Archive for the ‘Writer’s Life’ Tag

New York Comic Con 2019!   Leave a comment

IMG_1913Me, having a Mary Tyler Moore moment at the entrance of NYCC 19

So yeah, I went to another New York Comic Con this year. As usual, it was quite the spectacle of costumes, chaos and crowds. I tried going on a Friday this year instead of a Saturday, naively thinking it’d be less attended. It wasn’t. Sheer ridiculousness. But in a good way. Was a bit different this year, though, because I came without my son. He recently joined the Navy, passed boot camp and all that. Missed him, but made him feel a bit less left out by purchasing three “The Walking Dead” graphic novels for his enjoyment. Needless to say, the sting of not being able to attend was lessened a tad.

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Horrible backwards selfie, but who cares? I’m in!

I’m always a bit nervous before I enter NYCC. Will my badge show up as validated? Will I be mistaken for a Changeling and morph into something regrettable? Will my ticket fall out of my bag onto the sidewalk and be snatched up by Sephiroth? But make it through I do, in one piece, despite shuffling through the enormous wedge of humanity struggling to slip through the main gate entrance booths.

Shortly after I arrived, I met up with my friends Arwen and Aragorn. We toured the Jacob Javitz center in search of Funko Pop versions of themselves.

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A royal pair and their handler

I felt kind of important shuffling around with Arwen and Aragorn. Every five seconds they’d be politely pulled over and asked if their photos could be taken. And they graciously obliged.

We went downstairs in the Artist’s Alley, usually less crowded and filled with amazing art from artists whose illustrations fill the pages of famous graphic novels and classic comics. But not today. We gave up after about twenty minutes, quite unable to even get close to any tables to admire their work, except for a female artist whose name I neglected to remember. Her gig was propaganda posters using classic Star Wars characters – you know, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and their ilk. Very nearly purchased one but couldn’t see myself shambling through the crowds carrying one of her pieces without it getting destroyed, even if it was in a carrier.

But I love graphic novels. That’s my thing. I head over to the area where they’re all situated. I can’t seem to find my old pals from Man Vs. Rock, mainly because it’s so crowded and they aren’t in their usual place (sorry guys! I promise to find you next year!), but I do find Oliver Mertz from First Law of Mad ScienceThe same thing happened last year with him – it was so unimaginably crowded last year that I missed his booth. So I made up for it by buying everything up that I didn’t get to do last year. The artist and partner in this venture was also in attendance, Michael S. Bracco.

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Oliver Mertz, new father and proud purveyor of his work

I wind up buying several back issues to catch me up on this wonderful series. I also add to it a T-shirt that reads, “Don’t blame me, I’m the writer.” I’ve already worn it a bunch of times.

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Somewhere in the massive crowds, I spot Dark Horse Publications. OH MY GOD, DO I SEE …NO…IT CAN’T BE…IS IT?

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The comic that guided me through my twenties

There’s a huge banner with one of my all-time favorite comic characters, The Flaming Carrot. I rush up to a booth attendant, pointing to the banner. “Where is that book?” I spurt out, heart all aflutter. He points to a bookcase across the way and I rush for it. I hold it in my hands, turning the pages slowly. All the wonderful memories of this lovingly stupid but heroically brave carrot come racing back. As I pay for it, the booth attendant says, “Yeah, you just missed him by about ten minutes. Bob’s a great guy.  He would’ve autographed it for you.” Oh don’t tell me that. Gosh, I feel a bit disappointed but heartwarmed because this treasure from my twenties rests in the back of my backpack. I later devour it on the train.

I also pick up a couple of copies of Paper Girls, a wonderful series about twelve-year-old paper delivery girls in 1988 who get caught up in a time warp of sorts – two warring factions from the future show up the day after Halloween just as the girls are delivering their papers. I heard it’s now going to become a television series. Can’t wait!

But what’s a Comic Con without costumes? Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of great shots to share this year, mainly because I was struggling to get around. But I did take a couple.

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Kaonashi, AKA No-Face, chronicled on phone by fan

If you haven’t seen the rather creepy Japanese animated film, Spirited Away, well, perhaps you should…or shouldn’t…based on this image and extremely well executed costume. Kaonashi is bound to create nightmares.

And what’s a Comic Con without a swarm of Spidey?

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Web of intrigue? Or a bunch of people without imaginations or resources?

