Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fantasy Fantasy League 2011

The term Fantasy League almost always means contests surrounding baseball, football or some other sphere-based game. While I don’t disagree that there is a huge fantasy content in professional sports (Psst, none of the Bills are really from Buffalo) I’m outraged that the fantasy community has left the field unchallenged. So, now in its second year, I throw down my own, tiny gauntlet. The Fantasy Fantasy League.

Fill in the ballot bellow. Make your picks before midnight Oct. 29. If you figure them all correctly - based on the winners, as decided Oct. 30 at the World Fantasy Award Banquet - I'll send you a signed copy of my novel Cinco de Mayo AND a vintage signed copy of The Misspellers. Ties will be settled by . . . song. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. (If it doesn’t work, I'll randomize.)

Enter once and now.
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Way of the Writer

In feudal Japan, samurais were taught how to write poetry along with how to slice people in two and put an arrow through a neck. I’ve spent most of my adult life trying (and trying and trying) to hone my writing skills. I can’t help wondering if I shouldn’t have tried to pick up a little kendo on the side. Maybe it works both ways. Writing makes you a better warrior, warring makes you a better writer. I certainly think the way of the samurai might make a writer more mercenary. That could be helpful.

Ending my year-long book tour in Erie, Pennsylvania (the perfect choice. Everyone should finish his or her tour of anything in Erie. The place embodies the concept of ending.) I had the honor of sitting with acclaimed artist Charles Urbach and his wife for several hours at ErieCon. We ate pizza and drank Bawls energy drink (proud and appropriate sponsor) and couldn’t help but chat. We ripped through a number of interesting topics. Charles has had a splendid career doing illustrations for games like Magic, The Gathering and Star Wards Galaxies. He’s insightful, talented and making a living. That last part proved the most interesting to me.

Charles asked me how much the market directed my writing. In his business, artists are frequently asked to create something along the lines of someone else. In a particular style or with a certain feel. It is not art for art’s sake. It’s for a card or a box or a poster printed to lure buyers. It’s still art, though. He couldn’t really do it otherwise. He needs to find an angle of approach in each piece he’s asked to do, that intrigues him as an artist.

I, and I think a lot of writers, work the opposite way. I write what comes to me and hope I can find an audience for it. More or less. I’m not totally ignorant of market forces. I’m not enthralled by them, either. Nor can I make a living writing fiction, like Charles can. We all trade in frustration. Artists deal with clients who want the last big thing. Writers face audiences who fear new writers like the dark. Accountants face rules. Astronauts face gravity. Doctors face insurance companies. Insurance companies do whatever they want, they’re the exception.

Whether we’re dealing out frustration or sucking it up, our capacities determine our successes. I can’t help thinking, if I’d learned to attack, retreat, parry, thrust, riposte, I might have gained a little more control along the way. Control beats frustration. (Life beats control and frustration beats life, just so you know all the rules.)

And the bonus of bushido: You get to kick ass. Writers don’t get much of that from under the laptop.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Diving in

While it’s always fun lounging around other writers – it is such an insular vocation most of the time - hanging out with Carol Weakland at Eriecon last weekend was extra fun. Carol is actor, currently running a series of one-woman shows. Most are based a classics, like a Turn of the Screw. One is based on her new novel. In fact, Morgen of Avalon started out as a single-actor piece set in Arthurian Britannia. The novel was thus forged in live audience. That’s different.

Every writer, swimming through his or her own personal pool of darkness, gasps for feedback as if it were air. Carol claims the audiences did not have a huge influence on the course of the novel, but I can’t help thinking, that even subconsciously, a set of smiles and applause helps shape the text a little. I’m fascinated by the idea, regardless.

Carol spends a lot of time in front of crowds. She writes in and around her performances and appearances. She plunges into her audience. It doesn’t sound easy, but I’d love to take a dip.