My Novels

My Novels
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Nov 30, 2011


Okay guys, I’m sort of taking a vacation. I’m so backed up with things… like a critique I should have had done this month and ten other things, that I need to lighten my load.
I’ll still be posting Monday inspirations and a review here and there, but for the most part, I’ll be out of touch.
Regular blogging will resume in January!

Nov 29, 2011

I have this great idea....

So… it's about vampires and zombies and ghosts and werewolves
in a high school
and they're all in love with humans that are weak and
the werewolf accidentally kills his girlfriend, and the ghosts try to help him cover it up
the vampires just stand there brooding
and the zombie's taking the blame because he’s guilty he couldn’t save her
but then! Robots attack!
But it’s actually Space aliens piloting the robots
because they want the humans for their girlfriends!
it’s not a love triangle.... it’s a love dodecahedron!

Thank you, Connie, for providing me with the stimulating conversation that spurred this errant thought.

Review: Old Man's War

Old Man’s War
By John Scalzi
Military SF in the classic style
Paperback, 320 pages
Published by Tor Books
Released January 15, 2007 (my version)

My Summary:
On his seventy-fifth birthday, John Perry does the only two sensible things left to him. He visit’s his wife’s grave and then he signs up for the military.
In a future where man has reached the stars and begun to leave his footprints on far away planets, only the Old are wanted to defend the colonists. Put in a new body, John Perry will serve his ten year sentence, for a second chance at life, in a universe he couldn’t begin to imagine – it’s everything he imagined… and so much worse.
My Review:
This book is, in a word: Interesting.
Having read the first few pages, I was skeptical, but based on high recommendations, I took the chance and read it through. Similar in many ways to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Scalzi has crafted a world unto itself that manages to slowly build until the alien universe he’s created, seems real enough to be  out there, one skip away.
The characters aren’t particularly moving in and of themselves. There was never a moment when someone died that I felt any loss myself, but that could simply be a result of Perry’s semi-detached nature throughout the majority of the novel.
There was a smidge of the plot – toward the end – that felt forced, but not to the extent that it bothered me enough to pause.
Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:
If you’re in to the classic SF, but want a modern twist definitely BUY this – especially if you’re into Military plot lines.

Nov 24, 2011

Gobble Gobble

(I'm out for the rest of the week! See you monday.)

Nov 16, 2011

Why You Shouldn’t Query Your NaNoWriMo Piece

It’s November, that means – along with Movember – we’re in NaNoWriMo, the time of year when skads of people sit down and do their best to pump out 50k words in a 30 day period.
I started Nano this month… which, I’ll be honest was a bad idea in hindsight, for 3 reasons.
#1. I have something hanging in the ether – and I’m rubbish at finishing other things when I’ve got that little unknown floating about.
#2. It’s the end of the year, when my average w/c drops like nobody’s business.
#3. I ended up moving the second weekend of the month – inciting stress induced lack of motivation!

But I have written a first draft in under a month before. My beta and self-proclaimed biggest fan, Katie, challenged me to write a draft in a month. 20 days later I had a 72k word first draft.
But. The problem with pumping out something that quickly, is this:

That’s what it looks like when you edit something written with that much haste. (also, for an adult Science Fiction novel, I’m about 18k short of the generally accepted word count for that sort of novel.)
This was novel #5, I finished the first draft in August of last year…. And it’s still worse off than novel #6 and the first draft of #7.
And that is why you shouldn’t query your NaNo piece – as soon as December 1st comes around. It won’t be ready. Edit. Edit. Edit.
Writing a novel is step one in an extremely long process. Don’t skip  steps 2-6(all of which are “revise!”)

Are you doing NaNo this year? Hit any stumbling blocks this year?

Nov 15, 2011

Review: Consider Phlebas

Consider Phlebas
By Iain M. Banks
A Space Opera of Epic Proportions
Paperback, 514 pages
Originally published by Macmillan, 1987
My copy published by Orbit,  March 26, 2008

My Summary:
As the war between the Culture and the Idirians rages through the galaxy, a changer allied with the Idirians undertakes a mission to a planet of the dead. In its labyrinth of tunnels beneath the surface, he and those he’s forced to drag with him, search for a Culture Mind that sought refuge there. When you’re a changer, though, nothing is exactly how it seems.
My Review:
This book has everything you could want in a novel, and then some. There are a few plot points in the beginning of the book that seemed to be pointless. They provide action and drama, but don’t particularly move the story along.  
The war and the two “races” fighting it out are well described and easily understandable, and yet, Banks didn’t dwell on them. He’s very good at world building. And he didn’t skimp on Character Development… even though no one is safe.
Toward the end, Banks shifts between the perspectives of nearly every character involved, which adds to the sense of urgency, but also tends to get confusing.
Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:
This is definitely something you should read if you’re in to Science Fiction. I’d give this a solid Borrow, unless you’re a SF fanatic, then this one is worthy of your shelves. If you’re not into SF, this one won’t be worth your time: Brush Past.

