Sep 30, 2011

Revision Wars Day 9: A No-Man’s Land


I’ve gotten through my sweeping revision of the ms. That means it’s now off to my editor extraordinaire for a good lashing with the red pen whip!
Wish me luck!
Original ms: 92,271
Present w/c: 95,818
Day 5: Finished run through and off to Editor

Author Interview: C. M. Keller

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

CMK: I’m a rich and famous writer who lives in a castle in Spain. Just kidding. I live in a 1940s bungalow that’s not quite big enough for me, my husband, our four kids, and assorted pets, including a black Lab named Jezebel. 

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

CMK: This is a hard question! It’s like trying to pick a favorite star in the sky.

I love Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games—I’d like to be the kind of woman who can fish, shoot, and exchange my life for the life of someone I love. I adore Gabriel Allon in Daniel Silva’s spy thrillers—an art restorer who can drop a bad guy with one bullet. I love Anne Elliot in Persuasion—one of the best examples of character growth bar none. (Though she could use a little of Lizzie’s wit.) I love...I’d better stop now because I could go on for paragraphs.

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

CMK: Opal Koboi from the Artemis Fowl series. You’ve got to love someone who says, “Don’t look at me, it’s bad for my skin,” or “World domination. You make it sound so unattainable” or “Peace be inside me, tolerance all around me, forgiveness in my path. Now, Mervall, show me where the filthy human is, so that I may feed him his organs.”

ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)?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

CMK: When I was 12 years old, I dragged a typewriter up into the attic. The moment I saw my words printed on a page, I was hooked. Though the emotional charge may have also come from the lightning bolt that struck a tree next to the window where I was writing.

ABK: According to your blog, your daughter can be credited with giving you that final shove to self publish this title. Was it a huge push? Or do you think you would have self pubbed it without her involvement, just at a later date?

CMK: We could say she gave me a shove, but it felt more like a kick in the hiney. She nagged and cajoled me. Finally, I agreed that if the book was still unpublished by a certain date, I’d e-publish.  I probably would have self-pubbed on my own later, but without her computer expertise I might have given up.

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

CMK: Writing is like an addiction. In a first draft, when the story flows through your mind and onto the page, the rush is amazing. But first drafts are miserable if you fall into a plot hole and have to dig your way out. Editing is great when you find the perfect word—Mark Twain called it “the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” But when you rework the same sentence for twenty minutes without making headway—it’s slow torture.

ABK: Your novel has a large portion of it that takes place in Bodiam castle. Have you been there yourself? Or was your experience with it entirely from internet/library research?

CMK: I had a castle in my head when I started the book. Then I realized Bodiam Castle was almost exactly what I saw in my head, even down to the legend of the woman in red who haunts the castle. That was amazing!  I think it must be that ghost who was my muse for Screwing Up Time.

Oops, I didn’t answer your question. No, I haven’t been to the castle. Originally, I bought books about Bodiam. But then, I found all the pictures people posted online of their vacation trips to Bodiam Castle. They were invaluable—I even discovered some errors in the books that I’d bought, which led to rewriting.

ABK: How close are you to finishing the sequel? Can you tell us anything about it?

CMK: I’m finishing the first draft—I’m writing the climax. There’s so much I’d like to tell you, but I don’t want to spoil the book. I will tell you that most of the major characters come back, an ancient “waterslide” becomes a getaway vehicle, and Mark plays Settlers of Catan with a king.

ABK: Another novel you’re shopping is lovingly called the Platypus. How did it get that nickname?

CMK: My novels have a lot of aspects of multiple genres. (Screwing Up Time has been called every from action adventure to romantic comedy.) My other novel is the same. Although it’s literary fiction, it has aspects of historical fiction, thrillers, and romance. And the platypus with its mismatched otter fur and duck bill reminds me of my writing. Besides, you can’t help loving a platypus—they even have poisoned spurs. How cool is that?!

ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?

