Enjoying a Review

cover of Conscientious Inconsistencies

Here’s the most important thing about reviews: They’re a sign your work is being noticed.

Of course, bad reviews can be depressing, which is probably why many famous people say they never read them. But it’s even worse when no one pays any attention at all. After all, while I may write because I’d go nuts if I didn’t, I also write to be read.

Lyndon Perry made my day in his review of my collection, Conscientious Inconsistencies, on The Fix, with this observation: “I have to say I was impressed.”

That’s probably enough praise to satisfy any author — especially when the reviewer had no previous experience with my work — but he made me even happier by showing that he understood what I was doing in several of the stories. For example, he wrote about the story “Homesteading”:

The new dynamic is not the byproduct of the typical male way of warriorship. But, then, as the clan discovers, Isabel is not your typical warrior.

That’s what I was trying to do.
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Things I Almost Didn’t Do in Cornwall

From Sarah’s Travel Journal:

Okay, this is turning into the trip of Things I Almost Didn’t Do, But Am Glad I Did.

Woke up to gray, rainy cornish day and thanked the God of Travellers I did decide to do the castle yesterday. those stairs in the rain? NO, thank you. But could I hike the moor as planned?

Had breakfast, chatted with a couple from Oz who’d been travelling round the states and Great Britain for a few months. V. nice. Another couple joined the conversation. The man had actually been born in the cottage where we were now staying. Side note: /we wound up talking about rising crime rates in the country and contrary to stereotype, the Brits were firmly in favor of the death penalty, and the Yank was agin it. Just goes to show I suppose.

Anyway. After waffling a bit, I decided to go out to the tor (I was planning on climbing Rough (pronounced Row) Tor, the highest point on Bodmin Moor), and at least have a look. Packed foul weather gear and hiking boots and went.

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The Name Game

From the dragon lair of Phyllis IRENE RADFORD, aka P.R. Frost, aka C.F. Bentley:

To paraphrase Eliza Dolittle in “My Fair Lady”:  Names, names, names, I’m so sick of names, first from them, now from me…

As I accumulate pseudonymns I find my readers complaining about each new series of books carrying a new author name.  How can they hope to find me if I change my name?

Believe me, if I could remain Irene Radford, I would.   I cherish that name and worked hard to maintain it.  It too is not my true name.  When I first sold “The Glass Dragon”  I used my married name and signed things as Phyllis Radford Karr.   Phyllis Ann Karr was still writing fantasy and science fiction, and had been for 20 years.  The firsts question out of my editor’s mouth after negotiating the sale was “You don’t want to use your real name, do you?”  Ms Karr was born to the name, I married it.  So she got to keep it.

I knew several authors who’d been forced by publishers to take a pseudonym in which the publisher owned the name.  No one else could use the name, but the author couldn’t take the name to a different publisher.  My friends had to put out lot of money and jump through some nasty legal hoops to retain possession of the pseudonym.  One even legally changed her name to her pen name so she wouldn’t have to go through that again.  So I chose to use a name I legally owned: my middle name and my maiden name, Irene Radford.

Fifteen books later, the marketing department at my publisher demand a new one.  Partly because “Hounding the Moon”, a contemporary fantasy,  was so very different from either the Dragon Nimbus Books or the Merlin’s Descendant Series–both more traditional fantasies.  Then the marketing department chimed in, because of arcane marketing numbers and formulae worthy of a wizard.  I got to choose the name, but they had to approve it.  So I chose the gender neutral P.R. Frost.  P.R. for my by then legal name of Phyllis irene Radford.  (I may have dropped Tim’s last name but not Tim. We’re still married and celebrated our 38th anniversary this week.)  And Frost because that was my grandmother’s maiden name.

Then I got this really cool idea for a new book.  I call “Harmony” my spiritual journey with a literary twist in a space opera landscape.  Nothing like anything I’d ever written before.  Even before the numbers for “Hounding the Moon” began lining up in the marketing formulae my editor suggested another name.  Sensual, dark, violent, contemporary P.R. Frost shouldn’t write “Harmony.”  And so off again into the family tree to dredge out yet another name.  Charlotte Frost was my great-grandmother.  Her dauther married into the Bentley clan.  So C.F. Bentley began making the rounds.

So, will my next new series carry a new pseudonym?  Light candles, burn incense, cast the runes, read the stars.  Your guess is as good as mine.  But I’m hoping to go back to Irene Radford.

