12.31.2007

New Year's Cut

Disclaimer:

This blog accepts no responsibility for the following cut. The views expressed in the following work of art belong solely to the artists and do not express the views or opinions of this journal.

That said, outside of the lyrics, how can you not put this song on?

Some Bonus Mraz

Nice song.

A New Year!

The Pacific Northwest was excellent, but it's very nice to be home. Thanks to our family and friends for their generosity and hospitality in the holiday season. Jeanne and I wish you all the best in the new year.

I have a strong feeling about 2008. After meeting with Bernadette and Gretchen in Lake Oswego and receiving some great feedback from editors in the latter part of 2007, I'm very hopeful that we'll have success this year. The writing is improving and B's agency is moving and shaking.

I think when it comes to resolutions, I'll keep it simple. I want to keep track of all of the books I read. I'd like to do the same with my fitness by keeping a mileage journal. I'd like to spend more quality time with my wife, and continue to expand my voice on the page. And I think I'd like to become more involved with volunteering in the Jacksonville community.

For this space, I'd like to blog more closely about the publishing process (my fingers are crossed that it will mean some interesting discussion on book production) and get some additional input from those reading on books, movies, markets and stories out there.

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve everyone, and listen to this cut and just try to keep from shaking a leg. I dare you. See, you can't do it.

12.17.2007

Markets, Articles and One Weird Anthology

I enjoy the Friday Feast over at the blog for the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market. I linked to Transmitter and Serpentarius over on the writer links section of my website. Both look like nice markets and pay professional rates.



What do you make of this anthology? Night of the Working Dead sounds like fun and will have solid distribution. The deadline is May of '08 and the floor is 2,000 words. I'm going to get cracking on this one...



Lastly, check out the link titled "Slush Pile Confessions" in the article list on my connections page. Patricia Chui's account of her time as an editorial assistant is simply hilarious. She makes writers out to sound, on the whole, a little unstable. I don't know how she got that idea...

Westward Migration

We hop on the big bird tomorrow at 6:20 EST for our trip back to the Pacific Northwest. We'll be in Cannon Beach for a couple of days, then it's on to Seattle, then Pendleton and we'll conclude with a few nights back in the Rose City.

I can't wait to celebrate five amazing years of marriage with my beautiful wife in CB. I can't wait to feel some cool air on my skin. I can't wait to eat meals with my family and play golf with my pop and get a run in with my sister. I can't wait to round a card table with my buddies and maybe get in some snow sports up at Mt. Hood Meadows.

2007 has been a very good year for Jeanne and I. Jeanne has experienced great success in her graduate program at the University of North Florida. She was one of the first in her cohort to land a job (she's a counselor at Forrest High School) and she passed the general knowledge test last Friday. She's doing amazing things for the kids she's working with and really helping some of them with their academics and ultimately getting to a college or university. On a personal level, she's getting lots of yoga in and paddling around Florida's tidal creeks on her kayak.

I'm thankful to have begun working with literary agent Bernadette Baker-Baughman. She read my manuscript back in February and, after accepting me as a client with Baker's Mark, we spent the summer re-writing Wendigo. We did three solid revisions that improved the narrative structure and pacing and I'm very grateful for B's help in that process. We are in our second round of submissions with the project and hoping for some good news in the first part of 2008.

I wrote four pretty good short stories and I'm just about done with my second novel. I also followed a tangent (25,000 words full of tangent) on a piece I'm looking forward to getting back to. I placed a short with Samsara and I'm still trying to find the time to get my stuff out there to magazines.

I thoroughly enjoyed my year at the college and I feel fortunate to have worked with some excellent students this year. I saw some real changes and improvements in the clarity and substance of what they're working on. Our environmental lecture series at the college was a rousing success and we were able to escape the classroom and incorporate Florida's ecology in the writing curriculum.

I'm looking forward to amazing things in 2008 and I wish nothing but success to all of you lurking here at The Byproduct (my google analytics don't lie!). Please introduce yourselves when you get a chance. Let me know where you're submitting and where I can read your work!

My blogging will be infrequent between now and January 02. That said, I hope to post some pictures of the Oregon Coast, the Cascades and Pendleton. Thanks for stopping in and best wishes to you all for a great holiday season!

12.14.2007

Rum Punch and Jeremy Robert Johnson

Elmore Leanord's Rum Punch is kind of a slog. It feels strange typing that, because he's such a strong writer, but I get the impression that this was just a practice novel. The characters are wooden and flat. The plot is a bit tired. The pacing is slow.

It's not at all like a usual Leanord romp.

That said, I think each writer probably has a ratio. For Elmore, it's about 6-1. He writes six great ones for every one average novel.

Stephen King: 8-1 (yes, I'm talking to you, From a Buick 8).

Tim Dorsey: 4-1.

Carl Hiaasen: 5-1.

