Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review: Old Haunts, A London City Novel (E. Spain)

Old Haunts, A London City Novel
Emmett Spain

One of two reviews I've been behind on:

Four out of Five stars

I’m an urban fantasy writer myself. So I couldn’t help but look at “Old Haunts” with a critical eye.

So imagine my surprise when I finished the ‘ghost’ of a teaser and was already onboard for this alternate reality (London) romp.

Jack Worthington is the perfect anti-hero. Does everything the wrong why with the right intentions.

Well most of the time.

Worthington is a gruff, head-strong spirit talker whose desire to help a client with her marital issues (especially an issue with the ‘death do us part’ portion of her vows) leads to a death mark and an eventual race against an oncoming apocalypse.

The pace is fast, the twists are unexpected and I closed the book already looking forward to book two.

Just to see how Emmett screws with his characters next.

And one final note. If you are tired of sparkly vampires, then you’ll really enjoy one of the main villains.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Website and...Podcasting?

Many of you know I've been looking around for some assistance with my website.

Ok. To be honest my 'website' is a simple redirect to this blog. So I guess by 'some assistance'
I mean 'someone to build what I have in my head who knows what she/he is doing.'

My focus as a Technology Consultant for the past 15 years or so has been in Program and Portfolio management. Before that, I was a Helluva engineer. In both roles I've met some really bright people.

A long time ago I worked on a project with a damn good tech weenie. A great guy by the name of Eric Grigg. He happens to also be a co-host of the 'EaglesFanCast.' This is a podcast, blog etc. for everything to do with the Philadelphia Eagles American football team.

I've linked his crew's site above.

Anyway, Eric and I worked together years ago. We'd occasionally see each other (once actually randomly meeting up at Dublin Airport). He's been lurking on my blog for a while and I've been lurking on his podcast.

He still is a tech guru and has offered to help getting my site off the ground--as a part of this whole 'self-marketing' campaign to publish my writing.

But when we spoke last night, he had some ideas about other types of media to 'get the message out.' As a successful podcaster himself, he's suggested that I spin up my own podcast to compliment the blog.

Honestly, podcasting was in the back of my mind...but it's been on a dusty shelf labeled "Things to Do when Someone Discovers a Pill that Will Let You Never Need Sleep Without a Psychotic Breakdown." or TTDWSDAPTWLYNNSWAP for short.

Heh. Pronounce THAT Mary Poppins.

Anyway I think Eric is going to be helping design not only my website, but the whole 'R.B.Wood Media experience.' God help us all.

In thinking of what I want in a podcast I've so far decided that I DON'T want it to be a retread of this blog. So I open it up to you, dear readers. What would you like to see in a 'wannabe writers' podcast that would be interesting to you? Leave your thoughts, ideas, rantings in the comments below.

And to think...all I wanted was a little HTML with a few pretty pictures...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Locked and Loaded

So remember when I said I needed to open up The Prodigal's Foole for revisions based on some comments from my crit partner Leah Petersen?

Well, it was probably the best thing to happen to Book One in a long time. It's tighter now. And there is one scene that I added at the suggestion of Leah that's absolutely heart-wrenching.

It's exactly what was needed in act three.

So in celebration of my book being 'submission ready,' I've posted the first THREE chapters off to the right.

Enjoy. And Leah--you're a rock star.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time Management, or "How the HELL did I get so Busy?"

2:30-ish AM

I started off with an idea that became The Prodigal's Foole - my 'work in progress' for all you newcomers out there.

So I wrote the book, it's going through revision 5 - which sounds like a lot but there are only three scenes I'm unhappy with. So it's getting close. Great, right?

Absolutely. But (and you KNEW there'd be a 'but').

How the Hell did I get so busy in the writing world?

Of course I'm doing writing part time...because I like to eat and child support/alimony are due every other week. So there is the real job that takes up 50 or so hours weekly, plus the 'non-billable time' such as answering work e-mails at 2 AM when I can't sleep.

Then, beyond the book creating/editing/pulling-my-hair-out part of writing, there is the networking side. And I know I'm rambling, but it's two-thirty in the morning and the coffee machine is BROKEN.

Where was I? Oh yes--weeping over my Krups coffeemaker and the networking side of writing.

There are a LOT of people who want to be writers. Search the internet for unpublished writer blogs or play in groups on twitter (such as #amwriting or #storycraft or cetera).

Oh and conferences. I did ReaderCON last month and I'm looking at attending the World Fantasy Convention in October. I could go on but I'll lose the rest of you who've hung on this long for my point.

