Searching for Entertainment

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As it becomes increasingly cold outside and I am constantly running out of money due to holiday expenditures, I find myself taking up space on the couch more often than I would like. The result of this is that I powered through 4 seasons of Vikings in less than two weeks. After I got bored with watching tutorial videos on how to braid my hair like a Viking, I was left with nothing to do. This is when I discovered Search Party.

Set in modern day New York City, Search Party is a dark comedy about an ordinary twenty something with a boring job, a vapid set of friends and an unfulfilling romantic life who decides to take an interest in a missing person poster. The title character Dory, played by Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) recognizes the girl in the poster, Chantal Winterbottom, as a nice girl who lived in her dorm, but whom no one seems to remember much about. Dory feels a kinship with Chantal despite not really knowing her and wonders if anyone would in fact care if she were missing. Since she doesn’t have anything else meaningful going on in her own life, Dory takes it upon herself to find this missing woman.

The quest for information on Chantal gives Dory’s life meaning excitement and a direction it had previously been lacking. Of course there are plenty of twists, false leads and clues that don’t turn out to be anything. I won’t say anything about the ending because I don’t want to spoil it. The show is very watchable, the acting is good and the soundtrack is something that I am researching in detail and adding to my Spotify. After watching all 10 episodes I was inspired to go searching for my own mystery to solve. Now I just need a weird group of self-absorbed friends to take this journey with me!

Tennessee Writing Workshop Review

I read a quote somewhere that said the key to happiness was to have a definite goal, and then to do one thing every single day to move toward that goal. Having face to face conversations with two amazing agents at the Tennessee Writing Workshop was a huge step toward my ultimate goal of getting my story told. The query critique from Chuck Sambuchino was invaluable as well.

I chose this conference in part because it was located within driving distance from Atlanta and also because of the price. This conference was less expensive than some of the others I’d looked at before. I emailed my query letter to the conference organizer a few weeks prior to the event and received an edited version back a few days before. This was great timing because an agent ended up asking for the query letter! I decided to dip my toe in the water with “pitching” and signed up for two sessions with Literary Agents.

Pitching

Despite my king size bed with 18 pillows I got no sleep the night before the conference. All I could think about was the fact that I had to deliver pitches to both agents first thing! I had time to pick up my name tag and get right into the line of people standing around waiting to pitch their novels!  As I walked up I was greeted by nervous smiles from other waiting participants. We had time for brief mini pitches to each other and when 9:40 struck we all walked in together to take our seats in front of our respective agents.  It turns out I was much too nervous for no reason! The fact that Victoria Lea was interested in what I had to say and asked engaging questions made it so much easier to talk to her. After I got my first few sentences out without stumbling too horribly, it felt like a natural conversation. After our time was up she requested my full manuscript! My eyes started to water as I stood on shaky legs and got up from her table. I was overcome with relief and gratitude that things had worked out so well.

The success of my first pitch made it easier to give my second. I loved the enthusiasm that Marisa Corvisiero showed for my story. She even asked me to tell her the ending! It was a great conversation and she also made a request for material.

Below I’ve included some tips that helped me get through this process:

  1. Practice! Out loud in your office, with a sympathetic friend in the car driving to the conference, or on the phone with your mom.  Talk about your book to whomever will listen. Every time I was forced to go through it, it got a little easier.
  2. I had a few notecards in case I got stuck. My pitch wasn’t written out word for word on the notecards but I had the highlights written down.
  3. Try not to think of it as a “pitch” but more like a conversation you’re having with someone who has simply asked you, “what are you working on?”
  4. I had 10 minute time slots so we mostly talked about my story but I was asked some questions about my writing background as well. I was asked how long I had been working on my novel and what my goals were for my novel. I did get the opportunity to talk about my other published novel and short story publications.
  5. My last piece of advice comes from Ms. Marisa Corvisiero, Founder and Senior Literary Agent of the Corvisiero Literary Agency.  During the “Writers’ Got Talent” portion of the workshop she reminded everyone not to be nervous because agents are eager to hear our stories and that they need us as much as we need them.
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My face after 2 successful pitch sessions

Everything Else

After pitching was over and I had stopped shaking from nervous excitement, I enjoyed the “Writers’ Got Talent,” portion of the conference, in which Brian Klems selected random novel submissions and read them aloud to the audience. A panel of six agents sat in judgement of the material and raised their hands at the point in which they would naturally stop reading the selection because of something they didn’t like. It was great to hear the agents perspective and get some inside information into their thought process. Most of the mistakes people made were things that could have been avoided with better editing. There were a couple of first pages read that the agents critiqued for being unclear as to the direction of the story. For instance a story that was supposed to be a romance but had absolutely no tension or anything sexy on the first page! So the take away is to make sure that first page is polished or the rest of your story may not even be considered.

