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“Twilight, I’m sorry, is about a very unhealthy, toxic relationship. [The protagonist Bella] falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.” – Divergent star Shailene Woodley speaking to Teen Vogue.
Hollywood is all about comparing one thing to another, especially when it comes to young adult properties (does that really ever help?), in order to cash in on the previous success. Whether it’s comparing “love stories” or pitting the lead characters against each other, it’s nice to see Woodley addressing the issues straight on.
(via Gossip Cop)
Previously in Women in Film
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At the recent Cinequest Film Festival, author Neil Gaiman spoke with cautious optimism about the Sandman adaptation currently in the works at Warner Bros., one that he has no direct control over.
Unlike many other film adaptations of Gaiman’s work like Coraline, American Gods, or Stardust, Gaiman does not own the rights to the characters or story of The Sandman. Like the majority of comics artists working within established comics universes, he completed his work for the groundbreaking series under a work for hire contract that does not allow writers or artists to retain control over original characters or designs. As a writer of many books and comics that fans would love to see realized on screen, Gaiman is open about how he’s reached a point in his career, professionally and financially, that he can say no if a studio or team has a take on his work that doesn’t do it justice. I suspect, for example, that this is one of the reasons why American Gods has been so slow to reach screens.
But the only thing standing between Sandman and the silver screen is Warner Bros.’ intentions, so how does Gaiman view the impending adaptation? “There was a saying when I was a kid in Sussex,” he told the Cinequest audience, “‘I’ve lived too near the woods too long to be frightened by an owl.’ Right now there is exciting ‘Sandman’ stuff happening, but I can’t help thinking that I’ve been here before.” But he also gave the movie’s creative team, as it stands now, some compliments:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of all people, is an enormous ‘Sandman’ fan. He and David Goyer talked about it, they’ve come up, I believe, with a treatment of what they want the story of the first movie to be. They are talking to an incredible writer [Jack Thorne], who I coincidentally already knew, because he did the movie script for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, so I’ve met him and loved his treatment of my work. And Wednesday afternoon I will be spending with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and talking Sandman! That’s pretty much everything I know. Now you know as much as I know.
The story of the “first movie,” eh? That’s promising indeed.
(via Comic Book Resources.)
Looking forward to Fox’s Batprequel Gotham? An official synopsis has been released. Not looking forward to Fox’s Batprequel Gotham? The synopsis has been released anyway. You cannot escape.
The synopsis, available in full at /Film, starts with two paragraphs describing what we already know—it’s an origin story of sorts for James Gordon and various Batvillains, including Catwoman and the Penguin. The Riddler, Two-Face, and the Joker are also name-checked, though those roles have yet to be cast.
Then we get into the not-so-boring stuff:
Growing up in Gotham City’s surrounding suburbs, James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, “Southland,” “The O.C.”) romanticized the city as a glamorous and exciting metropolis where his late father once served as a successful district attorney. Now, two weeks into his new job as a Gotham City detective and engaged to his beloved fiancée, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards, Open Grave, “Breaking In”), Gordon is living his dream – even as he hopes to restore the city back to the pure version he remembers it was as a kid.
Good so far. Wanting to restore the city to the way it was under a beloved father. Batparallels.
Brave, honest and ready to prove himself, the newly-minted detective is partnered with the brash, but shrewd police legend Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, “Sons of Anarchy,” “Terriers,” “Vikings,” “Copper”), as the two stumble upon the city’s highest-profile case ever: the murder of local billionaires Thomas and Martha Wayne. At the scene of the crime, Gordon meets the sole survivor: the Waynes’ hauntingly intense 12-year-old son, Bruce (David Mazouz, “Touch”), toward whom the young detective feels an inexplicable kinship. Moved by the boy’s profound loss, Gordon vows to catch the killer.
Emphasis mine. First mini-Bruce Wayne has “tragic gravitas,” now he’s “hauntingly intense.” Gotham, you keep presenting ickle Bruce Wayne as the emo-est of baby superheroes and it’ll make it really hard for me to take you seriously. So by all means, continue. What’s next: He’s a 12-year-old with “sorrowful dignity”? One of those hairflap-obscuring-the-eye haircuts? Does he attempt to glare his teachers into not assigning homework because “what’s the point, it’s all meaningless anyway?”
As he navigates the often-underhanded politics of Gotham’s criminal justice system, Gordon will confront imposing gang boss Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith, The Matrix films, “HawthoRNe,” Collateral), and many of the characters who will become some of fiction’s most renowned, enduring villains, including a teenaged Selina Kyle/the future Catwoman (acting newcomer Camren Bicondova) and Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor, “The Walking Dead,” Another Earth).
I have nothing of substance to say here. I just want to have a little excited dance party about Gotham casting Jada Pinkett Smith as a mob boss named Fish Mooney.
Although the crime drama will follow Gordon’s turbulent and singular rise through the Gotham City police department, led by Police Captain Sarah Essen (Zabryna Guevara, “Burn Notice”), it also will focus on the unlikely friendship Gordon forms with the young heir to the Wayne fortune, who is being raised by his unflappable butler, Alfred (Sean Pertwee, “Camelot,” “Elementary”). It is a friendship that will last them all of their lives, playing a crucial role in helping the young boy eventually become the crusader he’s destined to be.
A crusader who will only get more hauntingly intense and tragic gravitas-y as the decades go on.
Several weeks ago, fellow Historical Novel Society member Cora Lee shared an idea that she’d been having fun with for a few months and asked if any of us would like to play along. She took the idea of “Flat Stanley” and gave it a historical twist, creating “Flat Arthur”– a two dimensional version of the multi-dimensional Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington (1769-1842).*
Would I like to play along? Oh yeah! Over the next few months, Flat Arthur will travel with me hither and you. (Mostly to one library or another. Sorry, your Grace.) You can follow his travels and travails on my Tumblr site.
You doubtless know Wellesley as the general who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, the feat for which he was created the 1st Duke of Wellington. Here are a few bits about Wellington that you may not know:
Stay tuned for more Wellington tidbits and Flat Arthur sightings.
* Here’s the blog post in which she introduced the idea for those of you who aren’t familiar with the original “Flat Stanley”.
**He could have given his name to something much less dignified than boots. The emperor Vespasian introduced public lavatories to Rome, where they are still known as vespasianos.
***The comparison with Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, is irresistible. She embraced the nickname after it appeared in the headline of a piece in the Soviet newspaper Red Star, three years before she became Prime Minister. You can’t blame her: her previous political nickname was “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher,” earned when she cut free milk for schoolchildren from the budget during her tenure as Minister of Education. But I digress.
Dear Chairs and Committee members of Loncon 3 and all future Worldcons:
Could you please, please, please and for the love of all that is good and sweet in this world, stop announcing Hugo nominations on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter? Seriously, it’s absolutely idiotic.
Here’s why, from the point of view of someone who did marketing professionally and also worked professionally in journalism, and who is also an author and fan who wants to see the Hugo Awards get the media recognition they deserve (i.e., me):
Saturdays are a dead zone for publicity. News organizations are on skeleton crews. Blogs update sparsely if at all. No one reads newspapers, news sites, or watches cable news on Saturday because they’re sleeping in, are outdoors, or planning their Saturday night. Anything that happens on a Saturday is generally forgotten by Monday morning, when everyone goes back to work.
There is a reason why governments and corporations release all their bad news on Friday at 5pm — because they don’t want people to know about it. The only reason they don’t release it on Saturday is that even PR people are home on Saturday. Saturday is where news goes to die. Saturday is where you go when you want no one to know what you’re up to.
Mind you, that’s any Saturday. But of all the Saturdays in all of the calendar year, the very worst possible Saturday to announce anything is the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. Because it’s the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, that’s why — the Saturday sandwiched between two major religious holidays, which means the “weekend” that week starts on Thursday and Sunday’s news cycle is swamped by the most important Christian holiday of the year — Christmas is noisier for longer, but Easter is concentrated. If you’re the Pope, Easter Sunday is great for you, news wise. If you’re not the Pope, not. Certainly anything that happened the day before Easter is toast.