I was looking at my calendar and to do list and I was amazed at the number of writing related "stuff" I've got going:
  • I still owe Marty Halpern a review of the anthology 'Is Anybody Out There?'
  • I'm working on an alternate beginning for a friend's book--just so she can see what it might look like
  • Two short stories are being tweaked for submission (and an online mag has asked me to do I really should)
  • Working with an editor on TPF--well ok. I'm working with crit partners and editors...
  • The ever elusive 'QUERY LETTER SUPREME (QLS) is in it's seventh revision.
  • I have 5Minutefiction each week (announcement about that coming as soon as Leah gives the go-ahead)
  • I participate in a series of weekly chats about writing
  • I have a book cover mock-up I'm working on
  • I owe Emmett Spain and review of his book Old Haunts
  • Then there is the miscellaneous stuff, like building my website, updating Goodreads, the blog...oh and the 3k daily word count...
And that's just this week. And it's Wednesday already. Just barely.

I need coffee.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Editing and Dental Hygiene

Ok...the title of this blog was supposed to be a play on words for 'editing is like pulling teeth.'

It's Monday. And I haven't had my coffee yet. Leave me alone.

Spent the weekend editing The Prodigal's Foole based on comments from my crit partner, the lovely and very sarcastic Leah Petersen. Some good stuff and mostly line item things.

But I have two scenes that are still weak. I'll be working to tie them down over the next few days.

And of course I want to add one additional scene based on a single relationship comment made as an aside. The comment might have been secondary, but it opened up a hole that needs resolution.

The editing process has made me realize that I have a love/hate thing going on with my book. I love the story and the characters...but if I keep finding tweaks and scenes I want to play with, I'll never be done. Hate that.

So where's that fine line?

I'll let you know after the next round. Now for my coffee and to take something for this tooth ache.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Plotting the...Plot

There are many different ways to map out your novel. I encourage all to try a few different methods before jumping into your story. I've tried a few (outlined below), and I'll end today's post with what worked for me.

The "Pantser" Method - This is the seat-of-your-pants way of developing your story. You start with a blank piece of paper and 85,000 words later you've got a novel. I actually started my book this way. It was off the rails by word 4,000. Scratch that.

The Outline Method - A strict, mapping of your plot. Looks a bit like the old outlines we'd have to do in school for assigned papers and reports. I tried this. I really did. But then I remembered back in school I used to develop the outline after I wrote the paper. I found this way too restricting and didn't allow for any inspiration at all. I got half way through my outline before I said, "This is stupid."

The Snowflake Method - I won't write out the entire step-by-step. Dr. Randy Ingermanson summarized it perfectly HERE. The basics: You start with one sentence that describes your book, expand to a paragraph, develop the characters etc etc. This just didn't work for me. Once again, I felt too constrained.

I needed to find something, though. I had a pretty complex book in my head trying to get out. I could see various scenes playing out almost like a movie. Was there anything that would allow me to take my scenes, and expand them into a plot-driven tale while allowing me the freedom to develop independent ideas as they came to me?

The answer, of course, was yes. it just took me a while to find it. And that's pretty ironic, because one of my favorite fantasy authors had it smack in the middle of his blog.

Jim Butcher has written a few really neat stories. He wrote the Codex Alera six-book fantasy series as well as the continuing saga of "The only Wizard in the Phone Book" aka Harry Dresden of the wonderfully fun Dresden Files. If you haven't read any of Jim's books, go the the links above or your local library and read them. I'll wait.

Anyway, he had a post on his blog from 2008 that was pure gold for me. Read it HERE. I won't even try to do it justice...but let's just say I used Jim's ideas (henceforth called "The Butcher Method") and built The Prodigal's Foole.

"The Butcher Method" had enough structure to keep me honest, but allowed for a great deal of improvisational writing. I did, however "Make a few modifications myself (thank you Han)."

But for the most part, I followed "The Butcher Method." How did it work?

I knocked out the first thirteen Chapters of TPF in twenty two days.

Makes me feel a little stupid buying all those "Write your Novel Like Charles Dickens!" books when all I needed was sitting on one of my favorite author's blog.

The bottom line: Write how you want. See what the authors you love do, and how they do it.

Then follow your muse.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bits and Pieces - An update

So a few things going on in the world of becoming a published writer. I thought I'd provide an update and ask for advice.

On to the update!