Here on Bookview Cafe you can find me cross indexed under my legal name of Phyllis Irene Radford no matter what byline shows at the top of the story.

Happy reading.  As much as we want to support our favorite authors, it is afterall the story that counts.

Phyl

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While you are giving thanks, help a family — Just a buck can change their luck

Just a buck? Well, if 10,000 people donate a dollar, a nice young couple won’t lose their house to the mortgage company. Their story is like so many stories right now. They are both ministers, Ebony currently a stay-at-home mom dealing with a special needs child, Daniel working elsewhere to support his family.

Frustration right now is pegging the meter — where and how can we help? Here’s one place. $1 — $5 — $10? It may save their house — or pay the deposit on a rental.

When you take old cars that break down and cost a bundle to fix, plus losing job, plus second mortgage to try to pull things back together, and stir in the fact that they loaned or gave away most of their savings in the past year to REALLY needy people — and an unexpected baby on the way — and you have a sliver of mainstream America.

Whether or not you can afford to donate, please repost!

— kek

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Macrobiotics #1: Thoughts on feeding body and soul.

Macrobiotic = Long Life.

From the Greek “macro” (large, long) and “bios” (life)

“Doing something over and over the same way and expecting a different result is considered a sign of insanity.”

I’ve never had what you might call the average American diet. Junk food has been minimal in my life. My father was a dentist. I never tasted candy until I was 5 years old. We were part of a study. I remember the white boxes, and thought it was weird, because shouldn’t singing raisins be on this box? I had a brief affair with Twinkies, back in the day, and I love baking unusual cookies. Chocolate, good chocolate was my friend.

But I wasn’t more than 10 when my mother started cooking Weight Watchers’ style -– back when there were no points, just sound principles of eating. The family lost some weight, and did not gain more. I decided I hated diet drinks and switched to water.

I experimented with cooking “lighter” (chicken was my god) and I gave up alcohol because it was fattening and I never liked the effect anyway. I tried vegetarian, but TVP and I only connected with my killer veggie lasagna, which has fooled more than a few meat eaters. Without meat, I was exhausted. When you’re training for a physical profession, fatigue is bad.

I started “losing” foods. I would fall asleep after eating them. I literally could not control it; only the grace of heaven kept me from driving off the road or falling down a staircase. It’s weird, your system shutting down to process sugar – even white bread reminded me of its high glycemic load. I gave up white potatoes. I gave up pasta. I gave up all those cookies and birthday cakes that show up in the office. I dumped dairy for a long time, marveling that I could not hear my body grumbling in stereo, now that there was no longer hot chocolate every morning. I gave up wheat and corn.

I discovered the blood type diet, Atkins, Protein Power, Neanderthin, the Zone, the fat resistance diet – as the intolerances got worse, I got worried. I ate a lot of Indian food, which confirmed that not everyone makes things the same way. Indian yogurt was no problem for me – cow and even goat yogurt was a problem. Lots of supplements in there, to try and make up for lost foods. Finally it was doctors, diagnoses and meds for way too long. I knew the exact problem connected to several major foods…so I lost interest in eating.

You give your body years of meds, and it will take revenge. Continue reading

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EVERGREEN: On Becoming a Professional Amateur, #2: Language Abuse

This is the second article in my series on Becoming a Professional Amateur — by which I mean simply that if you’re going to write and you’re a lover of writing (literally an amateur), you might as well be professional about it. Today we take a look at another enemy of professionalism — the abuse of our defenseless language.

Sample sentence: To attempt any consideration of Gaudi’s life, he must be placed in his time and located in his place. To accomplish this, an overstanding of how he came to be is indispensable. 

What problems do you see in this pair of sentences? 

I see several problems:

  1.  Bloat
  2.  Word misuse
  3.  Redundancy
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From a Tiny Sea Tartal

The baby sea tartal is the ideal Avatar for the discerning ConjurerIn the highest days of Elder Magick, each village or hamlet — even perhaps, a fork in the road — enjoyed the protection of a Conjurer or Mage.  Perhaps the smaller villages might share a Conjurer with their neighbors, though disputes often arose.  Although such spells are possible, it was never wise for a Conjurer to split himself in halves or quarters and divide his attention between villages.  That particular practice was what led to the unfortunate case of the moaning stones of Foutaise.  Few remember these days, but Jean-Luc the Sagacious, Conjurer of Western Arbres, frequently copied himself, in order to meet the demands of three lady friends, five villages, and the port of Foutaise. After a nasty encounter with the local Sphinx, Jean-Luc ended up divided into six confused, and utterly disembodied parts.  The hapless Conjurer’s only alternative was to embody his half-dozen divided selves in a group of barnacle-encrusted rocks at low tide — which to this day, moan and groan at the coldness of the water whenever the tide comes in.  Of course, at high tide, no one can hear a thing the rocks are saying, and should you wish to question Jean-Luc, it is best to go early in the morning on days where the tide is at its absolute ebb.

