Thursday, May 31, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
maïa is back with her formula for mentoring would-be screenwriters and playwrights. Her methods are brutal, but she gets results. Here's maïa describing her technique in her own words (slightly edited because I like initial caps on sentences and maia doesn't - sorry maïa).
If you'd like mamma maïa to give you a little tough love, email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her website at: http://saysmom.com. Also, check the last article I posted on her: mysterious maïa
How I work with aspiring writers
For writers of other forms, it’s pretty much the same technique.
It helps to know something of your background in writing, age, education. . .and writing goal. . .such as, do you absolutely have to be a screenwriter (novelist, poet, etc.) or you'll die?. . .or are you just doing it to see if you can? The former has a slim chance of some day in the far future selling (or optioning) a script (novel, poem, song lyric, etc.). The latter has virtually none. . .and that's the first sample of my mentoring style. . .blunt 'n brutal honesty, that I tinge now and then with humor, to soften the blows. . .some see it as sarcasm and can't take the heat. . .they'll never succeed, because at my worst I can't come close to powers that be in la-la-land (or publishing) at their best…working with me will improve your writing skills and thicken your skin to film (or publishing) industry survival levels…
... I'll start at the top and work my way down:
1. You have a full, finished, properly-formatted script/ms (so far, no one who's come to me has)...
I read it and give an overall critique of plot, characters, dialog, etc., point out what works and what doesn't and in critique, and then in more detail within the script/ms itself, tell/show how to fix what needs fixing... same goes for synopsis and pitch (called logline nowadays).
2. You have a full, finished mess that you think is a screenplay/book/story (as have some I've helped)...
First I give you an in-depth analysis of what's wrong with content, plot, characters, dialog, etc.... then, step by step, I show within the work itself, the first few examples of what's wrong with these, show how it should be done and give you a shot at fixing the rest...
I'll urge writers to get books I use myself for good writing basics and format reference... ask me for my ‘tools of the trade’ list, to get the whole range of reference ‘tools’ I recommend…
Then I'll walk you through a rewrite, make suggestions, ask questions about problems in plot, character, dialog, etc., to make you think for yourself, so you won't need me next time... we do this over and over ‘til you get it right and have a marketable script/ms, a great synopsis and an effective pitch...
3. You have only bits of 'brilliant' story 'ideas' & no clue how to develop 'em into full plots/storylines but 'know' they're gonna be the next blockbuster hits (as w/ my 3 young mentees in Las Vegas, Australia & Holland)...
First I burst your bubble with questions about each 'great idea'... how original is it? How many flicks in past 50 years used same gimmick? What's the story behind it going to be? and so on... then I take you through the idea development process step by step, 'til your 'idea' is workable/doable and you have a real storyline to work with.
Then I make you learn how to write a script (story/novel/article/whatever)... I don't do it for you, unless you happen to have $50,000 to $200,000 pocket change handy (seriously, I'll never again work for money, but that's what it costs to have one ghosted).
I'm tough on you all the way, 'cause nobody in the industry is gonna be kind or sympathetic toward you if you send them a piece of scheiss and expect them to read it... (I'm an ecologist and hate the waste of trees for putting garbage on paper!)... I'm kind, but can be lethally sarcastic if my comments, questions, instructions are not sufficiently paid attention to...
It's not necessary for you to have a finished script... it's probably best you don't, since you can't know enough to write it properly and rewriting a mess is twice as much work as learning to do it right, starting from scratch... if you have ideas you'd like to work up now, let's get at it & by the time you're ready for full-out screenwriting, you'll have a fully-fleshed-out story/plot ready for you to learn how to turn it into a script (or whatever).
None of this can be done quickly... nothing really good can be, unless you've got some 'extra-worldly' assistance (I've turned out 3-4 essays a day... each fully polished, needing no editing whatsoever, for a total of almost 200!... now THAT had to be an 'assist' from something beyond the mortal!... don't count on the same yourself!)...
Let me know if you'd like to start on your story idea... I'll be glad to give you references, since most newbies are paranoid about folks 'stealing' their 'great ideas' not willing to believe nobody'd bother... and story ideas are often dreamed up by more than one fertile brain anyway, as all stories break down into 3 basic ones... and those were told around campfires in caves and painted on the walls millennia ago!.. all since is just creative plagiarism...
That's it... Are you up for it?... love and hugs, mammamaïa
Monday, May 28, 2007
I could not think of any more fitting words than those of Abraham Lincoln delivered at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 memorializing the fallen soldiers.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
A few words about Rick, first. Rick has written a basketful of books, all of them available from Amazon. Simply search for Rick R. Reed and you’ll come up with several novels that deal with the seamier, more demented side of the psyche.
He recently moved from Chicago to Florida, so he's probably in a somewhat culture-shocked state right now. His latest book, IM, is just being released this month from Quest Books.
IM, stands for Instant Message or is that Instant Murder? A serial killer stalks men through gay instant message sites. This is a chilling tale of the dangers of high tech friendships.