If I were a crooked politician who had been caught murdering kittens while masturbating to a picture of Joseph Stalin, then the day I would choose to have that news go out into the world would be the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. That is the only scenario on which that day is optimal for the release of information. Conversely, if I were a publicist with a client who wanted the world to know what they were doing, and the client said “Hey, I have a great idea! Let’s release the news of our biggest event on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter!” I would stare blankly at the client while I counted to ten in my head, followed by “Well, we could do that, but –”
Now, this is someone’s cue to jump in and note that the reason for announcing on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter is because it’s a nice little treat for all the fans who attend Easter weekend conventions. This is a poor reason, from the point of view of publicizing and marketing the awards. The fans at conventions are already pre-sold on the idea of the importance of the Hugo Awards and will be excited about (or, if they don’t like the slate that year, annoyed at) them and will talk about them at length no matter when the nominations are announced. That being the case, the goal should be to get the Hugos into the consciousness of the larger public. You won’t do that by releasing the information on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter.
If the conventions were on any other weekend, I could possibly see the argument for releasing the information on Sunday — it wouldn’t be optimal but then at least the announcement would land in a cycle where the news would still be reasonably fresh for Monday (releasing news on a Saturday for a Sunday news cycle is not a great idea — remember that most news orgs and blogs are running skeleton staffs, and your usual contacts are probably at home). But there is no good day on the Easter weekend to release any announcement, and Saturday least of all.
That Worldcon organizers announce their premier bit of news for the benefit of only a handful of fans at the expense of harnessing the power of the press really does not make any sense at all; it’s putting the cart before the horse. Nor does it even serve the larger interest of the fans, other than most insular of them. To put it another way, if you gripe about how the Hugo doesn’t get enough attention but don’t see why releasing the news about the nominations on the Saturday of Easter weekend is problematic, you might be part of the problem.
Releasing the information on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter also makes it harder for nominees and their publishers/organizations to publicize the Hugo nominations they get. Yes, when the Hugo nominations are finally announced, nominees happily go to Twitter and squee about them and publishing house publicists do the same. But again — on a Saturday, when fewer people are looking, and on the deadest Saturday of the year. Then when the week starts, the authors and the PR people have to try to sell to the rest of the media a story that’s already two days old. It’s literally old news, which diminishes the native interest in the story and also, even if the media outlet takes a nibble, the amount of space they are willing to devote to the story.
Yes but what about io9 and Locus and the SF-oriented media online? They run it on Saturday when it happens! Yes they do, and I assure you that they wish they could announce that stuff during the week, when their readership is significantly higher and the story will get that much more play. Because, again, by the time the weekdays roll around, it’s old news. The only stories they have left to play during the week are the annoyed reactions by people who are unhappy with the nomination slate. Which is to say, releasing the nominations on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter all but guarantees that stories complaining about the Hugo Awards will get bigger play in the SF-oriented media than the actual nomination announcement itself. And that is no way to run a railroad.
If I were in charge of announcing the Hugo nominations, I would announce them 10am Eastern on the Tuesday before Easter. Tuesday is a fine day to announce things you want to see get play in the media because it gives news editors plenty of time to slot you in, it gives publicists plenty of time to make announcements and get on the horn to their media contacts, and it’s during the week when the whole rest of the world might be paying attention, along with the fans. And then the Easter weekend cons can still play with the news, with panels and possibly other special events. Everybody wins.
If for some reason I couldn’t do that Tuesday, I would release on (in order of desirability) Wednesday, Monday or Thursday. Under no circumstances would I release on Friday (a holiday) or Sunday (Easter, for God’s sake). I would lick a wall socket before I released the news on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter.
So, in short: The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter is the worst possible time to announce the Hugos, is bad for the Hugos, and is bad for the nominees. Please stop doing it that way. Get the Hugos the attention they deserve as the pre-eminent award in science fiction and fantasy. That means announcing them beyond the small group of science fiction and fantasy fans attending conventions on Easter weekend.
Just, you know, consider it, please. It’s not too much to ask.
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Cosplayer Zoisite-Virupaksha would, and boy are we glad. At her deviantART page you can see other Merida cosplay, both Pixar’s version and modern-day (including a shot of her on the Iron Throne, and whoops, I have a few favorite for whom I think should rule Westeros now!), but this biker gang version is our favorite. She and Daryl Dixon should join forces and use their crossbows to wipe evil off the face of the Earth.
(deviantART via Fashionably Geek; Photos by Jade)
Some actors, like Iain Glen, Emilia Clarke, and Sophie Turner channel their characters. And then there are Jack Gleeson and Gwendoline Christie. I really just want to sit down and have coffee with them.
We’re delighted to report that Kari Sperring is the Guest of Honour at this year’s Novacon! The convention will be held at the Park Inn Hotel in Nottingham, from November 14-16, 2014. Still early days, so details are thin on the ground, but be sure to check out the Novacon website, Twitter and Facebook page for information over the coming weeks and months.
Kari is the author of two acclaimed fantasy novels, LIVING WITH GHOSTS and THE GRASS KING’S CONCUBINE. In case you weren’t aware of the novels (shame!), here is some information and reviews…
LIVING WITH GHOSTS (DAW Books, 2009)
This highly original, darkly atmospheric fantasy novel immerses readers in a world where ghosts and other malevolent spirits seek entry into mortal realms— invisible to all but those who are not entirely human themselves. Drawn into the ancient city of Merafi, yet barred from entering by an ancient pact sealed in blood, these hungry haunts await their opportunity to break through the magical border and wreak havoc on the city’s innocent denizens.
And as a priestess and prince weave a sorcerous plot to shatter the pact and bring ruin on Merafi, only a failed assassin-priest who is now a courtesan, a noble lord married into the ruling family of Merafi, an officer of the city guard, a woman warrior who was the former lover of a now-dead lord, and the ghost of that lord himself stand between Merafi and the tidal wave of magic that may soon bring ruin flooding down upon the city.
Here’s some of what critics have said about the novel…
‘… a brilliantly atmospheric novel with complex yet understandable characters and a dark setting filled with sensation. A recommended read for those with a taste for something a little different.’ – Mithril Wisdom
‘The characterization in particular is well above what I normally expect from SF&F. The magic is interesting too: very subtly done… a very impressive debut. Here’s hoping there are more books to come.’ – Cheryl Morgan
‘From suffering husband to sneering dominatrix, there’s a character for every taste in Ghosts, but the vulnerable, bisexual Gracielis is by far the standout… the characters are so appealing that you hang on every twist of their carmined lips… [a] beguiling, bewildering novel…’ – Strange Horizons
‘… if you love a tale that concentrates on the feelings and emotional aspect of the characters then this is a book for you. Well written with the authors enthusiasm clearly coming through the tale its definitely a story that will remain with you long after the final page is turned.’ – Falcata Times
THE GRASS KING’S CONCUBINE (DAW Books, 2012)
A return to the same amazing and atmospheric world of LIVING WITH GHOSTS, a story set several hundred years later.
When a wealthy young woman, obsessed with a childhood vision of a magical Shining Palace, sets out with her true love to search for a legendary land, she discovers the devastated WorldBelow – the realm of the Grass King – and the terrifying Cadre, who take her prisoner, and demand she either restore the king’s concubine… or replace her.
