Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Almost Done

With this draft anyway. My CP's got the first chunk, and is reviewing it for typos, gaffs, etc. She's checking to make sure it's clear, and that I haven't majorly screwed anything up. As soon as she's ready, the next chunk will wing it's way across cyber space to her.

All I have left to do until she gives me the edits, is finishing working on the last chapter.

At this point, I only have one thing to say...

Oooo, it's so good.

Having said that, though, I should admit I'm having a little case of the heebie-jeebies about knocking off that last chapter. When it's done, it'll be ready for submission. And what if they don't love it as much as I do. The whole idea is currently freaking me out. I should be better by morning. I hope.

Which reminds me. Since I'm already freaking out, if there are any of you interested in doing a little crit-swapping, let me know. To give you a hint about this book - because I'm still not ready to let the premised out onto the internet - it's set in the near future. (I think it's what Janet Reid calls near-future noir, but I stink at genres.) Say, oh, about 20-25 years from now. It's a deep book about something that has been an issue in our society for the most of man's existence, but has only really become a hot political topic for the past 40 years or so. But beyond the deep topic, there's action, romance, and suspense. It also comes close to making me cry at several points.

Anyway, if you're interested in critting* and want to see the blurb, let me know in the comments or e-mail me and I'll shoot you a copy. (As long as you promise to keep it strictly confidential. I don't want this puppy getting out before I have representation, at least.)

Okay, off to bed before I fall over onto my keyboard and all my lines look like gobbledy-gook.

(*Edited to clarify)

Favorite Authors

In keeping with this mini-theme, I thought I'd spin off my list of favorite authors.

Top Ten Favorite Authors

1. Ayn Rand (of course)
2. Erle Stanley Gardner
3. Mickey Spillane
4. Piers Anthony
5. Terry Brooks
6. Ray Bradbury
7. Agatha Christie
8. Harry Harrison
9. A.A. Milne
10. Alexandre Dumas

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Favorite Books

Years ago, I kept lists of my favorite things. It was an exercise in affirming my values, and it made me feel good. Unfortunately, I lost my lists in the great computer crash of 2006. Doesn't matter really; I know what I like.

So without further ado...

My Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time (subject to change)

1. Atlas Shrugged
2. The Fountainhead
3. Jane Eyre
4. I, The Jury
5. Elfstones of Shannara
6. The Count of Monte Cristo
7. Anthem
8. The Stand
9. Ninety-Three
10. We The Living

(I know. Four of the books are by Ayn Rand, but she's my favorite author. *shrug*)

What are your favorite books?

(PS. Speaking of books... I just had a marvelous surprise at the grocery store. Allison Brennan's Killing Fear is out!!! Yay! I snatched that puppy off the shelves and it's sitting beside me now. While none of her books is in the above list, she's quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Support A Fellow Writer

Yesterday was a monumental day in the blogosphere, and I'm ashamed to say, I missed it. A day late, but better late than never.

You'll get the full story here, but to give you a shortened version, one of our fellow writers is battling a nasty form of cancer. Hence, she doesn't have the time or the energy to promote her book (hardcover came out last year, but the paperback was released yesterday). Since so much of our sales come from promoting our own books, a group of bloggers got together to help Patry Francis promote her book The Liar's Diary. (And yes, it's already available as used, but if you're going to buy it, buy it new this time. I'm a used bookseller, but with some things you have to spend the extra to make sure the money ends up in the writer's pocket. Like, say, now.)

I haven't read it, and if I'd remembered, I would've looked for it at the bookstore today, but it looks like an interesting read. If I read correctly, this was Patry's debut novel, and since it started off as a hardcover and has now gone to paperback, it has to have something going for it. If you're looking for something new to read, give it a try. If not, help out a fellow writer by passing the word along on your own blog.

I know if it were me, I'd appreciate a little assistance, too.

Research Carefully

... because you never know when a fourteen year old girl is going to catch you on your mistakes.

I picked up a book for my daughter yesterday that she's been dying to read. This morning, she walked downstairs and informed me she was finished with it. She said it was pretty good, but one thing irritated her throughout the book. It seems there are Norse gods in the book, and the author got the names of one of them wrong. My daughter is a huge fan of Norse mythology, so it was glaringly obvious to her. However, when she told me the name given instead of the right name, even I knew it was wrong. The author used a Norse mythology place name as a god name. Ooops. I know the correct name was a mouthful, and the readers would've been confused by it, but come on.

So, in the interest of keeping even the nerdiest of us happy, please do your research a little more carefully. If you're going to delve into the lesser-known mythologies, at least don't go naming people higgledy-piggledy.

(Both author and title are redacted. I'm not out to embarrass anyone. I'm just making a point about taking care with research. And if you know the book I'm talking about, please don't give the title in your comments. I won't publish it if you do. Feel free to write me privately if you want to talk about it, though.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

First Page Contest

Agent Nathan Bransford - the brave soul that he is - has started another contest. This time around he's doing The Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge. Give him the first page of a book (a WIP or a new one created for the contest) to be judged. The winner gets an awesome prize, and we all get to learn something.

Right now, I'm too friggin' chicken to throw my first pages into the fray, but I invite y'all to enter. If you do, let me know, so I can root for my blog buddies. Good luck and success to all who enter.

Thanks for the Meme-ries

The lovely and talented Liz Fenwick tagged me last Thursday. So here goes:

Link to the person that tagged you
Post the rules on your blog
Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website
(Of course, I'm going to break the last two rules because I don't like to tag people. If you want to play along, feel free to do so and leave a comment here so I can see your answers.)

