Ash Versus Evil Dead. Groovy.

September 16, 2016 0

The husband and I  have been eagerly awaiting the release of Ash Versus Evil Dead Season One from Starz Original. It was released and promptly sold out at every local outlet we checked. A shout out to the Barnes and Noble that I am writing in THIS VERY MINUTE for getting us our copy of the 10-episode series.

Now, I know technically this would be a better review to post NEXT month, but I understand that things are gonna get crazy like Halloween woah around here next month, so I thought Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi deserved to get a little loving early, and you might want to hunt this series down, and yeah, it’s gonna take some advance warning and leg work on your part, because it’s immensely popular.

For those not in the know: Sam Raimi, now a fairly well-known director started his career making horror films, notably Evil Dead and its remake Evil Dead 2. His buddy from high school, Bruce Campbell, was Ash, the less than brilliant hero of the classic “Don’t go into the woods, kids, unless you want to unleash unspeakable evil” movie. Campbell and Raimi are artists who started humbly, and are cult figures to many fans. Raimi went on to direct Hercules and Xena and the initial 3 Spider-Man films. Campbell has starred in Brisco County Junior, Jack of All Trades, and Burn Notice. And yet…

…the thing these two guys have been asked all the time is this: Why haven’t you made another Evil Dead film? Hey, wasn’t Army of Darkness enough? Apparently not. How about that other Evil Dead movie those other guys made with Raimi’s blessing? Close, but no cigar, we hear. So, okay, fine. But instead of a movie, isn’t a series better? Especially when that series has already been renewed for season two?

The answer appears to be a resounding yes. I keep telling people I’m not a horror fan, especially of films where people get carved up regularly by a man with a chainsaw arm. That said, yeah, Ash Versus Evil Dead is about as good as this genre can get. It’s pure, unadulterated camp. Since the events of the previous film, Ash has been laying low, continuing his gainful employment at ValueMart and trying to avoid the Deadites that could crop up in his life. One night while smoking marijuana, Ash makes a bad judgment call to impress the woman he’s with, and reads from the flesh-covered Necronomicon, which he’s been keeping in his trailer. Evil awakens, and Ash goes on the run, first to destroy the book, and then to do what he does best–fight evil.

Ash is not alone on this journey. With him is Pablo, played by Ray Santiago, his buddy from ValueMart who has natural brujo talents; Kelly, played by Dana DeLorenzo, a new ValueMart employee upon whom Pablo has designs; and Jill Marie Jones as cop Amanda Fisher, whose partner is killed early on by the Deadites. Lucy Lawless ducks in and out of the plot as the mysterious Ruby Knowby.

So, there’s lots of Karo syrup colored red to look like blood, and plenty of goofy jokes, lots of chainsaws grinding, and hapless people turned into Deadites. No one except Ash is truly safe in the show, and there are a few twists and turns, one that even made me gasp because I didn’t see it coming. It’s pretty good stuff, if you like your slasher films to be parody. Do they capture the magic? Yes. Ash is older, but in his essentials, he remains the same. Pablo and Kelly are loyal to Ash, some might say to a fault, and Amanda eases into the show as the comedic straightman, but comes into her own.

If you like comedy, horror, or the original Evil Dead, you’re probably gonna want to see this. If rationed properly, that’s 10 nights of quality Halloween month viewing in your future.

Book Review: Beyond Your Touch and A Hold on Me by Pat Esden

August 29, 2016 1

Pat Esden’s books are my first foray into New Adult fiction. I held a stereotype that New Adult is largely a soft porn delivery system. Now, Pat’s work is in fact very steamy and very humid.  Not only is her work satisfying on that front, but also it delivers a story punch as well.  Both A Hold on Me and Beyond Your Touch are published by Kensington.

So…spoilers about the first book. Be careful here.

Pat’s series starts with A Hold on Me, in which our heroine, Annie, discoveries that her past has been altered to protect her from knowledge of how her father’s magical family is involved in a war fighting djinn. As a child, Annie did not warn her family about how her mother was being visited by a djinn, and she feels responsible for her mother’s kidnapping. All of this is revealed against a backdrop of Annie’s father’s possession, cure, and reconciliation with his family. Also, there’s this guy named Chase, who happens to be half-ifrit, half-human, and all hot.

