November Writing News

Newsletter

This was originally published in Entangled Continua Publishing’s monthly newsletter.

NaNoWriMo Not!

During November, hundreds of thousands of writers around the world participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a month on a new novel. Which means that Eric and I aren’t participating *this* year. We’re both hard at work on in-progress projects.

Eric is close to finishing a first draft of PHYSICa, the direct sequel to PHYSIC. He’s written over 60,000 words thus far and is working through a tricky ending. To compare, the first rough draft of PHYSIC was 70K words. The end product is 100K words. Still lots of work to do.

Work on In Need of Luck, the second book featuring Aleister Luck, is a little behind schedule. I hate rewriting, even when I know that the new scenes will be better than the originals. Regardless, I intend to have a 60K first draft done by the end of the year.

Deals & Steals

We’ve dropped the price of Divine Fire, book 2 of the Apothic Man series, to $0.99USD. Model Species, book 1 in the series is still free.

Speaking of free, PHYSIC is $0.00 once again, for a limited time only!

Links to all our sales pages (a quick email signup for this newsletter to be delivered straight to your inbox) can be found at Entangled Continua.

Deal Me In, Week 46 ~ “The Last Vanish”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Last Vanish” by Matthew Costello

Card picked: Eight of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible

Review: There is an uneasy interplay between magicians, their secrets, and mentoring. Obviously, if magicians truly never told their secrets there would be a lot fewer magicians in the world. All the novices would be continually reinventing the wheel. But jealousy isn’t unknown in the profession. What happens when the young wannabe makes good and become the success the master never was?

“The Last Vanish” tells such a tale. Tommy Fina is a young magician who has become famous for his Chair Illusion. A volunteer is seated on a chair on casters, covered with a satin sheet, spun around three times, and disappears. Gary Hayes is one of Tommy’s mentors, a washed up magician left to play the Catskills. Tommy feels a mixture of disdain and fear when dealing with Gary and his peers. The young man doesn’t understand how Gary’s career could have gone so flat and also realizes that he could be Gary in a few years with a bad turn of luck.

When Gary asks Tommy about the Chair Illusion, Tommy doesn’t tell. But the Amazing Gary Hayes is going to make a comeback filled with regret and revenge.

Obviously, with its direct magician themes, I enjoyed this story quite a bit. Doesn’t hurt that Costello is a pretty darn good writer. I like his style enough that I’m interested in reading a full novel by him.

About the Author: A couple of weeks back, I read a story by F. Paul Wilson for Deal Me In. If Wilson has a partner in crime, it’s Matthew Costello. The two created FTL Newsfeed for the Sci-Fi Channel in the early 90s (back when the Sci-Fi Channel was what it said on the tin…) and co-wrote several novels. Costello’s biography in the anthology makes special note that Costello is the writer of the “bestselling interactive CD-ROM game The 7th Guest.” The amount of nostalgia contained in one man’s biography is astounding.

Is This Your Card?

Speaking of nostalgia, I had a card trick for the eight of spades, but I need material for next year! Instead, one of Copperfield’s most famous vanishes:

I was eight years old when this aired and was duly impressed. Thirty-one years later, some of it seems pretty hokey, but I’m still impressed by the showmanship of it. It’s a pretty ballsy illusion.

Review ~ Magic And Mystery

Magic And Mystery: The Incredible Psychic Investigations Of Houdini And Dunninger

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This is a review that could easily partner with Monday’s post about books exposing the techniques of fraudulent spirit mediums.

Houdini, the most famous magician ever, had an interest in spiritualism throughout his career. He and his wife, Bess, did a mentalism routine for a while before he, like many magicians, realized that his audiences truly believed he had supernatural powers when such mind-reading and seance magic were part of the act. Houdini became a very vocal crusader against spiritualism and kept scrapbooks of mediums and exposures.

Joseph Dunninger was the Darren Brown of his era. His career spanned from the 1920s to the 1960s, overlapping Houdini’s by some years. He was an amazingly popular mentalist, known for his radio show and for his own efforts to educate the public about the ways mediums can take advantage of audiences. The first section of Magic and Mystery is Dunninger’s edits of Houdini’s scrapbooks, at least as far as I can tell. The authourship of this volume is a little hazy. The second section are some of Dunninger’s own recollections of visiting notable mediums and spiritualists.

Magic and Mystery is light on exposure. Tales are told in a couple of pages with a quick “It was, of course, done like this…” denunciation at the end. My edition is lacking a picture/illustration section. I have a feeling that it was cut for cost, but the manuscript wasn’t re-edited.

To get a feel for Magic and Mystery, here is Joseph Dunninger with a few exposures:

My Edition: Weathervane Books, 1967, hardback
Genre: nonfiction, magic

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Be the Expert / Become the Expert

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Week 2: November 10 to 14 (Hosted by Leslie @ Regular Rumination)
Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

It is difficult for me to claim “expert” in anything. The more research I do on any topic, the greater the realization that I don’t know much. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been gradually doing research for a novel I want to write about David P. Abbott, a magician who lived in Omaha, NE (my hometown) at the beginning of the 20th century. Abbott’s specialty was the exposure (in the most courteous manner possible) of spirit mediums. Here are three books that I’ve found useful on the subject of fraudulent mediums. (Longer list here.)

