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Feb 28, 2011

The Time Has Come… To An End!

Yesterday my blog was officially 1 year old. That means the giveaway is officially over!!!
And the winners are….. (Cue confetti!)

DuffyLou




AmyBeth Fredricksen


and

Heather Hesser

I’ve already notified the winners via email of their prizes, thanks to everyone who participated :)

Feb 25, 2011

New books

I love when new books come in the mail! Especially when I thought the publication date was farther off... like with this!




And then came this:

I've loved this book for ever (and the movie too) and yet somehow I've never owned it. That, thankfully has been remedied.

What books have you bought recently?

Feb 24, 2011

Flurries

Looking in the rearview mirror, I wasn’t sure how this disaster of a meet-up had turned into a vacation I didn’t want to go home from. I watched him, standing against the drifts as I left. His black coat was the only thing I could see as I turned onto the rural highway, by then salty drops of regret slid down my cheeks, blurring the road in front of me.


Plugging my dead phone into the charger coiling from the dash cigarette port, I ignored the cheerful notes informing me its hibernation was over and it was ready to greet the frosty morning with all the vim and vigor programmed into it. There was nothing cheerful about this drive.

As I’d expected a slurry of chimes, beeps and vibrations signaled emails, missed calls and voice mails. By the fifteenth voicemail chime, curiosity overtook my self-pity. Had society been that affected by my absence?

After listening to twelve identical voicemails from my mother and rolling my eyes each time she berated me for failing to return her calls, I was granted a small respite as my sister Janine’s voice played across my ear.

“I want you to hang up the phone and check your email. Do it now, you’ll laugh your pants off.”

With four messages left in my mailbox, I hung up the phone as instructed and glanced at the envelope icon at the top of the display. Knowing Janine’s sense of humor, I decided to wait until I’d pulled into the gas station parking lot a quarter mile down the road.

I left the phone on the passenger seat as I got out of the car, filled my tank for a ridiculous $3.32/gal. and ran inside for a box of Buncha Crunch.

As I sat back in the driver’s seat and turned the defrost on high again, I looked at the icon. Part of me hoped it had disappeared.

Opening the app, I skimmed through the junk mail. There, between a hotels.com offer and a cancellation notice from my dentist’s office was the email from Janine. TOO FUNNY, MOM KILLS ME.

Opening the email, I found a screenshot of a craigslist add.

A MOTHER’S LOVE IS FREE, $0.00


My daughters and grandchildren are ungrateful, so I’ve decided to offer my love to someone willing to appreciate it. Call me for a good time.

After her contact information, the add ended and Janine wrote:
I wonder how many phone calls she got from pervs looking for a good time with a GILF? HAHAHAHAHAHA

My mother can’t check her email. How did she post a craigslist ad?


Drift<<  >>Sluice
 
***
 


This week's RWH Post asked us to write a humerous listing for Ebay or Craigslist and keep it under 600 words. I did my best to follow that prompt as well as keep this story line going.
 


Feb 22, 2011

Sometimes Inspiration Taps On Your Shoulder...

Sometimes it punches you in the face.

These two prints of geishas have been hanging above the record cabinet for... 4+ months (that's how long I've lived here, right?) and I've seen them every day in that time frame. But Sunday night, as I sat at the dining table, writing out my menu for the week, inspiration forced one of those geishas to jump out of her frame and punch me in the face.

As a result I worked on something new all day yesterday.

Now, I'm afraid to look at this wall, though.

There's way too much brain stimulation there. My head miight explode.

Has inspiration punched you in the face lately? or has it been polite and tapped your shoulder?

Feb 18, 2011

Review: Badlands

Badlands

Romantic Science Fiction with a pinch of clockwork punk

E-reader, 104 pages

Published by Carina Press














My Summary:

The former united states has been torn apart after a civil war, leaving the country divided to a handful of nations. The Badlands is the place other nations send their prisoners. In a country ruled by women, men are not easily trusted.

On the night of the state dinner, the Queen of the Badlands is murdered as the remaining power of the United states invades. Ever, the leader of the border patrol, embarks on a journey to retrieve the princess and heir to the throne in order to return stability to their nation. When it seems her only hope for restoring the princess to her thrown is Spencer Pierce, Captain of the derigible Dark Hawk, she not only has to battle those who would kill her and the new queen, but also her burgeoning attraction to the Captain.

My Review:
 
I did not know what to expect when I saw the low page count at first, but the story intrigued me from the beginning. It is most certainly not for those of a young impressionable nature as there are some scenes not suitable for children... but then, what good romance doesn’t have those? Quickly paced and filled with constant tension – sexual and otherwise – this story will keep you reading. Ms. deLaney manages to pack a lot into her story and that makes it all the better. There are one or two things I might have changed, but I don’t think the story truly needed them changed (and I can’t tell you what they are because that would spoil the ending).

Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:

If you have an e-reader, Buy this.

It’s a fun, quick read that will get your blood pumping, and for $3.19 you can’t really go wrong with this title. It has a little bit of everything in it: Romance, SF, Intrigue...
 
Falling in love with love is never a crime.

Query Critique #10 - The Warrior Groom

The Warrior Groom by Taylor

Query:


Growing up in India and fighting alongside Wellington didn’t prepare Colonel Lord Aidan Cavanaugh to face the scrutiny of the London ton. Behind his cool, calm exterior, the former colonel is plagued by years of death and regret that he refuses to relinquish. Recently arrived in England, the new Marquess of Pierston must forge a new life for himself away from the military campaigns that have occupied him since his father’s death and find a bride who can help him find peace.

Miss Katherine Burns questions her own sanity when she agrees to help Lord Pierston learn how to navigate the tempestuous waters of London society. As a mere companion, Kate meets the enigmatic colonel by chance. She certainly never expected him to consider her a potential bride His subtle campaign against her defenses threatens to expose her secrets and dissuade her from following her dreams.

