Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Monday, December 19, 2011

ICARUS Release Today!

I'm excited to announce that today is the release day for ICARUS by J.S. Chancellor. To celebrate, the author and her publisher, Rhemelda, are hosting a "Twitterview" where anyone can hop into the action and ask questions. This event will rock the Twitter world for more than 10 hours as J. S. shares not only her love for this novel but also her passion for the writing craft. Anyone will be able to ask questions of J.S. Chancellor on Twitter using the hashtag #Icarus. Be sure to follow @Rhemalda and @Jschancellor on Twitter to be part of this awesome event.

About the Book:
ICARUS is a paranormal romance: a love triangle between vampires who need a substance called Icarus to process light. In this richly drawn world, Jessica Slate is kidnapped by vampires who claim that Trinity, her “bad boy” lover, is the Anti-Christ and they take away her source of Icarus. With the clock ticking, can she escape her kidnappers—or will she discover that she belongs with them and that they’re right about Trinity after all?

J.S. Chancellor is the popular author of the Guardians of Legend trilogy (Son of Ereubus, Blood of Adoria, and Eternal Requiem). ICARUS is the first book in The Kindred series. Matthew Robert Best called ICARUS, “… a refreshing take on an otherwise exhausted genre, leaving me more than a little pleasantly surprised …. Such a fun read, with much more substance than I’m accustomed to in paranormal fiction.”

About the Author:
J.S. Chancellor, whose personal motto is, “woe is the writer who mounts their merit on the masses,” started writing stories when she was still in grade school, and finished her first fantasy novella at the age of 14. She drafted chapter one of the Guardians of Legend trilogy when she was a freshman in high school, sitting on a stool in front of a piano bench, in her parents’ den. It wasn’t until she was 25 when a resident at the apartment complex where she worked lovingly made a casual remark about her procrastination that her passion for fantasy fiction took center stage. Since then she’s focused all of her efforts on writing, to include leaving her full time job in September 2009 and actively maintaining a blog dedicated to the art of crafting fiction. She currently resides in Georgia with her two beloved dogs.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Desperately Seeking Reading

Don't let the title of this post fool you. I read plenty, and not just the random stuff that I edit for work, but real fiction. This, of course, not only includes published books, but my own work (over and over and over and over and over and...) and the work of my critique partners. So, yeah, lots of fiction.

However, in terms of the non-work (i.e., non-editing and non-critiquing) reading, I have strayed from the YA genre as of late. I've been reading all kinds of books, but none of them seem to be the standard YA that I love and adore.

Not really sure what happened there. But, seriously, it's been a while. Welcome to my YA drought.

Okay, no, I know what happened. I was given books by several people that I either need to share with others who I will see over the holidays, or I've just had them on my shelf for so long that I'm starting to feel guilty that I haven't given them back. So, trying to clean off the shelves, so to speak. 

Anyway, so in my personal pining, I just wanted to share with you what I *want* to read, especially over the holidays or as soon as we get back from the holidays.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Nope, haven't read a one of 'em yet. I know. I must be the last vestige of lameness around. It'll happen. My nephew owns book one at the least (*ahem* bought it for him last Christmas *ahem*), and possibly more, so we'll see if I can speed my way through at least the first one.

UPDATE: I just discovered that the entire trilogy is available through the Kindle Lending Library for free. Granted, you can't "borrow" more than one book per month, but, heck, how awesome is that?!?

Fallen, Torment, and Passion by Lauren Kate. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a cover, but I can't tell you how much I want to read these books. Over the summer, I almost picked up the first one from the library, until I remembered the five book reviews I had promised out in the next several months, and couldn't justify it. Really, all I want is to curl up with them on my Kindle. Want to hear something ridiculous? My local library only has #2 in ebook format. I have no idea why.

