Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Blast--The Silver Sphere

Good Monday,

Goddess Fish Super Book Blast Tour for:

Michael Dadich’s “The Silver Sphere”
A young adult fantasy

BLURB
Shelby Pardow never imagined she could kill someone. All she wants to do is hide from her troubled father… when she is teleported to awaiting soldiers on the planet Azimuth. Here she is not a child, but Kin to one of the six Aulic Assembly members whom Malefic Cacoethes has drugged and imprisoned. He seeks to become dictator of this world (and then Earth by proxy).

His father, Biskara, is an evil celestial entity, tracked by the Assembly with an armillary device, The Silver Sphere. With the Assembly now deposed, Biskara directs Malefic and the Nightlanders to their strategic targets. Unless….

Can Shelby find the other Kin, and develop courage and combat skills? Can the Kin reassemble in time to release or replace the Assembly, overthrowing Malefic and restraining Biskara?

Author Information
I’ve been writing since first setting pencil to steno pad at age 8. A year later, I began developing the world of my current series-in-progress, and even created its title, The Silver Sphere. Now, with the support of years of experience, those early maps and back stories have progressed into what I hope is a fresh and entertaining take on the classic young adult fantasy adventure.

Despite my frequent escapes into parallel worlds, I root myself firmly in my very real family and community. When not pacing the yard maniacally after every few pages of writing, I spend as much time as possible hanging out with my studly 9-year-old son, and my inspirational wife Jenna. I also coach several local youth sports teams in Beverly Hills, and alternate between yelling at my two crazy Corgis and hiking with my trained German Shepherd.

For more, join me in my favorite fantasy worlds, from Lord of the Rings to the creations of C.S. Lewis, Anne McCaffrey and Terry Brooks. Even more importantly, stop by and say hello on my Facebook page at AuthorMichaelDadich, tweet me at @MichaelDadich, and stalk my website at thesilversphere.org.

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Hey readers,

I am just one of several stops on today’s tour. Check out the others here.

And don’t forget to leave comments on this and other tour stops! Michael will be giving away a $75 Amazon or bn.com gift card to one randomly selected commenter during the tour.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Year in IntREVIEW

Good Friday,

Often it is said just before New Years that it is a time to think back on the previous year.

As 2012 draws to a close, I intend to do a variant of just that.

A Year in IntREVIEW

Since creating the Lockbox back in May, I’ve interviewed several writers. This being the last Fiction Friday of the year, I’d like to take the opportunity to revisit all of those interviews. They are listed below.

I recommend, when you have the time, that you read through these. They are well-thought out responses about interesting people and works of fiction and non-fiction.

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-7-13-12
Amarilys Acosta: Young adult adventure/romance

-7-20-12
Matt O’Dwyer: Fantasy

-7-27-12
Tiffany Avery: Fantasy

-8-10-12
Heather Sedlak: science fiction and fantasy

-8-17-12
Rachell Nichole: Erotic Romance

-8-24-12
Natalie Duvall: Regency romance

-8-31-12
Stephanie Wytovich: Horror/dark fantasy

-9-7-12
Jennifer Loring: Horror/dark fantasy

-9-14-12
Craig Grossman: Neo-noir suspense

-9-21-12
Sally Bosco: Young adult dark fantasy

-9-28-12
Erin Bales: Epic fantasy

-10-5-12
Joe Borrelli: Horror

-10-12-12
Lori Pollard-Johnson: Mystery and other

-10-19-12
Samantha Holloway: Fantasy

-10-26-12
David Wilbanks: Humor

-11-9-12
Sandra I. Bordenca: Memoir

-11-16-12
Ethan Nahte: Speculative fiction

-11-23-12
Rachel Robins: Urban fantasy

-12-14-12

Jason Blatt: Comic fantasy

-12-21-12
Anna Zabo: Paranormal and fantasy romance

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It was a pleasure interviewing these writers, many of whom I know personally.

Expect to see more about authors in the future. I enjoy this type of thing so much that I’ve partnered with Goddess Fish Promotions. Come back on Monday for my first post with them.

For now, since this is my final free post of 2012, it’s been a great year. In terms of writing, I made great progress on my Seton Hill thesis, and I finished my urban fantasy. Looking ahead, the querying of the urban fantasy begins when I return from my January residency at SHU.

It’s been fun, 2012.

See you out of the box.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guest Post--Rachell Nichole - Writing a Good Erotic Romance

Good Wednesday,

We have a guest today. Please give a warm welcome to erotic romance author Rachell Nichole. She’s here today to talk both about her recently released novel, “Spicy with a Side of Cranberry Sauce,” and the nuts and bolts of writing an erotic romance.

Welcome, Rach.

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Hey Mary,

Thanks so much for having me stop by today. And hello readers, I’m glad you tuned in to hear what I have to say about writing a good Erotic Romance.

Writing a good erotic romance is equal parts really easy and really hard to do. First let’s chat a bit about the erotic romance industry in a post-Fifty Shades world. After the book blew up all over the place – hitting best-seller charts, spotlighting at many a book club, and being talked about everywhere – there was a huge change in the way erotic romance was shelved in bookstores, at least the ones I’ve encountered since then. Erotic romance was suddenly front and center in the middle of the romance section, right alongside paranormal, Harlequin’s lines, and sweet romances. That’s a big deal. But as many readers will tell you, the Fifty Shades books are not the best books ever written. So now, we turn to how to enjoy this surge in the industry and produce excellent books!

This is the easy part… and the hard part. To write a good erotic romance, you have to do everything you have to do when you write a good book, no matter its genre or subject matter. That’s it folks – write a good book, with lots of hot sex and a happy ending.

Of course, that’s much easier said than done, so I want to share a few specifics. I’ll give some examples from my current book, Spicy with a Side of Cranberry Sauce since I know the book inside and out and I want to share a bit about the book with you all.

1 – Plot – the book has to have a plot line. It can’t just be a bunch of love scenes connected by a few pages of dialogue and characters walking down the street for absolutely no reason. In my book, the plot revolves around a couple, Amy and Mason, who meet in a grocery store and feel an instant affinity for one another. They quickly realize though that their parents are dating and Mason’s defensive attitude and Amy’s determination to make things perfect lead them on a wild rollercoaster ride that lasts from Thanksgiving through Christmas. When Mason’s mom realizes he’s been sleeping with Amy, she calls off her relationship with Amy’s dad and it’s up to Amy and Mason to work together to fix it. See? Plot. Things happening, for a reason, outside of the sex scenes, of which there are many.

2 – Characterization – the book’s hero and heroine, or heroine and heroine, or hero and hero, or whatever, must be likable and they also must not be perfect. No one wants to follow along on the shoulder or in the head of someone who is perfect. Perfect people are annoying. Perfect characters even more so. Amy and Mason are seriously damaged characters. Amy lost her mom when she was a kid and hasn’t celebrated or planned ahead for pretty much anything else since then. Mason’s been carrying the guilt of his father’s affairs on his shoulders for over a decade and is convinced that he’s just like his father.

3 – Conflict – this kind of goes along with plot (what happens in the book) but it takes that concept a step further. Without conflict, everyone can be happy right from the start of the book. As a professor of mine says, “Only conflict is interesting.” Who wants to watch a football game in which nothing happens, or where one team is so far out of the realm of the other that we all know what is coming next. For Amy and Mason – the conflict is almost as instantaneous as the attraction. Mason doesn’t want Amy and her Dad spending the holidays with his mom. He knows she’s been hurt enough and fears the new man in her life is taking advantage of her frail emotional state. Amy is determined to win Mason over, even when he’s rude to her. She wants her dad and Martha (Mason’s mom) to be together. And she wants to celebrate a perfect holiday with this family.

4 - Love – the book MUST have a love story, an emotional element even among the hottest of scenes. It also must have a happy ending. This is where the line is drawn between erotica and erotic romance. An erotic romance must be a romance first and erotic second. If the people don’t get together in the end and stay together, the book is not a romance. The book starts with attraction, with love scenes, but there’s a steady building of admiration and love between Amy and Mason, until neither can deny their feelings for the other and decide to stick together despite their own damage and fears that it won’t work.

Those are really the big ones that every book needs, no matter the genre. Love is the only requirement added for romance. And sex is the only additional aspect for erotic romance, and while these scenes may have a lot of page time, they’re not the main part of the book. Past that, the book has to be well-written in terms of grammar, consistency, concision and all of that jazz, but all of those things happen during revisions and editing.

Thanks again Mary. And thanks readers. Do you think I missed anything?
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Thank you, Rach. Looks good to me, and it’s so nice to actually see it said that there’s more to an erotic romance than sex, sex, and more sex. 

Spicy with a Side of Cranberry Sauce is on sale at Loose Id, All Romance Ebook, and Amazon.

You may recognize Rach’s name from an interview she did with me back in August about her book “An Affair Across Times Square.” Check that out here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Rant

Seasons Greetings from the Lockbox!

I’m taking a break from fiction today. I need to rant.

I celebrate Christmas. It’s not out of any religious obligation that I do this, but rather it is because Christmas is the holiday with the most lights. A born and bred New Englander, pine trees are a staple. Plus, this time of year wouldn’t be complete without “Carol of the Bells” in its various forms.

In fact, I really love most Christmas songs. There are a few I learned about via my college choir that I could live without, but, for the most part, Christmas songs are either beautiful or fun. As a true music lover, that means quite a bit to me. And so it is with warm regards that I give the majority of Christmas music two thumbs up.

All that aside, today’s rant is about one Christmas song in particular, and it’s not about one of those previously mentioned ones I could live without. No, it’s a song that I don’t actually dislike. It’s about a song that drives me something south of crazy. You’ve heard of the Pachelbel Rant (and if you haven’t, you have now). Well, this is the “12 Days of Christmas Rant.”

Writers—you, better than anyone, understand the importance of being paid by the word. Writers and readers, is there or is there not anything worse than too many words? You know what I mean. When you open a book and are met with “The brown, dappled fox pranced lightly through the snow-dusted forest, flicking his tale in a completely ordinary side to side sequence and puffing out a feather-like breath with every….” Make. It. Stop!

