Monday, April 30, 2012

Thoughts about Steve Jobs

10 years ago the USA had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash ....
Now they have no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash

created by Joyce in the Forest
Sent to me by Allan Henry

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Have Strong Thighs, will Travel

Anna' the bottom row, third from the right, with short hair.

My seventeen-year-old daughter is going to Japan in about a month. The trip has been planned for a while. She’s going with a group of other students and one highly fluent adult, who has made the trip many times. Our city has a sister city relationship with Shiojiri that has lasted for years. In fact, Anna will be part of the fortieth anniversary celebration. They will stay with host families for four days, tour the city, visit schools, and then the group will sightsee other parts of the country, including Hiroshima, Tokyo, and Kyoto. You can see the blog here. It will be updated with pictures as the trip progresses.
Hello, where's the train?
Though she and most of the other kids have studied the language for three years, I don’t believe anyone would count themselves confident with the idea of speaking only Japanese for sixteen days. I’d be brushing up on stock phrases like ‘where’s the bathroom, please’ and ‘which way to the train station’ and I’d still end up at a laundromat.
Then there is the culture shock. Japan has quite different customs from western countries. She’s been warned not to leave shoes visible in her luggage as it is offensive to let dirty shoes touch clothes or even be inside a house. Wait staff in restaurants do not accept tips. Their job is to serve and giving them extra implies they aren’t doing their jobs. Bathhouses are segregated by the sexes but they’re still not places for the modest. You soap down with a bucket and then move to different pools, included one that gives you mild electric shocks. Since the word for 4th means death, there are no fourth floors on buildings. Apparently they skip that number. On the plus side, there is almost no crime. Homeless people are an embarrassment and quickly whisked away out of sight. Tax is included in the price of an item.
Since they live on small islands space is valuable. There isn’t room for herds of cattle. It’s hard to find a genuine beef hamburger, and they don’t drink dairy. Cheese has one variety, a hard orange block. Chocolate is not sweet and don’t ask for a fork. Bowls of soup are meant to be slurped. No free refills on pop. In other words, you’d better really enjoy seafood.  
Perhaps the biggest shock is the … um … bathrooms. Toilets, sinks, and showers all have separate rooms. The toilets themselves are different. I never knew there was a distinction, but we use Western toilets. To put it gently, you need a good sense of balance and strong leg muscles which explains why their elderly are so spry. Where they do have Western style, such as hotels, they are tricked out with all kinds of buttons and gizmos such as music and bidets. Watch what you push or you might get an unexpected shower.
All of this leads to how brave my daughter is. To go overseas with a group of people she barely knows to stay with people she doesn’t know at all and who might not speak any English. Well, that takes courage and a sense of adventure. I’m so proud of her.
Where's the instruction manual?
In writing, as in life, you need that ability to conquer fear. You must have the guts to fling your babies out there for the world to criticize. The confidence to send dozens of query letters and opening pages to complete strangers in the hopes of snagging an agent. The perseverance to keep trying when all you hear is ‘no’. It’s certainly not unique to say success comes not from the absence of fear, but from the desire to overcome that fear.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quiet as a Mime or Pronouncing Fox

Although hugely rewarding, teaching is easily the most mentally draining thing I’ve ever done. I worked for five years in accounting for a large corporation, creating huge budgeting spreadsheets and working under time constraints. It was nothing compared to an elementary school. There’s no doubt teachers need and deserve time away from it. Other professions have no idea of the demands on your time and patience. Bathroom breaks—forget about it. A quiet moment—not likely. Imagine being in a room with twenty five-year-olds for six hours. Can’t see it? Here are some snippets:
During a time drawing pictures of their home and families one child said, “When my sister is one, my mommy says we get to share a room.”
Expecting the child was eagerly anticipating this day, I said, “That will be fun.”
She answered, “I told Mommy she could sleep in the closet.”
 When told they had to be very good to get to do a fun activity that afternoon, one boy raised his hand. “I’ll be quiet as a mime,” he informed us.
We had some tornados come through Indiana this spring. A smiling small boy told me his uncle got blown down by a tornado. After telling me the uncle wasn’t hurt, he then shared that he had many uncles and wouldn’t mind if the tornado got this one.
Ever heard a child with a speech impairment pronounce the word fox? The result rhymes with ducks. And how do five-year-olds know that’s a bad word?
Small children have no shame. I’ve seen it again and again. Nothing is off limits. In one recess/lunch period, a student managed to become a triple threat. He wiped a booger on a girl at lunch, licked some boys on the slide, then kissed a friend in the line to reenter the building. Personal space anyone?
Hardly a week goes by without its share of bathroom accidents, ouchies, or vomiting. Under a national emergency, the government should call in teachers instead of the National Guard. They’ll be the ones calmly standing and giving directions while everyone else panics.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting the Call: Sophie Perinot

