Tag Archives: michael jan friedman

Hold On To the Light Inside of You

This morning, I learned about a brilliant initiative called Hold On To The Light, spearheaded by SFF author Gail Z. Martin. 

Beginning on September 20, hundreds of science fiction and fantasy authors began an online conversation across blogs and socialHold Onto The Light media about mental illness, domestic violence, suicide, depression, PTSD, and related issues that are often extremely upsetting
and difficult to discuss for so many.

Click here to read the first blog post from Hold Onto The Light

Over the past five years, I’ve opened up about my nearly 40-year battle with depression both on social media and at personal appearances. I sometimes discuss how depression has affected my writing and I never cease to be surprised at how willing others are to reveal their own struggles. My, times have changed. Society is finally opening up a dialogue about mental illness and that’s wonderful. The old stigmas are rapidly disintegrating.

My first novel, Testing the Prisoner, is a paranormal mystery that deals with the brutality of child abuse and the trauma that stays with the victims for the rest of their livesTesting the Prisoner by Phil Giunta. This was intimately familiar territory, but that made it no less challenging to write. I had to confront my own pain, my own memories, my own struggles with a darkness that pushed me toward a desire to take my own life at least a half dozen times during my younger days and even a few times in recent years.

Still, I knew the story had to be told for a number of reasons. First, I wanted to let others who have been victims of child abuse to know that they are not alone. Secondly, and perhaps more selfishly, I wanted to turn the tables on a demon that has persistently robbed me of happiness and instead, use it as a storytelling tool to launch my writing career.

As for surviving depression, perhaps it was faith, willpower, or a hope for a brighter future that dissuaded me from any “permanent solutions” to my problem. Much of the credit should also be given to SFF fandom and my growing interest in writing. Watching Star Trek and seeing Star Wars at the tender age of six inspired me. Later, the media tie-in novels became a gateway to speculative fiction and hard SF in my teen years. I began reading Asimov, Clarke, Ellison, Bradbury, and many others. Like many SF films and TV shows, books became my anti-depressant and while they were not an instant panacea, they helped pull me through countless dark and terrible times. They still do today.

Most importantly, the friendship and community that I found in SFF fandom has been the most enriching experience I could ask for. The best and most supportive friends in my life came from my three decades attending SF conventions such as Farpoint, Shore Leave, Balticon, and others.

More, I wouldn’t be published today were it not for the mentorship of august writers like Steven H. Wilson, Howard Weinstein, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, and Aaron Rosenberg, all of whom I met at the aforementioned cons. I am honored to call these chaps my friends, and in the case of Steve, Bob, and Aaron, my publishers!

If you are suffering from depression, I encourage you to reach out and find the help you so richly deserve. You are not alone. You have a right to happiness and health. You have a right to achieve your potential without being hagridden by a demon that wants to convince you of the lie that you’re inadequate, unworthy, or that life is not worth living. I beg you to find the light and hold on to it.

About Hold On To The Light

September/October are the months for Depression Awareness, Suicide Prevention, Bullying Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness, World Mental Health Day and Domestic Violence Awareness.

What’s our end game? We want to bring the issues, struggle and treatment out of the shadows and make it clear that no one is alone in the journey. We want to demonstrate fandom taking care of its own. And we want fandom to be a safe space for everyone.

The steering group behind #HoldOnTotheLight is made up of John Hartness, Jaym Gates, Jean Marie Ward, Emily Leverett, Mindy Mymudes and Gail Z. Martin.

How can you help? Share, retweet and engage with the blog posts and social media outreach about the campaign and by the participating authors to spread the word. Encourage the conventions you participate in to add or expand panels on mental wellness. Learn more about the issues, so you can be an educated participant in the discussion.

If you want to get even more hands-on, please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Together, we can #HoldOnToTheLight because #FandomTakesCareOfItsOwn.

You can find updates with links to author blog posts and updates about related news here, and on the HoldOnToTheLight Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/ and on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight (note the ‘we’)

Media: Contact Gail Z. Martin via www.AscendantKingdoms.com

 

Shore Leave 38 Convention Recap!

