be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website:

be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website: http://www.joanhilty.net/ (usually she updates her blog every Sunday evening but she can and will surprise you) **Special Note: all of Joan's archives are now up--almost ten years of 'bitter girl.' As Joan says, go wild!**

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Honeys at the Beach

Were there honeys at the beach yesterday, basking in the warm Florida sun? Was there also a repulsively fat bald guy who keeps proselytizing me and tries to convert me to his religion every time I see him? And does he also speak to himself as if he has an I-phone hardwired into his head with a direct line to the Almighty ("Hello God--this is Fred again.")? The answer to all these questions unfortunately is yes--sadly, the beach attracts some strange people.
It would be pleasant to report that there are always honeys at the beach, but this is inaccurate, unjust and unkind. The later it gets to be in the year, the more it's just tourists and old people. Also the beach itself becomes looser and more like slogging through quicksand than more finely packed during the summer, so to walk the same amount takes considerably more effort.
Which is why I'm doing this now instead of getting ready for the beach again. Some of the girls around here do look better with a tan and they notice that and this does draw them to the beach, but it would be a mistake to suppose that's the only reason I go.
Yesterday was a very nice beach day, which I thanked God for, and there was sunshine almost all day long. There were also bait fish in the water, just north of Lost Tree Village, and they were being chased by something--possibly sharks and definitely tarpon. I saw some dorsal fins a few hundred yards out near the pier and the pelicans were out, all unmistakable signs of fish activity.
There were also people fishing in the water, some in water past their waists. This you could label either extremely foolish or quite daring, depending upon your point of view, because these sharks, while not large enough to eat you alive, could quite conceivably take your hand or foot or a nice chunk out of your midsection, points I pondered while the people in the water seemed not to care.
All my life I've had reasons why I didn't have a girlfriend--I was too busy with the book, my car wasn't nice enough, I didn't know anyone I wanted to ask out, and so on. There only reason I have left is the sequel, which I'm still doing work on. That's the only thing keeping me sane at this point.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No Beach To Walk On


This was the title of my aborted fourth book, stolen from a line in a Star Trek episode, which was going to be about a really bad hurricane that hits Palm Beach County directly--before and then the aftermath. Today it becomes part of a reason I aborted the beach walk--the surf was too high, there was all this trash all over the place, there were storms north and south of me, and finally I just didn't feel like doing it. The beach goes downhill every year around this time, so it was no surprise.
I walked for a few hours at the mall, but this got to be a drag also so now I'm home. I'm almost half way done with the sequel so that's coming along nicely as well.
The reason I never finished this book is because after the third one didn't get picked up, I became so dispirited about the whole thing, I lost interest in it. Plus I finally had found a decent job and I was learning about financial markets and all this so it kind of just went away. I knew the third book needed a rewrite but how to do it eluded me until I got the idea for the subplot and then it hit me--what had been missing in the book.
One day after I had gotten fired from my last job, I was sitting around and feeling sorry for myself so I decided that I needed a break. So I went on YouTube to look at some music videos that some other people had done that amused me. Then in one, I saw some original artwork that I didn't recognize, so I wrote down that website. From that website, I found a link to another website that had some fan fiction posted. I read two of them and they were O.K.--nothing to write home about--but then there was one story that seemed promising and it just stops, right in the middle of it, as if whoever was doing it simply lost interest in it or died. There was one chapter that I felt really needed a rewrite, so I decided to see what I could do with it. I played with it for a few days until I felt like I had gotten it into shape.
But then I realized I had made a mistake and it still wasn't right. So I started again and this time it came out pretty well. Then I tried to write to the people most closely associated with all this and no dice--the e-mail was either returned or wasn't answered. Then I was walking at the mall one day and it hit me--this was perfect for the third book. So I started work on it the next day and the rest is history.
I guess it just goes to show that you never know what you're going to find when you start looking around on the Internet--and that ideas germinate in devious ways. This I've stolen also--it's from Robert Heilbroner's Worldly Philosophers book--something else I heartily recommend. Stealing can be very habit forming, it appears.
But the most difficult part of this transition has been the self-esteem issues associated with not having a regular job where I show up every day. All these years, for good bad or indifferent, I was able to support myself in the manner to which I have become accustomed. Now, I'm working at home and I'm happy--instead of working somewhere else and being miserable. But part of me was tied up with what I was doing and that's been what's hardest to get away from.
Were there honeys at the mall today? No, that's not a rhetorical question and I'm glad I asked me that. There were--but this is a subject for another post.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Work