 

 A far better choice for the well-prepared Mage is an Avatar.  An Avatar is merely a shadow-copy of the Mage’s observational powers, and it will serve to warn the populace of impending Magickal danger, as well as allow the Mage, properly-prepared, to see just what trouble may be brewing while he or she is away.

And as all good Conjurers know (few enough though they are these days!), the very best sort of Avatar is small, portable, of pleasant demeanor and responsible nature.  For this purpose, I have always found that the small sea Tartal is quite the most reliable vessel. 

One must get them when they are quite small.  Indeed, that is how I learned of the plight of poor Jean-Luc, the no-longer-Sagacious.  Sitting at low tide among the oyster beds of Foutaise, I was observing a clutch of sea Tartal eggs about to hatch, with the intent of selecting four or five of the most vigorous infant Tartals as they emerged from their shells and made their way to the water.  The moaning rocks quite clearly called out my name, and I recognized Jean-Luc’s tone of voice.  As he owed me a fair amount of money as a result of his utter inability to hurl a quoit with any accuracy, I did not answer.  Instead, I scooped up the little Tartals, threw them in my sack and left rather quickly, as some boys were approaching with stones in their hands.

I’m proud to say that at least one of these little fellows survives today, although he has taken a hardened shape, like unto a silver pin or ornament.  In my present position, it provides me with no little pleasure to see his adventures from time to time.  He is currently in the possession of a lovely young woman with long wheaten hair.  I rather think she may learn a few tricks from my Avatar, though of the group, I imbued him with the least of my powers.  But for Lalume, even the lesser powers — are powers indeed.

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FABLES: A Very Short Review

I was going to review the latest issue of BRAVE & BOLD today, but it is the first issue of a two-parter, and not very good to boot.  In four weeks I will hit both parts in one lump, probably with prejudice.

In the meantime, let us turn to more pleasant subjects.  Nearly everybody loves FABLES, a long-running and award-winning comic book that has been gathered into perhaps a dozen graphic novels by now.  The basic premise — characters of fairy tale and legend in our world — is fun and teeming with promise.  The creators spin a good plot and develop fascinating characters, not a given, alas! in today’s comic book market.

Why is this so, when cash cows like SUPERMAN and BATMAN are limp as laundry?  Partly Superman and Batman suffer from Hollywooditis, in which a fatal surge of turgid images and wan themes washes east from California to the offices of DC Comics in New York City.  This happens every time there is a major motion picture, or even TV.  How many years we labored in the wilderness while Batman fought off his Adam West incarnation, and it will be a long, long year before the Joker quits looking like Heath Ledger.  Another factor is control.  Is Batman going to die in this current issue?  Of course not, not with a new movie in production.

But from a writer point of view the other fatal handicap is the serial nature of comics.  Once a character is successful, he really can’t change very much.   He can’t even die — consider Sherlock Holmes, shoved off of Reichenbach Falls by Arthur Conan Doyle and then resurrected due to popular demand.  It was a major deal when Superman finally married Lois Lane some years ago; the marriage between Peter (SpiderMan) Parker and Mary Jane was retconned (retroactive continuity) right out of existence over at Marvel recently.

And here we come to why Fables is so successful from an artistic point of view. Change and development is wide open.  The title has not yet come to the point (although I can see it coming) when it is no longer possible for beloved characters to die.  It is still possible to marshal plot and character towards coolness, rather than towards luring in movie fans.   You want an example?  Coolness is when the wooden warriors of the Fables’ enemies invade the Upper West Side of New York City; the Fables erect barricades in the street and fob off the police with a story about how it’s a quaint ethnic festival from the old country.

In other words, Fables is not yet straitjacketed by its own success.  That means now is a good time to jump on.  (Well, a couple issues ago if you want to start at the beginning of an arc. )  Don’t wait until they cut a movie deal.

