sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I dreamed I was in Providence last night, visiting friends who don't exist in waking life. There was no particular occasion—I hadn't seen them in months, NecronomiCon notwithstanding. I had brought one of them a ring I had found in a thrift store in Boston. It looked like heavy gold with a blurred device on the signet and chips of emerald down the band; I thought it was costume jewelry. It had been priced accordingly. The girl at the register hadn't been able to tell me where it came from. I almost tossed it to my friend as we walked through Burnside Park, telling him it had looked like his style. He didn't even put it on: he turned it over once or twice and dropped onto the nearest bench like someone had kicked his feet out from under him and burst into tears. I thought at one point he asked, "How could you do this to me?" but I didn't have an answer and I wasn't sure he was asking me. When he left without looking at me, he left the ring resting on the bench behind him. I put it back in my pocket. I went back to their house. He was there helping his partner prepare dinner; no one said anything about it. I can do something with this dream, I think. [personal profile] spatch asked me months ago if I had ever written Lovecraftian noir and I couldn't think of a way to do it without being cheap or clichéd or ripping other authors off: I might have dreamed myself a way in. I just wish I could think of things that don't require research.

1. Thank you, question mark, Facebook, for pointing me toward this teeth-grinding article: Zoe Willams, "Yes, yes, yes! Welcome to the golden age of slutty cinema." I was a little wary of the opening, but then we reached the following claim—

"On the big screen, we look to the 1930s and 40s – rightly – for an object lesson in how to make a female character with depth, verve, wit and intelligence, but to expect those women to shag around would be unreasonable, anachronistic."

—and I blew a fuse. Can I chase after the author screaming with a copy of Baby Face (1933)? Or the bookstore clerk from The Big Sleep (1946)? Pre-Code cinema in general? A stubborn and sneaky percentage of Hollywood even after the ascendance of the Production Code? "It is a radical act," William writes, "which every film generation thinks they are the first to discover: to create characters who are not good people"—well, apparently every generation of film critics thinks they discovered it, too. I wrote on Facebook that I was reminded of the conversation between an ATS driver and her prospective mother-in-law in Leslie Howard's The Gentle Sex (1943), where the younger woman declares proudly that "for the first time in English history, women are fighting side by side with the men" and the older woman quietly lets fall the fact that she served as an ambulance driver on the front lines of the last war. Just because the young women of the rising generation don't know about the social advances of their mothers doesn't mean they didn't happen. Just because the author of this article lives in a retrograde era doesn't mean the onscreen representation of morally ambiguous women is some kind of millenial invention. It's so easy to think that the past was always more conservative, more blinkered, more backwards than the present. It's comforting. It's dangerous. It permits the belief that things just get better, magically, automatically, without anyone having to fight to move forward or hold ground already won. Once you recognize that the past, even briefly, got here first, it's a lot harder to feel superior for just being alive now. We can't afford it and anyway it isn't true.

2. Apropos of nothing except that I was listening to Flanders and Swann, I am very glad that I discovered them before reading Margery Allingham, otherwise I might have thought she invented "The Youth of the Heart." It's quoted in a scene in The Beckoning Lady (1955)—correctly attributed, but her books are so full of fictional artists and musicians that when I read of "Lili Ricki, the new Swedish Nightingale" who is "singing Sydney Carter's lovely song against a lightening sky," I might have easily had the Avocado of Death problem and assumed she made them all up. As it is, I know the song from a recording of Swann performing it solo as part of At the Drop of a Hat in 1957, since he wrote the music. And I was reminded of Allingham because there's a copy of Traitor's Purse (1941) on Howard's bookshelves in Howard the Duck (1986). I assume someone in the props department was a fan.

3. The Somerville Theatre has announced its repertory schedule for October. I am sad that the double feature of James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is the same night that [personal profile] rushthatspeaks and I already have plans to see William Wellman's Beggars of Life (1928) at the HFA, but I am looking forward mightily to the triple feature of Psycho (1960), Psycho II (1983), and Psycho III (1986), because it is the Sunday before my birthday and five and a half hours of Anthony Perkins seems like a good preemptive birthday present to me. I have never seen Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963), either, or Anna Biller's The Love Witch (2016), and I always like Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead (2004). I know Brad Anderson's Session 9 (2001) was shot at the derelict Danvers State Hospital before it was demolished for condos, a decision which I hope is literally haunting the developers to this day. Anyone with opinions about the rest of this lineup?

I am off to write letters to politicians.

letters, Johnson & DeVos

Sep. 24th, 2017 08:25 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Dear Senator Johnson:

You have been saying terrible things about people with "pre-existing" conditions for all of 2017, comparing us to cars, saying that we should pay more for our healthcare, even though most "pre-existing" conditions are not caused by anything a person does or by bad choices they make. In fact, since pregnancy is a "pre-existing condition," you are actively punishing people for having families--which seems to run counter to the agenda the Republican Party has been pushing for years The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal, which callously strips all protections from people like me (and which makes it entirely possible that a premature baby will hit his or her lifetime cap before leaving the hospital for the first time), makes it clear that in fact you have no idea of what it's like not to be able to afford healthcare, or to have a chronic, incurable condition, and that you don't even have enough imagination to be able to empathize with the people whose lives you are destroying.

Moreover, given that there is astonishing unity among healthcare professionals, patients' interest groups, and major insurers (plus all fifty Medicaid administrators and a current count of eighteen governors), it is quite clear that you aren't doing this because it's a good idea. You don't care whether it will be good or bad for your constituents. All you care about--and more than one of your Republican colleagues have admitted as much--is repealing "Obamacare." You're doing this because you made a campaign promise, and you're too blindly self-centered to see that this is a promise that would be better honored in the breach than in the observance. You and your colleagues are behaving childishly, destroying something only because you hate the person who built it. The ACA is not failing, as you keep claiming it is, Senator. It is suffering mightily from obstructionism and deliberate sabotage from you and your colleagues, and, yes, it does need reform. But your proposal isn't reform. It's wanton demolition of legislation that is working, legislation that is succeeding in making the lives of Americans better, demolition which you are pushing without the slightest consideration of its effects on the people you claim you serve.

I'm not writing this letter because I expect you will change your mind--or, frankly, even read it. I'm writing this letter because I'm angry and scared and unbelievably frustrated with your deliberately cruel and blindly stupid determination to do something that no one in this country wants. You won't change your mind, but you can't say you didn't know there was opposition.

P.S. I'd still really like to see you denounce white supremacism, Senator. Because right now, I unwillingly believe you don't think there's anything wrong with it.

***

Dear Ms. DeVos:

I am appalled at your decision to roll back the protections given to sexual assault survivors by Title IX. I'm not surprised, because it's perfectly in line with the other cruel, short-sighted, and bigoted decisions you've made since being appointed Secretary of Education, but I honestly wonder (and I wonder this about a number of Trump appointees, so you needn't think you're alone) how you live with yourself. How do you justify, even if only to yourself, the damage you're doing? Do you believe the lies you tell?

I'm not going to quote statistics, because I'm sure they've been shown to you. I'm not going to try to change your mind with personal stories. I am going to ask, futilely, that you stop and truly think about the young women whose college careers, already catastrophically imperiled by the sexual assault they have survived, may be destroyed because of the policies you're implementing. And I'm going to ask how on earth you think this destruction is part of your mandate as Secretary of Education?

