Thursday, May 13, 2010

Moving (Blog) Day

Hey Everyone, I've jumped ship to the Wordpress platform. If you've enjoyed The Gatecrasher, please subscribe to my new blog over at

See you there...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

MLK Memorial: Keeping the Dream Alive

Sorry for the MIA act, gang. School's been a monster this semester. But, that's over now and I'm back to my usual antics.  Big updates are coming, but I wanted to take the time and pass on a bit of information regarding a very important memorial.

This month marks the 42nd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's death. My friend, Lowell Dempsey, has asked me to spread the word about an effort to complete the MLK National Memorial in Washington, DC. He's got a wonderful site up that explains the effort in great detail, and gives the opportunity to provide donations that will help support the effort.  Check it out at:

Hard to believe that less than 50 years ago, people like me had to fight for the right to sit in certain restaurants, work certain jobs, even walk down certain streets. In some places, people are still fighting for those rights. Think about it...

Thank you Dr. King.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Story Time: Dr. Demento's Very, Very, Very Bad Day

In honor of all things Super on this Super Bowl Sunday, I present my ode to Heroes and Villains

The Breakdown: With nothing more than an email, one of the greatest super villains of the modern age, Dr. Demento, finds himself suddenly unemployed. Never one to turn the other cheek, he begins a quest to find out why he, of all the villains, got the proverbial boot. In his search for answers he uncovers a conspiracy more frightening the any evil plot he’s ever hatched. If he’s to survive unemployment—and the day—he’ll have to suit up for one last battle, one he has very little hope of winning...

Dr. Demento's Very, Very, Very Bad Day
Copyright © 2009 by L. R. Giles, All Rights Reserved

The robotic, yet feminine, voice sounded from a hundred speakers throughout my icy lair, echoing off the glacial walls, “Dr. Demento, you’ve got mail.” 
            So started the worst day of my career.
            I turned off the faucet in my bathroom, bit down on my toothbrush bristles and checked the atomic clock over the mirror.  It was early still, not even eight in the morning.  The notification came from my secure computer line, the one hooked directly to Brigade headquarters.  Something was wrong.
            My monogram towel hung from the rack next to the sink.  I grabbed it, replaced my toothbrush in its holder, spat, then wiped foam from my lips.  I proceeded to the War Room, but not quickly.  There was a time when I would’ve gone running, snatching up weapons and armor as I went, in preparation for that month’s Armageddon.  Not so much these days.  After fifteen years and a thousand battles, I found speeding to the end of one catastrophe only got you closer to the start of another. 
            The path from my bedchamber to the War Room consisted of cipher-like ice corridors reinforced with titanium-carbonite studs and joists.  My lair resembled an unsolved Rubik’s cube, constantly shifting, almost never the same.  I’d designed the security feature to confound any unwanted element who found their way into my hideout.  They could conceivably wander the halls forever, never finding an exit, or more importantly, me.  The navigation systems in my brain and armor allowed me to pass through my shifting domicile with ease.  But, that morning—and not for the first time—I found it all kind of . . . excessive.  I rarely had friends over, let alone enemies.  In a way, the only thing my security system did was make getting up for a midnight snack a pain in the ass.
            I entered the War Room, my 3,000 square foot home office.
            I heard the patter of water dripping from the ceiling in a thousand places.  I’d placed a few dozen tin buckets to catch the worst of it, but they filled fast and even my superpowers couldn’t address the root of the problem. Thus were the trials of maintaining a hideout in the heart of an iceberg during the worst period of Global Warming the earth has ever faced. 
            My control chair waited like an amusement park roller coaster car at its docking station.   I sank into it and the chair’s user-interface connected to the diodes at the base of my skull. At my mental command, the chair sailed along its magnetic track like the monorail at Disney World and deposited me in front of the three mega-screens embedded in the ice walls.  With a thought, I moved a cursor the size of a small-child across the LCD display and opened my e-mail program.  Only the most recent message from Bedlam Brigade headquarters populated my Inbox:

To: Dr. Demento
From: Bedlam Brigade HR
Subject: Important News About Your Role in the Organization!

            For a moment, I felt relief.  You see, I was up for a long-overdue promotion to ‘Primary’.  More responsibility, but also more freedom and power.  I looked forward to stepping outside Brigade Mandates in terms of my armor, a Primary perk.  I planned to do away with the purple and gold for something more contemporary.  Something black maybe.  Plus the whole skintight thing just meant longer hours in the gym to keep my abs together.  Trust me, the crunches were getting old. 
            I felt confident the email would confirm what I already knew.  I was qualified, I had the seniority and I’d done well in my interview.  As I opened the message, I began celebrating in my head. Then I read further. 
                        Dear Dr. Demento,
It is our sincere displeasure to inform you that, due to economic crisis beyond our control, we have been forced to make changes in our infrastructure.  As a result, you have been terminated.  There is no need to turn in your credentials as your Level 5 security status has been revoked.  Your final compensation has been deposited into your bank account of record.  Also, your health and welfare benefits will remain in effect for the next 180 days.  Thank you very much for your many years of dedicated villainy.  We wish you all the best.