In the Blood is scheduled for release in November and Deadly Vision: Book One of the Cassandra Chronicles is scheduled for release in January, 2008, both from IM book trailer on YouTube.
Marva: Welcome, Rick. Thanks so much for stopping in.
Rick: You’re welcome. I couldn’t resist, especially when you have cookies set out. And martinis.
Marva: First up, tell us a bit about your latest book, IM.
Rick: IM is a light-hearted romantic romp about the trouble one can get into when one goes searching for love online. Readers might be dismayed to find those troubles can include murder and dismemberment. But seriously, IM has been called a "deliciously nasty psychological thriller" by one reviewer and I think that’s a pretty good descriptor. It’s about a serial killer who may or may not be dead himself luring his victims through Internet hook-up sites. It has a lot of twists and turns and I think keeps readers guessing right up to the end.
Marva: A cautionary tale? It makes me think twice about instant messaging. The theme of people walking into dangerous situations unthinkingly is a horror icon. Was that part of your thinking? To warn about consequences of risky behavior? After all, every teenager in horror movies just has to explore that creepy house by the lake.
Rick: Another reviewer called it a ‘cautionary tale’ and I can understand why, since one doesn’t have to look too far to see a warning about the perils of inviting strangers you’ve met online into your home. I don’t really set out, though, to write tales that are ‘cautionary;’ I just set out to write good stories that keep readers turning the pages. If anything is ‘cautionary,’ it’s because horror and suspense come from dangerous situations. So, using that logic, any book about a dangerous situation might be labeled cautionary.
Marva: You wrote a blog on questions asked by a friend about the label 'gay horror writer'. Tell us about that.
Rick: First, he asked me if it bothered me being labeled a gay horror writer. He wondered if I resented the label and if I just would prefer to be called writer and let my writing be looked at simply for its own unique characteristics rather than under some arbitrary labels, especially ones that had the potential for being loaded, like "horror" and "gay." I told him that booksellers and publishers were very fond of labels and of fitting writers into niches. More than fond, it was almost a necessity. I said that I didn't really mind because labels help readers find me. If people out there are looking to read some good gay horror, I'm happy to be found on that particular shelf. I'm happy to be found anywhere, because I have been known to be invisible, but that's another blog, or a topic for discussion with a good psychotherapist.
Marva: Do you feel as if you're a spokesman for gay horror writers?
Rick: The guy who asked me about gay horror was of a mind that I was the only writer operating under such a mantle. I told him first that I was not the only gay horror writer. There are many other very talented writers out there who might also be labeled the same way: Doug Clegg, Christian Muncy, Michael Rowe, Clive Barker, to name just a few. But if I were given a tiara and a sash that read "Gay Horror Queen" I would wear it with an enormous amount of pride and would endeavor to fulfill all the duties (including being a spokesperson and letting the world know how gay horror can contribute to world peace). In the end, though, I’m just a writer who wants to tell goosebump-raising stories; I leave the spokesperson stuff for the ad people and politicos.
Marva: Some of your previous books don't have a 'gay' theme (whatever that is). IM, your latest book, is very upfront about that. How does it advocate 'gay' anymore than, say, King's Misery advocates overzealous book fans?
Rick: These questions coming right now seemed fitting. As you said, IM is probably one of the gayest of gay horror books I've written, even though one reviewer (bless him) said that it could be enjoyed by any fan of mysteries or crime fiction. I don't mind being a gay horror writer, but it's always nice to cross over. But IM really deals with the gay community, particularly the community that is exploding onto sites like Manhunt, Men4Men, AdamforAdam, Gay.com and so on. I do think IM will resonate with gay men especially because of how it ties anonymous sex to the potential for anonymous murder. I think any "community" has its own unique horrors...and with IM, I just explored one I knew.
Marva: A friend of mine mentioned he didn't read horror because it didn't scare him. What does IM offer somebody like my friend? How would you entice him to read it?
Rick: Your friend and I would get along, because I’ve said the same thing about both horror movies and books. I’ve become too jaded to scare easily. But I would tell him to not close the door completely because when something does succeed and does scare me, then it’s priceless. One movie that did that was an Asian horror film called AUDITION. It still disturbs me to think about it. I’d like to think that IM would have the kind of dread-filled moments in it that might frighten your friend. Even though we’ve had all this talk about it being gay, I think the fear in IM is pretty universal. Gay, straight, or whatever, I think we’ve all taken risks when it comes to making a human connection for love or sex, and therein lies the fear. All it would take is one mentally unbalanced person, thinking, "it could never happen to me" and allowing yourself to be alone with this person. I think what makes IM scary—and what makes a lot of my work scary—is that in my definition of horror, it could really happen. When a stranger you met online comes over, looks harmless, and then pulls out a hunting knife, I think that’s pretty damn terrifying.
Marva: I like to end with an invitation for a writer to say/plug anything they want. 500 words or less. Go.
