangers are in the same room as you are, at the same table, staring at you with their piercing, critical eyes.

My story was about a pair of guys at a bar and their attempts to pick up chicks. One character was sort of the decent normal guy with a pretty good style and rap, and the other was the shallow guy, the stereotypical skirt chaser kind of guy. I got good comments about how in a first person story, you could get a good feel about the attitude of both the narrator and the other character. Good comments about showing attitudes and personality traits as opposed to telling the reader that these factors existed. So that was positive. I did O K with dialog and author voice. The problems that my story had were with a few dialog tags and with the ending. I had to get the thing done on time, working on deadline and all that, and so I have to admit that I rushed it and cut off the ending a little quick so it would be done. But all in all, it did not stink at that was worth knowing. This was just the second short story that I have ever written, it is not my thing, I don't read them, I don't write them, but at its core writing is writing and I need to practice writing.

I liked the other stories, as well. Amy wrote a "Lemony Snickett" style story, and she nailed some of the distintive features of those books just right. Funny, pithy, and well written. Michele wrote a fan fic story based on the characters from Remember WENN. I have never seen the show, and never had any interest in seeing it. WIth that in mind, I was able to follow the story and understand the characters and their distinctive features. I could not imagine writing fan fic myself, but what she did seemed pretty good. I was able to follow it and enjoyed the style and the way her story unfolded. Kris wrote a family based story about a young girl with a bad dream. Hers was similar to mine in the sense that it started off with a bang and got rolling good, but I got the feeling she wrapped it up pretty quickly to get it done on time. And like mine, I bet that hers would be much better with just a little editing and tightening up. And Heather had a cool thing going with internal / external incongruities, a tale of a pistol-packing yoga instructor. Again, a lot of potential that a little bit of work could help bring out.

It was fun. I enjoyed it. I look forward to the next one.

Monday, January 06, 2003

The following is the rest of a story for my writing group. The assignment was to write a short story based on a fortune cookie fortune. Mine was "Quantity is no substitute for Quality, even when it is the only one you have." As was pointed out by many participants at the first meeting, where fortune cookies were consumed, this is really an aphorism and not a fortune. As a matter of fact, these days most fortune cookies weemed to contain little more than short pithy phrases and not actual fortune, but that is probably being way too picky. So without further ado, here is the conclusion to "Fifty-Two Pick Up." I am not a short story writer, I must admit and I must say as a way of covering myself for the quality of this particular piece. I use the word piece, because it is probably a piece of *%$@# . . . But enough authorial whining. Here it is. Enjoy.

I introduced myself and we shook hands. I maintained eye contact through it and held her hand half a beat longer than casual. I ordered her a drink.

“Your friend’s sure up and down a lot,” she commented, as a twinkle came and went in her soft green eyes.

So, they’d been keeping close tabs on us. “He’s got his way to meet women,” I said, chuckling.

“And you have yours?” Marcia was slowly leaning my direction.

I eyed her with a sly grin. At least I hoped it was a sly grin. “Yup. I just sit here drinking a beer, and the wait for the best-looking woman to be left alone at her table.”

She chuckled. “Does that work every time?”

“Worked tonight,” I answered.

“You are a smooth one, Mister.”

“I try.”

“And your friend?” she asked.

I considered the question. “Well, he tries in his own way.”

“I’m disappointed you two didn’t try with us.”

“We’re usually not a good team. Our styles are way too different.” This was true. It was one of those "guilt by association" things. I didn't a potential pick-up to think that his style was mine, too. I mean, we were friends, we'd known each other since seventh grade. But this was one area where our approaches were different. One hundred and eighty degrees different.

“Who’s more successful?” she asked.

“Tonight, I've been.” I raised my glass toward her and smiled. I almost winked, but I don’t think that would have been the right move. Keep it smooth, man, keep it smooth.

I asked Marcia for her number and she gave it to me. She leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. “We’re just about done here,” she told me, indicating the blonde. She was returning from the rest room. “Give me a call when you can.”

“How soon can I?” I asked in a voice that I hoped was suave, but which I feared was desperate.

She checked her watch. “I’ll be home in half an hour.”

I grinned and stood, making way for the blonde friend to sit back down.

When I got back to our spot, Lance was still gone. Or maybe he’d been back and was gone again, it was hard to tell.

All I knew was that he would not have as good a night with the ladies as I’d had. He might get a number, maybe a real number, maybe even more than one. Sometimes it happened. But as usual, I got the best one. There was absolutely no doubt about that one.

Lance just didn’t understand that when it came to women, quantity is no substitute for quality, even when it’s the only one you have.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

The following is the first part of a story for my writing group:

"Shot down again?" I asked Lance as he resettled himself on the stool next to mine.

