My 2016 Philcon Schedule

I’m looking forward to the Philcon science fiction convention the weekend of November 18th. It’s Philadelphia’s oldest literary convention. It’s in New Jersey.  (Look, it was cheaper, okay?)philcon_logo

I’ve been a guest at Philcon for years, and it’s always great to go back there and see so many of my friends. The Guest of Honor is C.J. Cherryh! Other guests include Philippa Ballentine, Keith DeCandido, Gregory Frost, Barry Longyear,  Lawrence Schoen, Tee Morris, and many more famous award-winning authors you’ve probably heard of (I didn’t want to list them all and take up the whole blog post).

Here’s my schedule:

Friday 11:00 PM: EYE OF ARGON INTERACTIVE: CHAPTER THREE [Panelists: Michael A. Ventrella (mod), Peter Prellwitz, Ian Randal Strock, Hildy Silverman, Bethlynne Prellwitz]: Since everyone is usually laughing too hard to get through reading what has been dubbed the worst piece of published SF of all time, we thought we’d start where we left off last year. We’ve got a roster of pros to get it going, but after that, audience participation is
expected.

Sat 5:00 PM: CAN INTERPLANETARY GOVERNMENTS ACTUALLY WORK? [Panelists: Michael A. Ventrella (moderator), Neil Clarke, James Beall, Ariel Cinii, Tom Purdom, John Skylar]: Empires, Federations, Alliances… there are many examples of various types of interplanetary, or interstellar, governments found in science fiction. But would any form of government actually work if it were extended between worlds, star systems, or even galaxies? We will examine how governing bodies might work over such long distances… or even if they can.

Sat 11:00 PM: WHOSE LINE IS IT, ANYWAY? [Panelists: Peter Prellwitz (mod), Hildy Silverman, Ian Randal Strock, Tee Morris, Michael A. Ventrella]: Come watch and wince as our hammy authors attempt to act out terrible improvisational skits based on audience suggestions and a devious MC.

Sun 1:00 PM: IMAGINING AN ATHEIST REALITY [Panelists: John Grant (mod), Kathleen Bragg, Lawrence Kramer, David Silverman, Gordon Linzner, Michael A. Ventrella]: Is atheism just another belief system like any other religion, or do atheism and secular humanism stand in the unique position of being unbiased government and social worldviews, able to make decisions free from religious bias? And if the latter is the case, what other biases and difficulties might be experienced by a culture that doesn’t recognize the existence of anything that can’t be counted and codified?

A Bard Act to Follow

Adventure! Drama! Mystery! Humor! It’s all here in the forth TALES OF FORTANNIS anthology, A BARD ACT TO FOLLOW.

“Michael Ventrella’s Fortannis setting has produced a lot of fine fantasy fiction, and the fourth collection maintains a high level of quality throughout,” says Ryk Spoor, author of the Balanced Swords trilogy.abardacttofollow-510

“Some of the stories are simply amusing (Curso and the Wizard’s Apprentice), some tragic (The Consistency of Small Minds), and others heartwarming (The Mutiny of Broken Things and Ventrella’s own Remembering the Future). Our protagonists range from courageous knights and cynical adventurers to an absolutely chilling, self-justifying sociopath. Taken together, they give us a picture of a living, immense world which can cover the span of human (and biata, dwarf, elf, ogre, and goblin…) endeavor and passion.

A BARD ACT TO FOLLOW does not merely continue the fine tradition of Fortannis; it elevates the written world to the next level, and indeed, as the title plays upon, will be a hard act to follow!”

I was thrilled with the great selection I was able to solicit for this edition. It contains the following stories:

Remembering the Future by Michael A. Ventrella: Terin and his fellow squires perform a task and then have their memories erased, only to face the consequences of what they had done — but what had they done?

The Consistency of Small Minds by Bernie Mojzes:  Maris risks everything to help goblins revenge a murder.

Garg the Good by Dominic Bowers-Mason: A lawful good sword falls into the hands of an ogre who doesn’t like being told what to do.

Thieves Among Honor by Mark Mensch:  In order to hunt down and find out who is plotting to kill him, Nigel needs to hunt down and talk to a man who has sworn to kill him. With a knight-errant looking over his shoulder, what could go wrong?

