Saturday, June 15, 2024

[Link] Amy Tan Isn’t Perfect

This year’s Carl Sandburg Literary Award winner on getting over perfectionism in writing and the myth that Asians are a “model minority”

By Monica Eng

The Joy Luck Club has become the great Chinese American novel. What were the pros and cons of authoring the first big commercial Chinese American literary hit?

I was cast in the limelight as being some sort of expert about Chinese Americans or immigrants or mothers and daughters. With that limelight comes a responsibility put on me to speak for the community of Asian Americans, or all people in Asia, which is impossible. I had to constantly talk about the fact that Asian Americans are not a homogenous group. We are united by commonalities and needs within communities, but we can be very different in how we conduct our lives.

You’ve dressed up in S&M-style leather to perform with the literacy fundraising supergroup the Rock Bottom Remainders. How did that happen?

I used to sing “Bye Bye Love,” but I don’t have a good voice. After our first concert, our musical director, Al Kooper, said, “I picture Amy wearing leather boots and fishnet stockings, wielding a whip and singing ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.’ ” And I said, “That is such a sexist thing to say,” but I realized this wasn’t about me trying to prove I had a good voice. This was about being funny, because this plays against who most people think I am. I had to go to these leather shops and ask for whips and collars. So part of this song does require me to tell the boys to bend over, and then I get to whip them.

In your latest books and your Netflix documentary [Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir], you talk about your mom’s struggle with mental health and your own struggles. Why is it important to get these topics out in the open — especially in the Asian American community?

My mother was always very open about anything. Anything I said about her was fine. So that kind of openness has been my template in life. I am part of the Pacific Asian Network. It’s like a United Way for different Asian groups that also helps combat stereotypes about Asians as model minorities: the idea that they have no problems, no mental health issues, no children who are overweight, no poverty, no elder abuse. Those are all myths.

Read the full interview: https://www.chicagomag.com/chicago-magazine/october-2021/amy-tan-isnt-perfect/

Friday, June 14, 2024

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTION PRESENTS THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

Airship 27 Production is thrilled to present the greatest pulp hero team up of them all. The threat of World War II looms over the eastern horizon and America prepares for when it will enter battle. When many masters of the occult and magical talismans from around the globe begin disappearing, Intelligence Officer Major Steel fears the Nazis are behind the kidnappings and thefts. He hurriedly enlists the aid of Secret Agent X, Ravenwood Stepson of Mystery, and powerful mage, Ascott Keane. But even their combined powers may not be sufficient and so he is forced to reach out to the devil incarnate himself, the villainous Doctor Satan.

Writer Glen Held delivers a pulse-pounding pulp adventure in the tradition of the thirties classics. While multiple Pulp Factory Award-winning artist Rob Davis provides the stunning cover and the black and white interior illustrations. 

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTION – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION! 

Available now at AmazonAmazon in paperback and soon on Kindle. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

[Link] Beat the Author Blues: How to Manage Writer’s Doubt

by Clayton Noblit

Being an author is hard. There’s no way around it. Some days, the prose will spring onto the page almost without effort. On others, it will be an exercise in stagnation and frustration as you stare at a blank screen in a fit of writer’s doubt. Oh, and the actual writing often isn’t the hard part. Authors and writers often work from a deeply personal place. And, if opening up to a new friend is anxiety-inducing, sharing your writing with the entire world takes it to a new level.

Think running a business is hard? Imagine if the business was based around your imagination being shared with others. This is what an author deals with on a daily basis. Thankfully, there are upsides to being an author. Sharing your creativity can be the most rewarding thing in your life. It’s a chance few will take, but those who do can see great rewards.

Here are a few common issues that authors face, and suggestions on how to overcome them, or put them in perspective.

  • Feeling devastated by a bad review
  • I’m not a real author
  • My writing isn’t good enough
  • The task seems too big
  • I don’t know enough about a subject to write about it

Read the full article: https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/writers-doubt/

Friday, June 7, 2024

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTION PRESENTS THE SHERIFF OF HELL BY CARSON DEMMANS

Hell, Arizona is a flea-bitten two-horse town inhabited mostly by people with nowhere else to go. Drifters, tired worn-out settlers, and lots of outlaws. One of the few ongoing concerns is the brothel operated by Golden Annie. One day a slim, emaciated Englishman in a bowler hat arrives asking if he might be allowed to play her piano situated in the parlor. Surprised by the fellow’s look and demeanor, Annie agrees and is then impressed with his skills on the keys. Enough to hire him on.

And thus Percy Smith becomes Hell’s newest resident. Then a series of unfortunate events leads to his killing a violent customer intent on beating one of the girls. Soon Smith becomes the target of every owlhoot in the territory and unbelievably survives every challenge he encounters until he’s put a half dozen men in Boot Hill. Still puzzled by his true identity, Annie establishes Smith as the town’s new sheriff and soon his reputation begins to grow across the territory. Eventually getting the attention of the meanest, roughest outlaw of them all, Old Bill. Fate has put them on a collision course and it’s anybody’s guess who will survive.

Carson Demmans delivers a one-of-a-kind story that will keep readers guessing as to the Smith’s hidden secret. Artist Sam Salas provides the nine interior illustrations with Adam Shaw the eerie, beautiful cover. Art Director Rob Davis works his book design magic. 

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTION – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Available from Amazon now in paperback and soon on KindleAmazon now in paperback and soon on Kindle.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Chris Riker: I'm Nuts

Chris Riker is a father, author, and journalist. He grew up in Rhode Island and now makes his home in Georgia with his wife, Ping. He has always loved books, from science fiction and fantasy to historical novels and biographies. Building on a background in broadcast news, including a five-year stint at CNNI, he is now focused on telling stories with strong characters and moral resonance. Chris Riker’s premiere novel, Come the Eventide, focuses on a world after the fall of civilization and a dolphin named Muriel who is trying to save mankind from extinction. It is available now on Amazon and Audible. His second novel, Zebulon Angell and the Shadow Army, follows a hard-living Uber driver from Atlanta who happens upon a sex pill, leading to intrigues and adventures that take him inside the haunted tomb of China’s first emperor.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I’m pleased to have written Goody Celeste, which came out just recently. (I have a new one. More on that in a bit.) It’s been a chance to relive my childhood summers in 1969 Rhode Island. Of course, I got to invent a better version of me, one who’s not so oblivious to the world, and to women’s feelings. Ha! My main guy, Paul, meets Cece, a smart, beautiful witch, and together they face their problems. 

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

I’m worried about planet Earth. From this, I have discovered my fascination for two main themes: 1) Eat the Rich. Pretty self-explanatory, really. I’ve come to believe that extreme wealth is a fatal addiction. The idea that only “more” is enough is truly cynical and destructive. (This is why I worry for our beautiful planet.) This leads to 2) Hope. I’m a stingy writer. I will never offer you much hope. Wishing for a pony? You’re not getting it from me, fella. On the other hand, I don’t like nihilistic endings. So, you will always know that the hero will find the faintest glimmer at the end. And it’s usually coming from a change within. I think this theme is best seen in Zebulon Angell and the Shadow Army. Zee’s opening line is: “I wanted to conquer the world that morning, but my beer tasted skunky, and my head was full of cats.” In fact, I’d written that line years earlier, and it was only in 2021 that the story sprang forth. Zee does get a chance to do great things, but because he is who he is, he blows the opportunity to smithereens. He also meets Emperor Qin’s ghost, but you have to read the story to find out how. Point is, (spoiler) he learns about himself.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

I’m nuts. I’ve always loved words. I read and I write. When I was in grade school, I got into an argument over grammar with my principal. (I think I was wrong, but you’d never have convinced the younger me.) When my mom took me to the beach, I’d jump in the water for ten minutes, and that was enough. I’d spend the rest of the day in the bathhouse, reading paperback sci-fi. Even in August, I wore my February pallor. As I say… nuts.

What inspires you to write?

I guess it’s fear of mortality. Odds are, I can’t afford a solid gold pyramid, so I’ll just jot down some stories, hoping to echo a while beyond my time. I’d love to say I want to teach people to be nicer to each other and to Planet Earth, but that’s an even bigger longshot.

What would be your dream project?

I’d love to see my work turned into a streaming show or movie. I have a huge ego, so I’ve sent copies of my novels to famous actors. Nothing. (hmmm) I read an interview with Jennifer Coolidge while watching “White Lotus.” She said she wanted to play a dolphin, so I mailed her a copy of Come the Eventide, which stars dolphins and octopodes trying to save the Earth. Nothing. (hmmm)

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

I actually don’t. I fiddle with some of my short stories when I go to post them on my website (one more check!!!!), but I really feel you have to close out a project. Now, if Hollywood wants to “improve” my work… I’m easy, but not cheap.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Hopefully, many more than I can list. I’m a firm believer in stealing tricks from the best. (Not the works, but the tricks.) I grew up with Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, and Heinlein. Of those, I still go back to Bradbury for the sheer joy and beauty of his writing. Instead of technobabble, he’ll write poetry. Now, there’s a trick I try to steal! I also love Murakami, Garcia Marquez, Stephenson, Eco, and more. These guys have a million times my intellect, so I flatter myself just by reading them.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why? 

