Tag Archives: eric sipple

Stuff That’s Worth Your Time

Invisible Nursing Woman
Shoshana Rachel (great middle name!) talks about breast-feeding, cleavage and invisible women over at GirlBodyPride.

I Review Tear The Curtain
Earlier this month, I had the chance to interview one of the creators of a supposedly-groundbreaking new Canadian theatre piece. Schedules allowed me to chat with co-creator Kevin Kerr, and this weekend just gone, I was able to see the production in one of its final performances. My review is available through The British Theatre Guide, where I’ve been a contributor since 2003ish.

A Fan Letter To Certain Conservative Politicians
From @scalzi on Twitter. A letter to anti-choice politicians from a satirical rapist. Triggering, yet scathing on the order of Jonathan Swift’s  A Modest Proposal. A skilled piece of writing, whether or not you agree with his political views.

Climate Change
I’ve been following the campaigns, and one thing I’ve noticed is that the major candidates have refrained from significant discussion on the topic of climate change. Earlier this year, I did a project called Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change and I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest that sometimes, fiction can be an effective way of starting conversations on a grassroots level. Short stories include work by Sare Liz Gordy, RJ Astruc, Miranda Doerfler and Eric Sipple.

Trailer – Celeste Bright
I’ve mentioned a web series project in previous posts, and have to thank @thepowerobject for pointing me to this trailer. Gorgeously shot, the editing and music take you along for the ride – I’m going to pop in the first episode and see what I think of the product. This is part of my research on form and webseries; while I’m still trying to make it through Aidan 5’s full season, learning the language of a quality webseries is coming to the front in my ever-revolving priorities binder.

Ack. I just said binder, didn’t I.

We’re about ten days away from Election Day and voters in key swing states are already heading to the polls. If you spend time on “Twittah“, you already know my views, so I won’t bore you. Politics are, however, relevant, because of my new writing project.

Electalytics.

Back in June, I had the idea for a novella that would look at the mechanics of a modern-day election, in scifi-punk terms. Having read a lot of cyberpunk in my teens, and growing out from the ongoing progress of my AI Anthology, Electalytics was meant to give me a chance to express some anxieties about the current election cycle, as well as the framing of political action/content within what I felt (and still feel) to be outdated models – all within a technopunk framework.

Electalytics started off as a challenge – could I write 30K words in a month? By July, I was still shy 2.5K, but I had the solid basis of a piece – and since then, I’ve been editing and refining the story. It’s lost mass and gained focus, and I’m excited to be offering a free look at the first chapter to the first 50 people who sign up on my mailing list. We’re about halfway to our subscription goal, so sign up for the free promo.

Also, come November 6th? Vote.

The Neverending Writing List

As we creep ever-closer towards the end of the year, it’s natural to look back and take stock of the plans I made, and which ones came to fruition – hopefully with just enough time left in the final quarter of 2012 to kick my butt into gear on a few of these projects.

The year started with a rush and a bang. My short story, The Tell Tale Tech was selected to launch a week of tributes to Poe, over on The Veillee Blog. Next, Sare Liz Gordy decided to put together “Sassy Singularity” – an anthology of short stories about strong single women, and my short story Sweetheart, kicked off that collection.

The next month, Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change came out. Millennial Ex, a ten-minute play about marriage equality, was given Honorable Mention at a festival in the US before later being picked up as the centerpiece for ANY OBJECTIONS? the upcoming Glasgay Festival in Glasgow, Scotland. (I also have another dozen or so plays from other entrants to read through before the selection committee makes its final decisions.)

I put both Restaurants are Rated Out of Four Stars (a foodie romance, which appeared in RJ Astruc’s collection, The Fat Man At The End Of The World, several years ago) and my first Edinburgh Fringe play, Playing It Cool up. Ran a promotion for that on Kindle Select last week, and the play was both downloaded and reviewed favorably by many. Miranda Doerfler and I oversaw the publication of Haiku of the Living Dead, Zombie haikus collected from contributors around the internet.

I started a Pinterest and a Tumblr and a Goodreads account. I learned how to use InDesign well enough that I could make book covers that weren’t completely embarassing (you can see an example on the Playing it Cool cover on Amazon). I edited Eric Sipple’s first novel, Broken Magic. Got a couple interviews about my work published on a few different websites. Helped organize a massive political protest along with Eve Ensler and grassroots activists from around the country.