Everyone's civil rights need to be respected. I believe this strongly enough to belong to the ACLU. But victims' rights are historically ignored, trampled on, and outright broken, especially in cases of sexual assault, especially when the perpetrator is white and male. I also strongly believe that the purpose of government should be to ensure that privilege is not used to skew justice. It was already crushingly difficult for sexual assault survivors to report their assailants. You have made it that much harder, and that much more likely that they will simply remain silent. I cannot help thinking that that silence is your goal, and that, Ms. DeVos, is truly shameful.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
[personal profile] jpskewedthrone
In this blog, I thought I’d share some of the mistakes that I made when I ran my first Kickstarter for Zombies Need Brains and the anthology CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK VS ALIENS. If you’re thinking of running a Kickstarter, perhaps this will help you make fewer mistakes than I did. Some of these are about designing the Kickstarter, and some of them are mistakes made with producing that first anthology and fulfilling the backer rewards.

The first two of these mistakes—and also the biggest mistakes that I made—are with designing the Kickstarter and they both deal with postage. Yes, postage.

So, you’re planning the Kickstarter, right? And of course you factor in postage into the expenses you’ll have. This affects the amount of money that you need to raise in the Kickstarter into to create the product and send it out to the backers. Of course you do. EXCEPT, in the planning phase, I forgot to factor in one crucial postage expense: that of sending backer extra rewards to ebook backers. What I mean here are the little extras that you promise backers, such as bookmarks if you reach a stretch goal, or magnets, or postcards, or whatever. In my head, I’d said to myself that the ebook backers wouldn’t have any postage expenses, because of course you’d just email the ebooks to them (or send them a link to where they could download them). No expense there, right?

HA, HA! I forgot that if we hit certain goals, even the ebook backers would get these little extra physical incentives, and that these little incentives would require postage to mail them to the backers. So I never factored in this postage. Thankfully, I’d factored in a few hundred dollars for “unexpected expenses” and this covered most of that. The hardest part of this was mailing the incentives outside the US, because international postage is expensive. And of course, most of the ebook backers were international. So this was kind of a punch to the gut. I mitigated it a little bit by asking backers if they wanted the incentives or not, and many did not, so that helped. But still, it hurt in terms of expenses.

For the next Kickstarter, I made certain that I worded the Kickstarter in such a way that it was clear that these physical incentives would only be sent to those who backed at a certain amount or more (basically, reward levels that were receiving a physical mailing already).

My second mistake also had to do with postage, mainly international postage. Yes, I knew it would be more expensive, but I didn’t do enough research to find out exactly HOW MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE it would be. When I went to the post office to mail the international packages, I was physically sick as the postage rang up. It was almost double what I’d planned on. Granted, I was mailing these a year after I’d run the Kickstarter, and postage rates had changed during that time, but it was still MUCH, MUCH higher than I’d anticipated. This, along with the previous postage error, effectively ate up all of my emergency fund built into the Kickstarter, and then some. But of course I mailed everything out. The backers were expecting their rewards, after all.

For the next Kickstarter, I had a much better idea of what the international postage would be and so planned accordingly. I use an average for the international postage now, and that gets added to the pledge level if you’re international. It’s high, and I know it’s high, but there’s not much I can do about that.

The next mistake I made wasn’t really a mistake so much as just horrible luck. One of the reward levels in that Kickstarter was an art print of the cover art for the anthology signed by the artist. I’d negotiated for 25 of these. So I had them printed—not cheap—and mailed them off to Germany, where the artist lived, also not cheap. And then I waited, and waited, and waited. I hadn’t heard anything from the artist and the tracking on the prints just said it had reached Germany, so I contacted the artist and he said he hadn’t received them. I contacted the post office and they said that once it left the US it was out of their hands.

It turns out that the package had reached Germany and then was left in a warehouse or something where it got wet. Art prints don’t react well to water, even though they were wrapped in plastic. So the prints were all ruined. I had to reprint the art—again, not cheap—and mail it again (this time through UPS, still not cheap) and finally got my signed prints. So basically this reward level cost me double what it should have. And of course the post office didn’t take responsibility for what happened because “it was out of their hands”. The insurance I’d gotten for the package only applied to what happened to it in the US, not Germany. So lesson learned.

You’ll note that I don’t offer a reward level for signed art prints for the cover now. I offer prints, just not signed-by-the-artist copies. I still have some of those other art prints left and use them as a reward level in all of my Kickstarters, but now you know one of the reasons they’re so expensive. Still trying to recoup that doubled cost.

My mistakes now shift toward the actual production of the anthology, rather than things associated with running and fulfilling the Kickstarter. At this point, I’d like to point out that I’d been published by DAW and had edited for DAW, so I knew some of what happened behind the scenes in producing a book or anthology, BUT I didn’t know everything, especially some of the finer details. So this first project was a HUGE learning curve. My first mistake was …

TIME. I didn’t understand exactly how much time it took to do all of the little pieces of a project and the order in which those things should be done. So everything took longer than I expected. And a bunch of things had to be done over again, sometimes more than once. For example, I had my cover designer design the cover of the book. Great! That’s checked off my list. BUT THEN I found out that the size of the cover file depends on how many pages are in the book, and I didn’t have that yet, and so when I finally got the page number count, we had to go back and redesign the cover. (Because page count affects the width of the spine, which affects the dimensions of the cover.) Also, I had the ebooks and paperback designed at the same time. But then, if an error was found, we had to go back and redo both the ebooks and the paperbacks. There were many, many different little things that I forgot we needed—such as bar codes and headers and … well, you get the idea. So I made many mistakes here in terms of the order in which things should be done.

Since then, I’ve gotten a better handle on what should be done when, what needs to be done first, etc. I’m still learning though. Now, we design the interior of the Kickstarter paperback first. Then the ebook. Then the cover for the Kickstarter edition. Then we redo the interior design for the trade paperback version, followed by the redo of the cover for the trade paperback. And in all of that process, there are other minor things that have to be done in such and such an order. And all of that takes more time than you think it’s going to take. I still don’t have the timing down yet, because it depends on such things as your interior and ebook designers’ schedule and the printer’s schedule and other things you have no control over. But I’ve gotten much more efficient at this over time.

And the last mistake that I want to talk about is just something stupid that slipped through the system. The page numbers in the Table of Contents of the Kickstarter edition of CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE are all screwed up. Here’s how it happened: the interior of the kickstarter edition was designed and the ToC page numbers were good. But then we decreased the size of the font and the indentations, because the anthology was just way too many pages and its cost to produce would be exorbitant. BUT, we forgot to go back and adjust the page numbers in the ToC to account for the new design. No one checked them before it was sent to the printer. And so the Kickstarter edition has totally screwed up pages in the ToC. Not a huge thing, but extremely annoying for someone like me, who expects perfection from myself. Obviously, we’ve added a ToC page check to the list of things to do at the end, before sending the files to the printer.

At this point, I’ve got the basics of the process worked out and it’s more or less efficient. But I still make mistakes. I screwed up Gini Koch’s pseudonym on the SUBMERGED back cover of the Kickstarter edition. (I called her J.D. Koch on the back cover, instead of J.C. Koch. I got it right everywhere on the inside, just not on the back cover.) I’m sure there are other errors as well, ones that I’ve just not noticed or discovered yet. But overall, I think all of these were learning curve mistakes. I’m getting better at this. Hopefully, I get a chance to keep doing it for years to come. *grin*

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************

Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, Walter H Hunt, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, Kari Sperring, and Jean Marie Ward.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, Ashley McConnell, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
Happy autumn! Happy Bi Visibility Day! Happy centenary of the invention of Fluff, which explains why the first thing I ate today was a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff cookie: I spent the later part of my afternoon in Union Square with [personal profile] rushthatspeaks, [personal profile] gaudior, and Fox, who may or may not have liked their first taste of marshmallow but was really into a crunchy organic juice blend one of their parents was trying to drink. (Eventually they covered themselves in it. It was green. That's the first time I've seen a baby cosplay Howl's Moving Castle.) I am delighted to learn that plasmodial slime molds can share memories. I would definitely watch Dwayne Johnson as Plato. I am faceplantingly tired, but I have cats. It has not been terrible, being awake today.

