Seasonal Writing

on December 14, 2014 in Misc | 4 Comments »

‘Tis the season when we writers get neurotic.

You know what I mean.  We pause under the mistletoe, or beside the warm embers in the hearth, or while imbibing wine and good cheer and ask ourselves, “What did I write this last year, and why isn’t it enough?”

naughty

Sure, there are you disciplined, successful writers who could pull out a list of what you’ve written and what you’ve seen published, to say nothing of the hot irons you’ve got in the literary fire for 2015.

But when I cast my gaze over the previous twelve months, all I can think is, why didn’t I finish polishing my two Charity MacCay novels?  Why didn’t I finish that offbeat scifi novel I started just for fun?  Why haven’t I finished the screenplay, never mind that I just started it in October?

Some of you may remember that a couple Christmas holidays ago I pretty much swore off writing. Well, that resolution fell off the wagon.  But in some ways I did stop writing, because ever since then I haven’t set a single writing deadline.  I have little faith in my writing and especially in my get-it-published ability.  And since I have scant free time I’ve even found myself resenting having to spend it on writing.

But you know how it goes, don’t you?  Just when you think you’ve given up the literary ghost, the urge to finish telling a certain story, to find out what happens to your characters, to get your novel into some kind of print so that a couple friends and maybe a stranger or two will read it—that urge comes over you like an addiction and you find yourself at the keyboard and typing away.

reindeer

This season, things are a little different for me.  I’m pretty much resolved to finish that screenplay soon.  I’m writing an essay-length non-fiction piece.  I’ve even figured out what to do in the sci-fi story. And Charity will be in print in 2015. And that’s that. If I never write another story, I can live with myself. But I do have to finish what I’ve started or I’ll go crazy.

This will be my last post until January.  I hope to see you back here, and I really hope you have a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season that’s full of love and other good stuff.

Take care. And please tell me about your own writing plans.

Wilde Promotion

on December 8, 2014 in Misc | 8 Comments »

oscar ny

This last week I learned a literary fact that surprised the heck out of me.

At the age of 27, Oscar Wilde set out to become a great celebrity.  Not a great writer, not a brilliant playwright and poet and essayist, but simply very, very famous.  So he set sail from England to the United States in 1882 and within days gained access to “America’s best-connected writers, scholars, salonistes and politicians, though he jawed just as jauntily with farmers, miners and cowboys.”

He quickly arranged to sit for a prominent photographer in Manhattan. Why? Because “New Yorkers were obsessed with collecting 4-by-6 cardboard-backed celebrity portraits, the Pokémon cards of the fin de siècle.  The image-conscious Wilde instantly saw the value of the trend:  The right photograph would burnish his image and magnify his mystique.”

(These quotes are from a New York Times review of a new biography, WILDE IN AMERICA, by David M. Friedman)

wilde colored

No one before Wilde had used the press so skillfully to establish a claim to renown,” Friedman argues, ably proving his point by following his subject from interview to interview, state to state, charting the shrewd steps Wilde took to build his brand, “devising a formula for creating fame that other modern celebrities — all of them far more shallow than he — are using today, whether they know it or not.”

Did you hear that?  Oscar Wilde built his brand first.  He first made himself a commodity the press eagerly covered.  He realized that “celebrity could come before accomplishment.”  Then only after he was famous did he sail back to England and launch his literary career.  Of course, unlike most celebrities he really was a genius and produced several literary masterpieces.

Obviously I’ve been going about my literary career (a word I use as a joke) all wrong.  Fame should have come first.  The trouble is, I lack not only Wilde’s literary genius, I completely lack his genius for self-promotion.  And honestly, the idea of promoting myself as opposed to my novels just seems…. weird.  I would feel so fake, so self-conscious, so strange. And yet, there’s something deliciously appealing about Wilde’s plan.

What about you?  I mean, we’ve all read the advice-to-writers about building our “brand” first and so on.  But do you think you could launch a self-promotion campaign the way Wilde did?

Have a great week.