Wikipedia offers a nicely written article about the history and lyrics of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” stating up front that the lyrics are cumulative. Yes, that means what you think it means. It means that on the fourth day of Christmas, the poor person not only got the 4 calling birds but also three more French hens, another couple of turtledoves, and a brand spanking new partridge in a fresh pear tree.

So not only is that a ton of gifts, but it’s the longest freaking song ever!!!

Truth be told, I didn’t used to have this issue. In high school, I loved “The 12 Days of Christmas.” In advanced choir (chorale) my junior and senior years, we had a great 4-part harmony version of the song to which we would add visual aids. Day 1 was a single female mimicking a bird. Day two was two people (usually men) being all cutesy. Day three was three people (usually men) shouting in French accents and so on. Ten lords a-leaping was all the girls. Nine ladies dancing was all the men. It was the most fun I’ve ever had with that song.

And then I sang it in college.

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a partridge in a pair tree.
On the second day of Christmas…*snore*”

Despite my attempts, the director would not agree to let us act it out, and we were stuck standing on the risers, rather pathetically (there wasn’t a lot of us) singing this extremely repetitive song.

I endured this, as painful as it was, and live to tell the tale. But my feelings for “The 12 Days of Christmas” have not been the same since.

And then this Christmas season, I discovered a version with instrumental interludes.

That crosses a line.

I am now forced to return to my college years and explain the solution to the problem of the repetitive song. As a practical upshot, this doubles as a warning to writers everywhere about being paid by the word.

One of my fellow sopranos turned to me during rehearsal one day and said, “Mary, I figured it out. We don’t need to sing the entire song.” She proceeded to sing her new version.

“Over 12 days of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
12 drummers drumming
22 pipers piping
30 lords a-leaping
36 ladies dancing
40 maids a-milking
42 swans a-swimming
42 geese a-laying
40 golden rings
36 calling birds
30 French hens
22 turtledoves
And 12 partridges in pair trees”

Hallelujah!

Alas, the director wouldn’t approve that change either despite our arguments that it was shorter, more to the point, more economically friendly, better for the audiences’ attention span, containing the same message as the original, less likely to insight mass rioting on the part of the choir, and showing in the soprano section’s creative skills.

My personal issues with singing the longer version in choir, can we return to the poor giftee in this situation? When you sing the entire song out, the damage seems less intense. “Oh, another 3 hens. That’s not bad.” Not so, those hens add up. Thirty hens are much more intimidating.

It’s not just the hens, either. That’s a lot of birds—184 birds to be exact. Now, where is she going to keep all those birds? And what “true love” didn’t think to include birdfeed?

And how is the giftee going to afford to keep all these birds? For our purposes, let’s assume that the giftee is a woman (because the prospect of a woman courting a man with 40 golden rings is a bit odd). Back in the day, women could not amass wealth independently without considerable questioning.

But let’s say she can. If she’s not already independently wealthy—which would help quite a bit—she’ll need to sell the 40 golden rings. Assuming that the rings (in keeping with the time) are 24-carat gold, all forty would sell for roughly 66k dollars in today’s market. That’s not a lot by today’s standards. Thus, it stands to reason that its equivalent back then would not have been a lot for the time.

There are still 184 birds to feed.

And that’s just the birds. What about all those extraneous people? Counting up the drummers, pipers, lords, ladies, and maids gives her 140 more creatures to provide for. Oh and there’s still the 40 cows that came with the maids.

Clearly, the profit from the 40 golden rings is not going to be enough.

Well, the 42 geese are “a-laying,” which means eggs. And the 40 cows and their maids are “milking,” which means (duh) milk. Using these two, she could sell homemade ice cream.

Then she’s got 36 hens. On their own, they’re quite useless, but if she invests (wisely in my opinion) in a single rooster, those hens could increase her egg production.

All this work and its still, most likely, not enough.

Well, she’s got 12 drummers and 22 pipers at her disposal. Those make for excellent street performers. Once her capital has grown enough, she could invest in a few different instrument players and form an orchestra. She could then host real concerts and earn a more steady income.

But alas, the numbers keep growing, and, let’s face it, the partridges, turtledoves, calling birds, and swans are pretty much useless. The pear trees on the other hand could bring a profit. And since the pairs contain seeds, she could plant more trees. That would, inevitably, lead to hiring people to tend the trees, which would, in turn, lead to more expenses.

“Hey, all you dancing and leaping weirdos! What do you do?”

“We leap…and dance.”

“Awesome. Do that in front of people and ask for cash.”

And if times got really hard, she could always retire the dancers and leapers in their current roles and use them to open a brothel. You wanna live on the farm, earn your keep.

At this point, she should have amassed a good amount of money. So there’s only one thing left to do.

-1. Purchase falsified documents
-2. Leave the country
-3. Change her name
-4. Never have contact with her idiotic “true love” again.

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Writer’s Lockbox

What can be taken away from “The 12 Days of Christmas?”

-For the love of all that’s holy, when they say “paid by the word,” that is not an invitation to write as many words as possible at the expense of kindness to the reader and/or characters.

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If you’d like to hear a sung version of “The Condense 12 Days of Christmas,” head on over to my YouTube and have a listen here.

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Below is a list of parodies of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Enjoy and Happy Holidays.

-12 Pains of Christmas
It’s called the most joyous time of year. With great joy, however, comes great stress.

-12 Drunken Days of Christmas
This lady had “a little” too much to drink.

-Bob and Doug McKenzie’s 12 Days of Christmas
A bit one-track minded, but they know what they want.

-Chipmunks 12 Days of Christmas
The fun starts around day 6.

-Jeff Foxworthy 12 Redneck Days of Christmas
Just your average presents….

-Shrek 12 Days of Christmas
Presents from the swamp

-12 Days of Christmas – Hunger Games
Just some friendly advice

-12 Days of Christmas – The Clone Wars
Star Wars gifts—always a plus

-12 Wizarding Days of Christmas
Fred and George just love what everyone got them

-12 Disney Princess Days of Christmas
Not really a parody, but you know my thing about Disney.

-Muppet 12 Days of Christmas
The fun starts on day 8

Friday, December 21, 2012

Author Interview--Anna Zabo

Happy Apocalypse!

And welcome back to another interview on Fiction Friday. Today Anna Zabo is in the hot seat. As always, the interviewee will do the talking. Here we go.

-What book and/or experience made you want to be a writer?

As a young person, books opened up worlds for me. They made me laugh and cry. I saw love and the flowering of hope along with the perils of hate and vengeance. I learned that even the smallest of people could find the strength to change the world. Books lifted me up and gave me hope. I missed characters when I finished books and was overjoyed if I could meet them again in another. More than anything, I want to give to readers what those authors I read gave to me. I want to stir emotions and grip hearts. I want to show hope in darkness and how much power love can invoke.

-What genre(s) do you write?

As Anna Zabo, I write erotic paranormal romance and fantasy romance. I write science fiction, fantasy, and occasionally horror under another name.

-Publication history?

Close Quarter, my debut erotic paranormal romance, was released in November from Loose Id.

-Upcoming publications or works in progress?

I have a contemporary fantasy short story, Missing Persons, forthcoming next year in the Trust and Treachery anthology. It’s under my other name.

I’m currently working on the sequel to Close Quarter and also on a fantasy based loosely on the hundred years war.

-Spoilers?

Here’s a wee little peek at the sequel to Close Quarter, which has the working title of Strong in Spirit:

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The Order had sent him an adult to train. A human. A man. They knew he didn’t teach adults—human or otherwise—hadn’t since the debacle with Ozan. Yet here Vasil was, grasping Altan’s hand, hope peeking though the cracks in the fear and bitterness the man wore like a second skin.
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-For aspiring writers, any tips?

Keep writing. It’s okay to write bits of things... drabbles... ideas. Stick them in a folder. You might not finish them right away. You might not finish them at all. And that’s okay. You might also look through that folder later and pull something out that turns into the perfect story. But the most important thing is to keep writing.

-What’s your favorite book/genre to read?

My favorite genre is fantasy, because it can take you away from the “real world” while still teaching you quite a lot about that world. And the hope I glean from fantasy makes me believe that we can make this world a better place, too.

-What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

There’s a scene near the end of Close Quarter where Silas faces his past and is finally able to put many things to rest. It’s sad and hopeful and joyous all at the same time. I ended up writing through tears. And I’ve been told it’s made others cry. But it ended up being my favorite scene in the book.

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About Anna
Anna Zabo writes erotic paranormal romance and fantasy. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think. A lover of all things fae, she finds the wonderful and the magical amid the steel and iron of her city.

Want more from Anna?

Check out her website/blog at annazabo.com. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @amergina.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Hello folks,

The Next Big Thing

Last week, I was tagged by my friend/classmate at Seton Hill, Jennifer Loring.

Here’s what I’ve got to say.

-What is the working title of your book?

By the Fight of the Silvery Moon

-Where did the idea come from for the book?

NCIS—the TV show, not the actual government organization. I love the show and one day wondered “What would this be like with magic?” Make a few changes, build a magic system and ta-da.

-What genre does your book fall under?

urban fantasy/possibly paranormal mystery

-Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Heh, no clue. Lol

-What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When Vern Sumac, former dryad to a Poison Sumac and current office assistant at the New York branch of the Magical Investigation Agency (MIA), witnesses the murder of a supposedly human Times reporter while he is in wolf form, she needs to rethink everything she knows about magic and help her boss/best friend, Inspector Warren Gazeban, find out who did it and why.

*That’s a long sentence.*

-Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Issues with the way this is worded aside, I’m prepping to query it to agents. We’ll see what happens. *fingers crossed*

-How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

God, I’m not even sure. It’s gone through phases. Originally, it was a novella that took a year or so because I kept making changes. The version I have now took, probably, a couple of months. The last 50k was a pre-nanowrimo type of thing. (October instead of November)

-What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I guess it’s comparable to Jim Butcher’s “The Drezden Files” and Shanna Swendson’s “Enchanted Inc.” series.

-Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Like I said, NCIS, but also the burning desire to write something purely fun. My writing was always so serious before I started on this project. I wanted a character that I could pour all of my sarcastic thoughts into and who could then think them on paper for the rest of the world.

-What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I’ve read so many urban fantasy novels, I think I’ve lost count. Some have very refreshing takes on magic, others—not so much—and I’m thoroughly sick of any type of plotline that centers around vampires. So I deliberately picked a creature not given a lot of spotlight space (the dryad aka tree nymph) and then asked myself “what would the strangest thing that could happen to a dryad be?” Bingo, main character.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Review--"Hex Hall" by Rachel Hawkins

Good Monday,

Today I will review, as this post’s title suggests, “Hex Hall” by Rachel Hawkins.

Before I do, however, I need to step back and take a moment to address the recent tragedy in Newtown, CT. Three days ago on December 14, 26 people were killed in a school shooting in Newtown. Twenty of those 26 were children. Two days ago, I gave the following tribute on my author page. I give it again this evening.

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I do not have children of my own. I cannot imagine how the parents who lost elementary-aged children must feel now. I would love to promise them and every other parent that this will never happen again. Sadly, that is not in my power.

Paying a tribute to the victims and their loved ones, however, is in my power, and that is what I intend to do now.

This video comes from the Christmas Concert from sophomore year of my undergraduate career. I first sang this song in high school. When I sang it for Christmas in college, it hit me how it didn’t match the joyful carols typical of this time of year. I hate that it is appropriate at all but hate even more that it is appropriate during a time that is meant to be about family, caring, joy, and giving.

To the victims (children and adults) and the loved ones of the victims of the shooting in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012, my heart goes out to you.

Prayer of the Children

Please join me in a moment of silence for the victims.

___***---***___

Thank you
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And now back to my review.

***CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Hex Hall
By Rachel Hawkins

Published by: Hyperion Book – 2010

Genre: young adult fantasy

Synopsis
In the wake of a love spell gone horribly wrong, Sophie Mercer, a sixteen-year-old witch, is shipped off to Hecate Hall, a boarding school for witches, shapeshifters and faeries. The traumas of mortal high school are nothing compared to the goings on at "Freak High". It's bad enough that she has to deal with a trio of mean girls led by the glamorous Elodie, but it's even worse when she begins to fall for Elodie's gorgeous boyfriend, Archer Cross, and frankly terrifying that the trio are an extremely powerful coven of dark witches. But when Sophie begins to learn the disturbing truth about her father, she is forced to face demons both metaphorical and real, and come to terms with her own growing power as a witch
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I’ve since read all three books in the series. The first one remains my favorite.

At the beginning, “Hex Hall” has the appearance of any typical young adult book where the main character uses her powers to an alarming degree and is then swept off to some secret boarding school where she will be around others of her kind and learn to hone her magic. Sophie Mercer fits the mold. She’s super-powerful (the show of her power makes her seem even more powerful than she knows), but what is a bit different is that she knows exactly what she is from the get go. More often, the confused teen is unsure of why they can do such awesome stuff. Sophie knows. Granted, she doesn’t know all of the truth, but the fact that she knows anything about the magical world puts her leaps and bounds ahead of similar heroines. That made her refreshing.

Hecate (Hex) Hall also starts off seeming pretty typical. It fits into the “magic school that’s falling apart” mold (as opposed to the mystical castle/overly put-together building one), and it’s situated far from “normal” humans, complete with spells warding its true nature.

Beyond that, the character setup is fairly standard. Sophie is the plain-looking new girl. First onto the scene is Archer Cross—the popular guy with the name that stands out. What’s nice about Sophie’s initial encounter with Archer is, while they don’t hit it off right away (pretty typical), her first thought of him is that he’s not all that attractive. In place of the “gorgeous guy who is inevitably a jerk,” this is a small detail that made me want to keep reading because it was different.

Fast forward a bit and we meet Sophie’s roommate—the student that no one else likes, Jenna. Okay, that’s typical. It’s not too typical that Jenna is the only vampire student (especially in the recent explosion of vampire books), and her obsession with the most vibrant shades of pink isn’t too surprising. It’s nice that she isn’t the quiet, brooding vamp, though.

And then we meet Elodie and her followers. Elodie—the gorgeous popular girl with the flawless skin, long and flowing hair, and, of course, the gorgeous boyfriend (you guessed it), Archer Cross. Add to this that Elodie takes an immediate disliking to Sophie, and you have a pretty typical teenage girl feud brewing. The inevitable crush that Sophie develops on Archer only feeds this.

Okay, so the setup is pretty average for the type of story. However, there was just enough of something different and refreshing to keep me wanting to read. That coupled with Sophie’s light, fun tone carried me through the book.

What happens from there? We dive a bit farther into the typical. Sophie ends up in a situation where she’s forced to spend time with Archer. Elodie and Sophie’s dislike of each other only intensifies. Elodie’s friends begin to turn up dead, and Jenna (Sophie’s only real friend) is blamed. It’s nothing I wasn’t expecting, yet under all that there was a feeling that something different was happening.

Sophie begins to take magic lessons from the ghost of a relative. Her power grows. Elodie, after the death of her second friend, begins to spend more time with Sophie, accompanying her to lessons.

And then the ahuh moment.

As expected, Archer and Sophie grow closer until they have their first hot moment. In the middle of that, Archer breaks the mold for the typical attractive, popular guy. He becomes the enemy. Now maybe I should have, but I did not see that coming. I saw a host of other fates for archer but not that.

There are some other ahuh moments as well, but some things should be left a mystery.

So in terms of surprise value, the first two-thirds of the book are pretty standard for the story type. The fun, fast-paced narration and action keep the story moving, and, by the end, no one is who they first appeared to be.

I don’t have anything truly negative to say about this book. I would have liked to see more of the relationship progression between Sophie and Archer. There were points where it felt glossed over.

I do have to say, though, despite the rather typical beginning, the book was not riddled with teen angst. Even at her worst moments, Sophie acknowledges that her emotions are over-the-top. Those moments, though, aren’t so drawn out and so over-done that I wanted to throw the book across the room. Hawkins wrote teenagers who didn’t whine constantly, who didn’t make mountains out of every little mole hill, who reasoned things out. That, more than anything, persuaded me to read the rest of the series. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to follow Sophie, and I wanted to do both of these because I didn’t feel trapped in some irritating kid’s head.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Author Interview--Jason Blatt

Good Friday,

After a short break, I’m back with another interview. This week Jason Blatt is in the hot seat. And…here we go.

-What book and/or experience made you want to be a writer?

I don’t think I could limit it to any single experience or book. At a very early age I started making up my own stories. My mother would bring these notepads home from work, and I’d lie on the living room floor and spend hours making very crude comic books. So I’d make up these fantastic drawings of underwater bases and people turning into monsters and aliens and explosions and twists. No written dialogue though. Even then I was already hearing the “voices.” I don’t think that experience is necessarily unique; it’s just that I never really stopped doing that. That probably sounds weird, huh? I probably shouldn’t say that out loud too often. When my drawing ability didn’t keep up with the weird characters in my daydreams, I started to paint with words. I suppose a big part of it was having parents who encouraged me to read. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was an illustrated edition of A Christmas Carol. I still have it. And I’ll never forget the day my father came home after work with a brand new set of World Book encyclopedias. All those dogeared pages! The world was made up of all these amazing stories, some truer than others. But still—I was in love.

If I had to name names: Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, and Hunter S. Thompson. I blame them. Their work not only inspired me to write, but made me a reader, too.

-What genre do you write?

My heart is in comic fantasy. There’s just so much freedom in that realm as a writer to me. Besides, there are enough serious writers out there. I decided a long time ago that if I ever said anything profound it was accidental. That’s not to say that comic fiction can’t make a point. It often does. But that’s what I love about the genre—it’s very diverse and has a rich history. Otherwise, I don’t like to start out by dictating a story by genre conventions. If I think it will make a better story, I’ll try it. At least in the early drafts. I plot some, but it always changes as I work.

-What projects are you working on now?

My main project right now is my Seton Hill MFA thesis novel, a comic science fantasy, but I’ve also been working on some short stories that expand that novel’s fictional universe.

-Spoilers?

From my MFA WIP:

---
“Now that,” Atticus said, “is a hell of a thing.” He stared at the crumpled body, scratched his head, and finished what beer he hadn’t spit all over himself and half the kitchen. His three-legged Miniature Schnauzer hobbled in from the other room. Admiral Nelson was always a moody son-of-a-bitch, but especially when Atticus was behind schedule. He curled up on the mat by his empty bowl, looked up with his one good eye, and let loose a disaffected groan. His miniature paw rubbed the black patch covering the empty socket of his other eye.

“And how are we this morning?” Atticus said.

“You know, this simply won’t do,” the Admiral growled.

“We’ve got a bit of a situation.”

“We most certainly do.” The Admiral nudged the bowl forward with his nose. “Now--what are you going to do about it?”

“I’m not talking about food.”

“It’s what I’m talking about,” the Admiral said, “and until you resolve this oversight I really can’t be bothered. Not before morning num-nums.”

“You’re impossible.”

“Said the four hundred-year-old alien to his talking dog.”
---

-For other aspiring writers, any tips?

When I was 19, I tried to write my first novel. It was called Red Martian Camp and was loosely based on my experiences as an undergraduate at Penn State University. I had about 75pp when I showed it to someone I considered my first mentor, a high school English teacher. He told me to keep it to myself. It was a very long time before I had the confidence to try again. So remember that anyone’s advice or feedback is just that. If you hear the call and believe in it, don’t let anyone dissuade you from pursuing it. Just keep things in perspective.

-What’s your favorite book/genre to read?

