Panic?

I don’t know how else but to describe what’s going on in my head. It feels like panic. It feels like a circuit board burning out from too many feeds—system overload. It feels like I might catch fire if I sit still too long, because everything in me is moving too fast.

Here’s the story.

I wake up at about 7 this morning (I’d like to say this is late, but my 5:30 mornings seem to be a thing of the past these days). I roll out of bed, take my allergy medicine, and head into the office. Sit down. Open up Facebook. Scoff, grumble, groan, hate myself, mumble, curse. Turn off Facebook.

Maybe I play a video game; I don’t remember now. But at about 8:30, I officially start working.

Now, on a side note, I don’t get paid hourly. I run a little company, and get paid commission on my sales. Not a terribly important bit of information, but I’m sure it contributes.

I turn on a YouTube video to play in the background (It was an episode of Modern Marvels about some ancient machine) and spend the next few hours finishing a few designs for clients (3 designs total). Actually, I told that backwards. I started designing, and then around the end, I turned on the video to listen to the narrator as I designed. Anyway, I get them all done and sent off, and then I tackle email. I have five waiting, three from this morning. Not bad for a Monday.

Also during this time, I take a phone call from the home office and banter a bit about the New Year. Completely forget to ask the question a made a note to remember. I also get in touch with the company’s tech guy to ask his advice about a problem I am having getting into our advertising account. He says he’ll look into it when the agency is open tomorrow. Sweet.

I feel icky. That’s right, I didn’t shower this morning. Time to shower.

Clean, fresh clothes, email time. I send out four quotes, and make copies of the request files. In that time (It takes about 30 minutes) one of my contacts writes back for more information. It’s not good news. I give the lady a referral and continue with my day. It’s about 3:30.

So I have worked for about six hours. Not even an 8-hour day. Chris brings me a big ole’ Gin and Tonic. Yum. I decide to take a break, and play as video game for what feels like an hour. Well, I get bored and decide I need to get back to being productive.

What to do? What to do? Well…

I need to create a new online quote system—something that will let my customers enter the specs for their order ideas and get an instant, obligation-free, anonymous* quote. Simple enough. I know how the code works; I’ve written this very program on 3 platforms to date. Easy—tedious, but easy.

And this is when my world falls apart.

Seriously, I freeze. My heart starts beating faster; my skin goes cold. My hearing dulls, and tunnel vision sets in. What do I do?

Come on Nick, just write the freakin’ code.

Then, I question myself. Do I really need to rewrite the code? Why not just update the form I built? It feels like 100 answers occur to me. This is why I must use the form. This is why I must not use the form. I decide that I just need to code a form by hand.

But… but… but… a thousand buts.

I should complete the web programming course I started. I should complete the video game programming course I started. I should complete the marketing class I started. Wait! Don’t you have a D&D game to run on Thursday? I should plan for it. No, you know what, I just need to make a list. Make a list of all the things I need to do.

Why aren’t I writing? Speaking of writing, the guy organizing the Writers’ Conference next September** is looking for people to join the advisory board for this year’s conference. Am I smart enough to be on an advisory board? I’m almost 42, I d@mn well better be smart enough. Seriously though, what am I doing with my life? I should be writing.

You know, N. K. Jemisin*** is an amazing author. She writes huge books. Amazing books that actually mean something. Why am I bothering even thinking about being a writer anyway? Honestly, I *should* have an entire series out by now. I wrote my first manuscript in 1994, and I have what? One novel published? Seriously, who do I think I am.

I shouldn’t be writing; I should be coding that d@mn form for custom quotes. Or, maybe finishing a course—one of the many I have started but not finished. Oh yeah! I also need to assign design ID numbers to my new designs, and write up a Social Media post about them to keep my company in the public eye.

The company I don’t get paid an hourly wage to run.

The company I only get paid commission for.

Why am I not a master-soap-maker yet? I just dropped $120.00 on soap. Oh yeah, I need to learn a lot about FDA regulations and stuff, and master the art of soaping before I can think about selling soap. Good thing I have that URL ready—the one I’ve been paying for for almost 20 years now. Great investment that.

I’m 42. Why am I not a master anything yet? I should be writing. I should make Thursday’s D&D game. I should take a course. I should code that quote form. Holy crap, I need to make dinner.