Paranormalcy, Supernaturally, and Endlessly by Kiersten White. Yup, really want to read these, too. And, yes, I know that Endlessly isn't out yet. I don't care! You know, a few months ago I hosted a give-away, and ended up sending out a copy of Paranormalcy to one of the winners. Oh, that hurt, when I SOO want to read it, too. *sigh*

Okay, enough for my whining about what I want to read. Now I just need to do it. I really think that come the new year I'll be able to read more along these lines. Here's hoping, anyway. :)

What do you want to read right now? What are you reading? Is there anything you've been dying to read but haven't been able to get your hands on it?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jumping Off the Cliff

That's what my boss calls it, anyway.

The time has come, since I haven't made the announcement official yet in the blogosphere (though, if you're my friend on FB, this may not be news to you).

I'm pregnant, having a boy, due March 16th.

While I'm super excited (and not at all ready, so I'm glad I still have three months), I'm also trying to be practical. This involves wanting to finish reading work by my author friends before then, finish some heavy editing on my own work, and even possibly start querying before March. I think *fingers-crossed* if I can get my novel in good shape by March, querying can happen at, um, SOME point while the baby's super tiny. Then, if an agent actually picks me up, I'd be willing to bet it wouldn't be while the baby's still so little and I'm so exhausted that I can't open my computer.

Right? *whimper*

So in the next few months, I'll be slashing and burning a minimum of 5K (hopefully closer to 8K), critiquing, blogging, and fitting in as much as (if not more than) physically possible before I jump.

Any suggestions on how to juggle babies/small children and writing and jobs would be both helpful and gratefully accepted.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Temptations Involved in Self-Publishing

If you saw my semi-ranting book review on Tuesday, you may remember that the book in question was self-published.

Now, don't go jumping to conclusions. I've read plenty of self-published books in my time, and several of them are quite good. Sure, perhaps they shouldn't be judged the same way as one would evaluate a traditionally-published book (although some indeed can, e.g., Michelle Davidson Argyle's Cinders), but they tend to be good...

...if the author puts in the proper amount of time, energy, and possibly money.

I think there's a strong temptation these days to hop too quickly into the self-publishing route. I know I've thought about it, and I'm sure I'm not alone. There can be several factors involved in not having a book accepted by an agent or an editor that have nothing to do with the quality of the work: it's not the right time; the market's already flooded with similar stories; there's no market for similar stories; the agent/editor was in a bad mood that day; it got lost in the slush pile; etc. But, we all know that sometimes it IS the quality of the work that's the problem.

For many of us, we go back to the drawing board, edit, slash, burn, revise, repeat.

Some, though, may go the self-publishing route.

Again, I'm not saying this is a bad option. It's hard to get a break in this industry, we all know. But with self-publishing comes heavy responsibility to make sure that your book can attempt to stand among the more traditionally-published books.

Taking that book that never sold and publishing it as-is on CreateSpace is not the way to go. And just because you're best friend/spouse/neighbor/mother/sibling/cat think it's the best story ever written doesn't mean the general public—a.k.a. those people who don't know you from the annoying neighbor who doesn't clean up after his/her dog—will agree.

So, what needs to happen in the route of self-publishing? Here are my top three recommendations.

First, good critique partners. I suggest people you don't know in the real world, i.e., people who won't be afraid to tell you the truth. All of my critique partners, I've met online through blogging, and with most of them I don't even discuss my personal life. It's all about the words. Keep the relationship professional and potentially brutal. It's the best way to get honest opinions. They should spot technical and factual errors, comment on awkward phrasing, and tell you when the pace slows, when they're bored, or when you've strayed too much from your original story. Take those opinions and edit, slash, burn, revise, repeat.

Second, after you've ripped and shredded—which you might think you did before querying, but, hell, do it again! what could it hurt—hire a professional editor. You may think you know grammar, but this professional, if properly doing his/her job, will make you question how you managed to pass elementary English. This editor should have strong opinions on the Oxford comma (either pro or con, doesn't matter, as long as it's a strong opinion—and here's mine) and a sharp eye. S/he should not only cover your manuscript in so much red ink that it makes your HS English teacher blush, but this person should also once again be reading for factual and technical errors in the content. An editor that only edits for commas and typos isn't worth the money, unless you specify (and, dear God, why would you?) that that's all you want. A good professional editor is worth his/her weight in gold nuggets, so be prepared to shell out accordingly. In the end, it's worth it.

