Dog Ear
Perspective (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 11 April 2013 00:00

Authors love their jacket photos to show them sitting in a studious den with some books, a wonderful view out the window at their back, and wood paneling. And a globe. Like they are going to spin it and peer intently – “Hmmm. I shall send my hero to Madagascar…”

The image is that here is where they arrive at their great insights on human nature.

My insights on human nature come over the front of my bicycle handlebars when I ride to work.

Honestly, I see more of what it means to be human in my commutes by bicycle than one will find in a musty old den. In the brisk morning air, in the cool darkness, I’ll see true humans. I’ll see the oblivious middle-class drivers, grinding through their long commutes from the burbs, driving their pastel FUVs without headlights. I’ll sit at the light and watch an entire line of cars make their left turns without signals. And I’ll deal with Odyssey-wandering soccer-moms in the perpetual distraction they think of as their lives.

Nobody is out to cripple me. Nobody is out to kill me. But human nature being what it is, they don’t give a tinker’s damn if they do hit me. It’s an even chance they’ll run if they do (I speak from personal experience). And regardless of what their plates say about “life being precious”, regardless of their “coexist” bumper stickers, they don’t care. Not really.

When I apply this to history, I get a much more realistic view. Do I think that when Vikings sacked a village, they did it because their warrior prince was out to prove to his father that he could command a longboat, or that he’d cut a bloody swath because of the loss of his eye or the death of his maiden love? Do I think he was mo-ha-ha evil, that he’d chortle in baritone delight at the carnage he’d create? No. I think most Vikings were just out to rip a lot of people off and kill anyone who got in their way. And that’s probably more horrible when you give it a thought, that you might have home and loved ones torn from you, not in an act of dynamic melodrama, but just as an unthinking humanist act.

When you look at it, perhaps that’s why writers pen the villains they do. Certainly, dramatics factor in; it might make for a better story. But perhaps authors write meanings behind bad things because we need an explanation. Like religion, perhaps writing requires a reason for the terrible, inhuman acts we see about us. Because anything else, from seeing your village afire to that crushing impact of an FUV bumper against your thigh, requires a reason.

Anything else would be too terrible to imagine.


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2013 06:55
Courtesy (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 04 April 2013 00:00

I once had an agency dash ( in bold and angry words!!! ) across my introduction letter a message how they couldn't, wouldn't and won't represent an author who couldn't follow simple instructions. They rejected my offering without even looking.

And my crime? They asked for 20 pages and I sent them 22. Because that's where the chapter broke, and that's where the story had a nice twist.

Like, shit.

I understand the dynamics. Authors beg agents. Agents, who are often failed authors, now sit on the Throne of Power, permitting those who come before them to crawl into their presence and all that.


But here's what I'm seeing now..Agents are asking for email submissions. That's fine - I think my offering looks better in paper form, but I'll go with what's required. There are the usual other things, no simultaneous submissions, a response in three to four weeks, all that. Very nice. I understand.

And usually I'll always get a response written on my cover letters for paper-drops. Sometimes it's useful. I often will tune my cover letter on the basis of feedback.

But email submissions? I think one time I've actually gotten the courtesy of a response. And yes, they all gotten it - I've got the automated response as verification. But somehow, these same picky agents, who demand so much and promise nothing, don't offer the dubious consideration of a rejection. So I'll post out three or four e-queries and months go by and suddenly I realize I'm stalled waiting for rejections that never come.

I know what's going on. A traditional agency had the physical papers to shuffle. They junior agents would take a stack home, they'd flip through their submissions during television commercial breaks and dash off their replies. But now, with everything in electronic form, they don't quite have that read-reply, read-reply system worked out yet. They click through them and forget about them. We just go into the deleted folder and that's it for them. And meanwhile we wonder what ever happened to our submissions.

This is really a bite-job. If you are going to provide us with extensive query GUIs (that often take  longer to assemble than our usual paper efforts) come up with a methodical rejection (after all, 99% of your submission are going to get it, right?). But don't leave us hanging.

Maybe I'm just bitter since I've had agencies try to milk me for editing charges, agency charges, copy charges, everything. I've had an agency walk away without telling me when my publisher folded and took my royalties and rights with them. So if you are going to be dishonorable businessmen, fine. Nothing I can do. But for Christ sakes, send me a rejection letter so I can move on to someone who might appreciate my stuff.

