Sunday, August 30, 2009

I've Been Interviewed!

Harry Markov of Temple Library Reviews wrote some very insightful interview questions, which must have taken him a while to research. He also did one of his blog critiques, where he said some very nice things about me and Fantasy Debut. Times like these make blogging very rewarding. He calls this feature Reviewer Time.

Check it out!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Debut Showcase: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (Amazon USA - UK - Canada)
by Leanna Renee Hieber
Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books
Date of Publication 8/25/09 (UK: 1 Sep)

What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…

This reminds me of Marissa Doyle's Bewitching Season, even down to the name of the heroine. No twin here, though. This looks pretty good. The blurb is almost perfectly enticing, because right away, I am dissatisfied with it, and want to learn more. If the book were in front of me, I'd be reading pages. So I guess it's an effective blurb! Her website has lots of extras, all conveniently located on a page called Extras.

You can let me know of an upcoming debut here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Eye Strain

I owe a few of you email responses, but due to eye strain (which is due to my new glasses), I avoided the computer last night and spent the evening in semidarkness. I'm going back to the eye doctor on Friday to see what can be done about these dratted glasses. In the meantime, please be patient. If I haven't answered your email, I will in the next day or so, or over the weekend at the latest.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Writer Wednesday - Researching for Fun and Profit

For this week's Writer Wednesday, I thought I'd explore a topic that didn't require the posting of excerpts in order to draw out those of you who prefer not to post excerpts. Since I'm in the midst of writing a historical novel, I also thought I'd blatently use this blog in an attempt to discover all of your favorite research methods. Here are a few of mine.

I am a master of Google Search. If it's on the Internet, I can find it with my Googlebar. I'm really good at figuring out the perfect search term to get the info I need. Maybe it's because I just love research and the Googlebar was something I just adored from day one. Privacy concerns? Bah. It's worth the loss of privacy. :)

Wikipedia is also a wonderful resource, especially when the article you are looking at has lots of citations that you can explore as well. I found some great Rosie the Riveter sites through Wikipedia. One thing I love is plugging in a date and seeing all the information that appears. Want to know the major news stories in 1924? Just plug "1924" in your Googlebar, and Wikipedia will be the first entry that pops up. Click on it, and you will see a comprehensive listing of everything that happened in 1924, along with a bunch of internal links to stuff like film, literature, sports, television--you name it. It may not be a definitive source, but it is a comprehensive one.

But the problem with Google and Wikipedia is you have to know what you're looking for. You can get lucky and have one page lead to another and eventually to a gem, but it takes a lot of surfing to find those.

But what about when you don't know what you are looking for?

What I really want to do one day soon is spend an afternoon at a library looking through microfiche. Those of you who are younger may not have any clue how fun microfiche is. It's so cool, even if it's low-tech. Imagine a bunch of newspaper pages placed side by side, zipping by you in the viewer. Unless they've changed these viewers considerably, you actually use a dial to control how fast the pages fly by. It's so 1970! If they duplicated this with computers, it would take forever to load!

What am I looking for? Nothing in particular. I'll know it when I see it. I want to look at the microfiche for the local papers in the early 20s, and zip through them. I'm looking for culture, for atmosphere. I'm looking for things like ads (and prices!), for portraits, for fashion, for cars, for sports, for buildings, for anything that catches my eye. Newspapers are a slice of life from that particular day in time, and I just want to browse through them.

To this end, I love Shorpy Photo Archive. I look at Shorpy's photos every day. If you are a history lover, you will love it as well. At least a few time a week, they post a street scene from the 20s. These are invaluable to me. You can zoom in on the photos and examine them in detail. When they post scenes from the interior of drugstores, I can get the prices on common goods. A milkshake? Fifteen cents. They had soda subscriptions. Buy a card for a dollar and you can redeem it for ten sodas. That sort of stuff didn't make the history books.

Your turn! What are your favorite research sites and methods?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Debut Showcase: Night's Cold Kiss

Night's Cold Kiss (Amazon USA - UK - Canada)
by Tracey O'Hara (website - blog)
HarperCollins - 7.99
Release date: August 25, 2009

For centuries war raged between the humans and Aeternus vampires—until courageous efforts on both sides forged a fragile peace.

