Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Truth About Gladiators And Their Sex Appeal

Last weekend, I got to check a point off my bucket list: a trip to Rome.

It was everything my brother - not a big fan of large cities, but a huge fan of Rome - and my imagination promised, and more. Overflowing with life, so very Italian and something amazing to see around every corner, be it fountains, ancient buildings, paintings, sculptures, cafes, picturesque side streets. And everything is old. Many things are ancient. Some are immemorial.

The amount of history contained in this one city is incredible and at times overwhelming. Ruins up to 3.000 years old still stand, many of them intact enough that you can imagine what they once must have looked like, what it might have felt like to be there all those years ago.

One of the things that stuck with me most was the tour of the Colosseum, the arena where gladiators fought for the entertainment of the people. Our guide told us that the movie The Gladiator does not give an accurate account of a gladiator's life. Yes, they were slaves, indebted to their owners and able to buy their freedom with their winnings. But far less of them died during these fights than I always believed, because nobody actually wanted them to. For their owners, they were an investment, because the best of them were the city's superstars. They were famous, they had the most sex appeal, and they even had groupies; women who gave up their lives and wealth to be with their favorite gladiator.

The sex appeal thing is especially funny today, because, as our guide pointed out, if you're picturing Russell Crowe, you're getting it all wrong. The handsome, tall, muscled physique did not a good gladiator make, and the reason is pretty simple. The audience may not have wanted the combatants to die, but they did want to see spectacular fights and bloodshed. So the gladiator games were all about special effects. Without the possibility of CGI, the blood had to be real and come from the gladiators themselves. So they would cut and stab each other in the non-vital body parts, like arms and legs. Layers of fat served to protect the muscle. Ergo, our guide told us to forget hunky Russell, and instead picture a bunch of Danny DeVitos and Jack Blacks with punch-flattened noses battling it out in the white-hot arena. They, apparently, were the ancient Roman's idea of sexy.

There's a story in there somewhere; maybe I'll tackle it for NaNoWriMo.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Poetry Philistine's Favorite Poem

My Birds know I'm not exactly a big connoisseur or even appreciator of poems (unless you count limericks). I know a few and can quote maybe a handful, but I do have a favorite. I won't try to explain in detail all the things this poem makes me feel, since poems are personal and mean different things to different people. And this one, I believe, is rather popular, to be found on the interwebz in several different forms, which means even more opinions to be had all around. All I will say is that every time I stumble across Come To The Edge, I feel a caress of the divine - soothing, empowering, and full of promise. 

Come to the Edge

Christopher Logue

(dedicated to Guillaume Appollinaire)

"Come to the edge," he said.
"We’re comfortable back here," they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We’re too busy,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“It’s too high,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We’re afraid,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We’ll fall,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

They came. He pushed them...
And they flew.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cover for Backnang Stories

About a month ago, I blogged about two of my German short stories being accepted for an anthology, in, of and about my home town, Backnang. We were now given some facts and figures by the publisher.

The anthology will include 20 stories by 16 authors on 208 pages. The first edition is in print right now, and publication is set for 26th October. And we have a cover! 


Contrary to my usual genres, both of the shorts I submitted are contemporary, so neither the UFO nor the dragon were inspired by my stories. But I can't wait to read the stories with the sci-fi and fantasy spins. If I'm lucky, there'll be an urban fantasy thrown into the mix. Things going bump in the Backnang night - geil!*

*'geil' = German, literally means 'horny', but also slang for 'cool', 'rad'.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Happy Birthday My Lines. My Life

On the 15th of this month, this blog turned four. 

Holy. Moly. 

It's been four years since I decided to be a writer, and one day hopefully a published one. 

Four years since I finished my first (unsold and unpublished) novel. I see its flaws these days, but I still think it's the bomb.

Four years since I garnered my first rejection(s) for the very same novel. It didn't end with one rejection, of course, but most answers left me hopeful - it took me a while to understand the concept of a "form rejection". Oh, Past-Pia, how green and innocent you once were. 

The rejections are still piling up. I haven't published a novel. I haven't yet made a dime with my writing. And yet, I still feel like it's only a matter of time. I feel like I've accomplished a lot as a writer. 

Is this feeling warranted? Let's see... 

In the past four years, I wrote (and completed!)
- four full novels,
- a screenplay for a movie,
- a screenplay for a TV-series pilot,
- ca. fifteen short stories and flash fiction pieces.

Four of those short stories were "published" over the last four Christmases via my parents' language training business, and given to their clients. 

Two more stories are now about to be published by a small German publisher in an anthology about my hometown.

