Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Laura E. Reeve

It is rare that a sequel is as compelling as the first book in a series, but VIGILANTE by Laura E. Reeve is that rare exception. The story features a kick-butt female heroine, Major Kedros, and a wonderful supporting cast, in a series of adventures that keep the reader turning pages throughout.

In particular, I admire how Reeve was able to split the main characters into three separate groups, each facing its own obstacles. She intertwines their stories brilliantly, tying up loose ends nicely to create a heart-stopping conclusion. It's like getting three exciting plot lines for the price of one.

I look forward to the next novel in the series, and can't wait to see how Major Kedros's character develops over time.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Review of the Day - C.L. Anderson

Just finished BITTER ANGELS by C.L. Anderson, and I enjoyed it. There's a woman in black holding a gun on the cover. Of course I enjoyed it.

No deviation from my norm here. This was kick-butt, female protagonist science fiction. My favorite thing. One minor difference, though. The main character was older and had children, which added an interesting depth to her. The only other older woman main character I can recall liking so much would be the one from Elizabeth Moon's HAMMERED trilogy.

I also really liked the relationships between the main character and her subordinates. I had several moments where my heart wrenched for her, and them, based only upon her responses to their pain. I love it when a novel evokes a physical reaction from me. It's rare. I'm a pretty even-keeled kind of person. For writing to get to me emotionally, that's very impressive.

Beyond the characters, BITTER ANGELS is full of great action, suspense, and a surprise ending. It seems clear that a sequel is intended. I look forward to reading it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I Have An Agent!

So, this is it, the post I've waited almost two years (and a lifetime) to make. I have an agent!

I won't mention the number of rejections received prior to now for both the first book I shopped years ago, and the current ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE. My closest friends know the number. The rest of you will have to guess.

I won't tell you how many revisions the novel has undergone. And more are forthcoming.

I will tell you, or at least try to put into words, the whirlwind of the last few days.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I won a scholarship to the Backspace Agent/Author Seminar in New York City. The competition was run by agent Colleen Lindsay of Fine Print Literary Management. Now, I should also mention that Ms. Lindsay had requested my full manuscript, well, let's just say, some time ago, and I've been holding my breath every time I check email and jumping every time the phone rings for a while now.

When I won the scholarship, I was thrilled, but a bit confused. I wasn't sure if she'd had a chance to read the whole manuscript yet. The contest focused only on the query letter and opening pages. If she had read the full, then did she like it? If she liked it, would she say so at the conference?

I suspected one of two things. Either I was being brought out to New York for her to tell me in person that she liked the writing but it wasn't quite right for her, or, she was "checking for crazies." Having read her blog and her Twitter posts, I was well aware that Colleen, and likely most other agents, try very hard to screen potential clients for the "crazies" before offering representation. Makes complete sense to me. A long-term working relationship depends upon a rapport between the participants. I'm a middle school teacher. Clearly, I'm a nutcase. I understand why she wanted to meet me face to face.

Fortunately, it was the latter of my suspicions.

Now, I might also add that Colleen Lindsay is a master of suspense, though she may not realize it.

On the first conference day, I was assigned to two agents in the morning, both of whom liked my work, and one of whom gave me her card to send her pages. She'd looked at the partial a year ago and wanted to see the revisions I'd made. In the following session, I was assigned to Colleen Lindsay and another agent. So, here I am, face to face with someone I really hoped wanted to be my agent. And you should have heard the running dialogue going through my head.

"Smile, Lisa. Don't look overeager. Don't say anything stupid. Just be yourself. Oh wait, my self is occasionally on the weird side. I like to think it's a good, nerdy, sci-fi fan kind of weird, but . . . I don't want to look weird to her. She's hunting for crazies."

At which point, I've got Elmer Fudd's voice in my head saying, "Be vewy vewy quiet. I'm hunting cwazies." Which makes me want to giggle. Crud. I'm not a giggler. Just ask my students.

I doubt highly that any of this was visible from the outside. I'm pretty good at hiding my emotions when I want to, which translates into the assassin characters I write. But I was pretty nervous.

So, back to my story. I read my query out loud. Colleen informs the group of writers that I'm a very good writer and she's read my full manuscript several times over the past few months. And my heart stops. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Talk about torture! I don't know what to make of this. I mean, if she liked it enough, she would have called me, right? No, wait. Maybe she just wanted to make the offer in person. But if that's not it? Sigh.

And so we go to the break/social hour when all the writers get an opportunity to mingle and chat with all the agents at the conference. And what do I do? I find a good corner where I can chat with some of the new writer friends I've made, but from which I can also survey the room and see Colleen Lindsay coming, should she decide she wants to speak with me. I was bound and determined not to pester her or seek her out. She also stresses how much she appreciates patience in her clients and potential clients, so I was darn well going to be patient, even if my brain was about to explode.

So what happens? She can't find me. About half the break goes by before I hear, "You!" and see her pointing at me. "I've been looking all over for you. Can we talk?"

"Sure!" I squeak. Help!

So, she sits me down in the empty meeting room and says, "I'd like to offer you representation."

Colleen, if you read this, I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you nearly killed me with that statement, because the only thing I could think was, "Okay, you'd LIKE to offer me representation, BUT . . . ?"

As querying writers, we hear those words with some frequency. "I'd like to offer you representation . . . BUT it's not quite right for me." "I'd like to offer you representation . . . BUT the market is so tight right now." "I'd like to offer you representation . . . BUT we can't currently handle any new clients."

So, I'm expecting the "BUT." And I'm staring at her stupidly, waiting for her to say it. She probably wondered why I didn't say anything, and just sat in silence. So, she repeated it, maybe thinking I hadn't understood her the first time. "I'd like to offer you representation."

It finally sinks in to me that THERE IS NO "BUT."

Oh.

Now I'm in shock and likely still staring at her stupidly, but I nod and smile and listen to her discuss some details and plans, some things she really likes about the book and some ideas she has for revisions.

Cool.

She talks about the agency agreement/contract. She talks about the scholarship contest and how the other judges actually picked me to win because she didn't feel she could judge me since she already knew and liked my work.

Holy poop, I have an agent!

The rest of the conference is a blur. I didn't do much else, because, well, I already had an agent, which Colleen was wonderful enough to announce at the next session, and then to the entire assembled group of conference goers at the closing panel.

It's a really weird feeling, actually. The next day, at the mixer, I didn't know what to do with myself at first. I've spent the past year and a half training myself (a rather shy individual by nature) to approach and strike up casual conversations with agents so that, if and when I queried them, they'd have a positive memory of me. But I had an agent. Now what?

I realized that with or without an agent, I'd come to really enjoy talking to professionals about the field of writing. So, I did it anyway, and probably much more comfortably since I wasn't worried so much.

At the closing panel, after Colleen's announcement, I felt like a minor celebrity. Other writers wanted to touch my hand or arm, hoping some of it would "rub off." Others asked for my card, my opening pages, my query, so they could see what I'd done. It felt great.

I know there's a long road yet ahead of me. I can't wait to see what great ideas Colleen has for making my book better. But I'm one major step closer.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Year, I Did It!

Last night was the awards banquet for the annual Royal Palm Literary Awards. This is the biggest of the competitions run by the Florida Writers Association, and the winners are always announced at their major annual conference. Participants submit three copies of the first fifty pages of a complete short story, poem, essay, or novel in a variety of categories. If the first three judges give the piece enough critique points, you make it to the finals and submit the entire manuscript to a fourth judge. The tallied points determine honorable mention, second, and first place winners.

Last year I made the finals, but didn't win an award. I will say, however, that the critique sheets I got back from the contest were helpful in making revisions.

This year I won first place! (I guess all the revisions paid off.)

The banquet was held at a very nice hotel in Lake Mary, Florida. They even had a red carpet for the winners to walk down in order to receive their awards. I will confess that as they called honorable mention and second place I really didn't think I had a chance. I knew some of my competition, one of whom had beaten me last year.

When they DID call the title of my novel, I actually didn't recognize it. My husband was cheering beside me, and I couldn't figure out why. The reason was because they used the novel's full name, which is AGENCY FILES--ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE. AGENCY FILES is the title of the series, and ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE is the title of the individual book in the series. I haven't heard it referred to that way out loud. Everyone just calls it ASSASSIN, or ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE, so it took a few seconds for me to realize they had called for me! Pretty funny, actually.

At least I managed to make it down the carpet without tripping or anything. We sat in the very back of the hall, so I had the longest walk. I collected my trophy (very pretty, an open book with the name of the award, the year, my name, first place, and the name of the book engraved on it). Then I had to pose for multiple pictures, and a big group shot with all the winners at the end of the evening which will go on the Florida Writers Association website.

Lots of fun!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Won!

A few weeks ago I entered a contest to win a scholarship to the Backspace Agent/Author Seminar in New York in November. You had to submit your query letter and first two pages of your manuscript for judging. They received over 600 entries and picked four winners. I'M ONE OF THEM!