Please welcome Sophie Perinot to the blog this week. Her work of historical fiction, The Sister Queens, has just been released from Penguin. Set in the 13th France and England century, The Sister Queens weaves the captivating story of medieval sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, who both became queens — their lifelong friendship, their rivalry, and their reigns.
I got this for my kindle and, have to say, the romance and historic details are amazing. So much is packed into one book. You are treated to the culture of France and England with side trips to go crusading in the Holy Land. Awesome!

When “the Call” Comes As Dessert
 As an author of historical novels I write books filled with characters who communicate on pieces of parchment or lovely crisp vellum (depending on the time period).  So it is perhaps particularly appropriate that the exchange which culminated in my getting “the call” began with a note written by fountain pen on a lovely piece of laid stationary.
 I’d been querying, cautiously.  But with a decent rate-of-request (if you are a writer and don’t know what r-of-r is, get thee to AgentQuery Connect) it was time to go for broke and query the top of my A-list, including my dream agent[1], Jacques de Spoelberch.  I sent him a snail mail query – one page, no sample chapter; one chance to make an impression.  Then I waited.
When you have queries outstanding going to the mailbox (real or virtual) is agonizing.  The day I saw Jacques’s return address on one of my SASEs I swallowed hard.  Holding a sealed envelop from a top agent is a moment-of-no return—it is the last instant you can dream that “this will be the one.”  Unless there is a request for material inside the envelope.  And there was.  My dream agent wanted a full, on a short exclusive[2].  Heaven.
I tried not to think about that full—which means I thought about it pretty much all the time, even as other requests rolled in and had to be deferred until the exclusive expired (the agents I asked to remain in a holding pattern were extremely gracious).  Then, a few days before the end of the agreed-upon time period my phone range.  Caller ID flashed my agent’s name.  I picked up trying to sound as if agents called me all the time and doubtless failing (though Jacques, gentlemen that he is, never gave any indication that I sounded less than collected).  I will never forget the first thing he said, “So remind me, did I know how long this was when I asked for it?”  A sense of humor, you have to love that in an agent.  Turned out that despite the length (enormous) Jacques was very enthused about my book.  Clearly a risk taker—another fine quality in an author’s representative particularly if you are a newbie author because, by definition, we are a big risk.
Jacques wanted to hear about my ideas for other books and wanted some “future project” descriptions and other information by email.[3]  I wanted to hear his reactions to and ideas for the manuscript on his desk.  We were getting to know each other. [4]   He asked for a little more time to finish reading the novel.  I thought that only fair—especially since I’d (deviously) left the word count out of my query.
About a week later he called again.  How would I like to get together for lunch?  No offer, just an invitation.  I’d have to get on the train from DC to NYC on faith.  But I am a woman of faith, and I am also a person who likes to see the whites of someone’s eyes before she makes a deal.[5] So lunch was a perfect idea.
Lunch also turned out to be delightful.  The “fit” between us was obvious from the moment the water glasses were filled.  We talked animatedly all throughout our main course.  This wonderful man clearly loved my book more than my own mother did.  That’s an incredible feeling, especially given the amount of self-doubt the query process induces in the average writer.  He also had concrete ideas for what I might do to make the manuscript even better and they resonated with me.  Finally, we laid down our forks.  I wasn’t sure just what to expect next, but as the plates were cleared the magic moment came—no, not the dessert menu, an offer of representation.  Let me tell you, that’s the sweetest way to end a meal ever.  I didn’t need to think.  I said yes on the spot.[6]