He nodded.

I picked up the beer in front of me and sipped from it slowly. "What does that make you for tonight?"

"Oh for seven."

"No phone numbers?" I offered.

"One," he said sourly.

"Well, that's a start," I said, trying to encourage him. We guys had to stick together, especially when it came to the women.

Lance shook his head and lifted his own drink to his lips. "I recognized the number after she walked away."

I eyed him, waiting for the punch line to this story. "It was the number of this bar." He pointed to the matchbook in the ashtray on top of the bar. "One and the same."

I tried to stifle the chuckle, but just couldn't. Lance gave me a stern look and took another swig from his cocktail. He was on his third vodka and tonic. It was helping his confidence as always, but it was wreaking havoc with his competence. At least he wasn't slurring his words. Yet. The women never seemed to go for that.

Me, I liked to keep my head clear when chatting up the ladies. I did not have the confidence of my buddy, that's for sure, but I did okay with the ladies. Lance took the scattershot approach, chatting up as many chiquitas as possible on the slim chance that one might fall for his lame rap. My strategy had always been the tortoise approach, slow and steady, the right girl at the right time.

Lance, as always, was seated to see every person coming in and out of the bar. Well, every chick coming in and out of the bar. Whatever lounge, bar, restaurant, tavern or saloon we sat at, he always found a seat from which he could scope out the front door.

His neck snapped up and a saw a smile cross his face. He nodded, confidently. I did not even need to check out the door. It was obvious what had just happened. A woman, or maybe some women, had just entered. He cut his eyes my direction for an instant and motioned with his chin towards the door. I shook my head, but slowly moved my eyes that way. It was women. A pair of women. This usually meant that I would be roped in to his plans, too, so I gave them a quick once over myself.

The girls were classically attractive, a blond and a redhead. I was usually partial to blondes, but at first scope the redhead may have been my first choice. She was a little taller than her friend and wore clothes that were more my style. She wore a nice pair of slacks and a tight long-sleeve patterned sweater. Her hair was just past her shoulders and had a real nice wave to it. Knowing women, I doubted that either the color nor the curl was natural. But that didn't matter to me. I always thought natural was a little overrated.

"What do you think?" Lance asked.

I was interested, but I was never in a hurry. Lance always thought that every girl might be the one, and the time to act was always now. "Maybe later."

"Which do you like?" he asked. He always asked in situations like this. He didn't seem to care about picky things like what a girl looked like or what her personality was like or what her criminal record revealed.

I told him I preferred the redhead, but emphasized again that I wasn't ready. It's not that I didn't want to speak with her, I was just not a fan of swoopers. Lance didn't get that. Well, of course he didn't get that. He was a swooper.

He started to rise and I grabbed his arm. "Not her," I said softly. "Not yet."

He eyed me and smiled. "Plenty of fish in this sea," he said, looking around the bar for any other women who hadn't blown him off yet tonight. "I'll be back." He must have found one. Or maybe more than one.

I spent the next few minutes working on my beer with an occasional glance in the redhead's direction. I caught her eyeing me once, and I gave her a brief nod before moving my eyes elsewhere.

Lance was right about being back. Maybe five minutes had passed. "Tough room," he muttered as he settled back into his stool. He sounded like a bad stand-up act who had just gotten the hook. That's probably a pretty good comparison. Bad stand-up.

"Tough city," I responded.

"Shut up," he said with a scowl. But he didn't mean it. He didn't mean either the words or the scowl. This was all part of the routine.

"What am I doing wrong?" Lance lamented. He was almost weeping in his beer, except he wasn't drinking beer and he wasn't exactly weeping.

"Where should I start? The list is too long," I joked.

"Not that you're doing all that well yourself tonight?" he fired back.

I sighed. We had had this conversation numerous times. Almost any time we drank together we had this conversation. I was beginning to wonder if he remembered the numerous times we had had this conversation. Maybe is wasn't schtick. This always happened after three or four drinks; maybe he always thought it was a new thought whenever he thought it.

"I'll do all right," I finally answered. We rarely compared notes, but I was quite satisfied with my rate of success, if you will.

We sipped for a little while without talking. We were just observing, taking in the ambience of the club and trying to look attractive. Neither of us had an easy time in that department.

Lance grunted to a new girl sitting by herself at a table beyond the bar, down by the pool tables. He was off, weaving between the chairs on his way toward her.

I watched him go. It was like the proverbial car crash. I just had to watch. Talk about reality TV. Even without sound or subtitles, this was worth watching.

When I heard a rustle next to me, I turned to face-hey, it was the redhead. "Hi," she said with an electric smile.

"Evening," I said. It was about all I could think at the time.

