Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Release Alert - Magic Strikes - Ilona Andrews

Also, for those of you who love a good Urban Fantasy novel with a kick-butt heroine, lots of action, humor, magic, vampires and shapeshifters, you MUST check out Ilona Andrews. Her latest, Magic Strikes, hits stores today. If you haven't read her yet, Magic Bites is the first book in the series and you can read an excerpt here. I warn you though that you will immediately want to order the book or buy it from your local B&N.

I stumbled on this series when the first book came out - the cover caught my attention as well as a cover blurb by Patricia Briggs (she walks on water, and I believe anything she says, so I bought the book -seriously). I yearn for the next in the series and can't wait to sit down and read Magic Strikes. Luckily, I have a date with our vehicle to get it inspected, so I'll have some waiting room reading time on my hands. Bliss.
A friend of mine has a thing about babies - she is addicted to them. "Hold the baby! Smell the baby!" I have adopted this to suit my addiction to books. "Buy the book! Read the book! Love the book!" That is my advice for you today, my friends.

Btw, to all you Y-chromosomes out there, do not be frightened of this book because it has a chick as its main. There is so much action, killing, maiming and destroying in these books that they satisfy blood-thirsty savages also. Plus, while there is a yummy degree of sexual tension, it's not overdone and it's certainly not <gag> romantic or lovey-dovey.

Editing the good stuff out

I've been deep in editing land on my UF novel and I'm getting frustrated with it. The first chapter has me ready to rip my hair out (as if my brush doesn't do enough of that already). I think I've gone over it too many times. I've edited it myself a few times (as in like 10), had other people critique it and have even dreamed about it. 

After incorporating all the suggestions, I think I've successfully managed to weed out anything that made it unique and engrossing. No kidding. Admittedly, early drafts had some major POV (Point-Of-View) issues, too much time spent on extraneous things, and some cases of telling vs showing. It definitely needed a tune-up. But... 

I think what happened is that I'd hit a sentence and think, "Oh, well, that doesn't need to be there. I show that aspect of his personality later, so I'll remove this reference to it." Before you know it, all of Chase's personality has been sucked out of him, and instead of a conscientious but mouthy teenager, you have this boring narrator who sounds like they came straight from your English Classics class. Kill me. And kill Chase while you're at it, because he's clearly too boring to live. So now I'm going back in and trying to breathe life back into Chase's poor corpse. Wish me luck. And in the comments section, hit me with a good snarky comment or insult. I'll pick my favorite and let Chase loose with it in the novel.

I sure hope the rest of the novel isn't this problematic!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Layoff = good for:
  • Writing (averaging at least 600+ words/day for the last 2 weeks)
  • Editing (actually got some done)
  • House Work (I washed baseboards today in our guest bath in preparation for painting - might as well not have bothered - you can't tell)
  • Sewing (Got another cute shirt sewn for our American Girl doll collection)
  • More time with oldest child (she can ride the bus home now, so we have a couple of hours together before the youngest gets home)
  • Meals (We're back to creating menus ahead of time, and I have more time to experiment now)
Layoff = bad becase:
  • Internet = EPIC time-sink (like this is a shocker)
  • Too much time to watch the stockmarket (Every percentage change is fascinating to me for some reason)
  • I actually have the time to wonder what the devil those people in Washington are up to with the stimulus stuff and bailouts (I usually don't care about stuff like this, and it pisses me off that I'm actually thinking about it now)
  • Housework (yeah - actually have to do some now. Gag.)
  • More time with oldest child (she's running me ragged! But I love her)
  • Snacking (the kitchen is waaaaay too handy)
I don't know whether I'm better off or not...

Monday, March 23, 2009

An English Lesson

This topic came up in my writers' group, so I thought I'd post the rules, so we can all be confident that we're speaking and writing the goodest way we can. Yes, I meant to do that. Okay, so a verb has 3 principle parts - the present form, the past form, and the past participle. The past and past participles of regular verbs are made by adding ed to the present form (call, called, called). Irregular verbs don't do this because they're... duh, irregular. Sometimes they have three different words for the three forms (begin, began, begun), and sometimes they have the same word for all three forms (burst, burst, burst).

Now, on to the fun stuff!! TENSES! Yay!

present - expresses action or existence happening now or continually. I hear the stalker's voice as he calls from the tree that sits near the corner of the road.

past - expresses action or existence which is completed at a particular time in the past. I heard him this morning.

future - expresses action that will take place. Quint will kick Chase's butt tomorrow.

present perfect tense - expresses action which began in the past but continues or is completed in the present - to form this tense, add has or have to the past participle. She has practiced target shooting for many days.

past perfect tense -  expresses action which began and was completed in the past - to form this tense, add had to the past participle. She had forgotten her pistol the last time she went to the docks.

futer perfect tense - expresses action which will begin in the future and will be completed by a specific time in the future - to form this tense, add shall have or will have to the past participle. Jayna will have returned to her apartment before she gets the phone call.

