Monthly Archives: March 2009

Living in a World of Rejection

Everyone gets some form or rejection at some point in their lives. If you’re fairly well balanced, you can take it in stride, maybe momentarily sad/disappointed/angry but you move on.

However, to reject seems a much harder action for some people to commit. Take the thinner side of relationships–that is, dating. How many times has it happened that someone says, “I’ll call you,” when they have no intention of ever calling? Or the slow disappearance of the person you’re dating, who can’t manage to say, “I’m no longer interested,” but instead becomes distant, talking less, laughing less, making love less or with less passion?

Really, who is being fooled in such relationships? Not the one being dumped slowly, unless they’re in complete denial. And if you haven’t learned by now, a slow dumping is much more wounding and demoralizing than a sudden one. Though that shouldn’t legitimize never calling again but still having the guts to say, “Look, this just isn’t working out,” or “I’m really more into my book than you,” or whatever. It comes down to communication.

However, I believe there’s often ego tied up in this that people don’t realize. “Oh, I couldn’t tell him/her I don’t want to see them anymore. It would crush him/her.” Yeah, I’ve been reduced to ashes every time some guy never called. Give me a break. Ego ego ego. Not needed. People survive, they move on. They continue to live their lives. Someone I’ve dated is not all-important in my life. (A longer live-in relationship could be a different story however; more time is invested.) If you’ve only had a few dates with someone, be decent and say it’s not working. Don’t be a worm wriggling away without the guts to say anything.

Which gets to the real point of this. Writing. I’ve been rejected so many times I cannot count. I used to say I could paper a house with rejections and a bathroom with acceptances. I think I could now paper a good-sized bedroom with acceptances. But the point is, a writer lives with rejection all the time. And it’s not just because personalities don’t mesh (well, maybe sometimes it is), but it’s more personal; it’s one’s writing that gets rejected.

Writing can be the blood and soul of a writer. A good writer can separate enough to take constructive criticism. A writer can also be completely emotionally unstable and think that you’re ripping the arms off their baby any time you say anything against their perfect child. That’s not a good writer, who will never get the perspective to see what is wrong with a story. That’s a crazed writer who might, from time to time, write well, but only if they can take criticism.

Still, no matter how professional you are, how gracious, how open and noble, how thick your skin, it can get to you. The perseverance of most writers is akin to beating your head against a wall with a nail sticking out, knowing it’s causing you to hurt and bleed, but still doing it, hoping you can pound that nail down. What gives first? How prevalent is depression amongst writers? Ask them.

Writing is not for the weak at heart. Over the years and the many workshops/writers groups I’ve been in I’ve seen people freeze up. Some never write again when they find out their perfect child has a flaw to some people. Some are closet writers, writing away, but paralyzed to submit or let anyone view their work.

And there you go; submission. A writer must be submissive. Passively and meekly sending in stories and poetry to the mighty god-editor of doom, awaiting the call or the casting out. You must submit your writing and submit to the will of others.

Now, when you look at the aberrant or colorful personalities of past writers: Dylan Thomas, Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, to name a few, is it any wonder they turned out the way they did? And of course one can ask: does writing attract the unique personalities or does writing create them? Does a writer who has experienced the numerous rejections by editors become more compassionate in rejecting people in a relationship or less? Does the one condition have any correlation to the other or is it strictly one’s personality that dictates the way of rejection?

Whichever it is, the rejector should always reject gently and clearly, whether in a relationship or in writing (there are always exceptions). And anyone considering the life of a writer better be ready to face rejection and realize that nothing is perfect in the world to all people. Something can be rejected a hundred times before it is accepted (even true for relationships but not with the same person–that’s stalking). So here’s to a thick skin, persevering and weathering the rejections.

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US Border Security Escapades

Over the years I have gone over the Canadian-US border a lot. With friends in Seattle I’d drive down sometimes several times a month. In most cases, there have been the usual spate of questions by the border guards and away I’d go. Since 9/11 I’ve only been stopped once, which was pretty much the random draw of the lane. Some guards have been big on asking numerous questions, which often contain, where are you going, where are you staying, how long will you be gone, how long have you known your friends, where did you meet them, open your trunk, whose car is this, where do you work, etc. Fairly standard. The following three tales relate some of the more…involved interactions with US border security (who are definitely more tight-assed than the Canadian side).

Incident one really wasn’t a big issue. A friend and I were going down to the US on a sunny Sunday. We noticed that day that there were a lot of Asians and Arabic people. And sure enough we were pulled over and searched at random. However, when we had to go inside and present our ID and answer questions, we noticed the predominance of the aforementioned peoples. I told my friend at that point that it was obvious we were picked just so that US customs could not be charged with racism in their searches. I’d say the ratio was one white person/car to ten people of darker skin types. Interesting when you consider that the border crossings probably have the ratio the other way around with at least ten white people to one person of color going over. This was before we heard much of the phrase “racial profiling.”