You’d need chocolate, too.

But it’s not enough.

There are projects I want to do that still aren’t done. And I wanted them to be done before the end of the year. There’s my AI collection, which will take both The Tell Tale Tech and Sweetheart and pair them with a number of original short pieces pondering alternative and artificial intelligences. I have partial drafts and sketches for a number of these shorts, including some pretty extensive drafts. But there’s more work to be done there.

Next, there’s Electalytics, the 30K novella I said I’d write in thirty days back in July. Currently hovering at about 27.5K, I’m tightening up the rest of the draft before going on to write the final parts of the story. I had wanted this piece to be up in time for the 2012 elections, but at this point I think it’s safe to say that would require rushing it out. So I’ll pick my way through it carefully and I’ll keep making slow progress.

There are two more projects I would very much have liked to complete this year, including the play that kicked me off down the AI collection road, a full-length three-hander called Process0r, about collaboration and language and technology.

So what gives? What’s holding me back? Why aren’t all these pieces done so I can scramble ahead to the next thing?  Aside from the blog updates, the social network building, being interviewed, contributing to charity fundraisers and more?

Life. That’s what. That messy, wonderful, horrible, ever-drumming thing we call life. The saying talks about the best-laid plans of mice and men, but writer’s best-laid plans often go astray as well. Coping with this fact? Not something I do especially well. When I have a plan, I want that plan done. And when it doesn’t get done, I start getting agitated.

So that’s what the next three months are for. It might seem as though the things I’ve already done this year would more than make up for the pieces I still want to finish – but they don’t. When I distill the list down and hold it up against the “life” things happening between now and December 31st, it looks a little like this:

1. Finish the first draft of Electalytics.

2. Create covers for Stuck Up A Tree and Mousewings (video), so I can put them both up on Amazon alongside their fellow Edinburgh Fringe play, Playing It Cool.

I want to add, “Finish AI Anthology” and “Finish Processor” to the list, but given the two solid goals mentioned above and a third, more ephemerous goal I haven’t been specific about, I feel like sticking those two on the list would be a great way to get overwhelmed. So for now I’ll save those two projects for 2013, which – as far as I can tell – still offers twelve months of unspoken-for time.

This is a totally realistic plan.

Right?

Thanks, Planet! HOT MESS Gives Back.

Cover design by Sarah Hartley

When I approached Eric, Sare Liz, RJ and Miranda about working on HOT MESS: speculative fiction about climate change, one thing we agreed on was that a portion of the proceeds from the book should benefit climate-change-related charities.

Well, the first batch of royalty payments are in, and we’ve made donations to both the Climate Science Defense Fund and the Earth Island Institute, with more to come.

If you haven’t yet, buy a copy of HOT MESS, (available for Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and in print) and help contribute to spreading ideas and combating climate change.

Miranda and I will be releasing HAIKU OF THE LIVING DEAD, a book of Zombie Haiku submitted from internet users around the world, on Friday, July 13th.

Weekend of Epic, Part 2(B): No Sleep. Not even in Brooklyn.

When last we left our heroes, they were devouring burgers at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Midway through the meal, a bird flew in and grabbed burger out of one of our diner’s hands. I missed that bit, because I was getting my meal, so it’s entirely possible that they had decided to try and punk me with their darkly disneyesque tale of carniverous parakeets.

The world may never know.

We left Madison Square Park a little after two, Eric and Erin heading down to the WTC and me taking Miranda and her friend out to another of my friends’ apartments, in an old neighborhood where I used to live in South Brooklyn. The plan had become, over lunch, to get back together that evening and go for drinks at The Whiskey Ward.

On The Highway of Kings

As we rode the subway out to King’s Highway, my old subway stop (back in the days before the Lower West Side), the three of us alternately joked and chatted, discussed how totally stuffed we were, and pointed at interesting things (like the Statue of Liberty) while I told dramatic stories of being stranded at Cortelyou when a train went down on the track, and getting unceremoniously dumped off the subway and told, by the MTA, to “figure out” how to get home. Fifteen dollar taxi ride. Thanks, buddies.

We were bringing a bottle of wine and picking up ice on the way, which meant I got to take Miranda and her friend to some of the supermarkets I used to go to. First thing that hit me was just how much cheaper the groceries out there are. I mean, I shop at Trader Joe’s and try to be frugal, but as we walked past piles of fresh produce, my eyes nearly bugged out of my sockets. I spent a moment looking at the ice in the freezer. How much to bring? There were three of us, three bags would do.

