Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reach for the Stars...

Current listen:  "Marching Bands of Manhattan" courtesy of  Death Cab for Cutie

My blog tonight is tuned to the frequency of the "writing world." Today, a rather disturbing and somewhat frightening article was forwarded to me by my good cyber writing friend, Ruth Casie ( - basically, a farewell to books... The link:
   So, fellow authors, do you suddenly feel like you have an expiration date tattooed across your forehead? Has all your hard work been for nothing? And what of you, like me, who aren't published, but actively engaged in trying to get someone to notice you? Does the door appear to be closing, the window locked, leaving you in the middle of an empty space with your prized manuscript in hand? Is "hope" nothing more than another "four letter word?"

When I was a little girl, my grandfather owned a pink Cadillac - one with a gold grille. He was so proud of that car and drove it everywhere. It was his personal symbol of success. He was a home builder, a quite successful one, and when he could pay cash for this car, it made all the years of hard work and sacrifice, worth every torturous moment.

What is the personal "symbol of success" you're striving for as an author? Is it to see you book in hardcover on the shelf of Barnes & Noble? Your name on the New York Best Seller list? Finally earning a living at doing what you truly enjoy and being able to kiss the day job goodbye? I can honestly say any, and all three, would equal my "pink Cadillac."

But then, I read an article like the one above and panic skitters through me. Am I too late in the game? Will they stop manufacturing my "pink Cadillac?" Yes, the publishing world is changing, faster than some of us would like. When mega bookstores close their doors, agents and publishers vanish in the night, and more books come out in digital format before coming out in paperback (the new "hardback"), most touting a price tag of under $5.00, worry can't help but trickle into the corners of a writer's brain. Especially aspiring authors, like myself, who are so anxious for the world to read our stories, but fearful we will be cast aside and swallowed in a surging tide of unknowns, forced to look at other avenues. Ones that steer us to a pink scooter instead of a Cadillac.

I'm guilty, as a reader, of loving the ability to obtain a copy of my friends' new books, the next sequel in a series I've anxiously awaited, or, yes, the advertised "freebie of the month" being instantly at my fingertips. Amazon has even created a word for their magic delivery system that entices you:  "whispernet." How can you resist being "whispernetted?" Sounds decadent, doesn't it? Mysterious...forbidden. Yes, I'm a "Kindle convert," a devoted follower of the Amazon religion, or cult. But, I still favor a book in my hands. The feel of the pages, the smell of the paper, inserting the cutesy bookmark before placing it on the night table or ottoman, to patiently wait for my return. So do I think "the book" in its traditional form will disappear? Libraries become something later generations will read about in a history syllabus? No. Maybe fewer actual tangible books, possibly, but become extinct? Never.

So what does that mean for us, author friends? Guess it means we have our job cut out for us to prove them wrong. Authors are like teachers. We do it because writing/teaching is our passion. If we make money doing so, it's icing on an already delicious cake. Are you going to to stop writing because the media says the day of the block buster novel is gone, and all you'll do is tread water, if not sink all together? Hell no! We're dedicated to giving readers what they want. And what they want is a good book!

The article accuses the digital platform of ruining the quality of books now produced. In all honesty, yes, there are some awful books out there, but they're not limited to indie publishing authors a you are led to believe. I've read some crap on the pages of hardbound books as well. I've also read some great stories by indie authors and have friends who are brave to do this on their own (not as easy as the "how to" manual describes it). Not all books offered as "free" are bad either. My first free book was from author Amanda Hocking, and we all know what's she's accomplished.

My point to this epitaph? Don't give up. Ever. The road to becoming an author, in whatever format you choose, is hard. "No wimps allowed. Apply thick-skin lotion daily." Prepare to cry, scream, and swear as if you suffer from a major case of Turret's Syndrome. Eye your family as 'fresh meat', if they so much as dare tell you to 'take a break', and take family pictures...often. Might even be a good idea to write the names of your loved ones below each face, because once you write/type Chapter One....Once upon a time...or, In the've crossed into another dimension. One no one but other authors understand.

Books are here to stay. Authors will never become extinct, nor will the editors and publishers we need to make our stories the best they can be. There will always be a need for agents. Personally, I can't picture not having one to help me maneuver this labyrinth, so I'm looking for one I can form a long working relationship with, because I'm not going anywhere.