I need a drink.

God, just.. let me have a drink to turn my damn, useless brain off. Just slow it down. Just a little…

There are 3 ounces of cheap vodka in this cup now. As much Lemon Juice and as much Triple Sec. And maybe 9 ounces of Tonic. I have been working on it since I started this blog post, and you know what?

My brain has not slowed down one bit.

Back to the point: Panic. I feel like I’m panicking. Drowning in ideas. All I need to do is .. freakin’ focus on one. Just one! Knock it out, and do the next.

I realize I’m supposed to be submitting Saundra to a publisher this month—this week. But, I haven’t finished my edits. I pitched her. At the last writers’ conference.. the one the library wants me to volunteer for. Advisory committee…

Tangential thought…

I’m a pretty “good” salesman; I put good in quotation marks, because I mean it in the D&D way. Good versus Evil, not Good versus Loser. I’m good. I don’t want to lie. I don’t want to cheat.

I can tell in under a minute if someone is interested in what I have to offer. God, I can’t tell you how… hard… those extra minutes are—the ones it takes before they realize that they aren’t interested.

It’s in the eyes—what a cliché. But, it’s there, they lose their focus—drift to my shoulder. The corners of the mouth soften, loosen. The wrinkles in the corners of the eye disappear. Then it all tightens.

The eyes snap to mine. The mouth pulls tighter, lips thin. A smile, but no wrinkles in the eyes. Pupils sharpen, and a thousand thoughts zip by behind them. How wide should they smile? How do they get out of this conversation? It costs how much?!

God Damn, how often I see that in people. The instant they realize they are not interested in talking to me… Panic.

I smile. Stop speaking mid sentence. “But, I’m yammering,” I say. “I’ll let you look around; let me know if you have any questions.” The look of incredulous relief that settles over them breaks my heart. At the same time, it makes me feel like the kindest 42-year-old on the planet.

The no-eye-wrinkle smile returns. The gratitude and overabundant enthusiasm—the attention to price tags—the desperate search for something cheap to throw a few dollars at so they can flee my presence with a clear conscience. God, is this my life?

I break eye contact. Find something to busy myself with to that they can slip away “unnoticed,” or offer their thanks and promise to “stop by after they’ve made the rounds,” which I enclose in quotes because 9 times out of 10, it’s an exaggeration (at best).

But I should be writing. Or coding. Or studying one of 10 or so classes.

And finally, my brain has begun to wind down. I’m not in panic mode any more.

I’m… maybe drunk. I think I’m drunk. I feel pretty drunk. I definitely will be after another one of these cocktails. That’s what 6 more ounces? 3 vodka 3 Triple Sec? Something like that. God it feels good.

The numbness in my cheeks and fingers is nice, but only having one thing on my mind is heavenly.

Sure, I still need to do all that crap, but it’s 7:04 now. Time to mix up dinner and whatnot. I won’t be writing tonight, and I sure as hell won’t get any coding done.

Jotting down all of these thoughts has kinda’ gotten me depressed, which is stupid, actually, because I’ve not said anything that warrants depression. People don’t like high pressure sales; that has nothing to do with me. People have literally no idea how much stained glass costs, so when they freak out about the price of my sun catchers, that’s not about me. Customers genuinely appreciate my candor and honesty.

I can not tell you how many times people have thanked me for not selling to them. That sounds stupid… But, seriously, people have been truly grateful that I told them the truth, rather than let them make a several hundred dollar mistake. Sure, that doesn’t spell riches for me, but at least I’m not a predator.

Do unto others… and all that.

So, my thought is complete. As you have read, thus are my thoughts. This is what my mind does when it comes time to build a web form, or write a thousand words in my manuscript, or edit a chapter.. or anything. I panic. It feels like panic at least. I feel like I am afraid of something, and if I can just distract myself long enough, then it’s not my fault if I don’t do anything.

I don’t enjoy any of it, by the way. Just on the off chance you were wondering. I enjoy the instances of knowing that I have not hurt someone. Making sales makes me feel guilty. Do I really need all this money? It takes me 8 hours and $30.00 to make a sun catcher; am I an asshole for accepting $60.00 for it? Seriously, am I worth $3.75 an hour? If I had focused—mastered the trade—I could be making sun catchers in half that time. Would I be worth seven and a half dollars then? Aah, but if they don’t spend that $60.00, then I’ve done them a service. Why, that’s a meal in a moderately nice restaurant. I bought them dinner. What a hero I am.

