Aug 31, 2011

Character Description: Calliope

Calliope Druthers: Destructive bitch Barbie Catwoman.
Imagine me blonde and in nothing but gold


Aug 30, 2011

Review: Dreadnought

Dreadnought
By Cherie Priest
A Zombie, Steampunk, Civil War era, cross country trek
Paperback, 400 pages
Published by Tor Books




My Summary:
With a war raging around her, Mercy Lynch has just received word that her husband has died and her father is on his deathbed in Seattle. To pacify his dying wish, Mercy begins a cross country journey that will take her across state and loyalty lines, via Dirigible, a steamer up the Mississippi, and the Union’s most terrifying Engine – the Dreadnought. What’s a confederate nurse to do, but sit quietly and try to stay out of the way? Unfortunately, that’s the last thing anyone else would have her do.
My Review:
The Second (or third, depending on who you ask) in Ms. Priest’s Clockwork Century Novels is very nearly a standalone novel in and of itself. You could pick up this novel, and read it before Boneshaker and have no problems whatsoever keeping up.
Though she alters history to her own timeline, Ms. Priest creates a world that feels so real, you may question whether the idea that either side could have had lumbering, steam-powered leviathans.
All in all, I find this second a mite better than the first.
Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:
Buy – If you like anything steampunk, if you liked the first in the series. Borrow – if you remotely enjoy steampunk and LOVE zombies, etc.

