Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sundry Subjects

I have finished The Book of Joby and need to get a post up about the ending and the book as a whole. All I'll say right now is that it was difficult to put down!

I sent out some interview questions to Jennifer Estep and I hope to get them back soon. I plan to up my review up of Hot Mama on the day it releases.

I received an offer of a review copy from another Class of 2K7 author that I missed -- Suzanne Selfor's To Catch a Mermaid. It's a children's novel; very short with an eclectic blend of concepts, so I took her up on her offer.

In the meantime, La Gringa had Random House send me Auralia's Colors, and it looks very good so I'm about to start reading it.

I have a question for you bloggers out there. I notice that some of you employ various comment author moderation methods such as no anonymous posting, entering a verification word and full moderation.

My comments are wide open. I figured I'd leave it that way until it started to be a problem. It has not been a problem yet. I've received exactly one piece of comment junk during the past six months. A few years ago, I ran a GreyMatter blog and I used to get junk all the time. In fact, hardly anyone knew about that blog and the only type of comments I got were cheesy advertisements.

So it seems to me that either 1) Google does a very good job filtering comments or 2) my blog is beneath the notice of spammers.

If you use some sort of moderation, did you do this in response to junk comments? If so, how much junk comments were you actually getting?

NO CASTLES HERE - A Clarification

The blurb from NO CASTLES HERE generated a bit of controversy in the comments, so I wrote to the author, A. C. E. Bauer, to see if she had anything to add. She tells me the following:

Just thought you should know: I didn't write the blurb. At my insistence, the final version of the blurb (the one that actually went on the book--I was too late to change what went out on review copies and to Amazon et al.) took out the reference to color, because, truly, it's not the main issue of the book. And Random House took it out only after a great deal of insistence on my end, because this is normally the editor's call, not the author's. I do understand your readers' concerns--I had them myself when I read the blurb.

As to my knowledge of inner cities--I spent some 13 years working in low-income neighborhoods (3 as a law student, 10 as a lawyer) and I loved the folks I worked with and whom I worked for. The homes and neighborhoods I depict, although all fictional, come from those I have either seen, lived in, or spent time roaming around in. (And when my main character gets lost in a housing authority complex, that comes from several occasions where that happened to me.)

I'm sorry the blurb offended some people. I hope the book will stand on its own merits, not on the advertising copy, although I know that that will be what motivates people whether to read it in the first place.

I quoted from the author's email with her permission. She tells me that at Random House, the blurb is the traditionally the editor's domain. The new blurb reads:

AUGIE BORETSKI KNOWS how to get by. If you're a scrawny loser in the destitute city of Camden, New Jersey, you keep your head down, avoid the drug dealers and thugs, and try your best to be invisible. Augie used to be good at that, but suddenly his life is changing. . . . First, Augie accidentally steals a strange book of fairy tales. Then his mom makes him join the Big Brothers program and the chorus. And two bullies try to beat him up every day because of it. Just when it seems like things can't get any worse, an ice storm wrecks Augie's school. The city plans to close the school, abandoning one more building to the drug addicts. But Augie has a plan. For the first time in his life, Augie Boretski is not going down without a fight.

The new blurb used almost the same number of letters as the previous blurb for formatting reasons, so she could not change much.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Not many debuts get a starred review from Kirkus, but NO CASTLES HERE (USA, UK, Canada) by A.C.E. Bauer is one of them.

AUGIE BORETSKI KNOWS how to get by. If you're a skinny white kid in the destitute city of Camden, New Jersey, you keep your head down, avoid the drug dealers and thugs, and try your best to be invisible. Augie used to be good at that, but suddenly his life is changing. . . . First, Augie accidentally steals a strange book of fairy tales. Then his mom makes him join the Big Brothers program and the chorus. And two bullies try to beat him up every day because of it. Just when it seems like things can't get any worse, an ice storm wrecks Augie's school. The city plans to close the school, abandoning one more building to the drug addicts. But Augie has a plan. For the first time in his life, Augie Boretski is not going down without a fight.

A.C.E Bauer is part of the Class of 2K7 website, a unique site devoted to children's authors who debuted in 2007. I've been frightfully neglectful of this site, but no more; the debuts for the rest of the year are on my calendar. I am eagerly awaiting the 2K8 site, which I know is in the planning stages from my correspondence with another author. Anyway, A.C.E's 2K7 profile page is here. She also has a blog, which she calls an unblog.

Random House has an online excerpt. I found a short review at Books4Ever, and an article at WTNH. Plus, the author has an interview (with each question in separate posts) at 2K7.

LET ME IN by John A. Lindqvist

LET ME IN (USA, UK, Canada) is a horror debut by John A Lindqvist, a Swedish writer. It features vampire adolescents.

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last---revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door---a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night. . . .

This is the second overseas debut that I've announced recently week where I couldn't find a web presence for the author. British authors seem to have jumped on the Internet bandwagon; maybe it is more difficult to set up websites from other points overseas. Or perhaps the authors simply don't speak English (a point that often fails to occur to us arrogant Americans).

I don't usually do vampires, but it does sound a bit interesting. One review by the author of This Delicious Solitude, who doesn't usually do horror, was unable to put it down. The book has also been released under the title Let the Right One In. Love Vampires has also done a review that brings up its disturbing points.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

THE BOOK OF JOBY - Progress Report

I'm 3/4ths of the way through THE BOOK OF JOBY and I'm reluctant to say much for fear of giving away the secrets of this surprising novel.

One thing that I want to clear up right away is that this is not an endless book of suffering. There is a rather lengthly portion between one-fourth and halfway through the book where it did seem like Joby did nothing but suffer. However, his suffering was mental, not physical, and with some mysterious growth problems that turned out to be . . . I'd rather not say, but it wasn't what I expected. Suffice it to say that Joby does not turn out to be stunted in any way. Thanks to a demon on his shoulder, he is so clumsy in high school that he never does go out for team sports. The devil's tactic, as hinted on the cover blurb, is to doom Joby to mediocrity. Everything he tries either fails or just seems pointless.

And once you understand just who Joby really is, you understand why this is torture for him. He and his friends Laura and Ben are bound together by something that they have no clue about.

Halfway through the book, Joby has found a place of refuge where even Lucifer cannot reach him. Here Joby (and the reader) has a much-needed respite. Several peaceful years pass, during which this mysterious California town only gets even more mysterious. He is reunited with Ben and Laura, although his parents remain strangely absent. Their absence is not explained.

This novel follows no predictable formula. I cannot imagine what will come next. Ferrari did a nice job of tying Biblical stories to more modern myths, such King Arthur, fairies and elves. This novel doesn't pretend to be a Christian novel, so don't expect it to follow doctrine. However, although I can imagine that it might cause some raised eyebrows, I cannot imagine it causing offense. At least not in a person who enjoys fantasy.

In any case, it is quite difficult to put down!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Guest Post - Mark J. Ferrari

When I asked Mark J. Ferrari, author of THE BOOK OF JOBY (which I'm over halfway through -- progress report coming tomorrow) to do a guest post, he graciously accepted and then proceeded to exceed all my expectations with this wonderful and inspiring post. I was going to include photos from his drawings on his website, but I decided to delay no further. If you want to explore Mark's online portfolio, it is here. I advise you to set aside a good chunk of time; there's a lot of great stuff there.

Thanks, Mark!

When Tia invited me to do a guest blog on her site, I was really honored and excited … and utterly clueless about what to write. When I turned to her for help, she asked how an artist got started as a writer, or got started as an artist for that matter, and I had my answer, though maybe not the one she meant. But thanks Tia.

For almost 20 years prior to publication of The Book of Joby, I made my living, and my reputation, as a commercial illustrator. These days, however, I find myself telling people, with a fairly straight face, that I’ve really always wanted to be a writer, but since writing for a living seemed both unrealistic and irresponsible, I’d decided to be an artist instead. That’s as good a summation of my life as any, I suppose: one long series of improbable pursuits. So, having had the tremendous privilege of answering quite a few questions about The Book of Joby in quite a few places lately, I’ll take this opportunity to set my novel aside for a moment, and share some thoughts about the pursuit of unlikely dreams in general. I don’t think I’ve ever actually written this down before, but here are all 7 steps of my 12 step program for un-recovering knucklehead dreamers:

#1 - Don’t disqualify yourself. That’s everybody else’s job:

Almost anyone will tell you why the unlikely things we wanted to do as children, (be an astronaut, a baseball player, movie star, ballerina, artist, writer, or animal feeder at the zoo …), are “virtually impossible” to achieve. “Just look around!” they say. “How many people do you see doing those things? Go to college, get a ‘real’ job.”

