My newest short story, “Achilles Piquant & the Elsinore Vacillation,” is in this month’s (November 2016) Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, edited by Mike Resnick (my dad). It’s available free online this month, and will be available in ebook and print editions of the November issue for the foreseeable future.


After publisher Shahid Mahmud got the old man to agree to edit the mag, Pop asked me to submit a story for the second issue…. But as you may have noticed from the cover here, I am making my debut in issue #23. Oops.

I meant to submit a story 21 issues ago. Truly! But, as so often happens, time ran away from me…

Also, despite having written about 70 short stories, I am not a natural short fiction writer. With only a couple of exceptions (and this story is one of them), I have written all of my short stories for themed anthologies where an editor gave me a deadline (and not meeting it would mean not being in the book) and, more to the point (for me), story parameters.

Sometimes the parameters are simple, such as “write a fantasy story of 3K-6K words about a horse or equine creature” (Horse Fantastic, for which I wrote “No Room For the Unicorn,” now available in my Highway To Heaven collection). Sometimes they’re very specific, such as “write a science fiction or fantasy story about Sherlock Holmes” (Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, for which I wrote “The Adventure of the Missing Coffin,” now available in Maybe You’ve Heard of Me?). And sometimes they’re complex (I wrote “Your Name Here,” a satire about population control, for How To Save the World, a 2013 edition of Fiction River Magazine, for which editor John Helfers established  detailed parameters about the sort of science fictional challenges he wanted to see tackled).

I can do that kind of thing. I’ve done it 5 or 6 dozen times, after all. But my natural “lean,” as both a writer and also a reader, is much more toward novels than toward short fiction. And so I tend to stall when the only parameter is “write a science fiction short story one of these days for this bi-monthly magazine.” Hence the passage of many issues of the mag before I submitted a story (and during which time I wrote short stories for several themed anthologies).


Anyhow… around the time I was trying to think of a short story for Galaxy’s Edge, I read a passage in Christopher Hitchens’ memoir, Hitch-22, in which he described a dinner party game of inventing Robert Ludlum-style titles for Shakespeare plays. My sort of game! I love Shakespeare, and I love spy novels (and have enjoyed Ludlum novels like The Bourne Identity, The Rhinemann Exchange, and The Matarese Circle). I also love word games, and I even enjoy brainstorming titles (some writers hate it).

Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children, was one of the diners playing this game with Hitchens, and he suggested The Elsinore Vacillation for Hamlet. I thought this was a delightful title, especially since Hamlet’s vacillation drives me crazy (it is not among my favorite Shakespeare plays). So I decided to use that title (crediting Mr. Rushdie, of course) and write a Hamlet parody.

I’ve also lately become a big fan of Agatha Christie, whose writing I only tried for the first time a few years ago, and I have been gradually working my way through all her books—I’m about halfway there. So my Shakespearean tale cross-pollinated with a cozy murder mystery, set aboard a starship, in which an indecisive and ambitious Lieutenant Hamlet secures the assistance of an investigative android, Achilles Piquant, to investigate the sudden death of the ship’s captain.

I had fun writing it, and I hope people have fun reading it.

 

I recently read a couple of delightful books that my dad gave me, Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops and More Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops, both by British bookseller and writer Jen Campbell.

weird things collage

They’re collections of short dialogue vignettes, real things that real people have said to real booksellers (most of which bookstores are identified in the book). I found many of them laugh-out-loud funny. There are also a lot of amusing illustrations throughout both books.

enhanced-buzz-20204-1309983111-5

Long ago, I got a seasonal job at a local Barnes & Noble for the Christmas holidays one year. The store was approximately 30,000 square feet (for everyone outside the US, Google tells me that’s 2787 square meters), and we had tens of thousands of book in stock. And it was a daily routine for customers in the store to say things to me like, “I’m looking for a book–it’s blue. Do you know the one I mean?” Or: “I saw an interview the other day with the author of a book. I don’t remember the writer’s name. Or the book’s title. It had something to do with families. Do you have it?”

On one occasion, a couple came into the store who knew exactly the book they wanted–title & author–but they had no idea where in our immense store to look for it, so they asked my help. It was a book that a radio psychologist had recommended to married people who wanted to enliven their sex life. I helped them find the book–and the section of the store where they could find similar books. About 20 minutes later, the store manager interrupted my lunch in the back room, saying someone at the cash register was asking for me. When I went to the register, the couple was very apologetic about cutting into my break; they wanted to buy the book now, and they were too embarrassed to deal with a different clerk. (They were nice people, and I hope they enjoyed their book!)

Anyhow, author Jen Campbell also has a new book out which I’m looking forward to trying, The Bookshop Book.

