Thursday, July 30, 2009

Can a Leopard Change His Spots?

When someone is less than truthful, can you trust that person again? Should you?

IMO one of the most important assets each of us has is our word. Either the truth or our honest opinion, when asked, even if the response is not quite what the asker wants to hear. But some feel that breaking their word, lying or intentionally misleading someone is acceptable or has a valid purpose. Even if they wouldn't want to be lied to in return.

White lies: No, those pants do not make you look fat. Yes, I like your haircut.
Supposedly these make the recipient feel better. They keep the giver from being put on the spot. I'd rather know that the pants made me look fat so I could put on a more flattering pair.

Lies of Omission: When asked a question, are you obligated to tell the whole truth and nothing but (outside a courtroom)? Does it depend upon who is asking?

Intentional Misleading: I'd like see you again. I'll call. I didn't agree to that. The speaker knows very well he/she had no intention of following up, but wants to get off the hook.

Lies on the phone: I'm still at school/the office. My meeting ran late, I'm stuck in traffic. It's 10:00 and I said I'd call. Everyone has a cell phone these days. You can be anywhere doing anything with anyone (as long as the other person is quiet) and lie. So your spouse won't know you're having lunch with the ex you told him/her you wouldn't see again. So your parents/boss don't know you're somewhere you're not supposed to be.
If the liar gets away with it, he probably thinks, why not continue? That way he can have his cake and eat it, too.

Lies to your face: I'm not having an affair. I'm not at Susie's. I didn't take money from your wallet. Often accompanied by righteous indignation, as in, "How dare you think such a thing!" Perhaps the liar thought he could correct the situation---stop the affair, put the money back--before you found out, so it's ok. What you don't know won't hurt you.

Lying to yourself: I don't drink much, it's not a problem. My credit card debt isn't that bad. I don't need a doctor/therapy. I'm not a bad parent. Perhaps the saddest lies and the hardest to resolve. If you can lie to yourself, chances are you can lie to the world and no one will know that you need help.

Using lies to take advantage/discredit someone: Your father gave this (family item) to me before he died. It's your word against mine. You didn't tell me that. The burden is on the innocent victim to right the wrong.

Liars want to make things easier for themselves. The fear of getting caught and concern about hurting others must be less than their need to be untruthful. Some may believe the lie protects the recipient from pain. IMO, even if the truth is hard to take, it's better to deal with than the loss of trust and sense of betrayal that accompany lies.

So can a leopard change his spots? If the liar is truly sorry for lying, is that enough to convince you it won't happen again? What/how much proof and/or time would you need to get over a good-sized lie? An article suggesting ways to let go of the pain of broken trust is at Inspired Fitness, here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Decisions, decisions...

A shout out of thanks to faithful readers who approached me at the RWA National Conference in Washington, DC last week to say they enjoyed keeping up with my blog. One, with the enthusiasm of a soap opera fan who anticipates the next juicy episode, pointed out that though I'd offered submission tips gleaned from my recent trip to NY, I've neglected to discuss what I've decided to do about moving there.

Status: up in the air. The editors suggested I should be an agent, because of my background, there's potential for better compensation, agenting is easier to break into and can be done anywhere. They pretty much agreed that despite my knowledge of the industry and my writing/editing and marketing experience, I'd pretty much have to start at the very bottom, literally getting coffee and making copies. The agents pointed out how long it can take for a new agent to make any money because it could be months or a year before you make a sale and then months after that before you get any commission. So, given the state of the economy, for the short term at least I'll stay where I am.

Since then, an editor graciously forwarded a post for a PR assistant. But if I'm going to make the effort to move, I want to start where I want to be, in editorial. And an agent (who I also spoke with in DC) said I could be a reader for her (for the experience. Which would be great, but then I'd have to resign from the RWA board of directors because I'd be involved in the acquisitions process. She also said if I turned one of my medievals into historical fiction, she'd take a look at the partial (first 3 chapters and synopsis). It's something that has been on my 'to do' list for awhile, so I'm looking forward to making the changes now that I already have someone interested.

In the meantime, still waiting to hear on some submissions that have been out there for awhile, and preparing to send those requested in DC. Also trying to be patient during the annual late summer slowdown of both the publishing and acting worlds.

Stay tuned...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Romance Writers of America in DC

Faithful readers might have noticed that I didn't blog last Thursday. That's because I and more than 1900 other authors (from the as yet unpublished to prolific NYT best-sellers such as Nora Roberts and Debbie Macomber), editors and literary agents descended on Washington, DC for Romance Writers of America's® national conference. Attendees could:

--pitch their opuses during 10 minute agent or editor appointments, hoping to get a request for a partial (first three chapters and synopsis) or a full manuscript. The editor I met with laughed out loud several times (as intended, it's a humorous time travel + paranormal) and requested the full (don't get too excited, she always ask for fulls).

--go to any of 8 craft, career, publishing industry, writers life or research workshops offered every hour.

--hear editors discuss what they're looking for and answer questions at publisher spotlights.

--snag free books signed by their favorite authors.

But that's not all. Many invitation only events were held, including publisher parties/dinners for their authors. I particularly enjoyed Harlequin's 60th anniversary party at the Ritz (I got to go as an author friend's "date"), with bars and dessert stations featuring beverages and treats by decade. Some local and online RWA® chapters offered gatherings ranging from The Beau Monde chapter's Soiree offering Regency period music and a dance master to the Kiss of Death chapter's annual Death by Chocolate party and pre-conference FBI academy and CIA tour. Agents and editors met with current and potential clients.

