Matt Staggs: Guest Blogger on Ecstatic Days (Aug. 11-15)

I’m very pleased to introduce my good friend Matt Staggs as this week’s guest blogger on Ecstatic Days. A publicist specializing in book and author publicity, Matt Staggs has worked with established authors like Thomas M. Disch and Nancy A. Kress, as well as talented up-and-comers like fantasist Paul Jessup and horror author Z.A. Recht. In 2008 he launched Deep Eight LLC, a boutique publicity agency utilizing the best publicity practices from the worlds of traditional media and evolving social technologies.

Black Clock #9, and More Catching Up Before Diving Back In…

Here ya go: news you didn’t know you needed. Please use the comments to tell me your news!

– Black Clock #9, the political issue, is now out, with fiction by yours truly, and other contributors that include Rick Moody, Brian Evenson, Jonathan Lethem, Steve Erickson, Janet Sarbanes, etc. I’m very excited about this one. My story shows John McCain, George W Bush, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton in a series of alternate universes. Something terrible comes out of McCain’s head…

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Shared Worlds at Wofford College

Chant’e, one of the students–really hard worker (and who owes me for moving her refrigerator from the dorm to her mom’s car the last day!)

Shared Worlds at Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC) was a great experience: two weeks of helping about 20 teens from as far away as Japan build unique settings and then write fiction in them. Along the way, guests like Kathy Sedia, Tobias Buckell, and Will Hindmarch dropped by to do workshops and answer the students’ questions. Director Jeremy Jones was working 24-7 behind the scenes to make it all happen, and managed to pull it off seamlessly. Not to mention the great work of everyone involved, including the management/ admin from Boyce Lawton on down, the two teachers, Christine Dinkins and Steve Zides, the resident director Shanna Hughes, the TAs Stephyn, Zach, and Ben, and the RAs Ellen and Katherine.

You’ll hear more about the camp soon on’s book blog, io9, and at, but for now I’d just like to direct you to my (admittedly amateurish) photos from the two weeks, which include alien baby photos that’ll eventually be posted here. I’d also like to say that these kids worked their butts off the entire time and just did a phenomenal job. I really love the fact that this was also kind of like a teen think tank because the problem-solving went well beyond the idea of a writing workshop.

Thanks also to SF Signal and io9 for their support, as well as Dot Lin at Tor and Sean Wallace for free books for the students, and the artists (John Picacio, Heidi Estey, Bruce Jensen, and Catherine Cheek) who contributed to the “artifacts” aspect of the camp. (On the first day, each student got an artifact, most of them from our house, and had to incorporate it into their world in some way.)

Stephyn and Zach, two of the teaching assistants

Here’re a couple of videos from Wofford about the camp:

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Secret Lives–Available from Ziesing, Amazon, Etc.

Just a quick post to remind loyal readers that Secret Live is still available from Ziesing, from Amazon, and elsewhere. It’s a gorgeous little book:

Reviewers please note: Sean Wallace at Prime (prime at is still sending out some review copies. Query him quickly as he will run out soon, at which point a PDF is the only option.

Friday Night Monkey

Evil Monkey: So you’ve been less silent this week. Still working on the novel.

Jeff: Yeah, I am, but had some other deadline stuff, post-Shared Worlds, to take care of. How’ve you been?

Evil Monkey: Obsessively surfing the intertubes. Scratching myself. Jumping people in dark alleys.

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Thank you and Goodbye

Well, my blogging week here came to an end. Thank you for reading and participating. If you ever feel like catching up with me, I have a website, which links to my promotional blog and my email — feel free to drop me a note, especially if it’s about perfume in fiction. A more personal (and fairly lazy) blog is at Live Journal.

Here’s a good
with me, where I blather about my most recent book.

And that’s it. Thank you for your thoughts and comments, and many thanks to Jeff for letting me visit.

Things that make you cry

Like many others, I use online chats to stay in touch with the friends who are too distant for frequent visits. Below is a slightly edited transcript of one such session with my friend who chose to remain anonymous, so I will just call her Genevieve V. Conversation started with the subject of movies that make us cry. And like every conversation of things dramatic, it quickly turned to Futurama.

