I have a new short story out, “Lost & Found,” in the sixth annual installment of writer/editor Alex Shvartsman’s popular Unidentified Funny Objects series.

My story in UFO5 was a satirical mash-up of The X-Files, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who, and the classic movie, Casablanca. “The ∏ Files” (“The Pi Files”), featuring Special Agents Mully and Scalder, was great fun to write.

This time, though, my story for UFO6 is a little more personal.

I used to work part-time at a community newspaper. It should have been a great job. The hours, the location, the work, the community, and the rest of the staff were all pleasant, and the pay was okay.

Unfortunately, though, the boss (who was the editor, publisher, and owner of the paper) was an incredibly toxic person, which made working there miserable and stressful, despite all the positive attributes the place otherwise had. In addition to his stunning incompetence, he was also prone to frequent tantrums and irrational rages, he was jaw-droppingly rude, and he regularly insulted and gaslighted the staff.

Unsurprisingly, the place had a comically high turnover rate. Departures were an even mix of quitting and getting fired. I was only there for a few months before I was fired, during which time we ran through 5 office managers, for example. One very nice person quit after just one day, telling me as she left how appalled and astounded she was by the boss’ behavior.

Well, at one point, the boss wanted to print some “joke” stories in the newspaper. He presented staffers with a few real news stories that he wanted us to riff on. I selected one about NASA, wrote my story as directed, and turned it in. After reading it, the boss informed me that this story was not at all what he had wanted. In fact, it was what he had asked for, but now he was asking for something else. So I wrote what I was asked for. He sent it back to me with some notes. I revised the material in accordance with the notes and turned it in. Now he gave me all-new feedback, stuff he had not said on any previous iteration, and had me revise it again. I did so. And then he did the same thing again.

Next, he told me to start all over from scratch. He couldn’t articulate why, he just knew he wanted something else. I pointed out that I had already done 5 versions. He said I would probably have to do 10 or 12 versions before we were done. 

It was the “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it” school of editing. I had consoled various writers friends about situations like this over the years, but this was the first time I had dealt with it myself. This is a well-known gambit of completely incompetent and/or malicious editors, and it always goes very badly for the writer.

Then he told me I didn’t know how to write humor. He also said I wasn’t creative. He gave me a contemptuous look and said, “Aren’t you supposed to be a science fiction writer or something?”

At which point, I finally lost my temper. I don’t remember exactly what I said, though I do recall working into my tirade the information that I’d never before been asked for 5 rewrites because I’d never before worked with such an incompetent editor. I took my work away from him and stalked out of his office after telling him my next version of it would be final, period.

Not long after that, I later learned, he posted a want-ad for someone to fill my position, and after he arranged a start date with the new hire, he fired me.

The sad part, so to speak, was that the pieces he kept spiking were funny, and none of them ever saw the light of day.

So when Alex Shvartsman asked me to participate in UFO6, I decided to turn my ideas  for that article into a short story. The result is “Lost & Found,” in which some surprising visitors emerge from a UFO orbiting Earth.

And apparently someone thinks I can write humor, since Imagine A Book SF gave my story 5 stars and said, “So many different layers of humor. Wonderful.”

Yep, getting published is still the best revenge.

 

 

I had the pleasure this summer of doing a radio interview with the delightful Patzi Gil, creator and host of Joy On Paper, a syndicated radio program “for writers and those who dream of writing.”

I meant to post this interview several months ago, but I have been run off my feet all year. And so I am doing this exactly the way I’m doing everything else in 2017, i.e. months after I meant to do it.

A writer and radio pro, Patzi Gil interviews writers and agents “to learn the story behind the book.” She talked with me about the years it took to get Esther Diamond published, the mishandled first release which led to my contract being canceled, and the second chance at life that the series found at my current (and wonderful) publisher, DAW Books. We also talked about how I first got started writing while living in Sicily years ago, why I chose to write about an actress, and what it’s like to be my father’s daughter.

Patzi is a charming, welcoming, and enthusiastic host. You can hear the interview here:

The Graphic Audio adaptation of Vamparazzi (Esther Diamond #4) goes on sale April 5! Available for pre-order now.

Meanwhile, here’s a 5-minute sample of the production.

