Tuesday, April 24, 2007

JoJo Jensen - Willamette Writers

JoJo is the leader of the Eugene (Oregon) chapter of the Willamette Writers Group. I thought it would be nice to hear from her since the details on the WWG Conference 2007 is just appearing on the WWG website.

Check it out! Especially that huge list of agents and editors who will be available for pitches. You'll have to sign up early to get the one(s) you want. There is a fee, I'm afraid. But not much in life is free.

Marva: Hi, JoJo. Thanks for answering a few questions. I know that you're the Grand Poobah of the Eugene chapter of the Willamette Writers Group. This is in Oregon for the geographically-challenged. We'll get to that in a bit, but first tell us a little about yourself.

JoJo: Thanks for having me—I love talking about writing!!

I started writing more than ten years ago when I woke up one morning with a book idea in my head that wouldn’t go away. I had written marketing, sales and pr materials in my business life, but had never even considered writing as something I could do.

Five years later, my book Dirt Farmer Wisdom hit the bookstores. My book is about family wisdom and language passed down from generation to generation that was used to teach, motivate and inspire my family to reach for our dreams. Phrases like “You can’t catch water with a fist,” and “Kill the closest snake” are just some of the gems you’ll find in the book. Published by Red Wheel / Weiser in 2002, it is still in print and available!

A big surprise came when I discovered that a quote from my book made it to the pages of Reader’s Digest’s in the section, “Quotable Quotes.” Huge thrill—big honor.

I don’t have a web site yet—I’m working on it. Jojojensen.com will be the address, so I hope your gracious readers will check back with me in the future!

With regard to Willamette Writers, I am the new Coordinator of the Eugene Chapter and have an awesome team of people who have stepped up and volunteered to help me run the organization with style and flare!

Marva: You've been a member of the WWG for a while. What benefits did you get from being a member?

JoJo: I moved to Eugene in May of 2001 and the first thing I did was join Willamette Writers. At $36.00 per year, it’s a screaming deal with free entry to the monthly speaker’s series and a discounted rate for the annual conference in Portland.

The speakers, regardless of genre, always have a nugget to impart that will improve everyone’s writing skill, from Cara Black’s information about using sensory details beyond just the visual to add depth to your writing to Jerry Oltions’s insight about using the “what if, if only or if this goes on, then…” elements to form the foundation of your story.

The bonus of joining Willamette Writers is that you get to meet some really great people and find support for your love of writing! You can meet and talk with other writer’s who know what you are going through whether you are just a beginning writer or a seasoned pro with many titles under your belt.

As a writer, you have to do the work alone, but it really helps the process when you can call on someone for support or ideas when you get stuck. It also helps to have allies when those inevitable rejection slips start rolling in. Writing is hard work—and with groups like Willamette Writers, you don’t have to do it alone.

Marva: You're an energetic person to say the least. What made you decide you wanted to take on the leadership role in the Eugene chapter?

JoJo: Thank you—I will embrace “energetic” as description of me!

Let me give you some background of the two women who have been running this chapter for the last seven years.

Patsy Hand decided to start this group to bring area writers together and Valerie Brooks volunteered to help her out. Together, they have done an amazing job bringing in a diverse range of speakers from screenwriters to best selling authors to literary agents, all with the aim to educate members to become stronger, more skilled writers.

Having been a member since 2001, I jumped at the chance to be part of this amazing, state wide group and am lucky enough to have time to devote to this venture. But…I’m not in it alone!

Pat Sweeney, my co-coordinator, is in charge of all things email. So if you want to receive our email info—she’s the gal to contact: pswilwrite@earthlink.net.

Sarah Decker is our very own graphic designer who does our chapter newsletter called the Hot Sheet, pulling together the content which includes announcements, classes, workshops, book signings and even services for writers, such as editors. She is also keeping track of the people who want to have a pitch practice before the big Willamette Writer’s conference in Portland in August.

I’m lucky to have found such terrific people who will help me continue what Val and Patsy started.

Marva: What's on the agenda for future meetings or at least what direction do you want to take the group?

JoJo: For the 2007-2008 series we have some great people lined up to speak from two successful screenwriters to well known literary authors and we will have a writer speaking on the delicate balance of ghostwriting! I have a couple of months yet to fill but we will release our schedule as soon as everyone is booked.

I do have some thoughts on what direction to take this group. First I want to build on what Patsy and Val have already done so beautifully—we just want to grow it! The Hot Sheet was the first thing we got going and we are kicking around the idea of our own website! It is also my mission to entice writers aged 20-50 to join us—I know you’re out there. I am also open to ideas and suggestions for what people are looking for—if two heads are better than one, then 4,000 heads must be amazing!

Marva: I understand that Willamette Writers is hosting a Writers Conference in August in Portland, Oregon. Tell us about it.

JoJo: From personal experience I can tell you that the conference is a MUST do for any serious writer! Not only are the classes and workshops first rate, but all the agents, editors and film people they bring in are a phenomenal way to network, pitch and get your name out in the publishing/film world.

For all the details on the classes, speakers and people whom you can pitch your manuscripts to, go to the WWG conference site. My only advice: sign up early for the pitch sessions because they go fast. The maximum is six and I suggest to everyone, sign up for as many as you can get.

Another piece of advice—practice pitching your story to someone who doesn’t know anything about it—so that your pitch is clear as a bell and you are prepared for any questions that the agent/editor/producer might ask.

My last piece of advice—I promise—Be Bold and have fun!

Mysterious maïa

This interview appeared originally in FilmFiler.com in March 2006. That site has sadly disappeared and maïa has allowed me to reprint it here.

If you have ever frequented any writing forum then you may well have been helped out by the mysterious maïa. As well as being incredibly helpful and approachable, she has her own site saysmom.com where you can view her essays and find out more about her thoughts and opinions. I asked her some questions to help new (and not so new) writers get started out.

Why did you decide to provide free mentoring to writers?
I can’t really remember when the idea struck me, as it was about 5 years back. Around 5 years before that, when I gave away all I owned, I’d decided to do nothing for money ever again, and wanted only to be useful in some way, for as long as I was stuck in this life. The thing I do best is write, so that seemed the best way to be useful. I had already been offering to help with any kind of writing and computer set-ups/organizing wherever I went - to homeless shelters, the Hopi tribe I lived among for a while, and kids in the South Bronx ghetto who were trying to change the world, among others. When I started house and pet-sitting, to provide a roof over my head, doing the same online seemed a natural segue.

What are the most common questions you are asked?
The 3 most common are probably: 1. ‘Is this any good?’; 2. ‘Will you please edit this for me?’ and 3. ‘How can I get my work published/produced?’.

1. pretty much speaks for itself. They’ll send a piece of work and ask if it’s good enough to send out or worth continuing to work on, and/or want to know if they show any promise at all as a writer, or not.

2. also is pretty straightforward. I’ll be sent a poem/story/article/essay/book excerpt or whatever that the writer knows needs ‘fixing’ in one way or another and knows he/she can’t do it her/himself. Sometimes only a bit of typo and other simple error catching is needed, but other times, up to a complete rewrite is called for. I don’t do people’s work for them, but do show what’s wrong and why, and suggest ways to /correct/improve it.

In re: 3 sadly, I often have to deliver the awful truth that the piece in question just isn’t marketable. In the cases where it’s not completely beyond hope, I’ll offer suggestions as to how to proceed, and send along tips from the pros that I’ve collected over the years.

What qualities should a writer aim to develop?
First, of course, the basic skills (grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax) must be learned and honed to a professional level. Next, is an eye and an ear for being able to tell what is ‘good writing’ and what is not. This can only come from lifelong and constant reading of the best works by the best writers of all time, as well as those who are the most respected in today’s literary world - which does not mean the most popular! Along with the best, one must also sample the not so great and the actually awful, to be able to see the difference.

Should a new writer talk about what’s close to their heart or what will get them noticed by others?
There’s no one answer to that question - it depends on what they are writing and what they want to do with it. A good, seasoned writer will do both, naturally. I find that most new writers tend to place too much importance on one or the other, instead of just settling down to write the best story/book/whatever that they can. In the end, it’s only the writing that matters, not the writer.

Why do you not help writers who include violence in their work?
That’s not really accurate. I’ll help anyone, I just won’t help with any ‘work’ that contains violence. I work with many who first came to me with writing that had violent content and, after being told I can’t help with it, came back with things I could help them with. Basically, I won’t aid and abet using violence to entertain people. The reason is too involved to deal with here and can be understood better if one reads the essay ‘Why your money’s no good’ on my website.

Are there any other things which you think devalue the work of a writer?
Oh, sure. Poor skills heads the list! The excuse that what they’re saying is more important than how they say it doesn’t wash with me. A good writer will write well–period. Proselytizing also cheapens writing, often ruining what could’ve been a good story, if the writer wasn’t trying so hard to convert the readers. And, just tossing off cheap copies of their own work also annoys the heck out of me. ‘Pancake writers’ is what I call the Bob Ludlums and Stephen Kings and J. K. Rowlings of the publishing world’s heights. Believe it or not, I got the term from Ludlum himself, when I knew him back in my old life. He doesn’t kid himself, he established a good, best-selling format and just stuck to it. All he has to do is change the location and the name of the hero, keep up with the world news–et voila!–the latest NY Times best-seller.

You have some ‘works-in-progress’ on your site, how often do you work on these?
Not at all. They’ll most likely remain in w-i-p limbo forever.

Will you aim to get these published in other media than the internet?
No. Having long ago divested myself of ’self’, I ‘aim’ for nothing, let all happen as it will. If any of my work is meant to be published, it will be. Since I don’t do anything for money, I can’t very well sell it, can I? I’ll occasionally send something to a freebie e-zine, if it catches my eye, but I don’t go looking for anything.

What lies ahead for maia?
I’ve no clue, writing-wise, that is. I write what comes to me, what ’speaks’ to me and needs to be written/seen/known. I’m a philosopher first and foremost, studying and recording the behavior of this supposedly ’superior’ species seeming to be my main ‘assignment’. The writing help/mentoring is just a time-filler, really.

Aside from studying, writing and mentoring, I’m finally able to give up the house and pet-sitting [also done for free], and can have a place of my own to finish growing old in and enjoy being a hermit, which is how I’m most comfortable. I’ll be heading for the island of Tinian on December 20th (2006) and will most likely never leave there (bodily, that is). A woman asking for writing help dropped in my lap just as I found I couldn’t stay beyond a year in Canada and needed to find a new ‘gig’. I can afford to live there (in the farthest reaches of the Pacific!) on my own, thanks to a deceased ex-husband’s social security, so off I go. Many of the locals there need help with English, as well as tutoring for all school levels, so I don’t think I’ll find any lack of ways to be useful.

Thanks and Good luck with the future.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

David de Beer - Flash Man!

David de Beer was born in the year of Star Wars, called the Year of the Fire Serpent by some, 1977 by others. It was June 14, and probably very hot. He lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has had fiction appear in Alienskin, Nocturnal Ooze, Chizine, Flash me magazines and forthcoming in Shadowed Realms.

Visit David's blog and LiveJournal

Read David's lastest publication at Chizine: The Man Who Eats Angels. This is a gut-churner for sure, not for the faint-of-heart.

I asked David to describe Flash Fiction for me because he's been involved in the at a discussion level with several editors on the nature of flash fiction. What he's learned, I hope he'll pass on here.

Marva: Hi David. Thanks for stopping in to give my readers some insight into Flash Fiction. Since you've been studying the situation, first can you recommend some sites that feature flash fiction?

David: Ok, here are some good flash venues to keep track of, you'll see they each have a slightly different approach to flash:

Flash me
Shadowed Realms
From the Asylum
Vestal Review
Abyss & Apex

Of those, Shadowed Realms, Abyss & Apex, From the Asylum and Alienksin, have more of a preference to a linear standard story, the short-short in other words. Along with Flash me, they also have the longest word counts. Vestal and Raven have the shortest word counts and more of a preference for highly suggestive stories, rather than ones spelled out straight. You have to do get the same effect - complete story - in less space, so the writer needs to rely a great deal more on the reader being able to interpret his/ her writing. With flash, it isn't always what's said, but rather what 's not said, what is implied, that is the important part.

So, it's like poetry where you have to read between the lines as well.

Marva: How about using sites such as Duotrope and Ralan's to find venues?

David: I'd certainly recommend both and especially Duotrope for its search features. You can just ask for a list of publishers that take flash fiction. Duotrope has different categories, such as the short-short, and the drabble. You still need to specify which genre specifically you want, or you can just ask for "All" genres, and you get the whole list of markets open to shorter forms of writing. I don't use Ralan much, so I'm not sure about that site.

Marva: The BIG question. What is flash?

David: It's important to remember different people will likely give different interpretations, and I'm still new at this as well, so I'm no expert. But I did ask around, and all the editors pretty much said flash is word count. Now that differs from venue to venue, 1000, or 500, or 400. The cut-off mark was set at 2000, too long, in my opinion. I prefer a 1000 max.

People often abuse the notion of flash to mean vague mutterings, and hintings. What flash is not, is scenes from a hat (or a moment in the life of a person), or an atmospheric description of a scene. Unless that one scene is capable of suggesting an entire story, and fully fleshed characters.

It's flash FICTION - which means that the same rules apply - a definite story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Now, personal tastes dictate whether there is/is not resolution, and whether there is closure or the ending is open-ended.

But, like all stories, flash needs to suggest fully-realized characters, inhabiting a fully realized world.

The trick lies in the suggestions, the inferences that can be made. And that's also important regarding details/ lack of details - if the details can be inferred, then you don't need to explain them. If the lack of details lead to confusion, you've made a mistake and
need to re-address.

That last part - about lack of details that DO need to be elaborated on - is important. Flash is also not to be taken as a medium for writers who don't feel they have to do the work and provide only thumbnail sketches instead of full stories. Flash; short story; novel - they all require work, and a lot of background detail that never make it onto the page, but are crucial for the story to work. Flash doesn't have less detail in the prose, only less details explicitly spelled out. It doesn't take away the responsibility from the writer for telling a good tale, it's not the lazy writer's quickie.

Flash is, as its name says, a brief bang.

Novels are a journey, lasting over an extended period. Shorts are a thought, an idea explored and moved. Flash is a moment, a quick flash effect of emotion. An impulse, if you will. The Big Bang that contains an entire universe of matter within a small space.

Marva: I originally asked you a question on a crit you did on my work and you were good enough to go into a little more depth on flash. Do people want too much explained in a flash?

David: Hm yeah, to be honest, sometimes I wonder if that's not just a critter syndrome, like they feel they have to say something but they don't know what and then get overly anal about it. On the other hand, people who complain about flash, usually complain about shorts' lack of detail as well. It's a hard one. There's a lot more that has to be inferred from a flash piece, and much less is explicitly spelled out. A good rule of thumb in any writing, IMO, but crucial to flash writing. Of course, sometimes the story is just short. But it still needs to be a story, that's the bottom line, at least for me. Other people may feel different. It's a matter of reader preference of course; some readers want everything neatly tied up and clear, others enjoy putting the story together. There's no space in flash to explain events, you can only trust that you did enough for readers to draw the correct inference. But, much like poetry, that meaning can be subtly different from reader to reader. With flash, more than my other writing, I enjoy seeing how my critique group interpret the writing. It's interesting to view the broad similarities - which I view as a successful piece, i.e. they get what I was trying to say - but also the subtle differences, which is where the unique reader's take on a story comes from. They interpret based on their own frameworks of reference and that's fascinating to see, almost like an interactive form of writing.

Marva: What do you think is the most important thing to tell the author of a flash when you're critting?

David: The suggestions I've made, regarding cutting and re-phrasing, are suggestions that can also be used in all modes of fiction. There's no reason to write something longer than it has to be. Flash is wonderful for learning to write the maximum impact with the minimal words. What's excessive, can be cut. What's implied (e.g., 'he stood up,' can be 'he stood,' since standing usually implies movement in an upwards direction), what's implied does not need to be spelled out.

Mostly, I look for the sense of a complete story, that hard to define and obscure "impression" of a tale fully told. Now, you can use a moment to suggest an entire life, but it's hard to pull off.

By its nature, flash is the ultimate contra to telling, it has to be shown. Telling, as opposed to showing, takes too long, stretches the moment, and dampens the effect you could have achieved with flash.

Over time, the more you do it, the better you'll be able to realize when your story is a flash, a short, novella or novel. Sometimes a story needs to be expanded, sometimes to be hauled back in and tightened. There's no checklist for that, it works or it doesn't. Your readers will tell you, when they are satisfied that they have read a fully realized story, you've done your job, no matter what length or medium.

Ok, I'm going to stop here, otherwise it gets too confusing.

Marva: David, thanks for allowing me to post your concepts on flash. To me, they help a lot. One more thing. What about the MAM awards? When are you selecting the winners?

David: Ah, yes, the MAM's. The winners will be announced either in December or January, with nominations announced through the year.

The MAM's, or Martian Approved Marshmallows, will take some time to explain. You see, I'm a junior member of the Terran Diplomatic Corps for Intergalactic Relations, and we've been in close dealing with the Martians for some time. That should be little surprise to many people, nor the fact that the Martians are obviously no longer on Mars. They moved - to the Alpha-Gwham-Kwallahakipoyosidelksi-Lafleur system, where they occupy the planet, Button-Ten.

The Martians are very curious about earth society, especially earth women, and literature as well of course. Now, what we do is to try and send them as many representative samples of earth writing as we can, but the TwixStar bandwidth is very limited and needs to be used for so many different things, that we were forced to make choices. Erotica, for instance, occupies about 65% of the bandwidth allocated to literature, and Westerns another 20%. Martians love cowboys. They're not too fond of Dan Brown, though. Well, that doesn't leave much for the other genres, and I'm also the only member of the Corps who reads SF, Fantasy and Horror. The job of selecting some of the best in contemporary samples fell to me by default, I'm afraid, not based on any degree of skill or proven good taste.

I'm only one person, and there's only so much I can read and, like I said, I have the least space of anyone. So, what I'll be doing all year is to compile a shortlist - the "nominations" - that I feel will be representative of decent spec fic reads, and at the end of the year, I'll announce the "winners", which is of course the stories - or marshmallows, as the Martians call them - that will be sent off to the Martians.

I'll be making my selections based upon the various short fiction magazines and such novels as I do read throughout the year.

The "winners" will receive cyber-smileys and the warm glow in the heart of doing a good deed.

And that's the story behind the Mam's, but mum's the word, so don't spread it around.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Kids' Books - Monkey Play!

I'm very excited to present this interview by an unusual childrens' book author. MonkeyJohn sprang from the imagination of John Bushore. John's latest book, writing as himself is "Friends in Dark Places." You can read my review of the book here.

MonkeyJohn, the only primate native to the Great Dismal Swamp, lives with his friend, John Bushore, occupying the penthouse suite of the Top Banana Building. He is the author of the children's book, "What's Under the Bed?" and former editor of MonkeyJohn-dot-Banana, an internet children's magazine. His short stories and poems have appeared in KidVisions and the quarterly print magazine, Beyond Centauri, including the "SpaceMonkey" series.

John will be at Ravencon, April 20-22, in Richmond Virginia. I assume he'll be bring MonkeyJohn with him. If you live in that neck of the woods, drop on over.

See John's and MonkeyJohn's Website Here

Marva: Hello, Mr. Monkey or is that Mr. John?

MJ: It’s one word. I’m the only monkey in the Great Dismal Swamp, the top banana so to speak. I don’t need a last name.

Marva: Let's get down to business. You live at the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp with John Bushore. Do you give him kitchen privileges? Okay, just kidding about that. I'm sure you treat him very well. I assume you were precocious monkey, so what was the first thing you wrote?

MJ: John Bushore, a writer of novels, moved to a house on the edge of the swamp a few years back, was moved to write a poem by the 9-11 tragedy. He found, to his surprise, that he enjoyed writing poetry, that it was fun. He would wander around his property making up silly rhymes and I’d come out of the swamp to listen to him. Eventually, I learned to tolerate him.

John (or Hey, You, as we call him around here) sent in a poem called Mare Insanitatus and it became published in the Martian Wave, his first acceptance ever. Well, I couldn’t let Hey, You one-up me, so I wrote and sent in a couple of spooky poems when Mr. Tyree Campbell put out a call for submissions to the December issue of his magazine Kisses for Kids. This was in ’02.

Marva: How did you decide to become a children's book writer? After all, your room mate, John, writes some pretty scary stuff.

MJ: Well, Mr. Tyree Campbell (my hero, by the way) accepted those two aforementioned poems and said maybe he’d do a special Halloween issue the next year. I mentioned that I’d like to do a book of poems someday and Mr. Tyree Campbell said, “Hey, I’ve just become a publisher, let’s do it.” I bluffed and said I had bunches of poems (I just didn’t mention they were all still in my head.) So I wrote a few dozen poems and Mr. Tyree Campbell selected several to put in the book, which became “What’s Under the Bed.” Which is how I became a PUBLISHED AUTHOR long before Hey, You did.

Marva: Your first book, "What's Under the Bed," is about what?
(Note: What's Under the Bed is sold at the Genre Mall. Look in the Poetry section.)

MJ: Um, it’s a little bit of everything as far as kid’s poetry goes, but it pretty much has a fantasy theme. There’s dragons, unicorns, a haunted house in a carnival, and it really does reveal what’s under the bed. Most of the poems are pretty funny and parents say they enjoy them as much as their kids do.

Marva: What is a picture book exactly?

MJ: I can answer that easily, seeing that I’m in the publishing “Biz” as we call it. It’s a book of simple prose or poetry, accompanied by drawings that “illustrate” the text. Books from major publishers are almost always 32 pages in length, with the first two pages reserved for title, credits, etc. Surprisingly these publishers don’t pay their authors in bananos (the Euro of the Dismal Swamp.)

Marva: What do you have coming up next?

MJ: I have a new picture book manuscript called “The Lost Ginger Whale,” a book-length poem telling how the Sand Witch and the Cat o’Nine Tales search for their friend Ginger Whale who has left their beach home in search of whatever lonely whales search for. They meet up with such characters as the great crashing boar, the dark horse and his mayor, a loan shark, kissing grammys, and Billy the Fish (who’s rather dumb because he never went to school.) Despite numerous clues, they can’t find Ginger, and they are sad. But then Ginger comes swimming up out of the depths and she brings a surprise.

I’m also adapting some of my “SpaceMonkey Adventures” for picture book format.

Hey, You will be sending out queries soon, since he handles my mail and keeps my swarms of adoring fans away by using fly spray.

Marva: Do you do your own illustrations or do you have a stable of illustrators chained in the basement? If so, would you tell us who they are so their families won't worry about them?

MJ: Since you brought it up, we do have a stable, which contains 3 horses, 24 hens, 1 very lucky rooster, and the Spanish Black Turkeys, Archie and Edith.

But I do NOT have illustrators chained in the basement. First off, we don’t have basements here in the swamp because they’d flood and then we’d have to call the alligator exterminator. Secondly, they keep the illustrators in Mr. Tyree Campbell’s basement where this guy without a name, J, comes by and whips them now and then. The illustrators for “What’s Under the Bed” were Marcia Borell, Sandy DeLuca, Erin Donahoe, Jennifer Cawthorne and Teri Santitoro. And the cover was done by another person without a name, 7ARS. (I think she’s related to R2-D2)

Marva: What else would you like to tell my readers? Anything at all! Go!

MJ: Why are you calling me MJ? If you’re not careful, I’ll lose my name like J and 7ARS.

Marva: Sorry, I wish you'd said something at the start of the interview.

MonkeyJohn: There was once a very young boy who dearly loved spending time with his Uncle John. But then his older brother and cousins told him that all people are descended from monkeys and the man he called Uncle John was really MonkeyJohn, the monkey everybody came from. The young boy believed them and called his uncle MonkeyJohn from then on.

And it’s true; MonkeyJohn is the progenitor (betcha didn’t think a monkey knew a big word like that) of all intelligent life. He also wrote the very first poem:

by MonkeyJohn

A fish walked from the sea one day,
while I sun-bathed at the shore.
I was surprised to hear him say,
“My feet are really sore.”

“My legs appeared a week ago,
and I really was surprised
to find myself evolving so,
before my very eyes.”

And then he said goodbye to me,
for he wished to see the world.
He said he hoped to climb a tree,
and turn into a squirrel.

But as he left, he warned me, too.
“Don’t you stay ‘til after dark.
I’d leave the beach, if I were you;
behind me walks a shark!”

Marva: Thanks for swinging by, MonkeyJohn. Say hi to John from me.

MonkeyJohn: Whew, being interviewed is tough work. I think I’ll wander into the swamp and eat some marsh mallows. Thanks, Marva. As we say in the publishing biz, “Toodles.”

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Googling Around

I'm not who I thought I was. Google and Wikipedia have shown me the error of my ways.

Marva -- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: QUESTION: What is Marva and how did it come about?

Marva began in 1982 as an advanced gadna (the educational youth branch of the IDF) style program. It originally started on a base called Marva (Sage) in the Gallil.

Q: QUESTION: What is the goal of the program?

One of the great forces in the Israeli experience is the army. It is one great leveler and probably the best tool for absorption of new immigrants. Yet in most western countries the word Army bring out negative connotations.

The goal of Marva is to expose foreign students to the complexities of the problems and challenges facing the Israeli Army, and the role of the IDF within the framework of Israeli society. It must be emphasized that one who does Marva is not doing army service and is no way part of the IDF.

The course is open to any Jew who is interested in learning about the IDF. You do not have to think about Aliyah or army service. During the course participants will have to deal with army disipline, the challenge of the mind will be harder than the challenge of the body.



The Delaware AeroSpace Education Foundation strives to improve the quality of life through its advocacy of education, the environment and strengthening the workforce.

DASEF Mission

To inspire and educate the people of the Delaware Valley in learning about the Earth's environment, space science, mathematics and technology through the use of academies, presentations, symposiums, professional development, events and activities and the resources of the Innovation Technology Exploration Center (ITEC).


Friday, April 13, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

Bryan Catherman has named my blog as "entertaining" in the Thinking Blogger list. Thanks, Bryan! I like to be entertaining. I'll take this as allowing me to post the Thinking Blog logo.

So, I get to name five Thinking Blog nominees. Here they are:

Nutter's Gang: M.E. Ellis is a crazy woman and a fine writer. You won't be disappointed giving her a read.

Women on the Verge blog out Did We Say That Out Loud?: Lucy and Ethyl had a bit of flu, but they're up and at 'em again.

Cocktail Reviews: Getcher reviews right here, folks! Cocktail Reviews covers the romance, chicklit, erotica, suspense, etc. etc. books coming out. Find out what to read here.

Star Captains' Daughter: Besides talking about what's going on with her multiple novels, Kimber An reviews books every week.

Miss Snark: No doubt, the Snark and Killer Yapp will get many nominations. This book agent gives you the down and dirty on publishing. She'll also happily label you a nitwit for stupid questions. Enter at your own risk.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Poetry? Me?

I just received my copies of the Custer-Hawke Gazette in which a poem of mine appears. Very nicely set up, I've got a whole page to myself.

The Gazette is printed and sent out approximately four times a year, but some various problems held up the latest issue for a long, long time. I didn't mind waiting because I kind of like what they're doing.

The website is called Operation WWII Remembered. Their mission statement reads:

To perpetuate the stories of all those who participated in WWII or lived during the years 1933 to 1948; To preserve the artifacts and memorabilia of this same timeframe; To provide a consolidated source of research, first-person stories, and personal memoirs about this time and its people; To be an educational tool for all generations; To encourage and support the memorials and associations dedicated to these same efforts.

With films like Flags of Our Fathers and Saving Private Ryan, the younger generations have a chance to learn more about the soldiers who fought the battles of World War II. It's almost refreshing to have a war to remember where we were on the side of liberty. Things are much murkier these days.

If you have a friend or relative of the WWII era, you might consider asking them to tell you their stories. That's how I came to write my poem. Titled "Signin' Up," it describes how my own father and his buddy Red went on a road trip right after high school and ended up in Denver enlisting in the army just as WWII broke out. I'd share the poem with you, but Custer-Hawke has first electronic rights. Their intent is to archive the stories from the gazette on the website. When, and if, that occurs, I'll let you know.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Review - Letters from the Front Lines

Bryan Catherman is a journalist and budding television news anchor. He's a Gulf War veteran, keeping a close eye on the troops. He's also an ace reviewer. I'll be featuring Bryan's reviews periodically on this blog. Check out Bryan's Blog here.

REVIEW: Letters from the Front Lines: Iraq and Afghanistan
By Rear Admiral Stuart Franklin Platt, USN Ret., with Duffrey Sigurdson
Granville Island Publishing
(Hardback) ISBN 1-894694-48-1 and 978-1-894694-48-3
Buy at Amazon.com

Letters from the Front Lines is a compilation of war letters, e-mails, and blogs from soldiers, sailors, marines, and even one civilian mom. Although there are other letter-type books, this one is valuable because each chapter is comprised of one person’s letters from one person’s perspective of the war and the events that play out in a combat zone. The book is neither pro nor anti-war; it’s simply what it is.

In fairness, I should say that my letters make up Chapter 3. I won’t review my own chapter and as far as I know, none of the contributors will receive any financial returns from the book. Yes, I do hold a bias; however, I wanted to share my thoughts on the impact of the other contributors and the book as a whole.

Letters from the Front Lines is a valuable read for anybody trying to understand war from the perspective of those who fight it. Letters come from low-ranking enlisted and high-ranking brass alike. E-mails and blogs start early in the war on terror and span well past the first Iraq election. Some letters cover detailed political thoughts while others talk about the food and dust storms. Many letters carry a hint of missing life back home, but all understand the importance of service and duty. Not every author is for the war. These un-edited letters share the raw emotion found in war, even if they don’t share the war itself.

Many different perspectives are shared. Brian Baldrate writes about the same time I was there. He had little hesitation sharing things that may have scared his family back home. I, on the other hand, found it far easier to write about non-war items to let my family know I was safe but not frighten them at the same time. Officer write about the larger perspectives of war while the enlisted, those in the trenches, talk about duty.

I loved most of this book because a war fighter myself, I could relate to the emotion shared in Letters from the Front Lines. People ask me about war. My recommendation is that they read this book.

Contributors include SGT Chris McCarthy USMC (Chapter 1: The View From Here), CPT Brian Baldrate US Army (Chapter 2: Law and Order), SSG Bryan Catherman US Army (Chapter 3: The Other Side of the Sandbox), SGT Chris Missick US Army (Chapter 4: A Line in the Sand), CPT John Upperman Texas National Guard (Chapter 5: Who’s Your Baghdaddy?), SGT David S. Bateman USMC (Chapter 6 Devil Dog), LTC Dan Hokanson National Security Fellow at Harvard University (Chapter 7: Citizen Soldiers), Karey Keel-Stidham Marine Mother (Chapter 8: Devil Dogma), MAJ Eric Rydbom US Army (Chapter 9: Letters to America), Vice Admiral J.D. McCarthy and CPT Kurt Kunkel USN (Chapter 10: The View From Here), Rear Admiral Robert Conway Jr. USN (Chapter 11: Transformation- Part One), Brigadier General Mike Regner USMC (Chapter 12: Transformation- Part Two), and Major General Kevin Kuklok USMC (Chapter 13: Eight Months in the Palace).

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Family History Turns to Mystery

Linda Kuhlmann and I worked together for years. Both of us dealt with technical writing. While I churned out Users Manuals, Linda was writing training manuals and teaching employees how to use the software products.

Linda jumped ship before I did and I'll have to admit she gave me heart to do the same myself. It took hardly any time at all for Linda to publish "Koenig's Wonder," a novel based on family history. Linda took a relatively (ha) interesting story from her family and created an even more interesting novel involving a Lippizan stallion, race horses, and a stolen painting pitting two brothers against each other.

But, let's just get on with the questions and see what Linda's got to say.

Check out Linda's website for more information on the book and her events schedule. Buy "Koenig's Wonder" at local bookstores, Llumina Press, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble online. Signed or inscribed copies are available through Linda's website.

Marva: Hi, Linda. Thanks for answering my questionnaire. First question: Did you start writing "Koenig's Wonder" while you were still working? How did you manage the juggling act?

Linda: Yes. At the technical job, I was teaching a minimum of three software classes a week while writing and editing pages for "Koenig's Wonder." My novel is loosely based on my family history. When my father's health began to fail, I took myself seriously as a writer. I used every spare moment to take it to completion - editing pages during breaks and lunches and using a tape recorder on my commute for scenes that needed work.

Recently, I was privileged to be invited to give a writer's workshop at this year's Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon entitled "Writing With the Paying Job." I'm very excited about this opportunity!

Marva: Here's your chance to pique interest in "Koenig's Wonder," your first book. Tell us the story behind the story and what prompted you to write it.

Linda: I was doing a genealogy search on my father's side of our family, gathering names, dates, and places. The family lore has it that my great-grandfather and his brother came to the U.S. from Germany, then separated. No one in the family seemed to know why or where the other brother went. That's when my imagination took over and "Koenig's Wonder" was born!

Many of the locations in the story are from my family's background and places I spent with my parents. One segment of the story takes place at the Arlington Race Track in Chicago. When I was young, I went there with my parents and bet $10 on a horse with my mother - I think we won a buck! Also, some of the history during WWII are parts of my father's experiences.

Marva: What is your favorite thing about this book?

Linda: The way that life weaves through us all at different stages of our own histories. That's why there are so many sub-plots driving "Koenig's Wonder." We meet many people throughout our lives who impact which choices we make. That's what happened to the two brothers, as well as Sam and Emma, the young lovers, who were separated and later reunited.

Marva: What else are you working on? Another family story?

Linda: My next novel, which is planned for publication soon, is "The Red Boots" - a story about a young Irish sculptor who leaves an art tour to go to Oregon to confront her father, whom she hasn't seen in twenty years. She doesn't know that a serial killer from Dublin has followed her to the U.S. "The Red Boots" is not related to "Koenig's Wonder." After it is off to the publisher, I am planning to write a screenplay for "Koenig's Wonder" and two sequel novels.

Marva: Research is very important for books dealing with history. I know you research the hell out of your books. What sources did you find the most productive?

Linda: I love the research process! Before I begin, I read as much as I can on my subject and take copious notes. Also, I've found that connecting with experts in the field you are researching are the most helpful. For "Koenig's Wonder," I met a man at the Oregon Racing Commission who introduced me to the backstretch of a racetrack, the trainers, veterinarians, and jockeys. It is important to learn to interview like a journalist - have your questions ready before you go.

I also learned about 'freeze branding' from a man I met on the Internet. However, if you use the Internet, make sure you check your resources and information!

Marva: Okay, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. You're a self publisher. Why did you decide to go that route rather than the agent/publisher deal?

Linda: The first time I ever pitched "Koenig's Wonder" to an editor at a Willamette Writers Conference, a St. Martin's Press editor was interested in the entire manuscript. However, by the time I sent it to her, she was no longer there, and the new editor was not interested.

Later, at a Willamette Writers meeting, I heard M. K. Wren talk about her publishing experiences. She mentioned that she'd lost all of her rights to her first mystery novels and now uses iUniverse, a Print-on-Demand publisher. When my father became ill, I knew that I wanted to get "Koenig's Wonder" published and in his hands before he died. I was a few months short, but he knew the story and had read drafts.

I chose Llumina Press (another Print-on-Demand publisher) because I was able to keep all rights to "Koenig's Wonder." They also have a selection process, as well as editing and marketing packages available.

Marva: A whole lot of writers have also chosen to self-publish, but haven't been as successful as you have. Tell us your secrets on how to be successful as a self-publisher.

Linda: It is important to believe in your work! I felt that "Koenig's Wonder" was a story that needed to be shared. Llumina Press gave me many marketing advantages, as well as great advice on how to market it on my own. Because my novel involves the world of Thoroughbred racing, I've found that selling books at racetracks was a great venue.

My father was a salesman, so I was blessed with some of the sales skills he'd used. (I'm not sure he knew I was paying attention, but I did!) I have no problem in calling a bookstore or group to schedule a talk or a book signing. I'm not shy about taking copies to bookstores and libraries and asking if they will carry copies of my novel. It's all about the faith in your work!

Marva: That brings up your speaking engagements (that sounds so snooty). You seek out groups to talk to about lots of different things. Give us a run-down on where you give talks and what are the subjects you cover.

Linda: Since "Koenig's Wonder" was published, I've had the great fortune to give numerous talks with writers groups, kids at middle and high schools, readers groups, and seniors about writing their memoirs. Each talk has a different slant, based on the group I'm talking to. I've had so much fun meeting many wonderful people who (I hope) I have encouraged to write.

Marva: Your website is absolutely loaded with links and great information. What techniques are you using on the Internet to promote your book?

Linda: My publisher, Llumina Press, made "Koenig's Wonder" available through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Borders.com, as well as Ingram and Baker & Taylor (which are distributors for bookstores and libraries.) Some of the larger bookstores may not carry a Print-on-Demand book, but they may consider listing it on their online site, such as Powells.com. Because "Koenig's Wonder" appeals to horse enthusiasts, I have found numerous horse groups who have websites that are willing to post a link to my website. It's all about knowing who you audience is and look for venues to help get the word out.

Another great tool is asking your readers to post a 'review' in online sites, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I copied some of these reviews onto my website.

Thank you, Marva for allowing me to share my experiences. Just remember - if writing is your passion, the rest will follow!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bruce Boston - Bram Stoker Award Winner

Bruce Boston has lived the usual writer's checkered life, spending time as a professor, computer programmer, tech writer, book designer, movie projectionist, gardener, and furniture mover. He now lives in Ocala, Florida, with his wife, writer-artist Marge Simon, with whom he often collaborates on poetry, short fiction, and cartoons.
(See here for more on Marge)

Bruce and Marge will be program guests at Ravencon in Richmond, Virginia, April 20-22
and Oasis in Orlando, Florida, May 25-27

Check out Bruce's Web Site

Marva: Thanks for giving us some time, Bruce. You're a pretty busy guy lately. Tell us what's going on with you. Don't be shy. Shameless self-promotion is welcome here. Tell us about that Bram Stoker award for sure.

Bruce: Hi, Marva. Thanks for the opportunity.

My poetry collection Shades Fantastic recently received the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association. You can find a complete list of the winners at Bram Stoker Winners.

I must admit, it gives one a warm and fuzzy feeling to appear on the same final award list as Stephen King. ;)

When Shades Fantastic was first published I didn't see it as a serious contender for the Stoker Award. In fact, I believe it the first staple-bound book that has ever won a Stoker. I have another poetry book, The Nightmare Collection, longer, much darker, and more thoroughly rooted in the horror genre, that was supposed to appear in 2006. I thought The Nightmare Collection might have a chance at the Stoker. In contrast, Shades Fantastic, although it contains its share of dark poems, also includes science fiction, fantasy, and mainstream poetry, and humor. The Nightmare Collection is now scheduled to appear later this year or in 2008. You can find out more about Shades Fantastic at my website.

By the way, the secret of winning a Bram Stoker Award is to have Marge Simon illustrate your book. She has now illustrated four Stoker-winning collections.

A new book that has just appeared, from Kelp Queen Press in Toronto, is my collaborative collection with Marge, Night Smoke, including 27 poems, prose poems, and flash fictions, and 15 full-color illustrations by Marge. Night Smoke is quite an attractive book, a bit like a mini-coffee-table book, particularly if you have friends dropping by who like dark literature and art. Read more about Night Smoke here.

Marva: Now let's talk about your forthcoming novel, The Guardener's Tale. How about we just start with the pre-pub quote from Nebula-Award author Mary Turzillo:

“A gripping dystopia wickedly extrapolated from our present. Boston brings to bear his narrative genius on this noir tale of a love triangle in a society gone mad, probing the way technology and science alter our reality. Transcending genre, The Guardener’s Tale combines suspense and breathtaking plot twists with macabre humor. Involving, compelling, a masterwork.”

Now, fill us in a bit more. What else would you include in your query pitch?

Bruce: With The Guardener’s Tale I was trying to write a novel that captured the same kind of compelling plot-driven read I experienced when growing up on science fiction in the 1950s and 60s, but also a novel that would embody more adult themes than most of those books did. One agent who has read the novel described it as “a great book....that deserves a wide audience” and then went on to say that she didn’t think she could successfully represent The Guardener’s Tale because of the current climate of the commercial marketplace, where there is “no room for the socially-conscious, cautionary-tale kind of SF these days.”

I can’t testify as to whether or not the book is great, or regarding the changing needs of the commercial marketplace, but I think her characterization of The Guardener’s Tale as a socially-conscious cautionary tale is an apt one. However, I believe there is more to it than that. Thematically, beside its socio-political content, the novel concerns itself with human relationships -- male-female love and sexual relationships, friendship, and familial relationships – and also with the possibility of human transformation. All five central characters in The Guardener’s Tale go through significant personality changes in the course of the narrative, emerging as different people with different values and views of their world by the end of the book.

Finally, at the level that is sometimes referred to as meta-fiction, The Guardener’s Tale is a novel about writing a novel.

Marva: Interesting spelling of “Guardener.” What does it mean?

Bruce: Speculative writer Malcolm Deeley, in his pre-publication review of The Guardener’s Tale, explains this as well as I could.

“The imagery that presents this puzzle in Boston’s novel has all the richness of his poetic hand: the forces of societal order, called Guardeners, scan the minds of those considered aberrant, and from these scans glean patterns, the most desirable to society being one that strongly resembles a flower. When this pattern is diverged from, they prune the emotional and intellectual strands that distort the flower, in the hope that the result will be a happier, more stable, and productive citizen.”

The Guardener’s Tale will be released by Sam’s Dot Publishing in a few weeks. If I’ve whetted your appetite enough to want to know more, you can find publication details, ordering information, and additional pre-pub quotes from Paul Di Filippo and Gene O’Neill at The Guardener's Tale.

Marva: What else are you working on?

Bruce: Most of my writing life I’ve produced poetry and short fiction, though not entirely by choice. Although I’ve published one other novel, Stained Glass Rain, and half a dozen novelettes, I’ve always found it difficult to work on longer fiction unless I could devote nearly all of my time and energy to it. Now that I’m retired, and have more free time, that seems to be the direction I’m moving. I’m currently in the process of mapping out two new science fiction novels, but not sure which one I will embark upon first.

Marva: Okay, any topic you'd like to expound on here. Go for it. 500 words or fewer.

Bruce: Okay, yourself! Let’s talk about the state of book publishing, which has changed radically in the last two decades. I used to think it was too hard to get a novel published. Now I think it may have become too easy. With the advent of the Internet, ebooks, print-on-demand publishing, and many companies offering self-publishing with little or no editorial intervention, the marketplace is flooded with more novels and more books than ever before. The problem the individual writer faces, without a major commercial publisher to promote his or her work, is how to you get your book noticed among the literally thousands of others out there. The problem the individual reader faces is what to choose from this deluge.

On the one hand, from a writer’s vantage, I’m reminded of the old joke about the couple that go for a Sunday drive in the country and get lost. They see a farmer standing by the side of the road, so they stop and ask him for directions to get back to the city. He starts to give them one set of directions, then pauses, and says, “No, that won’t work..” Then he begins with another set of directions, only to stop again and reach the same conclusion. Finally, he says, “Come to think of it, you can’t get there from here.”

On the other hand, I hope there may be a way to get there from here. Obviously, as a writer, you have to use all the publicity at your disposal. Interviews such as this for example. Appearances at conventions, signings at bookstores, emails and letters to those whom you think might be interested, whatever reviews you can garner. Yet ultimately, whether or not a book gets there, may be more up to readers than to any individual author. Commercial publishers often claim that many bestsellers are created more by word of mouth than by advertising or reviews.

So what I would say to readers is that if you want entertaining and worthwhile literature to survive amidst the avalanche of books we are now facing, when you read a novel, or any book that you really enjoy, don’t keep quiet about it. Tell you friends and your acquaintances! Tell anyone you know who reads! And if you like a book well enough, if you have taken significant pleasure in the read, don’t forget that books make great gifts. Buy the book for a friend, or loan the book to a friend, and share the experience.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Interview - Edward Cox, Storyteller

This is the first of two interviews with Ed. Here, we're covering his roles as reviewer and non-fiction writer. In the second part, we'll talk to Ed about his new book, "Living Stone," coming soon from Sam's Dot Publishing .

Edward lives in the Essex area of England and has just completed his BA Honours degree in creative writing at the University of Luton. He was first published in 1999 and hasn't looked back. He's a regular in the Sam's Dot Publishing world of science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Check out Ed's websites:
Edward Cox - Storyteller
Ed's MySpace

Marva: Hi Ed. Besides working on becoming a world-famous author, you also write reviews for Aoife's Kiss. How do you go about reviewing? Off the top of your head when you've finished reading? Notes along the way?

Ed: A mixture of both, to be honest. Though I have to admit my broader view probably happens retrospectively. I find the hardest part of a review is the opening paragraph. I like to write a little on the subject matter - set the scene, if you like - before slipping into the review itself. I actually spend an astonishing amount of time researching my opening paragraphs. Yet, as is often the case, most of my research never gets used. I guess I just like to know what I’m talking about before I open my mouth.

The funny thing is, at university, I actually conducted a reviewing module, and thought it was imperially boring. Seriously, I bitched and moaned all the way through it, and even though my grades were good, I adamantly claimed I’d never be a reviewer. But somewhere along the line, I began to enjoy writing them, and now find they make a pleasant alternative to storytelling. And the bonus is I get lots of cool stuff to read for free! I’m also very lucky that Tyree Campbell appreciates the way I go around things, and gives me the room and freedom to be creative with my reviews.

I’d like to mention here that I believe there are a lot of problems with reviewing today; writers very often want to stamp their mark and opinions on somebody else’s work way too much. This, at least to me, seems to miss the point; it’s not about the reviewer, it’s about what’s being reviewed. I appreciate that the craft is a little like journalism, and it’s impossible to remain completely unbiased, but I can’t understand it when some reviewers want to exaggerate the bad in an author’s work simply because they’ve found a clever or humorous way to phrase it. Sadly, it happens a lot.

Now, I’ve been on the end of good and bad reviews in the past, and everybody’s entitled to their opinions. But I began to notice that the reviewers, who didn’t like my work, absolutely panned it - I mean they just crashed it to the ground in a very smug and supercilious way. Now, by that rationale, you’d expect the reviewers who liked my work to do the exact opposite, right? Gush praise upon praise on me. But they didn’t; they just dealt with the subject matter for what it was, and explored the nature of the work in an intelligent way. To my mind, that’s the essence of a good review.

