Tag Archives: writer

How Writers Get to Be Slaves

writing, paying markets, speculative fiction, authors, paid to write, nonpaying writing sites

Salon.com Stockphoto: NickS

I haven’t talked about writing in a while but with the new year and the holidays out of the way I’ve been doing a submission blitz, as well as getting caught up on some reading for CZP. In my search for new or interesting or well-paying markets I’ve been going through www.ralan.com (the best site for speculative markets) and www.duotrope.com (the best site for poetry and fiction with average response times listed). There are some things that have started to irk me, which have always annoyed me but continue to perpetuate a bad precedent.

Forget about the wage freeze in your everyday job; if you’re a writer, then Charles Dickens made more than you and the amount people are paid hasn’t changed much in decades. That’s a bit of an overstatement. Sure, we hear about the J.K. Rowlings and the bidding wars for manuscripts like The Horse Whisperer, but in fact most writers are not being paid more than they once were decades ago.

In fact, I’m pretty stupid because the best place to make money as a writer is article writing for magazines, where you can average $1-2/word. Speculative fiction has a professional rate of .05/word. A few pay more than this. Many pay less, such as .01, .025, etc. Then there are the “for the luv” markets, those that pay in “exposure.” I don’t send to these markets unless I make a mistake in reading the guidelines. Maybe if I was just starting out I would, to get credits, but the rule is: start with the highest payer and work your way down.

Should you be selling your first SF or fantasy novel you might get $6,000-$8,000 as an advance against royalties, and never see more. I’m talking about the big publishing houses here, not the small or independent presses, and not about ebooks, as I don’t have enough information. But guess how much a first novelist made thirty or forty years ago? The same amount. So if you compare payments to writers against cost of living, we’re making less and less every year. And people expect it all for free.

writing, authors, submission guidelines, nonpaying markets, paying writers

What would you give to have your writing seen? Creative Commons: Greg Gladman Flickr

While I understand the want and urge to publish a magazine or anthology (I want to edit one myself some day) I think that an author should at least be paid something for their efforts. I’ve stopped writing and submitting to the erotic markets because they now want to pay $25 for a story. It’s not worth it at all for me to write something new for that. Meager as it is, my limit is around .03/word though I’ve made exceptions for particular anthologies. For poetry, I’ve been paid anywhere from $5 to $100. I usually will look for $10 or more markets and of course starting at the top.

My first clue that a market doesn’t pay when looking at their site is that pay isn’t obvious. Yes, some say, we don’t get paid so neither shall you, with the perverse logic that everyone should suffer equally. But more often than not they say nothing, as if they’re embarrassed to admit they don’t pay. Just say it up front, folks.

My annoyance meter hit the limit when I looked at www.short-story.me. Not only do you have to hunt to see if they pay (you won’t find it) but they have their contract displayed. Enough magazines do this and it’s not a problem but they’ve even gone so far as to copyright protect their contract. Seriously? It’s quite the contract too for giving away your print and online rights for free and no promise of even a print copy in return for your work. The writer gets to edit, because they won’t, and warrant that their work is theirs, though short-story me gets everything with very little in return.

I emailed them and this is how the conversation went:

I can’t seem to find what you pay on your site. Could you tell me what it is for fiction and flash stories?

Hi
We don’t pay.
Thank you
So you have a copyright protect contract to protect your rights but offer the author nothing? Would you expect a shoemaker to supply shoes for your shoe store, or a farmer to give vegetables to your store without paying them? Think about it. That’s what you’re doing to your writers.

I won’t get an answer, because they don’t care. Writers are considered little better than slaves for these markets. The site is about what you’d expect for one that doesn’t pay its authors. The stories have grammatical, punctuation and usage issues though not a lot. I only read four stories, or parts of them, and the quality is (cough!) okay but an actual editor would have helped. Some are overly descriptive, some have talking heads, or banal or cliché language. Oh well, short-story me is one in probably hundreds of sites that take advantage of hungry new authors. There are sites that don’t pay and take less advantage but the whole overofficiousness of the contract bugged me. This site does give writing advice but I wouldn’t recommend it for submitting. I’d start with the paying markets, after you know your craft.