Independent to the core, Kate and Aidan must learn to in trust each other and their growing feelings for one another. More importantly, they must find the courage to accept the support of families in whom they’d long ago given up hope. The Warrior Groom is a Regency romance novel finished at 100,000 words. It is a stand alone novel with the potential for expansion into a trilogy.

I am a senior English major, feminist studies minor, at Southwestern University, a small liberal arts university in Texas. The Warrior Groom is my second completed novel. My previous publishing credit is “Agape” in the anthology A Rush of Wings (Naked Reader Press, 2010).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Taylor

Redline:

Dear Mr/Ms. [Agent’s Last name],

Growing up in India and fighting alongside Wellington didn’t prepare Colonel Lord Aidan Cavanaugh[that is just a mouthful] to face the scrutiny of the London ton. Behind his cool, calm exterior, the former colonel is plagued by years of death and regret that he refuses to relinquish. Recently arrived in England, the new Marquess of Pierston [This is where it starts getting confusing. #1, Marquess is a title, therefore, Marquess of [place] is the proper use. If you’re talking about Pierston house, he would be the Marquess of Dorsett. Also, there is no segue between Cavanaugh and the Marquess, so it gets a little muddled.] must forge a new life for himself away from the military campaigns that have occupied him since his father’s death and find a bride who can help him find peace [When it comes down to it, must just poses too many questions, why must he find a bride to find peace? I’d suggest changing this to “he hopes finding a bride will bring him the peace he seeks.” or something akin to that.]

Miss Katherine Burns questions her own sanity when she agrees to help Lord Pierston[Now he’s a Lord. The number of switches in names gets a little tangled. Pick one name to call that character and stick with it for the entire query] learn how to navigate the tempestuous waters of London society [Why? What’s in it for her? Why does pierston go to her for help? Give us more to chew on]. As a mere companion, Katherine meets the enigmatic colonel by chance [how? This is very vague, in fact, the first time I read the query, I didn’t catch that it was Cavanaugh she was meeting – partially because of the name switches – but because this sentence doesn’t tell me anything. It’s too vague] . She certainly never expected him to consider her a potential bride. [why not? Why wouldn’t she potential bride material if she’s in a circle that can run with a Marquess? Isn’t she kind of opening doors for the Marquess… This part throws me completely off track.] His subtle campaign against her defenses threatens to expose her secrets and dissuade her from following her dreams. [Tells me nothing. Hints at things, but doesn’t give me any reason to care about the outcome.]

Independent to the core, Kate and Aidan must learn to in trust each other and their growing feelings for one another.[why must they?] More importantly, they must find the courage to accept the support of families in whom they’d long ago given up hope.

The Warrior Groom THE WARRIOR GROOM, my is a Regency romance novel finished is complete at 100,000 words. It is a standalone novel with the potential for expansion into a trilogy.

I am a senior English major, feminist studies minor, at Southwestern University, a small liberal arts university in Texas. The Warrior Groom is my second completed novel. [if it’s not published, don’t mention that you’ve got something else] My previous publishing credit is “Agape” in the anthology A Rush of Wings (Naked Reader Press, 2010).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Taylor



Notes:

Who? – You really need to make sure that who you’re talking about is clear to the reader. By changing all three mentioned characters at least once, you only make the query confusing. An agent isn’t going to read your query a second time to figure out what’s going on.


Paragraphs – I think you need to have at least three distinct paragraphs for the query you’re trying to write. One paragraph centering on each MC. So the first paragraph should be entirely about Cavanaugh. The second should be about Pierston and the third about Katherine. I would actually suggest rearranging it so that you have Pierston first, Katherine in the middle and Cavanaugh at the end. That way you can use Katherine as what she is, the tie between the two male MC’s.


Vague – I really don’t have a clue what your novel is about, other than it’s a regency romance. I don’t know what is going to set it apart, what makes it unique. You need to make sure you’re clear about why the agent wants to read your book. Because if they don’t know, they won’t ask for more.

I hope this helped.

- Amy

Feb 17, 2011

Review: The Vespertine


YA Historical Fiction with a Paranormal twist

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published by Harcourt,
released March 7, 2011


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
My Summary:


When seventeen-year old Amelia Van Der Broek is sent to Baltimore for the summer to learn the ways of a proper lady and hopefully find her own prospects, she imagines her time there will be a gay romp in the civilized streets of a big city. She could not have hoped that in the vespers of her first night there, she would discover a strange and powerful gift. Seeing the future in the fiery light of sunset, Amelia and her cousin set about amusing themselves with Amelia’s talent. Her fortune telling abilities bring them to the doors of those in a much higher social circle, but Amelia’s heart isn’t set on the upper class. Her heart yearns for the most unsuitable of matches: a fourteenth – a painter.

Review:

Ms. Mitchell has done something utterly amazing with this novel. She has penned a time travel device. As you immerse yourself in the pages set forth you are transported into the everyday society of 1889 Upper-Middle class Baltimore.

Like all of us at that age, seventeen-year old Amelia doesn’t exactly know what she wants – even when it’s right in front of her. The way her emotions are expressed are the epitome of a mastery for the uncertainty that riddles us all when love is involved, regardless of our age. She manages to do all of this with beautiful imagery formed without excess.

The intrigue of love, mixed with the mischief of otherworldly powers coalesce, in this novel to keep you glued to each page while yearning to reach the next.

Your only complaint will be that 304 pages are too few.

Buy/Borrow/Brush Past:

This novel left me with that glorious tingly feeling of a beautiful romance. Buy it.
Pre order this right now. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is currently on pre-order from Amazon for less than $11 and easily worth double that.