Aug 26, 2011

Blogger Interview: AmyBeth Inverness


ABK: Tell us a little about yourself to start off.
ABI: When I was little I always said I wanted to be either an author or an architect. Having eventually learned that getting published was even less likely than becoming a huge movie star, I went to school for architecture. I’ve had a number of different jobs, including nanny, craft store clerk, telephone customer service, resident director and instructor at a local college. That last one was the only time I actually used my degree, teaching architecture students.
I grew up in Colorado, after IBM moved our family from Florida to Ohio, then Kentucky. I met my husband in Wyoming, and we moved to Vermont as newlyweds to be closer to my family (who transferred here after I graduated High School.) We’re still plotting our return West.
ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
ABI: It has to be Luke Skywalker. He started out as a brash, idealistic young kid who made mistakes and endured the consequences. But the arc of his character took him to become a true hero in every sense of the word.
ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
ABI: This one’s harder. I love Antagonists who have redeeming qualities that make us really feel like we understand and sympathize with what they’re going through, even though they’re the bad guy. I think the Antagonist I’ve always felt the most empathy for is Wile E Coyote.
ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
ABI: I always have a hard time figuring out what my first novel really is. I have several of those first novels that are in the back of the drawer and, if they’ll ever be seen it will be with a heavy dose of revision.
A friend told me about NaNoWriMo last October and I decided to do it. I loved the challenge of finishing a novel in one month, and having help and guidance as I did it. The caveat was my husband made me promise that, this time, I would send my manuscript to an agent or publisher.
That novel was Dogs, Cats, and Allergies, and even though it won’t be the first one I query, it counts as “first” in that it was the first one completed with the intent of eventually querying.
ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?
ABI: Not flushing the whole thing down the toilet when I go through that phase when I hate what I’ve written. I have to remind myself that I won’t always feel that way, and that after the editing process it will be a much better story.
ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?
ABI: I’m reading Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right by Kieran Kramer. Her romances are playful and have a wonderful, light sense of humor. I do hope that some of her voice creeps into my writing… in fact I even earmark the occasional page to refer to later.
I’m also reading The Stars My Destination which is a sci-fi classic by Grandmaster Alfred Bester. There’s a strange story behind that… on facebook I occasionally ask my friends a “SyFy Question of the Day”. After posting a question about teleportation, John DeChancie (Yes, the John DeChancie, author of over two dozen books including the Castle Perilous series, whom I go totally fan-girl over) commented that I should read The Stars My Destination. I’m just a few chapters in, but it’s a completely different voice than the lighthearted romance, and it will be interesting to look back and see how it shows up in what I’m writing now. I’ve already started using the term jaunte in my serial Synaesthesia.
ABK: Why do you choose to be a redhead?
ABI: Both my husband and I love red hair, but other than some highlights on my rapidly graying head and some odd stray hairs in his beard, it doesn’t run in the family. I dyed it back in 2000 just for fun, and we both kinda liked it. Then we adopted the most adorable little red headed girl, and she thought it was the coolest thing that I dye my hair to match hers! So the red hair is now a permanent part of my persona, not just as a writer, but as a mom.
ABK: What sorts of creatures do you have (aside from your husband) and does wrangling them all interfere with your writing?
ABI: Wrangling the kids is definitely the biggest hurdle to my writing time. We have two girls, ages twelve and three. Our big lovey puppy, named Hemi, is not so much a distraction as he is a tripping hazard. We have five (Yes, five, long story.) cats, and they actually help the writing process. They are perfectly happy to just lay around, purring and getting pet, which lowers the blood pressure and helps me settle into my writing time. Sometimes when I’ve been writing for an hour or so I look around me and realize that every cat in the house has gravitated to me.
ABK: When it comes to writing are you an early bird, or a night owl - When do you find you’re the most productive?
ABI:“Early” should be a four-letter-word. I am absolutely the most productive at night. Unfortunately, my most creative state happens to be the just-getting-sleepy state that only lasts so long before it becomes the I’m-so-sleepy-I’m-falling-asleep-in-my-chair state.
ABK: If you had to get rid of every book you owned except one, which would you save?
ABI: I think I’d keep the Ozark Trilogy by Suzette Haden Elgin. It’s out of print and hard to find, so I couldn’t replace it. I love the blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and it touched a nerve in my teenage psyche when I first read it.
ABK: To turn a few questions back on you - How much editing do your manuscripts go through before you’ll consider sending a query to an agent?
ABI: Apparently it never is ready, and I’ll never send that query! Since November, I’ve produced three rough drafts and I’m working on a fourth. (And a fifth… maybe a sixth if I do http://www.3daynovel.com/)
I’ve had a couple of experiences where I was overconfident and sent something out before it was ready, and ended up being rather embarrassed and discouraged. This time, I need to make sure what I send out is a good, professional piece of work. I have a good crit partner who will scour it for me, and hopefully after that I can decide whether it’s ready or if I need to do a second and third round of critique and revision.
ABK: Do you have rules for how steamy you write your sex scenes?
ABI: I worry about this more in the editing stage. I try to keep in mind how the book will be marketed, and make sure the heat level in the book fits that market. For example, a faith-based romance does not usually have a sex scene at all, while an erotic romance has plenty!
While writing, I don’t usually keep these rules in mind. If I feel like having the curtains flutter as the camera fades away, that’s what happens. If the sexual relationship between the characters is an important aspect of the story, I’ll write out every steamy detail.
I’ve also found that my own personal biorhythms affect the heat level of my writing. After being on fertility drugs for many months, the story I was working on started to mimic The Story of O. That’s when I depend on edits to bring the story to the heat level it should be.
ABK: If you could choose one place to hide away for a month to do nothing but write, where would you go for inspiration?
ABI: I’m not so sure my goal would be inspiration, or peace and quiet. There are all kinds of exotic locales I’d love to visit so I could do research set a story there. But if I simply wanted to finish my WIP I’d choose a nice cabin or hotel with room service and internet access. My crit partner and I have talked about renting a sea side cabin for a week, and that could work as long as I don’t have to worry about cooking and cleaning.
ABK: Why do you ask who shot first? And what is your opinion on the matter?
ABI: After I’d been doing interviews for a couple of months, I was composing questions for Ethan Stone, author of MM erotic romance. I noticed a Star Wars reference on his blog, so instead of just asking “So, do you like Star Wars?” I asked the incendiary question “Who shot first, Han or Greedo?”
This is a question that never fails to get fans riled up. In the original movie, Han Shot first. But when the movies were re-done decades later, the scene was revised to show that the bounty hunter Greedo shot first, and missed. The idea was that, since Han is a good guy, of course he could never be so sneaky as to shoot Greedo under the table! But fans were incensed, saying that Han shooting first was true to his character arc.
I compare the question to blogging. Unlike a traditionally published story, I can go back to a blog post at any time and revise the heck out of it.
My opinion? Han shot first. They should not have tried to make him look like a perfect hero who always does the right thing. He began as a badass, and he needed to start out that way in order for the arc of his character to have as great an impact as it did.
ABK: What’s the prime root of 4596^3 while balanced on a monkey?
ABI: Funny you should ask… I was trying to prove that we didn’t actually need to get a hold of an actual monkey to figure this out, and the whole conversation degenerated into a talk of unladen swallows and whether it really makes a difference whether it’s an African or a European bird. Well, it does, but we never figured out the monkey thing
Now I have to figure out what to do with all these coconuts…

