Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Enter At your Own Risk: Fires and Phantoms at Anthocon 2012

Firbolg Publishing will have a booth at Anthocon 2012 in November! They will be selling their latest, "Enter At Your Own Risk: Fires and Phantoms", which includes one of my short stories. I've seen the book proof - it looks great! Can't wait to get a copy in my hands. If you're going to the con, check them out!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Score A Big One For Equality & Civil Rights

Let me tell you a little bit about me and football.

When I was a little girl in Maryland, I liked baseball. I was a tomboy. The kids in my neighborhood would get together, usually in Mark's backyard (because it was big and flat), and play baseball. Or football. No coaches, no teams, just kids. When it was football, I was really good at tackling. I'm not sure what that position is called, but I was the one sent after whoever had the ball. I would take them down.  But it was baseball cards that I collected with joy. Soon, I began to collect football cards, too. But before I got very far, something happened. A man named Bob Irsay sold the beloved Baltimore Colts out from under us, the fans. They loaded up some Mayflower moving trucks and out sneaked the entire team, in the middle of the night. To this day, many Marylanders refuse to use the services of Mayflower Movers. I absorbed the atmosphere of betrayal, and swore of football forever. I wasn't that into yet, anyway.

As an adult, I've continued to not like football. Firstly, the games are long. One hour, divided into breaks and timeouts over four or five hours? I've got better things to do. Secondly, the games are noisy. I hate the sound of a television filled with the roaring crowd, commentators, bells, horns, whistles,... it just annoys me. Thirdly,  football is played by jocks. In my experience, most jocks are big and dumb, shallow, and close-minded. Not all of them, of course-- people are people, good and bad side by side in all walks of life. In that same vein, though, it has seemed to me that an inordinate number of football players are thugs, criminals, rapists, sexists, and the like. I know, I know, I'm making some seriously broad generalizations and stereotypes, here, but that is just how it has seemed to me over the years.

But this week, something wonderful has happened. Actually, two something wonderfuls:

  1. In response to a Maryland ballot initiative that would legalize gay marriage, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has spoken out in its favor. Then, Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote a letter that to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, urging him to "inhibit such expressions from your employee. Last week, Yahoo published that letter. 
  2. Now, we get to read this amaze-balls response that Minnesota Vikings's Chris Kluwe wrote in response, also published by Yahoo.
I applaud both these men for standing up for equality in public, particularly from within an industry that is wracked with homophobia, or, more accurately, homomisia.

But, why am I blogging about athletes and righteous behavior in the name of equality (as if that wasn't enough!)? Because Chris Kluwe has written a beautifully eloquent and biting letter! In this age of 140 character limits, netspeak/textspeak, and Jersey Shore level vocabularies, it is vitally refreshing to encounter such a thing as this letter. Bravo!

Dear Emmett C. Burns Jr.,

I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland's state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words):

1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should "inhibit such expressions from your employees," more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person's right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.

2. "Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement." Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who's "deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland"? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you're going to say that political views have "no place in a sport"? I can't even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for "beautiful oppressionism").

3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you'll start thinking about penis? "Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!" Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won't come into your house and steal your children. They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won't even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?

In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I'm fairly certain you might need it.

Chris Kluwe

P.S. I've also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your "I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing" and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.

Chris Kluwe is a punter for the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter, @ChrisWarcraft.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Books That Have Inspired Me

I've read a lot of books in my life, but nearly as many as I would like to, or even that a few of my friends have. (I've got one friend that reads 1 or 2 books per day! I prefer lingering lovingly over the words, myself, but I do admire the accomplishment.) A few books have stuck with me over the years, some have begged to be read over and over again, and still others have had me racing to the page to pen my own. Here's a list of some of those inspiring books, in no particular order. Please comment with your own!

  1. Between the Bridge and the River - Craig Ferguson
    I know I've mentioned this book already, but five years ago, it really was the impetus for me to make writing my primary artistic expression this round. (I go in cycles of painting, writing, and other arts for long years of patterns.)

  2. Walking On AlligatorsSusan Shaughnessy
    Back in the nineties, when my biggest challenge as a writer was getting to the page, this book of meditative gems inspired me to sit down to write, many times.
    From the book description: "A daily motivator for people who write--and for all those who long to write--providing an insistent wake-up call for the creative urge, with insights on how to work against resistance, live with the loneliness, develop discipline, and dare to take deeper risks in their work."

  3. Anything by Jackie Collins
    The fact that this shallow woman with a vocabulary of about 1200 words gets published-- repeatedly-- has often driven my confidence up in spades. If she can do it, I bloody well can, too! And better!