Good question. I work with students and with other aspiring writers, so I do see the value of respecting both art and science. I would lean maybe 60-40 towards art, but you gotta have solid grammar and a developed voice. That’s hard work and accepting the fact that the English language is a beast that will never be tamed.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 

Time. Will power. Fending off the depression that comes from waking up in a cold sweat at 3am with a plot hole glowing like a nemesis before my eyes.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not? 

They absolutely do. I know that I’m perfect. They help me pretend I’m not. Actually, there’s nothing better than feedback. Abject praise may feel good, but seeing the puzzled looks across the Zoom screen when they ask me what the hell they just read – that’s invaluable. I need to know where to fix my perfect stories.

What does literary success look like to you? 

Being invited to book signings, podcasts, and interviews. Maybe getting the chance to blather on about the process. I would like to sell books, of course. Lots. It’s getting harder and harder, thanks to billionaire tech bros who have flooded the market. I watched the streaming version of Stephen King’s "Lisey’s Story." In one scene, an author steps out of a stretch limo to a cheering crowd. Um. Not holding my breath in 2024. Anyway, I’d love to think some people would get to know me from my writing. That would be cool.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?  

Novel #5 is finished. I’m shopping it around, but agents are 100 percent business-oriented. They cannot and will not “take a chance.” So… I will probably self-publish. I want to read up on a few marketing techniques first. How I wish writers could be writers. Anyhoo… Alexander and the Butcher finds a Shatner-esque actor in 1963 researching his role as Alexander the Great… and then going back to meet (and do much more than meet) the real thing. Look for it soon.

For more information and FREE short stories, please visit: 

ChrisRikerAuthor.com

Amazon Author Page

Saturday, June 1, 2024

[Link] Yes, People Do Buy Books

Despite viral claims, Americans buy over a billion books a year

By Lincolm Michel

This week fellow Substacker Elle Griffin published “No one buys books,” which looks at quotes and stats from the DOJ vs. PRH (Penguin Random House) trial where the government successfully blocked PRH’s $2.2 billion purchase of Simon & Schuster. Griffin’s article has gone viral for its near apocalyptic portrait of publishing. Much of the overall thrust of Griffin’s article is right: Most people don’t buy many books, sales for most books are lower than many think, and big publishing works on a blockbuster model where a few couple hits—plus perennial backlist sellers—comprise the bulk of sales. But I hope Griffin wouldn’t mind my offering a rebuttal of a few points here. As I think a few things are off.

I was alerted to the article by people rebutting it by sharing my 2022 article about the hard-to-believe claim that 50% of books only sell 12 copies. This claim, and similar ones, go viral pretty regularly despite making no sense. In the comments of my 2022 post, Kristen McLean from BookScan attempted to recreate the viral statistic and couldn’t come close even by restricting sales to frontlist print sales in a calendar year. It seems unclear what the 12 copies claim is referencing at all.

While I think Griffin does great work collecting these quotes, I would offer a word of caution. PRH’s legal strategy was to present publishing as an imperiled, dying industry beset on all sides by threats like Amazon. PRH allegedly even paid high fees to have agents and other industry professionals testify on their behalf. I’m not saying any of the quotes are lies. I’m saying the quotes and statistics are fitting a specific narrative in the context of a legal battle.

First though, let’s step back and look at the biggest question. Do people buy books?

Read the full article: https://countercraft.substack.com/p/yes-people-do-buy-books

This article is a response to this one from last Saturday: https://www.elysian.press/p/no-one-buys-books

Saturday, May 25, 2024

[Link] No one buys books

Everything we learned about the publishing industry from Penguin vs. DOJ.

By Elle Griffen

In 2022, Penguin Random House wanted to buy Simon & Schuster. The two publishing houses made up 37 percent and 11 percent of the market share, according to the filing, and combined they would have condensed the Big Five publishing houses into the Big Four. But the government intervened and brought an antitrust case against Penguin to determine whether that would create a monopoly. 

The judge ultimately ruled that the merger would create a monopoly and blocked the $2.2 billion purchase. But during the trial, the head of every major publishing house and literary agency got up on the stand to speak about the publishing industry and give numbers, giving us an eye-opening account of the industry from the inside. All of the transcripts from the trial were compiled into a book called The Trial. It took me a year to read, but I’ve finally summarized my findings and pulled out all the compelling highlights.