While you’re waiting for the April 5 audio release of Vamparazzi (or for better news about the book publication of Goldzilla than, “I’m way behind schedule and still working on it”), check out the podcast interview that Colleen Delany and I recently did for Graphic Audio.

That’s the Graphic Audio site link. Here’s the iTunes link (and then look for my name; date of the interview is Feb 17, 2017).

Colleen is the actress who plays Esther in the audio versions, as well as directing the productions. We talked about audio, Esther Diamond, writing, my working relationship with my editor, Hugo Award winner Betsy Wollheim, my (fun!) part-time job as a historic walking tour guide, and other stuff.

If you haven’t explored the Graphic Audio adaptations of the Esther Diamond series yet, check out this series trailer to get an idea of how cool these full-cast audio productions are:

 


That’s (obviously) an audio sample from Graphic Audio’s adaptation of Unsympathetic Magic, which is now available in audio download and CD formats.

As explained in my previous post about this project, Graphic Audio’s format, which they describe as “a movie in your mind,” narrates the whole novel, as a standard solo-reader audiobook would, but they include sound effects and background music, and they have all the different dialogue roles read by a full cast of actors—as you can hear in the audio sample posted above, where Esther and Lopez, played respectively by Colleen Delany and Thomas Keegan, are talking.

I think Unsympathetic Magic is one of the more difficult of the Esther Diamond novels to adapt this way. For one thing, there’s a lengthy Vodou ceremony with singing, drums, dancing, prayers, and spirit possession. There’s also some Creole dialogue, a snake, a dog, zombies, baka, fire, storms, spirits entering this dimension, incineration, a romantic interlude (arrived at in Esther and Lopez’s habitually haphazard way), and various other story elements that aren’t necessarily a cakewalk to translate credibly from the written page to audio performance.

They did a great job with all of that, and I really enjoyed listening to it—so I think people who didn’t write the book, and therefore perhaps won’t listen to every moment of the audio adaptation quite as judgmentally as I do, are very likely to enjoy it.

Above all, I’m really pleased with the acting. Although these adaptations are well-directed (Colleen Delany, who plays Esther, is also the director), and the sound production and engineering are very good, I have always found that no amount of production quality or technical virtuosity (or Hollywood special effects) can make up for a bad script (and if you don’t like the writing here, that’s on me, obviously) or mediocre actors–or even a good actor who’s been badly mismatched with a role. (I’m having flashbacks to seeing a weary, stiff-limbed, hard-drinking, grey-haired Richard Burton in the twilight of his life reprise his early-career stage role as the young, energetic, idealistic King Arthur in Camelot.)

Colleen Delany & Avery Brooks, Othello.

So I’m very excited about the quality of the acting in this project. I think Delany is delightful as Esther—which is crucial, since she’s the first-person narrator and the protagonist. If she weren’t engaging, convincing, and pleasant to listen to, this whole thing would flop, no matter who else was involved. Colleen has done some screen acting and a lot of voice acting and stage performance. She’s done a lot of work with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and she has been nominated multiple times for the Helen Hayes Award. (And here’s something for Star Trek fans: a few years ago, she played Othello’s Desdemona opposite Avery Brooks, who led the TV cast of Deep Space 9 in the 1990s. As recounted in Unsympathetic Magic, Esther and her now-ex, Jeff Clark, also once did this play together.)

I’m also delighted by the performance of Bob Payne as Dr. Maximillian Zadok, local representative of the Magnum Collegium. He brings together Max’s erudition, befuddled dignity, and bravery, he’s got a lovely light comedic touch, and he does an excellent job with Max’s expository dialogue—those long speeches where Max explains the nature or history of various strange and mystical phenomena to the other characters.

Two other performers who hurdled that obstacle very well in Unsympathetic Magic are Dawn Ursula as Puma and Julie-Ann Elliott as Dr. Livingston, both of whom have to do a lot of Vodou-splaining to Esther. Ursula is a two-time Helen Hayes Award recipient who does a lot of stage work, and Elliott has an impressive résumé of stage, screen, and audio work.