Brooklyn was cooler than Manhattan (physically, not metaphorically, although at some times this too seems to be the case) but it was still hot out. If not here already, Summer was definitely coming. As we walked to my friend’s apartment, I pointed at shops that had been replaced and described what the neighborhood had been like when I last lived there a few years ago.

The party was great. We sat in the sun, ate dips and veggies and olives and steamed pork rolls and my friend’s AMAZING lasagne. There was a tequila bottle shaped like a gun; only thing missing was the trigger. And then someone mentioned that there was shade on the back porch, and we started a “pale people party” back there, which turned into a discussion about video games between Miranda, my friend’s nephew, and the my friend’s brother-in-law. Miranda and the nephew were trading tips. The nephew could not have been older than five. SO CUTE.

And Now for The Whisky:

If you’re over 21 and reading this blog, and you’ve never had single malt scotch: stop right now. Go to the nearest bar and chat with the bartender for a few seconds. Then ask her or him if you can please see the bottles for the Laphroaig (La-FROYG) or the Caol Isla (Cal as in calories, and Isla as in Fisher or Duncan or whatever her name is). Take the caps off and smell those scotches. Then come back and keep reading.

If you’re under 21, only time can help you.

Drink responsibly.

Now That You Understand What Good Whisky Smells Like:

Me, Miranda and her friend – we’ll call him K, from now on, which is so Kafkian it gives me a shiver, but whatever – walked into the Whiskey bar having discussed the fact that when someone said scotch, K kind of wrinkled up his nose a bit and made noises about how Jack Daniels or whatever NOT SCOTCH THING he had had wasn’t something he fancied.

Now, Jack Daniels is not Scotch. Scotch, for those of you who haven’t lived in the homeland of the thing for 4 years, is made in Scotland. It’s regional. It’s like champagne can only be made in that region of France. It has four ingredients. And yet different brands of scotch will taste as different to one another as apples and oranges.

Couldn't you just go for one right now?

We will get back to this in a moment. Eric and Erin arrived, and Eric and I (the drinkers of the group) went to pick up cocktails. I tried one of the bar’s specialty cocktails – something with maple syrup and marinated bourbon cherries? – but truthfully it wasn’t my thing. After passing cocktails around (cocktail etiquette, you understand, demands one allow one’s drinking partners the opportunity to avail themselves of your superior taste in libation), we all relaxed a bit and started just chatting.

I think that was the first point in the weekend when I realized just how “on” I’d been since the Thursday night reading, and it was definitely the first point at which I felt like I could really relax. Nowhere to rush off to, nothing more to worry about except enjoying the drinks and the company. Writing issues had been settled, future projects discussed, social engagements and tour guide duties fulfilled with great enthusiasm, and it was FINALLY time to just hang out with friends.

Because we were waiting for a couple more people to arrive, the second round of cocktails was more of a timing stop-gap. A whisky sour for me, this time. (Sidenote: Had an interesting drink called a New York Sour the other day – basically a whisky sour with a red wine float on the top. It does something interesting, kind of cuts the acid of the lemon in the sour. Worth checking out if you get the chance, and aren’t terrified at the idea of mixing red wine and whisky.)

Having reached the end of our cocktails, and still lacking two members of our party, it was time to switch to the real stuff. Standing in front of the list of available choices, the conversation became very serious. Which whiskies to try? What were the options? We wound up with an Aberlour, an Ardbeg (or was that switched to a Laphroig at the last minute?) and a Caol Isla. Yes, I ordered two whiskies. Refer to the cocktail rule, above. Plus, the fact that K thought Jack Daniels was whisky. *shakes head*.

Back at the table, we started the familiar three-card shuffle of passing glasses around the table, having the non-drinkers smell the whiskies, the drinkers take small sips. It was around this point when @CLImagiste and his wife (she who would, over the course of the night, become known as @codekneesocks) arrived, having battled trains all the way from outside Manhattan to get to us. And the whisky. They took the Bourbon route – and this was when things started getting interesting, because now we could illustrate how different regions making the same thing with the same ingredients could taste so completely different. Whisky – particularly the ones I favor – have a smoky quality to them. I like to go as smoky as possible when it comes to whisky, which is why Caol Isla, Laphroig and Ardbeg are good standbyes. Bourbon, on the other hand, has a much sweeter undertone. In fact, writing this, I kind of wonder what it would taste like if you took a sweeter bourbon and a smokier whisky and used them together to make a whisky-bourbon-sour. Would need to be exactly the right brands. Hrm. Suggestions in the comments!

