Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Theme Songs

I find music a required part of my writing experience. It gets me in the mood, drowns out the surrounding world, and sometimes really carries me places, bringing along with it significant chunks of my story. I usually start out with my iPod on shuffle, letting it randomly select the songs I hear. Then, as my novel starts to develop and my characters start to grow, I gravitate towards certain songs, or artists, or genres. After a few days, I find my groove and I make a play list for my WIP.

Music has always set moods for me--angry, sad, whatever--just as it does for everybody. But with writing, it's different. It doesn't so much set a mood for me as open up corridors in my mind. I peak into its darkness and pull out--sometimes amazing--concepts and other times, completely ridiculous ideas.

As crazy as it sounds, for The Setting Sun, I abused the heck out of George Winston's Forest album and AFI's December Underground album (The latter seems a little more appropriate for the book). To this day, if I hear Love Like Winter or Tamarack Pines, Owen and Kate pop in my head, and I begin to miss them and want to read their story again.

For White City, it was mostly Ludovico Einaudi. It's not that the music or song itself fits the theme of the book, per se; it's more like it fits the character at the time, what their going through or some thread of a theme being carried through the story.

I have this one character for The Broken. His name is Tiberius. And he's a bad ass. So, he needed a song that reflected that. And I found it. It's Filter's Hey Man Nice Shot. It's an AWESOME song, and every time I hear it, I see a guy in jeans and a leather jacket, walking slow mow down a street, with explosions and fire erupting behind him. Kind of cliche, I know, but it fits so perfectly. I nod my head and give a quiet, evil chuckle. Can't wait to write about him.

But regardless, without music, I don't think I'd be able to write like I do. It's as important as breathing. Or eating. Or Coffee.

So what music are you listening to right now with what you're working on?


Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

Technically, it's been spring for a month or so now, but it's only recently shown up in my neck of the woods. We've been having plunges in temperatures and even snow in the higher elevations.

It wasn't until last week, when I stepped outside at 6 am to take Sass out that it truly dawned on me that warmer weather IS coming. Overnight the trees had bloomed and the hybernating grass shot up. The sun is venturing out for longer periods and the birds have begun to sing.

My peonies plant has shot up out of nowhere and my cats are no longer clammering to be let inside out of the cold. I brought out the cushions for my patio furniture and Hubby and I even cleaned out the garage, cars AND did yard work.

Yup, spring has sprung and summer is just around the bend. I think tomorrow will be a great opportunity for my first outside-morning-cup-o-joe and enjoy the new season. Join me.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Trailer

I made my first book trailer today for The Setting Sun!!!! SOOO excited about it! Enjoy it. And yes, that is Cout Rugen from The Princess Bride. :)


Reading Challenge

It's that time again. Thanks to, book #79 has been selected, Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris.

But that did not make me instead, I've opted for Cassandra Clare's new book, City of Fallen Angels. :) Now, I am happy.

Sorry, Charlaine, but I've been waiting over a year for book 4 to come out. Grab a copy and read it with me!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Freebee Friday!!!

Thought I'd share with you some video clips of me and my dance team performing. The first is a piece for St. Pat's day 2010 at the Capitol Building. The dance was originally choreographed for when we performed with the amazing music group, Leahy. (Music by Leahy - B Minor)

The second is a dance we did is a standard one we do called the Slip Reel. This particular performance was danced at a Highlands Games. (Music from Lord of the Dance)

Enjoy and happy Friday!!


ARC Alert!

Got a new one in the mail! It comes out Tuesday (4/26/11) so, not really confident I'll get it read by then...

The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick DeWitt


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just Read...

Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen

BEST book ever. Read my review here.



Beware the robots! Theyr're a pourin' like rain!

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
Release date: June 7, 2011
Movie release: 2013


Water for Elephants Sara Gruen

by Sara Gruen
Adult Fiction
Spoiler: None
Rating: R
Coffee Beans: 5/5 (I am able to look past the "downside" I mention below to see the story as a whole, and it is breathtaking)

I’m happy to report, that next to The Gargoyle, I’ve just finished my favorite book of all time. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This book--from beginning to end--was amazing. The setting was perfect, the opening perfect, and the ending wonderful and memorable, and absolutely…you guessed it…perfect.

Alright! Enough with my gooey perfect-ness. Time to review! Seriously.

