Red Band Society = Glee + The Fault in Our Stars – music

17 Sep

Red Band Society is basically Glee + The Fault in Our Stars – music, except the music is still sort of there thanks to an absurd number of unearned montages and a dude with an acoustic guitar.

Its infuriating as a show, because it’s a brilliant concept. I mean, talk about riding a wave of tested (the hospital drama) and phenomenon (Glee and TFioS), but putting a bunch of stuff in a blender doesn’t make it new or innovative.  There’s a reason you’re told never to pitch a project with mathematical formulas based on other people’s projects.

But the biggest problem, really — and I hope this is just typical pilot problems — is that the show doesn’t trust its audience.  Instead of using Coma Kid to be hilarious, they use the character to explain things that are already obvious.  This combined with various platitudes about the soul and survival — it’s hard to take.

If it’s going to be things beloved past (Glee, because lets admit it’s largely lost the critic’s love) and present (TFioS), then Red Band Society needs to trust the audience to draw those connections on its own.  It also needs to trust the audience to draw its own conclusions about who the characters are.

Finally, and most importantly, it needs to accept that most of us took high school literature.  And whether or not we love analyzing pop-culture, we’ll likely grasp the irony of the vicious cheerleader needing a heart transplant without this being explained to us, repeatedly, in very tiny words.

Trust.  You have to trust the audience to come along with you.  Always.  Even to places that it’s scary to go or aren’t always well-illuminated.  Because if you want the audience to connect to the bravery or cleverness of your characters, you need to let that audience feel brave and clever too.

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Books you can buy!

16 Sep

starling-1Starling, my M/M romance about Hollywood co-written with Erin McRae (and the first in a series of six) is now out!  You can get it at Amazon | AllRomance | Smashwords | Torquere Bookstore | Barnes & Noble and more for $4.99 – $5.99

Meanwhile, to celebrate its 11th anniversary, Torquere is offering 25% off everything in its store with code Torquere2014. That means you can get Starling for just $4.49 and “Lake Effect” for just $1.87. The coupon is valid through this Sunday only.

Chicks-Dig-Gaming-cover-webNext up, the full table of contents of Chicks Dig Gaming has been released by Mad Norwegian Press. That will be released on November 11, 2014, but you can pre-order it now from Amazon and a host of other sites.  My essay “Castling,” about how I acquired my fairly atrocious chess skills, closes the volume.

 

Thanks for your patience with the lack of commentary here while these, and a number of other projects (some announced, some not), get underway, off the ground, out the door, and into your hands. As a reminder, you can stay up to date on my writing with Erin at Avian30; there’s been a few story sales over there that I haven’t announced here.  Additionally, I have a few pending announcements that are more suitable to this blog that I hope to be able to make soon.

Chicks Dig Gaming now available for pre-order!

24 Jun

Chicks-Dig-Gaming-cover-webI can finally announce this!  Also, it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N!

Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It

Retail Price: $14.95
Release Date: November 11, 2014
ISBN: 9781935234180
Edited by: Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith? and Lars Pearson

In Chicks Dig Gaming, editors Jennifer Brozek (Apocalypse Ink Productions), Robert Smith? (Who is the Doctor) and Lars Pearson (editor-in-chief, the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig series) bring together essays by nearly three dozen female writers to celebrate the gaming medium and its creators, and to examine the characters and series that they love.

Catherynne M. Valente (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland…, Indistinguishable from Magic) examines Super Mario Bros. through the lens of Samsara, the Wheel of Birth and Rebirth; Seanan McGuire (the October Daye series) details how gaming taught her math; G. Willow Wilson (Alif the Unseen) revels in World of Warcraft; and Rosemary Jones (Forgotten Realms) celebrates world traveler Nellie Bly and the board game she inspired.

Other contributors include Emily Care Boss (Gaming as Women), Jen J. Dixon (The Walking Eye), Racheline Maltese (The Book of Harry Potter Triffles…), Mary Anne Mohanraj (Bodies in Motion), L.M. Myles (Chicks Unravel Time), Jody Lynn Nye (the MythAdventures series), and E. Lily Yu (“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”). Also featured: exclusive interviews with Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens and Dragonlance author Margaret Weis.

About Mad Norwegian Press

Mad Norwegian Press is a Des Moines, Iowa-based publisher of science-fiction guides, novels and essay book. It was founded by Lars Pearson, a former staffer at Wizard: The Guide to Comics, in 2001.

