Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bring On the Ghouls! Pictured (a horror short by David Sandberg)

'Tis the season to get scared. Praise to David F. Sandberg. Let's follow this guy and see to it that he makes his mark...and money...in the film industry.

video


See more of his work at http://vimeo.com/102116605

Gusto Dave

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Love Sydney! Goodbye to the Islands.

We're delighted to once again welcome Karen Albright Lin to Chiseled in Rock for her final installment of Teaching through the Islands!

Karen consults and edits for published and yet-to-be published writers of fiction, nonfiction, and book proposals. She writes in a number of genres and conducts writing workshops in various venues, including on cruise ships.

If you missed her previous blogs regarding Teaching through the Islands, you might enjoy reading them before this installment, as she first shared her preparations in anticipation of teaching classes while on board her latest cruise, discussed some of the downsides to teaching on a cruise, introduced us to new tablemates and the private beach on Moorea, how she was bit in Bora Bora, and then she described her first class while teaching en route to Fiji.  Most recently she shared: Second Lecture enRoute to Fiji: A Great Storyto Tell, Fiji but the Wrong Port!(I won’t mention it, but I will), On the Way to New Caledonia, and Don't Judge an Island by its Dogs.

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Karen Albright Lin:

We’d started in Tahiti and had cruised through Polynesia and Melanesia.  I’d taught 6 classes in three different venues, one per sea day: Writing Your Life, Have a Great Story to Tell?, Writing Short Stories and Flash, Writing Nonfiction, Screenwriting, and What Ghostwriters Do.  The cruise was coming to a close.  We were ready to face the chaos and unknowns of getting off the ship.  As a “guest entertainer,” I’d taught on Celebrity Cruise lines twice (through the Baltic ending in Southampton and down the east coast of Central America ending in Ft. Lauderdale) and I was always treated like a passenger when leaving. 




For this Princess cruise, ending in Australia, Wen was considered a passenger and I was considered crew.  He was scheduled to debark early morning and I after all the passengers had left.  That wouldn’t make much sense for us.  So we asked to leave later together.

Despite our debarkation time, too early for comfort, Wen and I emerged from our crew cave to stand on the moonlit deck as we glided into Sydney Harbour past its famed Opera House. 


Sadly it wasn’t lit.  We were told it was to save on energy.  This seemed a shame considering its shelled-elegance is probably the one building most associated with Australia.  I’m glad N.Y. stills lights up the statue of liberty. 


After watching the sun rise, we waited for the chance to trade in my crew badge for my passport.  Wen and I toured the underbelly world of the ship.  Cold metal floors, unadorned walls, institutional.  An anthill of activity between kitchens and hospital (where I know at least one passenger died), maintenance, safety office and crew admin, it was a different world.  Colder yet less stuffy and less put-on.  A 1,000-strong otherworld.  A place where crew members got paid, we heard, according to the going wages in their own home countries.  These “basement” inhabitants had their own ATMs, their own Internet kiosks, their own less-fancy buffet line.

When the activities office opened, I checked out, received my passport, then we walked off the ship.   I was surprised that nobody asked to see my Maritime Visa or any of my employee paperwork.  They’d made such a big deal of my work status before I left home. 

Because I’d put all our x-rayed luggage in the crew cart the night before, labeled as mine, they had been taken off the ship first and sat along the wall, quick to pick up.  We stepped out of the security building and to the taxi line ready to explore Sydney

Sydney, where there was no cover charge to choose a dance room of Pop or R&B in an upscale outdoor bar. 


Where Asians were abundant and stylishly dressed people sat in parks reading.  Where they were good-day-mate-polite, and made passion fruit ice cream.


Where goods were expensive, “no worries” meant you’re welcome, “the lot” meant all of it, and “pissing” is what we call rain.  The aborigines were short, beaming beautiful, and sported delightful tightly curled hair. 


Australia, where kangaroo meat is tough and stringy but emu is tender and tasty.  Sydney with the purposeful energy of N.Y. City but the relaxed and friendly nature of San Francisco.  It wasn’t overcrowded, yet it was teaming with activity: free history and modern museums,


a botanical garden in which tagged ibises foraged under multi-rooted fig trees,


the governor’s palatial residence, 


and the old town flanked by the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the world’s largest steel arch bridge.  I’m not a big city girl, but I could live in Sydney

It wasn’t quite the end of our trip; we still had Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef to discover.  But the “work” part of my trip, teaching on the Sea Princess, was now molding itself in my memory, my bucket list one strand of the world shorter. 