Incident number two involved the fast lane border passes. I forget what they were called but they all ended with September 11, and several years later they brought back the passes but call them Nexus now. Because I was going down every weekend I applied for and received the pass. It took months to receive. The first day of using it, which speeds up going through the border when you have nothing to declare, was a Sunday. I picked up my friend and we started on our way down. Now I had an apple in the car that I had been intending to eat and forgot about.

We we arrived at the booth, in honesty I said, I have an apple I forgot to eat (which was most likely a Washington apple anyways). Well, the border guard, you know the type, the ex-arm sergeant who’s bitter that he didn’t get promoted who believes everyone is still a bug that has to be brought into line and brainwashed to OBEY ORDERS tells me to pull over. I got out of the car and said, “Here is the offending apple.”

But, oh no, that was not good enough. We had to go upstairs. I can’t remember whether they searched the car but most likely. We had to stand with all the other boys and girls and wait to get a filled out reprimand form for disobeying the rules of the pass, where I tried to reiterate that I had only forgotten to eat the apple and I had let them know, which was not heard and I was told, another infringement and we will take away your pass. It was my first day of using it, I had been honest about what I had, it was a mistake, but still I was treated like I was one degree short of a mass murderer. 

Shortly after, 9/11 happened and the passes were made null and void. However, they didn’t refund our money for the unused portions. I should say that with the pass, if you bought anything at all, even a pack of gum, you were expected to fill out a claim form to be deposited when you went through the border. The problem with these forms was that the provincial government would then send you a bill for any taxes on the amount spent. Normally, when you buy something and go through the border you have a tax/duty free exemption of a certain amount depending on how long you’ve been gone. This was somehow waived if you used the passes and had to pay more. Which did garner me another search when I bought a bottle of wine and chose to go through the regular lineup rather than pay extra taxes (which defeated the purpose of buying over the border).

Incident number 3 involved going down for the Christmas holidays. It was the morning of Christmas eve and I was planning to stay at my friends in Tacoma, driving down in my Honda Civic. However, we had had a freak snowstorm the night before, with about two-three feet of snow, and I couldn’t get my car out of the parking spot.

I chose to take the bus rather than remain in Canada for the holidays. Over the years I have had streaks of color in my hair: turquoise, blue, purple, red. I’m not sure what color it was then but probably purple. We’re not talking punkified cuts here but long hair with a streak or two. I had a winter coat that was made up of squares of purple, yellow and green. I wore quite a few rings.

When we arrived at the border, we all had to disembark and go through customs. At the counter this hulking black guy started asking questions that went something like this: Where are you going? To my friends for Christmas. What are you going to do there? Eat and sleep and visit. How much money are you bringing down? About $30. That’s not very much. What if you need something. It’s Christmas eve; I’m not planning to shop. The stores will be closed. What if you get stranded or the bus breaks down? I’ll call my friends. What if you can’t reach them? I have three credit cards right here. You could have them maxed out. What are you going to do if you’re stuck? (At this point I was getting angry. I almost said, I’ll stand on the street corner and sell my rings.) My cards aren’t maxed out. I could call my friends or use my bank card. How do I know that you have any money in your account? (I almost said, but bit my tongue, are you asking me all these questions because of the color of my hair? ) Look, I was going to drive down but my car got stuck in all the snow. (Suddenly a look that suggests I’ve just moved one level above bug out to steal US jobs on Christmas eve.) Oh, you have a car? Yes, I couldn’t drive because of the freak snow storm. (And luckily for me.) Here’s a bank receipt from yesterday showing that I have money in my account. Oh, you have money in your account. Okay you’re free to go. Have a nice Christmas. Yeah, right. (What this guy was really trying for was to make me cry so that he could go, why are you crying? Oh, don’t worry, little lady, you can go now.)

I will never ever ever take a bus over the border again. They automatically think you’re an unemployed lowlife. Still, it wasn’t as bad as the woman I sat beside on the way back. She was American living and working in Canada. She said, It doesn’t matter which customs I go through. Watch, I’ll be the last back on the bus. She had to bring bill receipts showing she had an address in Canada because the official letter/piece of paper wasn’t enough. And sure enough they ran her through the ringer before she was allowed back on the bus.

If you’re ever needing good examples of anal retention and people pushing power, the border is a great place place to hang out.

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Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway was just west of Carrick-a-Rede. This is all in the county of Antrim, in Northern Ireland. There were tons of people here and like most of the ruins throughout Ireland, there is a cost to see them. The money often goes back to the upkeep of the places. That I even managed pictures without anyone in them is something. They have buses that are loaded up and drive people down the hill for those who don’t want the walk down or the hike up. But it’s less than 30 minutes to walk one way (down). It’s a slow incline but an incline nonetheless, and a good sweat on the way up. This was my third hike of the day after Kinbane (the hardest) and Carrick-a-Rede. I can say my muscles were a bit sore the next day.

