I had originally thought that, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I would share a love scene of some kind. Subsequently, after scouring every piece of work I’ve got on my computer I realized that that just wasn’t going to happen. As it turns out, the only love scenes I have that aren’t terribly inappropriate to share on a blog are ones that would completely ruin important parts of my stories. And we don’t want that, now do we? No. No we do not.
So instead, here’s a short piece of a different kind of love. This is something I scribbled out one day during a particularly slow day at work. It has since been filed away amongst a group of “possible future ideas” to draw upon. Enjoy!
The vines would have to be removed.
That was the first thought that popped into Ashley’s head as he stared up at the house; his house.
The second thought was, wow, I can’t believe I’m really doing this.
The house was everything he’d expected and more, a surprise gift left to Ashley in the will of a great-grandfather he hadn’t even known was still alive. His friends had urged him to sell the house and the land, to use the cash to jump-start his art career, but Ashley had wanted to see the gift his predecessor had left him in person before he made any decisions.
And now he knew that he could never sell it.
The grounds were nothing special: an acre of land that was covered in untended landscaping and unruly underbrush in every direction. The house itself, however, was gorgeous, at least in Ashley’s eyes. No one had been able to tell him exactly when it had been built, but he was confident that it was no younger than a hundred years, possibly much older. It had two large towers whose roofs ended in sharp points – one in the back left corner that appeared to be five stories high, and one in the front right corner that was three. The main bulk of the house was a sprawling, two-story beauty with huge rectangular windows that spanned almost the entire length of the rooms within. Stone columns to either side of the double front door held aloft a twenty foot long balcony with glass doors leading out to it.
Only the chipping gray paint and the vines growing intrusively up the outer walls detracted from the loveliness of the aging treasure.
Let me start off this post by asking a question: how many of you can recall at least one birthday, Christmas, or other present-giving holiday where you were disappointed by a present? Maybe you got the cheap knock-off version of the thing you really wanted, or maybe you got something that was way outside your age range, or maybe you got something completely different from what you’d asked for because what you really wanted was deemed somehow inappropriate. Or maybe, just maybe, you got something completely random that you didn’t want, and all you could think was, “Geez, does anyone even pay attention to what I like?”
Now here’s the thing. I’m not suggesting that kids shouldn’t be grateful for the presents they get, because they should, and it really peeves me when kids are ungrateful little brats. I’m also not suggesting that parents should break the bank when it comes to presents…if you genuinely can’t afford it, then your kids are just going to have to deal (and again, be grateful).
But I am saying this: for the love of god…pay attention to what your kids like.
I bring this up because of my “jobs I’ve had” post a few days ago. Mentioning my previous positions at various department stores reminded me of something I dealt with a lot while working retail: clueless parents. I can’t count the number of times I got questions from parents who had only the basest inkling of a concept of what their child wanted as a present. For example, once I had a mother come into Zellers and ask me for help finding a game that her kid wanted. She said the game was called “Mario”. I had to bite my tongue to keep from screaming as I asked her, “Which Mario?”
A brief discussion thereafter revealed that not only did the woman not know which one of the dozens of possible “Mario” games she was looking for, but she didn’t even know which video game console she was buying it for. She knew that her kid had a “Nintendo”, but not which version, and at the time N64 was still booming, while Gamecube was wracking up new sales. Each system had a plethora of “Mario” games, so I had absolutely no way of advising this woman as to what she should buy. In the end I practically begged her to go home and ask her kid about the game again.
Now seriously, folks…it’s one thing to get a little confused when you find out that there are multiple games with similar titles…but if you don’t even know which system you’re buying it for? Sorry, but you must have your head lodged firmly up your back-end. I know there are lots of parents out there who don’t know a damn thing about video games, but how can you honestly not even know which console(s) your kid owns? Is there really not enough space in your brain to commit the words “Gamecube” or “Playstation 3” or “Gameboy” or “XBox” to memory?
I don’t mean this post to torment parents who are a little out of touch with video games and toys and the newest gadgets. We can’t all know everything about everything. But this is your child (or children) that we’re talking about. Is it really so hard to pay a little bit of attention to what they enjoy? The toys they play with? The TV shows they watch? You have no idea how many times I watched parents struggle over a wall of action figures because they had no idea which superhero they were actually looking for, or how many times I’ve watched a parent pick up some random toy with a look of bewilderment on their face and ask me, “Do you think my kid will like this?”
You have no idea how many returns I’ve seen after a holiday, during which the parent grumbled that they’d, “Apparently got the wrong thing.”
Really, I swear, it’s not rocket science.
Yes, there are an outrageous number of options out there and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, but you know what works? Ask your kid questions. If your kid is playing with a bunch of dolls, ask them what their names are and which ones they don’t have. BOOM, gift idea. Simple. Direct. Almost 100% success rate. Or you know what else works really well? When your kid asks for something specific, take ten seconds to really listen to what they said. The “Mario” game fiasco above could have been easily rectified if the mother had paid attention long enough to hear the full name of the game and, ideally, write it down so she wouldn’t forget. Bada bing, bada boom.
We can’t all be super-parents, and no parent has a 100% grasp on everything their kid is into…but that doesn’t give us an excuse to be ignorant. Your kids have as much right as anyone else in your life to have your attention long enough for you to be able to buy them nice presents without begging a bewildered sales clerk for help. It’s not difficult. It just takes a little bit of effort. Aren’t your kids worth a little bit of effort?
If you’ve been paying attention to any of my previous posts, you know that I don’t have an agent. I have no writing career to speak of, aside from my ambitions and will-be-finished-someday-soon-I-swear manuscript. As a result I’ve had to do a bit of research on the next few prompts, since they all involve information that only someone who had put actual effort into a serious writing career would know.
For how NOT to get an agent, I’ve snatched a few ideas that I found from actual agents explaining what not to do if you want them to pay any attention to you.
If you do NOT want to get yourself an agent…
…send them a query letter that talks about how wonderful your book is. They will be the judge of that.
…send them a manuscript of a genre that they have stated they do not represent.
…waste time and energy telling them your entire life story when you should be focusing on the important information about your manuscript.
…send them a manuscript that is rife with spelling and grammatical errors.
…contact them in inappropriate ways, i.e. stalking their Facebook page, calling their home phone number, etc.
…reply to a rejection with anger; seriously people, grow up. You’re supposed to be a professional.
…beg and plead for them to accept you. Again, I say, grow up.
So there you have it. Pick a couple of the above suggestions, have at it, and you’ll not have an agent in no time!