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Karen, thank you so much for sharing what you learned and experienced while teaching through the islands!  You can learn more about Karen on her website.





Wednesday, September 17, 2014

That’s Amore..Jennifer Morey That Is


 

 

Ah, romance. Fall is about to cool the air and I don’t know about you, but I find it breath-taking to fall in love in autumn. So, what better topic to kick off the month in which the leaves will start blazing than with talk of romance novels and the infatuation with writing? Jennifer Morey is an authority on both. An accomplished author with Harlequin, she gets to do what she loves for a living and rightly so.

Her latest novel One Secret Night releases this month. It just so happens that the main character’s name is…wait for it… Autumn.

After stumbling into the cross fire of a black ops mission, Autumn Ivy is saved by a dark sexy hero and swept away for a night to remember. Weeks later, she discovers her secret love is soon to be a secret daddy, but what’s more shocking is when Autumn tracks her mystery man right into the path of a killer.

CIR: Thanks for joining us on the Rock, Jennifer. I have to start with congratulations on your recent move to full-time author, a gig all of us writers dream of. It came with a lot of hard work I’m sure. Did you have a strategy/business plan starting out?

JM: Oh, heavens, no. The Universe had to give me a shove, as in, out the door. It’s never an easy decision to quit a dependable income source. And I’m a lousy decision maker if it isn’t fiction. I was a corporate junky for the aerospace industry. My job dealt with fascinating and challenging tasks, but never gave me chocolates and roses the way writing does. So when the demand for my position waned, it was a natural transition.

I’ve gone from having to struggle to fit in writing to having all day every day to write. There was really no strategy other than making an impulsive decision to give it a shot. I was fortunate enough to have enough saved to get me by until I can write a few stories and get them sold. So the only plan that applies here is to jump off the ship and swim for land. I don’t plan on drowning before I get there.

CIR: Were there any rejections that you felt were ‘crushing’ and how did you get over it? (I recently weathered one that still has me sucking wind, LOL).

JM: I could wallpaper my office two or three times with all of the rejection letters I’ve received. I learned early on not to let them bother me. Sure, it’s disappointing when you get them, especially when you think of all the time you spent on the proposal, but sometimes they come with comments, and sometimes those comments are constructive. It’s best to find the positive in them if you can. And always strive to write better. So, I guess the way I get over them is I get right back to work and try to write better.

CIR: One of my favorite romance authors is Jennifer Crusie. She started with the big H then moved on to epic yarns, some that I think could be romantic comedies on the screen. Do you have aspirations to write longer pieces?

JM: Yes. I have a single title that I have almost finished. It is a paranormal murder mystery that I plan to sell in the near future. Want to know what it’s about? A woman is murdered by a serial killer in the late 1800s and begins to haunt an agnostic when another serial killer surfaces in current time. I’ve had such fun with this story. Now to find the right editor who agrees!
 
CIR: You are clearly very thankful to be in your occupation. What was your former career and was it all that bad?

JM: No, not bad at all. In fact, I liked my job. I was an export control manager for a satellite imaging company. Spacecraft are considered munitions by our government and listed on the United States Munitions List just like armored combat ground vehicles or night vision equipment. Anything listed on the USML is controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). All exports relating to them, including any technology, has to be licensed by the Department of State. Those licenses come with a host of other compliance requirements that have to be managed. That was my job. It was satisfying to me and quite challenging given the complicated nature of the regulations, so most of the time I didn’t mind doing it. What I did mind was the corporate politics. That, and the most important thing of all, the time it took away from writing.  

CIR: With Rock interviews, we pride ourselves in asking bizarre questions. What actor/star never before published do you think would write an interesting fiction manuscript?

JM: Hmmm...

Kathy Bates. She’s funny, serious, and has a respectable reputation. She’s a class act.

CIR: Thanks, Jennifer. We wish you continued success with your series.
 
Interview conducted by Gusto Dave

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Don’t Judge an Island by its Dogs

We're delighted to again welcome Karen Albright Lin to Chiseled in Rock!

Karen consults and edits for published and yet-to-be published writers of fiction, nonfiction, and book proposals. She writes in a number of genres and conducts writing workshops in various venues, including on cruise ships.

If you missed her previous blogs regarding Teaching through the Islands, you might enjoy reading them before this installment, as she first shared her preparations in anticipation of teaching classes while on board her latest cruise, discussed some of the downsides to teaching on a cruise, introduced us to new tablemates and the private beach on Moorea, how she was bit in Bora Bora, and then she described her first class while teaching en route to Fiji.  Most recently she shared: Second Lecture enRoute to Fiji: A Great Storyto Tell, Fiji but the Wrong Port! (I won’t mention it, but I will), and On the Way to New Caledonia.