Rick: I love nothing better than plugging myself. Thank you. I’d just like to encourage anyone out there reading this to stop by and visit my website at http://www.rickrreed.com/ or my MySpace page, www.myspace.com/rickrreed. A quick visit to either place will give you a pretty good snapshot of who I am and what I’m all about. I would also encourage all of you to pick up a copy of IM…it’s sure to make you deliciously unsettled.
Marva: You're entirely welcome. Grab another cookie on the way out.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
For the tour, I asked Chris a couple of questions (posted here with his answers). To see more of the questions and The Worldwide Virtual Book Tour go to Chris's MySpace site.
My questions for Chris:
Marva: How did you get the idea of the virtual book tour and the set up for doing it?
Chris: I got it from Mindy Klasky who organised a virtual book tour last year. The idea's been around for few years and each author tweaks it some. I think there's even a company that organises them and charges a fee to place your book with 'popular' blogs. Which, to me, sounds like a recipe for disaster for the 'popular' blogs as once the word gets out that they're selling space to promote books no one'll believe a word they print.
But maybe that's just me. I also think it's more fun to organise the event yourself as it gives you more scope to be inventive and interact with friends and readers. Like my remote signing experiment. How many other authors have attempted to sign books by astral projection? And lived.
Which is why I contacted Microsoft and got a hold of a beta copy of Window ESP. It's the perfect platform - that and having two mediums strapped to a quantum computer - when you need to access the astral plane.
But, seriously, the biggest enemy of a new or mid-list author is anonymity. And virtual tours help us authors who live in the middle of nowhere get out and meet people without having our luggage go astray.
Marva: Why do you live in France? Just lucky?
Chris: Very lucky. We moved to France twelve years ago to take advantage of the property price differential - homes in France were a third of the price in England - and the better climate. We try to grow all our own food so having cheap land, deep soil and a long growing season is a huge bonus. And the pace of life is different in France. It's changing but when we first arrived
it was like stepping back into rural England as it used to be in the 50s - lots of small family farms and an emphasis on lifestyle rather than profit.
You can't create a world in seven days without cutting corners Graham Smith is a 33 year-old office messenger. To the outside world he's an obsessive-compulsive mute, weird but harmless. But to
Graham Smith, it's the world that's weird. And far from harmless. He sees things others can't . . . or won't. He knows that roads can change course, people disappear, office blocks migrate across town. All at night when no one's looking. The world's an unstable place, still growing, sloughing off layers of reality like dead skin. One day you drive by, and it's changed.
Annalise Mercado hears voices, all from girls calling themselves Annalise. Sometimes she thinks they're spirit guides, sometimes she thinks she's crazy. But then they tell her about Graham Smith, the men who want him dead, and how only she can save him. So begins the story of two people whose lives appear fragmented across alternate realities and how, together, they hold the key to the future of a billion planets. . .
Friday, May 18, 2007
You can't tell a book by its cover, right? Maybe not, but a striking cover draws the potential reader's eye. Maybe they'll pick it up and read the back, flip a few pages, look at the cover again, then take it to the cash register (or click it into that ubiquitous Shopping Cart at on-line stores).
It's nice to sell a story. Having it illustrated is icing on the cake. I've asked the artists who illustrated by stories how they went about capturing the story, sometimes in a single illustration.
Holly Eddy is a regular illustrator for a number of magazines. She created the wonderful picture of Sasquatch that accompanied by story "Chilpequin 22 Miles" in Lorelei Signal. This particular illustration came in 4th Place in the Preditors & Editors Poll for best story art. Made me proud, she did.
Teri Santitoro is an artist, writer, and editor. 7ARS was born in another century under the name theresa alice rapposelli, and added santitoro when she married a human. She currently lives in NE PA with her husband, son, dog, bird and fish. She is the editor of Sam's Dot Publishing magazine, Scifaikuest. Again, I'm familiar with her work because she's illustrated both of my Cadida chapbooks produced through Sam's Dot Publishing. Her cover illustrations capture my thoughts on Cadida perfectly. See Teri's website for more illustrations.
Marva: Hello, ladies. Thanks for answering my questions and allowing me to post some of your illustrations on my blog.
First question: How did you get involved illustrating stories?
Holly: I have always loved art, and creating something from nothing, so naturally I pursued that path. I received my BFA in commercial art: Illustration last may and have been working freelance steadily since then.
Teri: Actually, I began when I was still in school. I made up my own comics and also tried doing illustrations for stories or books that inspired me. Mr. James B. Baker and Mr. J Erwine published my first paid illustration in one of ProMart's ezines.
Marva: What do you look for in a story as the main concept to illustrate? Is there are process or is it seat-of-the-pants?
Holly: Well, I try to look for parts of the story that I think would be most aesthetically pleasing. But there is always a process, I never start out with just one idea. I go through a lot of sketches and ideas before I can narrow it down to one concept and then I have to find references for what I am drawing. For example, on your story I had all sorts of reference photos of bigfoot, and apes, bars, bartenders, glasses...anything I thought would be of help to create a believable setting.