I try to read as broadly as I can, but I can always rely on Terry Pratchett or Christopher Moore for something I know will hit the spot. I love the Modernists, Jazz Age fiction (what style!), Hammett and Chandler’s detective stories, John Le Carre, Cormac McCarthy, George Saunders, P.G. Wodehouse. David McCullough’s John Adams—great book and a fantastic historian (and fellow Pittsburgher), who knows how to tell a great story. E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime. Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Jose Philip Farmer’s Tarzan Alive! And I’m always expanding my knowledge of comic fiction. Right now there’s some Robert Rankin in my short stack, along with Gary Wolf’s Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Carl Hiassen, Nightlife of the Gods by Thorne Smith.

-What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

I haven’t written it yet, although I’m not sure I’m ever completely satisfied with a creative project. Several months ago I completed a short film and I was already thinking of what I’d change/add as it burnt to disc. Artistically, being satisfied is a kind of complacency to me. But there are deadlines. I suppose you learn to deal with it. Then again, I’m just getting started, so what the hell do I know?

---
About Jason
Born in a small rustbelt town north of Pittsburgh, Jason Blatt is currently a candidate in Seton Hill University’s MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program, where he’s working on his first novel. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he holds degrees in English/Creative Writing and Film Studies. He briefly studied film production at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, where he was the recipient of a First Works grant in 2011 for his satirical short film “Teabagger.” At some point, he plans to return and earn his certificate in film production. In another life, he studied political science at Penn State University, where he worked on local campaigns in State College, but mostly dealt with an early onset of advanced cynicism. Thanks to his Great Dane and a healthy sense of irreverence, he still has hope.

Want more from Jason? Says he…

I’m on Facebook and Twitter @jayblatt. I’m fairly absent from both (until the novel’s finished at least), although I’m saving a ton on birthday cards, which is nice. Once I’ve completed the draft of my novel, I plan to direction some attention to creating a blog. “More to Come,” as the old Tonight Show intertitles used to read.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Five Things Not to Title Your Novel

Hello,

As promised on Monday, I’m back with a more realistic post.

All right, it’s realistic, but it’s still more on the light-hearted side. The categories are serious. The explanations…I had a little fun with those.

Here goes.

---
Five Things Not to Title Your Novel

The old adage reads “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Should be true, but I know I do occasionally, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one. So here’s my two cents and five categories of titles not to give your work in progress.

-Anything in the style of “The (insert profession) (insert family member status)

In all seriousness, there’s an abundance of “So-and-so’s daughter/son” novels out there. The trend has been done to death. So unless you're going to entitle your book “The Pumpkin Carver’s Third Cousin Twice Removed on his Father’s Side,” don’t bother.

-A catchy single word

I’m talking about a word like “Dreams.” While it may sum up the book, there’s a ton of books out there with the single word “Dreams” as their title. Not the best way to stand out, in my opinion. (NOTE: This principle also applies when “a/an” or “the” is placed before the single catchy word.)

-The (insert type here) Night/Day

Like the family member category above, these titles are overused. Insert day or night into the thesaurus. It will help your book stand out if it says “The Brightest Diurn.”

-Vampire anything

K, this might just be my dislike of all things sexy vampire. See my rant here. But in all seriousness, “Vampire Hunter/School/Night/etc.” are getting old.

-Something that’s completely unrelated to the book’s contents

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many books I’ve finished only to think “That title had nothing to do with anything.”

Thank you for reading, and I’d like to invite you back for next Wednesday’s post. It’s going to be all about that urban fantasy I’ve written.

Monday, December 10, 2012

For Hanukkah

Evening,

I hope everyone had a good weekend. Mine was crazy, and, as a result, today’s post is severely lacking in media and/or analysis.

It is, however, the sharing of a YouTube video.

In honor of Hanukkah, I give you Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song.

Enjoy, pass it along, and have a good night.

I shall return with a real post on Wednesday.

See you out of the box,
Caboodle

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mini Book Survey

Good Friday,

One of my Facebook friends posted the following mini-survey as their status. I stole it and made it today’s blog post.

Feel free to steal it from me and/or share your answers to any of these questions as comments.

-One book that changed your life?

“Ready Player One” – Ernest Cline
I can’t even go into it all. I just finished the book and felt changed, somehow. Read it. It comes highly recommended from me.

-One book that you’ve read more than once

“Darkfever” – Karen Marie Moning
Powerful yet fun.

-One book you would want on a desert island?

“The Hunger Games” – Suzanne Collins
It might give me some tips for survival (“kill anyone you come across” not included).

-One book that made you laugh?

“The Lightning Thief” – Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson reminds me so much of a younger version of one of my closest friends. Said friend is hilarious.

-One book that made you cry?

Actually, “Breaking Dawn” – Stephenie Meyer—not for the reason you’re thinking.
I cried because I was going through a tough time, and Bella’s behavior toward Jacob—essentially tossing him aside as if he’d never meant anything to her when all he ever did was be there when she needed him the most—made me so mad that I actually drudged up tears.

-One book you wish had been written?

As a writer, this one is tough because I could, theoretically, write the book in my answer. That said, I always wondered what happened to Ariel’s sisters in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

-One book you wish had never been written?

I can’t say that I wish any books had never been written. Even books that I have no love for have influenced society somehow.

-One book you are currently reading?

“Fated” - Alyson Noel
It’s the common reading for my Jan residency at Seton Hill. Just started it. Not sure how this is going to go. Keeping my fingers crossed.

What book have you been meaning to read?

“Cold Days” - Jim Butcher
It just came out. Need to get on that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Results--Goodreads 2012

Hey folks,

It’s been a very long day. The Christmas season is in full swing, and I’ve got a lot going on. So tonight’s post will be very short indeed.

The results of the Goodreads 2012 Choice Awards are up.

I’ll say that only two of the books I voted for won.

“The Mark of Athena” by Rick Riordan
I recommend his “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” and “Heroes of Olympus” series. They’re on the young adult side of things, but fun reads.

“The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling

Otherwise, congrats to the other winners, even though I didn’t agree with some of them.

---
Wednesday Word Tally

The synopsis is killing me slowly. Lol.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review--"Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" by Lish Mcbride

Good Monday,

I may have created a monster last week with my review of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent.” Here’s book review number two (hey, that rhymed).

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“Hold me Closer, Necromancer”
By Lish Mcbride

Genre: Young adult urban fantasy

Publication: Henry Holt and Co. October, 2010

Synopsis
Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

---
I picked up this book because a friend of mine told me “you have to read it.” So I read it, and I enjoyed it.

I’m going to try and keep this to no spoilers, but one or two might slip out.

This was an all-around fun read. I can’t say how happy I was that, even though it was about necromancers, it wasn’t swimming with death. What death was included was handled very well. Just when I thought “oh my god, holy crap, that’s terrifying,” something happened to diffuse the tension, and I was back to laughing.

I’d like to take a minute and talk about POV. I spent a ton of time in my genre reading class this semester writing about POV and its various uses. Mcbride chose to go with a few points of view—one first, the rest third. I’ve seen this in a few other places—Tess Gerritsen’s “The Silent Girl” and Genevieve Valentine’s “Mechanique,” which also uses the ever unpopular second person. “Mechanique” generally drove me insane, but I loved the different POV’s in “The Silent Girl.” Similarly, I found them refreshing in “Hold me Closer, Necromancer.” They gave the story a lot of depth, but the first person perspective from Sam kept me understanding that he was the main character.

That said, I wonder how the story would have worked entirely from Sam’s perspective. A good amount of urban fantasy books (“The Drezden Files” by Jim Butcher and “The Katie Chandler Series” by Shanna Swendson to name just a few) are told like that. I’ve heard it said that first person leaves the reader with an unreliable narrator. I don’t think that’s why Mcbride chose to interrupt Sam’s first-person narration, though. In the interest of keeping the book classified as young adult, the interruptions seemed necessary. Showing some of what happened from Sam’s perspective (Sam being a bit squeamish) might have been too much. Showing it through the third-person lens kept the action rated PG 13.

Also, it was really nice to see a protagonist who openly admitted to not being brave. There are too many “kick-ass from birth” heroes out there. Like the third-person interruptions, Sam is refreshing.

I really hope this turns into a series. Without giving too much away, the story resolved itself, but enough questions were also left for Mcbride to easily continue the action. Personally, I’d follow the series.

Oh, I almost forgot, I love the title! (Pun on “Hold me closer, tiny dancer,” I see what you did there.)

---
Writer’s Lockbox

What can be taken away from “Hold me Closer, Necromancer?”

-When writing young adult, keep it light, kids. Okay, it doesn’t need to be all fun and games, but, in my opinion, what separates books classified “ya and older readers” from regular adult fiction is how things are presented. Death is a serious concept, but it’s handled in a lighter way in this book.

-Sometimes switching up POV works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It really depends on content, intended audience, and characters.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Presents!

Good Friday,

It’s the last day of Nanowrimo. As I said on Wednesday, I failed. Lol.

The truth is it hit me at a bad time. I was done with the writing of my WiP and onto the editing. And then that final paper for class tried to kill me. My final count for Nano was around 20k.

To those who finished, great job!!!

To those who didn’t, if at first you don’t succeed…. You know the rest.

Here’s to next year!

---
In honor of Nano, here’s a bit of rejected material from the urban fantasy.

Vern (the half dryad) walks back into her office to find Hanson (the womanizing warlock) sitting at her desk. Reminder: Vern believes Crys (the fairy) hates her guts.

---
I drew up short in the doorway to my office.

“Afternoon,” Hanson said from where he perched in my chair.

“You have a thing about sitting there, don’t you?”

The warlock stood and stretched. “Only when I’m looking to talk to you.”

I leaned against the wall. “Should I get comfortable?”

“Nah.” He crossed the room and tapped the top of my head. “This is just a quicky.”

“I bet you say that a lot.”

“Sometimes,” Hanson said without so much as a flinch. “In any event, I just came down to tell you not to go near Crys’s lab.”

I snorted. “You don’t have to tell me that, trust me.”

“I know, but I was just there and she was in a worse mood than normal.”

“Seriously?”

“Complete with angry fluttering and a threat to roast me alive.”

“She needs anger management,” I said.

“True story,” Hanson said. “She’s a big bully. Or, actually, considering she’s a few inches shorter than you while hovering, I’d say she’s a small bully.”

