Friday, December 27, 2013

Year-End List (Yeah, It's a Little Early)

For my 2012 summary I presented a list of the best novels I had read that year (I also included my youngest son's choices).

For 2013, I'm not going to do that. Why?

Queue the ominous music. I read very little fiction in 2013*, but I have a good reason: I spent the time I would be reading novels working on my own. You see, I believe that if I allow other writers' voices/stories/plot points/nifty ideas into my head it will taint what little creative mojo I have. This theory is based on past experience and has cratered my stories before.

I did, however, read a lot of non-fiction both for research and enjoyment. For whatever reason, non-fic does not have the same muse-cancelling effect on me.

Just because I read very little fiction in 2013 does not mean I stopped buying novels. I fear I have an addiction when it comes to that. My bookshelf groans from the weight of unread novels (many of which I acquired at WorldCon). Just yesterday, I bought two more simply because I received a B&N gift card for Christmas and it burned my pocket to be spent (I always use gift cards fast so I don't forget about them).

Since I'm not compiling a list of books I enjoyed in 2013 I'll offer a different type of summary in descending order:
  • Forty-seven: the number of times I attended the DFW Writers' Workshop. (I'm a firm believer in the power of critique groups, so I go as frequently as I can, but my day job gets in the way sometimes.)
  • Sixteen: the number of rejections I received (Hey, you can't sell if you don't submit).
  • Seven: the number of days a week that I commit to writing. My goal is words on the page each day, but editing is also counted as productive time.
  • Three: the number of people I personally know who secured agent representation.
  • Three: a three-book deal for a friend who has already written six novels in the same romantic suspense series.
  • Two: the number of acceptances I received (both for short stories).
  • Two: the number of SF&F conventions I attended (WorldCon & FenCon).
  • One: friend whose debut novel was traditionally published.
  • One: friend who sold her first novel.
  • Infinite: the fun I've had world-building my medieval steampunk novel (I had no idea that drawing maps could be so time consuming and enjoyable).
All in all, 2013 was an okay year for me. I'd be interested to know how it turned out for others.
 

*My son discovered video games in 2013 and also read very little fiction. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Proof that Fact IS Stranger than Fiction

A friend of mine, S. Boyd Taylor (Sam), just signed with mega SF&F literary agent Jennifer Jackson. Knowing a bit of Sam's journey, I'm elated for him. What happened next in the story proves that fate has more plot twists up her sleeve than any author on the planet.

I'm just happy Sam and his family are all safe. My best wishes go out to them. Ms. Jackson signed a great writer.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bah Humbug Decorates for Christmas

I am one of those people who do not like the holidays. The period from Thanksgiving to New Year's is my least favorite time of the year.

Why? so many people ask me. It's a wonderfully festive season, they say.  

You can't see if very well in this pic,
but hand-crocheted ornaments com-
pose the wreath. My sister made it.
Yeah, right. It's:
  • Stressful (I won't even quote the alcohol / suicide / depression rates)
  • Expensive (Lucy from Peanuts got it right. Christmas is run by some big East Coast syndicate)
  • Fattening (cookies and cakes and punch and food, food, food to paraphrase the Grinch)
  • Miserable (have you ever noticed how may 'sad' holiday specials there are?)
  • Deadly (the kill count on Black Friday grows every year)
I even know where my disdain for the holidays comes from. The 4.5 years I worked at Wal-Mart. Anyone would be crazy to still be in a festive mood after spending a holiday season or two in that madhouse. To this day, I avoid all retail stores as much as possible from the day after Thanksgiving through a week or so after January 1.

Now, I haven't always been this way. When my boys were little I made an effort to erect a tree each year and to have an abundance of presents beneath it.

I know the pic is blurry and a bit
crooked, but the destruction wrought
by my felines is clearly visible. 
About the time my sons became teenagers, decorating for the holidays stopped being important. I donated my tree, lights and ornaments to charity. The only ornaments I kept were the ones my sister had hand crocheted for my kids. A few years back, she turned them into a wreath that I occasionally hang over the fireplace; however, I haven't in a long time.

