The First One

At first, I thought it was spam. The subject line read, “E-Mail Acceptance Letter”, after all, which sounded suspiciously like one of those “Come help me get this one million dollars that the Nigerian government owes me” scams, or something like that. I’ve been getting way too much spam.

Then I thought that perhaps it was San Jose State University finally getting back to me to let me know that I’ve been accepted to their Master of Library and Information Sciences Program. I thought it odd that they’d send an e-mail notification, though, so I decided it was definitely spam.

So I nearly deleted it without even reading it.

Then I happened to glance at the text of the e-mail, and saw that it read, “Congratulations! We love your story and we want to buy it…”

Huh?

I read it again. “Congratulations! We love your story and we want to buy it…”

I did a double-take. I read it through again. And again. And I thought, “My God. I made a sale.”

I actually made a sale.

This magazine wants to buy “Ten Foot Tall He Was, with Eyes of Fire”, and publish it! And give me money for it!

“Honey!” I called out to Jennifer.

“What?” she cried back. She was getting dressed or something since we were getting ready to head out to Home Depot to pick up some electrical wire for our new lamps (more about those later).

“Do you remember my short story, ‘Ten Foot Tall He Was…’?”

“Yeah?”

“I sold it!”

“Yay!”

We sort of danced around for a bit, celebrating. I sent instant messages and e-mails to everyone I could think of: friends I hadn’t spoken to in awhile, family members, perfect strangers. “I sold a story! I sold a story!” I kept repeating it to myself (and to Jennifer) all day long. “I sold a story! I sold a story!”

Wow. I sold a story.

I know that I’m a decent writer. The last two stories I’ve sent out have come back with personalized rejection slips, which is a good sign (well, better than impersonal form letters), including flattering notes from editors-in-chief. I knew I’d make a sale someday. But it still took me by surprise.

I feel lucky. I only started taking this writing thing seriously again just a few months ago, after having ignored it since high school. I didn’t expect I’d be making any sales anytime soon. I’d fully expected that I’d be waiting a few years to make my first sale.

I know that it might be quite awhile until my next sale; but, “Sold is sold”, as my friend Ivymoon just told me. And a couple of people have pointed out that once you’re published, other publishers tend to look at you a bit more kindly.

And now I’m inspired all over again. I have lots of stories that I’m writing, a novel or two that I’m fussing with, and a strange hypertext story which will probably end up being published on my own website since I have no idea what else to do with it. I can’t wait to get started on any of these projects now.

I sold a story!

And it’s just the first one.

NoNaNoWriMo and Cheese

All through October I wondered if I could pull it off again. NaNoWriMo. National Novel-Wriiting Month. Last year at this time I sat down and wrote 50,000+ words in one month; most of those words were crap, of course. I’ve given the pile to a couple of people, but no one has been able to actually read through the whole thing and give me any feedback. But it was a good experience for me; it helped me to clarify the mythos I’ve been developing all these years and which I’m still putting some other projects now. Assuming I could ever finish those other projects.

This year, of course, I’m working and traveling way too much. NaNoWriMo just ain’t a go for me this year.


Today I’ve been lazing around the house. Jennifer is still down in Santa Cruz, the land of banana slugs, training more mollusc handlers; I was in Santa Clara for the first couple of days this week, and now I’m home. I spent the day writing in my journal and playing with my wireless network card at Starbucks. And when I came home, I fully intended to eat dinner, rest for a few minutes, and then head off to choir practice, which begins at 7 on Thursday nights. This evening, though, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until 7:30 when the pastor of our church called to wonder where I was.

“We were all worried that you were in the hospital,” she told me.

Hospital? I wondered. “I don’t recall being admitted to any hospital.”

“Oh, well [Parishioner X] saw you at the scene of an accident yesterday and we were all worried that you’d been hurt and were in the hospital in critical condition and that’s why you couldn’t make it to choir tonight.”

“Accident?” I thought about this for a few moments. Then I remembered that while I was on my way home last night, just a couple of miles out on I-80 from Dixon, I saw an accident on the highway. Well, I didn’t witness the accident itself, I just saw the aftermath: a woman sitting inside a badly wrecked late 80’s model Honda — it looked like it had been smashed from above by a big fist — and a man standing next to it trying to get his cell phone to work. I pulled over and got out, asked if I could help. The man told me that he’d been unable to get through to 911, so I called them on my cell phone. I also got in touch with the woman’s doctor and got some instructions from her to pass on to the EMT’s when they showed up. (I’m certainly not a doctor or an EMT myself; my only medical knowledge in this sort of situation consists of knowing that if you’re not in immediate danger, like flames or a smell of gasoline, then if your neck hurts after an accident it’s probably best not to move.) After passing the cell phone to the EMT so that he could talk to the victim’s doctor, there wasn’t much for me to do except stand around and wait for the ambulance to leave — it was parked between me and my car, so I couldn’t get to it without getting in the way.