1. I smoke. Not so much now as I used to, but I do. I'm down to less than a pack a day (from the two packs I used to smoke.) The lungful of choice for the past few years: Misty Ultralight Menthols. Mmmm, it's good.

2. When I was a child, I had this doll called Baby Beans. She was composed of a plastic face set into a cotton-filled head with a bean-bag body. I loved that doll so much that when the manufacturers created an older brother for her, my parents got me him, too. He was Billy Beans. I have no idea what happened to them. Neither does my mother. =o(

3. I was savaged by a toy poodle when I was three. My family and I were at the home of a distant relative and I remember seeing an open chair to climb into. Right after I did, this dog jumped up in my lap and bit my face - without provocation, I might add. I remember lots of screaming and lots of blood. I remember someone holding my face under the tap in the kitchen sink. To this day, I have two scars on my face from it - one about an inch from the left corner of my mouth and the other up near the edge of my jaw where it meets the hairline. (Sounds like a big bite-span for a toy poodle, but remember I was three, so the distance has got larger as my face grew.) I still don't like poodles.

4. I fell off my bike three times in the same summer. I think I was thirteen. You see, I lived on a dirt road and my bike was a ten speed. Skinny wheels, bad traction. But that wasn't the reason for falling. I had these shoes I absolutely loved and they had no traction, so two of the three falls were from my foot slipping off the pedal and catching on the ground. That stops a bike pretty fast, so you can imagine the results. Anyway, I got stitches the first time because the dirt road gave me a nasty enough case of road-rash to warrent them. The second time I still got road-rash, but not as bad. The third time was caused when my bookbag got caught in the spokes as I was going downhill. I should've gotten stitches that time, but after the second time, my father said if I fell off my bike one more time, he was taking it away. I talked my mother into not taking me to the hospital, and so I have a lovely jagged line up my right hip bone now.

5. Enough of the gore... I was in my HS senior class production of Cheaper by the Dozen. My part: Mrs. Gilbraith. Imagine me as the mother of a dozen kids. Heh. At that age, I didn't even want to be around kids, let alone have any of my own.

6. I won't eat peas because the feeling of them exploding in my mouth totally grosses me out. Just thinking about it is making me queasy. Ewwww.

Tada. Bet you wish you didn't know all the things you now know about me. ;o)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Over There

In case you think I'm being a slug, I posted something over at Tabula Rasa today. It's my stab at writing for the younger crowd.

I'll be back here tomorrow. (Or maybe later today. We'll see.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

500th Post

I've been sitting here for two days trying to come up with a WOW post for my 500th, and you know what? I don't work well under pressure. So...

This is my 500th post. Yippee!!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled weekend. ;o)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Must Read List

Top fiction books I think every adult should read at least once in their lifetime:(alphabetical by title, unless I think you should read the author's works, then by last name)

Aesop’s Fables*
Alice in Wonderland*
Animal Farm – George Orwell*
Anything by Jane Austen*
Beowulf - Anonymous*
Big Red – Jim Kjelgaard*
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley*
Bulfinch’s Mythology – Thomas Bulfinch
Call of the Wild – Jack London*
Calumet K – Merwin & Webster*
Candide - Voltaire
The Canterbury Tales – Thomas Chaucer*
Anything by Agatha Christie*
The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis*
Cyrano de Bergerac – Edmund Rosten*
All of the books by Dante
Either The DaVinci Code or Angels & Demons by Dan Brown*
Anything by Charles Dickens* (with the exception of the Edwin Drood mystery)
Don Quixote – Miguel Cervantes*
Anything by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
Anything by Alexandre Dumas*
At least one book by Daphne duMaurier*
El Cid – Robert Krepps
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card*
Any book by Erle Stanley Gardner*
Exodus – Leon Uris*
The Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett*
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury*
Feed - Mira Grant*
Any book by Ian Fleming*
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley*
The Godfather – Mario Puzo
Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Good Earth – Pearl Buck*
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald*
Gulliver’s Travels – Johnathan Swift*
The Harry Potter Novels – J.K. Rowling*
Anything by O. Henry*
The Horatio Hornblower books – C.S. Forrester
Patrick O'Brien
Anything by Victor Hugo*
I, The Jury – Mickey Spillane*
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov*
Idylls of the King – Alfred Lord Tennyson*
The Iliad and The Odyssey – Homer
Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte*
The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan*
The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling*
King Solomon’s Mines – H. Rider Haggard
The Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper*
Le Morte D’Arthur (find a good translation) – Thomas Mallory*
Any book by Sinclair Lewis*
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Lord Jim – Joseph Conrad
Any book by James Michener
The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Brown*
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
The Mummy – Anne Rice*
National Velvet – Enid Bagnold
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck*
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway*
The Once and Future King – T.H. White*
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest – Ken Kesey*
Paradise Lost – John Milton
Patriot Games – Tom Clancy*
Peter Pan – JM Barrie
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde*
The Pillars of Earth - Ken Follett*
Complete Works – Edgar Allan Poe*
The Prince - Machiavelli
The Promise and/or The Chosen – Chaim Potok*
The Rabbit Novels – John Updike
Everything by Ayn Rand*
Riders of the Purple Sage – Zane Grey*
Rip Van Winkle – Washington Irving
Robin Hood – Howard Pyle*
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe*
The Scarlet Letter – Hawthorne*
The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy
The Searchers – Alan le May*
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett*
A Separate Peace – John Knowles
The complete works – William Shakespeare*
The Song of Roland - Anonymous*
The Stand (uncut) – Stephen King*
State of Fear – Michael Crichton*
Anything by Robert Louis Stevenson*
Tarzan – Edgar Rice Burroughs*
The Thornbirds - Colleen McCullough*
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee*
To Sir With Love – E.B. Braithwaite*
A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute*
Anything by J.R.R. Tolkien*
Anything by Tolstoy
Trustee from the Toolroom – Nevil Shute*
Any book by Mark Twain*
Two Years Before the Mast – R.H. Dana
Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
Everything by Jules Verne*
The Walking Drum – Louis L’Amour*
War of the Worlds – HG Wells*
The Warden – Anthony Trollope
Watership Down – Richard Adams*
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne*
The World According to Garp – John Irving*
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