It’s Sunday night.  My long holiday weekend has drawn to a close, and I figured I should write down a few things for which I found myself grateful.

fat cat

Much as I am grateful for my job, I am also grateful that I could sleep in for four days.

I am grateful that I love my cat so much I didn’t kill her when for four days in a row she woke me up early by repeatedly sticking her face in mine and walking around on my bed until I got up and fed her.

I am grateful that I had enough discipline to get in four good workouts in a row.

I am grateful that when I go to work on Monday I won’t have to go down to the building’s workout room because my body will be too sore and tired for more exercise.

I am grateful to my friend Linda for having me to her home where more than a dozen friends and family had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

I am grateful that she only wanted me to bring a loaf of bread from a local bakery so I didn’t have to bake anything.

I am grateful that I didn’t have to clean my place because I didn’t have anyone over.

I am grateful that instead of coming over my friends Ann and Rich invited me to go with them to a comedy club where all of the comedians were excellent.

I am grateful that I didn’t plan to get any writing done but I wrote anyway and am happy with what I scribbled down.

I am grateful for my warm place on these cold days and enough money that I can buy food whenever I want, because too many people aren’t that lucky.

Finally, I am grateful for all of you, my wonderful blog friends.  I hope your own Thanksgiving was a feast of love and joy and wine and turkey meat.  Or soy turkey, if you’re vegan.

Take care.  Love ya.

You know what’s kinda incredible?  I might have a better chance at selling a screenplay than I do a novel.

As y’all know, I’ve recently become very discouraged about simply getting an agent.  What doesn’t help us novelists is that far more people than ever are writing books, so agents and publishers are overwhelmed with submissions.

old movie set

Yet the possibility of selling a screenplay is supposed to be far tougher, especially for feature films—the odds are about 50,000 to one. It can even be extremely tough selling a made-for-TV screenplay for, say, the WE or SciFi channels (home of such film classics as Sharknado and Big Ass Spider).

So it’s really kinda wild when I found out that the odds of selling a screenplay are now tilted ever so slightly in my favor.  Say, only 10,000 to one.  You know why?

Because I know someone who knows a couple people in “the business” and he said he’d be happy to pass on my screenplay to them.

OMG!

Okay, sure, I still have to write the freaking thing.  I had only completed the first 15 minutes when I set it aside because I was too busy, too discouraged, and too much of a realist to think there was a chance in hell of selling it.  But the facts are these:

  1. If I finish my screenplay and it’s very good, someone who matters might read it.

  2. Since the story is set in Ireland, I can submit it to the Irish Film Commission and they might send it on to producers.

  3. I just plain love the story and want to write it.

irish sheep

So there you have it: a little bit of encouragement!  It’s kinda nice to head into the holidays with a faint glimmer of hope.

May all of you have a fantastic and happy Thanksgiving.  Please let me know how your own writing plans are for the upcoming holidays—I wish you the greatest of success.

Me Bad, Milo Good

on November 16, 2014 in Misc | 12 Comments »

Today I’ve got good news and bad news

The good news concerns Milo James Fowler and his new release, Yakuza Territory. 

bore cat

But first, the bad stuff.  A second agent has rejected my Charity MacCay novel.  What hurt so much this time was that she criticized my book, whereas the first agent had praised it.  What’s more frustrating still is that these two agents had polar opposite opinions on a couple points.

First agent:  “Moreover, you have a keen eye for detail – sensory, emotional, and historical – that brings the setting vibrantly to life.”

Second agent:  “I had a hard time investing the historical setting of the novel…  I also didn’t find enough in the descriptions or the social exchanges between characters to really bring the historical setting alive for me.”

My reaction:  Stunned silence.

Anyway, when Mike Offut (the gifted scifi writer over at SLC Kismet) found out I was feeling down he wrote me a great email.  It was wise and deliciously snarky and made me feel better.  He pointed out that just about the only people getting major book contracts these days, besides established writers, have great connections or they’re famous or in the news.

Mike is right.  For so many of us obscure writers the traditional publishing scene is tougher than ever and can be spirit-crushing.  So I have made a couple of decisions.