Continues. When you don't see me here, that means I'm working on the sequel. Also no beach on the weekend because I'm trying to give my foot time to heal--I'm shooting for Wednesday if the weather holds. But in any case, summer is leaving us as the Autumnal Equinox approaches.
Two Saturdays in a row now, I've gotten a really good idea for the sequel. I'm also spot checking the first book here and there, as I wait for a reply.
I remember thinking when the first draft of the last book didn't get any offers, one of the possible reasons I was theorizing was that it really didn't look like anything else. People in publishing have this shorthand, where they'll say something is like so-and-so only a little more whatever. On the website of one of the agencies I submitted to, under their suggestions they remark this, but I honestly can't compare it to anything that I'm aware of.
Another possible problem was that the book was critical of American foreign policy and the bad guy in the book is the President of the United States, far in the future but still. I remember my agent sending me all these postcards telling me that this publisher still had it and this other press still hadn't said anything yet, because what happens is that the manuscript has to go higher and higher within the organization, as only the people at the top can say yes, and this takes time. Then 9/11 happened and that seemed the end of that.
The book is still critical of American foreign policy but this time all that is stuck in the middle of the book, not up front as previously had been the case. And this time I make it sound as if those are just the main character's politics--for whatever reason.
But this time around there are definitely fewer agents out there--and the ones that I was getting any kind of a reaction from now appear gone.
Publishing has gone through crises before, but this may be different. I spot checked a few stocks that the company that I was working for (Weiss Research) was picking and the bottom in the market that I could see seems to have been late March. Everything's been on it's way up since then, but still there's no sector leadership, which is a fancy way of saying that something has to come along to pull us out of this hole that we're in, or we'll be like either of those baby sea turtles I had been too late to save the other day. Maybe it's a misplaced analogy, as we're not going to keep mindlessly flailing our legs, but it is true that every time something like this has happened in the past, it's always been some technological innovation that has saved capitalism and thus mankind.
It rained earlier but now it's sunny out. Nothing but junk in the mail. Telephone's not ringing either, for some reason, but the central air still feels good. TTYL.

Friday, September 18, 2009

B. Careful of the HEAT!

This was the cautionary note that the lifeguards at Ocean Reef Park have inscribed in the message section of the data board that I noted early yesterday upon my arrival to the beach, just before eight o'clock. I also saw 'maybe tarpon and sharks' for Wednesday which had been erased for Thursday, so I'm inferring that maybe those large silver predators that I saw on Tuesday jumping out of the water going after the bait fish weren't sharks after all but tarpon. That could be, as tarpon are more apt to jump out of the water when stimulated than sharks.
But back to the heat--you can get heatstroke at the beach if you're not careful. In fact, as viewed from above, my travels there would seem to the casual observer as the proverbial quest for water, as I venture from fountain to fountain, some chilled and some not. As one of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's characters once remarked, Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Freshwater, that is--not saltwater.
I drink tap water at the beach with absolute abandon, which is strange because at home it tastes funny--it has all this calcium in it which I don't like and makes ice look cloudy, so I indulge myself with bottled water for ice cubes and lemonade there. But at the beach for some reason I drink quite a bit.
Well, the main reason is I sweat. I drip all day long, even with a breeze. It's still hot but not as stifling as August was. The sun in Florida is very strong and if you're not used to it, it can be overwhelming.
Very clear blue skies and hardly any people greeted me at the beach yesterday. I observed a much larger but less well defined school of bait fish off the shore of Lost Tree Village, in North Palm Beach, which is south of Juno, on my way back but this time the show wasn't as good. A lot of individual fish jumping out of the water, being pursued by something presumably larger, but not as many of the spectacular mass flying fish and aggrieved predator thrashing in frenzied retaliation. The lot of them were moving south again but this time more slowly, as by the time I got back to my car, 4:15 p.m., the school hadn't made it down the coast yet to the guarded beaches.
I saw two baby sea turtles but sadly they were both dead. One had gotten caught a few hours earlier in some dried seaweed and had hundreds of fire ants all over him or her by the time I got there and the other had simply flipped over on his or her way down a hole and hadn't been able to turn back over. Such are the vagaries of survival in the world of baby sea turtles.
No pictures as there wasn't anything worth recording. Some honeys were about but none that had eyes for me without male escorts. Chicks that flirt with me in front of their boyfriends/husbands or otherwise smile or say hello give me pause. One woman more my age up around Juno did say "Hi" to me as we were both walking the same way--however, I threw her back. And I did have to take two 500 mg painkillers because my right foot and back were both acting up. But still--all in all, it was a beautiful day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fishermen vs. Fisherfools