I remember buying this book at B&N when it first came out, back in 2006. I picked it up, glanced at the back and said, “Hmm. Looks interesting.” It sat on my bookshelf for four years, untouched and forgotten, becoming one of my many “I’ll read you next” books. It wasn’t until I saw a preview for the upcoming movie (April 22, 2011) that I remembered I owned the book. I was talking with a co-worker about the movie and told her I had the book if she wanted to read it. She did, and in a few days finished it, telling me it was amazing. I decided to read it to be prepared for the upcoming movie.

And I’m so glad I did. There are some books, that when you finish them, you sit back and relish the experience you just had. The story of someone’s life that you’ve just lived. And that’s what Water for Elephants was. The life of Jacob Jankowski. Not a work of fiction conjured up by Gruen. Water for Elephants was a living, breathing creature—well written and well told.

Set in depression-era America, the book opens with Young Jacob studying for his final exams at Cornell University to become a veterinarian, like his father. He’s ready to write his final when devastating news is delivered that his parents had been killed in a car accident, his father had been taking payment for veterinary services in beans and rice, his parents had taken out a mortgage on their house to pay for Jacob’s college, and the bank now owned the house and the vet practice.

Jacob is homeless with nothing to lose. So he hops a train to see where it takes him, only to find out it’s a circus act on the move. His story is told in first person present tense from Young Jacob’s POV, but there are chapters that we jump to the present-time, 91 (or is it 93?) –year-old Old Jacob.

I found myself wishing the entire book was written in just the circus timeframe and not with the flash forwards, but having completed the book, I see that in order to get the complete story and really obtain that “Wow” factor, Gruen had to tell us the story through Old Jacob’s eyes and failing mind.

I didn’t find myself as bothered by the present-tense story telling as much as I did when I was reading Hunger Games--this was much more natural and very smooth. The only thing I would call a “downside” to this book, were all the (what I deem) inappropriate sex and sex-type scenes. I guess I can see why Gruen put them in there (to show us how innocent and naive Jacob was), but I think she already established that in the very beginning when Jacob talked about a girl he liked at Cornell. Anyway, there were 3 or so of those scenes that probably could’ve been ommitted and the book still would've been a-ma-zing.

That was the only “downside” to the story, but I’m not much into reading scenes like that to begin with. It may be a selling point to you. There were a lot of scenes in the book that I’ll be interested to see how they handle in the movie (abuse of the animals, etc).Overall, it was a superb book. I’m planning on seeing the movie soon and I’ll let you all know how it compares to the book. I hope they don’t let me down.

I won’t tell you much more, because I don’t want to ruin it for you, you really need to consume and absorb this book for yourself. But I will tell you this much: Jacob is taken on as the circus’ vet where he makes friends and enemies, falls in love, and finally becomes a man--in more ways than one.

Oh! I should probably tell you this funny story before I go: I was in Costco the other day looking for a book. I was considering Jane Eyre, but was unsure because it was unabridged and I’m not that adventurous when it comes to that.

An older woman (50’s or 60’s) told me it was an amazing book and I should get it. Feeling I should return the favor, I told her she should pick up Water for Elephants (the cover was the movie poster with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson), that it was really good. I left her to consider it and went to the other side of the book table to browse.

Next thing I know, there’s another older woman standing with the first lady at Water for Elephants. I hear her say, “Yes, they’ve made it into a movie and it has that young man who plays in that vampire movie.” I glance up with a smirk, just in time to see the first lady snatch up a copy of Water and scamper away. It was priceless!

Trailer 1

Trailer 2


Monday, April 18, 2011

ARC Alert!

Two in the mail this morning. Both children's; both MG.

The Wild Soccer Bunch: Diego the Tornado
by Joachim Masannek

Tomorrow Girls: Behind the Gates
Eva Gray
Release Date: May 2011

Happy Monday, everyone!


Friday, April 15, 2011

ARC Alert!

OMYGOSH! I'm starting this one as soon as I get home tonight! This is right up my alley!

The Paradise Prophecy
by Robert Browne

Government conspiracy + demons/angels = PURE AWESOMENESS!


Freebee Friday!!!

Today's Freebee? Only the best website EVER! Besides mine, of course. Check it. And prepare to laugh. Hard.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Sci-Fi (Now it's considered YA, but originally, it wasn't)
Spoiler: A little
Rating: PG
Coffee Beans: 2/5

I’m not quite sure how I feel about Ender’s Game right now. I just finished it on Sunday and I waited a little while for everything to sink in before I decided to tell you my thoughts. I know it’s supposed to be this awe-inspiring, best-book-of-all-time story, but I wasn’t left with that impression. It could be that I’m not that big of a sci-fi fan (except for Dune and Myst), but I think mostly it was because I don’t think the story was well told.