I must admit I was a bit disappointed this year. There wasn’t any real banging exhibitions that’d capture my imagination. In 2017, there was a terrific curated exhibition for Star Wars (and I blogged about it). Also, The Tick and his vehicle came that year, plus so much other things to see. But this year? Sure, there’s the usual video game corrals with the million mile line. And the authors who charge $100 for an autograph. There are panels that are quite public and others that you can’t get into because the line is from here to Texas. But it’s so crowded and there didn’t seem to be any visitor-friendly exhibitions for the past two years. There’s a lot to take in, and I’m glad the event is so successful. I do support it, but maybe next year I’m going to try for a Thursday, which seems to be the slowest of all. They were practically begging people to buy tickets for that day, although a friend of mine who went said it was kind of busy.

After hours of barely managing to see all that we came to see, Arwen and Aragorn were getting mighty hot wandering around in those heavy robes, and my back began to kill me after toting around fifty pounds of graphic novels. We struggled to find the exit, although we kept stumbling into loads of entrances. Along the way, we ran into literally dozens of Spidermen/people, who gathered together for a show of kinship. 

Finally, just before the event ended, we called it a day. I had a great time as usual, although this blog can’t even begin to touch upon all that I experienced. The photos don’t do it justice either, but if I wrote about every single thing, including the overpriced food and standing in enormous lines for the toilet, this blog would never end.

So I leave you to enjoy what little I’ve written, and hope to bring you much more next year!

My Summer Reads   Leave a comment

1930s-girls-in-swimsuits-reading

Since I write speculative science fiction with strong female protagonists, I’d thought I’d spend this summer reading female sci-fi writers writing books with strong female protagonists. You know, to see how they do it. Maybe I can pick up a few tips here and there.

So what’s in the pile?

All of Elizabeth Moon’s “Vatta’s War” series. I accidentally picked up the fourth book in the series, “Command Decision,” not realizing it was a later entry in the storyline when I bought it. I read it anyway. Sure, I didn’t get some references but it didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve got four other titles to read so I know what’s going on. Then after that, Ms. Moon added “Vatta’s Peace” to the collection. I’m looking forward to adding that to the list as well.

Last winter, as I sat on the examination table waiting for my doctor to see me, I occupied myself by reading “Command Decision.” The doctor walked in and noticed the book. He immediately pulled it from my hands and said, “This series IS AMAZING! So what did you think of the others?” That’s when I admitted I hadn’t read them. He then goes on telling me the plot lines, characters’ foibles and a few spoilers. While I enjoyed his hearty endorsement of the series, I fortunately forgot most of what he said. I’d love to find out for myself what dangerous situations Kylara Vatta has to dig her way through.

Octavia E. Butler, “Parable of the Sower,” “Parable of the Talents,” and “Kindred.” Oh, wowThis writer has me gobsmacked. No wonder she was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and two-time winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Not only is her prose wonderful, her stories will leave you on the edge of your seat. One can never be certain about anything in her worlds. Twists aplenty. Beloved characters die. In her worlds, nothing is certain except uncertainty.

I read “Parable of the Sower” first. Butler predicted the present measles epidemic when it was written in 1993. In “Parable of the Talents,” she predicts a Trump-like character who runs and wins the office of president, and the ensuing rise of racism and rabid Christians  wreaking havoc on an already fragile America.

Butler’s foresight all those years ago gave me chills. I’ve actually put sticky notes in the pages where her words ring close to true. But my favorite is the sayings she created in the books, and one in particular:

“All that you change, changes you.”

Right now I’ve begun “Kindred.” I’ve only read the first chapter and the range of detail and emotions she conveys has me hooked.

My sister teaches college. Her school offers a course on Octavia E. Butler’s literature. I only wish I lived nearby. I’d audit the class!

Happy Summer Reading, Folks!

 

 

 

 

Rough Passages   Leave a comment

I’ve lost track the amount of times I’ve rewritten passages in my manuscript. I slave, I toil, I backspace…only to create something that’s not quite there, yet. It’s as if I’m skipping through daisies, only to fall in a wet, steaming pile of cow plop.

Ugh. I know.

Beta readers all love my story. An actual librarian thought it was terrific. So did an editor. Even someone working in a related industry praised my work. Talk about confidence building. Surely my words are all that…

…or not.

For a great perspective, compare sending out your manuscript to dating. There’s this terrific person, filled with depth and action, with a healthy splattering of romance tucked inside, seeking to meet that perfect partner. After meticulous grooming, advice from friends and lively rehearsals in front of the bathroom mirror, it’s time to face the scene. Step out and seek. Shake a few hands, make introductions, even sip cocktails. Hearts beat faster, breath quickens, a few beads of sweat pearl up around the hairline. A card is passed along, hopeful wishes and tempered optimism dare blossom in one’s heart.

Days pass.

Nothing occurs, not even a text.

Your worst fears are realized, in the form of rejection. It might be that your hopes drowned in a vast pit of slush piles, or forgotten email attachments, or ignored – ghosted – and forgotten. It’s as if that spiffy new dress or snappy hairstyle did nothing to convince Mr./Ms./Mx. Prospect you’re perfect. Great, even.