The company has enjoyed particular success of late as a producer of essay books pertaining to women and fandom – the first being Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It (2011 Hugo Award Winner for Best Related Work), followed by Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them, Chicks Dig Comics (2013 Hugo Award Nominee), Chicks Unravel Time (2013 Hugo Award Nominee) and the related Queers Dig Time Lords (2014 Hugo Award Nominee).

Mad Norwegian also specializes in non-fiction guidebooks to TV shows, and is renowned for its books on Doctor Who (the About Time series, Ahistory, Running Through Corridors).

Exciting word related things

20 Jun

td-lakeeffect1400This weekend, Erin and I are in the deep edits from our publisher on Starling.

Meanwhile, our short story “Lake Effect,” is out from Torquere Press.

When Kyle and Daniel return to their hometown to get married, they find themselves facing an obstacle course of family drama and small-town misadventure in their quest to make it down the aisle.

Misbehaving relatives and a reformed high school bully, along with an ill-advised hookup in the wedding party and a weird late-night meal with a cabbie and his ex-wife, leave the happy couple doubting whether they want to get married at all. But a hot quickie before their walk down the aisle helps remind them that the most important part of getting married is being married.

You can purchase the story as a standalone at Amazon, Torquere, or any number of other major retailers. Or you can purchase it as part of the They Do M/M anthogy, which is also available at Amazon, Torquere, and lots of other retailers.  If you choose to purchase from Torquere, the code PRIDE will give you 20% off everything in your cart until the end of the month.  Please remember, this story does contain sexual content.

Next up, is a thing I can’t announce yet, but will be able to any day now. The information is floating around the ether, and I found out through a Google alert on my name.  I love the future!

Finally, I continue to blog at Romance @ Random, but this weekend I switch from the Penny Dreadful beat to the True Blood beat.

As soon as I can catch a moment (once these Starling edits are in), I plan to catch up here with pieces on Penny Dreadful, the Broadway show Matilda, and another bit of thought on House of Cards.

Blogging about this whole romance author process thing is happening regularly on Avian30, and if you scroll through the last few posts there, you have the chance to win stuff, so you might want to check that out.  Erin and I also have some readings announced in NYC and elsewhere during the Fall and Winter, so you can take a look at that, although I will update the information here once I catch that mythical moment.

I wrote this thing at Salon, so I guess I should say hi

9 Jun

It’s been a busy few weeks around here.

If you’re popping over from the Salon piece, you can see near daily blogging from my co-author and I over at our shared website Avian30. We have a short story coming out next week, and are currently in edits on 4 novels (two with publishers, one on a complex revise-and-resubmit journey, one in preparation for submission), and are writing a few other things right now as well. Also, we did the cover reveal for Starling last week, so you might want to check that out.

If you are not popping over here from the Salon piece, hey, I wrote a thing on Salon about one of the less good highlights of my teen years.

Also, P.S., I didn’t choose the title, although were I in the editorial position on that, I probably would have gone a similar route.

Okay, now that everyone has read that, a few bullet points:

I have no solutions and I have no causes. If you think I was suggesting either, that was not my intent. I don’t blame stories, girls, or mental illness. What I suspect I blame is a world that makes us want to escape from it so badly and a societal pressure to keep our passions secret, which then may just warp them in the dark.

Most people I know, and strangers who have reached out to me, have mostly been really cool about the piece. I appreciate that. Of course, it’s your prerogative not to be. For the record though, I am not reading comments on Salon or on Salon’s Facebook, because I’m really busy and once I saw that thread that somehow made it about Ayn Rand and then mis-gendered her, I was like “Nope, the Internet can go on without me on this one.”

If you are someone who wants to connect with me on the Internet in response to this piece, Twitter seems like a nice choice. I’m a little weirded out by friends requests from people I don’t know on Facebook in response to a story about friendships gone weird. Right? Like I think that’s reasonable? Doing my best here, this is not a normal Monday.

Anyway, that’s it, and my Penny Dreadful recap will be up at Romance @ Random within a few hours.

The Normal Heart, Penny Dreadful, and prepping for BEA

26 May

Thanks for all the kind words about Pretty Kitty in various social media.

Now that I’ve had a week at home, it’s been an intense media week. I’m finally up to date on Game of Thrones again and am still apparently all about Littlefinger, no matter how creepy he gets or how broadly Aidan Gillan’s accent wanders.