Where'd That Name Come From?

Sep. 23rd, 2017 06:11 pm
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
[personal profile] jpskewedthrone
There’s one particular question that I get asked a lot once people find out I created a small press called Zombies Need Brains. Mainly, where the name Zombies Need Brains comes from.

It began in 2007, when the World Fantasy Convention was held in Saratoga Springs, NY. That's basically a few hours drive from where I live. At the time, Patricia Bray was also living in Binghamton and I had just been published by DAW Books. (THE SKEWED THRONE came out in hardcover in January 2006 and THE CRACKED THRONE followed in November 2006.) I was, of course, looking for ways to promote the books and so with WFC so close, Patricia and I came up with a plan to throw a party on Thursday night at the con. We invited S.C. Butler, Barbara Campbell, C.E. Murphy, and Jennifer Dunne to join us (mostly so we could split the costs and make it affordable for all of the authors involved). We planned out the alcohol, the snacks, getting a room at the convention, getting invites printed up to hand out at the con, etc., etc., etc.

But we needed a name for the party.

We ended up calling the party Zombies Need Brains. I believe it was Jennifer Dunne's idea, actually. We handed out postcard invites to the party at the ice cream social Thursday night. We gave everyone tickets when they entered and handed out prizes all night. The room was jammed and at one point George R.R. Martin came in and settled down in the middle of the main room and pretty much stayed there all night. I believe we kicked the last people out around 3am and then did massive clean-up. We donated leftover alcohol and food to parties that were going on the next night. It was a blast and, I have to say, the best party of the weekend.

Anyway, flash forward five years. I'm contemplating creating a small press so that I can continue my addiction and produce themed anthologies at will. But what do I call the small press? I wanted something that was obviously SF&F oriented, but at the same time I wanted it to be fun. Not that we couldn't produce thought-provoking anthologies, but, really, I just wanted to have fun with the press and the themes and stories.

And then it hit me: Zombies Need Brains. It was perfect--obviously SF&F related, but still with the quirky sense of fun I wanted the press to be known for.

So that's where the ZNB name comes from. As you probably guessed, it involved a party and some alcohol. *grin*

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************

Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, Walter H Hunt, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, Kari Sperring, and Jean Marie Ward.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, Ashley McConnell, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios

Review: A Crime to Remember

Sep. 23rd, 2017 08:46 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Not about books, but definitely a review.

Hulu has episodes from 3 seasons of A Crime to Remember, which is an Investigation Discovery show. In my ongoing love/hate relationship with true crime media, ID stands out for their high production values and for about as unexploitative an attitude as you can have. (I wonder, perhaps unworthily, if part of what makes ACtR seem thoughtful rather than vulture-like is that the executive producer and a bunch of the writers & directors are women.) I have also been very fond of Homicide Hunter, partly because the show does not try to sugarcoat Lt. Joe Kenda at all. He's very good at his job, and he is a ruthless avenging angel, but he is not a nice man. I kind of adore him. (I'm pretty sure he'd hate me, but that's okay.)

But ACtR. All the episodes are period pieces. (I joked to my therapist that they must have come up with the idea because they wanted everyone to be able to smoke on camera.) I'm not super fond of the gimmick, in which every episode has a narrator who is a minor fictional character in the real crime being portrayed, but most of the time it works okay. (It works extremely well--give credit where it's due--in "The 28th Floor" (2.4).) The actors--"character" actors all--are excellent, and most of the time they even get the accents matched up to the region. (There are exceptions.) And the producers have interview clips with true crime writers who have written about the cases; with people who investigated the cases (when those people are still alive); with Mary Ellen O'Toole and other experts in various fields; with friends and family of murderers and victims alike. They frequently featured Michelle MacNamara before her death in April 2016--pretty obviously because she was very good at conveying information clearly but without sounding scripted. And, again, because they seem to look for women. They also have gotten Catherine Pelonero more than once. (I actually haven't been able to bring myself to watch the episode about Kitty Genovese, but Pelonero does a great job in the other episodes I have watched her in.)

My true, serious beef with ACtR is its insistent trope of the loss of American innocence. Almost every case is framed as something that destroyed a piece of American innocence, and this is infuriating to me for several reasons:

1. America has never been innocent.

2. The idea of the Golden Age, the before time just out of reach in which everything was perfect, is a very, very old fallacy. (The Romans were all over it.) I think it is pernicious, because it validates reactionary attempts to return to "the good old days," which are "good" (in 20th century America) only if you are white, middle-class or above, and it helps if you're male. ACtR does deal with racism, sexism, and classism, but it doesn't seem to recognize the contradictory position it puts itself in thereby.

3. Casting these crimes as destroyers of American innocence erases crimes that went before. I can give one very specific example: "Baby Come Home" (2.8) about the 1953 kidnapping and murder of Bobby Greenlease, who was murdered before his kidnappers ever tried to extort ransom from his parents. Now I am not at all denying that what happened to Bobby Greenlease is vile and horrible and an expression of the worst part of human nature, but claiming that Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Heady somehow invented kidnapping children for ransom--or even just the worst and most cruel of bad faith negotiations after the child was already dead--erases what happened to, for one example, Charles Lindbergh, Jr. Or, for another example, Charley Ross. If there was any innocence to be lost in this particular genre of crime, it was lost in 1874, 79 years before Bobby Greenlease's death.

So, yeah. That's the one thing that I really think they get wrong. Otherwise, they do a lovely job, and they have taught me about murders I'd never heard of but I think should not be forgotten: the terrible deaths of Judge Curtis Chillingworth and his wife Marjorie in West Palm Beach in 1955; Charles Whitman's sniper assault on the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Texas in 1966 (which I knew about, but knew kind of wrongly); the bizarre murder of Betty Williams in Odessa, Texas, in 1961; the murder of Veronica Gedeon in New York in 1937, and how the case was largely solved by the editors of the true crime magazines she was a cover model for; the murder of Roseann Quinn in New York in 1973, which was the inspiration for Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and I deeply appreciate the way ACtR questions the LfMG myth and suggests that Theresa Dunn is a cruel travesty of the real Roseann Quinn and the reality of her death. If you are interested in criminology or American history (because nothing tells you more about a culture than its cause celebre murders), I commend this series to your attention.
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
[personal profile] sovay
I was taking pictures of the cats.

Autolycus had opinions about the camera.