My trek to Shore Leave last weekend was much different from any previous year in that I arrived at the con directly from a marvelous week’s vacation in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Clear skies and sparse traffic made driving through the bucolic town of Denton, MD simply serene.

For a fisherman like me, traversing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was indeed a religious experience. Looking right and left, the view was blue straight to the horizons. Gorgeous.

Then I reached the 695 Beltway right at the beginning of rush hour. Let the road rage begin! Ugh.  Nevertheless, I finally reached the Hunt Valley Wyndham Grand, checked-in, registered for the con, unloaded my car in the blistering heat, took a shower, and missed my 5PM discussion panel.

After dinner at Noodles & Company with friends Sharon and Cyndi Van Blarcom, Lance Woods, and Renfield, we met up with fellow scribe and Firebringer Press publisher, Steven H. Wilson, with whom I had spent the aforementioned week in Rehoboth Beach along with his family and several friends (click here to see vacation pics!).

Friday night at 10PM brought the traditional Meet the Pros book fair where all of the con’s writer guests gathered to sell and sign books. It also celebrated the release of two new books for Firebringer Press–Steven H. Wilson’s fourth novel, Sacrifice Play: A Tale from the Arbiter Chronicles, and Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity, the second installment in our speculative fiction anthology series. Seven of nine (pardon the obvious pun) anthology writers were on hand to sign copies including Daniel Patrick “Renfield” Corcoran, Michael Critzer, Susanna Reilly, Stuart Roth, Steven H. Wilson, Lance Woods, and myself. The night was so busy that it’s all a blur to me now and I did not have the time to take too many pics…

Special thanks to Ethan Wilson, Christian Wilson, Jessica Headlee, Jill Mardesich, Tim Marron, and Cheyenne-Autumn Christine Reilly for volunteering to shlep boxes of books from Steve’s car to Meet the Pros and then from there to my hotel room afterward!

Crazy 8 Press at Meet the Pros Firebringer Press at Meet the Pros Renfield at Meet the Pros Lance and Steve at Meet the Pros Susanna at Meet the Pros Michael Critzer and Phil Giunta Peter, Bob, Michael, at Meet the Pros

Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity

Saturday and Sunday brought about a myriad of discussion panels on writing and publishing. My panel schedule was lighter than usual this year. On Saturday morning, I was a panelist on “The Whole Package” with Richard White, Glenn Hauman, Aaron Rosenberg, Mike McPhail, and Jim Johnson. We discussed all that goes into quality editing, layout, and cover art.

Afterwards, I made my way down to the lower lobby to meet actors Michael Forest and Barbara Bouchet who each guest-starred on episodes of classic Star Trek.  They were both very friendly and I picked up an autographed photo from each of them.

While there, I was stopped by an attendee and asked to sign a Shore Leave trading card with my picture! I was honored, because after all, as Lucy Van Pelt said in the 1965 Charlie Brown Christmas Special, “How can you say someone is great who’s never had his picture on bubblegum cards?”

Phil on Trading Card

I then sat in on the Crazy 8 Press panel as several of the authors, including Peter David, Russ Colchamiro, and Michael Jan Friedman read excerpts from their latest books.

Crazy 8 Press-1 Crazy 8 Press-2

At 4PM, I had the pleasure of sitting in on John Noble’s talk in the ballroom. Mr. Noble is known for such shows and films as Fringe, Elementary, Lord of the Rings, and much more. He is an eloquent and engaging speaker.

John NobleJohn NobleJohn Noble

The “Firebringer Press Presents” panel occurred at what has become its traditional timeslot, 5PM. Of course, this is opposite the con’s official autograph lines for the celebrities and the dinner hour which often results in the panelists outnumbering the audience.  Nevertheless, it was a fun and lively discussion about current and future projects as well as our brand new aforementioned anthology, Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity.

Phil at Firebringer Panel Stu and Sue at Firebringer Panel

Steve at Firebringer Panel

After the panel, a few of the anthology writers gathered in my room for a book signing party, including Steven H. Wilson, Stuart Roth, and Lance Woods.  Once all of the Kickstarter books were signed, it was time to gather with friends for a delightful dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack.