This is one novel that should haunt everyone’s shelves.



Drift

Folding the few articles of clothes I wasn’t wearing, I slowly transplanted the meager contents of the dresser back into my suitcase.

Eli was out front, talking with the property manager. He’d arrived this morning, having painstakingly cleared the drive with his handheld snow blower.

With the return of the power, I was finally able to take a hot shower and strip off most of the layers I’d bundled myself up in for the duration of our seclusion. When I emerged from the bathroom, Eli still hadn’t come in yet, so I moved to his drawers in the dresser.

His duffel bag was a testament to how truly unprepared we were for this storm. As I pushed rolled up socks into the crevices between his jeans and his tennis shoes, the drawers slowly emptied out – one shirt at a time.

A glimpse of grey fabric stole a hitch in my breath.

My heart caught in my throat. Tucked beneath his oldest flannel was something I thought I’d lost long ago. Worn jersey fabric lay across my hand as fragile as butterfly wings. The faded red lettering advertized the Slosh Ball ’89 Tournament, the back held my maiden name and lucky number nine.

The tourney was the day before our biggest fight. A day before Eli left for Peru on what I thought was a cockamamie plan to discover the secrets of Machu Pichu. He wanted me to go with him. I wanted drinkable water and fresh sheets. Tilly Andrews went with him instead. Admittedly, my jealousy was the reason for the fight.

Tilly Andrews didn’t come back. She met a Peruvian man, fell in love, and they now have umpteen children running around in a town near Lima. Eli came back with a new view on the world and an Inca statue he claimed to have stolen for me, but I wasn’t there to receive it.

I’d always thought I’d lost this shirt in the dorm’s laundry facility. I never dreamed that Eli had taken it with him.

Maybe I was the only one who’d been in that fight.

Whiteout <<  >> Flurries

***

This week’s RWH Prompt was: Write a piece - 600 word limit - about finding a forgotten item of clothing in the back of a drawer or closet. Let us know how the item was found, what it is, and why it's so meaningful to you or your character.





I managed to come in well under that word limit.

Feb 16, 2011

What do you do

When you fall out of love with a ms?

I can tell you, this is the only time I’m grateful I’m not under contract. The freedom of writing for yourself is something that I’m attempting to savor, in the hopes that sometime in the near future I’ll be under contract and therefore, someone else will have their hands in my pages.

Yesterday I came to a point in my WiP where I was in so much hate with it. I had no motivation to write anything. Not even the scene that was there waiting in my head to be written.

And so, I stopped.

I’m putting that ms on the back burner and moving to one of my other ideas for the moment. This happens with most things – especially if I haven’t taken enough time to plot them out properly. Though I think I’m going to blame the oddity of uber short chapters on this hate. It’s different and I’m not pleased, and I think I’m transferring that displeasure on the content of the novel.

Sometime, probably next month, I’ll go back to the abandoned WiP. I’ll have thought about it in greater detail and while I may not have plotted it any further on paper, I’ll have gotten further with it in my head, and really, that’s all that matters.

For now, I’m moving on to another of my started pieces. I’m still waiting on my “editor” to go over the last set of revisions on #4 and hopefully I’ll get those back soonish. Fingers crossed.



What do you do when you’ve fallen out of love with your story?

Feb 14, 2011

My Top 5 favorite Literary Couples

5. Emma & Mr. Knightley
4. Anne Shirley & Gilbert Blythe
3. Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy

2. Edith Adelon & James Percy
1. Beatrice & Benedick
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Who are your top 5?

Feb 11, 2011

Query Critique #9 - The Skies in Hand

The Skies in Hand by M. Pax


Query:

Dear Mr / Ms. Agent:

It's 2138. Humanity flounders and depends on Captain Alicia Dunham and her crew to save it. She never should have accepted this mission to the eighth planet, having close friendships with everyone aboard. Blurs the lines between her personal and professional spheres. Those divisions crumble by the day forcing Dunham to be more flexible until she must decide whether following her superiors' judgment or her team's is Earth's best chance.

Global warming is not a myth. It is a travesty. Man's home planet becomes increasingly uninhabitable and the space stations sprinkled about the solar system struggle. Neptune, puts out more energy than it receives from the sun, thus may have answers. Dunham and her ship are sent out to the ice giant in a desperate search.

On Triton, Neptune's largest moon, Dunham's team bumps into a mysterious pyramid with a time capsule telling the story of an alien race. The alien culture has some striking similarities to Earth's first civilization, and reveals humanity is not a random accident. Earth is not alone.

Because you represent science fiction, agent name, I hope you will be interested in my novel, The Skies in Hand. A space opera complete at 69,000 words, the full manuscript is available at your request.

I have a Bachelors of Science in Journalism. In the summers, I docent as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory where I teach the public and show off the wonders of the universe.

Thank you for your time in considering The Skies in Hand.

Sincerely,

Redline:

Dear Mr. / Ms. Agent:,

It's 2138 [just a few short years into the future, makes me feel like this isn’t going to be too much more technologically advanced than we currently are. If you’re okay with that, cool. If not, I might leave out defining the year]. Humanity flounders and depends on Captain Alicia Dunham and her crew to save it. [The way this sentence is structured reads really awkwardly. Tense is getting in your way. “As humanity flounders, the governments of the world and her colonies look to Captain Alicia Dunham and her crew to find a solution.” And if I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure that’s any better. But it needs to change.] She never should have accepted this mission to the eighth planet [because you call it the eighth planet, I don’t immediately get that we’re still in the solar system.], having close friendships with everyone aboard. [I don’t get a sense of why this is a reason she shouldn’t have taken the mission.] Blurs[What blurs?] the lines between her personal and professional spheres. Those divisions [the last sentence with blurring lines feels like the complete opposite of divisions.] crumble [Why do they crumble?] by the day forcing Dunham to be more flexible until she must decide whether following her superiors' judgment or her team's is Earth's best chance. [To be honest, I get no sense of this novel from the paragraph. Were I receiving dozens of submissions per day, I might not go any further.]

