Youngblood Blog

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Season of Mists, Mellow Fruitfulness & Hotspots

SEASON OF MISTS, MELLOW FRUITFULNESS & HOTSPOTS
Autumnal Insecure Writers‘ Monthly Hideaway

IWSG Anthology contest, submissions accepted from today, September 5th

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells
John Keats, Ode to Autumn, 1820

Should our Ninja Commander-in-Chief, Alex J. Cavanaugh be slaving (creatively) over the holiday period, I want to thank him for keeping this little writerly group together for a respectable period of time.

Let Not Labor Day Week Disturb, All Passes
We have a tendency to enter September, with a doom-and-gloom attitude—thinking the end of the year is upon us, fall is here & I haven’t done what I thought I would do. We allow ourselves to return to the TGIF and Woe-is-Me-Monday pattern. Such autumnal thoughts weigh us down or distract us from the lustre we see as we enter another season.

Brazil’s Museu Nacional—National Museum—in Rio de Janeiro after last Sunday’s fire, Sept.2nd

Writerly advice is not my strong point, but I know of some good human advice for introverts—which writers, according to Myers-Briggs’ classic curve, usually are: pause, stand and look at the view, and b-r-e-a-t-h-e!

There are others out there FAR WORSE OFF than you and me. The residents of Puerto Rico still haven’t had their power turned back on since last year’s hurricane season.

From flooding [sea-level rise] in Indonesia and Bangladesh, to hurricane Lane mop-up in the Hawai’ian Islands after she dumped 40-inches of rain; to the other extreme—forest fires still raging uncontained in Pacific NW—through No & So California, Oregon, Washington to Utah, Colorado and Arizona. Precious water supplies—river and urban recycled—are running low. Burning Man in the Nevada desert last weekend is our crazy cultural way of challenging Nature‚ believing we can fight fire with fire, proving our power as microdot humans in a world far beyond our comprehension.

Keeping Cool in the Hotspots

Winged serpent deity in Temple of Isis, Pompeii survived AD79 Vesuvius eruption

Fire/Sun is indeed challenging our survival in increasing desertification, global temperature rise, baking end-of-summer days. Water is scarce, not just for farmers, but for fruit orchards, local gardeners and fish.

Yet, as writers, we keep on writing, don’t we? ❤

Frescoes that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79 like the winged serpent, right, were among the priceless collection of 20 million pieces burned in Brazil’s National Museum blaze last Sunday.

They included a fragile fragment depicting peacocks perched on stylized gold chandeliers, and two 1900-year old designs featuring seahorses, a dragon, and dolphins. These irreplaceable objects, originally gracing the walls of Pompeii’s Temple of Isis, were among 750 pieces from Rio’s Portuguese/Mediterranean culture in the collection—largest group of artifacts in Latin America. The huge upwelling of international support has encouraged them to try to save what’s left.

Barely breathing, we pinch ourselves, thank our lucky stars—and our Ninja Cap’n Alex—for our ability to wield the pen that holds body and soul together. And what do we do?

Write on IWSGers—write on.
©2018 Marian Youngblood

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September 5, 2018 Posted by | authors, blogging, calendar customs, culture, environment, fantasy, novel, publishing, seasonal, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pick a Card, Any Card: Guestblog by Rob M. Miller

GUESTBLOG FEATURE

Sideshow: an Anthology of Freakish Horror—latest call for submissions from Netbound Publishing, guest-editor Rob M.Miller, artwork by Melissa Stevens

My Guestblogger this month is Rob M. Miller, a multi-talented author, editor, and self-confessed story addict, as well as contributor to numerous anthologies, including the recent, much-acclaimed compilation of wolfen horror, I Believe in Werewolves. He is equally content (he says malcontent, as he becomes so caught up in his characters’ lives) writing, reading and re-reading new manuscripts alongside ‘classic’ genre traditions of suspense/thriller, macabre, mystery, dark fantasy, supernatural and sci-fi; he says his own characters are inspired as much by his mammoth reading exploits, as by the Muse(s) who inhabit the wild Pacific Northwest. He is currently guest-editor for Netbound Publishing who are calling for submissions until October 31st for their Sideshow: an Anthology of Freakish Horror, which he will co-edit. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Pick a Card, Any Card
The title of this piece is pretty familiar. If we haven’t actually heard it in the course of being part of a card trick, we’ve seen the scenario play out on film, or as part of a live audience.

