Monday, November 29, 2010

Creepy's Monday Misdemeanor

The Microsoft Word demo on our new computer has run out and I'm officially on 'word. doc lock-down' until I (locate our old version amidst the various software in our desk drawers/make hubby sit down to actually..) install it.  Therefore I apologise in advance for all the hideous spelling errors this post will inevitably contain.  I feel like I'm giving a lecture with my clothes off.
Today's Monday Misdemeanor:  Defamation
Some of the great plot twists in many books or movies is the moment where we feel the MC has hit rock bottom.  Maybe they've lost a battle, a friend, a family member.

Or maybe they've simply lost their reputation.

Slander is a plot device used by some of the most memorable antagonists.  Whether it's a highschool girl suffering from rumors propogated by her arch nemesis, or a spectacled wizard being called a lunatic in the local papers because he says the wizarding world's equivilent of Hitler is back on the loose- slander is used in order to discredit and bring down the MC.  What works with this method is that it really gives the reader a sense of true loss.  

After all, everyone can relate.  No one likes to have hurtful or false things said about them.  It's painful to think those around us view us in a negative light.  But the most powerful thing about slander and defamation is that often times, if we hear it enough and enough people believe these negative things  - WE could start to believe them.  And when that day comes, all  is truly lost. 

Thankfully, most stories serve as an example that slander can be overcome by knowing who you are, having confidence, determination, and excluding those that think less of you from your life.  

Those stories that show how slander can destroy a person to their very core serve as a reminder that nothing anyone says, writes, or spreads about you should be allowed to determine your self worth and you have the power to overcome it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Get a 'Real' Job

A couple weeks ago I received a letter from the Ministry of Education.  Basically they aren’t renewing my contract for next year- feeling enough French teachers going into the field have been adequately trained to teach English.  They’ll only call me if they have a hole to fill.  (Which is basically what they did this year, and lemme tell you, patching up a hole in this system is complete chaos)

So come this July, I will be unemployed indefinitely and my husband and I decided it’s time for me to get a ‘real’ job.  As in- a full time job instead of part time.  I have no idea what I’ll end up doing.  Large companies get a tax reduction for every unemployment candidate they take on, so it’s possible I'll get recruited doing some kind of translation or bilingual secretarial work.   In any case, it’ll be a 9-5 position with fewer vacation and days off than I’ve had the last three years.

Which leaves me wondering…how the hell am I going to reconcile writing, blogging, and taking care of house’n’home -all while working full time?

When I see what a struggle it is just to keep up with the hours I’m working now, I can’t help fearing next year it will all just fall to the wayside.  If for some reason my newest project gets no interest, will I even have time to continue with the process? 

Could this mean the end of Creepy Query Girl?

Dun dun dun!

Then it hit me.  Ask your blogging friends.  I know you’re out there.  Very few of us have the leisure of ‘taking time off to write’.  Many of you work full time jobs, have children and still manage to master the blogging and writing world. 

How do you do it?  And I don’t just mean things like ‘it’s a matter of organization, Katie.’

Well, duh.

But how do you organize?  What sacrifices have you had to make? …If your S.O. hit the road…your children run barefoot and hairy through the house scourging for food… or your home looks like a candidate for ‘Hoarders’, I need to know if that’s what my future has in store.  (pfft, future? That sounds kind of like what most of my present days are like.)

So please.  Share your secrets.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade From Abroad

I know this probably won’t concern most of my normal readers, but I felt it had to be done in the name of all that is turkey day.

Honestly, I must have Googled the above phrase a hundred times in the last seven years and every year, the best I could find was a blurry version of the parade filmed from New York City’s livecam on the Thanksgiving website.  No up close and personal musical numbers.  No detailed shots of the air balloons or the decorated ‘floats’.  No sound, music, or offhanded corny commentary.  It was almost not even worth watching…

But last year I finally figured out how to watch the parade from my home in France- live on a mainstream American channel, and on my large screen tv- commercials and all!  It really felt for those few hours like I was back home again :)

And since now I have a way to throw it out there into the universe for you other expats, I’m posting it here.