  1. I've just finished my critical review of Leah Petersen's Mourn the Sun and have sent her back my comments. It's a wonderful read and she's just been asked for a 'full' (A copy of her full manuscript) by a potential agent. Kudos to Leah and thanks for bringing me into the world of Mourn!
  2. I won (for the the second week in a row!) the '5MinuteFiction' competition --The one where you're given a topic and 5 minutes to write a story. My entry is below. Enjoy
  3. More 5MF news--I'll be the judge for this competition on 03 August! More to follow on that.
  4. I have two short stories in the cooker along with revisions on The Prodigal's Foole. I'm please with the revisions so far and I'm hoping to go back to querying agents with the novel by the end of summer. I'll post the revised first 50 pages by next week.
  5. Reading continues. At my son's request, I've now finished all 5 books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Now I really know how bad the movie sucked...
Now to ask advice!

The two short stories I'm working on are for submission to various Fantasy/SciFi magazines. I'll post both teasers below. Do these sound interesting to you? Leave messages in the comments section!

SS#1: In an alternate reality, Apollo 12 suffers an major accident on the moon, leaving Astronaut Al Bean stranded with no hope of rescue...

SS#2: Roaches invade yet another small apartment in the Bowery section of Manhattan. These pests are special they only come out when the moon is full.

Comments? Advice? Suggest a subject? All thoughts are welcome. And without comments, it's very lonely in this little corner of the internet...

That's it for today...stay tuned to this Bat-Chanel for more ramblings soon.

5MinuteFiction - Winning Entry 20 July 2010

I don’t like sleeping very much. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sleep, I like.

It’s the dreams that come every time I shut my eyes.

They always start the same. I’m in a big city. New York, maybe. It’s a beautiful day and I’m walking along the street taking in the hustle and bustle of city life. Relishing the chaos as I walk through the man-made canyons.

At some point, the dream changes. I’m at the top of a large building, overlooking the city. The view is breathtaking. That’s when I see it.

A plane, flying fast– heading straight for me. There is an explosion and a sense of falling.

Before I hit the ground, the scene changes. I’m in a field somewhere. The smells of grass and of farms permeate my senses. I’m happy.

I look up when I hear a noise. Once again I see a plane, this time it’s heading straight for the ground. In my head I can hear people scream as the large jet impales itself in the once beautiful field at my feet.

Once more the scene jumps. I’m in a building wearing a military uniform…

A noise, one less dramatic, startles me. I’d nodded off again, damn it. The cold sweat dribbled down my back and a wave of helplessness almost overwhelms me.

I see the door open and two men enter. One, I know all too well. The other is dressed in a suit and a tie. I don’t recognize him. It is this unknown man who speaks first.

“And this one?” He says in almost a bored voice.

“Sloane Peterson,” says the man in white. “Thirty One. Showed promise, but her mind snapped during the last trials. Keeps going on about planes and buildings.”

“All right. I’ll let the President know.”

“The President?” I said, my voice croaky, while trying to stand. This man has the ear of the President! “Please sir! I need to speak with President Bush right away! Something terrible is about to happen…planes….attack…” I struggled to get to him. I had to tell him!

“See?” Said the man in white, ignoring me.

The suited man looked at me dispassionately. “Young lady,” he said. “There is no President Bush.” Turning to the other man, he said, “President Nixon will be watching the moon landing this evening. I’ll let him know the future viewing program is a complete failure and an inefficient use of taxpayer money. Keep her locked in here until we cure her or she dies. We don’t want word about her crazy rantings scaring the public, now do we?”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First post for a 'Teaser Tuesday'

I've found a lot of fun things and people on Twitter. One of those I've been following, but have yet to participate in is the #TeaserTuesday.

So, for today's post, I thought I'd post a teaser for my work in progress (WIP) The Prodigal's Foole. It's an urban fantasy novel.


Teaser: The Prodigal's Foole

Entering Charles’ study I came to a complete stop. Peter was there, standing speechless and I could immediately see why. The room had been torn apart. Not a single piece of furniture was left intact. Inscribed in what looked like blood on the walls, ceiling and floor were symbols that were unintelligible to me. But instinct told me that whatever had taunted us in the church probably had written the cryptic letters and symbols. There were a lot of them. And a lot of blood (if that’s indeed what it was) had been used.

Quietly, Peter said, “What, in all that is holy does it mean?”

I looked again at all the foul writing and said just as quietly, “Well I’m no expert, Peter. But I’m guessing it means Charles has been taken. The Monsignor’s gone.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

The dreaded 'Critical Review'

It's a good thing I have a little sister that is (and always has been) smarter then me.

Why? because we used to fight. A lot. It toughens up ones skin.