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Karen Albright Lin:

Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora had roaming feral mutts, each seemingly related to the other with a hodgepodge of genes, eaters of sidewalk scraps, more like dingoes than dogs, survivors.


American Samoa (like New Caledonia) had purebred, leashed jewels, pride dogs, na├»ve and smiling.  They suggested wealth, but there were two distinct classes on this island.  Simpler-life, brown-skinned locals preferred to keep the tourists far from their special spots—like a waterfall they alluded to but didn’t put on the map.  We shared with locals and tourists a rickety, wood-lined bus up the coast to a map recommendation, Tisa’s Barefoot Bar.  




  

At the edge of the untouched rainforest that covers 90% of the islands, Tisa’s was an outdoor Jimmy Buffet cocoon of weathered wood situated on a rocky cove, a perfect spot for Wen to snorkel while I sat on the overlook deck.  I kept an eye on his snorkel, wrote, watched people, and had a Tisa-invented cocktail.

Tisa was a cross between Diana Ross and Whitney Houston, quite stunning, fluent English.  I paid $11.00 American cash for a small dose of pineapple rum in a mystery mix with no coconut involved. 

Tisa and I chatted.  She was a character worth ten pages of notes.  She had run for mayor unsuccessfully, loved L.A. and was sole proprietor of the bar.  She believed she had a story worth writing, but hadn’t picked up a pen.  I ordered the local beer, in a large bottle and hops-bitter at the end.  My writer-self numbed while I drank, checking and rechecking Wen as he snorkeled farther from our spot.  When I couldn’t see him, my writer imagination went wild with worry.  Wen’s from an island.  But I was born and raised in the Midwest and find the ocean mysterious and somewhat dangerous.  Funny I should end up teaching on cruises.


One of the generic mutts rubbed against a bar patron, nobody’s fool.  Snacks dropped.  I watched it all, felt it all, through writer’s eyes.  Over this trip I filled a spiral notebook.  I also kept maps and the daily reports on where we were and what was offered on the ship.


I closed my eyes against the warm sun and thought back to the American Samoan lecture we attended.  Jill, the destination speaker, was author of children’s and middle grade books about Australian history.  We speakers get discounted access to the internet, and Jill admitted to us that she’d gone online the night before to collect her information and put together her presentation about American Samoa.

Her talk was entitled WHERE BOYS WILL BE GIRLS.  Her lecture paid excessive attention to the fact that transgender or transvestite men are well-accepted in American Samoan Society.  They dance in dresses alongside women.  They are great wives because they are also strong. 

The amount of time Jill spent on this subject told me she either thought it would grab the crowd and keep it in her clutches, that it was the most interesting thing she discovered in her research, or that she was shocked by or obsessed with it.  A lesson to me as a speaker – be aware of how you distribute your time on specific areas of your topic.  Too much on one point can either bore your attendees or make them wonder about your preoccupation.  As when writing fiction, trust your audience.  Assume they get it the first time, don’t over explain.

Attention back on my beer and bill: Tisa tried to charge me a second time for the first cocktail as if I’d be unable to figure it out after that huge beer.  I pointed out her mistake.  It was on her face, trick exposed.  She tucked tail between legs.  Her deception left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, bitterer than the local hops.  Wen surfaced and paid a 5$ fee for snorkeling—a fee not disclosed up front.
 

But it was made worth it by the blue starfish Wen had pulled out long enough to photograph.  We caught another cobbled-together bus back to port, leaving a remarkable tree sculpture, the various dog breeds, and bitter hops behind us.  
 


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Thank you, Karen!  Please join us on September 24, 2014 for "I Love Sydney! Goodbye to the Islands," her final installment in this series.






Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On the Way to New Caledonia – Teaching Through the Islands

We're delighted to again welcome Karen Albright Lin to Chiseled in Rock!

Karen consults and edits for published and yet-to-be published writers of fiction, nonfiction, and book proposals. She writes in a number of genres and conducts writing workshops in various venues, including on cruise ships.

If you missed her previous blogs regarding Teaching through the Islands, you might enjoy reading them before this installment, as she first shared her preparations in anticipation of teaching classes while on board her latest cruise, discussed some of the downsides to teaching on a cruise, introduced us to new tablemates and the private beach on Moorea, how she was bit in Bora Bora, and then she described her first class while teaching en route to Fiji.  Most recently she shared: Second Lecture en Route to Fiji:A Great Story to Tell, and Fiji but the Wrong Port! (I won’t mention it, but I will.)