Here’s a selection of the critical response…
‘Readers who are looking for a beautiful and original work of fantasy should pick up THE GRASS KING’S CONCUBINE… an enjoyable read, and I think that fans of thoughtful fantasy should give THE GRASS KING’S CONCUBINE a try.’ – Strange Horizons
‘This is a rather wonderful book… a beguiling sub-plot… Sperring has created an unusual world that surprises at every turn, giving the pleasures of high fantasy whilst avoiding the worn-out tropes.’ – Living in the Maniototo
Music & Literature: Write, Read, & Roll
Hey gang, it’s Lynette Mae. The release of Rebound prompted a few discussions about the links between music, lyrics and the longer written word. So, I thought it would be cool to have rocker Cole Armocida tell us about how she’s inspired to create her incredible music. For me, this project opened up creative spaces in my soul and the power has been nothing short of amazing. Now here’s Cole to start us off with her musical inspirations, and I’ll chime in later with some additional thoughts.
Get lit and make music.
No, that’s not what I mean. Not all musicians create under the influence. Lit, as in literature. Yes, I’ve been inspired by some books to write lyrics. Inspiration can come from a storyline of a novel, a character, or even just one sentence. Movies, television shows, news programs, and magazine articles can inspire song ideas. Recently, a commercial set something off in my head with one sentence. It can also happen with a combination of media. You never know what will charge your creative brain.
I’ll give you an example of how a book partially inspired a song I wrote and recorded a number of years ago. It came from a combination of factors. Imagine a cafe. Two women are waiting in line for coffee and discussing a workplace situation. I’m within earshot, trying to read a story about an office romance. Another regular patron is sitting at a table nearby, legs crossed and facing outward to give me the full side view, and her index finger is gliding along the rim of her cup. Yeah, I’m not getting much reading done. I’ve been on the same paragraph since she walked in and sat down.
She was an attractive woman who frequented the cafe. Think Julianne Moore mixed with Amy Adams. Yes, a red head. One conversation, which she initiated, became many over a few months. From word one, her light flirtation accelerated to the first stages of seduction. Now, at this point, I was on guard because every auburn haired woman I meet emanates trouble. Trouble, which can feel good, but trouble nonetheless. I won’t use names so we’ll just call her “Red”. Well, Red worked in a nearby corporate office and what started as a late morning visit to the cafe, became late-morning and late afternoon visits. The exact times I would take my breaks from work.
I’m reading and enjoying my coffee, I have Red sitting nearby intermittently throwing lines at me, and I overhear the one woman on line say to the other, “Oh, I think she’s just testing my waters.” – The other woman touches her colleagues arm and says, “Yeah, well, be careful.” – Bingo! I stood up, bid Red adieu, left the cafe, and took all three factors to write the song titled, “Testing My Waters”. For this song I wrote down some lines that popped into my head right away. Once I was home, I plugged in my guitar, tuned up, and began playing random notes and chords. It is something I tend to do without much thought. I allow my hands to do whatever happens and it has resulted in the creation of quite a few songs. This would be one of those songs. Four notes on two strings and how my hands just happened to play them became part of the intro to the song. Within one hour, “Testing My Waters” was complete. The combination of the overheard discussion of the cafe patrons, corporate office-seductive-red head, and the book I was reading, resulted in one of my all time favorite songs I have composed to this day. Though I chose not to re-record the song for my CD, Lifeline, I may release the original recording one day.
A song on my CD, Lifeline, is another example. I wrote a song based on a story I’ve completed. The song is called “To Die For”. It’s more of a hard rock tune than the other songs on the CD, but I absolutely love playing that song. It’s also a great tune to workout to when you need to pick up the pace. The manuscript it goes with? My WIP (work in progress). It’s complete and ready for edits, but I would call it more of a WSILBMATTFS (work sitting in limbo because music always takes the front seat).
Speaking of music taking the front seat, I received a phone call one day from my good buddy, Lynette Mae. She wanted to send me what she had written so far for her WIP, Rebound. We discussed the storyline and she wanted to know if any of my songs would fit with the storyline. I told her I would read what she sent over and let her know. Well, LM has this way of hooking you and reeling you in as a reader. I always find that her writing style immediately pulls me in and I feel like I am there in the scenes. I sent her a message and asked her to send me more. It didn’t take long for me to go into my studio, pick up the guitar, tune it, and yes, let my hands move around the fretboard at random. Again, bingo. A few chords, and the lines just flowed on the paper. I shared the lyrics with LM to see what she thought and was thrilled with her response. What I realized, after I composed the music and lyrics, not only was the song for the main character, Conner Maguire, but also for myself.
The words and music became this soul-warming inspiration to fight and move forward no matter what happens in life. Hey, this isn’t just a song for Conner and me, it’s a song for every person out there going through life’s unexpected changes and challenges. Challenges. It hit me. I can’t spend money on this recording. I’m still paying down costs incurred with the first CD and start up of the label. I thought about doing a live video performance but with all the music in my head, just me with my guitar wasn’t going to cut it as a release. I would not be satisfied with that stripped down performance. I turned in my chair, and the first thing I saw was a stack of CDs I usually listen to while I’m working out. The CD on top was Black and White America by Lenny Kravitz. Lenny Kravitz often plays all instruments on his recordings, as does Prince. As the song, Rebound, says, “The real test upon you, give one cleansing breath”. That’s what I did. I started by programming the drum line, using drum software. I didn’t have all the microphones needed to properly record my drum set. I continued, recording all the guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals. I mixed each track, recruiting my wife as a second set of ears to assist me in the long, hours-consuming, sometimes frustrating process. When I felt I had the final mix, I mastered the song for distribution through CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.
I was so inspired, I took on another new project. Using the experience of doing my own music videos, and some fabulous film footage by Lynette’s nephew, Chris, I put together the book trailer for LM as well. The entire experience was extremely fun.
Well, now that I’ve shared how literature inspires my songwriting, let’s hear from Lynette Mae on how music inspires her story writing…
“Rebound and reload…” music fades. That’s my cue.
Get music, create lit.
I love using musical references in my work to give the reader a time reference and it helps give a sense of the character or set the mood. Cole forgot that when I sent her the intro to “Rebound” I included a little line where Conner is listening to indie rocker, Cole Armocida, while working out. I did originally want to use a song from her Lifeline CD, but then Cole blew me out of the water by actually writing a whole song. That was incredible, but then something even more amazing happened to my creativity.
While I love including musical references, I always thought I preferred to write in silence. Radio and TV are too distracting, I told myself. I need to focus with no distractions. That’s what I thought. Rebound was like no other story I’d ever written and it challenged me in ways I never anticipated. Some days I feared it would never be published. Truth. Then an army buddy of mine suggested a soundtrack for Rebound. We’d discussed the secondary character, Coach Shawn Tyler, a disabled Iraqi War vet. I was struggling with exactly how to portray Shawn. AJ didn’t stop at the suggestion; she sent me a list of songs the next day, with a note that I should add others I felt would connect with the characters or story.
Her choices were spot on and when I added a few of my own, I suddenly felt Shawn coming alive. Inspired, I added a couple for Conner. From then on, I listened to the Rebound soundtrack every minute I was writing. I realized that the right songs would capture the mood, and rather than distracting, they inspired me beyond anything I’d ever experienced. When Cole finished the song “Rebound” and played it for me the first time I nearly cried. It captured the spirit of Conner and Shawn, and the message of humanity and hope for us all. That, folks, is what it’s all about.
Readers: Do you ever relate songs to your favorite books? How so?
Authors: Do you have a playlist for your WIP’s? Does music charge your creative brain? Tell us about it.
About Cole Armocida:
Cole Armocida hails from Pittsburgh, PA and currently lives in New York City. At an early age, Cole’s music education was enhanced by her parents’ jazz and standards albums and her siblings’ classic rock albums. Her mother is a trained vocalist who performed as part of a trio for radio shows and met Cole’s father while performing in a theater production.
Singing since the age of four, Cole began playing in bands as early as thirteen, performed many live shows, and opened for some national acts with her band in Pittsburgh.
Cole’s CD, Lifeline, and her new single, “Rebound” is available through CD Baby, iTunes, and the Amazon Music Store. The New York City based company, WACBIZ, run by industry veteran, Suzanne Hilleary, licenses Cole’s music for film and television.
