Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I. Do. Not. Suck.

Contrary to what the past week or so has indicated, I am not one of those people who frequently just leaves their blog hangin'. I just haven't had anything interesting to say. o.o

A bit stalled on the writing front as I put some things in my life back together (hopefully better than they were when I busted them up, heh).

And then I'll be back. I have LOTS of book reviews to write and we have some exciting news coming up on the Writer's Retreat Blog.

Other than that, I've been doing The Artist's Way workshop with Catherine and I have to say - Julia Cameron rocks my socks off. I want to meet her. And hug her. And generally tell her how I'm only up to Chapter 3 and she's changing my life. Literally. As we speak.

Oh, and I quit my job. *ducks and runs*

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dream Chaser by Sherilyn Kenyon

From the Back Cover:
Hades doesn’t often give second chances…Xypher has one month on Earth to redeem himself through one good deed or be condemned to eternal torture in Tarturus. But redemption means little to a demigod who only wants vengeance on the one who caused his downfall.Until one day in a cemetery…Simone Dubois is a medical examiner with a real knack for the job. Those who are wrongfully killed appear to her and help her find the evidence the police need to convict their killers. But when a man appears and tells her that she’s more than just a psychic, she’s convinced he’s insane.Now the fate of the world hangs in her hands…It was bad enough when just the dead relied on her. Now’s there’s the seductive Dream-Hunter Xypher who needs Simone’s help in opening a portal to the Atlantean hell realm to fight insatiable demons. The future of mankind is at stake-and so is her life. The only question now is: Who is the bigger threat: the demons out to kill her, or the man who has left her forever changed?

I can sum my feelings about this book up in one word: Blah. Maybe my view is skewed since I wasn't inducted into the Dream Hunter world at it's inception, and everything since has been done again and again and again. Or maybe it's something specific about Ms. Kenyon's writing. I can't be sure until I read something else from the series. Which, I will. Obviously, she's doing something right. But on this one . . . blah. I didn't hate it. I didn't love it. A year from now I won't remember it.

First off - it was sparse. I read it in two hours. Usually, that means one of two things - it's either very short for a novel (which it was) or I didn't have to think very hard (which I didn't). In fact, I would venture to say that Ms. Kenyon didn't have to think very hard while writing it either. The vocabulary was exceedingly simple, the themes repeated into monotony, and the characters (yes, all the characters) felt like stock to me. The plot and all the mechanisms used were entirely predictable.

I'll give this series another shot, but with reservations already firmly planted. If you have a recommendation for which book might change my mind, please let me know. 1 Bleeding Heart, because I did finish it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Review of The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter

I was super excited about picking these books up. I read the prequel novella as soon as it became available on eHarlequin, and posted a review. I could tell Ms. Showalter had a plan, though it was fuzzy through the novella, but I felt confident she'd do it more justice in a full length novel. Part of what got me so juiced, I have to admit, was the covers. They are the pinnacle of beauty when it comes to any book cover I've seen lately. HQN hit the jackpot there. And as we all know, covers go a long way.

Right off the top, I can say that I love the premise. Ms. Showalter says she didn't like the idea of a woman being blamed for all the evil in the world, so she tweaked the old myth and placed the blame for the opening of Pandora's Box on a band of immortal warriors. (Love it!) As a result, each of these warriors was punished by the gods to carry one of the demons from the box around inside of him. Love that too.

I even love Ms. Showalters writing. She clearly has talent, and oodles of creative energy that justify my envy of her blaze to stardom in the ranks of paranormal romance.

Sadly, though, this book just didn't do it for me. Maddox is the keeper of Violence. He was actually the one who killed Pandora, so as an extra punishment, he must die every night, with the assistance of two fellow 'Lords' - those who carry Pain and Death.

Ashlyn Darrow has the gift of clairaudience. She can hear conversations that have taken place at any given time in the place she is. It's overwhelming and has caused her intense suffering her whole life, though she works in a sort of psychic investigative agency and puts her gift to use.

Like I said, I love the ideas. And I can't pinpoint what it is that doesn't quite punch through to me. But I think I can sum it up by saying, the really poignant ideas felt under-done. I hate to use the word 'shallow' because of the negative connotation, but in this case, it really fits.

The story felt more like a caricature of what it could have been. Maddox is the typical brusque, tortured hero who finds his heart softening for the lovely woman clinging to him. Ashlyn finds that only Maddox's presence can give her peace from the voices in her head. And this contrived attraction is stretched out with overwroght tension through most of the book.

Later, we're introduced to more characters and learn more of the backstory and dive into some more world-building.

It could be that I've reached a saturation point from all my reading in the genre, but this book just felt like more of the same, up to and including the hints that each member of the 'brotherhood' of lords will get his happy ending in the coming books. It just didn't ring my bell. I never felt truly connected to the characters, surprised by anything, or deeply moved.

It was entertaining, well-written, and as I've said several times, the series has tremendous potential. I have the next two books at home, and I will be reading them - hoping to see Ms. Showalter find a groove and really knock my socks off.

Two and a half Bleeding Hearts.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

13 Things To Take Your Mind Off Submissions

I have some feelers extended into the sea of writerly opportunity. Nine, to be exact. I’ve decided nine will be my magic number. I will always have nine feelers out there, working for me while I continue to write. They can be queries, submissions, contests, whatever. I just have to keep nine going. If one comes back, I toss another one out there. Simple, right? But I have this horrible habit of fixating on said feelers, and not getting anything done. That simply will NOT work. So, here are 13 things I’ve done to take my mind off of my pending flood of rejection letters enough that I at least feel productive while I wait.

