Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shine Like a Million Stars!

There's an interesting back-and-forth going on over at Jessica Faust's site regarding what an agent's job "is" and what we, as writers, "should" write. I'm dumbfounded (which is different than just plain "dumb" which I arguably am as well) when I hear writers being overly interested in what's "hot" and what "holes" there are in the publishing industry that need filling. Are you kidding me? So far as I can tell, there is only one WIP that any of us should be writing and that is the story we're meant to tell.

It's simple, really. Write what's in your heart to be spoken. That's all you can and "should" do. A country songwriter doesn't write a hip-song because it's "hot," he writes country songs because that's what he knows and loves. A painter doesn't create a painting because it's "hot." She paints what's in her heart and soul to paint. Hot, cold, or medium, makes no freaking difference.

Writing is the same. It's an art. Absolutely. Plain and simple. Beautiful and breathtaking. So, write what's in your heart and soul begging to be released. Worrying about what an agent or editor might want is like fretting over how many raindrops will fall in the next storm. It's futile. First of all, most agents don't even know what they want, but like porn, they'll know it when they see it.

So relax, all my writerly friends. Trust in yourselves and in your spirit to take you precisely where you need to go and to write the story that is yours to write. No one else can write that particular story like you can. That is the deep beauty of being an artist. No one can exactly recreate your art. It is the one spark of light that is truly your own. Let it shine like a million stars!

In Other News...
I met my first "blog" friend in person this weekend! My husband and I were graced with meeting Vegas Linda Lou and her lovely sister, Lori, as they made their way through the great state of Pennsylvania. What a blast it was, and what a treat to meet one of my "esteemed colleagues." It was wonderful, fun, thrilling, and memorable. I highly recommend it!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Little By Little All Your Sweet Dreams Come True

I was inspired last night. I saw an Australian guitar player (who now also has US citizenship). His name is Tommy Emmanuel. You all know that Chuck and I are musicians. Until last night, I would have told you that I play guitar. Now, I'm not even sure what one looks like. To say he is 'great' would be like saying Michelle Pfeiffer is 'sorta pretty." Let me put it this way, Eric Clapton - yes THE Eric Clapton has been quoted as saying, "Tommy Emmanuel is the greatest guitar player on earth."

Tommy doesn't just play the guitar, but like a cat, he becomes one with it. He puts Buddy Rich (great clip of him and The Muppets drumming together) and Sheila E (Glamorous Life - remember that killer song?) combined to shame when he uses the guitar as a percussion instrument. And hearing him play slow songs is akin to what I imagine watching DaVinci paint the Mona Lisa must have been like. He really is that good. (Oops, I just typed "god" instead of good - mistake? Doubtful.)

During the concert, Tommy told the story of a woman who cleaned his hotel room and made his bed for him while he was in Kenya, Africa playing a benefit concert. He said she left a note on his pillow each night that, translated from Swahili meant, "May all your sweet dreams come true." Soon after, he was in Italy and began writing a song that would become a part of his regular repertoire. The working title was from another Swahili phrase he knew that translated into "Little by Little." (which, by the way, is the title for his soon to be released new album.) He combined the two and the song became "Little by little may all your sweet dreams come true." This particular story jumped off the stage and spoke deeply to my soul. I knew it was to become a part of me. I doubt any of you noticed, but I've added it to the top of my blog. It used to say, "Humor and Introspection from the Suburbs of Philly." Now it says, "Little By Little All Your Sweet Dreams Come True." This is my truest belief for us all.

Here is Tommy Emmanuel's version of "Amazing Grace." I hope this adds to the joy of your weekend.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Darling Buds of Spring

I don't know about you, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE spring! The moment those darling buds wipe the sleep from their weary eyes and peak out from beneath their wooden beds, and the sun pushes the clouds away so it can shine a bit brighter, and the grass proudly reclaims itself by turning boldly green, I find myself smiling feeling that perfect blend of calm and fervor.

Spring is about moving on from cold, depressing days into new, unimaginable beginnings. The sadness discovered on a cold January morning seems less desperate and far more tolerable on a warm March day. Birds chirping and squirrels scampering proclaim the welcoming of a sweeter season.

My cats know it's spring. They line up against the kitchen sliders watching the new day blooming about. They stare up at the birds and paw at the glass. They want to be part of the transformation occurring in the mysterious "outside."

The pool knows it, too. It waits expectantly, realizing it's days in captivity are numbered. Soon it will be set free to, once again, become the destination of happiness, laughter, splashing and white wine.