As Mike advises, I am going to get on with my life and will write only when it’s enjoyable for me and ’cause I want to tell myself and my friends a story.  The ultimate goal of getting traditionally published MUST NOT be in the back of my mind.

Also, if I want to line up an agent and publisher, I should make them come to me.  And that means I have to become famous.  Since I have no idea how to get famous, I am willing to entertain any suggestions or ideas you may have.  The wilder the better.

Yakuza_Territory_-_Cover_Art_-_FB

AND NOW TO THE IMPORTANT GOOD NEWS…

Musa Publishing is proud to announce the release of Milo James Fowler’s most recent science fiction novella Yakuza Territory.

Take a moment to discover what happens when a hardboiled detective story is set in a science fiction world:

A detective with no way out.

A telepath with something to prove…

World-weary detective Charlie Madison has seen more than his share of war. When he stops by the 37th precinct late one night to check on his old friend Sergeant Douglass, the place is as quiet as a morgue. The last thing he expects to find: half a dozen Russian gunmen with a score to settle.

What starts out as a vicious Alamo-style battle soon evolves into something more sinister as Madison’s past comes into play. Will his ties to a branch of the Japanese mafia be a help or a hindrance? And who is the strange man in holding? Why are the Russians determined to break him out?

Struggling to survive the night, one private eye must rely on his wits to solve a mystery where he’s outnumbered, outgunned, and trapped inside a police station with a soulless killing machine.

Available from Musa Publishing

Add Yakuza Territory to your Goodreads bookshelf

MJFprofile

Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he’s not grading papers, he’s imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. He is an active SFWA member, and his work has appeared in more than 90 publications, including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and the Wastelands 2 anthology.

Visit www.milojamesfowler.com and join The Crew for updates about new releases as well as exclusive promotions.

Seriously, do yourself a literary favor and check out Milo’s book. Meanwhile, have a very good week, please tell me how to get famous, and go say hi to Mike at http://slckismet.blogspot.com/

blaise sword

I am way, way too old to be reading graphic novels. Especially ones that are mere collections of comic strips.  Because obviously comic strips are unintellectual, juvenile, and just plain beneath a smart (allegedly) writer person like me.

So maybe now I should confess to my addiction to Modesty Blaise.

You’ve probably heard of Modesty, although she’s a lot more famous in Europe.  Her strips were often absent from U.S. newspapers because she was sometimes scantily clad and on a few occasions naked.

Peter O’Donnell created the Modesty Blaise comic strip in 1963 and continued to write it until wrapping up in 2001.  He also wrote thirteen Modesty novels and one collection of short stories, all of which got great reviews from critics; a few even said they were better than Ian Fleming’s Bond stories.  But while Bond was turned into classic movies, Modesty had the bad fate of appearing in a few stinker flicks, even though one was made by her fan Quentin Tarantino.

While I enjoy the graphic novels, I like the real novels much more.  They’re well written and plotted, come with requisite preposterous villains, and they do a good job of getting into Modesty’s brilliant cool head as well as that of her loyal sidekick, Willie Garvin.  On the down side, several of the older paperbacks have silly, too-sexy and irrelevant covers.

 penthouseA while back I wrote here about the great backstory O’Donnell gave Modesty:  how she was a young orphan refugee who survived WWII and by the time she was a teenager headed up a lucrative crime syndicate (mostly gambling and high-end thievery, and absolutely no drugs or prostitution, which she hates).  While in her twenties she retires—which means she starts to work in an unofficial capacity for a friend in British intelligence.

But it’s the life O’Donnell gave Modesty that really appeals to me.  She is what I wish I were:  wealthy, free, gorgeous, in perfect physical condition, a martial arts expert, speaks about ten languages, is pursued by loving lovers, and is deadly when taking on bad guys.  She has homes in London, Morocco, Malta, and Paris, and servants who do the housework.   She never worries about money.  Above all, she has an inner calm and unshakeable self-confidence.   Mentally and emotionally, she’s not messy like me.