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For the fourth lecture, I had the pleasure of teaching my student groupies in the Wheelhouse Bar.  I was getting to know some of them by name.  It was only 1:15 in the afternoon and nobody ordered from the bar.  Maybe they wanted to stay sober enough to handle their pens.  Quite a few attendees took notes.  Still, I suspect most were there out of curiosity this time rather than following up on a personal writing plan.  I was teaching about screenwriting and the business.


 My Power Point for this one is particularly fun since I use dramatic movie posters.




Before I left on the cruise, I got the nod to do this from an attorney.  Always be sure you have the rights to use an image or information taken directly from someone else.  I took my attorney correspondence along with me, just in case.

There wasn’t another lecture in the Wheelhouse after mine so I stayed behind for 20 minutes answering questions, and passing out handouts and my business cards.  After I changed out of my jacket and into shorts, Wen and I enjoyed the most beautiful sushi buffet we’d ever seen. 




Wen tried again to play the Western style mahjong and found it very odd – new tiles and a different way of winning and scoring.  He still managed to win twice.  That night’s comedian was a flop; he specialized in fart jokes and playing the harmonica.  It didn’t strike a chord with the crowd.  The ocean continued to rock and roll until we made our way to Noumea, New Caledonia, which brags the second longest barrier reef in the world.

Captains stay out of all decisions about cruise entertainment.  But Captain Perra, from Italy, must have known I was part of the crew for this leg of the trip; he offered a cordial “hi” and a smile when he poked out of his hidey hole across from our crew cabin or when we bumped into him in the crew hall.

From the port we boarded shuttle busses from the gangway heading away from the dock.  New Caledonia is clean and felt a lot like Nice or Cannes.  French signs on the stores reminded me that my French grows rustier over the years. 






Someone suggested we go to duck island marine reserve for snorkeling.  So we took a $15 round trip glass bottom boat out.  It was cold and windy.  I stayed on the beach only steps from an object lesson—a rag-sculpted man with trash on a leash.  

Wen snorkeled and spotted some large grouper despite the murky water.  My mouth watered.  I love grouper!  Locals fished down the beach a few hundred yards.  We weren’t equipped.  And we doubted we’d be allowed to take fish to shore to eat.

Back on board, dinner was smart casual followed by cruise entertainers bringing the British invasion to life in the big theater. 



The nightly delivery of the Princess Patter suggested cruise guests fill out a survey about their time on the ship.  I’d been told by my cruise broker that I’m not allowed to fill one out.  I suppose they worry I’d stuff the box with votes for the writer as numero uno entertainer!  J    In fact, according to my broker, not hearing anything about my “performance” means all went well.  While on board, I rely on the activities director and attendees to let me know how things have gone.  The AV helper had one piece of advice: when there’s an entertainer following me, give him an extra 10 minutes to set up for the next person.  So my lectures were cut down to 45 minutes.  He was then a happy sailor.

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Thank you again, Karen!

Please join us on September 10th for the next installment in this series: Don't Judge an Island by its Dogs.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Conned at a Conference: The Big Wrap Up


Joe Finder, New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference a few years ago, stood right on our party stage and best answered what get’s you published with one word: tenacity.

I end this series with that fact because, as much as I’ve warned you to clench your dollars at seminars, there are nuggets to be found in them. I got to hang with Mr. Finder quite a bit that weekend because I set up a signing for him (which didn’t go so well, but that’s another story) and he told me anything I wanted to know. Originally determined to be a CIA agent, Finder changed his mind because when he went to work for them he found it boring—mostly administrative. He decided to become an author. Some novelists write slews of titles and make tons of contacts to bounce around for years in hopes of striking lighting. Not Finder. Tell me this isn’t tenacious. He wrote one book, gave it to one editor, then proceeded to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite it until the editor accepted it. I don’t remember the amount of revisions exactly but it was well over THIRTY.

My favorite observation from Finder also more to the testament of persistence—and this is paraphrasing—was that aspiring authors go into book stores, look at copies and proclaim, “I can write better than that.” He humbly and comically admitted that they probably do it to his books. Manuscripts need to be clear, yes, but as for so many other subjective metrics that can garner rotten tomatoes one day or praise the next, in the end what gets the contract is stick-to-it-iveness.

