Archive for April, 2015

reel roy 2I’ve been reading movie reviews since I was a kid. Every Friday, I’d go for the reviews in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s weekend section before I hit the funnies. Even now, I’ve been known to guiltily flip past the front section of the paper to check out the movie reviews before going back to read about more weighty matters.

And Roy Sexton is the first movie reviewer to ever make me laugh out loud.

Not just once either. I made the mistake of bringing his latest book — “Reel Roy Reviews, Vol. 2: Keep ’Em Coming” — as reading material on Philadelphia’s PATCO High Speed Line. Spent the entire trip giggling like a stoner in study hall. I think I scared some people. It would be worth getting the book just for his side-splitting evisceration of “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

Here’s the great thing about Sexton’s humor, though. Even when he’s trashing a film, he’s got a rare knack for being sharply funny without coming across as snide.

You can tell Sexton is one of those guys who just really enjoys the experience of going to the movies. Reading his reviews is like heading to the cineplex with an affable, really-freakin-funny friend. For a sparsely attended afternoon matinee, maybe, where you can put your feet up on the seats and do a “Mystery Science Theater” without feeling like a jerk.

If you and your friend like the movie, great. If not, you can still have a blast ripping on it, and laughing about how bad it was over beers later.

In his second volume of reviews (see my review of the first volume here), Sexton expands the scope a bit. He includes more reviews from concerts and regional community theater productions from his home turf of Michigan. He even has a few pieces about the local theater scene. Even if you don’t have any inherent interest in Michigan community theater, the latter have a pleasant local-newspaper-columnist feel that you don’t see enough of since this whole digital age thing happened. Besides, Sexton is the kind of guy who could write a septic tank installation manual, and still be fun to read.

What I enjoyed most in the book, weirdly enough, were the reviews of movies I wouldn’t have any natural inclination to watch. Not because he artfully lambasted them, but because he made them sound like fun.

His innovative approach as a reviewer is to evaluate the overall experience of watching a movie, rather than judging it as good or bad according to some film scholarly criteria that — let’s be honest — most film viewers don’t particularly care about in the first place.

It brought me back to those pre-Netflix days when I’d sometimes watch movies not because I’d specifically chosen them, but just because they were on.

I don’t do that anymore. When I’m watching a movie now, it’s one I’ve read about and determined will likely be worth the time I’m investing in it. Something critics have praised, or else a less revered but still cinematically significant film watched out of obligation to shore up cracks in my cultural literacy.

Nothing wrong with that. Still, Sexton’s book reminded me of the half-forgotten pleasures of accidental viewing. Discovering a glorious piece of cheese like “Roadhouse.” Or watching Jean Claude Van Damme now being acknowledged as a gifted comic actor, and knowing you picked up on that the first time you saw “Kickboxer.” Or maybe the fifth time. Or maybe … what is this … the 15th viewing? Hell, I don’t even remember. Hey! “Big Trouble in Little China” is on next! BOOyah!

Ah, those were the days.

Sexton is a welcome reminder that movies like “300 — Rise of an Empire” can still be a hell of a lot of fun. Especially if you’ve got a hilarious guide along with you.

Oh yeah. Be sure to check out more of Sexton’s stuff at his Website, Reel Roy Reviews.

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Marie Lamba, authorMarie Lamba is the author of acclaimed young adult novels including “Drawn” and “Over My Head.” Publisher’s Weekly called her humorous YA novel “What I Meant…” “an impressive debut” and Kirkus described it as “realistic and well-paced.” She’s also author of the upcoming picture book “Green, Green,” co-authored with her husband Baldev Lamba and illustrated by Sonia Sanchez.  More than 100 of her articles have been published in regional and national magazines, including “Writer’s Digest.”

She’s also an Associate Literary Agent with the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in New York City. It was in that capacity that I interviewed her for the quarterly newsletter of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, which I edit. The piece was intended primarily for writers. But even if you’re not an aspiring writer, I hope you find it interesting. (And if you’re NOT an aspiring writer, consider becoming one. It’s a blast. And you meet lots of cool people. Like Marie.)

Be sure to check out her very informative blog here.

 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your career as an agent and a writer?

A: I knew I wanted to be a writer from age 10. I never guessed I’d be an agent, too. But my own agent, Jennifer De Chiara, saw I had the skills to be a solid agent, so she offered me the gig a few years ago, and I love repping writers and illustrators!

I bring to the table experience in publishing as an editor and a book promotion manager, I’m an award-winning public relations writer, and I know what it’s like from an author’s point of view to create a manuscript, send it out into the world, see it published, and then promote it. This all informs my actions as an agent selecting manuscripts, working with my clients, and selling manuscripts to publishers. My recent sales as an agent include picture books, middle grade novels, YA novels, and adult fiction. I’m actively building my client list, and you can find my current list of clients and my submission guidelines here: https://marielamba.wordpress.com/about-marie-the-agent/

As for my writing self? I’m the author of the contemporary YA novels “What I Meant …” (Random House) and “Over My Head,” and the time-travel novel “Drawn.” I’ve had essays in anthologies, a short story in Liar Liar” and more than 100 articles in national magazines, including “Garden Design” and “Writer’s Digest.” You can also find my articles in this year’s editions of “The Writer’s Market,” “The Guide to Literary Agents” and “The Children’s Writer’s Market.” Plus my first picture book, which I co-authored with my husband Baldev Lamba, is titled “Green Green” and it’s coming out through Farrar Straus Giroux in the next year.

Q: What are the benefits of having an agent?