The next book, coming out in September, is Beyond Your Touch. Annie and Chase are now in a full-fledged, torrid and sexy relationship. Tension is introduced in two ways–a rescue mission will be launched to the djinn realms to rescue Annie’s mom, and in order to go to the djinn realms, the assistance of a magical flute player, Lotli, is required. Annie is convinced that something is up between Chase and Lotli, especially after Chase cools it with Annie so he can concentrate on the mission. Annie discovers more about her new family and her role in it. The mission to the djinn realm does not go as planned, and the book ends with the stakes higher than the book began.

If you’ve never read New Adult and you’d like to give it a try, I would recommend Pat Esden’s books. The story and the hot sex are co-conspirators in a partnership that pulls you in and keeps you moving through the story. Whether you are a lover of romance, or adventure, there’s plenty here to satisfy both those interests. I particularly found the subject matter interesting, as I have done some research regarding djinn and Solomon for my own work, so it’s nice to see how someone else interprets it.

A Hold on Me is available now. If you act very quickly, you may have just enough time to finish it before Beyond Your Touch arrives at your local bookstore.

Pitching

July 28, 2016 0

Well…that pitching post hasn’t happened yet for a variety of reasons, so here I am writing this post. Hey, we can’t help it if we’ve been caught up in bringing you a wonderful slate of awesome and interesting authors. It happens.

So, let me begin by saying…in the weird combination of circumstances that helped me get my agent, pitching was key. Reiterating: Pitching was key. Since 2007, I had been diligently querying agents over the course of 4 manuscripts. Last year I decided I would attend two pitch conferences, and I ended up pitching to agents, some who took queries and some who did not. In the end, I went with an agent whom I wouldn’t have met and sent a manuscript to if I hadn’t gone to San Francisco Writers. This agent did not accept open queries.

Pitching may sound to many of you like your worst nightmare. Hey, that’s cool. Paper is where authors often present best. We are, a bunch of us, introverts, and the idea of running through a pitch with someone in person, no, that frightens. Even a 140-word tweet, like something you would send in #PitMad or #SffPit frightens the bejeesus out of us. How do you reduce a 120K novel to its tiniest form?

On the other hand…

Some of are more trained for pitching. I am an introvert, but I play an extrovert at my day job as a professor. Every semester I teach, and I’ve been doing that since 1986. Presenting well, live, is what I do. You might too. You might have one of those professions where you get to talk, a lot. Or you may have a thing for theater or speech class. Some of us do like speaking and do have professional personas. If you are that person, consider pitching.

How do you pitch? Many conferences have pitching as part of their programming. There are pitches at World Con, for example, where you get an unprecedented half hour with an agent. The kind of scenarios at both of the conferences I went to were more like speed dating. We had a couple of minutes, a bell rang, and we talked to another agent.

The key to a good pitch is practice, practice, and more practice. You might get nervous. Knowing the pitch so well that you can follow through on it when you are jittery is important! I’ve heard agents don’t want you to read the pitch, so even though the pitch has a great deal in common with the cover letter, never read your pitch. Don’t rattle it off like it’s a race. Speak the basic plot and stakes, the genre and word count, and the comps. Emote if you can.

One of the things that helped each time I pitched was that I was on a team. In San Francisco, there were three of us pitching together. In New York, there were 4. We all practiced in our hotel rooms and gave each other tips and suggestions during the process of writing the pitch and during the day before and the morning of the pitch. This is important for the extrovert and the introvert. Never just wing it. We all repped professionally, dressing business so it looked like we took our writing seriously. In general, you want to pitch a finished book, just like you want to query a finished book, the exception being non-fiction.

Now, this might sound great to you. Get a group of friends together, find a writing conference with pitches, and go! That said, be prepared to spend a bit of cash. I like in Iowa. There are no pitch conferences in Iowa. Granted, there are opportunities closer than California and New York, but I’m gonna have to go somewhere. So, there’s plane and hotel and the conference itself. These conferences aren’t at your average SF/F conference rates. They generally are costs comparable to professional conferences. Is the investment worth it? Well, I understand from the statistics I’ve seen that pitching is more likely to get you an agent than a query, but getting an agent through either method is slim. Still, there’s networking, it’s another opportunity, and most writers conferences come with opportunities to meet professionals, get hot tips, and ramp up your game. Genre conferences are a different kind of networking opportunity. Mixing it up with a pro conference can teach you a lot about publishing, and get you a pitching opportunity at the same time.