I think I can sum up what I’ve learned like this: The Big Five publishing houses spend most of their money on book advances for big celebrities like Britney Spears and franchise authors like James Patterson and this is the bulk of their business. They also sell a lot of Bibles, repeat best sellers like Lord of the Rings, and children’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. These two market categories (celebrity books and repeat bestsellers from the backlist) make up the entirety of the publishing industry and even fund their vanity project: publishing all the rest of the books we think about when we think about book publishing (which make no money at all and typically sell less than 1,000 copies).

But let’s dig into everything they said in detail.

Read the full article: https://www.elysian.press/p/no-one-buys-books

For a response to this article, check out this link: https://countercraft.substack.com/p/yes-people-do-buy-books

Friday, May 24, 2024

LITRPG unleashes the AGE OF THE BEHEMOTHS!

Hunter, hunted...Or dare to tame the Behemoths?

In the untamed wilds of Aluria, where colossal creatures roam and ancient magic thrives, one rule reigns supreme: hunt or be hunted.

Enter Age of the Behemoths, a thrilling gamelit/litrpg adventure series that thrusts you into a primal world where your survival depends on mastering the art of the hunt.

Step into the boots of Noah Parker, an unassuming IT technician seeking escape from the mundane. In the virtual realm of Age of the Behemoths, he becomes a hunter, venturing into breathtaking landscapes where colossal beasts hold dominion. These creatures range from the legendary Wyverns and Leviathans to completely unique monstrosities.

In this system, every resource, weapon, piece of armor, and epic loot is earned through the thrill of the chase and the spoils of victory. Noah must learn to track, hunt, and harvest from the very giant monsters that could crush him with a single blow. Experience colossal encounters with epic-scale fights and visceral combat battles.

But Age of the Behemoths is more than just a game. With cutting-edge technology, the lines between virtual and reality blur. Noah soon uncovers whispers of a dark mystery that threatens the very fabric of the game and the lives of its players.

Will Noah rise to the challenge and become a legend? Or will he succumb to the perils of the wilds and the shadows that lurk within this mysterious epic fantasy?

The hunt begins NOW.

Available on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Paul Landri: The Darker Side of Nostalgia

Paul Landri is a writer, voice actor, and chihuahua enthusiast. He's also somebody you should meet. So, because I love you so much, here he is.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

Back in October of 2023, my Cowriter Jason Clark and I announced the publication of our debut novel, Return of the Crimson Howl. A cross-country murder mystery featuring original golden age superheroes. When the grandfather of the golden age of superheroes, Parker McCoy, is brutally murdered, it is up to two federal agents of a slowly becoming defunct Federal agency known as the Golden Age Task Force to find McCoy’s top three heroes, the Crimson Howl, The Automatic Man, and the Swami to figure out who killed him and why. It is a thrilling cross-country adventure that explores the backstories of these amazing heroes…but things aren’t always what they seem.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

I suppose the themes we are working with now are the darker sides of nostalgia. Return of the Crimson Howl is a real “never meet your heroes” type of book. The storytelling lays bear the attitudes and mores of the folks who grew up in that era where certain beliefs are commonplace and tend to leak out in even in the face of polite society. We asked ourselves, “What would a superhero be like in real life, if he lived long enough to see the present day? How would their cultural biases and upbringing affect how they see the modern world.” That isn’t to say every person who grew up in that era (in this case the Golden Age of comic books, 1930’s-1950’s) was extremely prejudicial, but these characters definitely are in their own way and we wanted to explore that.

I have a degree in history. I studied propaganda during World War 2. My thesis was based around this and how powerful propaganda can influence people. Aside from engaging in some historical realism which helps to ground the book in reality, I make mention how Superheroes themselves are great for propaganda purposes.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

I’ve always had an inclination to write. I think because it came so easily to me. My father (rest in peace) read to me as a child and it helped establish, first, my love of reading. Stephen King said if you want to write, you must also read, and I was a pretty voracious reader from the get-go. My father was also a big reader so seeing him reading definitely influenced my love of books, horror books in particular because they both terrified and fascinated me.

What inspires you to write?

I usually have a story or two rattling around my head. It starts as a bit of dialogue and goes from there. Dialogue is my favorite thing to write because I’m also a voice actor so making conversations sound authentic is important to me. I feel like I can tell stories from the very depths of my being (as pretentious as that sounds) because writing allows you to become less inhibited. There’s nothing stopping you from writing that gory scene or that sex scene if it contributes something important to the story itself.

What would be your dream project?