[1] Any writer who tells you she doesn’t have a “dream agent” is either one-in-a-million or telling you a fib.  Agent crushes are as common to writers as regular crushes are to teenagers.
[2] Notice I said SHORT exclusive.  Many writers are totally anti-exclusive.  I don’t take that hard line but I would never offer an exclusive or agree to one with out an explicit time limit.  That time limit should be weeks not months.
[3] Make a note here – before you start querying it is a darn good idea to write down little 1-2 paragraph synopses for each of your future book ideas.  Ideally these should be in the same genre you will be querying.  If you do this you will thank me later because it is very common for an agent to discuss future work before signing a client.
[4] Talking to an agent is a two-way interview.  It’s hard to remember that when you are a newbie author and want an agent more than anything, but remember an offer from an agent is like a marriage proposal in one way – just because someone asks doesn’t mean you should say yes. That’s hard for beginner writers to remember but (say this 100 times to yourself) “the wrong agent is worse than no agent at all.”  You are going to be entering into a working relationship that (hopefully) will last for a long time.  Make sure you select an agent whose style of getting things done and whose personality meshes with yours.
[5] Honestly, if you live on the East Coast and have a chance to meet your agent either before or after signing DO IT. Consider your travel costs an investment in yourself as a professional.  Ditto editors.  While your book is on submission if your agent reports that editor X would love to meet you, make that happen.
[6] It is common form to ask for time to think about an offer of representation and to contact other agents who are in possession of requested material.  Generally that is a very polite thing to do.  If, however you are 110% certain that the agent offering is “the one,” then asking other agents to bump your material to the top of their reading pile and race through it to make a counter offer is, imo, the opposite of polite.

To learn more about Sophie Perinot or The Sister Queens go here:
Website (where people can read more about the book).
Twitter handle @Lit_gal 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Kate Evangelista- Taste Trailer and Excerpt Reveal

Coming from Crescent Moon Press on May 1, 2012, TASTE by Kate Evangelista.

At Barinkoff Academy, there's only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.

When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn’t realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.

