Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Listen, a new review

I had another really nice review, so I thought I’d share it. I’m not sure how many others care besides my self and my publisher. Still, one can listen to this piece, and that makes it more special. There’s nothing like hearing your name when it’s not preceded by the words “down with” or being shouted over the crackling of a paper mache version of yourself set ablaze.

Review as podcast or the kind you can read.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My conversation with Anne Michaud

Anne Michaud writes Livy Parker's Journal. She's published several short stories, but the unique blog serves as an entry point for her novel, Rebel.

MJM: I actually have a honest to goodness question: Why dystopian fiction? What made you want to write this kind of story?

AM: Hmmmm... because dystopian books are the stuff made of nightmares! I was 12 when I read 1984 and it traumatized me - in a good way. There's something very satisfying to create a really f*cked up world where everything goes wrong, where everything is worse than now. You're allowed to think the darkest of future, the worst of mankind... I never could write about rainbows and princesses, anyway :)

Plus, Rebel's story called for it: not as apparent on the blog as in the book, the plot could never work in a contemporary setting. The story itself is about what becomes of the US in the future, and what Livy Parker has to do to save it.

But YOU, what made you chose sci/fi/thriller/YA? Which books had a impact on you?

MJM: The idea for Cinco de Mayo - pairs of people across the world sharing complete memories - grew from a story about two people into a global event. So I didn't really set out to write for any genre in particular and, well, I succeeded. I pretty much don't have a particular genre, which is good and bad. The book is tough to classify, but it's got a big span of fun.

Oddly enough, 1984 had a big impact on me, as well: Here is our world, only different. I read it about the same time I read Dune (a very different world) and Catcher in the Rye (out world seen from a different perspective). Not what you would call three of a kind. But those were the cards I was dealt. Started writing novels with that hand.

AM: And now you're a writer.

I don't know about you, but when I started, I tried ALL genres - back then it was in the screenplay form, after my Master's in screenwriting for feature films; talk about a waste of good money - we're talking about 6 years ago (when I still had a life). Since then, I've been writing every second of my free-time, enjoying it much more than parties and anything social.

If I was a man, I'm pretty sure I'd have a long beard and a goat, because that's what recluses do, don't they? They have facial hair (not yet in my case, thank whatever god!) and weird pets (two cats for me).

How about you, have you become an hermit? How did you start writing?

MJM: That's awesome. A goat. Ha. Screenwriting is like playing tennis with yourself. Exhausting, frustrating, accomplishing little besides building your skills at something that's exhausting and frustrating. Still, it's very cool to have your Masters. They can't take that away.

All my free time used to be spent writing. Actually having a book come out means promoting. Which is writing's arch enemy. It sucks your time and energy like some kind of wraith. (There might be a good story in there - public relations firm run by succubi. Hmmm.) Luckily I have a wife and two kids who forcing me into normal suburban situations on a daily basis. Were I alone . . . shudder. I'd probably don a pith helmet, chair smoke cigars and obsess about that succubi story.

I have no idea how I started writing. I did my first comic books when I was around seven and never stopped. My wife, back when she was my girlfriend, said "why don't you write?" She was young and naive and thought that was going to be really neat, living with a writer. Ha. She would've been better off with a goat.

I end up hating the time I take with my writing. I want more, quality and quantity. I'd love to slow the whole process down. How 'bout you? What do you wish for?

AM: Screenwriting has such little rewards - it's always the director, the actors and the frigging producers who get all the praises, forgetting what started the whole process was THE SCRIPT! At least with books, people remember who wrote it... well, most of the time.

Wasn't it Saint-Exupéry who said 'a goal without a plan is just a wish?'

So I don't have a wish (well, I do: I want to live in London, but I don't have plans for that), I have a goal: my novel Rebel has to be published. It has to. Or I. Will. Die.

I've got a dozen short stories/novelettes published in magazines and anthologies. Is that enough? Nope. I want to hold a hardcover with only my name on it. Well, and the title of the book. REBEL. I close my eyes and I actually see it. So pretty...

So tell me: how does it feel to touch it for the first time? Your book, I mean.

MJM: A published novel is a bit of a landmark. Like completing a marathon or receiving your degree. I certainly felt it when that first cardboard box arrived. I savored the moment, but only for a moment. Books are a little like babies, in that they arrive with so many jobs and tasks and commitments and all you really want to do is make another. And that's when the analogy collapses. You can put a book on a shelf for a while and it won't scream. Or shouldn't, at least.