"Pink Cadillacs" are special order items, as are your stories. Give your readers what they want and tune out the voices that say you can't. The only voices you should be listening to are the ones belonging to the characters in your head. Okay, and your significant other. Possibly a child who needs feeding, too. 

Thought for today: Aim for the stars and don't stop until you've hit the Milky Way. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011


If you follow my WACKY WEDNESDAY blogs, you've got a pretty good idea that I fly by the seat of my pants and usually have to sew a seam or two by the time I've landed. Been that way my whole life. I'm mentally "accident prone." I start out with the greatest of intentions, methodically planning my next move, overthinking every step along the way, and stewing about "this and that" until I finally decide I've made the right decision.

Then, I jump. Something always happens "mid air." The chute doesn't open (that's, of course, I remembered to strap the dang thing on), or if it does, the lines get tangled. Sometimes, it's simpler. My skirt blows up around my face and exposes my underwear. Either way, I'm plummeting toward disaster, and when I arrive, my blush is so hot, I self-combust.

Yesterday, one of my over-thought-cautiously-plotted scenarios misfired. I was left holding the grenade...without the pin. A week ago, I wrote what I believed to be one of my most "dazzling" query letters. I can write 350 pages of creative prose effortlessly, but I suck at the "one page query letter" that is my only tiny flag blowing in a breeze of thousands of other writers' flags, with the words "pick me! pick me!" scribbled across it. The query letter is my one first "bluff and dazzle" to getting an agent to actually rub their chin and ponder..."could this be the next mega-bust best seller?

Of course, I think it is, but...this one page, filled with names, addresses, contact information, writing credentials, contest wins, membership stats, not mention my attempt to woo and flatter the agent I'm trying to solicit, leaves me one paragraph that must be crafted with Hollywood style pizazz to sell the story that's plagued my thoughts and caused endless sleepless nights. A story my husband considers "my affair" and my children think I love more than them (and there are those times), and one I'm so anxious for the rest of the world to read. My "dream" has to be described and sold in a paragraph shorter than this, to keep within the required "one page format" submission guidelines. This paragraph...this letter...must outshine my entire story to get it considered, and I have yet to produce one that will get me "the call."

But this time, I really felt confident I'd got it right. I sent it to a couple of discriminating eyes and got the "thumbs up." So I frantically put the finishing touches on DESIGNER GENES this week, officially closing and saving with an elated sigh yesterday afternoon. I sat down to send off my one brilliant page letter to my favorite agent on my "A List."

In my chair, the letter open before me, I sat at the edge of my jump off station, ready to hit the SEND key and "soar" with confidence. First, I corrected the date to reflect the actual date of my submission. Saved. Decided to run one last spell check and "surprise!" Found a sneaky little flaw that could have ruined my perfected masterpiece. Fixed it, grateful I'd discovered it before sending. Did one last read through and saved again.

Then, I packed my "parachute." I made the decision to use my Gmail email address for business, because it contains my full name, instead of my cutesy Yahoo email address. I've never used my Gmail email account, just set it up so I could create my blog. So to be safe, I sent myself a test email. Covering all the bases..."tucking in all the corners of my chute." I opened it, and it looked great. Wanting it to look "fresh," I copied the letter and dumped it into a new email and smiled. It was ready. All my "lifelines" appeared coiled properly. I smoothed my "skirt," mentally taking note I had on my good underwear. Time to jump. I hit SEND.

Feeling the weight immediately lift off my shoulders, I took flight. Of course I wanted to forward a copy to my Yahoo address so I could file it in my query letter folder, along with the past experiments and attempts that had yet to bring me fame and fortune, knowing this one would work. It almost sparkled in my SEND box. I opened it to forward to my other email address, and....

  The lines "tangled," my skirt flew over my head, and my screams could be heard to the planet Jupiter! Did you know that it is impossible to retrieve an email on any format outside of OUTLOOK? Keep this in mind. Place it in "important facts to remember." Once you hit the SEND key, it's like a shell shot out of Howitzer Tank. Your message has a homing device that will take it to the intended, or unintended target with lightning speed, and explode. Irreparable damage. My grenade detonated.