Song Credits: "Hunger" © Noelle Pico.
Full Download available at

Taste Excerpt

I mentally stomped on the intimidation their perfection brought into my mind and said, “Excuse me.”
The group froze, startled by my words. The girls had their brows raised and the boys stopped mid-speech, mouths agape. They stared at me with eyes the shade of onyx stones.
I smiled and gave them a little wave.
The boy a step ahead of the rest recovered first. His stunning features went from shocked surprise to intense interest. He reminded me of a hawk eyeing its prey. I gulped.
“A Day Student,” he said, his eyes insolent and excited.
Something about the way he said “Day Student” made my stomach flip. “Excuse me?”
They snickered. The boys looked at each other while the girls continued to stare, muffling their laughter by delicate hands. I seemed to be the butt of some joke. 
“You broke the rule.” The boy’s grin turned predatory.
The students formed a loose semi-circle in front of me. My gaze darted from face to face. Hunger filled their eyes. The image of lions about to chase down a gazelle came to mind. I mentally shook my head. I was in the mountains not the Serengeti for crying out loud.
I took a small step back and cleared my throat. “Can any of you give me a ride back to the dorms?”
The boy wagged his forefinger like a metronome. “Ah, that’s unfortunate for you.”
One of the girls pinched the bridge of her nose. “Eli, you can’t possibly—”
“It’s forbidden, Eli,” another boy interrupted, pronouncing the word “forbidden” like a curse.
The nervous murmur at the pit of my stomach grew louder. Six against one. Not good odds. Instinct told me to cut my losses and run. Bad enough I faced expulsion, now it seemed like weird, beautiful people who’d suddenly appeared on campus wanted to beat me up. No, scratch that. Judging from the way they studied me, beating me up wouldn’t satisfy them. Something more primal prowled behind their looks.
I definitely wasn’t going down without a fight. Years of self-defense and hand-to-hand combat classes had me prepared. While other children from rich and important families got bodyguards, I got defense training. But I think my father meant for my skills to go up against potential kidnappers, not against other students who may or may not be crazy. Oh God! Maybe I stepped into a parallel universe or something when I reentered Barinkoff.
“None of the students are supposed to be on campus,” I said. Then, realizing my mistake, I added, “Okay, I know I’m not supposed to be here either. If one of you gives me a ride back to the dorms, I won’t say anything about all this. Let’s pretend this never happened. I didn’t see you, you didn’t see me.”
“We’re not ordinary students,” Eli answered. “We’re the Night Students.”
He’d said “Night Students” like the words were capitalized. I didn’t know Barinkoff held classes at night. What was going on here?
Eli smiled with just one side of his mouth and said to the group, “She’s right, no one will have to know. We’re the only ones here. And it’s been so long, don’t you agree?”
The rest of them nodded reluctantly.
“What’s been so long?” I challenged. I fisted my hands, ready to put them up if any of them so much as twitched my way.
“Since the taste of real flesh passed through my lips,” Eli said. He came forward and took a whiff of me then laughed when I cringed.
“Flesh.” Yep, parallel universe.
“Yes,” he said. “And yours smells so fresh.”
Someone grabbed my shoulders from behind and yanked me back before I could wrap my mind around the meaning behind Eli’s words. In a blink, I found myself behind someone tall. Someone really tall. And quite broad. And very male.
I realized he wore the same clothes Eli and the other boys did. Not good. He was one of them. Although… I cocked my head, raking my gaze over him. He seemed born to wear the uniform, like he was the pattern everyone else was cut from. My eyes wandered to long, layered, blue-black hair tied at the nape by a silk ribbon. Even in dim light, his hair possessed a sheen akin to mercury.
I looked down. The boy’s long fingers were wrapped around my wrist like a cuff. His fevered touch felt hotter than human standards, hot enough to make me sweat like I was standing beside a radiator but not hot enough to burn.
“I must be mistaken, Eli,” the boy who held my arm said in a monotone. “Correct me. Did I hear you say you wanted to taste the flesh of this girl?”
A hush descended on us. It had the hairs at the back of my neck rising. How was it possible for the atmosphere to switch from threatening to dangerous? Unable to help myself, I peeked around the new guy’s bulk. Eli and his friends bowed. They all had their right hands on their chests.
“Demitri, I’m sure you misheard me,” Eli said.
So the guy standing between me and the person who said he’d wanted to taste me was named Demitri. I like the sound of his name. Demitri. So strong, yet rolls off the tongue. Definite yum factor.
“So, you imply I made a mistake?” Demitri demanded.
“No!” Eli lifted his gaze. “I did no such thing. I simply wanted to show the girl the consequences of breaking curfew.”
“Hey!” I yelled. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!”
Demitri ignored my protest and continued to address Eli. “So, you threatened to taste her flesh.” His fingers tightened their grip around my wrist. “In the interest of investigating this matter further, I invoke the Silence.”
All six students gasped, passing surprised glances at one another.
Before I could ask about what was going on, Demitri yanked me down the hall toward the library. But why there? Oh, maybe we were getting my things. No, wait, he couldn’t have known about that. Everything was too confusing now.
Eli and the others didn’t try to stop us when we passed them. Demitri’s cold command must have carried power. Handsome and powerful, never a bad combination on a guy.
We reached the heavy double doors in seconds. He jerked one open effortlessly. I’d needed all my strength just to squeeze through that same door earlier. To him, the thick wood might as well have been cardboard. I raised an eyebrow and mentally listed the benefits of going to gym class.
“Why are we here?” I asked after my curiosity overpowered my worry. I’d almost forgotten how frightened I’d been right before Demitri showed up. I wasn’t above accepting help from strangers. Especially from gorgeous dark-haired strangers with hot hands and wide shoulders.
Demitri kept going, tugging me along, snaking his way deeper into the library. I had to take two steps for every stride his legs made. I tried to stay directly behind him, praying we didn’t slam into anything.
He stopped suddenly and I collided with him. It felt like slamming into a wall.
“Hey,” I said, momentarily stunned. “A little warning would be nice!”
He faced me, and I gasped. His eyes resembled a starless night, deep and endless. Their intensity drilled through me without pity, seeming to expose all my secrets. I felt naked and flustered beneath his gaze.
“You could have died back there,” he warned.
A lump of panic rebuilt itself in my throat.

