The Rest is Silence . . . Or Is It?

“The rest is silence” is perhaps the most famous of the famous last words uttered by a fictional character, but the rest wasn’t silent because Horatio and Prince Fortinbras kept talking after Hamlet died. I’ve always found that kind of amusing but it also made me think about the nature of silence.

Authors are always told to engage all the senses of the reader. One sense that can be enhanced in fiction is hearing. Not the reader hearing characters talking to each other or the overt sounds that characters’ make or hear. Authors have that kind of hearing down pat.

Often characters experience silence–as in a conversation stopper, or a stunned silence, or just enjoying silence in a room or in nature. The phrase “silence is golden” is said to date from Ancient Egypt and was translated from German by Thomas Carlyle for his novel, Sartar Resartus, in which a character expounds on the virtues of silence. More telling is that we tend to shorten it from a longer phrase: “speech is silver; silence is golden.” So if we want to think about it in terms of enriching a scene, if speech is silver, then the greater value of silence can be exploited to enhance the interaction between characters or a character with her environment.

When I take a break from work, I like to walk around the yard and I always marvel at the silence of where I live–kind of on the edge of town with little traffic and a creek that draws birds and other critters, and all the cats, most of them feral and living in their secret nooks and crannies. But then the silence becomes even more magical when isolated sounds come through–a dog bark, a bird call, another bird calling, a scampering squirrel, a cat fight, a school bell in the distance, a turkey gobble, the rattle of a bicycle, a car rolling several blocks away, a mumble of voices from somewhere, the underlying rumble of traffic on the busy highway between San Francisco and Sacramento.

I feel like I’m a part of a secret world of sounds–muted, isolated, clear, unexpected. I’m reminded that silence isn’t really silence, it’s just not talking or moving around and making noise. And the peace that people experience from having a silent moment–whether in nature or relaxing inside–often comes from the noises they’re suddenly able to hear because they get caught up in the magic of a world that’s always around them but they never take the time hear.

John Cage wrote a composition entitled 4′33″. It’s for any instrument or any combination of instruments. The score instructs the performers not to play during the three movements of the work. In other words, just sit in silence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. The work is also known as Silence. But it’s anything but silent. The purpose is for the audience to become aware of the noises around them and these noises are actually the performance.

I’ve sat through several performances of 4’33″ through the years and have enjoyed watching the audience as they gradually get into the spirit of the performance and cock their heads or look around as they hear the sounds coming from different parts of the hall. The lucky ones feel the magic.

So the next time your characters experience silence, take a moment to think, is it really silence or an opportunity to engage the reader’s ears and maybe create a moment of magic for them.

Casey

 

 

A Nurse, Vigilante, Rabbit, Poet, Lobster, and Dog Walk Into a Bar

. . . and wonder why they haven’t partied together before. Then they decide to take over the pool tables and are politely asked never to return to that establishment again . . .

Fortunately, they’ve found another place to hang out, where they’re not only welcome but where they can talk and play and drink and eat and keep themselves entertained . . . In other words, they’ve found that perfect home away from home.

So step inside Binkie’s Bar and join in.

The nurse looks like she’s out of a 40s pulp fiction novel but thinks like a modern 21st century gal. June Magee is on assignment with boi photographer Roi Rodgers at Rehoboth Beach. Join in the fun and swig a couple of drinks with Fay Jacobs in June Magee, R.N., Festival Nurse by that trio of crazy kids–Ann McMan, Salem West, and Barrett.

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The vigilante, Mariska Cooper, has a lot on her plate–going to college, working as a waiter, and donning a mask and superhero togs to save Toronto from bad guys and a nefarious crime boss in The Surrender by Terias McKlay. The one thing she doesn’t count on is losing her heart to Alana Pierce, a successful but mysterious businesswoman.

The rabbit, Floyd, gets to hop around in a crazy dystopia and probably wonders who drank the end-of-the-world bottle of champagne and why love and survival take on a whole new meaning for Casey Prentice after she meets the super genius Pax of the Anastasian League in Rabbits of the Apocalypse by Benny Lawrence.

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 The poet creates a verbal mixed media of her Italian heritage, her feminism, lesbianism, and political activism in her lyrical, humorous, and provocative poems and prose in In My Neighborhood by Giovanna Capone.

The lobster is the symbol of Meghan Blaney’s proud family tradition in Blowback by Bev Prescott. She discovers that hard work, loyalty, and sacrifice may not be enough to keep her world from crumbling and her loved ones safe from harm, and that everyone’s best intentions aren’t always enough.