How has your screenwriting background shaped your novel?

AM: In every shape and form. I've always been quite a visual person, so making films came naturally since I loved to tell a story with images. I do the same with writing prose - it all comes down to creating atmosphere with what we see as a reader. And I always think it doesn't take much (yes, mom: less IS more) to grasp us; a few key words, subtle, effective.

I've spend most of my life studying films, learning how to make them, and even if I do prefer writing prose, nothing got wasted. Filmmaking made me the writer I am today - might not be much, but I'm darn proud of those stories!

Tell me a story: what are you writing now?

MJM: I'm working on a new novel, as yet unnamed, set in a world with no governments. Everyone works for one of three corporations. A world that moved so far to the right, it ended up on the left. The writing's been slow, fun and scary.

How 'bout you?

AM: Interesting, mr. Martineck – I love a good dystopia!

I'm turning a script into a novella - horror, gore-ish with ghosts, can't wait to see how it'll turn out! - and the sequel to Rebel, Unwanted, and then I've got my mind set on turning a novel into two shorter pieces... so I'm recycling, basically.

This has been fun - should we catch up in six months?? Like a sequel to this chatty-chat?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stuck in my hat

I got stuck in my hat. I have this hat a friend of my father’s brought back from Moscow back in the 60s. He was in the State Department, during the most frigid parts of the Cold War and I love the hat, though it’s really only appropriate to wear if you are A) brandishing a sword on horseback or B) using the snow blower at six in the morning. Post later, I re-entered my home, scraping off a plaster-coating of ice. I’d tied the hat under my chin and it wouldn’t come undone. Tugged, yanked, tried to bend it off my head, but I’d done too good a job. It refused to let go. I had to strip off all my wet clothes and go wake the sleeping wife.

“Sarah,” I said. “I’m stuck in my hat.” She turned on the reading light next to the bed, reached up, nicked open the knot and let the ties drop.

“Leave it on,” she said.

I stared at her.

“The light, you moron.”

Yes. That made more sense.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I need your vote

If you have a Goodreads account, scoot over to the choice awards and vote for Cinco de Mayo, fiction, science fiction, new author. I fit all kinds of categories. If you do, I will some day do you a big favor. I don’t know what. Maybe you don’t even know right now, because you don’t have to. You can save it for the next time you need a couch moved or can’t find a babysitter. I also make a good Alfredo sauce and play 90 minutes of standards if you have a piano and a cocktail party. As they say in the First Ward, vote as often as they’ll let you. (I'm a write in.)

Vote for this book!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Very glad to report a nice review of Cinco de Mayo by Mike Griffiths at Innsmouth Free Press. It’s so rewarding when someone actually gets the meat of the book. Writing is incomplete until someone else reads it. You sit, guess, craft, guess some more and hope that the message hits its target, kind of like throwing knives blindfolded. So you’re naturally thrilled when you don’t chuck the literary equivalent of a blade to the gut.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writers are the real undead

The enduring popularity of vampires, and the resurgent popularity of zombies, doesn’t surprise me. The writers cranking these stories out are vampires and zombies. Write what you know, you know?

I’ve been asked on several occasions where I get my characters. I never have a good answer, because there’s never a single person to which the questioner can easily relate. I bite off a piece of this guy or that girl and create something new from the parts (Frankenstein’s monster-like, but I digress.) All writers, fiction or non, feed on others. Especially the brains. Mmmm brains.

The term ‘picking your brain’ is gross, illustrative and invented by a zombie writer planning to do just that. (The origin of the term is unclear, but it was a writer. We know that for sure. Somebody put the phrase together, which is the very act of writing.) All writers pick other people’s brains because, contrary to the impression we’re be trying to leave at the cocktail party, we don’t know everything. The best sniper rifle? Can you give mouth-to-mouth to a ferret? Would the doorman let up a woman wearing just a Burberry trench?

Plot, theme and story dynamic can also come from the lives of your acquaintances. I’ve seen people react to things in unexpected ways, done things based on motivations I never imagined or acted out of character, until I realized my understand of their character fell far from complete. I suck up all these moments. They’re delicious. And I’m careful never to drain the source.