Back at the hotel, it was another round of book signing with Susanna Reilly. We chatted for a few hours with Stuart and his wife, Maria, before turning in for the night.

Sunday morning saw me finally participating in Shore Leave’s Writers Breakfast in the Cinnamon Tree restaurant. Every year since becoming a writer guest, I committed to attending and every year I failed to do so. I sat with Stuart Roth and Shore Leave Co-Con Chair, Dr. Inge Heyer. Inge is a longtime friend who has been involved with Shore Leave as a magnificent writer liaison for many years.

By 11AM, I was in the autograph line for John Noble and Michael Trucco (Battlestar Galactica, Castle, Big Bang Theory). The lines moved quickly and both gentlemen were wonderful to meet and chat with.  Afterward, I had about an hour to relax in the comfy chairs that line the hallway near the elevators. I was joined there by veteran writer Aaron Rosenberg. We chatted for about 30 minutes about writing, vacations, and life in general before it was time for my final panel of the con.

Shore Leave 38 Autographs

At 1PM, I joined Joshua Palmatier, Mike McPhail, and Michael Jan Friedman for “Building an Anthology”.  We had no official moderator, but questions from our audience members guided the discussion, much of which was spent on the topic of how to use Kickstarter to fund anthologies.

Near the end of my day, I once again crossed paths with artist Todd Brugmans who created the artwork for several Farpoint program books as well as Heroic Park, the debut novel of Lance Woods. For Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary, Todd was commissioned to create cover art not only for Farpoint’s program book, but for Balticon and Shore Leave’s as well. Combined, the images create a triptych and I happened to have all three with me for Todd to autograph!

Farpoint, Balticon, and Shore Leave program books

Alas, it was then time for me to say my goodbyes to every friend I could find in my final patrol of the hotel before beginning my voyage home.  All told, it was yet another enjoyable, albeit frenetic, Shore Leave filled the typical cast of colorful characters.

Phil with Crazy 8 PressTrek and Roll!Orion Slave Girl Science Officer Saavik Rock on and Prosper  Klaatu Judge Q

Mon CalamariJoker with Bomb

Jill Mardesich             Jessica Headlee Cobra CommanderBorg

R2 Unit-2R2 Unit-1

 

 

Send the Elevator Back Down

An unexpected honor came today when fellow writer and GLVWG member David Miller asked me to type up the improv speech I gave on Saturday at the Lower Macungie Library local author event. David shared it with other members of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group today.
 
The exercise provided an opportunity to polish the speech, improving the focus and making it less frenetic as improv routines can sometime be. Truly, it’s a touch of personal history about my journey as a writer and to honor those who have mentored me, guided me, and eventually invited me to publish with them.


Send the Elevator Back Down

Phil Giunta

Comedian Steven Wright once told this joke: “When I was little, my grandfather used to make me stand in a closet for 5 minutes without moving. He said it was elevator practice.”

Today, I’d like to talk to you about elevators.

There’s a wonderful quote making its way around the internet from actor Kevin Spacey. “If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.”

I began writing in the realm of fan fiction back in the late 1980s. For the uninitiated, fan fiction is generally a story based on your favorite characters from television or movies such as Captain Kirk, Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, the list goes on. I know people who wrote fan fiction based on everything from Bonanza to Quantum Leap.

I found fan fiction to be a marvelous training ground for storytelling. Of course, I couldn’t sell these stories because they were based on copyrighted characters, but I did pass them around and the general feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

It was at about this same time, when I began attending an increasing number of science fiction conventions such as Farpoint, Shore Leave, and Balticon in Maryland and I-CON in Long Island, New York. In addition to meeting so many actors I’d grown up with, I also met many of my favorite writers such as Harlan Ellison, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Howard Weinstein, Bob Greenberger, Steven H. Wilson, and others.

There I was, holding my stack of novels and comic books eagerly waiting to get them signed and to chat with bestselling authors I never thought I would meet. Little did I know that when I was waiting in autograph lines, I was actually waiting for the elevator.