* * *

If you, like me, are not slim, you might have body image issues. (Actually, in our culture, even if you’re as trim and toned as a Hollywood movie star, you might have body image issues.) You might also have a lot of misconceptions, as I have had, about the health issues so noisily associated in our society with weight.

Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession With Weight–And What We Can Do About It by Harriet Brown and Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail To Understand About Weight by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor have been eye-opening reads about how much the extremely lucrative multi-billion dollar diet industry influences the medical community, how much of what is conveyed to us as “facts” about weight is based on blatantly skewed studies (and often funded by the diet industry), and how much of what the media and even our own doctors tell us about our own weight-related health is misinformation.

* * *

I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, and I’ve also become a huge Agatha Christie fan in recent years. Many talented actors narrate Christie novels, but I think Hugh Fraser (who played Captain Hastings on the long-running Poirot TV series) probably does it best, and I particularly enjoyed his rendition of Taken At the Flood. Another favorite narrator is Emilia Fox, who narrates They Came To Baghdad, whose heroine is one of my favorite Christie characters.

Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Scottish actor Alan Cummings is, in part, a mystery tale. On the eve of Cummings participating in a British TV show that will delve into his family background and heritage, the actor’s estranged father, with whom he has not been in contact for years, tells him he is not really his son–and won’t say more than that. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that there is also an untold story surrounding the death of Cummings’ maternal grandfather. Balanced against these dark family stories and Cummings’ story of surviving his abusive father’s terrifying violence are amusing and engaging tales of the award-winning actor’s international career in film, television, and theatre.

My late-night winter drive home from ConFusion (an sf/f convention in the Detroit area that I usually attend–because who doesn’t want to go to Michigan in January?) this year passed more quickly than usual thanks to Cary Elwes’ delightful As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride, narrated by the author–with guest narrations from many of the actors who appeared in the movie, as well as from the director and other key people involved in the production. A very engaging book–and it made me eager to watch the movie again.

Since nothing! slips past me, I noticed today that I have not updated this blog since… um…. November.

And there are things I must tell you–8 of them!

So here goes:

1.  Sorry, no, still no release date for Goldzilla, Esther Diamond #8. This is on me, not my publisher, as I am running well behind schedule. No, I have not quit the series, forsaken writing, been dumped by DAW Books, or any of the other things people have anxiously asked me. I’m just tardy.

2.  A couple of new interviews with me have been posted online.

       (1) Raymond Bolton interviewed me at The Write Stuff. We talked about writing and publishing: http://www.raymondbolton.com/tag/laura-resnick/


       (2) Carl Slaughter at SF Signal interviewed me about the Esther Diamond series: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2016/03/guest-interview-laura-resnick-esther-diamond-series/

 3.  I’ve sold a short story to Galaxy’s Edge, which online magazine is edited by some guy named Mike Resnick. The story will be released in a few weeks or months (actually, it’s possible the old man has told me when and I’ve forgotten…). I’ll post a link when it goes live. The story is called “Achilles Piquant and the Elsinore Vacillation.” It’s the product of my love of Agatha Christie’s Hercules Poirot, and also of a few paragraphs I read by the late Christopher Hitchens; he wrote about a conversation in which he and his friends came up with Robert Ludlum-style titles for Shakespeare’s plays.

4. I’ve also sold a short story called “The ∏ Files” (aka “The Pi Files”) to Unidentified Funny Objects, coming out later this year from UFO Publshing. Agents Mully and Scalder investigate a UFO sighting in which they encounter characters you may recognize from some of your favorite sf movies or TV shows (as well as from my favorite movie, which is not sf/f, Casablanca).


5.  I’ve got a reprint story in a just-released anthology called Funny Fantasy, also from UFO Publishing. The story is “Dave the Mighty Steel-Thewed Avenger.” Here’s the cover:

funnyfantasycover

 

6. I’ve also got more foster kittens in the house! I volunteer with the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.), which is where I adopted my 3 cats, the infamous Hector, the mighty Achilles, and the elusive Poe. Last year the organization adopted out some 350 cats and kittens. It’s a small all-volunteer group run entirely on donations, so if you’d like to donate to a good cause, check out the website. Anyhow, I’ve currently got 5 fosters in residence: the notorious Airy, who has been here a few months, and the French girls (Piaf, Chanel, Simone, and Colette). The French girls are still babies, but they’ll be available for adoption in about a month. Airy, who was rescued from the street as a feral kitten, covered in flea bites, survived surgery in December to remove an ear polyp (which caused disorientation, pain, and recurrent infections, and would probably have led to deafness). He is 9-10 months old now and has grown into a handsome, healthy, and very mischievous lad. Some photos:

Photo Jan 30, 9 48 51 PMFrench kittens 04-13-16

All 5 kittens will be at C.A.T.’s next adoption event, which is on Saturday, May 21, at the Wags To Riches  in Blue Ash, OH, on Kenwood Road, right next to Marx’s Bagels. Wags To Riches is a consignment shop that benefits the United Coalition for Animals, a high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic for animals here in the greater Cincinnati area.