But the rogue Necrodreniacs will never be controlled—addicted as they are to the death-high . . . and bloody chaos.

Since witnessing the murder of her mother, Antoinette Petrescu has burned with fiery hatred for the vampire race—even for Christian Laroque, the noble, dangerously handsome Aeternus who rescued her. Now an elite Venator, Antoinette must reluctantly accept Christian's help to achieve her vengeance—even as he plots to use the beautiful, unsuspecting warrior as bait to draw out the bloodthirsty dreniacs.

This isn't my usual forte, but maybe Raven will want to read it. The cover art looks familiar, and I wonder if I recognize the artist. I'm thinking Chris McGrath, but I didn't see this cover in his portfolio. The author was a finalist in the Golden Hearts along with Kelly Gay and Annette McCleave.

If you know of an upcoming debut, please let me know about it using this form.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On Urban Fantasy

I'm just not a fan of urban fantasy. I admit it.

Unless Charles deLint wrote it. I loved his urban fantasies of the 80s. But the definition has changed and it has left me sadly behind.

When I do debut showcases for urban fantasies, it's kind of like . . . work. I don't enjoy doing the research because I have no interest in reading most of these novels. There are rare exceptions, like Would-Be Witch. But like I said, they are rare.

What's more, I don't think a lot of my readers read urban fantasies. Such readers would not normally gravitate to this blog, because I review so few of such works. They'd find happier homes with SciFiGuy. Raven reviews some urban fantasy, but I don't think she's a true fan of the genre, either. (Raven, feel free to correct me, but you seem to be tired of snarky, kick-butt heroines.) She does like darker and gritter stuff than I do, which is why we complement each other so well here.

Therefore, if you read urban fantasies, please let me know you are out there. I may be interested in bringing another person on the Fantasy Debut team. And right away, I'd have a stack of urban fantasies to mail you. But there would be a price: I'd also be recruiting you to write my debut showcases for urban fantasies. Please let me know if you are interested by emailing me at tia dot nevitt at gmail dot com.

As for the rest of you, what do you think of urban fantasies? Love them? Hate them? Was a fan once, but no longer? Please share in the comments.

Sampling Books

Lest you think I'm doing nothing whatsoever with this blog, I thought I'd put up a post about the two books I'm sampling.

Servant of a Dark God by John Brown. This novel opens with a squabble between siblings that quickly grows dangerous when young Talen flees up a tree, pursued by his massivly muscled brother Ke. Talen falls, Ke catches him, they both get in trouble, and Talen gets sent off to the neighboring town on a routine farm errand.

There, he runs into real trouble when villagers think he is under a form of possession. It seems that another family in town--who are of the same outcast race as Talen--have been accused of this form of possession and naturally, everyone of the same race is under suspicion.

It's an engaging start. I know some people are tired of farm boys as the main protagonist, but I have no problem with it. Until the industrial revolution, most people were farmers or in the employ of farmers. But what I'm really in the mood for is an epic fantasy with a female POV. Or a grown man. I'm tired of reading about boys.

Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont. This begins with a prologue in the point-of-view of some indeterminate human-like creature. The creature trudges through the desert, and stops to talk to another creature that is imprisoned at the base of an obelisk. When the imprisoned creature tries to escape, a bolt of magic descends the obelisk and knocks it senseless. They have a conversation about some change that is coming. I confess that I haven't gotten much further than the prologue. However, I have determined that the point-of-view character isn't a boy (or either of these creatures), but a grizzled, battle-weary veteran named Temper. A significant plus in its favor.

Okay, make that three books. I'm also sampling Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice. It's also quite engaging, as those of you who have read it would doubtless agree.

But it's also about a boy. I think I'm going to scream.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Speculative Fiction Reviewer's Database

John has renewed the Speculative Fiction Reviewer's Database (which started life as the Link-Up Meme).

I don't want to just post it, because if I put it somewhere other than a post, it will constantly be refreshed in the search engines. In a post, it will get stale after six months. If I put it on my sidebar, it takes up the whole sidebar, and I don't want that. So I've put it in a widget at the bottom of the page. I put a link to it in the righthand sidebar, or you can jump to it here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday at FanLit

Check out this week's Thoughtful Thursday at FanLit. This week's topic: things an author does that makes you stop reading. You'll need to log into Google FriendConnect to leave a comment. Just look for the link at the bottom of the page.