[personal profile] spatch says, "This is what I see every morning at seven-thirty!"
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
In about an hour, I am going to see Howard the Duck (1986) on 70 mm at the Somerville Theatre. It's part of their second annual 70 mm & Widescreen Festival, which started this Wednesday and runs through the rest of the month; last year it offered me such superlative viewing experiences as Lord Jim (1965), Spartacus (1960), Sleeping Beauty (1959) and Tron (1982), and this year I am starting with a duck from another planet. We're meeting my parents for it. My father unironically loves Howard the Duck. He ranks it with '80's cult classics like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) and has always felt it deserved a sequel. I have not seen it since high school at the latest and have peculiarly fragmentary memories of the plot. The opening sequence is picture-clear: Howard on his home planet greeting a Playduck centerfold with "My little airbrushed beauty!" before being sucked through space and time into Cleveland, Ohio where he rescues a new wave chick from some lowlifes with the ancient martial art of "Quack Fu." She has a band. I want to say he ends up managing it. After that things start to break up. I remember that an eldritch thing possesses Jeffrey Jones—and that it happens for the decently Lovecraftian reason that it is never a bright idea to open a door at random into the deep reaches of space when you don't know what might be on the other side—but I don't remember the mechanism or the immediate consequences, except that I have the vague sense of a road trip. I remember that Chip Zien voices Howard, when I know him much better for his work in musical theater. IMDb tells me that this movie was also the first place I saw Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins. I'm really looking forward. Other films I am planning to catch on 70 mm include Wonder Woman (2017) and Cleopatra (1963), which should really be something on a big screen, as should an IB Technicolor VistaVision print of North by Northwest (1959). I am a little sorry to have missed The Dark Crystal (1982) earlier this evening, but it has been a long and stressful day. There's always the matinée repeat on Sunday if I really feel like it. In the meantime, there's a space duck.

[edit] Yeah, sorry, haters. Howard the Duck remains a really delightful sci-fi comedy. Lea Thompson makes a surprisingly credible new wave/punk frontwoman. Tim Robbins is so young and so gangly. Jeffrey Jones is no Emilio Lizardo, but he chews good scenery as the possessed scientist. There are practical effects. There is stop-motion. (There are too many fight scenes and things blowing up, but I feel this way about most movies with any action quotient.) And there is a road trip, with a pit stop at a nuclear power plant. The script is sweet and full of consciously comic-book dialogue and it plays its interspecies romance straight; the only joke that really pulled me up short was a tossed-off sex-change line which mercifully goes by fast. I can't imagine swapping out any of the actors, especially Zien. I had completely forgotten about Richard Kiley as the introductory narrator, B-movie style. I don't even think it's an enjoyably bad movie: I just like it. And I have seen perhaps the last remaining 70 mm print in the world. No regrets.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
Even if the rest of the film were forgettable, Howard Hawks' Red River (1948) would be worth it for the climactic fight scene where Montgomery Clift and John Wayne are tragically and brutally and patriarchally beating one another's brains out and just as the audience, consisting in this case of me and [personal profile] rushthatspeaks, decides it cannot take another second of this senseless macho bullshit, Joanne Dru can't either and not only says as much, she holds both combatants at gunpoint until they cut the machismo and admit they love one another. It was a thing of beauty. ("You'd better marry that girl, Matt.") Factor in the gun-comparing scene between Clift and John Ireland and other not infrequent moments of no heterosexual explanation and the whole thing was a nice break from today's otherwise relentless grind of work, even if we weren't totally sure at the outset. It is not easy to watch a movie in the company of an active and presently tired and cranky eleven-month-old, but we managed. In other news, Fox these days is freestanding, fast-moving, can hang upside down by the knees if an adult holds them, and appears to be taking against the entire concept of pants. They like honeycake, though.

Autolycus is being heartbreakingly plaintive right now. He has a vet appointment early in the morning and it requires fasting, which is an impossible concept to explain to a cat. I let him graze all day and gave him a proper dinner at the absolute last moment, but he is attempting to convince me that, actually, in point of fact, he starved since then. We should find him some kind of special treat after the appointment, for being so brave and honest. Last night he and his sister shared in the Rosh Hashanah chicken. All cats are lunisolar.

In honor of the High Holidays, here is a post on Jewish superheroes and here is a brilliant riposte to the rather short-sighted question "How can you be Black and Jewish?"

Back to the relentless grind. At least it is almost autumn.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
[personal profile] jpskewedthrone
This is the tenth of a series of blog posts that I wrote last year in order to show how I create the anthologies for Zombies Need Brains, the small press that I founded in order to produce anthologies. It's basically a behind-the-scenes look at the process, which will be covered in multiple parts. Obviously, this is only how I produce an anthology and there may be other roads to follow in order to produce one. Keep that in mind.

Here are the previous parts of the series:

Part 9: Design: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492092.html
Part 8: Cover: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491810.html
Part 7: Copy Edits: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491738.html
Part 6: Table of Contents: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491496.html
Part 5: Editing: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491105.html
Part 4: Slush Pile: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490870.html
Part 3: Funding: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490583.html
Part 2: Authors: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490491.html
Part 1: Concept: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490112.html

At this point, you should have everything you need to send your book out into the world—a cover flat file, an interior print file, an ebook file, and a cover file (either taken from the cover flat, or designed specifically by your cover designer for the ebooks). All that’s left is the distribution.

There are many different options and outlets for distribution. Some of them allow you to distribute to many places through one portal, such as IngramSpark. Some of them let you distribute to selected places through one portal, such as CreateSpace. Most who have multiple outlets let you pick and choose where you want the anthology to be available. And then, of course, you can choose to go directly through particular places with your own account at each one, such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. Lastly, perhaps you just want to get a set number of copies of the book printed by an offset printer and then store them and sell them yourself, either by hand or through an online store.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every option, so you really need to sit down and do the research for each one, perhaps create a spreadsheet so you can compare them all, and then you can focus on what you want for your books. Each place will have a different royalty rate, perhaps even two options for royalties at one location. For example, CreateSpace has multiple royalty options, where you trade a lower royalty rate in order to get better advertising or a larger distribution network. If you’re going to do your own advertising, then you can pick a higher royalty rate. Each usually has other options that may get your book in their newsletter, or allow your book to have a fire-sale at a low rate for a specified period of time, or allow you to make the price of your book whatever you want. (Kindle requires that your book be within a certain price range, for example, unless you give up some royalties to make it lower). All of these options at the various places are changing constantly, so you need to look into it yourself.

As you can see, it’s already gotten complicated. But the real issue is how much of the marketing for your book you’re going to do yourself, and how much you want your distributor to market it for you. How much marketing you want someone else to do depends on how wide an audience you think you can reach with your book and name alone. Someone like Seanan McGuire has a large fan base already, so she probably doesn’t need the marketing machine to get her fans to notice a book she puts out herself. My own fan base isn’t quite that large, so I may want to invest in a smaller royalty rate from the distributor in order for the distributor to help me reach people I wouldn’t be able to reach myself. It’s all a balancing act—how much of the royalties are you willing to give up in order to sell more copies of the book? Keeping all the royalties means you may sell X books, making $Y amount of money. But maybe if you give up some of the royalties you’ll sell A books (A>X), and make $B amount of money. Is B higher than Y? In some situations it will be, which means accepting a lower royalty actually increases the money you make. The REAL problem is that there’s no way to tell whether B will be higher than Y ahead of time. Absolutely no way. Because no one can predict marketing. Advertising your brains out doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make more sales. This is the most frustrating part of the business: you will never know how effective your marketing is. Even if you sell really well, you can’t pinpoint what it was that you did that made the book sell well. It just did. For some reason. None of it quantifiable.

In any case, you need to choose: distribute yourself (offset printing, ebook sales online), distribute through one agency that distribute to multiple places (IngramSpark, CreateSpace, etc.), or distribute by setting up your own account at multiple places (Kindle, Nook, B&N, CreateSpace, etc.). Distributing the books yourself means all of the work is put on your—for marketing and sales—but you’re probably going to get a much larger cut of the profits. Distributing through someone like IngramSpark, CreateSpace, etc.) allows you a wider audience reach immediately, but they’re going to take a larger cut of the profits, especially if you select the option where they do more marketing for you. But you’re getting a single check each month from one source. The last option, where you set up accounts at multiple places, usually gives you a higher cut of the profits (not as high as distributing yourself, though), but now you’re dealing with multiple checks every month from multiple sources, so it’s a little more complicated to keep track of the finances for tax purposes and such.