When Kate Evangelista was told she had a knack for writing stories, she did the next best thing: entered medical school. After realizing she wasn't going to be the next Doogie Howser, M.D., Kate wandered into the Literature department of her university and never looked back. Today, she is in possession of a piece of paper that says to the world she owns a Literature degree. To make matters worse, she took Master's courses in creative writing. In the end, she realized to be a writer, none of what she had mattered. What really mattered? Writing. Plain and simple, honest to God, sitting in front of her computer, writing. Today, she has four completed Young Adult novels.

Author Website:
Twitter: @KateEvangelista
Crescent Moon Press page for Taste:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Liz Norris Pay it Forward Contest

I entered the marvelous agent Janet Reid’s (of Query Shark fame) Liz Norris Pay it Forward contest back in March. The winner gets a trip to New York for the Backspace Writer’s Conference and lunch with the Shark. In an amazing display, over four hundred people entered. Ms. Reid has spent the last weeks giving tormenting hints and tantalizing blurbs about our entries. In general, keeping everyone who entered on a string by dangling how many have been cut and how many promoted without enlightening anyone. Fiendishly, she’s promised to announce the finalists this weekend.
This reminds me of two things:
First, a writer’s life is full of waiting and you’d better get used to it. If you’re not waiting on query letters you’ve sent to agents, you are waiting on something else. Inspiration to finish a chapter. A beta reader’s comments. An editor’s decision. Or most glorious, waiting for that first glimpse of your finished book on a store shelf. It takes a boatload of patience to be a writer. Nothing is going to happen overnight. Resign yourself to years.
The second thing this flaunts is the necessity of good hooks in your writing. You want to keep those readers interested and coming back for more. I’m not only talking a hook for your query or your opening page, but chapter hooks. Using hooks at the end of chapters can drive readers to turn that page and find out what happens next.
The Shark is an accomplished setter of the hook. She has us coming back to her blog over and over. Though I don’t hold out much hope that Kindar’s Cure survived the cut of almost four hundred manuscripts, I’ve become a nervous Nellie, checking back repeatedly to look for updates. I’m embarrassed to say how often.
And now, back to waiting…

Edit: Looks like I didn't make the nine finalists or my confirmation got lost in email outer space. A big congratulation to the winners, and I certainly learned a lot.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Getting the Call: S.K. Keogh

A book cover recently knocked my socks off. So much so, that I bought the book for my kindle without reading a word of it first. Now half way through this action packed story of pirates and revenge, I’m so glad I did. I love a nautical adventure, especially if it has romance. I knew I had to ask S.K. Keogh to the blog even though we write in different genres. Her rousing story will inspire everyone. Thank you, Susan, for traveling here to share your story.
When Michelle invited me to write an article on how I landed my first book deal and the journey I took to get there, it surprised me to realize that nearly nine years have gone by since I first sat down to write my historical adventure novel, The Prodigal. Of course, I've been a writer for much, much longer than that.

Like many writers, I began writing when I was just a kid, dabbling in such things as Young Adult and Westerns (yep, Westerns). My first publishing credit came about from research I had done while writing a Civil War novel. I submitted a short article to the national magazine America's Civil War, and was pleasantly surprised when they wrote back to say they liked the article so much that they wanted me to expand it so they could use it as a feature article. (I recently reprinted the article on my blog, in a four-part series: )

I had hoped that the article would help me find a publisher for my Civil War novel, but, alas, it did not (I recently started reworking that manuscript). Having no success with that manuscript, I actually drifted away from writing for three years, being heavily involved in other interests. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever be inspired enough to write again.