So what was it you did? What did I say? Or not say? Or do? In the dark of the night, as you ponder for the billionth time, nerves fray and frustration builds. Your abilities feel as if they’ve drifted out to space.

Some might even give up altogether.

Well, look. No one’s perfect. Not even geniuses get it right on the first try.

Sometimes a writer gets too close to the manuscript and perspective skews. Or too many people have said too many contrasting things and you, the writer, can’t figure out what to do any more. The story’s muddled, the characters are unlikable, the plot’s unrealistic, the dialogue’s way too formal.

So here’s a suggestion: seek professional advice.

I’m not saying go out and find a book doctor. Sure, they might help put your story back on track, but they’re expensive and offer no guarantees.

Instead, seek out an honest-to-goodness writer’s group. There are many, but not all have professional writers with published works at major houses (and before you say anything, self-publishing doesn’t always count). Attend workshops they hold. There, you’ll be shown how to strengthen your skills on a variety of topics, from developing compelling characters, shoring up a sagging middle or crafting a dynamic opening line. See if they have a critiquing group where your work can get an honest evaluation. Maybe even a member might be willing to give your manuscript a thorough review. Tell you all about the rough passages and plot lines.

Writer’s groups often meet at libraries, book stores or other public places. Next time you venture into one of these places, don’t hesitate to ask.

Search the web for writers’ conferences. There are many, but legitimate writer’s conferences don’t charge thousands of dollars and promise that your book will be published. A typical writer’s conference will be held in a hotel, with representatives from industry leaders, such as literary agencies and publishers. There’s a roster of known authors attending who’ll give workshops on skill development.

Here’s a great place to start: Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity.  It’s a terrific blog filled with all sorts of links, contacts, industry news and conferences. Bookmark it. Check it often.

And most important of all, have faith. After slogging through all those rough passages, you might just discover how to sail through smooth seas. Besides, you never know…you might meet a great date!

 

The Takeaway   Leave a comment

Jennifer Armentrout

Last weekend I attended the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference. As always, it was a splendid affair, full of other writers and readers eager to meet old friends, make new acquaintances, freshen up skills and even make a few pitches to agents and editors. I managed to do all of the above, and more.

Perhaps what influenced me the most was the above speaker – Jennifer Armentrout. She’s widely known as a Young Adult and New Adult writer, but one glance at her list of books reveals her prolific ability to write just about anything. Ms. Armentrout was the keynote speaker on Saturday, delivering one of the memorable speeches I’ve ever heard.

Jennifer Armentrout delivering the keynote speech at the LSFW Writers Conference

After listening to her, it wasn’t difficult to understand why she writes as much as she does. Sure, she loves her craft. Has a fantastic imagination. Can spin tales out of nothingness and make them live in universes not quite explored by others. But that’s not what hooked me. It’s what she does: take risks.

Anyone in a creative field has to either take risks or quit. It’s not a wimpy business for sissies, no way. Although there’s plenty of self-doubt to paint the Sistine Chapel over and again, one learns quickly that if one keeps that up, one’s going nowhere in the publishing world. Yeah, in drearier moods I count myself among the talentless and weak. And sure, who doesn’t need the occasional pat-on-the-back to be reminded that your prose is worth reading?

Jennifer won’t have it. She’s got books to write. Amazingly, she’s stuck with the same agent for her entire career, but she’s taken some incredible risks. Taken offers from publishers who might not have paid her what another would, but offered her greater freedom for her creativity. Not afraid to tackle a subject she knows little about. Maybe even try self-publishing and see what happens. At any rate, she sits down in front of her computer and composes her works for eight hours every day. Sometimes more. But she has to. It’s part of her, to dream, to create, to write.

Perhaps the most powerful engine driving her is a simple matter of her health. At a routine eye exam, it was discovered  she has retinitis pigmentosa, or RP. It’s the gradual withdrawal of one’s ability to see. It’s a cruel disease. As it progresses, the peripheral vision fades, resulting in ever-increasing tunnel vision, until the curtains close forever. There is no cure. At the present time, her vision is still with her, although her peripheral vision is fading.

No one can predict when or how long her vision will last, but Jennifer isn’t waiting for the lights to dim forever. She’s got stories to tell. She’s not waiting for blindness to set in. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself, nor does she expect anyone else to. So there she is, eight hours a day, writing like there’s no tomorrow, taking risks, and nothing will ever stop her.

It gave me a whole new perspective on not only writing, but life. We are put here on earth to succeed. If we don’t, we’ll fade. Why should I let anything hold me back from trying my very best to endure? Aren’t my words worth the risk?

Why, indeed?

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