This year, I got a wild hair and dug the wreath out of storage. It looked pretty ... for about an hour. Then, the cats discovered it and attacked! I have no idea what attracted them. I had made sure none of the garland dangled from the mantel, or any of the colored lights flashed. Still, my felines honed in. The wreath and garland had to die. In a way, it was very symbolic of my feelings about this time of year. 

My sister calls me Scrooge, but I do not care. She loves the holidays and can have them. As for me, I just bide my time until I can rip the December page from my calendar and start anew.

Anyone else dislike the holidays?


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Did Mankind Evolve from Pigs/Monkeys?

There's a new theory that humanity resulted from a male pig and a female chimpanzee having sexual intercourse. (I was oh-so-tempted to offer a long list of nasty euphemisms, or crude jokes, but restrained myself.)

I know this image is a little horrific, but it was the best
I found that visually summarized the pig/monkey theory.
You can read it for yourself here, and here, and here. I'm offering different versions of the same story, because if you're like me you're flabbergasted by the notion that we've possibly BEEN EATING OUR RELATIVES FOR CENTURIES! (The pigs. Not the chimps, although I know there are some cultures that do consume chimpanzee meat.)

Could this be why mankind is so royally screwed up? To hell with inbreeding, we've been ineating our way to disease, genetic disorders, etc. - all because bacon (our possible kinfolk) tastes so darned good.

I'll never look at a pork chop the same way again. Please tell me this theory troubles someone else, too.



Friday, November 29, 2013

Aspiring Authors, Come on Down!

I'm a fan of The Price is Right game show. Have been since childhood. For those not familiar with the program, to paraphrase Wikipedia:  "a few contestants are selected from a large audience to compete to win prizes and a chance to spin the wheel for the big showcase prizes".
It's a silly show, but fun to watch, and in my opinion a good analogy of a writer's path toward traditional publication.
THE NUMBER OF POTENTIAL CONTESTANTS IS LARGE. There are many aspiring authors all hoping to hear …
COME ON DOWN! An agent offers them representation and the possibility to …
GET ON STAGE. Most publishers only accept submissions by agents, which give their writers a chance to …
SPIN THE WHEEL. Not all books are best-sellers, but a few will win the BIG prizes.
Both The Price is Right and becoming a traditionally published writer require a healthy dose of luck. However, unlike the pure chance of game shows, there are steps authors can take to improve their odds of winning at the writing game. 
Competition

Publishing is crowded with aspiring authors, but not all of them will finish writing their books. Even fewer will endure the rigors of the submission process. Make sure you're the one who doesn't give up.
Agents

Before submitting, polish your book until it is the best it can be. Workshop it. Edit it. Workshop it again. Edit it some more. And definitely don't send the first query letter you write. Make that as perfect as possible too.
Publishing

Understand how the industry works. Sure, it's a confusing business, but the more you know about it, the better you'll be able to overcome its many hurdles.
Best-sellerdom
Since there is no magic wand, the best route to success is old-fashioned hard word. Use social media. Make yourself accessible to book clubs. Build your brand name to help potential readers find your books. Word of mouth is still the most reliable path to the best-sellers list.  
Spay or Neuter Your Pets
The Price is Right might offer its contestants a chance to win new cars, exotic trips, or lots of money, but writing gives each of us even more: The opportunity to connect with readers and to have an impact on their lives.
That's a prize any of us should be proud to earn. (Of course, a six-figure advance that buys a new car or a vacation would also be great.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

So, You Want to be a Writer

Occasionally at DFWWW, we'll get a visitor
who says "I have a great book idea that will be 
a guaranteed bestseller. I just need someone to
write the manuscript for me. I'll share 20%
of the profits." They often leave offended
that no one accepts their offer.
 
These days it appears that everyone wants to be a writer. Folks at Starbucks, or at work, or at the library, or etc. have an idea for a book. And not just any book, but one they are convinced will transform them into a fabulously rich, literary star. However, very few of these people will ever go from BIG IDEA to completed manuscript.

