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My blog has become a wanderer among the various services. Back when I first started a blog (rather than having a simple website), I built it using Google Page Creator, a nicely simple online blog creator.

The service was was discontinued in 2009 and all the blogs moved to Google Sites; since I found the latter quite unsatisfactory, I looked around, tried several (including WordPress.com and Google’s Blogger) and finally settled on Posterous. It was reasonably easy to use, made it simple to share the blog among other services such as Twitter, Facebook and even LiveJournal, and wasn’t difficult to personalize.

So there I was happy and settled — and then the guys who created Posterous sold the service to Twitter. Or rather sold their services to Twitter, because Twitter had next to no interest in Posterous, just in the people that had created it. The service wouldn’t be updated, we were told, but would probably be left as it was.

Until the other day, when it was announced that Posterous was going away in April. So I went back to the WordPress.com site I’d played with a year or two earlier, spend a weekend tweaking it and moving data to it — and now there I am. I suppose I should have learned my lesson by now — I have my own domain and should simply host my own blog. I’m lazy, I guess.

I’ll probably stick with WordPress.com for now, until something else happens that forces me to move once again. But this process of having to redesign and move a blog every two years can get tiring.

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Jim and I (and my mom) went to see a reworking of the musical Two by Two -- written by Peter Stone, lyrics by Martin Charnin and music by Richard Rodgers - at the York Theatre yesterday afternoon. It was part of a series called "Musicals in Mufti," where there is minimal staging and preparations: the actors perform in street clothes and with script in hand. That being said, the cast was marvelous -- it was heading by Jason Alexander as Noah and Tovah Feldshuh as his wife, two extremely talented performers -- and directed by Martin Charnin.

Apparently, when it first ran back in the early 1970s, it starred Danny Kaye, who eventually pretty much ditched the script and took over the show. This time, there are three new songs either restored or pulled in from the Richard Rodgers songbook (and, of course, the original songs as well). It's a good musical, and we enjoyed it immensely, although the ending does sort of fall flat (you can see what the writers are trying to do, but it just didn't work all that well). 

One interesting thing about the performance is that it was NOT miked, which, in this day of omnipresent microphones, was really refreshing. I mean, it was a small theater with good acoustics, and if the actors wanted to be heard, all they had to do was sing out...

In fact, we enjoyed it so much that Jim and I have gotten tickets to see the next products in two weeks: Hollywood Pinafore, with book and lyrics by George S. Kaufman and music by Sir Arthur Sullivan. (Yes, of course that Sullivan!). Apparently, in 1945 Kaufman decided to reset the operetta in Hollywood, in which a studio director's daughter is in love with a lowly writer...  We're both G&S fans, and are really looking forward to it.

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Just wanted to remind folks that I have two stories that were recently published online and are available for anyone who'd like to try them out:



The Memory of Touch (Cosmos): A science fiction story about a space traveler who was emotionally damaged by an encounter with a new alien species, but is now asked to fight it.

The Call Comes (Atomic Avarice): A short short about socks on the living room couch and terrorism.



If you're more into print, the latest anthology of short stories from Crossed Genre is now out, and I'm represented in there as well:



The Didibug Pin (Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction): A worker stuck in a company town decides to escape her fate.



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[Quick note, before you ask: Everything's fine. Really.]

Hospital emergency wards (at least the ones that I’ve visited) exhibit an air of controlled chaos, especially to patients and their families who, as soon as they enter, are suddenly completely overwhelmed by the mysteries of the system.

You offer your information to the triage nurse: What’s the problem? How long has this been going on? Has it happened before? Are you having trouble breathing/swallowing/seeing/talking/etc.? What medications are you on and what are you allergic to? Go sit over there; you’ll be called.

You are surrounded by people with purpose (staff) and people who are waiting anxiously (patients and families of patients). A woman in hospital gown, robe and slippers sits near you in the hallway, her head supported wearily in her hands. Who is she and does anyone know why she’s here? Apparently; after about 15 minutes, two men with ID badges and stethoscopes around their necks come and talk quietly to her, then escort her away.

These are the walk-in cases; anything that is critical, that is life-and-death, seems to be happening elsewhere. Occasionally, a gurney is pushed through the narrow corridor with an unhappy-looking occupant; they seldom stay.

In one area, a bank of about 25 computers; at any one time, at least half are occupied. And somehow, although you feel that there is no way they can ever find you, sitting anonymously in the corridor, they do (perhaps because of those same computers). Even when you’re sent to the x-ray area, where for a while you seem to be the only people there, eventually somebody calls your name. Relief: You’re not forgotten.

All along the way, nurses, interns (impossibly young) and doctors ask you questions, run tests, go away, come back, ask more questions, run more tests. Everybody is calm, reassuring; they take everything you say seriously.

But despite the careful calm here, there are undercurrents of humanity as well.