Let the sun shine brighter still; let the grass turn green. I, for one, am spellbound by the darling buds of spring. D. L. Schubert

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Walking on Eggshells (No More)

Oh how I walk on eggshells. Those damn things get stuck in between my toes and scrape the bottoms of my feet and hurt like a mother. And those are just the physical effects...

I watched my favorite program today: CBS Sunday Morning. It's always chock full of fascinating stories. Today I was blown away by writer Arthur Laurents. You just might recognize some of the stories he's either written or been associated with (the first two in this short list are my favorite movies of all time): West Side Story; Gypsy; The Way We Were; La Cage Aux Folles and Alfred Hitchcock's, Rope.

When West Side Story was created for Broadway it was with the genius of Arthur Laurents' story, Leonard Bernstein's music, Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, and Jerome Robbins' choregraphy. Oh to be a fly on that wall... Arthur is 91 years old now and, as he puts it, works eight days a week. He recently finished refashioning West Side Story written in 1957 for 2009 Broadway. What's different about it? It includes some of The Sharks dialogue being spoken and sung in Spanish. Simple yet brilliant. Click here for Josh Getlin's story about this in the LA Times.

What inspired me most about Arthur (pics are of him then and now) is his extreme confidence and his belief that you should tell it like it is, plain and simple; no need for sugar-coating your opinions to please others or to be PC. If you don't tell it like it is, you must be afraid of something and you might want to take a look at what it is you're afraid of. His other brilliant observation is that all that matters is being in the moment and doing the work you know you're meant to do. "Reviews" (read: REJECTIONS!!) are completely meaningless; they simply don't matter. As he puts it, "If you listen to your critics, you're dead."

If you ask anyone who knows me they'll tell you I'm not one to shy away from my opinions. But what they may not realize is I tone things down all the time in order not to hurt someone's feelings or not to appear crass. To be honest, it wears me out. It's tiring and inauthentic. Here's a question in poem form to illustrate the prospect of "full disclosure":

What would it take to fearlessly
lay it all out for all the world to see
like Natalie Wood as Gypsy Rose Lee?

Don't worry. I won't be using that in either a novel or a song! I don't know the answer, but I'm committed to finding out. From this point forward, I promise to step away from my fears and trust myself more. I'm pulling those nasty eggshells out from between my perfectly manicured toes and walking forcefully in the direction of my dreams. Hopefully, long before I'm 91 I'll be a power to be reckoned with!

Where are the places in life where you sugar-coat your opinions or walk on egg shells? And, as Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When I Grow Up I Want to Be...

Chelsea Handler! She's gorgeous, blonde-haired, hilarious, and Jewish. I had the pleasure of seeing her and my other favorite comic Lewis Black live and "in concert" within the last two weeks.

I saw Chelsea, my comic idol, (and, yes, we're on a first-name basis) at the Tower Theater in Philly on March 7th and last Friday the 13th I saw the always angry, always ingenious Lewis Black at my favorite venue - The Music Box - at the Borgata in Atlantic City.

Chelsea is half Jewish and half Mormon. Need I say more? Yes, of course I do. She's a Jersey girl who was raised Jewish, has her own talk show on E at 11PM EST (watch it!!) and is the author of two of the funniest books ever written: "My Horizontal Life" a memoir of her one-night stands and "Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea" another hilarious memoir. (Her personal beverage favorite? Grey Goose.)

Lewis Black is also Jewish - I can't help it if the Jews have the market on funny. When your people have been persecuted and made fun of for having big noses for thousands of years, you either become depressed and withdrawn, get a nose job, or make jokes. Some of us do all three. Anyway, Lewis Black is an angry man. He doesn't understand Democrats or Republicans or why anyone would want to drink soy "milk." (Actually, there's no such thing as soy milk, but you'd have to ask Lewis about that.)

Since I'd be willing to bet my green-flowered thong (for those of you who hadn't guessed what clothing item I was referring to in my last post) that some of you don't know who one or both of these comic geniuses are, I thought I'd introduce you. ..

Ladies and gentlemen, Chelsea Handler and Lewis Black! (cue wild cheering and the San Diego Marching Band playing "Tusk!")

You can thank me for the following video clips in the comments section. Enjoy!

Chelsea Plans Her Funeral

Lewis Black Talks about a Nuclear Holocaust

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Snail Mail Query Time

OK, folks. Pimping the query was fun and informative - I learned a lot and feel my query is now stronger than before, which was the whole idea. I've revised it a bit further, but won't bore you with the additional changes. Suffice it to say, it rocks. At least I think it rocks. Professional opinions may vary.