7.  And I’ve taken a part-time job as a historic walking-tour guide. I’ve finished training and start work this weekend. The company, American Legacy Tours, does a number of tours. I’m starting out guiding the Queen City Underground Tour, in which we explore some 19th century subterrean tunnels, as well as a crypt.

8. Finally, I’m ambling slowly through an overdue update of this website. In particular, if you’re interested in the Writers Resources page, I’m adding a lot of new links to that page, so have a look.

Goldzilla, the 8th Esther Diamond novel, will not be released until sometime in 2016. So there is no Esther this (2015) November. I’m sorry! It’s entirely my fault. I’ve fallen way behind schedule. As soon as there is a release date, I’ll post it on this website.

A few other quick notes, since this blog is another thing on which I have fallen behind schedule:

  • I will be doing some updates soon to the Writers Resources Page. If you’re wondering about an item I told you I would add, I have not forgotten! I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
  • The four foster kittens who arrived here in June (the last time I blogged) all got adopted! I’ve had updates on all of them, and they’re all doing well.
  • And I have two new foster kittens, Ghost & Frankenstein, who arrived about 2 weeks ago. They’ll be available for adoption as soon as they’re neutered. I’m taking them to the clinic this week to find out whether they’re ready for that.


Ghost & Frankenstein 10-27-15

 

Last year I adopted my 3 cats, Hector, Achilles, & Poe, from the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.).  Teenagers at the time, the lads have grown up to be very handsome adults, as you can see.

Hector 09-15-14OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto Dec 23, 4 13 50 AM

I was so impressed with the work C.A.T. was doing, and the good spirits with which they do it, that I started volunteering for the organization. This includes doing a shift or two each month at the adoption center, occasionally doing some errands, and fostering once in a while.

This weekend, 4 foster kittens rescued by C.A.T. moved in with me, and they’ll be here until they’re ready for adoption (which will be after they get spayed/neutered–probably when they 12-14 weeks old). They’re currently about 5 weeks old, too young even for vaccinations, so they’ll be here a while. Since they haven’t seen a doctor yet or been tested, they have to be kept isolated from my cats for several weeks. Hector, who is very gregarious and playful, is Not Pleased about this, as you can see. (However, health issues notwithstanding, he’s also too big to play with them until they’ve grown a little more.)

Photo Jun 29, 1 15 00 PM
These kittens have been living feral, and their mother (recently caught, vaccinated, and spayed) has clearly been taking good care for them. They seem healthy and lively, with good appetites and good temperaments. You can tell they’ve been living wild, since as soon as they hear an unfamiliar noise or feel at all threatened, they all instantly disappear into hiding places–and they’re good at hiding. They’re living in a walk-in closet for now, and I sometimes can’t find them! (I’ll expand their quarters to include my office in a few days, once they’re feeling more secure. For now, they’re more anxious than curious when I open that door, and they prefer remaining in the smaller space.) They were quite afraid of me yesterday, but are starting to relax more around me today. They’re young enough that I think they’ll soon adjust to being handled, and they have outgoing temperaments.

There are 3 girls and a boy. The boy has black paws, face, and ears, and then a gray-frosted coat over the rest of his black fur, like a silverback gorilla. He also has only a partial tail. One of his sisters has no tail at all. (This seems to be congenital in both cases; there are no signs of injury.) One of the females is a beautiful pewter gray, and the other two are black (one of these is the one with no tail). For whatever reason (maybe it’s the male’s frosted gray overcoat), they look to me like characters out of Chekov or Tolstoy or Pasternak, so I’ve given them all Russian names: Boris, Natasha, Katya, and Sonya.

If you’re interested in helping C.A.T. from afar, it’s a nonprofit charity which runs on donations (which are tax deductible), fundraising, and volunteer efforts. So please consider donating to C.A.T. or sponsoring a foster–C.A.T. was able to rescue these four kittens because a kind donor has sponsored them (sponsorship helps C.A.T. cover the medical cost of fostering; these kittens are currently taking meds for worms and diarrhea, and they will all be blood-tested, vaccinated, and spayed/neutered before being eligible for adoption).