I think one of my favorite things in the world is watching people who don’t know about whisky as they realize just how many variations there are on this most excellent beverage.

Somewhere in all of this, a discussion arose between me and L, @CLImagiste’s wife, and somehow it came up that apparently, in Catholic school, there is a code around the way in which the female students wear their knee socks. I want to say more about this but it involve’s someone else’s upcoming project, and it’s not my place to give hints as to the content of that work. But suffice to say I thought it was hysterical and the next morning when L signed up for twitter her username was @codekneesocks.

By now, it was getting to the time in the night when people want to eat things. After quick debate, we narrowed our choices to two potential spots: The Meatball Shop (LES branch, which was packed) and a Grilled Cheese restaurant. That served wine.

I don’t know how to make you understand how unbelievably good this grilled cheese sandwich was. Mine tasted like nachos. It was unbelievable, and pretty soon we were cutting off slices of different sandwiches and trading those around like they were cocktails, too. That’s one thing I *love* about eating out in New York, particularly with people who care about food. Everybody really *wants* everyone else to have the experience of trying whatever it is they’ve tried, and afterwards you have even more of a shared experience to talk about with them because you’re not just commenting on the feel of the restaurant, the service, etc. – you actually know the tastes the other people are referring to, and they know the same for your meal.

This was how the weekend ended up, then: at a tiny grilled cheese place on the Lower East Side, drinking wine and chatting with friends both old and new, before we all ultimately had to scatter back to our real jobs. More good-byes at the end of the night, and Miranda and I walking back to my apartment, planning what time we’d get up the next morning in order to make sure she got to her bus on time.

When I got home that night, I took a few minutes to write down in my journal – the calligraphically personalized one I’d picked up the day before – about just how happy I felt about the whole experience and about the specific things that had gone rightly and made me glad and hopeful about doing it again.

And Then Came Sunday

The next morning went quickly. Miranda and I popped into the cheese shop around the corner and she picked up some gifts for her family, then we walked over to the clothing fair on Broadway and she picked up a t-shirt and an Indiana Jones hat. Subway up to Times Square, walked her to the bus stop, came home.

Crashed.

Jurassic Park kind of became our mascot for the weekend. So it was cool to see this lying on the shelf at Goodwill when I wandered up to shop while crashing. I saw this movie four times in theaters when it came out.

So that’s that.

I just looked at my computer’s clock; as of this writing, all this happened just a week ago. The post is scheduled for early June. Either way, in either direction, feels more like a lifetime than just a few days.

A lot of times, in the arts, people talk about making sure your creative soul gets fed and with his reading I feel like I went from starving to sated to gorged on that front.

It reminds me how important it is to spend time around writers, and how important it is to schedule things like appearances and retreats and other writerly experiences, where you get in a room with other people who practice your craft and, for a little while at least, don’t have to worry about communicating the various frustrations and impossibilities of what you’re trying to do every time you fire up your computer and open a word document.

In that way, the weekend of the Hot Mess reading was pretty much an all-you-eat-buffet for a writer’s soul.

I hope reading about it has helped stimulate your creative appetite.

So What Now?

I have three upcoming projects on the horizon, and will be talking about them going forward. A small teaser for those projects will follow in the next week or so, but for now, just know that they’re there.

Thanks for everybody who’s supported the Hot Mess project. Keep spreading the word, leaving reviews for us on Amazon (please, it literally means logging in and clicking 1-5 stars, five being the best, and add words if you like) and buying those copies.

Weekend of Epic, Part 2(A): Babeland, Fast Cars, Fast Tattoos & Not-So-Fast Burgers

As mentioned in previous posts, the weekend of May 17th was an Epic weekend of Epic Awesomeness. Mostly because Sare Liz Gordy, Eric Sipple and Miranda Doerfler, three of the authors from Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change, came to NYC and did a reading. Feel free to catch up – both on the Thursday reading and the Friday awesomeness that followed – before (or after) reading on.