You know who always delivers? Joe Lansdale. The champion mojo storyteller is just about the most bankable talent I can think of.

Speaking of which, I compiled a holiday wish list yesterday of some much-admired books. At the top of the list was High Cotton (to go with collections and novels by Bradbury, King and Paluhniak). Also, I've been looking to grab something by this talented writer.

Jeremy Robert Johnson's story "A Flood of Harriers" was featured in Cemetery Dance #56. They also ran a nice interview with Johnson. The man's a talented writer and an Oregonian to boot. If you get a chance, grab some of his stuff. Very strong.

And finally, I'm pissed off at the Baltimore Orioles. That's my squad and for years, I've been a fan of Brian Roberts. Now I hear he's been jamming his ass full of steroids. I hope the birds get rid of all of the cheaters on this team (and believe me, the Orioles are what the officials are calling a "steroid pocket") and get back to playing baseball the Oriole Way. You have betrayed my trust, Major League Baseball, and I'm not sure how long it will take to win it back.

12.13.2007

Ten Best Movies List

Let me begin by saying this list only comprises major motion pictures that were released in the United States. But even saying that rings hollow, as I didn't take nearly as many solid chances with my film-viewing this year as I should have. And, I didn't see a lot of the great stuff that I wanted to, for various reasons. Somehow I didn't catch American Gangster, No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton or Eastern Promises. So take this list for what it's worth.

Number Ten: Live Free or Die Hard is a guilty pleasure. What can I say? I love Bruce Willis and I've always been a huge fan of the series. And I wasn't the least bit put off by McLane surfing an F-15.

Number Nine: Beowulf was better than I thought it would be and I liked the storytelling and effects. If this is the future of films (and it's not) then we could do worse.

Number Eight: Zodiac is an excellent investigation of obsession and depravity. It works well as a slow-building procedural and the chemistry between Gyllenhall and Downey, Jr. makes it a very underrated film.

Number Seven: 28 Weeks Later was a nice little political allegory about segregation and life in times of conflict. A very solid sequel.

Number Six: Fido was just an interesting re-imagining of the brain-hungry zombie trope. I loved the satirical rendering of '50s-style America and the class consciousness of the haves (with lots of zombie servants) and the have-nots.

Number Five: Rescue Dawn just makes you want to cry at times. Someone get those guys a good meal! Herzog's steady hand and the combo of Zahn and Bale make this a must-see.

Number Four: The Host is a feel-good creature feature from South Korea that will warm your heart and make you smile. Excellent film.

Number Three: 300 is both visually stunning and masterfully plotted. I think it's at the top of the blue-screen film list.

Number Two: 3:10 to Yuma is so well written, played and filmed that it should just be called 1A. I put this one up there with The Unforgiven and Lonesome Dove.

Number One: The Lookout was a truly great film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance shines, and the story is both heart-breaking and life-affirming. The caper at the center of this film builds well and the message at the center is one of redemption and hope. Take a look at this movie if you haven't yet.

12.12.2007

Serialization

I recently finished a short story I'm pretty proud of, but it checks in at a whopping 7,300 words. A story like that represents a real double-edged sword. Unfortunately, it takes about 80% of the markets off the table from the start (I've found 4,000 words to be about the most marketable length for a short). That means that most of the zines don't want it and it disqualifies itself for some of the finer small-print and PDF magazines as well.

The flip side is, if it's as good as I think it is, then it'll find a home at a more substantial market. I'm thinking I'll send it to Asimov's, Cemetery Dance, Fantasy and Science Fiction and Weird Tales. I think I'll even take a flier and try Playboy.

Now those are some of the heavies and I understand the competition is stiff, but if the story strikes a chord with an editor--it's a great placement. It gets your name in front of lots of readers and automatically becomes your go-to plug when listing your credits.

Is "The Glimpse Society" good enough to find a home with one of these? I sure hope so. It was a hell of a ride writing it.

That said, some of these magazines will also run a piece longer than mine--say 25,000 words--in a series. This was common practice (and profitable) in the publishing world about a century ago. But I wonder how audiences would respond in '07. I'd subscribe to a magazine solely on the merits of the one story if I knew they'd run a three-four edition tale penned by King or Lansdale. But there aren't many writers out there that have this kind of influence, which makes the 25,000-word short story a very difficult placement.

And I ask this partly because The Golden Compass is getting heavy criticism now, it seems, for its cliffhanger ending. I know it's likely part of a trilogy, but I wonder if this practice isn't seriously damaging some of the films that are out there. I could accept it with the second in the LOTR series, but Pirates of the Caribbean is tiiiirrrrreeeeddddd with their open conclusions.

Why can't these guys seem to write a fully actualized narrative while still leaving the window cracked for the next series (and maybe the best we've seen in the film industry recently in doing this is the Harry Potter series)?

