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Two New Podcast Interviews

It’s January, which apparently means that people stay inside and talk to me rather than going outside to garden, run marathons, or exercise their gryphons. I’m interviewed this week on two hour-long podcasts. (So now I’m really tired of talking.)

Authors Love Readers is a brand new podcast program, created by my friend and colleague Patricia McLinn. She has so far interviewed about a dozen authors, with more to come. The podcast is aimed at readers who’d like to know more about how and why their favorite authors (or authors who are new to them) create the stories they write. If you could spend an hour talking to me or some other writer whose books you enjoy, these are (we hope) the kinds of  questions you might ask or the things you’d like to know.

Here’s a link to the interview in iTunes.
Title: Absolutely Go For It, with Laura Resnick
Date: January 24, 2018
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/authors-love-readers-podcast/id1329846041?mt=2

I’ve known Patricia McLinn for many years, but we got to know each other much better about a decade ago when we served together on the Board of Directors of Novelists, Inc. (NINC), an international organization for career novelists. We worked well together and I developed a great deal of respect for her.

That said, I must nonetheless point out that Pat’s yardstick for the ideal length of any podcast, including this one which she now produces, is based on how long it takes her to walk her dog.

 

And the second podcast this week is:

David Afsharirad of Baen Free Radio Hour hosted some of the contributors to the new Baen Books anthology, The Cackle of Cthulhu.

The authors David interviewed included Alex Shvartsman, who also edited the collection; Esther Friesner, Jody Lynn Nye, and Gini Koch.  (And me. But in that company, obviously, I tried to listen more than I spoke!)

We talked about H.P. Lovecraft, his creation Cthulhu, horror, humor, and how we came up with our stories. (I’ve also discussed my story for the anthology, “Cthulhu, P.I.,” in a previous blog post here.)

So here’s the link to the podcast, January 26, 2018, on iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-baen-free-radio-hour/id625313693?mt=2

A few years back, I released Rejection, Romance, & Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer, a collection of my columns for Nink, the in-house monthly publication of Novelists, Inc.

I recently realized how many columns I’ve written since then (precise figure: a whole bunch) and decided it’s time to sort through them and start preparing another volume describing the trials and tribulations of this weary writer’s wacky world. 

Here’s a sample of one of those pieces. I hope you enjoy it!

Convention Diary

Thursday

Leave home for weekend away, to be guest at writers convention.

At airport security, am mistaken for terrorist and am required to become uncomfortably well-acquainted with security team.

Am eventually released to go sit in lounge, trapped among people screaming into cell phones (“I’m at the airport now. The airport. The airport. Where are you?”) and televisions screaming thrilling world news (Obama puppy learns to walk on leash). Then airline employee starts screaming out “group numbers” for boarding plane.

Employee never screams my group number, evidently having grown weary and disillusioned before reaching it. So I board without permission, moments before plane pulls away from gate.

Flight attendant barks at me: “Bag! There! Now!”

I stare in blank confusion. “Pardon?”

She again barks, “Bag! There! Now!”

“Pardon?”

We do this several more times.

I then propose she experiment with complete sentences. She does (and I am now Troublemaker). It turns out I have been assigned only seat on plane without place to stow cherished personal belongings, which I must now give to barking flight attendant for duration of flight.

We fly to distant airport, where I have five-year layover among screaming cell phones and TVs before boarding next plane. Upon “deplaning” at final destination, sturdy young soldier recently returned from Iraq untangles himself from his tiny seat next to my tiny seat and says he feels like we’ve been imprisoned on a slave ship. I agree.

Arrive at convention hotel. Having spent entire day in transit, I unpack suitcase and fall into hotel bed.

Friday

Hospitable convention committee takes guests sight-seeing. In vehicle, I wind up sitting next to colleague of one of my former agents. (I have so many former agents, this sort of thing bound to happen.)

Also on today’s tour is editor from publisher that dumped me. (Ditto.)

And a tall youngster, too shy to make eye contact or talk, accompanies us. Turns out to be another New York agent, not teenage son of local convention volunteer. (Oops.) Works at one of my former agencies. (See?) Also turns out not to be shy, just unwilling to waste conversation on me.