Saturday morning, Miranda and I woke up and started on our way to SoHo. Mostly, we were going to check out the Wooster Street Social Club, which is where NY Ink was filmed. But as a secondary mission, we decided to detour through Babeland – just so I could show M that not all the, ahem, adult entertainment shops in Manhattan were totally skeevy.

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An Exercise in Editing, or, Why The Hunger Games Makes My Eyes Bleed

From the back cover of THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. The following quotes, from other writers in what one might call “related genres,” are meant to draw attention to the positive features of Collins’ work.

Go ahead. Read ’em.

Note that each of these quotes, from luminaries and sources including Stephen King (Entertainment Weekly), Stephanie Meyer (OMG she’s OBSESSED), and John Greer (The New York Times Book Review), talks about the plotting and structure of THE HUNGER GAMES.

Not a single one of the back cover comments brings up the question of the quality of the book’s prose. 

There are many reasons this might be the case: the marketing team may have learned that putting quotes about suspenseful page-turners sell more copies and left out things like “Collins’ prose challenges some of the greats of our era with its artistry and subtle evocation of the stresses that authoritarian governments manufacture to maintain control of their populations.” They could have left out, “Her words added an emotional depth and clarity to this packed, well-paced story.” They could have left out lots of things. I haven’t looked up the full reviews.

My personal feeling is that they cherry-picked quotes about pacing because THE HUNGER GAMES suffers from a case of seriously bad writing.

Which brings us to this blog entry. Collins is an author who presumably worked with an editor to get her words to this pointI presume they both considered it publishable. (And charge-for-able). Editors do a lot of different things when it comes to getting manuscripts ready for publication. One of those things is language. And I think both Collins and her editor fell down hard on that front.

My background with THE HUNGER GAMES:

I read chapters 1-4 on my Kindle when @tyyche gifted me a copy. I was at the tail end of two weeks of intensive editing work on Hot Mess, and while I could certainly see why Collins’ story was an entertaining one, the actual quality of the writing made it impossible for me to continue. I said at the time, and continue to maintain, that my guess is the book translates better to the screen than most adaptations. If I ever see the film, I’ll make sure to let you all know.

Anyways, fast forward to the end of May. My roommate’s copy is lying on the kitchen counter and it’s Memorial Day Weekend and after walking past the book a few times, I think, well, maybe I should pick that up and just breeze through it, so at least when people start defending it on Twitter I can come back with a more informed opinion than the one I have now, which is based on reading four chapters of the thing on a Kindle.

There was no way in hell I was going to start reading the book from the beginning again. I backtracked about a paragraph into chapter 4, then continued with chapter five, which was badly written but at least kept moving, then headed into chapter six. It wasn’t until the last page of chapter six that I became aware of a string of paragraphs I probably would have let go through without too much rewriting: page 85 in my edition, from the point where the Avox girl is picking up Katniss’ unitard (UNITARD!) to the end of the chapter. This was the first time that the spare, simple voice beneath Collins’ prose really came out to me, and one of the first times (only 85 pages in!) where I felt like Collins had really hit her stride.

Then it was into chapter seven, and that wasn’t any bloody fun at all.

By this time, half of Twitter had figured out that I was actually reading the book I’d been complaining about for months, and I started getting snarky comments from my co-writer, Eric, particularly because I’d given him such a hard time back when he did the reviews of the first book for The Masquerade Crew. One thing led to another and when I started talking about how what I actually want to do is a top-to-toe rewrite on the entire thing, and I half wanted to do red marks all over a page from the book and show people what my editing process was like, Eric challenged me to do precisely that.

So everything after the break is his fault.
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Awesome Awesome Amazeballs Awesome

The thing you always forget about performing is how quickly it happens. There’s an interminable amount of stuff that has to take place before a production, whether we’re talking a short film, a play, or a reading involving five performers converging on an old-time prestige venue like the Cornelia St Cafe.

That third one is a little specific, isn’t it.

Yesterday we had a live reading of Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change here in New York City. And by “we,” I mean everybody, with the exception of RJ, who wrote to us from New Zealand. Before about 4pm, the day is a blur. Literally a blur. I remember the gist of what I did: mostly sleep, since the night before was a rush of adrenaline and preparation and as with all these things, there never seems to be enough time. (Note “seems” – this is significant.)

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