To watch the Parade on your computer:

Go to  The parade usually begins at around 9am Eastern U.S. time so you’ll have to adapt your time difference.  For instance, I’ll be watching the parade at 3:00pm European time.

Click on the American flag.  A multitude of live streaming American channels will come up and you’ll have to test a few in order to find one that works best but I usually go with Fox or NBC.  Click on the full screen setting.

To watch on your television you will need:  a laptop or a computer close enough to the television set to plug in a HDMI cable.  This cable will transfer the image to your television.  If you have speakers you can either listen through the computer speakers or hook your computer up to a home surround sound system connected through the television.

That’s all there is to it folks!  I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving In France

Lemme get one thing straight.  I love living in France.  I love the language.  I love the people.  And I sure as hell love the food, culture, and traditions.  If I didn’t love it here, I wouldn’t be here.

These posts are to share nothing more than my own experience of how I, as an American, perceive life in France- the differences in culture:  things that surprise, shock, confuse, or consternate (ooh! Good word!)  With this in mind:

Thanksgiving is probably one of the hardest holidays to celebrate in this country.

1.         1.  The French don’t celebrate it (of course) and most don’t realize the historical significance.  I’ve heard it described as the ‘American Christmas Eve’ or ‘That holiday on dubbed over made-for-tv-movies where Americans are always eating turkey and watching football.’   And my American friend’s French husband still announces every Thanksgiving that we are raising our glasses to victory over the Native American tribes.  *sigh*

Which doesn’t make much sense to me, really.  When I describe what Thanksgiving is all about to my French students, a smile softens their faces as they each enjoy telling me what they’d be thankful for…you know, if France had a day like that.

But they don’t.

I guess I can kind of understand.  It’s just not in their nature from what I can see.  I mean, you’ve got a country with free health care, family allocations, six weeks paid vacations, three year maternity leaves, and incredible benefits for civil service workers…they could, you know, at least take a day to sit back and appreciate it?  Or at least…not go on strike so much!:)  But alas…

2.       2.  Traditional Thanksgiving fare like cranberry sauce, stuffing, or canned pumpkin is hard to come by.   Even finding a whole turkey is difficult.  Every year my husband and I stop by the butchers and ask if there will be any turkey’s available and the answer is almost always ‘No- It’s too early!’  The French don’t usually order their turkeys until Christmas, you see.  The one time we did manage to find a whole turkey, the thing was enormous, cost a fortune and it looked like I was roasting a human in my teensy French oven.

3.       3.  The only American grocery store around here who stocks Thanksgiving items is found in Paris.  It’s called the Thanksgiving Store and it’s a cute little out of the way American ‘epicerie’.   -The prices are insane and I officially stopped going after having paid 6 euros (around 8 bucks) for a can of cranberry sauce.  Basically the store preys on poor American students who feel anything is worth a taste of home or rich American expats who don’t give a second thought to paying triple what they would in the U.S. in order to have their butterball turkey and pumpkin pies delivered on time.

Solutions to 1,2, & 3:  Whenever I go to the U.S. I make sure to bring back a couple cans of cranberry sauce.  I’ve learned to make pumpkin pie and stuffing from scratch (tastes just like my mom’s apple sausage stovetop recipe) and I’ve resorted to buying my turkey in pieces and using English gravy (tastes pretty much like American).  I also photocopy a hand out explaining Thanksgiving and give it to all students, colleagues, and family members...educating everyone I can:)

But I guess the hardest thing about celebrating Thanksgiving in France is missing that feeling of solidarity.  Back home, everyone’s living the same moment at the same time.  The whole country sits down to watch Macy’s Day Parade.  They eat together, laugh together, and share their own family recipes, hold hands around the table and think about how blessed they are.