Speaking of professional opinions, I've done a pretty good job of e-querying the agents I'm interested in. Now it's time for the ever-popular snail-mail approach. I'm so excited to be spending the next few days at my desk-top computer trudging, I mean joyfully flitting (is that even a word?) through the submissions guidelines of various agents who've decided saving trees is secondary to the unmatchable feel of paper in your hands. I can't blame them, really. I imagine reading through countless queries in your e-mail box gets old after a while (like about ten minutes) and makes you want to drink more. After all, we're writers and writing is published in books and books are made out of paper! Yeah, that's the ticket! Well, not counting Kindle, etc., but you get my point. Plus, my friend, Wendy, recently snagged herself a class-act of an agent via snail mail, and who am I to argue with success?

BTW: Hop on over to Book Roast today where they're having a fun, little St. Paddy's Day contest. Pitch your idea utilizing "luck" in 75 words or less. I drank a few green beers and threw my leprechaun's hat in the ring. Even if you don't play, you can comment on those who are stupid, I mean courageous enough, to do so. (Plus, you can always read through the pitches, laugh your ass off, and - when appropriate - refill the green beer keg.)

Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day! And, where are YOU wearing your green today?

(All I'll say is my green is part of a beautiful floral arrangement. Where those flowers are is for me to know and, if I'm LUCKY, my husband to figure out!)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

You Pimped My Query (And the Sparks are Flying!)

Well, the sparks are definitely flying! I can't tell you how much I appreciate the truly brilliant and insightful feedback I received from the amazing writers out there, and how valuable this exercise has been for me. For any of you who are close to sending out queries, I highly recommend it. (Also, read through the comments - there's some invaluable advice there.)

Please read the query in my last post FIRST and THEN compare it to this one. I can't wait to hear your comments on this new and (hopefully!) improved version (BTW:The word count went from 396 to 317 - a 79 word reduction). AND DON'T FORGET - IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO GIVE ME YOUR TWO CENTS!! :

Dear Future Perfect Agent:

“Thanks for the compliment. I’ve never had a woman hit on me before,” winks Jenny Sampson in SPARKS FLY SOMETIMES: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK PRINCESS. At 83,000 words, this women’s fiction/humor novel is written in a voice similar to that of Chelsea Handler and Jill Conner Browne.

Jenny’s wild rock and roll adventures catapult her and her husband, Nate to the top of the local Denver music scene. However, setbacks and disappointments strike a dissonant chord and keep Jenny and Nate from breaking onto the national stage. The desire for financial security wins out over artistic uncertainty, and Jenny and Nate take a wide turn from music to medicine. As the ever-supportive wife, Jenny incorporates her “BJ’s for A’s” program, offering sexual favors to Nate for every ‘A’ he receives. He graduates from college and medical school touting big honors and an even bigger… smile.

As Nate morphs from a long-haired Catholic musician into a short-haired Jewish doctor, Jenny gets her Cinderella on and trades her rock star tiara for a domestic goddess crown. But all is not sparkling in suburbia. Marital mayhem ensues in the form of a beautiful assistant DA interested in a threesome, a wealthy heiress with eyes for Nate, and a handsome British rock club owner who falls hard for Jenny. These spicy temptations, along with her reignited craving for fame, put Jenny's marriage and second shot at stardom at risk of complete combustion.

My life as a professional singer/songwriter/musician, doctor’s wife and mother of two is the inspiration behind this novel. I write articles about songwriting as the Philadelphia Songwriter Examiner on Examiner.com. My music has been featured on TV, radio, and on Broadjam.com's Top 10 lists internationally.

I will be happy to send you a partial submission or the full manuscript for SPARKS FLY SOMETIMES: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK PRINCESS upon request.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Debra Schubert
(Contact Info)

And, by the way, CONGRATS TO JENNI JAMES who won the kitty picture-holding trio! (You might want to hop on over and congratulate her on this extraordinary feat.) My husband, Chuck, found a site called "Random.org" and let it do the work for him. The kitties will have a new home in England with Jenni and her gaggle of children (six? seriously?).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pimp My Query: Choice Give-Away - It's Picture Perfect!

CHANGE OF END DATE FOR QUERY SUBMISSION COMMENTS: Due to a romantic night in Atlantic City tomorrow (dinner, tickets to see the hilarious Lewis Black, and a night at the Marriott) I'm extending the expiration date for comments on my query to Saturday at 5PM. So, you still have time to be included in the random drawing for the AMAZING prizes listed below. OK, the prizes may not be all that amazing, but the feedback I'm getting most definitely is. ETERNAL THANKS TO THOSE WHO'VE COMMENTED SO FAR!!! My query is really starting to rock! (Pun intended.) Stay tuned for the revised query to be posted before the end of the weekend.