Teri: What I look for are stories that have a lot of what I refer to as "events". Not necessarily a lot of "action", but rather scenes that grab the reader and imprint themselves on the memory. Those are the ones that are the most fun to illustrate. Some of my work seems to develop almost on its own, while other projects must be thoughtfully considered before and during the creative process.
Marva: Black and white OR color? If you had your druthers, which would you prefer to use in illustrations?
Holly: I usually have a choice, but I prefer color.
Teri: I prefer color. I love color--it's like a treat for the eyes.
Marva: Would you recommend to budding artists to pursue story illustration? If so, what one piece of advice would you give them?
Holly: I would recommend It, but it is an extremely competitive market. As for advice, be on the top of your game, Don't take anything too personally, and never stop advertising yourself.
Teri: Definitely. My advice would be: Develop your own style, and then illustrate the kind of stories that inspire you the most.
Marva: Again, thanks a bunch to both of you. I'm proud to have had my stories illustrated by both of you.
Holly: Thank you. I wish you the best and I really enjoyed illustrating your story.
Teri: You're welcome.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
A retired U.S. Army translator, Tyree taught at a business college for three years, did post-graduate work in Chinese studies, and all the while wrote and wrote and wrote and finally turned rejection slips into acceptances. Since 1 January 2000, when his first story was published, he's had some eighty short stories and two novels published, and about two dozen poems, including a third-place Rhysling. He writes primarily soft science fiction, some dark fantasy, and the occasional spooky horror. He's also the Managing Editor of Sam's Dot Publishing and invites you to take a look at what SDP has to offer.
Also, checkout Tyree's MySpace site.
If you're in the neighborhood, you can meet Tyree in the Dealers areas at these upcoming Cons:
May 18-20 DemiCon, Des Moines, Iowa
May 25-27 ConQuest Kansas City, Missouri
August 3-5 DiversiCon,Minneapolis, MN
Marva: Hello, Tyree. Welcome to Dasef Central. There are so many places to start with you, but I've decided to start with your role as Managing Editor of Sam's Dot Publishing. At the top are Conventions, since that makes my heading work. I know you go to many cons as a dealer. An unnamed source said "it was a bit like watching a used car salesman at work." Would you care comment on that?
Tyree: LOL. Yeh, it is a bit like selling used cars (and I know which unnamed source named J to thank for that comment). But…well, see, most conventions have several tables that sell books. New books, used books, small publishers, and so forth. Those who sell new books, by frex Robert Sawyer or Mercedes Lackey, don’t have to do anything. Those sellers can sit there in total confidence that customers will flock to them. Same with sellers of used books. Everyone is always looking for that one Vance or Wilhelm or Farmer that they missed. But small indie publishers cannot just sit there like rutabagas and expect people to come to them (yet I see so many small indies doing just that at conventions).
My approach is proactive. First, I’m almost always standing. People notice someone who is standing. That leads to eye contact. As soon as I have eye contact, I say something. Hello, or Reading material, or something to engage the potential customer. Don’t forget, my job is to relieve this person of some hard-earned money for publications they’ve hardly heard of. So…I also hand them a flier that tells about us…hand them, as opposed to expecting them to take a flier. This way, the physical act of handing it to them usually compels them to take the flier. I’ve established contact. Then I try to find out what they like to read. Sometimes they are specific: science fiction, or fantasy, or whatever. No matter what they respond, I almost always have something that fits their desires. And I go on from there.
If they say they like just about anything, I clasp my hands together, raise my eyes to the sky, and say, “They’re gonna buy one of each! Thank you, God!” This usually gets a laugh, eases the connection, and I can talk with them.
If they say they don’t know what they like, I have some off-beat publications I can introduce them to, like the Drabblers, or David Kopaska-Merkel’s tales of nursery rhyme crimes solved by an adult detective (Why did the dish abduct the spoon, and was there ransom involved? Who mutilated the three blind mice, and why?).
Like I said, proactive. And it seems to work.
Marva: The splash screen of SDP says: "Dedicated to the late James B. Baker…our editor, our mentor, but most of all our friend. We’ll love you forever, Jim." Tell us about ProMart and your relationship with Mr. Baker.
Tyree: Jim was the first to accept and publish one of my stories ("Thanksgiving Dinner," 1 January 2000, The Martian Wave. What a great way to start the millennium). Time went on and I had several other stories and poems published [and won most of the voting contests]. Jim wanted to go into print publications, and needed someone to develop a print magazine. I offered to develop one called "Aoife’s Kiss." So it got developed. Problem was, Jim had an ego, and I was stubborn. No, wait. I had an ego, and Jim was stubborn. No . .. well, you get the idea. So we butted heads on occasion. But toward the end, I called him, we talked…he really really was a wonderful person…and he was concerned about the fate of his publishing after he had moved on to the next phase. I told him I would take care of it. And WE all have done this…
Marva: Sam's Dot Publishing has a lot going on: several 'zines and lots of individual books and chapbooks. Where do you hope to go with Sam's Dot Publishing in the future?
