Monday, September 29, 2008

Debut Showcase: The Possibilities of Sainthood

The Possibilities of Sainthood (USA, UK, Canada)
By Donna Freitas (website, book website, ClassOf2K8)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Macmillan)

Antonia Lucia Labella has two secrets: at fifteen, she’s still waiting for her first kiss, and she wants to be a saint. An official one. Seem strange? Well, to Antonia, saints are royalty, and she wants her chance at being a princess. All her life she’s kept company with these kings and queens of small favors, knowing exactly whom to pray to on every occasion. Unfortunately, the two events Antonia’s prayed for seem equally unlikely to happen. It’s not for lack of trying. For how long has she been hoping to gain the attention of the love of her life – the tall, dark, and so good-looking Andy Rotellini? Too long to mention. And every month for the last eight years, Antonia has sent a petition to the Vatican proposing a new patron saint and bravely offering herself for the post. So what if she’s not dead?

But as Antonia learns, in matters of the heart and sainthood, things are about as straightforward as wound-up linguini, and sometimes you need to recognize the signs.

This one, like Amanda Ashby's You Had Me at Halo seems almost too quirky to work. However, it has garnered some WONDERFUL reviews, including starred reviews at School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist. I don't think I have ever announced a novel with so many starred reviews. I'm delighted that a novel for teenagers with a Christian theme has been so well received; I hope its sales has similar success.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

BLACK SHIPS - Midway Point

I'm actually a bit past the midway point, and I had to pry myself away from this novel in order to write this post. I have not enjoyed a novel so much in a very long time. BLACK SHIPS has not only made me forget that I'm reading it in order to review it, but I'm forgetting I am supposed to be reviewing it as I read it. And when I got to the midway point--when I was supposed to stop and write, I kept on reading.

I only have one gripe so far, but it has nothing to do with the writing, or the story, but rather, the setting. Since it may resolve itself before the end of the story, I'll hold off on mentioning it right now.

Jo Graham has woven a marvelous tale. It reads as if this is her tenth or twelfth novel, rather than her first. It is more like historical fiction than fantasy, with a great deal of character development. This doesn't mean that the novel doesn't have fantasy elements. The main character, who started out as Gull, but became Pythia when she became an Oracle, makes predictions of the future and occasionally becomes the avatar for the Lady of Death, whom she serves. She also had a meeting with a god. Her native people call her Sybil, which is the name that the Romans had for their oracle.

There is a bad guy--a blood enemy--named Neoptolemos who, like the best of villains, keeps turning up, even halfway around the world. Neoptolemos, son of Achilles, seems born to plunder and conquer. He is shaping up quite nicely as a villain. And he may even now have a potential traitor in his enemy camp, under Gull's very nose.

Now, to get back to reading!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Steampunk Extravaganza

If you haven't already, get yourself over to Heather's Galaxy Express blog for a steampunk extravaganza that has lasted all week. The contest is over (sorry for the late announcement) but the posts are still well worth visiting. She has links galore on everything steampunk, from books to movies to video games.

Check it out:

Welcome to the Retro-Future of Steampunk
Steampunk is the New Black (includes interview with Colleen Lindsay)
The Splendor of Steampunk: Visual Media
Steampunk It!
Steampunk Forever

Heather did an excellent job and is showing us all how it should be done.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

BLACK SHIPS - Opening Chapters

I am loving BLACK SHIPS. Jo Graham has written just the type of character development novel that I love. She has made me forget that I'm reading this novel in order to write a review. These are the moments when I love keeping this blog. I am already a quarter of the way through the novel.

The story is told in first person, from the point-of-view of Gull, a slave born out of rape after the fall of Wilusa, or Troy. Her mother was taken as war booty and is a slave in Greece. When she is crippled in an accident, her mother cannot support her anymore, so she takes her as an offering to the Lady of the Dead. When she demonstrates a gift of prophesy, the offering is accepted.