OK, folks. I'm going to follow in the illustrious and incredibly well-read footsteps of my blogging buddy Anita. I'm going to post my query and let you critique away. Although I've received some wonderful requests for partials, I have no doubt my query could be infinitely better. In order to make it worth your while, (and in honor of my 75th post!) I'm having my very first give-away. From now until 5PM SATURDAY THE 14TH everyone who comments will have an opportunity to be randomly selected by my totally hot and completely impartial (not to be confused with "clueless") husband. If you are the lucky winner, you will have the choice between these two amazing "picture-perfect" themed prizes:

This ever-so-lovely 4"x6" photo album, brand spankin' new, still got the plastic wrap around it, folks. Or... This adorable set of kitty picture holders (Angie - I added these especially for you wink*wink*.)

Now, I will post said query below. Please be gentle but firm (sounds like what I tell my husband, um, never mind...) and most of all BE HONEST!!! I'd love to make this the best damn query this side of the Big Pond (that's the Atlantic, for those of you westerners and/or foreigners who look a bit confused.)

SPARKS FLY SOMETIMES: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK PRINCESS is the story of a rock princess turned domestic goddess turned rock princess, and is in the genre of women's fiction/humor. Written in a voice similar to that of Chelsea Handler, bestselling author, comedienne, and television show host, the manuscript is complete at 83,000 words. Several requested partial submissions are currently under review.

Jenny Sampson's wild adventures as a rock and roll singer take her back and forth between L.A. and her family's hometown of Denver. It is there that she and her long-haired musician husband, Nate, form a band that rocks its way to the top of the local music scene. Though eager to break out onto the national stage, after years of setbacks and disappointments, financial security wins out over artistic uncertainty, and Jenny and Nate take a very wide turn from music to medicine. As the ever-supportive wife, Jenny incorporates her "BJ's for A's" program, offering sexual favors for every "A" Nate receives. He graduates from college and medical school touting big honors and an even bigger smile.

However, Jenny's experience as a rock princess in the Denver music scene does nothing to prepare her for life as a domestic goddess in the suburbs of Philly. As Jenny and her family settle into a McMansion in the 'burbs, her country-club lifestyle holds many surprises including a beautiful assistant DA interested in a threesome, a wealthy heiress who has great, big, perfectly made-up eyes for Nate, and a handsome, British rock club owner who falls hard for Jenny. These spicy temptations, along with her renewed longing for rock stardom, keep the sparks flying and put Jenny's marriage and desire to follow her dreams to the test.

My life as a professional singer/songwriter/musician and doctor's wife and mother of two are the inspiration behind this novel. My music has been featured on TV, radio, and on Broadjam.com's Top 10 lists internationally, and I write articles as the Philadelphia Songwriter Examiner on Examiner.com. I recently attended the Algonkian Pitch and Shop Conference, an on-line workshop with agent Noah Lukeman, and will be attending the Backspace Writer's Workshop in New York City this May.

I will be happy to send you a partial submission or the full manuscript for SPARKS FLY SOMETIMES: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK PRINCESS at your request.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Debbie Schubert
(Contact Info)

OK, I've got my boxing gloves on. Give it to me, baby!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Opposite of Speed Dating

Most Gracious Thanks
First of all, I want to thank each of you who chimed in about our gig on Friday night. I was especially thrilled with the response from those of you who listened to and enjoyed our music. That is one of the highest compliments a singer/songwriter can receive - I am deeply humbled and grateful.

On a Different Note...
I'm kicking it into high gear, folks! I've got a new partial out to an agent I'd practically chop my left arm off to have represent me (that way I could still write). I'm not holding my breath, so no need to worry about my health. (Although, chopping my arm off would be a bit of a health concern - one I hope I have to ponder!) I'm also continuing to query like a crazy person. The rejections are barely even stinging anymore. Instead of feeling like a big, painful wasp bite, they're more like an annoying gnat. I gently swat at it and it goes away. In fact, I figure every time I get one, I'm that much closer to finding The Perfect Agent. It really is a courting process. You send your "scent" out into the world and see who finds it most pleasing. Then, you wait, and wait, and wait for your date with destiny... (The Perfect Agent's ETA is about 50%-75% slower than the ETA's at Philly Int'l. Airport. And that's really saying something.)