Tyree: Oh, more of the same, really, but always improving. Our mission statement says we publish new and beginning writers. We will always do that. It’s what Jim wanted. That’s our roots. At the same time, I do hope to attract some "names." And we’re doing this. Five-time Hugo nominee Robert Reed [wrote the novel "Marrow," among others] will be in the June 2007 Aoife’s Kiss. Robert Sawyer has indicated he will send an original story when I ask for it. Mike McCarty, a Stoker nominee, has been published twice in HUNGUR Magazine (including the current issue). Jason Sizemore, who runs Apex Digest, was in the March 2007 Aoife’s Kiss. Mary Turzillo, who has graced many a page of Asimov’s, has a novella and a short story with us. Bud Webster, maybe Barry Malzberg…we’re getting some names in.
That helps our street cred.
But most of all, it’s important to keep in mind that in between the Charles Sheffields and the writers who haven’t quite reached their skill level there are hundreds…thousands…of writers and stories out there that may not be worthy of a professional rate but are nevertheless fine fine stories and poems, and are worthwhile to read. We live in a culture that emphasizes winning…and yes, the really top writers deserve all they can get. All I’m saying is that the next few tiers of writers have much to say that is worthy. And that’s where we publish.
Future publications? Well, this August we’re coming out with a biannual magazine called Sounds Of The Night…it’s a crossover magazine, sf/f/h, but primarily sensual science fiction. No, not erotica, certainly not porn…but we do want stories and poems that excite the senses.
And Cover Of Darkness, which we just released, has done so well already that we probably will do it again next year.
Marva: SDP has poetry magazines (Illumen, Scifaikuest) and poetry included in the other magazines, too. Why all this poetry in the midst of fantasy, horror, and science fiction?
Tyree: I like poetry.
Okay, that’s a facile response. Speculative poetry is…the exquisite expression of an idea. Science fiction (yes, and fantasy and horror) is a realm in which people deal with ideas. It’s interconnected. I think a writer has to have something of a poet, even if that something is just a vague understanding, in order to write lucidly and succinctly. Look at Terrie Relf’s poetry, just for an example. Her poems are waaaay out there. But she takes an unusual approach in her prose, her stories, and I think her poetry—more specifically her poetic vision—helps her to do that. Let’s face it, most storylines have been written and rewritten time and time again. I think it was Heinlein who said there was really only one story. Well, poetry—the poetic vision—helps you to see that "one" story from several different vantage points and battlefields.
Besides…I like poetry.
Marva: Your writing reminds me of Robert Heinlein and John Varley. Good guess? Or, just who would you like to be compared to?
Tyree: Oh, my, yes, I loved Varley’s character Cirocco Jones. She is the subconscious template for most of my female protagonists. Philosophically I’m pretty much a libertarian, which relates well to Heinlein, and I like Heinlein’s simplicity of style to express complex issues. But my favorite writer is Jack Vance. He creates worlds, and fills these worlds with all sorts of characters—heroes and villains and everything in between. I don’t know that I consciously emulate any of them…but certainly I have learned from them.
Compared to? Oh, hahaha. Instead of the second John Varley, I’d rather be the first Tyree Campbell. But I’ve quite a long ways to go, yet….
Marva: Your latest book, The Dog at the Foot of the Bed, was just re-released and Nyx, your first book is still available.. Give us a rundown on what's these books are about.
(Read the Ed Cox Review of The Dog at the Foot of the Bed)
Tyree: Hmm…the lineage of the two books intertwines, actually. "Dog" under another title was really the first novel I started. It underwent three complete rewrites. In I think the second revision, there was a character who underwent great hardships and rough terrain just to get a message to the protagonist. Then she disappears from the novel—she was just a very minor character, and what she did was not really needed in the story, so I excised her [that is so difficult to do, too, to terminate an unnecessary character]. Well…she was so interesting that I decided to write a novel about her. Thus Nyx. The style I used comes from…okay, back in the 60s and 70s there was a series of maybe 25 paperback books—assassin espionage things—by Donald Hamilton (who also wrote some kickin’ SF). These were the Matt Helm books. Yeh, Dean Martin played Matt Helm in some very insipid movies (The Wrecking Crew, The Silencers, etc.) that had—trust me on this—absolutely nothing to do with the books or even with Hamilton’s protagonist. Hamilton has a direct, cold-blooded style that I found useful to convey my character. Nyx is an assassin, some 500 years from now. She is utterly cold-blooded—think La Femme Nikita. And she is logical in her approach to self-defense.
