Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Update and Books

I have to say I'm glad this month is flying by. I'm ready to say farewell to winter and embrace some warmer weather. I'm ready to put the winter blues away and trade them for sunglasses.

So, amazon released their round 2 picks for their publishing contest. Chaos Rising did not make the cut. Back to the drawing board with the pitch. I allowed myself a pity party morning, then moved on to researching agents and writing a query letter. The later is still in progress, but I hope to have something I'm happy with soon and start submitting.

In the meantime, here's where I'm at with reading:

#19: The Player of Games by Ian M Banks
I've been wanting to read a book by this author for a while. I admit that it took me a long time to get into the story. It felt very slow paced and full of information I didn't care about. It's about a famous gamer who's invited to an alien society to play their ultimate game. The prize is emperor of the realm and the stakes include torture and possible death. Once the gamer reached the alien empire, the story really picks up and held my interest.

#20: Redshirts by John Scalzi
I know, I'm way behind the curve on this one. Everyone has already read it. So much so that I felt like I had too. Until I got about a chapter into it and couldn't put it down. It's a really fun read and an entertaining twist on the idea of reality being not quite what we think it is.

#21: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This is the first in the four book Lunar Chronicles series. I've been hearing a lot of good things about this series and finally picked it up. It's a Cinderella story, so you know what to expect. However instead of singing birds and glass slippers, there's a snarky android and a robotic foot (yeah, that's from one of the quotes on the book but it is a great description). It's a really fun futuristic take on the Cinderella story.

#22: The Martian by Andy Weir
This is one of my favorite books so far this year. It's a sic-fi story that reads like non fiction about a guy who's part of a mission to Mars that goes horribly wrong. He gets left behind. The story is about how he survives and tries to make contact with Earth to get home. At times it gets very technical in its description but never so much that I couldn't follow along. I couldn't put it down.

#23: Hell Bent by Devon Monk
This is the first book in the Broken Magic series which is a spin off of her Allie Beckstrom series. It follows Shame & Terric, two guys who are soul complements, which means they can use magic together in ways it shouldn't be able to work. There's very few soul complements in this world and they're being hunted for their unique abilities. It's a fun read mostly because Shame is the kind of guy you'd like to party with.

#24: Children of the Night by Dan Simmons
Being such a huge fan of his Hyperion series, I thought I'd try something else by him. This book is set in the early 1990s where an American doctor adopts a boy with a genetic defect that requires him to ingest human blood. It's a vampire novel. Most of it is set in Romanian and it does include Dracula. It's an interesting twist on the usual vampire stories. I enjoyed it but not as much as the Hyperion books.

#25: Wither by Lauren DeStefano
This is the first in the Chemical Garden series. It's a YA dystopian world where genetics have been messed with so much than males die by age 24 and females by age 20. Girls are being kidnapped and sold as brides to keep society populated. The story follows Rhine, a girl who is kidnapped and married to a boy along with two sister wives. It's about her struggling against the role she's supposed to play and trying to figure a way to escape.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Time For More Books

It's another book post. Once again I've waited too long and now have a bunch of books for the list.

#12: Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey
This is another in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series where godmothers take care of individual kingdoms in fairy tale fashion. This one incorporates a few different sleeping beauty and snow white tales and blends them into a story of a small but wealthy kingdom who's princess is trying to survive. It's a quick read.

#13: Idylls of the Queen by Phyllis Ann Karr
This is set up as a murder mystery that takes place in Camelot. Queen Guenevere invited knights of the round table to a feast and one of them ends up dead. The queen is accused of the murder. It's up to Kai to figure out who the murderer was and why it was done. It was more of a retelling of other Arthurian tales than anything else.

#14: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
After reading a so-so book on King Arthur, it prompted me to reread my most favorite book on the subject. This book is arguable one of my favorite books of all time. It's the tale of King Arthur told through the eyes of the women - Igraine, Gwenhwyfar  and Morgaine. It fills me with wonder and breaks my heart every time I read it.

#15: The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon
This is the 5th book in the Outlander series and continues the saga of Claire and Jamie in late 1700s America. The book really does read like "a day in the life of"story rather than a book with a large arcing plot. It's very well researched and does a great job of bringing the time period to life.

#16: The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers
This is a collection of short stories written in the late 1800s that inspired HP Lovecraft. It's also frequently referenced in the HBO show True Detectives. Prior to hearing about that connection, I admit I'd never heard of the book. After hearing the underlying supernatural theme of the show decided I had to read the stories to see what all the fuss was about. There are 10 stories in the collection and I think it's only 4 of them that reference the King in Yellow, a fictional play that drives the reader/watcher insane if they read/watch it. Most of the stories are really interesting. Reading it does not spoil what's happening in the tv show.

