Carol, our Programming Director, should be emailing out individual schedules this week, I think. Until then, I have a preliminary schedule and will be happy to tell you what you are scheduled for on there. Just know that there could be a few minor changes in that schedule. Here’s what I see you listed for so far…
Friday, 7:00pm – A Rose by Any Other Name - The importance of naming your characters, worlds and books.
Saturday, 10:00am – Not This $#!* Again! – Overused plot devices and how to avoid them (or if you should). (MODERATOR)
Saturday, 12:00pm – You Had Me At Hello – How to hook your readers with your opening chapter. (MODERATOR)
Saturday, 2:00pm – Putting Words to Paper (or Computer Screen) – How to increase your writing productivity and power through writer’s block. (MODERATOR)
Saturday, 3:00pm – Effective Tools for that First Sale – Steps to take to make that first writing sale.
Saturday, 5:00pm – Putting the Science in your Science Fiction – Do you need to be a scientist to write good sci-fi?
Saturday, 9:00pm – We Welcome our Evil Overlords – The best villains, the worst and the ones we secretly root for.
Sunday, 9:00am – Writer’s Workshop – Join our authors as they guide your through the process of creating genre fiction. Bring paper, pencil and your imagination! (2 hours) (MODERATOR)
Sunday, 11:00am – Books for Brunch – What are you reading, what do you want to read and what books do you find yourself re-reading over and over? (MODERATOR)
Sunday 1:00pm – Finding an Agent – Dogwood (MODERATOR)
Sunday, 3:00pm – Cover Letters – How to get an editor’s attention before they even read your work. (MODERATOR)
Asst. Guest Services Director
Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
As with most of my stories, there was no great dramatic event or lightbulb moment that triggered the idea for "End Time." It was simply the urgent need to fill the maddening blank page with words and sentences. The only inspiration was perhaps the heat. I was on vacation in
I sent it out with high hopes, and after some early encouragement (a personal rejection from Gardner Dozois, who was at that time editor for Asimov's, and some kind words from Ellen Datlow) the story went nowhere.
Fast-forward to August 2005 and Hurricane Katrina. I was preparing to submit again after another rejection when I realized that my story had now been eclipsed by current events. In the original draft, New Orleans was only just being threatened by the rising ocean levels brought on by global warming. It had never actually found itself under water. Katrina changed all that. Now a serious calamity had hit the city, one that every potential reader of the story would know everything about and wonder why I was so clueless. Dreading a rewrite, I tossed the story into the metaphorical drawer and instead wrote a check to Clinton and Bush's relief fund.
But like most restless children, it refused to be ignored. Eventually I opened the drawer and saw that the story needed more than just a Katrina inspired rewrite. The result now appears in IGMS (after a suggested tweak by Mr. Schubert - thank you very much), thankfully before any more natural catastrophes render it obsolete....
(artwork for this story (in the current issue of IGMS) by Dean Spencer: http://deanportfolio.50webs.com.) (Scott's website: www.scottemersonbull.com.)
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Fred was kind enough to invite me to also be a guest at Hypericon last year, which I happily agreed to do. Unfortunately, for a variety if reasons, I had to cancel that trip. And this year the baby sitting arrangements for my kids fell through, my publisher moved my date for turning in my novel, Dreaming Creek, from the end of July to the end of June (which is actually good news -- more on that in a future blog entry), and with the price of gas going through the roof and Nashville being an 8+ hour drive, I had to say 'no' to the trip. Again.
Now, understand, Fred is a big man, a man of Santa Claus-like proportions. But when I got the following email, I was afraid. This was no jolly, no happy, no jovial Santa Claus-type fellow. He was angry Fred. Below, with his permission, is that email he sent (I would never do anything, ever, without his permission. I like angry Fred; he's scary):
I told Alethea to tell you there was no hard feelings
about your canceling last year, and to come back this
Not about the coming back part. About the angry part.
We're all very angry. And hurt. Hurt and angry. And
disappointed. Disappointed, hurt and angry. Mostly
angry. Hurt would probably be a distant second. Ohhh,
we're still so very angry. And mad. Angry and mad. And
disappointed, but that's way back in last place, so
overshadowed by Angry that it's hardly worth
In fact, I cannot fully describe the level of seething
anger we at Hypericon are feeling. It needs to be done
in person. So, when you arrive June 27 (or Thursday
the 26th if you'd like), pick up your badge then come
see me so I can scream at you.