A Poet’s Heart by Derek Beebe:  An obsessive loner traces his descent from pathetic stalking into true super villainy — all for love (or so he says).

The Mutiny of Broken Things by Beth Patterson: A werewolf artist and a bat-kin discover untapped powers when faced with danger.

The Arrangement by Henry “The Mad” Hart: A squad of righteous warriors who hunt the undead are distracted by the oldest form of manipulation and evil –political ideals.

A Charming Encounter by Tera Fulbright:  Out of all the rat holes in the city, why did she have to pick Crites’? Then of course, she offered something he couldn’t resist … gold.

Something Happened on Old Troll Bridge by Jon Cory: Dangerous things can lie hidden in abandoned old fortresses…

Chatter by Shane Porteous:  After a disturbing act, a soldier capturing slaves learns just how cruel chains can really be.

Curso and the Wizard’s Apprentice by Roy C. Booth and Brian Woods: Curso the hobling  learns that sometimes it is best not to mess with spells you don’t understand…

Shapes of Destiny by Laurel Ann Hill: Sometimes one has to embrace and accept one’s destiny if it means you can help and protect loved ones.

The Chronicles of Duren Ironath and Vaeallan by Tom Haswell: Duren the quiet scholarly elf had been aiding the head-strong and slightly mad dwarf Vaellan for years when they discover an old enemy thought long dead has returned

Another Round for the Table by Mike Strauss: Events nearly seem to repeat themselves as throughout the decades a mercenary company celebrates victory in battles with good food, good company, and stories of heroism.

This book is available now in PaperbackE-BookKindle, and iBook formats. And Bernie Mojzes and I will be at Philcon in a few weeks with copies we can sign for you!

Accepting stories for the 2nd “Baker Street Irregulars” anthology

What if Sherlock Holmes had been born in a different body? In a completely different time?

That was the concept behind BAKER STREET IRREGULARS — a new anthology due out on March 21, 2017. (You can pre-order it now!).  It contains stories from David Gerrold, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Jody Lynn Nye, Ryk Spoor, Heidi McLaughlin, Gail Z. Martin, Hildy Silverman, and more. It’s co-edited by NY Times Bestselling Author Jonathan Maberry, who also contributes a story.

You’ll find stories with Sherlock as an alien dog, a sex android, a vampire, a female college student, a musician in Beethoven’s orchestra, a monk, a computer simulation, a reality TV show host, a worker in a dystopian future, and a parrot (among other things).

There will be an audio book available around the same time as the book release.

Now we’re looking for stories for the second edition. You are invited to contribute.sherlock_holmes1

Your story must (a) feature a character who clearly has Sherlock Holmes’ personality but is not a traditional detective; (b) not take place in Victorian London; and (c) contain a mystery the character solves in a typical Sherlockian way.

I was thrilled with the number of stories that were submitted for the first book, and sadly had to reject some that were very good but either duplicated an idea in an already-accepted story or which didn’t really have a mystery in there.

If you are interested, please email me first with a short synopsis of your idea. There’s no need for you to spend time writing a story that is similar to one that has already been accepted. Please avoid variations of “Sherlock as a computer program/android” and “Holmes figures out he’s fictional” as those were the most common subjects received for the first book. Use your imagination — there are plenty of possibilities. Sherlock as a singer in a boy band. Sherlock as a Roman soldier. Sherlock as a caveman. Sherlock as an alien crashing at Area 51. Don’t limit yourself.

Include in your email any previous publications (unless I already know you). Stories from first-time authors are considered (and in fact, one was accepted for the previous book).

Note that there is no guarantee your story will be accepted even if you are in the first book. We’ll be looking for a good variety of ideas and styles, and a story that works but doesn’t fit may have to be set aside (but perhaps saved for a future edition).

The stories should be under 8,000 words but exceptions can be made if necessary. Since you will not be paid by the word, there’s no need to pad anything. Take what you need to tell the story and no more, please. We do have a word limit for the book, so if you go too long, it could hurt your chances of acceptance. On the other hand, we’ll always make room for a masterpiece of fiction.