Frex, at one point, Nyx is holding a weapon on a baddie. The baddie suggests that someone is sneaking up behind Nyx. Nyx reasons that she has only one possible response. See…if she turns around, the first baddie will get her. If she does not turn around, the second baddie will get her. So…she shoots the first baddie, then turns around to deal with the second one, knowing that she is now safe from the first baddie. This, of course, is hard on the baddies…which is just tough bananas.
Well…in this story, Nyx finds that in order to accomplish her mission, she must reacquire her long-lost femininity.
Oh, btw…at several conventions I’ve been approached and asked when the sequel to Nyx was coming out. I hadn’t planned on writing sequels to it…but yes, I’ve already started one, and might well have several before I’m done. Look for "Mystere" late this year or early next.
As for "Dog," it’s a science fiction who-dunnit. Some sixteen years before the main story takes place, the Shannen family was attacked and their farmhold destroyed. The children, including twins Ovin and Siobhan, escaped to a remote planet. Seeking revenge, Ovin became an assassin, and Siobhan became in effect a police officer. One of Siobhan’s assignments is to bring Ovin to justice. The other siblings: Kevan, Una, Deyrdra, want the family to be reunited, of course. So there is additional pressure and conflict for the twins to deal with.
Well…some catastrophic events (including the fact that now, sixteen years later, someone is trying to kill the Shannen children again!) occur that require Ovin and Siobhan to work together to resolve them. But I plotted it so that if they succeed in resolving those events, Ovin and Siobhan might forever be separated.
In essence, The Dog At The Foot Of The Bed is about a family torn apart by outside forces and by their responses to these forces. It’s difficult to write at length about Dog because I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises—and there are quite a few unexpected developments and twists and turns. But Dog is also a romance—a love story, and sometimes the sexuality will take some unconventional twists. Nobody ever actually says "I love you" in Dog…and when you read it from beginning to end, you will find that fact totally astonishing.
Marva: Tyree, what would you like my blogreaders to know about SDP that we haven't mentioned already?
Tyree: I think Robert Sawyer said it best, in his novel "Mindscan"—that quite often the difference between an award-winning novel and a little known but competently written novel is "the breaks." In other words, only a few pieces of writing receive awards. But there is a great body of sf/f/h literature out there that is just as readable and merits attention. I’d like to think that Sam’s Dot Publishing presents this "readable" literature in our various publications. So sure, go ahead and read Sawyer and Farmer and Heinlein. But keep in mind that we have some fine stories and poems and illustrations that will thrill you, too. We’re worth it.
Marva: Thanks, Tyree.
In the interests of full disclosure, Sam's Dot Publishing is my publisher for the Cadida series and I've also had a couple of stories published in The Fifth Di..., another SDP magazine.
Friday, May 11, 2007
A Conversation with Wilga...
Today, we'll be talking with Wilga Hill Boomerang of Cocktail Reviews. Wilga, or some reasonable facsimile of her, started Cocktail Reviews to provide honest reviews for writers not quite as in demand as Dan Brown. The premise is that there are lots of great books out there languishing in the desert of small presses, unappreciated by the New York Times Review of Books. Cocktail Reviews hopes to fill that gap.
Marva: Hello, Ms. Boomerang, or may I call you Wilga? Okay, I'll take that as a yes. How did Cocktail Reviews get started?
Wilga: As an avid e-book reader, I browsed review sites to get an idea of what e-books were like before I purchased them. Some reviews didn’t tell me an awful lot—nothing more than the original book blurb, anyway—and I thought about starting my own review site with the idea of providing that little bit extra. We do try to do our reviews differently, but sometimes a ‘normal’ review is posted so that all types of reviews are represented.
Marva: What's with the drink names for the reviewers?
Wilga: I discussed opening a review site with a close friend of mine (Witch of Salem) and came up with the name Cocktail Reviews. I think it was Witch who suggested the reviewer names being cocktails. It’s different to the norm, so I liked the idea.
Marva: Give us a rundown of how authors can request reviews and how the review process works.
Wilga: Review requests should be sent via email to email@example.com with the author name, publisher, and book title in the subject line. A blurb should be sent in the body of the email along with either the word count or amount of pages (this determines whether the book will get picked up quickly and reviewed fast if it’s a short), the publisher and author name, and the ISBN number.
The blurbs are put in an MS document and sent out to the reviewers in batches. If a blurb catches their attention the reviewers ask me to ask for the pdf/ARC. I send the pdf/ARC to the reviewer. Once reviewed, the reviewer sends me their review and I post it online, providing it isn’t a bad review. Bad reviews get sent to the author/publisher if they choose to see it via email.
Marva: Are these considered to be "professional" reviews?
Wilga: Authors and publishers are free to use our reviews in quotes or any promotion. If what we say helps the author/publisher to garner the public’s interest, then that’s a bonus. I wanted to help authors get recognition, to help them on their writing journey.
Marva: I know you don't want to be thought of as simply a shill for writers. What happens if you hate a book?