Bedlam Brigade Human Resources.
            I re-read it three times before I dialed up Brigade headquarters in search of answers. The phone rang endlessly. I didn’t get angry. After all these years of terror plots, mad schemes, extortion, and plans to take over and/or annihilate the planet, I rarely got upset.
            I got even.
            But the Brigade stood a thousand strong, and despite what some might think, I had no interest in lashing out at the first unlucky soul who got in my way.  I wanted my revenge personal and purposeful, a trademark of mine.  I set out to find out who else got the boot and who was responsible for the final decision.  I had my suspicions, but I wanted to be sure.
            I needed to know exactly who to kill for this...

Visit for more free stories

Friday, February 5, 2010

Query Torment

Here's the deal...I wrote this novel last summer, a YA (young adult) mystery called WHISPERTOWN. What's it about? More on that later.  I'm just getting to the point where I don't believe any mention of the book is going to jinx...well...whatever happens next.

Anyway, the book in itself isn't a huge deal (or maybe it is). I've written novels before. Some are permanent trunk stories, others I'm still quite fond of. None have found a publishing home. And so it goes. There are a million other writers who can make the same claim.

And like those million other writers, I secretly (not so secret now) fantasize about agent love, publisher adoration, and one day seeing my characters walking around their own theme park.

But we must walk before we can I queried.

For those who aren't familiar with the process, querying is much like job hunting. Instead of creating a resume that shows your impressive skill and why you're right for the gig, you write a letter for your book hoping that an agent or publisher will want to hire it (and you). Fact: you're much more likely to find a job in this horrible economy than have an agent/publisher take a second (or first) look at your manuscript. That's not me being pessimistic, and if you doubt me, just Google 'novel query stats'...

I read those stats, have been reading them for years. I queried anyway (because rejection is for everyone else folks, live by that). 10 letters sent via email in the first week of January.

By mid-January 7 agents had asked to see more of my manuscript.

To put this in perspective, from 2004-2008 I sent numerous queries (upwards of 100) for previous work, and in that time I received exactly 2 requests for a partial manuscript, and neither resulted in an offer of representation.

Sounds like I'm doing pretty well now, right? I should feel good?

I did at first. Coming home, opening email on an almost daily basis, and seeing yet another request for felt like being noticed by someone you love for the very first time. Yeah, that good.

But, then you realize maybe that unrequited love of yours only noticed you because you were wearing the Michael Jackson Thriller jacket, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

See, this part is new. I've never made it this far before. I feel like I'm following in the steps of that French Spider-man guy, and it's cool that I climbed to the 30th story of an 80 story skyscraper, but it's going to suck so much more to fall now.

And that's the torment (one agent was nice enough to warn me about this; she actually used that word). Waiting on what could still potentially be a 'no'. According to the stats, it probably will be a 'no'.
But, the stat's have been wrong before.

And, I've still got 50 stories to climb. Fortunately, my Thriller jacket is a great windbreaker. Better get going, I suppose.

And, for those who care, this is the query letter that got me such a phenomenal response from my first rounders:

Dear ,

I’m seeking representation for my 70,000 word YA mystery Whispertown, a book about high school, heartbreak, and hit men. [A few lines of personalization to let them know I did my homework]

15 year old Nick Pearson is pretending to be someone he isn’t. Not high school pretending. Witness Protection pretending. And the #1 rule is “stay low-key”. But, when his sole friend Eli dies in the school’s journalism room under mysterious circumstances, and Nick stumbles upon the conspiracy Eli planned on exposing, staying low-key takes a backseat to staying alive.

Newspaper Nerd Eli had a secret, an in-the-works story codenamed “Whispertown”. And it’s got a lot of folks interested. Like corrupt cops, the town’s shady mayor, and certain high-ranking government officials. Teaming with Eli’s estranged (and gorgeous) sister Reya, Nick sets out to unravel the mystery and still maintain his cover. He’ll have to use all the deviant skills he’s gained from his racketeering dad, assassin godfather, and their Serbian gangster boss to find the truth. However, each clue brings him closer to answers he may not want. Whispertown is bigger than he could have ever imagined, and in its shadow stands a killer…a killer Nick fears may be his own father.