The tone of this novel is quiet, but the pace always moves forward. Unexpected things happen quite often. This novel is based on the Aeneid, which is an epic poem written by Virgil, chronicling the travels of Aeneas, a Trojan who founds Rome. I have not read the Aeneid, but I may have to, now. I'm actually glad I have not read it yet, because I will not have the tendency to quibble with the author, which I admit to doing when I read about a historical period that I know well.

Back when I announced this novel, I made note of the fact that the cover reminded me of a 1920s film star. Well, now I know the reason for the stylized makeup, and I think they did a great job with the cover.

My copy is a library copy, but I can tell already that I'm going to want to buy this one. I hope it doesn't disappoint, but I really don't think it will.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Have an Avatar

Prompted by Blogger's new Following feature, which ONLY uses profile pictures (what were they thinking?), I have created an Avatar through Yahoo. I created it so it looks as much like me as possible. Yes, I really do look that geeky.

You can make your own Yahoo Avatar here. It's pretty fun, and they animate very slightly.

Debut Showcase: Pandemonium

Pandemonium (Amazon USA, UK, Canada)
By Daryl Gregory (website, blog, other Daryls)
Del Rey
Excerpt (pdf, html)

It is a world like our own in every respect . . . save one. In the 1950s, random acts of possession begin to occur. Ordinary men, women, and children are the targets of entities that seem to spring from the depths of the collective unconscious, pop-cultural avatars some call demons. There’s the Truth, implacable avenger of falsehood. The Captain, brave and self-sacrificing soldier. The Little Angel, whose kiss brings death, whether desired or not. And a string of others, ranging from the bizarre to the benign to the horrific.

As a boy, Del Pierce is possessed by the Hellion, an entity whose mischief-making can be deadly. With the help of Del’s family and a caring psychiatrist, the demon is exorcised . . . or is it? Years later, following a car accident, the Hellion is back, trapped inside Del’s head and clamoring to get out.

Del’s quest for help leads him to Valis, an entity possessing the science fiction writer formerly known as Philip K. Dick; to Mother Mariette, a nun who inspires decidedly unchaste feelings; and to the Human League, a secret society devoted to the extermination of demons. All believe that Del holds the key to the plague of possession–and its solution. But for Del, the cure may be worse than the disease.

The author of this novel has been published in many of the big magazines--F&SF, Asimov's, Hitchcock's, plus a bunch of anthologies. It's getting some great reviews, but ususally, demons and I don't mix. However, he's a fellow computer programmer, which to me is very cool. His blog reflects a sense of humor that I don't see in the blurb, so I'll have to check out Graeme's review. Also, check out that page on other Daryls; very cute.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fantasy and Science Fiction - October Issue

When Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine offered a free issue for bloggers, in return for blogging about the issue, I went ahead and signed on. I've been an off-and-on subscriber for years, currently "off." I've now read all the short stories in the issue, so I thought it was a good time to put up a post. I'll put up another post about the novelets and the rest of the issue.

The first thing I looked for, of course, was for debut short story writers. As in the author's first short story sale, ever. In a magazine like this one, that's going to be rare and this issue was no exception.

Of all the authors in this story, I have only previously read Stephen King.

"Inside Story" By Albert E. Cowdrey
This was a strange little story about post-Katrina New Orleans. A fat retired cop comes back to the force on a temporary basis to investigate some people missing from a FEMA trailer park. It started out weird, and then it got even weirder. But it was fun. Especially the part about Bush the Second. This was one of the more enjoyable stories.

"Sleepless Years" By Steven Utley
Utley speculates about heaven and hell, or the lack thereof in this chilling story. A man commits suicide and has donated his body to science. The only problem is, they manage to revive him, and now they own him. This story omits dialog tags to great effect. The revelation at the end was great. I should have seen it coming, but I didn't.

"The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates" By Stephen King
I don't always like Stephen King stories, but I liked this one. A middle-aged woman loses her husband to an airline crash. Or she thinks she does, until she gets a fateful phone call. This one had loads of drama and kept my interest like none of the others. But what can I say? It's Stephen King. He knows how to tell a story.