Genre Break - Gaslight Mysteries, Volumes Three through Six

Every once in a while, the lure of the wonderful Gaslight Mysteries tempt me away from fantasy to the world of New York City during the waning years of the 19th century. The Gaslight Mysteries are written by Victoria Thompson. I reviewed volumes one through three a few months ago.

I wish Ms. Thompson would give the year that her novels take place. The only historical marker I have is Theodore Roosevelt's tenure as a Police Commissioner in New York City. According to his Wikipedia entry, those years were 1895 to 1897, so these novels take place during those years.

Murder on Washington Square is my favorite of the series so far. There's lots of character development for both Frank and Sarah, and their interest in each other becomes more evident. The romance still proceeds at a glacial pace, because, after all, once you have a Happily Ever After, it would be difficult to continue the story.

In Murder on Washington Square, Sarah's neighbor Nelson Ellsworth finds himself the suspect in the murder of a young woman whom he had been ready to marry. In previous volumes, Mrs. Ellsworth's favorite activity was sweeping her porch so she could keep track of the goings-on of her neighbors. But with reporters crowding her doorstep, looking for the scoop of Mr. Ellsworth, she's in hiding.

Sarah continues her tactic of detection-by-nosiness, although it's not as evident in this book. This dress features a cross-dresser, women who prefer their men married rather than single, and Sarah getting high on opium. Oh, and a kiss.

Murder on Mulberry Bend, by contrast, is my least favorite of the series so far. In this novel, a young woman from the Prodigal Son Mission is murdered in a park wearing Sarah's clothes. By coincidence, a man who helped her previous investigation lost his wife to a fever while she was volunteering at the same mission.

The story of a young woman murdered while wearing Sarah's clothes seemed to have so much potential, especially since Frank is finally beginning to get somewhere with his investigation of Sarah's husband's death. However, the author evidently didn't think of what I hoped for.

The mystery in this novel was very frustrating, and Frank is ordered to terminate the investigation, leaving Sarah much on her own. There are a host of suspects--all kinds of shady characters. It was darker in tone that most of Ms. Thompson's novels, and the progression of the romance between Frank and Sarah comes to a frustrating halt.

Still, it was an enjoyable tale with new characters who return in subsequent books.

In Murder on Marble Row, Ms Thompson is back in her groove with scintillating dialog and humorous situations. It also offers a return to high-society New York--or rather, it's steamy underbelly.

Mr. Gregory Van Dyke has been blown up in his office. Frank is given the job of solving the murder by Commissioner Roosevelt, himself. Mr. Van Dyke's heir, Creighton Van Dyke, is a prime suspect because of his association with "anarchists".

Sarah's mother--of all people--helps Sarah solve this murder. The situations they find themselves in are hilarious, especially when the two of them venture to New York's rough Lower East Side to visit the anarchists. Their stop in the First Street Saloon was especially fun, but it wasn't as fun as Frank Malloy taking the two of them to a chop suey joint for lunch.

Great fun. However, this novel was way too plot heavy with almost no character development.

Which is my only flaw in the series, itself. I read books like this for the characters, not the plots. Alexander McCall Smith is a master of writing character development stories under the guise of mysteries with his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Sure, the mysteries are fun and the whodunits are a blast to guess, but the characters are the true reason I keep coming back.

I have the rest of the books in the series except the last one, but I probably won't read them for another three months or so. I'd love to read them back-to-back, but all the fantasies on my self are calling my name, and I'd better not neglect them for long.

If you like historical mysteries, these are wonderful. If you don't, you might want to try them anyway and like me, discover a new addiction!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Writer Wednesday - Dialog

The art of writing dialog is a tough skill to learn. We learn all the basics. We punctuate properly. We avoid excessive dialog tags. We avoid modifying our dialog tags with adverbs. We read it aloud to make sure it flows right. And we never make our characters give long speeches unless they have a damned good reason.

But still, we get told our dialog is stilted.