(The asterisk denotes books I have read. At some point, I'm hoping to read them all. If I made a list of all the books I was planning on reading, it would be twice this long. And if I made a list of every book I've already read, I'd be here all day.)

Enjoy and feel free to comment here or create a similar list on your own blog - just don't forget to say so in the comments, so I can link to you.PS. I know I'm forgetting somebody. I was trying to keep it to the top 100. Who do you think should be on here who's not, and why?

(Edited 6/4/07: I went over 100, so now it's just the top books. Let's face it, there are always more than 100 you should read anyway.)

(Edited 1/24/08: Google ate my original post from March of 2007, so I rebuilt this. If you commented there, please comment here.)

My Villians are not 'Diet Evil'

Lately I've been wrestling with the idea of making my villians more sympathetic. People want sympathetic villians, right? I've read blogs devoted to the subject, so it must be. But here's my problem...

I'm not one of those people.

I don't like villians with a soft side. I don't want to know if they had a horrible childhood, they lost their puppy, they weren't asked to the prom, they had acne... I don't really care. When I'm reading a really good book, and suddenly it feels like the author is making excuses for the evil characters, it makes me want to throw the book against the wall.

My villians are unapologetically evil. I may show why they're evil, but I never make excuses for it. Take Wesley Wray in Spectacle. He's a worm. I do a flashback over his early life, and yes, his father put him on a pedestal and pushed him to be a scientist and thought the sun shone out his tiney-hiney, but Wesley made his own choices. In the end, his choices drive him insane, but before that, he's 100% in the driver's seat with his own life.

My newest villians think they're doing the world a favor, but in the end, they don't really care if they help anyone as long as their cause gets furthered. In fact, they're all quite happy if people die to further the cause. Come to think of it, the idea is the same in Caldera - but the cause is completely different, as are the characters themselves.

The point, I think, is to give your villians sufficient motivation, and then leave them to do their evil deeds. Maybe they don't think they're evil (and in fact, most often think they're the good guys), but it's obvious (at least to me and hopefully to my readers) they're wicked right down to their cores. I want them to slide across the floor like the slime they are.

Now, let's use an example. Let's take Ellsworth Toohey from The Fountainhead. I first read the book as a teenager, and even then there was no doubt in my mind he was bad bad bad. He fairly oozes evil as he slithers his way across the pages. I thought it was obvious. Flash forward a dozen or more years. I'm in a book discussion group, and we're discussing The Fountainhead. Several people in the group couldn't see how Toohey was the villian of the piece, and they didn't really like Roark (the hero). Shocked the crap out of me, lemme tell ya. Even after these people read a glaring example of Toohey's evilness - there's a whole scene where he tells the minor villian, Peter Keating, exactly what he's all about - they still couldn't see it.

Thinking about this now, I would be tickled if certain people couldn't see the villiany behind some of my villians. (And a little sickened, but that's the price one pays writing well, I guess.) Janey in Caldera, for instance, may be sympathetic to some people, and if they side with her, that's fine. They won't like me later in the book, but thems the breaks. Heck, people may like the villians in RTL (I'm sure certain types of people will love them, come to think of it) but it's not intentional. If they do, it'll be more a matter of the readers' beliefs and personalities than anything I crafted.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? Do you like a sympathetic villian? Do you want to cry for them, and feel sorry for them - even as they're threatening the MC's life? Help me understand the thought process here, because like I said, if they're evil with a sympathetic aftertaste, I don't want to know.

(Or to borrow a phrase from Mike Myers: "You're diet evil. Only two calories, not evil enough.")

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

That A Way

Today's post is over at Home Ed Musings. It's about the 100 books every child should read (according to the London Telegraph online), so I figured it was better to have it there, and link it here.

Take a gander. Leave a comment. Enjoy.

PS. Thanks to Sean Ashby for pointing this out on his blog today. =oD

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I just finished Blink, and I love it. I really do. But right now, I think I have to focus my efforts not on what came first, but what I think I can sell first. Which leaves Blink... well, pretty much waiting for its turn to shine. (Oddly enough, now that I think about it, the MC for Blink has the same problem.)

You see, RTL is timely. It's shiny. It'll make some people stand up and cheer, and others curse the day it was ever written. It strikes deep at a major problem and a major political issue, and it does it in such a way it holds onto the reader with both hands and won't let go. The MC is sympathetic. The villian is vile, but could be sitting next to you on the bus - exchanging pleasantries with you - and you'd never realize what currents of evil run beneath his wide smile and casual good looks.

Blink is a good book. In fact, I think it's a great book. I'm not sure if everyone else will see that greatness about it, though. RTL is a great book and I don't think I'll need to convince anyone else how great it is.

Yes, I know. I'm tooting my own horn. Seriously, though, if I can re-read one of my books and it stirs my emotions (even though I know what's going to happen all the way through), it's going to hit fresh readers just as hard.

