25 January 2010


There are lots of nano-gnomes in my keyboard. They are always dodging this way and that, tumbling upside down, getting mashed by quickly depressed keys, but still they manage to change much of what I type. It is a never-ending story...that of trying to quash the pesky rascals. They must not have been hungry or they would have left supper where it belonged instead of making it super.

They do those things just to hear my explicative and expletive command of language -- where else do you think gnomes learn their troublesome magic spells. They only times I have ever found them helpful is thusly:
  1. They have an uncanny knack of infecting keyboards of typists and writers. This makes a great means of sabotage or revenge. It is very simple, just hold down the Cntr-Alt keys and every so softly whisper the URL of your target. In a blur you'll see a blue streak whirl through the keys and blast into the internet dragging bits and pieces of verbal flotsam and keyboard jetsum. Vouched, warranted, guaranteed. You'betcha'
  2. Or, if you are studying the history and magic of gnomes you will find that they make less havoc in your results. It doesn't seem to matter much to them which variety of gnome you are writing about being that they are a very close-knit species. However, there is a miniscule improvement if you are specifically reporting on nano-gnomes.
In the softest tones you can whisper in, if you speak of dropping snack cake crumbs, or tiny bits of fresh chocolate chip cookies, fibers from your clothes such as threads and lint, flakes of dead skin, hair, and nail clippings, they will calm down in anticipation of these edible or usable rewards. Mostly though, they can't hear the human voice as it is like the roar of a storm gale. This leaves us severely handicapped in our struggle for normalcy on the keyboard.

In closing, I should remind you to frequently clean your keyboard with a high-powered vacuum cleaner running at full power. There is no need to toss the debris into the nearest blender set on puree for they will immediately escape once you turn off the vacuum. No, your only defense is to leave the vacuum running, attached to a very long extension cord, and toss it into the ocean. Not the river, the lake, or the nearest pond. It has to be an ocean because only passing seahorses are attracted to nano-gnomes escaping from a drowning vacuum cleaner.

Remember to buy stock in your favorite vacuum cleaner manufacturer and carry insurance on runaway drowning vacuums. It will save you a lot of headaches. And never mention within a mile of a keyboard how you disposed of your vacuum cleaner.

20 January 2010

Query: Likes me, likes me not...

Like me, like me not, likes me, likes me not...

Ever play that game while pulling petals off of a flower? Sometimes that is what if feels like when sending query letters to literary agents. We have to keep up hope with every sent query. Yet, we know all of them are going to be ignored or returned with a "likes me not" note. There is no roller-coaster to equal the up and down emotional ride we subject ourselves too. Yet, we know that we have to continue sending, sending, and sending, because somewhere there is an agent who will read it and exclaim, "likes me!"

The literary agents we seek have requirements we must meet or they won't bother with our submission. So we struggle to meet them, one by one, group by group. As a writer we should be spending our time writing a new story or polishing our words to make the book better. Instead we are seeking representation and seeking, seeking, seeking.

I do not exoricate all agents. Oh no, not at all. For there are great agents in the folds. There are bad agents mixed in, and there are a lot of average agents. The same holds true for all social strata, all professions, all people. We desperately want to slalom our way, carving into the path of the best agent for our book. Still, although we jump the yawning gaps, hurl through hoops, and hone our words, there are inevitable road blocks we can not help but to slam against.

Let me tell you about one blocking wall I ran into today. I was given the name and email address of a potential literary agent dealing exclusively in the genre I write. I could not find an address nor a webpage so I emailed a note asking permission to send a query. As I only had the email address I wanted to find out where to send a query letter.

Ms. Agent responded with a short email that said I could send my query to her at this email address. She requested I put "Query" into the subject line. She also indicated that a webpage was being constructed.

Perfect! I had permission to send a query. And, so I did. Before clicking on the send button I reread my effort. I reread the submittal again. I reread both the query letter and the submittal text again, and again. Then I reread it one more time.