"Dazzle Joins the Screenwriter's Guild" By Scott Bradfield
This story has a "different" point-of-view character, and I'm not going to go into detail for fear of giving it away. However, if I don't tell you what the point-of-view character is, I really can't sum up the opening. It would sound deadly dull. But it's not. It's one of the more enjoyable stories in the magazine. It must have been inspired by the recent screenwriter's guild strike. The author's experience in Hollywood shows in this story.

"Going Back in Time" by Laurel Winter
I hate to sound ignorant, but this one I just didn't get. Literally. It was like a joke that was too sophisticated for my brain. Although I like science, I took Freshman Physics, and that's it. To paraphrase McCoy from Star Trek, "I'm a computer programmer, not a quantum physicist." This story was extremely short, and probably qualifies as flash fiction.

"Private Eye" by Terry Bisson
This story was very naughty. But it was interesting. There was not much drama, just two humans who are attracted to each other, but cannot touch . . . yet. It's a near-fiction story and a guy and a girl who meet in a bar and get to talking. Then, they discover that they share certain things with each other. It's also about cybersex (or lack thereof) vs. the real thing.

"Whoever" by Carol Emshwiller
 In this intriging story, a woman finds herself on the street without any recollection of who she is. She wanders around, wondering who she is, until she encounters a helpful stranger. She wonders if she can play the piano. There isn't a lot of drama in this story either, just a sweet love story, or at least a friendship story. And an unexpected bit of action toward the end.

"Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter's Personal Account" By M. Rickert
The premise of this story is built on a quote by Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue. In this future, anyone who commits an abortion is tried and executed. However, the mother of the narrator of the story disappeared instead. And the daughter would have preferred that her mother had died. This is the sort of story where I don't know what was expected of me as a reader. Was I supposed to suspend disbelief and actually believe that the girl wishes her mother had died? I just didn't get it, nor did I enjoy it.

"The Scarecrow's Boy" by Michael Swanwick
This story is told from the point of view of an andriod, who is trying to help a young boy across the border of an unnamed country. Along the way he enlists the help of a talking car, and he holds up a talking MiniMart. He is a housebot, but he is called a scarecrow because his owner put him out to pasture to keep away the birds. It's fairly entertaining with some good action.

Overall, none of the stories I have read so far were a chore to get through. However, I can't think of any I really loved either.

A Gripe
One thing I wish they would include is a letters section. I always read the letters section of any magazine I read, and I miss it here. I think it would help sell back issues. For example, if I read in this issue's letters section that a certain story in the previous issue was awesome, I might be intrigued enough to buy an electronic copy of the previous issue. Or send away for a back issue. Or, I might remember the name of the author when I go to the bookstore.

I suppose a possible rationale for omitting a Letters section is to squeeze in one more story, but why omit the feedback from the readers?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hot Damn!

I got three columns to work without trashing my template! It's thanks to Mulluane, who pointed me to this page, which is for my Minima Stretch scheme. I couldn't implement the changes exactly as written there, because apparently Blogger changed some variable names on my template since I started this blog. So I simply used what was on the existing template as my guide. It took about two hours.

Definitely start with a template that uses percentage widths rather than a fixed width. Much easier, and much friendlier to your users.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Question for Authors Regarding Book Borrowing

I have a question for authors. How do you feel about book borrowing?

Personally, I think it is beneficial for authors. A few years ago, I was not reading the mystery genre at all. A new acquaintance (now a friend) gave me two books to read. One of them was One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. I found the opening repugnant and I actually tried to give the Evanovich back to my friend. She refused to take it and told me that I needed to try to read it again.

So I did. And I loved it.

I now own half a dozen Stephanie Plum books, including One for the Money, which I went out and purchased for myself. I obviously don't have all the books, but I have read all of them, except the latest. But I wouldn't have bought any of them if it had not been for my friend. In fact, I would not be reading the mystery genre at all if it had not been for my friend.

What do you think? Am I evil incarnate?

Nowadays, I review everything I read, borrowed or not, fantasy or not, debut or not. This assuages my guilty conscious somewhat for all my book borrowing, library borrowing and all my (gasp!) used bookstore purchases.