What a narcissist I am.

I don’t enjoy it. I don’t like coding; I like having coded something. I don’t like drawing; I like having drawn something. Or… or maybe I do enjoy it. Maybe all of this gloom and doom is just coming from the vodka, and my fear of actually applying myself and suffering a few pains and disappointments along the path toward success. Or, maybe it’s a bit of everything.

So, I took an hour long break in the middle of writing this to surf Facebook. Didn’t read a single interesting thing, but I sure as sh!t wrote a page about why we need to encourage our neighbors to clean up after their pets. I included links to city ordinances and everything.

I’m about to get up to mix the beans which I had simmering all day with the rice I cooked while I was writing this. Then I’ll dice an onion, saute it in butter, salt, pepper and… probably sage. I’ll mic all that together and then may or may not announce dinner, because we have a huge crock pot of soup on, and Chris doesn’t care much for rice and beans.

What the hell is wrong with me. Seriously, I’m asking. I’m eating Saint John’s Wart like it’s candy, but I don’t see myself getting over what seems to be depression. I chug coffee all day long, but it is not helping the… disorder that shall not be named… What the hell is wrong with me?

8:09. I feel like I’ve gotten nothing meaningful done. Off to finish making dinner.


* Anonymous is important. Sorry to get emotional, but I am sick and tired of sales people trying to trick and bully people into buying. I can not bring myself to do that to someone, and maybe that’s why I’m not a successful man. But, I just can’t trick someone into giving me money—too much conscience. Too little hypocrisy. See, when I shop online, I want to be anonymous. I want to visit a site, see how much a product costs, and move along. I’m the same way in stores. I *peek* at price tags, and actively avoid employees, because I don’t want to be pressured and (rolling my eyes at myself) I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings if their prices are too high—stupid, right?). Anyway. Online, I hate those sites that make you submit an email address to get a freaking quote. I always feel like they’re making their real money selling my information to advertisers. Seriously people, if your product is worth what you intend to charge, then give me a price.

Take this with a grain of salt though. When I show my stained glass at a craft faire, I intentionally turn all of my price tags out so people can glance at my prices and make a decision on their own. I don’t make them turn over a tag and then put on a poker face; no. No games with me. Heck, I don’t even look at my visitors. I greet them and smile, and stand at a respectful 3/4 position to them, but always seem distracted enough to allow them to surreptitiously suss out my prices so they don’t feel pressured. 0% pressure folks! I stand by my art, and I empathize with your “shopper’s discomfort.”

Ask me a question and “it’s on,” though. I stand by my work.


** Drop me a line if you are looking for a writers’ conference in the Midland/Odessa area to attend in September. I’ll send you the deets.

Do people still say “deets?” Is it still cool to say “deets?”


*** http://nkjemisin.com/ Seriously. She is amazing… but if you’re a White Dude like me, you’re going to need to be ready to check your invisible knapsack. Her writing is.. WOW. Holy crap. Amazing… but get ready to think outside yourself.

I really hope you like thinking outside yourself. I mean—no. Nevermind what I mean; this part isn’t about me; it’s about her. N. K. Jemisin is an amazing author, and I want her autograph, and if you like very human fantasy then you owe it to yourself to read her books, and if you resent her voice and message, well, that’s all you. Check her out. Visit her page. Read her books. Read her blog.

Her.

Critical About Questions

I’m going to talk about questions. Specifically, leading questions, their anatomy, and what they mean.

A couple of days ago, I did an experiment—a little bit of trolling. See, Facebook decided it would be a wonderful idea to point out a post to me, simply on the basis that an acquaintance had “liked” it. I was a little bit interested in the apparent topic of the post, so I read it.

Now, I’ll not get into the actual content of this person’s blog entry. I’m not interested in supporting or challenging them, and I’m not interested in talking about logic in commentary. I am only interested in the first line of the post, and the question it posed. I am changing the details to universalize this experience.