Zombies Need Brains does a mix of two of the options. It has accounts set up at various places so that it gets a check directly from those distributors, such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc. The rest of the ebook options are handled by a single distributor, where I can select which places get to sell the ebook and which don’t. And the print versions are run through CreateSpace with a fairly wide distribution network, but not as wide as it could be. I was trying to balance the marketing a distribution options, while mitigating the amount of work I’d have to do in terms of bookkeeping.

And that’s how ZNB produces their anthologies. I didn’t cover absolutely everything. There are a few other things I could have talked about—such as advertising, marketing, etc.—but this gives everyone who might be interested in producing an anthology at least a rough framework for how it’s done. Again, you may need to alter and change and personalize this so that it works best for you. I hope you’ve learned something from this blog series! Thanks for reading!

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************

Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios

Plot Synopsis Project!

Sep. 21st, 2017 08:16 am
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
[personal profile] jpskewedthrone
A few year ago, I ran a couple of projects designed to help writers with some of the basic essentials of trying to get a novel published, things like query letters and plot synopses. Since then, my blog has changed and those links to those bits of writerly advice from various published authors have been lost. So I thought I'd run another set of projects to refresh those links AND to bring in new thoughts from today's authors. So for three days, I'll be running three projects, one on elevator pitches, one on query letters, and one on plot synopses. This is the central hub for all of the posts on:

Plot Synopses:

Here are some thoughts on how to write plot synopses from various authors. Not everyone does this the same way, so I'd suggest reading through the posts, think about the advice, and then decide which approach works best for you. Maybe try a few of them to find out. This is not the first time I've done a plot synopsis project, so some of these posts are new and some are from the previous run-through. Also, I'll add to this list if more authors want to participate in the future, so check back every now and then and see if there's a new post on the list. I hope some of you find these projects helpful!

Here are the links:

Chaz Brenchley: http://desperance.livejournal.com/254192.html (Originally posted 3/17/2008)
S.C. Butler: http://scbutler.livejournal.com/23177.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
David B. Coe: http://davidbcoe.livejournal.com/29443.html (Originally popsted 3/18/2008)
Harry Connolly: http://harryjconnolly.com/how-i-write-a-book-synopsis/ (Added 9/21/2017)
Jennifer Dunne: http://jennifer-dunne.livejournal.com/244403.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
S.L. Farrell/Stephen Leigh: http://sleigh.livejournal.com/187253.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Gregory Frost: http://frostokovich.livejournal.com/19384.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Jim C. Hines: http://jimhines.livejournal.com/355241.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Elaine Isaac/E.C. Ambrose: https://ecambrose.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/pitching-a-novel-nailing-your-synopsis/ (Added 9/21/2017)
Kay Kenyon: http://www.kaykenyon.com/2017/09/21/writing-a-novel-synopsis/ (Added 9/21/2017)
Jackie Kessler: http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2008/03/18/the-plot-synopsis-project/#more-178 (Originally posted 3/8/2008)
Mindy Klasky: http://mindyklasky.livejournal.com/135970.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Misty Massey: http://madkestrel.livejournal.com/64716.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Kelly McCullough: https://kellymccullough.com/synopses-a-lengthy-discourse-on-a-pithy-topic/ (Added 9/23/2017)
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.: http://www.lemodesittjr.com/2017/09/18/literary-pitches-and-timing/ (Added 9/21/2017)
C.E. Murphy: http://mizkit.livejournal.com/339428.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Naomi Novik: http://naominovik.livejournal.com/34610.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Joshua Palmatier: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493561.html (Added 9/21/2017)
Phyllis Irene Radford: http://www.radfordeditorial.com/?p=104 (Added 9/23/2017)
Jennifer Stevenson: http://smokingpigeon.livejournal.com/15208.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Michelle Sagara West: http://msagara.livejournal.com/37498.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)


And check out the Elevator Pitch Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492684.html, and the Query Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493069.html.

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios

Writerly Advice: Plot Synopses

Sep. 21st, 2017 08:14 am
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
[personal profile] jpskewedthrone
Plot Synopses

First off, there are two types of plot synopses: the one written AFTER the novel is finished, and the one written BEFORE the novel is finished, both used to send to the agent or editor in the hopes they’ll buy the novel. I’ll start with the one written AFTER the novel is finished, since this is typically what happens for a writer who has yet to be published.

Writing a Synopsis AFTER the Book is Finished )

In any case, here’s my sample plot synopsis, for the first book in my Throne of Amenkor series, published by DAW Books, called The Skewed Throne [Amazon; Mysterious Galaxy]. Keep in mind that if you haven’t read the book, this synopsis will reveal all of the major plot twists and turning points in the novel, so spoilerage is possible. Well, not possible. Spoilerage is DEFINITE. I think you’d still find the book enjoyable even after reading this though. In fact, it might be an interesting exercise to read both the synopsis and the book itself so you can compare them and see what I put in the synopsis and, more importantly, what I left out. You certainly can't put everything in the book in the synopsis.

After the sample, I discuss writing a plot synopsis BEFORE the book has been written.

************************

Skewed Throne Plot Synopsis (spoilery if you haven’t read the book) )

***********************************

Ok, that’s what the beast looks like if the book has already been written. However, once you’ve been published, the agent or editor is more willing to work with a book that hasn’t been written yet. At this stage, they’ll likely demand a plot synopsis, and sometimes they’ll want a plot synopsis and the first few chapters (even if the rest hasn’t been written). I find this a much MUCH harder beast to tame, because of the way that I write.

Writing a Synopsis BEFORE the Book is Written )

So here’s my sample of a synopsis written BEFORE the novel was written. It's from the second book in the Throne of Amenkor series, called The Cracked Throne [Amazon; Mysterious Galaxy]. Again, if you read this, it WILL spoiler the book. (But also again, it might be good to read the synopsis AND the book so you can see what was included and not included . . . and also what I thought would happen and what actually happened.) You’ll notice some differences. I didn’t capitalize the characters names when they first appeared in this one, for example. Some editors/agents like them to be capped, some not. You should always read and follow the guidelines for the publishing house or agency where you’re submitting in order to see what kinds of rules they like you to follow. You’ll also notice that the synopsis doesn’t read as smoothly as the previous one; that’s because the novel wasn’t written and I was flailing around in the dark while writing it. And for those that have read the book already, you’ll notice that the final version of the book had some serious changes (the part about Erick and Baill leaps to mind). The end product didn’t follow this synopsis exactly. Editors and agents know this might happen, and they generally accept it.

**********************

Cracked Throne Plot Synopsis (spoilerage ahoy!) )

******************

So that’s my take on writing plot synopses and a few examples to give you guys something to work from. Hopefully you found some helpful advice in there. But my way isn’t always the best, and doesn’t always work for everyone, so take the time to read some of the other authors’ posts about their process and see some of their examples. I think what you’ll find is that there isn’t one set way to do these things, and there’s not one set road to publication. Some include synopses and some don’t. Some synopses are 1 page long (if that) and some are 10 or more. It depends on the editor’s and/or agent’s preferences.

And keep in mind that you can have the perfect synopsis but if the STORY ITSELF SUCKS, it won’t help. You have to have a good story to tell. And if the story is good, most editors and agents will cut you some slack if your plot synopsis isn’t perfect.