My last activity for the day was the afternoon Q&A session with Brian Klems that focused on, “25 Questions You Need Answered Before you Seek an Agent or Self-Publish Your Book.”This was helpful because he had very specific answers to many questions I’ve had but have heard varying opinions about. It was nice to get an industry professional to answer some questions I had about platform, social media and even the querying process!

I don’t think this conference could have gone any better for me. I made some good connections with people who can help me with my career, I learned some valuable information about publishing and as a bonus, a few new twitter followers! It was definitely worth the money and the drive. Thank you, Brian Klems, Chuck Sambuchino, and especially Victoria Lea and Marisa Corvisiero!

 

 

 

 

Book Review “Destruction” By Sharon Bayliss

Destruction-Sharon Bayliss

*OFFICIAL SPOILER ALERT*

I recently purchased Destruction by Sharon Bayliss because I wanted to have an idea of what kind of book her publisher liked. I also liked the cover art. I am a fantasy fan and prefer a much longer story but this book was pleasantly surprising. After finishing it I’m glad that it is the first in a series and I’ve already ordered the second book on Amazon. I can’t wait to spend more time with the “December people.”

Even though this book is about a dark wizard family there are no exotic or fantasy settings and not much magic because most of the characters didn’t know they had magic. The majority of this story takes place inside main protagonist, David Vandergraff’s home in Houston Texas. It’s the story of a struggling marriage and a family in crisis. Most of the problems David faces are things that any normal grown man might have.  There’s the uncertain future due to the failure of his construction business, his guilt over a 12 year old affair that he must now admit to his wife, and the fear that telling the truth will destroy his family. While trying to hang on to her, David must form a relationship with his recently orphaned children who are the result of his affair and whom he’s never met. David now has five teenage children that live under the same roof and one abandoned neighbor child that’s living with him for the foreseeable future.Then you add in the fact that all members of the family are dark wizards.

I enjoyed the Bayliss’s treatment of magic in this story. She explains that each wizard is associated with a particular season and that their associated magic is lighter or darker depending on their season. I also liked her idea of using wizards as protective talismans for other wizards instead of simply having them use charms and the fact that bad things happen if a wizards ties to their talisman is broken. I feel that she has managed to achieve an enormous amount of character development for David and his family in a relatively short amount of time. Though the use of magic wasn’t a big part of this novel, the scenes where it makes an appearance are beautiful and left me feeling just as frustrated as one of David’s children after his wife Amanda forbade magic’s use in the home. I want to see more of what this family can do!

I have two  critiques about the story that don’t come until the end. The first is  when the eldest son Jude, completely changes roles from protector to villain without much warning. There was evidence of his depression in his quitting the football team, drinking too much and breaking up with his girlfriend but nothing to suggest he’d be violent toward others. The author does mention at the beginning of the story that magic is dangerous and she gives several examples of wizards who have gone crazy using it.  I feel that this might be mentioned early on so Jude’s change in attitude will make sense later, but he’s only known about magic for a few weeks. It that doesn’t seem long enough to drive Jude crazy.  I’m sure that the second book will go into further detail about why Jude has changed and like I said earlier, I can’t wait to read it!

My second critique is that the reader never got to see the big dark wizard battle that the entire story seemed to be leading up to! David Vandergraff is about to confront the man who abused his children, might have killed his lover and could very possibly still kill his youngest daughter, but that confrontation doesn’t happen. David doesn’t fight him at all and isn’t even present when the big fight takes place. The reader only gets to hear about it through the David’s daughter Emmy’s retelling of the fight. It’s a huge buildup and then a let down to me. Bayliss does a great job of setting everything up for an epic battle in the desert but it never came. In fact we never even see what this darkest of all dark wizards, Whitman Colter, can do!  I did enjoy the irony of Whitman’s sister having to fight and destroy him and the fact that in doing so, she likely killed herself. However, I would have had more enjoyment from a David and Whitman showdown. II find myself hoping Whitman isn’t dead so we can see him fight David at some point!

 

GAM Show

I’ve been lazy about venturing downtown lately, preferring the comfort of a bar that is closer to home or either not leaving my house at all and drinking wine on my couch in front of the television!  However, the one thing that will definitely motivate me to make the trip is a good show. Either there hasn’t been a show I particularly wanted to see lately, or I didn’t know about it. 