Wilga: If one of us hates it, I put the blurb back in the blurb bank to see if someone else may like to try it. After all, not everyone will like every book. If more than one person hates it, I send the author/publisher the option of receiving the bad review/s via email. No one has declined to see their bad reviews yet. One author, utterly charming I might add, wanted to see the bad review so that she could see where she could improve herself in the future. I admired her for that. She wasn’t just after praise; she wanted to learn from her mistakes.
Marva: I see the CR reviewers state their literary preferences. Lots of horror, chicklit, paranormal, romance, historical, etc. Not a single science fiction reviewer. Will Cocktail Reviews consider reviewing science fiction?
Wilga: Of course. Every blurb is sent out. It may get picked up by one of us if we fancy a change. Anything is welcome at Cocktails. Authors/publishers just have to sit tight and hope one of us pick up on the blurb.
Marva: What else do you want to tell us about Cocktail Reviews? Go for it.
Wilga: Just that I apologise if longer books take time to read. Some of us work full time so have to read the books in our spare time. Of course, we’d love to be able to sit down and read these wonderful stories in one sitting (some of us can, and some of us can read short stories in our lunch breaks or while we’re meant to be working—naughty, but fun!). I worry that the author/publisher may think we’ve forgotten about them, but we haven’t.
I’d mainly like to thank the authors/publishers for sending their books to Cocktail Reviews. After all, they have no idea what the review will be like and trust us with their hard work.
Marva: Thanks, Wilga!
Friday, May 04, 2007
An Interview with Robin Reed on Superhero Fiction
I found Robin Reed on a forum on general writing topics for writers. When I saw Robin's release of the second in her series "Power vs Power," I decided to ask a few questions. This is a relative small niche market, but the writers and followers of the genre are enthusiastic.
The question comes to mind: Where do superheroes come from? I don't mean in the Superman sense of arriving from the planet Krypton, but how superheroes are formed in the minds of the writers. Marvel and DC comics aren't the only venues for superheroes. The Metahuman Press on-line zine is a place you can find brand-new superheroes to admire. If the topic rings your bell, check out Robin's work on MHP and go to their forum to bat ideas with the folks creating the new superheroes as we speak.
By Robin Reed
Power vs Power series:
Hero Without a Name
Xanthan Gum: Print and ebook available through Booklocker
Earth - the fobidden planet! Where strange beings called humans toil endlessly, creating the stories loved throughout Galactic Civilization. Stories collectively called The Movies.
One brave soul dares to go there. He has a dream. He wants to be a Movie Star like his hero, E.T.
Xanthan Gumm is his name, and he has risked everything to be in The Movies and to meet the King of Earth - Steven Spielberg!
Robin also draws a mean cartoon. Check out Barstow Productions
Marva: So, since superheroes are iconic...
Robin: I have to stop you right there. Who says superheroes are iconic? I read a lot of comics in my life before I ever heard that superheroes are iconic, and I regard it as the kind of idea that is used when people write Ph.D theses on popular culture but don’t actually read the original material. I will grant that the most well known DC superheroes, especially Superman, have become a bit iconic because you can say “Superman” anywhere in the world and people will assume you’re talking about the superhero rather than anything by Nietzsche or George Bernard Shaw.
I have never liked characters that are the least bit iconic. Icons are boring. They never change. Superman in particular is hard to write because he can do so much. When I was a kid DC had a lot of Superman titles but they all were about Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen and how their lives interacted with Superman. The man of steel himself is too perfect to be interesting.
The only interesting stories about Superman that I have seen are really about Clark Kent. He arrived as a baby on Earth and was lucky to be taken in by a couple that taught him how to be human and what is right and wrong. They taught him to like humans, to believe that their lives have value even though they are so much weaker than he is. Imagine the same baby being picked up by people who tried to abuse him, or even being in an orphanage or a series of foster homes. If he learned to hate people, if he became selfish and never had any discipline, he would grow into a monster and use his powers to make himself Emperor of Earth. Actually, you don’t have to imagine this, just see General Zod in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.
I was never a DC reader anyway. I was a Marvel reader. In Marvel comics each character - hero, villain, or otherwise - is an individual, a person. If someone gains amazing powers, whether they use them for good or evil depends on their character, the person they are before they gain the powers. Peter Parker starts out using his powers just to make money, he becomes a celebrity. Only when his uncle is killed by a criminal that Peter didn’t bother to stop, does Spider-Man start doing good.
In the Marvel universe, characters sometimes change sides too, bad guys become good and vice versa. Things happen in their lives that change them. Icons never do that.
Marva: How do you create that feeling of superhero-ness when nobody has heard of your SH before?
Robin: I’m not sure how to answer this. All fictional characters start in the brain of a single person. Nobody ever heard of Sherlock Holmes before the first story was published. If a writer creates a character that many people like, soon that character will be famous.
Marva: Do you follow specific rules in SH creation? That is, is there a formula for backstory, as shown in Spiderman (created by external forces superhero) or Superman (SH by birth) or Batman (SH by use of wealth?). Are there other creation formulas?
