Posted in books, dystopia, fantasy, horror, Office Life, Publishing, Tarot, Vampires, writing

Dispatch from the Zone – My Excuse

It’s been an odd couple of weeks for me. Starting with the Thanksgiving holiday, where I grumbled about having to take Friday as personal vacation because my company doesn’t give it as a holiday (as my previous companies have done), all was well until that Sunday night. I’m only telling this now because a lot of you know already and if you don’t it will no doubt be mentioned at some point in the future and I can get all the explanation out of the way now.

In short, I laid the bike down that night and sliced my leg open, resulting in six stitches and a couple of missed days of work. I spent Sunday evening in the ER, hence no post last week. It was a fairly deep lacerating and “heavy bleeding” according to the paperwork I got. I took one quick look at the gaping hole in my leg and that was enough.

I’m not posting icky pictures here of the wound, there’s not much damage to the bike so nothing to see there. It was a low-speed accident, luckily, and no other vehicles involved. I jumped a curb, hit a small tree and went down. I didn’t even realize I was injured until one of the kind people who had stopped to help me saw the blood. I thought it was just mud on my pants (which by the way are still intact). So, long story short, I’ve been hobbling around for the last week, and getting grumpier about it by the day. Another week and the stitches should come out.

At any rate, I made it in to work that Tuesday, and managed to get around well enough. I was supposed to have had my review that Monday, but it was rescheduled to Wednesday. After that I got grumpier. It wasn’t horrible, but I am still steaming over being reprimanded (in the nicest way possible) for not being ‘helpful’ enough to some entitled bitch who ran into the office looking for some conference that she had no information on (no title, room number, who was putting it on – nothing), and felt I should simply have known where it was. Well, there are a lot of conferences and symposiums and lectures that go on there, and sadly I am not an electronic display board that lists them all. So she bitched to someone in my department, who in turn came to my manager to express their displeasure over this. I am told I did not ask enough, or the right, questions to figure out where this self-important nobody needed to be. This wasn’t the only criticism sandwiched in with praise, but it was the biggest one (I was also told I wasn’t displaying enough enthusiasm for the job. I’m an admin assistant, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to express enthusiasm for this). The interesting thing is I never heard a word about any of this until the review the other day.

To sum up, I am more desperate than ever for a new job.  Maybe it’s my paranoid imagination, but it feels a little like they’re building a case.

All that aside, I’m back to polishing the vampire novel with the goal of having it ready to start querying agents in the new year. I need to get on with this. I need to at least say “I tried” even if it never gets published.

Getting back to our weekly card draw, this one ‘jumped’ out as I was shuffling.

Ace of Pentacles

The Ace of Pentacles is the Root of the Powers of Earth. Aces are beginnings, and pentacles deal with money, and material concerns. This is good, some new venture kicking off, hopefully a lucrative new project. I have some ideas for a new venture, I hope this is a good omen.

So, that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been dealing with for the last week. How’s it by you?

Posted in books, Ireland, writing


pigsong-cover (2)

Pigsong is the third in a series of short stories, collectively titled Storytellers, by Frank Delaney, who also brought us The Last Storyteller. There will be a new one each month for the year 2012.

It starts with a short lead-in, Author’s Notes, that explains the idea behind the story, delving into the concept of using fables as instruction, and the shared myths of diverse cultures the world over. I never knew India had a flood myth that predated (and is closely paralleled by) the story of Noah’s ark.

The story is told in a style that echoes Aesop’s Fables, using anthropomorphic animals to relate a truth, and focused around the central character, the seanchai, an itinerant storyteller who was traditionally welcomed into someone’s home for the night, and given food and a warm bed in exchange for entertaining the family (and as many neighbors as the host’s home could accommodate)  to set the stage.

Mr. Delaney is a gifted writer who works magic with his prose, in the style of the old Irish myths:

Once upon a time and long ago, when snow tasted like cream, and timber tasted like sweet cake, and every tenth egg laid by a duck had a diamond in it, there lived up in the North of Ireland a very bad man.

It’s a quick read, and left me with new respect for pigs. I could hear the old storyteller in my head, and practically smell the fire burning as he told his tale.

The series is available as ebooks through Amazon.

Posted in books, fantasy, science fiction, science fiction, writing

How NOT to Review Books or Movies

Last week, the New York Times ran an opinion piece (can hardly call it a review) on George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones that was dismissive, scornful, insulting and sexist. The claim was that girls don’t read fantasy, and that sex scenes had been thrown in as a feeble attempt to lure in the female readership. Say what?