If you’d like to follow C.A.T.’s activities, they’ve got an active Facebook page. And if you’re local to the Cincinnati area, they can always use more fosters and volunteers, if you’re interested–as well as “furever” families for their rescues, if you’re thinking of adopting!

And if you’re specifically interested in Boris, Natasha, Sonya, or Katya, let me or C.A.T. know, and fill out an adoption application. These kitties will probably be ready for adoption by late August! Meanwhile, here’s a first peak at these little rascals. (They’re dark kittens in a dark closet and constantly dashing around, so it may be a while before I post any good photos of them.)


Boris 1

 

NatashaSonya&Katya

 

June 4th update: This deal for 11 DRM-free ebooks ends at midnight tonight (EDS time)!

 

My book Rejections, Romance, & Royalties is in an 11-ebook bundle this week at StoryBundle, all DRM-free books on the craft & business of writing professionally.

Pay $5 and get a 6-book bundle, including my book; pay at least $15, and get the additional 5 bonus books and a 40%-off coupon for Jutoh ebooking software. You can also allocate part of your purchase price to foundations that encourage young people to read and write.

The bundle includes books by award-winners, bestsellers, and career writers, and there’s a lot of great information in these volumes.

All Covers Jutoh Large


And here’s a sample chapter from Rejection, Romance, & Royalties:

Orphans of the Storm

Once upon a time (come on, who doesn’t love a story that begins that way?), I sold my first book, a romance novel, to Silhouette Books, a division of Harlequin Enterprises (a.k.a. The Evil Empire).

As first sales go, it was a fairly painless process. Several months after I sent them my manuscript, I received an encouraging letter from an editorial assistant saying she liked my book and was passing it higher up the food chain. A few months after that, I received another letter from her saying that the book was getting favorable readings, but acquiring a new author was a lengthy process at Silhouette, one which required patience and time. Then, about eleven months after I’d mailed in the manuscript, I received a FedEx letter from an editor at Silhouette; they’d been trying to reach me for several days, but there was no answer at the phone number I’d given them, and so they wanted me to call them.

(This was back in the spring of 1988. I didn’t have a computer, I had never heard of e-mail, and I didn’t own an answering machine.)

So I phoned them. The editor who’d signed the letter answered the phone, gushed nicely about my writing, and made me an offer for the book—an offer that was roughly the advance sum which, based on my research, I expected from them. The editor (whose name I’ve long since forgotten) praised my talent and said she would like to see everything else I had written. She explained that she’d be interested in buying several books per year from me.

I was, needless to say, thrilled!

The editor’s revision requests on that first book were neither arduous nor unreasonable. I completed them easily, turned in the final manuscript, and got paid. And, as requested, I sent her the rest of my work: two more complete manuscripts, and one partial.

The next time I heard from my editor was when I received a letter from her announcing she was leaving Silhouette and, indeed, leaving the publishing industry entirely (which is why I don’t even remember her name anymore). Her last day in the office, to answer questions or deal with her writers, was the day the letter was mailed and (obviously) several days before I received it. Her letter assured me I would soon be assigned to a new editor. She didn’t make any mention of the manuscripts that I had sent her at her request.

When I finally received another letter informing me who my new editor was, I phoned her so that we could get acquainted, talk about the book that I had in production there, and talk about the manuscripts which were now presumably sitting on her desk.

I only remember her first name, and only because it was so comically unsuited to her personality: Joy. She was a listless, sour person who told me that I’d been shoveled onto her already too-heavy workload along with a bunch of other writers whom, like me, she really didn’t want or have time for.

I asked when my first novel was scheduled for release. Joy didn’t know and was “too busy” to find out.

I asked about the three manuscripts which I had submitted at my previous editor’s request. Joy didn’t know and was too busy to find out. I reminded her of my option clause; Silhouette had sixty days, from submission, to give me an answer on those manuscripts. She coldly informed me she had no idea when she’d have time to read them.

A couple of months passed with no contact from Joy. So I phoned her. She never phoned back. I phoned her again. She still didn’t phone back. I phoned yet again—and caught her at her desk this time. She hadn’t looked at my manuscripts, had no idea where they were, was too busy to look for them, and didn’t really have time to waste talking to me. I reminded her that the option period had now expired, so an answer would be appropriate. She responded with irritable indifference and ended the conversation.

I had been (perhaps you’ve heard the term before) orphaned.

This is one of the many pitfalls of publishing that you don’t really think about (and perhaps don’t even hear about) when you’re trying to break into the business. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s nonetheless a typical enough experience that a writer should be aware of the possibility.

Being “orphaned” usually means that your editor leaves the publishing house, for one reason or another, and the editor who gets you in her place doesn’t particularly want you or care about your career. She didn’t discover you, didn’t acquire you—she’s merely inherited you, and she clearly wishes she hadn’t.