Do you know what I love? Writing conferences. They inspire me. They invigorate me. They connect me with other writers who are as passionate about words and stories as I am.
Do you know what I dread? Writing conferences. They terrify and overwhelm me. They make me wonder why I spend thousands of hours with people (i.e. characters) who don’t technically exist. Writing conferences make me phone my husband, mid-conference, and cry, “As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry write again!”
A few weeks ago, at AWP, I found myself in the throes of this conference-induced, Oscar-worthy melodrama. Come with me, and I’ll share some highlights . . .
Thursday @ 7:30 a.m. The first full day of the AWP Conference: I spend the morning making my kids’ lunches and half-listening to them practice their violin. Trying to look professional but not preppy, writerly but not weird, I try on roughly thirty-seven outfits before settling on a casual dress and a scarf that can hide or reveal (audience depending) my cross necklace. Uncomfortable-but-funky shoes. Black tights.
Now running late, I yell at my kids who are moving at the speed of sloth. I hug my mom when she arrives to stay with the kids. I gather my notes for the panel I’ll be sitting on. I remind my son to get his soccer stuff in his backpack and his basketball stuff in the car. I remind my daughter to talk to her music teacher about choir and her soccer coach about a new jersey. I remind them both to eat their fruit because I don’t pack that stuff in their lunches for my own amusement. I text my husband: I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE, THE JUGGLING OF WRITING WORK, PAID WORK, AND MOM WORK. I hug my mom again, and run to the bus stop. Already my tights are falling down. I am trying not to cry.
8:15 a.m. On the bus however, I attempt to inhale peace and serenity. I’m better, I text my husband. Thx 4 supporting me. Upon arrival, I feel cheery-ish. Optimistic. But I’m at the conference for only ten minutes when I find myself locked in a stairwell. For what feels like hours, I pound on the door. I start sweating. I worry I’m going to miss my panel, my dinner date with writing friends, my children’s graduations and weddings. I choose to focus not on the fact that I have a cell phone and could simply phone one of my writing friends. Rather, I imagine how, fifty years from now, someone will discover my skeletal remains, my AWP badge still hanging around my bony neck.
But hark! The sound of a door opening. The jingle of keys.
“Hello?” I call. “Help! Hello? I’m locked in this stairwell!”
A man emerges, eyes me suspiciously. “How’d you get in here?”
I point to the door. “There should REALLY be a sign on that door if we’re not supposed to use it!”
He’s still eyeing me, almost as if I’m an AWP terrorist, so I move my scarf to reveal the cross necklace. I hope this will help (not hurt) my case. “I was hoping to get some cardio,” I say, trying to smile. “By taking the stairs.”
Still wary, he pulls out a key and frees me. My hand hurts from pounding the metal door. Sweat marks stain my dress. The crotch of my tights is around my knees.
8:30 a.m. Pulled mostly back together, I attend a fabulous session where I learn the importance of plot structure.
9:30 a.m. Pulled 100% back together, I attend a fabulous session where I learn the importance of ignoring plot structure. Yes! Instead, I’m to focus on Character, on Subtext, on the Hum and Beckon of the story. These panelists are all at least 100 IQ points smarter than I. I have never heard of them or their books.
10:30 a.m. I sit on my panel where I try to offer something to the lovely audience members who have chosen to spend 75 minutes with us. Really though, as the only unpublished panelist, I can only offer humor, humility, empathy, and, I hope, hope.
12:00 p.m. Buoyed by post-panel endorphins, I sit my introverted tush on a comfy, semi-hidden couch, eat my home-brought PB&J and satsuma oranges, and try to find the Plot AND the Hum and Beckon of my work-in-progress.
After an hour, I’ve found neither.
Plotless and Humless, my hands sticky from satsuma juice and strawberry jelly, Ron (the mean-voiced, not-real dude who sits inside my head and whispers mean stuff), starts in: Why are you even here? Why are you trying to be a writer? You can’t even keep your tights up!
1:00 p.m. In the restroom, I wash stickiness from my hands and give myself a pep talk, after which I hike up my tights and head to the Book Expo where hundreds of smaller publishers have their beautiful books on display. Wandering the aisles, it occurs to me that some day I might have a book on a table. Enter Ron. Really? You think you can ever be an author? Look at how many books there are! You think someone’s going to notice your book?
Apparently Ron sneaked past security without a green lanyard and badge.
I tell Ron to go suck it. I remind myself that I want to talk to several publishers who might be a good fit for my books. I hand Ron a poop-flavored lollipop and a copy of The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe so he’ll be silent for a few hours, and off I go.
Some editors are kind and savvy, people I would trust with my books. When they ask to have my agent send my work, hope pushes green sprigs through cold, wet ground. Editors want to see my work!
But other editors act like I’m chewed gum on the bottom of their shoes. They don’t care that I have an agent. They think I’m not edgy enough. See these funky shoes? I want to tell them. Tell me these aren’t edgy! But the hipster-editors have gone back to studying their iPhones.
I, an edge-less shmuck, wander until I arrive back at my semi-hidden couch. Hiking up my sagging tights, I hear it, the gentle whisper of not-Ron: Go listen to writers reading their work.
I do. I listen to Amy Tan and Erik Larson and Janna Cawrse Esarey. To Karen Finneyfrock and Peter Mountford and Bonnie Rough. These are writers who believe that Story is holy, a necessary part of being human. Hearing their words helps me remember why I have chosen this profession. Their voices help me trust I will find Plot and the Hum and Beckon of my work-in-progress. I will.
Isn’t that what’s most strange and exhausting about writing conferences? That we can experience an hour of fist-pumping gratitude and excitement, followed by three hours of terror and whelm?
Or maybe I’m the only one.
But based on the faces of many conference-going comrades, faces that look like they’ve been buckled into a three-day roller coaster, I don’t believe I am the only one. And for that I am grateful. It is terrible to be alone in a locked stairwell, but it would be far worse to be the only drama queen at a writing conference, the only one with saggy tights, with changeable emotions, with a penchant for melodrama.
Now you! How do you successfully ride the waves of writing conferences? Do you struggle to juggle presence at a conference with presence on your home front? What’s the best thing that’s come out of attending a writing conference? Please share!
Photo courtesy of Flickr’s Kirby York.
Sarah Callender lives in Seattle with her husband, son and daughter and is currently working on a novel titled BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE ORANGES. Sarah is a terrible house-cleaner, a lover of chocolate and hats, and a self-professed cheapskate who has no trouble spending money on good chocolate and hats.
When you say “I don’t have enough time!” … are you always telling the truth? (Be honest.)
Is it possible that you DO have enough time – more than enough – but that you’re wasting it on stupid things?
Let’s get brutally clear about what must be removed from your plate.
Maybe it’s bad habits. Maybe it’s the little things you do all the time. Maybe it’s a limiting mindset.
It doesn’t matter what it is. It matters that you begin with awareness.
Here is my list of top 10 Time Wasters for entrepreneurs who know it’s time to Uplevel their business…
#10 – Bookkeeping
Yes or no:
A] Do you toss your receipts in little piles, telling yourself you’ll get to them soon?
B] Do you announce every April that you’ve got to keep better track of your invoices?
C] Are you considering a QuickBooks course at your local college?
If you answered yes to ANY of these, you need a bookkeeper.
The reason you stink at this stuff is NOT because you’re a procrastinator. The reason you stink at this stuff is because YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO! If you were meant to be a bookkeeper, you’d be one!
#9 – Customer service
In the early stages of your business, it’s good to connect with your prospects and clients and directly respond to them. However, if the routine emails and calls swallow up hours each week, let go and hire someone to take over.
#8 – Running errands
One of my clients is a successful realtor. Last week, she ran a “quick” errand to put a lock box on the door of a house. With traffic, this errand took 90 minutes.
