Monday, June 28, 2010

Latest Story out

Hey, campers- my story "Bootleggers" is finally out, at:

It's a story of rumrunning, gangsters, and a guy who gets mixed up with the wrong girl.

And my poem "Dead Things" is out, at the renewed link of Ghostlight:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Sneaky Way of Making Fans

In response to a previous posting of IE Lester's excellent article in New Myths (10 Science Fiction Novels to Give to Your Father-in-Law):
I mentioned that the general populace cannot think of science fiction beyond Star Trek or Star Wars, and thus, they dismiss the field as not worthy of serious consideration or study, either literally or cinematically.

Styrofoam Dog leapt to the defense of Star Wars, correctly citing that it is an excellent representation of the mythic hero's journey, so brilliantly expounded by Joseph Campbell. The poster asked, in essence, “What's wrong with Star Wars?”

Well, nothing (aside from Jar-Jar Binks, and that's VERY wrong). I wasn't dissing it, but pointing out that for the masses, it isn't very serious, and it is what they think of when they think Science Fiction. They haven't progressed beyond viewing the entire field as rayguns, spaceships, and bug-eyed monsters.

(There is an alternate view, among the truly enlightened, that an appreciation of these examples is a necessary component of modern culture, specifically geek culture, and indicates a technological mastery of the computer age, which has brought the future at an ever-accelerating pace. See where the author posits that an ability to discuss the merits and differences of these stellar examples defines the most hireable computer masters)

The prejudice of the masses for science fiction and its followers is reinforced when they see television coverage of science fiction conventions. They see adults dressed up in costumes, and think it's all a childish waste of time, something not for grownups. They may have seen a piece on the woman who showed up for jury duty in a Starfleet outfit, and extrapolated from that that anyone who likes science fiction is a nutjob.

When someone starts with that viewpoint, it is futile to begin a discussion with the merits of the thing they dismiss, in this case the two most well loved examples of sci-fi fandom. We'll leave that for another time (or perhaps a guest posting- Styrofoam Dog, are you up for the challenge?)
Rather, we get sneaky- give them the gateway books that will hook them. Bit-by-bit, you add ideas to their mindset, expanding their consciousness, making them a science fiction fan without them realizing it, until it's too late.

Then explain how Kurt Vonnegut, 1984, and Brave New World are all science fiction. Whoa- ideas and literature? Show them how the best examples of good science fiction is indeed serious and good. It's a long path before you can convert them to Star Trek and Star Wars, but it can be done. Just pity them, because they weren't inclined to start that way, and don't know what they're missing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dave Daniel Book Launch Party

Hey again- sorry for the lack of updates. Life got in the way, and we got busy.

There were some comments on my posting of the IE Lester article, wondering if I was dissing Star Wars- fear not, that was not my intent. I'll be addressing that in a post soon to come.

Last night was the book launch party for the new Dave Daniel book collection of short stories "Coffin Dust." Great time, big crowd (amazing for a writer party). Dave did a live reading of one of the stories from the book, "The Three O'Clock." A terrific, entertaining piece, which gave echoes of the good short story work of Stephen King.

To demonstrate what a supportive guy Dave is, we were chatting with the man who published his early work (and wrote the foreword to Coffin Dust), and Dave started praising my stories to the guy. Wow- a party for an established writer, and he takes time to note my modest work. Very cool.

With a dozen story publications under my belt, I'm trying to get a few more sold to publish my own collection. Soon I'll start contacting publishers, to see who will be the lucky one!

Another local writer was part of the festivities last night, Stephen O'Connor. Hadn't heard of him before, but he had a short story collection as well. He read one of his works, and it was fun and marked him as someone to read. I picked up his collection, "Smokestack Lightning," and look forward to the other stories.

Support writers- especially the local ones! (As long as they're good, of course- I wouldn't ask you to encourage the sucky writers!)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dead Things is out!

Dead Things, my first paid, published poem, is out at Ghostlight:

It's a nice thing, because it happened by chance. I was submitting poems that my daughter had written to another magazine, and recalled that I'd written a few poems. This was first, and I sent it out and got a quick acceptance. So I polished up a few more and sent those to different places. Nothing suceeds like success!