It should come as no surprise that, having had a positive experience with most of the pitching I did, I would recommend it. Not every pitch was well-received. You will be told no, and you have to deal with that on an immediate time scale. Brush it off. It’s not personal. If you feel it’s personal, again, maybe pitching is not for you.

Good luck!

Rejection!

June 8, 2016 1

We will be posting our show about twitter pitching soon, and we will be eventually doing a show about pitching at conferences with actual, live people. Since you’ll be able to listen to a podcast about that, I thought that maybe now would be the time to transition to talking about self-publishing. But first, a word about rejection.

I have been thinking about rejection because a writing student at my college came to visit me last week, and we talked a lot about trying to publish her novel. She wasn’t obsessed with rejection, but it did come up as a painful thing. How can you avoid it? How can you get used to it?

Both self-publishers and authors who try a more traditional route are going to get rejected. Of course, editors, agents, and publishers will reject someone who sends out queries. How can a self-published writer be rejected? The cruelest cut of all, my friends, by readers. I think that in the case of the traditional route, most of the rejection comes at the beginning of things, and in the case of self-pubbing, when you are at the end of the process, after you have created your work and released it into the world, well, that’s when readers might choose to ignore you.

I have no advice to help you avoid rejection. If someone tells you they do, they are not being honest with you. Every writer at every level gets rejected. Yes, they do. If you throw Stephen King or Nora Roberts at me, I’ll say have you talked to them lately? 😀 Everyone is rejected. I know. You’ve written the best book you can and you believe in it. It’s going to get rejected anyway.

Here’s how I think it works. Sometimes, authors have epiphanies that their writing needs work. In that case, rejections are warranted, and off you go to ramp up your game. This is a good idea. Also, sometimes queries need revising. Or you need a more attractive cover for your e-book. Sometimes we can clearly see why we are rejected.

There is a point, though, where you’ve been writing for a while. Let’s say you’re on your seventh novel, and your craft is solid. Or you have created an ebook that glows like an emerald. You are pretty sure that this is an example of your best work, and it is as good as many things that are out there. Or your agent has a book that they are peddling for you, and it’s just not getting any offers (yes, Virginia, this happens a lot. There is no end to the ways they can say no to you in publishing). It is hard to not be disappointed, bitter, angry, frustrated when you know you’ve done a good thing and it’s going nowhere. Now, maybe years later you will cringe and figure it out, but let’s just go with the premise that the world is ignoring your genius. Why? WHY???!!!

(more…)

What Kind of Publishing is Right for Me? Querying Agents and Publishers

May 23, 2016 1

Last time in this series, we talked about getting your book ready. At this point, you’re thinking okay, I’ve written the best book that I can. What do I do with it?

Lucky you! There are lots of options in today’s publishing world for you to think about. Honestly, no one path is better than another these days, and sometimes you have a project that just screams for one kind of venue. But let’s assume for the sake of this installment that what you want to do is get a literary agent and submit with an assist.

Disclaimer: As of May 14th, I am repped by a literary agent, so I might have some bias in this area. However, I will state again that this is not your only path.

One of the things writers hear in the age of self-pubbing is the question of whether you need an agent or not. Let me ask you a few questions. Do you write works that are shorter than novel length (most people consider that to be around 80K, although middle grade and YA can be shorter, and epic fantasy can be longer.) If you write shorter works, you probably don’t need an agent. Do you have a legal background in publishing? There are some writers who negotiate their own contracts and have savvy to do so. If you’re like most of us, you need an agent. You really don’t know all the ins and outs of the publishing world. You can learn them, but it’s hard to learn by making mistakes.

A lot of people start querying with agents, as many publishers will not look at works not submitted by an agent. However, some are open all the time and some have special calls. You might prefer to work toward getting an editor first. Much of this advice applies whether you are seeking an editor or a publisher.

Your book is done! Yay! Now you need…a query letter and a synopsis. Most writers really hate writing these. It’s not easy to cram a 464 page book into one or two pages. Or one paragraph, if it comes to that. It’s also not as much fun as creating your masterpiece. But it is vital.