The beach was back yesterday and I was back at the beach, almost alone. This happened last year also--once you hit Labor Day, everyone kind of gives up on the beach unless it is really, really sunny out.
Yesterday there was some cloud cover, but I still got some sun. No baby sea turtles but lots of bait fish in the water, which some sharks were feeding on. All you can eat, as they say. The school of fish started out huge--hundreds of feet in diameter--but became dismantled by the later parts of the afternoon. It happened to coincide with my return to MacArthur Park on the way back and I followed its mostly southerly sojourn down the coast.
I tried to get some video but the small sample I've previewed didn't come out that clearly--you can't see detail, parts of which were spectacular. When the four or five foot sharks would go in after the six or seven inch mullet, the smaller fish would jump out of the way, sometimes out of the water, and the sharks would follow suit. Sometimes you'd have two or three fairly large silver sharks coming out of the water at once and it was quite a show.
But back to the fishing--the only times that I see successful fishermen on the beach is in the spring and again in the fall, when the fish are on the move, because of the changes in the seasons. (The fisherman pictured here was working the inlet, which you can see in the background, as this faces south, so the land you see behind him is Palm Beach. This was taken in August and the fish is some kind of jack, similar to tuna. It took him about ten or fifteen minutes to land the fish and he said he was going to throw him back. I don't know what kind of bait he was using, but I remember it wasn't a lure or a spinner.) Where I go, Singer Island, is the point in the entire U.S. Eastern Seaboard where the continental shelf is closest to the land--here, it's maybe five miles out, as compared to over a hundred miles up by, say, Virginia. So as a consequence of that, when fish are on the move, they do come fairly close to the shore here, and attract larger predators.
Up in Juno, south of the pier, they'll set up about five or six large rods and reels apiece and they'll mostly catch pompano, which is about as good as what you're going to get around here. Sometimes the bluefish are running, and you can pull in as many of those as you want or have the energy for, but they are a lesser grade.
Fisherfools, on the other hand (forget the trip to the dictionary--it's not in there), spend an enormous amount of money on boats, tackle and bait and wind up with exactly nothing worth eating. Now I realize some people fish the way some people play golf--just as an excuse to get out of the house and avoid someone you may be married to but whom you may not get along that well with, so you 'fish' as a way of passing the time, if say you're retired and you don't have anything else to do. I guess I'm more utilitarian--I prefer to accomplish a lot of things at once.
As for the honeys, they were out also, and not just at the beach. On my way home, a young brunette babe driving what appeared to be her mother around in perhaps the family car did smile at me when we were side by side and stopped at a stoplight, so if you're reading this and you were at the wheel of a white Mercedes convertible going west on PGA Boulevard Tuesday just before five o'clock, wearing your hair up, and you happened to see some guy in a silver Acura who looked like he just came from the beach, driving without a shirt on, that was me, so if you'd like to leave a message, please include your name and phone number so that when I call, I don't sound like a complete idiot.
The landscaping people have arrived this morning with their many machines--their weapons of suburban warfare--to do battle with the lawn again. They may hold the upper technological hand, but the grass is resilient, and has secrets of its own, along with the resolve of nature, so the struggle continues there also. Got some more work done on the sequel but otherwise still waiting for some response, any response. Everything that I've been reading suggests this is a lost hope and a forgone conclusion--if you're not already a published author or if you're not a famous person, just forget it. I guess the publishers have been burned once too often by picking something up and no one paying any attention, no matter how well written it was, simply because whoever wrote it was unfamiliar. They have a saying over in Japan--the person you wait for never comes. Sometimes it feels like that, but we'll see. TTYL.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Island Fortress

Publishing has always seemed to me most like an armed camp--where everyone on the inside has a vested interest in keeping everyone else out on the outside. In other words, it's not that there are barbarians at the gate--we are the barbarians, whom the caretakers of Literature seek to protect themselves from inside their walled off medieval castle.
Because it's not Literature until they say it's Literature. You're not a writer until they say you're a writer--and not before. Even all the watchtowers of heaven were ablaze after Lucifer's ill-thought-out and poorly-timed assault on Almighty God, so also are the gates of publishing becoming more and more inaccessible to outsiders.
Allow me a crude illustration. If Paris Hilton had written my book, everyone would want to read it, if for no other reason than to see if Paris Hilton could write a novel and if so, how well it was done. They're acting as if no one cares if I can write a novel or how well it's done because I'm a nobody and who would want to read a nobody's book? Certainly not the book-buying public. This is their attitude, anyway.
The last book I actually bought was Seamus Heaney's new translation of Beowulf, back in 2000. I stand corrected--I did purchase some years after Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, "Rabbit Remembered" by John Updike which was published in the same year but did not come to my attention until much later. So people such as me would not sustain publishing as a business--it's only the people who constantly need something new.
Speaking of something new, I was going to the mall yesterday but I became so engrossed in the second book that I completely lost track of time. The local newspaper, that I subscribed to since I moved in here almost nineteen years ago, has call me twice now, to get me to renew my subscription. As I've patiently explained to both young ladies, I'm too busy now to even consider reading the newspaper, which I used to read religiously. But ever since I've gotten everybody to the island in my book, I feel as though I'm there as well, removed from the world and all its comings and goings. Maybe if I get someone interested in the first book, that'll pull me back to the real world. In the meantime, they have a crisis on the island, as their monopoly of the aliens' technology is threatened for the first time, so their attention is focused--as is mine.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Food

I must admit--the food here is excellent. If there is any justice in the universe and my foul crimes are found out and I am carted off to jail and then prison as bloody vengeance must demand, I will miss being able to cook for myself. Recently I made some tomato sauce along with some chili and both turned out well, in my estimation.
But potatoes remain my fundamental vehicle for nourishment these days, along with popcorn, of course. I remember Anne Frank's comment from her diary, which I've never read, by the way, that she hated potatoes because that's all she had to eat. Well, she must not have been making them the way that I do, although to be fair, the main ingredients for Parmesan steak fries probably would have been scarce when and where she was living while she was hiding from the Nazis. But happily for me, they are not scarce here.
No beach this week, because of the rain and clouds. And I've been doing more work on the sequel. The mall is set for later, although my foot is still bothering me a little. TTYL.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lightning Kills