CMK: Right now I’m reading a George R. R. Martin novel. As much as I love reading within the genres I write, I read a lot outside of my genres—I try to glean what it is that makes the novels “work” and learn from it. For example, with the Martin novels, what keeps me reading it, even though I’m not big on fantasy, is the characterizations and the way he humanizes even rotten characters. Maybe it’s reading so many genres that makes my own writing difficult to categorize.

Thanks so much, Amy, for inviting me to do this interview—it was a lot of fun!


If you missed it, check out my review of her novel Screwing Up Time and go get your ecopy

And check out her blog A Merry Heart

Sep 29, 2011

Out Damn Spot

A few weeks ago I wrote about my least favorite Shakespearean tragedy, Romeo & Juliet. Today I’m going to talk about my favorite. I should tell you – this post will be shorter than the R&J post, because I tend to rant longer than I praise.

Macbeth has always been my favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Some of you may be thinking “of course it is – they get what’s coming to them.” But that’s not why I love it.



In the openings of the play prophesies are given by the witches – who, in my opinion are a group of old biddies looking to see if they can’t cause a ruckus – and throughout the play, those who have been prophesized about go on to make sure that the prophesies come true. Namely Macbeth and his lady.  Homeboy Banquo’s got his head pretty square on his shoulders, so he’s not so ambitious.

So the witches prophesize that Macbeth will be given more and titles and then eventually be king.  When the land and titles are bestowed on him minutes later, it only adds to the raging wildfire that is Macbeth’s ambition, and so he kills the king and blames the sleeping servants, King Duncan’s sons flee and Macbeth takes the throne.  Most of this is done at the behest of his Lady wife.

The other prophesy, in which Banquo’s sons will be kings worries Macbeth and he sends out assassins who succeed in killing Banquo, but his son escapes (supposedly James VI of Scottland, aka. James I of England was a descendant of Banquo – fulfilling that prophesy).  Bunquo returns to haunt Macbeth later causing great panic when his lords cannot see who he is lashing out at.

Macbeth visits the three witches again and they bring him three apparitions with three warnings: Beware Macduff, None of a woman born shall harm Macbeth, and never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dusinane Hill shall come against him. With Macduff hiding out in England, Macbeth decides to put everyone in Macduff’s castle to death, including his wife and young son.

At this point Lady Macbeth has gone a bit wackadoodle. She’s wracked with guilt and begins sleep walking and trying to wash nonexistent blood from her hands.

When Macduff finds out his family has been slaughtered, he leaves England, joining with a great many others who see Macbeth as a tyrant. While camped at Birnam Wood the advancing army is told to cut branches from the trees to camouflage their numbers and approach. 

Lady Macbeth offed herself and Macbeth has to face Macduff’s host. When confronted by Macduff, Macbeth laughs in his face because he cannot be killed by any man born of a woman. Macduff reveals that he was delivered by caesarean and Macduff beheads Macbeth.

Moral of the story? Witches are bitches.

Kidding.

Macbeth’s fatal flaw was him ambition. He was a man so focused on getting what he was told he could have, that he didn’t stop to think about the consequences. Here is a man who’s just been given another title and land enough to make any man happy (especially when added to what he already had) and he chooses to do as his wife suggests and take what he’s been told he should.

These main characters’ folly is their greed and ambition, and they pay for it with their lives. This is my favorite tragedy because I’ve met so many people like the Macbeths in this world, and to see these faults blown up to nearly comic proportions… well, that just tickles me.
Also, if you’re not into the classic play, check out Scotland, PA. An adaptation of Macbeth, set in the seventies, that is absolutely wonderful.

Sep 28, 2011

Cover Art: A Slow Evolution

Throughout the writing process, I make mock-up covers for my novels.
They're just for fun and As you'll notice, I tend to lean toward dark covers.
The earliest version (I have) is on the left, and the latest version is on the right.









In this instance, you can see that the novel's title changed along with the cover.
Both for the better, I believe.


These two sets of novels both have two cover options...
a first and a second, I'm not smitten with any of them.