This is a classic case of: “By the time I show someone how to do it, I could just do this myself.”
If you do this activity once a week, you just wasted TEN 8-hour days of high ROI work you could be doing each year.
Will it take you 10 working days to show someone how to run your errands?
#7 – Housecleaning
The simple act of hiring a housekeeper can save marriages, heal relationships with kids, and make you believe in God. That’s all.
#6 – Blame
Blaming anyone (including yourself!) for your results or your actions is pointless. Instead, take your power back and own your results. Create a weekly habit of getting back on track with your priorities and your focus. We all get off track. We all have excuses. Keep up the habit of seeking solutions, not blame.
#5 – Worrying about competitors stealing your content
The days of intellectual property are mostly gone.
(And I say this as somebody who has had entire blog posts cut and pasted with a new byline on other websites.)
Here’s what’s truer than theft:
No one can steal your energy.
The people who steal your content crack me up because – try as they might – they can’t steal the energy and intention that is behind the content. AND, even if they get a client from your content, they most likely wouldn’t be able to deliver on the promise. Not really.
And besides, your job is to just keep getting ideas and putting them out there. Your loyal fans and readers will come to you when they find someone ripping you off. By that time, you’ll be on to something else.
#4 – Endless alerts
How many alerts are pinging, binging, ringing, blooping, bleeping or vibrating your ass in any given hour? (Or even as you read this.) Turn them off. They’re making bad chemicals happen in your brain. They’re distracting your focus. And they are turning you into an anxiety-ridden rat.
#3 – Half-Ass Delegation
Here’s a 7-Act Play in one paragraph:
Hire someone. Be excited. Tell him a few things to do. Get busy the next day. Forget to show him other things to do. Get frustrated because he didn’t do what you wanted. Call friends and complain that you can’t find good help these days.
Try this instead:
When you hire someone, tell him EXACTLY what you want him to do. Lay it out in step-by-step format with desired results and timelines spelled out clearly. Take time each day to continue the training. This requires consistent clarity and focus. And it pays off.
#2 — Looking at your unsubscribes
How many times do I have to tell you to stop doing this?
Your unsubscribes are none of your business. Turn off that alert NOW.
Then, hire someone to manage your list and keep an eye on your unsubscribes.
(And yes, she will inform you the day your whole list decides they don’t like you anymore and collectively makes a mass exodus. In the meantime, the three people who unsubscribed this week can go out for cocktails together and talk about you.)
#1 — Taking the word “solo” literally
Solopreneur or solo business owner means that you run your own business. It does NOT mean that you should “go it alone.”
You can’t succeed without support from someone who is already successful at what you want to do. It’s time to reach out, hire a coach, get a mentor, or surround yourself with other successful entrepreneurs.
Now, share with me!
What are you doing (sometimes or often) that is wasting your time – and when will you stop?
The Evinrude Fishing Saucer concept boat designed by Brooks Stevens and made for the 1957 New York Boat Show.
Designed by Brooks Stevens
I feel like I should say more than that, but really, that’s all that matters. If you swing by Goodreads, you can sign up for a free giveaway of the newest Miriam Black book, The Cormorant.
So, you should go do that now:
Goodreads Giveaway Link for The Cormorant.
Make with the clicky-clicky.
Maybe get a free book.
MAYBE GET A FREE PONY.*
* no pony.
Month 8, Day 11 of this Writing in Public challenge.
Finally back to speed, even though not completely rested yet. But at least being back to speed feels good.
Rolled out around 1 p.m. and managed to get some e-mail done and to the snail mail and then to WMG Publishing offices by 3 p.m. I recorded one of my short stories in the audio room. I think it will be an upcoming podcast. Then I talked with another professional writer who was there for a short time, then headed home around 5:30 p.m.
I did about an hour of e-mail, then headed for the standard nap with the white cat, dinner, news, and dishes.
Got back into this office around 8:30 p.m. and worked on the online homework until around 10:30 p.m. It’s still the two month cross-over week, so more than normal for tonight, but it wasn’t bad at all. Actually kind of fun.
I took a short break, then moved over to the writing computer and got just over a thousand words done on a short story before heading downstairs just before midnight to watch The Voice. Then after a little bit of other stuff, I made it back in here around 1 a.m. I managed over the next hour and a half to get two more thousand words done with a short break. Speeding right along for me.
Then I worked on the 1st Indie Sacred Cow article, getting about 300 words on that done.
So at 3:15 a.m. I moved back over to the writing computer. In another 40 minutes I managed yet another 1,050 words.
I still have no idea where this story is going, but I’m getting Poker Boy and his team into worse and worse jams, so all good so far.
So ended up with 4,100 words of fiction, 300 words of nonfiction. If I can just get this story done tomorrow and get started on a novel on Thursday, I’ll be happy.
Totals For Month 8, Day 11
– Daily Fiction: 4,100 words. Fiction month-to-date: 15,750 words
– Nonfiction: 300 new words. Nonfiction month-to-date total: 2,300 words
– Blog Posts: 350 new words. Blog month-to-date word count:4,150 words
– E-mail: 26 e-mails. Approx. 950 new words. E-mails month-to date: 329 e-mails. Approx. 12,750 words
– Covers Designed and Finished: 0. Covers finished month-to-date: 1 Covers
For projects finished in the first seven months (in a day or so I’ll have February in there) and links to the posts, click on the Writing in Public tab above.
For projects finished in the first seven months and links to the posts, click on the Writing in Public tab above.
For projects finished this month and where you can read them, click continue reading below.
—Finished putting together Smith’s Monthly #7. Turned in.
—Finished editing and putting together Fiction River: Universe Between. Turned in.
—Finished the introduction to Fiction River: Universe Between.
—Finished the introduction to Smith’s Monthly #7. It will appear in Smith’s Monthly #7 in April.
—Finished The Slots of Saturn: A Poker Boy novel. It will appear in Smith’s Monthly #7 in April and in June in book form. 58,000 words.
“Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)’s finger is on display at the Museo di Storia del Scienza in Florence, Italy.
“The finger was detached from Galileo’s body by Anton Francesco Gori (Florence, 1691-1757, literate and antiquary) on 12 March 1737 when Galileo’s remains were transferred from a small closet next to the chapel of Saints Cosmas and Damian to the main body of the church of Santa Croce where a mausoleum had been built by Vincenzo Viviani.
“Subsequently the finger was acquired by Angelo M. Bandini, the librarian of the Biblioteca Laurenziana and was exhibited for a long period in this library.
“Then, in 1841, it was brought to the Tribuna di Galileo, which had just been opened in the Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale on the via Romana.
“Along with the instruments of the Medici and Lorraine dynasties, it eventually became the property of the Museo di Storia del la Scienza.
“The museum says the finger “exemplifies the celebration of Galileo as a hero and martyr of science.”
My guest today is award winning playwright Vanda, who is currently working on her first novel, Juliana.
Who Was She?
I wonder how many LGBT folks today know who Madame Spivy was. Well, Spivy was an early pioneer in the gay rights movement, although I doubt she would’ve seen herself that way. She was a nightclub owner and entertainer who from the early 40s to the mid 50s kept Spivy’s Roof going despite her poor money management skills. Spivey’s Roof was a nightclub where gay men and women could go and be “almost” out. This meant it wasn’t a gay club, most of the patrons were straight, but gays could openly gather there if they didn’t call too much attention to themselves. According to Gavin (2006) Spivy wanted her various girlfriends to come into the club, and she didn’t think it would be fair to let them in while leaving out the men. Each night gay men lined the bar in their white tuxedos. Spivy’s was a good place for the men to meet each other and a little “fumbling around in the dark” was not uncommon. But Spivy, a short, stout woman in a black dress and black hair combed into a stiff pompadour with a white streak going from front to back (Gavin, 2006, p 30), could be moody. Every once in awhile she would stand up in the middle of the dining area and yell, “Get all the fairies out of here.” Gavin doesn’t say whether this was a joke or whether she actually pushed the gay men out. I rather think not. As one patron put it Spivy was the “patron saint of fags.”