Nov 11, 2011

I'm Not Here Today....

I'm dealing with this... and moving all of it.

If you're curious why, I'll tell you all about it (Over Here).

But for today, You get a pass on this blog ;)

Nov 10, 2011

Zombies: Eating Brains since who knows when…

I love Zombies, we have over 80 zombie movies and I own a plethora of books that contain zombies in some form or another, and I think they are fantastic. But I do think they can be done wrong.
Here’s a few examples of Zombies (done either right or wrong – I don’t discriminate) in Literature:
The Steampunk Zombies – Cherie Priest’s Steampunk Civil War Era America is just beginning to catch the scope of the threat posed by the zombies created by the yellow fog that seeps out of the rift in Seattle (and by Sap heads ODing on the drug gleaned from the sap). These zombies are the result of an accident causing the foggy buildup in Seattle proper. They are canabalistic, but breathing in the pestilent air or dosing on the sap is the way to join their ranks.
The Mindless YA Zombies – Carrie Ryan’s zombies are a wild bunch pressing against the safe villages fences and causing mild panic from time to time… until the fast one “appears”. If I recall correctly, no initial cause was cited, but the threat is in their bite.
The Sex Slave/Soldier Zombies – James Knapp’s take on the walking corpses is a bit different than most. His zombies can talk and with the help of a stint placed in their brain, they can be tricked into thinking they’re not hungry. His “revivors” are chemically reanimated for the tasks specified.
The Zombie Magician – Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels have a lot of strange magic in them. One such is the Johnathan, the Zombie Master. His magic is in reanimating the dead in Xanth… and he himself becomes a zombie. But Piers’ zombies aren’t normal zombies. They’re magically created and therefore, don’t conform to most conventional zombie tropes.
What sorts of Zombies have you encountered in your reading (for better or worse)?

Nov 9, 2011

Some Quick Tips on Querying

  • Keep it to one page (your synopsis can be longer, but never the query)
  • If sending a regular mail query DO NOT FORGET YOUR SASE!!!
  • ALWAYS, always, always make sure your spelling and grammar is spot on. An agent is going to look at a query as a representation of your novel and if it’s full of typos and poor grammar, they’re going to consider that a reflection of your novel.
  • Make sure the focus is the novel. You’re selling the novel first, yourself second.
  • Don’t forget to read the submission guidelines. Not all agents will reject you outright for missing a guideline or two, but they will think better of you (and your ms) if you follow their request to a T.
  • Always be polite. Courtesy never hurt anyone.
  • Don’t reply to a rejection. I know it might seem like the thing to do at the time, but even a quick thank you adds more to an agent’s inbox. And if you feel like ranting – don’t – it will potentially get you blacklisted by that agent/agency. Let it go and query them with your next project if you don’t find a home for this one.

Nov 8, 2011

Review: State of Decay

State of Decay
By James Knapp
Futuristic Zombie Crime Thriller
Paperback, 370pages
Published by ROC
Released February 2, 2010

My Summary:
Told from the perspective of four very different inhabitants of the three tiered structure in Knapp’s future, the snowballing mystery of Revivor smuggling and serial murders slowly weaves together as Agent Wachalowski realizes his Revivor problem is inexplicably linked to the murders his old flame, Detective Dasalia has been investigating. But the question remains: How?
My Review:
The first chapter and a half of this novel are rough. The author crams 4 perspectives (5 perspective shifts) into the first 44 pages of the book. It’s too much bouncing and while things eventually reveal themselves to be relevant in the end, you do feel as though half of what you’re reading is utterly unimportant. And the perspective switch – via bold heading – is a bit jarring at first.
Luckily, that little bump is the only thing that holds this novel back.
The plot itself is beautifully – or in this case, rather gruesomely – woven together. Little clues build up until Knapp gives you the full picture and you feel a little foolish for not figuring it all out sooner. The characters seem real and the plot twist keep the pages turning.
Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:
If we were going on the first chapter and a half, I’d have given this novel a Brush Past, but having finished the story, it gets a Buy! This story is very well woven and imaginative and worthy of a space on your shelf.

Nov 4, 2011

Author Interview: Seleste deLaney

ABK: Tell us a little about yourself to start off.
SD: I'm a former lab rat turned high school science teacher turned stay-at-home-mom who decided to escape the madness by diving into her first love: fiction. Since making that decision in 2007, I've written seven novels (and written large chunks--about 1/3-1/2 of two more), four novellas (and another that is almost finished), and more short stories than I care to count (four of which have gone on to be published). All told, not including re-writes, it works out to about 800,000 words. 

ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
SD: Of mine? Uhhhh...this is like picking a favorite kid and I only have two of those to choose from. It honestly changes almost daily, but for today, I'll go with Ever, the heroine of Badlands. Mainly because of her complete balls-out, honest approach to life (okay, and her bad-assery). The only time she falters is when the hero manages to touch on the love thing. She was a bit of (*cough* okay, a major) man-hater prior to him, so I loved watching her try to build her walls back up as they crumbled.

ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
SD: My favorite antagonist is actually from one of my (as of yet) unpublished young adult novels. His name is Ian Donnelly, and he's an Irish mob boss. There's a scene that I still remember writing where the hero is in a room with him. Donnelly's holding a letter opener, and the hero can't stop watching the way the light gleams on the edge of its blade. For me, that simple act with a less-than-lethal weapon still freaking the hero out showed in really simple terms just how dangerous Donnelly was. And he was a lot of fun to write. 

ABK: Was there one thing in particular that got you started in the Romance genre?
SD: A kick in the ass...or ten. The first novel I ever wrote was a romance, but then I moved to YA for a couple years. It took people pushing me to try something different to attempt to tackle romance again. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I can write other things too. 

ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel(la) (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
SD: The first novel I ever finished was started for NaNoWriMo 2007. Prior to that, I'd been slogging through a story that I just couldn't seem to make happen. I decided I needed a break and shelved it for November. Looking back, I know there was something that inspired it, but now I couldn't tell you what exactly. That story (which I promised one of my early readers I would go back and re-write to try and get it published--it's her favorite of mine) was about the island of Avalon and the heir to Arthur's throne and all sorts of magic and mayhem, oh, and dragons.

ABK: What is the most difficult part of the novel(la) writing process for you?
SD: I have a hell of a time with endings. Every time I get close to the end of a draft, my writing feels like it slows down. It's completely a mental block, because the drafting is the fun part. Once it's over the work part starts. I don't want the fun to end, so I hang onto it for all I'm worth. It drives me batty.

ABK: Tell us about an inspiration that arrived from a strange source.
SD: A strange source? Most of those I haven't written yet, so I don't want to talk about something that won't happen. But one of my favorites regards one of my Paranormal Response Team stories (YA). I was driving (I could even show you exactly what stop light I was at when this happened...and thank goodness I was at a light) when David Cook's song "Lie" came on. It's this sad song about a break-up that's about to happen. Love the song. I'd listened to it dozens of times. That day though, I had this crystal clear image of my main character from Pretty Souls, Elle, trapped in a cage and starving to death. At the time, I was barely thinking series, but that image made me examine the characters. Figuring out how she got in that cage spawned the rest of the series. 

ABK: When writing Badlands, your super steamy steampunk, did you find writing your particular alternate history difficult or exhilarating?
SD: I loved writing Badlands as a steampunk (it started out as a space western...which didn't go so well). Reimagining the United States was such a freeing experience. More than any other story I've ever written, Badlands made me feel like I could do anything with my worlds and characters. That story is the one that made me realize I like taking risks (and there are certain things I did with Ever's character that some people still get cranky at me for). To me, I'd rather be true to characters and stories than tropes and conventions, and all of that started with Ever and Badlands.

ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?
SD: Please do not look at my GoodReads page because I've been reading a bunch of books for a while now (I had to stop each of them to read something for review and most didn't get picked up again...yet). At the moment, I'm back into Heist Society by Ally Carter. It's a YA caper story. I bought a bunch of stuff when Borders closed and I honestly have no idea what's next on my TBR. 

ABK: Promo time! What’s your next book and when will it be released?
SD: My first (sort of) self-published short story came out in October. Forever Summer won the 1 Place for Romance summer contest. They provided cover art and editing, but posting it was all on me, so...I guess I'm officially an indie author now too (kind of). I also have a new holiday short coming in the Evernight holiday anthology Stockings and Suspenders (I don't have a release date on it yet, but I'm assuming early December). My story is called Making the Naughty List and is a follow-up to last year's Yes, Alana, There Is a Santa Claus. In this one, readers actually get to meet Santa, which was fun for me. The story, however, follows a young elf named Daisy who is on a mission from Santa to get a certain Mr. Gage Thomas off the naughty whatever means necessary. 

Check out more From Seleste at her website and follow her on twitter!
If you'd like to check out my review of Badlands, it's here.