Global warming is not a myth. It is a travesty. Man's home planet [I’d just say “Earth” here] becomes increasingly uninhabitable [Vague: maybe… “Earth’s atmosphere is pitted with pockets of unbreathable air and acid rain falls on every continent] and the space stations sprinkled about the solar system struggle [with the weight of refugees? I think you need to qualify why they’re struggling]. Neptune, [no comma necessary] puts out [produces?] more energy than it receives from the sun, thus [thus sounds so out of place with the rest of the query. I’d either say “…sun, and may…” or “…sun. It may…”] may have [I’d change have to hold the]answers. Dunham and her ship are sent out to the ice giant in a desperate search. [Search for what? An energy source? To see if Neptune is habitable? I don’t know what humanity is grasping at.]

On Triton, Neptune's largest moon, Dunham's team bumps into [I’d change this to “discovers” or something like that – it feels a little cliché-y] a mysterious pyramid with a time capsule [time capsule does not give me a coherent image… perhaps you could describe it instead of calling it that] telling the story of an alien race. The alien culture has some striking similarities [what are some of these similarities – you don’t have to list them all, but you should give us insight into the similarities instead of mentioning htem off hand] to Earth's first civilization, and reveals humanity is not a random accident. Earth is not alone.

Because you represent science fiction, agent name, I hope you will be interested in my novel, The Skies in Hand. THE SKIES IN HAND, my A space opera is complete at 69,000 words, the full manuscript is available at your request.

I have a Bachelors of Science in Journalism. In the summers, I docent as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory where I teach the public and show off the wonders of the universe. [I would rewrite this last sentence as, “In the summer I docent as a star guide at the Pine Mountain Observatory. There I have the opportunity to educate those interested in the wonders of the universe.”]

Thank you for your time in considering The Skies in Hand and consideration. [I feel like stating the title more than once becomes redundant.]


Sincerely,



Notes:


Clichés - You have a few of them in there, e.g.: Blurs the lines/By the day (Day by day). Clichés aren’t something you want to see in your query, because they’ll make an agent think you’re ms is rife with them too! Make sure you take your ray gun to those little buggars.


Vague – You’ve got three paragraphs here and the first one tells me absolutely nothing after the first two sentences. Make sure you’re giving examples. Remember, when you look at something, you’re going to know exactly what you meant. Anyone who hasn’t read the ms won’t. And if an agent/their assistant doesn’t know what’s going on, they have no reason to want more. Look at every sentence for potentially vague pitfalls.


Fragments and Tense Issues. Anything that pulls the reader out of what you’re trying to sell them on is no good. The second sentence smacks you in the face with verb tense confusion. The fourth gets you a right hook with your first fragment. Neither one is something you want an agent to have the excuse to reject you over.

Feb 10, 2011

Whiteout

I could never have imagined as I drove to the secluded cabin in the snowy wilderness of northern Arizona, that I’d remember why I loved the man sitting across the table from me.
Eli flipped the card over, clicking the laminated paper rectangle into place on the stack in front of him. I’d never had time for non-computerized solitaire. I didn’t know how he could be so focused on the stacks of cards between us.
The bandage around my hand crinkled noisily as I reached for my cup. Eli wasn’t letting me near the stove anymore, for my own safety.
The dim light of the moon reflecting off the head high snow drifts gave a strange glow to the blue curtains          . Like night was refusing to fall. What could possibly make the evening hours long to linger in this valley that was slowly becoming a snowy tomb.
Eli wasn’t focusing on the cards anymore. He stared at me intently. I pretended not to notice.
Things had changed during our isolation from the rest of the world. Things I never expected to.
Until now, I’d never once felt guilty about our relationship or that I’d been hiding it from my husband since the day we’d met.
“Why do we do this?”
“Because there’s a half dozen feet of snow keeping us from leaving.” He said, eyes still locked on the side of my face.
I rolled my eyes, still not looking at him. “You know what I mean. Was this something that ended years ago, and we’ve just been too stubborn to give it up?”
“I think we’re both selfish people and this is the only way we can get what we want from each other.” He turned back to the game.
“Over the years what I want has changed.” My voice came out broken and quiet.
He didn’t respond to that. He just turned over one of those damned cards. King of Hearts.
What did I want anymore?
Back when I met John, Eli and I had been on one of our anger filled hiatuses. John seemed to be everything Eli was not. Stable and successful. The sex wasn’t that great, but he always treated me like a lady. Eli treated me like the girl he used to do keg stands with at frat parties.
John had wanted kids, something Eli had been against consistently. Something I felt was necessary in my life. That was before I found out we couldn’t have kids anyway.
While I wanted to settle down, and did, Eli wanted to travel the world, and did. I had my perfect picket fence and manicured lawn. Eli had stories of distant lands and adventures with people I could never have dreamed of meeting.
“I wonder why we’ve let this go on so long?” As I said it, I realized Eli was no longer looking at me.
“I’ve wondered why you keep coming back. I mean, I don’t have anyone else. There’s no one who looks at the clock every two minutes if I’m late getting home. You’ve got a whole other life.”
“You have your own life, too.”
“But when I leave here, I don’t have to lie to everyone I know about where I was.”
I couldn’t argue with that. Turning back to the curtain, I looked for a reason to stay awake.
“Zoe, you moved on, you created a completely different life. All these years you’ve just been taking breaks from your new world to come see me in the old one.”
I realized it was true. Then the whole world shifted.