Over the years, I continued to write and to glean advice from many of the aforementioned writers who would return as regulars to Farpoint and Shore Leave. I appreciated their patience and guidance, hoping I was not making a nuisance of myself.

Of particular note was Steven H. Wilson. By the time I met him, Steve had just written a few issues of Star Trek and Warlord for DC Comics and was beginning to craft what would become his science fiction audio drama series, The Arbiter Chronicles. Like me, Steve had also started in fan fiction, but was further along the road than I was. Yet not so far that getting there seemed daunting. I wanted to be that guy.

Steven also founded Farpoint in 1993, and it was at that convention where I came in second place in a writing contest. Steven personally encouraged me to keep writing. Little did I know that the friendship we were forming was also the elevator door opening.

Flash forward to 2007 and Steve had already won both the Parsec and Mark Time audio awards for his podcasts of The Arbiter Chronicles. He had also self-published his first novel based on that series and had received an excellent review from the Library Journal.

By this time, I had moved on from fan fiction and had outlined an original paranormal mystery novel. I asked Steve for the particulars of self-publishing, as the option certainly interested me. However, the business aspects of it seemed a bit overwhelming at the time (not so much today) so I asked him if he was accepting submissions. He agreed and two years later, Testing the Prisoner was published by Firebringer Press, followed in 2013 by my second paranormal mystery, By Your Side.

By 2010, I was attending Farpoint and Shore Leave as an author guest, which I still do today. The reviews for Testing the Prisoner were outstanding and I was beginning to blog.

I was now in the elevator and let me tell you, it was nice and shiny in there.

In June of 2012, I received an email from the aforementioned Bob Greenberger, who is a fantastic SF writer in addition to his long tenure as an editor at DC Comics. Along with another comics veteran Paul Kupperberg and fellow award-winning writer Aaron Rosenberg, Bob had co-created a new fantasy series called ReDeus. Deus is, of course, Latin for God. Slap the “Re” in front of it and it becomes a bit of a pun as in “Again God”. The series ponders what would happen if all of the ancient mythological gods returned to Earth in the 21st century. It was to be published by Crazy 8 Press, a small press formed by Bob, Aaron, Michael Jan Friedman, Peter David, Glenn Hauman, and Howard Weinstein.

Bob was reaching out to other Shore Leave writer guests to see if they would be interested in contributing a story to their first anthology. What an honor! I eagerly accepted, knowing very little about mythology. Bob then sent the series bible with a story deadline of about two weeks. Yikes! They wanted to debut the book at the upcoming Shore Leave convention in August.

The elevator was going up…and fast! I remember researching and writing furiously until 2AM and even writing while on a Saturday conference call for my day job. I work full time in IT. Another technician and I had to migrate a physical server to a virtual machine. If you’re not a tech geek, don’t worry about it. The point is that it became a 12-hour ordeal. When it was the other tech’s turn to take over for a few hours, I wrote like a maniac. I finally finished and submitted the piece on my birthday, July 1.

Two days later, it was accepted with minor revisions. Not only was I published in the first volume, Divine Tales, I returned for the second, Beyond Borders—where all stories take place outside of the USA. I was invited back for the third volume, Native Lands (stories of Native American gods), but was overwhelmed with recording the audio for By Your Side and planning my upcoming wedding. I politely declined, avoiding the risk of promising a story, then failing to deliver.

It was during this time when I decided to pitch an idea to Steve Wilson. I know several wonderful writers who came up in fan fiction and had moved onto crafting original fiction. Some were submitting to magazines but getting nowhere. I knew their work was outstanding and I wanted to find a way to showcase them. I asked Steve if I could submit a collection of their original genre stories with an eye toward publication. Steve agreed, as long as I edited. He and I also tossed in a few of our own tales.

At Shore Leave in 2014, we launched Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity, an anthology of SF, fantasy, and paranormal fiction. Through this book, we brought about five new authors to the public eye and showcased the wonderful work of an Allentown artist.

