Contacting Rosemary

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Nothing Wrong With Flying Monkeys But There's More

Got to admit that watching Jake 2.0 turn into a flying monkey on ONCE made my Sunday night. For those obsessed with the Oz series (this would be a large pack of my friends),  this isn't Disney's first foray into Oz.

They've been diddling about for decades with various versions, including the much underrated Return to Oz, one of the few post-1939 movies or theatrical adaptations to break out of the MGM mold and really delve into the later books of the Oz series. 

Books? I always hear people say when I mention the plural.  Yes, there were 40 "official" books published in the Oz series between 1900 and 1963, all of which added significantly wonderful and delightfully weird critters to Oz and surrounding kingdoms. This was one of the longest running and highly successful fantasy series for children of all time. Long before the 1939 MGM musical, there were dozens of silent movies and stage adaptations inspired by Oz.

Lately, reinterpretations of Oz story have been dominated by the steampunk sensibilities of Wicked, which draws heavily on the green make-up worn by Margaret Hamilton in the MGM movie. But if anyone bothered to go back and read the original books, they'd find that flying monkeys and green-faced witches aren't the only interesting characters in Oz and there's a vein of fantastical gold for writers.

Personally, I'd love to see the folks in the Enchanted Forest wander into Princess Langwidere's cabinet of changing heads or match wits with Gnome King. Run into the dreadful Mombi. Or sink below a lake with Queen Coo-ee-oh.

Still, you can't go wrong with flying monkeys. Let's hope more of the avian chimps show up and inspire some readers to check out their true origins as well as all the additional creatures of Oz.

Wizard of Oz and Friends details the "canon" of Oz books published in the early 20th century including how to identify first editions.  It's the latest in the Reader's Checklist series for those interested in expanding their collections.

Why Write What You Know Works For Me

A recent email round robin discussion about an upcoming book project had several authors proposing using Seattle as a backdrop for superhero fantastical adventures.  I loved the idea.

Green Arrow once battled on top of our Metro buses -- and I'm sorry that the current Arrow doesn't have Ollie running Sherwood Florist here. Several TV shows filmed in Vancouver, BC, claimed that their supernatural shennigans took place in the shadow of the Space Needle or even on its roof. My friend Phoebe's Mudflat and Sunspinner series are set in local neighborhoods.  And there's a lot more if you go looking.

But since several of the authors on the recent email lived outside the Northwest, I felt compelled to tell them why Seattle seems a natural for magical mystic/superhero center. Our police department already has protocols on the books on how to deal with costumed crusaders. Our recent super-polite version of rioting while disguised in blue-and-green shows our heroic potential or at least our lawful good tendencies when confronted by crosswalks.

Just last week, we discovered mammoth beasties underground.Which inspired a local preschool to hang out the sign "Woolly Be My Valentine."

In short, there's always a bunch of story ideas to found around here. Maybe that's why there are so many writers hogging seats at my favorite coffee shop. Maybe that's why my stories, even those set in times and places far from here, never quite lose that Seattle quirkiness.

How Do You See Your Hero?

As a writer, I have a very clear vision in my head of how my heroes and heroines look. Which is not always necessarily what shows up on the cover of the book. Or how a reader describes one of my characters to me.

That's okay with me. I like drawing a picture with words that others fill free to color in.

Perhaps it is because I'm book collector too. I know that people's visions of heroes change with generations. A favorite example is John Carter of Mars. For me, he was first that dude on the cover of the Ace paperbacks that I discovered in my aunt's basement. Then I found those Science Fiction Book Club editions with Frank Frazetta's view of the hero. But as I've collected both older and new editions over the years, I found many different versions of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John and his more famous Tarzan.

You can see several different artistic interpretations of John Carter and Tarzan on my Pinterest Board -- as well as a picture of one actor that I'd love to see in a ERB movie. Also you'll find a few books in my collection featured on the cover of John Carter, Tarzan, and Friends at  Enjoy! 

Journey to the world of The Awakened

Out just in time for the holidays, The Awakened collects a number of fantasy authors to tackle the question of "what would you do if you woke with special powers one day?" In this world, which also is being developed into a role-playing game, that may mean being able to talk to the animals...or at least one particular animal.

Hal Greenberg created the world, sent out the maps, and recruited a great crew of authors to create new tales with tails.

As a child who read every single one of the Doctor Dolittle books (and loved the movie, because who wouldn't want to travel in a Giant Pink Snail?), I sent a very quick "yes" via pigeon post ... or possibly email ... to this invitation.

As I've mentioned earlier, my tale "Birdie" drew its inspiration from the wildlife that I see on a regular basis: the birds that make their home in the big city. Adventures can happen anywhere, even on rooftops. Enjoy!

Don't tell people that their time is worthless

Before I became a published author and even after, I worked as a journalist, a publicist, a publisher, and a bookstore manager.

Which means that I've been pitched by other authors for a variety of marketing requests:  set up a signing in a bookstore, write an article, provide them with posts on a large social media network that I managed, or other similar promotions for new titles.

All of these pitches invariably started with "This won't cost you anything."

I would respond, nicely, "Well, it always costs staff time, mine or someone else's at [insert current company of employment here] at the very least."

Most of the time, the response was:  "Exactly. It's free for you and will help me sell more books, which are really, really good by the way. If I sell [x amount], then I will [publicize your website, donate to your cause, pay you something]."

Because I like authors and I like books, I would try this gentle response: "So you're asking me [and my company] to provide you with marketing for your books in return for a future [payment, donation, goodwill].  Instead of a promise that you'll maybe do something in the future, are you willing to sign a contract stating that you will [provide publicity, bring x number of people in the store, write an article to our specifications, spend your time on this]?"

At this point the author tells me how much their time is worth so they can't be expected to do any work before the event as well as other reasons that they can't sign an actual contract that would hold them to fulfilling any promise made.

To which my final suggestion has evolved into "Well, send me a press release.  I'll try to find a place to publish it."  I will too. It might just be a tweet on my personal account or it might go into something larger. It's as much as I can do with my "free" time. A few follow up but lots never do.

Now I should emphasize that these conversations always take place with strangers. People who don't know me at all but feel confident in telling me that my time is not worth as much as their time.  They may be right (about their time being more valuable because they are writing the one true book that will solve all problems everywhere) ... but I have found over the years that telling somebody that they are worthless is not a great way to get them to do you a favor.

If you're calling to pitch a bookstore, a blogger, or anyone else, try the pitch on yourself and friends first.  Ask if it seems like you're demanding a service or requesting a favor (there's a difference).  See if you can show how you can help the bookstore, the blogger, or other achieve their goals (which may not be selling your books) by partnering with you.  It helps if you demonstrate some knowledge of what they do as well as talk up what you have done.

Write, publish, have fun with your books, be successful. That is my wish for all authors. Hope these  tips help.


Falling in love at the Seattle Antiquarian Bookfair

Once a year, the Seattle Antiquarian Bookfair rolls into town and my credit card starts to smoke in anticipation.

Luckily, I run into so many friends in the aisles that my shopping time is limited by chatter about books ... the kind where you really do want to stroke the covers and turn the pages slowly. The grand, beautifully illustrated volumes of the early 20th century are available from many wonderful dealers. It's a bit like being let into Ali Baba's cave. 

Every year, I find one or two special volumes that do have to go home with me. This year it was An Argosy of Fables, a very large and heavy book profusely illustrated by Paul Bransom and published in 1921.

My excuse for this one is that these fables will eventually find themselves rewritten into new fantasies and fantastic adventures. After all, who wouldn't be inspired by this trio?