Saturday, January 29, 2011

Moving along to 5/8, on my own

I revisited website submission pages for the four agents who've not yet responded. One said if she wasn't interested in seeing more she couldn't guarantee a reply, even with an SASE. I'll count that as a rejection, and take myself to 5/8. Another agent requests the submitter, me, to follow up if I haven't received a reply in six weeks. That would be now. Another simply said to allow five to six weeks for a reply. No website for the last.

One down for the "no guarantee," one follow-up email to send, and two fading question marks; that's today's inventory.

I'm discouraged, but still moving forward, and that still feels healthy.

- PJ

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Atypical So Cal, atypical Italian. Hoping for more.

January in southern California is usually sunny and clear. Cool air, perhaps, but warm sun; I can rely on that. Not this year. Like the atypical (and intense) mid-December rain, temps last week began in the 30s and hit 80 yesterday, not our usual January.

Compared to the popular winter image of Christmas, December 25 with my family in So Cal was also atypical, made “white” only by my dad’s famous homemade ice cream. Ice cream, on Christmas, people always asked. Yes, each year, we could always rely on that. Ice cream paired well with the mild weather.

In my 7/11/10 post I wrote that Half Italian is not heavy on the stereotypes we sometimes see on TV; in that sense, my Italian family was also atypical. In my 8/30/10 post I mention the barbecued rabbit we had every Easter, not your typical selection for a holiday whose pop icon is a generous, happy bunny. Rabbit as a meal wasn’t uncommon with other Italian families I’ve spoken to, but it definitely shocks people whose roots are purely white-bread America.

Will the atypical continue? Will an agent believe this unpublished author’s work is marketable, and be able to convince a publisher of the same?

- PJ

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Moving violations – American, French, Italian

Friday evening. The 2nd workweek of January is over; however, I’m not anticipating the worse-to-come period accountants call “year end.” For my area, this lasts from mid January through February, with aftershocks occurring through April. Tax has nothing to do with my job – tax accounting is something else, entirely.

Seated at my computer desk, sipping a whiskey, I look out the window. Early evenings are dark in January, so I can’t see my little Tuscany/Umbria, only lights on the hill. I wonder when I’ll receive my options on what to do with the citation I received for the “California stop” I wrote about in my 1/5 post. I said I haven’t had a moving violation in 11 years, and that’s true, in the United States.

I got a speeding ticket in France, 2008. My traveling companion warned me those electric dot-matrix-type road signs warned that speed limits were being enforced. I scoffed. Later, driving from Brittany to Paris, I saw something in the rearview mirror. “A motorcycle just pulled out from that hedge, and is following us. What do flashing blue lights mean?” I asked.

“Pull over!” my friend urged.

The officer wanted only me out of the car, and spoke only in French, so I said, in English, slowly: “I’m sorry; I don’t speak or understand French. Mais, mon ami – oui.” I pointed to the car. The officer okayed my friend to approach. Since we were not French citizens we had to pay on the spot. Knowing the Euro was at least 1.40 to the US dollar I attempted humor, pulling out American cash. He apparently understood, and with a wry chuckle, said something that sounded like, “No thanks, I know how much those are worth these days!” Later, we were told the 90 Euros we paid, for the speed I was driving, was quite reasonable. I’m thankful for that -- another friend told me he got a ticket in Mexico around the same time and the officer told him he too must pay on the spot. “How much is it?” he asked. A pause, then, “How much do you have?” the officer asked back. Yikes.

A year before my French speeding ticket I received another ticket, this one in Perugia, Italy, but I never learned what it was I did. I was notified in the mail that our car rental agency made an additional charge, several months later, to provide the Italian police with information on who’d rented the car. Attached was a notice from the police, with the words non pagare; don’t pay. All I understood was that on a certain date, at a certain time, our rented car did [something] when it was clearly marked not to. I couldn’t find the verb for what I did in my dictionary, so to this day it remains a mystery. I do remember we found parking reasonably easy in one lot, when all the others were full.

Nothing in the mail yet on my “California stop.” And I’m still at 4/8.

- PJ

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Music paid, will writing?

I’m an employed accountant, many years in the profession. I have two Bachelor's degrees, one in accounting and one in music. At one time I used both degrees; I was a church organist in addition to my weekday accounting job. That second income was nice, added entirely to savings. The pastor of the Roman Catholic Church where I played, however, was not so nice, and I eventually left, as did those before and after me, for the same reason.

Writing Half Italian was the easy part. The query process of someone who’s unpublished is the hard part -- hard and long. With the organ job I made regular money; this book project, so far, has only cost me. Minor expenses, yes, but the query process does add up. And then there’s the time I spend that could be used to do something more financially productive, like, I suppose, looking for another church job. The shift from music to writing took my second income from one side of the number line to the other, with zero determining which side is which.