Thaw <<  >> Drift

*****

This week's RWH post gave us a prompt and a word limit.




The word count had to be less than 600 words, again. This time your story had to start with, "I could never have imagined..." and end with,"Then the whole world shifted."

Feb 9, 2011

Author Interview: Sara Creasy!

Sara Creasy is an incredible science fiction author represented by the amazing Kristin Nelson, President and Senior Literary Agent of Nelson Literary Agency. Her debut novel, Song of Scarabaeus was released last year and has been nominated for the Phillip K. Dick Award. Her second novel, the follow up to SoS, Children of Scarabaeus, will be released at the end of March. She currently lives in Australia with her husband (also represented by Kristin – they’re a very talented writing family) and her adorable baby girl.


I’m so excited that Sara had the time to do this interview, she has to busy what with being nominated for awards and writing such wonderful novels and being a new mum!

But enough from me! Here’s the interview:

ABK: Tell us a little about yourself to start off.


SC: I write science fiction for Harper Voyager and my second book, Children of Scarabaeus, comes out in March. I just moved back to Australia from Tucson, Arizona, after 5 years—my husband is an American and I’m a Brit-born Aussie, and we decided raise our daughter here, closer to her young cousins. Other than writing, I also work part-time at an online job for DAZ3D, a 3D art company.

ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?

SC: Ripley from Aliens. I don’t usually go for kick-ass heroines because they tend to annoy me, but I just love her attitude. And really, Ripley isn’t kick-ass. She’s a survivor. She does whatever it takes to survive and to save what she cares about.

ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.

SC: Hans Gruber from Die Hard, because he’s an honest bad guy -- he’s unapologetically greedy. Unfortunately, now I can never watch Alan Rickman in anything else without hearing that voice… “Shoot the glass!”

ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)? What got you started?

SC: About ten years ago I left my job at a publishing house to become a freelance editor, and moved to the country. I had some time on my hands and I guess being in a new environment put me in a different frame of mind, too. I’d been writing half-finished short stories and character studies and plot outlines—a big mess of ideas. One day I melded a couple of disparate ideas into the same story outline and it generated a stack of new ideas, and that eventually turned into the first draft of Song of Scarabaeus. Until that point, I’d never considered writing a novel. The entire process was too mysterious to me and I didn’t think I could do it.

I think working for a publisher and for Aurealis (a small press Australian SF&F magazine) helped demystify the writing process for me. It gradually dawned on me that it’s not some magical thing that only special people do—which is how I thought of books and writers when I was younger.

ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?

SC: Turning off the inner editor is the hardest part. I don’t like writing a first draft that doesn’t sound like a final draft so I tend to dither a lot, perfecting every sentence. I have to remember that no one is going to see that first draft except me, and the truth is most of it reads better than I remember when I come back to it the next day. I should trust myself more.

These days, the most difficult part is just finding the time and gathering up the concentration, because I have an 8-month-old crawling around the house.

ABK: Was “landing” your agent what you expected it to be?
SC: Not exactly, because I never expected to land Kristin Nelson! I first heard of her through one of Linnea Sinclair’s books, where she’d thanked Kristin in her acknowledgments. This was about the time I was ready to start submitting Song of Scarabaeus. I sent it to about 40 agents, and three asked for the full manuscript. Kristin actually rejected me but gave detailed reasons why. I rewrote it and submitted it to her again a year later. She called me one Friday when I was home sick with the flu and offered representation, but wanted more changes. Of course I said yes.

The brutal truth is that to catch an agent’s or editor’s eye, as a first-time author you do what it takes to please them. And Kristin’s input did make it a far better book—and by that I mean a more marketable book as well as a book that I like better.

ABK: Song of Scarabaeus was a very plot driven/glued to your seat/packed with action novel. Do you do a lot of planning before you sit down to write? Or do these action filled scenes come to you out of the blue?

SC: I plan endlessly before writing. Far too much, actually, because once I start writing things tend to change, and much of that work is—I hesitate to say “wasted” because those ideas can be used elsewhere, but it’s certainly a laborious process. I have a half-completed book that I wrote off the cuff and that was a lot of fun to do, but I’m not sure it’s a very coherent manuscript.

ABK: Do you feel that Edie, your heroine in Song of Scarabaeus, is a reflection of you? Or was she inspired by someone else in particular in your life?

SC: It’s probably impossible to not inject something of yourself into your characters. She’s certainly more like me than any of the other characters in the book in terms of how she reacts to situations (or at least how I think I might react in those situations—I haven’t personally been raised a ward of state or kidnapped at gunpoint or leashed to a sexy bodyguard). I would like to think that I’d fight for the same things she fights for—basic rights for a fellow captive, for example.

I do think she goes a bit overboard in her obsession with the planet Scarabaeus, but that’s because she has little else in her life that means anything to her. Her background and mine are polar opposites, so of course her priorities are different.

ABK: Song of Scarabaeus leaves off in a very open ended way. Was that your original intent? Or were earlier versions buttoned up more?

SC: The entire last quarter of the early drafts was different, so it’s hard to compare. An important feature of any story is that the main character has to change her world in some way. That’s what makes it a story and not just a random incident in the hero’s life.

In science fiction and fantasy, she usually changes her world in a big way. The original manuscript didn’t have that key feature. So while it didn’t have the so-called “cliffhanger,” it also didn’t have a compelling climax or a resolution either.

ABK: Your next book, Children of Scarabaeus hits shelves in March, when you were querying Song of Scarabaeus, was this the direction you planned to go? Or did you have something else in mind initially?