Now, all of this info I dug out of my old middle school books (let's not talk about how long ago that was), so it could be very antiquated. I mean, I remember when "cookie" was spelled "cooky" and you only switched to the '-ie" form when it went plural.

Anyways, now we know, and knowing is half the battle (yes, I'm aging myself again).  Have a great week!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This is my life...

These things were actually spoken in my house over the past couple of weeks:

By Grandad: "No, no, no. Get the batteries out of your mouth."
By the 5.5 year old: "Mom! Come feel how hot my butt is!"
By the almost 3 year old (had a toy laser gun) : "I shoot you in the butt! I shoot me-self in the butt!"

How the mighty have fallen...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beginner (Writer) Mistakes

As writers, we always hear about all the "beginner mistakes" that just scream wannabe to agents and publishers. We vow that that won't be us. Like using the word "that" all the time (yes, I've already used it 3 times in actual context). Then there's:
  • being wordy
  • telling instead of showing
  • using passive voice
  • using too many adverbs
  • using weak words (like 'weak')
  • using cliches (Mike actually caught me trying to get away with "running in circles at the end of her rope"!!! Gasp! 2 cliches for the price of 1. Does that mean it's not a cliche anymore, like a double negative?)
  • too many flashbacks/dream sequences/etc
There are countless others. So why is it that we keep making these mistakes when there are so many resources out there telling us NOT to? We're smart people. We read voraciously. We can even follow directions. So WHY do we keep doing these things, even when we vow not to and have plenty of examples of what we SHOULD do?

I got to thinking about this yesterday when I was editing a fantasy short story I wrote some time ago with the intent of making it available as a free read on my blog here. Some of it was actually pretty well done. In fact, I think my setting and description were better back then than they are now. Now if I tack a color descriptor onto an item, I'm feeling proud of myself. But some of the other aspects... ick. Now I know why I didn't win those contests years ago with this little gem of writing. :) 

My main problems hit beginner mistake #1 in the list - being too wordy - with shout-outs from a few others in the list. I might have stumbled on my personal hang-up with this. I think part of the problem is that as new writers, we try to invoke the feelings and images that were in our heads as we read other published works. So we write all of it in. We throw adjectives & adverbs everywhere, hit readers over the head with our characters' emotions, and state what the characters' intents are right before they actually act on them (so the reader essentially gets told what's going to happen and then gets to see it happen instead of just seeing it). It's because we remember how vivid other author's stories were in our minds, and we think that writing it all out is how that happens.

But it's not. Those emotions and images were bolstered by our own imaginations as we were reading. We've got a picture in our heads of this really tall, solidly built guy who blocks out the sun, dwarfs our 5'3" stature and makes us feel like a pygmy. It's not because the author wrote out: "He was very tall and had broad shoulders that stretched the limits of his shirt. He was so big that everyone around him felt tiny." Now, first of all, that was a horrible example of telling instead of showing. 'Very', 'big', and 'tall' are also weak words. But we got those images in our head of this guy because the author said something simple or descriptive like: "I looked up. And up. And up. When did they build a skyscraper here that looked like a man?"

I think that new writers don't know HOW other authors evoke those mental images when we first start writing. We're confusing the effect with the cause.

What do you guys think? Sound reasonable? What other beginner mistakes did I forget to mention, or as a reader, what things do authors do in their stories that annoy you? Post in comments!

Happy Thursday!
(Happy Thursday = A new episode of Bones will actually be on instead of American Idol. Finally.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Busy week... and it's only Wednesday

How did it get to be Wednesday already? Here's a breakdown of my accomplishments for the week so far:

Writing: 700 words -- Pitiful (Beyond Pitiful, really)
Editing: 6 Chapters -- Fair
Brainstorming : 5 scenes -- Fair
Job Hunt: Don't ask -- Suxxorz
Landscaping: 50 ft. stone wall & the sunburn to prove it -- Crispy
TBR stack: 1 down, about 30 more to go -- Reading withdrawal
Movies: Watchmen -- Can I have that afternoon back, pls?

And that's it. That's all I've done. No more full-time job, and yet I still can't seem to get much done. Very frustrating.

What have you all managed to do so far this week? Post in comments. We'll see who's the laziest!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Moms & Family

I'm kind of at a loss today as far as what to put up here. I got some decent editing done yesterday, as well as some new stuff written on my latest SciFi short. I think I've almost decided to take the other shorts I've written in the same world and just make a novel out of it. 

My mom read the last complete short this morning and said it was just about... perfect. I know, I know. Moms always say that. My sisters are probably passed out from choking on laughter at that. Our mom doesn't say that about everything, but she is very positive about my writing. And she told me again that I "must get published". I keep telling her - I'm trying.