So, as much as I hate to do it, I'm setting Blink aside. The idea here is that if I query agents about Blink, and they reject it, then I'll have to wait to query the same agents for RTL. (Unless I'm totally misinformed and agents really don't get testy about getting different queries from the same author in a short timeframe.) I guess it all boils down to the fact that Blink can wait. RTL can't. Whether Blink is published now or ten years from now won't change it's appeal. It's the same for RTL - I don't think the culture will change in any significant way over the next ten years - but now is the right time for it. (And yes, I know even if I get an agent and a publishing contract now, it won't actually hit the shelves for a year or more. It will still be the right time. Trust me.)

I'm still keeping the story for RTL close to the vest. I'll let it loose when I have something firm under my belt, and I have little doubt I will have something to talk about before mid-year.

I feel bad for Blink, but I can't help but be excited for RTL.

Have you ever had this happen?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Reading Material

Yay! I got new books! It's always a treat when I get to make the haul out to Barnes and Noble. (Don't laugh. It takes me two hours to get to the closest one.)

Anyway, I was reminded this morning to mention my purchases, so here goes:

Remains of the Dead by Wendy Roberts (who is getting awesome reviews for this debut novel, and is a wonderful person besides)

What You Can't See by Allison Brennan, Karin Tabke and Roxanne St. Clair

Evermore by Lynn Viehl

The Devil Inside by Jenna Black


I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (which I'm reading right now)

What are you reading?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Still a Slug

I don't know what it is about this time of year, but looking back over the past couple, it seems to be my worst time for production. This past fall, if you weren't reading along, I wrote a book in 6 weeks. Now I can't seem to get up the gumption to do anything. (Unless sitting on the couch reading counts.)

Anyhoo, I'm still editing RTL. It's really starting to shine, and I know it'll be awesome if I can just light a fire under my butt and finish it.

The question of the day, if you have a mind to answer, is: Can a book be both plot-driven and character-driven?

It's been plaguing me and I'd like to know what you think.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Back in the Swing

Okay. I admit it. I've been a slug lately. Sure, I've been researching agents and stuff, but I haven't touched the editing work I need to be doing so I can get RTL ready for prime-time. The poor book has been sitting neglected.

I think I was afraid to touch it because when I finished the first draft, it felt so perfect. Maybe I was afraid I'd read it again and it wouldn't be so perfect. Well, guess what...

It wasn't.

It's pretty damn good, but it can be so much more. So, with that in mind, I'm wading back into it - all thoughts of previous perfection erased from my head. Need to be objective about this after all.

What are all y'all up to these days?

(And I know the timestamp says I was up until midnight, but let's get real. I haven't been up until midnight in... longer than I can remember, let's say. It's still Wednesday as I type this, but I know I'm going to be jammed tomorrow, so I thought I'd get a jump on the blog rather than miss it again.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Yesterday's AWOL

Sorry I went AWOL yesterday. Chalk it up to life intruding on the blog. Or call it a case of the lazies. I didn't get my hour of writerly work done either.

I got some reading done, but that's doesn't count... Does it? I finished Foundation by Asimov, and there were some interesting ways he wrote that are good to know, so I guess if I wanted to, I could fudge.

I'm not a fudger, though.

The next book I started is Mike Shayne's 50th Case by Brett Halliday. Hard boiled detective genre. This is pleasure and research, definitely. My next book(s) will be along this vein, albeit with a chick PI and with humor. I plan on reading some Gardner and Spillane, too, just to get in the mood.

What are you reading right now? Is it for pleasure or for research? For that matter, do you read fiction as research?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Five Blogs That Rock

Inspired by the newest visitor to The Writing Spectacle - JenWriter - and her 5 Great Blogs by Writers (I'm one of them!), I thought I'd give my own version. Below are what I think are five blogs that consistently rock the writerly world. (Not including Jen's blog, which rocks on its own and already has the above link, or several others, because I talk about them regularly, and they already know how much I think they rock.)

One Word, One Rung, One Day - Travis Erwin shares his life, his stories and his humor with the world. In his own words: "One word ... because that is how all stories must start. One Rung ... at a time up the long, slippery ladder of success. One Day ... my name will grace the cover of a novel. A big, hairy Texan's pursuit to publish a novel."

Wendy Roberts - An awesome gal whose debut novel hit the shelves last month. Read her insights, her wit and her wisdom about this business - and then get out and buy a copy of Remains of the Dead.

Karin Tabke - This gal is busy. She's got multiple writing projects in the works, writes for multiple blogs, and still finds time to do a First Line Contest every so often. Kudos to her. If you want to know what writing / publishing / editing is really like, take a read through her blog. What a gal!

The Good Girls Kill for the Money Club - Five writers, five excellent minds... Too much fun.

Paperback Writer - Author Lynn Viehl (or S.L. Viehl depending on which of her books you're looking at) shares her thoughts and her journeys through the publishing industry. With '38 novels in 5 genres' under her belt, she also has the guns to back up her words. (And if you haven't read any of her books, you're missing out.)

Okay. I don't know if I'm going to make this a regular feature, but it's always good to give out a little link-love. I hope everyone visits the above links and takes something positive away.

(A little service announcement: My fingers aren't cooperating today, so any typos are entirely their fault. Little snits. Feh.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Deep Breath

Tonight I took a deep breath, plugged my nose and plunged into querying. I've been working on my query letter all day, and I went through numerous drafts (and all of my CP's patience, no doubt) until finally I was inspired. Now I just hope the agent I sent it out to likes it as much as I do.