Genevieve (talking about the movie version of V): also, the music rocked. I cried, dude, just because of the music. You play sad music and show me the Care Bears on top, I’ll still cry. Pavlovian.

Me: I know what you mean; for me, it’s dead/dying/sad animals, and I KNOW I’m being manipulated and yet, can’t help it. There’s a Futurama episode Chris doesn’t let me watch anymore because I always cry for hours afterwards.

Genevieve: OH GOD. Just thinking about it I want to cry. “Jurassic Bark.” Uncontrollable sobs.

Me: I KNOW!!!! And they used the music from “Cherbourg Umbrellas”. Which is like an added layer of Pavlovian sobbing.

Genevieve: It’s PAINFUL.

Me: On the other hand, I am totally using this conversation as fodder for my guest-blogging stint.

Genevieve: “Crying like a tiny child: a primer.”

Me: “Cartoon animals: they will rip your heart out and stomp on it.”

So, what unlikely things make you cry? Movies, books, TV, Futurama episodes?

Avoiding cheap perfume

As one perceptive reader (Jame) figured out from my very first post here, I am now about to complain about the following line from Journey:

“Smell of wine and cheap perfume”

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Jesse Bullington Sells Brothers Grossbart Novel to Orbit

My apologies for breaking in here for a second, but…

Readers of this blog may remember my post about a remarkable novel by Jesse Bullington. Jesse had had trouble getting an agent, so I not only wrote about the book, I also reproduced an excerpt. As a result, Jesse got an agent–Sally Harding–and now that agent has gotten him a publisher. The Brothers Grossbart has been picked up by Orbit Books.

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Mockingbird by Sean Stewart

I read Sean Stewart’s Mockingbird about a year ago, and here is a slightly revised version of some thoughts I posted in my LJ last year. It’s a very good book, female without having any of the annoying chicklitness, such as obsession over men — ok, there’s some. It actually fits nicely into some of the frequent blogosphere discussions about male writers writing female characters and vice versa (even though I would argue that female writers tend to do a better job of it, simply due to the fact that male viewpoint is a cultural default and women are familiar with it. Women, however, are frequently presented as mysterious other – e.g., “what do women want?”). Sean Stewart nonetheless writes his female characters extremely well. The book is excellent for many other reasons, but I will focus on the protagonist just becaue this is what especially impressed me.

The heroine, Toni, is not pretty — moreover, she REALLY is not pretty. None of that coy nonsense which is so irritating in fantasy, where the heroine is said to be not beautiful because her waist is too small, her boobs are too big and there’s a mole on her cheek. Toni has actual flaws. She does obsess over men some — but only after she gets pregnant (artificial insemination); due to her actuarial background she decides to find a guy to marry because kids do better in two-parent households. Stats play a bigger part in her life than emotion; yet, she can be hateful and mean. She tries her best and she is likeable; yet, the relationship with her sister is actually complex. And she is occasionally possessed by gods. So, good stuff.

I liked how Stewart writes her as an individual yet does not discount that being a woman informs her choices and her life; he wallows in the physiological grossness of pregnancy, he does a good job conveying how clueless Toni is about dating and sex. And all of it is believable.

Then there’s Candy, Toni’s sister, who is pretty and happy and rather desperately looking for autonomy from her (dead) mother and older sister, and she finds her liberation in sex. There’s a great scene where she shows Toni her stash of porn mags, some of which depict some heavy BDSM stuff. And she says (I’m paraphrasing) that some men just hate women — enough to really hurt them. And this is where I sat up a bit and thought, oh really? It took BDSM to clue you in? Because really, there are so many more pervasive forms of domination than BDSM. For example, the whole marketing illusion of empowerment, such as wearing a tight pink tanktop that proclaims ‘I hit boys!’ or some other inanity, this pretend strength while still remaining an object. This, after some reflection, is the problem I have with so many fantasy heroines — this repackaging of submission to the oppressive norm as something positive.

Sean Stewart actually does very well in that regard — I’m even willing to play along when Toni goes hunting for a husband with a new $600 jacket. She knows the rules of submission and she is very clear-headed about it — and that’s another thing. Submission can be necessary for a variety of reasons. It’s only when it is disguised as rebellion and freedom that it gets squicky. And doubly so when it is being sold in a shiny packaging that says ‘strong woman!’ on it.