I usually don't do public service announcements--such as Stay in school or Don't do drugs--but this was written on the text area that the lifeguards fill in every day, along with the water conditions, tides and other reminders, such as 'Beach may close due to thunderstorms' and 'Stay off the rocks' along with 'Drink plenty of H2O.' I thought it a fair comment. Accurate and forboding both, as your pleasant day at the beach may well be marred with an unexpected and expensive 911 call if you don't watch out.
Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S., statistics point out, but this is misleading, as so many statistics can be. The National Weather Service had a map of Florida and a real time lightning strike graphic that I would check at work every day and the vast majority of the hits were all away from the coasts, where the population is. In the middle of the state it's mostly farms, cows and horse ranches.
The storms have started already today--it's just after noon local time and I can hear thunder echoing outside. I got past a part I was stuck on in the sequel, so I've been doing some work on that today. I didn't go to the beach today because of the rain and my right foot. I did something to it running on the beach and now I'm trying to stay off it while it heals.
These storms pop up at random this time of the year down here because of the heat. If I'm five or six miles up the beach and a sudden storm gets in between me and my car, there isn't much I can do because I can't teleport at will, and I have gotten trapped before and it isn't pleasant. For me to walk as I do at the beach, I can't be a coward--but at the same time, lightning is one of the few things I don't play with.

The Problem

There are simply too many people in the world and even to feed them properly would cause mankind to pollute the Earth even more than we are, which is considerable. If there is a solution to this problem, I am not aware of it. This is why economics has been referred to as the dismal science.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vampires At The Beach

Before I settled on Klara, I had asked a few other attractive young women to help me with the book. My routine generally consisted of approaching members of the target audience--as Carolyn is 24 and single with no boyfriend when the book starts out--to ask them what they're reading. To answer, most would show me the cover of the book. Then I would either guess what the book was about from the title or ask them to describe it. This in and of itself helped me a couple of ways. One pretty young lady, who seemed a little too eager, was reading a book titled Love the One You're With. I remarked to her, "Now we know what that's about, right?" Another desirable young woman's book was titled Flawless. My guess that it was about the fashion industry or models turned out to be wrong, but the reticent soft-spoken brunette I questioned did allow it was about some girl, presumably without imperfections of any kind. The working title of my book at that time was The Secondary Refraction. Based on these experiences, the more I thought about it, the more that seemed too cryptic, so I changed it to Paradise Regained, because that's what happens at the end of the book--Carolyn and John along with Brandy and the gang get to their South Pacific island before the U.S. military does, deploy the bubble machine from the aliens' specs and bingo--instant impregnable island fortress. I did a http://www.dogpile.com/ search on it and was surprised to learn that no one since John Milton had used that title in the 1600s, so I thought, Why not--it's shorter and more positive, implying the requisite happy ending, in addition to being truth in advertising.
Another more intelligent college-aged young blonde honey coolly and tersely advised me that her book was about vampires. This became a recurring theme. I remember when I was working at the call center up in Juno Beach, across the street from the turtle place, ten years ago when I was getting the first draft of my book together. The general manager kept asking me why I hadn't come up with the books on the magician's assistant as he called it, referring to the Harry Potter series. The answer to that question which I never gave him is that you have to be into something like that to be able to write convincingly, persuasively and passionately about it--and I'm just not into witchcraft and spells and warlocks and all that, the same way I'm not into vampires. But I am into science fiction.
What I think has happened in the last fifty years is that science fiction has gotten way too technical for the average person to understand it. My first book was a spy novel with a romance subplot set in real time--1994. The second was a young adult coming of age story set mostly in 2012. The third book takes place in 2042, but I have taken pains to make it as accessible as possible, more back to basics. Whether this was a mistake, whether I have outsmarted myself, we shall see.
Allow me by digression to explain. Yes, fiction is a brand-name business. The same way most people would patronize a McDonald's rather than an independent restaurant in an unfamiliar locale simply because as bad as McDonald's is, it's nevertheless a known quantity, so also have publishers realized that they can make more money from one million Stephen King books than from ten thousand titles of ten thousand lesser-known writers. The flip side of that, however, is that publishers always need genre books, because some people go through these things--romances being the obvious example--as if they were going out of style. My general impression of all the people that I've polled and those that I haven't is that people are desperate for something--anything--to read that is well-written, so much so that they're willing to read what they consider mediocre until the proverbial good stuff comes along again. So many girls' judgment of what they were reading was, in dreary tones of world-weary resignation, "It's O.K." And when I followed up with why they were reading it to begin with, the answer was always that a friend or close relative, i.e. their mother, had recommended it.
Everyone always thinks his or her book is different. The market's never been worse for first-timers. Even if the book does get published, I am going to have to work full time or more at making it sell. I was invited to join Toastmasters a few years ago by one of their members but since I didn't have a salable book at the time, I thought I'd hold off until I did. That's my ace in the hole--that and the book fair in Miami in November. If I could just get one person to write me back, to ask to read the book, then I would have more confidence about this whole thing. I remember this is what drove me crazy last time--the waiting.
It's mostly cloudy outside now but there's no way to know how it is at the beach except by being there, as where I live is six miles inland and as previously stipulated the weather in Florida is very strange. My expensive mixed nuts--toasted but not salted--from Sunnyland Farms in Georgia arrived a little while ago via UPS. I can keep this routine up for about six more months before money is going to be a problem. I should know whether the book is a go or not a long time before then. I know rationally that one way or another, I'll do the right thing, but knowing it emotionally is something else. The future remains a scary place but it is the only place I want to live.