A doctor complains to an administrative aid: His chair keeps disappearing, and the one that replaced it is “so low I’m practically sitting on the floor.” He wants a sign of some sort on it so people won’t keep taking it for somebody else; maybe something that says “Doctors Only.”


Several people sitting at the computers call out to a woman passing by; she’s apparently just come back from vacation. Another woman walks past with several red balloons floating on strings; they’re heart-shaped for Valentine’s Day. A gift from her spouse? Presents for other staffers? Or just something to cheer up the patients?


A nurse’s aide sits, coughs and looks miserable; she’s waiting for a form from one of the doctors so she can take the day off. I wonder how many other staffers here are ill and try not to breath her air. In fact, the place is freezing; it turns out that they are pushing air constantly through the emergency area because so many people are coming in with flu. A hospital is not a healthy place to be.


As I said, I’ve been in hospital emergency wards several times, always accompanying others. Sometimes, the situation was dire, and the patient was admitted. Sometimes, the doctor recommended admittance, but when pushed, was able to treat the patient and send us home. Sometimes, treatment was relatively simple and there was no question of hospitalization.

In all cases, there is a sense of being powerless in the face of medical knowledge and a huge bureaucracy -- and simultaneously needing to stay alert, to be aware, to check and recheck everything that’s being done and be ready to ask, to object, to offer an opinion despite your lowly status as a patient or a patient’s family member.

I’m glad that we have access to this type of expertise. But my god, it’s exhausting.

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The latest anthology from Crossed Genres -- Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction -- is now out! Why does she announce this, you may well ask? Naturally, because I have a story in it...

Here's the official description and the table of contents. I haven't gotten my copy yet, but when I do, I'm looking forward to reading it...

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Miner. Harvester. Mechanic. Sanitation Worker. These are not the typical careers of your average science fiction protagonist. Until now.

From the literal guts of a spaceship, to the energy-starved lands of a future Earth, to the inhospitable surfaces of other planets, MENIAL explores the stories of people who understand and maintain the building blocks of civilization. They work hard, live hard, and love hard. They’re not afraid to build the future they want to live in, even knowing the often high human cost of hard labor.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
AJ Fitzwater – “Diamond in the Rough”
M. Bennardo – “Thirty-Four Dollars”
Sean Jones – “A Tale of a Fast Horse”
Barbara Krasnoff – “The Didibug Pin”
Camille Alexa – “Sarah 87″
A.D. Spencer – “Carnivores”
Andrew C. Releford - “Urban Renewal”
Matthew Cherry – “Storage”
Angeli Primlani – “Snowball the Rabbit Was Dead”
Jasmine M. Templet – “Leviathan”
Margaret M. Gilman – “All in a Day’s Work”
Kevin Bennett – “The Belt”
Jude-Marie Green – “Far, Far From Land”
Clifford Royal Johns – “Big Steel In The Sky”
Sophie Constable – “Air Supply”
Dany G. Zuwen – “The Heart of the Union”
Sabrina Vourvoulias – “Ember”

Cover art by Jael Bendt

Edited by Kelly Jennings and Shay Darrach

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I was pleased to find that my story "The Memory of Touch" which recently appeared in Cosmos, and Matthew Kressel's bittersweet tale "The Sounds of Old Earth" from Lightspeed, were reviewed in the latest edition of the journal Cosmic Vinegar

Actually, although the article is classified as a review, it seems (to me, anyways) to be more of an analysis of the two stories from a socio-political viewpoint -- and an interesting one, bringing up aspects of the narratives that had not occurred to me. 

I really love it when somebody who reads one of my stories sees things in it that I wasn't aware of when I was writing it. Makes me feel as though the story has assumed a life of its own, so to speak.

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I had a wonderful New Year's gift yesterday. I found out that my story "The History of Soul 2065" was accepted for publication in the upcoming anthology Clockwork Phoenix 4.

Clockwork Phoenix is a fine, innovative publication edited by Mike Allen; I was lucky enough to have a story in #2 (called "Rosemary, That's for Remembrance") and am very pleased to have made it into this edition as well.

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Those folks in Australia work fast! My short story "The Memory of Touch" has been published in Cosmos, a top-notch science magazine that also publishes some science fiction as well. Check it out if you want to do a bit of reading over the holidays...

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I'm happy to announce that my story "The Memory of Touch" has been accepted for future publication in the online version of Cosmos, the award-winning Australian science/science fiction publication.

I'll let y'all know when it is available online as soon as I do...

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While I wasn't looking, the debut issue of Atomic Avarice -- a new free online publication whose purpose is, according to its own description, "to be complacently disobedient" -- has appeared. Among other things, it includes a very short story that I've written titled "The Call Comes."

If you've got a minute or two, why not check it out?