Some writers wind up leaving publishing houses (involuntarily) after being orphaned; because it’s not just the publisher who buys and believes in your work—it is very specifically and importantly the editor. Without an editor interested in your work and championing you within the house, you probably have no real future there.

Now, let’s clarify: Being orphaned does not necessarily lead to problems. There are numerous instances where your new editor is just as enthused about your writing as your old one was, perhaps even more so. There are many instances where you are just as compatible with your new editor as you were with her predecessor, perhaps even more so. There are editors who inherit you and automatically call you up to tell you how excited they are about working with you hereafter. There are editors who, before making that call, spend all weekend reading everything you’ve published with their house so they can chat intelligently with you about your work. So let’s not panic. Being orphaned is not always a disaster. It’s not even always an awkward or difficult thing.

In my case, however, it was a genuine career crisis. I knew no one at Silhouette Books, and none of them knew me. I was a brand new writer with one modest sale under my belt. It’s very common for writers to disappear after just one or two sales, so no one at Silhouette would have ever wondered why I had never survived beyond my first book with them. I was powerless and friendless, and I had been inherited by an editor who very clearly just wanted to get rid of me. An editor who wanted me to disappear, because I represented nothing to her except extra work that she didn’t want. An editor who, just by stalling me, rejecting me, and dodging my calls, had the ability to make me disappear.

This went on for five months. The closest Joy ever got to reading my work was to farm out one of my manuscripts to a free-lance reader who, she then told me, gave it an “unfavorable report.” Joy explained to me that, based on that reaction, she herself didn’t expect to like any of my work, and she doubted that I would make another sale to Silhouette.

Wow, can’t get much clearer than that, can she?

I panicked. I knew that in order to save my fledgling career, I had to do something to get past this (I use the word loosely) editor. She was a serious impediment to my professional survival. So I did something I almost never do: I sought the advice of my father, science fiction writer Mike Resnick.

At his suggestion, I wrote a carefully worded letter to Joy’s boss. I praised Joy effusively… and remarked on how terrible I felt about the way she was so overworked. I commented on her tremendous work ethic and personal charm… and mourned that she was so busy, she’d gone five months without having a chance to read any of my optioned manuscripts. I expressed tremendous admiration for Joy… while reflecting that it just seemed unfair that she was afflicted with so many writers she didn’t even have time to return my phone calls. And I nobly volunteered to be assigned to another editor—someone who, while perhaps lacking Joy’s warmth, brilliance, and efficiency, might actually have a chance to read my submissions.

In other words, I asked for a new editor and explained my reasons, while being careful not to openly criticize the one I was with. I also copied the letter to Joy herself, so that I wouldn’t appear to be going behind her back or trying to stir up trouble.

It worked. Joy’s boss phoned me personally for a long, friendly chat. She never criticized Joy in our conversation, but she clearly understood that it was a bad situation and I needed to be moved. Within a week or two, I was reassigned to another editor—one who spent the weekend reading the book I had under contract there and all of my new submissions, then phoned me, made me an offer, talked about how enthused she was about working with me hereafter, and did all the other things that a good editor does when she inherits a writer. She and I worked together for several years at Silhouette, and we have remained friendly ever since those days. So the story has a happy ending.

So, when your editorial relationship isn’t working out, you can ask for a new editor. A smart publisher knows that editors and writers work better when they’re teamed with the right individuals. (Unfortunately, not all publishers are smart; but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.)

However, if you’re going to do this, your editorial problems need to be real problems, not just a case of an editor who didn’t buy a book you wanted to sell her, or whose personality you’re not that crazy about. Also, remember that although most publishing houses will humor this request once, they’ll rarely do it twice; if you have problems with your subsequent editor there, then you are likely to be regarded as the problem. So before asking for a new editor, make sure that you’re positive that any change would be an improvement. (In my situation with Joy, I was quite positive.)

Asking for a new editor, while well within your rights as a writer, is a delicate political move. You may have many good reasons to hate the editor, but she is an employee (possibly even a favored and longtime one) of the house. So it’s best to be as tactful and non-accusatory as possible, while nonetheless making your needs known to your editor’s superior.

As for Joy… she left publishing forever only a few weeks after I got reassigned, so you’re in no danger of running into her. (A lot of editors you’ll meet along the way leave publishing forever. Really. It’s not just the ones who work with me.)

And remember the editorial assistant who kept sending me nice encouraging letters before my first sale? She later became my editor for a couple of years. She eventually left the business, but we’ve remained friends all these years. (And just to clarify: She did not leave the business because of me, okay?)