Return to hotel in time to do workshop where another agent (from agency I once queried), another editor (no one I know!!), and I evaluate attendees’ prose. I am always uncomfortable commenting on other writers’ work. But acquit self as best I can, then head for bar.

At dinner, am required to sit at assigned table and be available to interested attendees.

Overhear attendees say, “All the good seats are taken, I guess we’ll have to sit here,” a moment before they sit down at my table.

Table gradually fills up with disappointed attendees who had hoped to sit with someone better than me at this meal.

No one at table sits next to me. The chairs are empty on either side of me. I suggest someone might like to sit closer to me. No response.

Nearest person on left asks me, “Are you any relation to Mike Resnick, the science fiction writer?”

I respond, “Yes, he’s my dad.”

Ten minutes later, nearest person on right asks me, “Are you any relation to Mike Resnick?”

(Old man will enjoy this. Must make sure he never finds out.)

Otherwise, not much said to me throughout meal.

I go to bar after dinner. Friends who live nearby (and who know from long experience where to look for me) show up at hotel bar to say hello. Nice surprise!

Later, preparing for bed in hotel room, discover that—due to national shortage of terrycloth?—only one towel in bathroom.

Saturday

Give morning workshop that is surprisingly well attended, considering that no one at convention, as far as I can tell, has ever heard of me.

Also give luncheon speech. Realize halfway through speech, which is aimed at writers, that literary agents—of whom there are about ten in audience—come off slightly less well in speech than, for example, diseased pimps. Notice that, for rest of weekend, no agent makes eye contact or comes within thirty feet of me.

However, many compliments on speech from attendees. Therefore, confidently expect better dinner experience tonight…

At assigned dinner table tonight, overhear attendees say, “All the good seats are taken, I guess we’ll have to sit here,” a moment before they sit down at my table.

Not much said to me during dinner.

Dinner speaker is bestselling novelist Jeffrey Deaver, who gives hilarious speech in manner of Bridget Jones Diary. Decide to steal idea for this column.

Sunday

Arrive at airport for epic journey to humble home. After obligatory mistaken-for-terrorist incident, am trapped in lounge among people screaming into cell phones (“I’m at the airport. The airport. Where are you?”), televisions screaming thrilling world news (Obama puppy resolves Middle East crisis), and airline employee screaming at all of us (“Do not board the plane until your group number is called!”).

Spend full day in transit. Return home to find… have received invitation to be guest at another writers convention.

Heigh ho, the glamorous life.

I’m writing a series of blog posts about my volunteer work in cat rescue with Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.). Part 1 discusses how I got involved and outlines how it works. Part 2 talks about the happy endings that are so rewarding in this work, as well as the sad ones (and also the appallingly infuriating ones) that make some days very hard.

There is another kind of outcome to pet adoption, too. Despite good people trying hard, sometimes things just don’t work out. A cat turns out to be a bad fit for a family, or the family’s life changes in tragic ways that make keeping the cat impossible… and they return them to C.A.T.. This is sad for everyone, but it is absolutely the right thing to do in such circumstances.

I cannot stress this strongly enough: if family decides not to keep a pet, they should return the animal to us (and any responsible rescue group has this same policy). The most important thing to us is that the cat should always be safe. By rescuing the cat, we made a promise that we will never abandon this animal or allow it to return to the condition from which we rescued it, alone and forsaken in the world. Do not break our promise by abandoning the animal we entrusted to you at the time of adoption. Return it to us.

To date, out of the 65-or-so cats I’ve fostered, only one of my own fosters had been returned to us. The family tried hard, but they finally returned him to us. I was sad it had not worked out, but it must be admitted that Airy is a pretty challenging cat. He has also been through a lot.