Then along came the Disney movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" in 2003. That movie piqued my interest in that era in general and pirates in particular, so I began reading whatever I could find on the subject, and it was during that time that I came up with the idea for The Prodigal. I wanted to write a plot-driven, quick-read adventure, something relatively short (less than 90,000 words by the time it was ready for publication). The small word count was strategic because I figured a publisher would be more apt to take on a debut author with a cheaper-to-produce word count than a debut author with some massive epic. 

So lots of research and five drafts later, I had the finished product, perhaps two or three years' worth of work. I can't remember for sure. Even when it was "finished", I still revisited the manuscript often to read it with fresh eyes and tweak it some more (I'm notorious for that). I marketed it a bit with agents, then small presses. One publishing house had it for a year but ultimately passed on it. I continued on during that time with writing what I hoped would be a sequel then a trilogy.

During a more recent search for an agent, I was contacted by an agent who had been an assistant at one of the agencies that had read a full of my manuscript. She was opening her own agency and wanted to take me on. Since I had no one else interested in me or the novel at the time I figured what the heck and signed with her. During our one-year relationship, she shopped it around to some of the bigger houses like Random House, etc. but had no luck selling it. 

A fellow writer, whom I met on a historical fiction website, (Jim "Alaric" Bond) contacted me directly and invited me to submit my work to his editor at Fireship Press. I did so and notified my agent of the contact, encouraging her to touch base with them. However, I never heard back from the editor, and my agent claimed he had not responded to her inquiries. A short time later, that gentleman unexpectedly passed away. So I figured that was that. However, Jim contacted me after having met the new president of Fireship Press and again encouraged me to submit, saying that the new president (Michael James) didn't find any record of my previous submission or any contact from my agent.

This was toward the end of my contract with my agent. After submitting The Prodigal to Michael James, I tried to contact my agent to let her know, but oddly enough she had vanished off the face of the earth after the birth of her first child. I tried contacting her by email (bounced back), telephone (straight to voice mail with no return call), and certified mail (that letter eventually came back, unclaimed). It was a big mystery. Meanwhile, Fireship had contacted me for sample chapters then a full. Since my contract with my agent had by then expired, I officially terminated our relationship. Shortly thereafter, Fireship offered me a one-book deal for The Prodigal

There are good things and bad things when a writer compares big publishers with small publishers. I will focus on the positive things. With a small, niche publisher like Fireship, my book received immediate attention toward getting it to the finished product. They had actually started editing it before I had even signed the contract (which I had reviewed by a literary lawyer before signing). I had the copy edits back within the first month (fortunately the edits were nothing major, mainly words choices, etc. and a tweaked ending) and the galleys in my hands the following month. By the third month we had a cover chosen and a jacket blurb written. Another positive thing is that I was allowed the majority of say in the cover and the blurb, both things that debut authors at large houses rarely if ever get a say in.

So all told, from contract signing to release, The Prodigal only took three months of production. Compare that to large houses which can take up to a year and a half to produce a book.

So there is my own personal success story. Like many things in life, in my case it was not only what I knew (how to write a good story) but who I knew (Jim Bond). So the moral of this writer's story is network, network, network! You never know who will offer to lend you a helping hand...and you never know who you might be able to help on their way toward publication as well.

If you are interested in The Prodigal, it is available in paperback or e-book through the usual purchasing channels: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Return of Avatar: The Last Airbender