Guestblogger Rob M. Miller shows his cards, shares his mentors—©Wildcard Comics, 1990 (US), Cover art by Jackson Guice,
Color by Alfred Ramirez

Makes a person wonder—makes me wonder—if card trick aficionados get bored watching such staple sleight of hand. And what of magicians? Do they yawn at the sight of a beautiful woman getting cut in half, or when the famous rabbit comes out of a top hat?

I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

In 2009, I remember watching Judd Apatow’s comedically-disguised drama “Funny People,” starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Aubrey Plaza, and an army of others, and just being in stitches with the hilarious dialogue. Then it hit. The characters, when not performing on stage, weren’t laughing. These comedians, most of whom are comedians in real life, were NOT laughing. Instead, they might simply say: “Yeah, that was funny.”

Is that true to life?

With many endeavors, I think it just might be. How does one keep the magic magical? And not just to the general audience, either. How does a practitioner, an artist, keep that magic real, and real to his fellow magicians?

I can’t give an answer.

But it must be difficult, at best. After all, once you’ve peeked behind the curtain and really seen what’s going on, once the gears are spotted and the machine is understood, how can you honestly say the magic’s still there?

And yet, with reading, it is!

For more than twelve years, I’ve been practicing the craft of laying down words, of transporting readers to other worlds, into other people’s shoes, other sexes, times, circumstances, and moral bents. For many years, I’ve also been editing: genre-fiction, and non-fiction. I’ve learned many of the tricks; have certainly learned the jargon. Reading a work, I can recognize foreshadowing, can tell when I’m being manipulated to hate or love a character, or in some way identify with them. There’s quick recognition, too, when a book has two lines of suspense, or three, five, eight, or even more (yeah, thank you, Mr. George R.R. Martin). These lines are put down to manage characters, yes, but they’re also there to keep me turning the page.

With mysteries, it’s a quick spot that I’m being grounded in time and place, and if not quite yet with character, then certainly with event. Something bad has happened; usually there’s a body; and now, despite red herrings and/or MacGuffins, a person or a team has to find the culprit(s).

With thrillers, of course, it’s almost a reversal. Bad things are going to happen, and some stalwart champion, jaded anti-hero, or assembled squad must stop the bad folks from pulling it off.

There are tropes and cliché-ish plots—is there a plot that isn’t cliché?—whole lines of dialogue, or plot-turns that I can just call, with both books and film, and more often than not, be right (and, man-oh-man, how family members get irritated with that). I’m a veritable spoiler machine.

I think most long-term story addicts usually are. And certainly writers. It’s almost a given. Perhaps it is a given.

But, thank God, boredom isn’t. Or disdain. Or vitriol. Yes, it happens. We experience these things, and we read about them, and have been rejected because of them. Whether it’s someone’s Twilight novels getting hammered by the real vampire-lovers, or all the writers who’ve been putting out erotica for years, aghast at the thought that there are apparently millions who mistakenly think E. L. James invented the form.

Quite the contrary. The best of us writers, including the many who’ve written tomes of how-tos, or who have taught the craft of storytelling, from Stephen King with his Danse Macabre and On Writing, or David Morrell’s Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at His Craft, the many works put out by Writer’s Digest Books, to the countless articles and essays put out by the mags: Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Poets & Writers, and more, have blown away the curtains, have reverse-engineered the machinery, laid out the schematics, spilled their guts (and those of others) on dialogue, characterization, description, the telling detail, the truth of weak words and power words, the hazards of adverbs, of too much of this, or too little of the other thing. Of a truth, every bit of nose-to-the-stone and shoulder-to-the-wheel has been committed to demystifying the writing and storytelling process.

And yet, all the books and seminars, workshops and boot camps, conventions and panels, all the teachers and texts and syllabi, to-do and must-never-do lists… despite all their individual and collective wondrous help, they have all—
—FAILED.

How?

Because the process is still mystical—still MAGICAL.

BOOYAH!

And why?

Because the magic’s real. It must be. What other explanation is there?

As unique as I am–and I am unique–I’m still only as unique as everyone else. And the magic still works on me.

Recently, after reading the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (yes, I’m mentioning him again), I shot to Facebook, and messaged the sadist who wrote A Storm of Swords:

The Red Wedding … thanks, Mr. Martin. I don’t know whether to pen a piece of hate mail or send the most fawning of fan letters. But of a truth, there’s no crueler set of gods, old or new, than that of authors.