Airy turned up in a feral trap as a starving young kitten on his own, looking for food, a couple of years ago. Before long, it became apparent that something was very wrong with him. It turned out to be an ear polyp, a growth in the middle ear that affects balance, which is why he carried his head at a tilt, was always falling off things, and hated being picked up (it was disorienting). The polyp was also painful (the surgeon described it to me as “like having a low-level migraine all of the time”). It would cause recurrent (and painful) ear infections, and it would eventually cause deafness. The polyp had to be removed, but Airy was too young for the surgery, so he stayed with me for a few months, then had the operation when he was big enough. Here’s a photo of him afterward, with “the ugliest haircut you’ve ever seen,” as the surgeon warned me. His leg was shaved for the IV, and his neck was shaved because the entry point for the surgery was under his jaw.

He recovered well and didn’t have any of the possible side effects (such as nerve damage), but he never lost his head tilt. Since he also has a clipped ear (common practice in Trap-Neuter-Release programs like the one where he entered the system) and an overbite, he’s a slightly odd looking fellow. He also has a very forceful personality, as well as some behavior issues. He was returned to me because he had started urinating outside the litter box and around the house soon after moving into his adoptive home, and no matter what accommodations they tried to make, they couldn’t get him to stop. When they decided to give him up, I was very glad they brought him to me rather than abandoning him or passing him on to someone who’d abandon him. They cared about him, but just felt they couldn’t live with him.

When Airy came back here, now an adult rather than a kitten, it was a difficult adjustment all around. He was very upset and disoriented (and even now, I’ve no idea whether he remembers having lived here before). Achilles, one of my cats, was appalled by an adult male moving in, and Airy never backs down, so the two of them had violent fights daily. Poe, my pathologically shy cat, hated him (and hates him still), and so Poe had shrieking fits daily for a while, whenever Airy upset him. Airy didn’t even get along with Hector (Achilles’ brother) when he came back—and almost everyone likes Hector. Before long, the stress ensured that I was having the same problem his former family had—he began urinating outside the litter boxes.

At one point, a kindhearted adopter expressed an interest in Airy… but as I heard myself describing him on the phone honestly, because I wanted to be sure the next adoption succeeded–which meant knowing exactly what they were dealing with… I thought, “Oh, good God, who is ever going to adopt this cat?” (That person did not follow up.) 

Finally, though, after about four months, things started settling down. Airy and Achilles stopped fighting and learned to ignore each other most of the time. Airy and Hector became friends. Poe stopped shrieking every day. Airy was using the extra litter boxes I had added to the cat area in the basement. He also stopped being so high strung, anxious, and fussy, and he started to relax, play, and purr more often.

Strangely, the turning point for Airy occurred, as far as I can tell, when he established a small cardboard box as his territory. I received a package one day, opened it, and left the box sitting on the kitchen counter for a few minutes. When I came back, Airy was sitting in the box. i figured he’d get tired of it soon, and then I’d recycle it. But, in fact, Airy has never gotten tired of that box. He sits, nests, rests, and sleeps in it. He also seeks it out as his “safe” place when he’s upset, scared, angry, or not sure what to do with himself. The box seems to be Airy’s security blanket, and ever since he chose it as his spot in the house, he has been doing much better here.

And once he adjusted and was doing so well here, I realized that adjusting yet again to another home would be very hard on him—even harder if it again didn’t work out (and potentially deadly if the next family wasn’t as conscientious about returning him safely to C.A.T.). And he was trying so hard here, and finally succeeding.

So Airy has his happy ending, too. I adopted him in November. And although we still have our moments of hair-tearing, he is doing well in his furever home.

The box, by the way, is so absurdly small, he has to cram himself into it. Yet when I have offered bigger boxes, he’s not interested. This is his box, thankyouverymuch. It’s still sitting on the counter, months after he chose it. Having a cat-in-the-box on my kitchen counter isn’t ideal… but if this is what it takes to get him to stop fighting, use the litter boxes, and feel secure, it’s a compromise I can live with.

Prospective adopters can find our adoption applications and our available cats via C.A.T.’s website or our Facebook page.

Also, please check out our How You Can Help page. Obviously, we welcome donations, but there are other ways to contribute, including something as simple as linking your Kroger card to C.A.T. so that Kroger will donate to our rescue every time you buy groceries—at no cost to you!

In some future posts I’ll talk about our criteria for rescuing cats and dealing with behavior issues.