“Why does it seem that Scruletans get off on persecuting people?”

What is this saying? Well, just looking at the question, we can see it has two parts. The first sets the parameters of the poster’s query, and the other is the circumstance we’re being asked to evaluate.

Here are the two sections of the question:

“Why does it seem that,” and “Scruletans get off on persecuting people.”

The question is: “Why does it seem that?”

The whole allegation that Scruletans are getting off on persecuting people, is defined as a perception that is in question; “Why does it seem that, the following statement is a fact.” It’s not a statement of fact; it’s a question about the perception of fact. This differentiation is extremely important, because if we do not separate perceptions (and opinions) from solid facts, then we can easily misunderstand what we are reading.

This question is not literally asking about the behavior of Scruletans, it is asking about the very existence of a perception of Scruletans. The Scruletans are not active in this question, the active party is the person who perceives the Scruletans as, “getting off on persecuting others.” So who is making this perception? The answer to that may lie in the very nature of questions themselves.

Questions must be posed to someone, and that someone is usually you, the reader. In the isolation of this one sentence, however, the use of implied truism with the phrase “it seems that,” suggests a more universal experience—everyone’s perception.

Therefore, the question might be rewritten as:

“Why does [everyone in the world believe] that Scruletans get off on persecuting others?”

That question presumes a lot. Furthermore, it is unsupportable. For this question to be legitimately answerable, one would have to prove that every single human being on the planet does indeed believe that Scruletans get off on persecuting people. All you need is a single human to doubt that allegation, and the answer becomes, “But, they do not.” There is no “because” for the “why,” so the question is unanswerable—illegitimate.

So how can we make this a legitimate question? Well, let’s look at the nature perceptive words. Opinionated and perceptive terms such as “good,” “bad,” “ugly,” “terrific,” speak to the perceptions and opinions of the subject of a sentence. We, the readers, must understand who that subject is, so we can know to whose opinions and perceptions the writer is referring. In the absence of indication, we can only assume the writer is referring to their own opinions and perceptions. To figure out whose opinion is being stated, try asking, “Says who?”

“It is a beautiful day.” Says who? Says the writer.

“Based on what you’ve told me about you love for rain, it is a beautiful day.” Says who? Says the reader.

“Joann smiled; it was a beautiful day.” Says who? Says Joann.

So, let’s apply that to our own sentence:

Here is is again. “Why does it seem that Scruletans get off on persecuting people?”

We’re not asking about Scruletans’ opinions or perceptions; we’re asking why they (seem to) perform different verb (getting off). There is no other subject mentioned in our question. We can not presume the writer speaks for our own perceptions, because there is nothing in the sentence that indicates as much. Therefore, we can only responsibly presume the writer speaks for themselves. So, let’s clarify that.

“Why does it seem [to me] that Scruletans get off on persecuting people?”

Now that is a question with an answer. Of course, we, the readers, most likely have little idea what makes the writer perceive the world in the way that they do, so we are probably not the best ones to answer the question without gathering more information. So, we should probably read on to see what they are talking about. That is, if we care to.

Do we care? I mean, knowing that this question pertains to the writer’s own opinion, are we personally invested in the answer? That’s up for us to decide for ourselves. When we understand this opening question, we are ready to critically receive the work, if we so choose.

To finish my own story—the story of my trolling—I replied to the post and answered the question with my opinion, as if the writer posed the question all by itself. I said that the reason the writer perceived all Scruletans as getting off on persecuting people, is probably because the writer only pays attention to the Scrulteans who persecute people, and little to none to those who do not.

The writer did not appreciate my input.

All in all, I hope this post is helpful for writing and editing, as well as critical reading. If we choose our words carefully, others will understand us better, and if we read carefully, we may discover unintended and/or hidden meanings in the things we read.

Love of Money

1 Timothy 6:10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

Money is simply how we control exchange. It is neither evil, nor holy. It’s the love of money—of material wealth—that poisons us.


In the U.S., I was raised believing that money was the root of all happiness and power, that money reflects one’s work and value to society. If you had a ton of money, then you deserved a “better” life. This is what I learned.

