That’s the Breaks, Kid

 

Sam greets visitors to Huntsville, Texas

Spring break! That fabulous time of year in southeastern Texas when spring has sprung, flowers are flowering, and it is still cool enough to go outside past 9:00 AM. But what does this have to do with writing?

I’m glad you asked. Are you looking for a fresh idea to get out of the dull winter doldrums? Go on a road trip. Museums hold many a mystery and interesting artifact for non-fiction writers, and story prompts about for novelists and short story writers. Mystery Domino

 

Why did Sam Houston’s first wife leave him after a mere eleven weeks of marriage? He took that secret to his grave, but it could make an interesting historical fiction. Who left the mysterious double five domino, stamped with the Huntsville State Prison logo in a holding cell in Harris WP_20160319_051County? What, if anything, did it mean? Secret message, or simple Rawr!mistake? Dinosaur tracks, right here in Texas? Indeed. How were they formed, and who found them? Young readers love dinosaurs! Who were some of the colorful characters during the heyday of the Ft. Worth Stockyards? Maybe you could borrow one or two for the hero or villain in your wild west romance. Did you know there was such an adorable thing as a tree kangaroo? Picture book! Was there really a mysterious character on the grassy knoll? The Sixth Floor Museum may spark some ideas for an alternative history novel.

Tree Kangaroo

Grassy KnollSpring break has passed? No worries. Stay local – there’s bound to be something nearby that you haven’t seen before. Take pictures. Take notes. And limber up your typing fingers!

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Have a Piece of Chocolate and Move On

By Ellen Leventhal
rejection

I know I’ve written about rejection before. But see, that’s the thing. It’s not something you think about once, get over, and move on to a field of daisies and puppies to write happily ever after.  Yes, after a rejection, eat chocolate, have some wine, and move on.  Definitely move on. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking that once you move on, you’ll never get that punch in the gut feeling again.

For traditionally published authors, and those attempting to be one, the rejection letter is sometimes a literary form of “It’s not you, it’s me.” It usually reads something like this: “Although you have a wonderful way of telling a story, it’s just not right for our list. We hope your manuscript finds a home.”  (That always makes me think of hundreds of poor manuscripts huddled together under a street light; homeless and cold.) Sometimes that’s true. Different agents and editors are looking for different things. And sometimes it’s timing. I once got a beautiful rejection telling me that they liked my writing, but they just published a book with a very similar theme, and they are a small press….blah, blah, blah. You know, it’s not you, it’s us. But then there are also the ones that pretty much tell you that you are a fool to have submitted because your work is way below their standards, and you might as well throw your computer away because you are a hopeless hack. OK, I may have overreacted and read that into my last rejection, but you get the idea.

So how about if you indie publish? No rejections? Right and wrong.  Although there may not be actual rejections, you still need a thick skin. Most critique groups have caring, diplomatic members who will point out issues in your manuscript without making you cringe. Critique groups are wonderful for finding things you missed because you are too close to the project. But sometimes an editor may not be as diplomatic. And what about when you pay someone to critique your work and then get a less than stellar review? You may take their criticisms as a form of rejection. Again, drink wine, eat chocolate, and fix the manuscript. You still may feel like you have been punched in the gut, but at least you have a chance to revise. So do it.

Now, what about the indie writer who doesn’t get his work critiqued or edited? Well, maybe they won’t face the same type of rejection, but most likely, their book won’t do well. But those writers are for a whole different blog post. Indie writers need to go through all the same steps as traditionally published writers. When they don’t, they make the rest of us look bad. More on that another day.

We all face some type of rejection. It’s not just about writing.  How do you handle it? I’d love to hear because I’m running low on chocolate and wine.

 

 

Carl, the Vegetarian Vampire

by Artemis Greenleaf

Click here to see me in the Kindle store!

Click here to see me in the Kindle store!

No, he doesn’t sparkle.

Carl is a friendly vampire – he only drinks the synthetic blood (“synth”) invented by his hero, scientist Dr. Theo Tamas (Extra Iron flavor is his favorite!). But Carl has a problem. His dad desperately wants to be a real estate agent, but he can’t, because people don’t shop for houses at night. So he works at a warehouse job he hates, just to keep his family in synth. If he quits his job, there will be no more synth, and Carl will be forced to become a scary vampire, and lose his best friend, human Alex, forever. But not to worry – Carl has a plan.