I stand by the line. The novel hurt me. Beautifully written, yes—hadn’t expected anything less—but I lost some friends. And reading on in the series, I’m sure to lose more—and I got mad. Hell, I’m still upset.

Gary Braunbeck, a master writer who also teaches the craft, brought me to tears with his work Mr. Hands, a rare occurrence when I read spooky books.

Tom Piccirilli, with FICTION, gave me genuine willies with his work The Dead Letters.

Every so many years, I re-read Stephen R. Donaldson’s series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and every time, I get mad NOT at the author (who’s really the one responsible), but at the character of Thomas Covenant, and all his doubting.

Annually, I read Morrell’s The Brotherhood of the Rose, and feel sorrow at the loss of Chris, with every reading, hoping in the back of my mind that perhaps this time, the man might be saved.

Post-apocalyptic horror fantasy, The Stand, (uncut hardcover, Doubleday 1990, 1152pp): King said exploding a bomb that killed half the cast was a device which saved the story

Five times so far, I’ve howled when nearly half my beloved characters are exploded away in King’s The Stand.

And let’s not even explore how I’m manipulated as a Bible-loving Christian. Thankfully, I’m un-churched, and don’t have to discuss why I cheer Dexter on, or think Hannibal the Cannibal is kinda cool … ’cause he only eats a-holes. Don’t have to worry about why I wouldn’t mind—if I had a cute puppy in hand—meeting Rex Miller’s Daniel Edward Flowers Bunkowski.

Humans, with their incredible science, can dissect a seed, identify all its parts, look upon it at the microscopic level, yet it cannot be put back together, planted, and be expected to produce anything living.

But with books, it happens. If not always, then often enough.

Stories live. Despite annotations and laborious page, scene and chapter breakdowns, they still manage to transport a reader. Even through multiple visits. And even with those who are in the know with the alchemy involved.

And they’re not always written by the greats, the successful, the famous. Sometimes the A-listers hit a foul or otherwise strike out. On websites like Short ’n Scary Stories, I’ve read incredible pieces by otherwise unpublished writers, even first-time writers. I’ve been moved by poetry in live crit-groups by people too scared to submit for general publication.

With all the rules, and more rules, and then even more, at best there’s only a general roadmap to pulling off the magic—and that’s being optimistic. There has to be a bit of knowledge, to be sure. But ultimately, this knowledge gets refined through a lot of failure, a lot of practice, and even then, for lack of a better word, there’s some extra-special something that’s present as well, some gift of Hermes that I can’t really define.

Proof?

No trickery, sleight of hand; just indefinable magic

Some pull it off with their first attempt, whether their fellow writers like it or not: first-time breakout authors with work blazing across the reading landscape, making the rest of us who have been toiling for years grind our teeth. It’s not fair, yet it is, the mixing of admiration, jealously, frustration, and anticipation… because now I’ve got to read the work, too. I have to see how the elements were so successfully mixed, if not with the writing, then with the story.

With all I know, with all the secrets I’ve been exposed to: tricks, devices, paradigms, and sleight-of-hand, I can’t imagine ever becoming jaded. Oh, no. Instead, when it comes my turn to read, I’ll always remain a child, waiting for that rabbit to get pulled, my card to get picked. Even when I know the secret behind the act, for some still-mystical reason, I never get bored.

With comedians and magicians… with what they know, maybe they do.

Not with writers. Not when the work’s done well.

Because we love the magic.

We’re readers first and always.

And when we get together, you can tell. We’re always saying to one another: “Yeah, right, but have you read…?”
©2012 Rob M. Miller

Rob M. Miller, writer and editor, staunch supporter of his own inner child, lives in the Pacific Northwest, where he continues to enjoy reading and writing. His work can be found in various anthologies. Visit his site at http://www.jaggeddarkness.com. And while you’re there, be sure to sign his guest book, the Robonomicon. Thank you, Rob.
Marian Youngblood
August 2012

August 26, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nobody’s Perfect — ESPECIALLY Me

GUESTBLOG FEATURE: Stacy Gail, Author

When I first asked STACY GAIL to write a guest blog, I thought she would throw a triple Salchow or a double lutz (she coaches skaters for a living) and say she was wa-a-ay too busy. She is, when all is said and done, a prolific writer: one of the hugely motivated, daily disciplined and Muse-directed kind I so often describe here …and try to be… when Rite R. Bloch isn’t handcuffing me to the desk. While Stacy has been writing on envelopes, sketch pads, diaries and looseleaf notebooks since childhood, she has remarkably only recently joined the e-brigade, the FB-peeps, the tweet-twitterers. That in itself is astounding, given her background (and by that I don’t mean hours on the ice). Though that probably contributed. 😛

