DATELINE UXBRIDGE – SHARING MY WORLD

Share Your World – 2016 Week 34


What is your favorite comfort snack food?

Ginger. Crystallized ginger. No matter how many time you ask this question, you will get the same answer. Boring, perhaps, but no less true.

Is the paper money in your possession right now organized sequentially according to denomination and with the bills right side up and facing the same way?

This is a very funny question. It’s been years since I carried more than a couple of ten-dollar bills in the pouch I use as a wallet. The world has spun a few times on its axis. Cash? What’s cash? The only time I need cash is for machines in decrepit parking garages in Boston which (fortunately) have machines that give cash. Then, you can put the cash into the machine which opens the garage gate.

Except … it isn’t that simple. Uh uh.

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Cash machines give you horribly crumpled money clearly ready for the great money-burning furnace in which they destroy paper money too tired for further use. When you then try to put those bills into a machine, it gets rejected. Too crumpled, with bent corners. You try again. And again.

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This process will reduce any normal person to incoherent sputtering.  At which point a sleepy, stoned, slow-moving attendant strolls over.

“You need help?”

“This #$%^@$ machine won’t take my money.”

“Calm down.” No one should even tell an irate citizen to calm down. It merely makes them angrier. Just saying.

I snarl. He looks bored. Eventually, it gets sorted out and we drive away. I ponder how little plastic cards have made life easier — most of the time.

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Remember when you had to figure out in advance how much you were going to spend when you went shopping? Getting to the checkout at the grocery store, seeing the numbers roll up and realizing you are short? You know the people in line behind you are going to riot if you hold up the line, but what can you do? There’s a bank at the other end of the mini-mall, but that would take you … how long?

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The natives behind you are beginning to grumble. In your mind, you see the angry crowd, the torches. Is there a full moon? How many of your neighbors are about to change into fanged were-animals?

You shake yourself out of this nightmare and realize — it’s okay. It’s 2016 and you have — a debit card! As long as you can remember which way that strip goes into the machine …

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing?

Firstly, if you are a mouse, I would appreciate your taking up residence elsewhere. We have more than enough vermin issues here in the country and I have absolutely no patience with mice. I know you guys just want a warm place to set up house, but you eat everything and make an awful mess. Then, I have to trap and dispose of you. None of those gentle trap. I used to be nice about this, but you abused my generosity and came right back. Now, if I catch you, death will follow. Live … but not here.

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If you actually did hang around and neither of the terriers thought you looked like a snack, you’d see us watching television. You’d see me writing posts for Serendipity, maybe processing pictures. You’d hear snippets of conversation and the occasional ring of the phone. Not very exciting, but I suspect that’s more or less the scene in homes around the world.

Would you rather not be able to read or not be able to speak?

I stand on my Fifth Amendment rights. I will not incriminate myself. Or discriminate against myself. Or whatever applies.

FIFTY? HUH?

What’s with 50?

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WordPress, you got me. Fifty means nothing to me. It’s not a year I remember (in 1950, I was three) and 2050 is probably not a year I’ll live to see. It’s not an address at which I’ve resided, nor an age during which anything special occurred.

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Most numbers don’t have any particular significance to me unless they are part of someone’s birthday, anniversary, phone number, or address.

Robbie is about 50, or at least his character is ... Okay, actually, he's 60 and a bit ...

Robbie is about 50, or at least his character is … Okay, actually, he’s 60 and a bit …

Fifty ways to leave your lover? I never needed more than one.

FIFTY | THE DAILY POST

KITCHEN OLYMPICS by ELLIN CURLEY

The 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro ended yesterday. I’ve watched a lot of events over the past couple of weeks. I’ve learned the meaning of athletic maneuvers I didn’t know existed. Or maybe I knew but forgot four years ago. And, now I understand how important 1/100th  of a second can be.

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Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if everyday activities were scrutinized and graded the way dives and gymnastics are. There would be names for the different techniques for folding sheets – and folding the fitted sheet would rate a higher level of difficulty.

Dish-washing would be my favorite event. There is so much technique involved and so many options for equipment and strategy. You can use a dishrag or a sponge (don’t get me started on the varieties in sponge technology). You can use one of those things on a stick, but some of those have a built-in soap dispenser, which I think should be banned as cheating. The choice of dish soap is a whole other category. Maybe if you use the Consumer Reports favorites, your difficulty level should be reduced.

