Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Review Time - Richelle Mead and Gini Koch

It's been awhile since I did a book review post, maybe because it's been awhile since something really knocked my socks off. But I've read a couple of books in the past few weeks that I enjoyed from beginning to end. That's not easy to find for me. Often, it takes me awhile to get into something, but STORM BORN by Richelle Mead, and ALIEN TANGO by Gini Koch had me from their opening lines.

STORM BORN was a book purchased out of desperation for something to read. None of my fave authors had anything new out, and the cover attracted me, so I gave it a chance. I'm not usually into fantasy, but I loved this. Modern day meets faerie realm. Great, strong female main character, two intriguing male leads. Snappy dialogue. Steamy romance. (Not for the middle school set, and I know some of you reading this are in middle school, so, no, not for you). This book gave me a whole new perspective on foxes, though I already thought they were cute. And if you adults out there read it, you'll understand what I'm talking about.

ALIEN TANGO is a sequel to TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN, and again, not for middle school readers. I'll confess, I almost didn't read TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN because it sounded too tongue-in-cheek for me, but I'm very glad I did. And ALIEN TANGO might be even better. Gini Koch is the master of snarky dialogue, and her heroine is as kick-butt as they come. Jeff Martini, our hero, is utterly desirable. The action is non-stop, and the plot twists and suspense-builders are cleverly woven throughout. I haven't finished this one yet, but I'm halfway through and need to stop writing this post so I can go and read more.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Back in the Query Saddle

I am, once more, unagented. Well, mostly.

FinePrint will continue to represent ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE for the duration of its submission process to editors. However, my new agent there just didn't have the same love for my writing that Colleen Lindsay had. I can't really blame her. She doesn't handle science fiction, and she didn't select me for herself. Therefore, we've decided to part ways.

And so, I find myself back at square one. Frustrating, but not insurmountable. Depressing, but not as horribly so as I thought it would be.

I am extremely grateful that I have two new finished manuscripts ready to query. I am glad I didn't sit back and wait to see what ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE would do before going ahead and writing more books. Now, I'm ready to hit the query trail again.

Hopefully it won't be long before I find an agent who loves my work and will show the same enthusiasm Colleen did.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dragon*Con--The Experience

I've returned from Dragon*Con, courtesy of PYR Books, and I have to say, it was a memorable experience.

It began with an uneventful plane ride, thank goodness. I hate to fly, and leave nail marks in my poor husband's arm with every bounce of turbulence. He's wonderful about it, though, and endures the torture without complaint.

Upon our arrival in Atlanta, we took the Marta train downtown. Very efficient transportation system they have there. Round trip, twenty minutes each way, cost the two of us nine dollars combined.

We checked into the Westin, where my con badge was awaiting me at the front desk, and went to our gorgeous room on the 34th floor, overlooking the city. It is important to note that I had my badge, and my husband did not. His was at will-call at the Hilton, several blocks away.

We strolled to the Hilton, pleasant enough despite the heat, and came upon the will-call line which wrapped around the building. This was the only major failing of the convention. Dragon*Con has no idea how to manage crowds. Imagine thousands of people, many of whom wore heavy costumes, standing in ninety degrees for two and a half hours to get their admission badges! Their excuse for not mailing the badges was fear of counterfeiting. I'm sorry. They ticked off a huge number of people, many of whom vowed not to return in future years. If you wanted to simply buy a ticket, you could walk right to the front, but if you'd given them your money beforehand, you were at their mercy. I could go in the air conditioning, since I had a badge, and I ended up doing water runs for strangers in line about to pass out from the heat.

After that, though, everything went well. We missed a couple of panels we'd hoped to attend, but managed to make it to the PYR presentation panel. There I met editor Lou Anders and the authors with whom I would be dining later that evening. At the opening of the panel, Lou explained the contest I'd won, and then presented me to the crowd, so I got to stand and do my little princess wave. Very cool. The hardest thing about the panel was wishing I could be on the authors' side of the table. Well, hopefully someday.