Sep 27, 2011

Review: Screwing Up Time

Screwing Up Time
By  C. M. Keller
Colorful YA Time Travel
EBook, 39 chapters
Self Published
Released July, 2010




My Summary:
Mark Montgomery is minding his own business, actively doing his best to keep from studying for the SATs when a girl named Miranda appears in his room. She’s dressed like someone out of a history book, because she’s a fixture in one. She is the heir to Bodiam Castle in the middle ages.  She’s got a problem named Peter – the alchemist who’s found a way to control her entire life – and Mark may be the only one who can help her. Breaking into a Mental institution, running away to present day Bodaim with his best friend, and finding all the things his committed grandfather hid away so that he too can travel through the colors of time to save her is difficult enough... and he has to do it all while keeping his parents in the dark.
My Review:
This novel is very well written and engaging. As with all self published titles, I approach them with trepidation, but unlike so many others, this novel kept me involved throughout.
It takes a while to get used to Miranda’s speech patterns, but I was pleased that she sounded realistically medieval in that regard.  The dialog as a whole was very realistic, and even the awkward interplay of modern day high school boy with little Lady from the dark ages worked on that inexplicable teen level.
The Plot, Characterization and Setting were well dispersed, so I was never left feeling as though I’d just read a useless paragraph of character or setting description and likewise never felt swept along by a raging torrent of the plot.  
As for the downside, I was expecting for there to be more of the novel – which is entirely from Mark’s perspective – to be in the past. So my expectations led to a teensy bit of “are we there yet” syndrome.
There was only one point that didn’t truly work for me and that was that these two boys, both very well educated, didn’t seem to think about the fact that one of their plans (later in the book) to take a white powdery substance on a plane might end up with both of them in custody. It pulled me out of the book, but wasn’t so jarring that it was detrimental to the book.
Finally, a few times I felt myself slipping into memories of watching Wax Works II: Lost in time. But mostly that was just because I’d find myself thinking of Alexander Godunov whenever Peter was in the scene.  The story itself was only similar in that time travel was involved and the movie went to a medieval time period. (Obviously this won’t bother you if you’re not one of the 12 people who have actually seen Waxwork II.)
What it boils down to is an amusing YA novel that was well written and enjoyable to read.
Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:
If you have an e-reader and enjoy YA with a touch of whimsy. By all means: Buy! However, if you’re like me and your only e-reader is your phone… Don’t expect to read this one quickly, without a little nausea.

Sep 26, 2011

Revision Wars Day 5: The Technicolor Dream Ms


Today... I'm going to see just how many colors I end up putting into this revision. So far we've got purple, pink, orange, red and black.

The first chapter is going to take the longest. It's going to see the most change. Also, it's going to require the most rewrites ontop of rewrites. Betas... I hope you're ready for this.
 
Original ms: 92,271
Present w/c: 93749
Day 5: Continued work on Ch.1

MI: The Bavarian Operation


Sep 23, 2011

Query Critique #15 - Baby Doe

Baby Doe by Bill

Query:
Dear—
BABY DOE is the first of a mystery series with a Mad Men meets small-town 1957 Oklahoma sensibility. Bucky Ontario, twenty years old and full of illusions, struggles to find his feet in Wayberry, Oklahoma. He has all it takes to become a successful businessman—until confronted with a teenage mother's dead child, a murdered elderly couple, and rumors of incest. Situations unheard of in Wayberry.
When a racetrack scheme draws the attention of the FBI, a femme fatale agent uses Bucky for the Bureau's purposes, complicating Bucky’s world. As the town buries a product of American ingenuity, a brand new Plymouth Belvedere, to celebrate Oklahoma's fifty-year anniversary, Bucky needs to decide if he is willing to risk his sparkling future in Wayberry by exposing a multiple killer and child molester.
I am submitting (blank) of BABY DOE, a 87,000 word completed mystery. My grandparents grew up in Oklahoma and told colorful tales that inspired my work. I believe my OKLAHOMA LONESOME series plays on a unique place and iconic time in America’s past. I have been a Hollywood script doctor and am currently writing the second book in the series. Thank you for your review and I look forward to working with you.
Sincerely, Bill
Redline:

Dear—[I assume you know what should go here, but make sure you are addressing the specific agent and using a comma. This is, after all, a letter first and foremost.)