Joining us today as Featured Writer is Lisa Shearin, a master of witty dialog. She is the author of Magic Lost, Trouble Found, Armed and Magical and The Trouble with Demons. Her books have consistently been available on the shelves of bookstores everywhere since she was first published, and her books are notable for their laugh-out-loud dialog. It's a real treat to have here here today. She provided two excerpts from The Trouble with Demons to give us some discussion fodder. I had a really hard time choosing between them, but here it is:


Piaras wasn’t having a good day; yesterday had started off the same way and by last night, it had slid downhill into a cesspool.  Today was showing all the signs doing the exact same thing.  

There was no easy way to ask what I needed to ask.  Sure, I could just come right out and say it; it was a simple enough question, but the words just refused to come out.

“You and Katelyn like each other, right?”  Yeah, I know, it was the cowardly way in, but at least it was a related topic.

Now the kid was completely confused.  “Yes, we do.”

“A lot?”

“Yes, a lot.  Why do you ask?”

“The two of you haven’t . . . done anything about really liking each other, have you?”

Now he was confused and concerned.  “Not yet.  I . . . that is, we want to . . . we think . . . but . . .”

“But what?”

“Before I came to class, the archmagus and I had breakfast together.”

I pressed my lips together so wouldn’t snicker.  Oh, I knew what was coming.  Uncle Ryn had done the same for me.  Any boy—or a couple of years later, any man—who wanted to see me socially had to go through The Talk.  One of my hopeful suitors said going through The Talk was like being forced to walk through fire, except without the fun parts.  You tried to get through it as quickly as possible and told yourself the pain would be over soon.  To the best of my knowledge, Uncle Ryn had never actually laid hands on one of my suitors, but he’d always made it plain and clear what behavior he expected, and what actions would be taken if he was “disappointed” that the boy/man’s behavior fell short of those expectations.  Needless to say, I didn’t date all that much.

Piaras was looking at me.  “What?”

I swallowed a snort.  “Nothing.  Go on.”

Piaras glanced at the door; it was closed, but he lowered his voice anyway.  “Archmagus Valerian said he would know if Katelyn and I . . . you know.  Raine, I’d like to live long enough to graduate, or at least graduate in this form.  He can’t really turn me into a squid, can he?”

“Is that what he told you?”

“And a couple of other things.”

“He can’t do it, at least not the squid part.”

“You’re sure?”


Piaras let out a relieved breath.  “That’s good.”  His look turned suspicious.  “Why are you asking about me and Kat?”

I really didn’t want to come out and say this.  “I need to find the Scythe of Nen.  And by the way, you weren’t too far off the mark.  It is a dagger.”

“What’s it look like?”

I told him what my dad had told me.

“Something that small won’t be easy to find,” Piaras noted.

“No, it’s won’t.  And apparently a certain type of person is helpful for finding this kind of thing.”

Piaras’s eyes narrowed.  I had a sinking feeling he’d figured out where I was going with this.

“What type of person?” he asked.

I winced.  “Uh . . . a virgin type of person.” 

His lips narrowed into a thin line to match his eyes.  “And when you found out you needed a virgin, you immediately thought of me.”

“Not immediately.”

“What, so you had to wait two seconds?”

“More like five actually.  Don’t feel bad about it.”

“You think I’m the only virgin on this island!  How’s that supposed to make me feel?”

I grinned hopefully.  “Special?”

Piaras gave me a look.  You know the one.

I threw my arms up.  “Okay, I’m sure there are other virgins on this island, but I don’t have time to find them.  I was pretty sure you were qualified—”

Piaras glowered.  “As a virgin.”

I held up a hand.  “No, no.”  I was just getting myself in deeper.  “I knew you were qualified in other ways to help.  Level headed, good in a fight, that kind of qualified.”

Piaras arched an eyebrow.  “Nice try.”

I hung my head and sighed.  “Kid, just help me out here, will you?”

Silence.  I looked up.  Piaras was grinning.

“What do you need me to do?” he asked. 

I told him.

“One question,” he said when I’d finished.


“This virgin thing, does thinking about it count?  Just because I haven’t done it doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.”  He lowered his voice again.  “A lot.”


As usual, please keep your excerpts to 300 words or fewer, and please put your excerpts and your critiques in separate posts.

And let's have some fun!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Debuts Wanted!