The real question is this: How many people do you see seriously trying those things? What would happen if so many people didn’t decide after just one or two innings that this wasn’t likely to happen, and quietly eliminate themselves before really finding out? While there may not be a lot of openings for ‘huge celebrity’ out there, there is an amazing amount of less visible but very satisfying work in most ‘improbable’ fields, often begging for qualified takers. Do people tell us this?

My youngest brother used to go down into our father’s basement workshop with a bunch of odds, ends, and household trash, and create spectacular model spaceships as good as anything at the movies. I’m talkin’ all the tiny details and surface gloss, lit-up windows you could look into, meteor scars and exhaust stains. He knew what his passion was, but for years he just worked at a Four Wheel Parts Store, and whined about how pointless it was to try breaking in to the special effects industry. So few people did it. You had to have connections. There was no degree in that (then), etc. etc. etc.

Then one day I put a few of my drawings up at a local science fiction convention and was offered a job with Lucasfilm Games. My brother was appalled – and, perhaps, inspired. A short time later, he packed a bunch of his best models into the back of his truck, drove almost 300 miles to Los Angeles without any appointments or preparation, and began walking into big special effects studios, (whose addresses he’d found in the back of Cinefex Magazine), to tell the receptionists he’d just driven 300 miles with a truck full of models, which he’d like to show to anyone who’d look. The second place he walked into was Boss Films, who shrugged and took a peek. After seeing what he’d done with next to nothing, they offered him two weeks work, but made it clear that when that was done, he was outta there! No arguments! He said, “Great!” and they gave him his first day off two years later. After working on lots of films you’ve heard of, (Aliens, Cliffhanger, True Lies, Apolo 13, Titanic, just to name a few – his name buried and misspelled in the credits of each), he now has his own model fabricating business down there, living – for better or for worse – his dream. Don’t believe it? Just go online and Google The Shape Shop.

Think your dream’s impossible? Risk letting the world prove it to you before deciding not to try too hard. … And don’t worry; the next six steps are mostly shorter.

#2 – Go out to play BEFORE you’re homework’s done:

“Go to college first,” ‘they’ say. “Then get some real work until you’ve saved a cushion to see you through in case things don’t work out. Then, if you still really want to do this, as long as you’ve got your bases covered, you can give it a try … and get it out of your system …when you’ve had a little more experience, … and it’s safer.”

This is the perfect recipe to become one of those who eliminate themselves. My advice? Go balls out for your most improbable dream first! There will still be time to do those more ‘realistic’ things afterward – unless, of course, there isn’t ‘cause you’re dead, in which case, it’s not your problem anymore anyway, so why not “die trying,” as the youngsters say? If you’re lucky enough to be reading this while you’re still in high school or college, try your wildest dream NOW. Everyone expects the young to fail, so no one’s nearly as scandalized when it happens. You’ll still have lots of time to get back out of debt, and probably no wife or family yet to cope with while you wrestle with the rest of it. Reckless bets are what youth is for! Believe me, shooting for stars does NOT get easier, safer, or more respectable as you age.

And of course, if you succeed, all your more sensible friends are balding accountants with developing bellies, while you’re a rock star who didn’t waste a moment of your precious life on ‘more realistic’ second choices.

#3 – Do what you love most and do best – not “what will sell”:

When it was time to put together my first serious art portfolio for potential employers, a lot of my art friends advised me to include plenty of black and white work, because 75% of the work for new illustrators out there was B&W only. They also urged me to include a glass of ice cubes full of subliminal nudes, and at least one bright and shiny drawing of either cherry pie or hamburger, because all the best paying work was in advertising.

Finding myself insurmountably uninspired, I went to the illustration teacher at my art school for advice. “Is that stuff what you want to do?” he asked. “Well, sure,” I said, “if there’s nothing else.” He smiled and said, “Mark, if you go get work doing things you don’t really want to do, you’ll either do a crummy job of it and get no more work at all, or, worse yet, do such a good job that you get more of exactly the same work until you’re too miserable to do it anymore. So what do you really want to do?” I said, “Full color fantasy illustration, but isn’t that incredibly hard to make a living at?” He said, “Put nothing but the kind of work you most want to do into your portfolio, and go find out.” That’s what I did, and for the next few decades, I was virtually never short of work – or the ability to do it well.

When I finally sat down to write my first novel, I knew that writing a fantasy that really wasn’t Christian literature, but was set in a blatantly, and not unsympathetically, Judeo-Christian context was probably not the safest marketing scheme. A lot of fantasy readers weren’t going to be comfortable with literature from a tradition that burned witches and thinks Harry Potter is Satanic. And a fair number of Christian readers weren’t going to be comfortable with … well, Harry Potter and those witches. I was writing a book that might well offend just about everyone, and there were nights I laid awake wondering whether my writing career would just sink quietly on launch, or enjoy enough success to necessitate a shared hotel room somewhere with poor Solomon Rushdie. But it was the story I wanted to tell, and the way I wanted to tell it, and why bother working that hard just to succeed at something else I didn’t really want to do? So, I bought a Kevlar vest, and did it. Thus far it’s worked out pretty well. J

#4 – If you’ve really got something to show them, avoid the front door if you can. As often as not, it leads only to the roach motel:

When attempting to enter an ‘improbable field,’ the door marked, “apply here” is often designed primarily to keep you safely out of everyone’s hair until you go away on your own. The people you need to see really are very, very busy.

If you really want in, (and you’ve really got something to show them when you get there), look for side or back doors. You’ll notice those are the entrances used by people who WORK there – like you hope to. Go to events where ‘the public’ can meet professionals in the field, and ask them (intelligent) questions. TALK to them while they’re NOT at work, (if you can be pleasant company). Ask someone who’s NOT supposed to interview or hire you for advice about the business in ways that make you seem fascinating and enjoyable. Instead of making an appointment, walk in and say, I’ve just driven 300 miles with a truck full of models; won’t someone please look at them? Four out of five times you’ll be crossly informed that they’ve, “got an application policy here.” The fifth time you may get someone who will bother the boss.

When I first wanted work as an illustrator, I was invited to leave my portfolio at front desks, and come back for it in a week. Only the receptionist would be bothered that way, and even her not that much. Happily, a friend of mine who was an editor helped me contact a few of her friends who were editors at the big book houses in New York. I told them I was coming all the way from California for just 3 days, (not long enough to leave my portfolio anywhere for the prescribed reception-incubation period), and asked if they’d mind glancing at my work and offering any advice. They all explained that they were merely editors, and had nothing at all to do with art or artists. I assured them that my friend, (who had given me permission to use her name), thought they might enjoy the work, and would know far more than I about whether any of it was on target. When three of those generous editors agreed to give me 10 minutes, I made my gratitude impossible to miss, and showed up promptly for those appointments. In all three cases, after perusing my portfolio, they left me briefly, to return a minute later with the art directors who’d had, (quite honestly), no time, and, frankly, no reason, to see me when I’d tried to call directly. I hope I won’t be skinned alive for relating this subversive story, and I do wish to stress that using such side doors, if you do NOT have something you love passionately and do very well to show them once you’re in, will most likely have only disastrous results. In that case, please do NOT tell them I suggested it.

#5 – The first three things you attempt will fail. Keep trying:

No matter how hard you try, or how well you do, someone along the way will find it either more convenient, or even more satisfying, just to toss your masterpiece into some handy dumpster and go on with what they were doing before you interrupted. It may be your future boss, or just the Fed Ex delivery man who had to choose between delivering your package on time or having an extended lunch with people he knew, that mattered. You cannot avoid this, and it really isn’t personal … unless you actually know a real contract killer, I suppose. When it happens, grin up at the sky like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, and shout, “Is that the best you can do?” Then, as he did, keep sailing.

#6 – The next three things you attempt will fail worse. Try harder:

In my own limited experience, history repeats itself, whether you were paying attention the first time or not. Repeat instructions above.