Seriously, we have a great mom. She's supportive, pushed all of us to go to college to broaden our horizons, has a good sense of humor, didn't beat us any more than needed (most of the time), and puts up with all of us calling her multiple times a week, even though we're all out of the house. But she's also sometimes brutally honest. 

We all grew up knowing that the youngest was her favorite - something about that one being the only one to say "mommy" first. Now, I ask you: If you were a toddler, just learning to walk and talk in the northern US, and you had a choice between the parent with ice-cold hands, even when they've just been immersed in scalding hot dishwater, or the father with warm hands even though he just came in from shoveling snow outside with no gloves on, and you need your diaper changed, who ya gonna call on? That's right. Daddy. Now the youngest, she grew up in the South, after the fam moved, where you slump from the air conditioned house to the air conditioned car to the air conditioned stores when you're forced to go outside at all. With everything so hot and humid, NOW who do you want changing your diaper? Mommy Wonderfully Cool Hands, or Daddy Sweltering? Uh huh. Mystery solved. And for that, she's always been the favorite - gets away with everything, etc. Admittedly, the youngest is also a great person, very caring, smart, pretty (need I go on) and never got into much trouble anyways. Somehow, that makes it all worse. It's like she deserves it or something...

Ok, enough of this mushy family stuff. Back to writing about space betrayals, sicko bad guys and traumatic childhoods.

I do have to say to my mom, my own family, and the family I married into, thanks for being so supportive. They've all helped with my dream of writing in one way or another. 

So Much Thanks!

Have a great weekend, all!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Like it, love it, want more of it

Yesterday I mentioned some authors who post free fiction & stuff on their websites. That got me thinking about which authors I'd like to see some free fiction from.
  1. Patricia Briggs - Urban Fantasy/Fantasy - More Briggs! More Briggs! More Briggs! Anything - we don't care, just write more faster!! Nuff said. (She does have excerpts from her novels on her website)
  2. ** Jeanine Frost - Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance - Bones + Cat 4eva
  3. Mark del Franco - Urban Fantasy - At first, Connor seemed an awful lot like Butcher's Harry Dresden to me, but I got them separated in my head and found out that, hey, I really like this Connor guy - on the surface he's like Harry (supernatural PI type) but he's got completely different issues to deal with and a different personality. Me likey.
  4. Rob Thurman - Darkish Urban Fantasy - For an incredibly rude, crude, antagonistic half-monster, Cal is really likeable.
  5. Kresley Cole - Paranormal Romance - All I got to say is yummy mythological types, vampires, shifters and demons (ohhhhhh, the deeeeemons) with sassy, slang-flinging heroines. My favorite term from her books - a mantrum - where the guys get pissy at being ditched on girl night.
  6. Lori Armstrong - Mystery - I've really been enjoying her Julie Collins books - not your typical heroine. She drinks too much, smokes too much, fights too much, but she's good people. And her and Tony together? Rwar. Just Rwar.
  7. Lori Foster/LL Foster - Romance/Paranormal Romance (sorta) - Whichever name she's writing under, she produces great stuff. I needz more Gaby though. Plz.
  8. JD Robb/Nora Roberts - Mystery/Romance - I put her at the end of my list here even though her In Death series is one of the best things in print, because the woman writes so much so quickly that I really don't weep for my next fix for too long before she supplies.
** I was going to put Lois McMaster Bujold for #2, and when I went to her site to get the link, I saw that she does have free fiction (mostly chapter excerpts, but still)!! Yippee! I think I'm going to get my youngest sis reading her The Sharing Knife series (fantasy). Bujold is another writer who just doesn't write bad stuff. When I got back into SciFi, a B&N employee turned me on to her, and man - she's amazing!

I'm sure I've missed a bunch here. Feel free to post in the comments about how I've ignored your favorite author. There are so many great ones out there right now. Good times.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Free Fiction? Sign me up!!

One of my favorite things that authors do nowadays is to post excerpts, short stories, deleted scenes, etc for fans to check out for free. So I thought I'd share some of those I've discovered with you guys. Go check them out and possibly find a new author to enjoy.

  • Since Nalini Singh's new series kicks off today with Angel's Blood hitting the shelves, let's start there
  • The queen of free fiction and writer how-to stuff is Paperback Writer. Go here and browse the right-hand column under "Freebies". 
  • One of my best finds was Ilona Andrews, verbal magician and writer of the Kate Daniels series (Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes (coming soon - can't wait!!!)). Just go to her main site and look around. She's got free stuff everywhere. I love the "Days of Swine and Roses" short story. 
  • Then you've got J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. See "Slices of Life" and "Deleted Scenes" here.
  • Jim Butcher's next Dresden Files book is coming out in about a month and to celebrate, they're posting one chapter every week over at his site. He does this for every full-length novel release he does in the Dresden and Codex Alera series, so if you're a fan of everything Jim Butcher, as I am, you can torture yourself like this twice a year!

Do you guys know of any other authors sharing free stuff that I missed? Post them in the comments. I'm always up for more free fiction.