Archive for July, 2008


What I learned today

July 31, 2008

Well, not much, to be honest. I did learn that arugula is considered elitist, but that’s politics, and therefore insubstantial.

However, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, all of it fiction. When you’re stuck on a problem—in this case just a minor trifle regarding narrative voice—sometimes it serves well to kick back with a good book. Or six, or eight.

But I was reading through Bradbury’s Let’s All Kill Constance earlier today, the third and, admittedly, weakest in a series, and came across the following sentence:

She stopped by a table on which rested not one, but four crystal balls, coruscant with light from a green-and-amber Tiffany lamp.

Heh. More fool me. After a lifetime’s quiet love for Star Wars (I cannot claim the dubious honor of being a “true” fan, having played only a few of the video games, owned a couple of the action figures, and read only the novelizations of the original trilogy), it never occurred to me that “coruscant” was a real word. After all, Tatooine is just a name. Kashyyyk, as far as I know, is just a name. Bespin? Dantooine? Alderaan?

Anyway, I needed a triple-take on the sentence to figure why I was hung up on it. And then, dutifully, I burned a couple of hours before I bothered to look up the word.

Coruscant means “shining” or “glittering”, and apparently dates back to the fifteenth century. I prefer slightly-obscure words whenever it occurs to me to use them, so, yeah, I feel pretty silly for not knowing until now. But, hey, life goes on, and be there a God in Heaven, I sincerely doubt this spot of ignorance on my part will be what keeps me from passing through the gates.

Anyway, that’s what I learned today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write something about self-indulgence.



Freaky-weird flash fiction contest

July 31, 2008

Weird Tales: The Original Magazine of Unique, Fantastic & Bizarre is having a contest that sounds rather fun for all you flash fictionalists (you out there Julie Ann?). Write a short-short story of 500 words or less inspired by something in your spam box. Oddly enough, there’s no submission fee. Here’s the details:

Write a flash-fiction story — under 500 words — based on a spam you’ve received. Send your story, along with the headline that inspired it, to before 9 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 4. The Weird Tales editorial team will judge them, and three winners will be announced at the Weird Tales reception on Friday, Aug. 8 at the World Science Fiction Convention in Denver!

The first-, second-, and third-place winners will all be published online at the week of August 11. The first- and second-place winners will also receive three free issues of Weird Tales; and the first-place winner will also receive an autographed copy of Ekaterina Sedia’s incredible new novel The Alchemy of Stone.

(UPDATE! If you’ve thrown away all your own spam, writer Adam Israel has compiled a humongous collection of spam headlines here. Be forewarned that adult language abounds therein.)

Good luck!



Agent added to Irvine conference

July 31, 2008

Hailing from New York-based Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency, joining the SCWC roster for the first time and looking to expand his client list is Jeff Moores. On the advance submission front, Jeff’s interested in quality contemporary fiction and literature, narrative nonfiction, memoir, politics, current affairs, journalism, graphic novels, gay & lesbian, popular culture and popular science.

Don’t forget that the deadline for advance submissions to the SCWC*LA (in Irvine) is Sept. 6. If you’re thinking of submitting to an agent this time around, he’ll be one that should fill up fast.



Somehow, the pop singer makes more sense now … er, never mind

July 24, 2008

Because we’re always up for rehashing scandal … er, um … right?

An obsessive stalker, an impotent husband, a lover of young boys… to some, the creator of ‘Peter Pan’ was an evil genius; to others, a misunderstood ingenue. Ever mindful of the J.M. Barrie ‘curse’, Justine Picardie investigates

‘May God blast anyone who writes a biography of me,’ declared J.M. Barrie, in a curse scrawled across the pages of one of his last notebooks. Since his death in 1937, this dire warning has not prevented a slew of writers taking him on, the latest of which is Piers Dudgeon, whose book Captivated is subtitled The Dark Side of Never Never Land, and examines what he believes to be Barrie’s sinister influence over the du Maurier family.

Dudgeon’s portrait of Barrie – as a man who filled the vacuum of his own sexual impotence by a compulsive desire to possess the family who inspired his most famous creation, Peter Pan – is entirely at odds with the Hollywood version, Finding Neverland, in which Johnny Depp portrayed the author as a charming hero, devoted to large dogs and small children. Here was the quirky little man who had already been celebrated by his contemporaries as a genius with a great heart, not least for his bequest of the copyright of Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, thus ensuring that the golden fairy-dust of his writing was liberally sprinkled over those in need.

Justine Picardie’s article for the Telegraph is sordid enough, just the thing to raise your spirits if the summer sunshine is getting a little too monotonous, the list of calls you haven’t answered has grown longer than you want to think about, or you’re still recovering from too many rounds after getting kicked out of a Judas Priest show for the high crime of attempting to buy a drink.

You know how it goes: They think I’m drunk? Well, I’ll show them!

At any rate, I digress. It seems to me Picardie is writing a review, so if there’s not enough sickness to satisfy the craving, well … um … okay, it is not our place at SCWC to appear to be endorsing books. Unless, of course, they’re from our friends. Er … yeah.

Anyway, I’m off to recuperate in the sun for a couple of days. (Really, the place is actually called Sunland.) Next week I’ll be back and taking my life seriously, and we’ll take some time to get to know our workshop leaders for SCWC Los Angeles #6.

Be good, y’all.



Open and ShutRevisiting the mysterious death of Michelle von Emster

July 23, 2008

I just got off the phone with Ralph Collier of the International Shark Committee and am utterly blown away. My knees are weak. My brain is in a haze. And now I’m looking at the blank screen that will become this column thinking, Where on Earth do I begin?