Visit AmyBeth at her blog: The Inverness Press and check out her interview with me

Aug 19, 2011

Confessions of a Beta: Katie

Today I'm handing the post over to one of my Beta readers, Katie. (She is also my self proclaimed biggest fan - even turned in a resume for the position.)


****

Normally when I'm reading through a book, I think to myself, "I wonder what the author decided happened in this guy's past to make him act this way? How many planets are in this sci-fi? What happened to this country/universe/family in the ancient history of this story?" And that's where knowing the person who is writing the book comes in handy.


As Amy types up new books I get the pleasure of reading through them, usually as each chapter is finished. She will also send me rough drafts of queries, or a full novel that has been picked through by her other betas. While I may not be the best typist or speller, typos and other grammar issues usually scream out at me from other people's writing (those who can't do, teach - that type of thing). This skill doesn't usually get used while being Amy's beta until it is a proposed final draft and she is trying to tighten it up.

When she sends full chapters she is looking for feedback on the overall story lines and for any plot holes. With everything going on in someone's head while they are writing a novel, they may not catch that they haven't yet spoken of a cat that's in the story line, or they may not notice that they decided to kill off that character two chapters ago and didn't remove him later on while revising.

One of the things I love most of being a beta is firsthand seeing a story be born. I'm a huge fan of Amy's writing (the biggest fan, actually) and love the ideas and worlds that she creates for her characters. The only time it gets hard to be her beta is when she revises a story that I have already engrained in my head as being perfect. That's a small price to pay for getting to enjoy her reading!

Aug 17, 2011

Chipping Away

Look at that! I'm down to 4 - ignore the fact the three of them number in the five largest of the stack.



I’m so excited about getting through the rest of the pile. I already have my amazon cart sorted and ready to press “buy” when I start the last of what’s left.

What I have left:

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (What I'm reading right now)

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield



What I’ve finished (links to their reviews):

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Bone Shaker by Cherie Priest

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin

Ptolomy’s Gate by Jonathon Stroud

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Red Glove by Holly Black

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Catching fire by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Aug 16, 2011

Review: Heartless

Heartless

(Book 4 of The Parasol Protectorate)

By Gail Carriger

Paranormal romance in a Victorian steampunk age

Paperback, 400 pages

Published by Orbit
Released June 28, 2011













My Summary:

Alexia is back and with more problems than ever, a doting husband who means well, a posh vampire looking to adopt and a masculinely dressing inventor with a grudge. Pile her condition on top of that and this soulless wife of a werewolf can only guess why the ghosts of London have sought her out with warning of a plot against the queen!

My Review:

Ms. Carriger has done it again. She’s managed to maintain the witty quality that has gained her a following that would make many an author envious. Though the plot twist in this novel was a smidge easy to catch, the seamlessness of the rest of the novel makes up for it in the way Ivy’s sweetness makes up for her horrible taste in hats.

My only real complaint with the novel is the cover. I miss the original Alexia model.

Buy, Borrow, Brush past:

Buy! This novel, as well as the rest of the series is too good to not own and read over and over again.



Review Book 1: Soulless
Review Book 2: Changeless
Review Book 3: Blameless

Aug 12, 2011

Author Interview: Tiffany Reiz


The Siren, Tiffany Reisz's Debut novel about an erotica writer with a stuffy british editor and a secret night job as the city's formost dominatrix.
(I'll consider that sentence forwarning of what you can expect to find in the following interview)

Represented by the amazing Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency, Tiffany has also published an erotic novella called Seven Day Loan.

