Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Guide to Attending the Symphony or Opera, Part I

Well, I know this is a bit off-topic but as I was sitting in my regular seat at the symphony last night and looking at all the empty seats (granted, it was Black Friday) I realized that a lot of people may want to attend the symphony--the more ambitious the opera--but may feel intimidated about it or feel that it is a stuffy, formal affair. They may be afraid of committing some breach of etiquette. So, I've put together this guide in the hope that those who read it will get out there and support the high arts!

Part One - The Dos

1. Do buy your ticket in advance. Often you can buy a ticket at the box office the night of the performance but then you'd have to leave your date standing in the cold while you scan the seating chart and select your seats. You also risk not being able to find a seat or, perhaps worse, finding that only the expensive seats are left.

2. Do arrive early. At least half an hour before the start time. This, of course, gives you a buffer if there is bad traffic or an accident. But, it is very bad form to walk in after a performance has started it. Many venues will let you in but some will make you wait until there is a pause in the music. Again, not a good way to impress your date.

3. Do dress up. No, I don't expect white tie and top hats and yes, many places you will see people arriving in t-shirts and jeans but... don't be one of those people. Slacks and a button down is perfectly acceptable for the men, a skirt/dress or nice slacks and blouse for the women. In most cities you will see very few people dressed formally and if you go in "business casual" (even though I hate that term) you'll fit right in. A sport coat and tie for the men will kick it up another notch. Also, if you don't own a matching suit, don't try to match an odd pair of pants to a sport coat. Contrast the coat with a lighter or darker trouser.

4. Do try to listen to the piece beforehand. Part of the enjoyment of the symphony for me is comparing how the live performance differs from my favorite recordings. Most programs will also give you a bit of history about the composer and piece (you did arrive a half hour early so you could read it, right?). Sometimes this information will enrich your appreciation of a piece. Knowing the circumstances of the composer's life or what was going on when he wrote the piece can add another level of understanding and enjoyment to your experience.

5. Do have fun. Don't think that you can't smile if a particular passage comes across as humorous--the composer may have actually intended it to be so! (see Haydn). Don't be afraid to tap your foot during a rousing finale (just be sure not to disturb your neighbor). This music is meant to be enjoyed, not coldly studied and analysed (although you can do that, too!)

Part Two - The Don'ts

1. Don't, for any reason, make unnecessary noise during the performance. There is no reason to talk to your partner, unwrap hard candy (do it beforehand and keep a few pieces in your pocket), flip noisily through your program or yell at the performers. Women (and men, for that matter) should think twice before wearing loud accessories, such as bangles that'll clink together or purses with chain straps.

2. Don't answer your phone or text. Phones should be silenced. If you have a job or situation that requires you to be constantly on call, try to get an aisle seat near the back so you can take the call in the lobby. And texting is a no-no. The bright light in a darkened hall is very distracting to the people behind you.

3. Don't wear any strong perfumes or colognes. I don't think I need to explain this one.

4. Don't clap between movements. Many pieces are comprised of several movements and it is standard to wait until the piece is finished before applauding. There are two exceptions: during the opera it is appropriate to applaud a performer after an aria and during a piece with a solo performer (such as a concerto) it is rarely appropriate to applaud him or her between movements after a particularly impressive performance. Hint: this is another reason you listen to the piece beforehand. Now, if someone does begin a clap at an inappropriate time, herd mentality means that several others will follow along. Don't do it. The fewer people that clap, the sooner the music can continue and they might get the hint and not do it after the end of the next movement. If you are unsure that the piece has ended, wait for the majority of the hall to being applauding before you join in. Also watch the conductor. He will indicate the ending by lowering his arms and turning around.

5. Don't leave before the applause has ended and the lights have come up. This is just inconsiderate to the performers (and yes, they can see you walking down the aisle while they're taking their bows). Aside: a standing ovation is common for great performances. If everyone else stands, do so as well. If only a few stand, stand as well if you want to. No one will look down on you for a solo/sporadic standing O. I've done it several times when I thought the performance deserved it.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section. I'd also love to hear of your own tips for attending the opera or symphony.


See Also:
A Guide to Attending the Symphony or Opera, Part II

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Secret Santa Ebook Exchange!

