Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lament for the Loss of the Amazing, Unexpected Find

I enjoy the Internet as much as anyone else does. However, I feel the world wide web robs humanity of the magic of the unexpected find.

"I'd like a rare, vintage thing-a-migger," you might say.

Type THING-A-MIG… into Google and before you even complete the word, thousands of URL's will appear where you may purchase a rare, vintage thing-a-migger.

That's too easy. It robs people of the surprise of the amazing find.

Yes, I agree it's also awfully damned convenient, but it's missing the magic of walking into a physical place - be it a yard sale, antique market, bookstore - looking for nothing in particular but finding the MOST AMAZING, RARE VINTAGE THING-A-MIGGER EVER! Does the proprietor understand what he/she is selling?

That is a magical experience.

Recently, Jacob, my youngest son, and I were shopping a used bookstore. He wanted to stop, I really didn't, but no ever wasted time inside a bookstore. They are always an adventure.

I browsed the SF&F and mystery sections as it my wont, with an occasional diversion to the history aisle. I had seen nothing that interested me, but knew Jake would have an armful (I've always bought him books with little concern as to cost). When he approached me, however, he held nothing but a thin, rather tattered comic book.

To understand this tale, we now need to detour into backstory (yep, that evil vice of writers). I grew up reading Stephen King. Loved his work as a youngin' (not so much as an oldin').

I also grew up reading Creepy and Eerie magazines. I still own every copy I ever bought, and anyone who knows me knows that's an oddity. I do not keep books. I read them once and then sell/donate/gift them to others.

I always wanted a voodoo
doll like the kid in the movie. 

Because of my fondness for King and Creepy and Eerie it's only natural my favorite movie based on King's work is Creepshow.

(Backstory over). The thin, rather tattered comic book was a copy of the magazine used in the movie to tie together the different stories. I had never seen one before. I didn't even know one had been published. Talk about an unexpected thing-a-migger. My first response?
"$15.95. That's kinda expensive."

Jacob shrugged. "I'll put it back. It's the only one they have."

I shrugged. "I have a 15% off coupon. I guess I'll get it."

It wasn't until I got home and looked the magazine up online that I realized just how rare and vintage a thing-a-migger it was. Editions in worse shape than the one I'd bought were selling between $90 and $145.

It wasn't until I mentioned it to the other geeks at my writers' workshop that I really realized just how rare and vintage a thing-a-migger it was.

"I'll give ya $150 for it."


"You can't find those anywhere."

Yes, you can. Just Google CREEPSH…

But mine is more special.

1) Because Jacob found it, and he knew I'd like it because he's a geek like me.

2) It was the magic of the unexpected find.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Worldcon and Writers' Workshops

I registered for the writers' workshop at Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention).

"You said you would never attend another writers' workshop at a con," said Paul, my fellow SF&F buddy.

"I know," I said, "but this one's different."


Well …

1.   It's Worldcon. The biggest event for readers/writers/aficionados of SF in the world (hence, the name). I would be remiss if I didn't take advantage of the experience.

2.   It's inexpensive: $15. That's a nominal price to pay for what could be an enriching experience.

3.   Unlike the workshops at other SF&F cons that Paul and I have attended, the critique groups at Worldcon are small. In the case of my group, there are three other amateur writers and two pros to guide us. That's an improvement compared to workshops where 19 to 20+ writers are crammed in one room and we slog through everyone's submission. To be prepared for that arduous task meant reading 19 to 20+ submissions prior to the workshop. Mind numbing does not begin to describe the process (the very reason I've never applied to be a slush reader for a magazine).*

4.   Despite my bitching, writers' workshops help me grow. I've attended a half dozen so far and learned vast amounts at each one. The exhaustive hard work always pays off.

5.   Writers' workshops force me to network (which I really suck at). I've met pro writers who taught me much, editors who gave me a different perspective on the publishing industry, and fellow aspiring authors who became good friends.   

Five solid reasons. I'll report later if any of them panned out.


* I'm sure that makes me sound haughty, but I don't mean it that way. Truth is every writer is at a different stage in his/her development. Reading a submission from someone you've never met can be a challenge. Do you critique hard and risk hurt feelings, or soft and unfairly inflate an ego? I always try to give a fair critique - the same that I hope to get.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

There Ain't No 'I' in Success, or It Takes a Writers' Critique Group

For me, one of the best aspects of participating in a writers' critique group is celebrating each other's successes. Big or small, when one of your fellow writers sells a piece they've written - be it a poem, an article, a short story - we can all enjoy a little bit of their success.


 Tex Thompson of the DFW Writers' Workshop signed a two-book deal with Solaris for her cowboys-and-fishmen fantasy. It's cool that I now know another traditionally published novelist. It gives me renewed hope (that I'll get off my duff and actually do more writing).