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
Erev Rosh Hashanah: I misplace the keys to my parents' house and cannot help with the cooking as early in the afternoon as planned, but my brother and his family turn out to have been laid low by some opportunistic bug (the preschool year has started) and don't make it for dinner after all; my father drives their roast chicken and their challah and their honeycake out to them in the evening. We eat ours after I light orange taper candles that technically belong to Halloween because that's what's in the house. The chicken is brined and stuffed with lemon halves and fresh rosemary; the huge round challah with honey drizzled lightly over its egg-washed crust is from Mamaleh's; the honeycakes are homemade and the twice-baked potatoes were introduced by [personal profile] spatch and me. I know it is not precisely the customary use of the Shechecheyanu, but I find it useful to have a prayer thank you, God, that we've made it this far. The year starts anyway, ready or not. I'd rather recognize it as it goes by. L'shanah tovah, all.

Query Project!

Sep. 20th, 2017 08:40 am
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
[personal profile] jpskewedthrone
A few year ago, I ran a couple of projects designed to help writers with some of the basic essentials of trying to get a novel published, things like query letters and plot synopses. Since then, my blog has changed and those links to those bits of writerly advice from various published authors have been lost. So I thought I'd run another set of projects to refresh those links AND to bring in new thoughts from today's authors. So for three days, I'll be running three projects, one on elevator pitches, one on query letters, and one on plot synopses. This is the central hub for all of the posts on:

Queries:

Here are some thoughts on how to write queries from various authors. Not everyone does this the same way, so I'd suggest reading through the posts, think about the advice, and then decide which approach works best for you. Maybe try a few of them to find out. This is not the first time I've done a query project, so some of these posts are new and some are from the previous run-through. Also, I'll add to this list if more authors want to participate in the future, so check back every now and then and see if there's a new post on the list. I hope some of you find these projects helpful!

Here are the links:

Harry Connolly: http://harryjconnolly.com/i-should-have-done-this-a-while-ago/ (Added 9/20/2017)
Chris Dolley: http://chrisdolley.livejournal.com/97929.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
Simon Haynes: http://halspacejock.blogspot.com/2008/09/query-project.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
Elaine Isaac/E.C. Ambrose: https://ecambrose.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/the-query-quandary-pitching-your-novel/ (Added 9/20/2017)
Jackie Kessler: http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2008/09/12/the-query-project/ (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
Glenda Larke: http://glendalarke.blogspot.com/2008/09/on-writing-query-letter.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
John Levitt: http://johnlevitt.livejournal.com/9407.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
Kelly McCullough: https://kellymccullough.com/queriesor-i-may-be-talking-through-my-hat/ (Added 9/23/2017)
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.: http://www.lemodesittjr.com/2017/09/18/literary-pitches-and-timing/ (Added 9/20/2017)
Joshua Palmatier: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492803.html (Added 9/20/2017)
Phyllis Irene Radford: http://www.radfordeditorial.com/?p=99 (Added 9/21/2017)
Janni Lee Simner: http://janni.livejournal.com/499198.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
Jennifer Stevenson: http://smokingpigeon.livejournal.com/30055.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
David J. Williams: http://autumnrain2110.com/blog/2008/09/12/query-letter-time/ (Originally posted 9/12/2008)

And check out the Elevator Pitch Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492684.html, and the Plot Synopsis Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493782.html.

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios

Writerly Advice: Query Letters

Sep. 20th, 2017 08:33 am
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
[personal profile] jpskewedthrone
Queries

The query is horribly important for writing purposes, especially for new writers, because it's the door to the editor's and/or agent's office. Basically, the query is a cover letter for your manuscript. In the query, you want to include information about yourself, your book, and what you have to offer. It's an attempt to get the editor and/or agent interested enough in you and your work so that they either request to see a partial of the manuscript if they requested a query only, or to get them to turn the page and start reading the partial that was included in the mailing. It's the first impression that the editor and/or agent will get of you, and because of that, it has to look sharp, speak clearly, and be perfect. Which is alot of pressure on you as the writer.

But before I go any further into discussing them, let me say that I'm not purporting to be an expert on queries. I'm only going to report what I did and/or learned in my process to getting published and what I think the query should be and do. I also want to say that, in general, I DO NOT think that agents and editors read the query and skip reading some of the partial (if it's included) "almost all of the time". I think they only skip reading a portion of the partial if it's obvious from the query that the book just does not fit what they represent or sell. If the editor publishes mysteries, and you sent them a romance, then yes, they'll read the query, determine it's a romance, and not even look at the partial. There's no point (unless there's a significantly good dose of mystery in the story, and if that wasn't mentioned in the query, then you screwed up the query). However, from what I've seen and heard by dealing with agents and editors as a writer, they almost always read a little bit of the partial. It may not be much, but it's enough for them to determine if they'll be interested in your story and whether you can write, regardless of what's in the query.

OK, I'm sure I'll get some flak from people over that last paragraph, but let's move on.

Queries. The main point is the query should be one page, short, and to the point. Don't waste time here, because you want them to move from the query to the partial (or the request for the partial) as soon as possible. There are three paragraphs to a query, maybe four. And in all three paragraphs you have to be completely and totally honest about yourself and your book, and you have to be completely and totally upfront about what you want and where the book currently is. Always. And lastly, you must be completely and totally professional at all times. Remember, this is your first impression and you only get one first impression. It's like a date. You DON'T want to screw it up or you'll never get laid.

I'm going to write this as if you were sending it to an editor, but the same advice applies to agents as well.

Incidentals: Before we hit the three paragraphs, you must make certain you have all of the incidental letter material absolutely correct. This means the address for yourself, the address for where you're sending it, and above all the name of the person you're sending it to! This person should be the actual editor at the publisher where you want to be published, it should be spelled correctly, and it must be current. Double check to see that the editor or agent is still working there. Editors and agents shift positions all the time. If the move was fairly recent and hasn't been circulated much yet, and you put the wrong editor on the query, it's not a problem. Don't stress about it, the query will find the right person. But if the editor you sent it to left their position six months ago and you send it to them instead of their replacement . . . that doesn't look good. It's not professional. It's not a deal breaker by any means, but take the time to do the research and find the appropriate editor. And for heaven's sake, if you don't know if it should be Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Dr., then leave the honorific off. Just say Jane Doe. You certainly don't want to say Mrs. Jane Doe and then find out later that it was really Mr.

First paragraph: Ok, so you've double checked the editor's name, triple checked their address, and made certain you put your own address on the envelope correctly. The incidentals are done. In the first paragraph you should tell them exactly what it is you have to offer and what you're looking for. Something along the lines of:

"I am seeking a publisher for my 100,000 word contemporary fantasy novel entitled Fever."

You should take one sentence, maybe two, to tell them why you are sending this novel to THEM. Make it personal if you can. If you met them at a conference or convention and chatted with them briefly at the bar, mention that here. If they gave you their card and said send them something, mention that here. In fact, if you've had personal contact with them, mention that first, saying something like, "I had a great time chatting with you at the bar at Confluence last month. I hope your dog Sparky is doing better after his surgery." You can get a little personal depending on what you spoke about at the bar, but keep it short and move on to the main point as soon as possible, which is of course that you have a 100,000 word contemporary fantasy novel to sell. Include what is enclosed with the query, if anything, such as a partial, or the plot sysnopsis, etc. This is important however: Only include what they request in their guidelines, or what they have requested from you in person. In the end, this paragraph shouldn't be more than 5 sentences long.