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Now for the actual washing of the dishes. Do you pre-rinse? Do you use hot water or just warm? The different wrist movements should have fancy names as well as the circular arm movements (clockwise or counter-clockwise?) How do you try to scrub or scrape off baked on or age hardened food? That is the test of a real champion. Do you resort to additional equipment or rely solely on elbow grease? And then there’s the decision as to whether you rinse with the spray setting, which is faster but which causes splashing – a serious deduction.

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Sticking the landing would be quickly and accurately securing the dish in one of those annoying plastic dish drying racks. This would be my personal Waterloo.

I think that putting dishes in the dishwasher is more of an art form than a sporting event. You have to be creative and have a really good sense of spatial relations as well as patience and perseverance. But you could make this a timed event; the most plates, bowls and cups you can fit in the dishwasher in the least amount of time wins. You can challenge your spouse or roommate and make it a family affair.

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And then there’s parking a car. This is another fun event in the Olympics of life. Maybe if I give myself running commentary the next time I’m parking in a parking lot or trying to back my car into the garage, it’ll make it a less frustrating and more enjoyable experience. One can always hope.

LIFE CONTINUES WHEN YOUTH HAS FLED

I keep hearing that “age is just a number.” If that’s true, then youth is also just a number.

The whole “number” part of aging applies only to the years you’ve (so far) survived. The remainder of the equation has to do with how your body is doing. Whether you still have mostly original equipment or have had to install after-market replacements. Those whose DNA or good luck have allowed them to feel young tend to ascribe their well-being to a positive attitude. It’s easy to believe that when all the parts are in good working order.

After that, life isn’t about your attitude. It’s about what works, what doesn’t. And what you do about it.

96-Me Young in MaineI had a great attitude when I discovered I had cancer in both breasts. A positive approach was not going to make the cancer vanish. I figured it would be pretty clear sailing after that, but much to my surprised (dismayed) chagrin, a few years later I discovered I had a failing heart. Which I’d dismissed as “something else.” Maybe psychological.

Reality crashed in and I had to face it or I would die. A positive attitude wasn’t nearly enough. I wanted so badly for it to be untrue. A medical error. How could I be that sick?

I learned a positive attitude works best in conjunction with good doctors, appropriate care, and commonsense. Sometimes, you have to let your body take the lead. If you want to live, that is.

Mind-over-matter and “age is just a number” are overused platitudes. Being cheerful won’t fix a non-working heart valve, remove cancer, or replace your knees or hips. People who believe a bright smile and a positive attitude are the same as youth and good health are in for a rude awakening. Sooner or later, it comes to all.

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

On the day when reality crashes in, that is when you need to be positive. Life doesn’t begin and end with youth. Accepting the real limitations life imposes requires guts, determination, and an ability to roll with the punches. Courage is accepting that you can’t do all the stuff you used to do while finding stuff to do you never considered. Or figure out how to do old things in a new way.

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It doesn’t take much courage to face the day if you feel great and your body works. If fate decrees otherwise, you need plan B. That’s when you find out what you’re made of.

Unless you die early, youth ends. For everyone. During most of life, we aren’t young. That’s okay. If youth were the only thing worth having, we’d all be dead before 30.

There is life after youth. I think that’s when the real fun begins.

THE DAILY POST | YOUTH

SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER – PART TWO – BY MARTHA KENNEDY

Me in Obfelden

Welcome back!

Today’s post is the second of three parts by the Martha Kennedy as she struggles with the ever-changing requirements of marketing a novel.

Many of us have trod this path. More will tread it soon. Each of us has one or more stories to share about the perils of publishing in a market that is constantly reinventing itself.

This is for all of us who have written books, are thinking about writing a book, or are attempting to market a book in a world where none of the old rules apply.



SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER – PART II – AGENTS AND REJECTION
by Martha Kennedy


I once heard an agent speak to a group of writers. She said, “You have no idea how difficult our jobs are. We have to read all your manuscripts on our own time. We stay up late at night to get through all that.” Seriously. She said that.

This was at a well-known writer’s conference. I was listening to what had been billed as a presentation on, “Finding the Right Agent.” Hearing her, I thought, “Listen, Sweetcheeks. Your income comes from our work. If you don’t like your job, quit, but don’t insult the goose — geese — who lay your golden eggs, your Manhattan apartment, your travel allowance, and keep you in Manolo Blahnik shoes.”

At that same writer’s conference, I made appointments to pitch a novel that had once had an agent. That agent had not performed, so I had fired her and moved on. I knew the book was a very good book (it’s since won two awards). I signed up to talk to three agents during that conference at $40 a pop. My novel is about a man with leprosy. It’s set in the 13th century. The protagonist is an artist. Each agent had confirmed our pitch session and asked for a synopsis and a chapter or two so they would be prepared.

