Thursday, February 29, 2024

Some Annotated Reading February 29

I managed to finish another book this week, On Earth as It is On Television by Emily Jane. Terrific book, and I now have a thought about humor in fiction. Which I may have had before, but, if so, this book really illustrates it. Humor must support story. Perhaps it is another element of fiction.

Flora Mancuniensis: The study of botany in 19th-century Manchester by Julie Ramwell is a terrific piece of historical writing. It appears at a publication on the Medium platform called Special Collections from The University of Manchester in England. This is an example of the neat things that can be done at Medium

I did some reading of time travel short stories:

  • The Men Who Murdered Mohammed by Alfred Bester in Fantasy & Science Fiction, October, 1958 pg. 118. I heard this would be funny, and it probably would have been much funnier if I had more of a science background. This was clever, though, with good narrative drive and some clever time travel stuff.
  • The Clock That Went Backwards by Edward Page Mitchell.  Scroll down. Yeah, not an exciting read. This is believed to be the first instance of a device being used for time travel. So now I can say I've read that.
  • The Man Who Walked Home by James Tiptree Jr. in Clarkesworld. This is both a time travel and post-apocalypse story, two sub-genres that I'm not fond of. But for some reason I found this pretty riveting, and it leads me to want to learn more about the author, a woman writing under a man's name.
  • And I did! The Most Prescient Science Fiction Author You Aren't Reading by Kay Steiger in Vox.

New Yorker humor you won't be able to read: Why People Who E-mailed You Aren't E-mailing You Back, By Week  by Hallie Cantor

Monday, February 26, 2024

A Childlit Connection To Oppenheimer?

I saw Oppenheimer Saturday night. Perhaps if I'd been in a theater and couldn't keep going onto my iPad to check out the historical figures in the movie and dwell on the unhappy women in Oppenheimer's life, I would have been able to follow it. 

Once the movie got to Los Alamos, I was reminded of The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. It's a very well-regarded middle grade novel from 2006 about a girl going to Los Alamos to live with her father who is working there on the Manhattan Project. 

Were librarians all over the country doing Oppenheimer themed displays last year? I know it's probably not appropriate to do a library display linking books for middle grade students to an R-rated movie, but I can't be the only person who thought of it. Or maybe I can. 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Friday Done List February 23

A week of just treading water. In fact, I wanted to go to a museum today to see an exhibit that's ending soon and gave it up out of guilt. I found out I have a free day tomorrow, though. Of course, I'm going walking.

Goal 1. Adult short stories, essays, and humor

  • Can't give up on that short story, can't move forward. Didn't write a word. Have been doing research, though. Research for a short story
  • I'm really getting into reading related to that short story, though. 

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to agents

  • Got two rejections last weekend.
  • Made two submissions.
  • Spent a lot of time reading about agents.
  • Registered for an agent workshop.

Goal 3. Community Building/Branding/General Marketing

  • Wrote 4 blog posts.
  • Promoted some of them on X.
  • Reposted one of the blog posts at Goodreads, where I also rated a book.
  • Did some more updating on the website. Could have done more on that.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Some Annotated Reading Feb. 22

Another week, another book finished. Reading, not writing or selling. How To Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann was an intriguing read for me, because it followed last week's book, The Manor House Governess, which was a modern spin on Jane Eyre. How To Be Eaten isn't a modern spin on our Jane, but on fairy tales. How bizarre is it that connection? The connection being "modern spins," in case I didn't make myself clear. (Which happens.) These fairy tales all have women main characters who feel guilty for what happened to them or are made to feel guilty. Included in the book is a section treating a Bachelor-type program as an unhappy fairy tale. I have never seen a minute of one of those shows, but I was kind of riveted to that portion of the book. And, wow, the Rumpelstiltskin section was pretty impressive.

Speaking of books I've read recently, I read The Jane Austen Society a couple of weeks ago. And guess what I stumbled upon this week?  A Jane Austen Lent.

Time Travel Science Fiction Stories Recommendations at Fit 2B Read is not reading but a terrific video about reading. Yes, I am researching time travel fiction and would really like to do it with short stories. Though I'm thinking of rereading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which is taking a risk because I liked it when I was a teenager, and sometimes rereads don't go that well for me.