I am beyond excited. This will be a fantastic opportunity to get some further professional feedback on my work, meet and make connections with a number of wonderful agents, and immerse myself in writing for a few days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review of the Day - S. L. Viehl

Few authors can affect me as emotionally as S.L. Viehl does. That is her strength, and my frustration.

As I believe I said in an earlier post, she is the only author who has managed to make me angry, irrationally angry, after reading one of her books because of something a character had done to another. It took me several days of biting people's heads off and just feeling internally mad before I figured out the source. And I praise her for that ability. My anger was her desired result. Still, until the next book in the series came out, I got to be frustrated with her for it.

CRYSTAL HEALER is the ninth book in the STARDOC series. It's a great read, full of action, drama, and a good dose of romance. She manages to interweave characters we haven't seen for awhile with great skill, reminding us, and the other characters in the story, who they were a little at a time until we have the big picture.

But, she's done it again. She leaves the story on such an emotionally powerful note that I'm thinking about one of the characters for days after I've finished the novel. I'm sad for him. Ironically, it's the same character I was furious with earlier in the series. He's gone through so much, grown as a person. I won't give spoilers here, but I hope Viehl will make everything all right for this character in the next book, because he doesn't deserve what has been done to him now. And I know my feelings are exactly her intention. To make me this concerned for a fictional character is an amazing talent.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Vicki Pettersson

Bittersweet is the word I would use to describe the fourth book in Vicki Pettersson's Zodiac series.

CITY OF SOULS is not the kind of book I normally read. I've said it in previous reviews for this series. I am not a superhero person. But this story and its incredibly deep characters drew me in. Not an easy feat. I'm the sort of gal who reads in a rather narrow genre. To get me to venture outside that comfort zone, it takes an exceptional piece of work. The Zodiac series is exactly that--an exceptional piece of work.

No corny lines, two-dimensional villains, or pure heroes here. None of them are black and white. Every character has shades of gray. They have nuances, personal interests beyond crime fighting. They are people . . . who happen to have super powers. And that helps the reader relate to them, cheer their victories, and mourn their losses.

Add to that the backdrop of Las Vegas which is intrinsically interesting in itself, and you have an amazing story that keeps the reader turning pages rather than accomplishing any of his or her other daily tasks.

My only concern with this installment, CITY OF SOULS, is that it ends on a down note and seems to close a door. I won't give away spoilers here, but I'm sincerely hoping it's a teaser, and we'll see more of the character I've most grown to love.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Kristin Landon

Taking a break from the David Drake series to read the latest in Kristin Landon's series.

THE DARK REACHES is the third book in the story of Linnea and Iain. I've enjoyed this series so far, and this installment is no exception. While it is heavy on the characterization, which is what I prefer, it also has plenty of interesting technology. The romance between the two main characters is a big factor, though it doesn't quite cross over into the science fiction/romance category. Lots of great action and suspense as well. Landon certainly knows how to torture her characters to good effect. You feel for them, together and separately. You want them to succeed. And the antagonist is so well-developed the reader wants to participate in his defeat.

Certainly, Landon has left herself open for more books in this series. I look forward to those as well. I do wish they were a bit longer. Compared to other science fiction I read, these are a little on the short side. I guess that's a compliment to the author. I'm a reader wanting more.

Silence on the Writing Front

I know I haven't blogged much in the past month. Mostly, that's because there hasn't been much to write about. I haven't stopped reading. I've been going through the RCN series by David Drake, but I thought I'd review the entire series at once instead of doing the individual books. I've read four of them with three more to go.

I'm also still writing. I'm about 30,000 words into the sequel to Assassin's Nightmare. That's actually going very well. I may need to tweak a few things in the first book to make it work better with the second, but I suppose that's the advantage of no one having picked up the first one yet. I can still change things a bit and not mess anyone up.

Last night was the writers group meeting. People really praised my first flashback scene. That pleases me greatly. Flashbacks are notoriously tricky.

Still waiting to hear on the three full manuscripts I've got floating about in agent/editor land. I suspect it won't be much longer, now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Michael Jackson Photos

My husband has uploaded the Michael Jackson photos from the Hoop Dee Doo Revue onto my Facebook page. We're working on a way for people to see them without having to join Facebook or friend me.

Okay, here we go. You can view the photos here:

http://photos-g.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs190.snc1/6400_1168467301075_1509735743_30450038_4612152_n.jpg

and here:

http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs190.snc1/6400_1168467421078_1509735743_30450039_2658764_n.jpg

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Celebration Writers Group Meeting 3

My turn on the chopping block for critique at tonight's meeting, and I still have my head attached. Honestly, I didn't think it would go poorly, as this novel has had more polishing than the White House door knobs. However, the group members had some great suggestions to offer and pointed out a few things that could be tighter or even better explained for clarity. It amazes me how anyone could find anything after all it's been through, but I'm glad to fix whatever I can. Every bit helps in this extremely tight market.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Celebration Writers Group Meeting 2

What a talented group of individuals I've discovered in Celebration! It is unusual to find so many driven writers in such a small group, but that's what we have here. They go to conferences and conventions, submit their work to agents and editors, and several are receiving requests for partials and fulls. I feel like I've found the right place. They don't pull punches either, when it comes to critiques, but these are helpful critiques, constructive not destructive.

Now, this is not in any way meant to say that the Kissimmee group was any less helpful. That would not be true. However, they seemed to have a different focus, more on community outreach, reading and writing awareness in schools, and contests for our kids. They were very supportive of everyone's writing, but their meetings were in Kissimmee, which is not far, but farther than the one right here in town. Going to their meetings meant getting babysitting because the hubby would drive and attend also.

I don't drive well at night. But driving into town is no big deal for me, so I can go alone, and babysitting is not necessary. So, I think I've found a group that I can attend regularly, and really get to know the wonderful members I've met so far.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

On Michael Jackson

In a restaurant at a beachfront resort with my family on Thursday, I glanced up to see that Michael Jackson had been taken to the hospital. This was not surprising. He's had a variety of medical issues over the years. I went back to my food.

The next thing I know, some friends of ours at the same table are saying, "Well, 1958-2009. I guess that confirms it." And he's pronounced dead. Just like that. It takes a while to sink in.

Confession time. I was a HUGE Michael Jackson fan in the eighties. His posters covered my walls and ceiling. I had the glove, the doll, the video disc (yep, disc, but not sure on the spelling. disk?). It still plays on my classic RCA videodisc player. I had 66 Jackson record albums collected from all over the world, some printed in other languages. I saw the Victory tour. It was the first major concert I ever attended. I was fourteen years old.

I met him.

Well, almost.

Long story, but I feel the need to tell it all and not leave anything out. This will likely be the longest post I've ever written.

When I was fourteen, my parents decided a trip to Disney World was in order. EPCOT was "educational and fun." My fourteen-year-old self didn't agree. I thought this would be the most childish vacation ever. Boy was I wrong!

On the day of our arrival, while waiting for our Disney Fairway Villa to be ready, we had lunch at the Royal Plaza Hotel. Now, remember, I knew all there was to know about Michael Jackson. I knew he kept a suite of rooms at the Royal Plaza. The hotel would rent it to others, but if Michael wanted to stay there (he loved Disney World), it was always ready for him. The suite had many of his gold and platinum albums hanging on the walls. I'd seen it on television.

My mother is a character. I talked her into coming with me to the appropriate floor of the hotel. When we found the suite, the door was open. A maid was cleaning it! Somehow, my mother talked her into letting me in to take pictures. I have photos of the gold and platinum albums hanging on those walls.

And so, our vacation continued. We were there for a week. Two or three days later, I began to think about why a maid would be cleaning the rooms at the Royal Plaza. Michael was on the Victory tour. I'd just seen it a few weeks prior. But there were breaks built into the tour schedule. It had to be coincidence, but I needed to know. My parents were very cool with me as an overly mature fourteen-year-old. I had the Disney bus pass. I had park passes. I was allowed to go wherever those would take me during the day, so long as I met them for dinner at night. I returned to the Royal Plaza Hotel.

I went up the elevator to the correct floor. I encountered a roped off hallway and security. I knew HE was there. Had I been a little less painfully shy, I might have gotten the guard to get me an autograph or something. I was the only teenager around. No one knew, except me. I doubt it would have worked, but I didn't even try. I went back to the ground floor. I tried to think like Michael Jackson. I prowled the hotel property. I found the service entrance. I discovered black vans and limousines. Okay, I knew how he got in and out. I told my mom that evening. We returned to the hotel together and waited outside. We caught a glimpse of him running from the service elevator to a waiting car.