In addition to Carl’s tale, I added his bat friends, Dari (short for tadarida braziliensis, or Mexican free-tailed bat) and Foxy (macrobats, or fruit bats, are commonly called flying foxes) on each page. If you double tap Dari or Foxy, they’ll share a fun bat fact with you. I thought I knew a lot about bats, but I learned so much more about them doing this research!

If you would like to read some of the amazing bat articles and resources that I found, visit my Pinterest page. There are a few other things there, as well.

 

Inside the Palisade – an Interview with K.C. Maguire

by Artemis Greenleaf

InsidePalisadeHello! It’s my turn to post, and I have the honor of interviewing our own fabulous K.C. Maguire.

Thanks for interviewing me this week.

Congratulations, K.C., on your upcoming release, Inside the Palisade. Your latest novel is a YA sci-fi dystopia about a teen named Omega who has been raised in an all-female community, and one day happens on a boy who is absolutely, positively not supposed to be there. Would you tell us a little bit about Omega? What is her life like inside the Palisade?

 Omega actually leads a pretty bland life until she meets Ghent (the hidden boy) and starts to learn the truth about her cloistered society. She lives alone with her mother and works in a clothes factory. She has always suspected she’s a little different from everyone else, partly because of her weird eyes in a society where everyone else is genetically engineered to be perfect, and partly because she’s always thought there must be more to life than what she’s seen so far. She discovers that she’s right, but it’s a dangerous journey.

The best journeys always are! Your protagonist is named Omega. The Omega symbol (Ω) was used in Vietnam War draft protests. In computer science, it refers to a missing (null) or inapplicable value. Is there a symbolic connection to her name?

 Partly. I decided to use Greek letters for all the women’s names as a way of “ordering” the society. Women are given Greek letters as first names which they often shorten or change to nicknames. I picked Omega for my protagonist because I wanted to be able to shorten it to “Meg” as an homage to my youngest daughter who was just born when I started the book.

What is the reasoning behind banning men from the community, and how was it accomplished?

 This is a dystopian society where war and violence has ravaged the world outside the palisade. Over the years, a mythology has developed among the women that the men were to blame for all the violence (which, of course, isn’t true, but it comes to be accepted). Men weren’t initially banned, but gradually died out and weren’t replaced as women figured out how to genetically engineer babies to be girls.

 What inspired this story?

In my other life I work in a very male dominated profession and I often leave meetings thinking things like “it would be so much better if women were in charge.” Of course, I don’t really believe this, but it was a thought experiment as to what *might* happen if women actually were in charge. I’m not the first author to experiment with this idea, but many YA sci-fi books have large male character presences even if the protagonist is a woman. I thought it might be fun to turn the idea on its head and see what happens.

My 7th grader is attending an all-girls school this year. What advice would Omega give her?

I went to an all girls school for a while myself and I didn’t like it much. Girls on their own can be very catty and bitchy, although they can also be wonderful and I made some great friends at that school. My advice to anyone starting any school or new social situation is to just be yourself. If you’re honest about who you are and what you want, you’ll never be disappointed in yourself. And if other folks can’t accept that, they’re probably not the best friends for you anyway.

 You’ve created a rich sci-fi world inside the Palisade, where women depend on technology for the survival of their community. What impact has this technology had on their evolution as a species?

 In many ways these women have over-relied on technology while resources and personnel have dwindled. If they’d had less technology and had to work on new ways to move forward as a society, they might have done better in the long run.

 You’ve gotten some rave reviews on Amazon. Is this book the first in a series, or will you leave readers guessing about what happens to Omega?

 I didn’t necessarily plan it as the first in a series but I always knew it had “series potential” in the sense that there’s a lot more that is likely to happen to the young protagonists after the story closes. I’ve actually toyed with an idea for a sequel based on another character’s perspective. In many ways, Omega has fulfilled her character arc in this book, but there’s a lot of room for growth for a number of the supporting cast featured in this book.

I know that you write across several genres, but focusing on sci-fi, who are the top five authors who have inspired you the most?

 I love so many authors that it’s hard to narrow it down to five. Of the more classic sci-fi writers, I love Ray Bradbury and enjoy Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick. Of the more contemporary writers, I love Karen Lord, A.M. Dellamonica, and Nalo Hopkinson. There’s also a short story writer (Ray Vukcevich) who is kind of like the Salvador Dali of sci-fi short stories.