It is all quite necessary. Believable writing has to draw from real life. A reader’s identification with a piece, how much he or she understands and what kind of connection forms is largely determined by accessibility. When readers see people they know, or, better yet, themselves, the in a work, the work works better. To achieve that, writers take a sip here or a nibble there and craft writing that’s alive. Well, unalive really. Good writing can’t grow or reproduce on its own. It should just seem alive. Like a zombie or a vampire. Not a werewolf. There’s no excuse for werewolves.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rock, Paper, Web

Nina (my ten-year-old) decided to teach Max (my four-year-old) to play Rock, Paper, Scissors. After a few throws, Max put out a hand with two fingers pressed to his palm and said “web”. I’ve never been more proud and horrified at the same time. Not only was Max thinking way outside the box, he grasped the fact the Spiderman trumped rock, paper or scissors.

Of course, then there’s the matter of geek influence. Nina knew what Max’s gesture meant. Have I submersed my children in geek culture? By watching certain shows with them, as opposed to near them, by being more willing to play with action figures than soccer balls – based on my own skill and knowledge base, got to play to your strengths, right? – have I pointed them down the geeking path, aimed at a future of cons, zines and recurring frustration that a jet pack does not, indeed, actually exist, because I would be home by now?

I’m not sure. I shared a love of words and automobiles with my father, but not basketball or early rock and roll. So I’ve decided not to be too worried. Exposure is about all I can offer anyway. My children are already carving their own personalities out of whatever raw material Sarah and I threw down – rock, paper or webbing, I guess.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Zen Questions

What's the sound of one author clapping? No, no, I've got a better one. If an author falls in the woods, does he make any noise? I pondered these questions sitting in the Gardenview Room, which really does look out at a garden, as opposed to most hotel conference rooms which have nothing to do with America's founding fathers or fox running or other inane marketing folk cleping. I pondered these questions in abject silence, awaiting someone, anyone to show for my live reading. From my book. I probably should have said 'palms' or 'tea leaves'. I would have gotten a lot more response.

There's little worse than forced meditation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Here’s what I’m doing

I’ll be in Toronto this weekend, attending SFContario. This is the convention’s inaugural run, but I’m convinced it’s going to be a success. The organization leading up to this con as been outstanding. They sent out clever surveys well in advance, to help create panels that made best use of the scheduled participants. At least that’s true in my case. I’m on the following: Introducing SF to four-year-olds, Writing Short Stories That Don’t Sell and Coffee Drinking. I’m the moderator on that one.

I’m also on How to Write a Proposal, Why SF, Best of 2010 and Fake Swearing. Really. That one I did not make up. I’m doing a reading on Sat. at 2:30 PM and if you’re in the area, stop by. Please. As only one in 50 get half my jokes, I need 100 people in attendance to hear any chuckles.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Get Cold

Crawl out from under your blanket. I don’t like to take advice, so I really don’t like to give it, but there it is – get cold. I’ve been to two conventions now, ostensibly to remind people that my novel Cinco de Mayo waited for their eager eyes at area book stores or Amazon. In both cases, I went knowing no one. Not my forte. I live two miles from the house in which I grew up, married my high-school sweetheart and never go to a restaurant to which I haven’t already been. My fiction spans the globe. I do not. Making conventions that much more formidable to me. More important, too. Somebody’s got to know I wrote a book, right?

Forcing myself out of my little writer’s pod as been the most challenging and rewarding aspect of the last two months. Out in the world, alone, I had to talk to people, so I did, and it turned out wonderfully. Science fiction and fantasy conventions facilitate friendliness in a way I hadn’t anticipated. The ice is already broken. We all already have something in common. Conversation flows like a creek in spring. I also enjoyed the lack of competition. These aren’t a trade show, with competing companies battling for attention. No one rooted a team they needed to see smash another team into irrelevance. Everyone seemed to want everyone else to have a good time. Very refreshing.

Attending a convention without buddies is like jumping into the deep end to check the temperature of the water. It can be cold. It can test you. It can also be a fresh experience and every writer needs those more than the security of a down comforter. Besides, conventions like these are really just a bigger blanket. As they should be.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fantasy Fantasy League II

We have a winner, with six out of nine correct answers. I didn't think anyone would score that high. Indeed, the next highest score was three, with a whole bunch of people hitting that plateau. Most only got two right, with Charles Vess being everyone's best guess.