Spivy’s Roof was located in the penthouse of 139 East 57 Street in New York City. To get there you rode up in a rickety elevator, which opened into a world of glitter and chrome and tightly packed tables and chairs. On the walls were paper sculptures of “stars” such as Katherine Cornell and Gypsy Rose Lee.
Madame Spivy had her devoted fans who came to hear her perform a set of 15 “sophisticated” or “blue” songs. She was supposed to do two shows a night on the weekend, but she paid no attention to time or scheduling. Often she still hadn’t begun the ten o’clock show at 11:30. It wasn’t uncommon for her fans to begin chanting “Spivy! Spivy!” to try to coax her onto the stage. But Madame Spivy was in the back talking to one or more of her girlfriends, among them Tallulah Bankhead or Patsy Kelly.
Spivy was always the star at Spivy’s Roof despite, allowing others to perform on her stages, such as Mabel Mercer, and the then unknown Carol Channing.
strong>An Unknown Piano Player You May Know</strong>
Spivy always had two pianos, one under the spotlight and another in the back covered in shadows. The pianist in the back played the ambient music and also backed up Spivy’s own playing when she sang. The word was that she kept that shadowy pianist in the back, because she wasn’t very good. Still she had no intention of sharing the spotlight with anyone else.
Walter Liberace, c 1943
The times these people lived in were very different from ours in some significant ways. One commentator who was a regular at Spivy’s Roof when he was sixteen—they didn’t seem to be quite so fussy about legal drinking age back then—said “I was probably too innocent to think of Spivy’s sexuality. The concept of women loving women just didn’t exist in the groupthink of the era…” (www.ralphmag.org/DJ/spivy2.html)
Spivy’s Roof was so successful in New York that Spivy thought she could expand into London, Paris and Rome. These clubs all failed. (www.ralphmag.org/DJ/spivy2.html)
So What Happened to Her?
Spivy established a small acting career and you can see her in The Manchurian Candidate and Requiem for a Heavyweight. She also starred in some TV episodes of Hitchcock Presents.
Gavin, J (2006). Intimate nights. New York: Back Stage Books
Ralph (n.d). The Bearded Lady on Spivy’s Roof, Part I. http://www.ralphmag.org/DJ/spivy1.html
Based on research for my novel, JULIANA: It’s 1941 in New York City
where gay men and women live secretly among straights.
Many thanks, Vanda, for such a fascinating article. Madame Spivy was quite a lady! Good luck with your novel, Juliana, and please let us know when it’s available.
Club owner, actress, bon viveur AND song writer. Spivy was a talented lady!
Four years ago I got hired to teach a class at a local Christian university. Saying “yes” to part-time adjunct professorship felt like the end. “Goodbye, Hollywood. The dream is over.” Maybe the dream had been over for a while. Hollywood ageism probably eliminated me years ago; I just hadn’t accepted it.
You know the Eric Liddel quote from Chariots of Fire: “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” That’s how I felt performing or writing. How was I supposed to encourage young, aspiring comedians to pursue their dreams, when I knew how it could turn out for them: like it had for me.
Then I was asked to teach screenwriting, then sketch comedy writing and acting. My sketch comedy class writes, acts in and produces an SNL-type show at the end of the semester. We are now working on the third annual show, and it’s a huge hit.
photo: Courtesy of Susan Isaacs
I got asked to direct a mainstage play. Guess what? I loved it! I loved focusing on the big picture. (An actor focuses solely on his character.) I got to collaborate with others: lighting, set and sound designers, theater managers, actors, crew, et al. We put on a fantastic production.
Driving back from a performance one night, I caught myself laughing. I felt fully alive. So, I was working in a small theater at a private Christian university. But my heart was full, and I experienced joy. I almost didn’t experience it. I’d been so focused on one thing: getting the next acting job that might grant me a nanosecond of feeling alive (or at least a paycheck). I never allowed other abilities a chance to grow. They’d been held hostage by my expectations.
My friend Sara saw a life coach when her career tanked. The life coach got Sara to identify the specific tasks she loved about her previous career: Being creative? The field? The relationships? The point was for Sara to separate the specific actions that brought her joy from the field or circumstances in which she was accustomed to working.
CS Lewis said, “The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” That’s true of any risk you take in your life. Get up and do it anyway. As Anne Lamott said at the Point Loma Writer’s Symposium, “The hard thing is, you just gotta do it. Keep failing. Fail better.”
What thing makes you feel like you’re alive – that you’re doing what you’re born to do?
What specific actions are at the root of your joy?
Is that activity held hostage by your expectations (how or when or with whom you should do it?)
Where else can you do that thing?
What Do You Do When Your Career Is Failing? is a post from: Storyline Blog
I sure have. It was 1964 and I was on assignment for The Nation magazine to write a review of the Beatles at Carnegie Hall, their first live appearance in the United States.
No Soul in Beatlesville
There I was, standing on a shaky balcony seat trying to see the stage over a mob of hysterical, screaming and sobbing 13-year-old girls. I was 25 years old and a rhythm and blues purist, a wannabee soul brother. I didn’t get the Beatles.
My review? It was vicious. I called it No Soul in Beatlesville and eviscerated the band as “derivative, a deliberate imitation…manna for dull minds”.
I’ve been apologizing ever since.
“Ok,” I later told my musical family and friends, “I was an idiot. I admit it!”
I should have counted to ten, reconsidered what I’d written more carefully, sought an outside opinion. (My mantra as a developmental editor.) But I didn’t, and The Nation published it as written. It’s been coming back to haunt me ever since. Fifty years of mortifying shame. Oy vey!
It’s back to bite me yet again
Will it ever stop? Now, to throw some salt on it, The Nation is marking the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival on these shores in their upcoming issue by reprinting my embarrassing review as a “Blast from the Past” with commentary by Editor and Publisher Katherine vanden Heuvel.
Here’s what she writes about my original essay:
“If we are told to remember the Beatles’ arrival in the United States fifty years ago last month as an “invasion,” it is as one that was unopposed. The 73 million people who watched [on the Ed Sullivan show] Paul McCartney count the band into “All My Loving” on February 9, 1964 shattered all records, representing nearly two-fifths of the US population at the time, despite the fact that only 17 percent of American homes even had televisions in them. We surrendered without resistance, it often seems—a view evident in one Amazon review of a collection of the late Bill Eppridge’s photographs from the Beatles’ first week in the US. “Those six days did change the world,” the commenter writes, “by simply unifying us all with faces of sheer happiness.”
At least one person wasn’t smiling. In an essay published in our March 3, 1964 issue, a young Simon & Schuster editor named Alan Rinzler objected to the furor over the Liverpool lads’ music and—correctly, if somewhat myopically—attributed Beatlemania to a massive, premeditated PR campaign. The quivering throngs of teen-aged girls, he believed, said much more about the susceptibility of Americans to fashionable trends than it did about the talent or novelty of the group itself.”
An excerpt from the review:
“By the time the Beatles actually appeared on the stage at Carnegie Hall, there wasn’t a person in the house who didn’t know exactly what to do: flip, wig-out, flake, swan, fall, get zonked—or at least try.
The Beatles themselves were impressive in their detachment. They came to America “for the money.” They attribute their success “to our press agent.” They looked down at their screaming, undulating audience with what appeared to be considerable amusement, and no small understanding of what their slightest twitch or toss of head could produce.
