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Posts Tagged ‘Patti Kinlock’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Jack L. Chalker was a prolific and talented writer who passed away much too young. One quote from him which I like is: “If you’ve got what it takes, you’ll make it. If you don’t, Shakespeare couldn’t help you.”

Now, he never tells you exactly “what it takes,” but judging from Jack and other successful authors I know, it’s lots of things. A few that come to mind: practicing your craft, persisting against seemingly impossible odds, getting back up after rejection slips knock you down, a boundless imagination, a little luck, a pinch of talent, and faithful fans who buy your books, come to hear you read, and tell their friends about your writing.

Thanks to photographer, friend, and active Baltimore Science Fiction Society member, Patti Kinlock, for sharing this wonderful photo of Jack.

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Vonnie2 The end of May is always a busy time for me. Why? Balticon, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s annual convention, is held on the Memorial Day weekend: http://balticon.org For more than 20 years, I’ve helped with the Poetry Workshop with the encouragement of my friend and this year’s con chair, Patti Kinlock. (Of course years ago, Balticon was held on the Easter weekend – and I must say I’m grateful it’s in May nowadays).

Many writers don’t bother to attend conventions and conferences, but I find it’s a good idea to interact not only with readers (and fans), but with other writers. Sometimes you just chat and listen to what others have to say about writing, publishing, and editing on the various panels, but often writers have the opportunity to network. In my case, several invitations to submit to anthologies have come about because I attended a con.

I encourage writers (and would-be writers) to attend conventions and conferences. Soak up as much information as you can and take the time to network. I encourage readers to attend cons where authors and illustrators are talking about their craft, autographing their books, and happily meeting their fans. Maybe one of your favorites will be there, or perhaps you’ll discover a new author whose books are just up your alley!

As for me, this Saturday and Sunday, I’ll be at Balticon in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I’ll be reading with 2 other Young Adult authors at 10AM on Saturday, May 25th and autographing at 5 PM. Plus, I should be at the Broad Universe table www.broaduniverse.org for most of Saturday if you’re interested in chatting or purchasing one of my books. On Sunday, May 26th I’ll be participating in the Broad Universe Reading at 9 AM, leading the Poetry Workshop at 12 noon, attending the Poetry Awards at 1:50 PM, and spending an hour with Cold Moon Press at 8 PM. So please stop by and say “Hi!”

For those who can’t attend Balticon, here are links to 2 guest blogs by me on the Young Adult Cross-Over Market: http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-young-adultcross-over-market-by.html and The Wisewoman Archetype: http://sandywriterblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/guest-post-from-vonnie-winslow-crist-the-wisewoman-archetype/ I hope you enjoy the guest posts.

Skean copy I’ll be doing more guest posts and interviews this spring and summer as I promote The Enchanted Skean. And I’ll be hoping for good reviews from readers, bloggers, and reviewers alike. As for cons – I’m planning on participating in Hallowread: www.hallowread.blogspot.com , Darkover: www.darkovercon.org and maybe one more. Have a Happy Memorial Day Weekend and keep on reading!

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The following is the second part of a 1999 interview I did with science fiction writer, Jack L. Chalker. Click here to read Part I. (Photo of Jack Chalker courtesy of Patti Kinlock, chair of Balticon).

A Conversation with Jack L. Chalker (part II)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVWC: Earlier you mentioned the controversy surrounding The Soul Rider Saga from the mid-eighties (Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Empire of Flux and Anchor, Masters of Flux and Anchor, The Birth of Flux and Anchor, and Children of Flux and Anchor) and just now you mentioned naming characters in a manner that avoids lawsuits. Do you think fear of lawsuits and controversy are having an impact on today’s writers?

JLC: Well, if I really worried about that I wouldn’t have had so much fun with the Well World names. It’s crass, but publishers have insurance for this sort of thing and that’s in my contract as well. I have had some problems with legal staffs, but it was almost always because of commentary, rather than within the story itself. The only serious problems I had were with my autobiographical comments in my story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic, where the insurance company simply wouldn’t take the risk. There are other outlets, though, and other ways to say the same things.

Fear of lawsuits doesn’t affect many writers but it does affect editors and publishers through which we have to deal to get our work out to the public. This is nothing new.