Thanks for playing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fantasy Fantasy League

I have no idea how baseball or football managed to usurp the fantasy game title for so long, but it's time to take back the reigns. Or at least join the fray. Sorry for the late start. I'll do a better job in 2010. For now, here's the Fantasy Fantasy League choices. Make your picks before midnight Oct. 30. If you figure them all correctly - based on the winners, as decided Oct. 31 at the World Fantasy Award Banquet - I'll send you a signed copy of Cinco de Mayo AND a vintage signed copy of The Misspellers. If there's more than one winner, I'll be stunned. When I recover, I'll randomize. Enter now, enter once. Help return the fantasy helm to the righteous, chaotic neutral, and evil hordes.

Create your Fantasy Fantasy Choices with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Fantasy (con)

I'm attending the World Fantasy Convention this weekend (Oct. 29, 30, 31) in Columbus, OH. Not sure exactly where I'll be or what I'll be doing. I'm not all that adept at conventions. I suffer from a persistent sense that I'm a step behind. But the last one was fun, when I wasn't narrowly avoiding injury or trying to push my way back into a conversation I'd been pushed out of by guys who learned their social skills watching Taiwanese Parliament. And that was a con that didn't see a lot of battle axes or broad swords. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TV Again

AM Buffalo had me on, which is very nice, as authors in general - and me in particular - don't make for great television. No singing, no dancing, no cute animals or magic tricks. Thus, I'm quite grateful they let me on. Linda Pelligrino is wonderful. She gets you talking off camera. Then the cameras come on and you're already rolling along. In other words, this is about as good as I get. Of course, that's kind of like saying this is your healthiest donut or best Jackass movie.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Good Morning Buffalo

I had the dubious honor of being Bridget Blythe’s second last interview on Good Morning WNY. She is a skilled anchor and a great interviewer. She puts you at ease, asks intelligent questions and lets you answer. Those three things don’t always come together at one time, from one person. I’m very lucky to have made her list. I hope I make her next one, on her next gig.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Signing

I'm going to be at Talking Leaves, Elmwood, Thursday, Oct. 14, 5 to 7, or so. They're not tight on kicking me out. Stop in if you can. Even if it's difficult for you, because I don't want to some sad lump of a human, alone at a table, under a ridiculously huge banner to which no one pays attention. I'll give you a book mark. That's cool, right?

It's a nice bookstore - one of the last of the independents - and they've been very nice to me so far, which makes me want to really bring some activity to the place.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My first time

I didn’t know what to expect from my first science fiction convention. And I’ve kept it that way. It’s been one unexpected thing after another. For instance, my first panel at my first con was the “Novels of Allen Steele”, whereby I got to sit next to Allen Steele and discuss his life’s work. Ha. I know why they put the newbie on that one.

And the moderator didn’t show. So I got to moderate my first ever panel. There’s nothing like getting everything over all at once. Lucky for me, Mr. Steele is wind-up toy. (The steel kind, with the key on the back.) Once I introduced him, I was pretty much done. Questions, answers, conversational tributaries on which to glide. It was over before I knew it.

Oh, until I tripped on a Peavey speaker stand while trying to get a photo. Nearly cracked my head open, which would have been a much better story. Maybe next time. Blood always sells.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This doll won’t beat me

Did you ever have someone impersonate you? One day this friend of mine, Geri, was doing her impression of people those gathered had in common. Her facial expressions, style of voice and – this is the important one – her diction was hilarious. She boiled people down to their comic essence. Which I laughed at until someone said, “do Michael.” At which point I laughed even more. I’m a bland white guy from the suburbs. There’s nothing there. You’d have better luck taking a run at copier paper or salt.

Then, of course, Geri did me. Dead on. My mannerisms, my twitchy face and my expressions. “Fascinating” and “Have fun.” She nailed me in less than ten words.

I let all this slide to the back of my head until last night, when I saw this commercial for the new Fisher-Price Little Mommy Play All Day Doll. It’s got 50 phrases. 50! I did a rough count, and I think I’ve got like 14.

We all have a little quiver of phrases we can draw and fire without much thought. Our pet phrases. I listen for them all the time, because they make characters more real when added to dialogue. I also try to keep my own out of my writing. The last thing I want is every character sounding like me. Now I’m on a crusade to expand my repertoire of phrases. From now on, if someone asks “How are you doing?” I will answer, “I’ll get back to you.” For “have a good one” I’m going to reply “maybe even two.” Certain phrases are invaluable: “Seemed like a good idea at the time” needs to stay. But that’s OK. No, no . . . that’s smashing. Because the goal is to get above 50. I can’t go around calling myself a writer if that $34 robot baby has more to say than I do.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm OK

It would seem not all reviews are great. I’m stunned—stunned, I tell you—that this guy thinks my writing is just OK. I’m mean, sure. I don’t expect everyone to have great taste. Budweiser remains America’s number one beer and Ke$ha is still on the charts. Not every reviewer can smell greatness like fried dough on a hot summer night. But OK? Sharing an elevator is OK. Finding a penny is OK.