SC: I loved the universe and characters I’d created so I always wanted to write a sequel. My query for Song listed two sequels although I had only a rough outline for the second book and a few ideas for how the third would end. Ultimately, I merged the ideas into one sequel, which incidentally looks nothing much like my original second book outline. I don’t currently have plans for a third book in the series as I’ve moved on to something else now.

ABK: Your background is in Biology, will Children of Scarabaeus focus on the biological aspects of science again? Or have you branched out into other areas with this novel?

SC: Yes, the biological ideas behind the first book are taken a few steps further in the second. Things get even more weird.

ABK: Edie has no real family to speak of in the first book. You seem like a very family oriented person, do you resolve any of the emotional/abandonment issues that become apparent in the first novel in the second?

SC: Edie is certainly very much alone in the world and has to create her own connections with people she trusts. Most of us start out in life with family and friends whom we trust by default, but not her. She’s been exploited and betrayed more than once, but I see her as a hopeful character – she’s not so cynical she can’t trust again. The first book is more about Finn’s trust issues, whereas the second book deals with hers. Edie also sees herself in the children of the second book, the difference being that they haven’t yet been disillusioned or betrayed, and she wants to protect them from what she’s convinced is their inevitable fate.

ABK: What book are you reading right now?

SC: I just started C.J. Cherryh’s Destroyer. I just finished Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, which was quite an achievement for me because I don’t normally read fantasy and it was long. Next on my nightstand is Elizabeth Bear’s By the Mountain Bound. Hmm, all female authors!

ABK: Do you think that living in Australia and Publishing in the US is more difficult than when you lived stateside?

SC: That remains to be seen. To this point, my publishing experience has been conducted via emails, blogs, phone calls etc., so there’s no problem there with being in Australia. I’m looking forward to getting involved in the local SF scene again. I am disappointed I can’t attend the Philip K. Dick Award ceremony because obviously I would do so if I still lived stateside. It’s my first award nomination as a writer!

ABK: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with burgeoning authors?

SC: Aside from “write, write, write!”, don’t send your manuscript out into the world until it’s “read, read, read!” Feedback from people you don’t know very well is invaluable. Join a writing group such as Critters.org where writers can give and receive critiques (learning how to critique someone else’s work is a great tool to improve your own writing). Develop a thickish skin and remember you can be picky about what you do or don’t change, and change nothing if you feel really strongly about it. But if several people give you the same feedback about pacing or character motivation or stilted dialogue, it’s time to revise.


Enter my giveaway for a chance to win Song of Scarabaeus or get it from Amazon. Children of Scarabaeus is available for Preorder on Amazon.com and will be out March 29th!

For more from Sara, visit her website or her blog. She truly is an amazing author!

Feb 8, 2011

This is more or less an update:

A few things of note:

If you’re not sure whether or not you want to win Sara Creasy’s Song of Scarabaeus, check in tomorrow. Sara has graciously consented to an interview and that will air tomorrow morning!!!

I meant to send out the copies of Duty & Death on Saturday, but the weekend was so hectic, I only managed to get the copies printed out. So I finished packaging them up and they’re in the mail today.



Angela Felsted gave up Matched for adoption a few weeks ago, and I’m the lucky adoptee. As soon as I finish reading it (It’s next in my queue) I’ll be “mailing it forward.” So look for that later this month.

I’m currently writing on a schedule – and boy howdy do I like my schedules – at the moment, I’m at 71,000-words into my 2011 goal (four novels totaling approximately 295,000-words). Keeping myself to a daily quota is the best tool in my arsenal.

Do you write on a schedule or have a daily word count you want to reach?

Feb 7, 2011

The Time Has Come!

Guess who’s blog is having its first birthday at the end of this month? That’s right!




And in honor of this lovely milestone, I’m having a little give away!


Here’s the swag that's up for grabs:


1 copy my favorite novel from 2010: Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy


2 copies of the first novel I finished in 2010: Forfeit souls


2 first chapter critiques


Or
copy of Becoming Jane on DVD.




All you have to do is be a follower and fill out this snazzy little form to be entered! Sorry, US only - postage and what not :/.


(Extra credit for tweeting, blog posts etc.)


So what are you waiting for?


Entries close at Midnight PST on Sunday February 27th. Tell your friends!

Feb 6, 2011

Psychos?

Ellie Garratt had a blogfest and I totally missed it. My bad.


Here’s my top ten Horror/Science Fiction Movie quotes anyway!

10. There is no spoon. – The matrix, Child at the Oracle’s home

9. One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three four, better lock your door. Five, six, grab your crucifix. Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. Nine, ten, never sleep again. – Nightmare on Elm Street, Creepy little girls.

8. If the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists. – Jurassic Park, Dr. Ian Malcolm.

7. Don’t use the Zed-Word! – Shaun of the Dead, Shaun

6. Aren’t you a little short to be a storm trooper? – A New Hope, Princess Leia

5. You're waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don't know for sure. But it doesn't matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you? – Inception, Mal

4. Big BadaBoom! – Fifth Element, Leeloo

3. They’re coming to get you Barbara… - Night of the living Dead, Ben


2. I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there... any more than there is for you. Malcolm... I'm a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done. – Serenity, The Operative.

1. Psychos do not explode when sunlight hits them, I don’t give a fuck how crazy they are! – From Dusk Til Dawn, Seth Gecko

Feb 4, 2011

Query Critique #8 - A Love Rekindled

A Love Rekindled by Myne


Query:

Efe returns to Nigeria after years in the United States, dreaming of a happy, independent life. However, everyone expects her to get married, and her nights become plagued by nightmares of Kevwe, her ex-fiancé. Long hours at work and drinking in nightclubs only provide temporary relief. Then Efe encounters Kevwe’s twin brother, and knows it’s a matter of time before he is back in her life. Sparks fly when they finally meet again, but desire is no match for bitter-sweet memories of first love and heartbreak.

