Tuesday, July 30, 2013

PNWA Writers Conference

On Thursday, I arrived at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in SeaTac, Washington.  Believe it or not, the city was named after the airport, not the other way around.  The valet parking (which I’m too cheap to use) was very creative.  Notice the SUV is parked on the sidewalk. 

License plate cropped off on purpose 

The real takeaway from that afternoon’s sessions is that Amazon.com is publishing e-versions of short stories.  Their program is called Kindle Singles, and they accept stories 5,000 to 30,000 words long.  So if you’re interested, go to amazon.com/kindlesingles and submit. 

The conference had a good variety of people.  At one lunch, I sat at the table of a very straightforward-looking young man who was from Fort Lewis and who had served in Afghanistan.  To my surprise, instead of writing about his time there, he writes young adult and urban fantasy.  Also at the table was a young woman from a small town in Idaho.  She said she successfully pitched to several agents. 

Which leads me to the main events.  Most of us came to the conference to pitch to agents and editors.  The lines for pitching looked like this: 

We would each get four minutes to pitch to an agent or editor.  That’s right, only four minutes.  As I sat among a group waiting for the doors to the first pitch session to open, I encouraged a nervous young woman named Halie Fewkes, who had just graduated from college.  The actual pitch to summarize a novel should last just one minute, and the rest of the time is answering the professional’s questions.  She was already aware of the ideal length of a pitch, and she liked knowing she should relax more about it. 

At the end of each four minute session, a bell would ring.  That’s right, a BELL.  It was like being back in school.  The first agent I wanted to pitch to took longer than four minutes talking to the person before me, but that was all right.  I pitched to three agents, and each time it took less than four minutes.  That’s all it takes, if you know what you’re doing. 

So two of them asked me to send in sample pages.  The other one said the genre of my Tica Manus new adult science fiction story was not right for her, but it could be for another person at her agency.  She invited me to send sample pages to that agent with her recommendation. 

Successful in those Friday pitches, many of us relaxed and enjoyed the Saturday banquet.  Two friendly aspiring writers at my table were Rosalie and Ina. 

They also announced the winners of the literary contest for the conference.  Participants sent in their entries ahead of time.  Hundreds of entries poured in for the various categories.  The winner of the Young Adult category was none other than Halie Fewkes! 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Research is Where You Find It

A scene in my novel The War of the Worlds and Fairies involves a fairy and a pixie demonstrating épée practice—épées are thicker than foils, with a triangular cross section.  Then I remembered a girl in the youth group at my church who wore a shirt indicating she was part of a local fencing group. 

public domain

So I asked the assistant pastor if he could point me in the direction of that girl.  He knew who she was, but added that a young woman who spent time with the youth group was actually more involved with fencing.  So I asked the woman if she fenced, and she said no. 

Seeing the puzzled look on my face, she added that she had fenced a few years ago.  But she said her father knew more about it. 

I know her father better than I know her, so I went and asked him about it.  He immediately brought up the subject of épées, and added the story of how a Russian fencing master was at the place where he practiced.  This Russian master would barely move his torso, just move around with his feet as he fended off attacks, then get in a hit with a quick, short move. 

So I was within one degree of separation of some surprisingly handy knowledge, but it just took a few steps to find it.  Although I gave him a few pages describing the scene, I don’t know if anything will come of it since the fairy and pixie are flying during their practice, no footwork involved.  But if you need to do some research, ask around.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Beta Reader – J E Oneil

I originally would look at J E Oneil’s blog because of her etymology studies.  More recently, I took her up on being a beta reader. 

I think she did a good job on my 121,000 word manuscript, The War of the Worlds and Fairies.  She pointed out some typos (I didn’t know the British actually spelled the word “aluminum” differently) and a few unclear sentences.  There were no comments where I thought she just didn’t get the plot or characters. 

So you might take a look at her website, and if you get a good feeling, see if she has time to go over your manuscript.   

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

1812: The Navy’s War

Last year I started reading 1812: The Navy’s War by George C. Daughan as part of the war's bicentennial.  It’s a fantastically detailed book on the events that led up to, and every major battle of the war. 

The title derives from the fact that though British Canadian forces easily defeated American forces two, three, or four times their size on land, at sea our puny Navy inflicted incredible defeats on the mighty British Fleet.  The difference was in leadership: Our Navy leaders were seasoned veterans of the undeclared Naval war with France, and of dealing with Barbary pirates in North Africa.  The Army leaders were largely incompetent or cowards, some in place simply because of political connections. 

One of the major issues leading to the war was impressment:  the British practice of boarding American ships and taking any crew aboard they deemed to actually belong to the British Navy.  British sailors often deserted for the U.S. Navy because of the horrible way they were treated by British officers, compared to the relatively civilized conditions in our Navy.  Along the way, the British would sometimes grab U.S. citizens. 

Partway through the war, the British planned to take over huge swaths of America, so that part of the war became a second War for Independence. 

1812: The Navy’s War is a gripping read that fills in this part of American history, and will delight anyone who enjoys reading in detail about the old sailing ships.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Obama in Movie Trailer

The new trailer for Red 2 has Obama in it.  Seriously. 

Do not try this at home.  The production company must have paid big money to the news corporation that owns the copyright for the clip (without telling them what they were going to use it for.)  If you try to do the same, you will be hammered for copyright infringement. 

And then we bloggers can insert links to their gonzo ad.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

World War Z

I finally saw World War Z.  The trailer was more exciting. 

It pretty much suffered from what I call the John Cusack effect:  Everywhere John Cusack went in the movie 2012, bad things happened.  Ditto for Brad Pitt in World War Z.  And he’s adopted the Keanu Reeves method of acting, which involves changing expression just enough so he can get paid.  The movie has its multi-million dollar special effects, but it’s just derivative of other works in the zombie genre, whether Lifeforce, The Walking Dead, REC3, or even anime about zombies. 

But the breakout actress of the movie should be Daniella Kertesz.  She plays the Israeli soldier tasked with escorting Brad Pitt’s character, and she is a marvel at displaying raw emotion.  So that’s one gem in this chat pile of zombies. 

It’s been a bad summer for movies with over-the-top special effects, but lousy stories.  I took the recent Star Trek movie to task in my review.  I didn’t bother to watch the Superman movie because critics made it sound as disappointing as the Star Trek movie.  The Lone Ranger is said to be filled with perverse violence and just a way of dumping on earlier versions of the legend.  So far, the more modest Warm Bodies is the best movie I’ve seen this year (and yes, I reviewed it here).  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bird vs. Jet

Recently, a bird brought down an F-16 in Arizona when it was sucked into the engine.  (Both men in it survived.)  I showed the article to a friend of mine who used to be in Navy Air, and who now flies for a civilian airline.  To my surprise, he replied with his own account of a narrow escape. 

I took a bird in the Panamint Valley (near Death Valley), Ca at 550 knots and
200 feet over the desert floor.

The FA-18 has a woman's voice for cautions and warnings.  I remember hearing a loud thump followed by airframe and engine vibrations and also hearing  "Bit__'n Betty" (as we affectionately called her) saying in a sultry voice:  "Engine Left...Engine Left".

I saw lots of red lights, promptly "buried the pole" in my lap (pulled back on the stick) and traded altitude for airspeed while I shut down the left engine.

The left hydraulic system operated the landing gear, so lowered the gear fairly quickly while I still had residual hydraulic pressure and landing safely at NAS China Lake about 10 miles away from my position.

Back in the 80s when the Navy and Air Force were deciding on lightweight fighters, the Navy didn't like the single engine concept of the F-16 and chose the FA-18.

Now you know why...


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