Here’s how that panned out.

One agent was sick of being an agent and sick of talking to authors, so I never got to give a pitch. She talked to me about the problems she was having with her teenaged son, then asked me to send the manuscript and never responded.

The next listened to my pitch and asked, “Have you done any research? Lots of you historical fiction people just make things up.” She asked for the manuscript and a list of sources.

The third listened to my pitch and at the end said, “So what happens to this guy? Does he get married and have kids? Or what?” (This story is about a leper, remember?)

I’m sure there are other kinds of agents. I just have not (yet) met one. Agents are the gate-keepers. To get access to major publishers, you must be an agented writer. There are almost no publishers available who will even consider a manuscript that is not submitted via an agent … and that means the agent must see your work as a future money-maker.

REJECTION


The advice you will get is inevitably “keep trying.” With rejection, you often get a note which says something along the lines of: “We accept new clients based solely upon the current needs and interests of this agency and we simply didn’t see a good match. Given that the publishing industry is admittedly subjective, no doubt another publisher will feel differently.”

“No mea culpa” it says. Not our fault. Annoying as that is to hear, it’s also true.

It means, “The market has little or no interest in this thing you’re trying to persuade us to represent. If it did, you can bet we’d be on it like piranhas on steak.” The only lie is that the publishing industry is “subjective.” It really isn’t. You can be sure they do good market research. While some publishers do not publish, say, “self-help” another publisher might. That’s the limit to the “subjectivity.”

That rejection, by the way, came from a small press who, the year before, had wanted to publish that very book.

When I got into this game there was no Internet. We had to use paper and envelopes and send everything with a(n) SASE. I actually found one of those in my file drawers last week with a hugely expensive return stamp on it and an address for where I lived fifteen years ago. “A relic,” I thought, “of forgotten times.” Though, truth be told (and why not?) a few agents will only accept paper queries. Hassle, yes, but they are possibly more likely to read your pitch for REAL. Here’s why…

My favorite rejection (and I can’t find it now that I want to quote it) was being told that when a particular agency ran my project through their computerized manuscript screening system, the algorithm responded that my work did not have the qualities deemed necessary to be a publishing success. I laughed at first, having been rejected by an algorithm, then I realized that with online submissions, a writer’s work is likely to be evaluated by a computer program designed to measure its probable marketability.

Which isn’t to say “don’t try.” Just know the cards are absolutely, certainly, 100% stacked against you unless you are keyed into the market; you are Dan Brown ahead of Dan Brown, so to speak. The downside to success (and it might not appear to be much of a downside) is that it’s very difficult for J. K. Rowling to write anything but Harry Potter. She wants to; she has a nom de plume under which she writes other things — none of them have had much success.

When you’re work is accepted by a publisher, you can get screwed in new and amazing ways. Many are the stories. Here’s mine. Last year I did the work of submitting my latest novel, The Brothers Path, to the available pantheon of agents and publishers who might be interested. I kept a spread sheet that helped me stay on top of the progress of the queries I’d sent.

The great day and jubilation came, and my novel, The Brothers Path, was accepted by two small publishers. I had to choose. My editor said it was an “embarrassment of riches,” but I didn’t feel that way because I had no crystal ball. Most other things being equal, one was closer and offered an earlier publication date, so I chose them, but with mixed feelings.

I was sent a good contract, signed it, prepared to move forward, still with my mixed feelings and the knowledge I’d have to talk to this publisher about one thing in particular …

You see, when I looked at their list of publications I saw Richard Wagner’s face on the cover of a book about Victorian England. I love Wagner. I figured “A book about Wagner!” and I checked the book out on Amazon. The story had nothing to do with Wagner.

Summoning my courage (after all the great big publisher was doing me the honor of publishing my book, right?) I told the publisher I was worried about the cover of my novel because, well, Wagner. He said he hadn’t known it was Wagner. He’d looked for free images of faces of 19th century men, and there was Wagner. He then let me know that he had since bought face recognition software (an algorithm?) so that wouldn’t happen again.

“And really,” he said, “how many American readers would recognize it?”

To myself, said, “I did.”