This was pretty much how I spent the rest of my vacation. I would arrive early, wait until he left, and try to follow where he went. Okay, I was a young stalker. I would try to guess where he was headed, and was frequently right, but since I only had a bus pass, and he had direct transportation, I couldn't follow him very well. I would arrive at places to hear I'd just missed him. I got to the Magic Kingdom to hear he'd just ridden the Dumbo ride and left. Had I been a little smarter, I would have stayed at the Royal Plaza all day and waited right by the service elevators and hoped to be acknowledged. And since I was still the only one around, I might very well have been. But my teenage self was terrified of being in trouble with security, arrested, who knows? I desperately wish I could go back in time and tell myself how unlikely that was.

Still, my luck had not run out yet. On the last night of our stay, my parents planned to eat at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue dinner show at Disney's Fort Wilderness resort. I met them, on time, at the restaurant, babbling about missing Michael Jackson by minutes yet again. My father, who never cared for Jackson's influence on me, laid down the law. He did not want to hear one more word about Michael Jackson for the rest of the night. He was sick and tired of it all. Mom was more tolerant, but when Dad gets angry, it's best to shut up.

We went inside. We had a front row table. Mom always booked everything way in advance, like up to a year. We always had the best seats for everything. The very next table behind ours was long and seated maybe ten people. It remained empty while all the other tables filled. I commented that wouldn't it be funny if Michael Jackson and his party sat there. I got a growl from Dad and another warning. But somehow, I just had this feeling . . .

Next, I glanced at the service entrance by the kitchen. And there stood two limousine drivers. I knew them. I'd seen them day after day at the Royal Plaza Hotel. They were Michael Jackson's limo drivers. My heart jumped. I told my mom and pointed them out, but they'd disappeared. By now, my parents thought I was losing it. Then I see his personal bodyguard, Bill Bray (yes, I knew him by name), and I point him out, and he, too, disappears. And I KNOW! I know what's coming, and I can barely breathe.

The lights went down. The show prepared to start, and my Dad says something like, "Well, I'll be . . ." and in through the other fire exit comes Michael Jackson, his bodyguard, and several cousins and friends. My mother turns, spots him, and blurts out, "Michael!" And they sit at that big, long table right next to ours!

Michael is seated at the far end of the table, the head, with the best view (though I'm actually closer to the stage than he is.) I have a direct line of sight to him for the next hour to two hours of the show. I started to stand. My knees buckled. I had tears running down my face which I finally managed to control. My mother tried to get me an autograph and was escorted out by security. They let her back in when she explained that I'd had terrible medical problems over the past year, and she was just trying to do something for me, but it took awhile, about ten minutes or so. She never got the autograph. Dad and I just waited calmly. We knew she could talk herself out of any trouble.

Flashbulbs were popping like mad, and I realized with great distress that I DIDN'T HAVE MY CAMERA! Thank God for the elderly couple at the table on our other side. They took pictures, took my address, and mailed them to me a few weeks later.

I never saw the show. In fact, one of the performers tried to involve me, since we were front row, and I didn't even notice her. I only had eyes for Michael. He looked fantastic then, in one of those beaded red jackets with gold braid, and the aviator sunglasses. I don't know what I wore that night, but I do remember I had on my one glove pendant necklace which I held onto throughout the evening for luck. I almost never took that necklace off.

After the show, the Jackson party left first, and the rest of us ran outside to catch a glimpse of his limousines pulling away from the rear parking lot. I think he may have waved from the window, but I can't remember clearly enough now.

Aside from my wedding, that was the most exciting moment in my life. Years would pass. Michael would be accused of horrible things that I would not want to believe, but couldn't quite ignore. My hero worship of him would end, but my love of his music would not.

I grew older. He grew older. He disappeared. When I found out he was going to do more performances, I desperately wanted to go and recapture that magic I'd experienced from seeing the Victory tour all those years before, but he was doing the shows in London. I held out a small hope that he would extend the tour into the United States, and perhaps I could share that incredible experience with my own children, now eleven years old. But it was not to be.

I still can't believe he is gone. An era has ended. A piece of my childhood is missing. I want to know why, and I want to blame someone. Michael always seemed sad to me, and lonely in a way. His soft-spoken demeanor and apparent shyness were a huge part of his allure. I could relate to shyness. A lot of people found something in him to relate to. It's hard to identify exactly what it was about him--talent? personality? appearance? Whatever it was, we are unlikely to see anything quite like it ever again.

I hope he has found the happiness he always seemed to be searching for.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Celebration Writers Group

I made my first appearance at a meeting of the Celebration Writers Group tonight. Admittedly, I've been wary of attending because of proximity to where I live and work. If I have some adult content in my writing, and parents of my students are in the group, I may be thought of differently as a teacher. If I critique a parent of one of my students, I might unintentionally offend someone. So it wasn't an easy decision to attend.

However, I'm glad I went. The group was, as a whole, very nice, welcoming, and talented. The two parents of my students who are in the group seemed to understand that this was "off the record" so to speak. At least, I hope so. Still a tad nervous about that.

I was impressed with the levels of writing and the levels of critiquing. Both very high. Most of the individuals present have goals of being professionally published. A few already have some legitimate writing credits/sales. All in all, it was a lot of fun, and I hope to make it to the next meeting and perhaps contribute something as well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And Another Request!

Yep, yet another request came in yesterday for the partial. That makes, well, a lot of them out there right now. Multiple fulls and multiple partials. It's a little scary how much my mood shifts depending on the email. Good mood today, anyway. Plugging along on book two in the series. Bogged down in chapter 7 but hoping to get unstuck after a few days off from writing. I'm thinking of attending a writers group meeting tonight. We'll see if that inspires me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Catherine Asaro

Finished THE RADIANT SEAS by Catherine Asaro. I would have posted this yesterday, when I finished, but someone decided my blog was "spam" and locked me out until it could be "reviewed." Nice. Since I'm writing this, I guess I'm allowed back in. Honestly, I think I'm one of the least spammy blogs out there. But, whatever. On with the review.

I met Catherine Asaro at the Romantic Times convention a few months back. She is a character all in herself. Well-spoken, quirky, attractive, she has loads of personality, and I liked her immediately. Loved her clothes, too. I'm not one to notice outfits, but she had on this great black off the shoulder top that managed to be tough, yet feminine at the same time. I need one of those. She was on a panel with my friends Linnea Sinclair, Stacey Klemstein, and C.L. Wilson, discussing science fiction and fantasy romance novels. At the end, she offered to give away her display copies, so I asked for THE RADIANT SEAS and she autographed it for me.

Now, I've never read her before. Therefore, I suspect I was at a great disadvantage. THE RADIANT SEAS is the fourth and last book in one of her series. She said it would stand alone, and I suppose it does. But I definitely felt behind the learning curve. Books that have character glossaries and genealogy trees mapped out in them tend to intimidate me. This one had both. I tried to ignore all that and simply enjoy the story.

For the most part, I succeeded. It's a fast-paced action novel. I wouldn't really label it sci-fi-romance, though. Maybe her other books are more in that vein. There was a tremendous amount of theoretical science involved, more than I could really wrap my brain around, including diagrams to explain the method of space travel used. Clearly, Ms. Asaro is an exceedingly intelligent person. I believe she has a physics degree, though I'm not certain I'm remembering her introductions correctly. I learned a lot, glossed over a lot, and went for the character driven scenes, which I enjoyed immensely.

The main characters of Soz and Jaibriol were both intriguing and entertaining. Their scenes were my favorites. Soz is a strong female, yet manages to find it within herself to be motherly. Jaibriol has a dark past he must overcome to let himself be loved. There are some great supporting characters as well, like Althor and Cirrus. However, I would strongly suggest that fans of fast-paced sci-fi with a lot of hard science read these books in order. You'll love them, if THE RADIANT SEAS is a good example for the rest of the series, but without the first three books, you may find yourself lost in the "sea" of characters which I didn't really sort out until the very exciting climactic ending.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another Request for the Partial

No, I haven't even begun to give up on getting an agent for Assassin's Nightmare. The manuscript continues to circulate. I have two fulls out right now and an offer to look at it for a second time from a third party if I made revisions. Those revisions are made, and I'm preparing to send it back to the agent who suggested them.

And today I got a new request for the partial. According to one agent's blog, editors are looking for thrillers with dark and damaged heroines. Well, mine is something of a science fiction thriller. My heroine is definitely dark and damaged. Maybe a window of opportunity is opening.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Submission Away and Summer Break

My Royal Palm Literary Award submission for the final round of judging went out last night. That's thanks to my wonderful husband who drove out at around 10:00 P.M. to the open-late post office so I could meet my deadline. He didn't quite make it through re-reading the whole thing, so hopefully the ending is okay. It's undergone some very major plot revisions including a change in the antagonist.

And, I'm on summer vacation from teaching. Yay! I have two goals for this summer. 1. Find an agent (or sell to an editor) Assassin's Nightmare. 2. Finish writing book two in the Agency Files series. I'm on chapter seven of book two, though I lost some word count. I had to cut several scenes due to changes in book one that now conflicted. Ah, the joys of writing a series.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back in the Finals

So, Assassin's Nightmare is back in the finals for the Royal Palm Literary Awards. It made the finals last year, but didn't win anything. It has undergone significant revisions since then. I hope it will do better this year.

Monday, May 25, 2009

OASIS Convention

I spent Saturday at the OASIS convention. It stands (sort of) for Orlando Area Science Fiction Society. I attended because four authors I read were also attending.

The panels weren't bad, though they could really have used more passing time between them. As soon as one ended, the next began.

The best part, as usual, was meeting authors I respect and admire. I spoke very briefly with Adam-Troy Castro. He was too busy to really talk, though. I wish he'd had more time. I would have loved to ask about his inspiration for the Andrea Cort character.

I had books signed by John Ringo and Peter David.

Then, I had a long chat with Sandra McDonald. She was very nice, pleasant to talk with, and said she'd look over my first chapter on OWW (Online Writers Workshop) since I critiqued one of hers. I was completely unknown to her, but she took time to speak with me. I appreciated that tremendously.

Then the hubby and I had drinks with C.L. Wilson. We haven't read her work, but we keep ending up at the same conferences, so we've gotten to know each other. Linnea first introduced us about a year ago. She's also a great source of help and information. I enjoyed spending time with her.

All in all, it was a good networking experience.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bood Review of the Day - Laura Anne Gilman

BLOOD FROM STONE is, at least for now, the last novel in the Retrievers series by Laura Anne Gilman. This is another of those series that I initially picked up out of desperation for anything to read that might interest me, and no kick-ass female science fiction was available.

It's a modern urban fantasy with a romantic sub-plot. And that's usually not my thing. But I felt myself drawn in by the fantastic characterization of both the main and supporting characters. And characters ARE my thing. Wren is a kick-ass, no-nonsense thief struggling to maintain her sanity. Sergei is the man with the dark past who knows exactly how to treat a woman, or at least works hard to get it right. (I fell in love with him even as Wren struggled to determine her own feelings.) The supporting cast has depth of its own. PB, for example, seems at first like your typical wise-cracking tough guy New Yorker (in addition to being a demon). But there's a sensitive side to him that is fully revealed in BLOOD FROM STONE. (We see hints of it in earlier books.)

The plot of this final story is fast-paced and ties up several loose ends. There's plenty of excitement and action to satisfy my adventure-loving side. Personally, I would have liked to see the romance play an even bigger part in this last installment, but I suppose that never was Gilman's primary focus.

The most impressive element is the growth one can see in all the characters from book one to this ending. Wren and Sergei mature. They learn about each other and themselves and the magic-filled world around them. Dynamic characters sell novels. I won't give away spoilers here, but I feel like I've grown with these characters.

I know Gilman's intention is to focus on another aspect of the same universe but with different characters. I'm sure they will be just as entertaining in their own rights, given Gilman's great skill in this aspect and in world building. But I will miss Wren and Sergei, especially Sergei.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Lucienne Diver

Up front, let me say, I NEVER read young adult novels unless I'm critiquing my husband's manuscript or teaching them to my seventh graders.

And regarding vampires, I really tend more toward science fiction, but I'll pick up a vampire story once in a while, for fun and a change of pace.

Well, that's exactly what Lucienne Diver's YA novel VAMPED is -- a fun change of pace.

Teenage girls will love this tongue-in-cheek look at the vampire experience through a fashionista's eyes. Boys will enjoy the action and fast pace of the story. Both will find it quirky, funny, and exciting at the same time and may relate well to the main characters -- Gina and Bobby.

As I said, I teach seventh graders. While Gina and Bobby are in high school, I already see characteristics of the two in some of my students. Lucienne has nailed many aspects of the teenage mentality.

Since she came to speak at my school, I am noticing more and more copies of VAMPED in the hands of both my guys and girls during free choice reading time. It looks like Lucienne may have herself a hit with this one, and she's left us ready for a sequel.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Winning the Lottery

No, we didn't really win the lottery, at least not the big one. But we did win $150.

The hubby and I never play the lottery anymore. We used to, before we had kids. It was fun to dream about it. But we realized the odds of winning were ridiculous. Then the Florida Lottery got smart. They mailed out coupons!

They sent a sheet of coupons in the mail for things like buy one ticket, get one free, or two dollars off a five dollar scratch off, etc. On Mother's Day, I said, why not? We used the entire page of coupons for a total of $23 dollars spent on a bunch of lottery and scratch off tickets.

Most were duds. But I scratched one off and won $100! Then I scratched off another one and won $50! Definitely a good deal!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Another Contest

I caught the early-entry discount for the Royal Palm Literary Awards contest this year. None of this last minute stuff for me! (Ok, I admit, it was the last day of the early-entry discount, and the hubby had to drive to the open-late post office to get it postmarked correctly.) However, last year I sent the entry in on the last day of the contest, period (again, in the middle of the night). I like to keep it until the last possible moment in case I spot something wrong with it and want to make a revision.

This time around, the manuscript has been through so much, I really didn't have any more changes to make. Not that I'm not open to change. Quite the contrary. I'm always open to people pointing out how I can make my work better. But I feel I've gotten past the point where I can spot necessary changes myself.

Even waiting last year, I still felt rushed with it. And, I was a finalist, but I didn't place in the top three. Now that the opening has been rewritten (twice), and it's won a contest with the Florida Writers Association already this year, I'm hoping for better results in this competition.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Five Minutes of Fame

How many aspiring writers can say they were featured on a prominent literary agent's blog?

Well, I can. (I guess my husband can say it, too, since he was also in the blog entry.)

The wonderful Lucienne Diver referred to us as "fabulous" for hosting the author day at my school, and she wrote about the experience. I'm so glad she enjoyed herself.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Connections, Connections

It's all about the networking. I've said it before. And now my parents have jumped on the bandwagon.

I finally got up the nerve to let my father read Assassin's Nightmare. He says he is very much enjoying it. He should be finishing it this coming week. And he's impressed. This is a Harvard graduate, a patent attorney. The man is very hard to impress. And he never says it unless he means it. While growing up, I found this personality trait frustrating. In fact, it's one of the problems/themes the main character in my novel faces. But as an adult, I have come to realize that his demanding so much of me makes it even sweeter when he tells me he likes something I've written.

Anyway, my parents regularly go to a fitness center to keep in shape. And my mother is a talker. To everyone. She's inherently friendly. Apparently, a lady who attends the center with them is a retired slush reader for Random House publishing. She might even have been an acquisitions editor, but Mom wasn't too clear on her former title.

Mom being Mom told her all about my manuscript, the contest win, and Tor's interest. So this nice lady asked to read it. Dad wouldn't let her have it without my permission, which pleased me greatly. He's treating me like an adult. I've been one for quite some years now, (more than I'll admit), but I appreciate it when my parents show me the consideration of actually treating me like one. Of course, I said to go ahead and show it to her.

One never knows whom she is still in contact with back at Random House.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Author Day At My School

Today was the big day that has been in the works for two months! Three authors came to visit my school and talk to my students about writing and publishing. We had Linnea Sinclair, Stacey Kade (Klemstein), and author/agent Lucienne Diver.

I will say that the kids were very well-behaved. They paid close attention and asked good, thoughtful questions. I think after five classes, though, we were all pretty worn out. Parents provided a nice lunch for us all, and there's lots of leftover food. The principal, assistant principal, and head librarian stopped in to observe. I'm hopeful the authors will be willing to return and do it again next year.

Now I'm going to go collapse somewhere.

Another Author Dinner

Dinner last night was with author Ann Aguirre and her lovely assistant, Yvette. We went to the Polynesian Resort at DisneyWorld and ate in 'Ohana's which is one of my favorite restaurants. Lots of good food (all you can eat), coconut races for the kids, and live Hawaiian music. I think everyone had a good time, and I got to hear some great stories from Ann's writing career. I hope she'll be able to visit again in the future and perhaps bring her family. The hubby and I would love to show her around Disney as she hasn't been in many years.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dinner With Authors, and The Waiting Game

I suck at waiting.

I am the kind of person that needs to be doing something constructive at all times, especially if there is a task left half done, or a problem that needs fixing.

The process of trying to get a novel published is a difficult one for me.

Now, don't misunderstand. I like most aspects of the process, even rejections if they are constructive because those give me something I can DO. But once it's all done, and agents and editors have your full manuscript, and there are no more changes to make, and you're waiting for that email or phone call, that is the definition of torture.

That's where I am. I'm sure all writers can relate. But I think some are better at this waiting thing than I am.

And yes, I've begun my next project. It doesn't keep the heart from pounding every time the phone rings.