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George Orwell’s Doublespeak Continues

In George Orwell’s dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four Winston Smith lives in “a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, public mind control, and the voiding of citizens’ rights.” (from Wikipedia) The Ministry of Truth perpetually rewrites information and history, bringing about a truth that is half if not whole fiction. They are the early spindoctors where they put the best spin for the government’s means on news and phrases. From Orwell we get the word “newspeak” and “doublethink” and although he did not use doublespeak it is often attributed to him. From whatever its origins it did come about around the same time as the novel came out and Orwell’s use of combining words caught on.

Doublespeak (or doubletalk), according to Wikipedia, means “to disguise or distort its (language’s) actual meaning, often resulting in a communication bypass.” It’s euphemistically used to make a phrase ambiguous. A T-shirt I once saw said “Eschew Obfuscation.” If you even know these words then it’s funny because eschew pretty much means avoid and obfuscation means confusion. The uncommon use of the words means that the simpler statement of avoid confusion would be better to most people. This is a great example of doublespeak.

Doublespeak thrives today and here are a few examples of how the language has been twisted to put a favorable spin on word, phrases or concepts that we would normally see as negative.

  • Downsizing–this used to be called “layoffs.” These days the corporation looks better if they’re just reorganizing their assets and “downsizing” than getting rid of people.
  • Improvised explosive device (IED)–this used to be “homemade bomb” but perhaps it put a negative slant on all those people in homes, not to mention that some of these homemade bombs are made in shacks and shops.
  • Ecodensity–I love this one. It’s now touted as the best thing for our overcrowded cities. That’s right, “ecodensity” means pack ’em in like sardines, or “overcrowding.”
  • Collateral damage–Yeah. when all those Dessert Storm guys were inaccurately shooting their missiles at everything (and every military farcus since), they called what they weren’t aiming at “collateral damage.” We call it “dead people” or “victims.”
  • Racial profiling–it’s now the new way for the US and cohort countries to get away with “racism” when stopping undesirables at the border. I wonder if the KKK uses racial profiling to screen their members. It’s also known as bigotry.
  • Domestic engineer–this was an almost ludicrous one that didn’t last long and was supposed to replace housewife. These days, most people say homemakers.
  • Person of interest–police forces use this a lot right now. Really, it’s the same thing as saying a “suspect” or a “material witness.”
  • Sales advisor–no one wants to be a clerk anymore so they’ll advise you on what to buy. I don’t know about you but in most cases I get no advice, nor want it.

I wonder if anyone is ever fooled by these phrases. Probably some. Oh yeah, ecodensity. We put eco in the word and everyone loves it. When government and politicians use it, it’s time to be suspicious because it’s usually covering up something we wouldn’t like and they have to tell us about but don’t really want us to notice what was going on. Some governments use it all the time.

There are more phrases out there but these are the ones that jump to my mind at the moment. But if we’re still using so much doublespeak, then perhaps we have to look to that

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Writing: What Constitutes Fantasy

Discussion has recently come up on my writer’s list about fantasy stories. One of the members asked a range of questions, not because she needed advice but because I believe she’s had discussions with other writers on what constitutes fantasy. Most of the members had close to the same answers here so I’m listing her questions and how I view each of them.

1.     Should a writer write down to an audience, or just use their own conversational voice?

 I took this to mean, should a writer condescend to, take on an instructional tone in explaining to an audience that may not know as much. Or should the writer use the author’s voice. However, I believe she meant, use your regular writing voice, thought that wasn’t clear. I have elaborated on my original answers.

I’d think neither. You’re writing using characters so your characters should help reveal the world. A character has a personality and a unique voice and depending on the point of view, that will affect what voice is used. You could have a condescending narrator; in that case yes he/she would talk or write down to the audience.