Things moved along fine until he went out of business. At the time, I was crushed. He sent me the formatted manuscript (a real boon to someone who knows she will be self-publishing). I set it up on Lulu and Createspace. Ordered some copies. Got them back and saw that this idiot had changed some of the words in my novel so that one or two important passages no longer made sense. I know I should have checked earlier, but…

If he’d read my book, he hadn’t understood it. He changed the word “fall” to “autumn” when it was used in a conversation between two clerics who are discussing the Garden of Eden and the discovery of human sexuality:

“Tell me, Brother. How many men and women come to you with stories of carnal desires and sin? And how many of those are members of your own order?”

Hannes answered honestly. “Everyone does. Everyone.”

“It is our nature. The Bible tells us to go into the Earth and be fruitful and multiply.”

“After the Fall Autumn, Brother Leo.”

He had changed “After the Fall” to “After the Autumn,” thus rendering the passage to mean that people couldn’t have sex until after December 21.

Since then there has not been a day I have not felt grateful to the fates for the way things turned out. “More tears are shed over answered prayers than over unanswered ones.” St. Teresa of Avila, but hey. I read that in Truman Capote’s unfinished novel, Answered Prayers.


Jonny Geller is a literary agent and joint CEO of Curtis Brown, the world’s oldest Literary and Talent agency, based in London looks at what lies behind some of the most successful books of recent years. He explores the patterns and trends underlying their popularity and describes what a literary agent looks for in a writer.


72-The Bros Path Cover PromoThe world-shattering tumult of the Protestant Reformation enters the Schneebeli household when Rudolf Schneebeli is born two months early and dies a few minutes later — without being baptized.

Named for the well trodden track linking the Schneebeli farmhouse to the old Lunkhofen castle, The Brothers Path is set in a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531.

It chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of the Protestant reformation.

Two hundred years after the events recounted in The Brothers’ Path, thousands of immigrants, mostly Mennonites and Amish, left Switzerland for America seeking the safety and freedom they could not find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would to remind us why immigrants to America have always been adamant about separating church and state.

The Brothers Path on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

If you haven’t read part I, you will find it here: SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER – PART I


Come back next Saturday for part III of “So you want to be a writer.”

To learn more about Martha’s historical fiction, go to Historical Fiction by Martha Kennedy. Her daily blog is Where’s the Windmill? 

MINE EYES CAN’T SEE THE GLORY

Last night, I spent close to an hour looking for something that was exactly where it was supposed to be. It was on the correct shelf, right in front. Nothing was hiding it. It wasn’t behind something, or turned the wrong way.

I looked there — twice — and I couldn’t see it. So I looked in all the other places I might possibly have put an unopened package of medication. There’s a cupboard in the kitchen where some stuff is stored. There’s a rack in the bathroom where other supplies are kept. Otherwise, it’s either my medicine cabinet or the cabinet over the john.

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I searched the kitchen thoroughly , in the process finding and tossing out several bottles and tubes of prehistoric stuff that had to be at least a decade old and which I didn’t know I still had. But, I didn’t find what I was looking for.

Finally, I began to question if the container for which I was looking existed at all. I thought I’d bought two bottles of this stuff. It’s not expensive, so I would normally buy a couple of them and a time and stash the spare in my cupboard. But maybe I only thought I’d bought a spare. Maybe there was only one.

Before tucking myself into bed, I made a final pass at the cabinet over the toilet, my the default location for storing non-prescriptions meds and cosmetics … and there it was. Right in the middle. Where I had looked at least three times in the past hour.,

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Despite my tendency to blame it on the dogs or on supernatural wee people, I suspected my eyes had been blind to the container. In a bright yellow box.

In bed, I told Garry I had just spent nearly an hour looking for something that was where it was supposed to be and where I had looked multiple times.

He was sympathetic. “Yes,” he said, “it happens.”

Yes. it happens. Is it eyes refusing to see? Or the brain unable (temporarily) to register information? Or maybe … it really is those pesky, wee brownies, fairies, and pixies messing with me.

You think?

EYES | THE DAILY POST

SHARING MY WORLD – UP UP AND AWAY

spaceWould you travel into outer space?

In a heartbeat. If the mother-ship comes and offers me a lift, I’m out of here. I’ll have to bring Garry and both dogs, though.

Adventuring through the universe? How could I miss that?


Which country/city in the world (that you have never been to) would you most like to visit and why?

Paris. Because it’s Paris.

What could you do to breathe more deeply today?

Use my inhaler. That usually helps.

Complete this sentence: This creamy peanut butter sandwich could really use some …

This sandwich could use something other than peanut butter on it. Like … almost anything. I don’t like peanut butter. I’m not even particularly fond of peanuts.

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I could give it to the dogs. They love peanut butter.


Share Your World – 2016 Week 33