When I was a kid, I learned this philosophy from my parents: Why buy something that you can make? If I saw a cool spaceship toy in a commercial; Mom and Dad would give me a refrigerator box and some crayons. I saw an awesome fantasy costume at a festival, Mom taught me how to sew. I saw delicious looking treats in the grocery store, Dad taught me how to cook.

That having been said, I remember being so envious of some friends in high school because they lived in a house that was twice the size of my family’s. They had great computers, camcorders, cars… I felt so poor. Then one day my friend mentioned how much his father got paid (his mom didn’t work), and it was the same amount that my parents earned. I realized then that we too could be living in a big house with great cars and computers and camcorders! But, my parents were helping their families—sending money to aunts and uncles, grandparents… We earned the same amount of money, we just shared ours.

Then as an adult, I met a man whose envy and coveting were so profound that it became infections. When I met him, lived a very humble life, and I was more or less content. He taught me to feel deprived, though. I lived in a little apartment, and not a spacious house. I drove a small, used car, and not a big, shiny, new one. I didn’t vacation. I didn’t throw weekly parties. I learned to hate my life, because I did not have the money to keep up with what became my expectations. My debt ballooned from $2,000 to $16,000 in just a few years. I became miserable.

Then I met a lady who (at the time) worked three jobs. She worked in the shop at the company that employed me, she worked as a maid, and she cleaned schools. All so she could live in a tiny apartment, feed and clothe her kids, and send money home to her parents in Mexico so they could get the food and medicine they needed to survive, with the hopes of relocating legally to the U.S.. I never saw her without a smile on her face. She always waved and smiled and greeted me, and even though we didn’t speak the same language, I felt happier around her than I did with my White and English-speaking coworkers. At least around her, I didn’t have to listen to people complain about not having enough money for a vacation.

Then, I met the man whom I would ultimately marry. He had some money saved up, some investments that were holding steady, but he was living an extremely frugal life. He offered to help me out of debt. He helped me start over, and bit by bit, I began to unlearn the nasty money habits I’d learned previously. Now, we are comfortable. We have a cute little house, no debt (unless you consider mortgage debt), lots of love and creativity, and jobs we enjoy. If we really want something, be it a neat piece of home décor, a type of exotic food, or a ren-faire outfit, we make it.

Sure, I occasionally hear a figure about “poverty level income” and “livable wages,” and I will feel sick to my stomach, but I can look around and see my life and remind myself that we’re just fine. We have stained glass in our front door, and awesome faux metalwork in my office window. We have a closet full of unique costumes. Our weekly home cooked meal plans include Tex-Mex, Stir Fry, Curry, and any-darn thing else we want to eat. We keep our rings in U.S.A.-Made, Lead-free stained glass trinket boxes. We have paintings (not prints of paintings—actual paintings) on our walls. We wash with luxury soap, burn hand-made scented candles and incense, and bathe in luxurious bath oils.

We are rich, even though we don’t have a lot of money.

Dear Experts: Stop asking questions!

How’s that for clickbait? Still needs work? Okay… I’ll do better next time.

So anyway, I’m married to a musician. He’s the principal clarinet for the Midland-Odessa Symphony, and he and his peers are all highly educated. I’m talking master and Doctoral level smarts going on. Needless to say, next to them, I know zilch about music. I know what I like, though, and it’s polite to applaud and to tell musicians when we enjoy their performances—especially if they are our friends.

All of that having been said, there was this one individual (I’m not going to name names) who would respond to my praise and congratulations with questions. Perhaps they were enthusiastic and eager to learn what’s going very well in their recitals. Perhaps they just liked to give their audience an opportunity to throw around a few musical terms, I don’t know. Because it always felt like they were aiming a spotlight into my eyes and interrogating me.

Me: Great show! Everyone sounded wonderful!

Them: Lol what show were you listening to? That performance was terrible! Which was your favorite phrase in the second movement?

Me: Uh…

Them: Which did you enjoy more? My sixth diminuendo, or my articulation? Who is your favorite composer….’s pet? Please write out, freehand, your least favorite four measures in non-sequential order, and include the notation from the original publication as well as those I played with this afternoon. You have fifteen seconds, starting NOW!

Okay, so it was never that bad. But seriously, even the question, “Which was your favorite movement,” has me staring like a deer in headlights. I know pretty much nothing about music, so even the most basic questions stump me and highlight my acute ignorance on the topic. All I know is, “It sounded pretty.”