My fantasy novel The Darkness Kept was a Top 10 finalist in the Tor UK and SciFi Now “War of the Words” competition. I am a recipient of the 2006-2007 Virginia Commission for the Arts Fiction Fellowship (a $5000 cash award). And, I’m a three-time contributor to the Dark Dreams anthology series edited by author Brandon Massey for Kensington Publishing (Dark Dreams, 2004; Voices from the Other Side, 2006; Whispers in the Night, 2007). I have a lot of stories to tell and I just need the chance to put them where they belong…in front of readers.

I’ve included the first 10 pages of Whispertown for your review [this, of course, varies from agent to agent; please send them what they ask for]. Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope you find that we are a good match for each other.

Anybody else have a query story that's both awesome and anxious at the same time? Here's to hope, folks...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Black History Month: How far we've come...

UPDATE 02/13/2010: Helena over at reached out to me this week regarding their piece on Vanity Fair (and others). Check them out for more insight into VF's depiction of the "New Hollywood" or view the embed below. 

It's Give Us A Little Attention So We'll Shut the Hell Up Month Black History Month. Traditionally, this would be a time to reflect on the many good and inspiring acts for, by, and about Black folks. But, since that's the approach mostly everyone  is going take, I decided to head in a different direction...and call some **** out!!

Initially I planned on one or two items a week, but because I'm having such a great day today, I'm giving you a double-dose.

First up: Vanity Fair (whose title could not be more fitting). Normally, this magazine would mean nothing to me, and rightfully so, I'm not their audience. But I was surfing and saw it over at EW... They just unveiled their February cover featuring a batch of fresh-faced (i.e. white) young starlets, or, as the cover states, The NEW Hollywood.  Funny how it looks just like the old Hollywood.

Really? There are NO promising Latina/Asian/African-American/Native-American  actresses bringing in the new decade? None? No Zoe Saldana? No Gabourey Sidibe? I mean that field these girls are in seems pretty big, and I'm sure the photographer had an array of lenses available; they could've squeezed some color in there somewhere.

But I know this wasn't intentional. And no one on the shoot, or in the editor's office, or at the printer's, noticed the total lack of diversity in this spread. And, I'm also sure Vanity Fair will tell us as much should people make a big enough stink about this during Black History Month.

Now, I know ultimately this isn't a big deal...Vanity Fair isn't about diversity. If I really want to see black actresses I've got Ebony and Jet (heck, Jet comes out once a week, so that more than compensates). But, the point here is there's still a clear division in Mainstream (white) and Other (everybody else) when it comes to entertainment. And, bottom line is it isn't right. There are so many people who claim that we're past racism, that it's the people who keep bringing it up who actually cause the problems... but, truth is we're living a life of quiet segregation most days and that won't change if we don't talk about it.

So, here it is, why are the images we see in our cineplexes, on our tv screens, in our books, and in our magazines so skewed towards one race if everything is supposed to be so equal?

We call it Pop Culture with the emphasis on Pop when it needs to be on Culture. Stuff like the Vanity Fair cover is a snapshot of our world: pretty to some, but not to others. Think about it...

Finally, I want to bring back an oldie but goodie. A video from the Game Overthinker that seems to be about the controversy of Resident Evil 5 from a couple of years back, but is really about so much more. Enjoy!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Race Card

This week's Bloomsbury "Whitewash" controversy got a lot of people talking about a particularly deplorable--but often ignored--practice. In the midst of these conversations it seems a perfect time to bring up a question that surfaces on its own from time to time anyway. Does race matter in publishing?

Admittedly, it's a broad, possibly unanswerable question that opens the door for a lot of rhetoric. Even if you boil it down to specific genres (fantasy, sci-fi), covers (as was the case this week), or the race of a story's protagonist (James Patterson's Alex Cross or Dan Brown's Robert Langdon) there will likely be no common ground found. So, for the sake of this posting, I'll keep it broad, and whatever happens happens.

I've asked the question myself to more than a few industry professionals over the last 10 years, and the answer I hear over and over again is, "No, race does not matter. Excellent writing is key." Let's start there.

Is excellent writing key? Yes, I would agree. But, what qualifies as excellent?

I think it's fair to say that if you're reading this post, and you regularly read novels/short stories/poetry/whatever, you've run across something that is wildly popular yet fails to strike a chord with you. Some people despise Stephenie Meyer's work, some think J.K. Rowling is overrated, some say Stephen King is not a good writer (really, check their Amazon reviews). There are people who think today's most popular authors are NOT excellent. In the cases of the three mentioned, such claims of non-excellence hold little weight since they're all mega-bestsellers. But, let's look at it another way...