Common courtesy.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 07:25
Writer's life (DOG ESAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 28 March 2013 00:00

I’m a writer and I stand by that. It’s what I am, from my off-beat views and off-cuff comments to my crazy hair to my lunchtime laptop sessions. Everyone knows I’m a writer (with the possible exception of agents – sigh). But this is what I do, babe.

So it’s not surprising that people take notice of this.

A while back, one of my Indian coworkers asked if I might chat with his son about writing. I was given samples of his school work (which wasn’t bad) and asked to give him suggestions. So we chatted – he was a great kid – and I taught him a couple of tricks. Like reading your work aloud and listening for where it “clunked”. I read him one long washboard sentence and his eyes lit up – “Right there. Yes, I can hear it”. For the rest of the session, he was tossing out the chunks. Since then, he posts me some of his writing drills and I smooth them out (and show him what I’ve altered) but overall I can see the change. His dad’s quite happy.

And then there was the guy who pigeonholed me while I was writing at lunch and asked if I’d review his resume. It was a couple of pages of dense writing but it didn’t need to be that dense. I took the backspace machete to it and cleaned out duplicate wordings and cleared his literary property nicely. In the end, it was tighter and righter, and he was very grateful (and no, I don’t take money for the effort, his thanks were enough (just like the Lone Ranger)).

But that’s part of being a writer (at least a community writer); giving occasional help. It’s like being the guy who knows plumbing or car repair. Nothing major. Just a quick fix. And doing this, just like writing itself, relies on your ability to do it as quick and tight as your own work. If you can show them how quickly you can turn around their project, if you can see it in their eyes, then you’ve passed your own test and turned your own skills. Sure, it’s a half-hour, but they’ll be helped and you’ll be better. Win-win all around.

So the next time someone comes up and asks if you might help them tune up a report, resume, or schoolwork, consider saying yes. You’ll be a better writer for it.

COMING SOON: How to turn down offers to ghost-write the Great American Novel (“I had this idea I wanted to run by you…”).


Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 19:14
Backing away (Dog Ear) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 21 March 2013 00:00

If you are a writer, you'll need to learn to deal with defeat.

Right now I'm dealing with it, and its not about writing. There is a corporate 5K that I'm trying to train for, as mentioned in my general blog HERE. I'm really pissed about this. I've followed everyone's advice. I've stretched and paced and breathed and even eaten mustard. I went from being okay (and then hurting myself) to nearly getting back to where I started (and hurting myself). Two days ago, I barely knocked off a mile and my muscle behind my left calf started screaming. Tonight (after a day's rest, more advice) I barely got a quarter mile in before it started hurting again. I walked the whole mile.

I've done everything I could, followed ever scrap of advice, and yet my aging body is letting me down. I just went on a test bike ride (which I've given up for the duration) and I can't even ride - I can feel the tension and don't want to get in the middle of some urban wasteland and really pull it. So I'm stuck in a car for my commute with the rest of the cagers, trying to figure out what to do about the race that is coming up so fast that even if the leg was perfect and it was only a question of building wind, I don't think I'd be ready.

I'm totally disgusted with myself.

In the background, I happened across a small writing contest, more of an informal thing hosted by an artist. I submitted a sharp little piece. And I just found out I didn't win.

That's really the way life works. I'm really pissed at the all-around failures of my recent efforts. Nothing I've worked to achieve has come through.

I'm backing down on a lot of things, hosting my retreat, as A. Dumas would say. I'm going to let my leg heal and get back to biking. And I'm going to turn my back on that contest and focus on writing. In a way, this blog (posted up in prep for Thursday) is a therapeutic little bit of effort, a nice vent that's letting me work through the disappointment of pretty much everything.

Sure, maybe your aging body can't run anymore. And maybe you can't seem to get recognized for writing. But remember that writing is more than getting published. It's about our art and doing what we enjoy. In a way, it's a love letter to ourselves. So when the entire world turns against you, when everything is dismal and wrong, write anyway. Write even if you have the matches right next to the page, and you fully intend to set it alight the moment the last penstroke is done. Write it and fucking burn it.

But write it.

It's our art and our therapy.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 19:09

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