The Causeway stones are basalt and due to an ancient (65 million years ago) lava flow as well as hot and humid conditions interspersed with colder air, caused the geometric fracturing of the stones. I believe there is one area like this in Scotland too, but other than that a very unique configuration. The stones are all six sided and broken into layers. Some have tumbled down to form a mosaic of  stone. Others still stand in precarious looking columns.

Ireland 2007–Giants Causeway

The pictures are pretty much self-explanatory. Amazing to look at but we didn’t do the long hike around to the Chimney and the Organ. It would have been a couple of more hours and we had many places to hit. In the afternoon now, there were fewer clouds but a haze had developed.

The Causeway stones are grayish to red where the water has not hit them. But wherever the sea water has licked the stones they take on a black hue. This gives some interesting gradations of color. Signs posted said to stay off the black rocks as the waves could sweep you away. After a similar incident on BC’s coast the year before where people where swept off of rocks, I paid attention. The sea is very wild along here .

Some of the Causeway stones are pitted and eroded by wind, rain and sea. They had been dished by the elements and began to remind me of ancient vertebrae. One of my favorite pictures of Ireland is the one of the Causeways stones (ocean behind me) with the pitted rocks leading up to a hill.

Maybe next time I’ll do some hikes through this area. It’s pastoral and rolling and the variations in green are picturesque. Giants Causeway is definitely worth seeing and seeing again.

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Carrick-a-Rede, Ireland

Today I’ve been felled by the dreaded cold so here is another piece from my trip to Ireland in 2007. All photos on this site are copyrighted.

Still on Oct. 1, travelling west along the north coast of Ireland, we went next to Carrick-a-Rede, which means something like big rock. Carrick is the name of the island and it’s tiny. It has a rope bridge suspended over a churning passage of water. Really, the bridge is twisted tensile metal strands and very sturdy. I think it was updated in 2000.

Ireland 2007–Carrick a Rede

Used by fisherman since the 16th century, it was once just a rope with some wood slats. Down one side, just before the rope bridge is the husk of a building used for the salmon fishery. I believe this closed down in the 80s or 90s as fisheries all over the world have met similar demises. Fishing by boat was somewhat treacherous so the fishermen used Carrick island to fish from. The northern coast is tumultuous, with crashing waves and no matter how alluring the waters look I bet they’re freezing cold.

I’m not sure if they trawled as there does seem to be some evidence of pulleys and such but in any case, Carrick like Kinbane, no longer has a fishing industry.

The walk to Carrick was beautiful. We had great weather and although there in the morning it warmed up quite a bit, especially with the stairs on the return visit. The ocean here was absolutely amazing. The colors in the pictures are quite accurate and it reminded me of the water around the Bahamas, but wilder and colder. The white cliffs are limestone and the rest is basalt I believe. On Carrick island the beginnings of the fractured basalt that makes up Giants Causeway could be seen.

They ask for a donation or fee to cross the bridge, which you pay earlier. I actually had left my pay stub with my sister but had paid it so they did let me cross. My sister, afraid of heights and swaying bridges, stayed behind and waited up the hill. There is a sway to the bridge, which is about thirty feet across. There were two teens with their father crossing in front of me and they decided to bounce the bridge. I waited, not because of fear but because I wanted to take pictures.

This was hike two, after Kinbane but really took only about 45 minutes in all to get to the island and back. The island itself was very hummocky and spongy. They have signs requesting that you protect the environment, which I presumed meant, walk lightly (as there were many people and would be more in the afternoon) and don’t pick anything. There was no set trail and you could walk from one side to the other in probably a minute; it’s that small. All along the way to and from the island is a trail that would make a great hike off the coast.

From Carrick-a-rede you can see the larger rock that they named Sheep Island, I imagine because of its color and shape, and across the water is Rathlin, a much larger island. It’s a rugged coast and I can see any landing, on a storm tossed night probably claimed its share of ships.

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Writing: The Great Wheel of Publishing

 This wheel is large and ungainly, held together with sweat, tears, slush pile manuscripts, spit, unbought or returned books and elbow grease. It lumbers along, turning ever so slowly, sometimes looking more as if it will tumble over then keep rolling. But roll it does, usually, sometimes losing an author, or a novel, some staff or advertising revenue. It does not turn smoothly but continues until the gap of lost material becomes so big that the wheel must be overhauled.