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News has come through a number of sources that Simon & Schuster is going to start a self-publishing business called Archway via Author Solutions (which is own by Penguin). For prices ranging from $1,999 to $14,999, S&S will print a book (including, presumably, its imprimature) and provide a variety of promotional and other services (depending on how much you're willing to pay).

According to an article in paidContent:

Archway is offering services like a “concierge” — “a dedicated publishing guide who will coordinate each step of the book production process” — and access to a speakers bureau. Archway titles will be included in the booksellers’ catalog Edelweiss. And Archway authors “will have the opportunity to create high-quality videos and book trailers for distribution” to the online video networks that Simon & Schuster works with, like Roku and Blinkx. Simon & Schuster is not hiring any staff; services like the “concierge” will be provided by Author Solutions.

Publishers are, of course, desperate to find new sources of income, especially for their print divisions; and self-publishing has become a more popular (and more accepted) way to go. According to the article, Archway will concentrate on print (as opposed to other online services like Smashwords, which offer ebook publishing for little or no cost to the author). It will be interesting to watch how well this does -- and how advocates of more traditional publishing will react. 

I spent a minute or two looking around the Author Solutions site, and did notice that, in its Author Services section -- and in its Author Learning Center, which offers advice to its customers -- nothing is said about editing services. Too bad.

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I've just gotten word that the official launch date for the anthology Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction -- which will include my short story "The Didibug Pin" -- will be on Monday, January 21, 2013. It will be introduced at the Arisia convention in Boston, so if you're planning to go, you may want to look out for it (unfortunately, I won't be going).

The heroes of the 17 stories are men and women who, as the editors' description says, "aren't afraid to get their hands dirty." The table of contents has some excellent authors (including Sabrina Vourvoulias, whose novel Ink was recently published by Cross Genres):

Menial-200

AJ Fitzwater -  “Diamond in the Rough”
M. Bennardo – “Thirty-Four Dollars”
Sean Jones – “A Tale of a Fast Horse”
Barbara Krasnoff – “The Didibug Pin”
Camille Alexa – “Sarah 87″
A.D. Spencer – “Carnivores”
Andrew C. Releford - “Urban Renewal”
Matthew Cherry – “Storage”
Angeli Primlani – “Snowball the Rabbit Was Dead”
Jasmine M. Templet – “Leviathan”
Margaret M. Gilman – “All in a Day’s Work”
Kevin Bennett – “The Belt”
Jude-Marie Green – “Far, Far From Land”
Clifford Royal Johns – “Big Steel In The Sky”
Sophie Constable – “Air Supply”
Dany G. Zuwen – “The Heart of the Union”
Sabrina Vourvoulias – “Ember”

Finally, if you hang out at GoodReads, there is a giveaway of three ARCs (advanced review copies) of Menial with a deadline of December 17th -- you may want to drop by.

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Going to the World Fantasy Convention? I've now got full information for the Dickens panel I'll be on; plus, I'll be doing a reading on Saturday night. So if you've got nothing else to do....

Friday, Nov. 2 at 4:00 p.m. 
York B&C
WHAT THE DICKENS?
In the Dickens centenary year, we discuss Charles Dickens’s contribution to the ghost/supernatural story, as both writer and editor, and look at the writers he inspired and the legacy he bequeathed. Participants: Barbara Roden (M), Barbara Krasnoff, Holly McDowell, Delia Sherman, Rick Wilber

Saturday, Nov. 3 at 9:00 p.m.
Aurora
READING

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I found out a couple of days ago that I'm going to be on the "What the Dickens?" panel at the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto that's taking place in a couple of weeks. I'm really pleased; I've always been a Dickens fan, and although I'm no scholar, I'm at least familiar with most of his writing. Now I've got to go reread Dickens' ghost stories, including the ones sprinkled throughout Pickwick Papers.

The panel will be taking place on Friday, November 2nd, at 4 p.m. I'm looking forward to it, and if you're going to be at World Fantasy, I hope to see you there!

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While I was looking for some video candy the other day, I came across one of the apparently very many BBC serials based on Catherine Cookson novels. As chance would have it, I selected (at random) one called The Wingless Bird, about a middle-class woman living around the time of the First World War who has to deal with an abusive father and an upper-class lover, among other things. I found it very interesting at first, and then very predictable (I figured out what was going to happen somewhere near the end of the first episode, and was disappointed to be right).

Strangely enough, I apparently chose one of the better Cookson serials to watch -- looking for a review afterwards, I came upon this commentary from April, 2011, by Genevieve Valentine (an excellent writer and a friend) who wrote an hysterical retelling of The Wingless Bird (and of some or all of the other Cookson serials, I gather). She includes such gems as this (fairly accurate) rewording of a conversation partway through the first episode.