BABY DOE is the first of a mystery series with a Mad Men meets small-town 1957 Oklahoma sensibility. [I’d drop this first sentence. It doesn’t connect with the rest of the paragraph and isn’t necessary.] Bucky Ontario, twenty years old and full of illusions[Vague], struggles to find his feet in Wayberry, Oklahoma. He has all it takes to become a successful businessman[Vague]—until confronted with a teenage mother's dead child, a murdered elderly couple, and rumors of incest [really? How is he confronted with this? Why Bucky? Why should we care?]. Situations unheard of in Wayberry. [Having this as a separate sentence pulls the reader out of the paragraph. And frankly, I don’t think you need it. The three examples you’ve given are enough of a jolt to the reader. They’re not exactly popular themes in any other city in 1957 – as far as I can recall]

When a racetrack scheme draws the attention of the FBI, a femme fatale agent uses Bucky for the Bureau's purposes, complicating Bucky’s world. [where’d this race track stuff come from? With nothing else about it, it seems like a random, tossed in thing. And the term femme fatale has always seemed cliché to me. Then you get super vague again, how is she using Bucky and in what ways does it complicate his life.] As the town buries a product of American ingenuity, a brand new Plymouth Belvedere, to celebrate Oklahoma's fifty-year anniversary,[Why is this important. It seems completely unnecessary to the query.] Bucky needs to decide if he is willing to risk his sparkling future in Wayberry by exposing a multiple killer and child molester. [This makes the character completely unsympathetic. Jobs are important, yes, but if you know someone’s molesting children and killing people… and you are honestly struggling with turning them in, you’re no better than they are. If that’s not what this sentence is supposed to imply… you’ll want to rewrite that.]

I am submitting (blank) [I assume you’re planning on putting “10 pages” “50 pages and a synopsis,” here. I think it’s best if you put out what it is you’re selling  (Baby Doe)  and then in a separate line say what’s attached.] of BABY DOE, a 87,000 word completed mystery. My grandparents grew up in Oklahoma and told colorful tales that inspired my work. I believe my OKLAHOMA LONESOME series plays on a unique place and iconic time in America’s past. I have been a Hollywood script doctor and am currently writing the second book in the series. Thank you for your review and I look forward to working with you. [I’d change this to “I look forward to hearing from you soon.” Because I think that the way it’s worded now is a bit presumptuous.]

Sincerely, Bill

Notes:


You claim that the story is Mad Men meets small town Oklahoma in 1957… and then do nothing to explain how that’s so. If you want to keep this reference in, Show us how it’s like that in the body of the pitch and THEN put your ____ meets _____ in the paragraph with your housekeeping (word count, genre, etc.)
Wayberry, Oklahoma does tend to make me think of Mayberry, North Carolina. You may not care about that, but it does seem a little too close.
One of the biggest problems with your query is how vague it is. I know this is a mystery, but you’re going to have to give a little from the get go, you don’t have to delineate things, but at least make them clear and accessible to your audience. Your fist chapter doesn’t give us anything specific and then hits you in the face with three crimes that are extremely out of the blue and seem to have no connection to Bucky. You don’t give the person reading this query any motive for him to actually want the case to be solved (other than the vague reference to his career) and you don’t give any clue as to how it’s related to him or what’s truly at stake.
 In the last paragraph, you discuss that your grandparents were from Oklahoma . While I don’t think that’s going to necessarily help you. I don’t think it hurts either, so I’m not going to tell you to take it out. But I would seriously consider whether you couldn’t do yourself more favors by replacing those fourteen words with others that would hook an agent.
You also mention that it’s a series in your last paragraph. Some agents don’t want you to pitch a series, some do. Make sure you check Agent websites in the event that their submission guidelines ask you not too.

Sep 22, 2011

This Is When You Have To Sit Down & Breathe

If you’re looking for my favorite Shakespearean Tragedy, come back next week.
Revision wars are back on – this time its perso… wait, no. That’s not right.
Today is officially day one. A day of planning and mapping out how I’m going to tackle it and setting up a schedule and series of deadlines (wooo Google calendar!).
To keep myself sane I still have my critique for Anne Kenny in my schedule – to break it up so I don’t kill off some characters out of spite. You’ll get to see my progress down at the bottom of my posts as the battles move forward!
Excuse me while I go get on that!