#7 – You never know what your luck means at the time:

These days, when people ask me how I’m doing, I usually tell them to ask again in six months, because by that time I may actually know how I was doing today. I cannot count the number of times what seemed like really great luck turned out to be the prologue of some tragedy, or things that seemed excruciatingly bad luck turned out to be but prologue to some great good fortune. Getting hit by a truck, for instance, (yes, I have actually been hit by a truck. For further details see my interview on Aidan Moher’s blog, A dribble of Ink), helped turn my life toward writing – and eventually helped resolve so many other more personal difficulties, that I went from imagining some guardian angel helping me to survive the impact to imagining that angel pushing me in front of the truck to begin with. On the other hand, I fell in love once, which seemed like such a great thing at the time …

The Book of Joby was first ‘acquired’ by a midsized publisher in 2002, just months after I finished it, to be published in 2004. Seemed like the best luck in the world at the time. Then, nearly two years later, just a month and a half before the ostensible release date, I was informed that for reasons beyond anyone’s control, that publisher would have to cancel a number of their 2004 titles, including mine. Seemed like the worst luck in the world at the time. Three months later, my heroically tireless agent, Linn Prentis, sold the book to TOR, who has done far more for me, and for the book, than the previous publisher possibly could have. Yet, had it not been for that previous publishing deal, I might never have secured the agent who was there to sell it to TOR. If you were able to follow that at all, keep it in mind when principles 6 and 7 above come into play. If all it takes to thwart your pursuit of improbable dreams is one or two prolonged periods of improbably catastrophic misfortune, well, what are you doing out here to begin with sissy?

Thanks Tia. This was fun!

The 10-20-30 Virus Meme

Ok, so this is my first meme. At least, my first meme on this blog. John over at Grasping for the Wind tagged me. The idea is to write what you were doing 10, 20 and 30 years ago, then tag others to do the same. This way, we all get to know each other a little bit. So, here it goes.

10 years ago: I was living in Arizona in my first IT job as a C++ programmer. My husband and I had just purchased our first house. Our daughter had not yet been born. My interests were reading, calligraphy and writing; still much the same as they are now. We loved to take drives in the mountains (and we still miss that now that we are flatlanders).

20 years ago: I was still in the Air Force. I mostly read romance novels back then, when I had time to read. I had not yet discovered writing, although I tried to write a story when I was 18 about a dark ages time traveler. I discovered then how difficult it was. My husband and I were dating and we loved to . . . take long drives in the mountains. Some things never get old! I also tried to teach him calligraphy.

30 years ago: I was 11. My mother had a serious illness and we were not sure if she would survive (she's still doing well to this day). I had a great teacher named Sr. Clare who taught me the joys of reading. I was a late bloomer as far as reading was concerned. I was into Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames. One of my favorites in that series was Cherry Ames, Army Nurse. I might not have thought to join the Air Force if it were not for that book.

Ok, so now I must tag. How about Kimber An, Gav, Graeme, Katie and Scooper? Take a break from your review schedules and tell us a bit about yourselves.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Short Hiatus

I'm feeling a bit under the weather and I decided not to post again until the weekend, at the latest. However, once I do I'll have at least three debuts to announce, a progress report on The Book of Joby , a guest post by Mark J. Ferrari, a review of Hot Mama and an Author Catch-Up.
In the meantime, I'll still respond to comments, answer emails and write interviews.
Otherwise, catch ya on Saturday!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Book of Joby Contest Winner

The winner of THE BOOK OF JOBY giveaway contest is Scott M of Texas! Thanks to everyone for participating!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rebottling the Genie

I decided to relax my "no review copies" policy because it has proven to be impossible to keep them from arriving. I rather feel like Aladdin in the Disney movie, when Robin Williams/Genie roars at him, "Now you're getting yer wishes!!!" You can't re-bottle the genie. Not before you get your wishes -- er, books.

Since I'll be getting review copies anyway, it hardly seems fair to refuse someone who asks. The details are in the What I Do Here post.

Thanks to the Swivet for the latest, which is a debut that I missed from September (my tardy announcement is forthcoming). And darn it if it doesn't look as good as the last one she sent me!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

GOD'S DEMON by Wayne Barlowe

One of Tuesday's debuts is GOD'S DEMON (UK) by Wayne Barlowe, published in hardcover by Tor Books. This novel is being compared to literary luminaries like Milton and Dante. Here's the blurb from Tor's website.

Lucifer’s War, which damned legions of angels to Hell, is an ancient and bitter memory shrouded in the smoke and ash of the Inferno. The Fallen, those banished demons who escaped the full wrath of Heaven, have established a limitless and oppressive kingdom within the fiery confines of Hell. Lucifer has not been seen since the Fall and the mantle of rulership has been passed to the horrific Prince Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies.
The Demons Major, Heaven's former warriors, have become the ruling class. They are the equivalent to landed lords, each owing allegiance to the de facto ruler of Hell. They reign over their fiefdoms, tormenting the damned souls and adding to their wealth.

One Demon Major, however, who has not forgotten his former life in Heaven. The powerful Lord Sargatanas is restless. For millennia Sargatanas has ruled dutifully but unenthusiastically, building his city, Adamantinarx, into the model of an Infernal metropolis. But he has never forgotten what he lost in the Fall—proximity to God. He is sickened by what he has become.
Now, with a small event—a confrontation with one of the damned souls—he makes a decision that will reverberate through every being in Hell. Sargatanas decides to attempt the impossible, to rebel, to endeavor to go Home and bring with him anyone who chooses to follow . . . be they demon or soul. He will stake everything on this chance for redemption.

There's lots of Bible-inspired fantasy these days! The author has another website for the novel, which includes an excerpt. Robert, the Fantasy Book Critic gave it a stellar review. Other than the Publishers Weekly review, I can't find much else so if you are reviewing this novel, please let me know!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Grimpow: The Invisible Road by Rafael Ábalos

I've decided to go ahead and announce GRIMPOW: THE INVISIBLE ROAD (UK, Canada) by Rafael Abalos, even though I cannot find any reviews worth mentioning. Maybe the dearth of reviews is because this is a YA book? But that can't be right, because so was WICKED, LOVELY, which had plenty of reviews. Anyway, here is the blurb:

GRIMPOW HAD NO idea who the dead man was, but hidden in his leather bag was a treasure that would change his life forever. Ruby and emerald encrusted daggers, silver coins, jewels, and a letter with a golden seal depicting a snake swallowing its own tail. And clutched in the man's firm grip - a stone. A stone that will shape Grimpow's destiny. For when he holds it, strange things begin to happen. Visions of places he's never been fill his mind and he's able to read the strange language in the letter, a message meant for someone else entirely.

So begins Grimpow's journey with the stone - a centuries-long journey that has driven sane men crazy, turned peaceful men violent, and made strong men powerless. No man has ever unlocked its secrets. But no boy has ever tried.

And, um . . . that's about all I can find. The plot sounds familiar. The stone sounds like it came from Heavy Metal and I know I've come across that snake symbol in some other novel (anyone?). However, I have noticed that YA fiction often uses familiar fantasy tropes with great success. Kids have not yet read it all!

THE BOOK OF JOBY - Masterful Opening

When I buy a debut novel (although Mark sent me this copy -- thanks, Mark!), sometimes I merely buy it out of curiosity. Why would this concept attract a publisher?

With THE BOOK OF JOBY by Mark J. Ferrari, that was evident in the opening chapters.

The concept was so unusual, even though it is thousands of years old. God and Lucifer are having a conversation, setting up yet another bet similar to the one in the book of Job, in the Bible. They have done this thousands of times, and God almost always wins. However, this time, Lucifer wants to up the stakes. He wants the fate of all creation to hinge upon the outcome.

Right away, we have sympathy for the poor sap that God chooses to be the focus of the bet. And we haven't even met him yet.

The plot jumps to the angel Michael, who is watching over some sort of protected town in California. God stops by to warn him that his candidate will soon be coming through, (although not for years in human-time) and all the legions of Hell will be on his heels. Michael must prepare the town's sheltered citizens for the onslaught.

Then, we finally meet Joby, a 4th grader with a passion for King Arthur and his knights.

Among all this, imagine lush writing that strikes a nice balance between leisurely and fast-paced. Ferrari takes the time for highly literary descriptions, yet the conversations are realistic and laced with humor.