So I guess my take is: serialized films, not so good (lately); stories and novels, willing to give them a try.

What do you think?

12.11.2007

Parade of Phantoms and the Horror Mall

300 pages. That's how much academic non-fiction I've been wading through this week, with roughly forty-five students submitting papers of six to ten pages in length. Needless to say, I look forward to the conclusion of the week, and then it's off to Oregon and Washington for the holidays.

Parade of Phantoms is an interesting market offering up a pair of short stories every Monday. They are looking for suspense and mystery with a haunting element to the narrative.

Also, get a look over at The Horror Mall. I'm pretty excited about that anthology listed in the left-hand margin (Fried! Fast Food Slow Deaths). I've always enjoyed horror fiction set in the restaurant industry, so this might be pretty solid.

Any news from any of you on the submissions front? Please use the comments section below to plug your stories that find homes...

12.07.2007

Madman Stan and Other Stories

I picked up Richard Laymon's Madman Stan and Other Stories and simply could not put it down. The writing is ok--it's not the most lyrical prose you'll ever read. But the content is amazing. Laymon is a superior creative talent. The title story is pretty fine, but my favorites include "The Maiden" (a nice twist on the teenage rite of passage tale), "The Champion" (a macabre tale of possession and the cruel hand of fate) and "Bedtime Stories" (a little ditty that would have made a fine episode of Spielberg's Amazing Stories).

Laymon's writing is filled with awkward sexual tension and gruesome plotting. His protagonists, on the whole, are decidedly immoral. Laymon enjoys goading the audience into rooting for a character to get out of a horrific situation, only to then push that character into committing an act of depravity (often unprovoked). If there is a common thread in these stories, it's that people do bad things to each other.

If you liked The Collection, by Bentley Little, you'll enjoy this book. While not in the category of King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes or Lansdale's Mad Dog Summer and Other Stories, this is a set of stories that will compel you to hit the word processor and generate some of your own dark work.

12.06.2007

The Golden Compass

December has been a great month for high fantasy over the last couple of years. The Chronicles of Narnia, while not great, wasn't a disappointment. And The Lord of the Rings trilogy, of course, made December a month to pine after in the early part of this decade. The Harry Potter films have been pretty good (some released in November).

Now we have The Golden Compass, a film that's garnering it's fair share of criticism from religious groups calling it a "stealth atheism campaign." The film looks stunning and is being released by New Line Cinema (same house as LOTR). I have to say this looks excellent! Take a look at the first five minutes and let me know what you think. It definitely has the same feel as Jackson's pictures.

It will be interesting to see if the same groups that made The Passion of the Christ such a phenomenal success will doom this one to failure. The Passion was unique in that mega-churches and religious organizations rented whole movie houses. Many saw the film three or four times while it was in the theater. If there is a backlash, and I've heard the Christian talk shows have been calling for a boycott for a month or more, it'll be a real shame for what has proven to be a magical series of books for children.

I think there will be audiences that stay away, but the negative discussion will catalyze folks like myself, that might not have looked at the film otherwise, to go and take a look. Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig work together again on this one (they made the critically panned Invasion earlier in the year), and I now have high hopes for it.

I think, like the books that get banned in the libraries, The Golden Compass will have enough controversy-based interest to make up for the lack of patronage by the conservative religious audience.

Will you folks take a look?

12.05.2007

Perspective

Perspective is a neat word because of its nebulous qualities. It encapsulates so much. When you're young you lack it. You gain it as you mature and sometimes your perspective just needs an adjustment (this Saturday is the third official Jimmy Buffet day here in Jacksonville!).

Agent Nathan Bransford wrote a very honest post yesterday on some of the heart-breaking rejections he must make on all manner of non-fiction projects. He concludes by delivering a hard truth--not every person is wired to write a book. And on the other side of that coin, not every person has a compelling story to tell about himself or herself.

Or even a factually accurate one (ie. James Frey).

It's a simple truth that not everyone has lived a life (or been raised in a family) that would make a story New York publishers salivate over. For some, this might be a sad realization. For others, it might be a validation that their experiences (those things that shape our perspective) were, on the whole, happy and healthy.

I fall into this second camp. I have a wonderfully supportive family filled with creative, talented people. But not a one of us has worked for the circus. My parents never smacked each other around. Neither of my sisters dropped out of school to follow, respectively, the New Kids on the Block or the Backstreet Boys on their world tours.

I spent my childhood in amazing places (Colorado and Oregon) and grew up in the long shadow of a very loving marriage. My parents, in a lot of respects, are my heroes. The things I enjoyed growing up--movies, the outdoors, books, folklore, food, sports and time with friends and family--are the things I enjoy now.

Would New York buy that story? Hell no. Will I one day write it? Hell yes, because I want my kids to know about me and I want my folks and sisters to see how thankful I am for them.

