Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Writers beware

About two weeks ago I decided to query a literary agency that I found online. It asked for answers, plugged into an online form, to typical questions like what’s the book about, how long have you been writing, what have you published, etc. To me it looked like nothing out of the ordinary – except for one question I had never been asked before: would I be willing to publicize my book through a blog tour. Well, I jumped at that one because my blog had just hosted another author on her blog tour. I thought, great. Technology is finally influencing the publishing field.

Then, much to my surprise I got a positive response. In view of my answers to their little questionnaire they wanted to see my manuscript and answer three more questions. A couple of the questions were repeats of the previous. The one that was different was: was my book professionally edited, if so by whom, and if not, would I be willing to have an editor look at it. To that question I answered yes, my book had gone through an edit and a critique chapter by chapter by a writing coach who teaches at UCLA and Antioch, but that I wouldn’t mind having a fresh pair of eyes take a look at it. In fact, I’ve been thinking all along that my manuscript is still in draft form, and once I found an agent and publisher I expected that it would have to go through several more incarnations. With that I shipped off my manuscript in soft copy. This agency only works through email and soft copies.

Then this past weekend I got another email from them touting their authors and books that had just been showcased at a book expo in New York. I decided to take a look at the three websites they sent me. One opened. The other two warned me if I opened them my computer could be harmed. Another interesting thing that I found was that all of the books that had been showcased were published by their sister publishing company.

Was that a red flag or what?

I decided to do a little more googling. Mainly I looked for a website for the new name the agency was going by – different from the one I originally queried. And the first thing I found were disgruntled comments about this agency – that it would lure a writer in and then offer editing services and publishing services – not paid directly to them, but for which they would get a kickback. And, this is totally unethical in the literary agency and publishing business. Reputable folks only make a commission from the sales of books – usually 10 to 15 percent.

Well, sure enough this morning I got the word. They would love to represent me but my book needs a critique and an edit before they could move on – mentioning the importance of correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. They also included a bunch of editor’s web sites.

Now, I must tell you that I have worked as a professional writer and editor most of my life. I am known in my company for my editing expertise. So, for these guys to tell me that my book needs editing polish is totally bogus. And, I am not biting. Needless to say, I’m moving on. They gave me the option to say thanks, but no thanks, and that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately, I still feel embarrassed that I fell into this little trap – especially since I felt to begin with that this was an affirmation about the worth of my book after so many rejections and even my husband’s negativity that I would ever get it published.

However, before I end this I want to give all my writing buddies out there two websites: one that warns about literary fraud and other schemes, scams, and pitfalls that target writers and two: the writers beware thumbs down agency list:


The agency I’ve been dealing with, and their many names and companies, are on both these lists.

We all need to learn enough about the business of writing to know there are scam artists in this business just like any other. In fact, if you need to know about a particular agency, send an email to: Victoria Strauss at: beware@sfwa.org or go to the writers beware blog at: http://www.accrispin.blogspot.com/.

And, no matter what, keep writing.

PS. No, I’m not naming names here either. No way do I want to be sued by scam experts.

PSS. I think my next book has got to be about this whole crazy business of finding an agent and getting published.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Remembering Farrah

June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett died today. She was 62 – just seven years younger than me. She had suffered for several years from anal cancer and was very brave trying to fight it. Her death brought up old memories for me.

I met her in the early 70s. We both got manicures from Emma – I wonder whatever happened to Emma the manicure miracle lady. I had an every other week date with my friend Carole to meet at Emma’s to get manicures and visit, and Farrah would sit right next to us. Carole knew Farrah – I think they were neighbors up near Roscomare Road and Mulholland. Farrah was in Carole’s cooking class.

I remember Farrah as being friendly and sweet even though she was already a huge success. And, while we were getting our manicures, Jodi Foster’s mother was waiting for hers and chatting with us. Jodi, a little girl of about 10, was always there too.
In those days, I like so many other women had the Farrah Fawcett shag haircut. I remember coming into Beverly Hills from Riverside, where Bob and I lived when we were first married, to get my hair cut from Armando – another Carole recommendation. It was the best haircut I ever had. All I ever did to take care of it was wash it, put in one large roller up on top of my head, and then wrap my wet hair all around my head, clip it into place, and go to sleep. I can’t imagine going to sleep with a wet head anymore. But, it worked. Voila. In the mornings my shag looker perfect.

Oh, and the reason I call Emma the manicure miracle lady is that her manicure lasted for two weeks. In those days my nails were long and painted bright red. She would give a complete manicure both on top and underneath my nails. And, she would fortify the underside with Ducco cement before putting polish on. This woman really knew what she was doing.

So, today I think of that sweet Farrah I knew so many years ago – and those other things I haven’t thought about for a very long time.