Writing is very personal for me. MY Story. MY characters.

MY mistakes.

I've had my family and a few very close friends read The Prodigal's Foole. I've of course received feedback and suggestions. All spun positively of course. That's brought me to the second full revision of my book. I felt it was coming together nicely and I was ready to start poking agents in the eye with it.

Notice I used the PAST tense: FELT.

But I want it to be PERFECT. So to be sure, a wonderful writer by the name of Leah Petersen offered to do a "Crit Review." -- a Critical Review of my Manuscript, that is. "Bring it!" I thought. "I'm ready!" (BTW-In turn she sent me her MS for a similar look-see (Mourn the Sun)).

Well, I started to get comments back from Leah. A lot of comments. Some really good, some "Meh" and a lot of suggested corrections. I'm running through the first 150 pages of my book that's she's looked at so far...and let me tell you she has a wicked red pen (and this is a GOOD thing).

So TPF is back being in "second draft stage" while I scramble to fix a few things. Stuff only a real writer would've caught.

I have a lot to learn. And thanks to my sister, I'm tough enough to actually listen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Self Marketing--A New Writers "Elephant in the Corner"

I know. I've said it before.

Writing is a business like everything else.

Oh, not the actual coming up with a STORY part. That's fun.

But to be a successful (read: able to eat and stuff) writer, you have to get noticed. I've written about my hunt for the right agent that continues in earnest. But is there more one can do to self-promote? To get a 'message out there' that says "I'm a writer, damnit and you'll love my work!"

After all, it's book sales that make the scribe.

Well, there is. The internet has been a great 'awareness' source. I've found great information and people via Twitter. My blog is an ongoing (and occasionally rambling) sample of my work. Hell, I had someone from Tokyo and another someone from the Ukraine read this just a few days ago.

But what else?

Well cons, of course. ReaderCON was a great learning/networking experience. And as you know I prepped business cards for that.

But I also put together a little teaser post card (see below) that I left lying around. Did it work? I dunno. But it was fun to develop.

The next phase is one where I return to my roots as a tech-weenie. First, I want to boost my 'web presence' by developing a serious website ( currently reroutes to this blog).

The next is more of a viral campaign. I want to start distributing the little teaser below around both physically and via the net. But I'm looking for suggestions on the best way to do chime in folks!

The last component will be a movie-like trailer I want to distribute on YouTube. That's still in development hell at the moment.

Too much? Too little? I'd love your feedback!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Understanding the 'Acknowledgment Page' in Novels

Like many folks, I used to skip the Acknowledgment Page found in many novels out there.

As I matured, I began to read these pages as a curiosity took over. Who helped this author write this book? Why were there so many people involved?

It wasn't until I started to write again--and this time I'm not stopping until publication--that I began to see the answers for myself.

There is family and those close few friends that you trust to bounce your idea around with. In my case, my partner Tina, my immediate family (especially my sister--Dr. Lorrie Wood and my 86-year-old mother Ruth who has NEVER pulled punches with me or any of my siblings). Sean Develin and Chris Davis who have been bouncing story ideas around with me for over 20 years (usually over some really fine beer), etc. etc.

Then there are those folks who send words of encouragement and will read the early drafts (also helping with research)--my southern cousins Bette, Al, Dee and Steph. I'd put friend like Nicole, Coles, Tim and a dozen or so others in this category. I'd add Jim Morrow to the 'words of encouragement' list. And believe you me, a couple of kind words from an award winning writer go a LONG way. I should also mention folks I work with at my consulting job who quietly follow my progress and slip in words of encouragement (as long as my real work gets done).

Other folks are more critical (and are teaching me to look seriously and critically at my work) -- Leah Petersen is one (in fact she read the first 50 pages of my novel last night and sent out a boat load of comments--my favorite of which was one from her review of my query letter -- "No, sorry. You don’t get rhetorical questions. Never, uh-uh, no-no." She was right AND it was funny). My partner Tina who deals with my writing neurosis daily who is wicked with a red many more.

So I guess, dear reader, what I'm saying is that there are a lot of people who help out with writing a book. Spend a moment reading the credits and realize what a daunting task it is to finalize a work of fiction for submission. There are loads of unsung heros out there who gladly help for the price of a beer or a box of chocolate.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

5MF Competition results and Writing Update

Last night I won my first writing competition!

Leah Petersen (who has written a really good SciFi love story called 'Mourn the Sun.' Excerpts can be found HERE.) runs a weekly 'quick and dirty' competition called "5 Minute Fiction." I blogged about it before as I entered for the first time last week and came in second.