Such is the case with various publishers along the long road of years. Ten years ago I was trying to get copy editing work with US publishers. This Herculean task met many difficulties. Publishers and the editors in charge are over-busy, always reading and procuring manuscripts and then going through the myriad phases of production. Send a letter and if it isn’t imperative to answer (we want your manuscript, pay our invoice) it never gets answered, not even if you include a SASE and you’re looking for employment. The next stage is to phone and hope you get the right editor in the right department. Should you call and only get their voicemail, presume they won’t return your call. And if you live on the west coast and have a three-hour time difference it will take early hours and a crystal ball to figure out the best time and day to try and catch and editor. Give up on Fridays altogether.

Should you get through these first layers of the publishing house inferno, you will most likely get a copy editing test. Once that’s done you send it back. I did two over two-three years with Tor, where they subsequently lost the test both times. Then said oh well you have to go through St. Martins as they’re our boss. Uh, they didn’t know this beforehand when they gave me the test? And Ace gave me the test; I sent it back and heard nothing. When I queried twice they said, oh we can’t hire Canadians. I didn’t know that when I sent you a test. Great, I’ve had a lot of practice with editing tests.

With Harper Collins, I passed the test. Then they sent me disks because they used a specific computer-based editing system. (This was about ten years ago and I’m not sure Word’s track changes feature was that developed then.) So, I received the disks but then had to buy a new computer because I didn’t have the memory capacity. At that time the guy who was going to train me was on holidays for a month. When he got back, he quit. So they were then trying to find someone else. In that time, they also bought out Avon books.

What ensued was two years of frustration and nary a job out of it. The editor I was dealing with was transferred to a different dept., then let go. Others came and went. I was given various names of people and would call every month. Each time I had to explain the situation who I had talked to, where it had changed, what area of copy editing I specialized in (SF/spec fiction) etc. Each time, it was a different person, a new department, a new system. Two years of calling every month after being told I would be hired as a freelancer and I never got one job out of it. But I had a bigger, better computer.

Over the years I have edited for a few US publishers and Canadian publishers but the sheer frustration of getting New York publishers was enough to stop most people. You really do have to live there. The longest stint I had copy editing with one publisher was three years or so with Byron Preiss book packagers (now gone the way of the dodo). And I got my first job because I was at the World Fantasy Convention standing in the lineup for the hotel. The guy in front told me he had just got a promotion to editor and I said, hey do you need any copy editors. He said send a resume when you get back but before I could he called because he had a rush job. Keith DeCandido gave me my first real break in copy editing. He quit before the company imploded and I had stopped doing work form them before that because getting paid was becoming difficult. He now writes novels. I now think of writing my novel, still copy edit and still write.

Other hurdles in the publishing world are managing editors who ask you to copy edit but don’t clarify by how much. Some publishers (or working on some authors) means that you’re required to only correct typos and punctuation. Copy editing is more than this and includes correcting sentence structure and continuity. It can be structural editing, which looks at the overall structure of chapters, pacing and flow, or very close to proofreading. Over the years I have found most companies who wanted proofreading really wanted more than that.

It’s common for individuals looking for an editor to say they want proofreading when in almost all cases they mean copy editing. It can be confusing for the new writer but just as confusing for the freelance editor. I’ve had publishers cancel a project in the middle (they were moving into movies, but did pay for what I’d ) or wanting a book padded (requiring that one line paragraphs be left in and the worst sentences be reworked but not deleted).

Publishing houses usually have a house style and often a style sheet. If they don’t give me one, I usually ask if they have a house style as it can affect the overall product. I’ve started to see some weird things in some books of late. Tor is an American publisher yet I’ve seen a book or two done with British spellings. In one case it may have been to give it the flavor of an earlier era as it was about a world in the 1800s.

But editing and acquisition of books are just a couple spokes of that great wheel. There is design production, advertising, marketing, distribution, return and paying the employees, artists and authors. Some spokes seem to have more weight, or, if you were looking a wooden wheel, some would be sturdier or decorated, but without all of the spokes the wheel fails. And to carry the analogy to the end the hub of the wheel is the writer and the publisher. Without the writer there is no story to sell. Without the publisher there are still stories but it’s harder to get them out to the public.

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Kinbane Castle

Ireland 2007–Kinbane Castle

First published on my Blogspot blog in Nov. 2007. All pictures are copyrighted.

On Monday October 1, we left Ballycastle. At our B&B were a family from Seattle. They’d been driving about for two weeks and were on their third week. They said, stop at Kinbane on the way. It’s not very far. And it wasn’t, traveling west near the coast.

 The weather was perfect. A few clouds, sunshine and the turquoise depths of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean made the northern coast of Ireland beautiful. Along the shorelines, wherever the ocean licks the stones, the rocks become stained and black. Farther back from the shore they may white or brown. Craggy and rugged, the northern coast is wild, and whitecaps and booming waves are common.