For starters, me, as the reader, was thrown into a world I know nothing about with terms that left me clueless, and was given a mysterious conversation between two unknown people about something I knew nothing about. This abuse was done to me before every chapter. This alone left me scratching my head, trying to figure out what was going on.

Then, when I was introduced to the MC – Ender (short for Andrew), I find out that he’s 6-years-old and a genius. It was strange reading a book with the MC being a toddler. But Card played a sly trick in making Ender and all the children in the book geniuses, that way it was easier to relate to him, and I found myself forgetting his age.

Eventually (by about chapter 4 or 5) I felt pretty comfortable with what was going on in the storyline (although the mysterious conversations at the beginning of each chapter still left me puzzled). The book takes place in the distant future, on a population-controlled Earth after the Second Invasion of the Buggers (an alien breed of giant ant-like creatures). The human race won each invasion, and now they’re preparing for the third, and hopefully final, battle.

Kid-geniuses are taken from their families at a young age and enrolled in Battle School in outer space. The government has been breeding and testing and hoping that their savior will be among one of the enrolled, and they think they’ve found him in Ender. Ender leaves behind his parents, sister Valentine, and older, evil brother, Peter (Card does an a-ma-zing job of making me hate Peter from the first time he’s introduced into the storyline.)

Ender’s amazing and special in every way possible. He’s strong, smart, fast, resilient and perfect. Whenever a problem is introduced, he figures out a way not only to fix it, but annihilate it. And I think that’s why I didn’t really care for Ender. The author tried to give me little things to like Ender, to feel sorry for him—his brother is evil, he’s all alone and isolated, people hate him because he’s perfect, and so on. But all that did for me was make him an unbelievable character.

The book covers a time span of about 20 or so years, with the majority of it hovering over the 6 or 7 years of Ender’s life in Battle School. While there, he’s trained to be the best commander in existence, Earth’s last and only hope of defeating the Buggers for good. Ender knows this and goes with it, even though he’s afraid it’s turning him into something he doesn’t want to be: Peter. But he trudges on. There’s a lot of manipulating that goes on. A lot of lying. And a lot of Ender being the perfect military machine, never fighting back or saying no to the things he knows are wrong, even though it’s destroying his 10-year-old self on the inside.

Card spends the next 4 or so, pretty detailed, chapters on Valentine and Peter back on Earth. They’re trying to take over the world. Literally. They create online persona’s who take opposite sides of politics and discuss current events--mainly Russia’s plan to dissolve the Warsaw Pact.

And guess what? Yup, you got it. It works. Peter takes over rule and miraculously becomes the leader of the known world, leaving his evil, manipulating, squirrel mutilating self behind. Bull pucky. A sociopath like Peter wouldn’t be able to, physically or mentally, change that much.

But, Valentine and Peter’s online persona’s and what they fight for takes no significant part in the book (other than Card needed a reason for the nations to be on the verge of war—which, hey, would happen anyway—which, looking back on the story, I don’t even see as being relevant. It’s almost like he needed this one small thing to happen, and he concocted this unneeded, elaborate scheme to get it done. Sorry, I rambled a bit there.). Even when all their “hard work” pays off, it is only mentioned once towards the end, and I think what Card used it as could’ve been accomplished without that part being in the book.

Another thing that bothered me was the POV that Card told the story from—everyone’s head at once. I know that it’s accepted in writing, but I don’t recommend it. I was head-hopping so much (the majority of the time in Ender’s, though), I didn’t connect with anyone. Also, there was A LOT of narrative. Which--to me—is boring. Give me dialogue, I say!

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest. I won’t tell you the end, in case you want to read it for yourself. Overall, it was okay. I don’t think I’d read it again, though. Nor would I recommend it to a friend. But, now I can say, “I’ve read Ender’s Game, and it was ‘eh’ *shrug of shoulders*.”


ARC Alert!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente
MG Release date May 2011

This one looks so fun!

Monday, April 11, 2011


Obviously, they haven't taken into account the amount of heart attacks women were going to have when they put this movie together and released the trailer....


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Freebee Friday!!!

Maribelle showed these to me. They're so funny! On the second one, it's the first and last ones that are the best.

Happy Friday, everyone!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

ARC Alert!