After about a year of knowing this person (and really it was just this one person) I stopped offering my opinions altogether. I tried to say nice and supportive things, but things that were basic, non open-ended, and invited little to no response. Safe things.

Musician: Did you enjoy the show?

Me: I really did. I had a lot of fun this afternoon.

Musician: Okay! Thumbs Up

Well, then my husband tells me that those non-committal answers are what you give a musician who… did not do so well. OMYGOD seriously? I can’t win!  I mean, I guess I could go full yokel and just say, “Wayul Gawl-eee! I don’t know nuthin’ about no music words, but you folk sure made some purdy sounds with them thingamabobs!”

So these days, I smile and wave, and may time a “Great show!” to coincide with some distraction that makes follow-up questioning impossible. Maybe I’ll throw a thumb-up and enthusiastic nod. Usually, though, you can find me hiding behind my husband or huddled close to people whom I have confirmed do not ask questions.

All of this brings me back to my title. Experts, look… I know not all of you intend to put us on the spot with what should be supremely simple questions, and I’m sure some of you are genuinely interested in what your audience responds to. All I ask is that you help us out with a quick music lesson, for those times when eyes glaze over, jaws go slack, and our inner yokels are about to make an appearance.

Something like:

Audience: Great show! That was really lovely!

Musician: Thank you! Did you have a favorite movement?

Audience: Oh. Uh…. *deer in headlights*

Musician: I especially enjoy playing the adagio, which is so peaceful and calm, but he faster scherzo is also great fun! Which do you like?

Audience: Totally! I really loved the faster part where the flute and oboe were fluttering around, and the bassoon and clarinet were doing that back and forth thing, and the horn was rumbling under everything.

This way, we can offer some useful feedback for all your hard work, while learning a thing or two about music in the process.

Dear Audience! There will be a quiz!

I was just talking to my husband about a blog post I’m working on, about how it’s intimidating to approach a musician after a chamber recital to give them praise for a job very well done, because we in the audience rarely know how to answer the resulting barrage of questions from the musicians.We went back and forth a little bit, and he cautioned me not to sound accusing. Musicians really want feedback, because they love the pieces they are performing. They want to know how we, the audience, are reacting to them—what they did well, and what they need to work on.

He told me that musicians often don’t realize that they speak over our heads, and they would hate to think that they’re making us feel stupid or uneducated in any way. To a musician, the program is a road map to a journey we all just took together. To us, it’s more of a list of names, dates, and foreign words that we dare not try to pronounce.

What is that..? Scer? Sher? Scare? Suh-chuch-mo? Cher’s-toe? It’s Cher’s toe, isn’t it?

Well, my husband gave me some simple advice about how we the audience can get more out of our chamber concert experiences, and how we can give something back to the musicians. That advice is: follow along in the program, and take notes. They don’t have to be savvy or anything, just jot down, into the program, something that really caught your ear.

Of course, even following along in the program seems daunting, when you’re staring at a list of very long name, with dates and a bunch of bullet points with foreign words in italics. It only takes a little bit of practice, though, to figure out the flow of a recital, and soon you too can know when you’re listening to the Scherzo (Cher’s Toe) and the Adagio (isn’t that a type of cheese? I love adagio cheese!) Here are a couple of things I learned, and I will use last night’s program to demonstrate.

IMG_2414.JPG

Here’s a breakdown of all that information:

A: This is the composer (you may or may not recognize the names; good luck pronouncing them)

B: These are the dates of birth and death  (included for Tuesday trivia night.)

C: The title of the piece of music (obligatory parenthetical for consistency.)

D: The movements in the piece (in this case there are three: Allegro non troppo (I’m guessing it’s an allergy medicine that does not contain coconut) Adagio (delicious, delicious cheese) and Vivo (use it to record your favorite TV programs))

E: These are the performers (presumably still alive.. or else.. vampires)

You have a lot of room on that sheet to jot down a word or two about your experience. You can write Cello So Tranquil next to the adagio movement. Or never heard before-flute blow next to the vivo movement to remind yourself to mention that the “jet whistle” part of the third movement really piqued your curiosity. But wait! How can you tell the movements apart?