#17: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
#18: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
These are books 1 & 2 in the Stormlight Archives. Way of Kings is a reread for me, Words of Raidance just came out. I had to reread the first book to remember all the details and I'm glad I did because I'd forgotten most of it. The author has said this series will be 10 books long. As a result, the first book feels like set up. It introduces us to the main characters, magic system and very unique world. The second book jumps right into a very intriguing epic fantasy story. I couldn't out it down and can't wait until the 3rd comes out (yeah, I know it will be a while).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It's All About Waiting Now

Well, it's official! I entered Chaos Rising into Amazon's contest and my entry has been officially accepted. I have a little time to edit it if I want, but so far I've chosen not to. Could it be better? Absolutely. Could my tinkering with it make it worse? Absolutely. So I'm going to let it be and see what happens.

In the meantime, I found myself with a little more free time than I anticipated. I have worked long and hard on Chaos Rising this month. Submitting it left me feeling the way I do after NaNoWriMo - tired and happy. So I took a week off from writing. Not really because I wanted to, but because I needed some space to just not focus on anything.

That week is over and now I'm starting a new short story. It's a take on Beauty and the Beast and is a compilation of two story ideas that have been brewing in my head.

So back to writing I go while I sit over so patiently and wait to hear on the Amazon and Writers of the Future contests.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Busy Little Bee

The title says it all. It's been a busy few weeks for me in preparation for the amazon contest. Chaos Rising is ready. The excerpt is ready. The pitch is in progress, but I expect it will be ready before Sunday as well. Funny thing is, I thought 300 words was too short. Turns out I use much fewer words to describe the novel, so I'm trying to add some excitement to it.

In the meantime, here's a quick book update:

#6: Uncharted Territories by Connie Willis
This is a fun, quick read about a team of explorers on another world and the trials they run into trying to understand what makes the world work. I like her writing style, so enjoyed the book.

#7: Time Bomb and Zahndry Others by Timothy Zahn
This is a collection of wonderful short stories all by this author. I enjoyed every one of them. Some of them have stuck with me long after I finished reading it. I hadn't read his short stories before. I will have to see if he has other short story collections. In the meantime, this one is well worth the read.

#8: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
This year I'm attempting to read more from this author. This is the 2nd book to date. I have to say I enjoyed The Penelopiad better. It's a mix of stories. Part of it is a tale a woman who's dealing with the after effects of her sister driving off a cliff. The other story is between lovers who share a science fiction story every time they get together. I was intrigued by the separate stories told in one book and enjoyed how it all wove together at the end.

#9: Wolf Moon by Charles de Lint
This is one of his very early books. Normally I am a huge fan of everything I've read from him. He has a way of weaving magic into every day life that is truly wonderful to read. I can see hints of that writing style in this story, but not enough to satisfy me. It's the tale of a werewolf who is the good guy just trying to survive and gets caught up in the schemes of an evil bard.

#10: Water Witch by Cynthia Felice and Connie Willis
I really liked this book. It takes place on a desert world where the water is far underground and controlled by water witches - the ruling families. It's the story of a father and daughter who are trying to con locals into believing she is a water witch and the antics that result from it. It's well worth the read.

#11: The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey
This is one of the Tale of Five Hundred Kingdoms books. In it the Snow Queen is one of the godmothers set to keep the fairytale traditions on the right path. It's what happens when her own tale gets mixed up as an impostor seeks to steal her title and powers. It's an easy rand fun read that incorporates many fairy tale elements.

Back to the pitch.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Well That's A New One

Remember the Amazon contest I mentioned in my last post? Last week I read through the contest rules and requirements and now the contest makes a lot more sense and is much scarier. Turns out you need to have three pieces to submit:

1. The full novel (no problem, already done)
2. A 3000 word excerpt, usually the first few chapters (again, no problem)
3. a 300 word pitch (um….)

I saw that last part and had two reactions. The first was, well duh, that makes sense. How else would they get through 10,000 submissions (seriously, each category is capped at that number). Of course they read pitches first. Makes total sense. That was the logical part of me.

The illogical part of me went something like this:
OHMYGODOHCRAPHOWTHEF*CKDOIWRITEONEOFTHOSE?!?

Sure, I can write a 100,000 word novel. But how do you sum it up into 300 words? And, more importantly, make those 300 words sound so awesome that anyone reading it wants to read more? Yeah, creative writing is easy (comparatively). Marketing writing is not my thing. I work in a marketing industry in my day job, but when it comes to writing marketing text I'm always hands off, not my department. **looks around** Right. Just me here, so I have to do it.

So I panicked. Then I spent the next two hours looking up every site I could find on fantasy pitch examples and what makes a good pitch. Then I struggled with figuring out the very basic ideas of the novel like a) what is the story about (not plot but theme) and b) what's the goal of my main character? You'd think those questions would be easy to answer since I wrote the damn thing. They're not.

Fortunately, I have the most awesome alpha reader in the entire world. And better yet, she freelance writes marketing material! And she's read my story at least 3 times. I sent a panicky email to her and she promptly offered to help. Within a few hours she sent me a most incredible starting place for my 300 words. I can spout big pictures plot points and character arcs, but it really helped having an outside source boil all that down to a couple of sentences. (THANK YOU again!!)