The Profession
by Steven Pressfield
Release Date: June 2011

Read an excerpt from the first two chapters of THE PROFESSION:

Read why Steven Pressfield believes privates armies are the forseeable future:

Visit for more information.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Welcome aboard, Africa!!! Glad you came to visit. :)


What's that ya say? You've written a novel? (Part 2)

You might think the difficult part is behind you. I mean, come on, writing a query is easy. It’s the 90,000 word novel that’s hard (pardon me while I find merriment in your naivety—but I still love you, honest).


Writing your query letter
Next to the legendary evilness of the dreaded synopsis (*shudder*), the query is the next “best” thing. But don’t be discouraged! If you take it one step at a time—and don't look it in the face—you too can survive the encounter. There are many resources to help a budding author with the query writing process.

Query Shark is awesome and offers amazing advice and hundreds of examples.
Noah Lukeman’s book (only $0.99 for the e-version at b&n online) is simple and straight forward. I used it for a good base for my query.
• Nathan Bradford as an ad-lib type version

These are all good resources to get a straightforward query going.

I’m going to share with you my secret for writing a query. Gather around. Closer. Closer. Too Close. (I love Aladdin) Write a brief, engaging summary for your book, similar to what you see on the back of books. Make it sharp, give it voice and personality (the same personality and voice that’s in your novel), have a barbed hook in there that will catch the agents attention and not let go no matter how much they thrash about and a cliff at the end that they want to jump off of to find out what happens next. After all, the purpose of the query is to get their attention so they want to read more. So they ask for more. The query letter isn’t where you describe your book BME (beginning, middle, end). That’s what the (*gag*) synopsis is for. Polish it, get input and have it critiqued by those you trust who may or may not have edited your novel. Then, get ready to customize and personalize.

Once you've done that, personalize it. Some agents just want a basic query letter (see resources above). Others are more specific. When you’re getting information on agents pay attention to the specifics on what they want to see in your query and how they want it formatted. They’ll tell you if they want to know why you chose them (referral, conference, etc) first and then the pitch second. Or it might be the other way around. Either way, if there’s a preference, find it. It goes a long way to show that you’re dedicated enough to hunt it down and then implement it. They also might want a brief personal bio if you don’t have/ in addition to a professional writing bio (a personal bio would be the quick blurb you see next to an author’s photo on a book).

At the end of the query, make sure to insert the name of you novel, genre, word count, and a closing similar to: Per your guidelines, I have included the first _______________ pages/chapters of my novel/Upon request, completed manuscript is available in part or in whole. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Get a list together
Yay! You have a solid query that can be easily manipulated to suit all agents. Now you need to find said agents. It can be tricky to gather a list, or at least, time consuming. Which is why I’ve taken the liberty to gather my resources and share them with you! (Send all Sbux gift cards and SOFT oatmeal raisin cookies to….just kidding, but if you do end up feeling so inclined, let me know.)

I like to start broad and whittle my way down from there, so when I’m looking, I look for agents who rep and/or are looking for Children’s, YA, or MG. Then, I start to narrow it down by genre--historical romance, fantasy, paranormal--you get the idea. Once you have a list of agents that look like they’re waiting for your ms, dig in for research to personalize your query. Below are just some of the resources I’ve used to get a listing of agent names.

Jeff Herman's book
Publishers Market Place
1,000 Literary Agents
Query Tracker
Agent Query
Literary Rambles
Absolute Write Water Cooler
Publishers Weekly
Predators & Editors
Guide to Literary Agents
Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR)
Author Advance
Persist and Publish
Writer Beware
• Join organizations that represent your genre (SCBWI, RWA, etc)
• Google/yahoo/msn search for literary agents
• Look at the books you’re reading, the books in your genre and find out who their agents are
• Start following blogs, you’ll get a lot of info that way
Writer's conferences!

Show Dream Agent that you’ve specifically selected them from among the masses, not randomly from a hat, and for Pete’s sake, DO NOT do a mass email. If you don’t take the time for them, they might not take the time for you. I send out my queries in batches of about 10, but that’s my personal preference. I find agents I want to submit to and then Google the heck out of them.

• What’s their agency website say about them/what they’re looking for?
• Do they have a personal web page with more info?
• A blog?
• Fb?
• Twitter?

All of these sources produce priceless nuggets of information. Their blog could have different info than the agency website. For example, one agent I queried said on her blog not to send a synopsis because they’re the root of all things evil, yet the agency website (under her name) said to send one. Some agents will have you put in a personal tidbit about yourself, or want you to offer something specific. If you don’t take the time to research, you could miss that and in turn, they could pass you by.