I'm hooked!

Don't forget my giveaway contest for THE BOOK OF JOBY. Scroll down for details.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Guest Post - Amanda Ashby! Plus Another Giveaway!

And now for something entirely new -- a guest post!

I first encountered Amanda Ashby via Emily Gee's website, where she had some links to fellow authors. I was thrilled to see that one of them, Amanda, had a debut paranormal romance coming out that very week. Amanda and I have been emailing off and on ever since, starting when I tried to get a photo of her book for her at my local bookstore.

Since I started follwing her very active blog, I noticed that she had guest-blogged at several other sites. Therefore, I asked her to do a guest post. She graciously agreed and also offered to give away a copy of her book, YOU HAD ME AT HALO to Fantasy Debut Readers! Her instructions are at the end of the post.

And without any further ado, here she is -- Amanda Ashby!!!

When Tia invited me to do a guest blog on Fantasy Debut, I immediately said yes, because not only has she been so supportive of my book, YOU HAD ME AT HALO but she gave me a kick ass review as well, which pretty much puts her up the top of my list of favorite people!!!

Anyway, Tia was curious to know how I managed to sell such an unusual premise to a big publisher and honestly, I’m just as curious myself! In publishing, you often you hear the phrase ‘right time, right place, right book’ and I definitely think that I was no exception to this rule.

Though, saying that, even though I’d been writing for about six years, when I had the idea for YOU HAD ME AT HALO, I knew right away that it felt different.

Of course I didn’t know if it would sell or not, but it was the first book I’d written where the heroine’s goal was so consuming and powerful that it really did drive the book (it also drove me to distraction at times, but that’s another blog post). Anyway, I do think that having a well-motivated character helped, along with the fact that despite the paranormal/fantasy set-up, the emotions and conflicts were very earth-bound and regular.

Another big help was that I decided to query uber agent, Jenny Bent from Trident Media. Now at the time I had no idea of what Jenny did or didn’t like, so it really was good luck that my book covered quite a few of her favorite things. She loves feisty heroines. Tick. She loves quirky. Tick. She’s a big fan of high concept. Tick (once I figured out what high concept was of course). And it just so happens that her favorite movie is the Steve Martin body-sharing comedy called All of Me. I knew none of this until much further down the track.

Anyway, it didn’t take long for Jenny to get back to me with revisions and two weeks after she started submitting it to editors, we got an offer. Oh, and she is also the one who thought up my great title, so having an amazing agent who is enthusiastic about your writing is definitely a plus.

Of course, my personal favorite theory of how I managed to get a big publisher interested is that the Gods were a little bit bored on that particular day. Perhaps they were even having a friendly game of poker over a couple glasses of ambrosia, when one God bet another God that he could get that Amanda Ashby girl a book deal, and was then forced to do it or risk having to fork out big time to a half-drunk, gambling-addicted God!

But whatever the reason, I’m truly grateful that I got to see my book come out in print. Even more so because the idea came to me on the day of my dad’s funeral, so in a way it’s a tribute to him. Though what he thinks about being the inspiration for a stroppy 22 year old dead girl with issues is anyone’s guess!!

If you’d like to go into the draw to win a copy of YOU HAD ME AT HALO, all you need to do is leave a comment (nice ones get bonus points!)

Thank you, Amanda!!


Amanda Ashby's contest is now CLOSED! Congratulations to Raven, the winner!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Giveaway - The Book of Joby

I ended up with a spare copy of THE BOOK OF JOBY by Mark J Ferrari, courtesy of Tor Books. Therefore, with their blessing, I've decided to give it away. Here are the rules:

Open to USA residents only.
Email your name and address to tia . nevitt @ gmail . com (remove the spaces, of course). The sending email address needs to be valid, so I can send a reply in case you win.
Please enter the contest only once -- multiple entries will be disqualified.
The contest will run from today, October 15 through midnight, Monday October 22.
On Tuesday, October 23, I will determine a random winner using
No one will get your names and addresses except me, and I won't keep them beyond the last day of the contest.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Author Catch-Up with some Personal Notes

I was going to do a debut announcement for Grimpow: The Invisible Road by Rafael Ábalos, but there is not quite enough linkage up there to make it worthwhile. Maybe in a few days.

Up in a day or so: my first ever blog giveaway! No wait! Make that two!

Jennifer Estep had lots of exciting news on her blog this week. She's going to be featured in both Southern Living and Cosmo, plus her first two books are being re-released in mass-market paperback during two consecutive months next year, followed by her third, also in mass-market paperback, the next month. All I've got to say is Wow.

Lisa Shearin has let the recipients of her newsletter know the name of her fourth novel, and I love this title best of all. However, it has not yet appeared on her blog -- just in her email signature -- so I'm not sure if I can tell yet. What I can tell you is that her sample chapters for Armed and Magical are now up on her website. Here is Chapter One, and here is Chapter Two.

Amanda Ashby is one of the nicest authors I know (and so many of them are really nice). She sent me some tidbits concerning the elusive Emily Gee (Thief With No Shadow) for me a few weeks ago, and graciously agreed to get me some more information. Now, it's official. Emily Gee has another book coming out. Her next novel is called Witch Eye and it appears to be a romantic espionage fantasy about "a prim courtier and her wastrel lover meet and plot as spies in the catacombs of Corhona Castle." Thanks Amanda!

Speaking of Amanda Ashby, she has agreed to do my first-ever guest blog post! She has also offered a special treat -- more on that to come.

Melissa Marr, author of Wicked Lovely, is going on Book Tour 2.0. Among her stops is the Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe Az, and I used to shop there! It is a very cool bookstore, occupying three levels and selling both new and used books. The closest that she is coming to my hometown is St. Petersburg.

Out of curiosity, I did a search on the number of book titles that include the word "wicked" and I came up with the following:

  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
  • Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
  • Just Wicked Enough by Lorraine Heath
  • Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole
  • Wicked Magic by Cheyenne McCray
  • No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole
  • The Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes
  • If His Kiss Is Wicked by Jo Goodman
  • Wicked Ties by Shayla Black
  • Slightly Wicked by Mary Balogh
  • Wicked Nights by Nina Bangs
And I got tired of listing them. I wonder how long the "Wicked" trend will continue? I wonder if literary agents and editors have gotten tired of titles with the word "wicked" in them?

Some Personal Notes

In an effort to achieve a bit of blog-life balance, you may have noticed some slight changes. One is that I now do debut announcements on the weekend, when I have the most time. This was a good change anyway, since books usually release on Tuesday, giving four days for some good linkage to appear.

Secondly, I've decided to neither accept nor solicit review copies, and I will be updating the "What I do Here" post to reflect this policy. I still have a few review copies to catch up on and I will cover them, but after that I'll simply purchase the books that I want to cover. I think my book budget can handle the 2 or 3 books per month that I read.

Why refuse review copies? My reasons are complex will probably make sense to no one but me. The short answer is that it is stressful to be expected to read something; I'd much rather read something that I simply want to read. You Had Me at Halo was the most enjoyable review I've done in a while. Part of the reason? I purchased it. I'm sure my review came as a complete surprise to Amanda Ashby.

Another reason is that I simply do not have enough time to act like a semi-professional reviewer. I look at SQT's reading pile and I have no idea how she does it. I could not. I have challenges in my personal life that gives me about an hour and a half of personal time each night. This is why I started doing Spotlight Reviews. I may not have time to review every debut, but if I find my blogging buddies reviewing a debut, you can expect me to spotlight it here.

My only exception will be reviews of what I call Debut Graduates -- the second books by debut authors. In those cases, I will attempt to do advance reviews along with some special coverage. You will see an example of this in the next week or so when I put up my advance review of Hot Mama.

And that's all for now!


I was in the midst of announcing THE SWORD-EDGED BLONDE (USA, UK, Canada) by Alex Bledsoe last Saturday when my Internet connection went kaput. Now I realize that I never did announce it. Since another debut has hit the shelves since then, I'll cover them both today.