There are so many genres because people enjoy different kinds of stories. What kind of reader will love this book

I really think the audience for this book is people who like a fast-paced action story and tend to enjoy “what if” scenarios. There’s a touch of adventure and romance, but it’s mainly a thought experiment about what an all-gal society would look like with past pacing, lots of twists and turns and (hopefully) unexpected reveals.

Finally, would you share an excerpt from the book with us?

 Here’s a little snippet from the middle of the book when Omega and Ghent are arguing about why the women use Greek letters for names and what the options used to be…

“Why the name Ghent? Where did it come from?”

He shakes his head, causing his matted hair to flutter around his ears. “My mothers never liked the Greek letters.”

“And I guess it would be weird for a boy”—I stumble over the unfamiliar word—“to be called Alpha or Beta or something.”

“You don’t think it’s weird for girls to have those names?” He seems upset. I turn away, not knowing what I said wrong.

There’s a rustle of blankets and in a moment he’s on his knees in front of me. The intensity of his gaze makes me feel weak. “Don’t

you see? It’s another way the society controls you. Forces you to conform.” He reaches for me, but I jerk away.

He massages his neck as if in pain. Then he looks over at the bookcase. “Hold on,” he says as he rushes to it and traces his

fingers along the cardboard edges that jut out along the shelves. Obviously searching for something. With a rush of breath, he

pulls out an object. An antique book with a tattered cover. He flips it open. I can’t hide my curiosity. I’ve never seen a paper

book before. I move over to him and kneel by his side. He’s not handling the object with the care I would expect. Instead, he flips

through the pages with his thumb. The paper makes a crackling sound. I lean across until I can see the words, printed in real ink.

“Here it is. Listen to this.” He looks up at me before turning his attention to the object in his lap.

He’s going to read to me. A thrill of anticipation shoots through me. In a melodic voice, he begins, and it’s as if a

thousand butterflies have been released in my stomach.

“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing

longer or more explicit than Pip. So I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. I gave Pirrip as my family’s name, on the

authority of his tombstone and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith.”

My eyes close as the ancient words fill me, rolling from the deman’s tongue like silk. I’ve never heard anything this strange

before, at least not from a book.

“Do you like it?” he asks.

My eyes fly open when I realize he’s speaking to me.

“What is it?” I ask.

“It’s called Great Expectations.”

“I don’t understand. What does it mean?”

“This part”—he taps his finger over the paragraph he read— “means that people didn’t always use Greek letters for names.

They were able to choose names for themselves. Even make up nicknames, like Pip did.”

“That’s not such a big deal. We use nicknames now. You call your mothers Del and Epsie,” I say, but the words ring hollow.

Nicknames don’t seem like such a great innovation when we only have twenty-four names to choose from.

 

A Fantasy Interview: Almost as good as fantasy baseball–

by Mandy Broughton

Last Friday, Houston Writers Guild launched its new anthology, Tides of Impossibility. This collection of fantasy short stories is written by some of the field’s up-and-coming stars. And everyone knows what happens when I hear about a book launch–I find myself a new person to interview. After a flurry of emails, I was able to hunt down speak with one of the editors, C. Stuart Hardwick.

TOI

Mandy Broughton: I’m always curious how editors are chosen. Kyle Russell selected you as a co-editor on the Tides of Impossibility Fantasy Anthology. Is it true that when you gave Kyle a sample of your editing style, you used a gallon bucket of red paint versus a red pen? And you told him the tears of writers fuel you like Dilithium crystals do the Enterprise?

C. Stuart Hardwick: That’s a vile rumor started by the guy Kyle pays to clean out our buckets! Actually, editing an anthology is as much about time and energy as line editing. You spend a lot of time with each story, and you want it to be as pleasant as possible. Kyle and I had worked together promoting the scifi anthology, so we knew we had compatible tastes and temperaments. The guild has done a lot for me, so I was eager to give back. The rest was easy.

MB: Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Hmm. I see distinct lines separating science fiction, fantasy, and horror, mostly determined on the basis if the story contains robots, magicians, or men in hockey masks. You write mostly science-fiction, but as an editor for a fantasy anthology, what do you see the differences among the three genres?

CSH: That sums it up rather well. It’s principally a topical difference, though fantasy readers are a bit more into world building, and horror of course has its own take on tension and pacing, and each follows its own tropes and conventions. But beneath all that, stories are about people, and the best are about interesting people in interesting circumstances changing in interesting ways. That’s what we tried to put into Tides.