We are not accepting reprints.

The book will be published by Diversion Books. Payment is royalties only. The rights will revert back to you after two years but there is an exception that allows you to have it published by any year-end “Best of” anthologies.

My agent Marisa Corvisiero will be handling the contracts.

The deadline for stories will be December 31, 2016. Note that this is the deadline for the finished story — your proposal must come before that time.

Your final submission should be in standard 12 point type in Times New Roman or variation thereof, in rtf, double spaced. Your name and email must be on the first page along with the word count.

So spread the word. If you know of an author who would love to write a Sherlock story, send this to them. And I look forward to hearing from you.

My Capclave 2016 Schedule

Capclave is a fine little literary SF convention held near Washington DC, which this year will be on the October 7th weekend. small_dodo_transparentCome and join us and meet some of your (and my) favorite authors, including but not limited to Tim Powers, Sarah Beth Durst, James Morrow, Alex Shvartsman, Catherine Asaro, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Wold, Walter Hunt, and many more (including me!)

I’m anxious to meet Tim Powers again, who is one of my favorite authors. Unfortunately, I’m not on any panels with him. Capclave is where I spoke to George R.R. Martin a few years ago and then became an internet sensation for a week or so because of the “Hodor” comment.

Here are some pictures I took from from the convention in 20132014, and 2015.

And here’s my current schedule (subject to change):

Alternate History: How to Make it Work (Friday 6 pm) Many novels these days change history slightly — and fail. What does it take to make a good alternate history plot? With panelists Martin Berman-Gorvine, Emmie Mears (Moderator), Alan Smale, Michael A. Ventrella

Who’s the Bad Guy in a World Without Absolutes? (Friday 8 pm) Heroes, villains, and moral relativism. Does speculative literature have any concept of Good or Evil anymore? With panelists Anthony Dobranski, Christie Meierz, Hugh Taylor, Michael A. Ventrella (Moderator)

Reading (Friday 11 pm) Michael A. Ventrella will be reading from one of his books. With panelist Michael A. Ventrella

Writing Workshop (Saturday 10 am) Allen Wold will lead a panel of authors in a hands on workshop. Learn many skills as you work on a short story. All you need is a pen and paper. Limited to 15 people. With panelists Andrew Fox, Michael A. Ventrella, Allen L. Wold (Moderator), Darcy Wold

Social Media Promotion Without Being Obnoxious (Saturday 1 pm) Promoting yourself these days is a requirement for any writer. How can you do so without alienating everyone? With panelists Kate Baker, Inge Heyer, Natalie Luhrs, Michael A. Ventrella (Moderator)

Author’s Table (Saturday 2 pm) Meet the author! With panelists Andrew Fox, Michael A. Ventrella

Mass Autographing Session (Saturday 7:30 pm) Wherein all the authors gather in one room so you can get all your books signed

The Eye of Argon (Saturday 10 pm) The worst science fiction story ever written gets a reading by our brave panel as they compete to go the longest without tripping over a misspelled word or laughing uncontrollably. Audience members are also encouraged to take a chance. Can you keep a straight face, especially when the panel begins acting out the story? With panelists Hildy Silverman, Ian Randal Strock, Michael A. Ventrella, Walter H. Hunt

It’s a Conspiracy! (Sunday noon) Why are we so willing to believe that everyone is out to get us? How does this appeal to us in books and movies, even if we don’t believe them? With panelists T. Eric Bakutis, Warren Buff, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Michael A. Ventrella, Joan Wendland (Moderator)

It’s a Wonderful Death!

A brave knight breaks her vows to fight against a lunatic king calling himself “the Doomsayer” and ends up dealing with unreliable henchmen, political assassins, and a sarcastic disembodied head in a bag. Can she and her friends save the Hidden Kingdom from an unstoppable foe before her prophesied death?itsawonderfuldeath-510

IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH is a stand-alone novel in the shared fantasy world of Fortannis. The story takes place after my novels ARCH ENEMIES and THE AXES OF EVIL and features Terin Ostler and the squires from those stories. However, you do not have to have read those books (or any of the stories in the various TALES OF FORTANNIS anthologies) to enjoy this book.