I’ve decided to wait until February for the last four responses. The optimist in me considers the possibility that one or more of these agents are following this blog, checking to see how this currently unknown and unpublished individual writes on a regular basis. Meanwhile, I make efforts to defeat the defeatist in me, who keeps knocking.

- PJ

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Follow-up to yesterday’s post

Yesterday, after writing that the task of anticipating the buying public is a subjective risk, I watched a video on the making of one of my favorite 1960s TV shows. The video featured one of the show’s principals, who, since her teens, has made her living in entertainment. Yet, when she wanted to write her memoirs one literary agent told her yes, you’re a household name, but you’re not a star. Yikes.

Someone else apparently felt different, because the memoir was eventually published.

Agents who’ve responded to me emphasize this subjectivity, just one more reason to PERSEVERE.

- PJ

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stars, risks, and the audience

During our conversation a few days ago, the retired professor said, “They [publishers] only want stars. Based on what you’ve told me about your book, I believe you’ll have a hard time getting it published.”

So far, that’s true. The queries I made at the beginning of this blog were not my first.

Who is my audience, agents ask. From my first post, last July, “It’s a book about family, for anyone who’s ever had a family. It’s for anyone who’s ever been a kid or had kids. It’s for parents and grandparents.

If people are looking for something enjoyable to read, to make them laugh, even cry, my audience is broad. If the search is for a “star with an edgy story” I have no audience -- unless folks at PETA consider my family’s history of raising and barbecuing rabbits "edgy" enough to harangue about.

Didn’t Seinfeld say his extremely popular and extremely successful TV series was “about nothing”? And how many submissions did it take before A Wrinkle in Time was accepted? Lest you consider me, currently unpublished, arrogant for comparing my unpublished book to masterpieces like these, I simply make a point that the task at hand for agents and publishers is to anticipate the buying public – is a person likely to purchase what they’re considering publishing, or not? Actuarial expertise aside, this is, quite frankly, a subjective burden, not a science. Both employee and entity’s future depend on making the right call. Or taking the right risk.

Oh, I am a risk. Who's willing?

- PJ

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A step… where?

Yesterday I gave the retired professor a call. He’s involved with project research that’s proceeding slower than plan, and he won’t be able to read Half Italian until May. What kind of feedback do I want, he asked. Good question and I knew my answer: does he think Half Italian is any good, quite frankly, is what I want to know. Good, meaning interesting to read. Does it capture and hold? Is it boring, of interest only to me? In the non-regulated arena of writing, everyone’s opinion is just that, subjective. But I do want the opinion of a published professional.

Dallas is done until next season; I’m still at 4/8. I’m PERSEVERING* and usually that feels good, sometimes disheartening. I don’t know where all this will end up, a waste of time, maybe, but simply moving forward feels healthy. Nice to breathe.

The retired professor looks forward to learning about my family, and, he said, more about me.

The leftover pasta bolognese is heating in the oven. I sip a whiskey, and write.

- PJ

*See 7/24/10 post.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pasta, and an official slap.

Yesterday, distracted by unpleasant thoughts of work, I coasted through a stop sign on my way home, one of those “California stops” you may have heard about. I haven’t had a moving violation for over 11 years, but admittedly, I do this regularly so I had it coming.

The patrol car was on me so fast I almost thought they were expecting me. Pedestrians from the quiet neighborhood stared, as well as drivers in passing cars, as the officer wrote my citation. Not one to use a cell phone much, not even for distraction in a case such as this, I just sat there, feeling smaller with each stare.

As the officer returned my driver license he looked again at my picture and said, “You’ve really aged!”

I truly don’t mind aging, but coming from law enforcement during the course of duty this remark packed a lot of punch. I was actually surprised at the hurt I felt, and just said, “Thanks.” Then I added, truthfully, “The kids at work laughed, too, when they saw it.”

Probably sensing I was hurt, not hostile, he remarked that gray hair was rare in his family, even pointing to his own non-gray hair, seeming to try to soften the matter, but the hole he’d dug didn’t get any smaller.

At home, I postponed calling the retired professor I’d thought of the day before and retreated into my own world, making final preparations on a meat sauce for pasta bolognese I’d started in the slow cooker that morning. Amazing, how a roast slow-cooked for 12 hours with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and seasoning can replicate a sauce as good as one I once had in Montepulciano, Italy.

When Half Italian is published, you can find my meat sauce recipe at the end of Chapter 3.

- PJ