I’ve found that the more I work in the field, the less I feel tied to any one sub-genre. If you asked me to recommend three books right now, they’d be Andy Weir’s The Martian, Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides, and Randy Henderson’s debut, Finn Fancy Necromancy. That’s one hard scifi and two fantasy, and all thoroughly enjoyable. What really drew me to scifi was how readily it skirts reality to act as a foil or lens through which we can view ourselves. But storytelling is more than social commentary. Space opera like Star Wars is arguably really fantasy with a technological aesthetic, and many of my perennial favorites, from Groundhog Day to SyFy’s Warehouse 13, are fantasies that I enjoy for the character arcs as mush as the plot conceit, which is why I think Robert Heinlein has the right idea in championing “speculative fiction” as an umbrella term.. 

MB: [An aside: Warehouse 13 BRILLIANT!] Okay, speaking of speculative fiction, umbrellas, and the great Robert Heinlein, you have been rubbing elbows with the top echelon of science-fiction. Tell us about your awards and publications.

CSH: I was fortunate enough to win the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest last year, and they flew me to LA for a week long workshop taught by Tim Powers and Dave Farland. I got to meet a whole slew of scifi legends, from Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven to Nancy Kress and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. I dined with Starlog founder, Kerry O’Quinn, shared pizza with Robert J Sawyer, and spent the evening of my birthday standing out on Hollywood Boulevard watching the lunar eclipse with my awesome new writer friends.

I was also a finalist for the Jim Baen Memorial award and a semifinalist for the BSFA’s James White award, and I’m tremendously proud of making those lists. WotF, though, really lit the fire for me. It’s oddly humbling to be welcomed by such an array of luminaries who tell you in no uncertain terms, that while you have the ability, making it or not is still a long slog of hard work and perseverance.

MB: Is it true when Orson Scott Card asked you for your autograph that you told him to get to the end of the line with the rest of the losers?

CSH: Nooo. I think when Orson stepped up, I may have giggled like a little girl while I tried and failed to think up something memorable to write. Ender’s Game is once of my absolute favorites. And Orson was wearing sneakers with his suit, the devil.

MB: Sneakers with his suit, I like that almost as much as I love Ender’s Game. In your bio, you’ve mentioned that you’ve worn a cape. Readers want to know, when wearing the cape, who do you most resemble Bela Lugosi, Snidely Whipslash, or Batman?

CSH: Lugosi, of course. I was in a college production of Dracula. I’ve been told I have a light foot-step. That experience was very valuable, as my Van Helsing was always loosing his place in the script, and I found that you don’t get stage fright if you have something outside yourself to worry about. The image on my website landing page is of me sharing that advice on stage at the Ebell theater in LA.

MB: Anything else you’ve like to share?

CSH: Yes, Everyone check out Galaxy’s Edge magazine, issue 14., where my story appears along with those of Robert A. Heinlein, Larry Niven, Nancy Kress, David Brin, and Alan Dean Foster, among others. Galaxy’s Edge is edited by the inestimable Mike Resnick and filled with scifi and unique and quirky fantasy far afield of the traditional fae and dragon fare My story, Luck of the Chieftain’s Arrow, is a good example, about an elemental spirit that learns about love and loss as the copper it’s trapped in is passed down through human history.

CCrAPlFUgAAeOEd.jpg-large

MB: I do believe May, 2015 is when your story will appear. Everyone check it out, it’ll be on the final exam. Thanks again, Stuart. Great work on the anthology. I’m looking forward to the release of Tides of Impossibility.

CSH: Me too. It’s has quite a variety and some really compelling worlds and characters. I know everyone will find something to their liking.

MB: Artemis Greenleaf has an excellent story in the collection as well a humorous piece from yours truly. That’s it. I hope everyone enjoys. **looks around** Hmm, I believe Stuart still has my pen I loaned him last Friday at the signing…

TOI

Covering Your Trail

By Mandy Broughton

Cover art is a reader’s first experience with a book. Will it entice her to pick it up and give it a glance? Or will it cause her to chunk it across the room? [Full disclosure: I have ripped the cover off of two different books and shredded them because they were so bad. But the books were good.]

I love to design covers. Selecting art, placing and manipulating it, and finally the reveal. I love the satisfaction of a job well done. What could be better? [A bestseller? The love and envy of other writers? The adulation of adoring admirers? An excellent alliteration? But I digress—]

Writing is fun—ultimately a job—but still fun. But designing cover art—that’s where I get to let myself go wild. I can’t draw but I do think I have an eye for balance. And that discerning eye made me want to write a post on designing covers.