Also, security will be watching you, so watch your
So if you're in Nashville in late June this year,
I would recommend dropping by Hypericon. What I
wouldn't recommend, however, is telling Fred that I
sent you. Might be hazardous to your health.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Some of my writing friends asked me about what I look for when I read slush for Baen Books; especially, what makes a book a good potential fit for the Baen line.
Before I answer, let me point out that if a manuscript is at all close to being publishable, I pass it to the publisher, Toni Weisskopf, and let her make the call. She instructed me early on that she only expected me to send her the top 1% of submissions, but I've actually sent her more than that. Some I've only marginally recommended, if I thought they were good books but might not be quite right for Baen.
That being said, I don't know if this characterizes any kind of Baen "profile," but I look for:
1. Stories that are adventurous and fun at their core. Think "golden age of SF."
2. Stories that are exciting, if not actually action-packed. (Lots of people believe a Baen book must have a battle, brawl, barfight, gunfight, knifefight, or fistfight on every other page. That's not entirely true, but it's not entirely false either. Baen fans appreciate action; and what's more, they know well what makes for realistic action and are ruthless about inconsistencies.)
3. Stories that make sense -- e.g., with science, economics, etc., that ring true -- and are internally consistent. (This requirement is quite clear in the Baen guidelines.)
4. Stories in which characters' actions and the consequences of those actions make sense and seem plausible.
5. Stories that, under all the events and characterization, are essentially hopeful. Basically, in a Baen book you should know pretty well who the good guys and bad guys are, and the good guys need to win. Dark and difficult things may happen in a Baen book, but the whole story can't be dismal.
Note that manuscript mechanics -- spelling, grammar, and punctuation -- aren't on the list. That's because, as Toni puts it, "Story trumps all." So a good story (i.e., a good SF or F story) has a chance even if the manuscript isn't pristine. But you still need to proofread well and correct all the typos you can, because you don't want us to get distracted from the story you're trying to tell.
When I ran this list by Toni, she wrote,
visit Gray's blog at: http://www.graymanwrites.com/forums/blog.php?b=70
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Re: When Andrew Returns Home
Dear John Paul and Theresa Wiggin,
You understand that during the recent attempt by the Warsaw Pact to take over the International Fleet, our sole concern at EducAdmin was the safety of the children. Now we are finally able to begin working out the logistics of sending the children home.
We assure you that Andrew will be provided with continuous surveillance and an active bodyguard throughout his transfer from the IF to American government control. We are still negotiating the degree to which the IF will continue to provide protection after the transfer.
Every effort is being made by EducAdmin to assure that Andrew will be able to return to the most normal childhood possible. However, I wish your advice about whether he should be retained here in isolation until the conclusion of the inquiries into EducAdmin actions during the late campaign. It is quite likely that testimony will be offered that depicts Andrew and his actions in damaging ways, in order to attack EducAdmin through him (and the other children). Here at IFCOM we can keep him from hearing the worst of it; on Earth, no such protection will be possible and it is likelier that he will be called to "testify."
Monday, May 12, 2008
Originally posted on April 25th, 2008 by cemurphy (Catie)
Catie's note: I met Alethea a couple of years ago at World Fantasy Con in Austin when we were both on a shuttlebus together, and she and her friends very kindly enveloped me into their group and invited me to lunch. We (all) hit it off splendidly, embarking on a weekend that involved people throwing themselves through hedges to greet one another and other such silliness, and it is my utter delight to have invited her to post about a day in the life of an Ingram Buyer.
Ingram Books, for the uninitiated, is the world’s largest wholesale distributor of books. As such, it is very, very important, and not a little mysterious, to those of us who write, and so we thought a back-door look at what the people who help bring our books from publisher to bookshelf actually do day-in and day-out might be interesting…and it is.
A day in the life of Alethea Kontis, Incredible Whirlwind of Beauty and Dynamite — Ingram Buyer by day, New York Times best-selling author by night.
April 14, 2008
3-something a.m. — The rumble of thunder wakes me up. I stumble out of the bedroom in the dark, unplug the laptop, shut down the desktop, and stumble back to bed.
6:15 a.m. — Wake up before the alarm goes off. Check my email. Solaris got my copyedits yesterday, but they can’t open the attachments. Can I please resave them as .rtf and send them again? Sure. Walk down to the office to power the desktop back up.
6:22 a.m. — Walk back through the kitchen. Put bread in the toaster. Look out the window. Laugh hysterically. What woke me up at 3 a.m. wasn’t thunder.