Why?
 
Because writing is hard work and there's no magic formula. If there were, someone would have marketed Guaranteed-Bestseller-in-a-Box by now. Since that hasn't happened, aspiring authors often question what it takes to succeed in this fickle business. I've been blessed to have several friends who have traditionally published. Each of their success stories share similar traits.   

Discipline

More than talent or creativity, writing takes discipline. Following the ABCD rule (Apply Butt to Chair Dang it), day-after-day, week-after-week, year-after-year and putting words on paper is a necessity.

A Thick Skin

Successful writers have a hide as tough as a rhinoceros (maybe tougher). A writer who can’t accept criticism won’t get very far. Successful writers actively seek feedback and learn from it. They know that a harsh critique often improves the final work.

Risk-Taker

If a writer writes a book, but nobody ever reads it (because the writer never submits it) is the writer really a writer? Debatable. Every successful writer had to put his/her stuff out there for the world to love/hate/shred/read. 

Stick-to-itiveness

Successful writers never give up, no matter how often they are rejected. They know that for every one positive comment, there will be a thousand naysayers. How do successful writers handle rejection? They write another book. 

So, Do You Still Want to be a Writer?

By now, it should be apparent that becoming a writer is indeed hard work. No matter if your goal is to traditionally publish, or go the self-pub route, it still takes all of the above and more, such as old-fashioned luck.

However, since luck can't be taught it's better to focus on the traits we aspiring writers can influence.
 
 
·         Each of us can improve our discipline and write more often.

·         We can develop a thick, critique-resistant skin by participating in writers' groups.

·         Risk-taking should become second nature as we submit our work until it sells.  

·         We can improve our stick-to-itiveness by …well … sticking-to-it.

How well do I do these? Hmmmm ...
 
      ·         My discipline varies depending on my mood. Lately, I've been very lazy.  

·         I do have a thick skin, but occasionally critiques still hurt. 

·       Once I'm satisfied with a story, I will submit it until I place it somewhere. I'll give myself a 'pass' on this one.   

·        Stick-to-itiveness has always been a battle for me. I've almost given up so many times, I've lost count of them. But then, I convince myself to try again.   
 
What about you? How well do you handle any of the above?    

Friday, November 15, 2013

You Can't Understand a Literary Agent Until You Read a Slush Pile

I've become a fan of Chuck Sambuchino's blog. As I followed some links, I stumbled across this post at a different blog. It inspired me to try to put myself into the mind of a literary agent (or more accurately, a slush reader at an agency).
  • I visited a bookstore and selected 10 random SF&F novels.
  • I did not glance at the covers.
  • I did not read the blurbs.
  • I just grabbed them at random as if they had appeared as queries.
  • I read only the first chapters.
I'm not naming-names, or listing the titles, because it's not my intention to criticize any author. I seek to learn, and here's what I discovered:  
Prologues
Four of the books started with a prologue. One was a page and a half long. Another was 30-pages long. The others somewhere in between. None intrigued me enough to keep reading. Writers often hear that prologues are unnecessary. This experience proved the validity of that statement to me.  
Weak Verbs
How many times can 'was' be crammed into a paragraph? I swear one author tried for the Guinness World Record. I didn't make it past the first page before I put the novel down in disgust.
Too Much Description
It's true that opening a story with a description of the weather / a place / a town / etc. is not the best way to start a novel. Two of the books opened this way. In one case, I made it through three pages before I abandoned the book. In another, five pages.
Interior Monologue
If humankind ever develops the ability to read the minds of others, I believe we'll find it to be a boring experience. Most people's thoughts (mine included) are redundant and dull. Opening a novel locked inside the head of a single character is like trapping the reader in purgatory. Seven of the ten books opened with lengthy (i.e. boring) interior monologues. 
Dialogue
Characters that interact and talk to one another really do move a story forward. Only one of the books opened with multiple characters and dialogue. The quick flow of the story made for an enjoyable read.
Conclusion
Most of the books went into the discard pile. They interested me so little I had to force myself to return them to the shelves. Now, I understand why some agents don't respond to queries. Their time can be better spent searching for that one, elusive book that does appeal to them.