I'm running low on Debut Showcases so I thought I'd post a reminder--you can always let me know about an upcoming novel using this form. I usually only showcase books that are published by major, traditional publishers, but I make exceptions if the publisher seems exceptional. For example, ChiZine has started publishing books, and I put one of their novels on my calendar.

So if you're a newly-signed author, please let me know about it! It helps me out tremendously because I don't have to do as much research, and therefore I can use the time to cover more stuff.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Next Writer Wednesday

For our next Writer Wednesday, we'll have as featured writer someone whom several people have requested--Lisa Shearin! Our topic will be Dialog. She's given me a couple of great excerpts from The Trouble with Demons for me to choose from; the hardest part for me will be to actually make a choice!

Friday, August 14, 2009

I've Accepted . . .

. . . a flatteringly repeated offer from Fantasy Literature to become a regular contributor to their site. We're still discussing my role, but I've decided that all of my "Debut Break" type reviews will be for FanLit, plus non-current ("Historical") debuts and probably my debut graduates beyond that first "graduate" novel (for example, third novels and beyond). I have a lot of authors I enjoy following, but they aren't debut authors anymore.

Of course, I'll post snippets of all my reviews here, with links to the full review. All science fiction and non-fantasy ("Genre Break") reviews will remain here. Most of my work for FanLit may well be behind-the-scenes (editing, coding, etc). And it will be extremely part time.

I enjoy Fantasy Debut too much to give it up, but I also think it would be fun to be part of a like-minded group of individuals. I like what FanLit has going, and it helps that they really wanted me on board. It's nice to be wanted!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Drawn into Darkness by Annette McCleave

Drawn into Darkness by Annette McCleave

As you can tell by the cover, Drawn into Darkness is a paranormal romance. When I read the excerpt, I thought it was urban fantasy-ish. I used to be a bit fuzzy on the difference, but now it is absolutely clear to me. The first clue is the cover. Such covers aren't usually to be seen here at Fantasy Debut. Ab muscles abound. I usually go for arms and legs. And since I'm a product of the 80s, a little hair on a guy's chest is actually a nice thing.

Due to the cover, I never would have picked up this novel if I saw it in the store. Which means I'm probably pre-judging a lot of good books. I do wish romance publishers would stop making such embarrassing covers. However, I've figured out--so I'm slow--that these covers are kind of like a code. The lower the guy's pants, the steamier what is inside. These pants are only kind of low.

Before I go any further, a caveat. I don't really feel qualified to write this review. I read fantasy and mystery, and I feel qualified to review both genres. I haven't read romances since the 80s. So I'm just going to write what I think.

Lachlan McGregor is a soul gatherer. It's his job to grab a newly-dead soul and keep it safe until an agent of Heaven or Hell arrives to claim it. Problem is, Hell wants to claim all of them, and a soul-gatherer often has to fend off demons until the busy angels can arrive. The novel starts in Lachlan's point-of-view, and for the most part, the story focuses on him, because where he is, the action is. When the book starts, he habitually wears the disguise of a priest. This disguise sets the tone for the Christian aspects of the novel, which are partially Catholic in origin.

Rachel is a divorced mother of a fourteen year old named Emily, and she has her hands full. In the first scene of the book, Lachlan saves Emily from a bus accident. Ever since the bus crash, Emily has undergone a marked personality change. It turns out that Hell has a greater-than-usual interest in her, and they've sent one of their best lure demons to "lure" her into a spectacular death-suicide. And it turns out that this particular lure demon has a history with Lachlan.

Lachlan is a great dude, with a tortured past and rock-hard pecs from all the sword fighting he does to keep in shape and battle demons. The only problem I had with him is he was once a Scottish laird, which I'm starting to find a bit tiresome. Surely, there are lords of other nationalities who might be just as interesting. I liked him better than Rachel, who isn't even up to an argument with her daughter. I do feel for Rachel--having a rebellious teenager must be a horrible thing to go through. But she's just so danged weak. She doesn't even call the police when her daughter is dating a 22 year old man. I wanted to shake her. Part of the point of a novel is to have the character grow, and Rachel does grow, but it was hard for me to develop true sympathy for her--rather than just pity--when I found her actions so infuriating.