Here are a few ideas on what to look for in a cover. Tell me if you agree, disagree, or if I’ve left something out.

Organized vs Disorganized

Is the cover planned, organized chaos, or just Chaos with a capital C? A jumbled cover is fine—it can work—but there must be a method to the splattering we are looking at. Randomness is only our friend when selecting subjects for experiments, not in our covers. Think of a bomb: a placed charge can move rock so the road can be built. But throwing TNT willy-nilly on the hillside will rarely result in a benefit to the driving community.

Complexity vs Crowded

I like minimalist covers. That’s a personal preference. Simple lines, smoothness, those are soothing and invite me in. An overcrowded cover gives me a headache. It reminds me of my house and how I need to clean. I want to enjoy a book, not be reminded of housework.

Flow vs Splat

Where do my eyes want to go? To the authors name? The title? Am I looking at the woman swimming for her life and ultimately to the shark underneath her? The shark just wants a small snack before breakfast. He’s so misunderstood. [Jaws a great cover even forty years later.]

Symmetry vs Hot Mess

Balance. Even if it is a full and busy cover, there must be balance. Think of Star Wars: “In the time of greatest despair [often when I design], a child shall be born [hmm—a cover?] who will destroy the Sith [all bad covers] and bring balance to the Force [an excellent cover].

Appeal vs Avant-Garde

Avant-Garde is trendy. It can work on a cover but always remember the readers. When appealing to a large group, try to get what most people prefer. Think of ice cream flavors: more people like vanilla over Marbled Cream Cheese Brownie, Southern Peach Cobbler, or Birthday Cake. Vanilla ice cream may not be the first choice but, for many people, it is in the top three. There’s a reason the latter flavors are flavors of the month while vanilla is always available.

So tell me dear readers… what do you look for in a cover? What are some of your favorites?

Raccoons, Poltergeists, and Exits (RUN FAST!)

ExitPoint_FullCover

Mandy Broughton has found another willing victim for her hot seat. And hot it is. We’re here with Artemis Greenleaf, Purveyor of Fine Collocations.

MB: Most of your fiction features the supernatural. Is it true that you have a ghost in the attic of your house? And that she regularly bangs on the walls and floors to tell your family, “keep it down, you’re all too loud?”

AG: Well, there is something that lives in the attic, but I suspect it’s a raccoon.

MB: A raccoon. How quaint. I’m sure that’s a newfangled codename for “poltergeist.” Exit Point is your latest release. How did you come up with the name? Is it true that you’ve published so much fiction that you’ve run out of titles? And, while at the movie theatre, you saw a kid point to an exit sign and you said, “AHA!”

AG: An “Exit Point” is a metaphysical theory that before people are born, they choose the tasks they need to accomplish while they’re on the Earthly plane, but there are planned “escape hatches,” so that if they get done early, or situations change, they can leave. It might be something obvious, like nearly drowning in a swimming pool, or it may be something they’d never notice, like making a wrong turn or unusual stop on the way to work. If they’d gone the usual route, they would have been involved in a fatal traffic accident. But since they weren’t at the point of departure, the accident never happened, and they were none the wiser. In researching this book, I read a lot of material from Helena Blavatsky, C.W. Leadbeater, and Carl Jung. I came up with the idea for the story because one summer, there were a group of neighborhood teens who were breaking into the swimming pool area and drinking, and doing some malicious mischief. My husband said, “What if one of them fell in the pool and drowned?” and I thought, “What, indeed?”

MB: “What, indeed,” turned out to be a new story in a long collection of novels you’ve written. You are published under several pen names. Is that a secret or can I ask you if [redacted]?

AG: Yes. Artemis Greenleaf is my main brand. If these books were movies, they’d probably be rated PG-PG13. Although, I do have some short stories for younger readers that I’m working on converting to picture books/illustrated stories – those would be rated G.

One of the characters, Belinda Tate, from the Marti Keller Mysteries series (The Hanged Man’s Wife and The Magician’s Children), writes romance novels under the pen name “Coda Sterling.” The first book (well, novella) in her Dragonfire trilogy is Dragon by Knight. I’m about halfway done with book 2, Dragon Killer. The love scenes in Coda Sterling books are tame by 50 Shades of Grey standards, but they are much more explicit that what I normally write. Rated R.