Peter O’Donnell passed away just a couple years ago, and I wish that I had discovered his Modesty Blaise earlier and written him a fan letter.  I’ve never written to any public figure before, yet I wish I could have told him thanks for his creation.

Is there any semi-famous writer you wish you had written to?  Or maybe you’re corresponding with one?

Have a great week.

Ghost Story Books

on October 27, 2014 in Misc | 12 Comments »

It’s Halloween week, which means it’s time for supernatural tales.  Some people have a thing for zombies, others hanker for sexy vampires, and then there are witches and skeletons and creepy crawly stuff.

For me it’s always been ghosts.

ghost on tr

Ever since I could trick or treat, I was nuts for ghost stories.  Sure, they scared the *%!!#! out of me and convinced me that something dark and terrible was lurking under my bed and if I dared to climb out from under the covers in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom it would grab my ankles and pull me under and….

But I still couldn’t stop reading those scary stories.

Well, in the spirit of the season I figured I should share my terror by mentioning one or two ghost books I might have read over the years.  So I went went to the bookshelf where I remembered keeping a couple and realized…

Holy crap, I’ve got a lotta ghost books!

We’re not talking fiction, either. We’re talking a broad collection of non-fiction, swear-on-The-Bible, these are absolutely true tales of the supernatural, or so the writers claim.  I have guides to haunted places in Britain (and yes, I spent one night in an allegedly haunted inn somewhere in Cornwall but saw nothing).  I’ve got several books like Psychic Visits to the Past, which are supposed to be about people witnessing slips in time, but to me come across as scary ghost tales.  Then there’s Ghosts of the Air, which are the experiences from pilots, and the inevitable books about ghosts of the Civil War or Gettysburg or just war in general.

holy ghostbuster

One of my favorites is Holy Ghostbuster, which was written by J. Aelwyn Roberts, a Welsh vicar who describes his ghostly experiences from the perspective of a spiritual man who has been to many deathbeds and in many creepy Welsh and English country houses.  It’s a classic.

I’ve got the omnibus from those two Ghost Hunters guys on the SciFi Channel, Ghost Files: The Collected Cases from Ghost Hunting and Seeking Spirits.  If nothing else, check out the photos.  I guarantee that a couple will creep you out.

Finally, there’s the book that instilled in me a permanent, paranoid fear of ghosts.  It was the very old (second edition 1926), beaten-up, taped-together True Irish Ghost Stories (compiled by Seymour and Neligan) that my parents, for some sick, warped reason, left lying around the house when I was still an impressionable tyke.  I read it cover to cover and haven’t been the same since.  If you’re interested, it’s now back in print, and while some reviewers complain that its tales are very spare and newspaper-like, for me their simplicity and factual language made them all the more real, which made them all the more unnerving.

So is it ghosts for you, or are you a zombie or vampire or other supernatural fan?

Have a great Halloween.

TV Lovers

on October 20, 2014 in Misc | 10 Comments »

The last thing I need is to be hooked on another TV show.

I am now hooked on Outlander.

The main reason, of course, is that the story is fascinating and intelligent and has emotional complexity, which means that the series of novels it’s based on must be the same.  Now I wish I’d started reading those books years ago.

The show also has a fabulous leading lady, as Mike over at SLC Kismet has wisely pointed out.  She’s high-spirited and strong-willed and a skilled healer/combat nurse, and her narrative voice adds depth to the story.  Then there’s aura of mystery, the high standards of production… And oh yeah, this reason…

shirtless

That’s right.  Jaimie is one of my new fantasy lovers.  Damn.  Like I’m not distracted enough by Ichabod Crane of Sleepy Hollow, who’s still my number one.  The man with a bedroom voice, a stunning face, lyrical sentences, knee-high boots… You get the idea.

use ichabod

These men are two of the reasons why I didn’t get any writing done this weekend.  Sure, I did some plotting for my screenplay, but that isn’t much.   (WHY am I s-l-o-w-l-y writing a screenplay when the odds of selling it are a million to one?)