6:25 a.m. — Grab my digital camera and walk barefoot through the cold grass (there’s a freeze warning tonight) to take pictures of the dead tree that has fallen from my next-door neighbor’s yard onto my back fence. I know to take pictures of the evidence before anyone has a chance to tamper with it. I watch CSI.
7:23 a.m. — Arrive at work. Turn on computer and multicoloured rope lights. Stop by International Department for chai tea. Stop by fellow buyer’s office and check out the thumb she broke while swordfighting. Assemble audio bestseller report for NY Times. Review orders that have come up for release. Check out what my weekly returns cycle looks like. Not too bad.
7:45 a.m. — Send an email to my supervisor reminding her that I’ll be working lunches and staying late this week, because I’m leaving work early Friday to catch the plane to NY Comic Con. I still have no idea what to pack.
(Poster’s note: All this before 8am. I don’t think I do that much in a *day*. And yet there’s more!)
8:03 a.m. — Receive an email from facility services that they will be shutting off the water from 3:30 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. for maintenance. Make a mental note to drink less water today.
8:55 a.m. — Receive call from Publisher A. Apparently, the street date for an important title is not showing up on iPage. Immediately start the emergency email-tree and proceed to remedy the situation and notify all parties involved.
9:02 a.m. — Place call to insurance company. They recommend a local fence company and suggest I call them for a request. The number they give me turns out to be a fax number. After some Googling and trial and error, I finally speak to someone who promises me an estimate this week.
9:45 a.m. — Finish daily orders and start work on returns.
9:58 a.m. — Receive .pdf from Accounts Payable of a check from Publisher B, with no description attached. Three people instantly need to know what this is for. I email our rep for the publisher. She is at Sales Conference this week.
10:16 a.m. — Receive email from Distributor C about a title from a publisher they recently acquired that has been postponed so many times our purchase orders don’t match up any more. Send a file to the rep so he can manually make their systems match ours. Still working on returns.
10:30 a.m. — Receive a quick call from
10:53 a.m. — Receive a list of active publishers from Distributor C, for use in reconciling our systems. Forward that list to the three departments who will need it.
10:55 a.m. — Receive email from branch of the emergency email-tree requesting clarification on street date issue. Still more returns.
11:09 a.m. — PW Daily arrives. A quick skim reveals that the London Book Fair is really expensive, and it’s the 50th anniversary of the Crayola 64-pack. Shoot…THAT should have been my angle for the storytime books intro I recorded last week for the Ingram Podcast.
11:31 a.m. — Receive an email from C.E. Murphy asking me to guest blog “A Day in the Life of Me.” I laugh and tell her that today would make a very good example. I start taking notes.
11:59 a.m. — Lunchtime already? Put lunch in microwave and pop in an audiobook to listen to while I work on even more returns — Cecelia Ahern’s If You Could See Me Now. It’s pretty fabulous, and very well-performed. A busy woman loves her audiobooks.
12:02 a.m. — Rep from Publisher B sends details for that no-longer-mysterious check. Microwave beeps.
12:06 p.m. — Customer Service gets in touch to verify street date title.
12:23 p.m. — Publisher C sends an email to say that they discovered one of the titles they sent is defective. They are sending replacements, but they are not interested in getting the defective stock back — we should just throw it away. Makes sense, but I still have to check with several people, because the system doesn’t have a “throw it away” key. (Probably a good thing.)
12:40 p.m. — “…the tone of his voice was like a favorite song she wanted to blare and put on repeat.” Brilliant, Cecelia. Her heroine sleeps about as much as I do, and I’m suddenly craving coffee.
1:01 p.m. — Finish the week’s returns. Start reviewing monthly title forecast exceptions.
1:30 p.m. — Weekly Staff Meeting. We decide it should be spelled “e-books.”
2:04 p.m. — Come back from staff meeting to an email from Publisher D regarding a new title buy that got skipped. After ten minutes of searching through sell sheets, I determine that Vol. 1 was bought, but Vol 2 was never presented. I place a buy for Vol. 2.
2:30 p.m. — Ask my supervisor who would need to okay my “Day in the Life” blog for public consumption. Realize I am having the famed “case of the Mondays.”
2:45 p.m. — Break down and make a quick trip to Starbucks, since caffeine and whipped cream are the key to happiness. Drive slowly due to abundance of trucks and ticket-happy cops in the industrial park. I smile at a baby in red socks and listen to Chris Martin from Coldplay tell me how beautiful I am. I know he doesn’t mean it, but it’s still nice to hear.
3:00 p.m. — Enter August new title buys for Publisher C.