Investigation also lets you find out how many books the agency has sold, what their record is for getting authors published, and so on. Get a feel for who they are and if they’re going to be a right fit for you and your book. Check them out on AAR and Predators and Editors—both valuable research tools.

I have a notebook where I centralize all the relevant info I need for each agent (I usually do all my research at once).
• Agent’s name
• Agency
• Website of agency and any other social media sites
• What they’re looking for
• Books they’ve repped that are relevant to my novel
• What they want to be sent with the query (synopsis, sample chapters, etc)
• Their response time for a query/partial/full
• Their actions if they’re interested/not interested
• Okay to follow up if there’s no response
• Where do I send the query to? Is there something specific that needs to go in the Subject line?
• Do they send out an auto response when a query is received? (no sense in having a heart attack at a false alarm. Also a good way to know if you need to follow up with them or not. No auto response probably means they didn’t get it)
• Specifics they look for/personalization’s I find important
• Anything else I think might be relevant

Once you have all that down, it’s time to start sending out your queries. Proof read, proof read, proof read! Make sure your email address is something professional (your name or pseudonym at Gmail/msn/like/yahoo/whatever). Not:

Check List
• Are you sending out the right query to the right agent? (I save each version I send out, so I can go back and reference what worked/what didn’t) Make sure Jim isn't getting the query addressed to Susan.
• Is your contact info in the signature of your query and the again in your email? (this helps when you're pasting partials into the email--the agent doesn't have to scroll up through 10,000 words to get your phone number again, it's right there at the bottom)
• Is your contact/book information in the header (with page numbers) on any work THEY ASK you to attach?
• Did you thank them for their time?
• Did you address them by name in your query?
• Did you spell that name right?
• Have you sent them everything they’ve asked for?
• Do you have the right email address?

These may seem simple, obvious things, but when you’re sending out your first round of query letters, you’re a nervous wreck, and you might forget some of these. I know I did (like my contact info. And the fact that my book was the first in a series. Yikes!).

So, just to recap… (I like lists, can you tell?)
In your query:
• Make sure you have a hook in your query
• Main characters essential to the problem/solution only
• Time frame (1800’s, modern day, etc) and location
• Address the agent by name (this is soooo important!!)
• Do your research
• Make sure you have contact info in your signature (email, phone, address, name)
• TMI is not a good thing
• Only put down writing credentials if they’re applicable (blue ribbons in the state fair don’t count)

PS – I’m notorious for putting off things I don’t like to do. Mowing the lawn, cutting Hubby’s hair, doing the laundry….So it’s no surprise that I put doing the synopsis off until an agent asks for one. Probably not the best route to go. If you’re ambitious, do the synopsis before you query. Then you’re ahead of the game! Get a couple done—a typical synopsis (about a bazillion pages and dry as a tumbleweed) and a 1-3 page sucker. You might also want to throw in a 500 word (about 1 page) just in case.

But, since I am also a procrastinator, I won’t be talking about synopses until later. Much, much later.

Happy Wednesday!


Monday, April 4, 2011

This just in...

And I don't know if I agree or not.


What's that ya say? You've written a novel?

You’ve poured your heart and soul into The Next Big Novel and scribbled it down on paper. Its infancy was spent clamoring around inside your head pushing to get out, and now it’s out for the world to see. And they are going to see it, dang it!

You’ve cried, bled, and lived on nothing but 5 Hour Energy, coffee and White Chocolate Lindt Truffle Balls for at least a year. And you’ve kept your sanity together through it all, even when everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

Your main character has three different names, you’re starting to misspell your made-up words and can’t remember if the red squiggly lines underlining them in Word are telling you the truth or not, and you’ve misplaced—on more than one occasion—well-written chapters you swore would help you win the Pulitzer. You heroine is falling in love with the wrong guy, and you can’t do anything about it, you’re plot’s missing and your ending isn’t going to satisfy anyone.

You’ve cried because the story is perfect. You’ve cried because it’s crap. You’ve cried because you don’t know what to do now that the meaning of life has slipped through your cramped fingers.

Then, something happens. You don’t know what caused it, and you don’t care. Something clicks, and everything falls into place. You realize that Jake was never good enough for Jenny, it only could've ever been Greg. And that plot? What were you thinking?!?! It should’ve been this all along. The ending is perfect, everyone’s happy, and now it’s ready for the world.

Or is it?

Ask yourself that question again, but this time, be honest.

