Thursday, February 28, 2008

Grease Is The Word

One of my all time favorites! HBO ran the entire movie two nights ago, and since I hadn't watched this flick in such a long time, I decided to enjoy the entire nostalgic two hours. What I had never realized before, is this movie has some fantastic old one-liners ... "bite the big weenie" "eat your heart out" "sloppy seconds" "crusin' for a brusin'" ... on and on ... funny things we said in high school. (Well, they were funnier back then.) Still, I laughed harder this time, just taking it all in and processing it as if I'd never heard it before. "Bite the big one, Rizzo!" It still cracks me up.

Watching the movie this time was different for me. Although the story of Grease takes place in the 60s, it reminded me of the early 70s. And that, my friend, was one of the greatest times of our lives. Well, for us baby-boomers anyway.

Okay, okay ... the clothes of the 70s really, really sucked. I'll give you that. But the TV shows changed overnight. We went from the sweet, Leave It To Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet to the controversial Good Times and All in the Family with Archie Bunker's loose lips and narrow mind. The hippies of the 60s led the way for the 70s and its painful changes. Especially for my mother's generation. Ouch.

For me, the best part of the 70s was the music. Clapton, Zepplin, even the Beatles evolved. Carol King and Fleetwood Mac ... just hearing any of these artists today throws me way back into a time when I drove my dad's red Mustang with the top down and felt like the Southern Belle that I was. Then. But the music plays on my Ipod today. Who knew that a tiny Ipod would someday replace my 45s?

Boy, if I only knew then, what I know now, huh? But the early 70s saw a ton of social change. The Vietnam war was ending, there were "four dead in O-Hi-O", and Nixon-we realized-needed a spanking. Women burned their bras, took over political offices, and demanded equal pay for equal work. (Not sure that's ever going to change.) But still, it's seems to me that in the early 70s we suddenly woke up from a very long nap. The generation that was in elementary school in the 60s and watched the Civil Rights movement on TV, suddenly came of age and began to change (slowly) the way future generations lived and worked together. God knows, there are a ton of changes yet to make, but from where we started ... my point is ... the 70s was the decade of twisting folks' arms. Change was coming, whether we like it or not. I love the fact that I was a part of that movement.

Watching Grease was fun. It's meant to be light-hearted and nostalgic. But it also serves as a reminder that although we've grown and changed in 30-some years, there still a lot more we need to do. Beginning with ourselves.

Then again, you can just watch a younger, thinner John and Olivia dance, make out, and turn Rydell High upside down and not think twice about it after you've switched the channel.

Grease is the word, is the word, is the word, is the word ...

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

In Search Of The Perfect Literary Agent

It's worse than looking for the Holy Grail. Every agent does it different. Some want ONLY snail-mail queries. Some want ONLY e-mail queries, without attachments. If you send an attachment, be prepared. They'll delete you on the spot. And some ... only want your query submitted through their web site application. Some, don't care. Just send the damn thing.

Do you know how difficult it is to get a query, synopsis, and the first three chapters embedded into the body of an email to look nice? You work your butt off to get your query looking pristine and perfect, then your email program displays it all out of whack. So, you spend even more time fixing it on the email. You wonder what it really looks like when it arrives in the agent's Inbox. Do they realize your hard copy is perfectly formatted and isn't all wompy-jawed?

I like snail-mail, personally. You send your perfectly formatted work through the mail, along with a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE). Then they send back their accept/reject letter. (Or most of them do.) With email - you're lucky to hear anything. It's way too easy to hit delete and never have to bother with the writer at the other end, whose praying for some kind of response.

Some agents want only the first three pages of your work. Others demand the first 50 pages. Some want sample chapters. For the majority, it's query only! On pain of death you, if send anything else, you're "outta there!" Strike out!

Some agents want stroked. They want to know why you chose them, what books they've sold that you've read, and how you heard about their agency. Others, don't care how you heard about them, they want a well-written query letter, a SASE, and are clear that they are building their client list. But "don't call us, we'll call you," is pretty standard across the board.