3:37 p.m. — Set up new drop-in titles (titles outside a catalog) so I can place those buys tomorrow.
3:45 p.m. — Check set up of Fall titles for Distributor E while chatting on the phone to Dan Gamber from Meadowhawk Press. He requests a blurb and convention advice, among other pleasantries. It’s all about multitasking.
4:15 p.m. — Send around an email asking for help on a project I’ve been asked to do for Children’s Book Week in May.
4:19 p.m. — Clean up and add a quick intro to my Sarah Addison Allen “Genre Chicks” interview for the May Library Services e-newsletter. Her new book The Sugar Queen is one of my absolute favorite books this year.
4:50 p.m. — Pack up to leave and…and don’t use the restroom. The water is apparently still not back on. Good time to be getting gone.
5:20 p.m. — While driving home, realize 1.) it is already starting to rain and 2.) I forgot to thaw the chicken this morning. Arrive home / cover flowers in the back yard with sheets / use facilities / thaw chicken / check email. In that order. Check in with my writers group. Set my Facebook pet dragon to attack “Doombringer.”
5:38 p.m. — Indulge in a walk on the treadmill and an episode of CSI:NY. The writers on this show are the best of all three CSI incarnations, and the cast has great chemistry. This time, the killer was the publisher. Figures. Have some dinner.
6:43 p.m. — Clean up
7:00 p.m. — Continue work on Dark-Hunter trivia questions. (Facebook, here I come!)
8:30 p.m. — Receive a call from my friend Priscilla in NY. Talk while typing. It’s all about multitasking.
9:05 p.m. — Receive short story email rejection from Clarkesworld Magazine. I have to wait seven days before submitting again. I know which story to pick next; I’ll mark my calendar.
9:10 p.m. — Start typing up this blog from notes on several scattered scraps of paper I’m sure I’ll lose.
10:08 p.m. — It’s ten o’clock already?!? I have GOT to jump in the shower and get to bed. After all, tomorrow is another day, and I want to squeeze in a few more chapters of Ken Scholes’s Lamentation manuscript — my favorite book of next year…so far. Nighty-night!
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
My dead great grandmother talks to me.
She was an immigrant to this country and she feels perfectly entitled to lurk in the back of my mind demanding that I make an accounting for my life, since I have opportunities she only dreamed of. This constant nagging, this sense of inter-generational obligation, has always informed both my politics and my writing.
Of course, my great grandmother was illiterate and probably considered writing to be my most useless skill. But I still think she’d have been tickled to find out that she’d inspired a story like “Limbo”--a quirky tale about a young Italian-American woman whose dead grandmother possesses her body and meddles in her romances. At its core, though, “Limbo” is about the inherited baggage we carry through life. And I consider this story my own little tribute to the colorful women of my family, whose flaws and virtues I really could not exaggerate with my prose if I tried.
But “Limbo” was also inspired by some of the other great ladies I've learned from, including my three female instructors at Clarion East.
The night before I wrote “Limbo,” I was at a writer’s convention and someone dared me to emulate the voice of a writer I admired. I have problems resisting dares, and at the time, I was immersed in
Anyway, the point is that great grandma’s yammering, a writer’s conference, and the collective influence of some of my favorite female writers converged on one long car ride, and “Limbo” was born.
I knew the story was a success when my writing group asked me for the recipe for pasta fagioli and started sharing tales of their own zany relatives. In those stories, more narratives about how we’re shaped by the influence of people long departed began to emerge.
You see, deep down, I think everybody’s dead relatives talk to them. I just hope that “Limbo” will help people listen to what their ancestors really have to say.
(artwork for this story (in the current issue of IGMS) by Anselmo Alliegro) (Stephanie's website: http://www.stephaniedray.com)
Monday, May 05, 2008
In the summer of 2007, I attended the six-week-long Odyssey
Writing Workshop. One of the events of the workshop was
the "Odyssey Slam" at the Barnes & Noble in
. Each workshop participant had to read a flash fiction piece in Nashua, New
five minutes or less.
My original plan was to read a revised version
of the 1000-word story I had written earlier in
the workshop,but in the last few days before the
Slam I started leaning against that. The night
before the Slam I began working on a more
humorous piece, as I've noticed that humor tends
to go over very well at readings.
In the morning I got up and decided that piece
wouldn't work, because it was too cliched.
It was a punchline-type story, and I Googled the
punchline and saw a couple of similar stories.)
Also, the story itself would be too serious
before the punchline.