The Soul Rider controversy wasn’t a legal problem, it was simply that people who see things in absolutes and do not understand what this work is about yelled because they believed it was politically incorrect. It may be, but not for what they said. My biggest critics on it, though, have all proudly admitted that they never read it. Unfortunately, at least one of these people is an influential editor for one of the dwindling number of New York publishers and he has kept a lot of writers’ work from going further based on this sort of PC lens. I have had more problems with this sort than with any lawyer.

VWC: I know from checking your website [no longer available], that you’re not convinced that e-books are profitable or that readers typically discover new authors via e-books. I happen to agree with you that many ‘people don’t read novels off screen, and they don’t have a tendency to shell out real money for books when they don’t retain anything physical for their money.’ [Remember this is 1999, before the Kindles, Nooks, etc. were mainstream.] So what do you think is the future of the science fiction/ fantasy publishing industry?

JLC: Unfortunately, I’m very pessimistic not just about science fiction, but about fiction books in general in the future. Readership overall is graying and down. The only areas of increase are tie-ins to movies and TV shows. The new distributors are MBA types who focus only on quick sell-through, maximize quick profits and invest nothing at all in the future or in the long term. These in turn drive the publishers, who can’t get books out on the shelves and racks that the distributors won’t take.

There’s a lot of excitement about Amazon.com and the like, but these are not online book stores, they are book SERVICES. That is, if you know what you want, it’s a quick and easy one stop source. But what about all the people who haven’t seen my books (or anybody you want to name as author). How do the new readers find you? Traditional reviewing sources are always inbred and tend not to have wide influence in any case, and online hype is actually paid for. If my publisher doesn’t pay the fee, Amazon.com doesn’t put those ‘If you like Farmer you’ll like Chalker’ type things up.

New and building readership comes from impulse buying, and that’s where nothing can beat the vanishing bookstore. The distributors weren’t interested in Priam’s Lens, so Barnes and Noble only bought 1,250 copies for their entire chain. Amazon’s selling a bunch, but they’re to my following, not to new people. You can see that I’m very discouraged about the future of books in general. I used to tell new writers not to quit their day jobs until they spent at least three years making more off writing than the job. Now, I tell them don’t quit unless you can retire with no book income.

VWC: Novels are like children, it’s hard to pick a favorite – but nonetheless, do you have a novel of saga that holds a slightly more cherished place in your heart? And is there a book or series that you wish you could change?

JLC: Well, Web of the Chozen was a joke done to win a bet and isn’t one of my personal favorites. It also came out due to some complexities in the wrong order; everybody who’d ignored me had to pay attention when Midnight at the Well of Souls became a spontaneous bestseller; they looked at my next book, which was supposed to be Identity Matrix. As it happened, though, Chozen came out next, and many reviewers and critics never read me again.

Favorite? The original Midnight at the Well of Souls, because it made my career and because it holds up as well now as when it was written. I’m uneven on the series that developed out of it; some are good books, but none, I think, approach the original stand-alone. Soul Rider was my most complex series, one many people could see only as a wild adventure, but that’s okay. Although I’d like to tweak the final book of the five, otherwise it’s pretty much the way I would do it again. The tweaks would be just to make clearer the sources of the wacky ideologies that emerged in the books.

My all-time favorite of all the things I’ve written is a novelette; Dance Band on the Titanic. I think it accomplished more of what I wanted to do in writing than anything else I’ve written.

VWC: Lastly, what advice do you have for the beginning writer who wants to be a novelist?

JLC: Go ahead and write. And, in fact, you can still get published even under the pessimistic conditions I outlined. But unless that first book’s a bestseller and turned into a Major Motion Picture, think of it as something you do for yourself and for posterity, not for a living.

VWC: Thanks for taking the time to talk about writing. I’ve just seen Priam’s Lens on the bookshelves and I’ll be looking for Currents of the Well of Souls and Ghost of the Well of Souls in the near future. Your productivity amazes me!

JLC: Well, I think Currents and its second half are as good as I’ve done in the Well universe in many years (and absolutely no characters or races from the past books, period!) But as to my productivity – I spent a year and a half when they took my books but didn’t publish them. During that time, there were rumors that I was gravely ill, and after Priam appeared many people said, ‘Gee, I thought he was dead, it’s been so long since we saw anything new from him!’ So one person’s productivity…

VWC: Hmm, almost sixty books, not counting re-issues in twenty-five years. I’d say most writers dream of being so prolific. As to rumors of your death, after a similar experience, Mark Twain said, ‘Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.’ Judging from the list of titles on your website that are planned, but not yet completed, we’ll be seeing quite a few more Jack Chalker books as we move into the next millennium.”