Did any of the books appeal to me? Yep. The one that held my interest. The same criteria every agent / editor / reader employs. That author earned the cash I spent to buy the book.

What encourages you to buy books?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why I Don't Consider my Writing to be Dystopian (but it's not a future I'd want to live in either)

The last few weeks at DFWWW I've read my SF novelette "Pour Your Memories Down on Me". Last night, one of the critiquers called it 'dystopian' and that stuck in my craw.

Why? Not because I don't enjoy dystopian stories. I do. In fact, they are a particular fav of mine. I admired tales such as The Postman (the movie, didn't care as much for the book) long before The Hunger Games introduced the genre to a much wider audience.
What bothers me is that any SF story that presents a less than ideal future is called dystopian. I disagree with this association. Yes, it would be wonderful if humankind
·         Harnessed a new power source that freed us from fossil fuels

·         Solved world hunger/poverty/class issues/etc/etc

·         Had a forwarding address out among the stars


This image does not totally support the views expressed
in my post, but the artwork was too poignant not to use.
Credit: amandabauer.blogspot.com   
Until (if) these things happen, I believe SF stories can be told that extrapolate from today's world, without those stories being dystopian. The primary reason the dystopian tag troubles me is because it implies the world we inhabit today is a utopia. I would counter that if we could talk to visionaries from the Golden Era of SF, they might consider 2014 (and many years prior to that date) to be dystopian:

·       Rather than freeing man to live a life of leisure, industrial robots (& not even cool-looking ones) have replaced many human workers increasing unemployment and poverty (I'm confident that's not how Isaac Asimov envisioned the future). 

·       Drones kill innocents, the NSA spies on people worldwide, and governments control more of the average person's life (Robert A Heinlein and his libertarian ideals must be spinning in their respective graves).

·       Dwindling resources, growing populations, and devastating pollution (lots of Golden Era SF writers got these right).

I, too, want flying cars, jet packs, 20-hour workweeks (with 40-hours of pay), food in a pill form - basically, The Jetson's-lifestyle. Until (if) we achieve these things, I feel a darker future is not so much dystopian as it is a reflection of the world we already inhabit.

Okay, I've had my say. Any folks who disagree and want to bash my take on the subject are welcome to do so now. Hell, I even encourage your good, bad & ugly comments. It'll let me know there are other thinkers out there.    


Friday, November 1, 2013

What Exactly is a Novelette?

One of my current WIP is an SF novelette. I completed the novelette while world building my quasi-steampunk novel. Now that I'm 50+ pages into the novel (yeah!), I feel the novelette has fermented long enough and is ready to be critiqued at DFWWW. Last Wednesday, before I read three scenes, I opened by saying "This is a SF novelette". Another author asked the question I had anticipated.
"What's a novelette?"
I knew this would eventually come up, because as I was writing the story (and the word count exceeded 10,000 - a rare occurrence for brevity-fiend like me) I, too, had wondered exactly what I was writing. I did some research.
Word Count
Description
Source
1 - 500
Micro
I've seen several short story markets define it as such. 
500 - 1500
Flash
Again, standard in short story markets
1500 - 7500
Short Story
The Hugo Awards (actually, their definition says 'works of fiction of fewer than 7,500 words')
7500 - 17,500
Novelette
Again, the Hugo's and this time its an accurate word account (per "Hugo Award for Best Novelette" Wikipedia article)
17,500 - 40,000
Novella
Wikipedia again, only the article is titled "Hugo Award for Best Novella" 
40,000+
Novel
Hell, we all know this, don't we? 