I think each of our lives represents a tremendous narrative--a miracle synthesis of choice and fate; personality and biology. Just because New York won't come calling doesn't mean that the story shouldn't be told.

And about my background? None of it amounts to a hill of beans when it comes to the type of fiction I write. Thankfully we live in a place where our ideas govern our content, and we are free to write whatever we please.

And on that note, I think it's time to return to my short story on "thinnies."

Oh, yeah. Writing post: I think it's difficult to write fiction in the second person perspective.

12.04.2007

Speculative Topics--Celebrating the Apocalypse

So what is it about the end of the world that has all of us dying to read (or watch)?

Stephen King wiped out the population in The Stand and then did it again in Cell (not to mention "The End of the Whole Mess," "The Mist" and "Night Surf"). As I've made abundantly clear in this space, the best book I've read in years is the post-apocalyptic The Road. In two weeks we'll get the film adaptation of Richard Matheson's excellent I Am Legend. And that will precede years of offerings from Justin Cronin (a.k.a. Jordan Ainsley) in the form of a post-apocalyptic vampire trilogy.

So what is it about the end of the world and popular culture? Why are we so fascinated by the prospects of it?

I can't say for sure, but I do remember that in high school I used to lifeguard at the city aquatic center in Pendleton. About ten miles west of town the U.S. military has created a storage facility for all of their unspent (and past expiration, no doubt) munitions from the various wars. As you drive along I-84 you see row after row of hideous bumps rising up from the prairie--they're bunkers, all of them stuffed with mustard and nerve gas.

It's some scary shit.

I used to sit in my lifeguard chair and wonder what I'd do if we had an earthquake (not uncommon in that part of the country) and a cloud of life-altering gas started heading toward Pendleton on a stiff easterly wind. How would I react? Where would I go? Who would I ally with?

I watched the pool also, but an awful lot of my idle time in that chair was spent wondering what if. And I think that's the real draw. Humanity is curious about its mettle. We wonder if we're hearty enough to be the survivors. And it wouldn't be just natural or chemical or nuclear catastrophe we'd have to deal with. It would be social manipulation and group-think and misplaced belief that would foul the machinery as well.

For an excellent view of those principles at work, I recommend the 1964 Twilight Zone episode "The Shelter" to your consideration.

So why do we dig the idea of the apocalypse so much, guys? What is it about the most horrible of horribles that so captivates our culture?

And which of these stories is the best, in your opinion?

12.03.2007

Don Imus and the Kindle

An interesting couple of weeks have passed since we last talked about the publishing industry. I was happy to see that Galleycat reported another solid month in terms of book sales. The post stated:

The Association of American Publishers released its latest figures on book sales: an increase of 5.7 percent for the month of September, and yearly sales maintaining their climb with an increase of 9.9 percent. The Harry Potter bubble is slowly receding; children's/YA hardcover was down 12.8 percent over August's numbers. But don't shed a tear just yet: The category still produced $87.1 million in sales, over $15 million more than adult mass market paperbacks, which are in decline 7.5 percent for the month and 6.3 percent for the year to date.

Also, I read today that the Great Cowboy Hat is back on the air at WABC-AM in New York. Imus put his foot in his mouth with his racist and sexist comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team, but his influence on book sales can't be disputed and I think his eight months off the air was satisfactory compensation for his comments. The true measure of his contrition will come in the months and years to follow as he and his new co-hosts tread into racially sensitive territory in discussing American culture.

And we have another venue through which to discuss books--one that many of the bibliophiles I know at the college sorely missed.

And finally, what do you guys make of the Kindle? I collect books and I love them. I enjoy having stacks of them around my office and at my home. I love to curl up with a paperback in bed or take a copy on an airplane. That said, I will eventually get an e-book reader. Maybe not a Kindle ($400!?), but when the price comes down and competition perfects the design and utility, I could see myself taking a portable media center with me just about everywhere.

I think it will have a solid impact, years down the road, on the price of college textbooks, and with some of the design I've noticed out there in the world of e-books I can't see much of a difference in the quality of the product. There will always be books, and for that I'm thankful, but I'm excited about where we are going with technology. I'm eager to see how this will impact the future of publishing, and I think most new and emerging authors should probably look at this as a positive for exposure.

What do you think? Will you buy a Kindle, and if so, why?

12.01.2007

New Fiction Markets and Pictures

Today they play the Civil War in Oregon and I'm not too confident in the Ducks. Our quarterback situation has been dismal of late, and I think Jonathon Stewart is a little bit banged up. That said, OSU isn't at full strength and it's at Autzen, so I think it should be entertaining and pretty even.

I linked to about half a dozen new fiction markets at www.danielwpowell.com/page05.html, including a promising market (Shroud) that is seeking content for its first issue in January. I also added some new photographs on the photo journal page.

Uncovering Original Ideas

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope....