Fantastic audiobook performance of my Chanuka fairy-tale!

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If you like audiobooks and podcasts, and you have kids (and even if not!), and you like fantasy fiction, you definitely need to give Elderberry Tales a listen. The host and voice-actor, Carrie Coello, provides performances of classic and new tales. For this week, she graciously agreed to feature one of my own stories, a fairy tale about the holiday of Chanuka called The Princess, the Dragon, and the Baker.

Grumpy dragon is grumpy...

Grumpy dragon is grumpy…

You can hear the podcast on Elderberry Tales here. When I get a little time I’m going to be setting it up as an audiobook for sale, but you can beat the rush and download it for free!

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Only a Few Hours Left for “The Wand that Rocks the Cradle”!

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The Kickstarter campaign for The Wand that Rocks the Cradle is about to end, and we have blown past our goal with room to spare. I can’t wait to get to work publishing these great stories!

If you were thinking of backing this anthology, now is your last chance. See you there…

Emotional Whiplash

Here’s a brief sketch of my internal monologue during the Kickstarter project for The Wand that Rocks the Cradle, now about five days before the deadline:

Day 1: Oh my God we just got over 25% in one day that’s amazing!!

Day 3: Oh my God we just crossed 50%! Holy cow holy cow holy cow! We’re going to get so many backers and then we can do an audiobook and interior illustrations and all the authors get paid more than pennies and it’s going to be amazing!!

Day 7: Okay, slowing down a bit, but we still hit 70%, not too bad, not too bad!

Day 13: Okay, we’re stalled at 75%… do we need more PR? Maybe offer a cool new backer reward? Something?

Day 16: Awright, back in business! Not exactly rolling in dough, but good solid progress. Up to 88%, going great. We’ll get there.

Day 22: Um, hello? Anyone there?

Day 23: Okay, this cannot be the end! Time for some shameless begging…

Day 24: Okay, shameless begging got us a few bucks, up to 92%. Maybe update the graphic? Maybe I was spamming people too often with updates? Maybe the updates weren’t interesting enough? We’ve got a bunch of followers who haven’t contributed yet, maybe some of them will chip in right at the end?

Day 25: Seriously? Less than $40 left? Aargh! That’s like a cup of coffee a day or something! How can it be this hard?? Come on, Kickstarter, do your thing!

****

In the meanwhile, I’ve been scoping out a huge number of cover artists in different places online. We have options. The frustrating thing is that it’s hard to get a sense of what will attract our audience in particular; the emotional tone of this anthology is very different from my usual. I’d call it “wistful,” “poignant,” “tender” at times, with a few darker and lighter bits thrown in for spice. But the design aesthetic for a lot of cover artists these days seems to be “glowy action chick with a low-cut dress and werewolves,” which might not be where we want to go. Except, what if it sells anyway?

The marketplace is a fickle temptress, yea verily!

The Wand that Rocks the Cradle: Author Interview with Michelle Goddard

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Thanks again for supporting The Wand that Rocks the Cradle! Today’s interview is with Michelle F Goddard, who contributed the short story “The Lake Cottage.” Enjoy!

 

If you had to tell someone, “If you like this person’s stories, you would like mine too,” who would you pick?

This is a heck of an opening statement to make. I’ll preface it by saying that I love exploring the extraordinary in the ordinary, doorways that open between worlds and open us to the strange or let the strange come for a visit. Authors like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King accomplish this in spades and I’d include Joss Whedon and his many television shows as well. George RR Martin has managed to bring dragons and magic into a story that is fundamentally about people and their relationship with power. I greatly admire that skill to tap into real issues while dealing with the fantastic. I try my best to explore that as well.

What attracted you to writing?

I think most, if not all writers were and are avid readers. I was one of those read at the dinner table kids, eyes riveted to the page, blind to all else. Even my mom remembers my reaction when I first readThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, excitedly telling her all about the children and the magic wardrobe and how whenever I would find a wardrobe, I would check it thoroughly, not wanting to miss out on an opportunity for an adventure. So I suppose, as years went by I figured, if I wasn’t going to find Narnia, I’d create one myself. But truth be told, I still look at the back of wardrobes… just in case.

(Read more…)

FIRST LOOK: “The Hopeful Bodies of the Young,” by Misha Burnett

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Today, we’re giving you a look at one of the five stories in our Kickstarter-exclusive bonus bundle. The only way to receive this bundle is by pledging to this campaign at the $10 or $25+ levels; it will never be available for sale. This excerpt is from “The Hopeful Bodies of the Young,” by Misha Burnett, and takes place on a lovely night in Dracoheim. Enjoy!

 

[…]

The waiter handed them each a larger leather folder containing the day’s menu and withdrew as if on a greased track.

Ivor realized that he was hiding behind the menu and made an effort to put it down. Say something, he told himself.

“Your pictures don’t do you justice,” he tried.

She raised an eyebrow at that. But she was still smiling.

“Thank you, Magus,” she said impishly.

Ivor colored. “It’s not really that big a deal—” Then he stopped himself. He might as well be honest, even if it came across as conceited. “Well, actually, it is kind of a big deal. Eight years of schooling, then six years as an apprentice. I only graduated six months ago, I’m still getting used to it.”

“And you work for Blackstone-Tate,” she said. That had been in the profile he’d sent the agency.

He nodded. “Junior partner, but my name’s on the rolls. Along with about sixty others.”

(Read more…)

FIRST LOOK: “Legacy” by Joanna Hoyt

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Thanks again for supporting The Wand that Rocks the Cradle! Today, our excerpt is from the beginning of “Legacy,” by Joanna Hoyt. Enjoy!

Did you know that for only $5 more, you can receive a special, Kickstarter-exclusive bundle of five more excellent short stories? Tomorrow, we’ll start posting First Look excerpts of the bonus stories so you can get a taste of what could be yours…

****

May 20, 1954: California

David straightened up carefully. For a moment he let himself feel the pain in his spine and hips, the sweat sliding down his face and his back. Then he let those go and focused on Daniel, one row behind him, bent over the melon plants, his short-handled hoe moving quickly, rhythmically.

Daniel looked over as though he’d felt his father’s glance like a touch; straightened a little too fast, winced, smiled. Not the quick eager way he’d smiled when David said he was old enough to come and work. This was steadier, a little rueful and more than a little proud. David smiled back and bent to work again before Gord the crew boss could come over and shout at either of them.

He would have liked to offer his son some easier way of being a man, work that wouldn’t be hell on his joints, work that would let him marry a sweetheart and go home to her every night instead of leaving for months at a time. But that wasn’t what he had to give. And maybe, after all, there was no easy way.

(Read more…)

Does Nobody Watch The Classics Anymore?

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We interrupt our regularly-scheduled shameless self-promotion…

Setting aside the propriety of casting Mel Gibson in a movie called “Rothchild,” which seems to be all anyone is discussing about it, why is it that not a single article I’ve read so far notices that it’s almost certainly a remake of an old classic?

Here’s the plot summary from The Hollywood Reporter:

The black comedy will center on Becket Rothchild (Shia LaBeouf) — the bastard child of a mother, who in eloping with a jazz musician was cast out from the Rothchild family and its vast fortune — who was never given a fair lot in life. All grown up and armed with charisma, intelligence and a flair for opportunity, it does not take long for Becket to fully grasp the immense gap between his situation and the richest 1 percent, which should be his birthright. He has a plan.

There are precisely nine Rothchild family members who stand between him and his fortune, including Whitelaw (Gibson), his sinister grandfather. How hard could it be for them each to meet with an “accident”? With the unique advantage of being unknown to any of them, Becket penetrates the weird and twisted lives of his super-rich kin amongst frat boys, hipster artists and reality TV stars. The only thing that threatens to get in the way is love, both old and new.

Did you recognize it? Here’s a hint: Alec Guinness.

Not yet? How about: Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, and Alec Guinness.

The movie I’m referring to is Kind Hearts and Coronets, from 1949. In many respects its plot matches the above outline precisely, making allowances for an updated setting. The biggest clue is that there are precisely nine family members to bump off, as in the 1949 film. (Apparently the film was loosely adapted into a Broadway show in 2013, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. None of the discussions of “Rothchild” mention that one either.)

Interestingly, in one sense “Rothchild” might be more faithful to Kind Hearts’s original source material—a 1907 novel titled Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a Criminal, in which the titular criminal is half-Jewish and generally enacts the usual anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews.

I doubt I’ll see “Rothchild,” mostly because I don’t trust Hollywood to satirize “the 1%” without plunging into boring ham-handed preachy sanctimony. But it’s alarming that the classic movie it seems to have been ripped off of has apparently sunk without a trace, forgotten by the very reporters who claim to know movies.

(I suppose this is one more example of how institutional memory is being destroyed across industries by young know-it-alls who imagine that no one older than they knows anything worth learning. One of the most frightening things about Washington DC is that much of the government is run by twenty-something staffers who are ignorant and easily manipulated by outside interests.)

On the bright side, those of us who appreciate the classics have an opportunity to sell old wine in new bottles. What other classic movies or books are out there, waiting for a facelift in the hands of a determined modern novelist?

FIRST LOOK: “She That Was So Proud and Wild,” by Misha Burnett

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Thanks for following The Wand that Rocks the Cradle! Today’s excerpt is from a story by Misha Burnett, in which a family clinging to its old ways and old magic confronts a prodigal son who wants to live his own life. Enjoy!

****

At the old fuel station off the highway Jenni went in to get some snacks for the road.

Marc stayed with the truck and had the attendant fill the two jerry cans he kept in the back as well as the truck’s tank.

“Headed up country?” the attendant asked, using an expression Marc hadn’t heard in years.

Marc nodded. “I’ve got folk in Carne Shant.”

“Not as bad as it used to be,” the attendant observed. “There’s stations up in the delves now.”

“I’d rather be prepared,” Marc said. “Better to spend wisdom than earn it.”

The attendant grinned at that. “Old church?” he asked.

Marc shook his head. “Not anymore.”

Jenni came back with warm fudge wrapped in waxed paper and bottles of ginger soda.

Marc paid the attendant as Jenni climbed in, then waved as he drove off.

“Friendly people,” Jenni said.

“They can be,” Marc observed.

“Funny thing…” Jenni began, giving Marc a sidelong glance, “There was a sign at the register about not taking coins unless they’re rolled. The last place we stopped had the same sign. What’s that all about?”

“Old church,” Marc said absently. “They don’t use paper money.”

(Read more…)

The Wand that Rocks the Cradle—Author Interview with Frank Saverio

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Thanks for supporting The Wand that Rocks the Cradle! Today’s interview is with Frank Saverio, who contributed the short story, “To Find a Peach”. Enjoy!

 

If you had to tell someone, “If you like this person’s stories, you would like mine too,” who would you pick?

The obvious answer is good old G.R.R. Martin. But if you like my crime fiction as Frank Zafiro, I think you’ll see some similarity in this story.

What attracted you to writing?

Tough question… it’s always been there. I equate it to a musician being attracted to music. It’s an almost instinctual draw.

How did you get to this point in your writing? Did you take classes, or intensively study particular authors, or simply do a lot of writing and learn as you go? All of the above?

I think I took one class in college. I would say I am mostly self-taught, but that is a term that belies what really goes on. I’ve learned from all the authors I’ve read, and those I’ve worked with directly, as well as my own trial and error and subsequent growth.

Are there particular themes that run through your writing?

I try to be real, so my stories are sometimes a little bit of a downer. But one of my favorite songwriters is Bruce Springsteen, and a lot of his songs are downer songs (some are super upbeat, too, but those aren’t my favorites). Despite the darkness in many of these songs, there’s always an underlying sense of hope, or at least resiliency. Since much of what I’ve written has been crime fiction, I’ve found it useful to follow this same philosophy. I think readers will see it in my short story for this collection, too.

(Read more…)

Writing Exercises for Stories where a Religious Organization Rules Society

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(A message from our sponsors: pre-order your copy of The Wand that Rocks the Cradle: Magical Stories of Family now, and get special Kickstarter-exclusive bonuses! A collection of fantasy short stories that range from tender, to grim, to poignant, to breathtaking, The Wand that Rocks the Cradle is a Lagrange Books anthology you don’t want to miss!)

This writing exercise is meant to accompany this post about the Clergy “polity,” in which power is held (at least in part) by a religious leader or organization. If you like this exercise, read the above-linked post and then come back.

  1. What religious/spiritual beliefs do the Clergy have in your society? How do they justify its political power?
  2. Is the Clergy the sole ruler? Or does it provide legitimacy for another ruler, like a king with divine right? What kind of legitimacy?
  3. Does the Clergy make political demands on other powerful figures, or society in general? How are these enforced? Does the Clergy have an army, or magical power? Or do people obey because of its moral authority?
  4. What sacrifices must the Clergy make to demonstrate its religious piety? What sacrifices does it demand of others?
  5. Does the Clergy observe its own rules? Does it have the respect of the people? Of the elites?
  6. How can members of the Clergy exploit their positions for personal gain? How often do they do so?
  7. What happens if a member of the Clergy has a crisis of faith? What about someone not in the Clergy?
  8. What would happen in a religious schism? Or a sudden outbreak of unbelief?
  9. Looking over all the potential conflict points you’ve noted, which have the most resonance for your story?