July 28, 2006

Cover Art

Check out this sneak peek at the upcoming debut issue of Thereby Hangs A Tale. Easy to purchase issues for yourself, your friends, your family, your dentist's office, your library, your coworkers, and your elected representatives. If you buy one and I see you some time, I'll sign it for you! Although I've had articles published in much larger publications (EE Times comes to mind with a circulation of 150,000), this is the first publication of my creative writing. The first of many to come.

July 27, 2006

Critiques on "Jumping The Stream"

I received my two critiques from the PNWA literary contest to which I sent my first-draft version of Jumping The Stream. At that time it was titled Across The Stream, and since then I've made significant revision and enhancement. These critiques are from agents, published authors, or editors.

The first is even-handed, doling out praise such as "You draw a wonderful picture of Anna with few words" and "You have good imagery, a clear style, an understated and effective sense of humor in Kate's [sic] character." (Her name is Katie, but I'll take Kate.) This critique also offers many opportunities for improvement. I believe that most of them were also noted by an additional critique I got and have since revised the manuscript accordingly.

The second essentially gushes about the entire story, noting only that another pass to turn the few "telling" parts into "showing"parts would be worthwhile.

Both critiques covered only the synopsis (5 pages) and first two chapters (21 pages). Here are my favorite quotes from the gushing critique:

"The opening scenes grabbed my attention and were quite realistic. Great job setting the stage and immediately creating drama. My interest was piqued from the beginning and I was curious to find out more and wanted to read on."
"The well planned out synopsis points to an intricate plot. The writing in the first 21 pages leads me to believe you will pull it off with great success."
And the kicker:
"Wow! What a great story. You have great writing and story telling skills. The story is very publishable and would be one I'd read if I picked it up off the shelf and read the jacket cover."
Here's hoping an agent and an editor agree. I think I will eventually get this novel published, but I also know I have better work yet to be created.

July 26, 2006

McBride no more on US squad

It was bound to happen. He's 34, after all, so he'd be 38 at the next World Cup. He'd never make the squad, especially not with the young, athletic strikers the US have coming up.

Brian McBride Retires [link]

The article does not say whether he's retiring from club soccer; I rather think not since he's still young enough to play a few more years in the Premier and then return to MLS for a swan song.

Anyway, I'm sad to see him go. I always enjoyed watching him play, always enjoyed his work ethic and quiet confidence. I don't recall ever seeing him dive, and I don't recall any tantrums at referees or linesmen (even when thoroughly deserved). Tough kid. Sorry to see you go, Brian. I'll keep watching you as long as you're at Fulham.

July 24, 2006

I assume these are Democrats

In an article from The Boston Globe:

The federal government has inflated the "No Fly List" to 200,000 names. But the list has nabbed more members of Congress than it has terrorists.
Ted Kennedy is the most famous "false positive," according to an FAQ at the ACLU site of Washington State.

From the same Boston Globe article:
Bush declared a year ago that "federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted." But only 39 people were convicted on crimes tied to terrorism or national security, a Washington Post analysis found.
I feel much safer than I did on September 10th, 2001. Especially since I can be assured the President is fighting a valiant battle against gays (protecting the sanctity of marriage, goddammit) and against sick people (no stem cells to be harvested on his watch, thank God).

Couple this with the Homeland Security Department's well-documented incompetence in how they allocate funds and identify "targets" of terrorism, and I think it's a miracle that the US hasn't suffered a major attack since 9/11. Maybe God actually is on W's side. Or maybe it's because of this.

July 22, 2006

back up on that horse

Another near-miss on a short story, so it's going out again today. In honor of getting closer to the prize, a haiku:

story rejection
each time, I write a haiku
it keeps getting verse

July 21, 2006

Whas a guy gotta do?

Y'all can read a basic query letter template for my first novel, Jumping The Stream, here. I've tried only five agents so far; the two superstars I sent it to passed ("not right for my list"), and I've not yet heard from the other three.

I think I may have spent more time on the query letter than I did writing the entire first draft of the novel. (That old saw, "I can give you 30 pages in 2 days, but I'll need 30 days to give you 2 pages.") Anyway, the novel is really women's literary fiction; more literary than chick-lit, not quite as self-impressed as literary fiction. It takes a new approach to an old story. It has an historical aspect yet does not fit the historical genre. Just the other day, I read that these things are exactly what editors are looking for right now.

Gives me hope despite the two rejections, yet the jury is still out. How do editors feel about male-authored women's fiction? How do editors feel about an aspect of lesbianism that is integral to the story? (OK, I know the answers: Editors don't care; they only care if they can sell the book. So I guess the questions really are about whether editors feel they can sell books with those characteristics.)