Here in France, it’s ‘just another day’.  No parade.  No tv specials.  No football.  People go to work.  Kids go to school. And its sometimes hard to make it feel special.
But I always do my best:)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oh Roseanne...

Roseanne first aired when I was six years old.  When it finally got canceled in 1997, I was fifteen. 

My parents were big fans so I basically grew up with the series. 

Now, thirteen years later, I find myself flipping through the holiday episodes for Halloween and Thanksgiving and I gotta say, it brings me back to childhood in a really weird way.

Like the phone attatched to the wall in the kitchen. 

No matter how short the telephone cord was when we bought it- my mother would be able to stretch the thing from the kitchen all the way down to the hallway bedrooms when she did her cleaning.   Cordless phones were only a novelty back then.

And the big scruffy plaid furniture with hand-made Afghans thrown over the back cushions?  They could be found at pretty much every one of my aunt and uncle’s houses.  Along with plastic runners over the carpets.

It was a time when family gatherings were filled with beer, big hair, and raunchy jokes.

Those were the days.

It’s amazing that so much can change in a matter of two decades.  I’m only 28 for crying out loud!  But when I was born, there was no internet.  No cell phones. 

 The only interaction I had with a computer in elementary school was playing Oregon Trail on thin floppy disks with holes in the middle.  We had to shoot animals to survive and family members would drop like flies.  “Sorry, your daughter has died of the measles and your father shot himself in the eye.”--  I mean, that game really taught a child values.

So I guess this is a post about homesickness around the holidays.  Not necessarily for my family, friends, or my country.  The internet helps me stay close in a way I never would have been able to if this were twenty years ago… I’m talking about homesickness for those happy, simpler times when we were all together around a table, eating smartfood and laughing at shows like Roseanne that reflected the best of life as we knew it right then and there.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Precious

My Precious, my magic box, my creative tool, gateway to another world…


My laptop

Has died.

After it’s lifeline (the cord) was attacked and bitten to shreds by the hounds of hell (our new puppy) an attempt was made to save it by hooking up a universal power supply.

Alas, by forces unknown, this caused My Precious to relapse and burn out in a mere 24 hours.  God nor Google can offer any explanation.

I tried everything… Mouth to mouth, the Heimlich, electric pads.  "Stay with me!  Just stay with ME!"  When I saw the life would not be returning to its cold blank screen, a single tear rolled down my cheek as I whispered sweet nothings into the speaker hole.

My husband found me, withered in the corner with bug-like eyes, hair matted and hiding in the shadows, sporting only a dirty loin cloth.

Needless to say, we’re going to attempt restoring life to my dear precious as soon as possible.
Until then, I’m sorry I won’t be around as much this week:(


Friday, November 12, 2010

Is That a Wrinkle In Your Jeans?

I mentioned last week how my home appliances look like doll’s toys when compared to the big guns you guys have in the U.S.  My washer, dryer, fridge, and stove are half the size of what’s found back home. 

What I didn’t mention, however, is how lucky I am to even have a dryer or dishwasher. 

Truth is, electricity in France is REALLY expensive.   This fact, paired with the lack of space means many people living in the city or suburbs don’t own a washer or a dryer.  Instead, they take their loads to the laundry mat once a week.

When I first arrived here seven years ago, we lived with my in-laws for a few months. And although they did own a washer, my mother in-law explained that we 1. Washed the clothes.  2.  Hung them out to dry come hell or high water  3.  Ironed everything to get rid of the wrinkles and fabric stiffness.

My twenty-one-year old spoiled American self stood there with my mouth open, stunned.  “There must be some mistake...”  I stuttered, imagining (hoping) my French was faulty.  “We have to what?” 

She repeated it.

I looked helplessly at the iron wire contraption for hanging clothes outdoors and thought ‘Holy Shit.  I’ve just arrived back in the 1950’s.’