It was written by Derek Beebe and edited by me … and by editing, I don’t mean proofreading. I did an editor’s job as I have discussed in this blog before! So I’m really happy with the result and hope you will be, too.

Zachary Didur from Random Chatter magazine had this to say:

“Simultaneously epic and hilarious, IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH tells a fast-paced story with a ton of heart. It focuses on a handful of characters and really makes you fall in love with them. Nevertheless, Beebe isn’t afraid to ramp up the action to 11 and deliver massive fantasy set-pieces.

Even though the book deals with some very dark subject matter at times, the tone was kept light by clever dialogue and moments of real levity. It never quite becomes a straight up comedy or farce but instead deftly toes the line, and in the end is an enjoyable epic fantasy story.”

So if you’re a fan of my earlier fantasy novels and want to know what happens to those characters later, please check this out! It’s available in Paperback, E-book , Kindle  and iBook !

My turn to be interviewed!

Buzzymag interviewed me a while ago — please check it out!

Transcript here: http://buzzymag.com/michael-a-ventrella-fantasy-fiction-author-interview/

Interview with author Nat Segaloff

Nat

Author photo by Liane Brandon

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: When I lived in Boston, I enjoyed reading Nat Segaloff’s movie reviews and comments in the Boston Herald. They apparently impressed me enough that when I saw his name on Facebook a few years ago, I remembered him instantly and friended him. 

Nat began as a movie publicist based in Boston, a career that carried him to New York, then back to Boston to be a film journalist covering the business of film. He also began doing radio (WEEI-FM, WMEX) and TV (WBZ, WSBK) before moving to Los Angeles to make documentaries (“Biography,” etc.) and other gambits mentioned in his new book

The book is full of interesting and funny stories about the movies, celebrities, and life in the entertainment industry. He discusses meeting Woody Allen in an elevator, being Saruman’s bagman, and forging Jesus’ signature on a publicity photo, among other things. It’s just full of wonderful anecdotes.

The book is called SCREEN SAVER: PRIVATE STORIES OF PUBLIC HOLLYWOOD and it’s from BearManor Press (who will be publishing my book about the Monkees in 2017).

Nat, what compelled you to write this book?

NAT SEGALOFF: Thank you for not calling it a memoir. It’s a collection of the show business stories I’ve been telling at parties and when I taught college classes — and some that I dared not tell while certain people were alive – since I entered the business. I figure I’d better set them down now before my brain defragged.

VENTRELLA: You’ve met some interesting people over the years – who impressed you the most?

SEGALOFF: Everybody in show business is impressive or else they’d be in a less exciting profession. Those whose company I remember most fondly include Michael Caine, Dom DeLuise, Martin Sheen, Louise Fletcher, William Friedkin, Arthur Penn, and one or two others. screen saverWhat made them impressive to me was how approachable they were/are. In many cases we became friends.

VENTRELLA: Some of the actors and directors you’ve met have very public personalities that are not at all like their real, private faces. Who seemed the most different to you?

SEGALOFF: I found James Earl Jones to be very much an introvert (this was before he went to the Dark Side) and Christopher Lee to be enormously chatty. The one who stunned me the most was Max von Sydow. When I interviewed him on WEEI-FM he wound up singing Swedish drinking songs. (Gee, I wish I’d put that in the book.)

VENTRELLA: Given the work you’ve done with so many of the Star Trek cast, have you found yourself revisiting the old shows?  Got an opinion on the various series or movies?

SEGALOFF: Starting the science fiction production company Alien Voices with John de Lancie and Leonard Nimoy made me an instant Trekker. I am told that I should revere TOS, but I prefer ST:TNG. I don’t re-watch any of the shows. As for the movies, isn’t the formula “Odd numbers bad, even numbers good”?

VENTRELLA: When you first began, the studios tried to make original films – there wasn’t this remake and sequel ideology. What happened? The film industry “lost its nerve” as you say?