Other writing-related "accomplishments" include

- getting a degree as a German screenwriter, graduating with an A, 
- finding my second and third wonderful writers groups,
- participating in readings,
- participating in workshops
- going on writing retreats in Bavaria and Italy,
- joining SCBWI

I don't know where any of this may one day lead me exactly. But I do know this: I've had a blast these past four years, and it just keeps getting better and better. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

We made the Papers

There was an article about my weekly writers group, Birds of a Feather, in our local (German) newspaper, the Leonberger Kreiszeitung! 

It appeared in Thursday's issue, and the following Saturday morning, walking over the farmer's market with one of my BoaF-ladies - the one on the right in the photo - several people came up to us and commented on the article. We even got some free bread, veggies, and coffee! 

I guess we're famous now. 


Sunday, September 7, 2014

SCBWI Summer Barbecue

Another SCBWI event come and gone. Another great get-together with my favorite kind of folks - writers. As Marcy says in her write-up of the annual SCBWI grill-out, it feels like coming home. Like you've found your tribe. The camaraderie, the shared experiences, hurdles and fears, hopes and dreams... 

Thank you Maria, for organizing and hosting! It couldn't have been any better, even if the sun had been shining. 

SCBWI Germany & Austria

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge - Why I Did It

Not at all writing-related, but for those of my peeps not on facebook, here's proof that I participated in the infamous and controversial Ice Bucket Challengehenceforth referred to as IBC. 

I stress the "infamous and controversial", because I got quite a few negative reactions from several people whom I told I was doing it. Many were annoyed by the way it has taken over the web, especially facebook. Some argued that people shouldn't have to be 'nominated' to donate money for a good cause. Others told me - and I'm paraphrasing a bit here - "we're dumping ice on our heads while kids in Africa are starving to death". And yes, people have gotten hurt, trying to come up with new and funny ways to dump ice water over themselves. 

I did it anyway, and here are my reasons why the above-mentioned grumbles didn't phase me:

The annoyance, I get. There's only so many times a person can watch somebody tipping a bucket of ice water over their heads before it becomes boring and redundant. On the other hand, we all have a choice. Nobody is making anybody click on and watch these videos. Not even evil Facebook. Just scroll over it - the next picture of a cute kitty, puppy or someone's dinners is bound to appear two posts further down... 

I also agree that it's a bit sad that people have to be called out on their honor to donate for a good cause. But isn't that why the IBC was brought to life in the first place? To raise awareness for ALS, a terrible disease that cuts peoples' lives short? I must admit, I'd never heard of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis before the IBC made the rounds. I knew of Stephen Hawking, of course, but not the exact nature of the disease that is - along with his planet-sized brain - his trademark. But that's the beauty of the IBC. It's basically a marketing campaign - and a great one at that. I bet there are a lot more people who now have at least a basic understanding of the disease. And many of them donated, I among them. Does it really matter WHY we did? 

I must admit, I'm not quite sure how the whole 'kids are starving in Africa' thing is to be understood. Maybe that reared its head because a) whoever said it hasn't understood the essential point behind the IBC, or b) is trying to tell me I should donate money to different causes. I'm going to completely ignore a) (get a clue, Ignoramus) and focus on b) which might, at first glance, hold more merit. I say at first glance, because I feel it doesn't hold up to close scrutiny. First of all, it's my business what or whom I donate my money to. Secondly, many people who donated for ALS also give donations for other causes. Just because you give money to one doesn't mean you can't give money to others, ever. Again - the IBC got people to donate, period. Always a good thing, in my book.  

And as for people getting hurt... a point could be made for natural selection, considering the DUH-factor in some of the attempts at originality... People, please be careful! The IBC is meant to help, not hurt! Be smart. Stay safe. 

There's also a whole different aspect to the challenge: that of showing solidarity. But anything I could say in this regard has already been put into a post by my good friend Nancy, who says it far more eloquently than I possibly could. 

And now I'm getting off my soap box with one last observation: it was fun.
 It's not every day you get it in your head to drench yourself with ice water. Like this:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

From Indie To Traditional Publishing - A Success Story For Author Tracy Banghart

This is a shout-out to my friend Tracy, whom I met in a pretty random set of circumstances while on vacation last summer (which I explained a little in this post). At the time, Tracy had just self-published two books, By Blood and Moon Child, which had both come very close to being traditionally published. Tracy was also working hard on her next novel called Shattered Veil. Half a year later, she self-published it, too. I read it a few weeks later, when it already had acquired quite a few rave reviews. No real surprise for me: It's amazing. One of the best self-pubs I've ever read. 

