LJ likes Across the Universe

765c49a49cb8d51cc3809a0551be8e12_originalJumping on the bandwagon, Library Journal, too, likes Fantastic Books’ forthcoming anthology Across the Universe (edited by Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn). In a starred review, LJ offers its verdict: “This anthology will be mostly of interest to Beatles fans, but even non-fans will find stories here that will move and surprise them.” The review specifically calls out stories by Patrick Barb, Charles Barouch, Pat Cadigan, and Lawrence Watt-Evans, and says “the absolute standout is ‘Through a Glass Onion’ by Christian H. Smith.”

Read the full review at this link.

PW likes Across the Universe

765c49a49cb8d51cc3809a0551be8e12_originalThe first review of Fantastic Books’ upcoming anthology — Across the Universe, edited by Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn — is out. Publishers Weekly likes it!

The review reads, in part “Ranging from trippy fantasy to hard science fiction and zombie apocalypse mash-up, the stories in this anthology send the members of the Beatles on wild adventures through alternate timelines and universes.… Beatles aficionados and fantasy fans will enjoy this affectionate, speculative homage.”

The review specifically calls out stories by Allen M. Steele, ,Sally Wiener Grotta, Gregory Frost, and David M. Gerrold.

Read the full review at this link.

Convention Weekend: Philcon 2019

philcon_logoThis weekend is Philcon, another science fiction convention (and my last of the calendar year), in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

As always, I’ll be at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room for most of the weekend (scheduled to be open 4-7pm on Friday, 10am-6pm on Saturday, and 10am-3pm on Sunday).

I’ve also got two special events on my schedule (both on Saturday). At 5pm, there will be a special reading from the forthcoming Fantastic Books anthology Across the Universe, in Executive Suite 623. And then, at 9pm, we’ll be launching The Double Bounty by Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano, in Executive Suite 823. Please make sure that, if you’re at Philcon, you join us for both.

Beyond those, there will be the usual flock of panels. Mine look to be:

Friday at 8pm in Plaza III: “Will My Publisher Expect Me To Go On Tour?” with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Marc Histand, Anna Kashina, Jon McGoran, and David Walton.

Saturday at 1pm in Plaza III: “How to Establish Your Own Imprint” with Maria Arnt, Jeffrey A. Carver, Marc Histand, and Ann Stolinsky.

Saturday at 3pm in Plaza IV: “Building Your Own Anthology” with Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gordon Linzner, Darrell Schweitzer, and Jim Stratton.

Hope to see lots of you there!

A weekend in Chicago

I went to Chicago this past weekend for Chicago Area Mensa’s HalloweeM Regional Gathering. It was wonderful. Reminded me very much of the RGs I used to go to: one big hospitality suite, too much wonderful food, lots of great conversations and friends (brand new and long-term), interesting oddball events.

I was also on stage a few times: first, speaking on “A Centennial of Asimov.” Similar to the talk I gave at the Annual Gathering, except this time I wasn’t sharing the stage, and talked the whole hour. I had 80 or 100 people in the audience, and they reacted the ways I hoped at the appropriate times. The only one who left early was my sister, to set up the table of my books for sale.

My second talk was “Publishing and Getting Paid in the Era of DIY and Kickstarter.” A much smaller audience, but it was 9:30 Saturday morning. The audience seemed interested, and there were a lot of questions, so I guess that one went well, too. Later that day, I participated in the AMC round-table, talking about Mensa business.

As usual, I almost completely forgot I had a camera on my cell phone, so I didn’t take any pictures during those more-than-72-hours in the hotel. Besides, I was too busy having too much fun.

But Sunday afternoon, Jon and Karen Gruebele invited me to visit with them and eat lunch, and Jon took me on a great walking tour of Chicago. I’ve been to Chicago several times before, but other than the hotel and convention space, the only things I really saw were the planetarium and wandering the streets at like 2 in the morning. Being out and about while the sun was up was a wonderful way to end the weekend. And for that part of the trip, I remembered my camera.

Next weekend is Philcon. The next RG on my schedule is New Hampshire’s in February.

Stop taking away my punctuation!

I’m proofing galleys for an essay which is set to appear in a general interest magazine. I have a disagreement with the editor (which, ultimately, he will win, because he’s the editor and I’m just the writer). But in this case, I’m not sure he’s right.

My main point of contention (I’ve already ceded the point on abbreviating some of the months, and using digits for the number ten in a conversational piece) is the use (or his avoidance) of commas. I’m bringing them to you, the general editing/writing/reading public, for your opinions (not that anything is going to change).

The first sentence is an introduction to the piece. It reads “[the subject of this essay] was also an on-and-off member of [the organization] starting in 1962 and [the organization]’s Honorary Vice President from 1974 to 1989.” I contend that a comma after 1962 is appropriate, in part because there are way too many words in that sentence to not take a breath in the middle. He says “I’m unclear why there would be a comma here. You place commas after only full dates, and there’s no independent clause.”