"Hi. I'm Marcia," she said, drawing out the soft "c" sound of her name. She was nearly as attractive up close as she was at a distance. You learn picking up chicks in bars that this is not always the case.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Interesting event covered by C-SPAN today. First I have to say that I love Book TV, and revolve much of my weekend schedule (and that of my VCR) around their programming. 48 hours of books. Cool, cool, cool.

Anyway, today's schedule featured a panel titled "The Best of Times and the Worst of Times: Best Books vs. Best Sellers in a Changing Business." It is a long title, but the panel discussion itself was far more interesting. The overall themse that the moderator was trying to make was that the quality of best sellers has dropped over the last thirty years. Unfortunately for her thesis, most of the panelists disagreed, pointing out the numbers of "literary novels" that appear on the bestseller lists of today. Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" and Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones" were cited as examples of this phenomenon. I am not at all interested in Franzen's book, having heard him talk about it enough to consider him in a negative light. Sebold, on the other hand, seems likes a fascinating woman with a fascinating story to tell. I am on reserve to listen to the unabridged version of her book. I should get it in a few weeks, and am psyched to listen to it. And of course, there have been other "literary" works that have sold well over the last few years, as well.

The book publishing and selling industries are fascinating, and in a fascinating state of flux. First there was Oprah and her amazing book list. Franzen of course was the last straw for that venture and it folded up slowly thereafter. But she could take a first novel by a complete unknown and make it sell over a million copies. A real life chager, she could be. It was an amazing phenomen, while it lasted. Katie Couric and Kelly Ripa have started book clubs, but neither has had the influence that Oprah had. But Oprah was able to convince people that reading good works was possible for everyone. The division between "high brow" and "low brow" has been accentuated the last few years and maybe Oprah and those like her were able to bridge the gap. In the same way that J K Rowling is creidted for helping create a generation of young readers (although I must put in my own plug for Brian Jacques as an author for young readers whose new novels appear regularly on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal lists), then certainly Oprah must be credited for helping create a generation of old readers. Old in the sense of being over the age of twenty, so don't get offended by the term. I am simply using it in contrast to the young readers that Rowling and Jacques appeal to.

People in the literary mainstream really have a problem with John Grisham and Stephen King and Tom Clancy. They are referred to as "brands" as if a brand were a bad thing. Maybe that New York bias is still there i nthe industry, although the power in the industry has shifted elsewhere. Not to any particular place at all, but simply has become more diffused. I am sure that I will have to go to New York to meet a publisher if it ever gets that far for me. And of course I would be thrilled to go to New York to meet a publisher. That is still where the bulk of the industry is, but the power and influence and other aspects of promoting books are moving away fro mthe Big Apple.

There are over one thousand new books published each year, which encourages me. Maybe I have a chance. That of course does not guarantee that a book will sell -- there is about a 2 week life cycle for a book to sell that first printing before the risk of being remaindered soars -- but getting published is the first goal, and getting sold is the second. I am not in this for the fame or the wealth or the groupies. I am in this because I like to write.

But back to the panel that I saw today on the tube. The effect of "buzz" is slowly diminishing, and moving away from New York, as well. Marketing and publishing techniques can sell a lot of copies the first week, but a bad book quickly drops off the list. The panel and the publishing industry in general are chock full of anecdotes about word of mouth and how an offhand comment by someone on TV (the Today Show, Ripa, C-SPAN, Imus, whoever) can unpredictably pump up sales volumes. It is as if there are so many books to choose from we can not do it by ourselves. We look for anyone, someone, to recommend a title to us.

From a business perspective, this is a weird business model. One of the bookstore owner made a fascinating point about the effect of returned books and label prices. This is just about the only the industry where the product is shipped to retailers completely returnable at face value. This is just one of the traditions of the industry, but maybe one of the new distribution channels will cause the industry to rethink this notion. "Publishing is how this industry does R & D," she commented. No other industry does their research and development work in quite this same way. I thought this was a good point. If books were sold from publisher to book store to reader in the same way that shoes are sold from manufacturer to Wal-Mart to me, I do not know what the effect would be, but it mght make for a more sdtable industry overall. You would not by a new shoe sight unseen just because the manufacturer promises how it will look and what it will contain. But that is the way books are published and sold.

But would that help me personally. Maybe on-demand and small houses are what will help me personally be published. But it is hard to say. I just make comments on the industry, keep a keen eye on it, write, rewrite, rewite, rewrite, and rewrite. Maybe one day I'll submit, and maybe even be published. We can always dream.

Friday, January 03, 2003

I got in my car and laughed. I could not stop. It was so funny. Brian was in my apartment right now, cooking me dinner. It was romantic and cute and modern and funny. Dennis had never offered to cook for me. He had offered to take me to the most exclusive restaurants. He offered to purchase me very expensive meats and ingredients. But he never offered to cook for me.