This week I got the the prize! I couldn't feel more honored!

What did I win? you may be asking yourself.

Additional traffic to my site and via Twitter. And the knowledge that some people actually like what I write.

To us insecure writers, nothing is more precious then knowing what you love to do is enjoyed by someone other then ones' mom or partner.

The contacts I've made through this short, but thrilling competition have even helped with my query letter (I'm looking adoringly (but professionally) at Leah and Sessha) and others have provided constructive feedback on The Prodigal's Foole chapter posted off to the right.

Next up are a few short stories and magazine submissions. I have a hard target of 31 August to mail those out so I'd better get cracking!

Meanwhile, novel revisions, query revisions and a hunt for agent representation continues. it looks to be a busy rest-of-summer indeed.

Should you be interested in seeing my entry for 5MF, click HERE. I also recommend that you read the other entries. It's amazing what writers came up with in just five minutes--and they are all good. But also remember--when typing like a maniac--edits are a luxury!

UPDATE to Add: Just found out Jim Morrow's SHAMBLING TOWARDS HIROSHIMA just won the 2010 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award! Congrats Jim!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

ReaderCON - Wrap up and Day Three

I write this monday after the taxis have been paid, the luggage has been collected and most all have jetted or driven back the their respective Bat-caves.

I might just be a little depressed about that. More commentary after the Day Three synopsis.

Day Three

I have been to many conferences in my life and career as a technology executive and consultant. ReaderCON was my first real exposure to the professional writing community at large. Especially writers, editors, agents etc. in the genres I'm most interested in.

By Sunday I was physically and emotionally drain like I'd never been before at the myriad of technical conferences I've attended.

So, coffee in had I dragged myself through the lobby of the Burlington Marriott and made a beeline to my first panel I wanted a front seat and to sip my coffee in peace for a few moments. I checked the Twitter updates and commentary from the night before (Some really funny stuff from the 24th Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose competition which Yves Meynard won) and prepared myself for what I thought was going to be a very sad panel.

Absent Friends - Wolfe, Van Gelder, Schweitzer, Morrow (Kathy), and Clute. Lead by David G. Hartwell.

John Clute had prepared a list of ReaderCON favorites, attendees and people in the business who had passed on in the last year. What I expected was a somber view of lives and accomplishments. I really should have known better. Late children's author (and child abuser) William Mayne was discussed as was his fractured legacy. Artist Frank Frazetta, Editor Knox Burger, ReaderCON favorite and publisher Charles Brown and many, many more. The panel shared memories and personal stories. There was as much laughing as there were tears.

The Writing of Olaf Stapledon - Keller, Kessel, Sleight, and Swanger. Moderated by Walter H Hunt.

Olaf Stapleton was this years 'Memorial Guest of Honor.' Although having passed away in 1950, he's won awards as recent as nine years ago (The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award). Along with his non-fiction philosophical works (A Modern Theory of Ethics is one) he is probably one of only two SF writers who influenced the field for his time (The other being H. G. Wells). Many of his works were discussed as was his influence. And I have to say I was glad Odd John was brought up as it is a fantastic super-man type story.

Kaffeeklatsche with James Morrow

Me & Jim

By now you've probably guessed that I'm a HUGE Jim Morrow fan. I've been reading his work since 1985 (starting with Is This the Way the World Ends published that year). And a dear friend of mine (Sean Develin) introduced us at Sean's wedding years ago. I met Jim and his wife Kathy while wearing a kilt. What could be more awesome then that?

I chatted with both Jim and Kathy through out the conference, trying not to take up too much of there time. After all--they were working.

We discussed my book and his upcoming project, which he expanded on during the kaffeeklatche. A few of us gathered to chat about the new project, and we ended up discussing Teleological points, Darwin (and Wilson), and why a perfectly good victorian ghost story now had to include 'steampunk' elements in it at the request of the editor.

Jim's brilliant and engaging...and we all had a great discussion that spilled into the hallway when the allotted time was up.

I spent the rest of the shortened day saying goodbye to new friends and listening to readings (Blake Charlton, Mary Robinette Kowel, and Charles Stross).

The Wrap Up

This is the part were I tell you what I learned and provide other tid-bits of info not quite in the main program. Never fear, fellow ReaderCONians, I will not divulge the 'Not So Secret' Secret Parties nor shall I venture to guess which marriages broke up this year!

