Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekly Wrap-up and Holiday Madness

This has been a slow week for almost everyone in the U.S. except sports teams -- and their fans - and shoppers. Most businesses closed down for the week on Wednesday and their employees looked forward to a long weekend of food, drink, family, more food and sports. For some, shopping was included. First you had Black Friday. For those of you not familiar with Black Friday, think about the biggest mosh pit you can, add in deals on toys every child wants or electronics the man in your life desires or that particular pair of shoes you've been lusting after. It's usually the most active and profitable retail day in the US. All that's left is Cyber Monday, the day most employers know their employees will be using company time and computers to shop the internet for the best buys around.

So, what does this have to do with publishing? Well, it means there wasn't much going on in the publishing world this week. While Harlequin has followed through with its announcement to change the name of Harlequin Horizons, there hasn't been response from those organizations that had been quick to re-cast Harlequin as a vanity press. According to Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware, instead of HH, we have DellArte Press. There are a few sites referencing this, including SFWA, Dear Author (noting that the new site has the same feel as the HH site but that the Harlequin name is no longer present, something Harlequin had promised), and the Ripoff Report where a call was placed to DellArte and the representative they spoke with claimed that J. K. Rowling started off as a self-published author after having Harry Potter rejected by so many publishers. On Nov. 25th, Publisher's Weekly posted a short article noting the name change and ending with, "Harlequin did not respond to a request for comment this morning on the name change or if it was back in the good graces of the RWA. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers have called for Harlequin to completely cut ties to the self-pub program."

The beginning of the holiday season can also signal a slow down in publishing. Some agents close to submissions until after the first of the year. This is to give them time to catch up with their query stack and try to tie up the last of the details for client sales (e.g. Jenny Rappaport). Some magazines close their reading periods as well. So, if you have something ready to send out, be sure to check on-line to confirm whether the agent or publisher is still open for subs. A great place to check for sf/f is Ralan.com.

But the holiday season brings something totally different to writers. We're observers. We try, or at least I do, to take in the world around us. Think about it. When else do we see people willing to do just about anything to get that one toy their kid is begging for for Christmas. You know the one. The one the manufacturer made only three of. But little Junior just has to have it or he'll die. Don't deny it. We've all been there, either as frazzled parents becoming ever more panicked as store after store tells us they're sold out or as the demanding kid who knows Christmas won't come because that an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle! won't be under the tree (if you don't get the reference, check out the movie A Christmas Story).

So, what is the most crazy or touching or just "OMG what were they thinking?" moment you've had during holiday shopping and how would you work that into a story? It can be an incident, a person, even a family tradition.

15 comments:

Kate said...

Um. Given that I tend to avoid holiday shopping, it's a little difficult to answer this. And the assorted holiday family traditions from my family are... well... usually not a good thing to discuss in public.

It's possible that I'm the sanest and most functional person in my family, which should tell you all you need to know.

Amanda Green said...

Kate, which ought to give lots of good fodder for writing, with the serial numbers sanded off, of course. [VBG].

C Kelsey said...

Ah the Red Ryder BB gun. My brother and I both had them growing up. At least one of them still works too. Much mayhem was had by the two of us.

Amanda Green said...

Ah, but did you shoot an eye out, Chris?

C Kelsey said...

Well... not *my* eye Amanda.
:P

Anonymous said...

We LOVE A Christmas Story! I haven't run across it yet on TV, but it's always a pleasant surprise. And I think Ted Turner's channel (whatever it's called) runs a marathon on Christmas Day.

I haven't been able to shop this weekend (too much twirling business to do which won't let up until 12/6), but I do always enjoy the season.

I've never written a Christmas based story, but I think I like to. I want to do a fantasy with Santa, of course, and maybe another sff short centered around the season. I thinking that if I start marketing it by the late winter that it might into some schedules if chosen somewhere. Any advice?

Linda Davis

Anonymous said...

Wow, some serious editing issues in the above. Just in a hurry. Yuckola.

Linda Davis

RJ_CruzeJr said...

I've always wondered what an alien would think of the whole Christmas meme.

Things like:

* Standing in long lines, waiting for hours, sometimes even getting in fist-fights with other parents, all to obtain the fad that has become this year's definition of the Ultimate Must-Have Christmas Gift -- the same Ultimate Must-Have Christmas Gift (heretofore known as the UMHCG) that the kid is going to play with for ten minutes, and will then disappear at the bottom of a bedroom closet, never to be found until the kid has gone away to college, and Mom and Dad are cleaning the bedroom out to turn it into a workout room.

