Beta Readers Wanted

I’m super excited to announce that I’ve finished the draft of Hamlette! Very soon now I will be looking for people to read it and provide feedback as I spruce it up.

What does being a beta reader entail? I will send two to three chapters at a time (or the entire manuscript if you prefer). You’ll have a week to read what I’ve sent, and then we’ll do a little interview in which you tell me what you think. What you like, don’t like, etc. What works for you, what you don’t understand. The interviews will likely be via online chat or Google hangout or something like that. Yes, you get to really and truly interact with me! If that scares you, I can also just send a questionnaire. But I find it more helpful to have a kind of conversation with my beta readers.

Anyway, feel free to contact me if this interests you, or else be on the lookout for a sign-up sheet to be posted soon.

Miss Magnolia

The other night at dinner my kids began to ask me questions that started with, “Back in your day…” As in: “Back in your day did they have cars?” Since I felt like saying, “WTF, you guys, how old do you think I am?” was probably poor parenting, I answered in the voice of an old Southern woman who I’ve since named Miss Magnolia.

This delighted the kids. They asked me what I thought when I first saw a pizza. Miss Magnolia answered, “Why, I saw it and thought: someone’s murdered the cake. I mean, it was so flat! And why did it have cheese on it?” They asked what I thought when I first saw a pineapple. “I thought it was a spider! I smashed it, and it made such a mess. And then someone told me I was supposed to eat it!”

Miss Magnolia spoke at length about Hubert. Well, Hubert VI, that is. And his pet turkey. And the corns on his feet. You see, Miss Magnolia is from Hubertville, Alabama. (Not to be confused with Hubbertville.) The first Hubert founded the town, and now no one will speak to Hubert VII because he named his son Edmund.

She also talked about Pop’s, which is where she and her friends used to go for candy and sodas. It was the soda shop. She mentioned that she doesn’t eat dumplings or ravioli because she doesn’t trust food if she doesn’t know what might be inside it. In short, she’s quite the character. The kids have been asking for her, though my youngest son says it is a little weird to hear me talk in such a different voice.

Maybe some day I’ll sketch out a full picture of Miss Magnolia and her little town. It’s been a fun experiment.

We’ve Got Another One

The Guardian is batting, uh, maybe not 1.000, but the number is up there this week as they approach the subject of celebrity endorsements on books. Someone (a judge of the Man Booker Prize or something?) said such blurbs “blackmail the reader.” Do they?

What do you think when you see a celebrity quote or blurb on a book? I’m jaded and cynical, so I often think, “They probably didn’t even read it.” Or, “They’re probably just friends with the author and so were cornered into saying something nice about the book.”

The whole thing makes me feel a bit ill, really. A bunch of snobs rubbing shoulders and patting one another on the back. That’s how it comes across to me.

But what about you? Do you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t read the latest, hottest thing? Particularly if a celebrity has blurbed it? Do you trust a celebrity’s review or opinion more than anyone else’s? (And if so . . . WHY? I really want to know.)

I’ve worked with celebrities, so maybe I just don’t have it in me to be swayed by their opinions. I don’t know. I do know I’ve never picked up a book just because someone famous liked it. The blurb may get me to look at the book, but I always decide for myself whether to read it.

So let’s say your favorite actor or singer or writer “recommended” a book. You pick it up and start to read it, and you hate it. Do you, as the Man Booker judge suggests, feel stupid for not liking something a celebrity likes? Do you try to convince yourself to like it? Do you make yourself finish reading the book no matter what?

I just . . . I mean, does anyone really read the quotes to begin with? I usually only notice them after I’ve already bought the book because I, you know, read the back of the book or the dust jacket or whatever and thought it sounded good. Then I might notice the quotes and think, “Oh. Cool.” But most likely I think [see paragraph 2].

But I’m also not one of these celeb culture followers. So maybe for other people it’s different. Maybe some people only read books their favorite celebrities read. Or wouldn’t read at all if those famous faces didn’t encourage it.