Since I'm totally biased, my opinion might not impress you. Except I'm not the only one who thought the book was amazing. Firstly, Tracy won an Indie Book Award for it. Secondly, she was contacted by an editor from Alloy Entertainment, who made Tracy an offer for the book. 

I'll let that sink in a moment...  

Yes. The publisher contacted her, because they loved the book so much. 

Tracy explains the hows and whys on her blog in The Story Behind The StoryBasically, Alloy offered her a three-book deal. Shattered Veil went through revisions and is now titled Rebel Wing. Movie optioning has been discussed. 

Tracy is living every writer's dream. I'm insanely happy and excited for her, and for me by extension. Because once I got over the stab of absolute envy that wouldn't be denied, I realized that such success stories do, in fact, hit close to home. So close that, maybe, if I follow Tracy's example and work hard at my craft, it just might happen to me, too (the being-published thing in general, not the being-contacted-by-the-publisher thing. That's got to be a one-in-a-million occurrence).

Tracy, you're my hero. Kudos to you and Shattered Veil. You both deserve the recognition. I'll be (re)reading Rebel Wing and can't wait to see how Aris' journey continues. If the series becomes the next big thing I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Backnang Stories - My First Publication!

 grew up in Backnang, a small(ish) town in Southern Germany (even though it sounds like somewhere far East). A small publisher recently opened shop there, and decided to publish an anthology with short stories in, around and about Backnang, called Backnang Stories. A call for submissions went out to all who live or once lived in the Backnang area. I decided to foresake my current streak of writing soleley in English for this opportunity to be published, and noodled around with ideas for a while. I finally wrote and sent in two short stories, hoping that at least one of them would make the cut. 

Imagine my excitement when I received an email five weeks later and found out that they both did! Squeeeeee! 


And definitely some of this:

That was about six weeks ago. Since then, the stories have been through a round of revisions, and I sent in a short bio. My part is now done, at least until the book is published in October, and presented at the annual Geese Market (the name isn't Backnang's only quirk). The authors were asked to make an appearance, and there's also a reading lined up at the local library in November, with a couple more being planned. We authors get our own mini book tour! 

So yeah, I'm excited. Every publication counts, right? This might be the tiniest of baby steps in my quest to some day earn enough money with writing to give up my day job, but it's a step. I'll take it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

SCBWI-Writing-Retreat with Beverly Birch

I went to a writing retreat / workshop in May. It was all kinds of fabtastic. The organizer asked me if I wanted to compose the write-up of the event for the SCBWI homepage. And they say there are no stupid questions... Of course I grabbed the opportunity to write something for a blog / website other than my own with both hands. I may have even used my feet. 

So here's the write-up. It includes repeated use of the words 'inspiring' and 'motivating', an inordinate but absolutely justified amount of praise-singing, and demonic mermaid nuns. Yes, you read that right: demonic mermaid nuns. It was a bunch of story tellers that got together, after all...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

End Of 6-Month Blog Hiatus

So. It's been a while, as Staind once sang. Thankfully, my reasons for not posting on the blog since February are far less angsty or wrought with existential insecurity than the song. Blogging just took a bit of a nosedive, priority-wise, over the last few months, what with finding and starting a new job, moving from two flat-shares into (finally!) my own apartment, planning and going on holidy in Canada and USA, and of course, writing. Always the writing. ;-)

In fact, writing remained my touchstone throughout the crazy times. And it paid off. I finished another first draft of a novel the day before I left for Canada. Yay me. I'm really excited about this project. It still needs considerable revision and editing work, but the fact that I'm still excited about it after finishing the first draft, and that I already have ideas for books 2 and 3, tells me I might really have something here. Now I just have to make it good, better, the best it can be. Master of Lists that I am, I already have a plan on how to accomplish this.

In other news, I simply have to pimp a book that had me reading until 5am for the first time in at least eight years: Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews. This is the seventh book in the Kate Daniels series, and it just keeps getting better. It's Urban Fantasy at its best. If you were ever curious what this genre is all about, this series is the place to start. Book 1 is Magic Bites. It is good. By book 6, Magic Rises, we've reached phenomenal. The only reason I didn't read number 6 through the night is because I started reading it in the morning. Instead of slacking off, as often happens in such series, Magic Breaks stays the course. This. This is writing that inspires me, and that I aspire to. A lofty goal, but you gotta dream big, right?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Author Incomes - Aspiring vs. Self-Published vs. Traditionally Published vs. Hybrid

Here's an interesting survey by Digital Book World on the Annual Writing Income by Author Type:
from the People Who Write Blog

I find this interesting not because it shows how most authors don't make even a thousand bucks a year (that's not really a surprise), but because it suggests that going for a hybrid of self-publishing and traditional publishing seems to be the most lucrative approach to writing. I thought traditional publishing was still the best bet in regard to the amount of money earned. But it seems mixing it up literally pays off. 