So I guess Parishioner X saw me standing there. And that’s what caused the concern.

I just thought it was neat that word got around and my pastor called just to see if I was all right.


You know what’s cool? Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files showed up in my training sesions last week and this week. Trenchcoat, cigarette, and all. Perhaps these mollusc handlers are on to something. “You’re not ready for the truth, Mr. Crawford.”


Digging through the Jurassic era layers of my desk drawers yesterday evening, I found a CD set that I’d purchased a long time ago and then forgotten about: a set with seven episodes of Tales from the Crypt. I drove around town last night and this morning on my errands, listening to kooky tales and strange stories starring the likes of John Ritter and Tim Curry. Great fun.

One of my errands was swinging by Blockbuster and renting a couple of movies. I rented Dagon, a Spanish film based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft, and Jason X… just because I could. Plenty of cheese for me to indulge in.

So. No NaNoWriMo for me this year, but plenty of cheese anyway — almost the same level of cheese as I churned out last year at this time….

People Are Stupid Everywhere… Including Me

I’ve been traveling about Santa Clara these past couple of weeks, training surly state workers on how to use the software that was developed by the Benthic Creatures parent company. Now, I’ve spent years and years and years — since junior high school, at least, a good twenty years — playing with computers and software and making them pling and plonk and buzz the way I like them to. And the other trainers who work for Benthic Creatures are at more or less the same level of experience. Sure, some of us are more computer literate than I am and others can just about operate their computer but don’t know how to program a website; but on the whole, we’re all pretty familiar with the basic concepts of computers.

You might say, in essence, that I’ve come from a culture where computers are part of everyday existence, and to live without them is pretty much incomprehensible.

But the computerized culture that I come from is not the only culture that’s around. The more I train some of these mollusc handlers, the more I realize that there are lots of people who don’t have that kind of computer experience. Some of them don’t know how to log on to Windows. Some of them have trouble double-clicking on a desktop icon. If I were to tell them that the software runs on a remote server which runs a proprietary operating system independent of Windows or any flavor of Unix, they’d either get a glassy-eyed look on their faces, or they’d run in terror.

It’s so tempting to call them stupid and leave it at that.

But it’d be wrong.

In my first year of college, I lived in the dormitories with about fifty other freshmen. I remember sitting in my friend’s dorm talking about Renaissance Faire when someone else came in and asked my friend what a bodice was. My friend answered her; and when she had left, my friend turned to me and said, “Can you believe she didn’t even know what a bodice was?”

And in one of my very few moments of intelligence I replied, “Well, I didn’t know what a bodice was until you told me a couple of months ago. And you know what? She probably knows a lot more about football than I ever would.”

“Yeah, but who wants to know about football?” my friend said.

I shrugged. “Who wants to know about bodices?”

I guess my point there was just that we all come from different places; and every time we think someone else is being stupid, chances are that they think we’re being stupid as well. The mollusc handlers that we’re training don’t use their computers as often as I do, and would probably be overwhelmed at the thought of building their own website, something which comes pretty naturally to me. On the other hand, I doubt that I could do their job, or that I would want to. It’s not that their job is unimportant; it’s just that I don’t have the skills needed to pull it off (or the patience to learn those skills, probably).

So I try to be very, very patient when I’m conducting the training. If someone else thinks I’m stupid for not being able to handle a mollusc, at least I can take the high road and say that I’m better than to think that they’re stupid for not being able to use a computer as competently as I do. But generally I find they react well to me being patient, and no one thinks I’m stupid — or, at least, no one tells me that to my face.

It’s very easy to go the other way around, too, and think that just because someone comes from a different culture or background, they’re somehow better or more enlightened. I remember when I was in Ireland with a friend of mine. We were in a pub and listening to the radio. A commercial for Guinness beer came on. My friend turned to me and said, “They’re commercials are so much more intelligent here, don’t you think?” I listened closely to this commercial and to some others and finally had to reply, “No, it’s the same crap we get in the US. It’s just done with an Irish accent so it sounds more intelligent.”

This is all just a reminder to myself, really. I’m no better than anyone else; but, then again, they’re not any better than me. I’ve seen people do some amazingly stupid things in my day; but, on the other hand, I’ve done some amazingly stupid things myself. If I hang on to that perspective, not only will my job go easier, but I’ll probably have a less stressful life as well.

On another note: if you haven’t voted yet, get thee hence and do so!