THE SWORD-EDGED BLONDE is the first debut I've covered in quite a while that got a starred review at Publishers Weekly. You can read the review at the Amazon link. The Amazon link also has a very positive review by Orson Scott Card. Here's the blurb from Night Shade Books:

It should have been a case like any other: a missing princess, a king willing to pay in gold for her return. But before he realizes it, private investigator Eddie LaCrosse, a slightly shopworn sword jockey with a talent for discretion and detection, is swept up in a web of mystery and deceit involving a brutally murdered royal heir, a queen accused of an unspeakable crime and the tragic past he thought he'd left behind.
Essential reading for fans of Glen Cook's Garrett novels, not to mention anyone who loves Hammett or Chandler. This is the first Alex Bledsoe novel you'll read, but it won't be the last.

Short but sweet. I'm seeing a lot of mystery-fantasy mixes these days, which is a welcome trend, in my mind. The author has a MySpace page and a website. His website contains descriptions of five other unpublished novels! Now that's tenacity! I found a review at The Agony Column, an interview at Lori Devoti's blog (I could not find a direct link to the interview, so some scrolling may be necessary after she puts up more posts).

UPDATE! Here's a direct link to that Lori Devoti interview.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

YOU HAD ME AT HALO by Amanda Ashby

Ok, right about now, my male readers are probably hovering their mouse over another link on their feed reader, or perhaps over their "Back" button. But even though you might not want to be caught dead reading this book, you might want to consider getting it for the lady in your life. She might appreciate you a bit more after reading it.

I confess it -- I bought YOU HAD ME AT HALO (USA, Canada, UK) entirely out of curiosity. Why was this published? I thought. How on earth did the author convince a publisher to take this on?

Now I know.

I deliberately didn't want to do an as-I-read-it review of this book because I feared doing the author a disservice by premature observations. I tend to save any critiques that I may have until the final post, but for a while it seemed like I had nothing but critiques. Heaven full of bumbling idiots? Run like a bureaucracy? Making stupid mistakes? And where on earth was God?

Of course, I should have known that nothing was as it seemed.

The beginning is nonsensical and rather goofy, and I covered it here. In fact, the novel's opening is one of its biggest liabilities. However, something told me that I should not judge it so quickly. It took a while for a copy to appear in my bookstore, but when I saw it, I grabbed a copy.

Holly Evans is an insufferable twit who somehow still manages to make you care about her. She is not at all pleased about being in heaven, so the inept-seeming heavenly officials send her back to straighten out her issues. They are 1) that everyone thinks she killed herself and 2) that she had just had a fight with her boyfriend. Some baggage over a past suicide attempt didn't help matters.

They send her into the body of Vince Murphy, one of the corporate geeks, who supposedly had died at her funeral. However, he wakes up a few hours later, resulting in delightful confusion. Vince takes the idea of someone inhabiting his body with surprising aplomb, and focuses his efforts on getting Holly's heavenly affairs straightened out, eventually showing Holly what it is like to be truly unselfish.

Of course, the two of them are meant to be together. Halfway through this book, even as I wrestled with its inherent goofiness, I thought, this book ought to be made into a movie. It would make a great chick flick. It turned out that the issues that Holly had to straighten out where not what she expected. I cheered when she used Vince's surprisingly buff body to clock someone who really needed punching and I turned into a blubbering idiot when she paid her estranged stepmother -- who had raised her -- one final visit.

Yup, a 41 year-old woman, weeping over a 22 year old fictional twit. We're talking actual tears here. Not a pretty sight. And the tears came again when she had her final heavenly debriefing. If this book has taught me anything, it is that I've become entirely too cynical.

Most quotable line: "Somehow she'd made the classic Lizzy Bennet mistake of getting her Darcys and her Wickhams muddled up." Aah yes. Of course Amanda Ashby is a Jane Austen fan.

YOU HAD ME AT HALO is a coming-of-age novel that will make you laugh out loud, roll your eyes in exasperation and daub away tears. The beginning might take a while to pull you in, but if you give it a chance you might just end up loving it. I did.

Amanda Ashby Website * Blog

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Interview With Paula Guran, Juno Books Editor

Paula Guran of Juno Books was kind enough to answer a few questions for Fantasy Debut. Juno Books has impressed me over the past few weeks, and my fellow bloggers and I have been all over their books, including WIND FOLLOWER, BLOOD MAGIC and DANCING WITH WEREWOLVES. Just from the outside looking in, it appears that this is a good time to be an author right now, because there are more options at quality presses like Juno Books.

I know you've answered this question elsewhere, but please tells us about Juno Books and what makes it different.

We publish fantasy with strong female protagonists. I guess that is what makes us different: that requirement for a leading character who is a woman. We have just started publishing our books in mass market paperback format. That also makes us a little different as not many small presses do mass market.

I understand you've recently ventured into mass-market paperbacks. Please explain why this is important for a new publisher.

I can't say it is important to any new publisher at all. It is important to us because we feel our books will sell best in this format and that it will also get our books into many more stores -- "market penetration."

I was impressed by the quality of WIND FOLLOWER as compared to some other small press books that I've covered.


From my emails with Carole McDonnell and my readings of your weblog, it appears that you wear many hats at Juno, at least editor and publicist. Please tell us about your work at Juno.

I'm Juno's entire editorial staff (with the exception of a copyeditor), so that means I read submissions and decide what to acquire and when to publish what is acquired. I edit the books and work with the authors to polish their novels. I'm also responsible
for the copy generated for a title -- the book's descriptions for various uses and, although I don't do it alone, the cover copy. I work with the cover artist to come up with the art. Editors are also involved with determining if a book is viable in a business sense. I go to meetings and conventions occasionally to represent Juno. I'm
the in-house editor for BEST NEW ROMANTIC FANTASY, our annual anthology, and once in a while something like WARRIOR WOMEN. That is all pretty typical for any editor.

Unlike most editors I also do the compositing for most Juno Book titles. That's designing and "setting" the book's interior -- what was once called "typesetting" but now involves no type as it is all done digitally. I designed and maintain the Web site (and blog there) and do an email newsletter. Right now we don't have anyone else doing
publicity, so I do that, too. And I handle the front-end of Juno's contracts. (But I have nothing to do with paying advances or royalties.)

I probably do some other things, too. I guess I do what needs to be done.

I was also impressed by your release schedule. According to your interview at Dee and dee (a link to this interview is at the end of this post), I gather that you've been busier than expected getting all these books out on time?

I think we overestimated our super-powers. Plus, although I know I'm busy, so are the other two members of the Juno team. Sean Wallace does production and deals with distribution and the like; Stephen Segal designs the covers and also does things like catalogs and ads. But Juno is not either one's main job. Sean is the publisher/editor of Prime Books and Fantasy Magazine and works on many other projects for the mother company, Wildside Press. Stephen is the managing editor for Weird Tales and other Wildside periodicals. He does everything from laying out magazines to drumming up advertising to making subscribers happy.

Ultimately, we've done a decent job of it. We've had to issue a few titles a little later than anticipated, but we are now caught up and getting the mass markets out on schedule. Going into 2008, primarily due to the change from trade paperback and learning what we could best market, we've dropped some titles and rearranged the schedule. Originally we had 24 trades scheduled for 2007. That became 18 books, four of which are mass markets. Four originally slated for 2007 were bumped into 2008 and we are re-printing one trade in mmp, so we are doing a total of 15 titles for 2008. I anticipate that number dropping to 12-14 for 2009. That's a good level. Maybe I can relax in nine or ten months!

Your cover art definitely appears to have a house style. Can you tell us about your artists and designers?

Timothy Lantz is the genius behind most of the art. We also have used two of Jennifer Reagles's pieces (for A Mortal Glamour and Dark Maiden). We also use stock photos or art once in awhile. The covers themselves are designed by Stephen Segal. Since he was hired to do magazines, not design book covers, I don't think even he knew how talented he was. That may also be somewhat responsible for the fresh "look" of the design -- perhaps he had fewer preconceptions.

Steve likes to say the cover designs are a group effort -- me working with Tim, Steve coming up with the basic ideas for a cover design (sometimes with suggestions from Sean), then Sean, Steve, and me bashing it around together. But I think most of the credit should go to Stephen and the artists.

In your newsletter, you mentioned that Blood Magic and Dancing With Werewolves will have special promotional displays at Borders or Barnes & Noble. How does a publisher make this happen?