End Note: There were additional books written and published after the interview, but not enough for his fans. Jack died on February 11, 2005. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society‘s annual Maryland Young Writers Contest was renamed The Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest in 2006, so his presence is still felt at Balticon and in BSFS. And the first SF organization Jack belonged to, the Washington Science Fiction Association, is still going strong, too. As for me – I am a better writer for having known him. – Vonnie

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 Today, before I begin working on my November novel, YA Urban Fantasy, I glance out the window. I expect the arrival of this year’s Gunpowder Review any day now, and I don’t want to miss the delivery person. I pick up last year’s issue with a water lily photo on the front cover from writer, photographer, and 2012 Balticon chair, Patti Kinlock. I flip through the pages, pausing every now and again to glance at a favorite piece of work.

As the editor, I know every word between these covers. And a year after the 2010 issue appeared, every error that I didn’t catch when proof-reading jumps off the page at me. I sigh, and hope that our wonderful designer, Katie, or I have spotted and corrected all errors in the 2011 issue. But there are gremlins hiding everywhere – so mistakes do happen.

 I turn The Gunpowder Review 2010 face down, determined to write another 2,000 words on my November novel today. But can’t help admiring one last time, the fabulous artwork & photos from Mary Lou Lanci, Mary Stevens, Wendy Stevens, and Kristin Stephens Crist that grace the magazine’s back cover. As impatient as I am for the 2011 Review to arrive, I’m also a little sad to see this fine collection of women’s work put on the “back issue” shelf.

Now (if the gremlins will stay away from my computer), back to the rats, pigeons, and goblins of my YA Urban Fantasy.  Now, where was I? Oh, yes: “A hand grabbed Roni from behind as she walked past an alley on her way from Casa Rosa to the subway entrance…”

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Balticon 2011 was a wonderful experience. On Friday, the publisher of The Greener Forest, Cold Moon Press, had a publisher’s presentation where Editor Katie did a fabulous job: http://coldmoonpress.com Cold Moon Press had so many cupcakes, cookies, and other goodies prepared for attendees, that I took the extras to the Broad Universe Reading.

Broad Universe is an organization that supports women who write (and illustrate) science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Gail Z. Martin, D. Renee Bagby, Danielle Ackley McPhail, Roberta Rogow, Jean Marie Ward, Phoebe Wray & I each read an excerpt from our writing. It was a wonderful hour-long reading. For more information about BU: http://broaduniverse.org

On Saturday, I shared an early morning booksigning time with novelist Leona Wisoker, and invited her to read with me during my afternoon reading slot. (She kindly agreed, and shared a few pages of her 2nd novel, Guardians of the Desert). We followed friends, Katie Hartlove & Michelle D. Sonnier. Great fun & a nice audience. I also participated in an Artists & Publishers Small Press Round Table that was relaxed & informative. A group of us went to dinner afterwards, including Balticon regulars writers Grig “Punkie” Larson & Jhada “Rogue” Addams.

Sunday began early with a panel on heroes, a presentation by Dark Quest Books, and I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Robin L. Sullivan & the authors of Ridan Publishing. They’re quite an impressive group. Sunday was also the 2-hour Poetry Workshop. We made the attendees write, write, write – and invited the women in attendence to submit something to The Gunpowder Review http://gunpowderpenwomen.wordpress.com

On Monday, I managed to attend 2 more presentations that featured folks from Ridan Publishing. Robin was sick, but her authors did a great job. Look for me to apply some of the lessons I learned from them in the future. Also, I was the moderator for a panel on Cardboard Characters. And I got a few compliments on the maze I’d drawn for The BSFAN, the con’s program book.

Balticon was a fabulous place to network. It was friendly, there was an exchange of opportunities, and people were supportive. I got to meet fellow writers, readers & fans, and a few editors & publishers. I bought books by others, and folks bought a few of my books. And that’s what good networking is all about. Watch online for info on next year’s con chaired by Patti Kinlock: http://balticon.org

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