Dad: Why don’t you want to do the nasty?
Mom: Because you’re a drunk on your way home from your mistress’s place?
Dad: But that’s just what happens on Thursdays!
Mom: And I had to raise her daughter Jessie like she was mine!
Dad: You get so touchy about the slightest things!
Mom: Also you raped me, which is why I have no desire to sleep with you!
Dad: Man, what is your DEAL?

Even if you have no intention of watching the series, if you've ever watched a romantic BBC serial, you'll enjoy Genevieve's take-down of this one.

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I have an old filing cabinet in my office that I hardly open anymore, and which I've started slowly going through in search of an old contract that I'm missing (and which, I'm afraid, is probably not findable). It's an interesting exercise, because the cabinet is full of all the papers that I've considered important through the last 20 years or so. Things like: Legal papers having to do with my family, a few years of tax returns, records of the different health insurance plans I've had, legal forms from various jobs I've held (mostly having to do with being laid off) -- and lots and lots of old stories.

Oh, and rejection notices.

Back in the day when you mailed out all your stories, you'd get rejection letters back -- and, as with emailed rejections, they'd range from terse and impersonal to several paragraphs explaining why my story wasn't right for them (or, in come cases, not right for anyone). Sometimes, there'd be a combination; An impersonal rejection letter with a comment scrawled at the bottom.

I'm going to go through all the stories in the file, many of which were sent out to a lot of magazines, and pull together all the rejections. I'm not sure whether I'll just count them, or perhaps scan them in to pore over in my old age, or maybe pull out a few choice phrases and make a poem out of them...

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I'm happy to announce that my story "Under the Bay Court Tree" has been accepted for publication by Space and Time Magazine for a future issue. 

This will actually be my second story for Space and Time -- the first, "Cancer God," was published in the July 2009 issue. It's a great magazine; I'm very pleased!

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We happened to catch the last half hour of Gold Diggers of 1933 on TCM this evening, which concludes with the incredibly impressive "My Forgotten Man" production. The choreography is by (of course) Busby Berkeley; the music is by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.

It is a marvelous evocation of the feel of the times: It portrays a generation of men who fought in a vicious war, and then, when the economy crashed and burned a little over ten years later, felt abandoned by their country. The film appeared a year after the 1932 march on Washington D.C. by the Bonus Army, thousands of World War I veterans and their families who camped out near the White House, demanding payment of a bonus that wasn't supposed to be issued until 1945. They were eventually routed and driven out by the police and the Army by orders of President Hoover; several of the veterans were killed.

This is just a fantastic production, from the heartrending singing by Eta Moten (who later became the first African-American actress to perform at the White House), to its portrayal of soldiers marching to and from the war in driving rain, to the huge Art Deco set at the end where soldiers and jobless men march while women hold their arms out in despair. The film ends with the number; cleverly, the filmmakers wrapped up the plot first so that your final impression of the film is of those hundreds of men and women singing about the forgotten man.

Not what you'd expect from an otherwise light and sexy romantic comedy. I'm embedding a YouTube clip of the number here; watch it if you have time.

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I had an interesting reaction to rereading Connie Willis' novelette Fire Watch (from the anthology of the same name) last night. The story is part of her universe in which scientists go back in time to experience crucial times in history; in this story, it's the London Blitz and the attempt by the Nazis to destroy St. Paul's Cathedral. 

In the story, the narrator has a highly emotional reaction to his experiences, not only because of what he goes through in helping to prevent the Cathedral from being destroyed by fire during World War II, but because he knows that, in 2007, St. Paul's was indeed destroyed by a bomb set by radical Communists.

It's a problem with science fiction written about the near future -- especially good science fiction such as this one, which will be read by people in a time after the story takes place. (The story was written in 1983.) At the time, the narrator was living in our future, and so he knew about events that were yet to happen in reality. Yet that no longer holds -- his present is no longer our possible future, but a past that takes place in some alternative universe.

Usually, I can ignore that -- after all, I have no trouble reading stories in which the early 21st Century is completely different from the reality of it. I can even find it amusing ("Where the heck is my hovercar?") or bittersweet ("Why didn't our 2001 look like this?").

However, in the case of Fire Watch, my reaction was different -- and surprised even myself. When the protagonist talks about the terrorist bombs that destroyed Denver and St. Paul's, I wanted to yell at him, "No, no, you've got it wrong! It wasn't Denver, it was the Twin Towers in New York City! And it wasn't St. Paul's, it was the London Metro system! And it wasn't Communists!"

For some reason, I really wanted him to get it right -- even though it would have changed the entire point of the story.

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I recently asked a bunch of Facebook friends for suggestions about where to donate used clothing -- there aren't many places that pick up in my neighborhood (for reasons I still don't quite understand), and the local second-hand thrift store closed a few years ago.

In response, I got a bunch of excellent suggestions, and I thought it might not be a bad idea to list them for anyone else who has old clothing (or other goods) and wants to donate them.

Here they are, no particular order:

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