Be it a novelette or novella, they are danged difficult to sell. Currently, my story is just under 15,000-words. I'll submit it to Writers of the Future (they accept up to 17,000-words). Beyond that, there are only about three additional markets, which will consider such a long story. I'll submit to each of them. If none bite, I'll consider self-publication. (I hear novellas are very popular as e-books.)
For now, I'll focus on hitting the 90,000-word mark for the quasi-steampunk novel. Reaching that goal will be a huge accomplishment for me. I've lived in the realm of short stories for so long, I'm accustomed to tight word counts. Any story over 5000-words scares me.
Any other short story writers making the switch to novels for Nanowrimo?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Giving Credit Where It's Due

As noted in my prior post, I did not care for the pilot of Sleepy Hollow. I won't rehash the reasons again. It suffices to say the show wasn't for me, even though I'm a weird-stories nerd. Yesterday, I came across this:


Sleepy Hollow will return to Fox next season. The network granted the season's first bona fide hit an early renewal Thursday, bringing the series back for a similarly limited run next year.

I wanted to give credit to those who created the series. In this world of ever-diminishing attention spans, it's difficult to find and keep an audience. Anyone who can write/direct/act in a story that people want to keep tuning in to hear/see/read deserve full credit.

Does this mean I'll give the show another try? Probably not. I value the hour too much to use it on a T.V. show I did not like in the first place. I would rather use that time to focus on my own writing projects. I simply wanted to give credit where credit was due.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Camp: Writer

I've never described myself as the outdoors type. The one camping trip my father took me on as a child didn't turn out so well with the snake that almost bit me and the raging creek that almost drowned me. Needless to say, I've spent most of my life staying out of nature's way.
Jacob hamming it up for the camera. It took us
three moves to find a campsite we both liked. I
learned how important it is to have an awning
over the picnic table for shade .

Two years ago, Jacob, my youngest, convinced me to try camping. He had read several survivalist books and had gotten camping gear the past Christmas. He wanted to try out both his survivalist skills and new equipment.

After some research, I found Cedar Hill State Park not 20-minutes away from our house in the DFW metroplex. Close. Relatively inexpensive. I figured I could handle a day or two in the 'wilderness'.

For the most part, Texas is a very flat state. I'm accustomed to its flatness, so I've never given it much thought. However, as we drove toward the park, we encountered a real oddity: hills. The Cedar Hill (hmmm, maybe that second word should have given me a clue) area might only be a short drive from my house, but because of its hilly surroundings it was almost like leaving the state altogether.

I enjoyed that camping trip more than I thought I would. We've taken several other trips since then. This past weekend, Jacob and I loaded up his car, pitched a tent, and had an enjoyable time writing.

Me outside our snazzy new tent. On prior trips we slept in
the two-person tent Jacob had gotten for Christmas. This trip we
spent the first night in it, but the tent was too small for two
grown men and a full-sized air mattress. A quick trip to a
sporting goods store solved that problem. Our new digs was
so roomy, I slept on one side, Jacob the other, and we had at
least three feet of empty space between us. That was living!

My plans were to produce as many pages as possible, but the words didn't come easily (they never do for me). I managed to crank out seven pages on my quasi-steampunk novel and some edits on prior pages.

Jacob wrote over 20 pages on a story he says he'll never let me read (I suspect it's some type of fanfic). I was jealous of his prodigious production, but happy to see him writing again. He's a good author, but a lazy one. He's also one hell of a terrific editor.

Overall, I had a relaxing weekend spent in enjoyable weather with good company (Jake and I get along well - for the most part) and achieved some writing (any day with words on the page is a good one). I would say Camp: Writer was a positive experience. One I'll do again. I'm glad Jake convinced me to take that first trip.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Long Path to Geekdom

I attended FenCon this past weekend. As always, it was fun, but seemed oh-so-small after the Christmasland-like grandeur that was WorldCon.

I enjoyed a few panels, hanging with some writing buddies, and visiting way too many parties (the last item is a trend I noticed developing at WorldCon - hmmm - guess it's okay to party hop since all I do is sample snacks and rarely drink).

My biggest surprise of the weekend was to discover I truly am a geek. I know, like that should surprise me. I can recite most SF&F tropes and can talk the lingo with the pros. However, I've never gotten serious about collecting the merchandise. That all changed on Saturday when I passed a vendor who had a full collection of Babylon 5 action figures. As much as I loved the show, I never imagined there was merchandizing. Seeing no prices, I asked the owner the cost for one.