Stealing


Everyone steals from everyone else but no one wants to admit it--except me. For example, I've stolen the format for these posts from Humbert's journal entries in Part One of my favorite book--Lolita. But if you never read that book, you'd never know it. Incidentally, if you never have read that book, I entirely recommend it, if for no other reason than the sheer entertainment value. Whatever else it is, it remains the funniest book I've ever read.
But that aside, the reason that I read that and the John Updike Rabbit books is because of the descriptive narrative passages. Descriptive narrative is something I'm not good at and thus detest--my strong points are characterization and dialog, so that's what I like doing the most. But one of the things I've learned in trying to get my books published is that not everyone skips the descriptive narrative sections of a book as I routinely do. Some people actually get into them--and many of these people have high ranking places in publishing, it appears.
Stealing first came to my attention when I started watching Akira Kurosawa films. I saw Ran when it first came out and I really liked it a lot. When I mentioned this to a friend, he suggested that I check out Seven Samurai. I did, and the rest is history.
But the more I watched these and other Kurosawa movies, the more I became aware of how much they had been ripped off by Hollywood and elsewhere. Now, I realize 'rip off' and 'stealing' are highly negative and may sound harsh, and other people have nicer words or less stigmatized phrases for what I mean here, such as 'borrowing' or 're-imagining' or 'derivative' or even 'inspired by' or 'homage to.' But what this comes down to is the extent to which the original source material has been mined.
By way of colorful contrast, Kurosawa himself stole liberally from Shakespeare for the scripts to his films--after all, if you're going to loot, why not plunder the best? But to me there's a big difference between, say, Kurosawa taking the story of Macbeth along with plot devices from Hamlet, Richard the Third and Henry the Fifth and him coming up with Throne of Blood as compared to another major studio ripping off Yojimbo for the nth time to come up with the latest wise-cracking hero action adventure Bruce Willis/Sylvester Stallone/Arnold Schwarzenegger et al. vehicle.
Another example of what I mean is the source of where I ripped off the plot to my latest completed novel--Gall Force, which is an animated Japanese series of movies that didn't get a wide release in this country. In their version, the scientist on the moon who finds the ancient aliens' data chip simply announces it to the world--and is subsequently aghast when everyone starts fighting over it. I thought, Hm--suppose he didn't tell anyone--how would this play out? I was off and running.
I mention the Gall Force series specifically because I'm not the only person to have stolen from them. James Cameron, the man behind the Terminator movies, who also did Titanic, stole actual dialog from Gall Force Earth Chapter 3 for one scene in his third Terminator movie. This is bad. Borrowing plot ideas is one thing, but when you can't even write your own dialog, this exposes to me the shameful bankruptcy of your creativity for all to mournfully witness.
But enough of my soap box. Beach report: mostly sunny with lots of people having fun on Labor Day. No baby sea turtles but some actual honeys were sighted. Fisherfools vastly outnumbered fishermen in Juno. The sky was so beautiful that words cannot describe it, nor can mere photographs do it justice, but I thought I'd include one, just for the heck of it. Before I left for my eight-plus hours of walking, though, I found and corrected one mistake that I discovered in the manuscript for the 'completed' book--in a part I had gone over with Klara but neither of us had spotted the typo--an omitted 'd,' reducing God to Go. And they say women's work is never done.
This is why James J. Kilpatrick in his weekly column would always lecture us aspiring writers to Read Your Copy--and then Read It Again. Repeat as necessary. World without end. Amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Struggle Continues

