icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

MATT'S OCCASIONAL WRITING BLOG

New Anthology Coming Out this Friday…

Not your typical court proceedings...

Something of a first for me, I was thrilled to have a short story accepted into a themed anthology. The title says it all. Available this Friday on Amazon, Raconteur Press has put together nine short stories (including an historical fantasy by yours truly) around the theme of a court proceeding and a total buffoon named Andrew Spurgle. 

 

This should be a hoot. Hope you enjoy the anthology as much as I enjoyed writing my small contribution to it.

Be the first to comment

Review: The Enlightenment by Ritchie Robertson

Five Stars

The Enlightenment has been written on, and thought about, and talked over, and lauded (and, lately, pilloried) since, well, since it began. So why another book about this subject, and why one that's over nine hundred pages long?

 

Because Ritchie Robertson's magnum opus stands apart. This book is like a grand mountain range. Sweeping, vast, intricate, in places difficult--it requires stamina to fully explore it. But its work well worth doing. From the simple thesis that the Enlightenment was, in truth, a collection of disparate Enlightenments spanning several lands and times, Robertson is a patient and incredibly erudite guide who leads the reader through one of the most profound points of human history. This is a timely study--and much needed in these times.

 

Highly recommended.

 

Be the first to comment

Review: The Haunted Mansion

If you like the ride, you'll like the movie

I'll confess that, by and large, I don't much care for the Disney World amusement park. Never have. Too hot, too crowded, too expensive, and the rides and attractions never did much for me ... with one major exception. The Haunted Mansion. I could spend all day on that ride. With the pre-ride creepy show where the lights suddenly go out, and the scary organ music as you ride along a conveyor through a cobwebbed mansion, and the green, ghostly apparitions popping up everywhere you turn. I love it. Sure, the effects are a little dated now, but that's what makes it awesome. It's hokum and horror, blended to perfection.

 

Well, I'm pleased to say that Disney's new Haunted Mansion movie hits that vibe with pitch perfection. The underlying plot line is utterly ridiculous. Ben, a skeptical astrophysicist is down-and-out, leading ghost tours in New Orleans. But when a priest (we're never told if he's Catholic or Episcopalian), Father Kent, barges into Ben's home, Ben is thrust into a circle of people who find themselves haunted--perpetually--by a house chocked full of ghosts. The house's owner is a recently relocated single mother doctor, Gabbie, who, along with her nine-year-old son, Travis, are trying desperately to figure out what it is these ghosts want (other than to constantly scare them). For it seems that anyone who crosses the threshold of their mansion is doomed to be haunted, at all times, no matter where they flee to.

 

The circle of threshold-crossing, ghost-plagued people expands as the movie goes on to include Harriet the psychic and a completely preposterous Danny DeVito playing a professor of local history. As the story unfolds, we learn of the house's past, a secret, supernatural plot, and a whole heap of character backstory, all of which sort of, kind of coheres into an articulable plot. There's just enough of a story to justify a movie. And the actors play their roles just seriously enough to make that story work without losing sight of the fact that this is a fun movie.

 

It's fun from start to finish.  

 

The scares are plentiful and carefully crafted to hit the precise level of creepy corniness that makes the Haunted Mansion ride such a delight. Go into the movie with the same level of expectation you'd have going into the ride and you won't be disappointed.

 

Be the first to comment

Quote of the Day

"To survive, you must tell stories."


― Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before

Be the first to comment

Clubs and Communities

So dorky it was cool...

When I was about 12, I shelled out around five bucks to join a club. It was the only club I'd ever staked my own cash on. And it was so worth it.

 

I'm referring to the now-defunct Otherworlds Club of the now-long-since-shuttered Walden Books. Walden Books was a chain bookstore that had its heyday back in the 80's when shopping malls were still in their halcyon commercial glory. The bookstores were small, no more than 3 or 4 aisles, and usually located near one of the big corner anchors. It was pretty standard fare for what you'd see in a big box bookstore--everything broken down by genre, register near the front, signage for new releases and best sellers--only on a much smaller scale. Which, in hindsight, meant its days were surely going to be numbered. 

 

One of the things that made Walden Books special was that it devoted a larger-than-average proportion of its space to fantasy and sci-fi books and role playing games. They really leaned into the genre; and dorky kids, such as yours truly, rewarded them by being devoted customers. What really set Walden Books apart, though, was how they went out of their way to make us feel like a community. For about five dollars (I can't remember the exact number, but it was enough, in 1980's dollars to hurt just a little bit for a kid living on a pittance of an allowance and lawn mowing money), you could become a member of Walden Books' Otherworlds Club. This got you a sweet membership card (example above) and a 10-15% discount on any fantasy, science fiction, or role playing game you bought from the store. It also got you a monthly (?) subscription to their "Xignals" newsletters, Walden Books answer to Dragon Magazine. The letter was green-tint, black, and white, as I recall, and would include recent book reviews, short story contests, announcements, and the like. I remember actually reading through them. But what I remember most was how cool it was to be a part of a group that shared the same interests as me.