In 1994, a “friend” of mine was killed by a “shark” in the waters off Ocean Beach. I put quotes around the word “friend” because Michelle von Emster wasn’t a friend-friend, nor was she a girlfriend. She was a young woman whom I fancied for several months, whom I eventually asked out on a date and who accepted.
We went out to Winston’s, a bar in Ocean Beach, watched bands and drank liquor. At about midnight, we left the bar, bought some beer and cigarettes, returned to my pad and sat on the couch, where we talked and flirted all night. At one point, she let me take off her shirt so I could see the large butterfly tattoo on her right shoulder blade, after which we kissed and fondled each other until well past dawn.

I was crazy about Michelle and was looking forward to seeing her again, and again, and again. But late the next night, Michelle went skinny-dipping off Sunset Cliffs and was attacked and killed by a “shark.”

I put the word “shark” in quotes because now (thanks in part to phone my conversation with Collier) I don’t believe that’s what killed her.

Here’s your backstory:

Read the rest of this entry ?


Liquid Story Binder free for a day

July 18, 2008

One site worth visiting each morning is Giveaway of the Day (, which, as the name implies, each day features free software from developers large and small you would otherwise have to pay for. Today’s program is a fantastic one for writers:

Liquid Story Binder features: Multi-Window Display, Spell Checking, Thesaurus, Reference Notes, Timelines, Story Boards, Plot Outlines, Dossiers, Audio Recorder, Image Gallery, Reader, Manuscript Formatting, Time and Word Count Tracking, Chapter and Book Backups, Paragraph and Punctuation Cleaning, Toolbars, Templates, Portable Drive Install, Universal Search, Repetition Visualizer, External Editing, Project Goals, Playlists.

Don’t wait. You have until midnight tonight to download your copy. If you miss out, you can still test drive the app for 30 days at



Gordon Kirkland’s beatnik narrative

July 16, 2008

SCWC*San Diego regulars know that author/staffer Gordon Kirkland writes to his own irreverent beat. What many may not know is that he’s one of the cast members of BookTelevision‘s upcoming 3-Day Novel Contest series, which premieres in September. It’s a “reality” show in which a dozen Canadian writers were selected to hole up in a bookstore together and each write a novel from scratch. In 72 hours. It’s like Survivor, but without skinny shirtless people getting wet and whining about their runny guano bulee diet.

Okay, it’s not like Survivor at all because, as we all know, writers don’t whine. They just know a lot about guano.

Regardless, what’s up for grabs is a publishing deal and $5000.00. Though the show was filmed last year the winner won’t be announced until the final episode. In the meantime, here’s some cool video feeds to whet your appetite:

>> Gordon reading an excerpt from his book to the boozy beats of some hep cats lacking berets

>> Video updates from the show itself (update 3, in particular, as this is what author/editor/workshop leader Marla Miller specifically addresses in her session at the upcoming LA6 conference)



“First to Kill” slays PW

July 16, 2008

With all the cutbacks, just getting a book review in Publisher’s Weekly anymore is tough enough. But getting not only your debut novel in PW, but a rave as well? Here’s the write up on SCWC*LA 6 Friday evening speaker Andrew Peterson’s Fist to Kill:

Debut author Peterson kicks off a series in fine style with this complex and action-packed conspiracy thriller. Former CIA sniper Nathan McBride, called in to investigate the disappearance of an undercover FBI agent who happens to be the grandson of former FBI director Frank Ortega, tracks down two homegrown arms dealers/terrorists, Leonard and Ernie Bridgestone, who have a huge supply of Semtex explosive. When McBride kills one of their men, the Bridgestones retaliate by blowing up an FBI headquarters building in California. As McBride chases them down, he discovers that what he thought was a clean-cut case of “catch the terrorist” is anything but, with corruption and twists that connect to Ortega and may involve McBride’s own estranged senator father. Competent, intelligent, cool under pressure and romantically involved with FBI agent Holly Simpson, McBride is an extremely promising hero, and his adventures will be a big hit with thriller fans. (Sept.)

Andrew also made Barbara Vey’s PW blog coverage of last week’s Thrillerfest.  All in all, not a bad week for Andrew.



Perp punished for being published

July 9, 2008

Don’t know what’s sadder, the fact a convicted felonious writer’s manuscript has been confiscated, or that he’s got a publisher that doesn’t pay an advance. The News & Observer‘s Titan Barksdale reports:

Prison shuts the book on novelist: Inmate author’s sales violate policy

Victor Martin has been writing since he was a child, but he didn’t realize it could be a career until he became a convict.

A few years ago, Martin became a published author, writing four novels while lying in his bunk in a state prison in Elizabeth City. His books, which feature a high-rolling criminal named Unique, have a following among readers of what is known as “urban fiction,” a popular literary genre characterized by explicit tales of inner-city crime life. Martin’s books are available on

But Martin says prison officials are shutting him down, saying his novels violate a policy that bars inmates from conducting business behind bars.

Read full story



Ellison being Ellison

July 3, 2008

Roundabout the mulberry bush ….

Anyway, something about this makes me smile. The always-amusing, acerbic as hell Harlan Ellsion discusses the freebie:

Caution: This is an obligatory warning for persons who have never heard Mr. Ellison speak about anything at all, and who also might have delicate palates. Everyone else can ignore this paragraph.

‘Nuff said.

(And let’s all tip our hats to Gayle, who spied this video at Steve Davey’s blog.)