Tiffany's prose is enrapturing and completely unforgettable. Her agent said of The Siren: "I wanted to put chocolate on the pages and eat it." I think we can all agree that is a glowing reccomendation.

She has three novels coming out in 2012!

The Siren - release date: August 1, 2012
The Angel - release date: October 1, 2012
The Prince - release date: December 1, 2012

The Interview:

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

TR: I had a farm in Africa…

Oh, wait. That’s somebody else. My name is Tiffany Reisz and I am funky. Kentucky girl born and bred. Other than the fact that I’m a Catholic erotica writer who dropped out of a conservative seminary to become an erotica writer…there’s seriously not that much to say about me.

ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
TR: All-time fave protag? You ask easy questions. Hmmm…There’s a book by Iain Pears called An Instance of the Fingerpost. Four different men narrate the same events that swirl around the trial and execution of a woman named Sarah. I fell so deeply in love with Sarah as a person, as a flesh and blood human being, that I was in almost physical pain reading the book. I have never in my life read a more beautifully wrought female character in my life. I get chills just thinking about her.

ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
TR: I love Lestat in Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles. There’s a delicious amorality to him. The best villains aren’t evil because pure evil is as cartoonish and unbelievable as pure good. I love amoral antagonists because they force the reader to make the moral judgments he or she won’t.

ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel or novella (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
TR: The book I ever tried to write was a young adult novel. As a kid growing up I read all sorts of fantasy novels—The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz…and what bugged me about them all was that the kid in the book always goes into the magic world and then almost immediately tries to get back to the real world. This disgusted me growing up. I wanted to stay in Narnia, stay in Wonderland. So I tried to write a book where the heroine gets swept into a magic world and despite having loving parents at home in the real world, chooses to stay forever. Subversive, isn’t it? If I ever get good enough to write YA, I might try it again.

ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?
TR: I’m shit at plot. I always have to keep reminding myself, “You can’t just have funny people running around fucking. Something has to be going on. Up the goddamn stakes.”

The second most difficult part of writing a novel? Keeping my focus on the boohey look at the moth over there!

ABK: Your novel, The Siren, comes out in October. Are you feeling anxious about that? Or are you a cool cat who isn’t fazed by things like that yet?
TR: Well, now that they’ve moved my release date from October 2011 to August 2012, I’m much cooler about it. I asked the great and beautiful Toni Blake for some advice about what sort of marketing works to sell a book. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, your writing sells your writing. Just write more books. So that’s what I’m doing.
(Well! I'll just have to have you back on next year before it comes out - though I find this development personally tragic)

ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how or what you write?
TR: I’m reading The Woman in White by Wilke Collins. So far there’s no BDSM in it so no major influences from it to report yet.

ABK: Do you think your life, as a writer, got harder or more simple when you signed with Sara Megibow?
TR: It got more complicated. But in nothing but good ways. Agent Sara or Boss, as I call her, isn’t just an agent, she’s one hell of an editor. Sara always pushes me to write better, dig deeper, make the story richer. I owe her a lot. I found out a few people cautioned her against representing me because of the controversial subject matter in my books but she took me on anyway. I love that woman!

ABK: As far as I can tell from your twitter feed, interviews and website, you’re a pretty open book. Is there anything you can think of that might surprise us?
TR: There’s a famous phrase that describes people like me — hiding in plain sight. I talk frankly about sex and other taboo topics which other people aren’t comfortable talking about. So people assume they know everything about me. But the truth is, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that I can’t and won’t talk about.

Now you’re curious, aren’t you? You should be. ;)

ABK: Your novella is not for the faint hearted – I’ll assume The Siren isn’t either – have your family members read your work? And if so, how did they react?
TR: Oh, I don’t know. What’s a little fisting between friends? It’s funny. Some people who I thought would be shocked by SEVEN DAY LOAN were all, “Cute story!” whereas some people who write stuff I consider fairly erotic were shocked by it. Different strokes and all that jazz. THE SIREN has some intense content in it, but it’s also witty and urbane, fast-paced and fun. If I do say so myself.