The Chronic Argonauts by H.G. Wells, recommended in the video above. Mehhh. It seemed more of a Lottery by Shirley Jackson type story. And masses and masses of description. It's been a long time since I've read H.G. Wells, and I can't say I have much desire to read more now. 

A humor piece you probably can't read at The New Yorker--A Timeline of Articles About Amelia Earhart Throughout History by Sarah Hutto. The vaccination headline was my favorite.

Also humor-related--I've been watching The Daily Show for the past year. (No, never before then. Yes, it's a mystery.) Dulce Sloan is a correspondent, and I am a fan. So, of course, I read We're Not Stupid or Racist, an interview with Sloan at Salon. This woman has thoughts! And a book coming out.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Why I Didn't Work Monday, And Why Snow Tubing Isn't To Blame For My Lame Work Week

We had snow a week ago yesterday, and it's still here. Now, I'm in the south of New England, not Florida. Snow is not incapacitating here. But it isn't as common as it used to be, what with climate change and all. Last year, I didn't use my snow tube at all. And when snow does come, it usually doesn't last long. For example, hours after we left for our retreat week on a Saturday in January, our town was hit with a big snowfall. By the time we got home the next Saturday, our yard looked like spring.

Not so with this last storm, which came, as I said, a week ago yesterday. I spent a big chunk of time shoveling the day it arrived and rushed out to go snowshoeing the next morning, because you have to strike while the snow is here. This past Monday, it was still here, and I had guests over for snow tubing. 

Seriously, kids have so little experience with snow that they think you're supposed to play in it with balls.

I've been thinking that my feeling this week of not making progress with work is due to the fact that I took what was essentially a snow day Monday and now think the week is nearly over. All is lost. But in reality, it's because I have spent weeks working on a short story in a genre I know nothing about. That's a beginner's mistake.


Knowing This Makes My Life Better

In December, just before Christmas, in fact, Publishers Marketplace published in one of its Publishers Lunch mailings a guide to their deal categories. For those who don't know, Publishers Marketplace publishes brief announcements of book sales to publishing houses and describes the kind of deal the authors received, which the publishers may provide using this handy guide:

  • Nice deal $1-$49,000
  • Very nice deal $50,000-$99,000
  • Good deal $100,000-$250,000  
  • Significant deal $251,000-$499,000
  • Major deal $500,000 and up
My first thought was that back in the day when my books were selling to a publisher I got blah-blah deals! Hurray! Wish I'd known!

My second thought was Eh, I got blah-blah deals.

And my third thought was, Oh, this knowledge is going to totally change how I read Publishers Marketplace deals.

Yes, I am, as always, behind in reading the mailings I get from Publishers Marketplace

Friday, February 16, 2024

Friday Done List February 16

A distracting week: A. A snowstorm that involved a lot of snow shoveling; B. An hour and a half of snowshoeing the next day, because if there is snow in the south of New England, you have to drop everything and take advantage of it before it's gone; C. Two trips out to shop for a washer and dryer. D. Prepping for a family dinner. 


Goal 1. Adult short stories, essays, and humor.

  • Still working on that short story. It's getting long. What if I have trouble finding someone to publish it? Which, you know, could happen. Hmm. Can you self-publish e-short stories? I could look into that.
  • Submitted two pieces of flash fiction, just this morning. 
  • Did some reading in preparation for starting an essay.
Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to agents.
  • Submitted to two agents.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Three blog posts, counting this one. Did some promotion of one of them.
  • Will be reposting one of them at my Goodreads blog.
  • Began some updating of the website.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Some Annotated Reading February 15

This week I finished reading The Manor House Governess by C.A. Castle. It was terrific to stumble upon this after just having finished reading The Jane Austen Society, because while The Jane Austen Society was about people obsessed with Jane Austen, The Manor House Governess is about a character obsessed with Jane Eyre. In addition, Bron, the main character, is living a twenty-first century, gender-fluid Jane Eyre life. I enjoy reading "versions" of Jane Eyre, and this one is well worth the read for people like me. Though I couldn't connect all the characters and situations in Manor House to characters and situations to Jane Eyre. Which means either that I wasn't being just to Manor House and reading it for itself or I need to read Jane Eyre again. I've only read it twice, and it's been a while. Both The Jane Austen Society and The Manor House Governess made me feel I should be reading the related classics over and over again the way the characters in these books do. But how when there are so many Austen- and Eyre-related work to read?