Nov 3, 2011

Revision Wars: Over

So, I finished my revisions and sent them away a little while ago. (And promptly breathed a heavy sigh of relief) Either way it goes at this point, it’s out of my hands. I feel oddly calm.
How do you feel after you’ve finished revisions?
Original ms: 96,172
Final: 96,261

Nov 2, 2011

Plotting: How I do it

I won’t lie to you, my first two novels were panster novels. I sat down, I wrote and… BAM! Novel.
But then something strange happened with novel #3 I half pantsed, half plotted … and I realized that it made revising the story so much easier.  The fourth novel I wrote was entirely plotted (and then replotted 3 times throughout writing it) and from then on everything I’ve written has been plotted. Excepting novel #5… which I’ll talk about some other day.
So, how do I plot?
Let me first explain that since my fourth novel almost everything I’ve written has been Science Fiction – or at least has had a science fiction feel – And I like my SF to be super plot driven.
When I sit down with an idea, I’ve usually got a few pages written out – there’s one exception (super secret project SEF) – and so I have a starting point (or at least one plot point.) And from there I make decisions.
I take out a sheet of paper (or open an excel spreadsheet – depending on where I am) and go.
Decision #1: What approximate word count I want to end up with  (usually 95K – I like that buffer range). I write this at the top of the page.
Decision #2: How many chapters I want. This can be done either by picking the # of chapters, or picking the average word count I feel comfortable with.  I run the chapter numbers down the left margin of the page.
Decision #3: How much down time I want to give the reader. Usually the answer’s “not a lot.” At this point, I write an E (for Expositione.g., Back story, longer bits of dialog, some internal conflict, the like) next to a few spaced out chapters.
Decision #4: I decided exactly where I want the Climax.  In novel #4, the climactic event came in the second to last chapter with the Denouement only taking up one chapter. In my Steampunk Western, the climax occurs two chapters before the end. At this point everything else gets a “PP” for plot point.
Decision #5: What sort of basic plot points do I want. For example – in novel #4, I had plot points like: Hanging, Shootout, Scrapper, etc. I have been known to simply put “Fight” next to a chapter in this first stage.
And from there I continue to get more specific until I’ve got a clear picture of what’s going to happen.
Then I build my main characters (secondary characters are often built along the way)
Then I write.
And by 20 or 30k words, I need to go back into my plot outline and jimmy stuff around.
How about you? Do you plot at all? If so, what do you do differently?

Nov 1, 2011

Review: The Postman

The Postman
By David Brin
Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction Based on Lies
Paperback, 321pages
Published by Bantam Books
Released 1985
(My version printed in 1997)

My Summary:
Gordon Krantz is a relic of a dead nation. Wandering west from the radioactive Midwest, Gordon has scraped by, using his theatrical abilities when a town will let them past their stockade and falling back on his common sense and militia training when he’s left to fend for himself in the wilds.
When a band of thieves steals almost everything he has, he only makes it through the night by stumbling upon a long dead mail truck. Its skeletal driver has no qualms about sharing his truck for the night and Gordon gives the dead man as proper a burial as he can in exchange for the man’s coat, hat and a few other possessions.
It isn’t until he arrives in the small town of Pine View, Oregon that he realizes the power the pony express emblem on his hat and the American flag stitched into his shoulder pad have. And when people begin to believe he’s a postman, he lets the lie carry him from town to town with a blanket of safety he hadn’t known since before the Doomwar that left the country broken.
But even a postman has his problems. A super computer left over from before the war and the town folk it has supported all these years, fear intervention from a nation Gordon can’t tell them doesn’t truly exist. And everyone has to deal with the Holn Survivalists, especially now that they’re moving around the blockade that has held them back at the Rogue so long…
My Review:
*A point of not about my copy of the novel.* Whoever put together the formatting for this novel back in 1997, needs to have reevaluated their stance on the subject of spine margins.
Divided into four parts (the last barely counting at 10 pages) the novel has three distinctly different feeling sections. 1. Lying. 2. Accepting the Lie. 3. Fighting to keep the lie (and what it’s brought about) alive.
The writing and the story are well thought out an entertaining. Though I do find the space between parts – and the missing parts of the story there-in – to be a little disappointing, but not a deal breaker.
It’s a story about a man who is mistaken for a real postman – because of his clothing – later uses that to his advantage and ends up spurring a great change in the mind set of those who survived the Doomwar. In reality, Gordon Krantz should be a ‘bad guy’ in this story, but a lie that gives hope seems to outweigh the fact that the hope is baseless.
Compared to the Movie:
If you’ve watched the movie and are going to read the book, or the other way around, approach the one you’re reading/watching second as though it’s something else entirely.
The movie is very centered on the conflict of the Holnists oppression of the small villages throughout Oregon. And in many ways, it feels as though the screen writer read only the first portion of the novel and decided to use it as a base point and then formed the rest of the script from his own fancy. There is so little that is concurrent between the novel and the film that it’s not worth going into the differences.
Buy, Borrow, Brush Past:
I’d give this novel a solid rating of Borrow. It’s a wonderful story – if a little farfetched – and I think it’s worth reading. The reason this one doesn’t get the “Buy” is because of the spine margin and the difficulty it provides while reading.