Kinbane, which means White Headland, was down a long hill. They really didn’t want people to go to the castle anymore. There were bars across the path but easy to straddle. As I moved around the hill, there was a second barricade just before the beach. I squeezed past that one, and it was obvious many had. Along the northern coast are the remains of stone huts used in the fishing industry, which was closed in the 80’s. This is a sad statement on what the world is doing to the fish populations.

I loved the look of this castle, built in 1544 by Colla MacDonnell (of Balymargy Friary fame). It was shot at and partially destroyed at one point, but one of the MacDonnells lived there till the end of his days. Mostly what is left is one of the towers. It couldn’t have been a very big castle but I can see how this would have been a great fortification. Rugged stony cliffs to the sea and steep steps up to the castle by land.

This castle gave me a great appreciation for the hardiness of those people of centuries past. To hike up and down that hill would definitely make one fit. Even though it was a bit breezy, I was quite warm by the time I pantingly reached the top.

The castle and rock itself are now made unapproachable, the way securely barricaded. The structure was originally besieged and with time it has become highly unstable. I loved many of the castles for different reasons but Kinbane had the true sense of a fortification of the most austere type. This was only the first of our stops on Monday, and the first of a few hikes.

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You’re So Vain

Vanity. It’s usually said in disparaging ways, that a vain person is a bad thing. And is it? The dictionary says it is conceit, or having an excessively high regard for one’s self, looks, possessions or ability. Arrogance is related with its overbearing pride or self-importance.

The worst case of vanity and arrogance I ever saw was a boyfriend who believed that every time a woman talked to him, even if she was asking him the time, was because she wanted him. He believed everyone loved him and that he knew things no one else knew, had experienced events that no one else had ever experienced. But he was more arrogant than vain though it’s a slim line between the two.

A person who is extremely vain is often a narcissist, stuck in self-love and importance, appearance or abilities. They’re more concerned with how they look and what they do, than the world, people or events around them. They’re given to talking about themselves a lot. Like the joke goes, “Enough about me. What do you think about me?” And Carly Simon’s  song (You’re so Vain) of course frames it well, “You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself go by…”

I once dated a narcissist. Later, “as friends” we got together for coffee. Jon talked about his job, his family, his dog. He paused and there was silence since I had decided to let him be the first to ask how I was. I’d asked him about himself, his job, etc. but never once did he actually ask me anything about what I was doing, not even “how are you?”. After the pause, he talked about his love life, his place, himself. When we left, Jon had not asked me a thing. I could have had kittens and he wouldn’t have known. Not a great person to date.

Narcissists may go farther with their self-importance and date people who look like them. I remember a girl in school who once said, “I only read books where the character has the name Laura.” Guess what her name was? These are the worst aspects of vanity, self-involvement, where perspective centers only on self, believing one is always the best and that no one can compare.

But not all vanity is bad. The opposite end is humility, yet false humility is another form of vanity, where you extol the virtues of being humble in a way that makes you look better than anyone else for sacrificing so much.

Taking care of your appearance beyond simple grooming is caring about how you look and is a vanity. Does a hairstyle or particular color look better on you? Do you wear wrinkled clothes or items in a dirty or slovenly manner? Do you take pride in your appearance? Do you try to stay in shape, not just to feel better, but to look better?

It is not wrong to feel pride or feel good about how you look. In fact, someone who doesn’t care at all may have other emotional problems like low self-esteem or depression. It’s the absence of balance that is always the problem. Talk about how you look but then notice how the other person looks. Talk about what you’ve been doing but give a person fair share in time and show interest. There are people who can’t start conversations because they don’t know how to ask a question about someone else. They expect everyone to ask about them and they can go on.

Sometimes it isn’t so much vanity as the person may lack some social aspects, learning only to talk about what they know, sometimes incessantly. Chatterboxes can put you to sleep because they don’t allow anyone to get an word in or interact. They may be narcissist or vain or just inept on the nuances of conversation.

We all have moments when we want the attention on us. It’s human nature to want to feel special, to shine at some aspect of our lives. But we have to share the limelight. It’s all right to be selfish sometimes and say me first, or it’s about me. I’ve been accused of making things all about me when I tried to stop a friend from physically fighting with another friend who had just slept with someone not his wife. That man accused me of making it all about me when somehow I was trying to help him save his marriage. I said, when we talked afterward, that yes, it was about me in that I was selfish and liked my friends and didn’t want to see them broken up and that I wanted them happy. That’s my selfishness. I have found sometimes that people will accuse someone of vanity at the weirdest times for completely unrelated things. I’m beginning to realize that this can be a misfired plea for some attention.

So if you say, “Wow, look at this poster.” And your friend says, “Oh everything always has to be about you,” then maybe what they’re saying is, “Me, me, look at me.” You may have to say, “What do you think about this poster?” People are weird and vanity tempered with humility is probably the best way to go.