Truth is, many French women I know take pride in the perfectly ironed piles of clothes shoved into their teensy French closets.  One woman at work even bragged that she ironed everyone in her family’s underwear.  We all stared at her in shamed silence.  Ironing is one of those make or break deals here.  You do it, and do it well? - You win House-Wife-of-the-Frickin-Year.   You don’t?  -You’re of the ‘new generation’ who lets your house slide in favor of work outside the home and deserves a down-turned nose from your foremothers.

SO for almost five years, I’d wash our clothes, hang them up to dry, and then...*ahem* fold them as neatly as I could.  Despite the pressure to iron, I couldn’t do it.  As in...really couldn’t.  I tried.   But honest to God (and this is hard for me to even admit) I sucked at it.  After trying to iron my husband shirts a couple times we finally agreed it would be better if he did it himself.

What can I say?  I never learned to iron properly!!  We have dryers in America!  D-R-Y-E-R-S… that turn out clothes so perfectly tumbled and warm, there’s barely a wrinkle in sight and all that needs to be done is a crisp folding.  Whenever I did have to iron a rare wrinkled dress or shirt back in the day, it was with one of those dinky hand held irons and not with the massive industrial sized steam irons the French like to use.  I swear the thing looks like it could grow legs and walk.  My mother in-law has to iron on her kitchen table just to fit the monstrosity in the same proximity as her clothes. 

Between hanging up clothes and washing dishes by hand, I had little time for anything else.  Finally, when we moved into our spacious-by-French-standards bottom level apartment, my husband took pitty on me and bought me a dishwasher and dryer, freeing up my time for more important activities…like blogging:)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Would You Like Some Cheese With That Whine?

Absolutely.  And perhaps some chocolate covered cherries as well.  Fast food... sickeningly sweet caffeinated beverages.  Oh, and sushi.  Yes, lots and lots of sushi.

I have arrived at ‘that stage’ of querying.  Well, actually I arrived there two weeks ago when I got my first query R the very same day I sent out my batch.

For weeks I had been in the revision process and blissfully unaware.  I could dream as I hacked away at my query letter and fifth draft of my MS that ‘this is it!  THIS will be the one!’  I imagined being like those chosen few who only query for a couple weeks- hit a nerve on a dream agent and finish out their lives in literary bliss. 

After all- I’ve done my time, haven’t I?  I’ve made all the mistakes and learned from them.  I spent almost a year in the query trenches with my first book- with several requests for pages,  only to realize my book wasn’t ‘there yet’.  So I put it aside and wrote a second.  Then a third -incorporating everything I’ve learned.  I’ve honed my craft, researched, had TONS of input and help on my query letter.  The positive feedback from my beta readers helped fuel the fire- I can do this! 

Then I made that list of dream agents and thought ‘why the hell not?’  What have I got to lose?

Well, geez Katie- your delusions for one.

Having accomplished all the work- revising the query and sprucing up the draft and finally even feeling ready to #hitsend was like a natural high.  I felt fabulous!!!  For one brief second, I thought- this is it.  It’s gonna happen this time!

It’s like when you’re trying to make a baby.  You spent weeks in bed, perfecting ‘the fun part’ and are now looking down at the pee stick, waiting for the plus (after all your efforts, it’s only natural right?)  and instead there’s a big fat minus sign.

An hour after hitting send, I had my first rejection.



I see how it is.

Maybe it was a fluke?

Two weeks later- five rejections out of the first batch of ten.

Not a fluke.

Back to the drawing board.  I re-honed my query.  I noticed when querying ‘Gretchen Grey’ that many agents responded to it because of its professionalism and not necessarily the voice.  I’d thought this was ‘hors norm’ since everywhere I went was saying the query needs to be oozing voice and high stakes. 

Maybe mine had too much voice?  Maybe I should damper it down and just get to the damn point?

Maybe it’s just never gonna happen for me.