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Things I did Today

While Sarah is writing, I’m moving. My office to be exact. I’m three weeks into this move. I’m moving the office from downstairs to upstairs. Why is it taking me so long? I’ll tell you. This move is going to be different. I am not throwing the rules of Feng Shui to the wind. I am going to be ergonomically correct mentally stable. I will live out the rest of my days with peace of mind and body. What that means is that the 20 pounds of shit that used to fit in the ten pound bag of an old office now needs a 40 pound bag. There ain’t enough room. So I’m sticking to my guns and throwing out what I no longer need or use.

Enter the rolodex. The old one. The one from the band. From when I was a band. Thinking I’d keep all the unused cards from the old rolodex to put in my new, currently fabulous rolodex which is running out of cards, I actually went through the thing. Let me tell you something, old rolodexes should not be sifted through; they should be burned. The painful memories, the awkward moments, the embarrassments, the fights, the angers, the tears were all dredged up in that willful move to clean out the rolodex. You can’t believe the volume of contacts I had in that rolodex all there to support the dying effort that was my band: rehearsal studios, recording studios, sound people, amp stores, music stores, drug stores, tuners, luthiers, the flute doctor, vintage and hip clothiers, photographers, Apple downtown (the elevator bongs like the startup charm when you get to their floor), and the hundreds of bass players and drummers that were known as the “thundering herd of the CeLange rhythm section,” not because we were ever reminiscent of the great old Woody Herman, but because we couldn’t keep a single one on board for more than a season. Most of the people in the rolodex are no longer speaking to me. If they are, chances are I don’t want to speak to them. Going through that rolodex unleashed ten years of heartbreak that I had carefully beaten down into a small enough size to fit in a dark corner of my subconscious, never to surface until the after life when surely I would be carried to heaven on the back of St. Peter just for putting up with so much crap, exploitation, and disrespect.

There were some good memories, sure. When Genya Ravan’s card came up, I smiled. The first time I heard Genya sing on a Ten Wheel Drive LP, I was blown away and scared to death. Genya out-Januses Janus. I had no business even being on the same planet with her, let alone in the same business, doing the same thing. A few years later after we had asked her to produce our first CD, she came to see us at one of those horrible clubs on Bleecker Street that have sound restrictions. Putting sound restrictions on a Bleecker Street club is like gentrifying Beale Street in Memphis or closing down Maxwell Street in Chicago. Oh yeah, they did that too.

But you get the picture, I had totally missed the NYC scene. Nevertheless Genya Ravan was in the house and wouldn’t you know it my head was too out of the game to enjoy the mini triumph. I’d had to run down to CB’s to drag the bass player to our gig. He’d been sitting in in a pickup band for no money. In a shithole like CB’s no less. CB’s was even more gone from the scene than the dump I was playing in that night. If that wasn’t a dis I don’t know what is. So my idol is in the audience and I was too steamed to feel a thing. Anyway, I got to work with Genya Ravan and yes, when it was all over, I did fall on the floor to worship and thank her, a memory I dredge up on my own on cold and distemperate days.

G.E. Smith was in my rolodex, an artifact of the transitional period between being a musician and being a writer. Right after everybody got hooked into the Internet, somebody contacted me to do an interview with Little Mike (of Tornado fame) for the Delta Blues web site. The webmaster had asked me to send in reports form the NY scene and so I got on the masthead. Little Mike’s manager contacted me thinking I was an actual writer. I did the interview (I’m sure the manager realized his mistake and my lack of experience when he saw my piece) and decided that I liked writing. I did a bunch more: Popa Chubby, Adam of Satan and Adam. I tried for Susan Tedeschi, but she had the same manager as Little Mike and he hadn’t forgotten me. But I did get G.E. Smith who I have always been fascinated with since way back when I used to watch Satuday Night. G.E. hasn’t been on in about 15 years so you can see how I got the interview. I think I’ll keep that card along with Genya’s.

My rolodex had a card for Miramax Productions. What the h…?

A bunch of people from the new me were in there too: Timmi Duchamp, Ellen Datlow, Wendy Delmater, Matthew Kressel. Guess I was using that old rolodex for a while in my new life, before I got smart and populated the address book that came with the computer. That smattering of current and important people will get moved to the new digs. Count on it. I’m still in the game here. Not disillusioned. Not yet.

Sue Lange
The Textile Planet

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