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Keeping Track When Your Cat Makes Tracks

This was first published in Technocopia in 2000. I have updated the links. Remember the technology may have changed in nine years.

I heard a vet on CBC radio say that cats need a square mile of territory each, hence why they fight so much in the city. My cat certainly likes his outdoors but if he actually traveled a square mile he’d be made into road pizza by the semis that hurtle along the road several blocks away. So where does he go during the day when he’s not eating and sleeping?

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s also bitten Technocopia’s readers who have asked a similar question: How can I keep track of my cat (or dog)? Of course, most vets will admonish that the way to keep your cat safest and to know where it is, is to keep it indoors. For those who believe in individual freedom for felines tracking them is not such a problem, or is it?

What happens if Sigmund your purebred Burmese is catnapped, or Frodo the Pekingese dog escapes house arrest yapping into the wild blue yonder and isn’t seen for hours? There are even people in the agricultural sector who would love to know where their cattle get rustled to or find that little lost sheep in the hills giving birth to three-headed twins.

While people are interested in tracking their animals for different reasons, the technology has not lived up to need. Global positioning systems (GPS) on the market for everything from yachts to directional maps in cars have not been viable for tracking animals. The cat’s collar would need a receiver for gathering information from the GPS satellite, and a transmitter to send to the home base—your home PC or a receiving center.

GPS tracking has the additional problems of losing transmissions emitted from building interiors, too big and heavy for most animals to wear, only certain regions are covered, and it would need constant battery replenishment to operate twenty-four hours a day. Until the units become more compact and lighter they’re not a good bet for finding your cat.

The GPS problem seemed solved when a company called Global Trak announced devices such as Pet Trak, Execu Trak, Senior Trak and Kid Trak, a line of personal GPS tracking devices small enough to put in a purse or on the wrist of a child. For about $695 you could purchase a regional license and a demo unit. However, Pet Trak turned out to be more elusive than your cat before going to the vet’s. People who paid the money and expected goods in 1998 are still waiting. Bob Parks wrote a very informative article for Wired and today you will find nothing when you do a search.

Microchip embedding is currently used in the UK as well as the US, Canada and other countries. While this technology helps identify an animal it will not help track one. Peter Watson for Bayer UK said that all cats and dogs imported to the UK are required to have microchips. Many animal protection societies and vets are using these regularly.

The implant (is encased in bioglass, an inert material, and is about the size of a small rice-sized pellet. It is subcutaneously injected into the dorsal area of the neck. Recorded on the chip is a ten to fifteen-digit alphanumeric code that designates the country where the chip was implanted, the manufacturer and an ID number. The microchips should last about ten years and can be easily removed by a vet using a local anesthetic. It is now called Tracer Advance and could be smaller longer lasting. You can check it at: http://www.tracer-microchips.co.uk/

The handheld reader for the implant (costing about £370 in 2000) transmits a weak radio signal of one frequency, which is absorbed by a small coil attached to the microchip. This powers the microchip with enough energy to transmit the encoded information back to the reader’s receiver. The reading range is just two inches so this is best for identifying an animal once it’s found.

Destron Fearing of St. Paul’s, MN also supplies their HomeAgain microchipping. The American Kennel Club (AKC) endorses HomeAgain and part of the registration fee they collect goes toward funding free distribution of scanners to veterinarians and animal protection agencies across the US. http://www.akc.org/public_education/responsible_dog_owner.cfm So far, as of 2000, over 500,000 animals have microchips implanted and over 28,000 animals have been located and returned to their owners.

HomeAgain uses the BioBond anti-migration cap, which is a porous polypropylene polymer that inhibits the migration of the pellet by building up fibrocytes and collagen fibers within the animal. Cost is about $12.50 and a vet injects the chip. The scanners are similar to Bayer UK’s and work on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). http://public.homeagain.com/index.html

Having your animal tagged in some way for identification would be helpful if it does become lost then found. Pellets can be implanted on animals as small as birds or reptiles and as large as horses.

Another monitoring system had been developed by CompuGuard Services in Oakwood Village, Ohio (looks like they filed for bankruptcy in 2003). They specialized in prison bracelets or house arrest technology and were slightly incredulous that we would consider such an item for tracking animals. A base unit was attached to the phone line and had a built-in delay feature of several minutes. This allowed for the unit to make sure the person had left the area where they were supposed to be. Once the unit confirmed the person was gone it transmitted on a special radio frequency to the monitoring center. Maybe everyone escaped and they went out of business. A special drive-by unit (if a person phoned in that he/she was attending an AA meeting) would allow CompuGuard to confirm that the person was in the vicinity within five hundred feet.