The eternal battle for the domination of the world goes on, as it has since the dawn of man. Today, I am not winning, for the beach has been rained out. Again.
Ah well--there's always the mall. But I hate the mall--for a variety of reasons. For one thing, when you go, for some strange reason they expect you to spend money there. The merchants and the salespeople that work there expect you to actually shop in the stores and make purchases. They have all these sales and have all these salespeople around and spend all this money on advertising and wonder what's going on when the crowds don't show up. Sad but true--I can see it on all the employees' faces in practically every store in the mall--the vacant and empty look of no customers and nothing to do, just standing around and watching the clock until finally it's your time to leave. I worked in retail for over twelve years so I know the score.
During this time, I was working on the first book, which is and always has been a mess. It needs a rewrite the same as Jimmy Carter needed pills, and trust me--he needed a lot of pills. But I couldn't see it at the time, which shows you how much I knew then.
But meanwhile, while I was waiting on responses to my queries for the first book, I started the second. Here the plot thickens, because if I hadn't started the second book, there never would have been a third. I got a better response to the second book than I did to the first, but at 40,000 words everyone kept telling me the second book was too short--that I needed at least 70,000 words for a first novel or nobody was even going to look at it.
This I did not understand at the time but I do now. At the time, though, it seemed to me they were trying to dictate a certain style--which is antithetical to my own, that being minimalism. Now I see that wasn't it at all. By imposing a minimum word length, they were eliminating the vast majority of bad or mediocre manuscripts that are circulating around out there, clogging the system, which hinders good manuscripts from being read. When I say bad or mediocre, the standard that I'm using is anyone with an agenda, such as a cause, religion or belief system that they are seeking to foster or impose on others, as opposed to the agenda of Literature, which I think should be the primary reason why you're writing--that you think you can make a contribution, that you can do a better job than the people that are doing it now. Why can I see that now when I couldn't see it then? Today I'm nine years older than I was then--so I guess my judgment is better now than it was then. Older and wiser, as the saying goes. Everyone except my agent was telling me the third book needed to be book doctored, but I disagreed. I thought everybody else was wrong and I was right. Now I see with chagrin the opposite was true. So now I've done in six months what it took me more than two years to do previously--the rewrite that the book needed all along.
What it has now that it didn't have then is the subplot and more backstory, along with some new characters. I think it looks good now--but I thought the first draft looked good when I finished with that, so I don't know if I can trust my judgment now. That's why I'm trying to solicit a reading--to see the reaction to it.
I noticed when I went to the library to see the current marketplace, that there's been an enormous amount of consolidation within literary agents. It seems as if all the one and two man shops are gone now, leaving only the strong that survive.
There's daylight outside now and my laundry is done, but there's also a canopy of cumulus clouds where blue sky ought to be, and the radar scan at the National Hurricane Center website (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/) shows more rain is on the way. Good news for the lawn and the trees but bad for me. Why can't it simply rain and storm at night? This and other eternal questions remain. The search for answers continues.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Weather


Well, the weather is here and I wish it were beautiful, but sadly today it's not--all overcast out. This is strange--usually this time of the year the day starts out great--beautiful blue skies and beach-worthy in all repects and then the clouds appear--because of the heat.
Now if the breeze is from the east and coming off the ocean, this will keep the clouds back away from the coast--just long enough for me to get my sun and my exercise and my socializing done before the traditional afternoon showers come rolling in from the west, where it's hottest. If it rains, then this will cool things down. But if it doesn't, the heat remains.
As we are now done with August, we are off the anvil, so to speak. But the temperature really won't come down until after All's Hallow Eve--still some time away. In the meantime, everyone relies on air conditioners.
I mention the heat because this is what spawns hurricanes. There's more to it than that but that's the long and short of it. And hurricanes are unfortunately a big deal in Florida.
Why this is so necessitates more trivia--Editor's note: long boring explanation ahead. Get ready to skip to next paragraph. O.K., so I'll spare you the minutia. Long story short--hurricanes may well spell the end of the great Florida boom.
I take myself as an example. If I have to sell my place and move, I will. But I don't want to. This is my home--I've lived in my small two-bedroom condo for almost nineteen years and I like it here. I can't stand my neighbors but it's quiet and safe. This is a very good neighborhood, compared to some very bad neighborhoods around here where I wouldn't live if you paid me.
But back to the heat--it is oppressive. As bad as the cold up north that all the snowbirds run away from every winter. This is why so many people head up to the Great Smokey Mountains this time of the year. If I didn't enjoy the beach as much as I do, that's where my thoughts would be heading.
But the heat is different at the beach. For one thing, you're dressed for it. And you can always cool off in the water or under a shower if you so desire. This is what Klara used to do--get to the beach early and leave before the really hot part of the day. Not my cup of tea, so to speak, but it worked for her.
She went to the beach to swim and chill out. After she would swim, she'd sit on the beach and soak up some sun and take in the beauty and majesty of the sky and the ocean. I tried what she did and it worked for us as a couple, but I would never do it by myself.
She tried my routine of walking and she liked it about as much as I liked her deal. She may even incorporate parts of my walking for exercise into her beach routine when she gets back, but I'll probaby never know. She's supposed to return the end of October. In the meantime, she told me she was headed to the Ukraine after she returned to Prague where her mother and older sister live. I've e-mailed her twice but she's giving me the Kentuky Fried Freeze-out routine, so I don't know.
As much as I could tell, she wasn't being straight with the immigration people as to what she was doing here, because at one point she asked me if she could use me as a reference when she came back, to say that I was family or a friend she was visiting. Apparently, if she had told them she was here to dance aka strip, the immigration people would want a cut of her money, which she didn't want to give them. She told me she doesn't like to dance in the Czech Republic or Sweden because of the prostitution issue--which is why she wants to dance aka strip here. She told me she needs money. I advised her that most people do.
I also told her about the Miami Book Fair that's going to be in November and she said she wanted to go with me--of course, that was before we broke up. I liked being seen with her. I liked driving her around. I thought she and I fit, but I haven't had a girlfriend in person in over fifteen years, so maybe my assessments in that regard are off. We did have that one nice day together. Maybe that was all we needed.
The sun is now out, but it's far too late for me to go to the beach today. I am headed to the mall, to walk up and down what few stairs remain there, and purchase some underwear that I need.
I hope I can remember to set my alarm for tomorrow morning--the ravages of old age unfortunately are real--you do begin to lose your mind and your memory. I'm only 47 and it's already starting with me.
Things are going better with the book--I'm at page 202 out of 327 and the last fine tuning adjustment I made was page 175, so maybe I've cleared the hard part.
Must go now, not that I want to, but the mall beckons. TTYL.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Beach


