Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pitches, Bitches

I have new and improved pitches to share with y'all. My good friend John helped me to un-fuck what I was working with.

For the short story collection, now re-re-christened with it's orignal title, "Men in Strange Arrangements":

Dear ______________,
MEN IN STRANGE ARRANGEMENTS is a collection of thirteen fiction short stories about the odd circumstances boys and men have to deal with, and the consequences if they fail.
Tom is a clean-cut honors student – and a pyromaniac. He has an awakening: fire doesn’t destroy – it only converts energy to a new form. He’s eager to share his epiphany with his best friend Bill, even if it takes a Molotov cocktail.
Nick is a bullied middle-school student, eager to fight back, but the best he can do is correct the spelling when his worst tormentor Kyle writes, “Nick M. sucks cok”. Nick is shocked to later find common ground with Kyle, amid a famous catastrophe.
Trey is a college student in the midst of court-appointed anger management counseling, following a bar fight that left a bouncer’s jaw detached. His treatment starts with a writing assignment: talk about your most functional relationship and why it works. For Trey, that means discussing his best friend, Jared, who Trey had to all but drag out of the closet. Trey is surprised when his analysis puts him at odds with the unwritten rules of hetero manhood.
These are tales of men in strange arrangements. The collection is 45,000 words and three of the stories have been previously published. “Divine Hand” was a top ten finalist in the 2012 Saints and Sinners fiction competition and was published in the anthology. “The Camp Seminole Wiener Wall” is a current nominee for Sundress Press’s “Best of the Net 2012” award. Thanks for your time and consideration.
-James Russell    
I feel much better about my publishing prospects in 2013 with a pitch like that. Here's the one for "Jesse Rules".

Dear ____________,
Fifteen-year-old Jesse Amos is going to rule the world. That way he won’t have to worry about what people think anymore – not his grade-crazed mom, not his sex-obsessed peers. Ruling will allow him to focus on what really matters: winning the Holy Cross student council election, getting a Metallica-worthy gig for his grunge cover band, Colostomy Grab Bag, and putting more time in at church, to bury all those awkward feelings he’s been having for Tony, his guitarist.
One problem: his friends and band mates aren’t as easy to control as Samus Aran in “Metroid 3” or Baraka in “Mortal Kombat”. When controlling his feelings proves equally frustrating, Jesse realizes that in order to rule the world, you have to first shock and captivate the masses, and nothing gets attention like murder.
JESSE RULES is an 83,000-word trangressive novel, my debut. Thanks for your time and consideration.
-James Russell
In other news, this blog has passed the thousand-view mark, which Celebutants can fart out in a heartbeat, but for a noob like me, it's something.

In other news, "The Camp Seminole Wiener Wall" is still up for Sundress Press's best of the net 2012 award and "Mountainview" is in the 2013 Saints and Sinners contest. Meanwhile, I just passed the 60,000-word mark on "Rise of the Paramancers", the first Fantasy novel in a four-part series, "War of the Twin Gods".

Happy New Year everyone. My quest to get books on the shelves and e-shelves resumes in 2013.


Monday, December 17, 2012

If We're Serious...