The hubby and I had dinner with my mentor and another lovely author last night. We ate at Citricos at DisneyWorld in the Grand Floridian hotel. We even got to see the fireworks from our table during dessert. We chose the restaurant. I think everyone enjoyed the meal. Certainly mine was delicious. I was a little nervous because my mentor is a connoisseur of fine food. But Disney is known for dining.

We had lots of fun conversation. I got to hear all about the convention they are attending this week, and agents, and publishing, and everything else I soak in like rain water.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Different Side of the Writer's Life

I spent the day as my mentor's assistant, yesterday. She's attending a major romance writers convention here in town, and my husband and I went over to the convention to sit in on one of her panel discussions and see if we could assist her in any way.

The panel went well. It was a discussion with seven different authors on science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal in romance. Even the news media showed up, and they caught my mentor on screen.

After that was my mentor's yearly party. Games, drinks, freebies, prizes, and a lot of very rapid set-up. That's where my husband and I came in, passing out goodie bags and promotional materials, carrying items from the car, moving chairs and tables. It was loads of fun, but I never imagined attending a convention could be so exhausting from the author's perspective. They seem to be having a great time, but after the first day, they were worn and losing their voices. Still smiling, but very tired.

Learning lots.

Monday, April 20, 2009

One Thing Sparks Another

So, I emailed the three agents currently looking at my partials and fulls about the contest win. One has already gotten back to me saying that this was exactly the kind of thing their agency wants to hear when considering offering representation. She said she would be contacting me "shortly." Biting my nails now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Exciting News

The hubby and I attended the Pasco County Do It Write Literary Conference today. If you have been reading this blog, that is the same group that ranked me second in the preliminary round of their writing contest about a month ago. The top three winners in each category had their first thirty pages sent to editors at major publishing houses. My thirty pages went to a Senior Editor at Tor Publishing.

The editors did not know the order of the winners, only that they were reading the top three. Then, they were to re-rank them as they saw fit, and provide feedback. Well, the results from the editors were announced at the conference. The Tor editor ranked mine first!

And that's not the best part. She also asked to see the complete manuscript! I was, apparently, the only one in the contest who received a request for the full manuscript. I'm very excited.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Ann Aguirre

Not totally out there for me, but certainly a stretch, I finished Blue Diablo today, by Ann Aguirre. Admittedly, I read it out of desperation for anything to read (since I've had a heck of a time finding things in "my" genre that interest me, these days), and because I am friends with the author. Those things aside, I thoroughly enjoyed it, which is saying a lot, considering it's not my usual thing.

Blue Diablo is what I would classify as an "urban paranormal fantasy" though I'm not sure that's how Ann would describe it. The settings are rich, tinged with Mexican flair to add a very "different" feel to the characters and their surrounding cultures. Of course, living in Mexico, Ann has ample knowledge to draw from in this area, and the realism shines through in the novel.

The characters are also delightful. Corine is strong, yet feminine - a combination I appreciate. And we have two delicious males to consider as potential love interests. The balancing act between the two is well-handled. Other characters are unique and entertaining, with surprises built in. She does tread the line of deus ex machina, but since the character is, quite literally, the "Hand of God," Ann gets away with it cleanly. And there's a wonderful, adorable, intelligent dog. With one of those, you're already halfway to winning me over. I'm a sucker for cute dogs.

There are also plenty of unanswered questions left at the end of the novel, though enough are tied up to allow it to stand on its own. We're ripe for a sequel, and I will certainly be reading it, when it is released.

My only complaint, if I had to have one, is the short lengths of the chapters. This is purely personal, mind you, and not a reflection on the author, though I would be curious as to her reasoning in making them all about six to eight pages in length. For me, it has to do with my reading schedule. I allow myself to read a chapter as a reward for completing various tasks on my to-do list. The shorter the chapters, the more of the list I must complete at a faster pace. Again, this is my issue, not Ann's, and I will admit, I have gotten a lot of chores completed while reading this book. :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Legitimizing Writing

All my life, well, since I began writing stories intelligibly, I have had to deal with individuals who don't grasp the concept of the creative writing process.

When I was a child, I wrote stories for fun - mostly fan fiction. My parents and teachers would become frustrated with me for writing all the time. At first they were encouraging, but when I filled notebook after notebook and used up dozens of typewriter ribbons, they didn't praise as much. I'd get caught writing in class and be scolded for it, even though I never made less than a "B" until I reached college. Friends helped here. They read and enjoyed my stories, and pushed me to write more of them, and of course, my inner muse wouldn't shut up.

In college, my parents would ask what I planned to DO with all these stories. I told them, "Nothing. It's for fun." Fan fiction, after all, is not something one can usually sell. I kicked around the idea of submitting some of my Ninja Turtles stories (yes, I WAS unusual in college) to the comic book which was very hot at the time, but I never did. And then I got the idea for a series of novels of my own creation, fleshed out the ideas and added characters conceived by a close friend, and started writing them. She even wrote with me for a time, though her calling was in veterinary medicine, and she eventually didn't have the time for it. (This would become the Agency Files series.) My parents were not particularly pleased when I chose Creative Writing as a college major. They couldn't believe I could make a living at it. And they were right, at least at that time. I got my teaching certification as a fallback.

Now that I am an adult, I get the impression that my "hobby" confuses some of my peers. Fortunately, I am in education, and a lot of teachers seem to have the "writing bug." They "get it." But there are always a few who want to know why I don't just self-publish. I could be published tomorrow, they tell me. Yes, that's true. But what's the point?

Now, don't misunderstand me. Self-publishing is perfect for a lot of writers who simply want to see their work bound in a nice, presentable cover that they can give to friends and family. And there are certainly those success stories about a self-published book rocketing to the top of the Bestseller List. But those are much, much rarer than many new writers know. And unless you have the funding to self-promote your self-published book, it becomes virtually impossible to do anything with it. AND, once it's self-published, almost no legitimate agent or publisher will touch it.

But for me, it's also about what others think. (Yes, I know. Writing is an art. We should do it because we love it, not because we are trying to please other people. And we should believe it's good because we created it.) Right. Sure. All that aside, I want someone else, someone well-respected in this crazy business, to tell me it's good. This has already happened to me several times with contest judges, author friends, agents, and agents' assistants. Those people have kept me going. I appreciate my husband's and friends' praise, too, but it's not quite the same as having a professional tell you you can write. Now, if I can only convince an agent to like it enough to take it on, and a publisher . . .

Ironically, now, my parents are behind me again. They've bought into my dream and ask me every time we talk how the writing is going. I think they needed to see the professionals praising it as well. They still don't quite grasp that the house doesn't get cleaned on "writing days," though. Ah well.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Networking

When I first tried to publish a novel, about eight years ago, I knew nothing. I bought the Guide to Literary Agents, learned how to write a query letter (albeit a boring one), and spent a lot on postage. Remarkably, I got a lot of partial requests and at least one full request despite my ignorance. Of course, I had no idea what those things meant. I had no idea how close I'd actually come. I did not know how rare a request for the full manuscript of a new writer could actually be. I was horribly disappointed by the eventual rejections and put away writing for three years.

Inevitably, the bug bit again. A writer can't simply stop writing. A writer is driven to write. Even though I was determined not to, I caught myself doing it rather often, and sure enough, when I decided to get serious again, I already had seventy-five percent of my next novel written in journals and notebooks. That became Assassin's Nightmare. But, what could I do differently this time that I didn't do the first time around?

The answer came through a series of coincidences and fortunate events, beginning with a fan letter I wrote to an author I greatly admired. (Hey Linnea!) We went back and forth with emails, met in person at several conferences, and she offered extremely valuable advice. Once she'd heard my tale of the first manuscript, she explained how close I'd actually come and said one very important word -- Networking. I don't remember exactly how she put it, but the gist of it was, if you want to be a published author, you need to run with the "big guys and gals." You need to attend conferences, pitch agents in person, get over your innate shyness (yep, I used to be really shy in new groups of people). You need to follow the blogs of agents, editors, and authors. Learn from them.

I owe a tremendous amount to her, and all those I've connected with since. No, I am not yet published. But I'm closer than ever before. I can feel it. I know it. And I've had the most amazing experiences in the past year. I've traveled to conventions in distant states. I've attended (and voted in) the Hugo awards. I've sat down for coffee, lunch, dinner with some of the authors I only dreamed of meeting a year ago - people whom I've admired my entire adult life. Some even treated us! (Thanks Ann!) And I've learned so much about writing.

I've gained tremendous confidence in social situations. That's so crucial to this networking. I can pitch an agent without trembling. (At least not in front of the agent.) I can walk up to an author or agent and introduce myself and carry on an intelligent conversation without babbling or fawning all over them. Granted, I wasn't really given to that behavior before, but I would simply hold back and observe/listen, rather than having my opinion heard or contributing to the conversation. I would wait for people to introduce themselves to me instead of taking the initiative. In this world, one must take that initiative.

And last, I've made friends. I've found kindred spirits in all this (Linnea, Stacey, Ann, Jodi, and many more). We chat online, we trade tales of woe, we play Scrabble, and when we're in the same town, we get together. If nothing else comes of this, I've met some incredible people.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Adam-Troy Castro

Wow. All I can say is, "Wow!"

I just finished reading Adam-Troy Castro's second book in the Andrea Cort series - The Third Claw of God. Though the series features a very strong female protagonist, it was a bit of an unusual choice for me, because it was written by a male author. I'm very glad I didn't let that stop me.

First, let me say that I'm aware that my feelings about male authors are likely unfair to them. It just seems like when I read female protagonists written by men, they don't ring as true to me.

Andrea Cort is definitely an exception to that feeling. She is extremely well-written, strong yet sympathetic, and I love the way Castro has let us get to know her throughout these two novels. By the time I started this second book, I felt I knew her well enough to like her. Now, having finished the novel, I feel like I understand and respect her.

The plot itself, is excellent. It's a combination of science fiction and mystery, very true to both genres with lots of world building, specialized, futuristic tech, and suspense that keeps a reader wondering who the antagonists really are until the final ten pages of the book. When you think it's over, it's not. I love it when an author can skillfully pull that off. There's also the perfect amount of, "Oh, I saw that coming," mixed in with plenty of, "Whoa, where did that come from?" to make everything believable in the end.

I am looking forward with great anticipation to the next book in the series.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Rest of Woot

I never did post about the missing items from the bag of crap we got from Woot.com, so I will rectify that now. Heh. Crap. Rectify. Um, nevermind.

Anyway, we received the remainder of our shipment about a week ago. In it we found a camera bag, a battery-operated screwdriver with multiple attachments, a children's digital thermometer, and an action figure from some military video game whose name currently escapes me. All were new and still in their original packaging. Certainly the haul was worth more than the eight dollars. And the anticipation is so much fun.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Michelle Sagara

Outside my comfort zone, I picked up Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara. This is not the type of book I normally read. Though there is no genre on the spine, I would classify it as dark fantasy. But, it had a strong female protagonist, and it was recommended by one of my favorite authors, Tanya Huff, in a cover blurb, so I gave it a shot.

There were certainly things I enjoyed about it. The main character was intriguing. I could identify with her. And I enjoyed the main male character as well, though he does a "very bad thing" that is hard to get past. It's hard for the female character to get past it as well, so I guess that's the point - to have mixed feelings about him. There was lots of good action and intrigue.

And I will say that Sagara has created a rich world, full of interesting and unique species and cultures, all well described. She does everything right. It's just not my thing. I suppose I simply prefer a sparser style without so much world building. Now, granted, this is a weakness of mine. I could likely use more world building in my own writing. And, her rich world building is definitely a characteristic of the genre in which she writes. I'm not saying this is a flaw in any way. I'm saying I'm not really a fan of fantasy.

So, why am I reading fantasy if I don't much care for it? I like science fiction with strong female protagonists. Apparently, I have read all the books that meet those two requirements that have been released in the past six years or so. I walk up and down the aisles of bookstores, searching covers and reading backs of books, and I can't find anything that sparks my interest. And even when I know there is a book coming out that I want, I often can't find it in Barnes & Noble or Borders. Bookstores aren't ordering the books I want to buy.

Now, I understand that stores are cutting back on ordered inventory due to the economy. They don't want to have to return unsold books. But my question is, how can they sell books if they don't have books? And that lack of books drives me to order on the internet because there is no where else I can get what I want. And the internet drives the physical bookstores under. Sigh.

Of course, my husband would say I need to broaden what I read. And I have. I've read some science fiction/romance, some paranormal, some dark fantasy, some standard fantasy, some modern urban fantasy, and some superheroes. And I've found some things that I love in my wanderings. But, with only a few exceptions, they don't satisfy my reading thirst as well.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another Request for the Full Manuscript!

Got another request for the full manuscript today! Now I have multiple agents to bite my nails over. If I must have stress in my life, then this is where I want to have it, but, yes, it is stressful.

One full request feels like a fluke. More than one feels like I've actually got something good here.

This request comes from the same agent who wrote me the apology mentioned in an earlier post. She certainly got through my partial very quickly. She is actively looking for adult fiction rather than YA, and science fiction is apparently her first love, so I have great hope.

Monday, March 16, 2009

More Encouraging News

On the writing front, I heard back from an agent I queried seven months ago. Apparently, my query was dumped into some random folder on her computer. This happened to the follow-up I sent as well. She wrote a very sincere apology for the delay and asked for 60 pages, though she was certain I must have already found representation by now. Alas, no. Not with today's economy. But, she clearly liked the ten pages I sent her initially. Anyway, it's encouraging.

And, I got my critiques back from the Do It Write Literary Competition in which I won second place. These were a complete turnaround from the ones I received when I entered the Royal Palm Literary Awards Competition. Extremely enthusiastic and full of lovely praise. Of course, the novel has undergone significant revisions since then. I owe much to my mentor and all my critique partners.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Assassin's Nightmare is a Winner!

Assassin's Nightmare just took second place in the FWA Pasco County Do It Write Literary Competition! That means a trip to the top of the slush pile for an editor at Tor publishing! I get feedback from the editor and the potential for more. Can you tell I'm excited?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wacky Rejection Times Two

Well, here's a new one on my road to publication. I haven't seen this one before. About four months ago, I sent a partial at an agent's request. She liked my query and wanted to see the first three chapters. She kept it for three months. At the end of that time, I received a very nice rejection from her. She really liked it, read and re-read it, and had tried to find a place to work it into her agency's list, but could not, so she was rejecting it with regrets.

The unusual part? Last night, after another month had passed, I get another note from the same agent. She was, apparently, still attached to my partial. She said she had continued to review and re-review it. She called it "very strong work" and invited me to resubmit to her in six months if I had not found representation elsewhere, but currently the market would not allow her to take it on.

Sigh. How close can one come without smoking the proverbial cigar?

Book Review of the Day - Linnea Sinclair

Finished Hope's Folly today. Now I have two favorite Linnea Sinclair novels - Games of Command and Hope's Folly. It's hard to tell which one I prefer more. I like them both for different reasons. But, here's why I love Folly.

For one thing, it's nice to see a more mature male protagonist. Not that her other books feature immature characters, but Philip Guthrie is 45. Closer to my own age than many of her other heroes. He's knowledgeable, experienced, and fallible, which makes him completely desirable.

The main female character, Rya, is my kind of gal - an assassin with an insatiable affinity for weaponry. She's young, but wise beyond her years, aggressive, impetuous at times, and, did I mention she's an assassin? Gotta love her.

This book is full of great action, hidden enemies, and hot romance scenes. There is a perfect balance between the demands of both genres - science fiction and romance. I'm sure fans of either one will be pleased with the result.

Friday, March 6, 2009

We Love Woot

After the first item arrived, we checked the status of the rest of our shipment, only to be informed by the website that all our order had been delivered. Eeek.

Ok, I know a wine cellar refrigerator for $3.00 plus $5.00 shipping is an awesome deal, even if the unit is rather dented in the back. However, the description of the bag of crap is pretty specific. Three or more random items, and a bag of some sort. We got one item, no bag.

So, I emailed Woot. Not because I was trying to be greedy. And I told them how much I appreciated the wine cellar. I just wanted to make sure something hadn't gone astray, and I wanted to be able to stop rushing home every day to see if a package had arrived.

They emailed back to tell me that they apologized for the missing items, and the rest would arrive in a week or two. Cool! Likely it will really be crap, this time, but at least we get a few more weeks of fun anticipation, and a bag of some sort.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

first woot crap has arrived

The first of our three craps from the bags of crap has arrived. If I didn't already mention it in the post a few posts ago, the bag of crap comes in threes, so three random items, plus a bag of some sort, all for a total of $8.00 including shipping.

The first surprise came today. A wine cellar refrigerator! Ok, it's a little dented, but it apparently works fine. The dent is in the back. It holds 12 bottles of wine and keeps them chilled to the perfect chilled wine temperature.

Other two surprises are due by Friday!

Friday, February 27, 2009

author talk

Went to see Linnea Sinclair give a lecture on Wednesday night about an hour north of here. The hubby and I got together with her an hour beforehand for drinks and appetizers. Then we had to rush to get to the library where she was speaking. We made it, she accidentally went to the old library instead of the new one.

The librarians remembered us from a similar event last year, which was rather cool. We have progressed in this relationship from fans to friendly stalkers to mentorees. It was assumed that we were Linnea's entourage. We were in contact with her by phone, giving the event staffers an e.t.a. We handed out fliers. We encouraged people to buy her books and offered to help her set up and take down. We walked her in and walked her out. We carried messages between her and the staff and vice versa.

