In Case You Haven't Heard, Vampires Are In

Take a look at this snap of the Teen section at the good ol' B&N and tell me if you see what I see.

I see a metric ton of red, black, and purple. A good assortment of chillingly beautiful, yet otherworldly faces. And confirmation that vampires aren't just a thing in teen fiction anymore; they're The Thing.

This, my friends, is the power of marketing, and of storytelling. Between them, Stephanie Meyer and her publisher have moved an entire generation. I predict we'll be seeing ripples of this effect in adult fiction for years to come.

I'm Officially Old

Mark and I had this conversation in the car today:

Mark: "You know what? Maybe we should start bringing plastic cups with us when we travel."

"Why would we start bringing plastic cups with us when we travel?"

"Because then we wouldn't have to use the glasses in the hotel rooms."

"Oh, right, because of that thing I read. That they don't really wash them, just swab them out with the cleaning rag."

"Right. We could bring plastic cups, and then we could use those instead."

"Sounds great." (Pause.) "You know, maybe what we should really do is start keeping a sleeve of plastic cups in the car. Then they could be called into service on any number of occasions."

"That sounds really good."

Then we high fived. Ok, we didn't. This isn't even a verbatim transcript; I added in a little bit of the dreaded DAE (dialogue as exposition) to catch you up on our previous marital conversations. But I think it's pretty clear that any days we had as a young, hip couple are officially in the past.

Merry Christmas, Awesome Dude

This is the third year in which I've been treated to the breathtaking Yuletide spectacle that is my neighbor's Christmas display. Actually, he isn't really my neighbor, meaning that I can't see his house from anywhere on my street. Except for at Christmas, when I can.

Lest you think this isn't impressive enough, here is the view of the side lawn.

Maybe it's just me, but something about this year's decor seems... I dunno, subdued. What happened to the rest of the Peanuts cast? I swear there used to be more of them out here. And why does the Abominable Snowman have electric boobs? I really can't say.

At least this drummer boy border is new -- and a worthy addition, I think.

Yes, I know, I know. Some might find this annoying. But me, I can't help but admire someone who isn't afraid to dream big.

So Merry Christmas, Mr. Insanely Overdecorated Lawn Man. Your power bill is large, but your heart is ginormous.

First Partial Request

Well, what a whirlwind day. Remember that rejection I blogged about oh, six hours ago?

Well, it wasn't entirely a rejection. I mean, it was a no. But at the end of that no was a "Why don't you contact this other agent? He likes mysteries."

So, I did. I researched Mr. Other Agent, then sent him a query, mentioning that he had been recommended to me by Ms. First Agent. And darned if he didn't e-mail me right back with a request for the first fifty pages.

So, the first partial has been dispatched into cyberspace, and I am keeping my fingers crossed. We'll see if my "pro status" lasts through the emotional loop-de-loop that is the partial submission.

First Rejection

So, I woke up this morning to a nice fat rejection note in my inbox. I've always prided myself on the fact that I was one of those people who, darn it, could just take rejection. No big deal. Part of the business, baby.

Yep, I've always prided myself on that, but I have to admit it hasn't always worked out that way. When I was shopping around my last book, a rejection letter would get me down for a whole day, maybe two.

But this time? It looks like I'm over it. No more sticking my tongue out at the agent's web page. No hiding the e-mail in a sub-folder so I won't accidentally see it and get depressed all over again. I am fine with it, and (call me supremely arrogant) more surprised than disappointed.

Which means I guess I'm now... a businesswoman. Or maybe just a grownup.

Cafe Throwdown

When you spend most of your days with your nose buried in your laptop, you don't see a lot of high drama. But today was an exception.

I was sitting in the Borders cafe, which was pretty crowded. A group of medical students had taken the table next to the wall, the one with easy outlet access. Another woman had taken the table next to theirs, and since she had no plug of her own, she had stretched her laptop cord across the aisle to their outlet.

Eventually a bookstore employee arrived. She tried to bring humor to the situation. "Uh oh, the cord police are here," she said. "We can't have cords stretched across the aisles." Then she asked the two parties to switch places.