What do all you published authors think of fans who borrow books? Am I a real fan of Evanovich, or just half a fan? Please absolve me! And all of those of you who borrow books, I'd love to hear any stories you may have that are similar to mine Please don't be shy. I made my confession. Time for you to make yours.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Debut Showcase: The Gone-Away World

The Gone-Away World (Amazon UK, Canada)
by Nick Harkaway (website, blog)
The Borzoi Reader (Knopf/Random House)

There couldn’t be a fire along the Jorgmund Pipe. It was the last thing the world needed. But there it was, burning bright on national television. The Pipe was what kept the Livable Zone safe from the bandits, monsters and nightmares the Go Away War had left in its wake. The fire was a very big problem.

Enter Gonzo Lubitsch and his friends, the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company, a team of master troubleshooters who roll into action when things get particularly hot. They helped build the Pipe. Now they have to preserve it—and save humanity yet again. But this job is not all it seems. It will touch more closely on Gonzo’s life, and that of his best friend, than either of them can imagine. And it will decide the fate of the Gone-Away World.

I'm not really sure what to think of this one. It's getting some amazing reviews; just check out that Amazon page. The clever cover art alone tells you that it's something different. The author has one of those cool flash websites, so be sure to check that out. It features a "book jacket genesis" and ninja fighting tools. It also has many hidden easter eggs and is great fun to browse around. I hesitated in linking to the author's blog, because it's really one of those things you have to hunt around for.

Favorable initial impression.

Thank You to "Followers"

I've noticed that this blog has picked up a tiny handful of "followers." Thanks guys! I need to figure out how this new feature works, but as you may have guessed from the scarcity of posts, I'm suffering from a scarcity of time. There doesn't seem to be an obvious button for "following the follower," which seems to me like an obvious feature to have.

Anyway, thank you!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Blog Showcase: Young Adult Science Fiction

I met Kimber An in the blogosphere within a week of starting Fantasy Debut, but to be honest--and not even she knows this--I haunted her first blog long before then. Her blog seemed very clubby and I was quite frankly a bit intimidated, so I became a "lurker". I felt like the geeky kid wishing I were a cheerleader. Well little did I know, that Kimber and her friends were more like me than I knew.

I lost track of her when she switched blogs, and Linnea Sinclair, one of this blog's early cheerleaders, pointed me back to her and suggested that we hook up.

Well this Florida girl and Kimber the Alaska girl have been in touch ever since.

Kimber runs a personal blog and a romance book review blog. Now she has decided to start a book review devoted to teen-friendly science fiction. I have no doubt of its potential for success. Kimber's personal blog is so funny that my husband has become a regular reader of it, and he lurks without commenting. He's constantly asking me, "Have you read Kimber's latest?"

In her newest blog, Kimber intends to help introduce science fiction to the younger audience. Her lead article today addresses that very topic.

Here it is: Young Adult Science Fiction!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sick Again

This is the third time I've gotten sick since July. (Grumble, grumble). I'll just read a bit of Seaborn, now.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Taking up Fantasy Occupations

Mulluane gave me an idea for a post when she speculated that she is thinking of taking up fencing. I immediately replied to her comment, indicating that Lisa Shearin is a fencer. That got me to thinking about the tendency for some fantasy fans to take up fantasy occupations.

An entire cottage industry has sprung up around this. That's why we have Renaissance Fairs. You can buy swords and armor from enthusiasts who make such items using authentic methods. Back in Arizona, there was a group called the Local Yokels, who specialized in making peasant clothing and houses using authentic methods. Others go for more elaborate costuming. As for myself, I've been a calligraphic artist since 1985 (although you could not mistake my text for medieval text). And I didn't read fantasy when I learned calligraphy. Still, I have a fantasy skill.