Thirteen Things To Take Your Mind Off Submissions

1. Pick up another WIP. This is the ultimate BEST thing to do in this case. I have set myself up with a daunting quota of 10K words/week and bi-weekly check-ins with a crit partner. I just have to pretend those other stories I’m trying to sell do not exist. It works. Mostly.

2. Chatting, blogging, and now TWITTERING with friends. It’s a hoot.

3. Baking. I don’t know why, but when I get stressed, I cook more. I’ve kept my work well-supplied with cookies and muffins the past few weeks.

4. Actually getting work done. I threw myself at my job for a week. The fact that I now have nothing to do is testament to just how much I should be writing instead of wasting my time there, but c’est la vie. At least I’m caught up.

5. Re-organizing files on computer and backing everything up. I don’t know about you, but when I’m heavy in draft mode, I get sloppy – like, my desktop is invisible sloppy. A lull in your ‘writing press’ is the perfect time to go over everything, file it away neatly, and catalog it so it’s ready to work with at the next phase, whatever that may be.

6. Cleaning desk, filing and re-ordering office. I’ve talked about the importance of having a writing space. I find ‘padding the nest’ while I wait is a comfort, and also feeds into #1.

7. Shopping for mancandy and other inspirational pics. Just file under ‘research’. Heh.


See? What submissions?

8. Reviving an old manuscript. Sometimes I get too stuck in edit/prep mode after sending out subs and queries and I simply cannot find the creative gusto. So, I channel that self-depreciating energy into something useful. We all have that old piece gathering dust in the back of a drawer (or computer file) somewhere. Now’s the perfect time to go back over it, and have it ready to be the next ‘feeler’ if needs be.

9. Reading. When all else fails, read. It always, ALWAYS works for me. Reading reminds me of why I love writing so much in the first place. It gets me excited about stories, characters, and scenarios, also feeding #1.

10. Take a break and do something fun. I often neglect other parts of my life when I have my head down and fingers to keyboard. But every once in a while, you gotta push away from the desk and step away from the computer. It’s summer, it’s lovely outside. I’ve been going to the park with my hubby to play Frisbee. Does wonders.

11. Write something fun, just cuz. When I first started writing, it was merely for the pleasure of it. Sometimes I have to shelf even that daunting WIP and write something off the wall, on a whim, to remind myself of WHY I am putting myself through all this trudgery.

12. Find someone else to root for. This is why it’s so important to have a network of friends who are also writers. We inspire each other, console each other, understand each other. Whenever I’m feeling particularly nerve-wracked or over-stressed about the ‘feelers’, I take a step back and focus on someone else – cheering them on or giving them a boost. Makes me feel better, and spreads the love. Two birds with one stone.

13. When all else fails? Cybercrack. Like this. Or this. Or this.

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Rant for August Arrives Early

I’ve heard a lot of feedback from other authors and readers within the romance genre about the way other people see us from the outside. Heck, there are even uber-popular sites that go ahead and make fun of it. *cough*sidebar*cough*. But I have to say I have never really experienced it first hand.

My husband (bless his heart – he is already out there marketing for me) gets more flack than I do. He receives plenty of taunts from ‘the guys’ about his reading choices, as he makes an effort to keep up with me. His standard reply: “You don’t know what your missing. You should give it a try. You would understand women a lot better.” No, really. Guys - if you read romance, I’m confident this is the best possible response to such testosterone-laden posturing.

I, however don’t usually get harassed. I get the glazed eyes and plastered smiles, and the ‘that’s nice’ from people who just. Don’t. Get it. As a result, I have reverted to a slow-reveal technique, hooking people with the other premises and dynamics of my book before revealing that it stands among the ranks of *gasp* romance.

Alas, in light of the recent RWA, the arrival of my newsletter and the general commaraderie among readers and writers alike permeating the webveins recently, I’m feeling pretty proud to be a part of it. Like I know something a lot of other people don’t. Like they are missing out on something great, and I’m glad I’m not one of those brainwashed drones anymore.

You see, my family is proud of me. They understand they don’t see much of me because I am persuing a passion and trying to turn it into a career ON TOP of working a full-time job and finishing a degree. They already claim me as ‘the author of the family’. (I know – no pressure, huh?) So, the ‘and she’s a WRITER’ always gets tagged onto my introduction. At which point, the acquaintance usually feels obligated to inquire into what sort of writing I do.

This is where it gets tricky.

Usually, my breadcrumb trail goes something along the lines of: popular fiction > novels > paranormal (compare to fantasy) > action/adventure > romance.

But LATELY, I’ve been feeling more and more like I should be proud of the romance part. I should say that first, because whether my stories fit the formula or not, they certainly are about love. I should hold my head high and declare it!

Or at least, that was the high I was on until an acquaintance at a recent social gathering down-shifted from, “That sounds really cool,” to “Oh, no, I don’t waste my time on that smut.”

Excuse me? What gives you the write to assume I write smut? I do not. In fact, most romance authors don’t. Hell, most erotica authors these days have strong, emotionally grounded stories behind the sex. Romance DOES NOT EQUAL smut!!! And that so-called smut that you are so vapidly against? It accounts for almost half of the books that are read in the WORLD. It dominates the bestsellers lists. It makes dreams come true.

So, needless to say . . . I lost that potential future reader. Maybe the slamming my drink on the counter after instabitching and storming away was a bit overdramatic. *sigh*

Now that I've faced the derogatory attitude head-on, I’m on a crusade, or uh . . . officially joining a crusade. As other creative masterminds before me, I will find a way to do my part . . . *cogs start turning*