The other sentence concerns my meeting the person being discussed. Describing our introduction, I wrote “We laughed and were friends for the next three years.” I want a comma after the word laughed, because we did not laugh for the next three years. He says “Two dependent clauses/compound predicate so no comma is needed.”

In response, I said:

I tend to punctuate based on more lyrical or poetic rules. Specifically, commas go where I pause for breath when reading aloud. So in the introductory paragraph, there is always a pause after “1962”. And that pause comes about because it’s two different thoughts.

In the other sentence, the comma belongs because we didn’t laugh for three years. We laughed, and then were friends for three years. I’ve elided the word “then,” but not the pause.

I understand the concept of a house style. In this case, however, I don’t like the way it looks, abbreviating some of the months’ names when writing out dates, but not others, and not when there’s no date number present. It’s not a choice I would make. Also, my house style is to spell out numbers up to twenty, and then use digits beyond that (although in dialogue and dialogue-ish situations, I’ll spell out as much as I can, because people speak words, not digits). But this isn’t my house, it’s yours. So I’m just urging, but I’ll knuckle under.

He responded:

I’m not convinced we should ignore correct punctuation and house style here.

We’re not employing some arbitrary rules. We’re applying accepted rules of English, which is what readers of the magazine expect. They don’t see a pause; they see an error then question why the magazine would make a mistake. Then they’ll write me about it, and I’ll reply, “No, it’s not an error; sure, technically, a comma doesn’t need to be there, but the author wanted you to pause.” Then they’ll reply, “Oh, OK, cool. I don’t really care about punctuation anyway.” Kidding, they won’t say that. That’s not to say writers can’t take occasional liberties with punctuation, only that we want to avoid placing exceptions in a way that it looks like we’re committing an error. Our readers don’t like errors.

Likewise, we’re not applying some personal house style of mine; we’re using AP Style, which should be pretty familiar to readers because that’s the style the magazine has used for longer than I’ve been editor, and it’s the style used by countless other periodicals.

Sorry, I don’t think we should make these changes.

Obviously, nothing I can say (and nothing you suggest) will change his mind to insert those “missing” commas. But I’m interested in the discussion. AP Style, to my thinking, is written mostly for news, and like computerized grammar-check programs, does an adequate job also for business writing. But for fiction, it is not—I contend—the be-all and end-all authority. And essays, to my mind, fall somewhere in between news and fiction. (Also, I was raised with the Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk & White, rather than AP.)

The death of punctuation, however, seems to me a problem against which to rail. Punctuation is not an annoyance, not a mistake. Punctuation is there to convey the author’s idea of those words on the page. We use words to communicate ideas, and we also use pauses to help clarify that communication (see, for example, the lacuna, and ignore those who only communicate via text message and tweet). Are commas dying? Are we comma-users fighting the last battle to retain our punctuation marks? Is this another point that my family will soon be calling an amusing quirk? Or can we pause, just long enough, to retain our critically important diacritical marks? (And yes, I know that’s a misuse of the word “diacritical”.)

Mensa Appearances

I’ll be at back-to-back Mensa Regional Gatherings this weekend and next, and hope to see many of you at one (both?) of them.

This weekend is Boston Mensa’s Wicked Good in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. On Saturday, I’ll be speaking about “Publishing and Getting Paid in the Era of DIY and Kickstarter.” I’ll also be leading the RVC chat (Mensa business discussion).

Next weekend is Chicago Area Mensa’s HalloweeM (which I’ve never been to before). On Friday at 1pm, I’ll be talking about “A Centennial of Asimov” (celebrating Isaac Asimov’s life and career). On Saturday (at 9:30 in the morning), I’ll again be giving the publishing and Kickstarter talk. Then, at 1pm on Saturday, I’ll be participating in a round table discussion about American Mensa’s national organization.

After last weekend’s Capclave, these will be my second and third straight weekends on the road. I’ll follow them up with Philcon the following weekend (of which, more anon).

Convention Weekend: Capclave 2019

capclave_wordI’ve probably mentioned that I’ll be in Rockville, Maryland, this weekend for Capclave, but I don’t think I listed my schedule. After leaving home absurdly early Friday morning, I’ll be there, in the dealers’ room at the Fantastic Books table (open on Friday from 3 to 6pm, Saturday 10am-6pm, and Sunday 10am-2pm).

My panel assignments look to be:

Friday at 8pm in the Eisenhower room: “Before the Beginning” with Sunny Moraine, Jamie Todd Rubin, Ted Weber, and Allen L. Wold

Friday at 11pm in the Washington Theater room: The triumphal return of “The Eye of Argon” with Keith DeCandido, Hildy Silverman, and Michael A. Ventrella. With a multimedia presentation.