All these years, she believed she was rejected; now Kevwe claims she abandoned him after a crippling car accident. Efe had no knowledge of the crash, and blames his family’s unwarranted hatred of her ethnicity for their separation. Stuck at a crossroads, Kevwe prefers to look to the future, pledging he’s never stopped loving her. Efe does not want to lose him, yet she needs the traumatic events of the past resolved before she gives in to rekindled love.

_________________

Set in the United States and Nigeria, A LOVE REKINDLED is mainstream romance. The story entertains, is emotionally engaging, and provides a window into another culture, place and people. I’m Nigerian and wanted this book to showcase local characters in a loving relationship. I also witnessed ethnic violence in Warri and decided to explore this topical issue through fiction.

Love stories cut across race and geography, and the conflict in A Love Rekindled will attract adult mainstream and romance readers. I believe romance with non-western characters and settings is an unexplored niche that has enormous potential and plan to write more of such books.

My first novel, a self-published Nigerian romance, was very well received, and has garnered a substantial following on blogger, Facebook and Twitter. It was also subsequently published, to good reviews, in Nigeria.

Redline:

Efe returns to Nigeria after years in the United States, dreaming of a happy, independent life. [This sentence is a little confusing. I’m pretty sure you’re saying that she’s dreaming of a happy independent life in Nigeria, but it could be confusedas she’s spent her years in the US dreaming of a happy independent life… It stopped me up, that’s why I mention it.] However [I’m not a fan of however and buts. I feel like they’re a road sign, something meant to direct you, but while you’re looking at them, they can be distracting enough to drive you into the ditch. I always look for a way to not use them] , everyone expects her to get married [I assume this is a cultural thing… you may want to make sure that’s stated in some way. I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about Nigerian culture, so that’s just an assumption. But if you’re going to add this expectation in, best not confuse an agent with the whys], and her nights become are plagued by with nightmares of Kevwe, her ex-fiancé. [Why is Kevwe a nightmare? At this point I’m theorizing that he was abusive or controlling, but that doesn’t make much sense with the rest of the query.] Long hours at work and drinking in nightclubs only provide temporary relief. [This sentence seems like a sticker – it’s not really connected to anything, so it just feels stuck in. I’d say to give it the axe unless you feel it’s necessary to the query and then, make sure someone reading this knows why it’s essential.] Then Efe encounters [what kind of an encounter was it, awkward bump-into-them at the market? Heated argument in the midst of a nightclub?] Kevwe’s twin brother, and knows it’s a matter of time before he [ambiguous pronoun: Kevwe? Or his twin brother?] is back in her life [Why? Simply because he now knows she’s there? I think this would make more sense if you gave us a little more info (see the notes below)]. Sparks fly when they finally meet again, but desire is no match for bitter-sweet memories of first love and heartbreak. [At this point, I’m still in my “he might be abusive or controlling” mind set, so I’m not really sure why – if she’s been having nightmares about him – we’re suddenly talking about sparks and bittersweet memories.]

All these years, she believed she was rejected [was rejected is a) passive and b) a bit vague. Did he stand her up at the altar? Were they supposed to run away together? How was she rejected. I’d word it as “All these years, she believed Kevwe…” so that you get rid of the passivity]; now[now falls into the category of however/but at the beginning of a sentence for me] Kevwe claims she abandoned him after a crippling car accident [I’d take these tow lines and change them a bit... I would write: “All these years, Efe believed Kevwe (backed out of their wedding?) and is heartbroken as he now tells her she abandoned him after a crippling car accident.”]. Efe had With no knowledge of the crash, and Efe blames his family’s unwarranted hatred of her ethnicity [Okay… might want to forshadow this in the query a little, otherwise it hits you like a wet sock as you’re walking into a locker room – a little confusing and unpleasant] for their separation. Stuck at a crossroads, Kevwe prefers to look to the future, pledging [pledging is something akin to commitment… and therefore refers to future events, I’d change it to “claiming” or something of the like.] he’s never stopped loving her. Efe does not want to lose him, yet she needs the traumatic events of the past resolved before she gives in to rekindled love. [I need more of an insight into those traumatic events, in order for me to want to open the books.]

_________________ [I don’t understand why this is here. I’d ditch it and have a simple paragraph break.]

Set in the United States and Nigeria, A LOVE REKINDLED is mainstream romance. The story entertains, is emotionally engaging, and provides a window into another culture, place and people. [I don’t think this is necessary, let your pitch speak for the book and then, hopefully, let your novel speak for itself, don’t tell them it’s entertaining.] I’m Nigerian and wanted this book to showcase local characters in a loving relationship. I also witnessed ethnic violence in Warri, Nigeria and decided to explore this topical issue through fiction. [I think I’d combine these last two sentences into one. and say “As a Nigerian woman, I chose to write this novel to provide insight into both the loving characters in a loving relationship as well as the ethnic violence I witnessed in Warri, Nigeria.”]

Love stories cut across race and geography, and the conflict in A Love Rekindled will attract adult mainstream and romance readers. [I don’t think this needs to be said as you’ve already stated it’s a “mainstream romance”] I believe romance with non-western characters and settings is an unexplored niche that has enormous potential and plan to write more of such books.

My first novel, a self-published Nigerian romance, was very well received, and has garnered a substantial following on blogger, Facebook and Twitter. It was also subsequently published, to good reviews, in Nigeria. [This does nothing for you unless you want to put the title in the query and allow them to look at the bookscans for it, otherwise, I would drop this entirely]

Notes:


Overall, you need to make sure you’re specifics. A query has to pull in the agent (or more likely their assistant) and they read dozens of queries a day. Vague isn’t going to wow anyone. Make sure your query answers more questions than it poses.