I had never heard any gossip about me and Brian. I wasn't sure that i would hear gossip, but thought that I probably would. Or at least the looks. I was on the lookout for those, but had not seen any. Carrie would probably call me in if she heard anything. I felt confident that nobody was talking about us. I was careful. I was more worried about Brian letting something slip than me doing so. Guys were just not as good at hiding that kind of stuff. Especially from women. These women in the accounting department always had their antennae up, I was sure of that. If he let anything slip, I would find it hard to forgive him.

I parked a few spaces up from my front door, so he could not wee the car when I parked it. I hoped to take him by surprise as much as possible. I snuck up against the wall of the building and moved slowly to my door. I had my keys out already, so he would not overhear the jingle jangle when I took them out of my handbag. Inserting the right key into the lock as soon as possible, I turned the handle and slowly pushed open the door. I got it to about two inches when it suddenly stopped. The chain was pulled tight across the opening. Damn him! Brian had locked me out! He actually locked me out of my own apartment.

I shook my head and chuckled. Then I grabbed hold of the nob with both hands and yanked it shut as hard as I could. When the frame stopped shaking, I casually knocked on the door. Thirty seconds passed and I raised my list to knock on the door again. But he swung the door open before I had the chance.

He put his hands on his hips and pretended to be angry with me. "Well come on in! What are you doing knocking? It's your apartment! Come on in!"

I reached up to muss his hair. He reached back to grab my hand as he walked me through the entryway. "Smells great," I admitted. "But you son of a gun, why did you lock me out? Why did you-." I stopped in place. He tried to walk on but when he pulled my arm I did not move.

Brian had set out fresh flowers in a number of vases and bowls. They were on the kitchen table, the countertop, a few places on the floor of the living room. I saw a large candle burning on the kitchen table. He nudged me towards the bedrooms. My room had a wonderful hyacinth candle going and a bowl of daisies had appeared on the nightstand next to my bed. And Erin's room. I almost cried. He had not forgotten Erin. She had a vanilla scented on her bureau. It was not lighted, but the scent was still present. And she had a small group of sunflowers on her shelf, wedged between a pair of stuffed animals. I walked straight back to the kitchen and wrapped my arms around Brian's waist and buried my face in his back. He turned around to me and I kissed him. "I love you," I told him. "You are the sweetest man."

He stepped back and stirred something on the stove. Then he forced me again with a big smile. "You are very easy to love."

I buried my face in his chest this time. He loved me. He absolutely loved me. "Thank you for remembering Erin's room."

He smiled. "Remember, I have a daughter, too. A son I would have no clue how to deal with him. But I'm a master at handling girls."

I smiled. Someone else for Erin to wrap around her little finger. "How long till we eat?" I asked.

"Twenty minutes, maybe thirty."

I told him I was going to take a shower while he finished dinner. I hugged and kissed him again before retreating to the shower.

When I came back to the kitchen, clean and changed, I found the table set and the dinner completed. "What is this?" I asked, eyeing the steaming casserole carefully. You could put anything in a casserole dish. I trusted him, but there was no telling what was in a bowl like this.

"Beef and potato bake."

"That sounds intriguing," I said, giving it a closer look and inhaling some of the steam. It smelled good, too. "Good food, candles, flowers," I said to him. "I might have to keep you around."

He smiled his most engaging smile. "I hope you do."
After dinner we moved to the living room. We talked, made out, even felt each other up a bit. After a nice period of this, I made a
proposal. "Stay the night," I whispered to Brian.

He stopped all motion and stared at me. I wanted him to think about the offer, even though I clarified shortly thereafter, "I'm not asking you to have sex with me. I want to sleep with you , Brian. Honest to God, just to sleep with you."

He pondered a few more seconds before agreeing. Brian was worried about clothes for the next day, a toothbrush, other pedestrian concerns like that. We worked out these details just fine. I turned the conversation toward a topic we had not discussed much recently. I think his wife's death and my moving out serioused up our relationship, and some of the fun flirty stuff dried up. But we still had a close bond, a deep understanding of where we were and where we were going. "I don't think it's fair to ask you to have sex with me when it's something we haven't talked about it before. But I think maybe the time is coming soon."
He nodded. "You know of course that if you asked I would not say no. It's part of the man code."

"Men never say no?"

"Only the ones who eat quiche say no," he deadpanned.

I laughed. "Well I'm not asking, but I'd like you close to me." I thought I might be pushing it a bit, but we trusted each other. "It's not like we won't do anything," I said, approaching him slowly. I kissed him softly and moved him over to my bed.

When we were both thoroughly worn out and blissfully relaxed, I curled up beside him and slept like a log.