There was a point where they hadn't sold anything. A time when they were holding down day jobs (yes, Stephenie Meyer was a housewife, and Jo Rowling benefited from public assistance for a brief, but if you don't think raising a kid is a day-and-night job, go tell that to somebody's mother and I'll help you hold the bag of frozen peas to your black eye afterward). They played the slush pile, and waited for the mythical "big break". Deservedly, that break came when someone (not just anyone...more in a minute) saw excellence in them. Obviously, that someone was not mistaken in plucking either of those three from the scrum (a Janet Reid word) of bestseller wannabes. The someone I'm speaking of roughly translates to gatekeeper, for the sake of this post we'll say gatekeeper means agent, editor, publisher, or whoever has the ability to let a writer inside the wall.

One can argue that a gatekeeper's choice is based solely on dollars and cents. While excellent writing is key, everyone has to pay their light bill. Agents get paid a percentage of what their clients make, so they must choose clients who have the potential to make money. Publisher's put up the money to produce a book, and get their money back when the book sells. It's important that the book buying public accepts a book for it to be successful.

So, that being said, let me ask a couple of questions:

1) If race doesn't matter, and excellent writing is key, why did Bloomsbury produce two covers in the last year that misled potential book buyers about the skin color of the book's main character instead of trusting the 'excellent writing' of their authors to sell the book?

Possible Answer (i.e. answer I'll likely hear, but probably won't believe): L.R., someone in that company is woefully ignorant and they don't represent publishing as a whole.

2) If excellent writing is the key, are there really so few ethnic writers with any marketable skill for the gatekeepers to pluck from the masses then push to the public?

Possible Answer 1:  L. R.,  you're just being obtuse. What about bestsellers like Amy Tan, Walter Mosley, Khaled Hosseini, okay, there's like 100,000 books in my local Borders and those are the only names that spring to mind, but whatever. There's that whole African-American Interests section that I never see anyone in, but from a distance I've noticed a lot of books. A lot.

Possible Answer 2:  L.R., Wait a second, you're a writer who doesn't have a book deal. And you're black. This whole post is just your bitter rant, isn't it? I see through you like glass, buddy.

3) Does the economy play a factor in all of this, regardless of race?

Real Answer: Yes. I don't mean this post to suggest being a Caucasian author makes things easy, or that help and support is (or should be) readily available for any writer because of their race. I just simply want to point out how unpopular questions of race matters really are, and how many choose to ignore that publishing is far from 'post-racial' (I'll save that term for another post), evident by the events of this week.

I leave you with that, and a few names. These people write some great books, but get little of the attention they deserve. Check them out sometime if you can:

Tananarive Due
Steven Barnes
Brandon Massey
Terence Taylor
(and many others...I'll make an effort to list more in each post).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bloomsbury whitewashes cover (then they don't) ...

This week, publisher Bloomsbury resurrected the controversy over their practice of placing Caucasian models on the covers of books where the main character is clearly a person of color with their release of Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, a Young Adult novel. A furor erupted online with readers and authors alike voicing their disappointment in the publisher. Today, Bloomsbury stated on their website, “Bloomsbury is ceasing to supply copies of the US edition of Magic Under Glass. The jacket design has caused offense and we apologize for our mistake. Copies of the book with a new jacket design will be available shortly.”

Now, while I appreciate the publisher correcting its 'mistake', I think it bears examining why the 'mistake' was made in the first place. As Justine Larbalestier pointed out when she went through a similar ordeal over the cover of her YA novel Liar less than a year ago, there's a long held belief that covers featuring models of color hurt book sales. That particular tenet, as I understand, hasn't been backed up with any quantifiable data (after all, I'm sure there are numerous examples of books featuring Caucasian models selling poorly, and I'm willing to bet those numbers eclipse the poor sales of books/covers featuring people of color since Caucasian authors who write about Caucasian characters are published in exponentially greater numbers than their multi-ethnic counterparts), yet we see this 'mistake' being made over and over again.

And that's incredibly discouraging for those of us who would love to see books/covers that represent broader diversity along side the books/covers we're used to seeing in our bookstores and libraries (evident by this moving open letter by Ari Valderama of Reading in Color). And I do mean along side, not relegated to some separate-but-equal 'African/Asian/Latino/etc-interests' section (don't get me started on how much difficulty I have finding books I'd like to read in the section that was supposedly built to cater to my ethnic tastes...).

With the election of the first black president, it's been said we're living in a 'post-racial' America. I beg to differ. If you disagree, I say pick up a book some time.