The men in Esther’s life also do a great job in these productions. Thomas Keegan as Detective Lopez has an attractive, no-nonsense voice… that inevitably winds up shifting many gears as he deals with his wacky love interest, his volatile family, and the bizarre cases he keeps wading into. Lopez has many scenes throughout the series where he gets pushed, pulled, and shoved through more conflicting emotions in 20 minutes than most of us have to deal with in a week, and Keegan pulls it all off seamlessly. Meanwhile, KenYatta Rogers, another cast member with a long list of credits and awards recognition, brings Jeff Clark to life wonderfully, finding little moments in the dialogue that I didn’t even hear in my head when writing the book. This actor makes me glad I’m planning to include this character in more of the upcoming books, because I’d love to hear him play Jeff again.

The rest of the cast was also excellent, and the whole story came across so well that, despite (obviously) knowing exactly what happens, I couldn’t stop listening—which I hope is the reaction every listener has.

They’ve released this, as well as Disappearing Nightly and Doppelgangster. The next four Esther Diamond novels are also in production at Graphic Audio: Vamparazzi (release date, April 3), Polterheist, The Misfortune Cookie, and Abracadaver. (And, yes, I am writing more Esther novels. I’m just behind schedule.)

This series trailer, using sound clips from Disappearing Nightly, gives you a good idea of the overall feel (multiple actors, sound effects, music) of these productions.




Graphic Audio is releasing audiobook adaptations of the first seven Esther Diamond novels!

The first three audiobooks, Disappearing Nightly, Doppelgangster, and Unsympathetic Magic are available now.

 

Vamparazzi will be released in April, and the next three audiobooks in the series are planned for May, June, and July release. (And by then, I should have better news about my next regular ED book release, Goldzilla, than, “I’m still working on it.”)

Graphic Audio’s format involves multiple actors and sound effects. They describe their format as “a movie in your mind.” Click on the above links or images, and you can hear 5-minute samples of their productions of the first three books.


I was delighted when Graphic Audio approached us about producing the Esther Diamond series in audio. I was familiar with their format from having listened to some of their other productions, and I thought it would be an excellent way to present the Esther Diamond books in audio.

I’m a huge audiobook fan (I listen to audbiobooks while cooking, cleaning, gardening, doing chores, walking, driving, exercising, balancing my checkbook, medicating squirming cats, soaking in a hot tub, etc., etc.).  It doubles the number of books I get to read (or “read”) in a year. And I’m an even bigger fan of radio plays. I have a huge personal library of BBC radio dramas, comedies, and adaptations, and I probably listen to those even more often than to audiobooks.

Graphic Audio combines those two formats. Instead of completely adapting the novel to script format, the way a radio play does, they still narrate the whole novel just as a standard audiobook would, but instead of the narrative telling you “Lopez said irritably,” you hear the actor playing Lopez say that line of dialogue irritably, and instead of Esther’s narrative just telling you there’s a lot of noise as she, Max, and Barclay tumble down the stairs at Magic Magnus’ shop, you hear the clatter as they tumble down. And so on.

It’s always a gamble when a writer’s story is transformed into another format, one that involves interpretations by lots of people (such as actors, directors, and sound engineers) who are not the original author. So I knew there was a possibility I would be disappointed with the result, and I braced myself for that. But I thought it was worth taking that chance, since this is such a good format for Esther Diamond. I figured in the worst case scenario (the adaptations were a big disappointment), I could always, at a later date, reclaim the rights and personally produce some standard single-reader audiobooks.

Fortunately, though, the best case scenario came to pass. Actress Colleen Delany, who plays Esther and who’s also directing the whole audio series, is doing a terrific job with these productions. The sound engineering, the other actors, the whole overall experience is very high quality and I’m genuinely thrilled with the results and love what they’re doing. (Seriously. I’d still need to promote these audiobooks even if I didn’t like them, but I am tediously honest and would never use such enthusiastic phrases if I didn’t mean them. I would say neutral things like “they’ve worked really hard” and “if you’re an Esther fan, give these a try,” etc.)

I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Disappearing Nightly in full, and I loved it. I actually forgot at times that I had written the book; in many places, I was just enjoying it as its audience. And keep in mind, it’s a book I’ve rewritten twice and subsequently re-read three times (to make sure I don’t start making continuity errors in later books), so I am heartily sick of this book. So a production has got to be good to get me to listen to that entire novel—which I did, over the course of two days, enjoying it the whole way.

Now I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Doppelgangster discs, so I can listen to that one, too.

* * *

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