Here’s a trick. If the musicians pause playing, look at one another with expressions of satisfaction and change pages on their music stands, and the audience as a whole is *not* applauding, then one movement has ended, and the next is about to begin. When the musicians put their instruments down and smile, and the entire audience applauds, then the piece has ended. So if a 4 or 5 minute piece of music ends, and nobody is clapping, or only a couple of people in the audience do, don’t fret. It’s customary to hold your applause until after the whole work is completed.  The musicians will let you know when that is.

Musicians like to hear what moves their audience, so make a note of what stirred you, and don’t worry about using fancy language. The point is to stimulate dialogue and to have answers for the questions that often come after your initial congratulations. The performers will appreciate your enthusiasm, and you will learn more about the wide world of music.

So that’s pretty much all I have to say right now. Musicians may quiz you, but not because they are trying to trick you and make you feel foolish. They genuinely appreciate our praise.

Also, all the social etiquette caveats here:

  • Respect the musicians’ personal space.
  • They have a lot of people to talk to after a performance, so let them greet other people too.
  • If you heard a mistake, trust me, they heard it too! They’re human beings, not studio recordings. They don’t need every twitch, scratch, and pop pointed out to them.
  • It’s probably best to keep your comments related to the performance you just watched.
  • Don’t bother asking to hold the instrument; it probably costs as much as your car. The answer is no.

A Dragon’s Pitch – DFWCON 2017

Well, I didn’t “knock it out of the ballpark” as far as my face-to-face query session went, but I sure didn’t choke this time. Most notably, I managed to speak with a quiet mind. No inner monologue paralyzed me this time; I just sat down with the agent, and told him about my novel.

Two days before my pitch, on the day before I left for Dallas, I settled on pushing Saundra as a super-hero novel. She gains specific magical powers, her friends and enemies do as well. There’s a costume change involved; it all works.

After some meditation and prayer, I came to two decisions. The first was to heed the advice that the incomparable Ru Paul regularly gave to students on Drag U: ask yourself what your inner drag queen would do. Well, my inner drag queen is a dragon (and not much of a queen per-se, but he sure is fabulous!). Every time I got nervous, I just reminded myself, “I’m a dragon, bitches!” The second decision was to remember that I am a pretty damn good customer service rep / salesperson, and the agent is my customer. So, rather than imagine that I was putting my heart and soul on the table to be judged, I put my novel out there to be bought.

Bolstered, I found that I could pitch to my husband with courage and charisma, when previously the mere thought of it petrified me. “Keeper of the Worldgate is an offbeat super hero story about a plus-size, pacifistic woman who must defend an extra-dimensional portal from a sociopathic computer hacker, who would use it to bring the most horrific nightmares from the internet to life.” Bam! There it is.

When my time came, I stood up tall, reminded myself to be a dragon, and strode into the meeting with strength and confidence. If saw the shade of doubt flutter across my customer’s expression, I dropped an attractive tech-spec on the table: “My test readers and editors have praised my suspense as being genuinely suspenseful.” If I saw his brow quirk with interest, I reinforced the topic that so moved him: “This manuscript definitely passes the Bechdel test.”

We had only ten minutes, and while it’s tempting to think that I could have landed a full manuscript request given just a few moments more, the truth is that my approach was scattershot. I spent far too much time experimenting with how to best describe my novel in superhero terms, and far too little driving home the uniqueness of its story. By the end of my sit-down, I think I confused the agent more than interested him.

My approach was clumsy, but he invited me to query him anyway. While I expect this was just a courtesy, he flinched when the time-over gong cut him off. He was still speaking, and looked like he wanted to know more. Did I detect a hint of dithering? Curiosity?

Whatever the case, I walked away proud in the knowledge that I’d not made a fool of myself. I will be querying him, and not unsolicited. Will my writing stun him and reverse his decision not to request a full? I doubt it. It’s a great story, and it will appeal to pacifists, and feminists, and big people. If that’s not his usual fare, though, he might not have the best connections to push Saundra out as far and wide as she needs to go. He may know someone who is, though, and I may get a referral out of this experience.

The agent hunt continues, and as the weather in central Texas has taken my day job offline, I’ve nothing to do today but write, research the next batch of agents, and compose another set of queries.