"I'd really like to sell them as a set."

Hmmm - where would I put 16 toys still in their packaging?

"Okay, how much?"

"$200 for all of them."

Hmmm - maybe I could make room for them somewhere in my already crowded house. "Let me think about it."
Not the ones I bought, but mine look just like
these, only in the original packaging. I'll never
do anything but display them but I'm happy
to own them just the same.


I left and returned later. After examining all 16 and learning some of the packaging had damage, I asked "Take credit cards?"

"Nope. Cash only."

"Okay. I'll think about it."

I walked away, found an ATM and returned with my money. Moments later, I left holding two plastic bags bulging with Babylon 5 action figures - and still no idea where I would store or display them.

I've never done anything like this before. I guess I took my final step into geekdom. Funny, I waited a really long time to do it.

Later, I looked them up on the Internet. The average figure retails for $19.99. Multiplied by 16 = $319.84. I think I got a good deal and I didn't have to pay for shipping. However, I never solved the dilemma of where to display them (currently, they're in a box under my bed. That just seems wrong).

When did you realize you were a geek?  



Monday, September 30, 2013

The Odd Couple: Father & Son Style

My youngest, Jacob, and I have different definitions of the word 'clean'.
I believe:
  • Dishes should be done nightly.
  • Vacuuming every two weeks.
  • Clothes washed, folded and put away weekly.
  • Bathrooms scrubbed regularly (I am a bit lax here).
  • Basically, the public areas of your home should be presentable enough that company could drop by unannounced. (My writing area remains a constant mess, but that works for me).
Jacob believes:
  • Dishwashers should include arms to load themselves.
  • Vacuuming - what's that?
  • Washed and folded clothes (dear ole Dad does that part, of course) are just fine stacked on his bedroom floor.
  • Scrub a bathroom? Why?
  • Company should never drop by unannounced. (His artist area is an even bigger mess.)
From Zits, one of my favorite comic strips (who hopefully won't get mad
I copied this from their website - I have a good reason, really I do, but I don't
have a lawyer. Please, no cease and desist letters. No one reads my blog anyway).
As part of our never ending battle, when I saw this Zits cartoon, I decided to play a joke on Jacob. I carefully cut out the cartoon and taped it to his bedroom door. I expected shouts of rage that I had dared to post propaganda on his sanctuary.

Nary a word.

When I asked him, Jacob said he loved the cartoon and intended to leave it posted to his bedroom door. He said it summarized his philosophy on cleanliness.

So much for dear ole Dad psyching him out. All I accomplished was enabling his eventual appearance on Hoarders.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Private Man Goes Public, or Hey Look! I Know How to Download the Pictures from my Phone

Lucas in his high school graduation
gown. I knew the kid would graduate
(he's too determine not to) but I wasn't
confident he'd walk the stage to get his
diploma (he said it was a waste of time).
I'm glad he did. He earned that degree.
I am a private person. I rarely share information or photographs of my family. However, as I was sorting through the pictures on my phone* recently, I decided a few were worth sharing.
Me and my sons. Jacob (in the red coat)
and I went to hear Lucas (Mr. Shades)
play with the Zak Brown Band in Dallas.
It was fun, but I'm glad Lucas warned me
to wear ear plugs. Otherwise, I might still
be deaf several months later.
 
Lucas and Jacob kidding around before
Lucas' high school graduation. I find this
picture humorous, because when they were
younger, Lucas was bigger/stronger than
Jacob and used to bully him a bit. No longer.
Jacob got bigger/stronger and can hold his
own now. I'm glad the tables turned.




During the concert, Jacob met Zak
Brown. I didn't (I think I had gone
to get the car. Always my luck.)
In his travels, Lucas gets to meet lots of famous
people. Here, he's with Willie Robertson from
Duck Dynasty fame (I enjoy their TV show).
 