Korra- from Nickelodeon
When my children were young we spent a lot of time on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Thankfully, they outgrew SpongeBob and Blue’s Clues. There was one program that the whole family enjoyed and got behind: Avatar: The Last Airbender. We waited anxiously for each season to begin, saw the movie together (no comment on that craziness), and felt the same disappointment when the series ended.
Set your DVR’s for the brand new series from the makers of the The Last Airbender. It debuts on Nickelodeon this Saturday. The Legend of Korra premieres April 14 at 11:00 am Eastern time. Now seventy years after The Last Airbender, the new avatar is a spunky girl, named Korra. Korra heads to Republic City to master her airbending skills, but runs head-long into an anti-bending revolution. Watch the trailer here: Trailer 2 
from Nickelodeon
Don’t expect to see you’re old favorites. Aang, Sokka, and Zuko are gone. This is a whole new cast and a new storyline, though based in the same world. Most exciting, you can expect to see children of past characters. I’m hoping the humor and depth of characters of The Last Airbender will return to vault The Legend of Korra into a new favorite. It will be something to bring busy teenagers and parents together again. We’ll miss the old characters, but hopefully love the new ones.
Tenzin-Aang's son

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter and Welcome Spring

Here are some blooming pictures to remind us to not spend all our time inside writing.

Lilacs in the Backyard
 Enjoy some time outside as Spring came early this year.
Redbud Tree

A good place to hide an Easter Egg

My dogs, Robin and Pippin. Hard to get them to stay still.

No snow on the tulips this year. A Happy Easter to everyone.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Getting the Call: Terri Bruce

When you’re a writer, success can come in various forms. Here is a taste of another method of getting The Call. I asked friend and fellow writer, Terri Bruce, to inspire us with her recent adventure. Terri writes a blend of women’s fiction and fantasy, creating her own genre. For more about Terri and her novel, HEREAFTER, releasing this September, check out her website. Thank you so much for sharing, Terri.

I wish I could say my “call” was a big dramatic moment, but alas, it wasn’t. Instead, it was a series of small, pivotal moments mostly lacking in drama that inched me closer to the final moment when I could say I was a signed author with an impending release date.

I was home alone because my husband was away, traveling for business. It was late—I had been watching t.v. and chatting online with my AQC friends—and I was wrapping up to go to bed. I was just about to close the laptop when I decided to check my email one last time—and there it was, an email from the acquisitions editor that I had just submitted my full manuscript to only a few days prior.

My heart sank.

The response was an email (not a call) and had come back so fast that it surely must be a rejection. I frowned and moved to close the email window. I’d read it in the morning. Then I chided myself for being such a dismal coward and opened the email, figuring I’d just rip the band-aid off now, rather than wait till later. I read the words and they hardly penetrated.

They wanted to publish my novel.

I blinked and read them again.

They wanted to publish my novel.

I don’t remember a lot after that—just like everyone else who experiences this moment, my brain sort of melted. I tried calling my husband, got his voicemail. I tried calling my sister, got her voicemail. I just sat on the couch, staring at the t.v. not sure what to do next.

My sister called me back almost immediately and we were on the phone when my husband called. I was trying to switch back and forth between two calls and trying to read them the email…on further investigation there were instructions: I’d be getting a formal offer/contract from the CEO by separate email, there was an author information sheet to read about the process of working with Eternal Press (mostly about how they’d really prefer authors to not eat the editor assigned to them).

The best moment, however, was the next day. My coworkers have been following my book publishing odyssey closely and offering much emotional and moral support. It was so hard not to start shouting the moment I walked through the front door. It was even harder not to spill the beans to my boss, with whom I share an office or another coworker who had been one of my beta readers (the first non-writer, non-family member I had ever let read my work).

Instead, I waited until staff meeting where I announced I wanted to share a letter I had received the night before. Without any further build up, I simply read the email. Before I had even finished, everyone erupted into applause and cheers. That’s the moment when it really hit me this was happening and I started crying. In the afternoon, my boss bought cupcakes for the office and let me ring the “good news bell” (okay, honestly that sounds like a four year old’s birthday party, but it was actually a really awesome celebration!).

This was all just the start of “the call”—at this point all I had was an email from the acquisitions editor but no actual contract yet. I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask and I wasn’t entirely sure I would accept the offer—this publisher has received mixed reviews from different online sources, and while I had done my own, first-hand research, including talking to dozens of their authors (who all had only good things to say), I still wanted to talk to the staff directly and get my own impression of their professionalism and personality before deciding anything. Then two other publishers indicated interest in the manuscript and there was a frantic week of back and forth emails and nail biting and contract review with a lawyer.