Original ms: 92,271
Day 1: Planning

Sep 21, 2011

Sep 20, 2011

Review: A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows
Book 4: A Song of Ice and Fire
By George R. R. Martin
Epic Fantasy with a Dose of Dullness.
Paperback, 1104 pages
Published by Bantam Spectra
Released November 2005











My Summary:
This novel is so convoluted I’m not even going to touch a summary, not because I’d give away a bunch of stuff (nothing spectacularly crucial happens to any of the characters I love – because they’re not in the book) but because we’d be here until a month past next Tuesday.
My Review:
First let me say that, unlike the last three novels, I ended this book feeling completely at peace. Not because anything was resolved, in fact, a heaping pile of other crap is piled onto the already lumbering plot contrivances in this series. The reason I had no problem with how this book ends, is not because a specific character seems to be about to get their comeuppance (because let’s face it, this is GRRM, in the next few books this character will find a way out of their predicament and everyone reading the book will be annoyed at the author, yet again). The reason I can end this novel and breath a heavy sigh of relief, is that nothing has changed for those characters I love – because they’re not in this book.
The book was divided (back, I’m assuming in 2004ish) into two parts, in which you receive the entire story from one set of perspectives (12 characters, only 4 of which have had perspective chapters in the previous novels). The fifth book which came out this past July (that’s right, six years later) rounds out the story (which we’ve already read) with characters not in Feast, and while the perspectives in the fifth book are not too close to those in the fourth, one can’t help but wonder, if the fourth book wasn’t an attempt at filling the void while he figured out his plot issues in book five.
Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:
Not having read the fifth novel yet, I can’t tell you to just skip this one – though, I began to feel like it would have been a good course of action half way through. If you’re reading the series, this is not as infuriating as some of the others, in fact, things come to a head for several characters you may well hate – and that could prove satisfying.
My thoughts are to Borrow this one, if you have to continue the series. Otherwise, Brush Past.

 

Sep 16, 2011

Guest Post: Querying in Jen’s house….

(Jen Daiker of Unedited is guest posting for me today, so let me get out of her way!)

Hubs: What are you doing?
Me: Sulking.
Hubs: Besinds sulking.
Me: Staring at my computer.
Hubs: Besides staring at your computer.
Me: Sulking.
Hubs: You don’t feel like doing anything else?
Me: Not unless you know a faster way to get me agented.
Hubs: Clicking refresh isn’t going to do it.
Me: *glares*
Hubs: What? You know I’m right.
Me: *email pings* actually, no I don’t. *straightens in chair* *eyes bulge*
Hubs: Is it good?
Me: *sulks* No… twelve friends just updated their goodreads selection.
Hubs: Don’t worry it’ll come.
Me: *sighs*
Hubs: I’m going to go make dinner.
Me: You do that.

Querying doesn’t make you a nice person. It makes you harder to live with. Yes I am assuming that my experience is much like everyone else’s (good lord please let that be the case).

Tips to get through the waiting? Well even though I’m still waiting I’ll let you know what I’ve been doing… feel free to try it out or let it go.

Book signings… getting away to an author signing allows me to throw myself in a new read.
Update your blog (or become a twitter addict)…

Eat… this one will not be good for your waistline but delicious for your tummy. I eat cookies, cupcakes, and ice cream (did you really think I was going to tell you I was going on a health kick? You’re nuts).

Write something new… Seriously. Do it. Because when you’re agented they’ll want to know whats next and if you don’t have an answer they might hate you. No, that’s not a fact… just something that I’ve dreamed of happening (querying makes you made crazy yo).

So there you have it… a peek into my world. Don’t you wish you were me? Yeah, I didn’t think so.


Thanks, Jen, for posting! Check out her blog (if you've somehow missed out up until now) and say "hi."