The simple answer is: money. The chains do have to find the books to be acceptable-looking and since these are our first mmps, I think they wanted to be sure we could pull it off. But publishers do pay for these things. In our case it is a cooperative promotion done with out distributor, Diamond.

You've recently added some red ink to your submission guidelines specifying your desire for a strong female protagonist in your manuscript submissions. How often do you encounter submissions that completely ignore the guidelines?

Far too often. I really don't get it. I can't imagine submitting to any publisher without first looking them up online and seeing if they have guidelines. Then, if they do, *reading* them. Carefully. That's why they call 'em "guide" -lines. They are meant to help direct you. Even if you find some form of the guidelines elsewhere,
they may be outdated.

I've even had agents send submissions with male protagonists!

Got anything that you are burning to say on the subject?

I used to do a weekly e-newsletter -- one of the (maybe *the*) first weekly email newsletters -- that featured horror markets. Like any other market maven, I consistently told writers to read the guidelines and follow them. That is repeated in any advice for writers anywhere. If you haven't run across it, then you probably
need to learn more about publishing before you try to get published.

I understand, though, honest mistakes. Maybe it just wasn't clear enough before. That's why it is now "un-missable."

Perhaps what really bothers me is that so many people are so determined to become published authors -- yet they do absolutely no research. There's a tremendous amount of free information online and in books in your library (and, of course, in books that you can buy), yet it evidently never occurs to them to look for it.

Not reading guidelines is really the least of it. Over the years, I've seen abject ignorance about any aspect of writing and being published. There's nothing wrong with being ignorant! But there is something wrong with remaining ignorant when you can so easily become relatively knowledgeable.

Maybe I rant about this because 13 years ago I knew absolutely nothing, zero, zilch, nada about publishing or any genre. Totally ignorant. I learned. I read and asked dumb questions and kind people answered them. I made stupid mistakes and learned from them.

I guess I just can't imagine anyone NOT doing the simplest research.

End of rant.

This last year has been a huge learning experience for everyone involved with Juno Books. I imagine if we'd known how much we didn't know, we would never have started. But if we weren't open to admitting we needed to know more -- and learning it and adjusting -- we would never have gotten this far. I suspect we still have a great
deal to learn, but I also know we have the capacity to continue to acquire knowledge and apply it.

Read more of Paula Guran's interviews at Dee and dee Dish About Books and League of Reluctant Adults, and I found another one at Speculative Romance Online.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Spotlight Review - THE BOOK OF JOBY at The Book Swede

Chris has reviewed THE BOOK OF JOBY over at The Book Swede. Chris reviews all sorts of speculative fiction, and he doesn't let a novel with Biblical-inspired subject matter stop him -- even though he's an atheist. Here's a small quote:

It has occurred to me, that perhaps some people may shy from this book because of its religious nature, but as an atheist with a deep interest in biblical history and the stories of the War in Heaven (ironic, I know), I can say that it isn't trying to make a religious point ... and knowing some Christians who have read this book, it isn't insulting or disrespectful, either.

Read the rest of his very favorable review here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

WIND FOLLOWER by Carole McDonnell - Last Post

With WIND FOLLOWER, Carole McDonnell has written a literary fantasy that makes you feel like you are absolutely steeped in another culture. The prose is gorgeous and the characters three-dimensional, with both idealistic traits and glaring faults. Emotions are unsheathed and roil throughout the plot. It almost feels like a walk through a spirit world. Tempers flair and knifes flash at the most unexpected times.

At its heart is a very simple story, the story of a man and a woman who meet, get married and fall in love, in that order. The cultures that they live in have very specific traditions. One is that if the wife of a warrior has a child, it is the warrior's child. It does not matter who the actual father is. Loic's father honors this custom even when one of his wives, the Third Wife (she has no other name that I could find) was unfaithful. The Third Wife is spiteful and vindictive, and she uses her lover to wrong Satha.

The rest of the story is about the ramifications of this evil act. There are twists at every turn. About halfway way through, Satha and Loic separate. A little over halfway through the novel, Loic finds himself imprisoned by the spirits and he has a protracted battle against them. At this point, the plot lost much of its pacing for me, at least during the Loic chapters. During the Satha chapters, she relives the handmaid story from Genesis. Surprises happen at every turn, but don't be surprised if you find yourself as frustrated as Satha and Loic are at their situations.

McDonnell does a good job of giving each of the four races in the novel different faults, but one race appears to have the sole virtue of bearing the word of the Creator. Other than that, they seem to be almost wholly awful. In fact, in the glossary they are described as a "hateful tribe." The concept of an evil race is one that I've long disagreed with in fantasy literature. All too often, you have the elves and they are good, and the orcs and they are evil. You see orcs, you kill them. This is why I enjoyed Morgan Howell's Queen of the Orcs, and why Jim Hines's Goblin Quest is still on my reading list. They explore other possibilities.

In the backstory, the lands of the three tribes are invaded by a fourth. The three tribes appear to be wealthy but they are medieval. The forth tribe however, has guns and explosives. This does not figure prominently in the story, but the parallels to American history cannot be ignored. Especially when the tribes are all gathered to a place. One might be tempted to think these tribes are based on African tribes, but I find stronger parallels with Native Americans.

The plot abounds with conflicts, and not all are resolved by the end of the book. There is the conflict between Satha and Loic, between Loic and Satha's rapist, between Satha and her rapist, between Loic and the spirits, between the spirts and the Creator, between Satha and her Angelini captors, and I haven't even named half of them. McDonnell does a good job with the "conflict on every page" precept of fiction writing.

And she did a great job of keeping me guessing. Right up until the final conflict between Loic and the rapist, I had no idea if Loic would seek vengeance or not. He was specifically ordered not to by the Creator but . . . does he do it or not? I absolutely loved the events leading up to the final conflict and the ceremonies and traditions bound up in it. I've never read anything like it. Loic's choice here has ramifications right up to the end of the novel, and for years beyond.

The dialog reminded me strongly of Pearl Buck's The Good Earth. It has a definite rhythm, and it doesn't feel like natural dialog. Now that I think about it, it almost feels like Biblical dialog. If you read it, expect the dialog to feel something like poetry. In fact, the entire book is stuffed with rich prose. There is no grittiness here; no words meant to shock. It is like a work of detailed art. However, McDonnell does not overdo it like Cecilia Dart-Thornton did in The Ill-Made Mute. It is highly readable.

I can only describe the ending as bittersweet. Happy things happen, but some surprising awful things happen as well. People pay for their choices right up until the bitter end.

WIND FOLLOWER was a lush and impressive debut. It will make you think. It might make you cry. In a few places, it even makes you laugh. This is the type of novel that you will think about for days afterword.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Spotlight Review - BLOOD MAGIC at Katie's Reading

And now, a new feature! Since I cannot possibly cover all debuts, I'm going to try to do some spotlight reviews, where I point my readers over to my fellow blogger's debut coverage.

Katie, over at Katie's Reading, is a very prolific reader who reads a lot of dark fantasy and horror. She also reads a lot of debuts. She has really enjoyed Matthew Cook's Blood Magic. Here's an excerpt from her review:

Blood Magic is Matthew Cook’s debut and I have to admit that for a first book I am more than a little impressed. Once I started reading I found myself unable to put the book down as Kirin’s past and present rushed toward each other in a story that simply demands to be read. Not only does Cook tell a strong story, he gives us a strong convincing female protagonist, something not all male writers can pull off.

Read the rest here.

But wait! There's more! She's also interviewed Matthew Cook. Here's another excerpt:

What started you writing?

MC: I’ve been scribbling stories for almost as long as I can remember, actually. I remember showing some sort of Scooby Doo-esque monster whodunit to my grandfather when I was in grade school one time. He told me that he could see me being a writer one day and encouraged me to keep at it. He’s who I wrote Blood Magic's Dedication for (thanks again, Pops).

Read the rest of the interview here.

Author Catch-Up, With Other Stuff

I've started reading The Book of Joby, but I'm not going to put it up as a featured debut right away. It's thick enough that it will take me weeks to read, and I'd hate to bore everyone with the same book week after week after week. In the meantime, I'm going to do some first chapters, which I have not done since August, I think, and I'm reading a galley copy of Jennifer Estep's Hot Mama.