Once the lawyer gave me the go-ahead on the contract, I exchanged emails with the CEO as I asked questions and requested a revision to the contract. Since the offer was just for the first book in the series I had written, I was most concerned in knowing EP’s criteria for publishing the rest of the books. EP’s contract is pretty straightforward, plus with the contract they had sent some more documents explaining the publishing process, so I felt pretty knowledgeable about what to expect if/once I signed.

By this point I was pretty sure Eternal was my top choice of the three interested publishers—they had the best royalty rate, the best distribution (including accepting returns), the longest track record/most experience, a substantial built in market, and the most efficient/organized process (plus the speed with which they responded to queries, submissions, and emails showed that they stay on top of stuff). The final clincher was the professionalism, honesty, and transparency of Eternal’s CEO, which struck me immediately in my exchanges with her—I asked a lot of annoying, newbie questions and she was amazingly patient about everything. That was the final piece of the puzzle for me—the company’s authors spoke highly of them, mutual colleagues spoke well of the CEO, and the CEO herself was someone that I felt comfortable working with.

I accepted the offer, sent back the contract right after our last exchange, and let the other publishers know that I had accepted another offer. Then rolled up my sleeves and got to work on the hard part—prepping a manuscript for editing and preparing the information sheet for the cover artist. Anti-climatic indeed—since I signed there hasn’t really been a free moment to just bask and enjoy this moment. I guess I’m going to have to wait for the book release party this fall for that!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Review of The Hunger Games Movie

I promised a review of the Hunger Games movie in comparison to the book. Two weekends should be enough time to allow diehard fans a chance to see it first so here goes:
I was a little worried at the opening. Not that the first scene didn’t start off according to the book, but that Buttercup wasn’t yellow. How hard can it be to find an orange cat? My grandparent’s farm was full of them, which has naturally given me a thing for that particular color cat, and it was rather a jolt. Then there were a few other changes right at the getgo that didn’t make me feel any better. Changes which I won’t mention to avoid spoiling, but which really wouldn’t have been a big deal to do right. Little things, really, but annoying.
Then the movie got rolling and those small nitpicks no longer mattered. The heart and soul of the movie kept to the book. There were even a few spots where the straying proved useful to enhance the scenes. During the games themselves, such as in the trackerjack scene, they cut away to announcers which enabled the necessary tell about these vicious bugs without the characters from the games having to say ‘look out, killer bees’. It was a smart way to make the scene understandable for people who haven’t read the book.
I thought the actors all did a first rate job. In particular, the guy who played Cinna and his relationship with Katniss was spot on. And would you believe Lenny Kravitz’s, a musician, played that part. The character of Peeta was genuinely likeable, while Katniss was great as the girl who’d do what it took to stay alive. I can only picture Haymitch as a hairy Woody Harrelson now. Rue was plain adorable.
Another bigger change involved added a flesh and blood antagonist to the mix. If you read my first post on the Hunger Games, you’ll remember I praised that Suzanne Collins made the games the antagonist in her first book of the series. Well, that wasn’t good enough for movie magic. They created a bigger role for President Snow and made a martyr/villain of the Gamemaker man behind the games. (Though who couldn’t love that really cool beard.) It was neat seeing what went on behind the games; and the arrow scene with the pig—amazing. I’ll let others judge for themselves whether this further focusing on good guy/bad guy was an improve or not. In my opinion, it added rather than detracted from the book.
Necessarily because of time, some things in the movie didn’t seem to have enough time allowed to them. For instance, the scenes Katniss spent with Rue seemed short to me. The time allowed to Haymitch also felt cut short. I was miffed they chose not to show his falling off the stage. I had the same reaction with the Harry Potter films though. You just wanted more. And they did leave in the part about Prim’s shirt being untucked at the reaping.
Overall, two thumbs up. I’d see it again, and I’d buy the DVD. It made me cry—twice. I’ll get the popcorn if anybody needs a friend to go with them.