The most promising development in tracking wayward animals was Micro Trax by Harris Corp, in Melbourne, Fl. Harris hoped to have Micro Trax up and running in twelve months of funding. Micro Trax was a radio-based system and would require an infrastructure of call centers.

With Micro Trax, a domino-sized receiving unit, which could easily fit on an animal collar, woud transmit a spread spectrum wave signal. The receiving center picks up the signal that can penetrate buildings, car trunks, basements, glove boxes, etc., and accurately locate an animal to within ten meters of its location. If you were up in the mountains in a log cabin Micro Trax might not work. Its efficiency would depend on the widespread infrastructure of operating centers and less populated areas were bound to have fewer of these centers.

The biggest problem with Micro Trax or any other unit attached to a collar is that the collar can fall off or be taken off if your feline is catnapped. Brian Holt of Harris Corp. believed the bigger market would be in making sure your dog or cat stayed within set perimeters and if it went beyond, the receiving center would send a message to you via Internet or by phone.

Likewise, he said it would be one way of keeping track of whether your child ends up where he/she is supposed to be. Micro Trax could also be placed with certain household items or jewelry. However, the unit could be removed in the rare case of abduction or theft. If the unit is made so it can’t be removed there runs a risk of injuring the wearer in the attempt to remove it.

Holt said that units would probably run about $100 with a monthly service fee of $10, comparable to buying a pager. Different services could be offered with varying price ranges. As well, units could be devised of different sizes and ruggedness depending on the need.Harris Corp. was determining the market viability and what consumers actually wanted. If you check therir site today http://www.rfcomm.harris.com/ they’re big on communications for defense, military and emergency aid, but there is nothing about Micro Trax.

 Until some other company comes up with the infrastructure for locating your favorite, wayward pet, there are several other precautions to take for the safety of your animal. You can try any of the following:

  • Make sure the animal has a safe collar with proper identification.
  • Have it tattooed at the local SPCA or by your vet.
  • Check your area or your vet for microchip implant availability.
  • Keep your pet indoors.
  • Fence your yard or put your dog on a long chain (advisable for dogs but cats need to be away from climbable objects so they don’t hang themselves).
  • Take your dog to obedience classes so it learns the rules.

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Writing Update March

I’m way behind this year on submissions. Normally I do a blitz in January. But this year I was working on a large editing project for a client. I just seemed to busy to hunker down. Right now I’m trying to get a story rewritten for one anthology and write a new story for another anthology, as well as work on my novel. And I’ve been trying to get my taxes done. So I don’t think I’ve submitted anything new yet this year.

I’ve received some rejections for stories sent out from last fall, but yesterday saw some reward. I arrived home to find a letter from Barton College saying my poem “Finding Dionysus” was awarded second prize and will be published in Crucible. As well, there was an email from Shroud magazine saying they had accepted my story “A Kind Hand” for publication in issue #6.

Yesterday I said that perseverance is a large part of writing and becoming published. I’ve also talked about revisionist poems. Although “Finding Dionysus” is from Persephone’s point of view it’s not as revisionist as some of my others but is part of a series I’ve done on Greek gods. The poem was written about six years ago but as is often the case with submissions, an editor’s preference can be for a particular type or style of writing. As well, magazines may have themes or just published a piece with a similar theme. I was once told by one magazine that they had just published a torso story and they couldn’t take another or they would be seen as a fetish magazine.

“A Kind Hand” is a tale of perseverance in the writing. I started the story probably ten years ago, wrote a bit and let it sit. I liked the idea but for a while wasn’t sure where to go with it. I was basing it off of a Germanic folktale about Berchta (a hearth goddess) so I had the plot but I wanted to give it a more human aspect. Some stories flow out easily and all at once. Others come out in fits and spurts and seem to be a jumble. “A Kind Hand” was somewhere in between and when I wrote on it, it came out fairly smoothly. However, taking so many years to write the story meant that I had to keep rereading it to figure out where I was going. Also, one’s style can change from story to story and year to year. I had to try and continue in the style in which I had started, which I really liked.

Once it was done I sent it out but also sent it to a friend to read. He made some good comments so I brought out the threat aspect a bit more and once it was rejected, sent the story out again. I think I had only submitted this one a few times before Shroud.

Looking at start to finish on the poem was probably seven years. The story was ten or more years in the process. I have ideas like this, that I start because I had an image in my mind, but perhaps no plot, or no ending. They sit and sometimes I do finish them. There are those stories that I complete but am not satisfied with so I maybe send them out once and then they wait for a rewrite so that I can figure out how to make them better. Rarely does a story or poem flow out quickly, all in one piece, with minimal rewriting. And rarely does it go from creation to publication quickly. My quickest was probably “The Fishwife,” which flowed out in no more than three days, needed a minimal rewrite and sold to the first or second place I sent it. Still, with the time taken for submitting and the selection process of the magazine, it was about a year.

