Monday, May 31st, 2010

Remembering the Fallen

Walter Rakowski and Frank MichalskiOn this Memorial Day, I’m remembering those in my family who’ve served.

That handsome fellow on the right is my great-Uncle Frank.

Frank Michalski served for many years in Germany, where he met the love of his life, my great-Aunt Lidia. Marriage between American soldiers and German women was forbidden at the time. Although my Aunt Lidia was from the Ukraine, she fell into the same group since she was a working woman in Germany.

Love conquers all, however, as does bribery. For a few cartons of cigarettes, the chaplain married them.

Frank was one of the lucky ones. He came home after the war, bringing Lidia with him.

Left of Frank is my great-Uncle Walter Rakowski. He was a bachelor through-and-through.

Walt gave his life in Germany. I never knew him.

This day, I raise a glass and salute them…and the others in my family who have served. I light a candle for the souls of those who’ve passed.

Just as I remember those closest to me, I remember the troops I’ve never met. Those who’ve served our country faithfully in the past, and those who are serving now. You’re in my thoughts today and most days.

Thank you, to all the men and women who serve our country.

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Balticon 2010 – Day 2

Once again, I spent more time discussing writing “stuff” with friends and fellow writers, rather than attending any of the panels. (Does anyone actually attend panels when they go to a con?)

This morning, I zoomed through the dealer’s room and bought a very cool (read: geeky) pair of earrings. Check out their awesomeness:

20-Sided Dice Earrings

They only way these could be better is if I could rip them off my ears and roll them when I needed to.

(Tomorrow, I plan to zoom through again, and hope nothing else shiny catches my eye. I’m a sucker for shiny…especially if it’s shiny and geeky.)

Late this afternoon was my class on “Submitting Short Fiction for Publication.” I spent quite a few hours making sure all the html links in the PowerPoint were still active and opening them all on the screen so I’d be prepared to demonstrate.

I need a projector and screen so that I can show several market possibilities as well as demonstrate some online database searches for the attendees. I told the Balticon coordinators months ago when they accepted my proposal for the con that I required a projector. And this morning, I double-checked with Balticon staff to make certain everything was in order.

(You can see where this is going, can’t you?)

“Oh, yes…” the staffer said to me. “That’s why you were booked in the Belmont room. There’s a 32-inch TV in there.”

Not exactly what I wanted, but it would have done the job.

Needless to say, when I got there…there was no 32-inch TV. In fact, there was no TV at all. Just a lovely banquet table and chairs. One attendee suggested I race to the con operations staff and see if they could fix the situation. So, I high-tailed it over to the help desk, and was basically told, “Too bad.”

(What’s funny about this [not really] is that I presented this seminar in February at the Frederick County Library system, and they booked me in a room without a projector, too. It’s starting to feel like this talk is doomed.)

The silver lining is that people came, and they stayed…even though there were no visuals. In fact, every chair at the table was full…and at least one person camped on the floor to stay for the duration. They had questions, and I had answers…and several people stayed through to the bitter end…for two hours. So the answer to my question above is…yes, people do attend the panels.

And these folks tonight were terrific. I had a lovely time meeting people and chatting with those I’ve met before. (To everyone who attended my session: thank you for staying! If you think of any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. I promise to post the pdf soon!)

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

But enough about the con. Let’s talk about the hotel… Remember I’m in the handicapped room, right? I really don’t know how they justify this journey…

This is what you see when you get off the elevator. (I take no responsibility for the relentlessly horrible color scheme. This place really needs some updating.)

See the hallway on the left?” You have to walk though that wing to get to my room.

To The Room 1

This is an up close and personal view of that hallway. It’s loooooong.

To The Room 2

And before you get to my room, you have to take this little dog-leg turn. First turning right, and then as this picture shows, turning left…past the ice machine.

To The Room 3

And then you have to travel down this hallway. (They’re all starting to look the same, eh? but note the air conditioning unit on the left in this photo. It is a different picture.) My room is the second from the last on the right.

To The Room 4
Friday, May 28th, 2010

Balticon 2010 – Day 1

It’s nearly midnight and I’m finally able to sit down and write a few words about what’s been going on.

Things got hopping in the late afternoon, but really kicked off around 8 p.m. with the Opening Ceremonies. I ignored them in order to chat up some writer friends and spent much time in the company of fellow MWA writer, Carl Rauscher.

(Take a gander at his (as yet unpublished) novel Reboot. It took second place in the 2010 Writing Contest, which is a crime, because it really is fabulous. He should have gotten first. You can read some of Reboot here.)

At 10 p.m., the Broad Universe panel was fairly well attended and included reads from Roxanne Bland, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Elaine Corvidae, Heather Kantz, Gail Martin, Roberta Rogow, Jean Marie Ward and myself.

I read from Blood Soup.

Afterward, I’d planned to do some editing on my WIP, but I’ve been too busy making friends and chatting about writing, blogging and knitting. (Yes, knitting…don’t you? I’m working on a lovely little table doily with the pattern name of “skulls and crossbones.” I’m omitting the crossbones…because I want to.)

I’ve nothing planned for the early morning, but I’m contemplating getting up at 4:20 a.m. to catch the 4:30 showing of “Blood and Chocolate” in the video salon. The plot sounds a little weak, but I love the title. What would you do?

I have to rise at a fairly decent hour anyway in order to catch breakfast in the hotel. Thanks to a room mix-up, I’ve been comped four breakfast passes… I could use one each morning, but why do that when I could have a party? Are you free tomorrow?

(Also due to the room mix-up, I’m in a handicapped room: lots of things are low to the ground and the door has two peepholes…one for if you’re standing, and one for sitting…which seems pointless to me, since gazing through it only reveals the size your visitor’s belt buckle. They really need to angle that one up.)

My schedule is light tomorrow: In the late afternoon I’m teaching a seminar on how to submit short fiction for publication. So, maybe I’ll get some of that editing done.

More tomorrow, and perhaps…photos.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Cleaning Up Before Vacation

Vacuum CleanerI’m trying to tie up some loose ends and get organized before leaving for Balticon on Friday. I’m participating in two readings, and I’ll be teaching a seminar on Saturday on How to Sell Short Fiction. I’m very excited.

One thing I’m doing is going through all the unfinished manuscripts on my desk. I want to take some with me to the hotel. Even though I’ll be busy, I’m certain to have some downtime to work on a few things. The question is, what should I take? Without wading through all the garbage here (the physical and the electronic), and tidying up a little, I don’t have a clue.

It’s a little like cleaning up before going on vacation. Are you familiar with the concept?

When I was growing up, my Mom made us clean the house top to bottom before we went on vacation. I hated doing that. (Hi, Mom! You knew that already, right?) It wasn’t the cleaning that I objected to, it was the time lost that I could be doing something else, like writing, or reading, or well, just about anything other than cleaning, that I really hated giving up.

But I have to admit, my Mom had it right. There was nothing better than coming home to a clean house when you arrive exhausted from vacation.

So that’s what I’m doing now, cleaning off the desk, filing away some papers, shoving various versions of WIPs into folders and putting them away (or into my rolly bag to go with me to the con). I’m also tackling that thumbdrive with three hundred files, all on the root.

I’m looking forward to the convention, but I’m also looking forward to coming home to a clean desk, my mind all juiced by nearly four days of sci-fi and fantasy fun. With a little luck, I’ll know just what to do — and have all that “convention high” enegy — to finish the WIPs and start something new.

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Guest Interview: Ginger Simpson

I first met Ginger Simpson on the Eternal Press authors-only forum. With her quick wit and wealth of knowledge, she very quickly became my “hero” — answering a lot of newbie questions — some I wished I’d thought to ask — offering suggestions, and adding wise counter-point to rants. And then I realized she’s also a fabulous writer.

When you’re done reading, please check out Ginger’s books. At the very least, show some love in the comments. We’d both enjoy hearing from you.

The Illustrious Ginger SimpsonWho is Ginger Simpson?
Well… she used to be an attractive (at least I thought so) younger women who worked an 8-5 job and used her lunch hours and breaks to work on her books. Now she’s retired, facing the official senior citizen birthday and doesn’t seem to be able to accomplish nearly as much as she did back in the day.

When and why did you begin writing?
For years, I’d read every western historical I could get my hands on. My interest stemmed from the Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House series and blossomed into romance novels…basically anything with the word “savage” in it. I’ve always been an avid reader, but one day I decided I should try my hand at writing my own historical. Prairie Peace, my debut novel, was proof I can write.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The moment I held Prairie Peace in my hands and saw my name on the cover. There’s no greater feeling except maybe having a child or winning the lottery. I can’t really comment on the last as I’m still trying to achieve that goal.

What inspired you to write your first book?
Having access to a computer at home. I’d brought my laptop home from work to finish a project, and afterwards some strange woman named Cecile popped into my head and started telling me a story. The longer I typed, the more enthralled I became with the tale, and I had to see it through to the end. In case you can’t tell, my stories are character driven. I’m basically just the fingers that do the typing and go back and add in the components that make it a novel. The emotions, the smells, the identifying tags. 🙂

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? (Has anyone ever realized it?)
Only one of my books was actually spawned by a real-life experience. I wrote Embezzled Love based on my sister’s horrible outcome at finding love on the Internet, and I hoped that the final product would cause women to pause and remember how vulnerable they are in situations like dating sites. Men, too, actually. I think the book turned out well because it was a finalist in the 2009 Epic Award nominations.

Most of my books contain a little of me or a trait I admire and wish I possessed. For instance, Forever Faith is about a woman with a weight problem, Hope Springs Eternal is about a woman who faces growing older without anyone in her life, Sarah in Sarah’s Journey is the heroine I hope I am: fair, not afraid to take a stand, and a great friend. I think every author’s personality is hidden somewhere in their stories.

What books have most influenced your life most?
Like I said, I read every Laura Ingalls Wilder book a multitude of times. If someone could go back and find the “check out cards” from my grammar school library, they’d find my name on every other line. I think Ms. Wilder definitely set my writing wheels in motion.

What are your current projects?
I’m currently finishing a YA that I’ve already contracted then I plan to move on to my Women’s Fiction/Mystery, First Degree Innocence, then The Locket. I always have too many WIPS in progress because of the revolving door on my mind that allows characters to enter at will. They all have a story to tell and my WIP folder is overflowing with ones I’ve started to appease the anguished cries. *lol*

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My latest released book is all about changing. It was previously published in 2004 by another house, and the new version of White Heart, Lakota Spirit is my attempt to remove the amateur writing style and replace it with all the things I’ve learned in the process. Even editors learn as you go, as at the time, I felt this was thoroughly edited and perfectly so. It’s funny how you read your novels years later and wonder how so much slipped through the cracks.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The changing requirements from house to house and all the new writing “rules” that crop up on a frequently basis. For example: one house I queried took such issue with “ly” words, they wanted them all eliminated. I try to avoid them, but there are cases where I think they lend tension or emphasis to a scene. Now the emphasis seems to be on avoiding “was” as much as possible. Just when you think you’ve got a grip on what’s right and what’s wrong, you don’t. 🙂

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have several favorites, but I’ll name two of them, and you’ll notice that I’m limiting my choices to my fellow e-pubbed authors. I think if we don’t support our own, then who will. I often wonder why more people don’t feel the same and mention their peers as favorites…but Anita Davison, who writes historical novels set in England (her home) converted me with her descriptive writing and flowing prose. I mumbled to myself when I started critiquing her first chapter in our group, knowing it would be dry and boring, but boy was I wrong. She hooked me from the start, and I anxiously await anything she writes. Margaret Tanner, an Aussie author, who writes from the heart with such feeling and emotion that I immediately connect with her characters, just as I do with Anita’s. A true author moves the reader into the story and makes them feel the emotions, smell the smells and cry real tears. These two ladies do exactly that.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Research the publishing houses you’re targeting before you consider signing with them. There are so many new houses springing up, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t destined to doom and you don’t want to go down with them. Signing a contract is like entering into a marriage. If it’s a bad one, you’re stuck with them until the contract expires and divorces you from them. There are many awesome companies out there—one’s who know how to treat their authors. Ask your author friends…they’re your best source of information.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just a giant “thank you” for following me all these years, frequenting my blog, and believing in me. You keep me doing what I love.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. – please share your public links.

Web site:

Thanks Kelly for hosting me today. You’ve asked some very interesting questions and I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into showcasing me and my work.

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Reflection on Rejection

Only Snoopy could have had it this bad!

Classic Peanuts:  Snoopy's Manuscript Gets Rejected
Monday, May 17th, 2010

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio - AP Photo 2007Ronnie James Dio passed away yesterday morning.

The news of it hit me like a slap in the face. I’d just seen him in concert, touring with Heaven and Hell a few short months ago. He’d made an appearance at the Golden God Awards on April 8, looking frail–but one expects that from chemotherapy. I didn’t think he’d be dead a month later–only five months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer.

There was a summer tour planned, and if they made it back to the states after Europe, I’d planned to go again.

I’ve been playing his music all day…listening to a lot of the really old stuff, some written and recorded before I was born. What a voice this man had! The range, the power… And despite Ronnie James Dio playing a blues-based heavy metal (my favorite), it wasn’t the music that drew me toward him.

Ronnie James Dio was a quintessential story teller…and he enjoyed telling fantasy  stories. Dragons and knights, good and evil, all featured prominently in his music. (And the stage sets…I remember a tour with a giant dragon who reared up from the back of the platform, hulking over the drum kit, spreading his wings as wide as the stage.) The most impressive part: the guys in the white hats don’t always triumph in his music.

He told the NJ Star Ledger in 2000, “I took on the evil perspective, because I’ve always written from the ‘anti’ perspective. Most people don’t think in those terms, so you are freer to create.”

He added, “Evil always exists, good doesn’t always triumph, and that’s the universal balance.”

As a storyteller, I like to remind myself of that every once in a while.

Rest in peace, Mr. Dio. You’ll be missed.

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Stand Aside Folks, I’m in Charge…

…at least until tomorrow morning.

For now, do as I say and the first round of dumplings is on me.

Fortune Cookie stating, Today you should be the leader. Things will go your way.
Thursday, May 13th, 2010

The Appeal of Fantasy

I’m over at Rachel Brimble’s today, talking about the appeal of the fantasy genre.

Please stop by and leave me a comment. I’d love to know what you think.

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

RIP Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta - Cover of ConanArtist Frank Frazetta died Monday, May 10th.

Early on in his career, he was a comic artist…helping out Al Capp with the L’il Abner comic strip, and eventually going on to draw the strip himself for many years.

My first introduction to Frazetta was the cover of a book.

In fact, he was probably responsible for 90% of the book covers of books I read as a teen…and some I’ve picked up recently. I’d venture to say that his artwork influenced me in choosing many of those books over others on the bookstores’ shelves.

He created covers for Conan, Tarzan and other heroes. His artwork has been called, “visceral, violent, and erotic” with his scantily clad subjects (both male and female). I find his artwork dark and attractive.

It’s definitely the end of an era.

RIP, Frank Frazetta.