The pitch isn't done, but at least I have a frame to work with. So now I can panic just a little bit less.

And in the meantime, over the weekend I printed out the whole novel and put it in a binder. It's the first time I've done that and it made the novel seem so much more real. I started going through it line by line and found plenty of errors and word duplications and bad phrases. Some of it is subjective, some of it really needs fixing, so I'm glad I decided not to skip that step.

So I have a little less than 2 weeks to finish the line editing, make all the corrections, and polish up the pitch. No problem…. right?

Right???

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Writing News

Things are exciting on the writing front these days. I did polish up my short story and submit it to Writers of the Future. Sadly, the latest deadline isn't until March 31, so I will have to wait a few months before I hear anything. I sent it to two people to read and both enjoyed the story, so here's hoping I place higher than honorable mention!

In other news, I heard about this Amazon contest and decided to get off my procrastinating rear and get Chaos Rising in good enough shape to submit. Just this week I finished draft 3 and it went surprisingly quick. I had feedback from 5 beta readers and went through page by page making corrections and adding minor details. Overall it was far less painful than I expected. It sort of amused me to learn that yes, I do indeed use a few words too often. In my drive to eliminate the word "was" it turns out I replace it with the word "looked." (i.e. it was cold vs it looked cold outside). I did that often enough to have it pointed out to me. The other word I used to often was compulsion. It makes sense in the context, as the villain uses compulsion to try and force my heroes to do her bidding. But using it twice in one sentence is just bad (thankfully I only did that once). So, thesaurus.com became my new best friend for a few days.

Next up is to print the whole story out and go through it line by line. This will help me polish up and rewrite those "looked" sentences and help me catch any details I might have missed. There was one thing I thought was insignificant that many of the beta readers wanted more info on, so I ended up taking it out. Now I need to make sure I took it out everywhere. Then, once the submission process is open, I will send it off to Amazon and cross my fingers.

So what's next with the writing? Well, I have another short story idea percolating in my brain. Then I think it might be time to pull out the NaNo 2013 novel, reread it, figure out what's wrong with it and rewrite it. Maybe. Or maybe I'll stick to short stories for a few months and submit more of them. We'll see.

Either way, there has been a lot of progress this month and it all makes me feel positive.

Friday, January 17, 2014

First Post of 14

Well crap… Here it is halfway through January and this is my first post for the new year. And I didn't even do the 100 book recap from last year or tell all of you how fabulous 2013 was for me. Oh well. It's all in the past now. Let's look onward and upward instead, shall we?

First writing news: I've written a short story! It's the first one I've written in a while that wasn't part of a novel. I plan to polish it up a little and then submit it to Writers of the Future. I'm hoping this is the year that I break through the Honorable Mentions and place. That would be nice. Well, that would be awesome, really.

Chaos Rising is shaping up nicely thanks to my lovely beta readers. I've sent it to  9 people and gotten feedback from 4 so far. All have been positive reviews and all have made some really good suggestions. My hope is that next month I can do Draft 3 and then maybe a line edit for draft 4 then try to submit it. That means I need to learn how to write a query letter to send to potential agents. It also means I need to do my homework and figure out which agents to submit to. It's nerve wracking and exciting all at the same time.

On to the book challenge for 2014. Yep, I'm aiming for 100 again and am off to a good start.

#1: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
This is book 4 in the Outlander series about Claire, the time traveller, and her man Jamie. This was also a reread for me. I wasn't sure how far into the series I got the first time around but have concluded that I made it through book 5. So 6 and 7 will be new for me. Expect to see all of those here soon. What can I say about this series that I haven't said before? It's a fun read and very thorough in bringing the late 1700s to life.

#2: Dead Set by Richard Kadrey
Prior to this book I'd only read the Sandman Slim books from this author. This was his attempt at young adult and it was a good read. It's about a teenage girl trying to cope after her father's death and her mother moving her to a new city. She has dreams about a brother who doesn't exist and gets pulled into a world of the dead.

#3: Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
This is the first in a new epic fantasy series. And even though it opens with the assassination of a king, it took me a few chapters to get into it. I almost put it down, but decided to keep going and I'm glad I did. I'm not sure at what point it grabbed me but before I knew it I was hooked and couldn't put it down. It's set in a fantasy world where the general stages a coup to take down the government. The book is the fallout of that coup. I recommend it!

#4: Crown of Vengeance by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
I am a fan of Mercedes Lackey, even though you don't see many of her books on my lists. I grew up reading her Valdemar books and loved every one of them. But this book I had a hard time getting into. It's the first of a series but it felt like pure set up.

#5: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
I have been told repeatedly that I need to read Atwood's books. So I started with this one, although I'm pretty sure I have read this one before. This is the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus. It's told from her perspective many thousands of years after the events of the Illiad and Odyssey. She's in the realm of the dead recounting her story and telling the readers about how historians got her all wrong. It's an easy read and very lyrical. I read it super fast because I couldn't put it down.

Not a bad start. :-)