Many times I have mentioned my challenges with technology. Just as I think I've mastered it, I'm "shut down and rebooted." I made the mistake of thinking one format in my cyber-possessed world, Gmail, worked just like Yahoo...the format I've been using for years. A "fatal error" occurred. You see, when I did the simple task of highlighting the last, perfect letter I formatted and placed into the new email, apparently...the other two letters I'd corrected attached underneath! Yes, that's right. I sent ALL three letters in one email, end-to-end, to my sought after agent!

Wow, Joelene, talk about impressive! You go girl! Not only did I hit the ground with a deflated parachute, I walked through the imaginary door to my favorite agent's office with my shirt shredded and my underwear torn. I'm guessing my hair and makeup are in slight disarray, as well. Yep, hell of a first impression!
So here's the thing. I could curl into the fetal position and cry miserably, vowing to burn my writer's pen and never turn my computer on again, or I could laugh. Yes, that's right laugh. Boisterous, "wet-your-pants," laughing. One of two things are going to happen, neither of which I can control. First, she will receive the email. That's a disastrous given. She may gasp in disbelief, stare at my torn underwear, and slam the door in my face without so much as a reply, and life will go on. Or, she could actually be impressed by the first letter, see where I took the initiative to correct the spelling error on the second letter, and notice my professionalism in displaying the correct date in the third letter. But she'll see my magical "paragraph" three times! She may truly be curious enough to want to read more about the story I've described in six short sentences, now burned into her memory! I might be asked to take a seat in her office (covered by a sheet of newspaper first, most likely).

Agents say they want a query letter that will dazzle and impress them above all others. I think I've accomplished that. Yes, this may be just the letter (or letters) to get me noticed. I will be "noticed," of that I'm quite confident. I'm just hoping (praying actually) she, too, will have a good laugh, but in the end, will look past my embarrassing gaffe and ask to see more. Or, she'll check out my blog and understand what really happened!

I hope I've taught you a couple of valuable lessons so you don't repeat my mistake, not that there could possibly be another person as mentally accident prone as me. If I have a twin out there, I hope you'll find solace in knowing if I can can you! Life is going to fall apart at the most inopportune moments, some by our hand, some by others. Allow yourself a momentary pity-party, then laugh. Find the positive in everything negative, and you'll make it through life sliding into the grave with a smile on your face and your favorite cocktail in hand saying..."Wow! Thanks for the ride!"

Here's to laughing over spilled milk...the cat's going to lick it up anyway! 

Joelene (Harley Brooks is walking around with a brown bag over her head and eyes cut out. You'll recognize her by the smile on her backside where her underwear is torn!).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WACKY WEDNESDAY.....A "certified" what?

Current listen: Good Girls Go Bad courtesy of "Cobra Starship"
Survived a wedding this past weekend. Beautiful event. My son was handsome, his bride breathtaking, his mother…slipped into a coma Sunday from exhaustion. Things were in control until the last week. Little "events" plagued my otherwise smooth path, starting with what to wear. A little black dress. Not too hard, right? After all, it's only August. People are always cloaked in black when the temperature threatens to boil the skin off your bones. I ended up with three: two expensive, never-to-be-worn-again frocks, and an elegant but simple dress my girlfriend graciously offered.

Shoes next. I meandered into the shoe department, immediately under attack by a salesgirl who definitely worked for commission, or who had suddenly fallen deeply in love with me. She followed me close enough to qualify as my shadow. I picked some killer shiny red spikes. She gazed at my feet, slightly smaller than Sasquatch, and legs as swollen as the Mississippi in flood stage, due to being on my feet all day. "These," I proudly pronounced, realizing I'd given her a quite a challenge.

Oddly, they felt comfortable, in a bone-crushing sort of way. Of course when I saw them in the magic mirror they borrowed from "Snow White," my swollen legs smoothed out, my calves defined, my skin suddenly taking on a sun-kissed golden tan rivaling any California beach beauty. The purple veins and unsightly lumps seem to disappear in these shoes. I had to have them. When I found out they were 40% off if I opened a charge account, how could I resist? I love the smell of new plastic and relish the adrenalin rush, waiting for my credit to be "approved."

Floating on a cloud of confidence, I inhaled a deep breath and crossed the threshold of the lingerie department. "Lingerie." You can't even pronounce the word without sounding breathy. Quickly, I passed through the rows of minuscule lace strips pumped with secret foam to "lift and launch," wishing I'd taken better care of "Thelma and Louise" in my earlier years. "Tuck and roll" takes on new meaning now.