Finally, don't let your 12 year old design your cover. You may firmly believe in his/her talent, as do your spouse and the 7th grade art teacher, but, again, the rest of the world is full of brutal cynics like me who will take one look at the cover and decide never to read the book. Paying for a professional artist who has experience in cover design is worth the money. Don't think you can cut costs on this just because your brother's best friend's ex-girlfriend's roommate had a minor in art in college ten years ago. Just pay the cost.

Do you have any experiences in self-publishing? What do you think of the self-publishing option these days? Have you ever considered it? Would you?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Murder Most Trivial

A few months ago, I won this on Goodreads. I don't normally read mysteries, but this one touted itself as a YA mystery. With fond memories of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I though, why not? Upgrade the mystery (I'm pretty sure Nancy never investigated serial murderers), and it should be a pretty good read, right? Ideally...

The Blurb (from Goodreads): Murder, is that your final answer? High school senior Jason Greevey seems to think so. When winning contestants from a local restaurant's trivia contest begin turning up dead, runner-up Jason worries that he will be the next weakest link!

Now, I'm not one to look down on self-published novels. In fact, I've read my fair share (by Michelle Davidson Argyle, Allen Russell, Carol Riggs, among others). They generally have to be judged within their own category, and not in comparison with books edited by agents and publishers who rip books to pieces (for the betterment of the book, of course) for a living.

And, yes, I checked. This book was published by DPL Books in VA. I found their blog, and their listing on a self-publishing consortium. Honestly, I didn't even find a company website. Beyond those, it was mostly links for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I find this odd.

But I digress...

Unfortunately for L. K. Ellwood, all those other self-pub'ed books left this one in the dust. Overwrought with typos and factual errors, this book floundered on its way to finding the end-game--which I had difficulty believing. I found myself skimming way too often as I had to read random bits of backstory about minor characters who hardly play a role (e.g., I don't need to know that Mrs. Rice somehow managed to run all of the volunteer committees at church while raising 5 kids when she only appears in a phone call and the final scene of the book). What this story needed was a good editor, and I don't necessarily mean from the publishing house. The author needed a solid, tooth-and-nails critique partner or set of critique partners who weren't afraid to rip the story apart. It's really too bad that this author didn't have have one (or several) to point out that, for example, a morning newspaper goes to press well after the 11pm news, or that a person who has designated herself as an organ donor would not have anything taken from her if she died from an allergic reaction to drugs administered in the hospital.These are only a couple of several examples of factual errors, not to mention the list of typos and awkward turns of phrase that appeared on almost every page.

Oh, and did I mention the constant head-jumping? At one point, the POV changed so frequently between father and son that I no longer knew who the "he" was. Even mid paragraph the shift in POV would occur. Extremely disconcerting.

The bottom line: Don't bother unless you're sending a heavy list of edits to the author. And since the pub date is from 2002, I doubt she wants to see any.

By the way, I'm not only planning on complaining. Stop back on Saturday for some of my thoughts on the temptations involved in self-publishing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back from the Brink

Oh, boy, folks, have I had a crazy few weeks. Grab a cuppa coffee/tea/wine/beverage of your choice and let me tell you all about it.

So I needed a mini break of blogging because I hadn't quite figured out how to manage my writing, my "new" job, family, life, and blogging all at the same time. I think I've figured it out now, so we're gonna try a trial of me blogging on Tuesdays and Saturdays for a while, and see how it works. Please bear with me as I reintegrate myself into the blogosphere.

This is your brain on editing.
Any questions?
Then there was the writing. In late October not only was I trying to manage some pretty intense revision on my novel (currently listed on my WIPs page as FIGHTING FATE, though I plan to change the title to IN FLAMES). I wanted to get a full round of revision finished before NaNoWriMo started, while also juggling my NaNo prep. That took a LOT out of me, and I edited until my brains turned into liquid goo. Seriously. It was messy.