The review is intriguing, though, because the writer is surprised to have liked the book. That part amazes me. If somebody spends years writing a novel, and a publisher spends thousands editing, creating cover art, printing, binding, shipping and promoting the thing, shouldn’t the surprise come when the novel ain’t that good? That happens to me all the time. There’s all kind of stuff on bookstore shelves that should never have made it out of .doc format. What I can’t quite figure out is why someone expects a book to be so-so, picks it up, reads it and can’t believe the activity ended as worthwhile.

Eh. I’m glad Don found me interesting. I’ll take it. It’s better than he never found me at all.

Critical Mass Cinco de Mayo review

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A good slice of review, please

A good review is like pie. I don’t know that it’s particularly good for me—I’d probably get more out of a more cutting look at the work—but it’s so tasty. I’m not one of those writers who wants to stretch and challenge and dare the readers to understand, let alone enjoy the novel. Oh no. I want people to connect with, and outright love, the story. So, this is nice. Not too flaky or fruity and I don’t have to worry it’s going to my hips.

Thank you to Ronald Hore, CM Magazine, published by the Manitoba Library Association.
CM Review

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Me on WECK

That title is funnier if you’re from Buffalo. While chicken wings are a lot more famous, I actually prefer Buffalo’s other culinary invention: the beef on weck. Weck, being short for kummelweck, which is a Kaiser roll encrusted in chunky salt and caraway seeds. Exquisite. Writing this makes my mouth juice up. WECK is also a local talk radio station, which served me up nicely this past Monday morning.

I’ve been on television before, but this was my fist radio interview. They are more intimate. The voice is the sole way in or out, so you become more attuned to your interviewers and your own elocution. With only sounds and words to express yourself it feels – it probably is – quite personal. Because of the headphones and the booth, your interviewers become the only people in the world.

Except it’s the opposite. A whole mess of people are listening as they pack lunches, sip coffee, drive someplace or, as happens to me on many a morning, all three at the same time. Scary.

Loraine O'Donnell and Nick Mendola were kind, enthusiastic and the best interviewers possible. Loraine has spent years in the theatre and Nick is a writer, so they had interesting questions for a novelist and about a novel. They asked about being edited (painful and rewarding) and collaborating creatively (impossible it if weren’t so indispensible) which I thought were really insightful inquiries. I tried really hard to curb my Western New York nasal tone and give answers that didn’t cut up anyone’s inner ear.

Not sure if succeeded. No recording of the interview survived. Not even a clear one in my head. I was so focused about my sound and my answers I have very little idea what else went on for the 15 minutes that felt like 15 seconds.

Still, I was glad they could sandwich me in.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why do you write?

Someone asked me this the other day. Short answer: Can’t not. And I’ve tried. But there was never a time when I wasn’t telling stories, framing stories, saving fodder for stories and or trying bits on the nearest susceptible subject. It is a compulsion. There’s nothing glamorous or laudable about it. Luckily there are enough good writers out there, past and present, to make it an acceptable compulsion. Otherwise, we’d have a show on Discovery. People would tune it every week to watch to the sad schmucks who can’t stop stringing words together. Poor, poor storytellers. It’s actually not a bad idea for a show, really. I mean, it’s got to be better than people with too many parakeets.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Parajunkee’s View

I love when writers / artists / actors say they don’t pay attention to reviews. I can understand not wanting to, but skipping them completely is like ignoring a mirror as you pass by. Don’t you want to know anything about yourself? Even if it’s just to make sure there’s no basil stuck in your teeth? I like to read reviews, of all kinds of books, but especially my own. Whether or not I agree with the review is superfluous. The meaning is in what the reviewer took away. What, of the thousands of possible traits, items and aspects in any novel, sat up and wagged its tail . . . or growled.

This review is interesting to me because one of things I set out to do in Cinco de Mayo was cram as many stories as possible into a regular sized book – no huge phonebook like thing. Accessibility was my first priority. This reviewer tells me I succeeded, though maybe too well. She’s a bit harsh on the cover. Other than that, I’m thrilled. Nothing in the teeth.