ABK: What euphemisms do you find nauseating? Which do you feel are over used?
TR: I really hate erotica that is filled with “cocks” and “dicks” and “pussies” and “cunts.” I don’t need all that. What makes a sex scene erotic is the dynamic between the two or three characters, not their interlocking body parts.

ABK: Do you feel Erotic novels are becoming more mainstream? Or are you and other erotic authors fighting an uphill battle against our prudish country?
TR: It is disheartening that in America, one realistic sex scene can earn a film an NC-17 rating while a movie full of gun play and murder can still be PG. If I had kids, I’d much rather discover they were having sex than murdering people. All I can do is tell my stories that take sexy kinksters and show what real, awesome, and fun people they are.

ABK: Do you have any advice for those of us looking to break into the industry?
TR: Have talent. Use it.

I wish there was an easier way. I’m not one of those Pollyanna’s who say, “Anyone can write if they try hard enough!” I’ve met a lot of writers who work their asses off and still can’t write their way out of a paper bag. But if you do have talent, have a good voice, have a way with words, then write until your hands fall off. Recently I asked my ex-boyfriend who is a track coach how I could improve my 5K time. He said, “Run more.” That’s kind of my advice. Want to be a better writer? Write more.

Follow Tiffany on Twitter: @TiffanyReisz (something I highly reccomend)
Visit her website
And Buy Seven Day Loan from Amazon!
 
(A quick thank you to Jenna - another fan of Ms. Reisz - who suggested the Black and Blue Color scheme. It is only appropriate for her books.)

Aug 10, 2011

Why I Choose Traditional Publishing


It would be sooooo easy to “give up” on traditional publishing and self publish any one of the novels I’ve finished. But I wont.
For me it comes down to what traditional publishing can offer me. In a word: support.
I write novels. I don’t know everything about how to publish them and market them. I need traditional publishing to help me with that.
Here’s what I feel traditional publishing has to offer: editing, cover art, back cover blurbs, better access to sales markets. On top of that, you get marketing and credibility...
No man is an island. Very few authors are their own autocratic states.

Aug 9, 2011

Review: Ptolomy's Gate

Ptolomy’s gate
By Jonathan Stroud
(Book 3: The Bartimaeus Trilogy)

Alternate history London with a dastardly djinni

Paperback, 512 Pages

Published by Hyperion Books
Released December 19,2006









My Summary:


Bartimaeus is still on Earth – much to his dismay – and his essence is weakening by the day, but a plot to overthrow the magicians in power is bubbling under the surface as the colonies slowly fray the empire’s edges. Nathaniel’s precariously balanced Jenga tower of a political career is slowly beginning to crumble as his compassion for his demon begins to show and Kitty can’t leave well enough alone.

Will Bartimaeus and Nathanial be able to save London once again? Or will they perish together with their new found bond?

My review:

Okay. Here’s the deal with this series. Bartimaeus (and then Kitty when you get to book 2) are the sympathetic characters. You don’t like Nathaniel until page 158 of this book. As far as the principle human character in a novel… that’s an odd thing.

This novel is divided into parts and each of these begins with a pseudo-chapter set in Egypt in the time of Ptolomy. It adds an interesting, almost-prologue, piece to the puzzle Stroud hands you in the progression of chapters.

Buy, Borrow, Brush past:

Borrow definitely – though I’m leaning toward the buy end of that spectrum. The series is absolutely awesome, thanks in part to a snarky spirit.

Aug 5, 2011

Query #14 - Looking For Me

Looking for Me by Angela

Query:

 Dearest Agent,


After years of suffering sexual, physical, and psychological abuse too horrid to speak of, Mona Bishop injects the needle into her arm, pushes the plunger inward with her thumb, forcing the “smack” into her veins, entering her final decline.