GAM usually only graces the stage once per year on Halloween, at the Jinx, Savannah’s best live music venue.  The band is no longer actively making music together so it is a rare treat to see them on Halloween.  However, this past Saturday at the Jinx,  all the stars were aligned, and GAM performed to the delight of the packed bar.  And it was full! I got there an hour early and every place to sit was already taken.  I staked out a small piece of wall to lean on by the stage and there I stayed all night absorbing the spectacle.

There was an opening band Jewop, that was mildly entertaining, but not enough to distract me from my aching feet small. On any other night I would have probably liked them better, but I just wasn’t in the mood for songs about gonorrhea and babies in dumpsters or whatever nonsense they sang about.   But I guess anyone would have a hard time competing with a band that has been around for 10 years or more and seems to me to be one of the most popular bands in Savannah. 

My expectations for the show were high and when GAM finally came on I forgot about how hot it was or that I had been standing in the same spot for over an hour without being able to move.  I guess this is a sign that I’m getting older, because I likely wouldn’t have thought about things like “being comfortable” at a rock show ten years ago. I have to say that GAM thoroughly delivered as always.  Frontman Keith Kozel had so many costume changes I stopped counting after the third. 

To me he is the very definition of stage presence.  He dances, thrases around on stage in various outfits, with or without props, and frequently jumps down into the crowd to sing to the ladies. You can see that he really enjoys what he’s doing and that translates into an amazing performance.  It is amazing to me that the end of the show was just as good as the beginning.  I just don’t see how he can keep up that kind of energy for so long, sweating his balls off in  a bright red leotard worn over his pants!

You would have to dislike GAM’s music or the stage performance.  It’s almost impossible to stand still during “Speedfish.”  I found myself swaying and bobbing my head without even realizing I was doing it. The only downfall was the tremendous heat of a muggy summer’s night in Savannah, combined with all the writhing bodies packed into a small space. Thank God for the giant water tank.  I sweating so much I couldn’t even get properly buzzed and after awhile I just stopped trying.  Oh well. I needed to drive anyway.

Melting Pot I Love You!

Ladies night bonanza at The Melting Pot is totally worth $22.  I would have paid that much for the chocolate plate alone.  The restaurant is gorgeous and very low-key.  I even forgot that I had to sit in an overgrown high chair instead of a booth.

First the waitress came over and asked if my date and I wanted wine, of course we did!  While we were waffling over wine versus some exotic fruit mojito, the waitress drew our attention elsewhere. She pointed to an enormous jar on the bar where some kind of fruit was floating.   I thought it was just a strange decoration like when poeple have those peppers in a jar that just sit around?

“It’s fermenting bananas.” The waitress told us. “We use the extract in our martini.”

Oh my, I think my blood sugar went up a few points just looking at that jar.  We did receive a tiny taste of the extract from our waitress just so we could try it.  It was very sweet and I didn’t think my stomach could deal with all that richness.  

On to the food! They melted some butter kase (german word for cheese), with some parmesan cheese, spinach, artichoke hearts and garlic and put it in a huge put on our table. We got to dip various rosemary scented breads in it, apple chunks and veggies! And she brought us extra dipping veggies when we asked at no charge.  Let me just say there wasn’t a single smell of cheese left in that bowl.  There was not a hint that cheese had ever been in the bowl by the time we were done.

Of course we chose the spinach artichoke cheese dip (there were several different ones).  And I got a bluecheese salad with walnuts and red wine vinagerette.  It was wonderful.   I can’t remember what my date had but it looked equally fabulous.

For the chocolate we chose “Flaming Turtle!” There were some white chocolate options and a “smore” as well but nothing caught our attention like the turtle. It was melted milk chocolate with caramel and chopped pecans folded in! 

 It was so funny because our waitress had such a hard time getting the fire to light! ha.  Anyways, so flaming chocolate, caramel, nutty goodness with a glorious plate of treats to dip it in!  I’m getting excited all over again at just the memory of having eaten this. 

I could have just turned the bowl up and drank from it, but that wouldn’t be very ladylike…  There were brownies, marshmellos tiny rice crispy treats, cheesecake, poundcake, fresh strawberries and bananas to dip.  There was a chocolate explosion in my mouth, the likes of which I have never had.  It is absurd for me to try and think of enough ways to describe this deliciousness. 

I loved the entire experience from the atmosphere, to the friendly accomidating waitress, the bananas in a jar that I couldn’t bring myself to drink but still appreciated that they existed, and of course the food!

The goody plate had tiny brownies, marshmellows, strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, pound cake and rice crispy treats to dip in the melty chocolate.  I swear I can’t think of any dessert that got me that excited.