To explain the particular setting/technology/society of a world requires deft revelation, some of which may be through a particular character. Albeit, some exposition is required in a novel, but it shouldn’t be talking/writing down so much as making sure your regular reader understands the functioning aspects of the world as needed to understand the story. Example: I recently edited a book for someone who had all sorts of words/slang about airforce planes but on a level most of us (unless we were pilots) wouldn’t understand. He needed a bit more info in context so that the reader could understand what was going on.

 Unless you (the author/narrator) are an integral part of your novel, the authorial voice should not be there. When author’s drop into their stories it’s disconcerting and pulls the reader out of the world. Terry Pratchett from time to time uses an authorial or omniscient narrator (as you suspected, dear reader). It takes skill to use it in a way that enhances a story as opposed to detracting from in and ruining the atmosphere.  

2.     Should a fantasy novel assume lack of science and technology?

No. Even a world of magic has some technology or science. Whether it interacts with the story is another matter. Cups, weapons, dyes, plows, walls, etc., are all a science when they’re discovered/invented. Pre-industrial societies had science and or technology. Stories that involve alchemists (as an example) often mix science with magical properties. Books have been written where magic and science blend equally.

If you mean the logic/science behind how magic works in a particular world, then yes it still has to make sense and work in the story. But science does not negate magic necessarily.

3.     Should a fantasy novel assume a pseudo-medieval milieu?

No. It can, as is evidenced by numerous novels, but some are of far earlier societies. Some are integrated in later worlds and some are just plain ole alien. I read Brandon Sanderson’s novel, Mistborn, which had a plantationesque era and established magic. There was science as well. I really liked it for being of a different milieu.

Often there is the accepted trope that in a world that is not industrialized, magics develop in different ways within people. But a world could have magical creatures, i.e., not found normally on planet Earth and still not be medieval. Many medieval fantasies fall into parallel world tropes, where it is the middle ages but some element of magic is real. Many take an Earth like world and values but create fictitious places. Everything from the myths of the ancients up to the modern urban fantasies, like Charles de Lint’s (his name came up often in this discussion) are fantasy but not medieval. And really, a fantasy story has a better chance of selling if it is different rather than the same as every other book on the shelf.

4.     Should a fantasy novel necessarily encompass magic?

Again, it doesn’t matter really. Yes or no, depending on your world. A world can just be “other” or different from the world and the past we know, yet have nothing magical about it. It will still fall into the fantasy category. The lines between science fiction and fantasy can be blurry. Anne McCaffrey’s famous dragonriders of Pernseries started out as a medieval fantasy where people in feudal style societies rode dragons that killed the invading threads. She argued that it was science fiction because it was a different world, where originally the humans came from someplace else.

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books were similar in that they started out in a medieval style world, where some people had special powers. But as she wrote more and more books, there was interaction with people from other planets and spaceports. Fantasy or science fiction? Yes.

5.     Should magic in a fantasy novel be hard or just part of the norm like breathing?

Depends on if everyone does it, or if it’s a gifted few. Are they born with it or like us, do they go through a crawling stage before walking and then flying? Many books have magical talents begin with puberty. In others, the person must study and earn the talent. It could be a world that has an inherent magic in the way it works such as creatures that change shape. It all depends on what is integral to the plot and how that affects the outcomes and solutions the protagonist must find.

Overall, I’d say almost all of these are not hard and fast. It depends on how the world is set up, what tale you’re trying to tell and how integral magic is to that story line. But questions like these are always goods to ask because as writers, it keeps us thinking and examining what we do. And sometimes it pushes us outside our comfort zones and we move beyond the box.

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Machine Animals and Giants

Nantes, Machine de L'ile, machine animals, Jules Vernes

The Sea Diver is about 30 feet tall and was looking for his lost niece. Photo by misterstf flickr

I seriously want to go to Nantes. Where is that? Good question. I didn’t know until a few months ago but then I’m not the biggest brain on geography, especially if I haven’t been there. When I saw an article on a giant spider that was built there, it piqued my interest. Nantes (pronounced nont)  is a tiny place in France, well, relatively so with a population of about 800,000 and sits on the Loire River. It is famed for being an important historic city in Brittany and being the birthplace of Jules Verne.

Maybe Verne’s fertile bed of great imagination, he who was pretty much the father of science fiction, left a seed of creativity that continues to grow. For Nantes is a place of magic. Giants have been seen on the streets and enormous sea creatures are being born. In fact, these creatures have toured to other cities. Marionettes (first the Little Giantess and of late the Sea Diver) as tall as 9 meters have walked the streets. Elephants, spiders and squids of enormous sizes have also been seen.

These animals are like animatronics and marionettes and most of all, amazing works of art. Made of wood, with moving parts and very lifelike in proportions and expressions (except always larger) they are creations of Royal de Luxe and Les Machines de L’ile. The first is a theatrical group that does street theatre and was first conceived in 1979. The pictures of the giant awaking show the scope of the piece and the crew required to move the marionette through the streets. How does one manipulate the “strings” of a 30-foot puppet? By having scaffolding that is even higher.

These amazing pieces are made of wood for the main sculptural elements but various mechanisms and hydraulics are added for the functionality. The related company, Les Machines de L’ile is a factory in Nantes where the creatures are created. La Machine is the performance company that takes the shows on the road, such as in Japan or London where the giant 50-foot spider, La Princesse, crawled through the streets.

François Delarozière is the main designer of the pieces but it takes a large crew to fabricate each sculpture and of course many people to run it. Royal de Luxe’s people all dress in costume, adding to the out of time and place feel. Weighing in at over two tons for the giant or 40 some tons for the Sultan’s Elephant, these works are not cheap to make. They come in at millions of pounds (or Euros), moneys brought about through different cultural mandates, and free to the public. (Indeed one would have to close their eyes to miss seeing these grandiose creatures.)

Some would call these sculptures steampunk, that genre of science fiction that emulates an earlier period of the Industrial Revolution, often in Victorian times, where brass, levers, pneumatic tubes, punch cards, steam and alternative methods of locomotion are the norm. And indeed, there is an essence of otherworldly or of a bordering time that the pieces bring about. The diver harkens back to Verne’s novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and is the star of the Estuary Festival, a big thing for Nantes, a long-time shipping port.

Although some critics consider these performance art affairs to be a waste of money I think they are an awesome statement of humankind’s imagination. If we were only to turn our minds to more events of this magnitude and less on how to maim, subjugate or denigrate others, then in truth we would live in a magical world. I would love to see such works as these performed in North America. Jules Verne began reaching into the great unknown of what-if in a different way. The artists of La Machine and Royal de Luxe keep that magic alive.

Royal de Luxe’s Giant in Nantes: http://www.socyberty.com/Folklore/A-Giant-Awakes-in-Nantes.763695

Les Machines de L’Ile: http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/english/

Le Princesse in Japan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACH3leVMFIU

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The Demise of the Printed Word

When I say printed word, I mean that literally. Not the electronic word nor the spoken word but everything from books to newspapers are in jeopardy of a discontinued existence. Nearly everyone these days has a computer and is connected to the internet, even the poorest people. In essence the computer has supplanted the TV and in fact could take over that role, completely being one system for everything: music, TV and internet resource/communications tool.

Many of us don’t enjoy sitting at our desks, reading or even watching a computer screen for hours. But then we have laptops so you can move to a more comfortable setting. Imagine a large, wide-screen TV and your console (read keyboard) at your couch, remote and wireless. Weird future? No, we have this ability right now and it will only be a matter of years until we see this as a common evolution.

On top of making computer usage more comfortable, there are a myriad of PDAs (personal digital assistants) or whatever fancy name they’re branded under. These are the small, light, handheld devices to which you can download images or text. Some people are already reading stories on devices as small as Palm Pilots or the slightly bigger ebook styles that would be the equivalent size of a thin paperback. So it won’t matter what you want. There will be some form of electronic medium on which to view images, listen to music and read written works.

What still stands in the way of full electronic immersion for the common person is that the cost is somewhat prohibitive, not every book you want is available, the tactile feel is very different between paper and plastic/metal and we don’t always like reading onscreen. One trend that has become prevalent with computers and the internet is our short attention spans. People like short paragraphs to read and stories of a certain length. Fill the screen with a huge block of text and our attention deficit minds wander off to another webpage or site. We’re not willing to sit as long to read onscreen. How that will translate to palm readers overall remains to be seen.

You could say the internet is perpetuating a lack of concentration and patience. So how long a paragraph can someone put on any of these reading ebooks and still keep someone from wandering away? I doubt Victor Hugo will read well on an ebook format, but I could be wrong. So what we’ll have is shorter and shorter sentences and paragraphs and perhaps even books, which could lead to a new fad in literature, that of simplified writing. There are already twitter websites. That’s worrisome in itself for the intricacies and depths of plot.

Even more problematic is the future for writers. There will be more internet publishers, not willing to actually hire a copy editor and pay them a decent wage to correct a manuscript. Instead, they’ll offer the editor a portion of the net sales, so the copy editor or proofreader will work for free or even peanuts unless the book sells through. Authors will not even get an advance against royalties but again a share of the books that have actually sold. They’ll write first and maybe never get paid later or be paid a couple of bucks.

Now most writers have written first, and sold later so that, you could say, is the same as it’s always been. But copy editors don’t work for free and writers now can “sell” their books to a publisher and still get less than they should if they sold to a traditional publisher. With low cost output to the epublisher, an author should get a much larger percentage. If the epublisher also does print on demand paper publishing than there should be a separate rate for that as the overhead would be slightly higher for shipping and printing. But how well does an epublisher advertise or do they leave it up to internet searches rather than promoting an author? This too can make the difference between putting your book on a dusty eshelf or having it actually sell.

What does the publisher put out? Very little in costs. They acquire the book and the editing for free and run a website that lists these items, where people can stop in to buy them. Perhaps the publisher must run the manuscript through their program to format it properly but once you have it set up, it’s not that much work.  If a novel is bought, the publisher gets the lion’s share and some of the rest of the money is divvied up to the author, editor and perhaps artist. This is a way to have authors work for free.

This may sound like a prediction but it is already happening with many epublishers. As well, with news readily available on the internet, actual newspaper sales are dropping. Some newspapers have stopped paying freelance journalists. Why bother when everyone and his robodog is sending in articles? Writing has only been a rich profession for a few but it may well become one of the poorest paid professions, if pay still enters into it.

My advice to all writers: don’t give up writing but don’t quit your day job either. Be very careful what epublishers offer. Ask them about advertising, marketing and where your books will be shown. Do they actually copy edit (everyone’s books can use a copy edit)? Do they also offer paper copies and what percentage can you expect? Also is that percentage of books produced or sold and of net or reatil price? Very important, that.  The electronic future does not seem to offer riches to authors.

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Writing: Rannu Fund Fiction & Poetry Winners

donjuan-cover-72

To the right is the cover of Don Juan & Men, which is due out in June with my story, “The Boy Who Bled Rubies.” It is obviously a book with tales about the homo-erotic natures of men. I believe all the stories have a fantasy aspect, and mind definitely does.

As well, another story that also revolves around some taboo sex, “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” has been accepted by Nancy Kilpatrick for Evolve, a vampire anthology (of modern vampires, hence the title) due to debut in Brighton, England next year at the World Horror Convention.

And then, I entered the Rannu fund for poetry and fiction. I did not win, alas, nor get an honorable mention but received a note, I suppose. Here are the results of the winners, post by Sandra Kasturi, one of the patrons of the fund. Now I just need to sell my story, “Shoes.”

**Please note that all judging was done blind; names, bios, e-mails, etc. were all stripped from the entries.**

Fiction Winners (tie):
“Hell Friend” by Gemma Files
“As Promised” by Nick Stokes

Fiction Honourable Mentions:
“God’s Gift to the Natives: Flight” by Sandra Jackson-Opoku
“Crossroads and Gateways” by Helen Marshall

Fiction Judges: Robert Boyczuk, Candas Jane Dorsey, Sandra Kasturi

Poetry Winner:
“Visitation” by Kim Goldberg

Poetry Honourable Mentions:
“Book of Sloth” by Jacques Benoit
“The Gypsy” by Helen Marshall

Poetry Judges: David Livingstone Clink, Mildred Tremblay, Sandra Kasturi

We would also like to note the entries that made it onto one or more judges’ shortlists:

Fiction:
“Shoes” by Colleen Anderson
“Pearls Before Swine” by Don Bassingthwaite
“No Cages” by Kevin Nunn
“Natalie Touches Upon the World” by Ivan Faute

Poetry:
Jacques Benoit’s “Slow Day in Tabloidland”
Robert Borski’s “Neosaur,” “Frog Prince,” and “All the Clocks of Hell”
Gemma Files’ “Tantalus, Reaching Upwards” and “Jar of Salts”
Kim Goldberg’s “Inner Sanctum” and “Green Thumb”
Sidharth Gopinath’s “Watcher”
Riina Kindlam’s “Vulnerable, with a Pinch of Salt”
Helen Marshall’s “Howling,” “The Oak Girl,” “The Queen of the Cats,” and “Pan”

Thank you all for participating in this competition, and I hope you will all enter again next year–check the website for details in the fall. And thank you again for your patience as the judges got through the entries. (And thanks again to the judges!!)

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Book Review: The Very Bloody Marys

Very Bloody Marys

Very Bloody Marys

I’ve owed M. Christian this review for a very long time and since it’s not timely with the release (2007 by Haworth Positronic Press), then why not a review in time for that holiday shopping list? And a huge mea culpa–I didn’t realize it had been that long. I still owe you.

From the title you might think this is about drinking, or murderous monarchs. If you thought one of these, you’re close to the heart of the matter. But really it’s both, about bloodthirsty vampire queens. Some are not so much queen as just murderous gay vampires. If you’re familiar with M. Christian’s work, you know he’s a prolific writer, and his writing includes erotic tales straight, gay, lesbian, etc. He’s very versatile. So I confess to thinking this book would be about gay vampires with  a lot of erotica thrown in. Though it has sensuous details this is more the tale of a gay vampire trying to gain experience as a detective. It’s a murder mystery with the supernatural thrown in.

While vampire detectives are not necessarily new, a gay vampire detective is. Valentino is thrust into the crime scene on a personal level, since his mentor is missing. And the crime scene: Vespa scooting vampires are killing the folks of San Francisco and risking the outing of all vampires, who tend to live by a code so that they aren’t hunted down. Coupled with mentor Pogue’s disappearance, Valentino has two mysteries to figure out.

The book opens with three different beginnings as Valentino tries on his authorial voice. This sets the tone, and gives this character high twinkiness. Valentino is a flamer, vapid and vain. The character was so irritating and flittythat I nearly put the book down, but his way in the world was intriguing. I think M. Christian might have cut it down a bit but then I realized there is a good reason about a quarter of the way into the book on why Valentino is acting this way. He comes to discover what’s been done to him and his personality deepens as it’s unlayered.

Valentino relies on other supernatural help and Christian’s writing uses some very descriptive phrases. For being an undead guy, Valentino is vibrantly alive and given to over verbosity that doesn’t stop in describing his zombie driver: “One time–big shudder here–I had caught a look at his eyes, two puss-filled boiled-egg eyes staring, unblinking, straight ahead, and didn’t sleep well for a week.” Of course that should be pus-filled not eyes with cats in them, but I blame the publisher for not putting a proofreader on it or maybe they did and missed it. There are very few typos, which is a good thing.

