Saturday, December 12, 2009

Into the breach

I finally got the new computer and I'm still figuring it out. It's not just Windows that's screwing me up, but the whole setup. The keyboard is offset to the left and there's a keypad on the right just like on a desktop keyboard. It's going to take some getting used to and I'm not sure how long it's going to take. I didn't have this many problems getting used to an ergonomic keyboard or any other keyboard, but this one, while very fast, has a very weird feel to it, and I don't like the touchpad. It feels like a textured scratch-off on an instant lottery ticket. And let's not talk about how weird the whole system is since the pointer hangs up. I do so hope the installations will calm things down and everything will be over and done with. I'm almost ready to go back to my old computer and keep using it in safe mode. At least I got the important files off the old computer on my flash drive. I still have to move some important files, but I saved my writing and that's what is most important.

Other than that, this has been a quiet weekend, if I don't count breaking down boxes and taking out a lot of trash. I still have to catch up the laundry, stalled since the water was out, and the dishes, both of which I put off to finish the rest of the week. I'm getting closer and closer to getting the furniture moved around and the books put away, but I still have to sort out all the magazines, divide them into recycling, those I'm sending to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and those I'm keeping. I still have to buy the organizers to keep them in and that's on my to-do list. That will clear up a lot of space. Some of the books will go to friends and family that I think will appreciate them, but most of the books with go to either the library or in boxes to save because they're ARCs. I'll get organized before the first of the year one way or another.

Next week, I'll finish sending out my gifts, pay the bills, go grocery shopping and buy a tree to put up in the cleared out area in the living room. There will be cookies to bake, gingerbread, fruitcake and egg nog to make, the tree to decorate and another week of work to get through before the holiday, just like any other week, except with ornaments and lights.

There really isn't much to say. I anxiously awaited the new computer, but I realize now it will take time to figure it all out. The 17" screen is unbelievably big and wide and the keyboard will take getting used to, but otherwise, the keys all work with the lightest touch and I've almost downloaded all my favorite programs, like Firefox and Thunderbird and I'm ready to watch some good shows for a change. I might even put in some writing time. Anything is possible. About the only thing I miss right now is having a fireplace and a big steaming cup of hot chocolate to drink while the tree lights blink, bubble and shine like multi-colored stars while carols are playing. I need a piano.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Silly rejections

I just read the form submission I got on my story, Theft of the Seventh Chakra, and the editor took the time to print a note: "Don't skip extra lines between paragraphs." I'm pleased he took the time from his busy schedule to jot down that note -- and sign it -- but he's wrong. There are times when you skip an extra line between paragraphs, but he obviously missed it.

When you are changing points of view, narrators, chapters in a long short story, and denote a time or scene change, you use an extra line between paragraphs. Since the only extra line in my story is between the body of the story and the ending when the main character is dead and the point of view is no longer first person singular, that tells me he at least read the whole story. To pick out that one "mistake" and make a note of it makes me wonder if he was looking for an excuse to reject the story. That's the thing about rejections, as I've told many beginning writers anguishing over rejections, they are completely subjective and sometimes silly.

Editors are just people and they are subject to the same stresses, prejudices and moods as the rest of humanity, although there are some people who would argue that editors are people or even human. Some editors look for a reason to reject a story, like one editor who boasted she had read over 500 stories during the year and found only two worth publishing. She threw out stories when a word was misspelled or a sentence incorrectly published and rejected several stories because the grammar was incorrect. Her rejections had nothing to do with the stories and everything to do with feeling the need to reject everything that came across her desk. It happens. Editors can be very petty and mean. Not all editors are petty and mean every day; sometimes they're just having a bad day. As one friend said this morning when we discussed rejections, an editor can wake up in the morning and decide the minute they put their feet on the floor that they're going to reject everything that comes from a female writer. I'll just add that sometimes an editor will reject everything by writers whose names begin with a specific letter of the alphabet.

"Today I'll reject every writer whose name begins with C." The editor smiles and goes about his work.

Being an editor is hard work, especially when wading through a mountainous slush pile with stories that are unbelievably bad. It's like standing in a perfume shop assaulted by a thousand different smells and having to pick one scent out of the sensory avalanche of smells. Sometimes an editor misses the good ones because there have been so many bad ones that the eyes are swimming and slightly unfocused and the feeling of hope is a far distant dream.

The whole point of this informational rant is that rejection isn't personal 99.9% of the time and it is subjective 99.9% of the time. The only remedy for rejection is to send the story to another magazine or publisher or editor and keep sending it out until you sell it. Keep the work in play, especially if the comments are generic or are silly, like not skipping an extra line between a change of time, point of view, scene, character or chapter.