A.B. Richards (Rescue: A Litter of Quetzels) is darker and grittier than Artemis Greenleaf. Definitely a strong R rating.

My experimental brand, Holly Dey (Puss in Spaceboots), is for story ideas that I’m not really sure how to classify. G-PG.

MB: If I had to guess, I would say YA is your favorite genre. Young adult fiction focuses on Dystopian worlds. Do you secretly have a mermaid army (navy?) that is trying to transform the world into a Dystopian Paradise—I mean—Nightmare?

AG: Funny you should mention merfolk – they do turn up in a couple of my stories (Earthbound, Space City 6), but, while they would be perfectly happy to see humans exterminated, they aren’t big on creating a dystopian society. The only true YA book that I have is Confessions of a Troll. It is true that Mimi, the main character in Exit Point, is 17 (so her friends are also around that age), but I’m not entirely sure it classifies as YA. I would say I mostly write Urban Fantasy, but some books are for younger readers, and some are for an older crowd.

MB: Funny, Confessions of a Troll is the first book I read of yours. I suppose that’s why I think YA! You do lots of personal sales, in grocery stores, at book events, farmers markets, etc. And you’ve mentioned that you enjoy people watching. Readers want to know: do you have a transmorgifier that you point at interesting people you meet and transform them into characters for your latest novel? And once transmogrified onto the 2D page, they are forced to act our your story for the rest of their natural lives?

AG: I have tons of notes about people that I scribble down, and I often combine attributes of random strangers. I was once in Target and encountered two young ladies, whose over-loud conversation I could not help but overhear. I wrote a blog post about that, and one of them turns up as Deb in Exit Point. There was once a lady in a store that was rude to me, so I promptly wrote her into a story and ran over her with a truck.

MB: *nervously worried that I’ve accidentally been rude* What’s next on the truck driving writing agenda?

AG: I’m planning on finishing up Dragon Killer, and then I will either write a novel length A.B. Richards book featuring Quetzel Cazares (and of course, Gato, the kitten), or write The Devil’s Advocate, the 3rd book in the Marti Keller series. I’ve got another project that’s set in that same universe, but stars a (mostly) different set of characters. Also working on the illustrated kids’ books – I’d like to have Brain’s Vacation out by summer.

MB: Thanks, Artemis, Coda, A.B., and Holly! Let’s take a look at your book trailer and Exit Point is on sale for $0.99 through December.

Celebrate Local Authors!

By Ellen Leventhal

 

local business Maude Marks Library

1815 Westgreen Blvd. Katy, TX

Dec. 6 1:00- 5:00

Help Celebrate Local Authors and Help Maude Marks Library!

 

It’s crazy out there. Really crazy. It’s loud, crowded, and just a little bit scary. Now understand, this is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Space City Scribes as a whole. After all, we are individuals, but this individual is not fond of crowds and pushing and ripping things out of other people’s hands. Let’s be a little civilized, can’t we? You do see the irony of finishing Thanksgiving and then running out on Black Friday to get more stuff, don’t you? I know some people love it, but the idea of camping out overnight to get a deal on a flat screen TV is not my idea of fun. Nor is fighting crowds and knocking over little old ladies to get that must have item for your fifth cousin once removed. But let’s be realistic. We are in the gift giving season, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I love giving gifts. It may sound hokey, but I really do enjoy giving more than receiving. So I say, let the shopping begin….just not the craziness. How about shopping local?
Nov. 29 was Small Business Saturday. Small businesses were celebrated, and everyone was encouraged to “Shop small.” My husband and I were in a locally owned restaurant where the owner talked with us about the importance of small businesses and the difficulties of trying to stay in business in the shadow of mega everythings. I certainly admit to an occasional foray to Costco, but normally I try to patronize small locally owned businesses. It’s important for our economy, and it’s important for our culture. There is something satisfying about knowing that the mom and pop store will still be around with Mom or Pop personally helping you find what you need.
This coming Saturday, Maude Marks Library in Katy, TX will be highlighting local. But instead of restaurants and boutiques, they will celebrate local authors. Maude Marks Library has been very supportive of local authors, and now it’s time to thank them by donating a percentage of their proceeds back to the library. Sounds like a win-win to me. Twenty eight authors will be presenting, discussing, and selling their books. If you’re in the Houston area, come on out and meet us. We’ll get to know you, shake your hand, and sign some books. And I am pretty sure, there will be no pushing, shoving, or knocking down old ladies.