Hello, friends! I have an idea that I think all you writers out there will enjoy. I propose a Secret Santa Ebook Exchange! Yes, the exclamation point is necessary when talking about the Secret Santa Ebook Exchange!

Here's the idea. In exchange for sending your ebook out to a randomly chosen individual, you'll receive an ebook from someone else. This is a great way for you to a. introduce your writing to a potential new fan and b. have a good read of a book you might otherwise never have known about. Win-win!

So, between now and December 20, send me the following information (to email address with "Secret Santa Ebook Exchange!" in the subject line) and you'll automatically be entered:

1. Your name
2. Your email address. This will only be sent to the person who will send you their ebook. It will not be used for any other purposes.
3. The name of the ebook you'd like to exchange (a link would be helpful, too!)
4. Ebook format you would like to receive (mobi or epub). Note: if your ebook is not available in one of these formats, let me know so I can find an appropriate recipient for you.
5. Whether or not you'd like your name and book link to be on the master list which will be shared with all entrants - if yes, this'll be a good way for everyone who takes part to see your name and book title and, if it interests them, they can click the link. (Note: if you don't provide a link in step 3, I'll use the Amazon US page for your ebook. So, if you'd like something different be sure to include it.)

Easy, right? Then, on Dec. 21-24, you'll receive an email from me with the name, email address and preferred format of someone else. Send them a copy of your ebook (at least 99 cents in value, please, don't "gift" someone a free ebook) and eagerly await your own gift!

I want to keep this fun and friendly so other than the above there are no "rules." Any ebook priced 99 cents or more at Amazon/B&N/etc. is eligible. Also, if you neglect to send your ebook to your recipient Santa will drink himself to death on eggnog. You don't want that on your head, do you?

Granted, the "secret" part of the Secret Santa Ebook Exchange! will be blown once you send out your ebook, but let's not quibble over details. I look forward to receiving your emails!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts on Ebook Pricing

   Since I've started uploading my fiction to Amazon and Barnes & Noble I've been thinking a lot about pricing. There are some that say "offer it free to get exposure." Others say "no more than 99 cents." Still others say "Don't charge 99 cents or give it away free. Readers will devalue your work in their minds."

   Well, I kind of agree with that last point. Free is a good option to get your work downloaded, yes. But are all those downloaders actually reading your book? Also, will they then go on the buy other books you have for sale? However, I don't agree that 99 cents is a price point that "cheapens" readers' opinion of your work. It is a great price for some works.

   So here is a pricing model that I have developed. Since I mainly write science fiction I have based the different categories on the Nebula awards categories:

Short story (up to 7,500 words) - .99
Novelette (7,500-17,500) - 1.49
Novella (17,500-40,000) - 1.99
Novel (40,000+ words) - 2.99

   Based on that model my current releases Sleep (2,500 words) and Inner Lives (12,000 words) are priced at .99 and 1.49, respectively. I'm still toying with the idea of starting books at a lower price upon release, then upping the price to fit the model.

   What do you all think of this pricing model? Would you buy (or have you bought) a short story for .99? Does anyone else have a model that they use? Feel free to comment below!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: "Tomorrow's Dawn"
by Milo James Fowler

     I really must say that I am in awe of the stories coming out of Daily Science Fiction.  They've done it again with "Tomorrow's Dawn," by Milo James Fowler.  Read it here.

     SPOILERS FOLLOW, read the story first!

     To me, this story feels like a Golden-Age science fiction tale, '50s or '60s era, but with a definite modern twist.  It has that cold-war era sensibility but the alien is not cast as a Soviet spy, as it would have been at that time, but as a potential suicide bomber.  If you've read any number of my other blog posts you know that this is exactly the type of story I love: one in which a failure of one group to treat another group with dignity and respect results in death and misery.  Retaliations are made and the animosity escalates until one group can only see the other cast in that negative light.

     Fowler does a good job of making the situation presented in the story feel tense and immediate.  And he doesn't tip his hand one bit, making the ending a genuine surprise.  It is also a hopeful ending and it, along with Fowler's story of how the idea developed, keeps me hoping and believing that people, independent of societal, religious or ethnic pressures, would choose to live in harmony.  We have transcended our primitive, animalistic nature in so many other ways.  Why not in this way as well?