How many of you are awaiting your speed date with destiny? And how is the "dating" process going?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Great Success at The Diving Cat

Our show exceeded our greatest expectations! The Diving Cat is an extraordinarily spiritual, peaceful, creative space reflecting the beauty and brilliance of owner Markels. She is a truly gifted artist. This event was in honor of the one-year anniversary of her studio/gallery. On the large table at the back of the gallery where Markels holds her art classes, there was an inviting spread of veggies, guacamole, crab dip, chips, pretzels, cake, and the most delicious homemade cookies! (Yup, Markel's talents include the kitchen!) There was also a nice selection of beer and wine. Candles and incense filled the air with sweet, soul-affirming aromas.

The turn-out was high - over 100 people - and we received rave reviews! We were told we were the best live act to come to Phoenixville, a town known for its great musical talent both locally and nationally. That was an enormous compliment (even if the folks who said it were being paid off by my mom.) We played from 7-11PM, and added several songs we'd never rehearsed before since . Unfortunately, we didn't get any video of our performance, but we did get some pics. I've included a picture of one of the many diving cats in the store, a couple of pictures of Chuck and I, one of Markels, me and Chuck, and one of me. If you'd like to hear our music just click here or here. (Note the use of my stage name, Jamie Keys, on the site.) The evening was pure magic from beginning to end, and we were thrilled to be a part of it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Set Lists!

For our show tonight at The Diving Cat, here are the shiny new set lists (drum roll please!):




SET #1

Moon Shadow by Cat Stevens
The Wind by Cat Stevens
Wild World by Cat Stevens
I Need You by America
I Need You by The Beatles (Harrison)
Insider by Tom Petty (duet w/Stevie Nicks on his Hard Promises album)
Out on the Weekend by Neil Young
Tell Me Why by Neil Young
Dead Flowers by The Rolling Stones
Lodi by Creedence Clearwater Revival
All on the Line by Karma Chain (me and my honey's music - see links on the right)
Whisper by Karma Chain
6th Avenue Heartache by Jakob Dylan (The Wallflowers)
That's the Way by Led Zeppelin

SET #2
Ripples by Genesis
Bye Bye Love by The Everly Brothers
Gone Gone Gone by The Everly Brothers (as done by Robert Plant and Alison Krause)
Why by Fleetwood Mac (Christine McVie)
Dear Prudence by The Beatles (Lennon) With a Siouxsie & the Banshees vibe
Across the Universe by The Beatles (Lennon)
Blackbird by The Beatles (McCartney)
Don't Dream it's Over by Crowded House
Blue by Karma Chain
As You Fade by Karma Chain
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks)
Storm by Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks)
Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie
Beautiful by Gordon Lightfoot
Yellow
by Coldplay

SET #3
Mother Nature's Son by The Beatles (McCartney)
Take it Easy by The Eagles
Friend of the Devil by The Grateful Dead
Will I Find an Angel? by Karma Chain
Walking in the Rain by Karma Chain
Shelter by Lone Justice
Empty Garden by Elton John and Bernie Taupin written in memory of John Lennon
I've Just Seen a Face by The Beatles (McCartney)
Mountains to the Shore by Karma Chain
Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones
Don't Think Twice It's Alright by Bob Dylan
Seasons by Steve Miller
Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles (Harrison)

Let me know what you like, love, don't like, etc. I wish you all could be there. I'll hopefully post some pics or possibly video after the show. A rocking good weekend to all!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Comic Relief Courtesy of Baby Jesus

My wonderful blog-friend Angie gave away a cake. I didn't win, and I'm not real happy about that. Nope, not happy at all. Although, it didn't look chocolate, so maybe it's not that big of a deal. But, just in case it is chocolate, I gave her instructions on how to bypass the "contest" thing next time around and simply send me the damn cake. If you pop over to Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee (the winner this time around), you'll see a lot of talk about Baby Jesus.

Now, being raised a nice, Jewish girl in New York, I've never given a whole lot of thought to Baby Jesus or toddler Jesus, or teenage Jesus, or even (dare I say?) hot grown-up Jesus (he would SO be a rock star these days!). Anyway, it got me thinking of my favorite Baby Jesus association and here it is: Baby Jesus Grace from Talledega Nights.

Enjoy!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Congrats to Wendy!

This post will be short and sweet. I'm SO excited about my Algonkian Writer's Conference friend, Wendy's good news - she done gone and got herself an agent, Jethro!!! And, a darn good one at that - Rebecca Strauss from McIntosh and Otis. Please hop on over to Wendy's site and congratulate the heck out of her. Thank goodness there are still smart agents out there signing "new" writers!!!! Kinda restores my faith in the universe.;-)

Major big kudos to you, Wendy!

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