When I was beginning to send books out, the Ilona part of Ilona Andrews gave me some great suggestions on how to write a query letter. Our friends over at Writer’s Digest have lots of excellent instructions. Chuck Sambuchino runs a series regarding successful queries. There are some  commonalities regarding these queries as they describe the book.

  1. They give you a sense of time, place and setting if they are different from usual life.
  2. They identify the main character.
  3. They describe the main character’s conflict.
  4. They talk about the stakes of the conflict.

A query letter should pull in a reader. You don’t want to give it all away in the query. I’ve also heard questions are discouraged. Rather than: “Will Eleanor succeed in completing her mission?” something more along the lines of  “If Eleanor doesn’t complete her mission, she will never get back to her family.”

The query letter should contain deets about the book. How long is it? Where does it fit in the market place? Can you compare it to similar books? Who do you imagine is the audience? It’s unwise to compare your books to Neal Stephenson or J.K. Robb. That’s kind of lazy because it’s easy. Know your genre. Know your marketplace. Show you read.

Applicable credits, such as publication credits, relevant experience, or awards might come in your bio. List things that will impress, not that your work has been in your college’s literary magazine (hey, that’s cool, but what will show the editor or agent you’re serious about writing?). If you don’t have this kind of cred yet, you don’t need to put in bio information.

Make it easy for the agent or editor to get in touch with you by putting your personal information on the manuscript and in the query letter.

What about a synopsis? Here’s the Chuck Sambuchino with a great checklist.  (And no, Unreliable Narrators nor myself are getting any kind of kick back from Writer’s Digest. They just have good stuff for people who are in writing.)

When you have these materials ready, you’re ready to query. So, how do you find those agents and editors? Well, you can dig around in books, search the Internet on your own, and ask about. OR you can just go to querytracker.net , which has seen me through queries for about 4 novels. If you pay for the $20 upgrade the features are more complete, but the free version works well too.

What if you’re interested in meeting agents LIVE and IN PERSON? Well, then it might be time to visit a conference and do some pitching. Unreliable Narrators is doing a podcast about pitching soon, so I won’t cover that here, but if you’re good at speaking, I think it’s a great way to go. Also, there are twitter pitch contests, and I think we’re going to cover those on the pitching show.

This is a start. After we do our pitching show, I’ll write about other venues, such as self-pubbing and small presses. I’m not an expert. I’m just a writer. Still, if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them.

What Kind of Publishing is Right For Me? Preliminaries

May 1, 2016 0

With all the options available for publishing now, it’s a great time to be a writer.  You can quite literally pick the best way to get your work out there, and you can do it from project to project. In taking a look at the ins and outs of publishing, the first place I want to stop are the preliminaries.

So, you’re a new writer, and you want to get published. What are those first steps?

Please make sure you’ve written the very best book you can write. Let’s look at that under a microscope a little, because this is a bit tricky. First of all, is your book finished? Did you write a whole book? I cannot emphasize how important this is. If you have a whole book done and someone wants to see it, voila! you can ship that bad boy right out. If you don’t have a book done, well, there could be a rough all-nighter in your future, or you could hurry and send a book that is not reflective of your complete abilities, with revision process attached. So, before you query, get your book done. I know you’re excited by your project and you want to share that with others, but others won’t be excited unless they can see your whole vision. Again, I know why you want to send it out before you’re done. I don’t think there’s a single writer who’s not made that mistake. But it is kind of an amateur thing. My fellow narrators might disagree.

Now, in order to write the very best book you can, did someone else (besides your immediate circle) look at the book? It’s hard to get that right mix of readers for your work–people who are supportive, but will push you to do better. However, you need to find those people, and you’ll know when you find them. Patrick Rothfuss taught me (he doesn’t remember. He was on a panel, I was there.) about reader readers and writer readers. Reader readers are like the people who are going to buy your book and read it for fun. You need some of those, and I have 2-3 really solid reader readers, including my husband. And then you need writer-readers who can help you with the nuts and bolts of your story. Obviously I have unreliable friends and other VPXIIIers, and some friends from Taos Toolbox. You need to get readers to help you. Never send it out when you just finish. Never send it out at the end of NaNoWriMo. Let the cake cool, and let some friends look at it from all sides just to make sure you’ve frosted it evenly.

There are two more things that I should mention in preliminaries. Did you really write the best book you could? I sort of mean for now. You’ll get better with practice, experience, and if it interests you, education.  But do what you can within your current scope of skill to make the best effort to get that book out there that you can. Next, please expect to be rejected, and please learn to not let it get to you. Because that’s going to happen, and yes, that’s going to suck, but that’s going to happen, even if your book is beautiful and skillfully written. It’s the rare writer that gets a contract or agent with their first novel. I’m on something like my 8th, and I’m not there yet. The first 3 were total crap, the 4th and 5th ones not too bad, the 6th one was a hot mess, and the 7th one is my best yet. However, I am still unagented and unpublished. That’s not meant to depress you. That’s meant to give you a feeling of scope. It’s been a near miss with a couple of them. Be prepared for a long battle.

One more preliminary, and we’ll get down to how to approach agents and publishers next time. You will have people show interest in your work. When someone tells you that they want to see something from you, still take your time to write the best book you can and complete it. Still take the time to let your friends look over your work. I speak from experience when I tell you that an interested agent or publisher will still be there after you’ve taken the time to write the best book you can. Book 6 was a hot mess because Book 5 had an agent interested and I rushed it. I lost an opportunity there, I think. I learned from my mistake.

And that brings us to this: you will make mistakes. Not only will you get rejected, but you will also make mistakes as you learn about publishing. How can you avoid them? Well, you can’t, but that writer education does help, as well as hanging out with writer friends and asking questions. You’ll get better at it as  you go along.

Okay, so you have a book! It is a complete book and you’ve rewritten it by yourself a few times and gotten some guidance from good readers. You’ve proofed it, maybe even hired an editor (a few writers do this). Now it’s ready to go out into the world. What happens next? Well, that’s next time.

Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing #322: Jim C. Hines

March 29, 2016 0

Brent Bowen is one of our Viable Paradise XIII classmates, and is one of the dynamic duo that hosts Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing, which was, in fact, nominated for a Hugo last year. 🙂 Back when he, I and Chris were hanging at Icon this year, I speculated that it might be fun to podcast, but I was a bit shy about the whole thing. Brent encouraged me to do an interview for AiSFP. By the end of the convention, I had talked and untalked myself into it a few times.

Jim C. Hines is our Icon toastmaster every year, and I suggested that I might interview him. Well, that was sort of the icing on the cake. Jim was a very easy interview and is very entertaining and earnest.

So then, several things. First of all, go and check out Jim C. Hines‘ books if you haven’t. Go visit Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing if you haven’t. And enjoy my interview with Jim C. Hines.

Several Unreliable Narrators interviews later, I think everyone can agree that Brent did me a favor. 🙂

Oh. And you’ll probably hear from Brent himself during our live from Shohola writing retreat podcast. At an undisclosed time and location.

What Kind of Publishing is Best for Me?

March 21, 2016 0

It was and still is my hope to post every two weeks here.  My apologies. February and March have been particularly hard months in terms of germs and well, other biological haphazards.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-publishing. The short version of a very long story goes something like this: I’ve been approached by a couple of hybrid publishers about taking on one of my novels. My friends who self-publish asked why I wouldn’t, and while those books undergo scrutiny with the hybrid publishers, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions. I thought maybe some of you might be asking those very questions.

There are no easy answers, and part of the reason I was keen to undertake this podcasting adventure with my wonderful Narrator friends is because I wanted to at least look at some answers and talk to some people who could keep us informed. For example, we’ve already talked to someone who has published small press, someone who’s huge on Wattpad, and someone from Gumroad. Soon, we’ll have an interview with Patreon, and in our New Books by New Authors series, we’ll talk to people who have published themselves, someone who is with an Amazon imprint, and someone who is taking a more traditional road.

I have friends and acquaintances who have had incredible success with a traditional path, and others for whom the traditional path has been very frustrating. I know people who have gained agents and access from putting out quality self-pubbed books. It seems that the best way to answer the question of what kind of publishing is best for me is to think about some of the goals of my writing.

So, I’ll be working on a series of posts as I work toward my research and try to figure out my decision. Currently, I will continue to send my novel to traditional agents. Next post, I’ll talk about that submission process and what that’s like for me. There are some serious advantages to pursuing traditional publishing, and though I am wondering if my current project will be best at home there, I want to talk about them.

Soon, I hope.

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