Perfect! It seemed to be perfect. It just had to be perfect. So with the click of a mouse I was again soaring skyward with projected hopes of an agent awaiting my query. With anticipation I had become so used to I tossed and turned with fractured dreams during the night. When morning came I had finally calmed down knowing that I would probably be waiting for weeks and weeks. Knowing that in those weeks and weeks I could expect another rejection or no answer at all. 

Expectations quelled, I powered up the laptop and steeled myself to confront the day's agenda. BLINK! blink, blink, blink. The email notifier was blinking at me. I looked and there in the special folder was a response from Ms. Agent. 

Ever have an instant adrenaline surge? Excitement crash over you? Ever feel propelled by a success you had schooled yourself to never hope for? There it was. Blood pressure soared, muscles quivered, fingers itched to type and tears glistened. Such a fast reply could only mean one thing...

NOT! It didn't mean anything good at all. Instead it was an email from Ms. Agent that said, "Thank you for this opportunity.  Unfortunately, I am presently swamped with submissions and can't offer to read even one more.  I am sorry and wish you success in finding an agent with more time to devote to your interests."

Wow... ever have an instant adrenaline surge? Waves of anger swirling over you? Ever feel denied after doing all the right steps? Ever want to curse and swear...?

I did, did, and did. Tell me please, what was the purpose of asking permission to send a query. Right! To make sure I was jumping in the correct hoop. What was the meaning of the response telling me I could send the query to that email address? Correct! To let me know that I could send a query to that email address.

Then why would a return to the actual submittal be a simple "I'm to busy to read your query?" What was the purpose of saying the query could be sent? Why not respond the first time with, "I'm sorry I am to busy to accept new queries at this time?" Or, as is more prevalent these days... why bother to respond at all?

Some literary agents do use autoresponders for queries. It lets the submitting author know the email did arrive and was not lost in spam. Most times those responses inform the author of the expected delay the agent has on being able to read the query. Some even give further directions. Most no longer bother to send a rejection notice although it should be easy enough to drag the query to a folder and have an assistant later send a canned rejection. In fact, they could use an autoresponder on the query address that lets the author know email arrived. It could state, "If I find I/agency is not the match for your work I will send a blank reply to your email so you can continue to direct your efforts appropriately." If you haven't received a reply within 4-6 weeks please feel free to contact ...." Nice, eh? Let us know you got our work, let us know you aren't going to represent it, and keep the ball rolling. 

This is all understandable due to the tremendous amount of queries they receive. But, if you are too swamped to read a query why bother telling the submitter to send it in the first place. I consider such a breech of etiquette. It is with some dismay that I realize that I am not in a position to do something about it. 

To the back burner it goes. It will not be deleted but will sit there and simmer. Perhaps...perhaps it will goad me on to make better query letters to submit to other agents. Perhaps it really was a canned response that Ms. Agent uses instead of a rejection of the material. I'd expect more truth in a rejection but some people can't handle expressing the truth. Perhaps it was an automatic responder Ms. Agent uses to allow herself time to actually peruse the text later and then when finding one she likes she comes back and says it was a mistaken auto response. Again, an unfair process.

For this author it is just one more stone wall thrown up to prevent success. Stone walls can be climbed. Stone walls can be gone around. Stone walls can be gone under. And a stone wall built on a weak foundation can be toppled. 

11 January 2010

(Book) -- Big Sister's Crocagator Letter

(Sneak preview...seeking publisher...excerpt...send links to friends...by Daniel J Hay.)

Dear friends,

Daddy took us fishing. It was not far to go. Down the big wide road we went, brother, sister, and me. We bounced upon our seats and tried to guess where we would turn.

The road curved south. The sign pointed to the left. Daddy went the other way and somehow got it right. There it was, the river and fishing ponds. Here a camp grew where the river made a bend. It flowed one way and then bent the other way. Daddy said the big bend was like our elbows. We should just hope it doesn't bend right back on us. If it did we would have to bend down to walk straight.