And wouldn’t you know it, another one of our icons also died today – Michael Jackson. He was only 50. What a super star he was. That moon walk and sparkly glove were really something.

I just hope there won’t be a third – they say all things come in threes. Well, I’ll think good thoughts that there will be only two this time.

Goodbye Farrah and Michael. What a day this has been!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wedding poem

Our nephew married a beautiful young lady last Saturday afternoon - in the garden of the Denver City Park. They looked beautiful and so happy under a cloudy sky that didn't really open up until everyone was inside.

They asked me to write a poem to be read during the ceremony by Jeremy's sisters. Though they weren't sure they could read it without crying because of the references to their dad, my brother, who died last June 23, they pulled it off without a hitch.

I took the content of the poem from Jeremy and Kelly's love story that was posted on their engagement/wedding website.

A Romance with Three Signs

Kelly and Jeremy are a vision
in white, khaki and teal
in this garden overflowing with flowers
and green lawn.
They are surrounded by family and friends
and little children wearing
rainbow-colored ties and sashes.
But their journey was a little less than
the idyllic scene you see here today.

The handsome bald guy with the great smile,
and the fun-loving blonde-haired girl
with bright blue eyes
got to know each other over
drinks, dinners, emails,
and lots of time together just talking.
She found him very forward –
even up for karaoke on their first date.
Though she noticed he used some cheesy lines
he was serious about her.
He wanted to call her his one and only
almost from their start.
She wasn’t buying any of it.
She put off his ultimatum
until one day she showed up at his door
holding up the first sign:
“I want to be your girlfriend.”

And she opened her heart
to him. Over the next year and a half
they met each other's families,
hung out with friends,
dressed up in fun costumes,
took a trip to Mexico,
and became best friends.
By then she wanted a future with Jeremy.
But, he wasn't sure.

So, they broke up, until Ken,
Jeremy’s dad, was dying,
and Kelly became even closer
to Jeremy and his family.
They broke up again
after Ken’s death,
but not for long.
Two weeks later
Jeremy appeared at her gate
with the second sign:
“I want to be your partner.”

The best part is the day
Jeremy proposed.
It was last August 15, Ken’s birthday.
Jeremy wanted to create a happy memory
on a day that would otherwise be sad.
Kelly came in the door and there he was
on one knee with roses in one hand
and in the other, the ring and the third sign:
"Will you marry me?"

And, as all romantic stories end,
they live happily ever after.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What keeps us going

I haven’t written since Ben and Marissa became officially engaged last Sunday. This is indeed an exciting time and finally there’s a chance that Bob and I will someday be grandparents. Of course that’s not a given. They don’t plan to be married until sometime next year or even after, and she’s much more interested in being successful in her career than having babies. For some unknown reason, her clock doesn’t seem to be ticking. But still there is a chance. And if they want to be married and not have children, that’s okay too.

What’s so is that I’m very happy for them. They seem to love each other very much. And like Ben and I said the other day during one of our all too infrequent alone times together, there’s no point in going on like they are without being married.

Of course, there’s another way of looking at that. One of the trainers at my gym has been living with a man for over 35 years and they’ve never married. She jokes about it and forgetting to have children while she’s leading our Saturday morning spin class. But, I wonder if she really feels it’s funny. The reason I don’t think so is that she sometimes calls him her husband. Maybe to mask the fact that she isn't married.

So, this week has been a time of joy – I told my sister and sister-in-law that we’ll have something more to celebrate this weekend besides my nephew's wedding. And, it’s also a time for sadness. Bob’s brother just began chemotherapy for his newly diagnosed lung cancer. But thankfully he’s at the right medical facility now. He fired the doctor’s who botched up his original diagnosis. They almost took out part of his lung, and if hadn’t been for their own surgical mishap, he’d be recovering from open chest surgery today. Now he’s with the best – Sloan Kettering – and he has every confidence that he’ll be treated successfully. I like his attitude already.

And, tomorrow we’ll have the unveiling of my brother’s gravestone. I can’t believe he’s been gone a year already. I can still see him standing on his front walk as we said goodbye the last time I saw him alive. He was so skinny. He had a bandage over his head where his doc removed a skin cancer, he had deep dark circles under his eyes, and his thigh was bleeding – the site of a skin graft (if I recall correctly). The blood was oozing out through his jeans. In other words, he looked terrible. But, I was so glad we came to visit. It was only for two days and one night, but the memory of that short visit two weeks before he died will be with me the rest of my life.

Like my aunt and I said yesterday when I called to wish her a happy 93rd, life is about the good and the bad. That’s what keeps us going.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

People watching

Traveling provides a wonderful opportunity for people watching and wondering what their lives are like. I just got home from a weeklong business trip, and I must say I'm glad to be home. In fact, home never looked so good.