Ancestor Zane Grey (1872-1939) with his horse, Juan Carlos

She is the massively talented descendant of author/screenwriter Harold Bell Wright — who in turn is descended from the Wright Brothers. Bell Wright (1872-1944) was famous not only for his Americana, but for becoming — in hard times — the first American novelist to make $1million, purely from writing fiction. Stacy, who started writing full-length novels and novellas at age 14, also has the ultimate best-seller king, Zane Grey (1872-1939), in her ancestral genetic strain. So I do believe it won’t be long before EVERYbody will have read Stacy’s best-sellers, and her name will be on everyone’s lips. She has, to boot, a massively funny turn-of-phrase and her blog posts are the ones I turn to when I need to start my day with a laugh!

One of her delights in describing her efforts at establishing territory in the daunting world of publishing is:

“Too bad this isn’t the animal kingdom. If it were, all I’d have to do is pee in a corner or two and that would be that. We humans, though, are a bit more complicated (not to mention, hygienic), so that means it’s time to put on my big-girl pants and be aggressive in getting my name out there. Name-recognition is an absolute MUST”
Stacy Gail, Author

She has recently been signed by Samhain Publishing and I do believe this is only the start of bigger things. But I’ll let her tell you, herself.

Nobody’s Perfect – ESPECIALLY Me

Stacy in her corner: waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting literary world

Thank you Marian, for allowing me to guest blog, and hello to all of Marian’s fabulous readers!

When Marian suggested I share what a brand-spanking-new author goes through on the way to publishing their very first book, I had to laugh (and yes, I said spanking. I’ll be saying a lot of things you might not approve of; sorry). While I had been planning something like a “blooper post” for my own blog, I figured no one would believe my many, many, MANY screw-ups. But since she asked…

First off, I’d like to point out I DID get some things right. *throws confetti*

For instance, before I dug up a plot bunny to write about, I got on the internet to see what small presses I could submit to without too much agony. Two fabulous resources no writer should be without -– Preditors and Editors and Absolute Write. They’re the closest thing I know of to the Publishing Police. If there’s a bad-guy publisher out there wanting to have their wicked way with some naïve n00b, these two sites are on them like white on rice.

Another thing I did right — I researched the publishing houses I liked. As a romance writer, I’ve been knocking on Harlequin’s door until my hand resembles a bloody stump. So I wised up, readjusted my sights and went shopping for a smaller, reputable publishing house that was still big enough to do both ebooks and print. Once I found that -– Samhain Publishing, Ltd — I wanted to see if what they said about themselves was true, and that I could find their imprint in the big chain stores of Borders, Barnes and Noble and Books a Million. Sure enough, there they were, right next to NYT best-selling authors Jaci Burton and Ilona Andrews. Come to find out, Jaci Burton started out at Samhain, and Ilona Andrews just published a short story with them a few weeks ago. Cool.

Secure in the knowledge Samhain was what all the websites were saying it was, I finally looked at Samhain’s website itself.

That’s when things began to go a little weird.

One of Stacy's protegées-on-ice: national figure skater Cathy Janssen. If you were a publisher, wouldn't you want this world in your cover art?

Don’t get me wrong – Samhain is AWESOME. I’m the one who began to get a terminal case of the stupids. On October 1st of last year, I read their submission guidelines for the first time. I had never seen an electronic submission before, nor had I ever attached anything via email (don’t judge me, I’m a figure skating coach who does split jumps and flying camels for a living! I may be in great shape but I’m a total babe-in-the-woods when it comes to Teh Interwebs :P). I was getting a little panicky as I read what seemed like incomprehensible techno-babble when I saw something called “Special Call –- Just Romance Springtime Anthology.”

What could this be?

From time to time Samhain puts forth a special submissions call that has a specific theme (in this case a “sweet” romance placed in a springtime background. Oh, and if you’re wondering, a sweet romance is one with the emphasis on the magic of romance and no sex).