“Oh God, don’t tell her that.” I shivered at the thought of my fate if those words got back to the fairy. I’d be better than dead.

“No worries.” Hanson winked. “You’re not the only one with a sense of self-preservation.”
---

Last thing before I sign off for the weekend. Join me on my Facebook author page and/or my Twitter for “The 25 Funny Days of Christmas.” Starting tomorrow and going until Christmas Day, I’ll be posting a different funny Christmas song or parody of a carol with a double feature on December 25.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Concise Guide to the Genre Fiction Writers Choir

Good Wednesday,

Aside from writing, I’ve spent a good amount of my life in the performing arena. Most notably, I was a member of the 2007 MENC All Eastern Mixed Choir. That choir was epic.

So I guess that would classify me as a choir nerd. If the shoe fits, then I am a choir nerd and proud of it.

In my surfing of the internet, I’ve come across many a choir joke. One of the most involved is A Concise Guide to the Choir. This is a humorous explanation of the four main voice parts in a choir:

Soprano – high female part
Alto – low female part
Tenor – high male part
Bass – low male part

How does this relate to writing? As of right now, it doesn’t. I’m about to change that. It has occurred to me that each genre resembles one of the voice parts in a choir.

Soprano – Fantasy/Science Fiction
Alto – Romance
Tenor – Mystery
Bass – Horror

And so, without further ado, I present “A Concise Guide to the Genre Fiction Writers Choir.”

***NOTE*** No offense to writers of any genre. This is purely for fun.

-Science Fiction/Fantasy (Sopranos)

According to the choir guide, sopranos basically think they rule the world. (Well, they do. The fact that I am a soprano who writes mainly fantasy has nothing to do with this….)

SF/F writers tend to harbor the belief that they rule the world. More accurately, they rule a world that they have created. How this translates to them ruling the real world is still unknown.

There is a feeling of dominance that comes with being “God” in their own world: “Real worldians, kneel before me. The fantastic deaths that my characters have suffered in my made-up world are far worse than anything this puny real thing could possibly inflict upon you.” The authors forget that, while their wicked forms of death and torture are extraordinary, they are completely inaccessible on this side of their imaginary world line. This does not stop them from believing that they are better than the other genres. After all, “We have to create everything. You people have a setting and pre-established species (human) rules. What do you have to do?”

Not surprisingly, this creates a lot of animosity in the other genres toward SF/F. The SF/F writers weather this, always siting that they have to do more work. The exception to this is the horror writers. SF/F writers don’t mind the horror guys because they understand torturing your characters in new/as of yet undiscovered ways.

Q: How many fantasy writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: “A what?” *Urban fantasy guy in the back raises his hand*
A2: One, he flicks his wrist and the light bulb screws itself in.

Q: How many Science Fiction writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Five, one to figure out the ancient technology that is the light bulb and four more to stand around looking confused.

-Romance (Altos)

According to the choir guide, altos are unassuming. Romance writers are much the same. They are comfortable in the knowledge that they are creating something that all people can relate to (the flourishing of relationships). They know readers will always want their books, and they believe (much like altos) that the SF/F authors (sopranos) could take a hike and the industry wouldn’t suffer for it. “Why the pitfalls of death before the couple gets their happily ever after? That’s just mean.”

Also like altos, romance writers know that the other three genres view their genre as “pitifully easy to write. Anyone could do that.” The romance writers know otherwise. They silently dare the SF/F, horror, and mystery guys to write a romance novel. “Oh, and it has to be a good romance novel. None of this 50 Shades crap.”

Romance writers feel an unspoken bond toward mystery writers—the only other genre that typically remains grounded on Earth. They avoid those SF/F “jerks” as much as possible and dart nervous glances at the horror writers. “Did you hear what that guy did to his characters? *shudder*”

Q: How many romance writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: One—their self-sufficient.

-Mystery )Tenors)

According to the choir guide, tenors are spoiled. “But wouldn’t that make them SF/F?” I said “spoiled,” not “full of themselves.”

But that’s not really where mystery writers resemble tenors. As may be obvious, mystery writers are, well, shrouded in mystery. They’d rather sell their souls then unload their precious plotting details, much the same way that choir directors feel about tenors). Tenors also have a tendency to keep a lot of secrets (aka, if their part is too high, they will make up any excuse rather than say the part is too high).

Mystery writers don’t really have much use for either SF/F or horror writers. Those weirdos live in their own worlds anyway. They reciprocate the unspoken bond that the romance writers feel toward them. “We need to stick together in the face of those speculative nuts.”

Q: How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Five, one to screw in the light bulb and four more to stand around concocting theories about the light bulbs use in a murder.

-Horror (Bass)

According to the choir guide, basses are solid and dependable. Ever heard the old adage “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer?” Horror writers will come off as solid and dependable because they want you around. Why? Well if you leave, who are they going to freak out or use to plan terrifying scenes for their next novel?

Basses are often referred to as the “real men” of the choir. “Real men” (supposedly) like things such as darkness and are never afraid. Hey, horror writers are never afraid. “There’s nothing scarier in real life than what I wrote about last night—by candle light—after the midnight sacrifice meeting I went to.”

Possibly the reason horror writers write horror is an innate sense of being under appreciated. They feel (possibly even fear) that the other genres have it all over them in the sales department because readers get freaked out by the horror section. This explains quite a bit actually. Horror writers compensate for feeling under appreciated by leaning on the proverbial genre horn, so to speak. They produce the most reaction-inducing content of any genre to make themselves feel as though they are standing out.

Horror writers understand the plight of the SF/F writers. They too, if for different reasons, know how it feels to have the other genres avoid them like the plague. Horror writers have a secret, deep-seeded respect for mystery writers. “Anyone who puts their characters through that much strife can’t be all bad.” As far as romance writers are concerned, they are in another universe that the horror writers don’t get at all. Why would anyone want to let their characters end up happily together at the end? For the rare horror writer who does let his/her characters get together, the question morphs into “why would anyone let their characters end up together so easily? Where is the murderer? The chainsaws? The zombies wielding an incurable virus that will turn the humans into mindless drones that just want BRAAAIIINS!?”

Q: How many horror writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Why would you want to turn the lights on?

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Wednesday Word Tally

The urban fantasy basically stalled this past week. My final paper for my SF/F class ate my life (told you those genres hogged the spotlight). I got a bit done, and I’m back on target this week.

Current word count: 97,201

-Nanowrimo

Dead. Lol. Here’s to actually having a full-length project for November next year.

Although, I just did the math. Last month, I wrote 52,625 words on the urban fantasy. I did Nano a month early. I’m satisfied with that.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Author Interview--Rachel Robins

Hello folks,

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Welcome back to the Lockbox and another author interview. This week Rachel Robins (one of my fellow 2s at Seton Hill) is in the hot seat. Let's have it, Rachel.

-What book and/or experience made you want to be a writer?

Definitely, it’d have to be Laurell K. Hamilton, author of the AB:VH book series. I had picked up her series in high school and loved the earlier books—yanno, before everything went downhill. I ragequit when she shifted her genre from urban fantasy to paranormal erotica, keen on coming up with something better on my own.

I don’t know if I’m succeeding, but I’m trying all the same.

-What genre do you write?

I’m entirely enamored with urban fantasy. I love playing with reality and elements of the fantastic or absurd. At the moment, though, my current work in progress will likely be marketed as New Adult fiction in YA.

-What project are you working on now?

My main writing priority is my thesis novel, but I’m also working on my blog and trying my hand at other lengths of fiction. My small writer’s book club, The Ladies of Book Wookery, have banded together to challenge ourselves to write a monthly flash fic each, incorporating a specific noun, verb and genre, all chosen at random. My first addition went up September 23rd at The Wood Word.

-Spoilers?

Here’s an excerpt from Ex Nihilo, Chapter Five:

I shook my head to brush it away and hobbled over to the handicap stall to wait just outside of so I could claim it once the fairy left it. I couldn't maneuver around in the smaller ones.

Slouched against the wall waiting, I couldn’t help but stare at the girl who held open the door. She was some sort of anthromorph, or furry. Dense auburn fur coated her like skin. Maybe it was a trick of the light that made it seem to grow longer with each heartbeat?

But that wasn’t why I stared. Sometime in between me coming in and walking to stand outside the stall, she had whipped her shirt off. Bra and all. I looked up in time to see her vigorously shearing her left breast. There was hair everywhere. Even the nipples. It shocked me.

She grunted when she noticed through the mirror. “What? Never seen a pair of tits before?"

Not like those. I shook my head. “Sorry."

She shrugged.

She seemed absolutely comfortable with her nudity. If it didn't bother her, I wasn't going to let it bother me. I just wanted to make conversation. “So, uh. Are you a werewolf?” I realized afterward that it wasn't the best choice to start with.

She glowered at me. “Who are you calling a Vulkodlac, bitch? With a face like that, you ain’t got no right to start in on the name-calling."

My face warmed. I knew with the scars, I was no looker. “Sorry. I’m just kinda new to all this. I didn’t mean any offense."

She hesitated, like she was weighing my words. Testing for sincerity. “That’s fine. I guess. Just so you know. It’s sort of rude to ask people what they are."

“But then how will I know?"

“I don’t know. Be a mindreader?” She gave a short bray of laughter. “No, really. You pick it up. That, or get your ass kicked. Maybe both. One sort of helps with the other.” Finished with the left boob, she moved on to her shoulder and upper arm.

“I see,” I said.
---

-For other aspiring writers, any tips?

Like my mother says, “Keep it simple, stupid.” Just because you have a complex world or a surplus of intertwining subplots doesn’t mean you can hurl everything at the reader all at once. Put your blinders on, and focus on one element at a time. Only feed the reader information on an as-needed basis, detail by detail. Any more than that, either your story will start to bloat in places, or you’ll entirely confuse your audience.

-What’s your favorite book/genre to read?

Due to my critical hag nature, it’s a rare thing for me to really enjoy most books.

Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series was a front runner for me I think the longest now. I have certain issues with the last two books at the moment, but mostly, the series is pretty solid.

-What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

Generally anything I’m currently writing is my favorite thing at the moment.

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About Rachel
Rachel Robins is currently a graduate student in the MFA program of Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. She writes, she reads, she dabbles in almost every craft known to man, except possibly underwater basket-weaving. Rachel maintains a wide range of interests, from bento-making to crochet to French, drawing, graphic design, ABJD, jewelry making, designing fairy houses, and pretty much anything that looks spiffy, really. When she's not mucking about with any of that, she's most likely reading or slaving away on her urban fantasy work in progress, Ex Nihilo.

Want more from Rachel?

Check out her blog. Also check her out at Future Flash Fiction.

Rachel can also be found on Pinterest, Tumblr, and on Twitter @RSquaredWrites.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Hi folks,

It’s another anti-normal Wednesday blog post. What can I say? This time of year is holiday heavy.

In any case, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for?

My top 5 in no particular order
-family
-friends
-writing
-music
-health

Also, the final round of the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards has begun. Go vote!

And to all those for whom tomorrow is a holiday, enjoy, eat lots of food, and be thankful.

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Wednesday Word Tally

Finished my first round of edits on the urban fantasy. Now I’m just going back through and hammering out inconsistencies and anything else that needs hammering.

Current word count: 97,955

-Nanowrimo

I think it’s a lost cause. Lol. My count is at about 20k, and I don’t see it going up much more. School kind of ate my life this month, and, among other things this week, I’m writing my final paper for my contemporary fantasy and science fiction genre reading class. For anyone who’s curious, my topic is emotional investment in larger than life characters facing larger than life odds. Given my academic background in psychology and my application of psychology to genre fiction, I’m enjoying writing this paper.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a...what the f*** is it?"

Good Monday,

Today’s Media Monday is my class post for “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor. I chose to focus on genre (since the book seems to span the lines between so many). And so here is my analysis.

NOTE: At Barnes and Noble, the book is in fact shelved under young adult fantasy and adventure. Not where I would have put it, but to each his own.

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Who needs this genre thing anyway?

Unfortunately, we do, so I’m going to attempt to figure out what genre this book falls into. Wish me luck.

At this point, I’m toying with a few different ideas. I’ve got romantic fantasy, urban fantasy, and parallel universe.

Romantic Fantasy

Is this romantic fantasy? Oh yeah….

There is debate to whether this book is a story with a mid-show flash back, a late-coming story with a too-long prologue, or two stories in one. To say that this is definitely romantic fantasy, I think, would require to view it as two stories. The part that takes place in the past is an other-world romantic fantasy. The plot is driven by Madrigal and Akiva’s meeting and subsequent “flights in the night” (no pun intended, the characters have wings). The high point is when their love is discovered and madrigal is sentenced and killed. It’s got a “Romeo and Juliet” feel to it. “Two households (worlds) both alike in dignity….” In fact, if the Chimaera and Seraph were replaced by humans with shamanistic powers of reincarnation, I wouldn’t even feel like it was fantasy. I’d label it as paranormal romance.

Urban Fantasy

Is this urban fantasy? Don’t think so.

My first answer was “yes.” Upon closer examination, it dawned on me, however, that, aside from Karou’s wishes, there’s no actual magic in Prague. It’s in the workshop and the world beyond and just happens to slip into the real world sometimes. So even though the book takes place in a city (one of the characteristics of urban fantasy) I’m not sure I’d classify it as such. It’s more like “urban fiction with a single girl who was born of ‘demons,’ who collects teeth, and who travels to an alternate world via a magical door that can sometimes be found in her city.”

Parallel universe

Is it parallel universe? Very possibly, and here’s why I say that.

I can’t find the exact quotation, but somewhere in there it was said of the Seraph that they and their history are not what humans believe them to be. And this is what their history/lives really are (vastly different from what is believed in our reality). So it’s a real-life religion in a different universe. There’s talk about fallen and demons and angels and warriors. And amidst that, there’s one girl who was punished in a former life, moved to Earth, and given a new life. And then there’s the angel that finds her, makes her remember her old life, and explains that everything isn’t as she thinks it is. It seems like a romantic retelling of religion and, more importantly, a retelling that requires someone on each side of the war to realize that there’s more than war. Furthermore, these individuals need to show everyone else that.

***Not part of my original post*** Someone in my class suggested that it’s “portal fiction,” which is fantasy where the magical world is gotten to by going through a type of door or portal. This seems to fit since the way for Karou to get to the Shop (which technically isn’t on Earth) is through a door that only certain people can access.

Is it young adult?

Putting aside the debate of whether ya is a genre or an audience, I’d say it’s aimed at younger readers. There’s no over-the-top violence, but there’s plenty of “love at first sight” and “feeling of missing everything when his/her other half isn’t there.” The first I feel more fit to comment on. The entire story’s based around a war. Karou herself is injured pretty badly. Madrigal is killed. But it’s not shown in excruciating detail.

The romance thing—it’s “love” rather than “lust.” I have never claimed to be a romance writer or know much about the conventions of writing romance. All I can say is I’ve noticed that more books geared for adults have less “true love” and more “love and lust/sex.” Books geared for younger readers (teens) may mention sex but don’t feature it specifically. And the relationship between the romantic characters in ya works is more of “soul mates/true love.” Karou’s seventeen, and her relationship with Akiva (both as Karou and Madrigal) is more reminiscent of ya trends.

So I’d say (based on what philosophy you subscribe to) that Daughter of Smoke and Bone is of the ya genre or aimed at a ya audience.

Where would I house it on the shelves?

As I said above, it can be found under young adult fantasy and adventure. I’d keep it in the ya section, but I’d seriously consider moving it to the paranormal romance area. Just my two cents.

Oh, and if anyone’s wondering where my title came from, it’s paraphrased from Robin Williams’s comedy skit where he talks about kids’ toys. He’s goes on about how you can’t get high when you have kids because they have toys like transformers…”It’s a truck. It’s a plane. It’s a…what the f*** is it?” I used it as my title because that’s sort of how I felt with the question of “what genre is this book?”

See you out of the box,
Caboodle

Friday, November 16, 2012

Author Interview--Ethan Nahte

Good Friday,

Welcome to another start to the weekend and another author interview. This week Ethan Nahté is in the hot seat. So without further ado, here he is.

-About you?

My first published fiction stories appeared in junior high and high school literary magazines. Once I graduated high school I had a poem published in an anthology of poetry before putting fiction on the back burner for another twenty years or so.

After many years as a professional journalist and working in the TV/Video/Film industry I realized I had a lot of stories in my head and wanted to get back in to writing. Over the past three to four years I have had eight short stories published.

-What book and/or experience made you want to be a writer?

I’m not sure if there was any particular book that made me want to be an author. I remember one of my first attempts at a book was when I was probably five-years-old and my family was camping. I sat in the camper and wrote a story about my adventures. In reality it was probably just a short story but at that age it seemed like a lot of writing.

-What genre(s) do you write?

I primarily write speculative fiction and I like to include historical fiction in with my stories. Although I do enjoy reading and writing science fiction and fantasy I tend to write more horror. I also have a tall tale novel in the works and a couple of other novels and non-fiction pieces outlined. Some of my material can get a little bizarre or bloody. I just have a twisted dark side that occasionally creeps out into the sunlight to play then retreats back into the shadows.

-Publication history?

Yard Dog Press (YDP) was the first to publish my fiction. The story is “Bubbas, Barbarians and Yumbies, Oh My!” for the shared world anthology A Bubba in Time Saves None. It has a bit of historical influence involving Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane and some other great characters. YDP also published “There’s No Place Like…Aaaahh Shit!” in I Didn’t Quite Make it to Oz.

Twit Publishing has published three of my stories for three of their Twit Publishing Presents PULP! series: “Ripping Jack” is a historical fiction piece on why no one ever heard from Jack the Ripper again, “Devil’s Den” is a piece with a bit of historical fiction that includes a bogeyman and how a state park in Arkansas got its name, “Darmok and the Mermaids of the Sea” is a sword and sorcery tale. I loved the character and world so much that I have decided to write a full-length novel about Darmok’s adventures.

Hall Brothers Entertainment published my crime noir/fantasy in Villainy and they published my sci-fi story “Darwin Was Right” in Undiscovered: Tales of Exploration, Adventure and Excitement.

4 Star Stories.com also published my moral fantasy “Forest of the Golden Acorn.” They are a free e-zine. I sort of shocked many people who know me with the fact that I wrote something that didn’t end up bloody or killing a character.

-Upcoming publication(s) or works in progress?

I Didn’t Quite Make it to Oz was originally an e-book and a companion book to I Should Have Stayed in Oz. The e-book has done so well that YDP is putting it out as a softcover sometime in spring 2013 to coincide with the new movie Oz: The Great and Powerful.

In addition to the stories mentioned above there are a few others being shopped around as well as a couple of screenplays.

-Spoilers?

I figure I have inundated you with enough without throwing in a spoiler.

-For other aspiring writers, any tips?

I attend a lot of conventions and I hear a lot of people say, “I wish I could write.” Guess what? You can. Just put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or voice to your speech recognition program and begin. Will you get it one hundred percent right the first time? No. Neither does any author you read. We all make revisions to our stories and even after it is published I am willing to bet ninety-nine percent of us still have changes we would like to make.

-What’s your favorite book/genre to read?

I love all sorts of genres and books. Peter Pan is one of my all-time favorites as well as Shadow Castle (Marion Cockrell). I love almost anything by Robert E. Howard, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Alexandre Dumas, Washington Irving, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or Jack London.

Out of the modern writers I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, P.N. Elrod, Michael Crichton, Charlaine Harris, Cara Lockhart, and most of the YDP authors. I don’t just say that because they are one of my publishers. They really have a fantastic group of authors writing a variety of speculative fiction as well as humor that I just enjoy. I won’t pick any particular one out though or someone might get a big head, then we’d have to shoot them.

-What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

As a musician and as an author, my favorite thing always tends to be whatever I am currently working on…until about the third or fourth revision/edit. Then I just hate it and want it finished. I have a novel started with a friend that has been a lot of fun so we’ll see where that one goes.