* The sending of fruitcake -- even to people we barely know who happen to be on our Christmas lists. Pretty much everyone hates it to the point of making jokes about how hated it is. Yet everyone still sends it out. I have a theory that fruitcake is the holiday equivalent of the "horse head in the bed" scene from The Godfather...

* Choosing one day out of the year to be extra, extra nice, and extra, extra giving to each other, instead of doing something more practical and lasting like being a little bit nice, and a little bit giving to each other the other 364 days so we don't have to try to fit it all into one day.

* The heaping of stress upon ourselves in the form of Christmas get-togethers, enduring the presence of certain relatives whom we only see once a year (and there's a bloody good Reason for that in some cases...) -- like the matriarch who even after twenty years is still bitter that her son went against her wishes and married "That Woman," and she will express that sentiment at least every ten seconds. Whether anyone is listening or not.

* A variation of this called the "Office Party" where one is no more than a fifth of Jack, a loose tongue, and a conversation away from the New Year's Resolution of "Find a new job."

* Then we top it all this stress and frustration off -- not to mention the salmonella poisoning from bad fruitcake -- by saying: "Hey everybody! We should do this again next year!" You'd think we would have learned our lesson the first time around...

I think our odd holiday customs would be completely baffling to an alien who saw this for the first time. One look at Black Friday (picture the Nika Riots with credit cards and shopping carts), and our alien would probably conclude that our civilization was in its death-throes and had just degenerated into anarchy. At the very least, it might dismiss this as some kind of Post-Thanksgiving, tryptophan-induced mass-pyschosis.

Then there's the religious overtones: our alien would probably be very confused trying to figure out what two grandmothers having a knife-fight over the last Furby on the shelf has to do with the Nativity...

Likely, our alien would probably walk away from the whole Christmas thing shaking its head and muttering "They're all stark raving loonies."

Of course, one viewing of "A Christmas Story" might just be enough to save us all from alien invasion and/or annihilation. Provided these aliens had evolved humor. "And then the one nestling 'Triple-dog-dared' the other nestling into touching its taste-tentacle to the cryogenic torture device. I tell you it was freakin' hilarious Grak! There may be hope for these humans yet!"

:-D :-D :-D

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

LOL -- RJ Cruze

You Scrooge, you.

In Australia we do all that and we do in in above 30 degree heat.

Amanda Green said...

Linda, A Christmas Story is one of my favorites. Between Ralphie's desire for his Red Ryder gun to the Old Man's joy over his "prize" to the way the Old Man reacted when Ralphie's "Oooh fuuudge! Only I didn't say "Fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!", I felt like I knew the characters. It is one of the few holiday "specials" I try to catch.

As for wanting to do a Christmas-based story, go for it. Check the listings now to see who is publishing like-themed stories and who is putting out anthologies. Then watch them through Ralan.com or watch their web sites. Sarah and the others probably have better ideas about when and where to market it.

Amanda Green said...

Bob, I have another variation for you. The aliens come to Earth, possibly even Chris' greys without pants, and try to take over. Everything is going their way until they are served fruitcake. Then they see why no one ever eats it. It's the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Not only does it do near fatal things to their digestive systems but it simply ruins the plumbing on their ships. They have only one recourse, flee as fast as they can before the evil earthers figure out that if fruitcake does this to them, there must be other "delicacies" that would be even more effective.

And then, what about the alien who is unfortunate enough to arrive on Earth the day after Christmas and land near Mall of the Americas or its equivalent. Foolishly it goes to the nearest Walmart since it seems to be the most populated place around, only to be trampled in the rush to get through the doors for those oh-so-wonderful deals.

Hmm....maybe we ought to have a contest for the best -- er, worst? -- Christmas themed flash fic? Anyone interested?

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, we usually do Christmas at temps above 30 degrees (F) here in Texas. Which makes those few rare occasions when we have snow seem almost like we've fallen through the looking glass.

Chris McMahon said...

Typical Christmas days in Brisbane might max at 35C - which is around 95F, with around 50-60% humidity.

Did you mean 30F or 30C in Texas, Amanda?

Amanda Green said...

Fahrenheit, unfortunately, Chris. The average is mid to high 40's on Christmas (just looked it up).

Chris McMahon said...

No points for guessing we don't get Christmas snow in Brisbane:)