Time For Some Fun

Someone on Absolute Write's Water Cooler came up with a fun post. If you've ever had a DVD that has an Easter Egg on it - that is, something hidden by pressing weird buttons on your remote, etc. - have you put any sort of Easter Egg in your writing?

I have.

My only pub credit - a short story - had a female MC whose first name was Brielle. That also happens to be the name of a town down the Jersey shore, and I always LOVED that name (it's kinda pretty, ain't it?).

The other Easter Egg is, I think, more Easter Egg-like. My current WIP, which starts in 1974 New Jersey (notice a trend? ;-))moves to 1942 Los Angeles/Hollywood, and pretty much stays there for the duration. (World War II buffs should get that last bit - hopefully. :-)) I have one character (Margaret, Rita's adoptive mother) working at a fictitious movie studio called Durham Studios. There actually was, and I believe, still is, a Raleigh Studios located out there. As there's a Raleigh-Durham Airport, I figured I'd have a little fun and call the studio Durham.

Y'get it?

I feel so much like Wile E. Coyote - Super Genius.

And modest, too. ;-)

~Nancy C. Beck


Another Publish America Sting

Do these people never learn?

Apparently so, for Publish America (PA) has been stung yet again. This time, the Canadians decided to get into the act, throwing some horrendous poems this "traditional publisher's" way.

Called Painful Poetry by Alphabet, Pete Vere at SooToday included a couple of poems on his site.

Have some fun and read some of his intentionally crappy poems here.

That story begat another story, this time involving an "acquisitions editor" (why bother with such a title, when you except almost anything?) asking Mr. Vere to remove said acquisitions editor's name from the original post.


~Nancy Beck



Since I decided on something different in the way my story will progress, I was faced with having to rethink how I'd get from Point A to B to C and so on. (Some of the stuff I wrote was dreck anyway, so it's not like I'm losing much.)

I bought an e-book on novel writing a couple of years ago and remembered something about writing down stuff in a linear manner; an overview and a more detailed view.

I thought it was a good idea, so I brought up those pages and printed them out. Basically, you start out by writing START at the bottom left of a piece of legal paper (or, if you have access to such stuff, A3 paper) and put FINISH in the upper right. It was like a re-do of the plot, but it was nice to actually see it written down (so to speak). This was the detailed view, and it's where I most of the rethinking occurred. It went very well, and I was able to then go onto the overview, which was called a template in this ebook.

This template is what I'm going to use to remind of the overall arc of the story. The ebook suggests a list of 1 to 10; I did 30 (which the ebook said wasn't a big deal). Anyway, this consists of short sentences that list the critical plot points; they're like the highlights of what's happening.

And I think these might come in handy later when I write up various lengths of synopses. (Yeah, like I'm looking forward to that.)

~Nancy Beck

Hallelujah - Airleaf "Publishing" Is Out of Business

A so-called "publisher" has gone out of business - Airleaf Publishing (aka Bookman Marketing, aka who-the-hell-knows-what else). They spammed the crap out of plenty of writers, but those were the "lucky" ones; the unlucky ones put up tens of thousands of dollars for...nothing.

If you were scammed by Airleaf/Bookman, don't throw away those emails or any other paperwork you have. You might want to check out the new PODdy Mouth's post here for more information.

Who says Christmas wishes don't come true? ;-)

~Nancy Beck


A Christmas Carol

Christmas Eve was always a big deal in my house. My mother and father's generation, that generation who got married in the years following World War II, knew there would be problems among the families come Christmas Day. They wisely decided that we, my father's family (including his four brothers, one sister, and all their broods), would celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve; the other side of the family could then be tended to on Christmas Day without any bad feelings.

Then again, I heard something the other day that celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve might be more of a Polish tradition. Whether that's true or not...well, I guess I could do some Internet research and find out, but I'd rather not at this point in my life; I rather like the idea that my father's family decided independently to set aside Christmas Eve as "that side" of the family's celebration while accommodating their in-laws.