Chances are, it needs to be edited heavily. Getting the story down on paper is only one of many steps in writing a book.

Alright, you crack your knuckles, and buckle down to edit. And in order to do that properly (in my mind, anyway), you self-publish a copy of your book on LuLu or the like so you can have your manuscript in the form a book.

A real book.

It doesn’t matter that it cost you $15 to print, $35 to ship (because you wanted it overnight, naturally), or hours trying to format your entire ms into “bookstore ready” formatting. What matters, is that you can smell it, touch it, and turn the pages of your book. Somehow, this means it’s all official, and your hard work has paid off.

You’ve written A BOOK!

Now comes the fun part. And I'm 100% serious. Grab your red pen and tear your baby apart. Limb from limb. I want to see blood, people! BLOOD!

The first level of editing is at a high-level. Think triage.
You discover a number of things through the magic of editing at this level. Sub-plots need to be added/taken away to enrich the main vein of your story. Characters may not work, entire scenes may need to be deleted, you discover inconsistencies. The sky's the limit! Here is where you discover what’s broken and what needs to be fixed.

The second level is on a more detailed level.
Work on the subplots, your characters’ arcs, their back stories, etc. Recognizing that your MC would never say what they just said, and fix it. Make your story richer, making sure the smaller, loose strings are woven back into the tapestry of your novel. Do your reader a favor and CUT out the passive voice and adverbs!

The third draft is the line edit nuances.

Don't limit yourself to just one pass at each level. There's no rule as to how many times you do this. That’s what being a writer is all about. Taking what you’ve created and making it better. But don’t get too carried away. You can edit until the cows come home, because nothing is ever going to be perfect. Not even your book. But don’t let that stop you from trying.

After you’ve gone through your first set of edits, put your novel aside for a bit, and this is important. Read a book, work on another project. Take some time to let it marinate in your changes. Then, pull it up again, and edit some more (If you’re like I was on my first book, I printed out about 8 different copies from LuLu. One after each round of edits. Oh, the headache).

Having other people you trust and value look at your work helps you to edit it on a higher level. I personally go through 3 – 5 rounds of editing before I consider it “ready” enough to let someone else look at it. One of the downfalls of editing your own ms is that you know the in’s and out’s of the story. All the subplots. All your characters' back stories. How the story's going to end.

Having this knowledge makes it hard for to edit honestly and recognize when something isn’t working as well as it's supposed to. Which is why I am a part of a writer’s group. And an A-MA-ZING online writing community called Scribophile. I've learned more from these two resources than I ever could've from a bazillion rounds of self-editing or reading books on the topic (but there are good ones out there. Take a look at the resources link on the right of my blog). Getting candid, honest, gut reaction advice is the best.

And it hurts.

Sometimes you think you're going to bleed to death with what they had to say. It's hard not to take it personally. But you need tough skin as a writer, and if you can’t learn it at this stage, you’re never going to survive the querying process.

I’ll give you an example from my personal experience.

I posted the first 20 pages of The Setting Sun tp an online community (not Scribophile). The first critique I got, I tried my hardest not to cry. The man was honest. Brutally so. He could have been a little “fluffier” about what he had to say, but the bottom line was, he was right. And I appreciated that so much when I went back to look at my work through his eyes.

He'd said it was like sitting though a traffic jam. And he was right. Who wants to sit through a history and info dump from a first time writer? Not to mention it was poorly done. He told me there was too much description, and while I didn’t whole-heartedly agree with him, I did pare it down a bit.

And that’s what’s great about getting critiques: being open to new things and different opinions. Don’t be so prideful that you miss the lesson to be learned. Keep what you like and toss the rest (in the end remain true to yourself and your story), and apply what you learn to future work.

Once you’ve finished editing, and have gotten your ms in the best shape possible (I’m talking passing-a-military-mud-boot-camp-in-style fit), it’s time to edit it one more time. By yourself. Reading it out loud. Take your time. When your ecstatic with that, then, my dear friend, you may start querying.

Happy Monday!


Friday, April 1, 2011

The Young Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lane

Death Cloud (Young Sherlock Holmes)
by Andrew Lane
YA Mystery
Spoiler: None
Rating: PG
Coffee Beans: 4/5

The year is 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. His life is that of a perfectly ordinary army officer’s son: boarding school, good manners, a classical education – the backbone of the British Empire. But all that is about to change. With his father suddenly posted to India, and his mother mysteriously ‘unwell’, Sherlock is sent to stay with his eccentric uncle and aunt in their vast house in Hampshire. So begins a summer that leads Sherlock to uncover his first murder, a kidnap, corruption and a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent. (Summary courtesy of

I've never read any of the Sherlock Holmes books in my life (I know, I know, I'm a horrible excuse for a human being). And my reference when someone says Sherlock Holmes is the 2009 movie (to which I hope they're making a sequel). But I'm happy to say that this was a good introduction to the character. So much so, that I have an inclination to go and pick up the originals and the varied spin-offs done by other authors.

In this book, Sherlock isn't yet the detective mastermind we all know him to be (thank you, Robert Downey Jr.). He is a young boy just released for summer break from an all boys school. His brother arrives to tell him that he will not be coming home to London with him, but will be staying with his estranged uncle, aunt, and their evil house keeper (all though his brother doesn't come out and say as much, Sherlock is able to deduce that much on his own the moment he steps foot in their house).

While bored out of his mind, Sherlock befriends a street urchin named Matty (Jude Law a.k.a Watson??? Like I said, I'm clueless here folks, and the movie is my reference on which I base all things, including the meaning of life--which, if you're curious--is getting a jar full of flies to fly together in a counter-clockwise fashion).

Matty tells Sherlock of a 'death cloud' he saw and the dead man that turned up as a seeming result. His brother hires an American tutor for the summer. I deduce that this is where Sherlock learns all of his mad skills.

As nosey as he is, Sherlock goes gallivanting on private property of a mysterious albino Barron who he thinks is a part of this entire 'death cloud' business. Trapped in a blazing barn and almost murdered (I still cringe when I remember Lane showing us that scene), Sherlock escapes and goes back to his uncle's house for his lesson with the American. There they find a dead man on his uncle's property. Sherlock is convinced that the two deaths are connected and somehow the Barron (Arch Nemesis Moriarty??) is a part of it all.

Together, Sherlock, Matty, the American, and his attractive daughter, Virginia (Rachel McAdams?) try and solve the mystery. And that's all I'm gonna say about the plot.

Lane did a great job of interweaving seemingly unrelated events into one conspiracy for Sherlock to discover. He also did a great job of letting the reader follow Sherlock's brain waves in figuring out the mystery and the conspiracy happening around him, without the notion that my hand was being held through the process. I can see where this will be set up for many more books to come as Lane did a very good job of tying up lose ends, but leaving enough mystery for the next book (which I am going to ask for an ARC of).

Lane also did a superb job of setting up the world in which the story takes place, giving us the sights, sounds, smells and ambiance of 1868 Hampshire.

I strongly recommend picking up this book and reading it for yourself. It's interesting and an easy read, and while it took me a little while to get into it (although, I was rather busy at the time), it was well worth it.


First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

First Grave on the Right
by Darynda Jones
Paranormal Mystery/Romance
Spoiler: Kinda-sorta, yeah
Rating: Strong PG-13
Coffee Beans: 3/5

Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. (Summary courtesy of

Join Charlie Davidson, Danger, and Will Robinson on a crazy, laughable adventure complete with mystery hunks, lurking dead people, and that pesky, hot detective that keeps showing up to ruin your day. Charlie is part-time PI, part-time Police consultant, and full time grim reaper. THE grim reaper.

Charlie's visited by three lawyers, all killed the same night, all partners at the same law firm, and all working on the same case. Coincidence? Me thinks not. Helping the dead lawyers say their goodbyes and find out who killed them takes Charlie to the police case she ends up working with her uncle and the hot, annoying detective (both of which know her secret of talking to the dead).

Throughout the book, Jones has two other subplots and back story woven in, and it's done pretty well. One of Charlie's cases as a PI is a faint blip on her radar, only really popping in at the beginning and then again at the very end. The other is a mysterious hot dude she keeps having dreams about and is madly in love/obsessed with.

That part kinda bothered me. She eventually figures out that he's in prison and in a coma, and oh yeah, he's the guy that threatened to rape her when she was like twelve after she saw him get beat up by his dad and offered to call the police.

Way to fall for a winner, Charlie. This is worse than an obsessive-stalker-vampire boyfriend.

Her feelings for him were completely unbelievable for me, no matter how 'hot' she thought he was. And the cherry on the sundae? The thing she finds out about him at the end that was totally out of left field......not gonna tell ya what it is, though. Find out for yourself. :-)

The storyline wasn't overly original, and I'll tell ya why. When you're writing about something (grim reapers, vampires, angels, etc) paranormal (or not) that has a pretty monotonous/predictable/cliche storyline to it, you HAVE to jazz it up a lot to make sure you grab the right kind of attention from your readers. And a groan followed by the words, "Another Twilight?" doesn't count.

It was almost like Jones took a page from The Ghost Whisperer TV show with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Which is fine--if she would have twisted it and made it her own, which I didn't really feel she did. Both Whisperer and Grave had the identical premise of helping the departed cross over into the light, and it was their job to find out why the lingering earthbound spirits were here, and help them finish any unfinished business so they could cross over.

Jone's writing is good and I think it's a good debut novel. The mc was witty, sharp, and funny. But by the middle of the book, it was getting obnoxious. I got to the point in a scene where I could say to myself, "Cue witty" and there it would be. (I have mad skills, people, mad). I mainly just glossed over the parts where I knew they would be.

I felt the characters weren't as developed as they could've been, even Charlie, and the side characters in the novel were flat and almost cliche, but they served their purpose in helping to get the story told and keep the plot moving.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and even with all the pet peeves I mentioned above, the book was still entertaining and fun to read and had a pretty good mystery to solve. It went by fast and had a little bit of steam and a lot of wit. If you get the chance, pick it up and give it a read. It's entertaining and a fast read, but not one of the best books I've read.


Freebee Friday!!!

People often say to me, “The media gives so much attention to Michelle Obama and her ‘toned’ arms, but really, she has nothing on you”, to which I offer a shy smile, a modest shake of my head, and politely say it’s not true.

Then, with a casual stretch, I ever so subtly strike a body-building pose to properly show off my arms and shoulders.

Not really, but that was fun.

Seriously, though. I don’t think it’s that big of a mystery how we women get amazing arms and shoulders with the things we have to carry around on a daily basis. Kids, groceries, shopping bags, purses.

For me--along with working out at the lowest level possible--I have my purse to thank. I call it my Mary Poppins Handbag, because it has everything but the kitchen sink in it.

Because, come on, what if I get stranded and need something to eat or drink? Disaster averted! Water bottle and Zone bars!

What if I get bored in the sporting goods store with Hubby? Problem solved! Five books and a game-packed Droid for entertainment and variety.

Sudden genius book idea strikes? No worries. Notebooks abound (and sometimes, even my hp mini is present).

You get the picture. Carrying around this behemoth of a bag definitely pays off. Today was especially glorious in regards to what it contained. I always get comments from co-workers and Hubby about what I brought with me, so I thought I’d share with you the treasures of--one of my many--purses.

Keep in mind, that I’m carrying this around work and upstairs in heels.

My well-endowed purse

Contents: (photographic evidence below)
• 2010/2011 teal leather planner
• two Tupperware containers, contents of which are my lunch
• bottle of raspberry green tea--my own concoction
• sunglasses of the movie star variety (I have to practice for when I'm rich and famous)
• coffee--the substance on which all life exists (at least mine)
• shoes (I wear my slippers from the car to the building, it’s my trademark here at the office. Today it was my brown ones, but usually it’s my fuzzy striped pink ones)
• socks--who knows why--oh that's right, they're for the gym!
• toiletries (lotion, lip gloss, chapstick, more lotion--stress reliever scent, eye drops, pepper spray, floss picks)
• manila folders with a friend’s work I’m critiquing
• my blue folder from SFWC contents of which are pure gold and future blog post ideas
• a couple of notebooks (the pink snake skin one is tracking my querying process for White City, the black one is just for notes)
• my wallet--sans money, if found please email (Wait! I see a random dollar bill in there!)
• Orbit Sweet Mint gum (the best ever--never leave home without it, that’s an order)
• a smaller red note book with my NaNo sticker on front
• my life in the form of a thumb drive--seriously, I lost it once and went into a catatonic state for days
• (deep breath here) my iPod with Hubby’s Zune earbuds--apple earbuds SUCK as one always dies before the other every 6 months or so
• a list of agents to query
• a napkin--don’t ask me why
• my car keys (even though I didn’t drive here)
• highlighters
• pens
• my badge for work
• Zone bars
• five books. Just in case.

Contents of said purse. It's like the clown car at a circus

There you have it, folks. The reason my arms are more impressive than Michelle’s (plus I can do triceps push-ups and pull ups. Yup, there was an italicized “and” in there).

Proof that I always like to be prepared for just about everything possible. Except a natural disaster. Or the zombie apocalypse. *shudder*

(I've had an acceptable amount of coffee now)