Sep 15, 2011

Why I hate Romeo & Juliet


One of Shakespeare’s most known tragedies, Romeo and Juliet is thrust upon us in our high school composition classes and then mercilessly shoved down our throats.
Romeo and Juliet is not a romantic love story. It’s a story about two insipid children who married young and without their parent’s consent without knowing each other and died because they were too stupid to step back and think for half a second.
Romeo is an inconstant fool. He begins the play lovesick over Rosaline and within an act is mooning over Juliet.
Juliet isn’t much better. She meets a boy at a party and is suddenly head over heels for him and vowing her love on a balcony (yes, you know the one).
So, a fickle 15 year old boy and a cripplingly naïve 13 year old girl agree to get married in secret, having known each other all of six hours. They’re young, I know, but their entire situation could have been handled much better from the get go.
At thirteen I probably wanted to marry Mike Ringor (I had a horrible crush) but I’m pretty sure that, even if we were in a time and place where some friar was willing to marry us, I would have at least waited until I’d known him a week. And no offense, Mike, but that would have just been a plain ol’ bad idea.
And then you have a case of tight britches and hot tempers with the whole Tybalt challenges Romeo, Romeo refuses, Mercutio fights instead and is mortally wounded, Romeo slays Tybalt out of grief and guilt… Bob’s your uncle, Sally’s your aunt EVERYONE JUST DEFIED THE PRINCE!!!
Thusly Romeo is exiled, but spends the night and consummates his marriage with Juliet… and then Capulet goes off the deep end, telling Juliet she WILL marry Paris or else be drowned.  Which, come on… dude started the play saying she was too young to marry and then, when she seems grief stricken he forces her to get married? I’m not sure how you read that… but daddy might have some isues of his own.
So Juliet goes to the Friar for help and like any good man of the faith, he comes up with some grandiose plan that in no way involves being honest and instead gives her a “drug”  that puts her in a coma for 42 hours.  I recognize the fact that daddy Capulet probably would have drown her if she came out and told him – “hey, I can’t marry Paris because... well, you remember that Romeo guy? Yea….” But she went to an adult – this is what children are supposed to do when they are faced with a problem they cannot handle themselves – and somehow the friar manages to be just as childish in his handling of the situation as the kids are.
And of course we all know what happened then… Romeo doesn’t get the message in time, he goes to the crypt with his draught of poison, kills Paris, poisons himself, only to have Juliet wake seconds later to find him dead and kill herself… and THEN the families reconcile. I don’t know about you, but having the secondary characters learn something from the deaths of two completely naïve children is not what I call a satisfying ending. Stories can have morals yes, but I see no real love in this story.
The Prince’s ending words are the only part of this that rings true: For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo. Let’s face it, this story was doomed before the bard ever put his quill to parchment.

Next week, I'll talk about the Shakespeare Tragedy I love.

Sep 14, 2011

Letting Go

At the present, my revisions are in the hands of my trusty agent and family grammar nazi (aka: mom). And while I’m antsy to get back to working on it and all that jazz, I’ve got to let it go.  I’m practicing my breathing from Yoga.
I recognize that I need other people to edit my work – because frankly, I get way to excited and can’t see past what I think is there – and I am unendingly appreciative of those who can look at what I’ve written from an outside perspective and steer me in the right direction. That being said, we don’t always see eye to eye (but what mother and daughter do?).
The point is, I have to let go of what I’ve written, and take the criticism I receive and use that to mold my writing into something it could never be if I let myself brood over it (Picture Gollum and his precious). So today I’m breathing. I am not emailing for status updates. I’m focusing on something else, on someone else and that’s okay. Letting go is as much a part of this process as sitting down and pounding out a first draft.