Cinco de Mayo review at Parajunkee

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Science Fiction Says: Park 51

My idea here is that well-crafted science fiction can sometimes be used to examine current events. Good literature – the really good stuff – illuminates the human condition and helps sew all of us together. Literature helps us understand how we work, in pairs, alone, as a group or as a thriving mass. A better understanding of us, people, gives things perspective. And because I hate to use words like “things” in some limp amorphous way, let’s pluck an item from the news and see if literature has anything to add.

One of the central pieces of George Orwell’s 1984 set is the grand, never ending war between Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania. This world has settled into just three meganations, in perpetual conflict – an ersatz perpetual conflict. It is a phony war, staged and stoked to keep citizens alert, united and afraid.

All of which puts me in the mind of the Park 51 project in Manhattan. That the dream of an Islamic community center, two blocks from Ground Zero, with a prayer room inside should garner international attention is as fake as the wars of 1984. And for the same reasons.

They’re aren’t too many Nazis around any more and the Communists seem to have lost their mojo. Besides, we can’t fight China. They’re covering a good part of our tab. Turning 1.5 billion people into enemies, based on the beliefs of the nastiest one percent is great way to create a fresh and fearsome threat. You get all of the awfulness of radical few, without the real world-shattering power 1.5 billion people strewn across the globe could really wield.

All you have to do is make things up. It’s Orwellian.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book Wake

Book launch parties are wakes. Irish wakes. Lots of beer and wine and little sandwiches. At mine, last night, I greeted people, tried my best to chat with everyone, and thank them for showing up, which isn’t always easy for people, on a Thursday night, with kids in Karate class, and such. It’s great that nobody’s dead. Nobody’s getting married or baptized, either. The closest common model for the party is the wake.

Which kind of makes sense. The origin of the morose usage derives from wake, as in to be inactive, but alert. To keep watch. We stand guard as the soul leaves the body for a better place. The book is also leaving the author’s head, for presumably a better place. That the directions of the corporealness are opposite doesn’t matter. We keep watch, just the same. Although bringing something into existence is a lot more fun.

I want thank everyone who turned out last night, and to the Marcus Wise, from 464 Gallery for hosting the event. Parties like that are tough to appreciate in the present, in retrospect, I had a ball. The origin of that term . . . nope. Won't do it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I made it on to . i09's September calendar of awesomeness. While this is probably not the kind of goal you tell your guidance counselor about, it has been one of mine since I discovered the site . . . long after I had a guidance counselor.

I could probably use a guidance counselor, now that I think about it. Now more than ever, really. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Profiling The Misspellers

My first book, The Misspellers, has found a second life at, as an ebook. I was reluctant to put it up, not thinking too many 9 to 12 year olds had Nooks or Kindles. That has turned out to be a silly consideration. That phrase about presuming making an ass . . . no, that’s not right. ‘Presume’ makes a ‘pres’ out of you and me, and there’s nothing wrong with that, other than it’s misspelled, which brings me back to my point. The Misspellers has taught me that you never know what’s going on out there in the world. People who access ebooks may very well read novels intended for middle readers. If they’re about faeries, anyway. (I think there’s people who will read anything about faeries.) Predicting literary markets is difficult, if not impossible and probably a waste of time for a writer. Write what you want. If it’s for kids, write it. If it’s for adults, write that. Put it out and let other people slap on their labels and shove it into their ready-made holes. Don’t pre-shove, I guess, is what I’ve learned.

Oh, and give away if you can. People seem to like that, too.

The Misspellers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Binky Fairy

Max, my four-year-old son, dictated a note to the Binky Fairy, imagining the places she (or he, I don’t know) might take his binkies, now that he was a big boy and no longer needed them. Babies in the jungle. Clown babies. His note was specific and far-reaching and troubling. Every time I see one of my children exhibit creative skills – every time someone shows me a great piece of writing from any young person – I get a tiny ping of dread. For them.
Yes, unbridled imagination is great. But, you know, doesn’t every parent want the easiest possible path for their children? A strong imagination never leads to the downhill-all-the-way road. There are easier ways to make a living than by thinking things up. I know. I’ve tried them. I’m not complaining about being a writer. It’s kind of a choice I’ve made (kind of a compulsive disorder) so I never curry condolences. In fact, because I enjoy writing, it took me a while to pinpoint the source of my ping of dread.

