Thursday, September 27, 2012

[Publication] Short Story Sale to Geek Love

Geek Love has been one of those projects I loved seeing grow on Kickstarter and draw a following, which wanted for the anthology to happen so badly Geek Love became one of the most funded projects ever. Not only do I love Shanna Germain's big, bold approach to producing an anthology, but I myself find the sexual element in my stories more often than not, so I felt really well to build a story around the sexual rather than the sexual and sensual creep in from the edges.

This is why it gives me immense pleasure to have "Pages & Playthings" accepted into the anthology. Not only because I like writing about sex, but because this is the project that got me writing after my pause due to the rigorous studying in the beginning of 2012. Needless to say, I ran around the office in a state between rabies and gushing. It's a great credit to have. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

[Video Review] Natalia Kills "Controversy"

I draw my inspirations from music and visuals, which is why I get excited whenever a darker, artistically autonomous figure emerges onto the pop scene with intent on experimentation and shock value. Pop music annoys the heck out of numerous genre folks I have talked music with and given the generic song writing and indistinguishable feel to songs, intent and music video clips to grace the Wonderland that is YouTube, I can see how unappealing the genre is to the people invested in originality, creativity and meaning.

Nevertheless, the field does give birth to musical and visual pioneers such as Lady Gaga, who has stated herself that she preoccupies herself with the image and the show more than with the music; a goddess of song she is not, but a goddess of show and shock value she is. Enter the European shark of darker, more mature pop, Natalia Kills and you have an artist who values both the musical and the visual in her work.

The song that has held my playlist hostage is Controversy, Kills’ latest offering and deserves a bit more attention than I think it has gained through the proper channels and YouTube. The song itself doesn’t spell lyrical genius as it follows a disconnected list of items, which have in one capacity or another served as a centre of controversy, with a repetitive chorus revolving whether the listener should or shouldn’t drink the Koolaid. Combined with reverberations and distorted vocals, layers upon layers of clapping, howls and static over a relentless beat, Kills’ lyrics paint a rather dark picture of modern society with a chorus inspired by the Jim Jones mass poisoning and what people are ready to accept without challenging it upon first hearing.

What propels the story and gives it an edge has to be the video, which relies on VHS effects and clever editing to give the viewer the idea that Kills is an accumulation of all the images, of all the controversies, that she in fact is the controversy. Given her dominating sexuality, the decision pays off, because even without lip syncing to her lyrics, skimpy outfits or anything close to choreography, Kills emotes her song through her carnal stares.

Kills reeks of sex. However, her sexuality is not the hyper sexuality of most pop singers, who are offered to viewers as a sex object. She is sex. She embodies the empowered sexuality of a woman in control of the situation, the predatory, the modern femme fatale with jaws ready to snap shut. That is why she doesn’t need a revealing outfit.

The happy ending edited in the song only signifies that she is charge and you, the listener, are her object to reach her climax.

Controversial, no?       

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

[Kickstarter] "Beyond the Sun" Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Kickstarter fascinates me with the potential for the community to push onward a project into creation without  the traditional channels or as a means to find traditional channels to create a project. It's wonderful and I get to observe it more or less since I am outside the US, but that doesn't mean that the projects don't catch my fancy. The newest one that I find completely brilliant and composed of extremely talented writers is edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and co-edited by Sarah Chorn.

Colonists take to the stars to discover new planets, new sentient beings, and build new lives for themselves and their families. Some travel years to find their destination, while others travel a year or less. Some discover a planet that just might be paradise, while others find nothing but unwelcoming aliens and terrain. It’s not just a struggle for territory but a struggle for understanding as cultures clash, disasters occur, danger lurks and lives are at risk. 20 stories of space colonists by both leading and up and coming science fiction writers of today. Mike Resnick revisits the Hugo, Nebula and Homer winning universe of his Africa stories. Grandmaster Robert Silverberg examines what happens when Jews tired of fighting for their homeland start over on a planet then must deal with a dybbuk (spirit) and aliens who wish to convert to Judaism. Autumn Rachel Dryden has colonists threatened by alien animals which burst out of shells on the ground like piranhas ready to feed on flesh. Jason Sanford has Amish colonists on New Amsterdam finding their settlement and way of life threatened by a comet and the English settlers who want to evacuate them. And a new story from Hugo and Nebula-winner Nancy Kress.