One of the major questions you can get rid of is why the past relationship induces nightmares, etc. Make us want the couple to make it –or make us want her to steer clear.

Also, you didn’t put in a salutation or a sincerely. Always remember to address the agent as Dear Mr./Ms. [last name] and end with a quick line thanking them for their time and consideration. It is after all a courtesy.


Thanks for participating!
 
 - Amy

Feb 3, 2011

Thaw

Eli wrapped the potholder around the handle and pulled the screaming kettle off the stove, pouring scalding water into the oversized mug. I watched the clumping cocoa as it mixed with the shimmering swirls of the whiskey as the icy liquor mixed with the cocoa.


“If you need it to cool faster, the marshmallows are practically ice.” Eli dropped the bag on the table. It thudded like a sack of pebbles.

“Thanks.” I pulled one of the rock-like white cubes out of the bag and dropped it into the cup. Ripples bounced off the white edge like surf against a cliff face.

Eli sat and looked out the window. The snow stopped falling two nights ago.

“We should be able to get out tomorrow. If you’d like, I can drive you to the highway, it should be ploughed, and then walk back for my car.”

I snorted into my cup. “That’s a six mile walk….”

He met my disbelieving gaze with an emotionless stare and shrugged.

Pulling his black coffee to his lips, he turned back to the window. “You know, this reminds me of college.”

“I don’t recall it snowing once during college, unless there was something after Cal.”

“A snowstorm is not the only thing that’s kept us cooped up together for ridiculous amounts of time.”

“Oh! Junior year…” I smiled at the memory and took a long sip, letting the warm liquid and the alcohol warm me from the inside.

“Spring semester, we holed up in your dorm room for two weeks.”

“The difference is,” I waggled my spoon at him. “We don’t have 400 take out restaurants to choose from.”

“Mr. Wong’s Chinese and Buffalo Wings.”

“Oh, his fried zucchini was so good.” This conversation was making me hungry.

Eli pulled his cell phone out.

“What are you doing?” I furrowed my brow at him over the rim of my mug.

He didn’t answer.

Clicking through a series of buttons, he hit the speaker phone and I heard it ring.

“Mr. Wong’s, pick up or delivery?” The voice of the kid working the phones came through in a mechanical drone.

I nearly spit out the mouthful of cocoa.

“Delivery, we’d like two orders of fried zucchini and crab puffs.” He grinned at me, looking like the college boy I’d fallen in love with all those years ago – maybe a little scruffier.

“What’s your address?”

“Can you deliver to Michigan?” The grin only grew, and I did my best to get a sip down without giggling.

“Street or avenue?”

“The state.”

There was a pause before he hung up.

Eli put his phone away and chuckled to himself.

“Hey, do you know what Chinese restaurants serve for Easter?”He waited, I didn’t answer, “Colored eggrolls.”

I shook my head and laughed at the stupidity. “That one was bad.”

He smiled wider.

I wondered what had happened to the crabapple I’d been cooped up with for the last week and a half.

In need of more warmth, I went to the stove. I picked up the handle of the kettle without thinking.

The metal handle scorched my flesh and I dropped it, hearing it clatter to the floor, I instinctively closed my hand. That only made it worse.

Looking around, I couldn’t think of what to do. Where had Eli gone?

He was back in the kitchen as though he’d never been gone. Pressing a cold ball of snow into my reddened hand, he brushed a gloved thumb across my cheek and I realized I was crying.

“It’s gonna be okay.”

And somehow, I knew it would be.

Fridgid <<    >> Whiteout

******

This week's RWH post gave us a prompt and a word limit.




The word count had to be less than 600 words - let me tell you, that took some editing.
The prompt was inspired by NPR's 3 minute fiction. The only requirements (other than word count) were that one character had to tell a joke and a character had to cry. They were allowed to be the same character.

Feb 2, 2011

Snow Crash


I find it ironic that I’m reading a novel called snow crash while the country is having some of its worst weather. Luckily, though, I cannot be at fault, as Snow Crash has nothing at all to do with inclement weather.

Thanks to my good buddy Dave, I’m starting to tick off the titles on my SF reading list!

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992) is an amazing novel. I can barely put it down and it’s been that way since paragraph one. In fact, I’m going to give you a taste of the brilliance that is Mr. Stephenson. Snow Crash begins:

The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed sub-category. He’s got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachnofiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books.

That, ladies and gents, is a first paragraph. I absolutely love the way he chooses to describe things in this novel.

And why wouldn’t you love a novel where the author has the gumption to name his main character Hiro Protagonist? It’s a name you’ll never forget.

I have but one complaint with the novel. As the Point of view jumps back and forth between Hiro and Y.T. (Yours Truly) time is jumbled. Things don’t happen in perfect sequence, and these jumps to and fro in the time stream are not marked. The first time I encountered the jump, I was pulled entirely out of the story. So watch out for that.

The future Stephenson sets forth in this novel is quite akin to where we are now. The Metaverse is very much what I imagine the online world of secondlife is like and I have a feeling that someday, U-Stor-It facilities may turn into slum-style housing. I can see corporations controlling everything from software development to the military and police forces. I enjoy how utterly believable this future is – even today.

Whether or not you should read it, I’d strongly suggest you high tail it down to the library at your next opportunity and get your paws on this novel. It is highly entertaining and thought provoking. I cannot wait to get back into this book.

Have you read Snow Crash? Do you want to?

Feb 1, 2011

And The Winners Are!

Through a very scientific method*, the four winners have been picked!


AND THE WINNERS ARE (In alphabetical order)!





Please email me your address so I can get you your fabulous copy and I will send those out on Saturday (hot from the press).

*Said scientific method was writing all of the names down in random order and then asking an anonymous friend to pick four random numbers.