Since childhood, Mona has never had never had much of anything, including a voice. After witnessing the death of her beloved grandmother, she is thrust into the foster care system where she falls prey to horrific abuse at the hands of her demented foster parents, Jack and Martha O’Neal. Sixteen, and unable to endure the torture any further, without plan, Mona runs away and ends up on the mean streets of South Dallas struggling to survive. When Lee, a free spirit, enticed by the tango with danger, enters her life, he feeds Mona’s soul the food it has been long starving for. But, as time passes, tensions arise, betrayal is discovered, and all that Mona holds sacred is destroyed. Lee abandons her and leaves town with their daughter, leaving Mona’s life spiraling out of control. Heroin addicted and clutching to her fragile hold on sanity, Mona is forced to confront her failures, expose her secrets, and face her long-buried hurts. She riots against herself, and the voices in her head desperately trying to rebuild her life and be the kind of woman her daughter can be proud of. However her journey to self-discovery has a detour, leading Mona down a road paved with further heartbreak. In the end, will Mona reunite with the love of her life? Will she find her daughter? And, lastly, will she ever find again the most valuable thing she has lost—herself?

Ultimately, LOOKING FOR ME is a story of hope, resolve, of a woman digging deeper than she thought possible trying to find the strength not to completely crumble. Completed at 64, 256-words, LOOKING FOR ME is a drama suffused, mainstream literary narrative entwined with a touch of humor, suspense, and dark realities, topped with an urban twist.

Now, about me in a nutshell; I began my writing career at the tender age of six. True. Stapled notebook paper in booklet form, I was sure my three page masterpiece would be a bestseller. Allow me to toot my horn by briefly stating, I have won and been a finalist in numerous contests, recently, receiving the 2010 first Annual Soul Sister Creative Writing Award.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind Regards,
[Contact info redacted]

 
Redline:

Dearest Agent, [I’d skip the “Dearest” it reads a bit contrite to me. Stick with a simple “Dear” and let what’s in your novel be what makes you stand out from the other slush.]


After years of suffering sexual, physical, and psychological abuse too horrid to speak of, Mona Bishop injects the needle into her arm, pushes the plunger inward with her thumb, forcing the “smack” into her veins, entering her final decline. [I’d break this sentence in two. It’s long enough that reading it makes eyes do fun little flips trying to keep up. End the first sentence with “into her arm.” And fix the next half so that it’s also a separate sentence. You could even rearrange it so the sentence reads: “Entering her final decline, she depresses the plunger with her thumb, forcing the smack into her veins.” I also changed “pushes the plunger inward” to “depresses” because I feel that the dual meaning of the word works well with the mood of this intro. And Smack is a recognized street name, so you don’t need the quotes.]

Since childhood, Mona has never had never had much of anything, including a voice. [I know what you’re going for here, but this is a lot of telling and the way it reads almost makes Mona out to be physically mute.] After witnessing the death of her beloved grandmother, she is thrust into the foster care system where she falls prey to horrific abuse at the hands of her demented foster parents, Jack and Martha O’Neal. [Is this the inciting incident? Do we start out with the grandmother’s death (how did she die, btw) and her being tossed to an abusive foster family? What kind of abuse is it, do they smack her around, is Jack molesting her? Details are important to make us truly care about Mona’s plight.] Sixteen, and unable to endure the torture any further, without plan, Mona runs away and ends up on the mean streets of South Dallas struggling to survive. [One, without knowing exactly what the abuse is, torture seems a bit melodramatic. Two, your placement of “without a plan” is awkward. I’d say: “…any further, Mona runs away without a plan and ends up…” Three, “mean streets of South Dallas” isn’t effective without a bit more detail. show us why they’re “mean.” Four, I think this should be a paragraph break.]