Second Paragraph: This is where you describe your entire novel in no more than 5 sentences. Which is hard. It's got to be punchy, pithy, and get across your main character, your basic plot, and whatever it is about your book that makes it unique and/or different from all of the other books out there. I suck at these kinds of paragraphs. Most writers do, because it took 100,000 words to get the story down on paper, not 5 sentences. If we could have done it in 5 sentences, we wouldn't have wasted the 100,000 words. What it takes is a huge butcher's knife and a little fortitude. You have to be willing to cut out almost everything about the novel except the character's transformation, how the plot forces that transformation, and what makes the book unique. Remember, you aren't trying to explain the entire plot or book here, that's what the plot synopsis is for. What you're trying to do here is pique the editor's interest so that they think, "This sounds cool," and they either request the partial, or turn to the partial immediately. Here’s the one I used for my novel Fever:

"Set mainly in north central Pennsylvania in 1965, Fever is the story of Dr. Avery Mills, a young doctor whose life takes a sudden wrong turn when he nearly kills a patient. Dumped by his girlfriend, he seeks to escape his life and takes a job in the small town of Coudersport. But Coudersport holds a secret: a fever that gives those infected the ability to channel fire with their minds. Mills must uncover the darkness beneath the town’s idyllic surface, and in the process face his own past and discover his own strengths."

That gives you the idea anyway. Short, but with as much information as you can pack into it. Keep it focused on the main character and his or her change or "problem". Don't stray from the main plot with subplots or anything like that, keep those for the plot synopsis. And bring into it what makes the story unique (the pyrokinesis here, I think).

Third Paragraph: The last paragraph is where you should include any information the editor needs to know about you, such as credentials, and where your novel currently stands. If your book is about biological fantasy creatures, you should include the fact that you're a biologist. If you've sold 3 books already, include that. Won a prize for writing, had short stories published, anything that would be a cred and give you more standing should be mentioned here. Also, and this applies more for a query to an agent, if your book is being looked at by a publisher already, you should mention that, something like, "Fever is currently being considered by an editor at DAW," or whatever. In essence, let them know where the book stands at the moment, if there's a solid lead or nibble in a certain direction. If you don't have any publishing creds yet, that's fine. Just mention something personal about yourself. For my first fantasy novel, I had no creds, so I just said I was a graduate student at Binghamton University, working on a PhD in mathematics. Nothing whatsoever to do with the book or publishing or even fantasy, but it was a little personal touch, so I seemed more real to the editor, not just a piece of paper in the mail.

Ending: After this, you should have a short, short paragraph thanking them for their time, that you look forward to hearing from them soon, that an SASE is included (if so), etc. Sign it off in some way, such as "sincerely" or whatever. I wouldn't use "love" unless you really know them that well, in which case you probably don't need a query at all.

And that's that. Sounds complicated, but the worst part is the novel summary paragraph, and you can get lots of help from friends and others in workshops and on LJ and whatnot in getting that written. So here's the sample of a cover letter I may have sent out based on what I've said here, if I were looking for a new publisher at this moment. Keep in mind that this still needs some spit and polish, and that pieces of it will vary depending on your situation and how well you know the editor/agent. I've faked the addresses and names and whatnot, but the description of the book is real, from a book I actually wrote, called Fever, that has not yet been published. Check the comments out as well, since others may chime in and bring up some good points that I forgot to mention or just didn't think about regarding queries. And of course you can ask any questions you might have as well.

******************

Sample:

Joshua Palmatier
213 Gigawatt St
Coudersport, PA 00000

August 17, 2007



Bigwig Publishing
317 Whatsit Ave
New York, NY 00000

Ira Greenwaltsonphindermacher:

It was great meeting you at BlipCon last month and I enjoyed the panel on nanotechnology in fantasy. As per your request after our discussion after the panel, I'm sending you the partial and a plot synopsis of my 100,000 word contemporary fantasy novel entitled Fever.

Set mainly in north central Pennsylvania in 1965, Fever is the story of Dr. Avery Mills, a young doctor whose life takes a sudden wrong turn when he nearly kills a patient. Dumped by his girlfriend, he seeks to escape his life and takes a job in the small town of Coudersport. But Coudersport holds a secret: a fever that gives those infected the ability to channel fire with their minds. Mills must uncover the darkness beneath the town’s idyllic surface, and in the process face his own past and discover his own strengths.

I have three fantasy novels currently being published by DAW Books, and was a finalist for the Compton Crook award for best first novel in 2006. I'm currently working as an assistant professor at SUNY College at Oneonta.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,



Joshua Palmatier

*****************


And now a word from our sponsor:


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios

The naming of hurricanes

Sep. 19th, 2017 08:50 pm
negothick: (Default)
[personal profile] negothick
Just wondering what genius decided it was a good idea to have Jose and Maria in the same year.
I've been told solemnly that Trump won't let them into the US mainland. . .

Elevator Pitch Project!

Sep. 19th, 2017 08:01 am
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
[personal profile] jpskewedthrone
A few year ago, I ran a couple of projects designed to help writers with some of the basic essentials of trying to get a novel published, things like query letters and plot synopses. Since then, my blog had changed and those links to those bits of writerly advice from various published authors have been lost. So I thought I'd run another set of projects to refresh those links AND to bring in new thoughts from today's authors. So for the next three days, I'll be running three projects, one on elevator pitches, one on query letters, and one on plot synopses. This is the central hub for all of the posts on:

Elevator Pitches:

Here are some thoughts on how to write elevator pitches from various authors. Not everyone does this the same way, so I'd suggest reading through the posts, think about the advice, and then decide which approach works best for you. Maybe try a few of them to find out. This is the first time I've done a elevator pitch project, so all of these posts are new. Also, I'll add to this list if more authors want to participate in the future, so check back every now and then and see if there's a new post on the list. I hope some of you find these projects helpful!

Here are the links:

Harry Connolly: http://harryjconnolly.com/for-gods-sake-dont-talk-in-the-elevator-the-social-media-pitch/ (Added 9/19/2017)
Elaine Isaak/E.C. Ambrose: https://ecambrose.wordpress.com/2017/09/19/crafting-your-pitch-elevator-style/ (Added 9/19/2017)
Kay Kenyon: http://www.kaykenyon.com/2017/09/19/pitching-a-novel/ (Added 9/19/2017)
Kelly McCullough: https://kellymccullough.com/the-elevator-pitch-my-take/ (Added 9/23/2017)
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.: http://www.lemodesittjr.com/2017/09/18/literary-pitches-and-timing/ (Added 9/19/2017)
Joshua Palmatier: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492441.html (Added 9/19/2017)
Phyllis Irene Radford: http://www.radfordeditorial.com/?p=94 (Added 9/19/2017)

The Query Project is here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493069.html. The Plot Synopsis Project is here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493782.html.

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios

Writerly Advice: Elevator Pitches

Sep. 19th, 2017 07:59 am
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
[personal profile] jpskewedthrone
For other advice on elevator pitches, check out the Elevator Pitch Project: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492684.html

An elevator pitch is something you need if you plan on attending conventions or writing conferences or if you go any place where you may potentially run into an editor or agent or even a fellow writer who might be interested in what it is you’re writing. If you happen to end up chatting with someone like this, they may ask you to describe your book. The elevator pitch is a short, quick statement—no more than a sentence or two—that is intended to hook the editor/agent/writer into asking you more. You need to snag their interest. Fast. It’s called an elevator pitch because, if you happen to run into this person in an elevator (which happens more often than you’d think), you need to be able to get it out before the elevator door opens and your prey escapes.

So, how do you summarize your whole book in just a few sentences? You don’t. That’s not the point here. The point is to give the editor/agent/writer a piece of your book that makes them want more. So you should focus your elevator pitch on whatever it is about your book that makes it cool, what makes it different from all of the other books out there on the shelf, what will make a reader pick it up and flip to that first page and start reading. That’s essentially what you want the editor/agent/writer to do: ask for more. If they do ask for more, then you can expand on what you’ve started and go into more details. How many details depends on the setting. (Are you chatting at the bar with drinks in hand? On a bus ride to the airport? In that elevator?) But if you can’t get them to be interested in enough in a few sentences to continue the conversation, then you’re dead in the water.