SEGALOFF: I was fortunate to have come of age in the film business at a time when the film business itself was coming of age. The mid-1970s were a transitional period for American cinema. The crumbling of the restrictive Production Code gave movies a new freedom, the ready availability of cheap filmmaking equipment meant that every kid was making his own pictures, and the film companies had become so shaky financially and out of touch with the public that they embraced the youth culture as a way to attract a new audience. It lasted roughly from Easy Rider in 1969 to Jaws in 1975. After that the blockbuster mentality took over and the film companies embraced Roger Price’s definition of the mass production culture, “If everybody doesn’t want it, then nobody can have it.”.penn

VENTRELLA: You discuss how movies were once allowed to find their audiences by opening at a small number of theaters at first and then expanding their number of screens if they found favor with the public. Do you think the goal of making only huge blockbusters has hurt the industry?

SEGALOFF: Blockbusters have already killed the American film industry, it just doesn’t know enough to lie down. They cost so much to make and market that they must be tooled for as wide an audience as possible, which means that they cannot challenge or offend anybody (banality is apparently not considered offensive). This is what killed network television. But even disregarding the aesthetic content, the business model itself is suicidal. A $200 million movie simply cannot make its costs back unless everybody goes to see it. The huge grosses we see reported don’t reflect the money that gets sapped along the way by advertising, exhibitors,  gross deals (money off the top), distribution costs, interest, and overhead. What these blockbusters are is cash flow machines, not profit-makers. If the film companies had to exist on profits alone they would collapse. This is Hollywood’s dirty secret.

VENTRELLA: I wonder sometimes if people just have nostalgia for the old days, remembering all the great films and bemoaning the current state, but it seems to me that there were plenty of crappy films being released when I was younger, too … do you agree or has the quality really fallen?

SEGALOFF: The percentage of dross versus gold is probably the same now as it was twenty or thirty years ago; (Theodore) Sturgeon’s law says that 90 percent of anything is crap. The difference is that in 1976 a crappy film cost $1 million to make and $50,000 to advertise while in 2016 it costs $200 to make and $60 million to sell. Films back then were usually about something new. Now they’re about something old. Of course, I’m sweepingly generalizing.

VENTRELLA: Brian DePalma once advised you to review the film he made and not the film you wanted to see. How did you apply that to your reviews?

SEGALOFF: If the filmmaker sets out his or her goals in the early part of the film it’s a bargain made with the audience. Good filmmakers keep their end of the bargain.

VENTRELLA: Which film critics do you most admire?MrHustonMrNorth_cover.indd

SEGALOFF: I admire them all. (Do you think I have the word “stupid” written across my forehead?)

VENTRELLA: What happened to film critics, anyway? As you point out, now we just have “reviewers.”

SEGALOFF: Film critics have always been a liability, but every now and then they served a purpose (publicity, ego, targets). They are the only writer in the popular media who is expected to criticize an advertiser’s product. True critics presume that their audience has seen the film and is reading the review for insight. The job of a reviewer, however, is as a consumer reporter who describes a film not according to its place in the art of cinema but whether it’ll be a good time at the movies. Ironically, the advertising rates for movies are among the highest charged by a newspaper, magazine, or broadcaster. Yet the trend now is to get rid of film critics entirely – and even arts coverage – because publishers consider it to be free advertising. These people are called Philistines. It’s also because the communications conglomerates have become so vertically integrated that critics are superfluous.

VENTRELLA: You sort of fell into this business, didn’t you? This wasn’t originally your plan?

SEGALOFF: Like half the kids in my generation I wanted to make movies. I quickly discovered that if you want to make movies you have to run a gauntlet of people who don’t want you to. I wasn’t good at it. John Houseman put it best: “In the old days they used to help a producer make a movie. Now they dare him.” (That’s in the book.)

VENTRELLA: One thing you emphasize is that the “story is more important than the person telling it.” Do you think that is the flaw in many movies today? And does that transfer to novels?

SEGALOFF: I was referring strictly to myself. I’m not famous but the people I write about in SCREEN SAVER are, so I make the stories about them but from my point of view. It’s not so much about me as about them.

VENTRELLA: Why did you decide to name some people in the book and not others?

SEGALOFF: You’re the lawyer; you’re familiar with the term defamation.striling

VENTRELLA: Well, if it’s true, it’s not defamation … Anyway, one of the false myths you discuss is “Movies about movies don’t make money.” Hollywood loves making movies about itself, and they often win Oscars. So where do these myths come from? And do they really believe them?