However I will talk about a few things not included in this and the previous two postings. First off, one of the guests of honor for ReaderCON 21 was Nalo Hopkinson. Never a more witty, charming and all-around brilliant person have I meet. I attended a few of her panels, and spoke with her--albeit briefly as her time was at a premium. I've read, to great enjoyment, Skin Folk and So Long Been Dreaming. I've especially been studying her work as I've been developing a Jamaican character for later in my series and her books and short stories are a wealth of information for that culture. She also studied the works of Jim Morrow, so a total win in my book!!

I met a lot of people in the writing business. There wasn't a single person who didn't want to chat or (if they were running to a panel) wouldn't make time to meet me later for coffee. I could make an entire blog entry just listing names of everyone I met, spoke with, laughed with etc. But let me send out a general 'Thank you' to all of them, and I'm sure e-mails will fly about in the near future.

And last, and most important for my goal of becoming a published author, I LEARNED. So I'll be taking many techniques and thoughts back the The Prodigal's Foole and see if I can make it even better.

Bring on ReaderCON 22!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

ReaderCON - Day Two Details

Day one was a marathon session. I got home around midnight the night before. So the next morning at 5 AM when the cats decided to serenade Tina and I for their breakfast was a raucous and hilarious affair.

Made back to the Burlington Marriott around 9-ish for Day two. There was a glorious shrine to the Starbucks god where--when I deposited the proper amount of Drachmas--a goddess poured me a large coffee-flavoured ambrosia.

The dealer room was already hopping and it is the scene of a serious credit card incident on my part. I bought a few of Caitlin Kiernan's latest books (The Red Tree and Daughter of Hounds), Deborah Noyes' The Ghosts of Kerfol and a dozen or so other paperbacks to replace those lost a few years ago when I moved up to Boston.

Finally, I drained the last of my coffee and went into my first panel.

Avatar and the Future of Planetary Romance - Anreadis, Slonczewski, Sturgeon, and Waldrop. Moderated by Kathy Morrow

I can hear you all groaning now. Stop it! It was fun and the first session of the morning that was a bit light--or so thought it would be. I have to say, the discussion around the sex scene in Avatar degraded rapidly into a discussion of James Cameron's writing style. And no, it wasn't pleasant. But yes, it was quite funny.

The best line of the day (and I paraphrase here): "It all has to do with the four 'F's' of biology: Feed, Fight, Flight and...Reproduction." It was from a later talk but I thought I'd mention it here before forgetting.

Starmaker My Destination: Teleological SF - Houghton, Keller, Morrow, and a jet-lagged but brilliant Graham Sleight. Lead by Jeffery A. Carver.

An interesting discussion (which was expanded on in my Kaffeeklatche with Jim on day three) of Science Fiction usurping the place of religion in olden times by creating some sort of wish fulfillment regarding a true ultimate destiny of the human race.

Folklore and its Discontents - Kornher-Stace, Ringal, Schweitzer, and Swanwick. Lead by Judith Berman.

Definitions of folklore were debated and discussed. How the evolution of folklore leads to re-interpretations, then mis-interpretations. This panel fed nicely into some of interpretations in my book The Prodigal's Foole which delves into the folklore surrounding the Catholic Church and will expand to urban folklore and ancient legends in books two and three.

The Fiction of the Unpleasant - Allen, Cramer, Reed, Straub, and the always fantastic Barry Malzberg. Lead by Adam Golanski.

"I'm not sure what this panel is supposed to be about!" - Barry Malzberg

The discussion was centered on Peter Straub's recent online essay comparing the best 'horror' and 'literary' fiction noting the only difference is that 'horror' acknowledges that life is filled with "crappy, low-rent feeling states." While fear and disgust dominate horror, other darker emotions such as shame, loss, envy, insecurity are used in Straub's argument. But this potential new genre wasn't discussed...leading to Malzberg's comment.

After this experience, I decided on listening to readings for the rest of the sessions. I heard Robert V. S. Redlick, Liz Bear, Alaya Dawn Johnson read Moonshine and Adam Golanski read Green (a translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight).

By this time, it was time to head home. But the evening was far from over. I had a whole new set of books to dig into.

Next: Day Three

Saturday, July 10, 2010

ReaderCON 21 - Day One Details

I've got one more day at ReaderCON. The rest of the afternoon will be a series of informal 'meet and greets' with a few of the many folks I've meet. I have about an hour before then so I'll try and type up all the Day One details.

Believe you-me...I'll be processing for a while.

I arrived about ten thirty after a hellish morning at the salt mines. I'd been looking forward to the convention (as many of you know) for months.

Anyway-- I arrived, hot and a little sweaty due to typical New England summer weather. I may have been a little cranky as well.