                                                                * * *    

You can purchase the bundle of books at Story Bundle for only a few more days, so grab it now.

For a limited time only, my nonfiction book on the working life of the average downtrodden professional novelist, Rejection, Romance, & Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer, is in a book bundle (a group of DRM-free ebooks sold as a set, a herd, a gaggle!) with a bunch of other cool books on the craft and business of writing, including:

  • The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer
  • Writing Into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith
  • Playing the Short Game by Douglas Smith
  • Making Tracks – A Writer’s Guide to Audiobooks by J. Daniel Sawyer
  • Business For Breakfast – Vol 1: The Beginning Professional Writer by Leah Cutter

They’re available at: http://storybundle.com/writing

You can get that whole set of ebooks for as little as $5. But if you decide to pay at least $15, you also get this whole set of bonus ebooks:

  • Break Writer’s Block Now! by Jerrold Mundis
  • Writing Horses – The Fine Art of Getting It Right by Judith Tarr
  • The Write Attitude by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Pitfalls of Writing Fantasy by Vonda N. McIntyre
  • 30 Days in the Word Mines by Chuck Wendig

The bonus package additionally includes a 40% discount coupon for Jutoh, an ebook creation tool for all platforms.

The purchase price also allows you to donate a portion of the money to Girls Write Now and Mighty Writers, both of which causes help nurture future generations of writers.

StoryBundle offers a book-buying model that lets you decide what you want to pay and how you want your purchasing dollars to be allocated. Find out more when you visit http://storybundle.com/writing to purchase this great package of books on the craft and business of writing, written by bestsellers, award-winners, and career novelists.

All Covers Jutoh Large

I was Guest of Honor (GoH – pronounced “go”) at MillenniCon 29 this weekend, where a good time was had by all. And at the traditional GoH reception on Friday night, the convention unveiled a beautiful sheet cake which was the size of my car–and decorated with themes from my Esther Diamond fantasy series, which I found especially thoughtful. (Note the diamond, the comedy-tragedy dual-mask image that’s the traditional symbol of thespians like Esther, and the books. Also, the cake was yummy!)

Photo Mar 20, 7 57 36 PM

MillenniCon is a science fiction/fantasy fannish convention in the Cincinnati/Dayton/Ohio Valley area, so it’s local to me (I’m a longtime Cincinnatian and now live in Northern Kentucky–so close to Cincinnati than I can easily walk to downtown Cinti, across the Ohio River, and can see parts of it from my back yard.) They like to feature local sf/f writers, and past GoHs include fellow Cincinnatians Mike Resnick (my dad) and Stephen Leigh aka S.L. Farrell, as well as Midwestern residents John Scalzi, Jim Hines, Eric Flint, and Tobias Buckell. Over the years, they’ve also brought in guests from farther afield, including Robert Sawyer, Connie Willis, Catherine Asaro, David Brin, Larry Niven, Lois McMaster Bujold, Joe Haldeman, and so on. As you can imagine, I am honored to be in such company.

Before opening ceremonies (generally pretty unceremonial in the sf/f world, but always fun and friendly), my fearless GoH liaison Cheryl, responsible all weekend for making sure I didn’t disappear down a manhole or get lost in the laundry, took me and several others out for dinner, including former MillenniCon GoH and friend-of-con David Drake. Later on, after the GoH reception back at the hotel and some evening programming (during which I confessed to enjoying Elvis Presley movies), there was the usual round of parties. (As I have said before, the sf/f world is mostly about the parties, not the books.)

I was settling down to sleep around 2am that night when I realized I had forgotten a bunch of essential things at home–such as something to read to the audience at my reading in the morning–so I made a middle-of-the-night trek back to my house across the river to get forgotten items. Upon arriving home, I surprised the Infamous Hector in the middle of constructing a catapult in the cellar by using–it seemed–pieces of a Scrabble game he had  liberated from the top shelf (9 feet high) in an upstairs closet. So it was a rather long night.

Like many others at MillenniCon, I was jailed the next day. (This is a fundraiser whereby people pay a few dollars to arrest and imprison anyone of their choice for 5-15 minutes in a temporary jail that’s constructed in the lobby. The jailer is a well-armed Klingon, so I went quietly, officer.) That evening, writer Stephen Leigh aka SL Farrell, who has been publicly performing in rock bands for decades, did a great job of entertaining the audience during the intermission at the masquerade while we waited for the judges to deliberate and make their decisions. Afterwards, on my way to the parties, I saw a giant blue sea monster in the hallway, and everyone said I’d had enough to drink. But I saw it again the next day, too, after all the effects of wine and questionable company had worn off. Hah!