Remember The Madwoman in the Attic Answers Letters Pleading for Her Advice that I read this week? That's what I mean by needing time for Jane Eyre-related work. 

Jon Stewart Knows "The Daily Show" Won't Save Democracy by Inkoo Kang in The New Yorker includes something interesting I'd never heard of before--claptor comedy. It's comedy that isn't used to make people laugh but to make them applaud, because you've appealed to their beliefs. So now I know that. 

A humor piece for you: Ways I Imagined I Might Die When I Was A Kid by Anthony DeThomas in Points in Case.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Getting Serious About Humor: The Value of Repetition

The Madwoman in the Attic Answers Letters Pleading for Her Advice by S. M. Strand at Jane Austen's Wastebasket is a neat piece that I think illustrates how repetition can be used with humor. Do you have to be familiar with Jane Eyre to get the joke here? Because this is Jane Eyre humor we're talking about here, in case you don't know. Take my word for it. It is.

However, I don't think you need to know that because the joke is that the Madwoman in the Attic gives the same, very inappropriate, advice to everyone who writes to her. Additionally, the author doesn't just peter off at the end like a great many Saturday Night Live sketches. She ends her piece with a variation on the, very inappropriate, advice she's been repeating over and over.

Ah, there may be a lesson for me here. Repetition may be just what a humor piece I started earlier this year needs. 

I am so glad I wrote this blog post instead of going out to shovel my driveway for the third time in six hours.

Friday, February 09, 2024

Friday Done List February 9

The really good news this week? I am well ahead of my Goodreads reading goal for this year. Also, I have this feeling that I really need to clean my desk and office again, which become chaotic so fast. If I can get that done before Monday, next week should be calming, at the very least.

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, and Humor

  • I am still working on that short story I started two weeks ago, meaning my objective for doing a rough draft a week is way, way out the door. I considered putting this short story aside, thinking I needed more information of some kind to do the mid-section. Then I came up with another idea. So I'll keep plugging on it.
  • Reread the rough draft of the humor piece I did in well under a week back in January.

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to Agents

  • I made four submissions this week.
  • I have some more agents lined up to submit to. 
  • I should probably be making these submissions in some kind of logical way, whereby I send out 7 submissions, then wait for the rejections, then make 7 more submissions. But I find it slow work researching agents, and I started this before Christmas. And it's also slow work to customize submissions for each agent. Plus my experience with agent submissions is that it really doesn't matter.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Did four blog posts this week, including this one.
  • Did one blog post in support of another writer, then promoted it on X. That went well. Seriously.
  • Updated my Goodreads blog for the first time in a year.
  • Came up with an idea for reposting one of my weekly OC posts on the Goodreads blog, for what that will be worth.
  • Interacted with some readers on Medium.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Some Annotated Reading February 8

What Is The Difference Between Mystery, Suspense, and Thriller Novels?  by Tika Viteri at Book Riot. I read this, because I'm submitting a mystery novel to agents who often say they are interested in mysteries and thrillers or mysteries and suspense or mysteries, thrillers, and suspense. I found another article on the subject that went on and on--and on. Here's what I'm claiming I've learned: In a thriller, the main character is in danger. In suspense, readers know things the main character does not. Neither of these apply to the book I'm subbing. I'm going to wing it, and say it's a mystery.

I finished The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner earlier this week. It's set in a small English village after World War II with a group of people who are huge Jane Austen fans. They read her work over and over again. The book turns into a bit of a Jane Austen novel. Probably more than a bit, but it's been a while since I've read P&P, and I'm not sure which of the other books I've read and which I've seen BBC productions of. Reading The Jane Austen Society made me feel that if I had all the time in the world and wasn't always overwhelmed with so many books to read, I'd reread Jane Austen like these people did. I think of books like The Jane Austen Society as being grown-up books, which I like to read every now and then, and I do enjoy a story set in an English village.