This doesn’t even include the time from acceptance to publication. The tardiest rejection I ever received was seven years. Some pieces that have been accepted may be  a year (or more) from acceptance to actually being published.

And last, as fantasy editor of Aberrant Dreams, I have released all stories but one back to the authors. The magazine is going through some structural changes and it was becoming far too long in holding stories. I hate giving up good stories but it wasn’t fair to hang on indefinitely. I have two letters to send out, releasing one more and letting one author choose if he wants his accepted story to sit in the to be published pile or if he’d like to withdraw it. Then we wait for the restructure.

Time is not linear in the world of writing and submitting, nor on the publishing end of a magazine. Patience and perseverance really help.

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Writing: The Life of a Writer

I try once a week to take my laptop and go off to a local cafe/restaurant, have a couple of drinks and work on a novel. If I don’t do this, I tend to get distracted with many other writing projects.

I’m not writing any poetry at the moment but rewriting a bit, trying to redo a story for one anthology, finish a new story for another, and work on my novel. Sometimes ideas flow and sometimes it’s stop and start, the idea complex, the world taking some thinking. How much to put in of the world without veering too far from the story becomes a balancing act. It’s almost time to go through my bookmarked literary and speculative markets again, tossing the broken links and moving the ones that take online subs into a separate folder. I’m behind on submitting because of some freelance work and the writing.

An example of a submission night: I sit down at 8:00 pm and start going through the markets, continuing from where I left off the last night. By 11:30 I’ve weeded through the markets and sent out poems to about four magazines. That’s about four poems per magazine and they’re already written. I also submit two stories to two other magazines. But just doing that, searching through, finding the right poems, reading through them, making a few changes, reading other guidelines took three and a half hours.

When I submit stories/poetry in paper format it takes even longer because I must take the template letter, fill in the titles on each one, print the poems and letters off, match them up, fill out envelopes, make up SASEs, put stamps on, put the material inside, seal them up and take them to the post office. Usually I’ll do a batch of about ten magazines at once and it will take me three solid nights to get everything sorted.

Although I could keep track of where my stories and poems go on an Excel spreadsheet I find that I need a tactile, visual aid. I still use index cards. For the markets I have a 5X7  index card and I write the editor, magazine name, address, pay and type of writing that they accept at the top. Then I write the title of the pieces I’m sending and the date I sent them, usually just the month and year: 03/09. When the story/poem comes back I write the return date. If they’ve accepted a piece I put a circled P beside the piece and the date.

I have a separate 3X5 card for every poem and story. I have categorized these cards by color: pink for erotica and mainstream, green for fantasy, yellow for SF, blue for dark fantasy. That’s for stories. For poems I have them on white cards or green for the speculative poems. I put the title and the length at the top of the card and then list the market and date sent on each one as I send them out. When I have sent to the market, I put the market card at the back of my large index box. When I have submitted a story/poem I put that card to the back of the story/poem box behind a paper-clipped card. I have one box for poems (I have that many) and one for fiction. One larger box holds the markets. If a story/poem has been out too long I will send a query and I mark that with a Q and the date. If I hear nothing after a couple of months, I put the card back into the submission flow again.

I confess to not having a card for every market. If they’re fairly new or a one-of anthology, I sometimes don’t make a card. I’ll wait to see if they continue and if I submit more than once. But I do have one for every piece I’ve written. It lets me see how often I’ve sent a piece out, where I’ve sent it and which ones are becoming trunk stories; the ones that keep going out again and again and again.

I tried computerized index systems before but I found that if I wanted to find a poem about deadly flowers for market X that was doing a theme issue, and SF stories dealing with a dark future for market Y, that it was easier to sort the cards back and forth and match them up to the best market. Say that I have one futuristic SF story and there are three markets. I look at the story, make sure I haven’t sent it to the markets and then will try to match it to the highest paying one first. But if I have a secondary story, SF but Utopian and only one magazine likes that type then I may switch them about. To me, this is far easier with the cards than by clicking through various screens.

Writing is about 40% creation (breaking that down to 15% writing and 25% rewriting) and 60% perseverance. It’s true that if you persevere long enough, you will get items published. Some stories have sat for years and then ended up at the right market at the right time. But it also means you must be willing to rewrite and drop your favored line or character. Some editors will give a short statement of what worked or didn’t. You can get contradictory statements so take them with a grain of salt, but if you’re saying the editor was out to lunch for every rejection, then you’ll probably continue to get a lot of rejections.

The advent of computers meant suddenly that everyone could write. But not everyone can write well. It takes practice, and magazines are inundated with good works as well as bad. The more polished a piece, the better the chance of acceptance. Continuing to submit and not give up is half the battle.

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