John Lennon, the leader of the group, seemed particularly contemptuous, mocking the audience several times during the evening, and openly ridiculing a young girl in the first row who tried to claw her way convulsively to the stage. Paul McCartney bobbed his head sweetly, his composure broken only when—horror of horrors—his guitar came unplugged. (There was a terrible moment of silence. One expected him to run down altogether, and dissolve into a pool of quivering static.) George Harrison tuned his guitar continually, and seemed preoccupied with someone or something at stage right. Ringo Starr, the drummer, seemed the only authentic wild man of the group, totally engrossed in his own private cacophony. For the rest, it was just another one-night stand.
This is probably why the reaction at Carnegie Hall wasn’t a real response to a real stimulus. There weren’t too many soul people there that night either on the stage or in the audience. The full house was made up largely of upper-middle-class young ladies, stylishly dressed, carefully made up, brought into town by private cars or suburban buses for their night to howl, to let go, scream, bump, twist and clutch themselves ecstatically out there in the floodlights for everyone to see; and with the full blessings of indulgent parents, profiteering businessmen, gleeful national media, even the police. This was their chance to attempt a very safe and private kind of rapture.
Most did what was expected of them and went home disappointed. Disappointed because nothing really passed from the stage to the audience that night, nor from one member of the audience to another. There was mayhem and clapping of hands, but none of the exultation, no sense of a shared experience.”
There’s practically nothing in this snooty piece that I agree with now. The songs they performed that night at Carnegie Hall – “Please please me”, “I saw her standing there”, “Love me do”, “I want to hold your hand” — were all quite excellent, but I couldn’t actually hear them over the of the audience bedlam. I didn’t become a big fan until the following year with the 1965 release of the superb album Rubber Soul, followed shortly by the equally terrific Revolver in 1966.
Meanwhile, my day job was at Simon & Schuster, where I was involved with the publication of Yoko Ono’s avant-garde book Grapefruit and John Lennon’s A Spaniard in the Works, though neither of them actually knew the other at that time.
Then, in 1968, my musical and publishing interests led me to become one of the pioneering staff members of Rolling Stone Magazine. I opened the first New York office then moved to the original home office in San Francisco, where I was the Associate Publisher and Vice-President, as well as editor-in-chief of the books division Straight Arrow.
In that capacity I published several books on the Beatles and was a huge fan, a major promulgator of editorial work on their personal and professional lives. Later, when Lennon was assassinated, I was at Bantam Books, responsible for publishing the memorial book Strawberry Fields Forever.
Nevertheless that old Nation review comes back to skewer me every once in a while. Even my own adult children can’t believe I wrote it, but I think they’ve forgiven me. Hope you will, too.
Meanwhile, don’t be afraid to reconsider or change your mind about something you wrote before sending it out into the cold, cruel world. You may have to live with its unintended consequences for the rest of your life.
How to avoid embarrassment
These days, I always urge authors to follow these guidelines:
• Never settle for your first draft no matter how good you think it is
• Get a second opinion from a professional, objective editor
• Be willing to rewrite, check again, rewrite, for as many times as it takes.
What about you?
Have you ever written or published something you wish you could take back? Come on, you can tell us.
I always tell my writing students they should never ever pre-edit for an editor. Which means that the writer should let the editor decide what goes in his magazine. I’d like to say I take my own advice, but if it weren’t for Dean, I wouldn’t have a story in Analog this month. I wrote “Snapshots” while working on the upcoming Smokey Dalton novel, and figured no one in the sf field would take the story. I make great excuses about not mailing things–all writers do–and I’m not going to share those with you. But suffice to say, it was Dean who told me to give Trevor Quachri, Analog‘s new editor, a try. Trevor picked up “Snapshots” without hesitation, proving that he, not I, edit Analog. Editors often want to buy certain kinds of stories, but no one ever sends them those stories. So take this one as an example, even from an old-timer like me, and send your fiction to a likely market, not a market you know will buy it.
I’m really proud of “Snapshots,” and very glad that Trevor wanted the story for his magazine. I hope you’ll take a look at the story–and the magazine–as well. I personally can’t wait to dip into the stories by Alec Navala-Lee and Sarah Frost.
Another Analog surprise for me a few years ago occurred when Stanley Schmidt was still editing. He bought my time travel story, “Red Letter Day,” which went on to win the AnLab Award for the best short story published in that magazine in 2010. Ann and Jeff Vandermeer have reprinted the story in their massive Time Traveler’s Almanac. The book came out in England last fall, but it’ll be out in the States next Tuesday. You can preorder your copy in hardcover, trade paper or ebook right now.
And finally, I know many of you who come to this website regularly do not read the Business Blog. So, let me tell you folks about the bundle that Kevin J. Anderson asked me into. (You biz blog folks already saw this.) The bundle includes books from Neil Gaiman, Brandon Sanderson, Tracy Hickman, David Farland, Peter David, James A. Owen Peter J. Wacks & Mark Ryan–and me. If you haven’t read my Fey series, use this bundle to taste-test the books. I included The Sacrifice, which is the first book of the Fey. The bundle has two nifty features (besides the authors). First, you can set your own price (as long as you pay the minimum of $3). That’s right. You can pay as little as $3 for six books, as little as $12 for nine. Plus a percentage of the money goes to a charity we writers hold dear, the Challenger Center. So you get at least six books and donate to a charity at the same time. Great deal, eh?
Whether you like short fiction or fat fantasy novels, you have a lot of choice here. A big honking time travel anthology, an excellent issue of a great old magazine, or a pile of novels by writers whose work you’ve heard of and maybe never tried. What’s not to love?
Okay, let me get the really embarrassing stuff over with immediately.
I enjoyed it. I had FUN. I am planning on putting myself on the official St Margaret’s rota.*
Whew. That was hard. I enjoyed singing Jesus Is My Boyfriend** music [sic]. In public. How totally humiliating is that.
Sunday, which was sunny and fabulous, passed under my own personal cloud of prospective dread. I did do some singing warm up because I wanted some chance at some voice and I tend to shut down to a tiny rasping squeak like a single lonely cicada when I’m nervous. I didn’t warm up exactly brilliantly.*** And when I crept into St Margaret’s I was not encouraged by the sight of Aloysius ALL BY HIMSELF except for the woman who was going to be running the tech deck helping him lay out the cables. He had said in his email that the names on the rota were a bit thin this week. . . .
Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as that. Samantha appeared deus ex machina, saying that she hadn’t been planning to sing that night but she had realised that I was going to be all alone and she couldn’t do that to a new girl. Eeeeep. Thank you. Eeeeeeeeep. And then Sinead, another rota singer, wandered in and said that she couldn’t do her proper rota day and maybe we could use her tonight? YES. PLEASE. HERE, HAVE A MICROPHONE. Hamish, the church office magician, appeared, spun his spurs and strapped on his six-shooter. Er. Bass. But that was all. No drums. No keyboards. No random woodwinds. No vicar—he’s always there.†
We plunged into practise. I was on the near end with Aloysius just at my right shoulder which is very good because not only does his guitar give me the key I’m scrabbling for but he’s a nice strong tenor and I’d already told him he had to sing the melody. The first couple of songs are a bit of a blur. I was holding the mic as if it was going to morph into something with six heads and forty-seven incisors per as soon as I stopped staring at it like it was going to. The Hammered to Death by Fluffy Bunnies song was substantially less diabolical with the new line-up but we had to go through it several times since I had no clue about what it was supposed to sound like—and of course there was no sheet music. And then Aloysius had to get fancy and bolt a couple of songs together so you slide into the second one without a break and then revert to the previous one for a chorus repeat WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO US YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS.
I don’t really know what happened except that I think I can hear God laughing. My voice woke up. And the last couple of songs I actually kind of like††—especially the one which is in a reasonable range, so many of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend songs lie on my voice like bricks on custard, it’s like the aural version of trying to wear someone else’s prescription glasses, and neither singing up an octave or down an octave works. But here were two I could sing.