We looked at each others, brother and sisters. We giggled with hands over our mouths. If daddy heard us he'd tell another silly story. And then soon we would be laughing so hard our tummies would hurt.

Then mommy would look at daddy in that special way and say, "Daddy!" And we could all take a breath and stop laughing. Whew! I am glad. Laughing too much is silly.

We got to our camping spot. We got out of the car. Mommy and daddy said we could play on the merry-go-round next to our camping spot. Wheeee! 'Round and 'round we went. Ohh... dizzy we got.

When all of our camping gear was set-up we headed to the fishing ponds. On the way we stopped on a long wooden dock. It went way out into the lake. We watched crocagators swimming. There were fifty, or one hundred, or maybe one thousand. Long tails swished the water. Big eyes watched us. Gigantic mouths with a billion long teeth snapped together.

Both mommy and daddy said the same thing, "Stay away from them!" Wow. That's a rule when both say the same thing. And I asked why the sign said, "DO NOT FEED CROCAGATORS, if all those other people were feeding them"

Daddy said that many people ignore signs even when it is for their own safety. He pointed to the dock and said, "See those people? They are standing just six feet above the water. That is about from my head to my toes. They think they are safe. But they aren't. And they are teasing the crocagators with food."

He told us that the crocagators were six feet long. Some were ten feet long. Others were even longer. Somebody could reach out to drop food and any of those crocagators could jump up and SNAP! no hand, or no arm. Or worse, no little child.

Then we walked on to the fishing area. We got to carry our own fishing poles. Little sister even carried a small fish net but she wanted to catch butterflies. She called them flutterbies because daddy told her that is what they are named. Brother used to call them that. I used to call them that too. Daddy grinned at us, so we didn't say anything.

Mommy had a picnic basket. Daddy had an ice chest and the fishing gear box. We were all ready. I like catching fish. I always catch more ..... (the rest is hidden in the book...)

03 January 2010

Watching Fish And Patient Turtle...

When I first moved from Nebraska to New Jersey I felt somewhat out of place. We had moved from a town of 25,000 to a church camp and conference center with a neighboring town of 167 people and twelve thousand cows. I might be slightly off on the count of the cows since I didn't meet all of them, but Johnsonburg dairies sent seven or eight semi-trailers of milk to NYC every day. I am positive that it took more udders than it did people.

The camp was over 400 acres in size and I spent a great deal of time wandering the woods, investigating the swamps, the creeks, the springs, and the lake. I learned a great deal of nature and introduced myself to wild food harvesting. Once a year I would visit a spring-fed creek and collect a few mussels that the raccoons had not gathered. I cooked them in a broth I made from watercress and one small stewed fish. Ummmm... delicious.

I found I didn't enjoy catching and eating fish as much as I enjoyed watching them. I thought of myself as a budding musician then. I'm still budding all these years later and no longer have my handmade 12-string guitar because I gave it to my son-in-law. But my first summer at the camp I had a wonderful Yamaha acoustic and then later I had my Maton 12-string.

I learned to modulate sounds and how sound waves traveled through the air, wood, and water. The camp had floating swimming cribs and floating docks. Many evenings I would sit on the docks and play my guitar and sing, and watch the fish. The sunfish would gather around me first and fan out like steel filings attracted to a magnet. Behind them the bass would form and sometimes a few bullhead would gather below the sunfish. A large snapping turtle would cling to the outer edges of the floating swimming cribs and not move.

They weren't just immersed in the water, they were engrossed in the sounds. The fish in our lake preferred the minor keys and modes. If my chord patterns stayed in the major group too long the bass would slowly back away and vanish. The turtle would start looking around and the sunfish just disappeared. I learned to toy with my finned audience and could make them move as if choreographed ballet. At times I felt as if playing for the fish healed my soul from the hurts of adolescence.