Some Short Things I Also Enjoyed

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Getting Serious About Humor: Humor With Mystery

I must have placed Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson on my library list, because I saw it described as "witty." Being a mystery, it is fiction. My legion of readers all know that I like to analyze witty fiction.

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is similar to other humorous fiction I've read in that it is wry and clever but not what you'd call a knee-slapper. But I could see what contributed to the humor, which makes it a first with the humorous fiction I've, shall we say, studied.

Voice, tone, understatement, and structure all contribute to the humor of this book. You could say the narrator's inner life contributes to the humor. You could say there's some incongruity here, too, because how could someone like Ernest (the narrator) exist in that family? The structure, as I've already said, supports/contributes to the humor, and maybe you could argue there's something incongruitous going on with the structure. Ernest tells us he's a reliable narrator, that he will tell the truth. And he does, but in his time and not at the times the readers' expect him to. So we assume we know things, find out later we didn't, and are amused and amazed.

I did figure out some of the ending material with this book, but in a satisfying way. Which I will not get into, since I don't want to ruin anyone's reading pleasure.

This is a book that both people who like mysteries and people who don't care one way or the other should be able to enjoy.

Monday, February 05, 2024

Once Again, Sometimes Social Media Works

 I don't actually know Jolene Gutierrez, but she is a Facebook friend. Recently she posted that her book, Too Much! An Overwhelming Day (illustrated by Angel Chang) had reached a couple of milestones...200 reviews at Goodreads and100 at Amazon. Well, we have a little person in our family who can suffer from overwhelm, and probably a couple of big people, too. So I immediately got a copy on one of the ebook apps I use and gave it a look. 

It's a lovely book, without an overwhelming amount of text. Illustrations work fantastically. Speaking as someone who has a family member with some sensory issues and not others, I can easily imagine reading this with him and picking and choosing things. I may have a chance to do so next weekend.

Social Media Keeps Working

Now I've given Too Much! some attention here. I'll review it at Goodreads, and I'll do an X...whatever we call what we do at promote this blog post, which will then promote this book. And that will provide some opportunities for more people to discover Too Much!

Friday, February 02, 2024

Friday Done List February 2

Yeah, the week got away from me.

 Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • Still haven't finished the rough draft of the short story I was working on last week, though I continued to work on it. This is a short story rather than a humor piece or flash fiction. I may have been unrealistic about finishing something every week, since short stories require more of me than I remembered. It was one of my December starts, so I can feel good about that at least. 
  • Had a humor piece, Useful French Phrases For Madame Keith's World Languages Class, published at Slackjaw
  • Did some reading of short-form work, mainly humor.
  • Took a workshop on the MICE Quotient, which was for novels rather than short stories, but maybe it could work. The workshop got a little murky. I'll go over this shorter explanation when I have the time. 
  • Received news that a piece of flash fiction I'd submitted to a contest didn't make it to the list of finalists.
Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to Agents
  • Made two more submissions for a total of three. Received two rejections the same morning. They are coming in fast and furious folks..
  • Found more agents to submit to. Eliminated some agents as inappropriate.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Spent some time promoting the humor piece at Slackjaw. Emailing friends and family, posting at Facebook, posting at X, writing a blog post. And how beneficial was that? Hmm.
  • Made four blog posts this week.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Some Annotated Reading February 1

I have a new reading project! I saw something on X relating to poet laureates, and one thought led to another, and I began a Poet Laureate reading project. Because who remembers poet laureates from the past? I don't. Or has even heard of them? I haven't. But they were somebody once and deserve to be read. So I'm going to.

First off, the exact title since 1986 has been Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. From 1937 to 1985 the title was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. But I'm going to lump them altogether as poet laureates

And the first one was Joseph Auslander

Is This The Lark! is my favorite of the Auslander poems I've read. The others, I must say, were lost on me. But this one! It ends with "To think that I should hear and know/The song that Shelley heard, and Shakespeare, long ago!"

Other reading: