Sunday, December 28, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Sandra McDonald

Well, the sequel to Outback Stars which was The Stars Down Under, was good, but not really my thing. The story goes from a military space opera adventure in the first book to a bizarre alien encounter metaphysical approach in the second. Kind of reminds me of the direction Orson Scott Card's Ender series took after the first book. The main female character, Jodenny, is as entertaining as ever, but the focus isn't on her. It's on her husband, Terry, whom I found to be somewhat annoying in the first novel, and who became even more needy and frustrating in the second.

As has been clear in previous entries, I prefer strong female characters, but that doesn't mean I want the males to be too weak, either. And while Terry's character has reasons for being so needy, he's just a little bit too out there for my taste. I guess I like my heroes to be larger than life. They can suffer, and fail, but not consistently. I want to see them rise above obstacles in the end, and while I wouldn't say the ending of this novel is complete defeat, I certainly wouldn't call the characters triumphant, either.

If there is a third book in this series, I will probably read it, but I'm hoping McDonald will return to the strength and action seen in the first book, and have a little less of the dream-like sequences which the reader is never certain are real or imagined.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Laura E. Reeve

Finished Peacekeeper by Laura E. Reeve today. This is apparently a debut novel, and an impressive one. It takes awhile to get going. That's its primary flaw. I didn't really get into it until around page 149. However, once it caught me, it really caught me, and I flew through the rest of the novel, barely able to put it down. And since it is clearly the first of a series, I can see why it might take a while to start flowing, but have high hopes that the next book will dump me right in the middle of the action.

On the frustrating side, Reeve does a lot of things in her book with her main female protagonist that I am attempting to do with mine. It's good in that I can see ways to improve from her strengths. It's frustrating, because I can see why her agent likely wasn't interested in my book. Though they are different from one another, there were enough similarities to dissuade an agent from taking on a second book in that vein.

Reeve has great skill in writing deep third for her main character, something my mentor has been working on with me. To quote my mentor, "You need to open a vein and bleed all over the keyboard." Reeve does this. I can feel what her character feels. Good stuff.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Sandra McDonald

The Outback Stars is the first novel in a new series by author Sandra McDonald. Although I had some issues with the spiritual direction the book seemed to take by the end, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and have already ordered the sequel in hardback.

Ms. McDonald's knowledge of the military shines through in this science fiction novel. Her action is fast-paced and engrossing. Her main character, Lieutenant Jodenny Scott, is a wonderful heroine, strong, yet feminine, vulnerable, yet self-sufficient. I wasn't as enamored of her male protagonist who was a bit on the weaker side, in my humble opinion, but Jodenny more than made up for that.

I enjoyed the Australian cultural touches. Reminded me a bit of Marianne dePierres. While the spiritual aspects threw me off a bit towards the end, I am suspecting that we will see an alien connection that will explain these aspects. That will certainly be interesting and is the reason why I am eager to read the second book in this series.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book Review of the Day - R. M. Meluch

Well, I wouldn't want to be this author. (I mean, I would, but there have been some serious setbacks for her that she might not even be aware of.) When I went to multiple bookstores searching for the latest book in the Merrimack series, none of them had it in stock. And none of them planned to. There was only one Barnes and Noble in the entire Orlando area that was carrying the hardback, and it was far away from me. I ended up ordering it from Amazon. Hate to think what her first week's sales were like.

That said, it was a great read, as has been the rest of her series. This one, called Strength and Honor, continued the development of her wonderful characters and the ongoing battle between the Americans and the Romans, along with the ever present threat of the alien Hive. I don't usually read novels in which the protagonist is not a strong female. But I thoroughly enjoy this series. The main character, I suppose, would be Farragut. He's completely likable and believable as a hero. But I would call this more of an ensemble piece. It's full of heroes, some male, some female, all well-written.

If I had to make one complaint, it would be the constant rehashing of the old threats, the Romans, the Hive. However, Meluch does it all so well, that one barely notices and gets caught up in the characters which are her strength. I also love the number of "Ah hah!" moments that come at the end of her novels. Looking forward to the next one.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

FWA Conference

Didn't win the Royal Palm Literary Award. At least I was a finalist. And the banquet food was good. Congrats to the winners.

The conference itself had a few interesting lectures. The topics were of value, although presenters really needed to stop looking at their notes and perfect those presentation skills. It would have been better if the allotted times were shorter. Often it felt like the presenters were stretching their material and purposely speaking slowly to fill their time slots. The only other complaint I have is that some of the talks seemed to be thinly veiled commercials for people's services. One was offering to be a writing "coach". Another was pushing self-publishing (and owned a self-publishing operation). Go figure. I really prefer conferences where the speakers are ONLY writers, agents, and editors of legitimate houses. Their only agendas are helping/finding new writers. If I'm paying money (and in this case, it was rather a lot of money) I don't want to watch someone try to sell me something.

On the up side, both the hubby and I pitched an agent. She was extremely nice and wanted to see chapters from each of us. And since she is in the process of opening her own agency (leaving a very legitimate one) she is looking for new clients. When she found out I had an author mentor whom she had heard of and respected, that increased her enthusiasm. She even started talking about where and to whom she would pitch my novel, if she took me on as a client.

We also met some very nice people and did some networking.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

mentor meeting

Wow, two posts in one day. I'm setting a record here.

Went to see Linnea Sinclair yesterday at a writing conference in Tampa. I'm assuming it's ok to mention that she is the one mentoring me here, since she announced it publicly to the conference goers. If she's not happy about it, I suspect she reads this blog and will probably tell me. I don't think I've mentioned it before, as I didn't want her to be hounded by people hoping she will mentor them as well. Anyway, I hope it's ok. Several of the conference goers stopped me and my husband to tell us how fortunate we are to have her as a mentor. Believe me, we know.

Linnea is awesome. She gave a great talk on conflict development that nearly had me spitting my soda at the humorous moments. We had a chance to talk at the signing afterward and she offered some new suggestions on my opening chapter. My protagonist needs a more personal moment in that opening, something emotional that grips the readers and gets readers to know her on a deeper level than is currently available to them. I've got another request for a partial, so I need to get working on that.

She also had fashion advice for me. The Royal Palm Literary Awards are this coming weekend, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm a finalist. And a fashion disaster. I don't do clothes. I don't do hair. I don't do make up. Thank God I found a husband who is into the "natural" look. He doesn't care for make up or trendy styles either. Whew!

Anyway, she had some suggestions on clothes and hair. I went shopping. The clothes suggestions didn't really work for me. When I looked at the "twin sets", I just didn't feel comfortable. But I did go with the black pants she suggested. Then I found a lovely mid-thigh length gray and black sweater with a wide collar. Very figure flattering. And I FINALLY found some black suede flat black boots that FIT. I've been looking for those for years. Everything always had too pointy toes or were too narrow around the legs to fit me comfortably. Yay! I'll also wear the lovely Indian bear bracelet she gave me this weekend. It's gorgeous, and exactly my style. I wear minimal jewelry, but this was perfect.

For make up, I've finally found colors that work with my complexion. Only took me about 36 of my 38 years to figure them out, but I've got that covered.

Hair. Well, she suggested I dye it a bit lighter. The dye would also contribute to the volume, which is always a problem for me since I have very thin hair. And a shoulder length cut. And some better hair care products. Well, I'll do the cut and the products. The dye job will need to wait until Winter Break so that if I don't care for it, I won't have to wear it to work right away.

So, I think I'm covered for the awards dinner. At least I hope so. I've sent Linnea a description and links to the outfit. If she hates it, I'll wear it on Thanksgiving.

Book Review of the Day - Kat Richardson

Another one. Yep. Underground may be her best yet, although her "monster" was rather hard to accept at first. Throughout the reading of the book, the line, "Alligators in the sewers," spoken in the little girl's voice from E.T. kept going through my head, and it was darn distracting.

Other than that, though, the main character, Harper Blaine, is extremely well-developed and enjoyable to read. She is strong, yet sympathetic. Her needs and wants are clearly demonstrated, along with her determination to do the right thing despite what it may cost her personally. It was also nice to see the new love interest developing. Oops, that was a touch of spoiler, I guess.

All in all, a good read.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mentor Meeting

So, I got together with my author mentor this weekend. She was in town for a book signing, so it was the perfect opportunity to discuss the rejections I've been getting. She was full of suggestions, encouragement, and advice. Without her faith in my abilities, I might very well have myself a second "trunk novel" here, but she has convinced me not to give up on this manuscript. Of course, I got another partial request today. Now I really need to get on those chapter 1 changes. Luckily, my teaching load is fairly light for the next three days or so.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Kat Richardson

Yep. Kat Richardson. Again. I'm caught up in her series. Just finished Poltergeist. Again, it starts strong and then we have vampires, but I'm getting used to that. Love the character development of Harper Blaine, the protagonist.

This author has done a lot of research. When I was younger (much younger) I had a healthy interest in parapsychology. I read every book I could get my hands on and even took a course in it in college. So I was very familiar with the case studies Ms. Richardson cites in her book. Makes me wonder if I could write something using all that currently wasted knowledge. Hmm. Anyway, the details add a lot to the story.