Has your love of fantasy extended to your hobbies? If so, what is your speciality? If not, which fantasy hobby would you like to take up?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I Need Help

Well, the summer lull is just about over and my debut calendar is filling up. As you can tell from the post below this one, I try to be very thorough about my Debut Showcases. In order to get wind of these debuts, I have to do quite a bit of work:

  • Comb publisher lists
  • Comb other blogs
  • Schmooze authors on bulletin boards
  • Subscribe to every publisher newsletter in existence
As you can imagine, this takes a lot of time, and time is a precious commodity with me. I really enjoy my Debut Showcase feature, but in order to continue it, I need a bit of help.

An obvious solution is to have authors, editors and publicists let me know about their debuts. After all, they are the ones who want to get the news out there. Therefore, I've put up a post with a form that requests certain information. It's available there at the top of the sidebar. Please be aware that I'm extremely selective in what I announce.

If you know someone who is coming out with a debut, please help them by helping me. I'll be able to announce their debut quicker, and I may even have time to read their book!

Debut Showcase: Sleepless

Sleepless (Amazon UK, Canada)
by Terri Clark (website, blog, myspace, ClassOf2K8)
Book Trailer

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Michaels has the ability to dream walk. It's a power she doesn't want, but it forever alters her life when she's unable to find an abducted teen before she's killed. While Trinity does help police capture the killer, Rafe Stevens, her involvement makes her his next target. Stevens pleads insanity and his convincing performance, aided by his despicable attorney, get him sentenced to a mental institute where a diabolical physician experiments on him. Now Rafe's escaped the sanitarium and he's after Trinity. Like her, he now has a special ability, one that allows him to stalk Trinity through her dreams. If he kills her in her sleep, she'll die for real. To survive she must find him first and the only person willing to help her is Dan Devlin, disillusioned son of the shady lawyer who knowingly aided Rafe in getting away with murder. Can she trust Dan with her safety, not to mention her heart?

This author has the same name as a major country singer, which, unfortunately, didn't make her website obvious. I was surprised that no link was provided from the publisher's site (hint, hint). However "author terri clark" did the trick. The plot seems vaguely Cthulhuoid with its diabolical doctor and weird experiments going on in mental hospitals. The connection with the shady lawyer's son is unexpected and interesting. The author is a member of Fangs, Fur and Fey.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I've Been Interviewed!

In my first interview ever (well, except an interview for the newspaper once, when they didn't use anything I had to say), Heather asked me questions about Fantasy Debut, science fiction and romance over at The Galaxy Express.

Check it out! Thank you, Heather!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Upcoming Debut Author - Kelly Gay

I first became aware of Kelly Gay through Colleen Lindsay's addictive blog, The Swivet. Colleen--or La Gringa, her non de plume--used to send me free books back when she was a publicist. When Colleen became an agent, the flow of free books dwindled to a mere trickle, but I got to learn about up-and-coming new authors that she picked from her slush. Kelly Gay was one of the first. That was when I started following Kelly's blog. Within a few months, Colleen and Kelly sold her first novel, THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS. It will be published in the summer of 2009.

We've been commenting on each other's blogs over the past few months. She recently put up a post that I found especially interesting, so I asked her to write a guest post on the same subject. Well, that sort of expanded, and now we are going to check in with Kelly at various milestones on her pre-published career. What milestones, you ask? We'll work that out as we go along. In the meantime, expect a guest post from Kelly every now and then. Here is her first.

* * *
Switching Gears
by Kelly Gay

When Tia contacted me about writing a series of guest posts showcasing an author in the pre-debut stage, I was a little stunned. I mean, after all, I’m a big fan of Fantasy Debut and blogging here is quite an honor. Of course, I jumped at the chance! :)

While my urban fantasy, THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS, won’t be released until next summer, we’re hoping this insider series of the “in-between stage” (being contracted but not yet having a book on the shelf) will be of interest to Fantasy Debut readers. The topic that inspired Tia’s idea was “Switching Gears”, what it’s like to go from an aspiring writer mindset to that of contracted author.