Having a galley copy is something of a novelty -- it's my first ever -- but I much prefer the finished book and I'll probably go ahead and buy a copy when it comes out. The cover feels like cardboard (probably because it is) and the pages have dried glue that oozed between them during the binding process. Plus the margins are huge and the text is rather tiny. I understand this is to allow room for proofreading markup. It's kind of fun, but it also gets ratty rather easily.

I don't follow the blogs of every author that I announce, but I follow some, and here's some tidbits that I've picked up there and elsewhere. Yet another advantage for blogging authors!

David Anthony Durham is hard at work on the second book in the Acacia series, which he's calling Acacia 2 for now, and he gives us a little slice-of-writer-life.

Lisa Shearin has plunged into a rather aggressive deadline for her third Raine Benares book, The Trouble With Demons. She's blogging on her writing as she goes.

Austin Grossman's novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible, has been shortlisted for the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize.

Mark J. Ferrari has somewhat tentatively started a blog . I have promptly added it to my Google Reader.

Jim Melvin's Death Wizard Chronicles came out with one of the smaller of the small presses, therefore books like his does not get a lot of review attention. However, recently the Virtual Wordsmith put up a very positive review. I peeked at the author's blog as well, and book 2, Moon Goddess, is now available.

That's all for now!

In Internet Exile

My Internet connection crashed on Saturday morning right in the middle of my research for last week's debut announcement. So I've been Internet-free all weekend. I came in to work 10 minutes early so I can throw up this post. I'll need a day or two to catch up with my planned posts, and that's assuming that my Internet connection is fixed when I get home from work.

On the bright side, I've finished Wind Follower! I've been gathering my thoughts on it and I'll put up a final post as soon as my Internet connection permits.

Friday, October 5, 2007

An Interview With Carole McDonnell

Carole was kind enough to answer some questions for Fantasy Debut. As you will surmise, Carole and I have been swapping lots of emails and it has been a lot of fun, at least for me and hopefully for her!

Please tell us what inspired you to write WIND FOLLOWER.

So many things. Books come from so many parts of a writer. The spiritual part, the social-racial part, the psycho-emotional part, the intellectual-creative part, etc. I can say that creatively I wanted to challenge myself to write a book which contained high fantasy, honored folklore, and primeval Christianity and that was a kind of emotionally-healing romance.

You call WIND FOLLOWER a Christian fantasy, yet the writer's guidelines at Juno Books specifies that they don't publish Christian fantasy. Was it difficult to find a home for WIND FOLLOWER?

The Christian publishing world is pretty rigid and I knew Wind Follower wouldn't fall easily into their world. I wanted to deal with sexuality, racial issues, interracial-intercultural romances, imperialism, and "pagan" cultures. And I knew they wouldn't want to touch any of those things because the CBA publishers didn't consider those issues "safe" for their audience. I got rejected by CBA gatekeepers with interesting lines like: "I like this book but I would be fired if I published it." Or "It was going along well but then you delved into certain areas..." Or "this is the best speculative christian book I have ever read but our readers would not like it."

On the other hand, I wanted the book to be Biblical in some places and I figured that would be a problem with secular publishers. It turned out not to be. Juno really doesn't publish Christian fantasy but my friend, Nick Woods, a white South African writer, says I "walk the borderlands." And that is true. I'm black and I can easily talk to white folks about race. I'm Christian and I have close friends who are non-religious or who belong to many different religions. I'm staunchly myself, yet I seem to have a kind of ambassadorial quality and ease with talking to folks who would not like any of my "labels." Black, Christian, whatever. In a conversation with a white gay writer friend the topic came up in which we wondered who our audiences would be. She figured her readers would probably be straight. Well, I tend to think my primary audience will be non-Christians. I'll have black readers and Christian fans, of course. So it wasn't hard for Juno to accept me. I'm not preachy, and the story's world is like any other fantasy world...except it comes from a Black American pentecostal worldview. But my readers will probably be pretty much anyone who likes speculative fiction.

During our correspondence, you specified that your novel should appear in the Fantasy section, not the African-American section. Recently, I featured David Anthony Durham's Acacia, and he had the same sort of battle. How difficult is it for a Black author to avoid being pigeonholed in the African-American sections of American bookstores?

I don't know much about the publishing world, really. I know that many Black folks have bookstore sections they tend to visit. But white folks also do that. My black online writing groups tend to question: "Do blacks read speculative fiction? How do we get more black folks to read black speculative fiction?" Honestly, I don't know the answer to those questions. Many of my black friends only go to the religious sections of bookstores. Many only go to the romance sections. Many read anything. One can't really judge what the black reading audience is going to do. The thing is to make the black and minority audience know that there are books out there that speak to their experience.

For instance, I really do not read much fantasy or science fiction. I don't read Christian novels. I don't read romances. Yet I love all these genres...and will waste a couple of hours watching genre movies. But films are different from books. A book is a large commitment of time and I groan whenever I have to deal with high fantasy, or Christian romance, or any kind of literature that doesn't connect to me. There's a high fantasy book I'm supposed to be reviewing. I still can't get past the first seven pages. As a black person who loves speculative literature, there are just so many high-born lords and ladies one can matter how magical the world. As a black Christian, one can endure just so many white pioneer or country types taming the frontier. For me, European-based high fantasy literature is often as offensive as Anglo-based Christian romance. I want to shout, "There are other ethnic groups in the world and why should I always have to be awashed with Euro-culture?" Christianity, for instance, is not a white religion. Most of the world's Christians are non-white. Yet, most of the world's Christian religious books are written by white people.

If a black person wants to read any kind of book -- religious, romance, speculative fiction -- he/she has to accept the fact that the white culture is the one he/she will be immersed in. Some black readers are tired of that and they know that if they go to the African-American section of the bookstore, they won't have to deal with the stories of the larger culture. The same can be said of the Christian population. Christians don't want to deal with books in which their faith is slammed, or which there is something they consider offensive or "unsafe." (Unfortunately, in this country, the definition of unsafe has gotten a bit out of I mentioned before.) But, clearly, the white culture doesn't have to deal with the minority cultures' stories. They have a choice. The non-religious segment of the population doesn't have to deal with the literature of the religious segment. They have a choice. The result is that there is all this segmentation and segregation. Unfortunately, I've never really been able to be solidly one thing or primarily one aspect of myself. There is no solid Christian minority culture in this country. The Christian culture in the United States is primarily a white one. I hope to be a multicultural Christian writer...and I hope to be "found" by those who would be interested in reading my books.

Did you have any historical sources for WIND FOLLOWER or did you make up this fantastically detailed world on your own?

Totally made up. When I first thought of it, I wanted to create an alternate Africa that had been invaded by Native Americans or by folks from Asia. There would also be a sojourning peoples who would be a third tribe. But I knew zip about African history, nada about Asian history, zilch about Native American history. Not really zip, nada, or zilch, but you know what I mean. Not enough to actually create a full-fledged respectable alternate Africa. So I decided to just make it some unknown continent on some unspecifiec planet in some unnamed universe. Most reviewers have been assuming Wind Follower's setting is in Africa. It seems that my original thought -- and my lack of specific description regarding the setting-- worked its way into the zeitgeist of the novel anyway.

What is your favorite scene in WIND FOLLOWER?

As a writer, I'm pretty proud of the fall into Gebelda. I like descriptions of hell in novels. It's part of the oldest high fantasy tradition --Parzival, Gawain and the Green Knicht-- to have the hero get into a spiritual eye-opening experiences. Hell or some semblance of the dark place of the soul. And it's part of folklore to have some descent into hell. Plus hell is such an important part of Christian doctrine. Actually, most religions and folklore have some kind of hell, even Tibetan Buddhism...but Christianity focuses on it.

As a person of faith, I like the scene where Loic wakes from sleep and aims his shuwa into the sky....and later Satha's response to the shuwa. Faith is such an odd little thing. One does a thing because one feels it is the right thing to do, and one doesn't question an impression placed in one's soul by the Creator. The fact that Loic would wake from a dream and do something simply because in a dream he was told to do it! And to not question the Creator about the action he is called to do! That's an act of faith. And Satha's reaction to the shuwa is also an act of interpretation of that faith.

As a woman, I liked the scene when Loic first meets Satha. To have someone want me like that. I've been married for 23 years. My husband loves me dearly and I adore him. But we're laid-back folks. Even when we first met there wasn't that passionate overwhelming desire. We're not ultra-passionate folks. But hey, it's the stuff of romance...and I like romance.