Saturday at 2pm in the Washington Theater: “Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make” with Larry Hodges, Dina Leacock, Jamie Todd Rubin, and Sherri Cook Woosley

Saturday at 5pm in the Monroe room: “Is There Still a Self-publishing Stigma?” with Gordon Linzner, Shahid Mahmud, Alison McBain, and Will McIntosh

Sunday at 12n in the Eisenhower room: “Dealing with Rejection” with Leah Cypess, Dina Leacock, and Karlo Yeager Rodriguez

Hope to see many of you there!

Visiting Open Studios; could writers do it, too?

Today, I wandered through a bunch of artists’ studios during Red Hook Open Studios 2019. A lot of creative people doing some interesting work.

My problem is the same as every time I’m looking at art, and especially at its means of creation: it looks like so much fun, I want to do that! And that! And try that! But… time, space, money… And then I’d want to do a little of each, not repeat the same thing over and over. And of course I’d want everyone walking in to my studio to go “Oooh! I need that!”

I have no idea how all these artists can afford to do what they do. They can’t all be making a living at this, can they? But the intellectual fertility of these old warehouses, subdivided into multiple little studios all haphazardly built in next to each other is so appealing.

And then the writer part of my brain said, “Hmm, wouldn’t this be interesting if, instead of visual artists, these were all writers? Imagine walking in to each writer’s studio to see what he’s working on: pile of manuscript pages strewn across a table; red, blue, black, green ink nearly obscuring the neat type-written or computer-printed pages; computer screen open on a word processing program, or quill pen lying atop a lined yellow legal pad; tufts of torn-out hair on the floor, drops of blood sweat onto the screen.… And for the more successful writers, books hanging on the walls, maybe one standing on an easel.…

Anyway, if you’re interested in visiting the real artists, the Open Studios is on tomorrow, too.

Dropping the Price on The Biggest Bounty

1515410153Presaging the publication of its sequel, The Double Bounty, on November 12, Fantastic Books has slashed the price of the ebook versions of The Biggest Bounty!

In this madcap science fictional adventure by Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano, Fiore is the (chemically enhanced) muscle; Zeus is the (super-genius) brains. Together, they’re out to become the greatest interstellar bounty hunters ever. But along the path to fame and fortune, they’ll accumulate contacts, partners, and enemies without even meaning to. It’s all part of the job, when you’re chasing the biggest bounty ever, and picking up the strangest milks in the galaxy.

So grab your copy of The Biggest Bounty today, at the low, low price of only 99 cents! After you read it, you’ll be waiting with bated breath for The Double Bounty, publishing in trade paperback on November 12, 2019 ($14.99 trade paperback, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-5154-2400-0). That same day, we’ll release The Double Bounty as an ebook, for a limited time at $2.99.

Reviews of The Biggest Bounty:

“Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano are mad geniuses.… The Biggest Bounty is… something of a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Grand Theft Auto, with a good helping of crazy humor thrown in. The best comparison I can think of is some of the wackier works of Ron Goulart or Christopher Moore.… If you’re in the mood for a madcap ride through the galaxy’s seamy underworld, this is the book for you.” —Analog Science Fiction and Fact

“Like two mad scientists sharing a single beautiful mind, Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano continue the legacy of comedic giants like Abbott and Costello… Martin and Lewis… Wilder and Pryor… Cagney and Lacey.… In The Biggest Bounty, Pisano and Koscienski deliver a tongue-in-cheek-de force that will take you to new worlds and leave you either clawing out your eyes or coming back for more. Either way, you surely won’t forget this magical mystery tour of farce and ingenuity.” —Jon Sprunk, author of The Shadow Saga series

Constitution Day

1515423973Today is Constitution Day, the 232nd anniversary of the day that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution, setting the guidelines for our still-current form of government.

In honor of this seldom-recognized holiday, Gray Rabbit Publications is thrilled to announce the publication of Michael A. Ventrella’s new book, How to Argue the Constitution with a Conservative (lavishly illustrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Darrin Bell).

The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. It established our national government and fundamental laws, and guaranteed basic rights for the citizens. When it was written, it acted like a colossal merger, uniting a group of states with different interests, laws, and cultures. It superseded our first national government, the Articles of Confederation, under which the states acted together only for specific purposes, but more often disagreed. The Constitution united the whole, setting the stage for a country of freedom and cooperation. Beginning with the words “We the People…”, the Constitution provided the world with a new way of thinking about people.

Building on that foundation, Michael Ventrella helps a modern audience understand what the Constitution is (and what it isn’t), and shows us how it can relate to our daily lives. With Darrin Bell’s timely illustrations, the book offers both an honest and a snarky view of political debate in the modern world. If you’re going to discuss a topic, it helps to know what you’re talking about first.

For more on the Constitution, check out the United States Constitution Center, which is marking the day with special events and free admission.

Gray Rabbit Publications actually published the book two weeks ago, but today it is widely available, ready for reading. See this page.