Sunday wrapped up with some more programming, during which time I realized that I probably shouldn’t spend so much time at parties when I have a heavy programming schedule, since I am not quite the spring flower that I used to be.

Overall, I believe that being a good GoH means being polite and accessible, available to committee and attendees during most waking hours during the con, well-prepared on programming, and courteous to everyone who has shown up in hopes of having a nice time. So I tried hard to follow that example, since that’s all much easier than, oh, writing a book, and certainly not a lot to ask of an author in exchange for making her the honored guest of a convention.

And concoms make it a very positive experience for the GoH by running a good con where everyone has a good time, as well as extending warm hospitality to the GoH. All of which was the case at MillenniCon, which was a happy experience for me and, as far as I could tell, for everyone else, too.

Next year is MillenniCon’s 30th anniversary, for which they’re planning big festivities, including inviting back some former GoHs, such as my dad and my friend Jim Hines–so I’ll certainly be in attendance!

I did a radio interview today on Cincinnati Edition, hosted by Mark Heyne on WVXU, in tandem with MillenniCon Chair, Christy Johnson. Here’s the recorded feed, which runs about 25 minutes:

http://wvxu.org/post/author-laura-resnick-will-be-special-guest-weekends-millenicon-29-cincinnati

 I’m GoH (guest of honor) at MillenniCon this weekend. Here’s a link to the con:
http://www.millennicon.org/


And here’s my schedule:

FRIDAY

 7pm:    Opening Ceremonies        (Harrison/Garfield)

 8pm:    GoH Reception        (Con Suite)

 10pm: Guilty Secrets           (Taft/Grant)
Things we’ve written that we didn’t tell anyone about; movies and books we love that we secretly love but keep a secret. What happens at this panel stays at this panel.
Resnick (m), C. Hartwell, C. Matthews, S. Rechtin

 

 SATURDAY

 11am: GoH Reading (Harrison/Garfield)

 12pm: GoH Autographs (Lobby)

 2pm:    Women and the Future (Taft/Grant)
Will women become the new men in the 21st century?” Women are attaining the majority of college degrees, and are the more numerous sex in our country. Women are often the head of the household and bread winner today. Single motherhood is almost a norm today. How will this affect society and relationships in 20, 40, 60 years?
Sax (M), D. Waltz, L. Resnick, C. Matthews, H. Davis, S. Rechtin

 4pm:    Make ‘Em Laugh (Taft/Grant)
Writing comedy and humor in SFF
Resnick (M), C. Stasheff, A. Matthews, C. Matthews

 

SUNDAY

 11am: Authors & Pets (Harrison/Garfield)
Pets are often incorporated into SFF writing. Come learn how some authors are challenged and inspired by their pets.
Waltz, L. Resnick, S. Leigh, M. Resnick

12pm: GoH Autographs (Lobby)

2pm:    GoH Q&Q      (Harrison/Garfield)

3pm:    Closing Ceremonies (Harisson/Garfield)

 

Years ago, I was a recovering romance writer looking for a new genre, and I wrote a proposal for an urban fantasy series that I felt was exactly what I should be writing: A comedy series set in New York City and featuring Esther Diamond, a struggling actress (I was also a recovering aspiring actress) who gets involved in supernatural misadventures via her career. The proposal included a brief description of the series, synopses for the first three books, and the first three chapters of book one, Disappearing Nightly.

As readers of the series already know, in Disappearing Nightly, Esther is performing in an off-Broadway flop called Sorcerer! when the leading lady really vanishes during the disappearing act. After several more performers around the city mysteriously disappear during their magic acts, Esther joins forces with Dr. Maximillian Zadok, an elderly mage who specializes in unraveling mystical mayhem. She also butts heads with Detective Connor Lopez, a skeptical NYPD cop who finds Esther attractive in green body paint—or anything else.

Max and Esther would become partners in paranormal crime-solving as the series continued, and Esther’s relationship with Lopez would become more serious and more conflicted. Structured like a mystery series, the books would mostly (though not always) be stand-alone stories, and the series would be open-ended. That is, the characters confront Evil as a day-to-day job that someone’s always got to do; there is no specific entity or master-enemy who can ultimately be defeated or destroyed to remove all Evil from the world (or from New York City).

However, neither urban fantasy nor comedy was popular in the fantasy genre when I wrote the Esther Diamond proposal. This meant that selling the series would take some persistence. But, alas, I was letting my work be represented by literary agents at the time, and too many agents (including all four of my former agents) approach selling books with all the enthusiasm and commitment that I bring to thinking about cleaning my oven. In a pattern that typifies my experiences with literary agents, my then-agent sent the Esther Diamond proposal to three editors, they all rejected it, and the agent promptly declared the series unsaleable, refused to send it out ever again, and thereafter bit my head off whenever I raised the subject.