From my humble experiences so far, the dude is right—not to take anything away from his prose. A couple of his novels have found their way to the silver screen, after all.

There are lots of ways to be tenacious. Send to agents and presses with open submissions. Use this internet thingy to blog, Facebook, and make contacts (I’ve gotten to know nice agents through Cyber City without having to go anywhere), and yes, conferences can open doors too. Key thing is: tenacity doesn’t have to cost lots of money. Optimize every buck and use your time and hard work to usher your story all the way to print. For heaven’s sake, please don’t get it in your head that if you plop down more greenbacks, especially at conferences, that it will necessarily buy you a faster track.

Gusto

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fiji but the Wrong Port! (I won’t mention it, but I will.)

We're delighted to again welcome Karen Albright Lin to Chiseled in Rock!

Karen consults and edits for published and yet-to-be published writers of fiction, nonfiction, and book proposals. She writes in a number of genres and conducts writing workshops in various venues, including on cruise ships.

If you missed her previous blogs regarding Teaching through the Islands, you might enjoy reading them before this installment, as she first shared her preparations in anticipation of teaching classes while on board her latest cruise, discussed some of the downsides to teaching on a cruise, introduced us to new tablemates and the private beach on Moorea, how she was bit in Bora Bora, and then she described her first class while teaching en route to Fiji. On July 30th she shared: Second Lecture en Route to Fiji: A Great Story to Tell.

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As we headed toward Fiji, I taught Have an Idea for a Nonfiction Book? to a good crowd in a new venue, the Wheelhouse Bar.

I worried, initially, that people would have to wrench their necks to view the PowerPoint, but they were able to settle in and adjust to the nook style room configuration. 


Everyone is an expert at something and the audience agreed.  Participation went up.  People enjoyed sharing their knowledge of history, hands-on expertise, even modern interpretation of Biblical allegory.  I came back to the room satisfied with yet another class that went smoothly in every way.  It was time to strip off my business attire (jacket over laced camisole) and get into my swimsuit to hit the Jacuzzi and have a cocktail with Wen.

I don’t want to seem like a complainer, but damn it, I’m going to bitch and whine about Fiji.  (Like that rhetorical device?  It’s called an APOPHASIS.  See below.)   

We arrived at King’s Wharf, Suva (the capital of Figi), only to discover that we were on the wrong side of the island, super disappointing since it meant we were nowhere near any good snorkeling.  Fiji is supposedly one of the world’s best diving and snorkeling spots.  We’ll never know.  We had to hire a car to go quite a distance from the port just to get to a yucky beach at a resort where we were trapped and had to buy anything we wanted to eat and drink from the overpriced hotel bar.  

We left our backpack near the boardwalk entrance to the beach so we could walk along the shore hand-in-hand in the rain (growl) and make the best of it.  We returned to find our money had been stolen from it!  Not wanting to sound bitter or judgmental or anything, but can’t people be civilized or at least decent?  (APOSHASIS)  Not that we should blame ourselves for someone else’s crime, but we sure needed to take a few smart pills next time we’d hit a beach!  (another APOPHASIS!) 


It was towel-blanket cold.

Luckily we had a little change in another pocket so we were able to drown our sorrows in a shared local beer.   

Heading back, we told our driver/guide what happened, and she said, “Someone will feel bad this afternoon.”  The idea of Karma is alive and well on the islands.

We had agreed to pay for the privately hired car upon arriving back at the ship and … well, we didn’t have the money.  So I stayed on shore as collateral while Wen went on board to fetch more money from our safe.  Meanwhile, I cooled under a canopy, chatting with walnut-dark local women.  One of them, possibly weighing 400 pounds, was oiling down a tourist’s feet.  Warning: here comes another APOPHASIS.   Not trying to be gross or anything, but those feet were the worst kind of athlete’s feet and the recipient was enjoying the rubdown way too much. 

Under the tent we talked about dollars.  American was the best deal for them since the Aussie dollars aren’t quite as strong.  The Fiji dollar is worth even less at .636.  


The vendors and guides were happy to take U.S. dollars from Wen once he returned with the ransom to buy me back.


Our Fiji experience was not what we’d hoped for, but as Wen says, “We can check it off our list.”  


Apophasis - The mention of something you claim you won’t mention--or pretending to deny what it really affirms. (an example from my all-time favorite TV series: "I don't want to say anything bad about another doctor, especially one who's a useless drunk."- Dr. Gregory House in "Acceptance," House, 2005) 

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Thank you, Karen!

I hope you'll join us on August 20th for the next installment: On the Way to New Caledonia!