I don't mind a novel that draws on Christian themes as long as it is respectful. Ms. McCleave is respectful, but she imposes odd restrictions on the power of God that at times defied logic. For example, there's a Trinity Child, whom God creates every thousand years or so, and who can visit all three of the "planes", Heaven, Hell and Earth. However, God himself cannot visit Hell -- even though he created the child. Another logical problem was that God could not reverse a death mark, even though a certain resurrection is one of the basic tenants of the Christian--and Catholic--faith.

There are only two sex scenes in the novel, of which I was glad. We fantasy fans don't read for sex scenes. Even urban fantasies tend to keep sex scenes to a page or less. Fortunately, Ms. McCleave didn't give away any plot secrets in the midst of the sex scenes, so I was able to skip past them without feeling like I missed out on the story.

All in all, the pages just flew by and it was a nice way to spend a Saturday when I didn't feel well. The originality of this story might work well for lovers of urban fantasies who are tired of the usual mythologies.

This novel releases on September first. I'll link back to this review when I do the Debut Showcase, at which time I'll do my usual linkfest.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Writer Wednesday - Writer's Voice

Today's topic -- by request -- is a writer's voice. Voice is an elusive thing. When submitting to agents and publishers, among their guidelines, you often read that they want "an engaging voice." But how do you achieve that?

Voice to a writer is like light is to an artist. For an artist, skill is one thing, but the paintings truly come alive in in how you see -- and reproduce -- the light on canvas. It can be taught, but only to an extent. It's really something that must grow. The same goes for writing. When I first started writing, my voice was obscured by whoever my favorite writer was at the moment. As time went on, I started sounding more and more like myself. Nowadays, my writing sounds like "me" no matter who I'm reading at the moment.

Nathalie Mallet will be joining us for today's discussion. Her novels, The Princes of the Golden Cage and The King's Daughters, feature the voice of Prince Amir. Here are her thoughts on a writer's voice:

Finding one's voice is a term that one hears frequently in writing courses. But although one may know about the elements that make up voice—diction, syntax, tone and dialogue—it does not guarantee success. The way I do it is to simply assume the voice of my protagonist. And usually the tone of the narration comes from whichever details of the main character’s personality speak the loudest to me. In Amir’s case, it was his overly careful nature and his strong desire to remain anonymous.

Here’s an excerpt from The Princes of the Golden cage that best exemplifies this:

Being noticed meant having your potential evaluated. Never a good thing when one lived caged with so many power-thirsty brothers. To say that you didn’t want to become the next Sultan, that surviving was enough for you, was useless, even if true. For many of my brothers, only dead princes posed no threat. I counted myself lucky for being of average size, for having the dark hair and brown eyes shared by most of my siblings. Because of this I could blend easily in their midst. With its high cheekbones, square chin and short well-groomed beard, my face was one of many alike—unremarkable. I cultivated every bit of this blandness. I slumped whenever I was with shorter brothers, tried to sound dull when with dimwitted ones, and mimicked the affectations of my high-ranking brothers when near them. Even in my choice of clothes, I was careful. Blue and green were the predominant color of the palace’s walls, and therefore of my kaftans. Even my name, Amir, was common. There was at least four or five other Princes Amir still alive—a real blessing. 

I liked this excerpt because it really captured Prince Amir's personality.

Please join in with your own comments. Remember to keep any excerpts to 300 words. Please post replies and your own excerpts as separate comments, to make for easier reading.

Thank you for joining us, Nathalie!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tomorrow and Beyond

Don't forget that Nathalie Mallet will be joining us tomorrow for a discussion on Voice. My review of Drawn into Darkness will go up on Thursday evening. I could have put it up tonight, but I prefer to give my reviews at least 24 hours of "time on top". And the Writer Wednesday discussions often last well into Thursday. In fact, I may move them to Thursday because I usually don't plan anything for Friday. Something to think on.

I'm still not ready to start the Discovery Showcases again. Probably when the school year starts.

A Quick Congratulations

Congratulations to David Anthony Durham, winner of the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer! I loved his novel, Acacia, and I can't wait to read The Other Lands next month.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Upcoming and a Plea for Help

This Wednesday, Nathalie Mallet is going to be joining us for Writer Wednesday for our next topic, which is Voice. When I sent her the email asking if she would join us, she wrote back and told me that she's been following the discussion from the beginning! How very cool! So anyway, I thought her voice with Amir in The Princes of the Golden Cage and The King's Daughters was very distinctive, and since I just read and loved The Kings Daughters, she was a natural choice.