So, if you think the magic in your world is unique and interesting and never-been-done-before, then you should focus your pitch around the magic. Something like: “In the world of Evernon, the price for using magic is not pain or energy, it’s the loss of your senses—smell, touch, even sight. The mage Terell has nearly exhausted all of his senses when his arch-nemesis abducts his only daughter. Blind and deaf, does he have enough left to free Averie from Gondor’s clutches?”

If you think the world itself is cool, then focus on the world: “The luxury starship Excalibur has crash landed on an asteroid in the middle of a deadly nebula. The survivors’ only hope is to traverse the ionic storms, plasma geysers, and shifting rock of the asteroid’s surface and reach the abandoned relay station before the nebula tears the asteroid apart!”

I think you’re getting the idea. Focus the pitch on what stands out about your book, whether it’s the world, the magic, the characters, whatever. But as you can see, you can’t rely on just the “cool” aspect of the book. You should give at least a hint of the plot, the motivation of the characters. A glimpse of the overall conflict gives the editor/agent/writer the knowledge that there’s more going on here than just a cool concept. I’ve read many short stories as an editor where there was a cool concept but not story. You can’t sell a story or novel on concept alone. There has to be a conflict and human characters behind it to call it a story. The pitch needs to show that there is, even if no real details are given. Again, once you’ve snagged the editor/agent/writer’s attention, then you can go into the details.

So sit back and think about your characters, your world, your magic or science and ask yourself what it is about your novel that will make it stand out. The hone your pitch down to just that, with a hint of the conflict the novel is centered around.

But once you’ve done that, you aren’t done. Having a pitch is great; being able to deliver it is even better. You need to practice your pitch so that it rolls off your tongue smoothly, so that it fits into casual conversation. When the editor/agent/writer asks what your book is about, you don’t want to stop and stammer or say, “Hold on a second,” while you pull out a piece of paper with the pitch written on it. You should start right into it, “THE QUEEN’S WRATH is about …” A casual presentation will increase the chances that the editor/agent/writer will want to talk further, because it says that you’re so familiar with your work and world and characters that they’re like old friends.

This post makes it sound easy to come up with a good elevator pitch. It’s not. You don’t want to be doing this on the fly, so spend some time thinking about your work and practicing the pitch. It will pay off in the end. Good luck!


And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
On the one hand, A Matter of Life and Death (1946) is my least favorite Powell and Pressburger. It's a superlative afterlife fantasy in the tradition of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), which is the problem: it's the Archers doing, excellently, a kind of story other people do. I don't hate it. I like the premise, which flips the opening glitch of Jordan so that instead of snatching a man untimely into the afterlife, a psychopomp lets his assigned soul slip away into the world; I love its filming of Earth in color and the "Other World" in black and white, whence Wim Wenders and his Berlin angels; I really love its double-tracking of the plot in both mystical and medical registers and the way it refuses to resolve one over the other, eventually, rightly merging the two. I have always suspected that after the credits roll, somewhere among the stars Marius Goring's Conductor 71 and Edward Everett Horton's Messenger 7013 are gloomily comparing notes on their respective balls-ups and wondering if Alan Rickman's Metatron was right that angels can't get drunk. It has one of the great escalators of cinema. It's objectively good and I know it's widely loved. But it's easily the least weird thing the Archers ever committed to celluloid. I can't tell if its otherworld is deliberately dry or if my ideas of the numinous just for once parted ways with the filmmakers', but I found more resonance in the real-world scenes with their odd touches like a naked goatherd piping on an English beach, the camera obscura through which Roger Livesey's Dr. Reeves watches the town around him, or the mechanicals within mechanicals of an amateur rehearsal of A Midsummer Night's Dream, than I did in the monumental administration of heaven and the courts of the assembled dead. I watched it in the first rush of discovery following A Canterbury Tale (1944) and as many other films by Powell and Pressburger as I could lay my hands on; I was disappointed. It didn't work for me even as well as Black Narcissus (1948), which I want to see again now that I'm not expecting real India. On the same hand, the Brattle is showing a 4K DCP rather than a print, which means that I'd be settling for an approximation of the pearly Technicolor monochrome of the Other World, which is still astonishing enough in digital transfer that I really want to know what it looked like on the original 35 mm, and the same goes for the rest of Jack Cardiff's cinematography.

On the other hand, the screening will be introduced by Thelma Schoonmaker and this is how Andrew Moor in Powell and Pressburger: A Cinema of Magic Spaces (2012) writes about David Niven as Squadron Leader Peter David Carter, the pilot hero of A Matter of Life and Death (look out, textbrick, for once it's not me):

Never an actor of great range, Niven came instead to embody and to articulate a rather out-of-date ideal: gentlemanliness – or 'noblesse oblige'. His light tenor and gamin beauty are those of the nobility: he reveals, if provoked, the upright steeliness of a man with backbone, but this grit often shades over into a likeable, smiling insolence. Though we knew he could be naughty (and the actor was a noted practical joker), it was the forgivable naughtiness of a well-liked schoolboy It is usually his graceful amusement that impresses, rather than his physicality or intellect (to talk of 'grace' might seem antiquated, but old-fashioned words like that seem to fit). He could be the younger son of a minor aristocrat, at times silly but always charming, and in the last instance gallant, gazing upwards with a sparkle in his eyes, a light comedian who, through sensing the necessity of nonsense, is perfect as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days (Michael Anderson, 1956, US). He is fittingly dashing in The Elusive Pimpernel (Powell and Pressburger, 1950), where as Sir Percy Blakeney he embraces foppishness with gusto. His 'airy' quality is winning, and his poetic virtues shine in AMOLAD. He may be well-mannered and eloquent but, as charmers go, his 'classiness' sits easily . . . He is undoubtedly an affectionate figure. Unkindness is not in him, and he is important in our gallery of heroes. But he is never like John Mills, the democratic 1940s ' Everyman'. Mills is the boy next door to everybody and, while that is a nice neighborhood, we really aspire to live next door to Niven. Is it a question of class? We suppose Niven to be a good host of better parties. Mills is like us; Niven is exotic. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and during the war Niven stood for some of the most valued of principles, but his quality (or was it just his prettiness?) seemed the stuff of a previous, and probably mythical, time. Niven himself was a Sandhurst-trained army man, who joined the Highland Light Infantry in 1928 and served in Malta for two years before drifting towards America and into film acting. In 1939, when he left Hollywood for the army, he was a star, and managed to complete two propaganda films during the war while also serving in the Rifle Brigade . . . In the opening sequence of AMOLAD, it is hard to think of another actor who could mouth Powell and Pressburger's airborne script so convincingly. Bravely putting his house in order, saying his farewells and leaping from his burning plane, he is ridiculously, tearfully beautiful. Notably, it is his voice, travelling to Earth in radio waves, which first attracts the young American girl June, not his looks, and later it is his mind which is damaged, not his body. It is difficult, in fact, to think of the slender Niven in terms of his body at all. We remember the face, and a moustache even more precise and dapper than Anton Walbrook's (which was hiding something). Like Michael Redgrave in The Way to the Stars, he is the most celebrated man of war – the pilot who belongs in the clouds.

So I'm thinking about it.

When the screams rage, shake it off

Sep. 18th, 2017 12:33 pm
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I have just learned that Stanislav Petrov died in May and I feel this is a bad year to lose a man who knew how not to blow up the world.
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