It’s been six months since I signed with my agent and nearly three since I sold to Pocket Books in a two-book deal. And quite frankly, it’s taken a little while to get used to the idea and to my new routine. I was used to scouring the web for industry news, writing up queries, polishing partials [e.g. the first three chapters-Tia], pitching to editors and agents at conferences and being the best aspiring writer I could be. After a decade or so I became pretty good at it. I had a lot of confidence in my pursuit. That pursuit became my comfort zone. And after my sale, after all the furor died down, I suddenly felt out of my element. Stepping out of one's comfort zone can be an odd feeling.

And don’t get me wrong. I want to be exactly where I am. I didn’t work all those years not to be, and I wouldn’t change this for the world. I’m living my dream, and I'm insanely happy about it. But like anyone else with a life long dream, suddenly going from the pursuit of the dream to the actual dream itself is a huge, mind boggling change. I made it my business to know exactly what I was getting into. I researched, talked to published friends, and I have a good grip on what’s expected of me and the work I need to do. But what I didn’t expect was how surreal it felt to let go of my old routine and immerse myself into a new phase of the writer’s journey. I prepared myself in every way except mentally.

Now that I’ve had time to identify the feeling that gripped me, which is really just a temporary loss of confidence (and a little dose of panic) :), I realize that while this stage is new, and I’m out of my comfort zone, all those years of trying to sell myself and my work has made me strong and able to handle most anything. I may be a new author, but I’m also a skilled writing veteran with a thick skin. Writing manuscripts, queries and synopsis, meeting and pitching industry pros, overcoming my introverted nature to do those pitches, all of it has prepared me for this new role.

In retrospect, I realize it’s not so much about letting go of my old mentality as it is about using it and reshaping it in order to forge ahead into new territory. And it's okay to panic, or have an "Oh sh**! What now?" moment after you sell. I think everyone goes through this to some degree (and/or perhaps in differing stages of the game). As for me, I'm happily settling into my new role, savoring the new challenges thrown my way, and I cannot wait to share my imagination and the world of Underground with others.

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into my moment of switching gears panic and resulting commentary. :) There should be some interesting milestones along the way. Revisions, cover art, marketing, etc . . . Stay tuned! And thanks so much for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

SEABORN - A Bit of a Curve Ball

Yay! Blogger finally provides an image widget that actually has a built-in link! No more having to make them myself! Therefore, you will see more Featured Debuts around here. Yes, I'm a bit lazy, sometimes. I know perfectly well how to code in HTML; I'm just hate doing it. That's why this blog doesn't have three columns, much as I'd love them.

On to SEABORN. I'm enjoying it very much, and just finished with chapter 14 out of 38. The chapters on Corina, the poor girl who got taken over by the sorcerer Aleximor, have been action-packed and riveting. Things are a bit slower with Kassandra, who is rather languidly moving toward her goal of taking on her grandfather.

Howard introduces some wonderfully unique concepts here, such as the bleed, which is a way of passing magical power from one generation to another. I don't want to give any of it away, but I loved the idea. Also, Kassandra is the Wreath-Wearer, which I'm terribly curious about, and the details are being fed to the reader at a great hungry-for-more pace.

Until I got to just past 1/3rd of the way through, I had nothing to complain about. That's when I got slammed with an unexpected gross-out scene. This shady character showed up and was going to do something truly dispicable. However, we hardly got a chance to begin to hate him when he is dealt way in a horrific manner that nothing in the previous chapters prepared me for. It would be as out-of-place as dislocated eyeballs would be in Willow. You know, Willow had some gross scenes. But nothing like displaced eyeballs. And you don't even what to know what happens to those displaced eyeballs. Or maybe you do, if you like that sort of thing.

Happily, the next chapter is where we finally got to meet the Seaborn historian, Michael Henderson!

Bigtime Contest Winners!

Here is Jennifer's final post in the comments for the Bigtime book giveaway.

All right, I used the random number generator to choose the winners. Here
they are:

Karma Girl: Popinfresh
Hot Mama: Yan
Jinx: Michele L.

Winners, please e-mail your snail mail address to me at
(removed due to spam). For those of you
who didn't win, I'm doing a contest on my blog through Friday, so you can check
that out too.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented. :-)