 

Collaboration, Craziness, and Completion: Steps to an Awesome Anthology

 

MASTER Cover

 

by Ellen Leventhal

Introducing Space City 6: Houston Stories from the Weird to the Wonderful

According to Merriam-Webster, to collaborate means to work together with another person or group in order to achieve or do something. People have asked me how I can stand such a solitary endeavor as writing. The answer is that writing, and more specifically the production of a book, is not always solitary. It’s often collaborative.

Collaboration in writing takes many forms. It can mean actually writing a piece with someone else, it can mean working with an illustrator, or it can even mean taking part in critique groups where members help each other hone their stories. I’ve done it all.

But wait, there’s more! (Cue announcer on late night infomercial.) My newest collaboration has been one of the most difficult, yet rewarding ones for me. As part of the Space City Scribes, I had the opportunity to work with five other women in order to achieve something of which we’d be proud. Although we wrote individually, it was still a team effort. Working towards producing the best anthology possible, we read, critiqued, and re-read each other’s pieces. We doled out advice that we felt would strengthen the stories without diluting the writer’s unique voice. We were each other’s cheerleaders, pushing towards a common goal. All summer long emails flew through cyberspace to places as varied as Texas, Vermont, and Vienna, Austria. Yes, it definitely got a little crazy. However, often the craziness of collaboration is the magic. People throwing out ideas, other people piggy backing on those ideas, and lots of discussion…that’s collaboration. After much revision, the stories were done. Whew. And then it got really hard. And crazier. It was time for us, as a writing collaborative, to decide on a cover, a title, and a way to sell the book. Every decision was made as a group. More emails, more discussion, more hard work, and ok, a little more crazy thrown in for good measure. But the good kind of crazy! The kind that makes you proud. The kind that you look back on and say, “We did it.”

So now here we are. We’ve reached the final C…COMPLETION. We are proud to announce that our collaborative effort, Space City 6: Houston Stories from the Weird to the Wonderful is now available on Amazon. We hope you check us out and let us know what you think. Feel free to do it alone or get a friend to look at it with you. After all, sometimes collaborations yield the best results.

 

 

 

Demonology 101

by Artemis Greenleaf

I kill a lot of people.

Granted, they are people who only ever existed in my imagination. And most of them are very bad people. In real life, however, not only am I a vegetarian, I don’t even kill bugs in my house – I scoop them up in a cup and put them back outside.

Recently, when I was on a ride-along with HPD, the officer and I were talking about sociopaths, as you do when you’re driving around a bad neighborhood late at night. I told him about an article I’d heard on NPR about a soldier who quit his white collar job and enlisted after 9/11. The soldier said that he was surprised by the number of men who told him they had joined up for the opportunity to kill someone without repercussions. I found that chilling.

But then, I realized that I essentially do the same thing.

Why do some people like to write about murder, and others like read about it? Is it that we need a proxy for our suppressed rage? Everyone knows at least one person who, as H.H. Munro once said, would be greatly improved by death. Since most of us have a failsafe in our brains that prevents us from killing people, even really awful people, unless we are in a life or death situation, we may have a lot of pent-up frustration with regard to others of our species.

It could be that in our modern, sanitized, civilized society, most of us are far removed from death. Meat, for those who eat it, comes in handy plastic-wrapped packages at the grocery store. The elderly go to nursing homes or hospice care; fewer people die at home than ever before. Most of the time, we only see the mortician’s artfully arranged end product, lying peacefully in a casket. Perhaps on some level, we crave the primal dance of life and death, because death, up close and personal, tends to bring life into sharper focus.

Or perhaps, it is a way to exorcise our demons (or possibly exercise, depending on your point of view). We explore the dark, whistling past the graveyard on our way back to our warm safe houses. But on the way, we’ve tangled with the most terrible of monsters – the ones that are real, and may even live next door to us – and survived. Because in books, the detective always solves the case, and the world is patched up and set right (or as right as it can be, after the killer’s rampage). The demons are at least caged, conquered for the time being.

Until the next time we need them. Because we all have a shadow, a dark side, that most of us keep tightly under wraps. But sometimes, the demons need to come out and run so that they’re tired enough that we can play nice with others.

Do you like to read and/or write crime/horror/mystery stories? Share what you like about it in the comments below.