I usually find an opportunity to write poems when I'm traveling. (Though not this time.) Here's one I wrote during one of my last vacation trips while sitting in a bar in Bilbau, Spain. I did a lot of wondering about the man sitting in the corner. I could barely take my eyes off of him.

The Man in the Bar

He sits at the corner table
He doesn’t drink
He looks straight ahead
Or at his lap as he smokes

His hand goes
To his mouth
Away from his mouth

To his mouth
Away from his mouth

A puff and then away
Then back

A puff and then away
Then back.

He gets up, pulls his shoulder bag
Across his body
He looks down, mutters to himself
His eyes rimmed with dark circles
Looks down,
His hand clutches his pack of ciggies
As he walks
Out of the bar

He returns a few minutes later
He sits in the same chair
In the same corner
Clutching a cigar in his hand
He takes the cigar
Out of the cellophane wrapper
And he begins again

To his mouth
Away from his mouth

He smokes
Until the cigar is gone
He gets up again
He put his bag
Over his shoulder
Clutching his pack of ciggies
And he is gone

Friday, June 12, 2009

A big drumroll -- Here's Stephanie Riseley

I'm thrilled to welcome Stephanie and all of you WOW followers to my blog today. Here's what she has to say about writing to heal, getting a memoir published, and of course, it's all about "choices."

Writing to Heal

Choices. Yes, life is all a series of choices, all made one choice at a time. Some of them, however, get made without your conscious consent, don’t they?

If you go to my website, www.StephanieRiseley.com and click on the picture of my book “Love From Both Sides,” you can skim through the first four chapters. And that will give you a sense of what writing to heal is all about. You’ll understand that I had no choice – I had to write this book. Here’s the first page:


I had my hand on my husband’s heart when it stopped beating. To feel his big, strong heart come to a complete and utter stop under my hand was so shocking, I didn’t have time to even think or react. Because just as his heart stopped, I felt “him” whoosh through me like a wind, and then from behind I heard, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!” What? Had Dan become Martin Luther King? I turned to look behind me. Was he on the ceiling? No? Where then? What? Free? Free! Free of me? Of our life?

This is not what you want to hear after you’ve just spent six manic, exhausting months doing everything possible to save a man. I turned back to look at the face I loved. The man that I’d married just twelve years before – the love of my life – the man I’d waited for so long to come. That man. The man who asked me to marry him on the fourth date, the man who worshiped my body when he made love to me – the man who could make me scream. The man whose soul I thought I knew so well. The man I fought with, the man I hated sometimes, the man who hated me. The man whose smell I couldn’t get enough of? That man? And the asshole died? He died! How could that be? He’d leave me? I wanted to scream, “No! Don’t go! Come back!” But all I could do was whisper, “No, no, no. Please, no.”

Samuel, my straight-arrow, twenty-eight-year-old stepson, who stood stock still next to the bed there in the Intensive Care Unit at Kaiser, would say later that Dan, my husband, had whipped into him and said, “Sam! Sam! I know it looks like I’m dead, but it’s okay! It’s really okay. I mean, I’m dead, but it’s all right.”
That night as I roamed the rooms of our little duplex, just screaming in the unbelievable pain of loss (thank God, my neighbors are Russian – Russians understand wailing grief), I thought that this was the end of our particular “love story.’’ But I was wrong. Completely wrong – for it was really only a beginning. It was a reclaiming of our own authentic love, and a reconnecting to a love story that began a very long time ago.

It took me months to understand and to trust that what I experienced that night in the ICU wasn’t just shock, grief, and utter craziness. It is why I write this book. My experience with my husband after he died was very specific, but was as real to me as oxygen. Can you see oxygen? No. But you know it’s there because you continue to breathe and you continue to live. And, so it is, with your own “connection” to the source. You may not see it, acknowledge it, but you know it’s there just the same.
If you were drawn to pick up this book, then these words were meant for you to hear. You have a love – you have a husband, a wife, a lover – a sacred-sex-partner, and it is my job to share what I thought was the reality of our own love story and then to tell the “truth” of what was really going on. For what was going on with us might just help you to understand and appreciate more about your own sacred, sexual, eternal relationship. Unfortunately, don’t think for a moment that it means uneventful and blissful. When you meet the love of your life, you’ve got business together and Sacred Agreements that need to be fulfilled.

So, yes, “Love From Both Sides,” tells the story of my husband dying in my arms and coming back to chat (and having sex!) while doing it. Certainly “connecting” with my husband during the first year of mourning helped my own healing. Then writing about my experience brought closure – and more importantly, finally set me free and onto the next phase of my own life.

How do you juggle it all? Work full time and write? Go to bed early, then get up early and write. At least that worked for me. In my book, you actually see the process of writing… and feel the exhaustion of the channeling. At one point, because the house next door was being torn down, I was getting up at 4:30 a.m. so I could concentrate. But I got the book finished -- eventually. I edited it within an inch of its life. I had friends read it and re-read it. I checked it again and again. And then it was ready to be published – but no one wanted it.