When I read that special call, a plot bunny immediately bounded to the fore. It hopped, it danced, it frolicked its fuzzy little cottontail off, and for a moment I thought, “Oh, YEAH! I can do this!” Then I looked at the deadline. November 1st. The special call had been posted for four months. People had been working at their special call submissions for four months, polishing them up and making them perfect. It would be a waste of time to try and pull something together at that late date.

But the stupid plot bunny wouldn’t shut up. I dithered for another SEVEN DAYS (and in the interim found another Samhain special call for a cyberpunk story, which I also wanted to do… I’ll get to that). Ultimately, there was only one way to “kill the wabbit” –- I had to write the story. Now, please take note, gentle reader: it didn’t have to be this hard. True, I found the special call submission on October 1st, which was cutting it close. But no. I apparently wanted to make things SOOOO much harder, that I waited until October 8th to write the first word of a novella that was eventually entitled BEST MAN, WORST MAN.

I can honestly say I don’t remember much of that time, except for my back going out, thanks to being hunched over my laptop for hours on end. For all I know, magical manuscript elves trundled out under the cover of night while I drooled on my keyboard and finished the thing. But it DID get finished. By my brother’s birthday, October 28th, I submitted a 30K novella, BEST MAN, WORST MAN, to Samhain.

Or at least I tried.

This is where it gets embarrassing. Remember how I said I was interested in another special call for a cyberpunk novella? Well, did you know each special call is handled by a different editor? Makes sense, right? Of course it does. I, uh, first sent my submission to the wrong editor. I recognized my goof (approximately two full seconds AFTER I hit the Send button), and had to send a follow-up email to please disregard this unfortunate bout of idiocy. Then, taking a calming breath, I sent the correct email to the correct editor.

Without the attached manuscript.

At this point, I’m beyond embarrassed. I’m at the death-by-cringing stage, and for the most part I have blocked the remainder of that terrible day forever from my memory. I do remember re-re-sending it WITH the attachments, all the while giving up any hope of Samhain taking me seriously. The only thing I could console myself with was that throughout this maddening process, at least I had figured out how to turn a .docx file into a .doc file, so it wasn’t a complete waste of my time. Yay.

Then a weird thing happened. The editor in charge of the Springtime anthology project DIDN’T offer to publish my work in the anthology itself (I just found out this past week it was WAY too steamy for the “sweet” category. Who knew that having-everything-but-actual-sex in the story put it in another category??? O_o). What this editor was offering was a chance for this novella to be published as a stand-alone work.

WHEEEEEEEEE!

There was a lot to be done. I needed to get hysterical. I needed to get over being hysterical. I needed to rewrite the entire first chapter, as the editor didn’t like the opening of a car crash/groping scene (I kid you not: that’s how I opened it). And I needed to round up some volunteer beta readers (thank you Facebook, for getting me in touch with Hart Johnson, Maria Korth and Cindy Jones-Shoeman, the best beta readers around).

Oh, and one other teeny little thing. I needed to get on that cyberpunk plot bunny I’d been ignoring ever since I screwed up my original Samhain submission. You see, when I had bungled things so badly on my first submission, I had given up the idea of ever showing my face at Samhain again. This experience proved to me that editors really don’t care about you getting things absolutely, positively PERFECT the first time out of the gate.

They care about the writing.

I just wish I had realized that before I had let so many weeks go by without working on that cyberpunk special call. By the time I heard back from the editor who was interested in working with me, there was only six weeks left before the cyberpunk special call came to a close. Now that I had to rewrite the first chapter of BEST MAN, WORST MAN, I had made the unforgivable mistake of not keeping my nose to the grindstone and making sure those submissions kept flowing. Bad Stacy. Bad, bad, bad.

Eventually I did get BEST MAN, WORST MAN published with Samhain (due out Oct 25th… ironically about the same time I had a hysterical breakdown over it the year before, now that I think about it). I also submitted a project for the cyberpunk special call, and it too was accepted. This time I DID make it into the anthology, which strangely enough means this second project, ZERO FACTOR, will be published FIRST (please don’t ask me to explain how this happened. If you’ve made it this far, you now know I get confused easily). ZERO FACTOR will have an ebook release August 30th, 2011 and will have a print release some time in 2012 (I wonder if I should know that date? Hmmm…)

I’m still learning how this is supposed to go, and I’m already a nervous wreck over my release days. But with each mistake comes a lesson I’m happy to learn, just as long as I can keep writing about my plot bunnies.
©2011 Stacy Gail

June 7, 2011 Posted by | authors, culture, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments