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Archive for September, 2012

A Muse a Day

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Everyone who writes, writes for somebody. Today, I’m writing for people who wear corsets and prosthetic ears.

Two of the Three Graces as Muse.

Aglaea and Euphrosyne looking to see where Thalia is bestowing her charms.

Don’t know what gets your keel out of the sand, but I just finished two chapters and I think these two young women will like them.

Written by Alan

September 20th, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Writing

I have met the enemy, and it is I

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My first name actually is Donald, but don’t tell anyone. Sign found at the RF in NY. Donald, whoever he is, never appeared, so I assume like so many storytellers, he had his elbows on the bar and was whining about his editor, at the mead hall.

Writing isn’t hard. What’s hard is taking criticism from your wife.

Especially when she’s right.

My manuscripts exist in a state of prelapsarian perfection when they’re hot off the printer. Which is to say, before anybody else looks at them. Much the way my downhill skiing is a study in feline grace and power when I have a slope to myself and nobody pointing out that I lean back when I’m in trouble. I no more lean back on the tails of my skis than I over-use passive sentence structure, not, at least, in the mogul fields and manuscripts of my mind. It is possible that the pages I turn over to my wife/editor are not quite the Platonic ideal of the perfect story in which I am never using passive verbs. But they’re close.

And why would I lean back on my tails when I’m never “in trouble”? Black Diamond is my middle names.

All of which is to say thank you, Cheryl. You’ve given me notes on 270 pages so far and you don’t even like science fiction.

Written by Alan

September 12th, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Writing

I found my audience

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Spent last Sunday at the New York Renaissance Faire which might soon be renamed the We Accept Your Longing For Transformation Faire. As I understand it, the Renaissance spanned the 14th to 17th centuries.  But it turns out to have also included the Third Age of Middle Earth and the Shire,  the Edo Period and Star Dates 48916.0 through 53745.7. Everything from Wee Folke to dueling royals, fairies, ninjas and Romulons must have been pretty thick on the ground during this time period, not to mention pirates, belly dancers and tawdry, heavily armed wenches with dirks in their boots and breasts served up like quivering Jello(c) on corset platters.

That might sound sarcastic, but while I’m typing this I have a StarFire Sword catalog open in front of me and I’m weighing the benefit of a new rapier (how much use would I really get out of that if I didn’t also have a doublet?) versus some leather-plate armor (how often would I walk around in it if I didn’t have a rapier??)

The Renaissance Faire is great. It’s like 15thCentury++, all the stuff that should have been there, and would have been there except that nobody had thought up steam punk yet, and the Popes would probably have had all the belly dancers rounded up and brought to Rome for questioning.

(by the way, my own photos of the RF were pretty lame, so all the low-res photos on this page were lifted from an excellent photo site of Renaissance Faire Fairies and pirate maides, royals, nymphs and other Wodelynd Creytures here: http://www.flickriver.com/groups/1212688@N20/pool/interesting/).

But as the post title says, I’ve found my audience.  My writing is all about transformations and the desire for transformation, and the Renaissance Faire is the energy vortex, the Axis Mundi of alternate realities, of people who reject, well, the whole time and situation into which they’ve been born.  Or rather, borne.  That urge, I suppose, can be pretty shallow, but it can also be pretty deep, and you can tell which is the right way to go when you’re walking around the faire.  The guy who bought a sword and some devil’s horns, but is still wearing his Green Bay Packer’s sweatshirt and Sansabelt slacks, is sort of pathetic.  But only because he’s trying to stay halfway in the real world..  The girl in rainbow layers of skirts, with a leather corset and broadsword?  She knows which reality she’s heading toward and it’s not the one that has cubicles and 401Ks.  And the guy who’s gone the full retard (in the parlance of “Tropic Thunder”) with the doublet, hose, rapier, stuffed baby dragon on his shoulder and enough leather to get him a free pass at any Chelsea bar?  He’s cool, man.  He is so so cool.


Written by Alan

September 11th, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Posted in Writing

Gaiman & Palmer / Palmer & Gaiman

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So, Neil Gaiman was great and generous and funny and wildly entertaining last night at Bard. He read two poems, one silly and outrageous and the other dark and outrageous, and he read the new fairy tale, which was the purpose of the talk and it was so crowded there was no time to ask him questions, get an autograph or otherwise become a total PITA to him.

And then, as a special present to all of us for listening, Amanda Palmer, aka Amanda Fucking Palmer got up on stage in a rock-em-sock-em-robots pose and belted out her “Ukulele Anthem”. I taped it, but the jerk in front of me was distractedly playing with his fingers and hair the whole time (please develop a little body consciousness, people; maybe take up yoga or mediation. peace out. namaste.) so my video is awful because it’s just so full of this guy playing with himself.

But personal whining aside, here’s a version Palmer did with Gaiman, back when she hadn’t quite memorized her own lyrics yet (last night she totally nailed it). And Mr. Gaiman kicked back in the background last night rather than being up close & personal with the page-holding.

Great night was certainly had by me. And I’m pretty sure by the other 600 or so people in the concert hall as well.

Written by Alan

September 6th, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Writing

American Gods

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Am off to see Neil Gaiman tonight — he’s reading a new story and says he’s looking for comments. Hope “Neil, you’re amazing!” counts as a comment, cause it’s probably all I can bring.

Still, great excuse to hear him speak and to hang at the beautiful theater at Bard.

Check out Gaiman’s blog entry, here: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2012/08/if-you-are-anywhere-near-bard-come-and.html.

And here’s Mr. Gaiman, giving himself away for free on the lawn at a local yard sale:

Can’t give it away on 2nd Avenue…

Written by Alan

September 5th, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Writing

Compare and Contrast

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Just came up with a plan for the next few months.

While my newly completed YA novel is out being read by agents, I’m going to publish another novel as an eBook via Smashwords.

There’s the minor issue of having to *finish* that second novel, but it’s completely outlined and half-written (144 pages as of last night, and it should come in at about 300), so… nothing that a caffeine drip and those terrific little blue diet pills can’t solve.

So that’s it. Traditional agent versus eBook, in a no-holds-barred cage match.

eBook throws Traditional Agent from the ring in round 1 of Diacritical Match 2012.

Written by Alan

September 3rd, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Writing

To E or not to E

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So, why get an agent at all? Good rhetorical question, dude. A literary agent should do three things: First, they should find you work. Second, they should negotiate a better deal for your work than you could negotiate for yourself. And third, they should help you make good career decisions while also respecting who you are as a writer. I’d love one as well who was a great lunch companion, told terrific anecdotes, didn’t talk about golf and paid for their own coffee. But now I’m getting greedy.

Hemingway responds to a gentle reminder from his agent about a looming deadline.

Implicit, is that an agent should open up your world. You should get a wider, not a narrower view of your possibilities as a writer and your agent should push you to explore and express yourself in as many ways as are open to you. Sure, the agent’s purpose is to make money off your writing and to help you make money off it as well. But an agent should never lose sight of the fact that your job consists of laboring alone over empty sheets of paper, and that you can only concentrate on this lonely task because you depend on them for agency — which is to say action — in the world of media and publishing. It’s worth paying them 15% of anything you make because it would take much more than 15% of your time to do what they do, and you lack the contacts (and if you’re like many writers, the nice clothes, social skills and ability to maintain eye contact with another human) to get the results they can get.

If you want to publish an eBook, you don’t really need an agent. All you need is a finished manuscript, some cover art and an account at a place like Smashwords. Smashwords distributes your book to the Apple, Nook and Kindle stores as well as others, you promote it on Facebook or your blog. At worst, you can probably manage to make a few thousand dollars of family, friends and the mildly curious, and at best, your book takes off and you sell hundreds of thousands or even millions of virtual copies.

eBook publishing sounds so easy, and the returns appear so automatic, that you have to ask why you’d bother with a traditional agent and the traditional publishing route. I’m asking myself that question right now, as I go through the traditional process of submitting my YA novel to agents.

For me it’s all about expanding my range. I had an agent in Hollywood — he never sold anything for me, but I consider that at least partly my fault for being young, unable to recognice good advice when it was handed to me and, eventually, for not writing enough. But while Richard worked on my behalf he made things happen on the west coast while I was laboring away on the east. He went wide with scripts when they were ready, he called me with updates, he hooked me up with production company and studio story development execs. I got phone meetings and actual meetings, all arranged by the magic hand of agency, thousands of miles from where I sat. There was no way I could have made any of that happen on my own. It would have been a whole career just building the contact list.

Of course, this predated electronic submission of books and screenplays, and it predated eBooks. Electronic submission makes it much easier to put material into circulation. And eBooks make it possible for your material to be in circulation almost immediately, rather than waiting the 6 to 18 months traditional publishing usually takes.

But none of that gives me that little rush of having a thinking person working on my behalf. An eBook will never have lunch with an editor who casually mentions a movie producer who wants a certain type of book to develop. Smashwords won’t recognize that there’s a huge market for your work in Asia if it were translated. An eBook doesn’t know when a great editor splits off to form her own publishign company and is looking for manuscripts in your genre. An agent would see all that, and would work those angles both for you and for him or herself. Computers never have to sleep, which is a great and powerful thing. But a more powerful force is enlightened self interest, and a computer doesn’t really care all that much about your shared success, the way an agent, with a mortgage or kids in college, or an online poker addition, will.

Written by Alan

September 3rd, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Writing