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The dog, Juneau, is just a youngster and is excited because Kate Winter is training her to be a service dog for Faith Hutchins and the sparks that fly between Kate and Faith light up their world of dogs, horses, and the great outdoors in Positive Lightning by Laurie Salzler.

So lift a glass and enjoy this unique company of companions. Don’t worry about overindulging. Our books are so intoxicating they come with their own designated drivers.

 

 

Winter Solstice Musing

It’s the shortest day of the year or the longest night–however you wish to look at it.

It’s the day where we experience and celebrate an extreme in nature. An extreme that is also the beginning of hope, that each day will now grow longer and let more light into our lives.

This year this natural balance has felt increasingly off kilter. Where the darker side of human nature is overshadowing the lighter side. But just as the darkness of greed, violence, and anger is infectious, so is the lightness of generosity, compassion, and calmness. Unfortunately, it seems to be harder for humans to spread light than to spread dark.

Divisions create divisiveness. The flat plane of the human race suddenly has sides as we mistake natural variations of a single species, a single race as different in less than desirable ways. Variation makes a species stronger, inbreeding makes it weaker, and we seem to be letting the weaker dictate how we’re to live our lives. Survival of the fittest is devolving. We’ve convinced the weak that they’re strong and we’ve convinced the strong that they have to prove they have the right to be human.

On this winter solstice, let’s all be strong and help nature along as she pushes a little more light into our lives each day. Let’s face down greed, violence, and anger with generosity, compassion, and calmness. Let’s show that strength comes from how well we can all get along and not by how well we can destroy each other.

There is no life without light.

We at Bedazzled Ink hope everyone is having a peaceful and joyful holiday season and will have a 2015 filled with glorious light.

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In the Spirit of Things

Serendipity is so much a part of Bedazzled Ink that it’s a part of our business plan. So we weren’t surprised to discover that the two books we published in August both deal with the spiritual in some way.

The Empath by Jody Klaire is the first book in her Above and Beyond Series, a series about Aeron Lorelei, an empath, and her involvement with the mysterious CIG—Criminal Investigations Group. Aeron doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and she’s still learning the extent of what she calls her burdens. She’s fighting herself almost as much as she’s battling the serial killer who is stalking her hometown and the townspeople who think Aeron is behind the killings. To prove her innocence, Aeron is forced to use the gift she has spent her life hiding.

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Spirit Home is Ruth Perkinson’s personal journey to find her spiritual path and, using a train as a metaphor, lays down a track that anyone can travel on to find their own spirituality. Don’t think for a minute that Spirit Home is a dry, preachy, new age-y inspirational tome. Ruth chats with us in a down-to-earth, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant but always entertaining way while leading us down a path of optimism and hope.

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So, if you love terrific, exciting books, jump into The Above & Beyond Series  with The Empath.  If you want to be taken to a quiet, hopeful place, climb on board the metaphysical train and travel across the enlightened landscape of Spirit Home.

The Submission Game

Bedazzled Ink has dabbled on and off through the years with allowing unsolicited submissions. We’ve never had much luck with the process and so we’ve mostly relied on serendipity to acquire books. Amazingly enough, serendipity has worked very well for us.

When we created our latest Web site we added a page where authors can query us. To control the over-abundance of useless stuff author sometimes send along with their submission, we created a form for the authors to fill out, making the process simple, easy, and clear.

Then we let the author know what we’re interested in at the moment—

“At the moment, we’re currently open to queries for our BInk division. For fiction, we only want to see books with strong women protagonists for mainstream literary fiction, mainstream lesbian fiction (including genre fiction that transcends or exemplifies the genre), and literary juvenile fiction.”

We even went so far as to include a drop down menu to let us know which submission category a book belongs in—Literary Mainstream Fiction, Mainstream Lesbian, Juvenile, and Nonfiction. Nice and simple and clear . . . right? And like many publishers, we’re not always looking for all the types of books we publish at any given time, so key words in guidelines are “at the moment” and “currently.” Always remember to visit publishers’ guidelines regularly because they may decide they have enough of one type of book and are looking for a different type or they’ve expanded a line of books, etc.

Well, many authors don’t feel the need to do simple things like read submission guidelines, look at the kind of books a publisher publishes, or even look at the publisher’s Web site if the guidelines are posted on another site that lists guidelines. The few times we had guidelines on other sites, we got religious tomes, poetry by rednecks, political rants, really really poorly written fiction that you know had been rejected by every single publisher in the universe . . . Our little form/control system seems to have successfully filtered out the lunatic fringe of writer wannabes, at least.

So after six months we decided to see how our new submission system is working. Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve received.

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So pop quiz.