Robin: There are no rules. Or formulas. Writers just come up with ideas that they like. Sometimes they go on to glory, often they flop.
Of your three origin stories, “external forces” is really a huge variety of origins. The origin is just a way to get your character started, though. It could be anything. What matters is the character of the human being and how he or she uses his or her new abilities. Even being born with powers doesn’t guarantee whether someone will be a hero or a villain, it’s the person.
Marva: Who's your superhero? What are his super powers? How does he or she fit into the mythos of comic book superheroes as outlined above?
Robin: I have created two for the series at MetaHumanPress.com. One is a riff on Batman, I will admit. I always thought that a billionaire could do a lot of good in the world without donning a costume and personally beating up bad guys. He can prevent crime by giving inner city kids some hope and getthing them good educations. Batman, as Bruce Wayne, is shown supporting charities in the comics, but just the cost of one Batmobile could help a lot of people.
My other one is a young man who has Superman like powers given to him by a strange amulet he finds. He is attracted to superheroing by the glory, the applause of other people, rather than by a real devotion to doing good. He means to do good, he is not a bad person, but he can’t handle the responsibilty to use the power properly. He will become famous, a shining example of heroics to the world, but will let himself come under the control of dark forces. He will do bad things even while the world still thinks of him as a hero, even iconic.
Marva: How does your methodology differ from that fan fiction?
Robin: I don’t know how much comics-based fanfic there is. I mostly hear about fanfic related to TV shows and movies. I might be surprised if I searched for it on the internet.
Marva: Thanks for answering my questions, Robin.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Marva: Hi Cadida. Nice of you and Bascoda to drop in.
Marva: Ciao? I thought you were from somewhere in the Middle East and most likely from some ancient time.
Cadida: Puhleeze. That's my character Cadida, not the real me.
Marva: Well, who are you, really?
Cadida: I'm an Italian actress playing the role of a girl who has a personal genie named Bascoda.
Marva: Speaking of whom...It's nice of you to come by today, Bascoda.
Bascoda: Happy to be here. I'd like to mention that I'll be in a major motion picture coming soon to theaters everywhere. I play Sergio Mobile, the brother of the new crime boss, "The Godmother."
Marva: Ah. I hadn't heard that.
Bascoda: This is the first announcement, right here on your blog.
Marva: Wow, thanks for the scoop, Bascoda. Say, you do look like a member of the Cosa Nostra now that you mention it.
Bascoda: Being a genie...
Marva: You're not an actor like Cadida?
Bascoda: Nope. I'm a certified genie, registered with Central Spell Casting.
Marva: Cadida? Are you kidding about being an actress?
Cadida: Of course not. I'm an accomplished method actor.
Marva: So, you're in the movie with Bascoda?
Cadida: Absolutement, mon cherie. I play a ruthless woman, Donna Mobile, who takes over the Coreleone syndicate. Frankie Coppola chose me for the role without an audition.
Marva: That's good to know, but maybe we should just stick to the characters you play in the Cadida tales.
Cadida: Of course. What would you like to know?
Marva: Yes, uh, how did you prepare for that role?
Cadida: I studied quite a bit of middle eastern mythology, then ignored any of the boring parts. Facts aren't big for me either.
Bascoda: I just followed the script. Some people like to wing it. I just like to do a good job with what I'm given.
Marva: Speaking of what you're given, despite your resemblance to Marlon Brando, your one and only picture in Cadida and the Djinn shows you with fangs and a snout. How long did it take you to get through make-up?
Bascoda: Now, listen, I told you I'm a certified genie. I didn't need makeup, just like I don't need makeup now to look like Marlon.
Marva: That's a very useful tool for an actor. How about you, Cadida? Any special effects needed for your role?
Cadida: No, I pretty much play it just as I am. After all, I'm a very attractive person and I don't need any enhancements.
Marva: No, I'd say that 7ARS drew you very well. Your cover shot is great!
Cadida: Thank you.
Marva: That's about all the space I have for today, so one last question. What's next for you two, other than the movie?
Bascoda: "Cadida and the Cave Demon" is scheduled for release soon.
Marva: Through Sam's Dot Publishing again?
Cadida: Of course, and available through the Genre Mall.
Marva: Can you give us a quick rundown of the plot?
Cadida: Certainly. Weeks after Cadida, escaped from the clutches of a band of raiders, she decides she'd better return to the cave, where she had been held prisoner, to see if the raiders had captured some other poor soul. She summons her Djinn, Bascoda, to guide her back to the cave. Cadida, Bascoda, and Sheik, her dog, return to the cave where she was held captive. They find someone in the cave, but not a prisoner as they expected. Cadida, Bascoda, and Sheik take on the raiders again to help a very lonely demon find a new home.
Marva: I'd just like to thank Cadida and Bascoda for dropping by.
Cadida: Thanks for having us.
Bascoda: It was my pleasure.
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