 

 

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Cthul.
Cthul who?
Exactly! I’ve come to tickle your funnybone.
Oh, and also to eat your soul…

The Cackle of Cthulhu
ed. Alex Shvartsman
Baen Books, January 2, 2018
Available now!

So last year at Christmas dinner, my dad (science fiction writer Mike Resnick) says to me, “I’m going to have a story in this Cthulhu anthology that Alex Shvartsman is editing for Baen Books. I hear that you’re going to be in it, too. Since when are you a Lovecraft fan?”

As the old man knew, I’m not.

Alex Shvartsman did not invite me into the book on the basis of my non-existent Lovecraft expertise, but rather because I’ve written some humor stories for him in anthologies published by his own company, UFO Publishing.

As it happens, when I said, “Sure, I’d love to be in the anthology!” I had never read a word of Lovecraft’s fiction—a fact I refrained from sharing with Alex.

So I did my research. That is, I got some Lovecraft fiction from my local library, particularly stories that are considered Lovecraft classics and/or central to the “Cthulhu mythos.”  I typically turn down a short story commission that involves more research time than I can spare (ex. a short story for an anthology based on a series of novels I’ve never read), but Lovecraft didn’t write novels, and you can get a good handle on his tone, the subjects or themes he often used, and the Cthulhu mythos by reading just a handful of his short  fiction.

Also, the assignment seemed like a good opportunity to open some of the best-known works by an influential author whose writing I’d never read.

H.P. Lovecraft, who died in 1937, wrote fantastical horror fiction in the early 20th century. An American writer, he was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, his own nightmares, and various writers of his own era. In turn, writers influenced by Lovecraft include Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Jorge Luis Borges, to name a few. Filmmakers, anime scriptwriters, and manga authors have also cited Lovecraft as an influence. He is often named as one of the most important or influential writers of his genre in the 20th century. Yet despite all that, and despite being a prolific writer, he experienced very little success in his lifetime, and he died in poverty at the age of 46.

Cthulhu, the Unspeakable Eater of Souls, is a dread dark god, a cosmic entity approximately 100 meters tall. Lovecraft describes him in “The Call of Cthulhu” as: “A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.” A figure or force in various other Lovecraft stories, Cthulhu dwells deep beneath the sea in the sunken “nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh…[which] was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars.”

I enjoyed exploring a little Lovecraft, though the work isn’t to my taste. Lovecraft’s stories are creative, but he tends to portray everything as so menacing, evil, and horrifying that I kept involuntarily blurting, “Okey dokey.” The author’s prose is often imaginative (ex. “great Cyclopean cities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths”), but the text dwells so frequently on unimagined, lurking, nameless, unthinkable horrors from the deepest, darkest denizens of the nightmarish corners of the most tormented, unnamed terrors… that his prose often reads to me more like parody than horror.

The story I liked best, “Imprisoned With the Pharaohs,” was unrelated to the Cthulhu mythos I was researching, though it’s typical of Lovecraft’s tone and style, and it gives the reader a good feel for his work. Lovecraft wrote it on commission for Weird Tales in 1924. Interestingly, the first-person narrator in this story is the real-life magician and escape artist Harry Houdini—who encounters an ancient Egyptian deity and sinister rites older-than-time, etc., after being abducted while traveling in Egypt. Houdini (the real one) liked the story and wound up commissioning Lovecraft to write several works after that.

“The Call of Cthulhu,” certainly one of Lovecraft’s best-known works, seemed like essential reading for me, given that I was committed to writing a story for The Cackle of Cthulhu. I also read “At the Mountains of Madness,” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”  I picked up various shiny bits from these works and rolled them into my story, “Cthulhu, P.I.” in which my love of old-fashioned hard-boiled detective movies is revealed, as well as my slight addiction to Airplane-style cheesy jokes.

So I hope you like the story and enjoy the anthology, whether you are unfamiliar with Lovecraft, a devoted fan of his work, or someone prone to muttering “okey dokey” while reading his stories. Other authors in the anthology include my dad, Neil Gaiman, Esther Friesner, Ken Liu, Jody Lynn Nye, and more!