The fact is, we’re also having a beautiful autumn here in Colorado.  A lot of years we don’t:  last September there was terrible record flooding, and other times we have early snows that ruin the leaves.  But this year there’s a glorious riot of colors, and since I live in a very leafy neighborhood with lots of old trees, I would much rather be outside and moving than inside and writing.

Maybe when the snow starts to fall I’ll stay at my desk during daylight hours and write.  Then in the evening I’m curling up on the sofa with Jamie and Ichabod.

So who—besides your beloved significant others—do you plan to spend fantasy wintry evenings with?  (Alex, I already know that yours will be Kate Beckinsale.)

Genre Women, Part I

on October 13, 2014 in Misc | 10 Comments »

Here is my humble Ode to Genre Women. I’ve only addressed a few today but I might finish this in another posting.

sigourney

A woman in sci-fi is not very meek,

She’s high-tech and crafty, a cool-headed geek.

Whether princess or pilot, she outwits pursuers,

Alters dystopia, and takes down bad rulers.

Xena

A fantasy woman has thunderous thighs,

Long flowing hair, big breasts, and fierce eyes.

She wields a long sword, a spear or a saber,

And the fate of the world depends on her labor.

 cate

Unless she’s a fairy, a witch, maid or queen,

In which case she’s smaller and softer and lean.

Her weapons are subtle with some kind of magic;

Her motive is love, her history quite tragic.

angela lans

In mysteries the women are victims or cops,

And sometimes a killer with poisonous chops.

She can be an old lady who solves bloody crimes,

Or a toughened detective who shoots multiple times.

ava gardner

In noir all the ladies are dangerous dames;

They smolder with sex and want to play games.

They’ve all got a past and can watch a man die,

But have a soft spot for a hard private eye.

books

That’s it for now, and I hope you enjoyed these rotten rhymes. Got more any more genre lady rhymes in mind?

Have a great week.

Novel Revenge

on October 5, 2014 in Misc | 8 Comments »

You may have noticed that the movie Gone Girl came out this last week.  It’s based on the bestseller that sold about half a billion copies.

NON-SPOILER ALERT:

I’m not giving anything away when I tell you that the story revolves around some pretty twisted revenge.  Not the Carrie-level, impulsive mayhem type, but some crazy payback nonetheless.

gone girl poster

I thought about Gone Girl and retribution/ revenge/ The Avengers (just kidding) a couple days ago when I learned that a lawyer I had an unpleasant legal encounter with a couple years ago, and who insulted me and pretty much called me a liar, has since gone through some hard times.  He might now be divorced and his professional life, which wasn’t exactly stellar to begin with, has slid even farther into obscurity.

God forgive me (and yes I do have spiritual beliefs), I was so happy about this news.

See, the thing is this involved a minor case of my being paid my medical deductible for an injury.  I also wanted an apology from the client.  Well, I received most of the payment but nothing else, and a part of me is still angry with the lawyer and his spineless client, and I’ve been angry with myself for not standing up for myself when I had the chance.

Sure, I should just forget the matter.  I know better than to wish misfortune on others because it’ll only come back on me (maybe that’s a superstition more than a belief, but I heed it).  Still, that memory sometimes drifts through me as if in search of a cathartic ending.  I really do believe that a sense of justice is hardwired into our genetic makeup.  We all have a sense of fairness and of right and wrong.  We want goodness to be rewarded and evil to be punished.

Okay, so this lawyer is not evil, just a mediocre twit.  And no, I most definitely do not want Gone Girl type of retribution.  But because he has had some misfortunes, most likely because he brought them on himself,  the world around me feels a little more balanced.

Maybe this is why books like Gone Girl or Carrie are so popular.  They’re over-the-top overreactions to injustices, real or imagined, that characters experience.  But if we’re not careful our sense of justice can turn psycho, which is entertaining in a movie or book but not so much fun in real life.

How about you?  Any tales of retribution or justice you’ve lived through and thought of turning into a novel?

Have a wonderful week.