Time will tell. Wish me luck (or better yet, wish me success - luck is too ephemeral).

(ETA: Woke up the next morning a little nauseous about the whole thing, but that's typical.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

What I Do - Agent Hunting

Bait them with lost masterpieces from Steinbeck?? Catch and release?

But seriously...

I thought I might start a series of 'What I Do' posts just to give everyone an idea of how I approach this whole crazy business of writing. (We'll see if it really turns into a series or if I totally blow it off by next week.)

This week, since I'm getting prepped for submitting Blink, I thought I'd talk about the process I go through when I'm agent hunting.

1) Write the book to completion. It sounds silly to say it, but from what I hear there are folks out there who query agents before their work is done. That may be fine for some people. It doesn't work for me. I can't even show my CP my books before they're as close to completion as I can get without outside input. (As in, I've edited it so much I can no longer be objective, so I pass it off to her to shred.) If you're sending out work you'd be ashamed to have your high-school English teacher read, then why in the name of all that's good would you send out a query for it. Even if the agent is interested, he's going to want to see more, and you don't have a polished piece to send him.

2) Decide what genre your book is. If you're a long time visitor to The Writing Spectacle, you may have already heard me grouse about this subject. I am horrible at deciding what genre my books fit under. Of course, it probably would be easier if I wrote straight genre of some kind, but most of my work swings on several sides of the street at once (and no, I don't write that kind of fiction - it's a metaphor). But in order to target the right agents, you have to know what it is you're sending them. Take Blink, for instance. It could be considered soft SF. It could be considered 'speculative fiction'. It could be considered literary. So who do I send to??? The short anwer is everyone who represents any of those three genres. The long answer is...

3) Do a boatload of research. For example, today I spent a large portion of the day on AgentQuery.com (which if you haven't used it, is an awesome first research source). I waded through the listings for agents who represent SF. 8 pages worth of listings, or 64 total agent names to read through. And read through them, I did. As I read each listing, I ignored any agent listing who, other than checking some box for SF, didn't actually say anything about SF in their listing. I also dismissed any agent who only talks about hard SF. I paid special attention to those people who said they were looking for future SF and social SF, as well as those few who specifically said 'speculative'. I looked through their client lists and picked agents whose clients styles seemed similar to my own, or their subject matter was closely related. (For instance, I printed off the listing for Ray Bradbury's agent, even though Blink only resembles Fahrenheit 451 in the dystopia aspect, it's worth a shot.) Additionally, I went a step farther for the ones I liked.

4) I looked at their websites, if one was available. I read their individual agent bios. I looked at their philosophies. I tried to see if they were a good match not only for my work, but also for my personality and beliefs. As much as I'd like to get an agent, I don't want to go through all that work only to reach the point where I can't stand them and they can't stand me on some personal level. This is only business, but we still have to work together. An example of this is one agency that looked particularly yummy until I went to their website and learned they are very environmentally conscious (treehuggers or if not, borderline ones). One look at Caldera, and we'd come to blows. It's not worth the effort only to have the relationship dissolve eventually.

5) The next thing I do before I send out any queries is I take each of the potential matches and run an internet search on them. I read whatever articles they've written, any news pertaining to them, any warnings or cautions. I figure this'll keep me away from the scammers out there. So far, so good. Part of this process is checking them out at Preditors and Editors. P&E keeps up with all the scuttlebutt about agents, they tell writers who's good and who's bad, and they keep our butts out of the fire. Another place I go is Writers Beware. Those gals are the best watchers for scam agents and schisters.

6) Finally, before even start creating query packets, I plug all of the keepers into a database program so I can keep track of who has what, when I sent it, and what their reaction was. Personally, I use an antiquated contact management program (for DOS). It works for me most of the time and when it doesn't, it takes ten minutes to reload. I can use it to generate letters, too, but the letter template looks hokey, so I don't bother. I highly recommend using some tracking system to keep yourself in the loop on your own submissions. Mine not only helps me stay on track, but it also prevents me from sending things to people who've already rejected them. When I sent out queries for Spectacle (back in 2004 when I was still a neophyte), I didn't keep track of anything. I even threw out the rejections. Then my computer crashed and I lost the names of everyone I had already queried. If any agents reading this got multiple submissions on Spectacle after that, please forgive me for my stupidity. Now, not only do I have everything backed up and protected, but I also have hard copies of everything.

7) Now that I'm ready to query, I have to go through the business of writing and perfecting a query letter, a synopsis, an outline, and making sure I'm ready if anyone requests a partial or a full. I won't go over all that here. Plenty of sites online help with creating those things, and making sure your manuscript is polished. You'll get much better information there than I can provide at this time.

And then I sit back and wait.

Okay, I don't really sit back and wait. I keep working on my other books and wait. Sitting back is not allowed. Even after you get a contract, there's no sitting back in writing.

I'll be starting querying again after I'm sure my manuscript is polished, and I still have to write that darned synopsis. Keep a happy thought for me.

Now, what're YOU waiting for?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Agent Interview Must Read

I just finished reading an interview with agent Lynn Nesbit of the monster agency Janklow and Nesbit (agent to such writers as Michael Crichton and Robin Cook, to name a couple) over at Poets and Writers. This lady knows her stuff, and it's well worth a read through.

Agents & Editors: A Q&A With Agent Lynn Nesbit


(Or Plagiarism Rears Its Ugly Head Again - Part Two)

The press picked it up. (I heard about that article on Maya Reynolds' blog.) I'm a little disconcerted by the reactions of both Ms. Edwards' publisher and the Romance Writers of America. Neither seems too concerned with the allegations, which blows my mind. Novelist Kristen Painter takes the president of the RWA to task for her milquetoast comments, and I say good for her.