Space colonialism remains as one of the most recognizable science fiction trope, but I have to say that with the trend of realism in science fiction and gritty streaks, it's time to bring back the idealism and positivism of the genre. Reinvent it.

You can find more about the project at the official Kickstarter page. Clash of cultures has always interested me and given Bulgaria's cultural experience with being a colony to the Ottoman Empire gives me insight as to the dark side of colonialism. I feel fantastically excited to have been asked personally to take one of the few invitations to compete for a spot among Resnick, Silverberg and Kress. Keep an eye on this one, people.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Whose Book Reviews Do You Trust?

Bad author behavior has been a trending topic that's been popping up for the past two weeks with enough frequency even for me to pick up that the authors of right now think they are in a MMO real-time-strategy, where they mobilize small armies and wage war against the rest of the Internet. 

I can't help, but imagine what's happening right now in the publishing world as a warped, sales-bent version of Heroes. I have heard of an author who sics fans against people with less favorable opinions of their books, authors who bash the books of rivals via anonymous profiles and authors who buy reviews online. I'm not really going to comment on the details of the current shit storm since others have done so far better than I (Steve Mosby and Alan Baxter have been eloquent enough to sum up). 

The current situation with reviews is dire, because Baxter says "reviews are the life blood of authors" (paraphrasing from a conversation on Facebook) and if we can't trust the veracity of reviews on Amazon, which are the customer's primary guideline as to the quality of a book, then what happens? I can't answer how this problem can be solved. I think that fake, marketing copy reviews and wars with fake negative reviews are still in their infant stages. As authors learn the ins and outs of the Internet, the skills to create fake buzz will only branch out. 

However, the dialogue is now beginning and I hope the culture surrounding the reviews and how they're obtained will change towards the better. What I'm a bit more interested in is whether the trust in reviews has been betrayed within the community itself? Do you still trust what reviewers write about books anymore? More importantly, whose reviews do you trust? 

I've been a reviewer for a significant time period and reading reviews has been an integral part of my education as I pick skills along the way. Over the years I have picked up words (hyperboles), phrases (comparisons, generous predictions) and structure of the review (speaking vaguely about the quality of the book with no details or just heading for an emotional reaction that seems rather out of place). If a review doesn't have an ounce of depth or show me the book has had a genuine effect on the reader either emotionally or intellectually, I disregard the review altogether. 

I'm sure other writers, other authors and other book aficionados have an eye for whether a review is sincere, but sometimes that eye might not catch the lie. Who can vouch for this and that reviewer, especially on Amazon. I don't use Amazon for my book buying and I don't intend to ever again. Big sites like Amazon are the perfect target for fraud, because they allow for anonymity so I naturally stay away from Amazon. Do you value Amazon high in terms of trustworthiness? 

Whose reviews do you trust anyways? Do you go to GoodReads or do you trust a site like LibraryThing? Do you log into forums and what is your relationship to the reviewer? I believe that these are the questions that people are asking and answering for themselves right now or at least should be asked and emphasized on. If authors try to cheat, then it's quite necessary for readers to recalibrate whatever defenses they have against fraudulent behavior.

I think that a discussion about how to make authors abandon these cheap tricks is necessary and I think it has already begun, but by answering the question of whose reviews we trust alongside, we will be able as a community invested in literature to help the occassional book buyer to avoid a potential scam. 

What do you think?

Monday, September 10, 2012

[Book] "Tales of the Nun & Dragon" edited by Adele Wearing

It's Monday and I do enjoy, when a Monday starts on a good note. Today is the official publication date of Fox Spirit Books' debut in the 'Bushy Tales' anthology series, "Tales of the Nun & Dragon", edited by Adele Wearing. For all interested, you can find the ebook through the American and British Amazon and if indie is your life blood, through Wirzards Tower Press as well, though that will be available in the coming days. 

‘Tales of the Nun & Dragon’ features twenty three stories by a mixture of well-known and new authors who offer up a delightful blend of genres. There are zombie dragons, latex nuns, trips through time, nunsploitation and some unusual fantasy tales and fables. The book also features internal illustrations by artist Kieran Walsh. 