Trouble is, they don't give contributor copies, and the magazine costs more than what they paid for the poem. I'm not supposed to lose money getting published!

Dennis Lehane in Chelmsford

Today I went to see Dennis Lehane give a talk here in Chelmsford. He's a witty and fun guy, and had a lot to say on writing.

I love his work, he's the real deal. Loved his crime books; now he's drifting away from that, but he's hit his stride and is very popular. Deservedly so, for he works hard and really captures life in different neighborhoods in Boston (and has no desire to write about other places) .

He loves gangster films-- think I'll send him the link when "Bootleggers" appears- he'd like it.

Pick up his books and give a read. Along with Parker and George V Higgins, he's one of Boston's Best.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

First date!

I sent off a query to an agent, and actually got a response!
Not only that, it was back within the week!
Not only that, but she'd like to see 50 pages of my novel and a synopsis!

Woo-hoo! It's like asking out that nice person, and having them accept. It's only a first date, and nothing may come of it, but if I get my first 50 pages in front of a reader who knows mysteries, there's a chance. Heady stuff.

That's one of the cool things about writing, that any email you open can bring exceptionally good news, and change your fortunes for the better in an instant. You've got to be able to handle rollercoaster emotions, and not take rejection personally, but it's also wonderful to imagine that this could be the one.

So keep you fingers crossed, and hope she knows good stuff when she sees it!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Great Article

Great article on the New Myths website- Ten Science Fiction Novels to Give to Your Father-In-Law, by I.E. Lester (bio on the New Myths site).

Just reading the headline popped titles into my brain. The slant was trying to give great science fiction novels to someone who doesn't know the genre, with the idea of giving them such good stuff you make a fan out of them. Going from someone who sniffs at 'Rocket ships and bug-eyed monsters' to fan is quite a leap, but it can be done, and Lester has done it-- by having impeccable taste. I say that because I agree with much of his list-- they were the same titles that came up for me.

You have to know the person and what they will and won't like. You want to ease them into the field, without shocking them or giving them something they won't understand or be interested in. Or something too tough, like Dune.

So you have to choose carefully, and leave out some great books for later in the process. Many people don't know the field, thinking it's all Star Trek or Star Wars. They just don't know the rich heritage of classics that have made new fans over the decades.

Just reading the titles Laster had passed on made me smile with memories. In the pre-Amazon days, when I had no money, I had heard of this great alternate-history book called Bring the Jubilee. Couldn't find a copy anywhere. Finally located it at Shakespeare & Company, the ultra-cool bookstore in Paris, France. It was as good as I'd heard it to be, and stands as one of my favorites. In it, a slight change in timing throws a spin into the Battle of Gettysburg, and changes the course of the Civil War. The South wins the battle, and the war, which came very close to happening in real life. (Being from Maine, I'm a big Joshua Chamberlain fan-- he was the former Bowdoin Rhetorics professor who saved the Union at the Battle of Gettysburg. Jeff Daniels, an actor I don't usuallly care for, portrayed him brilliantly in the movie The Killer Angels.) Years later, Harry Turtledove, the grand master of alternate history, wrote Guns of the South, another take on the South winning.

Another old favorite is Flowers for Algernon, which I mentioned in my New Myths take on writing. And on and on-- but hey, read the whole article. He says it better.

Maybe we should all take on a project like this. Vow to make a convert in the coming year, with a book that'll blow their socks off. You never know when we could get another fan.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Audio at last

After overcoming a technical obstacle, I was finally able to get voice files recorded and exported as MP3 files. So I did a few samples, and the product is nice. As soon as I get some time (hah!), I'll be posting some audio files for your listening pleasure.

Eventually I'd like to record stories, poems, and books for you to download. Not just mine, but the work of other talented writers as well. Maybe some interviews, if folks would like to listen to them. Podcasting is a whole new field, which means wonderful opportunities. I'm certainly not the first to jump on this bandwagon, but hey, I'm a writer first, and there's only so many hours in a day.

If there's anything you'd particularly like to hear, let me know.