A few agents I've researched look really stuffy. Like, "Hey look at me, I'm really something here in my New York City corner office. You'd be damn lucky to get me, baby, so don't bother writing unless you're the next Dan Brown." Some even state that unless you've been published with a major publisher, don't bother to send a query letter.

Then there are others, who go out of their way to visit you at writing conferences in remote parts of the country, like West By God Virginia and even in Vancouver. They dedicate hours to teaching writers what it takes to publish with a major house. Talking long into the night, the agents who attend writing conferences experience meaningful conversations with some writers, while offering tons of encouragement. The writers, in return, always take home with them a sense that they've made an "agent connection." That maybe they have a chance to make it.

Always looking for that diamond in the rough so they can polish it to a brilliant shine, caring agents (yes, they're out there) work with new writers and first-time authors. That's a man or woman of great character. You may be lucky to be their big fish in their small pond someday. And as long as you're not a pain in the ass, caring agents will hold your hand through the entire process so both of you win big in the end.

And then ... some don't. They don't have to. They've got lots of little fishies in their big lake.

A writer wants a great agent, just like an agent wants a fantastic, best-selling writer. It's definitely a two-way street. If you're a writer, hopefully, you'll find an agent that "fits." But let it said, it's by far, the worst part about writing a book. Finding a caring, qualified agent. You'd like to think that if you do your job, act professional, and meet every deadline, (on top of stellar writing) that you're a diamond.

But in the end, writers are looking for those diamond agents, as well. Sometimes we just have to dig through a mountain of coal to find them.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Unexpected Blessing

We all go through periods when we feel like giving up. It's happens when you've had a bad day, week, or month ... as the case may be. But this morning, I got a real shot in the arm. A special email, unexpected. From a lovely person I've met somewhere in my travels. God just seems to know when I need to be reminded that this journey I'm on is a special one. It's not just for me, but for others, as well. Sometimes when you least expect it, you get an email like the one I'm sharing with you below:

Hi, Pam,

I certainly had intended to write to you before this - life is full and overflowing with activities. I finished Southern Fried Women and want to share some of my reactions.

First, it was a wonderful ride! I remember that you told me some people were not in favor of your use of photos at the beginning of each story - they were obviously wrong. Sometimes I found myself studying the photos, even after I had begun reading the story - often going back and looking again - imagining how this story might truly have wrapped itself around the people and places in the photographs.

Secondly, your use of simile and metaphor is filled with imagery and life; painting with words what most people can only hold in their imaginations. "Cry" is so full of painful reality and "Coal Dust on my Feet" broke my heart. "Beach Babies" is probably my favorite - Bertie is a tragic character, but one that has so much to teach us.

Thank you for sharing your gift with the public. Sometimes as I read your words, I heard my own voice. We share many of the same beliefs, attitudes, joys, and heartaches in our observations of the world. Reading your book was like sitting down and spending an afternoon with you in conversation. Thank you.

Shalom, Debra

The pleasure was all mine, Debra. Thank you for your kind words.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Who Decides Cool?

Is there a hard and fast rule book somewhere that determines what's in style this year? What's cool, trendy, in vogue? Who decides what's hot and what's not?

Why, all of a sudden, are popcorn celings yucky? Why are flat ceilings out and vaulted or "tray" celings in? Who said decks are out and patios are in? Who makes this stuff up?

About the only TV I watch is either the Food Channel, the History Channel, or HGTV. I love home design, but I'm amazed at the designers and the home appraisers who say unless you have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, your kitchen sucks. Huh?

They all need to come live in the rural deep South a while. Some folks down here are lucky to get a new couch for their front porch every few years.

That being said, I'm bothered by who makes design rules. It's my opinion that you can have "nice" without paying a lot for it. Soap and water doesn't cost much, as my mom used to say. In other words, it doesn't take much to keep things clean. And if you know me, I'm a huge fan of yard sales and thrift stores. Paying full price for anything other than food is just about impossible for me to do. Maybe it was the way I was raised. How much things cost does not impress me. It's what you can do with a bargain that gets me excited.