Now, how did the book get published? This is the totally magical part. And I believe in magic – and magnetizing! Right now on my desk sits the newest “Writer’s Digest,” (July/August 2009) with a great article in it: Publishing 101. It tells you everything you need to know about publishing your book. Go get it and read it, and do it all. I did everything every book on “Getting Published” suggested, but still, no one wanted my book. I wrote to agents, I wrote queries galore, but no one wanted the book. Fine, I thought, and then I just forgot about it trying to get it published, but in my little goddess group, I always saw myself in New York, at my book publishing party. I visualized my book finding a home – sitting on the shelves at Barnes & Noble’s.

Then because I do Past Life Regressions professionally (I’m a hynotherapist), one day someone wrote to me asking me questions about past life regressions. I answered her questions, and she asked some more. I’d answer her questions and she’d write me more questions, until finally I said, “Look, I wrote a book that will give you a different perspective on this. Why don’t I send it to you?” So I did. And she wrote back, “This is a fabulous book! Who’s publishing it in England?” I thought, “She’s in England? Who knew?” But I said, “No one’s publishing it in the United States, let alone England.” And then she said, “Well, I know of a publishing house that I think would love it – Findhorn Press.” And she gave me the publisher’s name, and I sent it to him and he said, “Not only do we want to publish it, but we want to fast track it!” So instead of the year or two that it takes, my book hit the street in six months. The problem was that there was no “advance publicity,” no advance anything put in place. And it’s all good, because my book is out there – I think because the “gods” interceded. The information contained in “Love From Both Sides,” is incredibly healing because it affirms in a very down-to-earth way that consciousness goes on after the body dies, and that love never ever dies. You’re always connected to those you’ve lost – you just need to “tune in” to their trying to “connect.”

And that’s the work I do day-by-day now. I help people access the power of their subconscious mind so that they are able to connect with those they’ve lost and their Higher Selves. And mostly I help my clients get happy. Happiness is contagious – so go out and spread it around, okay? Hope this helped! Cheers!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

WOW Blog tour reminder

This is another reminder that author, Stephanie Riseley, author of Love from Both Sides, will stop by to chat about memoir writing and specifically, writing to heal (a subject very dear to my heart) and the road to finding representation and a publisher for your memoirs (you guessed it -- I'm intimately involved in this subject as well). This tour is sponsored by Women on Writing (WOW), a site that has writing contests, interviews, classes, critiques -- you name it -- everything to enhance a woman's writing experience. So, please check in. She’ll be here on June 12.

Oh, and Stephanie is a practicing hypnotist. She's a very interesting lady!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A couple things

I’m actually getting ready to go on a business trip. I’m going to McLean, VA – the location of our sister sector NGIS to take the proposal manager’s training. And, because my business American Express card had to be reinstated today, it’s clear that I haven’t been on a business trip for years.

This one is kind of exciting. First, I’m proud to have been asked to attend this class because it could open new work doors for me. And, since I’ll be in the area, I’ll be able to visit with family while I’m there. My sister-in-law just had back surgery, so hopefully she’ll be in the mood to receive guests. I’ll also get to see my niece and nephew and great niece and nephew. This visit will be an added bonus since I’ll see them the following weekend in Denver when we’re all there for my nephew’s wedding.

However, I must confess that I have a few misgivings about this trip. I haven’t travelled on my own like this for a long time – that is, getting a rental car and staying alone in a hotel room and finding my way from the hotel to the place where the class takes place and finding a place to work out. All this will take some getting used to. Sure, I know I’ll be okay, I just need to get back on the saddle again – so to speak. Just writing this all down makes me feel better already. Talk about writing to distress or heal. For me it does the trick.

I guess I need to comment on the Air France crash that happened early last Monday morning. What I cannot imagine is why the pilot decided to fly that route at all and why that question hasn’t been asked – at least I haven’t read or heard about it being asked. It reminds me of John Kennedy, Jr. taking off in bad weather and what happened to him as a result. The media says the pilot of the Air France plane was very experienced. If that were so, he should have known to avoid such a huge storm. Of course I could be way off base here. Maybe the storm came on so suddenly he had no chance to react. But, I think our meteorologists know a little about coming storms to have been able to predict that weather conditions along that route weren’t right for flying.

When I said all this to Bob yesterday he accused me of being very passionate about the subject. And, he’s right. I am. I had an uncle killed in a plane crash and my son has such a fear of flying that even talking about this crash creates anxiety in him. Besides Bob told me I am right to question the pilot’s decisions on this one. The pilot went into the eye of a storm 50 miles high as if he had a death wish.

Am I being unreasonably accusative? Let me know what you think.