Dateline: Beautiful Palm Beach Gardens in sunny South Florida. Subject: The beach. Reality: It's crummy today outside. All overcast and no sun--maybe even some rain later. Not a good day for the beach. Normally this would mean for me walking at the nearby mall, as in The Gardens Mall, but I'm still holding out hope for tomorrow at the beach. And this is Labor Day weekend--all three days--traditionally the last big blowout of the summer. Now that summer's soon to be officially over, maybe I can get an e-mail back from a literary agent that I've queried about my book. But only if they're interested. In the old days, you'd spend however much on postage and get at least a rejection slip back for your trouble. Now you don't even get that.
Allow me to clarify--during the summer and the holidays, the publishing world grinds to a halt--or so I've been told. School's out and people scatter hither and yon, to the four winds as it were, until the fall. This is how it's been explained to me. That is why I have been using this time to edit the book and the sequel. I am still doing that, however now things have gotten to the point where I am not finding any mistakes, simply better word choices. Polishing, which is just as important as the creating, only not nearly as much fun or rewarding.
But back to the beach. Where I go is called Singer Island, which is not really an island but a peninsula, but it looks like an island when you drive to it and that sounds better, so anyway. It was named for the same family that founded the Singer Sewing Machine Company but what actual connection they have to this place eludes me.
I have been going for sixteen years now. When I first started, after finishing my first book in 1993, I could walk on the beach for one hour and twenty minutes. Now I walk from Ocean Reef Park up past the Juno Pier, back to my car for a light fruit lunch, and down to the inlet and back again to the park. This takes me anywhere from seven to over eight hours, depending on how many breaks I take and whether or not I run and for how long.
As I mentioned previously, I also now have a camera and take along my tripod. The tripod is only three pounds but for that long, it starts getting heavy after a while. However, certain shots are just about impossible without it, so it has become a necessary evil.
I go to the beach to get some sun, to chill out and have some quiet time. I also do it for the exercise and to give me some time away from the computer to go over the book, certain scenes that I like and some that I don't. Sometimes I get ideas there, and sometimes I don't, as occasionally I do socialize, as I did with Klara. Sometimes I talk to the girls from the turtle place who scoot up and down the beach on their ATVs, some of whom are more interesting than others, but that is another story. Sometimes I take pictures when something strikes my fancy, as with the baby sea turtles. But mostly what I go to do is observe other people having fun.
Contrary to what anyone may have seen on television or at the movies, fiction is all characterization. Any fool can do plot, and many fools have. If I sound harsh, then I suppose I am. Everyone works in his or her own way and this is how I work.
Also my first agent kept telling me that if the book does get picked up, the way things are nowadays, the publisher wasn't going to do anything and I was going to have to do everything to promote the book, including personal appearances. So I started thinking on my own, well, if I'm going to be seeing people in public and talking about the book, maybe it would be a good idea to get into shape while I can. That was ten years ago. Now the means have become an end in themselves, as along the way I've gotten addicted to exercise and how good it feels. Also I've learned how to cook so that I what I eat is healthy.
I walk on the beach three times a week, weather permitting--Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. I like this schedule. I hope I can keep it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Book