I've already begun her third book in the series.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rejection Advice

So, I received a rather disheartening rejection today. Sigh. She wanted to see more of an emotional connection with the main character. As she only read the first three chapters, she didn't actually make it to that part. I like to write my main character as tough and fearless and let the emotional sensitivity show through later as the readers and other characters get to know her and see more deeply into her heart. Like, here's what she seems to be, and here's what she REALLY is. Or, here's the personality she shows on the outside and, if you earn her trust, you'll see more because the outside is one big hardened fake shell. But that's not working.

After consulting with my mentor, it looks like I'm going to have to rewrite the first chapter in order for my protagonist to "save the cat" earlier on. In other words, she needs to do something dangerous and heroic and emotionally heart string tugging right from the get-go in order to snag an agent's (and editor's) attention and establish that emotional connection. Because agents and editors rarely read past chapter 3.

Well, that's frustrating. I was very pleased with my first three chapters. I've received many compliments on them. They are solid, polished, and end with a lovely third chapter hook. I'm afraid of messing them up. But I don't have an agent and I'm not published. So, it looks like I'm back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On the Writing Front

So, I haven't spent much of this blog about writing actually talking about my own writing, which is what it was initially created for.

Hmm. I'm at the agent search stage. In other words, the novel is finished, revised, edited, polished, and now I'm trying to get an agent interested enough in it to offer me representation. That's not to say that I'm not still tweaking little things.

For example, my author mentor suggested that I needed more "deep point of view". I need to make the readers "feel what my characters are feeling" more. I already do this some, but some is not what is selling in New York these days. So, I'm adding more. I also feel that chapter 6 needs a major overhaul.

On the up side, my mentor says that I'm doing everything else right. And I just got a request for a partial from one of my top three agent picks. So, I don't have to be depressed today.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Kat Richardson

Greywalker by Kat Richardson was recommended to me by her agent, Joshua Bilmes. And no, I'm not trying to impress him by reading all his clients' works. I was already a fan of Elizabeth Moon and Tanya Huff before I queried him about my current novel.

So, Richardson. I very much enjoyed the book, especially the first half. I enjoyed the eerie feeling I got while reading it, and the constant sense that what seemed to be living characters were actually dead ones and vice versa. I think I would have liked it more without the vampires, though. I'm just really tired of vampire stories. It's not that the vampires were bad, mind you. They made for interesting characters. I'm just ready for something new, and a full-blown ghost story was what I was really after. Since Richardson gave me that as well, I did go on and buy her second book in the series, Poltergeist, which I have only just started reading.

So, for vampire fans, this is a good choice. For ghost story fans, this is a good choice. For people who like strong female characters, this is a good choice.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Woo Hoo! I'm a Finalist!

So, I'm a finalist in the Florida Writers' Association Royal Palm Literary Award contest. I'm not really sure how much of an accomplishment that is, yet. It could be that almost everyone who enters earns the minimum number of "points" to become a finalist. But still, it's certainly better than not being a finalist.

Now, if I could just afford the cost of the awards banquet....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Justina Robson

Today's book review features Keeping It Real by Justina Robson.

I bought this book out of desperation for something to read, since none of my favorite authors have anything new out. (Elizabeth Moon's next book comes out next month.) I also liked the cover art which featured a kick-butt woman in black leather sporting lots of weaponry.

The back cover copy was a little off-putting. The binding identified the novel as science fiction, but from the description, it seemed to be a combination of both sci fi and fantasy--elves, demons, high tech, AI's. This one was difficult to categorize.

And I think that was my problem with it. I'm really not into fantasy for the most part. I'm not familiar enough with the genre to appreciate or understand its standards, quirks or even all of its vocabulary. Therefore, while this book was clearly popular enough to spawn several sequels, I just couldn't get into it and don't think I'm qualified to adequately judge its worth.

I liked the two main characters for the first half of the novel. The woman is bad a** while still maintaining a fragile side that attracts the reader's sympathy. The "rock star elf" is attractive and intriguing with his demon tendencies. But as soon as they travel to the "elf homeland" I find myself lost. The magical elements and multiple levels of relationships are difficult to follow for someone not thoroughly versed in the fantasy genre.

It was definitely a worthwhile experiment to step outside my science fiction comfort zone. I'm about to do it again with Kat Richardson's Greywalker (labeled as fantasy but really more paranormal). But I've decided that cross genre science fiction/fantasy isn't my thing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Ann Aguirre

Finished Wanderlust today, the second book in the Sirantha Jax series. Best way to describe it is "a fun read" with lots of good action. Some very interesting new characters make their debuts, like Jael and Hit.

I guess my only frustration is the amount of suffering Ms. Aguirre puts her characters through. Which I suppose is the point. The reader is supposed to be frustrated, right along with the characters. So she must be doing her job well. But some of the personality changes (and I don't want to give away any spoilers) are disturbing, and I hope they are resolved in the next installment.

It reminds me a bit of the review I gave for S.L. Viehl's books. Viehl's primary male character suffered so much at one point that I ceased to like him for a time until he got his act together. And the same thing happened to her female protagonist who suffered memory loss and changed personalities altogether. I liked the original personality. I wasn't fond of the new one. Now the old one is returning, and I'm happier.

That's how I feel about Jax. She started as kick-a** in the first book. For most of this one, she is not capable of being that way for reasons I will not disclose. Now, Aguirre has included other characters to take up the slack. And that's great. But I was glad that by the end, there was a spark of the old Jax returning. Oops, I guess that's a spoiler. Same goes for March, though not as much. We are well-prepared for his issues as we have already seen glimpses into his dark past. So, it's not as much of a shock when he suffers. In fact, I enjoy watching him struggle through these dark times. It makes him more endearing to me. Yep, his endearing level is high on my scale of endearing and desirable male characters. I just want to see Jax kick more butt.

Well, hopefully in the next book.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Osceola County Writers Group

I attended my second meeting of the Osceola County Writers Group last night. Lots of new faces this time around, and some of the familiar ones as well. We shared scenes written about a character who was either of a different age or the opposite sex from ourselves. Interesting.

I shared a scene between two men, Dirk and Peter, antagonist and secondary protagonist, from Assassin's Nightmare. The feedback was helpful. Some of the descriptions were a bit repetitive, and the piece needed to show more action than tell it. I went back and rewrote it yesterday.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Book Review of the Day - S. L. Viehl

Just finished Omega Games by S. L. Viehl, another Florida author. This is the latest installment in the Star Doc series.

Viehl gets an unusual review from me. Don't get me wrong. I have enjoyed all her books, including several outside the series. I love the main character, Cherijo Veil, although I wasn't thrilled with the direction her character took after suffering a head wound and losing her memory. In Omega Games, the character is slowly regaining her original personality and is a very interesting combination of the two women--Cherijo before her accident, and Jarn afterward.

But that's not what makes the series unusual for me. It's the uncanny ability Viehl has to make me feel, really feel, the emotions of the main character as she endures trial after trial. When I began the series, years ago, I was immediately taken in by the effect of Cherijo's emotions on my own psyche. When she stressed, I stressed. When she found love, I felt that love. And when she was betrayed . . . well, I don't want to give away spoilers, but I suddenly found myself angry for no apparent reason after finishing that particular book. I wanted to break things, irrationally. It took several days for me to trace the source of my unidentifiable anger to the ending of her book. No other book has EVER caused me to feel such a strong connection to the emotions of a character.

Omega Games is an action-packed thriller. It also reiterates the strong bond between the two main characters, Cherijo and Duncan, and, as with the previous novels, I can feel their affection for one another, particularly his for her. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Linnea Sinclair

On the plane out to WorldCon I finished reading Linnea Sinclair's novel, Shades of Dark. What can I say? In addition to being a kind and generous individual, the lady is also a fantastic author.

Shades of Dark is a rather different experience in reading Linnea's work. It's the first sequel she has done in her science fiction/romance. Therefore, it has quite a few more intimate encounters that begin early in the novel and continue throughout. This is different because normally, the two main characters spend the majority of the story building the romantic tension between them, which ultimately culminates in a really steamy scene somewhere in the latter third of the book. Since this is a sequel, that buildup has already taken place in the previous novel. Now the trick is to make each successive romantic encounter more intense than the prior one. Linnea delivers and exceeds expectations in this area. I look forward to her next book with great anticipation.


I have absolutely no idea where to start, so I think I'll try some logical format like a day-by-day analysis of all the really cool things that happened at WorldCon.

Wednesday (Day 1)-attended a panel on query letters hosted by one of my favorite author's agents. At the end of the panel, the hubby and I showed her our queries (just for advice) and she asked us each to send her partials of our manuscripts.

Thursday (Day 2) - The days are blurring together, but I think this is the night that one of my favorite authors, Ann Aguirre, took us out to dinner. She answered our writing/professional questions at length, and was all-around a joy to meet and chat with. Her eleven year old daughter was well-spoken and well-mannered. I enjoyed spending time with them both.

Friday (Day 3) - Pitched our book ideas to two other agents. Both requested partials from each of us. It was such a relief to be done with the agent side of the convention. Then we could relax and just be fans for awhile. All the agents we met, though, were extremely nice and easy to talk to, even though I stressed massively beforehand.