Rejection. Nobody wants to subject anybody they like to the waves of rejection that crash against any creative process in a constant cold and salty assault. You face those that don’t like your stuff because it’s not that good, those that hate it because it is, others for whom you are simply not their cup of tea and still others with no taste at all. It’s daunting and I wish for my kids to escape it all, in whatever they choose to do. I wish for them a life of fair exchange. A binky for a plastic robot. Straight up and done while they’re asleep. Of course, that kind of fairy-filled world takes a tremendous leap of imagination . . . and I’m back where I started. Crap.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


. . . that is Cinco de Mayo’s ranking on Amazon. Yep. There are apparently 4 ½ million books more interesting than mine at the moment. It hasn’t gone on sale yet, so I shouldn’t be too upset, but that is a big hill to, well, I’m not much of a climber. I rather strap on the ole’ jet pack or take the family dirigible. Because if you look at 4.5 large as a one-step-at-a-time kind of journey, you’re better off just making camp. The Amazon equivalents of a Legion flight ring are going on Oprah – that would be too easy – or winning an award. I’m going for that one. My plan is to make up my own award and then win it. Or at least get on the short list. The Grand Island Literature Laurels or “Gilly” awards. That sounds so cute it could be true. We’ll start accepting nominations September 1.
Cinco de Mayo at Amazon

Friday, August 6, 2010

Editing Anonymous

The editing process for Cinco de Mayo was not at all what I expected. Two editors, and I never met either one. I don't even have full names. Safety standards, I guess, to protect them from the kind of writer that flips out and drives 2,300 miles to Red Deer to scream "I wrote 'froward' because that's the word I wanted!" They needn't have worried in my case. I have never done such a thing. 2,300 miles is far.

The anonymity benefited the process of creating a novel in ways that didn't occur to me until after. The book became the thing. The power of personalities became much less consequential than they can be in other, more personal exchanges. We had no bullying. No forcing. No contests of will that many boys lean towards in times of crisis. Nor was there suasion by means other than the written word. No one conceded any point because the other was pretty, nice or offering pistachio muffins.

Not that there was much to argue about. My book was near perfect when in entered the mill. . . And much more perfect when it came out. The procedure was, in the end, like any good surgery. Mostly painless, resulting in a healthier patient. The only real discrepancies arose from those odd places in the English language at which Canadians and Americans diverge. Colour and a few capitalizations. That was about it. Oh, and Chapter 73. That's gone. Which makes me froward. But not nearly enough to drive to Red Deer.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Picture's Worth 75,000 Words

26 years of writing teaches you not to get excited. Which does not help your writing at all. You've got to have oodles of enthusiasm - sourced from nothing - to jot a sentence, contemplate a scene or build a character. I've had projects killed in legal battles, bankruptcies, tragic accidents and death. (I'll leave out bad ideas, poor craft, 'what was I thinking?' . . .) After years of a mental steeplechase for which you never trained, but ran full out anyway, your energy can feel unfounded. I always have a little hope tucked away and certainly some intrigue. I'm guarded with my excitement, though. With Cinco de Mayo, I didn't allow myself any until I got this illustration attached to an e-mail.

The retro feel, the colors, the abstract interpretation of the book's defining event - very cool and very difficult. The novel is about people who share memories. It follows a half-dozen stories, spanning the globe, with the only commonality being something you can't see. Try drawing that next time you've got your Crayolas out. Berets off to Tomislav Tikulin. His picture got me excited about my words again.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My socially conscious novel

Cinco de Mayo comes out September 1, from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s a science fiction thriller. A hybrid. And while hybrids are the happening thing in the automotive world, they have not always been must-haves for publishers. People are trounced everyday with immane amounts of choice. We need guild posts, labels and pigeonholes just to get through a morning, let alone a day. So I don’t begrudge people wanting clearly defined categories, and being weary of things that don’t quite fit there in. I do hope we find a few iconoclastic readers. EDGE deserves to have its bravery validated. I like when people read my writing. And, you know, hybrids are good for the environment. Read my book, save a manatee.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The world is my neti pot

Like most writers, I suck stuff in and let it drain out of me. Not the most elegant metaphor, but then again, you don't have my sinuses. Be thankful for that. I'm going to try to blog about writing, launching my first novel for adults and holding on to the rest of my life while I do so. It won't be elegant, either. More of a cleansing. Or flushing, really. We'll see.