You get a good sense of Valentino’s world as he sees it. “Finally, the Brass Ass of the Great Emancipator (Abraham Lincoln) led me through silverfish heaven to a narrow doorway between the piles…In it was Saul, tarnished silver hair, rainbow sweater unwinding in spots into primary colors, brittle bones showing where unwinding yarn couldn’t hide it, eyes like bleached robin’s eggs, Indian blanket in his lap hiding the bones I knew weren’t just brittle but also didn’t work, and, because of those legs, an ancient wheelchair.”It took me a moment to realize he meant realbones, not bony legs; the visual setting is very concrete.

Much of Valentino’s descriptions go into overdrive, with buckets of adjectives. They hit their height when he’s talking about his lover, Julian. “Oh oh oh Julian Julian Julian–beloved, adored, venerated companion, compadre, mate, playmate, partner, betrothed, idol, best friend, love, lover–oh oh oh Julian Julian Julian…” A bit much? Yes, but then this is the turning point for Valentino.

Events pick up with dire and catastrophic discoveries. I don’t want to give it away but let’s just say the Very Bloody Marys are brutal, relentless, sociopathic, fashion sensitive vampires. As the fog clears from Valentino’s eyes he finds his world isn’t as he suspected. Sure it still has a few supernatural beings but all is not what it seems. He still richly describes things but there is a darker vein now to the vampire detective’s perspective. “The inky blackness didn’t so much as run as steadily walk out of that doorway. A pooling, a billowing, a smoking, and then up and into arms and legs and a wide-brimmed hat pulled down over hooded eyes.”

When  Valentino runs into Ombre, even the supernatural shade notices something has changed though the gay vampire tries to hide it. “It’s just that you seem different somehow. The flippancy is still there, that much is clear, but it’s like something else is missing.”

And Valentino has changed on several levels. In the process of discovering what has happened to Pogue, being threatened with permanent annihilation and in stopping the brutal gang, he earns his wings. He solves the mysteries, stops the Marys and finally grows up a bit after 200 years. M. Christian wraps up the tale in a very satisfying and unpredictable way. It’s one of the many bright spots in the story; very little is predictable. You won’t see this as another tired take on the vampire trope. It’s refreshingly bright and if not a complete happy ending, one with suitable revenge.

If you’re looking for a good, fast paced read, or if you like mystery or fantasy or gay fiction. Or if you just want something different and new, this book will be as satisfying as a vampire’s first drink of blood.

The Very Bloody Marys, M. Christian, 2007 Haworth Press Inc. ISBN: 9781560235354

M. Christian’s site: http://zobop.blogspot.com/

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Remembering

As befits the day, I’m remembering those who I knew who have passed on.

First was Lydia Langstaff, so delicate that she befitted the ideal of a medieval woman. Slender, blond hair, translucent skin with a blue tracery of veins showing beneath. In fact her nails were blue as well. Born with a congenital heart defect, no one thought she would live past infanthood. She could not fly nor even walk up stairs, so fragile was her heart.

Yet Lydia never complained in the few years I knew her. She wrote, a good craft for someone barred from all physical elements. Traveling, of course was out. Lydia was starting to get somewhere with her writing career, having sold a speculative story and a few poems. She had written a novel, which took place in Scotland with an heiress who goes back to the time of her ancestors. Lydia was part of our writers’ group and I was just getting to know her a bit more (we were working on poems together I think) when she died, unexpectedly (though always expected) in the arms of her husband one night.

At 28 she had done much, a flame burning brightly but having to fight a strong wind the whole time. I remember Lydia and the lesson she taught. Don’t give up your dreams, don’t complain. Just do.

Jay Herrington was a friend I worked with in ritual plays. He was beautiful and gay and married to the love of his life, a woman. He and Deb had been school friends and married before he realized his penchant was for men. They knew though, that they did love each other, deeply, and worked around the issues. Jay was known for dressing drag once in a while as High Joan the Conqueror.