My own personal NaNo shield
On November first, having finished that round of editing, I was happy to accept my NaNo fate. I greeted it with a warm, strong handshake. And on the fateful afternoon of November 1st, I had an extra meeting with my boss, wherein he asked me to work overtime in preparation for our display at an upcoming conference (I work for a small, specialty academic publisher). And in my inner ear, I heard my NaNo plans go *squish*. My boss and I negotiated trading the days in early November for days around Thanksgiving, so not all was lost, but it put some stress on my NaNo plans nonetheless.

As of November 12th, one-third of the way through the month, I had only written about 14K over the course of 4 authentic writing days. Ouch.

On the morning on November 13th, as I'm leaving my house to pick up a friend, I grab my phone to let her know I'm coming, and see that I have a missed text message from my boss--who, I might add, never sends me text messages. It said, more or less, that he was in the hospital, post-surgery after having had a heart attack. Everything okay. Call to talk about conference prep. SERIOUSLY. My boss is in the intensive care unit on a Sunday morning and wants to talk about conference prep. Now, granted, the conference started on the 17th. My boss isn't really all that Type-A, but we did still have a lot of work to do, and that essentially took the editorial side of our house from 3 to 2 employees doing the bulk of the work (we have a few work-study students, but regular employees, we are three). So now add more overtime work to my schedule over the next three days, making the first day of the conference (Nov 17th) day 5 for writing. Not a good sign.

See how the Jell-O powder gets all goopy with a little water?
Not to mention that on the 17th and the 18th I was about as worthless a writer as an uncooked box of Jell-O, from working 10hour days three days in a row, and the emotional turmoil of talking to my boss on the phone while he was doped on morphine and falling asleep. Yup, powdery Jell-O.

Somehow, though, I managed to pull a few days writing between 5-6K. Don't ask me how. Perhaps some superhuman feats of strength that even kryptonite couldn't squelch. Who knows? But I have to attribute at least a little of my success to Hart Johnson and her stupendous idea for hour-long sprint-writing sessions. I think those were ultimately my saving grace. Coordinated over Facebook, I would periodically join Hart, among others, on these sprints, and both the time and the community support helped a ton.

And, imagine, through all of that, I actually won!

Granted, according to my word verification, I only have 50,002 words, but I don't care! I'm 2 words over what they need (although, according to my Scrivener file, I have 50,019), and that's what matters.

Anyway, now it's December. A little over two weeks until the holiday break comes, which will entail lots of time with family, friends, and fruitcake. I'm already celebrating by eating too many sweets and listening to Christmas music while I cook and bake. And, dangit all, I am MAKING these cookies if it kills me. I just have to find some sweet rice flour first...

Be seeing you around the blogosphere!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: String Bridge

If you don't know Jessica Bell from her blog, I suggest you check it out, or at least read my interview with her from a couple of weeks ago. She's a great person, a talented musician, and a fabulous writer. So when I got a notice saying I could sign up for her blog tour and get an ARC of her new book, String Bridge, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Blurb (from Goodreads): Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits.

Melody's struggle follows a difficult trajectory, one that the reader struggles through with her. At almost every step, I found myself feeling the same emotions felt by Melody, wanting her to do the things she wanted to do--even when they weren't the best choices for herself or her family. I identified with Melody throughout the entire novel, fighting and crying and yelling when she did.

I love the way that Bell develops her characters. Each of them felt like a real person that could have stepped out of my own life and settled into print. I especially loved the way Melody's daughter, Tessa, came to life, as I think it's sometimes difficult to capture the wonder and excitement of children. In this case, I never once doubted the authenticity of the little girl's voice.

Another aspect of the book that I loved was reading Melody's songs. It's wonderful that Bell is such a talented artist, in that she both writes beautiful prose and beautiful music. A soundtrack to the book is also available (from iTunes, Amazon.com, Amazon UK).

String Bridge is a wonderful, heart-wrenching read. Anyone who enjoys a strong, character-driven novel should not hesitate to pick this up.

Bottom line: Read this book!

Also available from Barnes and Noble.

Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

From September 2012 Jessica will be hosting the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus.
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