Archive for July, 2014

This last week I learned how absolutely VITAL it can be to FOLLOW UP ON SUBMISSIONS!

agents listr

As you know, gentle reader, in April I was jumping for joy when an agent emailed that she wanted to take a look at my manuscript, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar.  I anxiously gave it one final look through, fixed the pagination, did my umpteenth spell check, and only a few hours after receiving the agent’s request, I sent off a pdf of my manuscript to her.  Of course I also checked the email address  and subject line a dozen times and made sure everything was just plain perfect.

And then I waited. And waited.

I waited for over 100 days.

Yes I know, the world of traditional publishing can move at a glacial pace.  But seriously, 100 days after this wonderful agent sounded enthusiastic about my novel?  Finally I sent a brief, polite follow-up query, as in, Have you had a chance to look at my manuscript yet?

Only minutes later her assistant emailed me back with profuse apologies.  She and the agent had been unhappy when they requested my manuscript and it never came.  But my follow-up query had prompted the assistant to check her deleted messages and spam folder and… THERE WAS MY EMAIL WITH THE ATTACHED MANUSCRIPT IN THE *#!&! WRONG FOLDER!

She was SO sweet and SO apologetic and yes, they would now look at Charity MacCay tout suite.  And of course I emailed back that I too have experienced similar strange acts of hostility by emails services and servers (this is very true, especially when using Outlook at my job), and that yes, I’d still love for the agent to have a look at my manuscript.


This assistant also thanked me for FOLLOWING UP!  And I’m so glad I FOLLOWED UP!  Because if I hadn’t, they would still be wrongly assuming I’d snubbed them and I would be drowning my rejection sorrows in a bottle of very strong wine.

I only wish I had emailed this assistant the day after sending my manuscript just to confirm way back then that she had received it.  Live and learn.

So let this be a lesson to you, my fellow writers.  Even when you do everything correctly, or an agent or editor does everything just right, the malicious, petty, unpredictable minor Greek god of the internet can still technologically mess with you.  It can mess with your head, it can mess with your emails, and worst of all it can mess with your manuscripts.

Have you ever had this kind of experience too?  If so, you have my sympathies.


on July 21, 2014 in Misc 8 Comments »

People’s attention spans have shrunk.

Which is a big reason why I’m keeping today’s post short.

Seriously. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span of the U.S. citizen has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013.

The attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds.

lucy movie

Meanwhile, over at the Pentagon, one of its agencies that invests in cutting-edge technology is working on brain enhancement implants for soldiers.  I am not making this up.

It seems the generals want to create super soldiers with hyper-concentration, a perfect memory for maps, and no need to sleep for days on end.  Which to me sounds like a cross between Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory and a meth addict.

Isn’t it fascinating how fiction writers predicted both these extremes?  From the dumbed-down people in Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, to the super smart super folks in more books and movies than I can count.

bradley limitlessThe newest movie on the topic is Lucy. I want to see it because I’m fascinated by ideas of enhanced brain power.  Guys I know will see it because Scarlet Johansson plays Lucy.  But to be fair, I pretty much saw Limitless, which had a similar brainy, because Bradley Cooper was the lead.

BTW, up until a few years ago I used to meditate a lot.   And as flaky as it may sound, a couple of times I used intense meditation, concentration, and deep relaxation to heal muscle injuries, one of them being a painfully stiff neck.  I swear that after twenty minutes my neck was about 80% healed.

How about you—any fantasies or real tales of brain power you may have? Did it inspire you to write a brainy story?

lee child

Do you know why so many women love Lee Child’s tough-as-nails Jack Reacher novels?

Because Reacher metes out his personal brand of justice.  If necessary, it’s bloody vigilante justice.