A: Access. So many publishers are closed to non-agented writers. As soon as you have an agent, all of those doors are open. If you have an agent with an established firm (even a new agent which such a firm), that person can pick up the phone and call any editor at any level and get their attention. I know, because I have done just that. J

Career development. An agent will be engaged in growing your career. Getting the best deal for you at the best publisher that they can. Helping you direct your writing in a productive way. Giving you realistic market-informed feedback when you need it.

Cheerleading. An agent will be your number one supporter. Speaking up for you to the world.

Creativity. With an agent taking charge of pitching your work, and managing your contracts, etc., you are more free to WRITE.

Contracts. Your agent will negotiate the terms of your contracts, and make sure everything is in order before you sign. They’ll also be there to make sure things are carried out as promised. And to go to the matt for you if needed.

Q: How should a writer go about finding an agent, and what are some things he or she should keep in mind?

A: There are SO many does and don’ts out there. The first thing you MUST do is finish your manuscript and polish it to perfection. Then you simply must do your homework. There are a ton of articles with query submission tips and other insider’s advice posts over at my site http://www.marielamba.com. I do an Agent Monday post nearly every week, so if you subscribe to the site, you won’t miss any. And you must Google the agents you are querying to find their guidelines. Follow those guidelines, or you will most likely be deleted without ever being read. There are great resources out there to help you, including pred-ed.com, querytracker.com, and agentquery.com, plus the annual market books put out by “Writer’s Digest,” etc. And if you are really serious, subscribe to publishersmarketplace.com, even if only for a month, to research agents, who represents who, and what deals are being done in your genre. Great up-to-the-moment info you won’t find anywhere else.

Q: What are some things that would encourage you to represent a particular writer?

A: Professionalism. Someone who has a strong voice. Originality. Someone who is in the business for more than just this one book, and ideally is working on a number of other projects.

Q: What would lead you to reject a writer?

A: Something I’ve seen before. Sloppy or boring writing. Not following guidelines. Obnoxious in the cover letter. Unprofessional online presence — like dissing agents and editors online. Not understanding their readership. Preachy tone.

Q: Are there any current industry trends that you think would be valuable for writers to know about?

A: Career-wise, I think the opportunities for writers are growing the farther away we are getting from the not-so-great-recession. This is a very important thing for writers to keep in mind as they move ahead. Are you creating scaled-back future goals based on the crap the recession years handed you? That is probably a mistake. Expect more and dream big.

As for fiction trends? I’m sure your readers know that Horror is no longer a “dirty word” in the industry, and you’ll see more agents and editors including the word “horror” in their guidelines. In general, novels with speculative elements that also appeal to mainstream audiences are being sought more widely.

I personally don’t represent straight genre fiction, and so I’m speaking from the point of view of an agent who deals with the top commercial presses. (Niche presses that specialize in speculative fiction are a different bag of apples.) In general, for the top commercial publishers, dystopian fiction is a hard sell these days, as are zombies and vampires. Agents have seen a LOT of it, and so have editors. I’ve also seen a ton of fae and mermaid and werewolf stories. That doesn’t mean these are completely dead (they never really die, right?), but it DOES mean that you need to be completely unique if you are approaching this market. If you are writing a dystopian, say, and your book features a fractured society with a wall and a wasteland beyond that wall, well, it is going to feel VERY familiar. Strong characterization is key, as is a unique setting and a fresh voice.

In the YA market, thrillers are still hot, and speculative elements (again, with very strong characterization and a unique take), when blended with an authentic YA voice, are doing well. Middle grade novels are always a strong market for fantasy elements, especially when they are rooted in the real world, and for mysteries and the creepy crawly elements of horror done with a lighter touch.

Strong realistic contemporary novels are longed for across all age groups. It’s almost like a palate cleanser after all the complicated and drama-filled stories — ah, to have a simple story told in an elegant and page-turning way… Diversity is huge! Representing the underrepresented voices in fiction in an authentic way is especially sought after right now. But PLEASE don’t force your manuscript into the diverse category by suddenly giving a character an accent, or a disability. I’ve seen a lot of these, and they ring false.

Thanks for having me here! I wish everyone much writing success.

AddisonNote: The following material ran in a recent issue of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers quarterly newsletter, which I edit. Here’s the fifth part of the piece, along with my original introduction.

Several things inspired me to put this project together. But mainly, it’s because I still frequently encounter the tiresome “nerdy boys club” stereotype regarding speculative fiction writers and readers. The widespread perception that our branch of literature is the domain of emotionally and socially stunted man-children who don’t want icky girls in their club unless they happen to be wearing skimpy cosplay outfits at conventions.

I think it’s important that we speculative fiction writers do everything in our power to help dispel that stereotype, and make it clear that women are a major, vital and respected part of our community. So I reached out to a number of prominent woman science fiction, fantasy and horror authors and editors, and invited them to share their perspectives.
Tom Joyce

Linda Addison is the award-winning author of four collections of poetry and prose and the first African-American recipient of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award®. She has published over 290 poems, stories and articles and is a member of Circles in the Hair, Horror Writers Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Science Fiction Poetry Association. See her site: www.lindaaddisonpoet.com, for more information.

My first publication was in 1994. At that time I considered changing my name to L.D. Addison so it wasn’t obvious that I was a woman. I decided not to use an alias. Today there are more women writing speculative fiction than twenty years ago.
I’ve always seen myself as an author first, then any other labels are acceptable: woman writer, African-American writer, African-American woman writer. Through my eyes I see myself writing the stories and poems that come to me. It just so happens my imagination always went outside the realm of reality-based writing. I’m blessed to represent women writing weird stuff, always will be.