After grabbing a coffee I jumped on the pre-registration line. That's where I overheard a gentleman discussing a story about post Civil War Vampires in Tennessee.

I was definitely at ReaderCON.

I scoped out the Burlington Marriott, mapping out the panels/readings/kaffeeklatsches I wanted to attend
when I bumped into Allen Steele.

Yeah...the SciFi writer. We chatted for a few minutes when I asked another gentleman to take a picture.

Ten minutes later when the caffeine kicked in, I realized the man who took the photo was none other then Scott Edelman. Remind me to find him on Sunday and apologize!

Writers, readers, editors and agents poured into the conference. I made my way through the throng to my first panel.

Writing Realistic Speech (I Weaving You My Story, OUI?) - Gilman, Hopkinson, Menon and Meynard. Moderated by Krasnoff

A discussion about the representation of different voices in writing, how best to represent them and avoiding stereotypical patterns (think 'Fleur Delacour' in the Harry Potter series). Ms. Hopkinson may live in Canada now, but she was born Jamaican. Mr. Menon is of western asian decent. Mr. Meynard is French-Canadian. The discussion ranged from subtile ways to convey a character in a different culture (swearing in their native language, for example. Ms. Hopkinson rattled off a wonderful Jamaican curse that I wish I could repeat here!)

Mr. Meynard spoke about translation into the French language and how English conjunctions etc. have no real equivalent in French.

Mr. Menon discussed the unfortunate and stereotypical verbal 'abuse' the Indian characters experience in various works of fiction.

The discussion became even more interesting when Ms. Gilman expanded on the problem by discussing cultures completely created from the mind of an author.

The Scientific Mystery Story - D'Ammassa, McDevitt, Steele, Swanger. Lead by Walter Hunt

Who dunnit. HOW dunnit. The SciFi mystery. A lively comparison of 'normal' mystery stories-- such as the Sherlock Holmes series and comparing how SciFi handles the genre. Discussions of Asimov's Wendell Urth stories, Jack McDevitt's ownThe Engines of God and the pitfalls of using time travel as a 'convenient device.'

New England: At Home to the Unheimlich - Cox, Kiernan, Ringel, Tremblay, Valente. Moderated by Hand.

New England is old. Older then most parts of the country (as far as Western culture is concerned). A discussion around the old secrets and horrors of New England that lend itself to 'atmospheric' horror fiction. The discussion expanded to discussions of the old South courtesy of Caitlin R. Kiernan.

Is Anybody Out There? - DiFilipo, Morrow, Meynard. Editor Marty Halpern moderates.

A panel and readings from three of the authors in the "Is Anybody Out There?" anthology put together by Marty Halpern and Nick Gevers. Click on the picture above to read more at Amazon.

There are two possibilities. There are either other civilizations in the universe, or we're all alone. Both thoughts boggle the mind. The panel began with Mr. Halpern discussing the process to get the book to launch day. 'Process' doesn't seem to cover the (YEARS worth of) work to get the book to press. The rest of the event included readings by four of the ReaderCON attending authors: Paul DiFilipo, Yves Meynard, and a man I've know for years and is a wonderful mentor: James Morrow (seen to the right with a 'paradoxical brain').

I don't want to say more yet as I'd prefer to review the entire anthology in a later post. But it was a packed house and a fantastic launch for the book!

The Unknowable Character - Antosca, Cute, Dube, and Reed. Lead by Michael Cisco

A discussion of characters deliberately (and possibly more realistically) left unknowable to the reader. Examples include Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" -- the character of Seymour Glass.

Authoritativeness in Fiction - Dirda, Kiernan, Langan, Mirabelli, and Valenti. Lead by James Morrow

Discussions of use of 'nonexistent' facts to create a sense of authority. When is the use of 'creative facts' or a non-existant citation to create an authoritative narrative wrong? When is it appropriate? and does the modern reader 'catch on' to this technique (unlike the audience in Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar").

Brainstorming Inclusive Immersive Worlds - Workshop with N. K. Jemisin

Discussion of one of the failures in modern day fantasy 'other-world' creation: The natural tendency for a society to sub-divide in to groups based on race, beliefs etc. We developed an entire world as a group and all writers are allowed to develop there own immersive fiction based on this secondary shared-developed world. More on that perhaps later!

I spent the rest of the evening attending readings and socializing. I thoroughly enjoyed Alison Sinclar's Lightborn and John Langan's House of Windows.

Next up: Day two.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Evening- Day One


Panels are done for the day. Had a great time, learned a lot. Fantastic discussions with Allen Steele and Jim Morrow among others.