I would say that the most fun of my solo work has been my tall tale in-the-works novel Buckeye Morris of Timber Ridge. I just simply need to get the time and into the right frame of mind to finish writing it. If I could purchase free time I would. There just never seems to be enough hours in the day.

Want more from Ethan? Says he…

I haven’t been as aggressive with my promotion as I should be. I have had a media website for my company LIVE ‘N’ LOUD for several years, encompassing some of my work as well as many other people in the entertainment industry. I am currently working on building a site solely for my work as an author.

I can be found on Facebook. I have not created an author page but people can find me on there as well as LinkedIn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing Blind

Hey folks,

Before I begin today’s post, semi-final voting for the Goodreads Choice Awards has begun. Go vote for your favorite authors. It’s important.

Okay, this week I’m going to talk about “writing blind.” As a legally blind writer, I’ve discovered a couple of “tricks” that I’d like to share. I put “tricks” in quotation marks because, to me, they are just how I work. To the sighted writer, they may be “tricks.”

Anyway, what do I mean by “writing blind?” A week or so ago I was talking to a writer friend of mine. We were complaining about (that all-time favorite activity) revising. Writer friend said “It’s so hard not to edit as I write. When I see the little lines pop up under stuff on Microsoft Word, I want to go back and fix it.”

Normally, this is a very good quality in a writer—feeling compelled to fix errors. But what about when you just want to write. No stops. No editing. Just getting the words down. I’ve heard it said, and I’ve experienced it. Turning off the inner editor is difficult. One of my first Writer’s Wednesday posts focused on editing and how to approach it. Now, I’m telling you to avoid it.

K, “avoid” isn’t the right word. I have a potential solution to the “little red and green lines in Microsoft Word” problem is more accurate.

A few years ago, a blind friend of mine had a Mac. I’ve never been much for Macs, but Apple computers do have one very neat feature that I, so far, have not seen on Windows. They come with the ability to turn the screen completely off. Yes, the computer’s on, but there’s nothing on the screen. (If there’s a way to do this with Windows, feel free to share.)

Why is this helpful? Well, if you can’t see the little lines in Microsoft Word, they can’t bother you, right?

I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t turn off my computer screen. I won’t be able to see to turn it back on.”

This is true, but never fear. Covering your PC’s screen with a piece of paper or cardboard or, heck, a shirt achieves the same thing. If you want to get really creative, you can use your favorite shirt and punish yourself. “Every time I peek under the shirt, that’s another week I can’t wear the shirt.” All right, that might be a little extreme, but you’re laughing now instead of being terrified about the prospect of using the computer without a monitor.

Not laughing and still panicking about the idea of not using a monitor? Just try it. (You can use the paper. The shirt is not mandatory.) Seriously, what harm can it do? It might even help. Worst case scenario, you end up with completely useless material (which may have happened anyway).

While I’m here, another idea to try. Since the summer before my junior year of college, I’ve used a screen reader called JAWS (Job Access With Speech). Before JAWS I used a program called ZoomText, which involved a lot of squinting and headache-getting on my part. Needless to say, I like JAWS a lot better.

What’s a screen reader? Exactly what it sounds like. It reads what’s on the screen.

How is this helpful? They say to read your work aloud to get a sense of how it, well, sounds. While this does help, reading your own work does have its pitfalls. You still may read it as how you want it to read rather than what’s on the page and not notice things like missing words.

Find someone to read it to you? Not always an option.

Have your computer read it to you. If you don’t mind that there won’t be much in the way of inflection, this could be a viable alternative/additional proofreading tool. In fact, I recommend it as an addition and not a replacement for standard “reading” of work. I miss homonyms quite a bit. “Passed and past” kill me because I can’t see which is in the sentence, and they sound the same. But I find myself leaving out fewer words than most people because it makes a real impression when I hear something like “I need to shopping.”

As with my suggestion above, toss apprehensions aside. Just try it. Again, what is there to lose? If it’s obviously not working after fifteen minutes, dump the idea and move on.

Where can I get a screen reader? You could get JAWS, but it’s going to run you about a grand.

Shaking your head? I thought so.

Mac users—your computer comes with a program called “Voice Over.” It’s a built-in screen reader. Turn it on and have fun.

PC users—your computer also comes with a screen reader, Narrator. It’s not as good as Voice Over. I’ve fiddled with it. I don’t like it, and that’s not just because I’ve got a pumped up, thousand dollar version. It’s not great.

Alternative, download NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access). It’s a free, open source screen reader. Not as good as JAWS, but you’re not using it for your entire computing experience (like me). It’ll get the job done.

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Wednesday Word Tally

The urban fantasy has gone from 30 to 29 chapters but has, oddly enough, gained words.

Word count at start of week: 97,060
Current word count: 97,833

I’ve revised up to and through Chapter 24. Only 5 more to go!

-Nanowrimo

As I suspected, I’m behind. Lol. What did I expect from a project entitled “Miscellaneous Short Stories and Other Projects?” I just passed 15k. Conceivably, I could still catch up. We’ll see, but I kind of doubt it. I did my Nano last month with the urban fantasy, really.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day

Good Monday,

Today’s going to be a short post that will, in fact, not analyze media.

It is Veteran’s Day Weekend.

Thank you to all veterans. There aren’t words strong enough to convey my gratitude for what you’ve fought for.

I was going to say more, but, as I have learned, sometimes a simple thank you says more than a thousand words.

And so, again, thank you.

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And that, as they say, is that for today. Join me on Wednesday for our regularly scheduled program.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Author Interview--Sandra I. Bordenca

Good Friday,

Normally, I’m all about fiction (Fiction Friday), but this week I’m switching it up a bit.

I’m honored to introduce Sandra I. Bordenca, a recently self-published author. She’s with us today talking about herself and her book “It’s Okay to Laugh…(Sometimes).”

As I said, this is not a fiction work. Some things, however, do never change. Enough of me. Here’s Sandra.

-Introduction: About You

I think parts of the Prologue will help answer this question:

I was born in the ’60s with a disability known as cerebral palsy (according to Wikipedia, “an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement”), which affects my legs only. Subsequently, I have been in a wheelchair since the age of three. Throughout my life, there have been tears, fears, multiple operations, and multiple hurdles to overcome. Luckily, I was able to do that with the love and support of the best parents on earth, my wonderful sisters, my extended family, great friends, and an amazing husband.

Other than the multiple operations I have had to endure, I would have to say that my childhood was happy—full of laughter, tears, and the “normal” (whatever that means) childhood bickering that goes on among families and sisters as they go through their growing pains. I have had enough unique experiences in my life to write an autobiography and share with you the challenges that I have faced growing up in a wheelchair, but I decided against that. Instead, I decided to write about the unique and funny experiences I have had growing up in a wheelchair.

I learned a long time ago that in each situation, it is not what happens that determines the outcome; it is how you handle it. I have also learned throughout my many years that life is too damn short, so why not laugh when you can? I mean really laugh. The kind of laugh that makes tears flow from your eyes and drinks come out through your nose, or maybe even the best laugh of all, the one that makes you forget your troubles for a while.

So the goal of my book is simple. To make people laugh. To help people see that being in a wheelchair doesn’t have to be tragic. To help you see that if you look at challenges in a positive way, you can overcome anything and even laugh and laugh often.

-What inspired you to write this book?

Through non-fiction stories that have happened throughout my life I wanted to send the message to the disabled and non-disabled alike that disability does not mean disadvantage in a humorous/inspirational way.

-About the book?

Through non-fiction stories that have happened throughout my life I wanted to send the message to the disabled and non-disabled alike that disability does not mean disadvantage in a humorous/inspirational way. There is a section of the book called – Situations that stop and make you think – I hope. Here are a few of them:

In all my years, I have found that dogs enjoy being patted on the head, not people, and especially not people in wheelchairs. So if you get the urge, please look for our furry friends, and not my head.
~
If you grow up and one arm is longer than the other, don’t blame it on Mother Nature. Blame it on your parents for the times you were curious (as every child is) and tried to ask a person in a wheelchair a question like “Why are you in that thing?” and your parent pulled you away by the arm before you could. Parents and guardians, please allow the children you are with to be curious. It is natural, and speaking for myself, I love to answer their questions. Remember, children fear what they are taught to fear, and if they are allowed to be curious about the unknown, they will grow up teaching their children the same.
~
Sometimes, when I am waiting to be seated in a restaurant, the hostess will say, “Two and a wheelchair.” I know they mean no harm, but if I’m going to be referred to as a chair, I would much rather be called a “Queen Anne chair” or a “loveseat,” anything but a “wheelchair.”

-Excerpt

It’s No Trick, Just Treats Please

Halloween was an interesting adventure for my sisters and me. Going to houses on our own street was no problem as everyone knew us. It was when we ventured off to the surrounding streets that the challenges began. You see, none of the houses in our neighborhood were handicapped accessible, except mine, of course, so when we approached a house, my sisters would have to carry my candy bag as well as their own, and I would wait at the bottom of the stairs. My sisters would take turns carrying my bag. So when one of my sisters went to the door with two bags, some people would get angry at her and tell her not to be so greedy. I would then have to yell from the sidewalk that the second bag was for me and that she was my sister. The people would then give her a crooked smile and put one treat in each bag. There were times when I felt bad for my sisters because they were doing something nice for me, and they would continuously get yelled at by strangers. Even though there were times we didn’t find it funny, we did laugh when we saw expressions on people’s faces when they realized the situation. The people that felt really bad would give us extra candy by the fistfuls, and to a kid on Halloween, that is everything. If I haven’t thanked my sisters in the past for this, I will now: Thanks, love you guys!
~ ~
One day, I was visiting with one of my friends in her dorm room when her boyfriend came in. I introduced myself, and my friend said she had to leave the room for the bathroom. So I stayed with her boyfriend to keep him company until she returned. When he left later that day, she came into my room laughing hysterically. I asked her what was so funny, and through our laughter, she began to tell me what her boyfriend said when I left the room.