CoverRevelations of a Spirit Medium by Elijah Farrington – Published anonymously in 1891, this volume predates David Abbott’s involvement in spiritualism (at least that I know of) and certainly predates Houdini’s crusade against fraudulent mediums. It’s an utterly scathing indictment of the spiritualist movement in the late 1800s. Farrington tells of how he was frankly recruited to become a “medium” and how lucrative the job was. Revelations exposes a multitude of tricks used in cabinet mediumship and is doubly interesting because the exposures are written by someone who had to rely on the techniques. (Available Online, My Review)

booksThe History of a Strange Case by David P. Abbott – Abbott wrote several treatise on mediumship including Behind the Scenes with the Mediums, which is probably the most comprehensive article on spirit slate writing ever. But if I were to recommend one thing to read by David Abbott, it would be Strange Case. In it, Abbott tells of his journey from Omaha to a rural town in Ohio to investigate Mrs. Blake, a woman who could manifest voices from a trumpet or other objects. What sets this work apart for me is the attention to detail during the investigation and Abbott’s dogged open-mindedness. He isn’t willing to write off Mrs. Blake as a fraud without evidence. (Available Online)

Cover via GoodreadsTricks of the Mind by Darren Brown – Darren Brown is probably the most famous mentalists in the world today. Tricks of the Mind offers a modern view on the practice of today’s mediums.  Cabinet performances and the slate writing tests are now solidly the prevue of magicians, but the psychology that leads audiences to go along with cold reading and hypnotism stunts still remain. Brown explains a good number of the memory and suggestibility tricks he uses to produce the same effects as the Sylvia Brownes of today’s world. (My Review)

 

What haven’t I read yet?

  • Facts, Frauds, & Phantasms: A Survey of the Spiritualist Movement by Georgess McHargue
  • A Magician Among the Spirits by Harry Houdini
  • The Spirit World Unmasked by Henry Ridgely Evans
  • The Wandering of a Spiritualist by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Ten Years with Spiritual Mediums by Francis Gerry Fairfield

And so many more…

Deal Me In, Week 45 ~ “Natasha’s Bedroom”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Natasha’s Bedroom” by Robyn Carr

Card picked: Queen of Hearts – The last heart of the year!

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Thoughts: Robyn Carr is perhaps the only non-speculative fiction writer in this anthology. She is, in fact, a writer of romances. (I’ll leave aside whether romances should be counted as speculative…) This has also been the sexiest story. Tasha is a painter and a recent widow living in Scottsdale, AZ. After months of grieving, she begins to paint a mural on the wall of her bedroom: her deceased husband standing amid a field of desert flowers. Unfortunately, the image of her husband never quite comes out right. In fact, it seems to shift and change to become a different man. Then one night, the man steps out of the mural…

Worry not. This is not one of those disturbing tales like Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Hand-Puppet.” Instead, it gives two lonely people connected by Tasha’s paintings a potentially happy future together.

Is This Your Card?

Review ~ Hangsaman

Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

Cover via Goodreads

Natalie Waite, daughter of a mediocre writer and a neurotic housewife, is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. In the midst of adolescence she senses a creeping darkness in her life, which will spread among nightmarish parties, poisonous college cliques and the manipulations of the intellectual men who surround her, as her identity gradually crumbles.

Inspired by the unsolved disappearance of a female college student near Shirley Jackson’s home, Hangsaman is a story of lurking disquiet and haunting disorientation (via Goodreads)

Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is one of my favorite books. Period. Having reread it back in September (for the third or fourth time), it still chilled me and I still found interesting bits to chew on. That’s probably why I gave Hangsaman over 200 pages before I gave up on it.

Hangsaman was Jackson’s second novel, published eight years before Hill House. Both novels deal with paranoia concerning being a group outsider. Both novels are about the place that a young woman is expected to take in society versus her suitability for that role. Many of Jackson’s works deal with these issues and are probably reflective of her own personal concerns.* The difference is in Hill House Jackson uses the trope of the haunted house as a framework for investigating these issues. No such framework exists in Hangsaman. We are left adrift in the mind of Natalie Waite and it’s hard to find *that* to be a compelling story. Jackson does one better in her next and last novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s pretty much a full-on modern Gothic. To me, Hangsaman feels like an early foray into dealing with these issues of identity.

I’ve lately read a few comments about this book along the lines of “lots going on/hard to unpack/I think I’m missing something” and I think that’s because there is no roadmap for experiencing Hangsaman. Some readers might like that; I like it better when form can help clarify the message.

* The missing student is revisited in several of her short stories as well. Personally, I can understand Jackson’s fascination with that story. As a woman, wouldn’t it be nice to leave all expectations behind? But without society’s expectations, do women simply disappear?

My Edition: 1951, Farrar, Straus and Young, hardback
Why did I choose to read this book? Enjoyed other works by author; Book Smugglers readalong

My Year in Non-Fiction (Thus Far)

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Week 1: (Nov. 3 to 7) Hosted by Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness – Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

My favorite nonfiction read thus far this year has been Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson. Carlson focuses in on Tesla’s early years, attempting to give his thought processes, successes, and failures context. It’s a nice demystification of a remarkable man. When recommending this book, I always feel the need to preface it with, “There *is* a bit of electrical engineering. Just go with it. You’ll be alright.”

On the other side of the recommendation coin, there is Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. Kaling is funny and surprisingly down to earth in an almost old fashioned way. No electrical engineering in this one, but more discussion of fashion than I usually tolerate. ;)

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Opposite ends of a spectrum?

 

I haven’t read as many nonfiction books this year as I intended. I have a whole shelf of research books that haven’t gotten nearly enough love. I am always looking to expand my knowledge of stage magic and Mid-Western/Heartland history. I’d also like to read more about WWI and events leading up to WWI.

As for Nonfiction November? I hope visit more bloggers who enjoy nonfiction. Nonfiction often has a black-sheep reputation that I just don’t understand. Learning about the world is a great thing!