And I did. And furthermore . . . and this is where I know I was taken over by an alien personality . . . I started singing free harmony. I do not sing free harmony. I can learn a harmonic line, given the sheet music and about six months, but I cannot just frelling riff off a melody. Whoever she was, Sunday night, using my voice, I hope she visits often. That was serious fun. At the end Sinead gave me a hug and said, I can tell you like that song!
And then the live performance—I mean the service—was pretty much falling off a log. Problem? There was supposed to be a problem?
There are one or two things to mention here. First, St Margaret’s evening service is small and informal. It’s not like anyone was going to be nasty to me even if I screwed up big time. And I don’t exactly guarantee I was pitch perfect even while the self-confident alien babe was singing. Second, most of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend stuff is dead easy, especially if you’re used to beating your brains and ripping your own throat out singing stuff that is significantly beyond you because you take voice lessons and your voice teacher needs something to do, right?††† It should be easy: people who don’t take voice lessons should be able to sing their church’s worship music.‡ And third . . . I was just telling someone who asked me how I ‘learnt’ to do public speaking . . . I didn’t. After my BEAUTY was published they sent me out on the road and I discovered I could do public speaking. It’s like one of those James Bond things: the car develops waterwings or the knapsack is also a rocketblaster. I CAN DO PUBLIC SPEAKING? WHAT? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? Aside from little questions like whether I can sing or not, apparently singing in public doesn’t make this agonising doubt any more agonising.
How frelling bizarre. I did think it was at least possible that if I didn’t freeze up, singing for purpose—helping to lead the service—would let me like the floppy, soppy music we sing better, and make it feel more like an offering of worship instead of a mortification, ashes and hair shirts optional. And. Yeah. But I wasn’t expecting the harmony—or the high.
* * *
* Unless someone stops me. Noooooo! She’s too loooooooud! She drowns out the keyboard! —Ugly. Mwahahahahahahaha. —slightlyadaptedhellgoddess^
^ I belong to the Love Wins camp, remember, so if you’re asking me, all reigning in all the various hells—ie the nice somewhat confused ones and the really unpleasant ones—is temporary. Which is fine. I’m sure I’ll be ready for a new challenge when my particular corner of hell disintegrates.+
+ There will be chocolate, champagne and critters in heaven, won’t there?#
# Of course there will. And the roses WILL HAVE NO THORNS.
** ::falls down laughing:: Thank you, dhudson. I love this. I’m also glad that it seems to other people that there’s something CREEEEEEEEPY about a lot of this sticky music: I’ve been describing these songs as frelling power ballads only it’s God instead of your boyfriend/girlfriend/groupoffriendswithprivileges. Dhudson’s phrase cuts to the chase.
Although some of the old gospel hymns, which is what I grew up with and are about the only positive memory I have of church as a kid, aren’t exactly faultless in this area. I’ve always loved In the Garden, and it’s one of those I’ve been singing for fifty-odd years and did not have to relearn the lyrics when I started singing while hurtling as a way to shortening the warm-up when I get back to the piano and the Italian art songs etc^, but it’s always struck me as doctrinally a little dubious:
He walks with me, and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
^ Also I’m beginning to enjoy the looks on other pedestrians’ faces when I don’t shut up in time and lyrics like ‘On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise’+ register on their unsuspecting ears, which in this modern well-zombied culture may rouse an unfortunate secular response.
+ Which I confess I tend to belt out with all the new Nadia-power within me.
*** I also crack a lot when I’m nervous. How many ways is this going to be a disaster.
† Vicars. They take holidays. Who knew?
†† No, no, not like! Oisin will never speak to me again!
††† HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. And for my latest stupid trick I’m learning Victor Herbert’s I want to be a prima donna—aka Art Is Calling to Me—mainly because it’s silly and I’ve always loved it for being silly. It also has a high Bb. The thing, as I told Nadia, that is really irritating is that I have a high Bb . . . when I’m doing the frelling washing up. As soon as I get near the piano it jumps out the window and runs off to Cornwall. Or Canada. I assume this is common, you can remember a note long enough to check it on the piano? Yes that is a high Bb, but try and do it again suuuuucker. . . . . Nadia says, just rewrite it for now. You can put the Bb back in later.
‡ I don’t have a problem with that; my beloved gospel tunes are pretty much the only music on the planet that I can more or less play on the piano with both hands by sight-reading. Easy. Very, very easy music.
Hey, did you know I’m gonna be at the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend?
OH BUT I AM.
I shall be flying in for the weekend and doing battle with various saguaro cacti and black widow spiders in order to bring you me, the beard, my books, and my wisdom — er, “wisdom.” Sorry, I was told by a court of law that I had to put that in very obvious air quotes. Whatever. Stupid judge. Point is! I’m going to be there, and so will other awesome people like, ohhh, say: Kevin Hearne, Sam Sykes, Elizabeth Bear, Jonathan Maberry, and more.
My schedule is below (or you can see it here at the festival website).
A central component of many an author’s online presence is the blog or web log, an easy-to-update website that makes it simple to keep in touch with your fans. How do you get readers to visit your blog in the first place, and what makes a blog compelling and entertaining enough that visitors will want to come back to it again and again?
Integrated Learning Center Room 137 (Seats 60, Wheelchair accessible)
Sat, Mar 15, 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Signing area: Sales & Signing Area #4 – Integrated Learning Center (following presentation)
Panelists: Shari Stauch, Chuck Wendig
Sat, Mar 15, 1:00pm
Signing will be located in the University of Arizona bookstore;s main tent on the UA mall.
What is an author’s platform, anyway? Industry professionals use the idea to refer to several things, but perhaps the easiest way to think about it is that your platform is made up of the people who know you and your work: your fans, in other words. In addition to writing great books, building your fan base is critical to your long-term success as an author: discover how to do it in this session.
Integrated Learning Center Room 130 (Seats 143, Wheelchair accessible)
Sat, Mar 15, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Panelists: Vickie Mullins, Grael Norton, Chuck Wendig
Moderator: Mary Holden
Fantasy authors use their imaginations to create richly detailed worlds with their own geographies, histories, cultures, languages, and inhabitants. Four authors will share their processes of world building.
Education Kiva (Seats 200)
Sun, Mar 16, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Signing area: Signing Area #3 – Children’s (following presentation)
Panelists: Cornelia Funke, Aprilynne Pike, Janni Lee Simner, Chuck Wendig
Moderator: Nancy Brown
This panel of successful authors of young adult fiction will share their analysis of the current YA market and their strategies as authors of different genres, including realistic fiction, fantasy and science fiction.
Student Union Santa Rita (Seats 120)
Sun, Mar 16, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Signing area: Sales & Signing Area #1 – UA BookStore Tent (following presentation)
Panelists: Nicole McInnes, Page Morgan, Chuck Wendig
Here’s a genuine blast from the past: On Facebook, my pal Gary Mizuhara unearthed our fifth grade class picture from Ben Lomond Elementary School in Covina, California, all the way back in (gasp) 1979. See if you can guess which of these kids is me. I think it’s pretty easy to figure out which one I am, but then, I would.
What were you doing in ’79? “Being a gamete” is an entirely acceptable answer, incidentally.
I don’t always agree with Honest Trailers—the way they describe Katniss in their Catching Fire vid (behind the cut) rubs me the wrong way, for example—but their take on Frozen is pretty much spot-on. Especially when it comes to “Let It Go.” It’s been over a week since I listened to that song, and now I’m going to be listening to it again on repeat for the next 48 hours. Thanks, guys. Screw you.
What a bunch of nerds. (Hypervocal)
This ice tray makes “cubes” that indicate that your dinosaur proximity is very high. (That’s Nerdalicious)
Adafruit explains how to make crazy LED epaulettes. (Fashionably Geek)
Earlier we showed you the helmet part of The Flash’s new built-for-CW costume. Now we have the whole thing. I don’t know if it’s just the lightning bolt in the background, but the first thing I thought is that he looks like a lightbulb, which is… appropriate, I guess. What do you think?
(via: Comics Alliance)