I watched the top 10 Kitchens last night on HGTV. Beautiful, big, and all owned by the mega rich. Nobody I know has a 1,500 square foot kitchen. They all said things like, " ... oh, it's so functional and comfortable, and we spend all our time in here." Hmmm. I wonder. I suppose I'd have a nicer kitchen if I could afford it. But I want my kitchen to be a part of me. A reflection of my cooking, my style, and talent to stretch a buck.

I don't care a whip whether I walk on tile, wood, or vinyl as long as it's clean and pretty. My point is, why are we made to feel inferior if we can't afford stainless steel or marble tile? Who decides cool?

Function over fashion, and price over everything, I say. It's fun to see what the rich are wearing, the colors they're painting their bathrooms these days, and the latest household gadget on the market. God knows, we won't be cool if we don't buy it. But if you like yourself, I've learned, you'll not care what's cool.

I don't think there's any show on HGTV like that.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Sensible Valentines Day

My husband and I agreed to save the ten bucks and not get each other Valentines Day cards this year. Or candy. Lord knows, neither of us need it. Or any trivial gift that will end up in a drawer somewhere until our next garage sale.

Although Valentines Day may keep the economy running, it bites into many budgets. Especially since it falls not even two months after Christmas. Romance, love, and all the mushy things Valentines Day stands for should be incorporated into couples lives all year round. So no, I don't feel guilty about not getting my sweetheart a memento of my affection.

Michael is my Valentine every day of the year. Believe me, he knows it. I don't need Hallmark or American Greetings to help me tell him that, either.

If we have anything to celebrate this Valentines day, it's the pieces of life we are most thankful for. Not the material, but the sensible. Like the fact that I'm ever closer to seeing my manuscript in print! Yes! It's true ... my life is "falling into place." (Thanks for that line, Jackie.)
And we celebrate Michael's new job today, and that our cars are now working, and our children have productive lives, and I've been asked to be keynote speaker for the Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia Romance Writers Conference in April!

Whew. Sounds like I'm combining Thanksgiving with Cupid. But maybe more of us should. And then again ... next year on Valentines Day ... I just might ask for that diamond necklace I've been wanting forever.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

When It Rains ...

So, my husband started a new job yesterday. And yesterday at noon he calls to say when he got in our car to go to lunch, the car's engine light was blinking. Needless to say, he left early his first day on the job, to limp back home and to our mechanic around the corner.

Okay, no problem. We have another car. A second, older car in the garage. One that I drive on occasion. So this morning, I take him to work and we're riding up I 85 when the second car overheats. Once again, we limp back home, he drops me off at the house, and off he goes to the mechanic. This time to sit and wait, because we have no more cars to break.

Never give up. Never back down. Never lose faith.

Sometimes I wonder.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ceaseless Encouragement

Rolling with the punches. Give me a break. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.

All common cliches for moments when we feel as though we've been punched in the gut. One of my favorite people is Jackie Stanley. My Chief Encouragement Officer. You need to read her blog. Every day. An amazing woman, she inspires, motivates, and lifts you up with just a few words. She's gifted. Someday, if they haven't already, her children will call her blessed among women. And the reason I say that is not to patronize this woman, but to give honor where honor is due. Here's why:

I was hit this week with a huge disappointment. Someone I had great high hopes in ... fell short of the mark. Someone who asked me to trust, was not trustworthy. Someone who appeared to be really something special ... wasn't. I should've trusted my gut in the end. You know those feelings you get in the pit of your stomach when you try to get someone on the phone and they never all back? Or they do call back, only days later and act like it's no big deal? Or they show up late for a meeting? Really late. Or they send you emails that they're going to call you at a specified day and time, then don't? Or when they say they'll do something for you, and then you find out they can't? They can't because they really can't. They have plenty of wonderful reasons and excuses and their defense is rock solid. But they're lacking in integrity.

I should've known.

But I wanted to believe. I really wanted to believe. I was convinced I'd made the right decision. After all these years, you'd think I recognize the signs. Pay attention to my gut. I can moan and groan and allow all those negative feelings to wash over me, make me cry, and make everybody around me miserable ... or I can say, I never get a break, and withdraw from the world. And though, in some small way I feel justified in those feelings after all these years of struggling, I have to somehow find my faith. Once again.