Just some food for thought.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On Persistence, the Importance of

This guest post over on Terrible Minds moved me to tears. It describes award-winning author Kameron Hurley's journey to becoming a published author, and is one of the most personal accounts on the topic I've ever read. I dare you to read it and not be affected!

Read it. Now! 


I have nothing to add except this: Kudos, Kameron Hurley!
Kudos. You give persistence a whole new meaning. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

You know you're a writer when... Ignore Your Inner Critic

Mission accomplished several times now, yet that inner critic still likes to take me for a ride and buck me off into the Mud of Doubt... but I'm no longer afraid to get up, hose down, tie that inner critic to a fence and carry on without it. 

Eat that, Inner Critic!

What are your methods for shutting up your inner critic?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Writing Retreat with Beverly Birch

I signed up for what sounds like an amazing event for May of this year, organized by SCBWIA Writing Retreat with Beverly Birch. It will take place on the beautiful island Frauenwörth on the Lake Chiemsee in Bavaria. Check it out:

We'll be staying at the convent (the large structure in the front) - an honest-to-God Benedictine convent! How. Cool. Is. That?!

Of course, the location alone doesn't a writing retreat make. Leading the event will be Beverly Birch, both author and editor, whose latest novel RIFT was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. The main theme will be "Grab your reader by the throat and don't let go". Included is a one-on-one critique with Beverly on the first ten pages of your novel/work-in-progress.

The topic and chance for a critique are all kinds of perfect because the beginning of the novel I'm currently revising isn't quite working... which was pointed out to me in the workshop I attended in November last year. I've tried fixing it, and it's definitely better than it was. With the help of my alpha readers, it's going to get even better. But will it be enough to entice a reader to read on? I'm excited to be able to find out in May.

Ten writers.
One published author/editor.
In a convent on an island, during the merry month of May.
Talking about nothing but writing for two and a half days.


Friday, January 24, 2014

You know you're a writer when... Writing Every Day

It's hard to feel like it at 5:30 in the morning. That's when I get up in order to write for an hour before I go to work. But all I need nowadays is a blast of cold water in the face and a cup of coffee. That flips a switch in my mind and what follows is the most productive hour of my day, writing-wise: between 500 and 1000 words in that one hour. And no matter what happens during the rest of that day, I always have that boost of knowing I've already been productive. 

It only took me about ten years to get to this point, but hey - better late than never. 

Who else out there is honoring this commitment? 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I guess I'm moving to LA... Not!

The Bitter Script Reader explains in this short webshow why it's essential to move to Los Angeles if you want to earn a living as a screenwriter.

It makes sense, but still... Aww man!

I absolutely admire those who take such drastic measures to fulfill their dreams! You go, guys!

But it's not for everyone. The question you have to ask and answer for yourself is: how bad do you really want it? (My personal answer: definitely maybe not bad enough)

Bad enough to uproot your whole life, move away from family and friends? (Yes)

Bad enough to dig into that nest egg, small or large, you've painstakingly built for yourself over many years? (It's not much, but yes)

Bad enough to work crazy-schedule shifts as a waitress/shop assistant/taxi driver/other low-paying-job? (Not with any motivation, but yes)

Bad enough to work your butt off without knowing whether it will ever amount to anything? (It's what I'm doing right now, so yes.)

Bad enough to stand in front of those important executives, even though you think you're not really the type of person to "work a room" and "be engaging"? (Umm... maybe?)

Bad enough to push and dig, and keep pushing and digging, in the face of rejection after rejection? (Without the support of my friends and family close at hand? I shudder just thinking about it)

My guess: If the answer to every one of those questions isn't a resounding yes, then moving to LA with the goal of earning your living as a screenwriter will probably make you miserable. 

Personal conclusion: for now I'm going to stick to novels and German screenplays; I might be able to sell those without having to move halfway across the world. 

How far would you go to make your dream come true?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

December and 2013 Writing Tallies

I was pretty busy again last month, especially considering I was on holiday until the 11th. I finished a German screenplay – yay – and started on a new novel. 

All in all, I wrote 26.655 words in December 2013.

Previous Tallies:

January: 19.675 words
February: 15.781 words
March: 19.215 words
April: 27.336 words
May: 49.403 words
June: 20.329 words
July: 33.900 words
August: 1.132 words

September: 15.100 words
October: 45.800 words
November: 7.305 words

Which means I wrote a total of 308.286 words in 2013. All within the first drafts of two novels, a full movie screenplay and a pilot episode for a TV-series.

Holy crap! O_O