When Lee, a free spirit, enticed by the tango with danger, enters her life, he feeds Mona’s soul the food it has been long starving for. [I don’t know exactly what you’re going for with “the tango with danger,” but I don’t think it works. It’s not clear enough. Is it her that he feels is dangerous, is it those “mean” streets of Dallas? What draws him to her? And what is this “food” her soul’s been starving for. We get nothing of their relationship in this paragraph.] But, as time passes, tensions arise, betrayal is discovered, and all that Mona holds sacred is destroyed. [“as time passes” feels like filler to me. This sentence is nothing but telling – what tension arises? What betrayal does she discover? What does Mona hold sacred? You’re dredging up too many questions.] Lee abandons her and leaves town with their daughter, leaving Mona’s life spiraling out of control. [you have a “leaves” and a “leaving” right next to each other. This is the first mention of a daughter and she’s just kind of tossed in there, if you’re going to mention her, there needs to be a concrete reason and “spiraling out of control” isn’t it.] Heroin addicted and clutching to her fragile hold on sanity, Mona is forced to confront her failures, expose her secrets, and face her long-buried hurts. [I’d say: Addicted to heroin, because “Heroin addicted reads awkwardly. This sentence is keep-able… so long as you explain what some of those failures, secrets and hurts are before we get to this point.] She riots against herself, and the voices in her head desperately trying to rebuild her life and be the kind of woman her daughter can be proud of. [I think maybe you meant “revolts” instead of “riots”… as it stands now, the sentence doesn’t make much sense.] However her journey to self-discovery has a detour, leading Mona down a road paved with further heartbreak. [I’d say “takes a detour” because “has” sounds even more passive.] In the end, will Mona reunite with the love of her life? Will she find her daughter? And, lastly, will she ever find again the most valuable thing she has lost—herself? [These questions make the query feel like you haven’t finished the book. I know that you’re trying to entice the reader in, but in reality, I read these and wonder… well, if you’re questioning that much… is the book actually going to have a conclusion? I’d drop them all. Honestly, “paved with further heartbreak is a much better way to end this pitch.]

Ultimately, LOOKING FOR ME is a story of hope, resolve, of a woman digging deeper than she thought possible trying to find the strength not to completely crumble. Completed at 64, 256-words, LOOKING FOR ME is a drama suffused, mainstream literary narrative entwined with a touch of humor, suspense, and dark realities, topped with an urban twist. [Ultimately, I think this entire paragraph needs to be rewritten. Drop the ultimately, start off the paragraph with: “LOOKING FOR ME is my [Genre] novel, complete at 64,256-words.” Then go into the fact that it’s a story of _____. Reading the last sentence… I get a sense that you don’t know where your novel fits into the scheme of things. There’s just too much going on. Pick the two genre’s your novel fits best and go with that. (e.g., Literary Novel with a dark urban twist.)]

Now, about me in a nutshell; I began my writing career at the tender age of six. True. Stapled notebook paper in booklet form, I was sure my three page masterpiece would be a bestseller. Allow me to toot my horn by briefly stating, I have won and been a finalist in numerous contests, recently, receiving the 2010 first Annual Soul Sister Creative Writing Award. [Delete everything before “I have won…” and add this to the end of your w/c & genre paragraph. An agent isn’t going to care about what you did when you were six and they probably won’t think tooting your horn in a nutshell is cute. Remember, this is a business letter, always do your best to remain professional.]

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind Regards,
[Contact info redacted]

Notes:


Your pitch paragraph is 276 words in total which is in the sweet spot in terms of query length. That being said. You’re too vague when it comes to why Mona is where she is and what happens to her. I can’t tell how much of this is back story and where your novel begins, but what I would strongly suggest is to pinpoint your inciting incident write one paragraph off that and then make sure you don’t get too far ahead in the plot so that you can be clear in your details and so that you don’t give away too much of the plot.


Also, I’m not entirely certain of the category this is in – the only age mentioned is sixteen – and so I’m not sure if you’re trying to pitch this as a YA, because I’m not certain how old she is for the meat of the novel. If it is YA, you need to state that. If not, you don’t need to state that it’s adult fiction, but you do need to give us a clue to her age in the query (or leave out the 16yo bit) If it's not YA, which I suspect it's not... you're about 25k shy of the desired wordcount.





Aug 4, 2011

A Rant About a SF Movie: Cowboys and Aliens

So, we went and saw Cowboys and Aliens this weekend.



It was good. I have a few problems with it, but I’ll toss those in at the end with a little caution about their spoiler-i-ness.

Before we get into the meat of this post, lets talk about perception of this movie.

On may 17 I was on twitter and I made a comment to an agent about something to do with my steampunk western WIP. And a woman responded with:

@abkeuser (@agent’s name) See how it works out for “Cowboys vs Aliens” this summer.

I of course hopped back in and mentioned that “I don’t think you can consider Cowboys and Aliens to be steampunk”

And she replied:

@abkeuser Hmm... As no one has seen the flick yet, it's a bit much to assume, surely? The basic conceit[sic] surely meets Gibsons basic concept.