This was also the day we got to sit down for two different kaffeeklatsches, one with Elizabeth Moon and the other with Tanya Huff. Both were inspiring to hear talk about their work. Tanya was particularly helpful in giving agent advice, and Elizabeth shared humorous stories about swords and horses.

Saturday (Day 4) - received another request for a partial of my manuscript by email. And tonight was The Hugo Awards Ceremony. It was really a thrill being able to vote on and attend such a prestigious event. Of course, after assuring us that she would not do so, Elizabeth Bear won the short story category. Well, we tried to tell her that she would win when we met her at ReaderCon. The hubby and I both voted for her. It was a shame that she wasn't there to accept her award in person.

Sunday (Day 5) - attended a last panel with Tanya Huff on creating female soldiers. Then, it was back to the hotel to sleep for the next ten hours or so.

These are just the convention highlights. I met many other wonderful people and made new friends. I also got to spend time with several online acquaintances whom I hope will visit us in our area so we can show them around sometime. That's all I can remember for now. I got home at 1:45 A.M. from the airport and went to bed at 2:00 A.M. and had to be at work today at 7:30 A.M. so my memory isn't all there.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dreaming Story

I may come off as something of a flake, here, but I thought I'd spend a post writing about how I come up with story ideas.

I dream them. Yep. Much to my husband's annoyance, I go to bed at night and frequently wake up with a complete scene, (sometimes a complete story or novel) in my head. It will contain character names, settings, dialog. And why does it annoy the hubby? Because he dreams about teaching, paying bills, etc. When he comes up with a story idea, it takes a lot of work, planning, and outlining. Likely it produces a better story, in the end, since mine is often written by the seat of my pants, but I understand why it frustrates him.

Anyway, last night I dreamed a good portion of the plot for a science fiction/romance novel. Once I'm done working on my current project, I think I'll tackle that next.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Contest Entry

So, today I put together my entry package for the Royal Palm Literary Award contest run through the Florida Writers Association. The packet deadline is today. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, but I was still making revisions on the novel, and I wanted to make it as good as possible before submitting it. Winning the contest would certainly be a nice addition to my query letter, since I have absolutely nothing writing related to say in it. I don't know when they notify the winners, but the awards ceremony is in November, I believe, at a conference. The conference is expensive, so I don't know if we will attend. Hopefully, they will let me know before then, if I happen to be a winner.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Review of the Day - John Ringo and Julie Cochrane

So last night I finished Cally's War by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane. I've read a few other books in this series written solely by Ringo and didn't enjoy them as much, so I guess Ms. Cochrane's influence really shows. Don't get me wrong. I liked the other books, but felt the incredible attention to details was a bit over the top. I like more action and character. I don't need to know EXACTLY how a suit of body armor fits on a futuristic soldier. Just put him in the battle and tell me how he reacts to it.

Anyway, Cally's War features the character I've enjoyed most. She's a kick-butt female assassin, right up my alley. Perhaps she is a bit too resilient, almost a superhero in quality, but a lot of fun to read. And we all know I like my female characters to be able to take care of themselves.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Awesome Author Assistance

So, today Joe and I went to a pre-release book signing for Linnea Sinclair's Shades of Dark, the sequel to one of her other books that I read and enjoyed. Linnea is a science fiction/romance author who has been instrumental in inspiring me to finish my current book. I contacted her by email about a year and a half ago to compliment her work and ask for writing advice. Since then, she has taught us a class on world building, helped Joe research private detectives (since she was one for many years and how cool is that?) and done much more that was beyond helpful. Every time I begin to get discouraged, she pushes me toward publication. Without her, things would have been a lot harder. I try to plug her work everywhere I go, like at ReaderCon, and we brought her smiley face cookies today, but I can't do enough to thank her for her help so far.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Elizabeth Bear

As promised, here is my opinion of Bear's Dust. First off, I liked it much more than I expected to. I am a big fan of her Jenny Casey trilogy, and after that series, I felt her style had gone in a direction that, while brilliant, simply wasn't for me. I read Undertow and Carnival, but didn't much care for either one. I was actually going to give up on her for awhile, but then noticed she was attending ReaderCon and talking about Dust. I didn't want to look like a complete idiot when I met her, so I read the book. And I liked it. The main characters are action-oriented women, which I always enjoy. I wasn't too thrilled with the ending, but I am hoping the second book in this series will resolve some of my issues. So, she's got me back as a reader. I'm looking forward to the next book.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Convention Comments ReaderCon

Where do I start? What an incredible experience our first "big" convention was! And I'm told that this is really a minor one compared to WorldCon. Scary thought, considering I barely survived this one due to lack of sleep, food, and caffeine.

Well, first off, I am never driving to Ft. Lauderdale to fly to New York, to drive to Boston ever again. I'll spring for the extra airfare to get closer on either end, thank you very much. We started this thing tired. Big mistake.

First day was pretty cool. I got to hear Kay Kenyon read from her latest book. She's a good reader and does the character voices well, but since I was unfamiliar with the book, I found it hard to follow. She graciously signed my copy of Seeds of Time for me. Very nice lady.

Also met Ellen Kushner. I've never read her work, but she was all personality and a good presenter. She spoke about sequels, among other things, and since I'm writing a series, I found that interesting.

Then, it was back to our hotel to sleep. We couldn't get in to the convention hotel for the first night, but I didn't really mind. Our hotel, a Doubletree, was actually nicer and cheaper than the convention Marriott.

Second day, got to hear a talk by Elizabeth Bear on her book Dust. I was in the middle of it at the time, so she agreed not to discuss any spoilers. I've finished it now, and I'll discuss that in a different blog post. Later, I got to sit down with Ms. Bear in a round table discussion. That was very cool, to be that close to an author I admire so greatly. She was extremely nice and very entertaining. I've read six of her books so far. My favorites are still the Jenny Casey trilogy. Joe has read a pair of her short stories and enjoyed them. She signed two books for me.

We also sat down with Ellen Datlow, a prestigious editor of anthologies with whom the hubby has been conversing by blog posts. She, also, was nice, and helpful, giving us tips on how we should set up our business cards and telling us we should approach publishing house editors at conventions, even if we do not have agents.

We were staying in the Marriott this time, so we just crawled up to bed at a reasonable hour. One thing that surprised me was the lack of parties going on in rooms or in the con suite. Guess they're saving them up for WorldCon.

Third day was definitely the most surreal. This was Doyle and MacDonald day. They are a married writing team that wrote the Mageworlds series. Both the hubby and I are fans and have read all seven books of the Mageworlds, so we could both fully appreciate their presentations on their own works. Prior to the convention, I sent them a fan email complimenting their work and when I got to meet them, they told me they had received it. We sat down for a round table discussion, but didn't really get to discuss anything because the rest of the table was filled with friends of theirs. However, later we ran into them in the bar and they invited us back to their hotel room to ask any writing questions we wanted to! It took me quite awhile to grasp that I was sitting on their floor, eating their homemade cookies, and listening to James MacDonald explain where the character of Beka (one of my all-time favorite female heroines) came from. How cool is that?!

Also, earlier that same day, we got to sit down with Mr. Hartwell, senior editor at Tor publishing. Afterwards, he gave me his business card and gave me permission to email him regarding submitting my work. Whew, what a day!

Sunday, last day of the con, we had brunch with Doyle and MacDonald. Then we went to their reading and they even included a selection from my favorite of their works, Price of the Stars, just for me and Joe! They signed two of my copies of their books for me.

I will write up the rest of the trip experience in a different post. But ReaderCon was definitely worth one all on its own.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Convention Time

So, on a whim, the hubby and I are attending ReaderCon in Boston next week. It was really a spur of the moment decision. Spirit airlines had an airfare deal from Ft. Lauderdale to New York, neither of which is our starting or ending point, but close enough on either end to make this worth our while. So, we will be getting to meet several of my favorite authors including Elizabeth Bear, Debra Doyle, and James MacDonald. I will also get to meet Kay Kenyon. I've only read one of her books, Seeds of Time, but I remember enjoying it. Hopefully, in addition to authors, there will be agents there as well. It would be great to use this convention to practice our social skills and novel pitches for WorldCon next month.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Kristin Landon

Just finished The Cold Minds by Kristin Landon which is the sequel to The Hidden Worlds. I enjoyed this one as well as the last. The romance between the two main characters is nicely developed and the antagonist is evil while still managing to be sympathetic which makes him an unusual bad guy and not a stereotype. The Cold Minds, however, do remind me a bit overly much of the Borg, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, I will be sure to read the next installment, assuming there is one.

On the personal writing front, I have two outside critters who have finished my complete novel. That kind of dedication to something not their own is really appreciated. And even after all the proofing and revising and editing, they and I are still finding things to tighten up to make the story better. I will likely rewrite the ending a bit, to make the main character's climactic moment more, well, climactic and dramatic.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Osceola County Writers Group

So, I attended my first meeting of the Osceola County Writers Group last night. My husband had been attending for a few months now, and they had asked him to present on query letters. Since I, also, have been doing a lot of research on that particular topic, I went along and participated, bringing information and examples from my research. It was an interesting experience. I think we shared a lot of good resources, but it's strange being in the position of a presenter when I have not yet been successful in gaining agent representation with my own queries. Still, I think we gave the other members of the group information they had not yet found for themselves, so I guess that regardless of our own success or failure, we were still helpful to the other members.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Ann Aguirre

Just finished Ann Aguirre's Grimspace. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read with complex and likable characters. March is a guy you want to get to know. Jax is a well-written kick-butt female character. The supporting cast is equally endearing. The sequel comes out soon and I am looking forward to reading it.

I wrote to Ms. Aguirre to compliment her work and she responded almost immediately. I respect any author who does that. It tells me that the author understands that fans are what make or break them. I hope if/when I am published that I remember to make time to answer emails on a daily basis.

Ms. Aguirre will be attending WorldCon. She has agreed to sign my copy of Grimspace for me and I am eager to discuss characterization with her.

On an authorial note, I just finished the synopsis for Agency Files-Assassin's Nightmare. Boiling down over 400 pages into seven took quite an effort, but I think I've finally got something that not only gives the highlights of the story but also conveys the "voice" of the novel and its main character, Vick Corren. The plan is to send off my first official agent query on Saturday the fifth.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Movie Disappointment

Went to see Wanted today. On the up side, despite it being about assassins, it bore little or no resemblance to the book I'm working on. I really hate it when I write something and then shortly thereafter see or read something frighteningly similar. I worry that someone will say I got the idea from so and so or such and such instead of out of my own head.

No problems with that here.

On the down side, the movie was really disappointing. The main character was unlikable both as his initial loser self and as a trained assassin. The kick-butt female character had little development. Some of the dialogue was hard to understand. The action scenes, while amazing, were sometimes hard to follow. And there were lots of holes in the plot, like, where is this Fraternity getting all its funding? I won't give plot spoilers, but that's a big hole.

Anyway, at least I don't have to worry about similarities to my own work.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Movie Review - Get Smart

Ok, I really loved the t.v. show Get Smart as a child. I'd throw myself down in front of the t.v. excitedly every time I heard that familiar (and all too catchy) theme music. But having been disappointed by movie/t.v. tie ins in the past, I wasn't expecting too much from Get Smart.

Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. It started slowly, but by the time we were about thirty minutes into it, my husband and I were finding things to chuckle about, and by the end, we were laughing out loud. I actually felt the movie characterization of Maxwell Smart was more likable and entertaining than the original, although I really enjoyed Don Adams as well.

In this version, Max Smart is highly skilled, handsome, and a good guy. He makes mistakes because he's new to his job, but his successes are not mostly based on good luck. Agent 99 is also a wonderful kick-butt female character, and we all know I love those.

It was also really nice to see/hear the echoes of the original television series. "Would you believe . . . ?" "I missed it by this much." "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Plus, the shoe phone, original car, Hymie, the succession of closing steel doors, the dropping phone booth, and the cone of silence all put in an appearance.

There were a few scenes that I felt went over the top, like the airplane bathroom scene (funny, but a bit much) and the Chief of Control punching the vice-president, but the swordfish moment nearly had tears coming out of my eyes from laughing so hard.

I thoroughly recommend this PG-13 film. It was a great summer escape movie.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Well, the first draft, that is. Yep, the novel I've been working on, Agency Files-Assassin's Nightmare, is finished as of last night. I've started revising and got through the first couple of chapters today, but quite frankly, I'm sick of it and taking a break tomorrow.

It's a strange feeling, putting the last word on the last page of a novel you've been working on for months. Kind of bittersweet. Kind of exhausting. Kind of exhilarating. More exhausting.

Also today, I participated in an online chat with Lucienne Diver and several other agents. Very interesting, helpful, and informative. I asked what questions I should be prepared to answer in a pitch session and I'm keeping notes for when I meet her again in August in Denver.

Speaking of Denver, we got our airline tickets today. Yay credit card points!

And I sent off my first query letter for this book to Query Shark, a website that will review and critique queries.

So, I'm off and running. Now I need a nap.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Vicki Pettersson

Just finished Vicki Pettersson's third novel in the Zodiac series, The Touch of Twilight. I loved it, as I've loved all three of the books in the series so far, but it's an interesting process I have coming to that conclusion each time.

First off, I always begin the book (the first fifty pages or so) with a thought of, "Superheroes? In Vegas? Is she kidding? This is cheesy."

After about fifty pages, it changes to, "This feels like X-Men in an alternate universe."

Then it becomes, "This is amazing. She is so original. I never would have thought of THAT. I WISH I'd thought of THAT." What looks at first to be simple becomes intricate. What appears to be derivative becomes completely unique. The character development has great depth. Their relationships are complex.

I'm really not into superheroes. This is the only series of that nature that has interested me at all. I was never interested in that type of comic book either, unless Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles counts. And while I enjoy an X-Men film, I don't read those comics and I really haven't liked movies of a similar nature.

I think the reason is that many of the classic superheroes are too goody goody for my taste. Yes, characters like Batman have "dark" or "tragic" pasts, but now they are overwhelmingly heroic and seem, at least in the early films and t.v. shows, to suffer little from those pasts. Spiderman feels the same to me, and the Incredible Hulk comes across, to me, as pathetic, not sympathetic.

I really prefer heroes who have their heroic status thrust upon them (like the main character in the Zodiac series) or those who have a LOT of adversity to overcome in order to achieve their goals. I like reluctant heroes, or those who have no choice. Maybe that applies to Spiderman and Hulk as well, but I just find that they whine too much. Or maybe they just don't have enough attitude.

The heroes I like might be heroes, but when something sucks, they are going to tell you it sucks. They aren't above tossing around some swear words. They don't live perfectly moral lives. They make mistakes, sometimes fatal ones, but they carry on. They lose their tempers. They don't always listen to their mentors. But in the end, they succeed and the bad guys don't. And when a new problem arises, they complain about it to anyone who will listen. And then they deal with it. That's what makes them heroes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Book Review of the Day - Tanya Huff

Just recently finished Tanya's latest (and possibly last) book in the Valor series. Loved it. I have always been more fond of her Valor novels than the Blood series, but that figures. Valor features a kick-butt female character and that's what I love to both read and write. Huff's latest installment in the Valor series had me on the edge of my seat from beginning almost to the end. I got a little concerned there that the ending was going to wind up being too coincidental, but I should have had more faith. She ties everything up nicely and explains the coincidences so they are not.

Which brings me to an analysis of what I like to read. I've been doing a lot of reading lately since it is summer and I'm not working. (More reviews to follow.) And I've realized that my choices have become somewhat self-limited in the past few years. I read science fiction. I read predominantly science fiction featuring extremely strong female main characters. I read science fiction almost exclusively written by women. Favorite authors: Linnea Sinclair, Elizabeth Moon, Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Bear, Tanya Huff, Laura Anne Gilman, S.L. Viehl, R.M. Meluch, Vicki Petterson, Tara K. Harper, Debra Doyle. See a trend here?

I do not necessarily see this as a bad thing. It makes sense that I like to read the type of material that I like to write. And I feel that reading these authors can be beneficial to my own writing. It's not that I have anything against male authors, but I haven't found one yet that has really knocked my socks off. I like Orson Scott Card and C.J. Ryan, but if one of my other favorites has a new book out, I'm more likely to read that first.

Just picked up Grimspace by Ann Aguirre (recommended on the cover by Linnea Sinclair). I'll be starting that today or tomorrow, just as soon as I finish the third book in Vicki Petterson's Zodiac series.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'll Take My Coffee Pitch, Black

Ok, it's a lame title, but I thought it was funny. I just got a response from agent Lucienne Diver. She and I met at a conference a month or so ago and Linnea Sinclair was nice enough to introduce us as her "favorite stalkers" which, for some strange reason, always resonates well with people. Anyway, I noticed Ms. Diver was attending WorldCon and so are my husband and I, so I asked her about pitch sessions. While she is not doing formal sessions, she did offer to meet with both of us for coffee while we are all there in Denver and we can pitch our respective books to her then. Yay!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Author Disappointment

Well, I just posted for the first time on Laura Anne Gilman's blog. I am a big fan of her Retrievers series and was under the impression that she was attending Denvention in August. Unfortunately, she has just announced that she is not coming. And I was really looking forward to meeting her. Sigh.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Professional Feedback

Well, some encouragement today. Linnea Sinclair critiqued the first few paragraphs of my WIP and seemed to think I was doing most things right. My concern now is sustaining those "right" things throughout the course of the novel.

I've reached chapter 16. I'm only a few chapters from completing the novel. Then I need to go back and pass through it a few times to catch some of the things being pointed out to me in Linnea's online class.

The end is in sight, although it is still several weeks away.

School is ending for the students tomorrow. I think we're all driving each other crazy. It is high time for it to end for the year. This last week feels like a month.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Well, It's About Time

So, I've been kicking around the idea of having my own blog ever since the hubby started one a few months ago. Why? Well, we are each working on our second attempts to publish novels, and when we are famous authors, someone might actually be curious as to our thought processes along the way.


Seriously, though, it does afford me the opportunity to vent about the process and occasionally rave about it. And it provides an outlet in which to talk about other things like work, kids, pets, whatever.