Yes, two weeks into the query trenches and the questioning doubt arises.   I know.  After being through it already, I should be a veteran, right?  Thick skin, letting it roll of my back, swatting away the rejection like flies and keeping my eye on the prize?  A query monster!

But I’m not a query monster.  I’m a total query wimp; the equivalent of the skinny, pale, nose-bleeder with glasses in the query world. 

So why do I keep doing this to myself?


The truth is, there are very few things I know (like in a psychic way) about the future.  But one of them is ‘time will always ALWAYS go by’.  No matter what- the clock is constantly ticking.    There will be a year from now, and a two years from now.  There’s no stopping that.

But we can choose how that time is spent.  Sure- I could spend two years doing absolutely nothing but waiting on the shitter.  Or I could accomplish so much more.  I used to tell myself this whenever I looked at the last years of college.  I used to think- this is HARD!  What if I just stopped?  Again, the only thing I knew was that the same amount of time would go by, but I’d have much less to show for it.  So that’s why I keep going now.

Thank you for letting me whine.  Enjoy the spread.  And if I have you thirsty for some optimism, please check out my friend Jessica Bell who just got her publishing deal!!  She is my hero and her story is a light in the darkness!  Congrats Jess!   

Monday, November 8, 2010

No means 'NO'! Or does it?

Can I just say how happy/relieved  I was to see this posted up by BookEnds Agent Jessica Faust?

In all the months I’ve been querying agents, I’ve usually found that their submission guidelines were pretty fair and well thought out.  I know that their job is tough.  I know that the slush pile is never ending.  I know that the time they have to offer towards aspiring writers is limited and their already-acquired-clients take precedence, as they should.  I know, I know I know, I know, I KNOW!!!

However, I’ve come across a stipulation on some agent blogs that, at first, made my brow furrow.   I’d submit anyway. 

As time goes by, rejections come in and the hunt for a love connection continues.  I come across the same agencies, the same stipulation and the frown turns into a grimace. 
What is this stipulation, you ask?

It’s the ‘If you receive a rejection, please do not query another agent at this agency with the same project.  A ‘no’ from one is a ‘no’ from all.’

Now, I can understand not querying two agents within the same agency simultaneously.  That’s just common courtesy. 

Nor do I believe that you should query the same project in its current state to another agent within the agency as soon as you receive your rejection.   I’d take a good look at your project and the query letter when you receive a certain number of rejections before even considering resubmitting it anywhere.

And I absolutely agree you’ve got to do your research and know who you’re targeting.  However, if that agent passed on the project a couple months ago and your ms has since seen some substantial renovations- shouldn’t you be able to submit it to a different agent within the agency who might be better suited?  Especially if there are two or more agents with similar pasts and preferences and it was a hard choice to begin with as to which one to query.
When one agent rejects a project, they say it could be for a variety of reasons but the one that they most often address is that ‘it’s a matter of falling in love with the idea and then the project itself.’  Now, if we all fell in love with the same kind of man, Jude Law would have to buy stalk in restraining orders.  (Okay, maybe does….But you know what I’m trying to say.) 
Most agencies and rejection letters say something along the lines of  ‘This is a highly subjective business and another agent may feel very differently.’

If this business is indeed subjective than how can one agent decide for everyone in their agency whether or not a project is worth looking at?  Do they have some kind of Avatar mind meld that we know nothing about??  Or perhaps they consider it’s the price we must pay for having chosen the wrong agent to query within their agency to begin with. 

I myself find it hard to believe that of the five to twenty different agents working for the same agency- each and every one of them look at a cup and see it half empty.  That all of them agree the grass is greener on the other side and that the whole third floor is convinced that the Mona Lisa follows you with her eyes. 