Maybe if I had used three asterisks between the story and the ending, the editor would have figured out the point of view change and understood the extra line -- or not. My story is going out in the mail this afternoon. I don't take silly comments seriously. Neither should you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Water, water nowhere -- until now

You have no idea how wonderful the sound of running water is after it's been off for two days or how marvelous water tastes after two days of melted snow and no water. I also found out that I am a lightweight when it comes to drinking wine. A half glass of wine last night had my tipsy and high so I made popovers (melted snow and powdered milk for the liquid) to ease the effects.

But that water was a sound from heaven and ambrosia to drink. Four glasses so far, 12 ounces each. I did have to apologize to Beanie because I was talking to her on the phone when I squealed at the return of the water. I had all the faucets turned on.

All the things I missed the past two days: water, going #2 (very little water in the toilet and yes my eyes are now brown), taking a shower, washing my hair, the dishes and my clothes, drinking water, sipping water, guzzling water and water on my face, in my mouth, over my tongue and all over my body. Water. Melted snow is not nearly as good.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Interview with Toni Quest

In case you didn't get a chance to hear my interview last night, 12/07/09, here's a second chance.

Go to and down on the right side at the top of the list on Toni's audio links, click on J.M. Cornwell. That would be me.

That is all disperse.

A paler shade of blue

Blue, blue, my world is blue
Blue is my world now I'm without you
Gray, gray, my life is gray
Cold is my heart since you went away

Red, red, my eyes are red
Crying for you alone in my bed
Green, green, my jealous heart
I doubted you and now we're apart

When we met how the bright sun shone
Then love died, now the rainbow is gone

Black, black, the nights I've known
Longing for you so lost and alone

No, I'm not suicidal and I'm not feeling lonely or alone.

When I looked out the window this morning at that hour when the sun and earth are flirting with each other and the moon stares down nearly round-eyed, everything was blue. All the snow is part of the reason. At that hour and those moments with the sun and earth doing their daily winter dance, the light is blue and everything is blue. Even the sky in light, weak as an old man's labored breath, is powdery and blue and snow on rooftops, fence posts and ground brilliant and ethereal, ghostly and pale against the halftone colors of the rest of the world. It's a blue world and only here in this room where the white hot light of a coiled bulb emits no heat are the colors brighter and more real, solid and tangible. But it is that outside world in the snowy hush that draws me and wakes the lyrics of old songs from my younger self echo in my mind.

"Blue, blue, my love is blue," were the words that ached with love and loss and meaning. I don't feel that way now. I have put first loves and crushes behind me for a brighter day, a blue-white day that fills me with waking dreams and possibilities.

Last night, as I waited for the host of the radio show to sign on for our interview, I spoke with the station manager, Lillian Caldwell (great name, btw), and she offered me my own radio show. And I'm thinking about it. I need to figure out a theme and a format, but the show would kill two birds with one stone. I'd have an author site and a marketing platform that could make a difference in my professional life, but also the lives of other midlist or not yet midlist writers that would boost sales and maybe raise the consciousness of reading people everywhere (the show streams all over the world) about writers from all genres and walks of life. Imagine listening to a writer from Sri Lanka or the Ukraine read their work live.

There's still a lot to ponder, research and do, but I'm leaning in that direction.

Now all I need to do is figure out a format, a title for the show and start lining up guests.

I'm feeling a paler shade of blue.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Slow as molasses in winter

On the rusted T-bars of the old clothesline in the back yard outside my bedroom window, snow piles up and up: four inches now and soon five and six and even more from the looks of the snow coming down like a heavenly shaker with an endless supply of salt raining down, caught in the gravitational pull of winter. The sky is a dirty white and a mist of dirtier white streams from the chimney of the yellow brick building farther down the alley. A fuzzy tracery of winter bared trees appears and disappears through the fog of lowering clouds and chimney smoke. The more familiar solid shapes of telephone and utility poles are losing substance and depth. And the snow keeps falling.

My laptop is running like pudding through a fine-meshed sieve because I picked up a virus yesterday when I downloaded a program from Gamevance yesterday. Gamevance is a computer gaming site with malware and adware and spybots that latch onto the back door to deposit leeches sucking the RAM and energy from my usually fast running computer. I spent most of a snowy yesterday from mid morning to 7 p.m. clearing off the splattered cybergoop and my computer still isn't back to normal. I need to find my flash drive so I can save important files, like articles and books in progress, and do a complete install, but I hope I won't have to go that far and I can get the rest of the goop to vacate the premises whether they want to or not. This is my computer and I won't tolerate intruders.

All my carefulness about what I do and don't download and now I have been done in by a need for the mental stimulation of games. One more thing to zap off my list of things to do. Or I could buy a new computer, transfer all my data, and then clean this one off. If only I could afford that. And it's Monday.