 A few years later I fired the agent, and then I sent out Esther Diamond on my own. Within weeks, I got a good multi-book offer for her.

Unfortunately, though, that publisher did a poor job of publishing the first book, including a terrible cover, bad pricing decisions, and no marketing. This happens a lot. (And lest you think, “Ah! A literary agent would have known not to sell there!” Actually, the agent I’d recently fired placed other writers with that same publisher while refusing to send Esther Diamond anywhere.) As you’d expect, the book sank like a stone (which also happens a lot). Responding exactly the way most publishers usually respond to their own publishing mistakes, the publisher canceled my contract. So this series, which it had taken me years to get aloft, was shot down and lying dead in the water once again.

Meanwhile, in a fit of “conventional wisdom” idiocy, I had hired my new/fourth literary agent to “represent” me after I got that book deal on the table by myself. This was a very expensive mistake on my part. She collected 15% of that deal and never took the slightest interest in my career again. From then on, it became progressively harder to get my calls returned or my emails answered. And now that I had been dumped by the publisher and my career was in trouble, she made it clear that I was as welcome at that agency as a corpse at a vegan banquet.

Technically, I fired that agent; but that’s a lot like saying, “I filed for divorce after discovering my spouse had left me.” Then I (foolishly) queried some other agents. They were all negative about my plan to find a new publisher for Esther Diamond and even more negative about my writing. (If you were thinking that 20 book sales protects you from agents telling you that you can’t write–hah!–then think again.) Before long, I realized that it was well past time to give up on agents and concentrate on getting another publishing contract. So I once again researched the market and submitted Esther on my own… And, once again, within a few weeks, I got a good multi-book offer for her.

(Sidebar: Giving up on literary agents proved to be one of the very best business decisions I’ve ever made. I’ll talk about this more in future posts (and I’ve talked about it often in my Nink column and on other people’s blogs), but my career has improved so much since I quit working with agents that I regret not making the decision years before I did, and it’s difficult to think of a scenario in which I’d choose to go back to working with one.)

The editor who took a chance on this canceled series was the inimitable Betsy Wollheim, publisher of DAW Books—who won a well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Editor in sf/f in 2012. (Her co-publisher, Sheila Gilbert, got a long-overdue nomination for the same award in 2014.)  DAW Books, which is a small independently owned house (distributed by the Random Penguin empire), is very different from any other publishing house I’ve ever worked with, in that they treat me like a respected professional associate and treat my work as a valued asset. My experience with other publishers for many years was consistently that I was typically treated as something between a necessary nuisance and a crack whore, and my work was treated as anything from filler for holes in the schedule to street garbage. So, needless to say, I have been very happy at DAW Books and hope to keep writing for them for a long time.

I could tell I was finally at the right house with this book early on, when DAW (in an example of how differently they work than all my previous publishers) asked me what cover artists I was thinking of for this series–and it turned out we both had the same top pick: the brilliant Dan Dos Santos, who has done all but one of the the DAW Esther Diamond releases to date. (Dan was not available to do the reissue of Disappearing Nightly, which dropped into the schedule on short notice after I got the rights back. The DAW cover for DN was done by the talented David Palumbo, who was very professional and great to work with.) I also worked well together with DAW editorially and on production, and this is a better series as a result of being at that house instead of any other. So things have really worked out for the best, despite the long hard road that Esther Diamond traveled to get here.

The first book we did together was Doppelgangster, Esther #2, followed by Unsympathetic Magic and Vamparazzi. By then, I had rights back to Disappearing Nightly and the original, doomed edition was no longer in print; so I did a few minor revisions to the manuscript (it’s a luxury to be able to do some continuity fixes on book #1 of a series after you’ve written book #4). DAW repackaged it with the Palumbo cover and released this reissue the same year it released Esther #5, Polterheist, which was followed by The Misfortune Cookie a year later, and then Abracadaver in November 2014.

I’m now working on Esther Diamond #8, Goldzilla, set on Wall Street, and ED #9 & #10 are under contract with DAW. (That doesn’t mean the series ends with #10; it just means that’s how far we’re contracted at this time.)

Deep into writing this series now, after years of trying to get it off the ground, I still feel that this is exactly what I should be writing (though not the only thing that’s exactly what I should be writing), so I’m in this for the long haul. And I hope that readers will be, too!

Esther Diamond: Disappearing Nightly by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: Doppelgangster by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: Unsympathetic Magic by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: Vamparazzi by Laura Resnick
Esther Diamond: Polterheist by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: The Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: Abracadaver by Laura Resnick