And well-known authors spoke, including Janet Evanovich , who wrote 12 romance novels before switching to mysteries. Her Stephanie Plum series usually tops the NYT best-seller list (her July 18 video interview for The New York Times is here and her July 14 appearance on The Today Show here). Though she has published more than 25 novels, she teared up when telling the story of her first sale, an "it's always darkest before the dawn" tale. As did I, and many others.

What sub-genres are supposedly hot right now? I heard the following: steampunk, urban fantasy, middle grade, "Victorian is the next Regency", paranormal still but not vampires. Not so much: medievals (unless set in Scotland) or humorous women's fiction.

For more about the Conference:

listen to Scott Simon of NPR's story here. He offers his own attempt at writing a romance novel here

or read Monica Hesse of The Washington Post's story here. (though I am a bit piqued by her description of romance writers: "But if you squint and look for a general appearance trend, this is it: They look kind, comforting, domestic, as if they are wearing perfume made from Fleischmann's yeast. " How does one look domestic? And I assure you no one I know would ever wear yeast perfume.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Do you have enough irons in the fire?

The Gainfully Unemployed and freelancers know the importance of keeping as many irons in the fire as possible. Given the state of the economy, this practice becomes even more important. Incoming leads and projects may taper off as budgets are cut. So we need to have more "outgo." We need to consider provide additional services and step up self-marketing to maintain and increase our contacts, clients and earnings.

I and the actor/freelancer friend I work with are taking this to heart. Here are just some of the things we're doing to get our names out there and grow our businesses.

  • Make sure Web site(s) are current and promote you and your services as best they can.
  • Enhance marketing materials--resumes, demos, stationery, fliers, etc. Now you can send them out again.
  • Use social networking sites to expand your contacts: Facebook, LinkedIn. You never know when a friend of a friend will have a project. But don't overdo! We probably all have at least one person whose statuses we've chosen to hide because they update too many times a day or complete too many quizzes. I suppose I'll have to start Twittering at some point, but there is a limit to how much time one can/should spend online.
  • Add additional agents or agents for additional media, such as print.

Increase outgoing submissions:

  • Frequently troll the Internet for projects.
  • Apply for at least 3 jobs/projects/auditions each work day. These combined with any incoming auditions/opportunities should yield 20+ new irons in the fire every week.
Offer additional services and save on services you need:
We've assessed other things we can do that we haven't been offering or promoting and are defining those services and rates we'll charge.

For example, I'm expanding my freelance writing/editing business (need any documents written or edited, faithful readers?), and already had a new client thanks to an author friend who extolled my talents at a writing workshop. I've gotten quotes/testimonials from other clients but still need to get my marketing materials in order.
  • If you're a computer whiz, can you start designing Web sites? Offer classes/training on how to use a computer or certain programs? What makes your approach unique?
  • If you need a new site or changes to a current one, can you design your own via sites like (my friend can, I'm still trying to figure it out)?
  • Barter with friends to save time and/or money.

Stretch the $ you have: Small savings add up fast. These examples may seem obvious, but I know people who don't take advantage of them:

  • Gas prices in my area currently range from $2.89 to $3.11. That's .22 saved a gallon.
  • Use coupons and buy things on sale. I recently saved $22 on one trip to Jewel.
  • Learn what's cheaper where, and shop those stores when you're in the vicinity.
  • Eat leftovers. Many restaurants serve huge portions, with many more calories/fat grams than we should consume in one sitting . Why overeat or waste food?
What can you do?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Time for the Talk?

By "the talk," I don't mean the one parents have with their kids about the birds and the bees. I mean the talk kids should have with their parents, but often don't because of the difficult, sensitive subject matter. The talk about their parents' finances and assets.

It's hard to choose the right time for this important conversation. Most people don't want to ponder their demise. Some might get defensive, thinking the kids just want to know if they're going to inherit anything. But if you don't have that talk, you, the heirs, will pay the price later. For example, you won't know what sort of funeral they'd prefer, or if they've already purchased a plot or a cremation contract. Myriad other issues need to be covered, such as: Do they have wills, and if so, where are they? What about a power of attorney? Do they have any investments, Social Security payments? Are there medical bills to be paid?

This happened to me and my siblings when my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He never brought up the subject, and I just couldn't. How can you ask a dying man undergoing chemo what stuff he has and where it is? Ask for his PIN or the password for his bank account?

We had his will, but hardly any other information, records or files. It's challenging and time consuming enough to close any estate and, say, transfer a 401K to the heirs. While you're dealing with the loss of your parent, condolences and funeral arrangements, you're also supposed to be getting copies of the death certificate and other paperwork in order.

Here are just a few examples of the frustrating problems I faced:

--I didn't know his email password. Despite giving as much info as I could to the provider, I was never able to get in.
--Past due bills started arriving for things we didn't know he owed. Like the insurance policy on his condo.
--I found a key that looked like it might be for a safe deposit box. It took many phone calls to track down the bank and determine that branch didn't exist any more.

Consider having the talk with your parents. Resources for further information:

Death Education
respect my wishes
what now?