SEGALOFF: Every pitch meeting starts out at “No” and works toward “Maybe.” Pitching a Hollywood story starts off with “are you out of your &%#@!ing mind?” and if you’re lucky you get to “No.” There’s a more sinister reason that goes back to the early days when the (mostly) Jewish moguls who founded Hollywood stayed away from Jewish subjects because they didn’t want to call attention to themselves in an intolerant country. The nix on movies about movies may feed off of that.

VENTRELLA: You complain about the decline of journalistic ethics – don’t you think Rupert Murdoch had something to do with that?

SEGALOFF: Murdoch simply took advantage of a system that was already on the skids thanks to a breakdown of enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Reagan FCC’s abdication of its responsibilities to the public, and the fact that he is a brilliant businessman. As to ethics, to pull a quote from Jean Anouilh’s Becket (although it might be from Edward Anhalt’s screenplay): “I enjoy good living; good living is Norman. I enjoy life and a Saxon’s only birthright is slaughter. One collaborates to live.”

VENTRELLA: A bit of your book talks about charity, pointing out that some of the clichés about Hollywood are not true. Why do you think that was important to put into the book?

SEGALOFF: I have written and called my share of charity fundraisers and I see the parade of stars, musicians, and others who show up, do their thing, and ask not one cent for lending their name, time, and talent to a good cause. Then you read in the tabloids about how demanding, selfish, and trashy Hollywood types are. I challenge any other industry to compare itself with Hollywood’s service to the community.final cuts

VENTRELLA: How did you decide on the title SCREEN SAVER?

SEGALOFF: Because “Harry Potter and the Prick Who Gave My Book a Bad Review” was taken.

VENTRELLA: How did you find your current publisher?

SEGALOFF: This is my fourth book for Bear Manor Media. I was referred to them by film historian and prolific author James Robert Parish and I have found a home. Plus the publisher says he likes my writing. (My previous Bear Manor book, BTW, are FINAL CUTS: THE LAST FILMS OF 50 GREAT DIRECTORS, STIRLING SILLIPHANT: THE FINGERS OF GOD, and MR. HUSTON/MR. NORTH: LIFE, DEATH AND MAKING JOHN HUSTON’S LAST MOVIE.)

VENTRELLA: Which has been the most successful?

SEGALOFF: Serious film books are not a money tree. My most successful book is probably the first edition of THE EVERYTHING® ETIQUETTE BOOK that I wrote in 1997 for Adams Media Corp. God knows how many printings they had. You may ask how a film historian got asked to write a book on etiquette. I had a fine agent and a wonderful editor. Plus I wanted to be able to say that I wrote the book on good taste.

VENTRELLA: Which did you enjoy writing the most?

SEGALOFF: I enjoy writing all of them, but the one that I couldn’t believe I was writing while I was writing it was ARTHUR PENN: AMERICAN DIRECTOR (University Press of Kentucky, 2011). Can you imagine how it felt being able to sit at the feet of the man who made Bonnie and Clyde – the film that made me want to make movies – and ask him any question, not just about film, but about life?

VENTRELLA: Tell us about the Harlan Ellison book!harlan

SEGALOFF: It was after he read my Arthur Penn book that Harlan (whom I had known since I directed my Stan Lee documentary) asked me if I would be interested in writing his. He barely finished the question when I said Yes. It’s due out later this year from NESFA Press – the New England Science Fiction Association – and will be a very different book than people are expecting. Everyone who knows Harlan Ellison knows that he is combative, precise, relentless, and brilliant. My book probes the roots of those traits and led both of us into highly personal areas that reveal him as few have ever seen. We’re calling it A LIT FUSE: THE PROVOCATIVE LIFE OF HARLAN ELLISON, AN EXPLORATION BY NAT SEGALOFF. Note that it doesn’t have the word biography in the title. I don’t know what kind of book it is. Yes I do. It’s Harlan.

Thank you for the opportunity to mouth off like this about SCREEN SAVER and my other thoughts. I hope people buy the book, if not for themselves then to give to someone they love by way of dissuading them from going into the film business.

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