I think I'm going to head in for some networking then off to sleep. Maybe I'll be able to type coherently in the morning and add details on each of the panels.

In the meantime, a book recommendation. An anthology edited by Nick Givers and Marty Halpern (The later of which I chatted with today). Excellent SCiFi writers and their take on the whole Fermi Paradox thing.

It's called "Is Anybody Out There?"

A few photos from the panel:

Still have 12 hours left...

Sessions back to back...and loads to tell! You'll have to settle for a few pictures until later:

Myself and author Allen Steele

Author Jim Morrow hams up his short story reading

Panel on New England's unique place in horror literature

More later!

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Location:Burlington Woods,Burlington,United States

Midday check in - day one

Three sessions done...I'm rapidly realizing blogging between or during events isn't going to happen. A daily summary will do this experience more justice.

However, tweeting commentary and the occasional cheeky fashion observation will continue.

More tonight, but feel free to follow the Twitter cynical me: rbwood

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Location:Bedford St,Burlington,United States

ReaderCON pregame

Registered a little early as the bloody line was out the door. Scoped out the rooms for the lectures and classes today and distributed business cards already. First up is 'Writing Realistic Speech'

On a side note I'm using the blogger app for my iPhone. This may cause a few typos during the day.

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Location:Cambridge St,Burlington,United States

ReaderCON 21 - Day One

So almost off to day one of ReaderCON.

As seems to be my lot in life, a few work-related minor explosions happened late yesterday. Nothing that can't be handled, however the gods are making my quest to be a published writer a very interesting exercise to say the least.

I wonder if Perseus felt a little frustrated before whacking off Medusa's head? And was that a rumble of thunder I just heard?

Anyway- I'll post thoughts observations etc. today and for the next few days of ReaderCON. I'm both nervous and excited to finally experience a writing convention first-hand with completed projects. Should be fun!

But first to put out a few fires.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The things you find on the Internet

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~Sharon O'Brien

I'm actually not going to mention ReaderCON today. Well except to say that I won't mention ReaderCON.

Yesterday, I made some new, really talented contacts/friends. I blame Twitter and the Internet.

In the morning I checked my Twitter account and saw a ReTweet (RT to us twit-diots) from a writer named Leah Petersen.

It was about a writing competition she runs every Tuesday called 'Five Minute Fiction.' The rules are simple. At 1:30 PM Eastern, she posts a subject/word on her blog. People then write for five minutes on the subject. A guest judge (this week it was the lovely and talented Shianan Fae) selects five finalists and these 'final five' are voted on by Leah's readers.

Brilliant, really. Fun competition, online marketing, drives traffic and general 'awareness' for the host, judge and participants alike.

Well, I figured I'd give it a go this week.

I booked a conference room at work and setup 1:30 as my lunch time. After all, it sounded fun, right?

Exactly at 1:30, Leah posted 'Prescription' as the subject.

I froze. "Okay," I said. "You can do this."


What's the main character's name....Um...


"Abe! I'll call him Abe. And he' Chicago. But there's been a global plague, so he scrapes"


"Got it! He's in a poker game with fellow survivors! And...YES. He'll have some rube who runs scams for him tell him that his prescription is ready! Abe's fellow players will assume he has the plague, fold and Abe will collect the pot!"


I write...but how to end it? Oh of course! Abe, pockets filled with his scammed winnings, coughs up blood! He really DOES have the Plague! Irony!


Post! I made it. Typos and all.

Well, I sat back in my chair and was grossed out because my back was wet. I'd broken out into a sweat. When I tell you it was the most exciting 5 minutes of the day, I mean it.

Heart racing, and synapses firing, all I needed to do was to get picked for the final five.

Ms. Fae picked my story as a finalist. Along with entries by Rebecca Hamilton, Noelle Pierce, Robert James Russell, and Sessha Batto.

It was (and still is) pretty flattering.

I read the other entries...and that little candle that was my excitement at having been chosen a finalist dimmed a bit. See, all the finalist entries were pretty good.

Actually, for five minutes of panic writing, they were not just pretty good. They were really, really good.

And voters would decide the winner.

I watched the tallies go up through out the day. I made it all the way to second place before the voting deadline passed. So close.

But I'm ok with second. First, because Becca's story WAS better. Second, well...

I got to play with other writers.

But you can bet your sweet bottom I'll be hanging around Leah's blog again.

After all (and with apologies to Sharon O'Brien), I can't wait to see what I'll write next Tuesday.