I'm having Twitter problems, and I'm hoping one of you Twitter experts can set me straight. While I was reading Drawn into Darkness, I tweeted on it using the #drawnintodarkness hashtag. However, when you click on it, not all of my tweets to show up. Usually, only my first tweet and the latest tweet appears. This happens even when you click on one of my tweets in between! I'm mystified--can anyone offer advice?

For my next novel, it may be a Genre Break. I just got novels 4 through 9 in the Gaslight Mystery series, and I don't think I can resist!

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Widget - Reading and Tweeting

I have a new widget in the upper left corner of my blog. It's called Reading and Tweeting. In it, via tagged Twitter tweets, I will capture my impression of novels as I read them. Hopefully, it will be fun.

No Discovery Showcase tomorrow. The Discovery Showcases will come back, but at the moment my weekends have been too active. My apologizes to all authors whose excerpts are in the queue.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Debut Showcase: Dunraven Road

Dunraven Road (Amazon USA - UK - Canada)
Caroline Barnard-Smith (Website - Blog)
Immanion Press
Trade Paperback

In the sleepy backwater of Dunraven Road, a group of hedonistic friends are trapped in a deadly prison of their own making. When Zach, their enigmatic leader, brings his long term plans to fruition and paves the way for a sadistic vampire cult, their fragile world begins to break apart. Fuelled by dangerous passions and an insatiable craving for the substance they call red, the group must decide whether to succumb to the sweet lure of the abyss, or stand and fight for their very survival.

Immanion Press is a small British publisher that seems to be doing interesting things, so I thought I'd go ahead and post this. It sounds like a creepy novel--not really my thing--but I don't usually go for dark novels, as most of you know. I wish I could get a better sense of the story from the blurb.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Writer Wednesday - Bonding with your Characters

We all love to read books where we bond with the characters. Where we don't want the story to end, because the characters are so wonderful. I've watched The Princess Bride dozens of time because I loved the character Inigo Montoya. He stole the show from the Dread Pirate Wesley. Fezzik was great as well, and together, they just made the best duo. I didn't want the story to end. So I bought the novel, which was even better--and funnier!--than the movie. I've owned two copies of that novel and have read it multiple times.

Another character that I absolutely loved was Paksenarrion from The Deed of Paksenarrion. Paks had some interesting flaws. She was sometimes slow-witted, and she was completely asexual. But she was also completely likable. Elizabeth Moon put the reader so firmly in the character's head that before the end of the trilogy, you may be shedding tears over her.

But how do we, as writers, establish such lovable characters? I'm not sure I know the answer, but it makes sense to me that first, we must love our characters, ourselves. One thing I do to bond with my characters is write scenes that enable me to get to know my own characters. I consider these scenes disposable. I call them pilot scenes because they work like a pilot chute. A pilot chute is a tiny parachute that draws out the big parachute. A pilot scene draws out the larger story.

Here is a pilot scene for my WIP, which is a time travel historical. In this scene, the character--Mike--is walking around town, getting to know the 1920s. Ashley is his sister. They are from the present day.

Passing gentlemen tipped their hats--whatever they had, be it old derbies, cowboy hats or fedoras. They eyed him as they said good morning, and his hatless head started to feel naked. When he saw an store ahead of him, he decided to go in. The name of the store, F. W. Woolworth Co., looked familiar.

He found himself something that looked like a drug store. He wandered up and down aisles, his eyes leaping with fascination from one object to another. Toward the back of the store, he found inexpensive men's clothing. He picked out a fedora, took it to the counter, and paid for it. It was $3.50.

He settled it on its head as he walked out the door, as he had seen men do, and he resumed his stroll. He started wandering up and down random streets. It was impossible to get lost for long. Too far north, and you hit the trolley line. Too far south, and you reached a golf course. Too far east and west, you hit water. He wandered for hours, taking it all in, wondering if Ashley would worry, and smiling when the thought hit him that she would have surely called his cell phone by now.