   
Jacob holding his first paycheck
from his first job. Yes, I encouraged
(he says forced) him to get a summer
job. The way he complained you
would think I had indentured him
for life. Of course, he loved the
money and missed the job when
the summer ended.




 


 



 
These two might as well be my children. Leo (gray) and I
tolerate each other (he only 'likes' me when it's feeding time,
but I know his leg rubbings are fake). Levi (black) is my
best buddy. I got him from my sister (Leo, too), and Levi
was very sick. Snotty nose, crusty eyes (cost me over $1000
to keep him from going blind), and he still has health issues
today. However, he genuinely loves me, whereas Leo wishes
I'd fall off the planet (as long as someone continued to feed him)

 
 
I know these pictures aren't in a logical order. Blogspot gave me so many problems trying to move the images I finally gave up and let them post where they would. Thanks for looking.
 
 
 
 
 
* Being able to take photographs with a phone. How science fictiony, all Space 1999, does that sound? Especially considering we've only had these things a few decades and they used to only make phone calls (which everyone thought was miraculous!)  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Sleepy Hollow on Fox

I've decided to dedicated more time to writing. To achieve this, I had vowed NO NEW TELEVISION SHOWS. In fact, I've deleted some long-standing programs from the record feature on my DVR.
When I read a summary of Sleepy Hollow on Fox, I decided to make an exception. Obviously, I'm a big fan of anything paranormal, historical, and just plain weird. The show sounded as if it would meet all three criteria. It did … and it didn't. Here's why:
·     Set in 1781, Sleepy Hollow opens strong. There's lots of action and the battle scene was apparently filmed with that new technique that makes the audience feel as if they are in the middle of action*.

Actually, I thought the story opened too fast. I wanted a moment to connect with Ichabod Crane before he's killed. Maybe that would have made me care more when he's mysteriously resurrected later.

·     Next, we move into modern day and the Headless Horseman is searching for his head. He confronts a mysterious priest who says: "I'll never tell you where it is. I'm prepared to die."

Headless accommodates the priest's wishes and cuts off his head. Then, we switch to the priest's point-of-view as his head slowly tumbles to the ground and we watch the Headless Horseman walk away. It was meant to be dramatic, but it turned out to be melodramatic. I had to pause the show for several minutes because I was laughing so hard.

·     Wiping away my tears of mirth, I pressed on. Next, Ichabod finds his wife's grave. According to the tombstone, she died in 1782. However, the tombstone looks as new as if it had been erected that same day. It's a small gripe, but if the set director had taken the extra effort to make the headstone appear aged, it would have done much to help a show that wants to be dark and serious, but is more of a silly comedy.  

·     Jumping forward a bit in the story (by this point, I was only paying half attention) Ichabod and his cop friend, Abby, open Ichabod's wife's grave to recover the Headless Horseman's head. (Long story. Apparently wifey isn't dead, but is possibly trapped in a dreamworld.) When Ichabod finds the head, the tarp that covers it looks brand new and clean (not a spot of dirt on it after being buried for 231 years). I guess the same magical powers that put her in dreamland and preserved her tombstone also kept the tarp in mint condition.

·     Up to this point, Headless Horseman has been a real bad ass. He's chopping off heads left-and-right with his trusty ax. I kinda like Headless. He's a man with a goal. I respect that.

Then, toward the end of the episode, Headless puts his ax away, picks up an automatic weapon, and starts blasting everyone with bullets. I couldn't stop laughing. It was so silly. It also made me wonder why he even needed a head so badly. He can walk/chop/slice/dice/shoot and never misses despite his lack of a noggin.

By the end of the show, Headless has everyone beat. He's going to win. Then, a single ray of sunlight strikes his neck area and we see a whiff of white smoke. The next thing we know, Headless is on his horse and rides away. Hell, if that's all it takes, just stay out of his way after dark.

·     The episode concludes with Ichabod revealing to Abby that they are the two witnesses foretold in Revelations to endure a seven-year battle against the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I giggled. The show's producers had given themselves a goal for how long they wanted to stay on the air. Good for them.