Are you surprised? I’m not.  But Child was when over a hundred women came to one of his book signings and he talked with them.  Turned out they were fans because they think Reacher is hot and they have fantasy affairs with the character.  But the main reason was, to quote Child:

[Women] “find it difficult to express anger.  An angry man is seen as assertive, and an angry woman is seen as shrill.  So they are perpetually conflicted about anger, and they love to read about it on the page, vicariously—they want to see somebody kick somebody else’s butt, because they actually can’t do it themselves.”

For me the sad part of that statement is THEY CAN’T ACTUALLY DO IT THEMSELVES.

Why not?

Now, I’m not talking revenge when a boyfriend or girlfriend dumps each other, or when a husband or wife cheats.  What happens in Child’s novels are serious crimes that destroy people and lives.  Jack Reacher comes into the situation and fixes things, and always there’s some violence.  Yet many women in real life can’t imagine themselves doing the same in a similar extreme situation?

Jack reacher

Maybe I’m an oddball, because I think I could seriously, physically kick butt if I had to.  Then again, I’ve only had to do so in minor incidents, like that time in Cairo when I grabbed a teenager and threatened to kill him because he brushed his thumb against my crotch.

Also unlike most of Lee’s female fans, I have no difficulty expressing anger.  In fact, my problem is keeping my Irish temper under control if I get pushed to my limit.  But I’m glad to report that as I’ve gotten older I’ve mellowed.

What I do find interesting is how these traits have affected my writing.  In The Compass Master, Layla can and does physically defend herself and wounds her attacker.  When I was writing that scene I really felt myself in her mind and body as she fought, and I enjoyed writing it.  In my Charity MacCay manuscripts, Charity is younger, much more impulsive, and wildly optimistic about her chances of righting a wrong.  But she does outrageously right a few wrongs done to her, which I noticed strongly appeals to my female readers.  My mother called me the minute she finished the second manuscript and exclaimed, “I’m so glad she shot that man!”

Gee, thanks, Mom.  So glad you liked that part.

Anyway, I like to think that if pushed to the wall by bad people I would fight like a hellcat.  How about you?  Have you ever wondered what you’re capable of in real life?  Would you live vicariously through your favorite character, or is that character in some ways a true expression of you and what you would do?

James Bond knows his way around computers, high-tech killing devices, and just about any state-of-the-art gadget thrown in his path.

Lara Croft may have computer and tech genius Bryce working for her.  But she too could program, hack, and out-tech her way around a villain.

craig bond

The same seems to go for any action hero.

My own Layla in The Compass Master probably knows her way around computers and programming, even though her adventures are pretty low tech.

So I’m kinda embarrassed to admit that today I paid a nice young guy to set up and program my new TV along with my DVD player.

See, until today I had a very old (22 years) TV, a heavy but reliable clunker.  Then I finally decided I could afford a cheaper version of a flat-screen TV (they’ve only been around for what, a decade?), one that, unlike my old TV, would be compatible with the on-sale DVD player I bought a few months ago.  So I ordered one and it arrived days ago.

I didn’t open the box until today.

bryce lara croft

And I didn’t pull the flat screen out and screw its stand together and assemble the few parts.  I did not even think of hooking it up to my cable box and DVD player, or figuring out where to insert the CD so that I could program the TV and see how the three remotes functioned.

Could I have done all this?  Sure.   But I…  just…  couldn’t…  bring myself to do it because…

… I am so burned out on technology.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve worked in an office most of my life.  I started on computers when they were DOS, learned Windows in its earliest incarnation, and can’t even count how many software programs and operating systems and their endless upgrades I’ve had to learn.  I have survived what seems like a hundred phone systems and overseen their installations at least a couple times.  I have programmed gadgets that were obsolete within a year.  I have spent a large portion of my life working with technology that has gone the way of the carrier pigeon.

See, much as computers and entertainment systems can be wonderful for me to use, there’s only so much of my life I want to spend on them.  For some people, programming the latest and greatest stuff is fun.  But for me it isn’t a game anymore.  I’d really rather just pay someone to do it for me.

How about you—is technology still fun for you?  Any burn-out cases out there?