You would have thought she asked them to strip naked, such was the stink they caused. The woman with the laptop immediately started yelling. The medical students joined in the ruckus. The laptop lady began to mimic the bookseller's request in a high-pitched, silly voice.

The bookseller tried to keep her cool, but a little irritation was starting to creep into her voice. I could scarcely blame her.

Finally, the patrons agreed to change places. And in the inevitable shuffling of bags, it was revealed that one of the medical students had brought in a bag of McDonald's takeout to eat while studying.

"You can't have food from other places," the bookseller told him. Whereupon he insisted that he'd done so several times before and never had a problem. Dude, seriously? I mean, if you sneak in a little baggie of nuts I'm not going to judge you. But McDonald's? For real?

At last, the switching of places was done. The Micky D's was banished to the medical student's backpack. The bookseller left. And the woman with the laptop continued to loudly grouse about her, calling her, among other things, a "fuckin' bitch."

I don't get it.

Senseless rudeness always get me down. Inattentive rudeness, everyone's guilty of that from time to time. Rudeness through misunderstanding, that happens too. But plain ol' I'm-pissed-so-I'm-going-to-make-you-feel-bad rudeness? Blows my mind.

Besides that, your relationship with an establishment you frequent is just that, a relationship. It involves give and take. The baristas and booksellers owe me decent service; I owe them the occasional purchase. And we both owe each other basic good manners and civility.

And there is one thing that guides my behavior when push comes to shove, when cord issues or cleanliness or noise threatens to create a conflict: It is more their place than mine.

I don't go into your home and object to the standards you've set for it, and I don't do it in your place of business either. If there's a rule I can't live with, I am free to go elsewhere. I'm certainly not going to pitch a fit because I can't have things my way.

I wish I could make the people in the cafe understand that way of thinking, but I can't. All I can do is what I did: track down the bookseller in the back of the store and tell her that I've always appreciated her pleasantness and that I was sorry she was treated that way. Which leaves me feeling a little good, a little ineffectual. Maybe Miss Manners could have done a better job.

The Third Book

One of the lines I like to use with my friends is that "Writing a book is like writing three books." If they need an explanation, the shorthand is this: "It's just so much more work than you think it's going to be."

But in fact, the three book analogy is a little more apt than that. It really is, I'm not kidding, like writing three books. The first book is the first infodump, those 75,000 or so words that sort of contain a plot. Out of that you pull the second book, the book that makes sense, the book where the gun your character acquired on page 50 doesn't mysteriously disappear on page 200 just because you need her to be in danger. And finally you preen and polish your way to the third book, the book that has a theme, the book where relationships build the way they're supposed to, and everything feels resonant and real.

For me, it was when I crossed that boundary from second book to third book that I began being able to actually hold the whole thing in my head. Suddenly gone from my mental canvas were all the little half-formed subplots and alternate courses I'd rejected along the way. I could remember where this bit was, where that bit ended up. And when I made a change to one scene, I had an instant mental map to the four other places I'd need to touch to make it work.

After a lot of that touching, and fiddling, and fussing, I'm ready to say that the third book is done.

I sent out query letters last night, but not before spending a long time worrying about it. I had two voices in my head. One said, "The book is strong. You know the book is strong. The query letter is strong. You have had your group look at it two times (which was perhaps excessive). The synopsis is strong. The first five pages are strong. For God's sake, send it out and get it working for you."

And then the other voice would say, "It's mid-December. Everybody's busy this time of year. Agents have parties to go to, presents to shop for, relatives to avoid discussing uncomfortable topics with. In short, they have lives. For all you know, they're already checked out for the month. Do you really want your query to be one of the twelve hundred they come back to on January 2nd? Besides, if you wait and send it mid-January, you can spend another month worrying about whether the third sentence in paragraph 17 might have too many syllables."

In the end, that last argument was the one that did it. The fact that I simply didn't know what else I'd do to the book, besides fret over it, convinced me to send it out.

These days most people prefer e-queries, so that's what I sent. And I already got one response, albeit a "I got your query letter and will review it" response. Which began with the words "This is not a form rejection." Nearly stopped my heart. "Oh, my God, it's a non-form rejection!" I thought. "I hate those too!"

You Know You're a Geek When

You can proxy up an entire board game from stuff you've got lying around the house.