He was a talented priest and ritualist, a great artist and just starting to shine even brighter, a rising star. He and Deb made a trip back to their native Florida to bring his younger brother Josh out to Seattle. On the drive back a wheel flew off the car. Jay was sleeping in the back and never woke up. Deb was in a coma for several weeks. Josh walked away with only a scratch but with no brother. They kept Jay’s body alive long enough so that his parents could come and say goodbye. The only blessing was that Jay never woke from his injuries. He was just past 30, and burned so brightly we knew he could have done a lot. I remember Jay and the talent he and humor he brought to us.

Bear (John) Curtis, my friend of many years, was truly a bear of a man at 6’7″. He was much like his ursine namesake, grumpy and short on patience, and liked his darkish cave and backyard full of greenery and trees. But Bear was also generous and creative and deeply spiritual. Part Cherokee, he was a pipe carrier and introduced me to Native sweats and healing circles. People respected his respect of traditions.

He was an actor and had often played mountain men and bad guys in historic westerns. He was very much like a dragon in his hoard. There wasn’t a speck of wall or any surface in his home that didn’t have some trinket or treasure or image upon it. Bear collected bones, which I shared, shiny glass, Beatles paraphernalia and many other things. His greatest treasure was his wife Louise, efferevescent, loving and always joyous. There has never been a couple who balanced each other so well.

But Bear had to go for cancer surgery, which was successful. However, the state of our hospitals meant that he ended up with infections and then C-Defecil. His stubbornness and grumpiness scared some people. The damage to his body was great and Bear was scared himself, though he didn’t talk about except to Louise. He lingered and fought for fourteen months, a testament to the stubbornness he did have. He died last year, a week before Christmas. He was 59, young for his age, but the infection aged him greatly. The hardest thing was seeing his great spirit waste away over those months. I remember Bear for all that he gave me: friendship, creativity, spiritual perspectives.

There have been others, close enough to call friend and having left this life too soon. Gerry Stevens, a creative, strong minded man who was so gentle in his dying. He made it easier on everyone to deal with his dying. Having done chemo for awhile he finally decided to stop it as he was sick from it more than he was healthy. He died with dignity at home with relatively little pain. He always said, if it’s not fun, don’t do it and he had great fun.

Geoffery MacLean and Mischka Ravensfury, whose real names I didn’t know (Gordon [has told me Mischka’s was John Booth. I think I knew he was John but forgot with the Misch personality that I saw so much of). They were men I met in the SCA. Geoffery a humble bear of a man, always willing to help and maybe sometimes lacking in finesse. But he was gentle. He saved me from hypothermia one camping event, keeping me warm in bed, never being ungentlemanly. After years of health issues they diagnosed him with cancer and he had very few months after that diagnosis.

Mischka, was often a troubled man, but a big teddy bear. He tried hard, was a talented metal smith and opened his arms for anyone. Many misfits found welcome in Mischka’s camp. He was killed in a driving accident, never waking from his injuries.

These people, each and every one a bright spark, left their marks on many lives. We sometimes don’t know, indeed often have no idea, of the impact we make on someone. Everyone was human, flawed and perfect. They had good days and bad, pissed people off yet gave their love and attention. Their deaths always teach me a lesson. Live life to the fullest, go for your dreams and tell those who matter that you do indeed care for them. Better late than never.

This day was set aside, originally to mark the passing of those who had died in war. But each of us has our own war to fight and our own way to remember. I think of all the needless deaths, the lives gone far too soon and wonder if there is a better way. And I remember those I knew, keeping something of them alive in my heart.

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Warrior Wisewoman

Warrior Wisewoman is now available through Norilana http://www.norilana.com/norilana-sf.htm#ww and sites like Amazon. My story “Ice Queen” graces the pages along with eleven other stories.

Double clicking will increase the image size. http://www.norilana.com/WarriorWisewoman-TPB-Front.jpg

Norilana has been expanding rapidly with speculative fiction and from what I can see their covers look smashing. I can’t wait to receive my copy.

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