 

Back then, in the dark ages before the internet, finding communities of common quirky interests was a lot harder than it is today. Which perhaps made it feel all the more special. 

 

Did Walden Books make money off of selling these memberships? Who knows? (Though I suspect between the discounts they were giving, and the production and postage of the newsletters, and the administrative costs of tracking memberships, probably not). What it did, however, was create a sense of community. And that's pretty cool.

 

I've been thinking about the notion of community in reading and writing lately. I've been trying to get a little more active in writing groups, both with the Authors Guild and one of my publishers--while I've also by trying to engage more with readers. What I've been struck with is that, as much as writing is mostly a lonely endeavor and reading a completely solitary one, writers and readers do enjoy the times when they can come together as a community. Whether it's talking about the latest book, or which writer in a genre is better, or if the movie or the book version of a story is superior, or just spending some time together in friendship and fellowship, readers and writers can, and should, hang out together from time to time. That can be in a small group, or in a convention, or online--whatever the form, it can be a really enriching experience.  

 

So if you're a writer, aspiring writer, reader, or gamer, make sure you're reaching out to others who share those interests. They're out there. And you don't even have to get a membership card to find them (although those can be cool, too).

 

Thanks for stopping by the blog.

 

- Matt

Be the first to comment

Quote of the Day

"Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories."


― Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

Be the first to comment

Authors Guild Social Event (July 19)

July 19 at Book + Bottle

A "last call" reminder. If you're in the Tampa Bay area, please join the Authors Guild Tampa Bay Chapter on Wednesday, July 19, for an evening of wine and socializing. Nonmember writers who may be interested in joining the Guild are more than welcome. This is a social get-to-know-you event with very little business; so it should be a lot of fun. 

 

Date & Time: July 19, 2023, 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.

 

Location: BOOK + BOTTLE, 17 Sixth Street North, St. Petersburg, FL 33701

 

https://www.bookandbottlestpete.com/

 

Hope to see you there! 

 

- Matt

Be the first to comment

The Bane of Back Cover Blurbs

The hardest part of writing

Back cover blurbs.

 

That age-old staple of book-making where a clever piece of copy splayed on a book's back cover in an eye-catching font gives the novel a little extra marketing umph. It's meant to close the deal for would-be-book-buyers who might not be sold on the cover, but don't have the time to skim the first few pages. A quick, spicy summary. All the shopper has to do is flip the book over and give ten seconds of his or her time. No opening any stiff book bindings, no page-turning, no finger-licking. 

 

They say the back cover blurb goes back to the earliest days of the printing press, when one of Gutenberg's more entrepreneurial apprentices, Johanne Blurb, realized they'd sell a lot more Bibles if they spruced up those boring, black vellum covers and gave the readers a little taste of the contents. Not on the front, that would be sacrilege. But, ah, what about the back? Herr Blurb cobbled together some spectacularly sizzling copy, and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Blurbing (as it's now known) is actually one of the hardest parts of writing. Taking a 70, 80, 230-thousand word story and distilling it down to a hundred words ain't easy. Downright impossible when those words are supposed to also excite a total stranger to buy your book. I've had to write my own blurbs and have had the good fortune of having them written for me. I much prefer the latter. But even if you're lucky enough to have an editor write your back cover blurbs an author still has to master this arcane art because any time you pitch a new project to a publisher or an agent, you're going to have to "blurb" it. There's no getting away from it.

 

So how do you do it? I'm no expert, but I think it comes down to answering three questions:

 

(1) Who is this guy or gal?

 

(2) What happened to him or her?

 

(3) Why should you care?

 

Question one concerns your protaganist. Who is this main character you're asking a reader to spend the next few days with? What are they like, where are they from, what do they do? The second question revolves around the central conflict. Novels are made of conflict (novels that don't have conflict are "studies," or "scenes," or "really, really bad"). What's the conflict this character is facing and what are the stakes? Finally, the third question: why should you care. Answering this last question is the secret sauce of good blurbing. It combines genre-signaling (you'll care that the Zenzikkilian pirates of the Gomblot Galaxy have attacked the character's home world if you like space opera), characterization (this poor guy running for his life from those attacking pirate space ships sounds like a pretty cool dude), and a sense of urgency (will he save his planet, the galaxy, the universe? I want to know!). 

 

Great blurbing is an art. One I definitely need to keep working on.

 

- Matt

Be the first to comment

BOOK + BOTTLE SOCIAL, JULY 19

Look forward to seeing you there!

Just a reminder if you're in the Tampa Bay area, please join the Authors Guild Tampa Bay Chapter on Wednesday, July 19, for an evening of wine and socializing. Nonmember writers who may be interested in joining the Guild are more than welcome. This is a social get-to-know-you event with very little business; so it should be a lot of fun. 

 

Date & Time: July 19, 2023, 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.

 

Location: BOOK + BOTTLE, 17 Sixth Street North, St. Petersburg, FL 33701

 

https://www.bookandbottlestpete.com/

 

Hope to see you there! 

 

- Matt

Be the first to comment