Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"I am Sam"

Time for some long overdue self-promotion. Last month, a short story of mine was published in “Spinetingler Magazine.” The story in question is perhaps one of the strangest stories I’ve ever written (and that’s saying a lot!) entitled “I am Sam.”

I can’t afford to say too much about this story, as it involves a really great twist. In short, “I am Sam” follows a police investigator who finds himself investigating a murder he saw happen in his dreams. No, he’s not psychic, and the explanation for why he has the dream is the real twist to the story.

“Spinetingler” has really proven itself an outstanding online magazine. I had only just discovered it shortly before I submitted “I am Sam,” and the longer I’ve been following the magazine, the more impressed I’ve become with it. The quality of the writing in this magazine is just great. I consider “I am Sam” one of my best works, easily my best short story to date, and it’s definitely in good company with this magazine. Until finding “Spinetingler,” I don’t think I’ve ever really found an online magazine I took seriously, but the folks behind this magazine deserve a lot of credit. I think they’ve proven an online magazine can turn out some serious literature and create some real exposure for writers. Even better, the magazine is now available in print, which is really cool, so check it out… and buy a copy!

As you’ve probably noticed, my blogging has gotten horribly sparse of late. The James River Writers Conferencetook its toll last month, and this month it’s a determination to finish The Last VanDaryn, the book my wife and I are writing together, that’s forcing me to neglect my blog. We’re close to 68,000 words right now, and we can clearly feel the story’s momentum starting to infect us. I’ve written my share of books over the years, and I’ve learned the last third or quarter of the book usually becomes an obsessive thing for me. After all, this is where you always pull the threads together and the best twists to the story happen. If you (the writer) just let the story do it’s thing and have done your work right up to this point, it just comes together without a lot of work. The story starts to write itself.

Hopefully, come the end of next month, I’ll be able to tell the story of many late night writing sessions and a successfully finished book. From there, it’ll be time to market that book and start writing the next. This actually brings me full circle to the initial reason for my entry. See “I am Sam” finally in print is bittersweet, because I’ve been able to look forward to it being published. Now, I haven’t anything pending to go into print. I’ve no time for short stories, though. It’s time to finish this book.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Quill Awards: Wildcat's Rant, Part II

This past August, I indulged myself in a rant about the Quill Awards. Guess what? I’m doing it again… and for about the same reason I had the first rant.

For those who’ve slept since then, I will recap my previous rant. The Quill Awards offer a venue in which more commercially successful books receive the praise they deserve. Unfortunately, some of the categories are ridiculously broad. Case in point: my beloved fantasy/sci-fi has gotten saddled with horror for the same category. To add insult to injury, one of the “fantasy” nominees is more romance than fantasy: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. The lone horror nominee is the so-called retired writer Stephen King with his novel Cell.

Now that we’re all caught up, the reason for this sequel to my previous rant. Bad enough that I’d feared the “retired” King would win, but the winner has actually turned out to be the one book that never had any business in the category in the first place. That’s right. Gabaldon’s romance beat out the real fantasy writers. Am I the only one baffled by this? Do the people voting for this category realize her book doesn’t even belong as a nominee?

Bad enough this category got goofed, but let’s take a look at another genre-driven category that’s been botched: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller. Our winner here is Janet Evanovich’s Twelve Sharp. Okay, I’ll grant you that Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books get put in the mystery section at the bookstores, but to call these books mysteries is a real stretch. Evanovich delivers a plot, at least, but these books are more comedies than anything else. The mystery is a very secondary thing. I love Evanovich’s writing. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone out there with a funnier writing voice. I’m glad to see her receiving due praise, but it’s a shame that it has to come at the expense of books that more truly embody this category (insanely broad as it is).

The Quill Awards are all about popularity, and that is what won out this year, as it’s supposed to. Both of these books earned their victories. As far as I’m concerned, they just got put in the wrong categories.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Two Agents, Tap Dancing Vampirates and a Wildcat

Yes, the Wildcat is finally back.

Despite my best efforts, September turned into a month of bloglessness. So what happened to your dear Wildcat and his sidekick Frank? Well, Frank just slept—the lucky bastard. I on the other hand, kept plenty busy.

As the diehard fans know, my wife and I have spent all year planning the James River Writers Conference. This past weekend, the big event finally went off without a hitch. With plenty left to do for the conference and a book to work on, something had to give and “The Wildcat’s Lair” suffered for it. I just couldn’t rationalize placing my blog above the conference and my writing, and with so much of my time devoted to the pre-conference work, I find myself oddly idle now that my world is technically post-conference.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t a single picture from the entire weekend. Both days, I forgot the digital camera. Fortunately, one of JRW’s board member’s went running around collecting pictures. I hope to get my hands on those and post quite a few for all of you to see.

My wife and I had the pleasure of playing host to three rather interesting folks. One of them is a writer I’ve mentioned in here before,C.S. Friedman. Inviting Celia to the conference was one of my ideas, and she offered some amazing information for our session on creating a fantasy world. My wife moderated the session, and as detailed as I thought my wife and I were about creating our fictional world of Iridia, I have to say that Celia shames us both. She brought a list of things she figures out for her different worlds and cultures, and the immensity of it stunned me. Hopefully, I can share some of that in a future blog entry. She took part in several sessions and offered some great insights in all of them.

Celia had the misfortunte of relying on my maps to find her way around Richmond, and I kept screwing up with the directions because of downtown’s one-way streets! Despite my poorly improvised maps, she joined me and my wife along with several others for a Friday dinner at Café Gutenberg. While there, I found out something she and my wife have in common, in addition to writing fantasy. Turns out they both love to make jewelry with beads.

The other two my wife and I enjoyed showing around Richmond were agents Kate Garrick and Cameron McClure. Both young ladies turned out to be a delight. On their second night here, all four of us were lured by JRW boardmember Jason Tesauro to a place called “Gallery 5.” This rather avant-garde art house is built into an old firehouse, but this night, the place was one big party, complete with a great jazz band, a burlesque show and tap dancing “vampirates.” My wife and I don’t get out much, so we had a blast staying out late as my mother-in-law looked after the kids. The place was so packed, Iwas scared I might grope somebody by accident. I think our visiting New York agents were surprised by all this southern, capital city had to offer and enjoyed themselves. The next morning, I made a point of finding Jason at the conference and telling him, “I had a lot of fun. I felt violated, but I had fun.”

The entire weekend lived up to and beyond my best wishes. The speakers from out-of-town that I met all turned out to be great and generous people. One of the best surprises was editorial consultant Marcela Landres, who specializes in Lantino literature. In addition to being one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met (her website’s picture doesn’t do her justice), she turned out to be a fabulous speaker with great information for writers trying to break into the business. I was fortunate enough to have her as part of my session on self-publishing. She joined my friend Tony Jones and Dave Kuzminski (the owner of "Preditors & Editors") on the panel. I had feared this session I moderated would be poorly attended and boring. The room was packed and my panel kept it both informative and fun. As a moderator, you just can’t ask for more than that.

Then there was one of the funniest men I’ve ever met: Brian Haig. Oh my God! Earlier this year, I reviewed his book Secret Sanction. I remember how struck I was by the humor in the writing, and as funny as his writing is... the man himself is even funnier. Even before the conference, I spent more than an hour talking to him on the phone and having the best time. I had placed him on a panel about the differences in writing male and female characters. Poor soul, he was the only man (C.S. Friedman, Susann Cokal and Cathy Maxwell were his fellow panelists). Even the moderator, Irene Ziegler, was a woman. The session definitely lived up to my expectations, providing some useful details on how to write from the point-of-view of the opposite sex.

The conference has made my past year a frenzied one. All too often, I would think I was caught up with all I needed to do, and then I’d get a call from someone with JRW who made me realize we still had much more to get done. As frustrating as things could get, I was always grateful for those calls, because they kept us on track. My wife and I are also going to help plan next year’s conference, and it will be interesting to do it now that we’ve got one under our belts. We’ve already discussed many ways in which we might plan things better. I look forward to seeing how that turns out.

As for my blog... Yes, the Wildcat’s Lair is back in business. Things will move a little slowly between now and December 1. That’s the deadline Sheri and I are currently working with for our book The Last VanDaryn. We’re about 62,000 words into the book right now. That probably leaves us about a third of the book to go. With that in mind, we probably won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, which is a pity. In the meantime, you can expect some good news about my writing, perhaps an annoucment involving myself & JRW, a preview of C.S. Friedman’s new book Feast of Souls and, of course, lots of Frank.