What a joy it was for me to see these writers at their first launch, signing books and engaging with readers. I had just barely started my own elevator ride when I was holding the door open for others to take the journey with me (thank you, Steve!). In three months, we’re launching a second volume, Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity, and possibly a third in 2018.

If you’re lucky enough to find success and you know talented, burgeoning artists, give them a chance to blossom by sending the elevator back down. If you’re just beginning your career, as I am, attend conferences and library events. Network with those further along the road, and learn as much as you can about your craft.

You never know what can happen simply by waiting for the elevator.

Book Review: Tales of the Crimson Keep by Crazy 8 Press

The Crimson Keep…an ensorcelled castle, ever-expanding and growing as a result of an ancient spell. Within its walls lives a sagacious and puissant old wizard known only as the Master who alone bestows his knowledge onto a gifted coterie of pupils.

In each story of this enchanting anthology, you can’t help but fall into step with these intrepid wizards-to-be as they attempt to steal forbidden spells, outwit bloodthirsty demons, suffer the consequences of cutting class, find dangers lurking in the eternally shifting halls of the Keep, and even travel through time!

Crazy 8 Press is comprised of an august body of veteran storytellers, including Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Paul Kupperberg, and Aaron Rosenberg. Each  of them contributed a smart and delightful tale to this collection  introduced by SF writer, Kevin Dilmore.

Even the book itself boasts a fascinating genesis. It was at the 33rd annual Shore Leave science fiction convention in Maryland where–prompted by an opening line provided by Dilmore–Peter, Michael, Bob, Glenn, Aaron, and Howard Weinstein took turns writing a story all the while tucked in a small alcove in the lower hallway of the hotel. In full view of the public, these talented craftsmen created the engaging novella Demon Circle as a fundraiser for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. That story is also included in Tales of the Crimson Keep.

Crimson Keep

Book Review: I Am The Salamander by Michael Jan Friedman

After his cancer mysteriously goes into remission, Tim Cruz wants nothing more than to resume the normal life of a teenager. He returns to his high school in the middle of the spring semester only to confront the stares of his classmates, the bully who once harassed him on a weekly basis, and the most gorgeous girl on campus, who had been a childhood friend until they drifted apart.

Yep, it was comforting to see that so few things had changed…except for Tim Cruz. He was fifteen pounds lighter, his hair was still growing back from chemo, he’d learned to despise crowds, and…oh, yeah…his skin was beginning to change colors when he was under stress.

What?

Tim dismisses this anomaly at first, along with the bizarre, intermittent flashes of light, until he returns to his uncle’s aquarium to get his old job back. There, he witnesses a little girl flailing helplessly in the piranha tank. Naturally, he dives into save her, only to find that she becomes even more frightened of him than of her ordeal. Worse, piranhas had claimed two of his toes—which grew back over the course of a few days.

Much like the hand he tore off as a distraction after knocking out a gunman in the school auditorium by leaping on top of him—from the ceiling where he had crawled from the projector booth.

What is going on here?

That’s exactly what Tim Cruz would like to know and is determined to find out, even as an anonymous blogger, known only as Blog Boy, begins reporting incidents of this strange creature known now as The Salamander.

Tim later realizes that in addition to moving through water at inhuman speeds and his ability to cling to walls, he can also see in infrared when needed, and stun his opponents with a neurotoxin transmitted by touch.

And that ain’t all.

As Tim tries to determine the origins of his amazing powers, he learns that a clandestine group of government agents wants to dissect him in an effort to build an army of super soldiers. They’ll stop at nothing to get what they want—including threatening Tim’s family.

Can this young cancer survivor evade capture, avoid revealing himself to the public, protect his family, manage his schoolwork, stave off the bully, and…oh yeah…deal with the unexpected affections of the most gorgeous girl on campus?

All without telling his mom?

I Am The Salamander is a fast-paced, fun read. You can’t help but sympathize with typical high-school nerd Tim Cruz, who finds himself suddenly thrust from one life-threatening ordeal into another, all the while admirably maintaining his composure and resilience through an inner strength born from his battle with the deadliest of diseases.

 

Friedman-Salamander