Her company was never onerous, but he had not felt so free since he was a boy.
Not a lot of action, just introspection. I'm not sure if I'll keep it but for now, it's still in my manuscript.

How do you establish a bond with your characters? Please share in the comments. Please keep any excerpts to 300 words or fewer.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Debut Showcase: The Birthing House

The Birthing House (Amazon USA - UK - Canada)
By Christopher Ransom (US Website, UK Website)
UK Publisher: Little, Brown (Sphere) (Jan. 1, 2009)
USA Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Aug. 4, 2009)
Excerpt (pdf)

Sphere's Blurb:
When Conrad Harrison impulse-buys a big old house in Wisconsin, his wife Jo doesn't share his enthusiasm, reluctant at the idea of leaving their LA life - so Conrad is left to set up their new home as she ties up loose ends at work. But Conrad's new purchase is not all that it seems. Soon Conrad is hearing the ghostly wailing of a baby in the night, seeing blood on the floor and being haunted by a woman who looks exactly like Jo. With his wife away, Conrad becomes obsessed by the pregnant girl next door, Nadia, who claims to be a victim of the evil in the house. The crying leads him to a bricked-up body, and the mystery of the Birthing House unravels, pulling in Jo, Nadia and leading Conrad to a nightmarish conclusion...

Sphere sent me this book during the Spring Annual Book Rush, when I get more books than I can possibly read. Since things have slowed down, I am now sampling this novel. I actually like the US publisher's blurb better, so here it is:

It was expecting them.

Conrad and Joanna Harrison, a young couple from Los Angeles, attempt to save their marriage by leaving the pressures of the city to start anew in a quiet, rural setting. They buy a Victorian mansion that once served as a haven for unwed mothers, called a birthing house. One day when Joanna is away, the previous owner visits Conrad to bequeath a vital piece of the house’s historic heritage, a photo album that he claims “belongs to the house.” Thumbing through the old, sepia-colored photographs of midwives and fearful, unhappily pregnant girls in their starched, nineteenth-century dresses, Conrad is suddenly chilled to the bone: staring back at him with a countenance of hatred and rage is the image of his own wife….

Thus begins a story of possession, sexual obsession, and, ultimately, murder, as a centuries-old crime is reenacted in the present, turning Conrad and Joanna’s American dream into a relentless nightmare.

But what really makes it interesting to me is something I found on the author's US website:

Every haunted house tells the story of someone’s death. But what about the house where life has not ended, but only began? If death can be a traumatic event that opens doors to evil, what about that other traumatic event? The one that does not usher life out of this world, but into it?

Ok, this is different enough to intrigue me. Interesting that this didn't find its way in either blurb.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Home Improvements and Aching Feet

Fortunately, my twisted ankle of last Monday healed up really quick. Ice and ibuprofen! It's just the thing. I needed it this weekend because we put up 1 bulletin board, 2 white boards, 1 set of window blinds and 1 ceiling fan. If you think this describes an office more than a home, well, you're half right.

I see that I have new subscribers via either Google Reader, Google FriendConnect or Feedburner. Welcome!

I have been a very bad reader lately because we've been so busy. I've very slowly been reading Dreamdark: Blackbringer and The Lace Reader, but I'm a bit more taken by Dreamdark. The author is Laini Taylor, and this book was published in 2007. The publisher sent to to me along with the next book in the series. It is about faery creatures way back in the days of what sounds like either the Roman Empire or the Holy Roman Empire (e.g. the Catholic church). Since it's written from a faery's point of view, the exact year is so far ambiguous. But the way the author superimposed the faery world over a historic timeframe intrigues me.

The winner of last week's giveaway of THE STARS BLUE YONDER was Megan of Eatontown, NJ. Congrats, Megan, and happy reading! I don't have any contests coming up, but Maria is giving away a cozy mystery right now at Bear Mountain Books.

We had a rousing discussion on our last Writer Wednesday, but I've been so busy this weekend with home improvements that I haven't gotten anyone on board as our Featured Writer! Any volunteers? The only requirements are to 1) be a writer and 2) be willing to co-host the discussion with me. You can do an opening essay like Kristy did, or not. If you're interested, please email me at tia dot nevitt at gmail dot com.