She said he asked, “What’s wrong with Sandy?” And she said, “Why? What did she say?” He said, “No, I mean what’s wrong with her?” And she once again said, “Why? Did she say or do something to offend you?” His voice got louder with frustration and said, “Why is she in the wheelchair?” She began to laugh again as she told me she completely forgot about me being in a wheelchair. I then began to laugh and hugged her, telling her how much that meant to me.

-For aspiring writers/storytellers, any tips?

If you are writing non-fiction, at the beginning, just let the stories flow. Don’t worry about content or punctuation, and write from your heart, good stories and bad. Don’t write what you think people want to hear, write from the heart and you will be amazed how easily and naturally the words will flow.

-What’s your favorite type of book to read?

I like Nicholas Sparks and Autobiographies.

-Any parting words of wisdom?

No matter how long it takes, never give up on your dream of becoming an author. When your book is finally completed and out in the marketplace, it is an amazing feeling that is hard to describe.

Want more from Sandra?

Visit her website.

Want to buy “It’s Okay to Laugh…(Sometimes)?”

Find it at Amazon, barnesandnobel.com, or xlibris.com.

Or call 1-888-795-4274 ext. 7879.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tag, I'm it!

Welcome,

Tag, I’m it!

Hope your shots are up to date… I’ve been tagged by Nikki Hopeman in a game of author infection!

The rules are simple. Search your work in progress for the first use of “look”. Copy and paste that paragraph and the ones immediately before and after into a blog post. Then tag five other authors.

You know that urban fantasy with the half-dryad main character (Vern Sumac) I keep talking about? Here’s a sampler. This comes from Chapter 1. The case around which the story revolves is being introduced.

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I fisted my hands at my sides. You are not allowed to tackle your boss no matter how hot he is. “So,” I said instead, “what does the great wizard need his humble assistant to do today?”

“NYPD called last night after you left,” Warren said. It was always straight to business with Warren. “They got a call about some missing items at the Greenwich Pottery House on Jones Street, and they asked us to take it. Apparently it looks like magically assisted theft.”

“Apparently?" The desire to rip Warren’s clothes off diminished. “What did they mean apparently? Magically assisted theft is usually pretty obvious as magically assisted.”

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Wednesday Word Tally

As I announced last Wednesday, the urban fantasy project has been completed in rough draft form. I’ve spent the last week (among other things) revising and doing a preliminary search for agents. As of right now, the first eighteen chapters have gone through Round 1 edits.

Word Count Before Edits: 93,414
Current Word Count: 97,060

And probably going up.

-NANOWRIMO

It’s difficult to write 50k words in one month. It’s really difficult to write 50k words in one month when your project is “Miscellaneous short stories and other projects.”

As of yesterday, though, I’m ahead of the game. My count is just over 10k, and my projected finish date was Nov. 28. I’m sure it’s changed since midnight (I haven’t done anything yet today), but here’s to lots of writing.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Language of Mieville

Good Monday,

A couple of weeks ago for class, I read “Embasseytown” by China Mieville. For those who haven’t read the book, it’s heavily dependent/driven by language and what language really is/means. Mieville weaves a complex tale of a girl (Avice) who tells (through first person) the story of the Ariekei (a non-human race) and their demise and eventual saving through language.

This is my post from class. I talked about…you guessed it…language.

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“What is she without words? With them she can think, have ideas, be reached. There isn’t a thought or fact in the world that can’t be hers.” – Anne Sullivan of Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker”

And truly what would she, or anyone else, be without language?

This quotation popped into my head many times while reading Embasseytown. The most prominent place was when the oratees (what the Ariekei are referred to when they become addicted to Language) finally realized that there was language other than Language. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m going to focus on language, and I’ve got quite a bit to say. It’s going to come in four sections that are as follows: strangeness of words beside certain other words, what are we without words, language as science fiction, and Avice.

-Strangeness of words beside certain other words

At the beginning of Embasseytown I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer mass of “new” words. I’m defining “new” as “made up by the author” for my purposes. There were just so many, and they just kept coming. “Automa,” “altoysterman,” “Dominday,” “Kedis,” “Shur'asi,” and the capital H on “Hosts”—all foreign. Never mind the reference to “a women” and “a men” and “shift parents.” There was just so much of “other” in Proem alone. I felt I should have been bothered by it, but, oddly enough, I wasn’t. Upon reading Proem a second time (before continuing to the rest of the book) it made much more sense.

Terre—Avice’s home. Interesting little place. And so on I read, chugging along very happily, fully accepting that I wasn’t on Earth.

“I was reminded of Laurel and Hardy, of Merlo and Rattleshape, of Sancho Panza and Don Quixote,” (Mieville 95).

Huh? I thought I wasn’t on Earth? Did I miss something? Don Quixote is clearly an Earth-culture thing. The feeling came again much later when a reference is made to “Lotus-eaters.” That’s a very specific reference to Homer’s Odyssey. Again, I felt I should have been very bothered by this, but I wasn’t really. The feeling was more of just a strange curiosity. It hit me that it was odd seeing such blatant classic literary culture (Don Quixote” and “Odysseus”) alongside talk of “shift parents” and “Hosts.”

The resulting question was “is this okay?” Clearly Mieville made it work, but at what cost? I finished the book. I did enjoy the book, but the nagging thoughts stayed at the back of my head. I suppose it’s possible for such references to travel great distances through space, but the concept just jumped out at me as weird.

(NOTE: It was brought to my attention through class discussions, that “Terre” is often used in science fiction to symbolize “Earth.” I’d recognized it as close to the Latin for “Earth,” but I hadn’t known about the sf tendency.)

And then there were the very human/Earth cuss words. That drew me into the story on a level I could relate to. Something bad happened, response “F*ck.” Perfect.

-what are we without words?

Anne Sullivan asked the question of Helen’s parents, and I asked it of Mieville.

The response, in both cases, violent, untrusting, misunderstanding. I had the pleasure of playing Anne Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker” my senior year of high school, and it was interesting viewing Helen Keller through her eyes. Sullivan was presented with a six-year-old girl with no means of communication, no way to know herself or her world.

When Mieville identified the oratees as “the deaf,” I found it fitting. We gain 80% of our sensory intake via sight and (I can’t find or recall the exact percentage, but it is the next largest amount) through sound. Imagine your life for a second without these two senses. Without sight (as I can partially attest) there is still the spoken word. There is whatever language we grow up speaking. Without sound there is signing, but even signing is limited. It’s flat. We don’t realize it, but we use so many vocal emotions in a day—a conversation, and the slightest shift in our voice denotes a completely different emotion. That is lost with sign language.

Now imagine a life without either. There is Braille and signing into a person’s hand, but how difficult must that be? Without sight or sound we are reduced to what is within arm’s reach. The world shrinks so quickly. And without language—without the ability to communicate, we are nothing but entities floating in space.

Now add addiction to a limited form of language, and you have the oratees. Not a pretty picture. Before she learned to communicate and broke free of the shell confining her to herself, Helen Keller was angry, frustrated, lost. Until the oratees realize there is another form of language available to them, they are much the same.

And this segues nicely into my third topic.

-Language as science fiction

Science fiction challenges its readers to look forward at what we could become. It begs the question of what it means to be human. I’d like to argue that Mieville has answered this question in a unique way. Rather than focusing on the physicality of what makes us human or the brain function or the moral code, he has chosen to focus on something that is unique to mankind.

“Their language is organized noise, like all of ours are” (Mieville 55).

There are thousands of species on Earth. Many of them have basic languages. Language is not just giving names to things. It is being able to communicate. Humans have words for things. Dogs bark. Birds chirp. Bacteria do whatever the heck they do.

But that is all words, barks, chirps and whatevers allow for. They allow us to speak in the here and now. “This is a table.” “I see the table.” The next step comes in furthering what “table” means. This brings me back to my undergrad senior seminar and the painstaking hours it took before the professor got his points across. Here’s where I’m honest to a fault. I never thought I’d use this class again and hated the class with a burning, fiery passion. So, here goes.

Birds, dogs, and bacteria have language. They do not have a language system. What’s the difference? I just explained language. A language system is taking that language and applying it to things that are not right in front of us. If I’m standing in front of a table and I say “table,” everyone knows what I’m talking about. It’s right there. But if I’m in a room devoid of furniture and I say table, everyone else in the room immediately brings to mind their own vision of what a “table” is. That is a language system. The ability to apply words to things that are not present. In short, this is called conceptualizing.

“Yes. Something in the new language. New thinking. They were signifying now--there, elision, slippage between word and referent, with which they could play” (Mieville 310).

Conceptualizing—that’s what happens when Avice finally makes her breakthrough. The Ariekei become “human” in terms of language. They are no longer restricted to the here and now. They can conceptualize. And it is in this way that Mieville addresses what it means to be human. He says, and I whole-heartedly believe this to be true, that to be human is to be aware of the now, the before, and the will be.

And isn’t that what science fiction is about too? It is the genre that begs its readers to come with it, embrace it, follow it into a great and unknown future where anything is possible. It needs its readers to be able to conceptualize the current impossibilities it lays before them. It requires what the Ariekei gain—the ability to see what does not exist and accept that it could exist. Mieville has not only commented on the human condition, he has commented on the very heart of science fiction. And he has shown how the two are so much alike through one race’s journey from having language to having a language system.

-Avice

Avice—interesting choice of name. I wonder if it was intentional.

Vice - An evil, degrading, or immoral practice or habit.
Or
A slight personal failing; a foible
(Taken from the Free Online Dictionary)

Avice is defined many ways throughout the book. One of these ways is “simile.” As a simile she represents what holds the Ariekei back. While plagued by simile the Ariekei do all manner of terrible things. They are addicted, insensible maybe, but still do bad things (applies to first definition).

At the same time, simile is an imperfection in the Ariekei. It keeps them from understanding what they can be (second definition).

So when Avice (A-vice) breaks through to them, they give her (simile) up. They change to metaphor. They stop having to compare themselves to things they know and begin to be their own entities. By breaking “a vice” they grow.