It Was a Stark and Dormy Night

No, I didn't write that, John DeChancie did in one of his Castle Perilous books.  But it seemed to go along with this blog entry, which is a list of entries extracted from the best – and by that, I mean worst – made-up first lines of novels.  Some of them are so-so but some of them are hilarious.  Sadly, a few actually make decent opening lines for the right kind of story.  Here is one that gave me a particular out-loud snort:

As the sun dropped below the horizon, the safari guide confirmed the approaching cape buffaloes were herbivores, which calmed everyone in the group, except for Herb, of course.

Go read the rest, they are amusing.

And in the story to the title line in this post, the character in the scene was a college student living on campus (dormy) who was having a life crisis (stark) at night (night).  So even silly opening lines can have a second layer of depth.


Apple-y Ridiculousness

I hadn't planned on posting tonight but what the hell.

Apple caused a minor dust-up today by banning a downloadable comic (from their App Store) that featured scenes of homosexuality.  The comic, Saga, written by Brian Vaughn (who wrote Y: The Last Man (an underrated comic) and worked on the TV show Lost), wrote previous issues of Saga with a lot of explicit content.  It's a good thing Apple doesn't have the previous issues on their site.

No, wait.  Earlier issues of Saga had some very explicit heterosexual content.  The first panel of the first issue had two characters making the beast with two backs.  It's available for download, as are other issues.

People who know me I don't carry any water for interest groups, be they gay or otherwise.  So why bring it up?  Actually, I have a certain amount of schadenfreude in writing this, since I have never been an Apple supporter and I like seeing them stub their toe.  Besides, actually banning a download of something you're already carrying feels like micromanagement, something that pisses me off to no end.  Anyway, did a full write-up of the kerfluffle.

Look, Apple can do whatever they want.  It's a free country.  But I'd hate for them to look like hypocrites, so it's a good thing they don't have episodes of the TV show Spartacus for download, with the graphic man-on-man action depicted therein.

No, wait….

PIle of …. something

So ….

I've written about slush piles before.  As a reminder:  essentially, that's where a submitted work goes when sent to a publisher/editor; picture a big pile of manuscripts, loosely stacked and falling over, for the editor to dig through.  That's the slush pile.  Some might randomly pluck one to read at a time, some employ the computer "FIFO" method (first in, first out).  But they all use some variation of it.  I was a slush pile reader once and enjoyed it.

It's oft said that one can learn from our mistakes as much as our successes.  I think that applies to other people's mistakes, if we let ourselves do so.  In that vein, I have spent some time reading around the blogs of slush pile editors, divining some of the stupid shit we, as authors, collectively do in the course of our submissions. 

One example:  this here is a query letter, sent from a prospective author to an editor, with the editor's notes in red.  Jesus Christ, I've done some stupid writing before, but dang….  I pray to to various deities that I never send anything this bad to anyone, ever.

Or of course, you could just read Slush Pile Hell or Slush Pile Horrors.  Yikes, to the n-th degree.

There are repeated mistake through many of these vignettes but the common themes seem to be the lack of professionalism, on behalf of the writers.  If nothing else, these stories serve as grim reminders to me that being a writer is a job (not a hobby), that it does take work and dedication, and above all, you have to think like a professional and behave as such.  That doesn't guarantee success but it does cultivate the ground.  I used this analogy in the past but it's still pertinent.  In the movie Bull Durham, Kevin Costner's character says to the young punk pitcher, "You have fungus on your shower shoes.  That's disgusting.  If you make it to [The Major Leagues of Baseball] and win twenty games, you can have mold on your shower shoes and the press will say you're colorful.  Until then, it just means you're a slob."

What does that mean?  Well, Stephen King, James Patterson, or J.K. Rowling can probably send their editor their book in whatever the hell format they want, or send it piecemeal, or write it on a bar napkin in crayon, if they want.  But unless you have that kind of success, you must behave a like a pro.  At all times.  Read through the slush pile tales.  No matter how great their writing, the world will probably never know about it.

Because they were slobs.

(Muse:  If you want some semi-decent slush advice, try here or here, since Mr. Snooty here decided not post about the positive.)

I was getting there, you stupid #&%.  The first blog has some decent advice overall, apart from that particular post – and the second is tailored to screenplays but the advice is general enough to be good for all writing.  Good luck!

I have no words

I read a couple of blogs, on different subjects.  One of the contributors to one of those blogs often receives offers for reviewer copies, since he has reviewed a few books here and there.  Today, apparently he received this:

Hi [blogger]

From legendary street lit author K’wan, comes the next installment in
his #1 Essence bestselling Hood Rat saga, EVICITION NOTICE (Griffin;
October 2011; paperback; $14.99; ISBN 0-312-53698-4).

Porsha, Boots, and Frankie live in one apartment and are into all
kinds of trouble while having fun. Until one day they find an eviction
notice taped to their door. Now they have seventy-two hours to find out
how to come up with all the money they owe in months of back rent.

Meanwhile, Don B. is still up to his old tricks with Big Dawg ENT and
trying to find an artist to replace Animal and he comes across a rapper
from Newark named Lord Scientific who proves to be much more than even
Don B. can handle. Meanwhile, the police and Gucci are still searching
for Animal and they’ll uncover something about him and his abduction
that no one was prepared for.


K’WAN is the #1 Essence bestselling author of Welfare Wifeys, Section
8, Gutter, Still Hood, Hood Rat, Eve, Hoodlum, Street Dreams, Gangsta
and Road Dawgz. He has been featured in Time, KING, The New York Press,
MTV and Big News.

Please let me know if you would like a review copy.


[editor name redacted]
Senior Publicist, St. Martin’s Press

Hood-rat saga?  UFB.

I just had an involved discussion with some fellow writers over diversity.  I get that I am a slope-headed caveman but I admit, I had a hard time processing this.  I read through the first couple of pages and honestly, it didn't read horribly, until the info dump sections started.  I guess I have a hard time taking seriously a set of characters named, "Porsha, Boots and Frankie."  Some may call me horribly provincial and insensitive, if not outright discriminatory.  I say those names just make me laugh and I couldn't read them without smiling.  And the overall "ghetto feel" was so over the top, I had to laugh again. 

The only thing that actually bothered me was the list of Amazon reviews.  Thirty-two five stars, none of any other rating.  That smells like bullshit to me.  Whether that is derived from the author, the publisher, or just overzealous fans does not make it any less ridiculous.  NOTHING garners 100% five-star ratings.  The author's other books share a similarly-skewed rating chain.  Maybe he has lots of fans.

Good times.