Sep 13, 2011

Review: Leviathan

Steampunk in a WWI era with a biological twist
Paperback, 448 pages
Published by Simon Pulse
Released October 6, 2009













My Summary:
When his parent’s are murdered to spark a war, Prince Aleksander of Austria must flee to save his own life. With his fencing instructor, master of mechanics, and two other loyal men, they set out on a night journey toward Switzerland. The way is fraught with spies and German dreadnoughts – all Alek has at his disposal is their meager storm walker and the cunning plans of his instructors and late father.
Deryn Sharp, has shorn her hair and garbed herself in her older brother’s clothes in the hopes of fooling the British Royal Air Navy into thinking she’s a boy. She has only one chance to spend her adolescence doing the thing she loves most in the world: Flying. When a meterological accident lands her on the Leviathan – an airship too fantastic to believe – she counts herself lucky and does her best to keep her secret to herself.
When the Germans attack the Leviathan, the two are thrown together in a most peculiar way.
My Review:
This novel doesn’t really go anywhere. The plot movement is slow going… but the novel is so artfully written, it doesn’t matter.  Even with the drastic difference in the two perspective characters, they are perfectly characterized – which keeps you from getting whiplash as you switch back and forth.
If you read much steampunk, you’ll know that a lot of current work has a hint of the supernatural to it – though generally explained in a very scientific way – Mr. Westerfeld managed to create his world in which the mechanical components of steampunk are in harsh juxtaposition with a biological advancement that is so imaginative, it’s difficult to believe one person came up with the idea. But the scientific threads of this storyline are so intricately woven into the plot that there is no risk of feeling as though you’re reading a textbook.
Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:
Seriously, go pick up a copy of this immediately if you haven’t read it already. I cannot stress how much this book needs to be read and appreciated. Did I mention it's illustrated?

Sep 9, 2011

Why My Biggest Fan is Awesome...

Thanks, Katie!

Query (Re) Critique #11 - The Final Clue

The Final Clue by Cheryl

To see the original version of this query, check out the original post

Query:

Dear Agent,

FBI agent Gina Russo knows from experience to expect the unexpected.

A tenacious investigator, she thinks clearer and does her best work when she’s alone. But when a series of bizarre poems arrive at her front door following a threatening phone call, the bureau assigns her a partner. Egotistical and self-assured, agent Joey Zicara takes residence in Gina’s home and becomes her shadow. Not only does he disrupt her strict work ethic and challenge her professionalism, she’s more attracted to him than she’s willing to admit.

As the two agents try to unravel the mystery behind the poet's twisted vendetta against Gina, the poems become extremely personal. She attempts to keep her mind on business and her emotions in check.

She needs to stay calm and focused; because experience and instinct have taught her that a threat is often closer to home than we think.

THE FINAL CLUE is a 120,000 word suspense novel, set in New York City.


Redline:

Dear Agent,
FBI agent Gina Russo knows from experience to expect the unexpected. [Expecting the unexpected is very expected. I’d find some other way to say this – also, it’s repetitive if you give us something she knows from experience as the first and last sentence.]
A tenacious investigator, she thinks clearer [This reads clunky] and does her best work when she’s alone. But when a series of bizarre poems arrive at her front door following a threatening phone call [I would drop the phone call bit and say “…a series of bizarre, threatening poems arrive…”], the bureau assigns her a partner. Egotistical and self-assured, agent Joey Zicara takes residence in Gina’s home and becomes her shadow. Not only does he disrupt her strict work ethic and challenge her professionalism, she’s more attracted to him than she’s willing to admit. [I’d ditch the “not only” and make this sentence a list of statements. He disrupts, he challenges, and she’s more attracted to him…]
As the two agents try to unravel the mystery behind the poet's twisted vendetta against Gina, the poems become extremely personal. [This is kind of blah. You tell us they get personal when you need to show us] She attempts to keep her mind on business and her emotions in check. [This sentence does absolutely nothing for you. I’d drop it and replace it with something that gives more insight to the plot.]
She needs to stay calm and focused; because [Cut everything before this] Eexperience and instinct have taught her that a threat is often closer to home than we think.
THE FINAL CLUE is a 120,000 word suspense novel, set in New York City.

Notes:
I know you’re trying to tighten this and you did an amazing job of cutting down, but I think you may have cut too much. Take this, cut out the cliché and the bits that do nothing for your plot or your character and breathe a little more life into the story and I think you should be set.