When I asked Klara to help me with my book, this was not a line. This was the truth. I still need help with it but less so now, as I feel more confidant about it. It is in better shape now than it was a month ago, so if someone asks to see it, it will be more prepared.
Which prompts the question of when something such as this is actually done. Books are an enormous amount of work, so much so that at some point you start asking yourself if the game is really worth the candle. I am to the point now with the first book that it is difficult for me to even look at it any more, let alone enjoy it. I could do some more work on the sequel, but even that is starting to get on my nerves. Which is why I need a diversion.
I mentioned before that I am waiting. What I am waiting for is a response back. This is the really hard part. As much as doing the book wasn't easy and then getting the manuscript in shape was difficult, so too is it practically impossible to not want to rush the process at this point. Which is what gets a lot of people in trouble.
This is why you need a diversion--something else to do. At one point I was doing so much work on the book--because it needed it. Now I've gotten to the point where I need a response--because if I don't get one, that means this isn't going any further and I need to start making alternate arrangements. I can hang, but it's not easy. I see now why some people don't ever want to finish their work--because then it's away from you, much as a child that grows up and moves out on his or her own. Empty nest syndrome. If I can get something going on the first book, I'm sure my interest will pick up again in the second.
Klara was helping me with the book by sitting next to me, following along as I read it outloud. Then she would take a turn reading outloud and would write down words that were unfamiliar to her in her notebook and I would correct her pronunciation when she needed it. A little less than a hundred pages into the book, there's this scene where Carolyn seduces Brandy, but no on-camera sex, so to speak--it's all fade to black. That's when I felt Klara pull back from the book.
We skipped to the end just before she left, but by then the book starts getting complicated, when the subplot merges with the main story, and then just following what was happening became a problem. By the time I got my we're-too-different kiss-off from her, she wanted nothing more to do with me or the book.
She told me her last relationship had been long distance, with her last boyfriend living in Sweden when she lived in the Czech Republic, and maybe she didn't want to go through that again. The nice drive that we were having that one morning when we went to Hobe Sound beach, she did make one comment to the effect that she was going to be leaving soon anyway. I suppose me coming along with her was out of the question or didn't even occur to her. But then I wouldn't have been here to do all the work that I have gotten done. Such then is the mess.
But Carolyn's happy, right? She's got her boyfriend and her time on the island in paradise, so that's all that matters. Again, I'm left holding the bag.
But I can't complain, because I know that there are so many people who wish they could do what I've done and they just can't, for whatever reason. It's easy to fall into the trap of being bitter. I'm not going to do that.
At one point, after reading a part in the book that she liked, Klara asked me about my spirituality. She told me she believed in reincarnation. I countered that if you do believe that, then you have to also believe you're here to do something. I told her I was here to do books and I asked her what she was here to do. She said she hadn't figured it out yet. I told her that was fair.
I know it sounds awfully corny, but when I did the ending for the first book, I felt as though I had done something that I had been born to do. If the book is just for me, because there is nothing out there that it really resembles, then that's what I need to know. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The First Blog

As you can see by my picture, I like to walk on the beach. This is my thing. I have other things that I do, but this is the primary one. I also have a camera and a tripod and I know how to use both, so I am armed and dangerous.
Why am I doing this? I'm glad I asked me that. I asked a question on a website of a literary agency where I am trying to solicit a reading of my latest completed novel, and to do that, I had to sign up here. I don't really expect anything to come of this, and even if nobody ever reads this but me, it'll be all right. Because right now I don't have much else to do but wait.
And go to the beach, of course. I just returned and I got some sun but no video of baby sea turtles. This is my latest chimera--the elusive baby sea turtle hatchlings as they make their way from the nest into the ocean.
I saw two baby sea turtles on Sunday morning but didn't have the camera with me. This is because I took the camera into the water with me on Saturday and I got knocked over by a large wave that threw me down into the surf. The force of this shock sent tiny grains of sand into the lens cover of my waterproof camera where they remained jammed, until I figured out on Monday how to get them out of there. Murphy's law again, but at least I figured this out on my own so I didn't have to send the camera back to Olympus for however long they would have taken to figure out what I did. Problem solved.
But back to the baby sea turtles on Sunday--even though I have no video to share, I did save one little sea turtle's life. He or she was being pecked by seagulls who had decided that this baby sea turtle constituted breakfast, or a reasonable equivalent thereof. I duly informed such seagulls that not only wasn't this little guy breakfast--all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding--neither was he brunch. The seagulls were not pleased at all, but this is by the way, life must go on and all that happy kind of malarkey. I report with pride that this baby sea turtle made it into the wide blue Atlantic Ocean in one piece and swimming like a champ.
But sadly I am forced to report that baby sea turtles that get into the water all by themselves have the odds stacked against them. Allow me by way of anecdotal illustration to explain why. The one video that I do have of a single baby sea turtle swimming out into the water was shot by me risking limb, if not life itself, to get it. After I followed the sea turtle out as far as I thought safe or prudent, I started swimming back into shore, as by this time, I was in water over my head. Since I can tread water with just my legs, this wasn't a problem.
The problem manifested itself in a fairly large manta ray that swam by me on my way out of the water. I did not panic as I am aware such predators will usually leave you alone as long as you leave them alone. But once on dry land, a three-foot shark appeared in the water, followed by another. Soon it became obvious that in calm, relatively clear water, even a single baby sea turtle can attract all types of attention. Which is why sea turtle nests have a tendency to hatch out all at once--which gives at least some of the little guys a fighting chance to get past all the dangers that lie in wait for them in the water--once they've gotten past all the predators that seek to eat them before they even make it into the ocean.
All of which goes to show you that life for sea turtles can be dangerous, as it can for human beings. There will be more on this and other subjects in the future, but right now some Parmesan steak fries are calling my name from the kitchen, and this is a siren song I cannot ignore. I have finally figured out how to post the sea turtle video taken on the morning with the sharks and rays that I mentioned--this was taken just before I saw the manta ray upon my exit from the ocean.
video