So I looked at revising some of my unpublished
flash pieces, and none of them appealed to me.
Then I looked at the possibility of chopping down
my humorous fairy tale "Bird-Dropping and Sunday,"
which always gets a great reception at readings
even though editors keep deciding it's not quite
right for their magazines, but decided there was
no way I could cut half the story.
Finally, before deciding to just go with the
original plan, I went over my lists of titles and
story seeds, and came across "dragon accountant,"
which was a seed I had jotted down sometime in the
previous couple of weeks, based on a comment by
someone (I think it was a guest lecturer, author
Michael Arnzen) about dragon accountants.
It occurred to me that dragons might need some
basic information about accounting, sort of an
Accounting for Dummies--except for dragons, not
dummies. That gave me my title and basic premise.
Not until I had written over half the story did I
realize there was an actual character reading the
information aloud to a dragon.
"Accounting for Dragons" is the first story I wrote
almost entirely using voice dictation software.
By sheer coincidence, the name of the software
is Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Anyway, I finished the story in a couple of hours
and read it at the Slam. It went over pretty well,
with people laughing in the right places, which is
always a plus.
After the Odyssey workshop was over, I revised the
story with some help from my brother Michael, an
actual accountant who works for something far scarier
than a dragon: the Internal Revenue Service. My
writing groups were also helpful in bringing the
story up to snuff, particularly by letting me know
what to cut out because it wasn't working.
(artwork for this story (in the current issue of IGMS) by Nick Greenwood: http://www.nick-greenwood.com) (Eric's website: www.ericjamesstone.com)
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Inspiration can strike you anywhere, at any time. With "The Frankenstein Diaries," the idea sprang at me as I read the newspaper. I chanced upon an article about a father exploring the possibility of cloning his deceased son from the DNA in a lock of the boy's hair--a memento from a first haircut, as I recall.
And I got angry.
Seriously. I wanted to smack the guy. His child was gone. Cloning, even if someday perfected, would not bring him back. Didn't he get that?
Maybe part of the problem, I thought, was the way cloning is depicted in popular culture. Clones are almost uniformly shown as exact duplicates of the "original"--in every way, not just in appearance--and more often than not emerging from some laboratory fully grown, to boot. Now, I'm not knocking such stories; they can be entertaining on their own terms. But someone cloned from my cells would not be another Matt Rotundo. He would just be someone who looks a lot like me. And he would start out, like we all do, as a baby.
I began to wonder what it would really be like to raise a child cloned from another's cells. What sorts of unique difficulties would the family face? And perhaps more important, why would parents choose to clone a child in the first place? Even if natural conception were impossible, why wouldn't the parents consider adoption? Would you opt for cloning even if you were fully informed of the realities? I thought again about that grieving father from the newspaper article, and I began to pity him, a little.
It was then that I knew I had a story.
I wrote the first draft of "The Frankenstein Diaries" in an epistolary format--as a series of journal entries, naturally. I rather enjoyed the challenge of telling the story this way, but a wise reader advised me to recast it in third person. I really didn't want to do that, fearing the story might lose a bit of what made it special. I also suspected such a rewrite would involve a lot of work.
Or was that just laziness talking? I couldn't tell.
So I grudgingly made a deal with myself: I would write a third person version of the story, as a sort of test drive, but I would keep the original in a separate file. When I was finished, I would compare the two drafts, and decide which one I liked best.
I was right; it was a lot of work. It involved much more than simply changing a bunch of pronouns. I had to do some major restructuring. Entire scenes disappeared; others had to be shuffled around. For instance, the opening, with John Griffin picking up his son after an incident at daycare, originally appeared some twenty pages into the story. If the epistolary format had been a challenge, the more conventional third person proved even more so. Ah, the irony.
In the end, of course, my wise reader was vindicated, and I remain grateful for the input (thanks, Rita!). I kept some of the journal entries, though. You can't really call a story "The Frankenstein Diaries" without showing a bit of the diary, right?
Some readers have found this a pretty bleak piece. That feedback surprised me at first, but upon reflection, I suppose I can understand why people would feel that way. A whole string of terrible events occurs, even in just the first half of the story. Still, for what it's worth, I maintain that I've never seen "The Frankenstein Diaries" as downbeat. I don't want to give away too much, but I'd like to think the ending rewards the reader, at least a little, for sticking it out through the hard times.
(artwork for this story (in the current issue of IGMS) by Kevin Wasden: www.kevinwasden.com) (Matt's blog: matthewsrotundo.livejournal.com.)