I thought the thing agents take most pride in is their ability to see something in a project and a writer.  To be the first to see it.  To discover something.  To help create a final product that will touch the numbers. To explore strange new worldsTo seek out new life and new civilizations.  To boldly go where no man has gone before


In order to do this, they’ve got to have their own mind, their own eye, their own pasts, preferences, and ideas.  I think refusing to look at a project because another agent in their agency has R-ed it is not only unfair to the querier, but unfair to themselves. 
Just my two cents.  **Creepy steps down from the overturned laundry basket**.   Thank you all for coming.  Pamphlets are by the door.  Next meeting’s at the Hank’s Dairy Bar parking lot.  Your golden coins will vibrate if I need you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fridays in France

One thing you have to keep in mind when comparing the U.S. to any other country is:  we’re pretty damn big, geographically speaking.  

France is a little smaller than the state of Texas.  But wheras Texas has a population of 25 million.  France has almost triple with 62 million people living in the same area.  Talk about cramped quarters. 
Especially when most of the population is centered around the biggest cities.  In fact - one sixth of France can be found in and surrounding Paris.  (where I live)

Yeah- In case you were wondering - Das a lot uh people.

In order to accommodate everyone, the government built lots of absolutely ugly shoddy sky rise apartments (outside of Paris, so as not to disrupt the beauty of the city).   Houses and apartments are built smaller and are getting smaller every year. Most places don’t have yards and if they do, there’s a barrier built around it so that nobody can see into your business or easily get into your house.

Roads are small.  Cars are smaller.  Those stereotypical French mini cars aren’t just for show- they’re a necessity.  And, ofcourse, French kitchens are just ridiculous.  My fridge is about half the size of an American fridge-  same goes for my washer and dryer.  When I cook a turkey in my oven, it looks like I’m roasting a human.   The cabinet sizes in my apartment are pitiful.  Which brings me to what I originally set out to talk about today:

Portion sizes.  Little French house + little French kitchens = little French products.

With the small country, small roads, cars, and houses- it’s almost bizarre that the people aren’t smaller here than in the U.S.  But then again ,they sort of are-  in width rather than height if ya get mah drift.

Boxes of cereal here are about the size of a regular hard cover book.  Boxes of rice about the size of a paperback.  (I knew you writers would get these references:)

In the photo below I have French products on one side and a couple American products I brought home on the other.  I can fit a box of cereal, a box of milk (because we don’t buy it fresh in jugs but rather sterilized in small 1 liter cartons) and a bottle of soda  in the same area as an American bottle of mustard, jar of peanut butter and maple syrup container.

Here we have a jar of peanut butter taken from the U.S.  and the jar of fluff taken from France.  See the difference?  I can’t even fit my peanut butter into my cabinet for crying out loud.

Which is why I’m almost freaked out by the enormous quantities offered in the supermarkets when I go back home to the U.S.  Don’t even mention Sam’s club.  It makes my palms sweat.  Whenever I went grocery shopping those first few weeks home I kept wondering how the hell my parents planned on fitting everything into their cabinets.  I’d forgotten storage space in American homes are about the size of my bathroom here.  And it’s not just food.  Bathing products like soap and shampoo are all sold in smaller bottles here than in the U.S.

Even though I gotta say american homes/cars/countrysides are so much more comfortable than the french and really inspire 'the BIG american dream' in most european countries- humans make due with the little space their given.   If only we could be like those crocodiles or gold fish that only get as big as their environment allows.  But then again, if that were the case- the french would be midgets.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday's Unsung Hero

***Post update: Wednesday November 3rd.***
For anyone who missed 'Revising in a Creepy Way'- Joy from Edgy Inspirational Romance has posted it up as a guest spot today!

Tuesday's Unsung Hero-
This was an old series from my early blogging days, but a fun one dedicated to talented people who haven’t really received the recognition they deserve.  In the past we took a closer look at heroes like ventriloquists and national whistling champions.

In light of Friday’s post, I decided to share with you a representative of France.  We may have sucked goat cheese at the World Cup this year, but at the Air Guitar World Championships?  France was numbah one bébé!
I hereby give you Mr. Gunther Love- 


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