The results of a straw poll are impossible to gage. 50-50. But sometimes that happens with a sample of two. What do you think? Is there hope for this book? (Assume that it's competently written, that the characters are interesting and sympathetic, and that the story holds together. Obviously without those, the other questions are moot.)

I am not terribly discouraged by my two rejections thus far. They come from the very best at times when those agents are brimming with clients. It's like I decided I wanted to play soccer professionally and took my first tryouts with Manchester United and Real Madrid. Shoot for the moon, right?

Update on my first published work: The first issue of Thereby Hangs A Tale is going to print pretty much as I write this. So all of you who subscribed should receive your first issue in the mail probably between late August and mid September (that's my guess, not a commitment from the publishers). All those of you who've not subscribed: C'mon, pony up! I only get two contributor copies (plus my subscription copy, I'm hoping), so don't expect me to send you one unless you gave birth to me or paid for my college education. That pretty much narrows the field.

July 13, 2006

two more agent queries

Another writing update. I've just sent off another agent query for Jumping The Stream and packaged up another to send out tomorrow. That makes three in circulation.

Also, I finished a new short story that I will be submitting next week for an August 1st deadline. My last story submitted to the same publication got lost in the ether, which is too bad because I think they'd have bought it. Fortunately, this one may be better, and the editors felt bad about losing my previous story (not their fault), so they may be inclined to give me a break. Not that I need one, of course, being the best as-yet-undiscovered talent this side of Hemingway.


OK, so BSP asked me to get off politics and talk about that bonehead soccer player. I'm not sure what to say except that I read he has done similar things in the past (and got caught) and that only hotheads really lose it on the pitch. Last season, my teammate and I worked this one guy on the other team that clearly was losing his head, and it was not difficult to trick the referee into sending him off. First, I kept grabbing his shirt where the ref couldn't see until the player finally elbowed me in the chest. The ref didn't see it, but I bellied up to him and could see he was in a real state, entirely pissed off. As the ref ran over to cool us down, my teammate casually walked past the opposing player and totally goosed him (the ref could not see). The guy lost it and spun around and kicked my teammate hard in the shins. The ref had no option but to send him off for fighting.

The moral of the story: A lot of crap happens on the field, and you have to be stable enough to let it roll off you. If you're not, then you might lose your cool and headbutt someone. Zidane is lucky he didn't injure either the Italian player or himself. He is in danger of losing his Outstanding Player trophy for the tournament. He has a legacy now defined by the last play of his career rather than by the oodles of games that came before.

Sad. Very sad.

July 10, 2006

wealth distribution

Heard this at a conference recently:
The top 20% of the nation's population own 85% of the nation's wealth.
The bottom 60% of the nation's population own just 4% of the nation's wealth.

It's nice to think that if you give more money to wealthy people (i.e., tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans), they will share that extra money in the form of investing in business and creating jobs. The reality, however, is that businesses in the United States are structured with the overriding purpose of returning additional wealth to investors. The rich people are investing in vehicles that are fundamentally designed to make them richer, not fundamentally designed to improve the economy. The basis for the idea that tax cuts spur economic growth is the "rising tide" theory: If rich people get richer, then poor people are getting richer, too. It simply is not working out that way in practice.

I recently also heard a financial conservative use the term "enlightened self-interest" to describe the idea that being motivated entirely by self-interest is equivalent to being enlightened. I found this hilarious because the exact opposite is true. Here's what wikipedia currently says about enlightened self-interest:

Enlightened self-interest is the ethical principle that when persons act to further the interests of others or at least the interests of the group or groups of which they belong to, that such persons ultimately serve their own self-interests. It has often been simply expressed by the belief that an individual or even a commercial entity will "do well by doing good".
My personal observation is that more people are coming to understand and embrace this idea. Invest in early childhood development because a child who comes to first grade ready to learn is more likely to end up being a college graduate and therefore a productive worker. Invest in available child care because working mothers can't work if they don't have somewhere they can keep their children safe. Invest in strong levees and disaster preparedness so we don't have to spend five times as much on disaster recovery. Invest in renewable energy and better efficiency of usage to avoid having an "oil addiction" that drags down the economy and brutalizes the environment. These are examples of enlightened self-interest.

If only those tax cuts for the rich and all the money we're spending on war were being invested in areas that qualify as enlightened self-interest... we would be on a path to becoming a truly great society.

Go Bears!

Spent the last week in Tahoe with kids & parents. Beautiful week, wonderful weather. lotsa fun. Plus, a bear in the dumpster.