Let’s just talk about this for a moment. If you’ve seen the trailers for it, you will have noticed that nothing in them is steam powered or clock work. I feel that Steampunk has enough of a draw that that would have been capitalized on IF C&A was, in fact, steampunk.

Also, I have not read the graphic novels that this movie was based on. However, I have read synopses of the works and I can tell you, Gibson’s basic concept, doesn’t “Sound” like steampunk to me.

Having now watched the movie, I can assure this woman that my “Assumptions” were correct. Alien technology does not a steampunk movie make!

It is, a sci fi western. I guess it loosely fits the definition of a space western, but to me a space western requires at least a little time… in space.

Another agent got passes to an advanced screening of the film and in response to her tweet that the movie was “weird, not bad, but weird.” Another tweeter said:

That C&A was “Also maybe swiped from (or inspired by) Firefly/Serenity”

Um… what?

Ladies and Gentlemen, research things before you start tweeting silly opinions.

Even if C&A wasn’t based off a graphic novel that came out in 2006. Yes, I understand that this was 4 years after Firefly and 1 year after the film was released, but Joss Whedon did not invent the Space Western genre. He is amazing… but not completely unique. As my friend Dave pointed out, you could argue that Mal has an alarming number of similarities to Han Solo. My point is: C&A is not a rip from Firefly/Serenity.



The movie itself is entertaining, if a little muddled. I had 3 main problems with the film.

3 – It really just needed more time. The plot itself seemed rushed.

2 – Random points of dialog that seem as though they’re supposed to set up something in the future… that doesn’t ever come to fruition. Specifically the scene where Dolarhyde gives the kid a knife and doesn’t answer a question… instead gives this long story about having to kill the first man he killed… that was just entirely unnecessary.

1 – How am I supposed to be afraid of aliens that look like tadpoles, and who’s supposed “scariest” feature makes me think of a slimy Quatto from the original Total Recall?

Aug 3, 2011

How is Writing a Novel like Taking a Road Trip?


I’m about to head out on a journey of craziness up to Oregon to go to a family reunion that will undoubtedly be filled with more craziness. Don’t worry, I’m leaving my cyber consciousness behind to entertain you all – if you find me entertaining.


***



So, how is writing a novel like taking a road trip? Well, if you’re anything like the BF and I, it starts out with a plan (an outline) and while you still hit all the major (plot) points along the way, there are still deviations from your intended route (plotline.

You’re excited to get started, but near the end the time it’s taken begins to wear on you and when it’s over you’re equally happy that it’s done and sad that it ended so soon. And then you go back over an sort through your pictures and unpack and do laundry (revising anyone?). You tell everyone you know about the trip, sometimes you try to convince them to take a similar trip too, if not they can always look into it on your blog.

Then, before you know it… you’re planning another trip(novel).

How is your road trip (novel) coming along? Where are you in your journey?

Aug 2, 2011

Review: Mocking Jay

Mockingjay

By Suzanne Collins

(Book 3: The Hunger Games Trilogy)

Dystopian YA with an agressive edge

Hardcover, 390 pages

Published by Scholastic

Released August 24th, 2010












My Summary:
Katniss has just survived her second hunger games – though once again she got out on a cheat. Now, embroiled in the rebellious plot of District 13 (not completely destroyed as the other districts thought) her only thoughts are of saving Peeta from a fate that is far worse than she could have imagined.


My review:
The third installment in this series feels rather disjointed from the other two novels. It’s setting feels so different that it’s almost difficult to swallow.

(The rest of this review will spoil you – in the event that you miraculously haven’t read this series already)

My biggest problem with this whole series is that, while other stuff is going on, the main two conflicts that spans all three are the inhumanity of the capitol pitting children against each other and Peeta and Katniss’ relationship. In the end, they solve both problems, but the second one feels like such an afterthought it’s unsatisfying.

There are some other major points that bothered me, but I understand them in the end – mainly Prim’s death. I understand the “why” I just don’t personally agree with it.

Buy, Borrow, Brush past:
Overall, I’d say to borrow this one – unless you’re a completionist like me and must own an entire series if you own any of them.