Overall, Sleepy Hollow accomplished being a paranormal story (even if a bit inconsistent one). It sucked from a historical viewpoint (but, again, that's my pet peeve). And was less weird than unintentionally comedic.

Whether the series will last seven years, or seven episodes is up to the viewers. I, for one, will not be tuning in. I can use that hour to write my own scary, historical, and weird stories.  

*It's not 3D [no special glasses are required] but still feels more like being inside the TV than just watching a flat screen. I don't know how it's done, or the name of the special effect, but I have noticed more history programs using it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

WorldCon Post # 5: My Personal Successes


·     I met three literary agents, two of whom I added to my query-when-I-have-a-novel written spreadsheet.
 
·     One of those two agents sampled my writing (I can't reveal all of the details, since I swore to secrecy). She liked what she read enough to comment that if I ever wrote a novel set in the same world, she knew some editors who would be interested.  

Her statement made me want to kick myself. Once again, I had missed an opportunity with a literary agent because I have no book written. Heck, I didn't even have an idea. Then, one slapped me in the shower the next morning (isn't that where all the greatest ideas come from?). I'm currently world building a quasi-steampunk novel.  

·     I met the editor of Angry Robot Books, my favorite publisher. I wish I could say I handled myself like a pro, but in truth, I gushed like a fanboy.

·     I thanked Sheila Williams, the editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, for her kind rejections. At first she laughed, but when I stated that she always includes a brief sentence that gives me hope, she looked surprised and said:

"I mean those comments, too. Very few writers get them."

I don't think my feet touched the ground for the rest of the day.

·      I met my all-time favorite author: Joe R Lansdale. I almost didn't, but Paul encouraged me to speak to Mr. Lansdale. I visited with him a couple of times over the course of the weekend. He signed several books for me - both ones I had purchased at the Con and novels I already owned.

·     I may have discovered a new favorite author: Chuck Wendig. He writes horror and dark urban fantasy, and so far, his books have blown my mind.

·     I attended my first Hugo Awards. I'm glad I sat in the audience versus watching the live stream. There was a special feeling to being in the room, seeing all the fancy clothes, hearing the many acceptance speeches, and fantasying about one day walking on stage to accept my own Hugo.

·     I received five free books: three from Angry Robot and two from Solaris. All look interesting.  

·     I purchased nine books, two of which were Simon's Cat (I didn't know there were books - so funny!) and one was the children's book version of the poem on which the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, was based.

The rest of my purchases were either writers I've previously read, or were new authors I had discovered at the Con. (Not sure book purchases qualify as a success considering my goal was to buy zero books.)

·     I ate one bug and received one free audio book in return. (The bug was a cricket and it tasted spicy at first, but then very bitter. I needed lots of water to wash it down.)

·     I bought six t-shirts. (Okay, Paul believes I have a t-shirt addiction, so maybe this one isn't a success either. My goal had been to buy zero t-shirts, but my favorite t-shirt vendor showed up and I couldn't resist.)

·     I attended 18 panels, which does not seem like a lot in retrospect considering I was there for five days. How did I spend my extra time? In the Exhibit Hall, apparently.

·     I attended … pauses to try to remember … LOTS! of parties. I lost track of the actual number, because there were multiple room parties almost every night. I will say I enjoyed the food in the Nippon (Japan) in 2017 bid party the most. They had candy and snacks that I scarfed on repeated visits.  

·     I gained only one pound, despite being too tired to exercise regularly, eating mostly fattening foods, and almost devouring the Japanese room party (hey, I donated to help defray their costs). Overall, I did make a good attempt to eat healthy thanks to the consuite stocking fresh fruits and some veggies. 

·     I walked about gazillion miles between the hotel and the convention center (hmmm, maybe that's why I didn't gain much weight).

·     I had the best time of any Con I have ever attended. That alone was my biggest success.  
      If you attended WorldCon 2013, or previous WorldCons, or other SF&F cons, what did you consider your biggest successes?