Of course, I’m not saying that writers should always steer clear of the bad in their reviews. If you didn’t like something, and feel it’s important enough to mention, then mention it. Just be prepared to back it up with your reasons why in an intelligent, constructive way. You don’t need to be detrimental about the author or his work. Be sure you’re making a valid point, and not just expressing some weak personal opinion. I’ll give you a good example: I once read a review of a Michael Moorcock novel, and the reviewer said it was “crap”. The only reason he gave for his declaration was the fact that the book was a “fantasy story”. For one, you have to think: Dude, it’s Michael Moorcock, what the hell did you expect? And for two, what purpose did it really serve? What did he achieve, other than showing how easily a reviewer could make himself look stupid? He told me nothing, and I bought the book anyway, and thoroughly enjoyed it because it was fantasy.

However, the same has to go for praise. Every author wants to hear “Wow! Simply fantastic!” about their work - and I’m including myself here - but usually that kind of comment comes from someone who hasn’t familiarized him- or herself with the subject matter properly. Be creative, but be constructive. The reader wants to know what they might be buying here. “Wow” and “Crap” tells them nothing.

OK. To coin a favourite phrase of Tyree Campbell’s – end of rant…

Marva: By the way, I've included excerpts from two of your reviews in the next posts. The books are A TIME TO..., an anthology of the Best of Lorelei Signal, edited by Carol Hightshoe and THE DOG AT THE FOOT OF THE BED, by Tyree Campbell.

Also in the realm of non-fiction, your article, "For The Dead Move Fast" that originally appeared in Hungur Magazine was named one of the top ten in the Preditors/Editors poll and won first place for the James Award for non-fiction. What prompted you to write it? Do you plan on writing more articles in the future, in addition to fiction?

Ed: Winning the James was a big deal for me. Not only is it my first award, it’s also fantastic to gain recognition for my work, especially from the kind folks at Sam’s Dot Publishing who have been so good and encouraging to me over the past couple of years. They work tirelessly, for little reward, and ensure the smaller fish like me can find a voice in the independent press. I have nothing but praise and respect for each of them.

As for articles, I have to admit that I don’t have much inspiration for them. I like writing them, but subject matter doesn’t readily come to me. I’ve only written two to date, both for Sam’s Dot magazines, and on both occasions I was asked to write them. It seems that if an editor gets in touch and says, “Can you write an article on….” I can do it no problem. But, strangely, without that prompt, article writing doesn’t even occur to me. I can’t explain it. Maybe I’m just the type of boy who can’t say no.

Marva: Thanks for answering my silly questions. I appreciate your time.

Ed: Marva, the pleasure’s all mine. Thank you for having me.

Review by Ed Cox - The Dog at the Foot of the Bed

by Tyree Campbell
Reviewed by Edward Cox
Click here for the rest of the review

Since the beginning of history, family sagas have never failed to captivate the human race. Across the globe, the religions and mythologies of every culture are littered with tales of kith and kin. For millennia we have dined upon the wars and passions between rival siblings, the unconditional bonds of mothers, and the many splintered facades of a father’s love. Yet, we never grow bored, and like some fundamental meme, they remain forever in our blood.

Not least of all does this relate to the stories of the ancient Celts, and the heroes and villains from pre-Roman Britain. And in The Dog at the Foot of the Bed, Tyree Campbell raises the ghost of our Celtic forefathers, and delivers a SciFi family saga that is as intriguing as it is complex.

Set in the same futurescape as Campbell’s first novel Nyx, The Dog at the Foot of the Bed follows the exploits of the Shannen siblings, a family whose heritage lies somewhere in the misty past of Ireland. Living on a remote world, the Shannens’ life, though far from uncomplicated, is peaceful enough. That peace is shattered, however, when past exploits and old rivalries begin coming back to haunt them.

Siobhan, the oldest of the Shannen sisters, is something of a family renegade. She is a major in the military, and no longer lives with her siblings. One day she learns from her superiors that somebody, somewhere in the galaxy, had gained the terrifying means and power to destroy entire planets. With dire force, the strikes come with little warning, and are without apparent motive. Siobhan is ordered to discover the culprit behind the attacks, and quickly finds herself in the midst of a political quagmire. Here, she is forced to rekindle relations with the family she once walked away from.

Click here for the rest of the review

Review by Ed Cox - A Time To...

A TIME TO… Volume 1 Edited by Carol Hightshoe
Reviewed by Edward Cox
Click here for the rest of the Review

The Lorelei Signal is a fantasy webzine dedicated to strong female characters. With three issues now under her belt, editor Carol Hightshoe has commemorated the first year of publication with the release of A Time To… Volume 1. This anthology brings together the best short stories and poems of The Lorelei Signal 2006, and it stands as testament to what a success that inaugural year was.

The best of issue 1 kicks off with Lee Martindale’s Act of War. This piece of flash fiction uses stark descriptions to build a tense and creepy atmosphere, as a group of villagers take refuge inside a warehouse. Outside, soldiers are preparing for battle against something that approaches. The story is tidy and complete, and there’s a great twist at the end, but its briefness has the feel of a prologue, and that makes it perfect for the first story of the anthology.

Blood and Ashes by Michele Acker plumps us straight onto a blood-soaked battlefield during the height of a war. Our protagonist, Sorea, is a woman posing as a man in the army, and facing the complications that brings. And as the day on the battlefield grows long, she soon realises that it sometimes takes a woman to know a woman, and it’s a lesson learned too late. The sense that everything may not be as it seems is carried through this tale from start to finish. Acker packs a lot of character information into a relatively short piece, but it doesn’t detract from an otherwise enjoyable story.

Next up comes Kayelle Allen’s The Last Vhalgenn, which is also the longest story in the anthology. Raik is the king’s concubine, recalled to the kingdom from her duties with the army. The king’s wife is pregnant, and the unification of two lands depends on the birth. Here, with a clash of cultures, Raik is assigned a covert mission, where she walks a precarious line between the greater good and an act of treachery. Although Allen’s prose is easy to read, and the story is both engrossing and poignant, I felt that as a whole The Last Vhalgenn could’ve been developed a little further. The story is 10,000 words long, and with a few thousand more it could go from being a decent yarn to a great tale.

Click here to read the rest of the review

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Blog me up, Scotty!

I'll admit it. I want more blog traffic. I'm jealous of folks who have billions visiting their blogs all the time. So, I'm trying to step up to the plate with content people might like to read. I hope my rounds of interviews and reviews will help. Secondly, I'll just do some old-fashioned begging. A friend's blog had this Vote for Me doohicky on his site, so I trotted over to FuelMyBlog and signed up.

So, vote for my blog! Pretty please. Here's an icon right here, or use the one over <<<<<----- there.