Needless to say, we geek-girls were insulted. That Ms. Bellafante was given this venerable platform on which to air her derisive screed against a genre about which she is apparently completely ignorant is more than disappointing. There have been some very fine rebuttals from Aidan Moher, Daniel Abraham, and many others to the review. Even Martin himself took issue with the slighting of his female fans on his blog, and thanked the geek girls for rallying to support him.

So what drove this raging piece of hate towards all things geeky? Apart from the obvious explanation that it was tabloid journalism shamelessly using hyperbole and controversy to increase readership, I’d say Ms. Bellafante is judging the entire genre by the covers.

In the early days of fantasy, and indeed sci-fi (since they are typically lumped together), people often think of the pulps, and works from the pen of Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars, Tarzan), and publications like Amazing Stories, in which women were frequently marginalized, used as props, or left out altogether. The lurid covers of these early works often depicted half-naked women being abducted by monsters or aliens, clearly designed to appeal to adolescent boys (and less sophisticated adult males) as soft-core pornography.


Starting in the 1960s and on through the 1970s and 1980s the work of Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta depicted mostly naked warrior women, with unearthly body proportions. (Vallejo at least is now concentrating on erotic art, pretty much exclusively.) For years the covers of fantasy books were embarrassingly cheeseball, and this hasn’t quite gone away. Even Philip K. Dick’s books have had some of these titillating covers. For those unfamiliar, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was the basis for the movie Blade Runner.

I’m afraid this is what has remained the public perception of fantasy and science fiction.

But fantasy and sci-fi writers are not responsible for these covers. And those who have not read anything in the genre should withhold criticism until they do. There is some damn fine writing (and some good covers) in the fantasy and science fiction genres, not to mention any other ‘genre’ you could name, which any reviewer shouldn’t have to be told. The fact that Ms. Bellafante seemingly had not even read the book (and I can’t quite tell from her piece if she even previewed the show) should have precluded her from writing about it.

Cast member Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Jaime Lannister in the show was interviewed about his experience in the show and had this to say, that sums it up nicely:

But I read the Game Of Thrones books, and they’re great. A great world to enter. So, I guess I had some silly ideas. I didn’t really know much about the genre before.

But genre doesn’t really matter, does it? If the story’s good, it’s good. If it’s good writing, it’s good writing.

Sadly there are still many out there who have not discovered this little fact, and the perception continues that it’s all unworthy of ‘serious’ attention.

For those who didn’t get to see the premier last night, HBO has released the opening credits sequence on YouTube. I’d post it here, but HBO doesn’t typically like people to do that, even though it’s out on the internet, so here’s the link:

Go watch, it’s incredible.

Posted in books, horror, Publishing, writing

Speaking of Everything on the Internet

So we talked about writers posting on the net, now I want to draw your attention to a really excellent article about reviews on the internet. Unfortunately, the article itself is not online, it’s in the latest issue of Cemetery Dance magazine (issue #63).

Ed Gorman, author of The Midnight Room and Sleeping Dogs, has a laugh-out-loud funny piece on savage reviews. I kid you not, this was the best laugh I’ve had in weeks. But let me share this with you:

Not only do all writers get bad reviews, all writers eventually get savage reviews. I can usually tell in the first two paragraphs if the writer in question is going to be eviscerated, and if that’s the case I quit reading. I do this even when I don’t personally like the writer. Nobody deserves some of the nastier reviews I’ve seen. A writer I don’t know but admire got laid to waste in the Washington Post several years ago. I got his e-mail and wrote: “Did you sleep with his wife or something?” He wrote back: “Not yet. But now I’m sure as hell going to.”

He recalls with shame writing an apparently scorching review himself some years ago as an editor, calling himself a bully for doing it.

Some of the best comes later in the form of anecdotes about Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal slugging it out in the green room of the Dick Cavett Show. When Mailer asked Vidal to apologize, Vidal is said to have replied, “I’d apologize if it hurts your feelings.” I’m still snickering.

He quotes Lilith Saintcrow talking about how the internet is awash with self-appointed literary critics who get a small following of sycophants, whose sole purpose in life seems to be belittling others. One of the folks who comes here occasionally had a savage review once after a story was published. It hurt. But I’m sure the reviewer felt quite superior for posting it.  I guess the best course of action is don’t read reviews, unless you know the reviewer and respect her opinion, cause you know what they say about opinions.

Anyway, the rest of the article (and the magazine) is really good, pick it up if you get a chance.