From there, we proceeded to dinner at Sear, a fabulous steakhouse in the Marriott. I sat between my husband and author Mike Resnick. Also present were Lou Anders, publicity expert extraordinaire Jill Maxick, authors Sam Sykes, James Enge, Jon Sprunk, and Mike Resnick's wife and James's daughter.

Though I was a bit nervous at first, once the conversation got started, it never stopped. Lou and Jill were wonderful about making us feel welcome. I'd read books by three of the authors present, so I could ask questions. And it turned out, I'd read two books by Mike Resnick's daughter, so we had that to discuss as well. The food was excellent. I had filet mignon, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes. By the time we left, we were delightfully full.

The rest of the con is a blur of panels and insane crowds. I got to hear readings by Laura Anne Gilman and Mary Robinette Kowal. I also got to meet several editors looking at my manuscript, so those were nice connections to make. At the PYR booth, I ran across Ari Marmell, an agent cousin, and had him sign my copy of his book. I also snagged (thanks to Jill) an ARC of Clay and Susan Griffith's upcoming novel THE GREYFRIAR (which I've since finished. Fantastic thrill ride of a read).

Evenings were spent wandering between the Hyatt and the Marriott lobbies, admiring the variety of costumes and styles. Imagine a two-sectioned space station in a far off galaxy connected by a transparent tube. Then picture every possible species of alien life promenading through those sections. That was nightlife at Dragon*Con. I did experience a few pangs of regret that I hadn't brought costume wear of my own, but as an aspiring author, I needed to maintain a more professional appearance.

Leaving was painful as well. It meant a return to reality. Not that I mind my reality, but escapism is my writing stock and trade, and the longer I can live within that world, the better. Well, there's always next year . . .

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Agent Changes

If you are an unagented writer who reads this blog, here is a bit of advice. Given a choice between two equally great agents, one in a large agency, and one in a smaller one, I recommend you go with the larger agency. (And may you all have such decisions to make!) Or at the very least, be sure to ask about the agency's policy if your agent leaves.

I'm represented by FinePrint Literary Management. My agent there was the wonderful Colleen Lindsay, but my contract is with FinePrint. Colleen is moving on to a great new job elsewhere. And because of my contract and FinePrint's client policies, I'm not finding myself agentless. Instead, Colleen worked hard for each and every one of her clients to find other agents within FinePrint that would be good fits for our work.

My new agent is Stephany Evans, President of FinePrint. We met briefly at the Backspace conference last year, and I found her to be most friendly and professional. She's been in the business for twenty years, and is a member of AAR (Association of Authors Representatives), so I think I'm in great hands. I'm told she has a particular fondness for strong female protagonists. Sounds like a good match for what I write. I'm looking forward to working with her, and I am pleased with the way in which FinePrint is handling what could have been a very scary situation for writers. The thought of returning to the query process makes me a little ill. No, I take that back. It makes me very ill. I don't want to do that again, and I'm glad I don't have to.

So, I wish Colleen all the best and am eager to start working with Stephany Evans. My manuscript is out on submission right now. It's too soon, but I still jump when the phone rings. Time to go focus on something else--like my new manuscript.

Gate Crashing RWA Nationals

First off, if any RWA officials read the title, no, I did not actually crash any pay-to-enter functions at Nationals. However, I did get to meet up with many of my authorly and agenty friends while they were in town for this auspicious gathering, and by the end, I wished I had attended. The price tag was just a bit too high for my summer teacher income which is $0.

I got to have drinks with my agent sibling, Allison Pang. Allison is the fab author of the upcoming release, BRUSH OF DARKNESS. We have the same agent. That makes us agent siblings. (actually, this has changed, but I'll explain that in a later post). We'd never met in person, but we'd chatted online about concerns of the newly agented, and commiserated when we made newbie errors.

Getting to have drinks with her was a treat. The publishing industry, from the author perspective, is amazingly faceless. So much is done by email. Many authors go through their careers having never met their agents or editors in person. Honestly, I think this is a mistake the industry makes. People who work so closely together on such personal material as a novel, should meet face-to-face on occasion. I make a point of gathering with industry professionals as often as possible. And I'm proud to say I've met both my first agent and my new one(discussed later). But I digress.

Allison was lovely, as pleasant to chat with in person as online. And she introduced me to some of the other writers we both know through Twitter as well.

Then, on a different night, my husband and I arranged a little gathering at Jellyrolls, the dueling piano nightclub at Disney's Boardwalk hotel. We had dinner first with the wonderful author, Ann Aguirre, whom we've known for years. We tried a new Greek restaurant whose name I can't spell. The food was delicious. Then we headed to the club where we met up with literary agent and author Lucienne Diver and a number of friends from my writers group. Those still in the query process need to know that Lucienne is one of the most down-to-earth agents (and all around nice people) you ever want to meet. If you ever get nervous pitching her or speaking to her, picture her dancing to the "Unicorn Song" at Jellyrolls. That will loosen you right up.

My RWA Nationals experience ended with a high tea party Lucienne threw at the Grand Floridian. I was thrilled to be invited, but a bit nervous. If you've ever seen me, I'm not exactly the tea type, and when I spotted all the various devices/equipment required to simply drink a cup of tea, I panicked a little. The china cups were beautiful, but so delicate I was sure I'd break one, and my husband found himself in a gathering of eleven women wearing feather boas and tiaras. (Nope, no pictures of me were taken in said boas and tiaras).

It all went really well, though, and we both had a great time. I found a vanilla tea that was delicious. The waitress poured it for me, so I didn't have to worry about the odd equipment, and the wonderful romance author seated next to me confessed this was only the third cup of tea she'd drunk in her lifetime. And here I was thinking that romance authors must have high tea all the time.

I'll say it again. Romance writers and those who work with them are some of the warmest, friendliest people I've encountered in the publishing industry. They exclude no one and reach out a helping hand to new writers. The hubby and I had wonderful conversation with the authors at our tea table, and also two acquisitions editors from Tor publishing. It was a most pleasant afternoon.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I'm Going to Dragon Con, For Free!

Many writers swear that contest wins do nothing to help them fight their way down the road to publication. I beg to differ. I do believe they need to be the RIGHT contests, but contest wins can do a lot for an aspiring author.

I've won four contests in the last two years, all of which helped in one way or another by gaining me exposure to other writers, placing my work in front of editors at major publishers, or sending me to awesome conferences. This latest win (see link above) is sending me to Dragon Con!

The essay I submitted followed a chain of major events throughout my life, each of which was touched in some way by fantasy or science fiction. It amazes me, even now, how much influence these genres have had over the paths I've chosen, and I'm certain they will continue to do so as I seek publication of my own work and an opportunity to touch the lives of others.

So, I'm off to Atlanta, Georgia, in September to Dragon Con. I'm the guest of honor at a banquet being thrown by PYR publishing. I think I need to go clothes shopping!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Novel Detachment

Colleen made the announcement on Twitter that she was:

Going out with a fun adult SF thriller this week! Kick-a** female assassin protagonist. 100% poly-unvampired! #youknowyouwanttoreadthis

And that's me!

It's unreal. It's like reading about some other writer's work. The road has been so long, I'm a little detached. I'm excited. I know it's me, but this little voice keeps whispering, "Getting published is a dream, a fantasy. Like becoming a rock star. It doesn't happen to normal people."

Then I remind myself, I'm not normal. Hee.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Awesome Author Day (Round 2) and More Cool Stuff

Like last year, I invited several authors to come talk at my school. This year in particular, since I teach creative writing, the idea seemed fitting.

The magnificent agent/author Lucienne Diver took me up on my invitation. She's the author of VAMPED, a YA humorous vampire novel, and REVAMPED due to release on Sept. 1st of this year. She spent the entire day with my classes, talking about writing, her books, and being a literary agent. Though I've known Lucienne for years, even I picked up a few new choice bits of information. She's a wonderful speaker. The students were enthralled, and the glow-in-the-dark fangs she gave out didn't hurt their attention spans, either. In addition, many of my students had purchased the book ahead of time, and still more bought copies from her, and she signed and personalized them all.

Then, by sheer good fortune, it turned out that one of my other favorite authors, Laura Anne Gilman, was meeting up with Lucienne after her visit, right outside my school! My husband rushed home to pick up the novels I had by Ms. Gilman, and when she arrived, she was kind enough to autograph all of them for me. It was a thrill to meet her. She lives up north, so it was a rare opportunity, but she was in Florida attending the Nebula awards for which she's been nominated this year.

In other news, I'm finished with the revisions on ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE requested by my fantastic agent, Colleen Lindsay, and I truly believe it is a much better book thanks to her insights. This is a good thing, because I must admit, I've developed a real love/hate relationship with that novel. I know that once it sells there will be more revisions to complete, but for now, I'm quite happy to not look at it for awhile. ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE goes out on submission next month. I can't even begin to convey how excited that makes me. One step closer to my dream of publication.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Gathering of Cool Stuff!

So, as many of my followers have noticed, I haven't blogged in a long time. Actually, I haven't blogged since my dog, the best dog in the world, mind you, died. I had thought that when I could bear to write about it, I would dedicate a post to Fraemie's phenomenal life. I am still not at that point, but it will be soon.

Instead, I wanted to discuss some of the cool things happening in my life and the lives of those around me.

First off, the writing. I continue to work on revisions with my wonderful agent, Colleen Lindsay. I have found her to be most insightful and have agreed wholeheartedly with almost every suggestion she has made. ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE will be a much better book with her input.

I also finished my newest manuscript for VICIOUS CIRCLE. It is unrelated to ASSASSIN'S NIGHTMARE, a bit lighter in tone, though it still features an assassin as the protagonist. I would categorize it as space opera/romance with a touch of fantasy. I'm very proud of it, but still nervous sending it off to Colleen. I guess that's normal, but I really hope she enjoys it.

The hubby has also had some recent writing success. He won first place in the YA Fantasy category of the Do It Write literary competition. This is a contest I won last year in the sci-fi category. The Harper Collins editor who ranked him first had some very nice things to say about his manuscript for VANISHING ACT, and he is starting the query process himself, now. In addition, a good friend of mine, Alina Blanco, won in the sci-fi category this year. It's nice to know all the winners!

And speaking of winning, Joe (hubby) entered a contest on author S.L. (Lynn) Viehl's blog. He won an amazing prize--a galley copy of the as-of-yet-unreleased novel in her STAR DOC series, and an extremely rare copy of the short story on which the series was based. In fact, there are only two copies of the short story in existence. The author has one, and we have one. How cool is that?! The actual book doesn't get released until August, but I get to read it now. I've read all the other books in the series and am a huge fan. I'll be diving into that this weekend. And no, I won't tell how it ends. You all will have to get your copies in August.

So, that's the latest news around here. Sorry it's been so long. Fraemie has been gone two and a half months. I still miss her terribly, though a new puppy in the house has helped ease that loss somewhat. It's hard to lose a friend of 16 years.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review of the Day - Alan DeNiro

I'm not a YA person. I've said it before, and will likely say it again. However, I read Alan DeNiro's YA novel TOTAL OBLIVION MORE OR LESS. I read it because we are agent siblings, and I was curious to see more of my agent's taste beyond my own work.

For those who don't know what agent siblings are, those are writers represented by the same agent. (Agent cousins are writers represented by different agents within the same agency.) Yep, I'm learning the lingo, though I'm not sure if we just made this stuff up at the last conference we attended, or if these terms are common terminology.

Anyway, I was very impressed with DeNiro's talent. His novel is surreal. That's the best term I can use to describe it. It's completely original. I've never read anything like it. Time warps, plagues, talking dogs, and snarky teens contribute to the plot in varying amounts. You can NEVER predict where it's going, and yet he manages to tie it all up nicely in the end.

I can definitely see its appeal to teens. Many of my students would love it, though I think it is a bit mature for their age. They should wait a couple of years.

I see no resemblance between his writing and mine, which tells me that my agent has wide and varied taste.

I'm looking forward to reading more of her clients' work.