The lecture was fun, as her lectures always are. She is fantastic for a morale boost. She pointed out both me and the hubby, identifying us as her mentorees and stating for the audience that we would soon be New York house published. I hope this is so. I believe her exact words were, "Lisa is eight and a half months pregnant with a publishing contract. She's due to explode with it at any minute." Now, there was a visual I did not need.

During the talk, she said several things that hit close to home. She talked about the characters within authors' heads, all screaming to be let out, and the one we write about is the one screaming the loudest. So true. A few years back, I wrote an earlier story in the Agency Files series I'm working on. It centered around a different character from the current manuscript -- Assassin's Nightmare. And the entire time I was writing it, I kept telling the hubby that I wanted to write Vick's story. I needed to write it. She demanded to be written. And finally, I did. And I think Assassin's Nightmare is likely a better book for that reason.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing Linnea speak again in April. She always gives a wonderful performance.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Authors Visiting My School

I've been working for several weeks to put together a panel of authors to come and speak to my students about writing novels. Finally, it is confirmed. At the end of April, Linnea Sinclair, Stacey Klemstein, and Lucienne Diver (also a prestigious literary agent) will be coming to my school to answer all my students' questions. They are very excited, and the authors are being incredibly generous with their time and hotel money to do this for my students. I hope they will gain a lot from the experience, and I hope the authors will sell a lot of books. Stacey and Lucienne write young adult novels, and my students are avid readers. I expect both sides will profit from this.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Stacey Klemstein

I had a unique opportunity to read The Silver Spoon by Stacey Klemstein. I met author Stacey Klemstein through Linnea Sinclair. Stacey was kind enough to email me her first published novel to read at my leisure.

She had to email it to me because it was published through a small house and is very difficult to actually find in print. Despite having to read it on my computer screen (which I hate. I really like to hold a book in my hands.) I still enjoyed it very much.

At first, the main character seemed too realistically fragile for my taste. I like my female protagonists to be braver and stronger than life. Hers is a reluctant hero, complete with asthma inhaler. But she has an inner strength that is revealed through her actions and choices made in the face of one challenge after another.

There are some neat, original twists on the "alien invasion" plotline. I liked these, since "earth based" science fiction is also not my thing. And the male romantic interest is definitely an interesting deviation from the norm.

I am looking forward to reading the sequel.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Manuscript Sent

Spent all day Friday finishing up the last edits on Assassin's Nightmare. Finally, around 8:30 P.M. I sent it to the agent who had requested the full manuscript. And now I'm a nervous wreck. I believe I could have done a bit more with it, but then again, we always believe that. No work is ever perfect. I'm always finding little things to tweak or change. I wish my teaching life hadn't gone all to heck right before the manuscript was due. I would have had more time to touch things up. But I think it's good.

The problem is, in this economy, it has to be great. And it might be. I know I'm really close. The last rejection I received was from an agent who held onto my partial for six months. When she sent the rejection, she said she'd been sitting on it, trying to find a way to work it into her agency's list, but finally decided, in this economy, that it wasn't right for them. I'm getting very tired of the economy.

My first time attempting to get published, the rejections all read, "You're a very talented writer, but this is badly in need of editing." So, I learned how to edit. And I sought advice from published writers in that area. Now the rejections all talk about how they would love to take me on, but the economy is too poor to take a risk on a new writer. Well, I can't fix that. I am a new writer, and I'm going to continue to be one until someone takes a chance on me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Woot! and the Elusive Bag of Crap

One topic of interest for today. If you have never heard of Woot!, it's a website that features one product (usually electronics) per day at a really good price. My husband and I have been shopping there for years. We haven't bought much, but we got good deals on the items we did purchase. And every once in a while they hold a "woot-off" where they sell one item after another all day for about two days until each individual item is sold out. And somewhere in all those random items is a "bag of crap."

Yep, for three dollars, plus five dollars shipping, you can buy three random bags of crap. And it's the most difficult item to secure, because everyone watching the site wants crap. Why? Well, it's like a contest. You never know what is going to be in your bags of crap. Whatever it is, it's always worth the eight dollars. But it might be worth a lot more.

We've only won the bags of crap twice now, once about two years ago, and once two days ago. In the first bags, we received a t-shirt, a model car, and a very nice remote-controlled car, along with a nice backpack that one of my kids is using for school, now. Certainly worth more than eight dollars. But some people (random winners among the purchasers of the crap) receive televisions, computers -- it could be anything that the website sells.

So, now we wait for the delivery of our crap in great anticipation.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Car Shopping - Do It Angry

I discovered something about myself the other day. The best time for me to go shopping for a new car is when I'm angry at the universe. And given my past few days at work, (see last two entries) I've been very angry at the universe lately. Our car, a Pontiac Aztec, had about 110,000 miles on it and a lot of little things wrong with it, though it's been a very good car. It was Presidents' Day. Lots of sales, so we figured, let's go looking.

There were only two makes of car I was interested in. We needed to get a very specific price and payment for whichever we chose, and we were asking for an outrageously good deal, so we doubted highly that we would be buying anything anyway. And we could probably get another good year out of the Aztec if necessary.

The first kind of car I liked was a Toyota F. J. Cruiser. Blue. Ok, up front, you need to know that every car I've owned has been blue, with one exception - a Sebring convertible which was deep purple which is awfully close to blue. Well, there were no blue F. J. Cruisers to be had anywhere within a two-hour driving radius, apparently. We called and called. None.

Which moved us to our only other interest, the Pontiac Torrent, again in blue. I like Pontiacs. This will be our third. I've had virtually no problems with the Pontiacs I've owned and they last a long time. We first went to the dealer who sold us the Aztec. They had treated us well and fairly five years ago.

Their lot was empty. They had almost nothing to sell. And of course, in my current mood, the first words out of my mouth were, "How do you expect to sell me a car if you don't have any?" Of course the dealer scrambled to drag us inside so he could locate the closest Torrent for us. We wanted to leave and head on to the next dealership, but he took off so fast to "look up information" that we didn't have a chance to get away, and I wasn't riled up enough to just walk out yet. When he returned, he apologized for his lack of stock, said the closest Torrent in any color was thirty miles away, and he could have it in by the next day, in blue. We told him to bring one in if he wanted, but we were going to keep looking.

On to the next dealership. We called ahead first. It was nine miles away. They had Torrents, so the first guy lied (big surprise), and they said they had a blue one. But it was rush hour, so it took us a half hour to go those nine miles. And when we arrived, complete with arguing ten-year-olds in our back seat, the dealer cheerfully led us to a Torrent. A red Torrent.

Me: "That's not blue."
Him: "No ma'am, it's not. But we have a blue one around here somewhere. We're looking for it."
Me: "Did you lose it?"
Him: "Why don't you take a look at this one while I figure out what happened to the blue one? The computer says we have it, but I don't see it on the lot."
(Husband takes several steps away.)
Me: "Are you telling me you just brought us out here in rush hour traffic with two kids to see a car you can't find?"
Him: "Now, what I actually said, was I 'think' we have a blue one, ma'am."
Husband: "You said you HAD a blue one. If it's not blue, we're not interested."
Him: "Now hold on. We're still looking." He begins to open all the doors on the red one, including the trunk, so we can look inside.
I follow him around the red Torrent and shut the trunk.
Me: "Find me a blue one and I'll look at it. Otherwise, we're leaving."
Husband: "She wants a blue one."
Him: "You need to understand, ma'am, the computer says it's here. Just give me time to figure out what happened, and we can always get one in for you."
Me: "YOU need to understand, I don't want you to GET one. If you HAVE one, we can talk. Otherwise, we're leaving."
The dealer hurries off.
The dealer eventually comes back. He tells us his manager is looking into the problem and invites us inside to have a seat while this gets sorted out. I need to use the restroom. When I return, my husband and daughters are sitting in front of a tv, and the dealer is talking to them.
Dealer: "I've just explained to your husband what happened. The blue Torrent was sold this afternoon while I was at lunch, and they didn't update the computer."
Me to Husband: "Why are we still here?"
Dealer: "Look, you want to do business with us. We're one of the best dealerships in the county."
Me: "You lied to us and lost a car. That doesn't sound too good to me."
He was still arguing to our backs as we left.
Back in our old car, I started laughing hysterically. Given the week I'd had, that was a wonderful release of frustration. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.

On to dealership number three. Hubby calls ahead first. "Now, you have a blue Torrent, correct? I mean really? Are you absolutely sure?" He outlines what has already happened today for dealership number three. The dealer takes the phone and goes out into the lot and locates the blue Torrent and starts its engine to check the mileage and holds the phone up to the engine so my husband can hear it running. (Of course he could have done that to any car, but the gesture was nice.)

We arrive. They have a blue Torrent. It's a 2008 which makes it cheaper. It's a demo which makes it even cheaper. It's only got 3000 miles on it. It's on sale for Presidents' Day. It's exactly what we want. Now my husband takes over. After a couple of hours of negotiating and threatening to walk out the door twice, we get exactly the deal we ask for. My husband is a fantastic negotiator. I do blue. He does money.

We have a new car!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Request for Full Manuscript

Couldn't resist! Had to post! I had a request today for the full manuscript of Assassin's Nightmare from a very reputable New York agency. I won't give the name here, as I don't think that's considered good form, but . . . I'm excited! To get a request for a full, as a new, unpublished author, in this market, is very exciting! I've now got two weeks to finish my last edits and make it as good as it possibly can be, going on my mentor's previous advice. Eeek. Scary.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest

At my author mentor's suggestion, I am endeavoring to enter more contests. Today I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. I doubt I have a chance of winning. The previous winners have been predominantly mainstream or mystery/thriller. But it's free. And the winner gets a $25,000 publishing contract with Penguin Publishing. So I really had nothing to lose by entering except the time it took me to put my entry together. And that wasn't too bad since they wanted things I'd pretty much already put together for agent submissions and other contest entries. They needed a synopsis, a pitch, and an author bio. I had all those, and they were close to the right lengths, so they required very little editing.

As for Baen's Bar, I've only had one person give me feedback. She had a few nits to pick, but then she said I needed to reveal my character's purpose/mission earlier, otherwise, she can't relate to the character. I'm already revealing it within the first five pages. I try to establish the setting and the personality of the protagonist in the first four pages, so I'm not sure I can discuss the mission much earlier. I suppose I could briefly refer to it in her thoughts. I'm hoping other readers will comment, as this problem has never been mentioned by any of my other critters.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Baen's Bar Instead

To update, I did not end up going with Authonomy, since they handle every genre and are mostly based out of the U.K. Instead, I've posted chapter one over at Baen's Bar. So, if anyone actually reads this blog and has an interest, one can register at Baen's and check it out. It's in the Slush Pile category under Assassin's Nightmare chapter 1.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Couldn't Do It and Contest Entry

So much for starting something new. I tried. Really. I wrote a whole chapter of that science fiction/romance idea I had. And I got bored. Utterly, entirely bored. And I went back to writing Agency Files, Book 2, which is coming along nicely. Chapter one has been written and revised several times. I like it, though it still needs a bit more telling rather than showing in the opening fight scene. And I'm happy writing it.

Except for the frustration.

Because if I can't sell Book 1, what the hell am I going to do with Book 2? I'll spend another six months to a year writing the next book, and I can't even pitch it to anyone when I'm finished because it's a sequel. And then what? It's a trilogy, for crying out loud! So I'll write a third book that will take another year?

The hubby seems to believe that once I get this trilogy out of my system, I'll be able to write unrelated material. I tend to agree with him, but, two more years?! Sigh.

On the up side, if I do sell Book 1, I'll be well along with the other books in the series, if not finished with them. I'm told that's very attractive to agents and publishers.

On a different note, I entered Assassin's Nightmare in a new contest. The top three manuscripts, one in each of three genres including science fiction, will go to the head of the slush pile for three prominent editors at major publishing houses. Mine will go to an editor at Tor if I win. That would boost my writing spirits somewhat.

I'm also considering posting my work over at Authonomy, a site run by Harper Collins. It's kind of like American Idol for writers. Readers vote on books they like and give feedback. The most popular titles end up on the editors' desks over at Harper Collins. I doubt I would win, as I suspect it's more of a popularity contest than anything else, but I'm curious as to how the book would do and what feedback I would receive.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Talia Gryphon

Ok, with a name like Gryphon, the woman really has to write paranormal. Key to Conspiracy is the second novel in the Gillian Key series. And let me say up front that paranormal anything really isn't my favorite genre. That said, there are some things I really enjoy about this series.

I like the main character for the most part. She is generally tough, yet attractive, and the combination Marine/psychologist is an interesting mix. The fact that she's blonde gets on my nerves, but that's my personal bias. :) It's the main character that has kept me reading the series, despite this not being my "thing."

On the downside, for me, anyway, there are vampires, elves, and werewolves. I'm very tired of vampires, elves, and werewolves. Granted, the vampires are HOT and the description of their romantic tendencies is also HOT, so I'm letting that slide a bit. But I enjoy the ghosts and other less-common creatures in her series a lot more. I'd like to see more of those.

I'm also noticing in the second book, which I didn't notice in the first, a tendency to shift point of view at random, sometimes in the space of one page without any indication that the shift is coming. I can't get away with that in my writing. My mentor would eat me alive.

I guess what disturbs me most is the reason I'm reading it at all. And that is, there is nothing else on the bookstore shelves that I want to read. I've been to the store and scanned the woefully minimal science fiction section, and can't find any dominant female protagonist stories in that genre that I haven't read already. It's disheartening, to say the least. I'm now in the midst of the third book in this series. It's probably good for me to step outside my "comfort reading zone" but I'd like some sci-fi kick ass women, now, please.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Anniversary With Authors

For our anniversary, the hubby and I gave each other . . . a writing conference in Ft. Myers. Ok, we're total nerds. It wasn't exactly romantic, but it was cool since our author mentor was attending. She brought with her her previous mentoree who sold her first book at auction for a rather large sum. Now both of these published authors are reading our work, so I guess we know have two mentors. Which is totally awesome!

And our anniversary dinner was with these two wonderful individuals, talking about writing and a hundred other things. So, yeah, it wasn't wine and roses, but it was really cool!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Starting a New Novel

My New Year's Resolution was that on January first, if my current novel had not yet earned an agent (or more happily a sale), I would start my next novel.

I am pleased to say that I have done so. While this new undertaking begins with some sadness for the current lack of interest in the previous one, I do feel that I have learned so much in the writing process and in making connections with authors and agents, that the current project may be even better. I am almost finished with chapter 1 of a science fiction romance (yes, Linnea Sinclair and Ann Aguirre have seriously influenced me in that genre), and I'm liking what I produce which is not always true.

But it's a mixed blessing. On the one hand, a good book is a good book. It's got an original storyline, interesting characters (in my opinion), and it fits in a genre that seems to be selling if not well, then better than science fiction space opera which is what Assassin's Nightmare falls into. If I can sell it, it won't matter if it was my first, second, or hundredth novel. Oh, working title is "Real" Love, by the way. On the other hand, it's a stand alone. Assassin's Nightmare is the first of what was planned to be at least a three-book series, all of which I've outlined and plotted in some detail. I've even got some scenes written in rough draft form for the other two books in that series. I love Vick Corren, Assassin's Nightmare's main character. I'd planned to spend years on her development. An earlier novel in that series, Slipped Disc (co-authored with my friend, Jen Lindman), featuring a different character in the same universe, is already written. It never sold or gained an agent, but I always felt that if I could sell Assassin's Nightmare, I might go back to Slipped Disc.

Writing "Real" Love feels like I'm abandoning the Agency Files series. I know that's not true, that Assassin's Nightmare is still being reworked with Linnea Sinclair's wonderful assistance and will go back out for a second round of agent perusal in a few months. And I do believe that someday, the series will see publication. But it still feels strange to leave it for awhile.

And it's frustrating that our earlier works are likely the nearest and dearest to our hearts, but, of course, the later ones will be the best written because we learn something with every word we write.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Adam-Troy Castro

Just finished Emissaries From The Dead by Adam-Troy Castro (agented by Joshua Bilmes, though I didn't realize that until after I purchased it and read the acknowledgments). Though the main character is a strong female, that isn't why I enjoyed the book so much. And I did enjoy it. Main character Andrea Cort is unlikeable in the beginning of the novel and through much of the rest of it as well. I have a difficult time liking books in which I can't sympathize or empathize with the protagonist. But while character development was a major point of this novel, there were other elements that dominated more.

It was a murder mystery, a most satisfying one that kept me guessing right up to the last two chapters. I'm not really into mysteries, but I liked this.

It had complex aliens and an unusual setting both extremely well-defined and described. Again, aliens aren't usually my thing, but I liked this. It was so well done.

And by the end, the main character is redeemed. I liked her. I understood her. I look forward to future novels featuring her character.

So, any complaints? Yes, one. Typos. I do not believe I've ever read a novel with as many obvious typographical errors. I'm talking about every other page or so. It was unbelievable. It felt like a draft had mistakenly gone to final printing instead of the fully edited copy. If I were the author (or agent, or editor) I would be extremely upset that this went to print. And it makes me wonder, do authors, agents, and editors read the version of the novel that's actually on the shelves in bookstores, or does their interest fade after years of revisions, copy edits, galley proofs, etc.? Having read and re-read my own as yet unpublished novel, I can sympathize with not wanting to ever see it again. And so, I wonder if any of them even realize what a huge number of typos are present in the finished product.