Seriously folks, this isn't a game. It's our livelihoods.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Still Loving the Story

I began working on the 2nd draft of my fifth novel - RTL - which is short for Right to Life. (Not the most original title, I know, but it works for me.) This is the book I wrote in 6 weeks last fall, and I haven't touched it since. I don't know about you, but I always have to let a first draft gel for a while to gain some perspective.

In the case of my 4th book (ARJ or AWJ - depending on the day), I let it gel and when I started editing it, I didn't love it so much. I still believe it will be one hell of a good book, but right now, I only just like it. I don't love it. It's a little sad to fall out of love with something I worked so hard on, and I hold out hope the love will bloom again once I figure out what's wrong with it, but it happens.

So, I opened RTL and sat down to read/line edit it. I still love it. I love it more than hot fudge brownie sundaes. (And that's saying something. My husband jokes about whether I love him or those sundaes more.) Last night as I was reading through chapter 5, I almost made myself cry. The hero is thinking back over his life, and the memories are so poignant... :sniffle: I sucked myself right into his pain and lonliness, and got borderline weepy. Good stuff when I can make a reader cry, especially considering I'm the reader - and I already know what's going to happen.

Looking back, I still love my first two books - although I have admitted they might not ever be published (I hope they will, but I'm trying to be realistic here). I can open them up now and roll around in the story. I can still feel the characters emotions; I can still root for them to win.

I think writers should always love their books. When the love between an author and her novel is gone, how can anyone expect the reader to love it? But if for some reason, you fall out of love, it doesn't mean the book is doomed. I've said it before, but in a different context: This business is like finding a mate. It takes work. Sometimes, when you're falling out of love with a book, you have to work to rekindle the romance. And sometimes, you need to just admit when it's over and move on. I'm not there with any of my books (not even AWJ yet), but I hope if that day ever comes, I'm big enough to let it go.

Do you love everything you write or sometimes is it just a case of like? Have you ever had to say goodbye to a once-loved manuscript so you could move on?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Plagiarism Rears Its Ugly Head Again

First off, thanks to Kristen Painter for the heads-up on this latest foray into stealing other people's words. Today's winner seems to be Cassie Edwards, for shamelessly borrowing phrases to use in her less-than-steller 'Savage' series. To be honest, I've never read her work, but after seeing her books on the shelves and reading the blurbs, they looked too hokey to be published, let alone purchased, IMO. Then I read what the gals over at Smart Bitches had to say about her writing (read the earlier posts on this chick and you'll understand), and it underscored my own impressions, so it was a definite NO.

Now, I find out she's been plagiarizing, and I'm so glad I never wasted a penny on her books.

In that last link, DearAuthor said it best: "Plagiarism is a Community Issue". The writing community should stand together against this theft of our work. Face it, it's hard for any one writer to police the world to make sure no one is stealing from them, especially since there are so many books being published, and so much information floating around the internet. We need to stick together and watch each others' backs on this.

And we need to make sure no one ever EVER does this. We need to catch the ones doing it and slap them... HARD. Whether you think of it as cheating or stealing or just not fair, it's WRONG. The plagiarists are earning something for themselves off work they never had to do for themselves--work other people busted their butts to do and who are now not reaping any benefits. Think of it as busting your butt at your dayjob and then at the end of the week, a co-worker claims credit for your accomplishments, so he gets paid for sitting on his ass. Since the person writing your paycheck doesn't know the work wasn't his, they pay him for your work.

Sucks, don't it?

Additionally, we need to watch ourselves to make sure we never do this unintentionally. Not that I think anyone could really accidentally copy a line word for word from another book, but I'm making allowances for the less than self-aware in the world. The point here is that I CAUGHT them before any of them went to print. We all read a lot, so I'll allow the possibility, but I won't make allowances for it getting past our own ability to edit. And I've caught myself writing things so very similar to something I once read, I had to go back and change them. If it sounds similar enough to catch your eye, for petesakes, change it.

To any and all plagiarists, I'd like to say:

Stop riding around on the backs of others. If you can't do something for yourself, don't do it at all. And leave the publishing contracts for those of us willing to do the work for ourselves and on our own merits.

Plagiarists make me sick.

'Nuff said.

1/10/08: Update

Monday, January 7, 2008

Off Night

I'm not feeling the perkiness tonight. With a case of the blehs, it was a choice between writerly work and blogging. Needless to say, the work won. I'll be back tomorrow with something more intelligent to say.

Oh, and right now the Buckeyes are losing. Which is always a good thing, IMO. Here's hoping LSU can hold their lead through the next ten minutes of play.

I'd love to see OSU lose, especially when Michigan won their bowl game. Neener neener boo boo. =op

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Not that kind of fin, although now I have that Jimmy Buffett song stuck in my head, tyvm. Fin as in the Latin word for end. I finally finished the edit of Blink! Okay, so it's still with my CP who's making some minor crits and sending it back (which I then have to change, so I guess I'm not completely done).


It's done as far as anything major. At this stage of the game, my CP rarely finds anything major for me to change. Yay. Did I mention how much I love my CP?

Now that I'm done with that, I can start editing RTL. No breaks allowed. There's too much work to do. Or in the words of my wonderful spouse: "I'll rest when I'm dead."

Plus, the next stage of work begins for Blink. That's right, folks, prepping query packets! Part of today was spent blurbing, and researching agents, and getting the new query letter ready for customizing for each potential agent. Fun fun fun. I already have one I think will really love the book. (We'll see if he thinks the same after he gets the query.)