  4. The Magical Beast  - Author?
    I am pretty sure that was the title. Can't remember the author, and cant' find the book online. It was a paperback children's chapter book I won at the library one summer. I chose it from a table full of books, and I read it over and over and over. I was young-- maybe seven?-- when I got it, and continued to read it even in to my young adulthood. It may be in a box somewhere at my parents's house, or it may be lost forever... But I think I learned a lot about story structure from reading that tale so many times.

  5. What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers - Anne Bernays, Pamela Painter
    A friend of mine went to college and got a Master's Degree in English. This was one of his textbooks. I can't say I've "read" it,  but I've definitely used it. Not even a quarter of it, yet, despite having it for a year or two. But the thing is, when I'm dry-- you know, absolutely exhausted of all ideas for story or character, I can pick up this book and find something to trigger a spark and get something on the page.
Okay, I know what you're thinking. "There are no horror books on this list!" True... because, honestly, I get so wrapped in a good story, that I lose sight of what makes it so good, so readable, so lovable. And while I may get inspired by the magnificent tales of Clive Barker, or Stephen King, I also get that feeling that I could never compete with them. How many times have I read something only to exclaim, "Damn! I wish I'd written that!" 

But, I can only write what I write, and they will write what they write, and maybe someday my novels and stories can share some shelf space with them. That is the Dream.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My History As a Writer

I've written my whole life. I wanted to be the youngest published author, and be in the Guinness Book of World Records, so I handed my mom a "book" I made, about a duck. I was three. I had folded the pages like a book, drew the pictures, and wrote the words (yes, they were real English words, in full sentences). Apparently, my parents didn't have any better of an idea about getting published than I did.

As an adult in my twenties and thirties, I did get published. Non-fiction: I wrote music and event reviews for local zines, a heavy metal magazine, and community newsletters. Later, I wrote articles on travel, Japanese traditions, holidays, and culture, and massage therapy for both print and online publications. I'd tried my hand at a few novels, but found myself constantly getting "lost in the middle" and abandoned each tale for the bright and shiny allure of some new idea I'd gotten. Short stories were easier; at least I was able to reach the end of most of them!

Several years ago, I eagerly devoured Craig Ferguson's first published novel, "Between the Bridge and the River", which inspired me to pick up the pen, so to speak, once again. I also happened upon a little gem of Chris Baty's titled "No Plot? No Problem?" which I thought might help me navigate those middle waters in which I always seemed to drown. That book introduced me to phenomenon of "NaNoWriMo", short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I tried it that year, in what I think was May. In any case, it wasn't November, when the rest of the world is doing it, together. I didn't discover that until two years later, and believe me when I say that www.nanowrimo.,org is highly responsible for my productivity today.

It took me five attempts at NaNoWriMo before I actually hit the goal. November 2011, I wrote over 51,000 words in 30 days. Over the next seven months, I wrote another 24,500, when I astonishingly felt that I had written the last sentence of the novel. That work is in the hands of several readers now, and the feedback is trickling in. I plan on revising this fall. (I'm still not sure if it will be draft #2 or 3-- I wrote it, then read through it twice to smooth out continuity and grammar errors, so it was sort of an edited first draft, really.)

While I am waiting for the critiques of the beta readers, I have been researching the next steps. I've decided against self-publishing and the world of e-books for now, choosing the path of tried and true old fashioned methods. I've read books on writing query letters, getting an agent, what editors and publishers are looking for, proper formatting, and resume building. I've been focusing, this summer, on submitting my flash fiction and short stories for publication. (Previously, I had only entered contests.) And I'm happy to report the sale of my first fiction this past week - a short story titled "A Decent Cup of Tea" - to Firbog Publishing, for an anthology of ghost stories.

I learned about them, and most others that I am currently interacting with, on an amazing website called Duotrope. They are a database of publishers with many ways to cross-search and keep track of all your work and submissions. I highly recommend it!

Hm, this post is a bit wordy, no? Perhaps I shall stop here. Thanks for reading!


Well, here it is. In my efforts to become a published author of fiction, I keep hearing that it is important to have a blog. I'm here to test that theory. As far as an internet presence, I already have a twitter that I use for my personal rants and raves, following news and politics, issues both local and global, and all things writing. I also have a FaceBook page for my upcoming novel, How I Spent My Zombie Apocalypse. But this blog will cover all the stuff having to do with being a writer, I think. I may throw some zombie fun into it, as well. Everything is better with zombies (which was almost the name of this blog, but I do write fiction sans zombies, occasionally!).