I also have my latest recap of Penny Dreadful up at Romance @ Random. Last night’s episode was more information dump than action, which served me well, as I actually wrote that recap after watching HBO’s The Normal Heart.

If you follow me on Tumblr, you probably know I’m still in a place where I can’t really talk about The Normal Heart which basically felt like 2 hours of PTSD for me (complete with dizzy spells), even as its events are those that mostly take place right before my own stories about being a teen in New York in the 80s.

But it was interesting to watch that film (A film, in which, by the way, every performance is astounding, and regarding which I would like someone that has complaints about Ryan Murphy’s admittedly unsubtle direction to explain me how on earth you’re supposed to go subtle with that subject matter and with a script penned by Larry Kramer. Please use very small words.) and then follow it up with a Frankenstein-heavy episode of Penny Dreadful in which everyone monologues on love and responsibility and abandonment and the ways in which brutal experiences make us brutal.

Certainly, it is not news that we use SF/F and horror content to speak of the world as it is. And that vampires, zombies, werewolves, and the Creature have all been long used to tell stories about contagion and the search for love when othered. But the juxtaposition was so direct, at least on my own laptop last night, that I’m still reeling from it a bit.

For those of you who don’t check in regularly at Avian30, where Erin and I blog together about our co-written works, there’s a bunch of new content up. Of the most interest to readers here is the Paley Center event I went to featuring Ken Burns and Beau Willimon.

Meanwhile, BEA starts Wednesday, so it’s another business and seemingly endless week around here.

What are you watching? What should I be watching? And what books and booths must I absolutely track down at BEA this year?

Pretty Kitty

20 May

prettyMost people who know me on the Internet, know me, to some degree, as that chick that writes about death.  I write about a lot of other stuff too, but the death stuff increasingly tends to be how people first encounter me. It also tends to be a mix of my best stuff and stuff that gets me, rightfully, in trouble for not letting the ideas or feelings get all the way cooked or considered.

And, like everyone else on the Internet with cats, people tend to know my cats.  Alas, currently, that’s just Cricket, because Pretty died at 18 1/2 earlier today after an awesome and dramatic fight with cancer.   So, as much as I actually try not to write personal stuff on this blog anymore because I’m an exciting pop-culture thinky person or something, right now, you’re getting a eulogy for my cat, who was the awesomest pop-culture diva of a cat ever.

Three days after I got her as a kitten, someone I knew tried to drunkenly steal Pretty at a party.  She ran away from home several times — once being gone for days before returning (and this for an in-door only cat). Another time she hid in the bottom of a box for 36 hours before we noticed.  Being half-siamese, she screamed constantly.  She also liked to climb on top of the refrigerator, and sit creepily on the chests of her napping victims.

In fact, I can name at least half a dozen people who have had nightmares about her stealing their soul, and another two dozen more who would swear up and down she had a human trapped in her and you could see it.  That someone eventually figured out that her odd and very human gaze was the result of her being near-sighted is entirely besides the point.

Despite efforts to give her a non-embarrassing name (Aziz), Pretty Kitty was what she liked, and what stuck.  She also insisted on sitting between Patty and I whenever possible and was a ridiculously powerful presence for a cat that was rail thin and deeply eerie looking.

I had Pretty from the time she was 11 weeks old.  She saw a lot of boys, a lot of girls, and a lot of apartments.  She went from being a cat that hid under my bed for so long, so often that she was only referred to as “the other cat” to being The Cat.  Cricket is Cricket.  Little was Little.  But Pretty is The Cat, a sort of stand-in for all of cat-kind everywhere.

All pets are special.  But Pretty was otherworldly, and not right, and sometimes very beautiful and sometimes sort of ugly to some eyes.  She was a weird cat.  Spooky and neurotic, and she did this thing where she slept with her eyes open all the time. People also always pointed out how much alike we were all to an extent that’s hard to be comfortable with right now.

While it’s far from atypical, I am doing a lot of death work right now. Projects you do and don’t know about. Pop-culture interests that are obvious if you tend to see me around social media.  It’s all weird and somewhat comically tangled in my head right now.  Literally, I don’t even know why I’m sobbing at this point in the day — plenty of good reasons, but I’m a Libra and choices are hard.

Anyway, RIP Pretty Kitty, September 1995 – May 20, 2014.

Thank you for any kind thoughts in advance. It may be a few days before I can respond.

Penny Dreadful: Dicks not tits

12 May

I’ve always wanted to write a headline like that.

So…I’m now writing a weekly recap of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful for Random House’s romance and pop-culture blog, Romance at Random.

The show is interesting in a very unfunny Abbott & Costello Meet the Wolfman sort of way: Every horror trope/monster you can think shows up in one surprisingly well-constructed universe. It has some problems — a few scenes that don’t go anywhere and casual racism that’s, as you’d expect, offensive and tedious — and it may not be for everyone. There are a lot of spiders and the gore is pretty intense.

But one thing that really sets it apart is that the pilot contained no female nudity whatsoever.  However, we were treated to a man’s bare ass during text, and full frontal nudity on several male cadavers and Dr. Frankenstein’s creature.  In a cable media landscape where we’re still talking about the rape-factor in Game of Thrones, this is a completely unique viewing experience.  It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it up, and how it impacts the narrative, the viewership and the reviews.

Please go check out my first recap and get yourself caught up for next week’s episode.  Penny Dreadful‘s first season is only eight episodes, so it’s not a huge time investment for you to play along.

Only Lovers Left Alive: Blood stories

3 May

Last night Patty and I went to see Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, which is an oddly thoughtful and sweet movie that I smiled through nearly all of it.  The quibbles I had with it were largely quibbles I have about all of Jarmusch’s work and so aren’t really of note; I am simply not quite the perfect audience for his work.

What has lingered with me however, is the film’s relationship to AIDS.  All modern vampire films have one, of course, whether they intend to or not.  And Only Lovers Left Alive‘s is troubling.

A young vampire behaves promiscuously and causes a great deal of trouble, her actions blamed on blood poisoning.  Kit Marlowe (yes, gay! atheist! spy! Kit Marlowe) also dies from drinking contaminated blood towards the end of the film in a scene I found quite moving thanks to the grief of his student Bilal (played by Slimane Dazi).  That Adam (Tom Hiddleston) declares he wants the girl (and not the boy) in a kissing couple he and Eve (Tilda Swinton) attack at the end of the film felt like another minor thread in a discomforting construction of an unnamed AIDS.

That the source of contamination is, of course, mortal humans is less interesting than the fact that they are referred to throughout the film only as zombies: We are all slow and we are all diseased. Modern zombie films also touch heavily on AIDS allegories for the “one drop of blood and you’re dead” trope that raises the specter of the early years of the epidemic in the U.S. (often referred to as “the plague years”).

Only Lovers Left Alive is a lovely film, filled with great warmth and delightful oddities. But while also suggesting uncomfortable questions and viewpoints about gentrification and colonialism, it seems very much like a throwback to a certain type of fear — and judgement — about AIDS, who’s at risk, and what the moral landscape is around sickness.

My friend Becca notes that, if you’re into astrology, we’re in a sort of Saturn return for AIDS/HIV.  If you’re not into astrology, basically, we’re telling AIDS stories again all of a sudden — because some of us have forgotten and some of us finally feel like we can talk about the trauma.  From last year’s Dallas Buyers Club to HBO’s upcoming The Normal Heart, we’ve returned to a certain narrative place lately, and in light of that, it feels impossible to exempt Only Lovers Left Alive from that particular landscape.

 

Writing news updates

12 Apr

Some quick news on the publishing front:

Erin and I sold a short story called “Lake Effect” to Torquere Press for their LGBT wedding anthology, They Do, coming out in June 2014.

We’ve also launched a website/blog for our joint writing efforts. While I’ll be mentioning new releases and events here, I do hope to keep blogging about other people’s pop-culture. All the ins-and-outs of the writing process and what’s going on with our books and other projects will be over there. If you’re interested please follow that blog.

We’ve also started booking events for our upcoming releases. You can find those details on the event page here or on the event page there. Right now we have 2014/2015 fall/winter events in New York City and Bethesda, MD. We’ve got a few other things in progress for Brooklyn and Philadelphia and hope to announce those soon. We’re also looking at doing an event in Los Angeles in February 2015. If there’s another city or established event you’d like us to visit, please let us know and we’ll try to make it happen.

Finally, I’m sitting on a bunch of non-romance, non-fiction related news I hope to be able to share with you soon.

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