Part of that is reading Miss Jackie's blog every day. Yesterday, it put me back on top. Maybe just in my mind, but I'm back doing what needs to be done ... I've got work to do. This is just a set-back. Another moment of paying my dues. Life goes on.

This morning, I'm back to work. And it feels good.

Thanks to my husband's ceaseless encouragement, the kind words and encouragement of my colleagues, and Jackie's ongoing words that lift me up.

To quote my friend from her blog: "I must confess that whenever my life seems like a series of unfortunate events, it is usually because I have lost sight of the profoundly simple fact that 'there is always something you can do to improve the situation.' And whenever I begin doing what needs to be done, my life takes a miraculous turn for the better."

Right back at 'cha, Jack.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Queen's Council

This past Saturday I was the Keynote Speaker for the Red Hat Queen's Council Luncheon at the Yadkin Valley Senior Center in Jonesville, NC! These ladies are so much fun! Wild and wooly! Five counties of Red Hatters! Enjoy the pictures.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Hopeless Romantic

My husband took me to a restored farmhouse for our anniversary. In the middle of nowhere. Nestled in the mountains, not a sound, not a car, nothing but the beauty of the countryside and quiet. Heaven. For four whole days. Pure heaven. No TV, except we did watch a few movies in the evening with popcorn, and all kinds of junk food for fun. I cooked. We read, talked, hiked, I worked on my book ... some. Talked some more. Heaven.

But then, we're both hopeless romantics. Cards, candy, flowers ... Hallmark Valentine's Day stuff, anybody can do that. I want to live a romantic lifestyle. And it doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, it's not.

A clean house, beautiful linens, my favorite books, simple things that bring me joy. To me, romance is an important part of my life. A well designed home inspires me. All my favorite things that I've collected over the years, they soothe me. Ah, some day.

Vintage pictures, jewlery, linens, furniture, worn and wonderful. All vestiges of a more genteel time. A day when a woman would apply lipstick with style and grace or when a cocktail hour required a gown or black tie.

I love antiques. They connect you to people and places with a tawdry past. It's why I'm a collector, a lover of history. I imagine those who wiped the same serving dish, wore my antique necklace, gazed at the same painting. Who were they, where did this picture hang? Did they wear my necklace to a party? Did they use this dish just on Sunday?

My parents were the ultimate role models in my romance with antiques. They know each and every piece of furniture in their home as if it were an old friend. They can tell you where they purchased it, how much they paid for it, how they restored it, and in that order.

Living a romantic lifestyle for me is creating something special out of an old picture frame, finding that rare piece of pottery at a garage sale for fifty cents, seeing a masterpiece in one of my husband's photographs.

I like to celebrate. Get-togethers with family, parties with friends, an evening with wine and a few couples. Laughing is romantic. Feeding those you love is intimate to me. I'm a detail kind of girl, something I've been since childhood. I don't have to have it all, in fact, I don't. But I appreciate the little things, and I pay attention to what makes the people I love happy.

To be a romantic, one takes pride in their surroudings, they notice the unusual, a functional find, the beauty of a glass door knob, the line of a table, the feel of a quilt, the way light reflects through a piece of pink depression glass. I prefer the unique. I typically steer clear of department stores. I like the out-of-the-way stores in the little towns nobody cares about. They feel comfortable to me. You can sometimes get the history of a piece of furniture, or a basket, or even a doll, by striking up a conversation with the store owner.

I love fresh pink roses and keep them long after they're dried out. I collect and see things that comfort me, no matter the color, dent or scratch. I don't worry about where I'll put it. The romantic in me knows I will find the perfect spot in my someday house.

This year, for Valentine's Day, take your sweetie someplace unique. Like a winery. Or a restaurant you've never been to. Buy her a vintage ring from an antique store. Frame a picture of his father or grandfather and set it on his desk with a homemade card attached. Do something different. Set the table with an antique tablecloth or a lacy curtan panel, a candle, and have pizza and beer. Just do something different. Out of the ordinary.

Hallmark, Russell Stover's, and FTD Florists make enough money. Be romantic. Think of something different to make your Valentine Day sparkle.

Blessings to you and yours.