What is our only criteria for fiction? A female protagonist. Note that 17.67% of our submissions have male protagonists.

Now, what kind of mainstream fiction are we looking for? Literary. Excluding male protagonists books, 47.04% of the submissions are mainstream genre—romance/chick lit, young adult, fantasy, memoir, and mainstream literary. The memoir is about a woman’s journey to the perfect relationship—too chick lit/romance for our taste. So 64.71% of our submissions are mainstream and only the young adult (5.87%) and the literary (11.75%) meet the mainstream criteria.

And that leaves the lesbian submissions—35.29%. 17.67% of the submissions are lesbian romance so they don’t match the category. Leaving us with 5.87% that are young adult and 11.75% that are mainstream lesbian.

So 64.76% were rejected right off the bat. Of the remaining 32.24%, one of the mainstream literary submissions, all the young adult, and all the mainstream lesbian made it to the “shall we ask for the full manuscript?” stage. We’ve already accepted all the mainstream lesbian for publication, we’re looking at the young adult manuscripts, and we’re discussing the one mainstream literary submission.

What we have learned from this study is that saying what we are looking for is not enough. We have to actually say what we’re not looking for, which, of course, is everything except what we’re looking for. So perhaps it’d be easier for authors to peruse the guidelines and brush up on category definitions if need be. After all, it’s not only a waste of our time, it’s a waste of the author’s time, unless they really enjoy collecting rejection slips. Well, we don’t particularly enjoy sending them out.

What we enjoy is receiving a book that knocks our socks off and we can’t wait to release it to the world. Got one of those and we will say yes so fast it’ll make your head spin. That’s because we really truly know what we want, even if a certain number of authors seem to believe that we don’t.

It just makes sense to study the kind of books a publisher publishes, read a few of the popular ones, and understand how they’re the same or different from your book in quality and in content. The main questions should be, do they publish books like my book and is my book like the books they publish? The first question identifies content and the second identifies style and quality. The wrong answer to the second question is usually what gets a rejection because that’s what we look at first.

So we’ll keep our little submission form and tweak our guidelines from time to time because as many times as we have to say no, the few times we get to say yes makes it more than worth it.

And by coincidence we have a tweak . . .

 Call for Submissions

The Forever Windsor Series

Visit the guidelines page for more information

Mothers and Daughters

Back when we published our zine, Khimairal Ink, we’d get a bunch of submissions and sort through them and select the best ones for the next issue. We focused on things like was it a good story and was it well-written. Then when we had our little pile of stories, we would select an illustration for the cover and have a discussion on what our editorial introductions would be about. So we’d look at the stories again and we’d often see that most, if not all, were centered around a single theme or genre. It was as if authors had been struck to write and/or submit a short story in the same genre or about the same thing at the same time. We had a speculative fiction issue, a light and amusing issue, cheatin’ hearts issue, an enlightenment issue . . .

So fast forward a bit and we looked at our recent books and realized that several of them also follow the same theme—mothers and daughters.

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The trend started with Jericho by Ann McMan with an important secondary story between Maddie Stevenson and her estranged mother Celine.

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Then we published Letters Never Sent by Sandra Moran, which is about a daughter’s discovery of a secret from her mother’s past. By coincidence, Everything by Carole Wolf also follows this theme. Yet no two books could be more different from each other. While the story of true love between the mother and a woman from her past is at the core of both books, Letters Never Sent explores the cultural and social impact on women during the 1930s through the 1950s, and Everything gives us a glimpse into the sex, drugs, and rock n roll scene of the early 1990s. Both books weave the times and settings in rich, vibrant tapestries and both have nice twists at the end as a result of the daughters’ journeys of discovery and revelation.

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The Paths of Marriage by Mala Kumar is about three generations of women, and tells the story of a young woman in India who marries and moves to the United States to make a better life for herself and her family, her daughter who is caught between cultures, and her daughter who is an out lesbian to everyone except her mother and grandmother. We are taken on a journey that begins in Chennai, India and ends up in modern day New York City as thousands of years of cultural barriers have to be torn down for these women to find what it means to be family again.

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Kid by Doreen Perrine, due out in time for the holiday season, is based on a true story about a lesbian mother fighting her ex-husband for custody of her child in the wake of the Save Our Children campaign of the seventies. Perrine gives us a story about the women who were brave enough to stand up to the system and be a part of one of the many efforts throughout the 1970s and 1980s to get the courts to change the laws that gay and lesbians were automatically unfit to have custody of their child. But at the core is the special relationship between a mother and a daughter who have spent too many years on the run and living in fear of being found and separated.

So explore the world of mothers and daughters through these entertaining and intriguing books.