To celebrate the launch of ‘Tales of the Nun & Dragon’ and in honour of International Talk Like a Pirate Day we are running a small contest.

Between now and the 19th September 2012 we will be taking open submissions of flash fiction (up to 1000 words) on any interpretation of the subject of pirates and piracy. The three best stories will be posted on the Fox Spirit website and their authors will receive a hard copy of Tales of the Nun & Dragon once it becomes available. They will also be invited to submit for a place in one of the two Bushy Tales anthologies planned for early 2013, ‘Tales of the Fox and Fae’ and ‘Tales of the Mouse and Minotaur’.

Competition entries must be sent as a pdf or word doc, to and titled ‘Pirate Flash’. Any entries over the 1,000 word limit will not be considered.

I've had a fun time following the exploits of Adele Wearing in the publishing world. I'm a huge supporter of Fox Spirit Books and so far, I'm very happy about the decisions that go behind each launch. That's the way a small press should move through the world. 

Early reviews have been favorable as well. The Eloquent Page and Tony's Thoughts have found the anthology to be delightful and with some free time on my hands, I will share my thoughts on it as well. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

[On Writing] Logistics behind a Title

Yesterday, I wrote the final lines of my erotica short with horror elements and superheroes entitled "Pages & Play Things". I'm positive about this project as it started with a less of a bang, but as I continued writing I've rediscovered the way to translate my thoughts in projects, something I have been fearing given my absence from writing for a long time. 

Two peculiar things happened with this project. First, I had to fiddle with the story itself and first write 2,000 words before I finally heard the story click with me. And the second has to do with the title itself. If you have talked about writing with me, you will know that I start first with the title. The title is the name of the story and when I sit down to talk to the story, let it come to me, I like to know who I'm talking with. After all, my mother has taught me not to speak with strangers. 

When I don't have the title, I don't know the story. "Pages & Play Things" I think captures the subject matter of the story (a special book, which exists in defiance to the cultural and technological background of its story world) and the genre, a mixture of the erotic and nefarious. After all, Eros and Thanatos walk hand in hand. 

Before the story received this title I started with "Big Powers in Small Tights", which played with the super hero elements heavily, the eroticism of tights and the humor of my main character. Eventually, I decided to down play the humor and dial up the erotic heat and re-titled to "Teamwork", which in the context of the genre should more or less speak for itself.

Although this title is now perfect for creating the steamy images I want to elicit from the title alone, I wasn't  all that happy how it disconnects from the actual plot. The crux of the story lies within the intense diametrical oposition of the protagonist with his teammates. By that time I thought that maybe I need to hint at the plot, so I settled for "The Book That Wants to Play", but as I fitted the title in my mind, my writing devoured all the humourous bits and substituted them with weird, budding elements of horror, so I had to lose the B-movie vibe. 

As I penned the ending and logged into Facebook to announce how happy I felt at the completion of this one story, I didn't feel the title was right and as I wrote the status update "Pages & Play Things" rolled off on the keyboard. What do I think the perfect title should be? 

I think it should convey the tone of the work (the aliteration hints towards the writig style), should hint of the genre or at the very least the story archetype ("play things" whispers a bit about that) and should point at the focus of the story (the book). Sometimes all three elements can't be incorporated, but a combination of two should suffice. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

[Sound of Sunday] Pretty Reckless & Robyn

Today is the day I finally completed a project I have started two weeks ago give or take. It's good to have a story completed and after much contemplation, I think the title "Pages and Play Things" have stuck for real as I will probably discuss later, but as I wrote I was heavily under the influence of two diametrically opposed artists. Both are female, blond, gifted vocalists and lyricists.

What have you been listening to?  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

[Cover Art Post] Pandemonium Books: Lost Souls & Crossroads

I have been a tremendous fan of the Pandemonium Books series, since my friends Jared Shurin and Anne C. Perry decided to take a stab at the publication business. Kudos to them as they have succeeded in doing what a lot of small presses have not right from the get-go and that is create quality products. Their first titles include stories by a number of writers I know and respect, which on itself is rather impressive as you can see how much trust and mutual respect goes around and comes around. 

However, what I find highly impressive is that this editor duo make no compromise with the quality of their anthologies and this can be seen in the newest titles, which are now available for purchase. 

"Lost Souls"