Sep 8, 2011

Reading Vs. Writing

Here’s the thing about writing vs. reading. I pretty much only write two genres (and the various subgenres within those two) but I read anything and everything. The funny thing about that, though. Is that I tend to read in binges. So, last time I placed an amazon order (which usually dictates my TBR pile) I was on a fantasy binge. This time… it seems I’ll be on a SF Binge. Who knows what I’ll be reading with the next order!

I’m finishing Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld today, and starting a Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin tomorrow. After that I have only two books left in my TBR Pile:

Screwing up Time by C.M. Keller
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
And then (when I start Name) I get to press “Order” on my Amazon cart which will be my new TBR Pile:


Infernal Devices by K.W.Jeter
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
The Postman by David Brin
State of Decay (Revivors) by James Knapp
And
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

Sep 7, 2011

Revisions

By the title, I’m sure you’ve guessed… I’m back in revisions. It is one of my favorite things about writing a novel.
There is something completely other about having a novel in front of you and looking at it like a piece of clay, and then molding it into a different shape. Like turning a monkey into a hammer head shark – pinching and smoothing and tweaking and pounding…
And when you’re done, it’s usually better than the original incarnation... I say usually, because I think of revisions a little like plastic surgery and, well…. We’ve all seen Michael Jackson’s nose (and that weird cat woman).
So I’m here, revising away.
What are you up to?

Sep 6, 2011

Review: A Storm of Swords

By George R.R. Martin
(Book 3: A Song of Ice and Fire)
Epic Fantasy with a hearty helping of treachery
Paperback, 1216 pages
Published by Bantam Spectra
Released November 2000









My Summary:
There are so many ways to spoil this book it’s not even funny. So I’m not even going to try to get out a summary that is spoiler free in this one.
My Review:
I’m just going to say it – there were about nine times where I wished that GRRM had a heart attack so that he couldn’t continue to do these horrible things to his characters. He made up for it at the end – but then, in the epilogue he brought back my least favorite character. I should have known. He likes to end on sour notes.
The good thing about this book is that several questions from books one and two are answered – though, not nearly enough of them to be satisfying – and so you find a small amount of resolution.
Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:
At this point – if you’ve already read the first two books – you may as well carry on. Nearing 3000 pages, it’s quite clear that this story (because none of these books are in and of themselves complete)is not going to resolve much until the end of book seven, and that’s assuming GRRM doesn’t kick it before finishing that one just to spite his readers. If you haven’t’ started this series and aren’t in the type who likes long drawn out things, or, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like having your favorite characters beat up and shit on through an entire series… Brush Past. In the event that you’re curious and willing to leave a story unfinished, Borrow this from a friend or your local library. And if you’re a masochist, Buy Buy Buy!

You’ll never think of Weddings the same again…
 

Sep 1, 2011

3 Thoughts on Rejection

Rejections.
We all get them (at least, I’ve never heard of anyone going through the query process without one.) and they all sting. Even the ones that are sweetly worded and praise your novel feel a little like a kick in the nads (the metaphorical nads, mind you.)
Here are three of my thoughts on rejection:
Treat them like blisters – Last year the BF and I redid his mom’s back yard. This meant shoveling a ton of rock. The next day I had blisters because I’ve not wielded a shovel since leaving the farm all those years ago, but those blisters healed and eventually, over the course of the project they callused and it got easier. Yes, the shovel still rubbed the wrong way from time to time, but it got less painful. However, like those calluses, after a while of not querying, you’re likely to go back to the soft hands that make it sting all the more.
Take the good for the good – If an agent rejects your novel, but says wonderful things about it, don’t get pouty (I myself have been known to do that) Mark down in a notebook somewhere that that agent liked your work, keep writing and maybe she’ll love the next one that much more and offer you rep. Don’t beat yourself up if someone says they liked what you wrote.
Pay attention – Sometimes a form rejection is just a form rejection. But ten form rejections in a row are something else all together. If you’re getting no feed back at all and no requests, chances are: you need to start over. Not with the novel, but with the Query. Pay attention to what you get back and adjust. Humans are some of the most adaptive creatures on this planet – Adapt!