Trying to hide behind plastic torsos clad in thong underwear the mannequins seemed uncomfortable wearing, with matching lace offering covering their sanded off nipples, (wouldn't want to encourage "lost" pubescent boys to linger), I slipped into the "sturdy foundations." My hand barely touched a color coded tab when a voice seemed to echo throughout the department store in digital stereo quality.

 "Honey, that size won't fit you." Immediately, I turned to see who "Honey" was, but found myself alone and eye-to-eye with a stern looking woman. Her arms crossed in a formal manner and a thin line where lips may have been several decades ago, stretched over an unnaturally taught face. I fought back the urge to say "blink, I dare you," just to see if her eyelids could touch.

Not wanting to attract attention, I quietly stood my ground, insisting I had the right "over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder" size. She escorted me to a dressing room, handing me the couple of dozen she plucked along the way. Her next comment became today's blog.

"If you have any problems, please ring the bell and I'll assist you. I'm a certified bra fitter." Pause.

Have you ever wanted to go back to high school for an inkling with the knowledge you have now? What I'd give to be seated in the cheap naugahyde couch across from my high school counselor when he smugly asks in a condescending tone, "What do you want to become once you leave our fine institution?" Free. I'd have the perfect smart ass answer now.

"Why, I like to become a certified bra fitter. It's been a lifelong dream since my first Barbie doll." Hear the lead bust off the end of the pencil? Picture the pinked cheeks or the flared nostrils? There was an old movie called "Peggy Sue Got Married" in which this scenario plays out, only in math class. When the teacher chastises Peggy for not paying attention, she's got the comeback ready…"I know for a fact I'll never use this in my life." Come to think of it, I've never actually diagrammed a sentence since I flipped the tassel on my cap.

Standing in front of the cruel, full length "evil mirror of truth," I study my physique. (Try and say that word without smiling. Impossible). Wish I could sell a "pound of flesh." I'd not only be wealthy, but also able to wear a support garment with one hook-n-eye, instead of steel girder with a train track running up the back.

Imagine Damien, my coffee-colored wavy haired fantasy hunk in a moment of passion, flicking one "latch" with practiced finesse, merely enhancing the scene…but give him something to work on and the "moment" passes in a flash as he curses under his breath, taking the skin off his fingertips trying to undo what took 30 minutes to hook in the first place. It's a bad reality show in the making.

Meanwhile, my "certified fitter" paces outside the door, questioning if I'm still alive. She's chomping at the bit to prove she's right, but I won't give her the satisfaction…because she is. I shove, squeeze, lift, and shake (a dangerous move, knocking me off balance) my "gal pals" into the cute polka dot pockets of satin, as they try to slither out the sides. I hold my arms tight against my side, forcing "excess baggage" into place and creating a line of cleavage rivaling the Continental Divide. It fits.

I hand off the fabric barricades she so smugly offered and prance off to pay for my "thank-heavens-no-one-will-ever-know" piece of lingerie. Later, when hubby gets a glance of what I spent my well earned money on, his life is almost cut short when he bursts into laughter.

Good thing I have a sense of humor, because some days…that's the only thing that fits!

As always, thanks for stopping to share a moment from my crazy life. I thank the Lord I have one. On a somber note, I'd like to share a poem for those who'd give anything to have something as simple as "what to wear" to be their only worry. I meant to post it earlier, but was caught up in my own whirlwind of emotions. I placed it on my Facebook page, but thought I'd share it here as well.

I don't write poetry often, but sometimes, the mood strikes. It started with a posting that passed on over several of my friend's pages, and my reply started as simply "31 teardrops in a pond, sending enough ripples from each one to create a tsunami."

Later that night, I imagined the rush in Heaven as they prepared for their unexpected guests and the families who received the same via a phone call, a knock on the door, or God forbid, a cold news story sensationalized over cyberspace. This is how I completed my thought:

God chose 31 angels today,
To help 31 brave soldiers find their way.
He sent them again to guard those adored,
When 31 knocks came at the door.
31 caskets to be prepared,
31 flags folded and shared.
31 graves will be dug,
31 Mothers and Fathers hugged.
31 echoes of salutes will resound,
As 31 soldiers are placed in the ground.
31 Medals of Honor to give,
For 31 soldiers who no longer live.
But 31 new angels now serve as a shield,
To 31 soldiers still left in the field.

God rest their souls…God bless their families…God bless this country.