Which brings me around to my usual genre quandry. I really don't know what genre this sucker fits into. It could be literary. It could be 'speculative fiction'. It may even be soft SF. I'd really like for it to be commercial. Love to see Mary and Daniel up on the bigscreen one day. But it's probably not going to happen. It does have some really great action scenes, but... no vampires. *heavy sigh* Of course, they did make a movie (or several) out of Fahrenheit 451, so it's not totally out of the question, but still...

In case you missed it earlier, Blink is set in a dystopia of the distant future. The city where it takes place may be the only city left in the world, but since :cue villian music: the Union controls all the information and no one is allowed to leave the city, no one knows for certain. That's where Mary comes in. She's chosen by a mysterious underground group called the Order to escape from the city and find the answers to whether they're alone or there are still rational people left in the world. Insert the dashing ex-Captain of the Union's special guard as her soul protector, throw in a little romance and a little intrigue, and you've got Blink - short for :drumroll: Blink of an I (that phrase is mine, so back off). I'd tell you more, but then I'd have to kill you.

The official (and yet not quite set in stone) one-line blurb is:
When a lower-caste woman is chosen for a mission to escape confines of her city and go beyond the wastelands, she never imagines she’ll wind up back home, fighting for her life and for the freedom of her fellow citizens—whether they want to be free or not.

The longer version goes something like this:
Mary Jones has always been nothing special. In the caste system of her home, she lives her life one step above the bottom tier. But when a secret group known as the Order finds her, she discovers she’s more special than she would have ever realized. For decades, the Order has lived to keep knowledge alive in a city where the Union has made ignorance not only preferable but also the law. The Order’s only hope is to prove rational men still exist somewhere outside the city. After years of trying to escape, not one person has made it out alive. When they encounter Mary, they see a chance for success where so many others have failed. Mary’s only task is to find others who may still be free in the world beyond the wastelands, but she has plans of her own. She’ll see her city free from the Union’s control, or die trying.

Look for it at a bookstore near you sometime in the near future. :crosses fingers and toes and eyes, throws salt over one shoulder, rubs a redhead and a buddha belly, avoids black cats and ladders... you get the drift:

Onward to adventure, my friend!

Or something like that.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Tagged Again

This morning WordVixen awarded me the Roar For Powerful Words Award (created by The Shameless Lion Writers Circle - I don't know these folks, so click at your own discretion).

So, the rules are that the winners have to post three writing tips that they've learned along the way, and then nominate 5 more people for the award.

Tip #1: I know it's been a while since I said this but whatever you're told about your writing, or how to write (or how not to write) always Consider the Source. (And this includes any advice you get from me.) Who is it that's giving you this information? Do you trust their opinions? Are they really an expert or are they just someone who likes to spout off? This goes for more than just writing, but since this is a writing meme, I'm sticking with that point. Too many people take advice from whoever gives it without ever thinking about how that person's advice is pertinent, or whether they're even qualified to give it. (I've caught myself doing this, so don't think I'm just spouting-off.)

Tip #2: Trust yourself. When it all comes down to it, the story is yours to write. You thought up the ideas, you created the characters. It's your story; trust your instincts with how you write it. Otherwise, you'll end up a neurotic, doubting every syllable you put on paper. Sometimes you just have to trust that you know best and write it the way you know it should be written. Damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead (and all that).

Tip #3: Know when to break the rules and when to adhere to them. There are a million rules to writing. I'm not just talking about the grammar and spelling rules, either - which are more necessary than most, but still breakable when the situation calls for it. There are rules for everything, and many of them are unwritten. As a writer, you have to walk the fine line and try to learn what rules can be broken and when. Obviously we can't just run around breaking rules higgledy-piggledy or it would be anarchy. Sometimes, however, some rules need to be broken, and more often than not, your story will tell you where and when to break them.

And now for the awards... Envelope please...

The Roar For Powerful Words award goes to... The Manuscript Mavens! (I hope that's not cheating. They are all powerful writers and there are five of them, after all.) These women have all given me plenty to think about and all have powerful, insightful and helpful posts. They are: Erica Ridley, Lacey Kaye, Darcy Burke, Carrie Ryan, and Jacqueline Barbour.

Since these ladies all provide awesome tips without the need of any meme, they can feel free to just take the award and toss the meme aside. They've earned it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Movie Review at TR

Over at Tabula Rasa, I posted an old movie review I wrote, if you'd like to take a look. Otherwise, I'll try to be back later with a meaningful post here.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What Keeps You in the Zone?

Last night I lost my internet connection, and for some stupid reason, it derailed me completely. I mean, it's not like I need the internet to write. But while I'm writing, I take little mini-breaks to check my e-mail, update my daily writing stats, look things up online (for instance, the word unslung isn't recognized by MS Word, but I was sure it was a real word, so I looked it up online).

No internet; no writerly work.

Silly ol' bear.

This got me to thinking about the other things we need to write. Some people can't write without a particular pen, or without sitting in a certain place or listening to a certain type of music. Some writers need everything just so before they can create, and other only need one key element to keep them in the zone.

I didn't think I was one of those writers until last night. I don't know why it was I couldn't seem to make myself write while my computer was offline. Years ago I did it. Hell, years ago online didn't exist, and as I said in a post a few days ago, I was plunking away on a manual of all things. So why? *shrug*

Just one of those things I guess. So, the question of the day is: What do you need to have in order to write?