I also like certain chapters where "scenes" per se don't happen but where Satha tells about her heart and the existential grief she endures. My soul is in those scenes. I wrote those sections from the depth of my heart.

What scene gave you the most trouble?

The rape scene. Technically it had to be done in such a way that Satha didn't seem stupid. It had to be foreshadowed to the cynical readers who know enough not to trust anyone. But it also had to come as a surprise to the innocent readers who believed in the goodness of people. So it had to be predictable to those who are thinkers and unpredictable to those readers who feel.

In addition, I had to figure out what kind of person the rapist was. This was one of the few times where Paula almost lost her patience with me. (Okay, she really did lose her patience!) She kept telling me: stop being in love with your villain. He's a villain for heaven's sake! So I had to really find evil in him...really really really stop excusing his behavior. That was hard 'cause I was kinda in love with him. I suspect that I will only see how evil he is in about twenty years when I re-read the book from a distance. Paula kept telling me that the character I thought I had written was not the one I had actually written. So I had to trust her on that.

Emotionally, it was a tough scene also because when I was in college about twenty seven years ago, a white guy -- a friend who was very troubled-- attacked me and beat me up because he wanted to sleep with me and I didn't want to sleep with him. He was very handsome, very troubled, and had issues up the wazoo. So it was hard to hate him although he had left me beaten up on the floor with a face and ribs that ached for a whole month. I tend to be one of those people who belittles her own pain because she understands those who are wounding her. Not a sane way to be in life. So it was hard to fully hate the villain.

Did you finish any other novels before you wrote WIND FOLLOWER, or is this your first novel? If so, can we expect to see them in print?

I finished Daughters of Men. That was the one I sent to Paula at fist, cause it was finished. She said, very kindly, "It needs a lot of work." It does. I'm revising it now. And I really mean revising. Not just rewriting. It was originally third person narration, now it's first person. I've also changed the main character. And, best thing of all, I've finally learned how to write a novel. So I am busily cutting off tentacles from this 20-legged octopi and cutting off episodic suction cups that threaten to suck me into some stupid sub-plot that doesn't matter to the greater, larger story.

Can you give us a teaser about your next novel?

I have yet to know if it'll be a religious novel. My faith is in everything I write but some stories aren't so blatantly about religion. It's been said (I forgot by who) that a novel is a conversation between the soul and the spirit. The question in Wind Follower was: Which would you choose faith or family? Faith-committment versus Race-commitment. The question in Daughters of Men is What would you do to become a queen? Friendship versus Personal Expedience.

The main character is the Chimeran Queen. Her name is Medusa. She is a mutant...biologically created like all the human chimeras....worms coming from all her orifices and through her skin. She is a telepath and a mind-reader. She is being raised by an Overseer Prince. The Overseers are also biological creations but they are the height of perfection and beauty. They are also telepaths and mindreaders. She hasn't told them that she is a telepath, however. Instinctively, she knows not to do this. When the story begins she is living in a house on the prince's compound and she gets news of the outside world through conversations with the Overseers. She also sees what they aren't telling her. While they don't lie to her, they do avoid telling her a few important the fact that the other Chimeric people who have been exiled to the terraformed asteroid Otaura, don't want her to reign over them. She also sees their love troubles....specifically the triangle between the prince, a scarred woman whom the prince loves, and the prince's best friend a rebel who helps the standard-issue humans (although he, like all the other Overseers, doesn't really like human men.) She's in love with the prince but she has a special bond with the prince's best friend and so she helps to "cover his mind" and protect the guilty lovers in their love affair.... Well, until....
Right now it begins like this:

I don't quite remember when I fully understood that I could hide my mind from the probing of the Young Men. Nor do I remember when I first understood the extent of my loneliness. But these –memory, comprehension, the passing from youth to adulthood– are small matters and should not make you doubt my narrative. I am the Chimeran Queen, after all, your queen, one of the daughters of men...and I would not lie to you.

Many of my readers are writers. Do you have any advice for them?

Be honest. You never know who might accept your honesty. And what is the use of writing -- of getting published and expecting folks to spend their hard-earned $12.95 on your book-- if you aren't going to tell them about the world as you see it? Editors can be brave and accept some odd stuff. At least, in my case, I found an editor who didn't mind the religious stuff in Wind Follower. Write from your pain and write from your joy. Join critique circles. Learn to take criticism. Even if it's from someone who doesn't seem too bright or too kind. Don't be arrogant, but don't be too hard on yourself either. Try to write everyday. Keep healthy.

And finally, is there anything else you'd like to share?

Just how grateful and happy I am that you chose to read Wind Follower. And that I'm happy to be a published author. Just how happy I am to be loved by God and Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Hey, I had to put that in. I owe God more than I can ever say or describe.

Further email conversations led to another question: I understand that your husband is an artist. What's it like having an artist and writer together in the same house?

Yes, the beloved is an artist. Luke McDonnell He's a graphic artist, cartoonist, illustrator, and comic book artist. His paintings and drawings hang all over the house. He works for Yoe studios He also used to work for DC and Marvel. He did Iron Man, Spiderman, Suicide Squad, a whole bunch of stuff. If you do a google search for him, you'll see he's pretty respected. And it's quite good being married to an artist. Artists understand each other. He doesn't expect me to be a perfect housewife for instance. If I totally forget to cook dinner for a week or so because I'm in the throes of creativity, the world won't end. And if we starve for a couple of years, that's okay by me also. As I said, we understand each other. If I had married a regular person who expected a typical wife, I'd have been in super-trouble, i think. We've been pretty happy together. However, when we first married he was an atheist, a son of Irish Roman-Catholic atheists. It was tough being married to an "unbeliever" for fifteen years. But he finally came on over to the side of light.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

WIND FOLLOWER - Loic is no "Angel"

Don't you love it when you think you know where a book is going, and then are utterly surprised?
As I was reading WIND FOLLOWER, I thought I recognized familiar plot elements from Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. I thought that Loic would end up somewhat similar to Angel, who is Tess's estranged husband in that classic novel. However . . . Satha actually turned out more like Angel. A vengeful one (no pun intended). I felt like I read the last few chapters with my eyebrows perpetually raised. I'm going to have new brow wrinkles when I finish this novel.
John at Grasping for the Wind finished WIND FOLLOWER embarassingly ahead of me. His review is here.

An Interesting Email

Among my email this morning -- which gets more interesting by the day -- is an actual press release. At first, I was bemused; am I actually "press"? I didn't consider it spam, because the author and I have swapped emails in the past.
However, now I'm thinking, what a great idea! Press releases would actually help me out a great deal. If you want to send me a press release or any other sort of promotional material for your debut novel, please put "Press Release" in the subject line. It would help a great deal if your press release included the release date of your novel. I'll still write my own debut announcements, but the press releases will help me get organized.
To thank Minnette for her idea, here is her press release. She has some pretty awesome blurbs. I usually won't post the entire release; I'd hate for this blog to become nothing more than a repository for press releases.
SS Cover.jpg STARSIGHT by Minnette Meador



Piers Anthony: "[Starsight] is one powerful and imaginative fantasy adventure novel with many nice touches...there is magic galore, and challenge galore; nothing comes easy. It's the first of a series, and it should do well if readers become aware of it."

Spider Robinson: "After millennia of discovery and exploration, and especially the last century or two of strip-mining, you'd think the fantasy genre would be wrung dry by now, leaving its writers with nothing to do but rewrite, presenting old ideas in newer clothes. Minnette Meador has begun reinventing and redefining the field by page 30 of STARSIGHT, and hasn't stopped by the final sentence. But there's more than just novel ideas going on, here; Meador also knows the unfakeable secret of keeping even newcomers turning the pages: care about your characters so much it becomes infectious. This is a Typhoid Mary of a book, from a writer to watch."

STARSIGHT BY MINNETTE MEADOR is out for pre-order from The first 50 copies sold will come signed and with a gift. First time buyers to StoneGarden will receive a $5.00 discount (use coupon code FIRSTORDER) or if you are a returning buyer, you can receive free shipping on your order (coupon code PREORDER).

Go to Minnette's blog on MySpace or to to read an excerpt or to to read the first chapter.