So, I’m a 90’s kid. I grew up with the X-Men cartoon which got me into comic books, which also influenced my writing quite a bit. One of my favorite group of character are the youngsters of Generation X. I remember when the pilot for the live action TV show came out on Fox. I stood up late to watch it and was so excited afterward I barely slept. This cemented my love of those characters. I would love to write a mini-series for television around those characters but with a slight twist. I’m a huge punk and ska fan and the premise would be Jubilee (who aside from being a mall-rat, would also be heavily into the punk and ska scene, which was pretty huge in the 90s thanks to the Warped Tour and Skate and Surf Festival on the Jersey Shore, which is where I grew up,) being sort of “demoted” from the mansion in Westchester by Charles so she could focus on her schooling, to the satellite school on the Jersey Shore (I always pictured Wilson Hall at Monmouth University, my Alma Mater and the setting for the movie version of Annie, for this) which is run by Banshee and Emma Frost. She reluctantly goes and meets the Generation X crew -- Mondo, Skin, Husk -- all those merry marching mutants- and gets them to steal a car so they can go to the Warped Tour in Philadelphia. On the way, they learn more about themselves, their powers, and how to deal with prejudice from a world that hates and fears them. No villains, just Banshee and White Queen trying to find them and bring them home. It would end, of course, with them making it to the concert.

This would be my swan song to the 90’s with the punk rock and ska I grew up with supplying the soundtrack. Think Bad Religion, Rancid, Operation Ivy, Less than Jake, and Reel Big Fish and NoFX.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

Actually the Crimson Howl books are a hard reboot of characters based on a project I did in college that, in retrospect, was complete trash. It’s amazing what time, maturity, constant reading, and collaboration with a writer who is on the same wavelength as you, can do to a story.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Stephen King is my favorite author and I believe his writing style has influenced mine the most. I read mostly his books because one, they scare the crap out of me in the best way, and two, you can’t beat King when it comes to characterization. I am constantly trying to make my characters as real as possible. Do I fall short? Sometimes, but I keep chasing that dragon and probably will until I can’t type anymore. Neil Gaiman and Simon R. Green definitely have an influences in helping with world-building, especially Green.

As I said earlier, dialogue is my favorite thing to write and I don’t think I could have written what I did without acknowledging Quentin Tarantino as an influence, at least when it comes to smart, convincing dialogue.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Writing is an art when you are in the process. It is a science when you are finished and making it commercially viable.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

I would say keeping continuity is the most difficult part. The Crimson Howl series is three books (so far) with Books 2 and 3 coming out hopefully soon. I was constantly going back to Book 1 to make sure I wasn’t breaking continuity or doing something that violated the laws of the universe Jason and I created. It was a hard go writing Book 2, but I think I did ok with it.

Sometimes, the hardest part is starting. I dreaded starting Book 2 until I actually bit the bullet and started it. After that it was like an avalanche and I had the first draft done in a few weeks. Jason is editing it. We work well like that. I take the story and, like Hawkeye Pierce, put it together in a rudimentary way and send it over to Jason, who, like Major Winchester, puts the fine touches and polishes it up into something extraordinary.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

I don’t talk a lot about the process with my other writer friends but we do encourage each other and celebrate our successes big and small. I feel like we are all working toward different goals and have different stories to tell. Writing tends to not be one size fits all so what works for my fantasy writer friends and their network might not work for me, but we are definitely celebrating when they break a sales record and vice versa.

What does literary success look like to you?

I just had my first book signing on May 4th at a local comic book shop. Convincing total strangers that this book was worth buying and collecting their cash was a huge thrill because I managed to sell them on the idea of the book and they believed in that idea strongly enough to give it a chance. My hope is to one day see these characters come to life on the big or small screen.

Our first quarterly sales actually broke all of our publisher’s records and that was just due to me constantly promoting the book on Facebook. I think, once we venture out onto other social media platforms and do other signings at conventions, people will take notice and maybe that big dream of mine will come true one day.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

I have the absolute honor of working with the Estate of Captain America co-creator, Joe Simon. Jason and I have been turning a few of his and Jack Kirby’s lesser known superheroes, The Vagabond Prince, The Black Owl, and Blue Bolt, into radio plays for The Atlanta Radio Theater Company. We’ve done this for three years now and will (hopefully) be back at Dragon*Con 2024 with another thrilling episode of The Golden Age Action hour.

I am also doing a production at the Academy Theater in Hapeville with ARTC on May 26th where I will be playing a mischievous little goblin in a fantastic play called Pilgrim Souls which was written by my dear friend and musical collaborator on the Simon and Kirby Scripts, Ellie Cook.

Lastly, Reign of the Crimson Howl is being edited by Jason as well and I am starting the third book in the series, Ruin of the Crimson Howl, a little later this month.

For more information:

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