Being a child of the camp director made "belonging" difficult. I belonged there but all the visitors were off-limits. It was difficult to stay aloof from the people there but I had a few friends and I had the fish. I am sure that none of the fish remembered my discussions with them, but perhaps that snapping turtle would remember. The turtle was still there, or seemed to be the same one, when I revisted the camp fifteen years later.

My father released the caretaker and their family moved away. I was heart-broken and shared my anger and disappointment with my congregation of gathered fish. I told them and the turtle of my sadness for the caretaker's daughter had captured my heart. She smiled and my world was lighted. She touched me and my soul melted. She taught me the majestic beauty of a horse and how to ride. And it was the turtle clinging to the wooden slats of the swimming cribs that heard it all. I entertained the fish with my music and their slow dance cured my riven heart.

I wonder if that turtle remembers the beautiful blond I fell in love with in a later summer and then surprisingly met again when I switched schools. My best friend David and I got to play ping-pong with her and her friend. She never new how much I wanted to talk to her more, but the turtle did. In the new school she knew me but just didn't know what I had felt for her.

Did the fish remember my anguish at breaking up with a high school sweetheart one year, then actually having her arrive at the camp with her parents and sister? Probably not, but the turtle would recall how excited I was then and the love songs I wrote for her even though she preferred Peter Frampton. And my circle of fish, with fins waving as they slowly drew in closer to my guitar and lamenting voice, drew closer still when tears coursed my cheeks when again my Martianette severed our ties. No longer to be her Preppie, but the turtle patiently listened to my pain.

One night under the stars a new throb in my heart sat with me and talked for hours into the early dawn. Under the shining stars and glorious moon she shared my heart with the ballet of fish and my good friend the snapping turtle. We sang together and they danced. We held hands while we talked and the fish drew in close as if they too wanted to be so close as we. But age and time drew us apart as well and the fish gathered near to sooth my soul once again. The turtle floated in the water and watched me and listened patiently.

And so I've learned patience of my own. I have no fins to steer my course. I have no shell to protect me. But I've known drawn hearts, twinned souls, and merged minds. My fish are gone and my turtle too, but those beautiful girls grew up to be beautiful women and fill me with wonder every time I see them in the distance or hear of their dances through life. The didn't know the inner me, but my fish did. They may not remember our fleeting pasts, but my turtle did and may still. And I remember.

So it is to fish and turtles, and all nature, that I turn for soul soothing. And it is with great interest that I learn about more wildlife, and I am always reminded of past love when I see nature at work. The mermaids of my youth weren't fictional. They were and are unique persons and I still sing to watching fish and talk to patient turtles.

01 January 2010

Happy New Decade...

Here we are in the year 2010, a few steps closer to 2525, and everybody has been wishing friends a Happy New Year. Yet, something is missing.

It is somewhat like Rabbit Rabbit Day. Some of my friends may remember Rabbit Rabbit Day, and at least one most certainly should remember it. The day came around on the first of every month when a smiling young lady would walk around campus and wish everybody a Happy Rabbit Rabbit Day.

Well, the new year is similar, it just comes around on the first day of each new year. But how would you feel if you were the decade and nobody remembered to pass on wishes for your new time? Miserable! Of course, so while we are all thinking of having happy new years, we should remember that this is the start of a new decade and decades have feelings just like years. If we take the time to wish our friends a happy new decade then we are empowering each of the new years within the decade.

Once empowered with the umbrella decade having a good span of time, then the shorter, although more prolific, year span has a stronger base to work from. A Happy Decade would therefore most certainly mean a Happy New Year as well.

I think it deserves consideration, and, in fact, should have its own holiday parties. The Happy Decade should be adorned with falling tinsel balls, big spot lights, and lots of foolish people shouting and drinking just like for its smaller sibling.

So, to get that ball rolling I will take it upon myself to wish you all a Happy New Decade, and of course a smaller Happy New Year.