Nothing about the writing dream this week, it’s all about a necessary, post-Newtown conversation.
If we’re serious about preventing the next school shooting, here are some thoughts:
Let’s talk about reasonable gun control. We should be able to talk about this without hysterical N.R.A. reactions. I can’t think of a reason to make a handgun with fifteen-bullet clips except to go on a rampage like this one. If killers have to pause to reload, that can mean escape for a would-be victim. And I don’t see the need for hunters to have such a high ammo capacity. If you need fifteen bullets to kill one deer, maybe don’t hunt.
Also, can we have a rational discussion about bringing back the Brady Bill, which even conservative messiah Ronald Reagan supported? I don’t think that law violated the second amendment, which always gets paraphrased poorly. The “well-regulated militia” part is regularly and purposefully omitted. Plus, our Constitution was written in the age of muskets, when massacres like this were literally impossible. There was a reason our colonial ancestors didn’t shoot until they saw the whites in their target’s eyes. They weren’t trying to sound hardcore. Reloading involved two doses of gunpowder, an iron ball, and a packing rod. Reloading was a bitch.
Some may argue a high-capacity gun would come in handy during a home invasion, but most burglaries are committed while the homeowners are away, and most burglars don’t work in packs. It’s time to go back to more primitive weapons for hunting and home protection.
Let’s get serious about mental health care. Health care is a human right. Mental health is a part of that. (We don’t know the exact mental illness the shooter had yet, but it seems like a fair assumption.) Health care is not a product or a privilege. Medicare for all should be our long-term national goal, but that also means we can’t bitch when our taxes go up. Either these services are worth it, or they aren’t. We have to stop expecting F.E.M.A., Social Security, Medicare, AND low taxes. If we want these services, we need to pay for them. Better mental health care for every American could prevent school shootings.
Let’s fund Art, Drama, Music, and Gifted and Talented programs. I’ve seen some disturbing student art, but I look at each piece like an act of violence that didn’t happen. The lost boys who commit these crimes all had needs that weren’t met – the same needs as their peers. They need to feel like they’re a part of something. They need success in some endeavor. The Columbine shooters were un-athletic non-scholars. They needed to learn to make pottery or play bass drum or act. For young people who don’t have much success in a traditional classroom setting or in a gym, the arts are a way to see school as something other than torture. We need to fund our schools properly and, again, not bitch about the taxes. We invest in our youth, or we watch them grow desperate, and sometimes, violent.
Let’s lead by a non-violent example. Almost all of these shooters are young men. Young men have excellent radars for hypocrisy. They notice the contradiction when we as a society preach non-violence, and then treat state-sanctioned violence as a normal way of being. They notice the sixty-year trend of undeclared wars: Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq again. The baby boomers protested the first two of these “interventions”, demanding an end to the unnecessary violence. That generation responded like it should’ve. But then, over time, we grew numb. War became routine. War became Wednesday, just something that happens at a regular interval. These angry young men notice such trends and respond accordingly.
Let’s erase the killers from our history. I won’t even look at the name of this shooter. Why do we reward these people with so much posthumous attention? It sends a message to the next damaged soul looking to leave a mark in the easiest possible way – you will be remembered. It may be na├»ve in the digital age, but if there was a law stating that their names are not to be spoken or written, nor their pictures ever shown, it could be possible. It would take agreement from prominent websites to remove comments that mentioned the killers by name. If we had that, we could condemn these shooters to oblivion. This would send a clear message to the next potential killers: you will not die a media darling. You will be forgotten.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I hope this conversation is possible. There’s nothing wrong with discussing gun control. Health care is a human right, not a privilege or a product, and mental health is part of that right. War was never supposed to become the normal state of affairs. Remember the victims and erase the villains. If we’re serious about reacting to this tragedy, we can have these conversations, we can come to conclusions about what must be done, and we can pressure our representatives to act accordingly. Justice begins with dialogue. 
In that spirit, leave a comment.
-James Russell

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A New Direction

Haven't blogged lately with good reason - not much to discuss. I'm still collecting rejections on JESSE RULES but I'm only up to F in the Writer's Market so there's loads of room for hope. One thing I'm thinking - this might not be an ideal debut piece. It's tough to say to a publisher, "Hi, my name is...and here's my grunge-era story of a homocidal closeted Catholic School student. Wait! Where are you going?"

It won't stop me, just saying. I'm going to try to rename the short story collection and push that as my intro to the world. Then maybe Jesse can be the "if you liked that, I have a novel" thing.

I'm also thinking, time to take the ol' blog in a new direction.

Rather than just me talking about my career, this should be a discussion forum. I always liked stories and tried to write stories that would get important discussions underway. Maybe this can be the place where fun discussions start. Maybe we can all get our nerd on, together.

Not circle-jerking over vintage action figures or anything like that, just a good olde nerd debate. You know how the Bond 50th anniversary got everyone talking about which Bond was best? (Goldfinger or Thunderball, talk amongst ya'selves...) Let's do something like that. Lot's of comments from you and less of my yammering.

So here's a first conversation starter: What do you want from the next Game of Thrones book? We know it's called THE WINDS OF WINTER and George R.R. Martin is working at his snail's pace according to his Rolling Stone interview earlier this year. I'm not asking about when you want it. I'm asking what you want out of the plot?

I'll start with what I want. (That's always the point of this type of nerd question, no?) I want all of northern Westeros gone. I want the White Walkers to go on the destructive tear that was hinted at in the FIRST SCENE OF THE FIRST BOOK. I want the ballsy execution of Stannis, both Boltons, and everyone else north of King's Landing. I'm hoping that's what all the snow around Winterfell was about - good foreshadowing.

I want to fall back in love with this series. My love started when Martin had the balls to chop Ned Stark's head off. I want that same sense of "any character could die at any time" and "there are thousands of angles and agendas here, what am I missing?" as I read.

Oh, Melisandre and Bran's crew can survive the Walkers' swath of destruction since they have pre-established magical abilities and stuff.

But Jon Snow really has to be dead, otherwise I feel manipulated about the phrasing at the end of the last book. And don't bring him back as Ghost's left nut or anything.

The death of half of Westeros and Tyrion joining forces with Daenerys (misspelled, I think). That's all. I actually don't care if I'm not reading it until the summer of 2016. Just bring back the danger, the unpredictablity.

So this is where we're headed, blog-wise. Updates on my career mixed with discussion-starters for other video game freaks, bibliophiles, and writers. Here are the discussion questions again:

-What do you want from THE WINDS OF WINTER, plot-wise?
-While we're at it, what should I re-name my short story collection? It's all stories with an element of school survival, plus the pain of puberty, plus a gay twinge. The current title is STRANGE ARRANGEMENTS but that hasn't led to any bites. I'm thinking NOTEBOOK REVELATIONS but I'm not sold.

Let me know your thoughts.
-James Russell