I’m NOT judging. I’m just acknowledging that circumstances may be different. Just today I was explaining to a second grader that, yes, he had to learn to read well because life requires that skill. But I told him, “Look, reading for fun may not be your thing. And that’s okay. You have to learn to read, but you don’t have to spend your spare time doing it. It’s not for everyone.” Because, much as I love reading and writing, I’m aware that there are people in the world who don’t.

So, you know, maybe celebrity blurbs are a good thing. If they get people to read.

But I don’t know the statistics on that. I don’t have any data. Just like no one know whether these blurbs “blackmail” people either. It’s an opinion, but what is it based on? Some old guy’s irritation? Seriously, I don’t know, I’m just wondering.

Anyway, let me know if celebrity book blurbs sway your reading choices. They’ve never really impacted mine.

Is There Such Thing as “Wrong” Fanfiction?

I’m asking because this Guardian headline suggests there is.

I suppose fanfic can be “wrong” if it gets things about the characters just completely wrong. And I know fanfic can be bad; there are tons of bad fics out there. But I wonder at the posing of the question of who should be “allowed” to write it.

Sure, if it’s going to be something “official,” then . . . Well, it’s no longer fan fiction, is it?

The Guardian author frets over who might be hired to write sequels to her favorite books or movies or whatever. But no one says she has to read them. I didn’t read Scarlett because I didn’t want to ruin Gone with the Wind for myself.

Lumping official sequels with fanfic is problematic. Fan fiction is, by definition, written by fans. For no money. (Amazon Worlds notwithstanding, I suppose.) Fanfic = fans who may or may not actually have an ability to write playing in the sandbox next to the fabulous sand castle that is “canon.” Anyone is allowed to do it. The beach isn’t closed. And maybe some people are crap at building sand castles or whatever, but that doesn’t mean we don’t allow them to try. We don’t go stomping on their efforts.

I got started as a fanfic author, and I think it was a great way to hone my skills. I’d say I had more fans when I wrote fan fiction than I do now because those worlds have built-in audiences. (But also because I was a guest fan author at cons, which built my fan base.)

Some authors get irritated when fans try to write their own stories about characters the authors have created. Those authors want ultimate control over their work, and I get that, too. Anne Rice has asked that people not write fics about her vampires. (I did it anyway, before I knew her stance. Then I stopped.) She can’t really keep people from doing it, but respecting authors’ and creators’ wishes just seems like the right thing to do if you really do love them and their work.

That said, if you want to write fic about any of my stuff, go for it.

I think any time there’s going to be a sequel to something, people have a certain amount of trepidation. There’s always the question of, “Will it suck?” And then we learn who’s doing the work: the writer, the director, the actors, whatever. And we either feel better or worse. And sometimes even the original author can suck at writing a sequel, so there’s no safe harbor. Sequels are inherently dangerous. They may always alter the original in ways we don’t like, no matter who is making them or writing them.

That’s the balance: we want more of what we love and are terrified of ruining that love at the same time.

Which is why fan fiction is so wonderful. You can love it or hate it, but it doesn’t count, so it doesn’t ruin the original work! Ta-da! You can decide to take or leave what you want with fan fiction. When it’s good, it’s very, very good, and when it’s bad, you laugh and walk away. No harm, no foul.

In short, I think the Guardian piece is misusing the term “fanfiction” (they make it all one word there). They’re talking about an official sequel and worrying over other possible franchises that could get “new” authors. Eh. Whatever. To go back to the sand castles, this kind of sequel is like letting someone build a new wing of a standing castle. It’ll either look awesome or look really bad, but if you walk around to another side of the sand castle, you won’t be able to see it at all. You can pretend it doesn’t exist.

WIP Wednesday

Life has hit me hard lately, so I’m falling a bit behind on my current WIP. And it’s kind of under wraps at the moment anyway. I mean, I’ve got people critiquing it, and hopefully soon it will be ready for the agent who says she wants to rep it. Fingers crossed!

Still, I’d hate to leave you with nothing. This is a piece of my Master’s thesis (2001). Some day I hope to rework it. It’s the story of a 13-year-old boy named Akkad who was chosen as a kind of living god. His guardians are two Ninatat (a name you may recognize if you’ve been reading Sel & Am). In fact, you may also recognize the reference to Durandios.

When Ukiel and Akkad entered the sanctuary, they found Remiel pacing back and forth in front of Akkad’s ceremonial chair, muttering to himself. Upon seeing his high priest, Akkad couldn’t stop a crooked smile from crossing his lips; from the first day he’d seen Remiel when he was six years old, the man had not ceased to pace. It was as if the weight of the world rested on the priest’s shoulders.

Remiel looked up sharply when he realized he was no longer alone. “How many times do I have to tell you, Akkad?” he snapped. “At the zenith! We must begin when the sun is at its height! Who knows which god you’ve offended now.”

Akkad only shrugged, his smile fading. He moved to sit in the chair, but before he could settle himself, Remiel had him by the arm. “Your robes, Akkad. You cannot attend the people without the appropriate attire.”

“Surely Durandios would strike me down,” Akkad muttered as Ukiel and Maklad brought the cloak and jewels.

“Not funny,” Remiel said. “Not funny at all. Don’t forget the sandals,” he added to the attendants. He hovered for a moment more to make sure things were to his liking before motioning to the guards to open the chamber doors.

As the first of the populace began to enter with their eyes respectfully lowered, Akkad caught Remiel’s sleeve and hissed, “Just remember they’re your gods, Remiel. Your people.”

Remiel whirled, scowling. But he was not so stupid as to make a scene just then. He bent to speak in Akkad’s ear as if offering advice or a prayer. “Yes. But would you rather be dead?”

Happy Birthday, Daddy

So it’s my dad’s birthday. Which for the first 50 years of his life was a perfectly good birthday to have. But on his 51st birthday, that all went to hell.

It’s got to be weird, having your birthday be a national day of mourning.

One of my high school friends has his birthday today, too. And I know no one is saying he and Dad and others who have this birthday can’t celebrate. But conspicuous celebration on a day like today is . . . Well, it doesn’t feel right.

Most people say, “Celebrate on a different day, the day before or after.” But it’s kinda lousy not to be able to celebrate your actual birthday.

This isn’t an argument, just an observation. I’m not saying, “They should be allowed to celebrate.” I’m only acknowledging the difficulties and the mixed feelings. Dad’s a veteran, after all. And he’s never said to me he wished he could have his birthday on his birthday, so I’m probably just projecting, imagining how I’d feel. I think about kids actually born on September 11, 2001 and wonder how strange that must feel—every time they fill out a form . . . SMH. Or maybe you don’t think about it that much after a while. I don’t know.

But in any case, I want to wish my dad a Happy Birthday. Even as I know silence will be observed at so many places, even as social media fills with images and memorials: Happy Birthday, Daddy. You’re worth celebrating.

I Did Another One of Those Internet Personality Quizzes

Click “Read More” for hella graphics.

Apparently I’m not at all gregarious. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Smart, but only lukewarm. Yup.

I fake the emotional stability thing. I come across as stronger than I really am. But I’m surprised by the assertiveness score. I don’t think I’m very assertive at all.

Now I see where Peter Stoller gets it. He’s me.

I’m not so much shy as avoidant of spontaneous interactions. This is because I’m very sensitive. But I’m friendly once you get to know me! It’s just . . . I make it difficult for people to get to know me. Hmm.

I take umbrage with that imagination score. I’m *highly* imaginative, thankyouverymuch. Then again, I’m also pretty practical.

I am sometimes a little too forthright. But I also know when to keep my mouth shut. Usually.

Complex! Hooray! I adapt quickly and get bored easily, too. And I’m pretty independent. It’s difficult for me to ask others for help.

Yeah, I’m not orderly. But I do observe social rules and am fairly controlled (in public).

As for emotion, right on the line, baby. 2 of Swords. Depends on the day.