If you think the answer is nothing, like I did, then think again. Maybe you just haven't found it yet, but it's out there waiting for that one day when it's gone and you're stuck twiddling your thumbs, watching the same episode of your favorite show for the gazillionth time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Goal Setting in the New Year

I'm all for having goals. Really I am. I just don't set them for myself. For some reason they don't work for me. Maybe it's the added pressure. Maybe it's the fear of disappointment when I don't realize my goals. *shrug*

I could set a goal to write X number of books in the next twelve months. I tried giving myself a timeframe back for Caldera, and that didn't work out so well. I got such a case of the squirms (from that and from other issues) I couldn't write a damn word for 9 months. So, strike that idea.

I could set a goal to get an agent in 2008, but that's not realistic, and one should always set realistic goals. I'm not calling it unrealistic because I don't believe my work will net me an agent. I'm saying it because it's not something that's entirely up to me. So many factors intervene I have no control over, to make that a goal would no doubt result in a crushing blow if I didn't achieve it.

I could say I'm going to submit X number of queries, get so many requests for partials, so many requests for fulls, and turn them around in however many days. Submitting is up to me, I know, but until I do the research, I couldn't say with any certainty how many agents represent the works I'm going to have ready in the next twelve months (especially since I don't know how many or even what kind of books will pop out of my head in that time). The RFP/RFF thing is out of my hands. I can control the turnaround time, but that's only if the requests come through. If not, we're back to the crushing disappointment issue again.

What I will say for 2008 is this:

I will do something writerly for at least an hour every day (and not kick myself for taking a day off every now and than as long as I don't over-relax). Writerly work includes: new writing, editing, revising, working on query letters/synopses/cover letters, and research.

When I have a manuscript packet ready for submission, I will research as diligently as I am able. I will scour the agents' websites, the agent search sites, and I will write the best damn query letters I can. After the research, I will submit to every agent who represents my work and I will not allow myself to get discouraged should the rejection letters pour in. I know in the pool of talented, reputable agents out there, one is waiting for me.

I hope to have three new first drafts done by the end of the year, but time will tell. I hope to have the three unedited books I'm working on finished and submitted. I hope to have representation and/or a publisher by the end of the year. Hopes, however, are not goals. They're things I can work toward, but in the end, it may not be up to me. All I can do is my best, and hope the rest sorts itself out.

Are you a goal-setter, or do they freak you out as much as they do me? What are your goals or aspirations or hopes for the next twelve months? Spill the beans here, and we can all get together this time next year to see how things panned out. Worst that could happen is we commiserate, and just think how wonderfully surprising it will be if we can meet next year to find out we exceeded our expectations.

Personally, I'll be happy if I just fall somewhere in the middle.

Wolverines Win

And all is right with the world.


2008 Books Read

It's that time of year - time to start a new list of the books I've read. Last year the total ended up being 70 books (give or take a book because I didn't start keeping track until several months into the year). This year we'll see if I can do a better job.

I don't have a set number of books I'm planning to read, so we'll see what 2008 brings. (In date order, so the last book I read is at the top, rather than alphabetical which was a bit of a pain.)

The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell (started in 2008... finished in 2009)
Have Yourself a Naughty Little Santa by Karin Tabke
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull
Master of Torment by Karin Tabke
Exodus by Leon Uris
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Crossfire by JoAnn Ross
Birds of Prey by J.A. Jance
Phule's Company by Robert Asprin
Left to Die by Lisa Jackson
The Run by Stuart Woods
The Firm by John Grisham
The Deadliest Strain by Jan Coffey
Last Known Victim by Erica Spindler
Where There's Fire by Maureen McKade
Night Caller by John Lutz
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Dragon Actually by GA Aiken
Playing Dead by Allison Brennan
If There Be Dragons by Kay Hooper
The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hunt For Red October by Tom Clancy
Now You Die by Roxanne St. Claire
Firestarter by Stephen King
The Pillars of Earth by Ken Follett
Nightwalker by Jocelyn Drake
And Then You Die by Iris Johansen
White Night by Jim Butcher
The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Invasive Procedures by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Marseguro by Edward Willett
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
At Risk by Patricia Cornwell
The Darkest Pleasure by Gena Showalter
The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen
Twilight Fall by Lynn Viehl
Master of Surrender by Karin Tabke
Then You Hide by Roxanne St. Claire
Rites of Spring (Break) by Diana Peterfreund
Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven Book II) by Brandon Mull
Congo by Michael Crichton
Tall, Dark & Hungry by Lynsay Sands
The Search by Iris Johansen
Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel by Ronda Thompson
The Darkest Kiss by Gena Showalter
No One Lives Forever by Jordan Dane
A Soldier Comes Home by Cindi Myers
The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter
The Golden Unicorn by Phyllis Whitney
One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Tempting Evil by Allison Brennan
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
First You Run by Roxanne St. Claire
No One Left To Tell by Jordan Dane
Corpse Pose by Diana Killian
Kiss the Girls by James Patterson
Rogue by Rachel Vincent
I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane
Vampire Interrupted by Lynsay Sands
Vampires are Forever by Lynsay Sands
The Devil Inside by Jenna Black
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Killer Mine by Mickey Spillane
Evermore by Lynn Viehl
What You Can't See by Allison Brennan, Roxanne St. Clair and Karin Tabke
Killing Fear by Allison Brennan
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
The Remains of the Dead by Wendy Roberts
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Mike Shayne's 50th Case by Brett Halliday
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
The Accidental Vampire by Lynsay Sands
Bite Me If You Can by Lynsay Sands