Anyway, I was watching A Christmas Carol last night. This was the 1938 version, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit. (Gene Lockhart is the judge in Miracle on 34th Street, who finds for the old man, Edmund Gwenn, that he is Kris Kringle.) Most people probably remember the 1951 version with Alistair Sim, as I think that's been shown on TV a lot more often than the 1938 version.

But I was watching the older one last night, and it got me to thinking about the novel, and about Dickens. We wannabes are endlessly told to find a good enough antagonist to block the way of our protagonist; they can be outright villains, or someone who thinks they're doing something good to the protagonist by constantly thwarting whatever the protag is going for. Of course, we're talking about people, mostly; Dickens went further, in that his antagonists for Scrooge were the Christmas spirit and charity. And Scrooge was an anti-hero, to boot; how could we possibly like this old miser?

But Dickens was such a great writer, that he pulled it off. He made the story completely believable, made it so that you really thought Scrooge had changed his ways.

So why did Dickens write this story? This was written when the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, when the London fog of legend was hanging around (it was more of an industrial fog than any sort of natural fog), when people were paid pittances to work at these big factories, when the industrialists grew richer every day.

Lest you think this is a big diatribe against business, just read on...

What Dickens was trying to say to the industrialists was to treat their workers with respect, to treat them as human beings, not as machines. Give them living wages, so they had a decent roof over their heads, so they could buy food and clothing, maybe even have a little left over to buy something fun.

Dickens didn't think that was such a bad thing, and who in their right mind could? This dovetails with my last post on the kindness of others.

And I think it's a perfect sentiment and idea for this time of year, and ANY time of the year.

Have a safe and merry Christmas!! :-)

~Nancy Beck


The Kindness of Others

I've been concerned about having good karma for a number of years now. Not only do I want to be able to sleep at night, but I truly want to be as kind to other people as I possibly can. You could say it's partially a fear thing, in that if I'm a rotten bastard to people, then that's going to come back and bite off my ass. The other part is the pleasure in seeing or hearing someone be nice back to you, by offering thanks, a pat on the back, or what have you.

Well, yesterday, I had a bear of time getting out of my parking spot at home. I had to get the hubby out to get the damn car out. Which he did :-), and he even got it out of the alleyway.

Fortunately for me, I got my car out of the parking spot today.

Unfortunately for me, I hesitated going out onto the intersecting road at the end of the alleyway.


I slid on the ice, sideways. I went back and forth, back and forth - but the car just couldn't get enough grip.

A nice older man in a pink house within earshot of the car came out. He tried to push the car in the back - no dice. Then he put some ice melt under the back tires - no dice. Then, unbelievably, a nice young guy in a cap came along. They both tried pushing. Nope. Then Cap Guy dug out some huge chunks of snow from under the front tire. Pushing still didn't work.

Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck at this point, but I managed to keep calm, as I know if I became too emotional, my mind would be mush. The old guy came out with some big-ass pieces of cardboard, which both men lodged under the back tires.

They pushed, I gave it the gas...and voila!! The car, she is free! I thanked them profusely as I drove off.

I wish each of those nice gentlemen the very best Christmas (or whatever holiday they may celebrate), and a healthy life.

~Nancy Beck


Oy, Court Date

Well, just got a call from hubby. His court date is Friday, 1/4/08, at 8:30. (Boy, talk about getting it out of the way, although it's taken a long time in coming.)

At least we'll have the holidays together. After that...we'll just have to wait and see. (Not that he'd be going away for years, if he's to be put away, but still...).


~Nancy Beck


Yesterday was a particularly crappy day. (I know: Cue the violins! ;-))

Not only was there an snow and ice storm (the sleet started at 9:00am, waaay before the weather people said it would), but my low back was absolutely killing me. (It's a bit better today.) So I hunkered down for the count, taking a naproxen and putting a hot water bottle on my low back.

I slept the entire morning on the couch, with our 2 sweet doggies lying nearby.

I felt hungry enough to have lunch, then the ol' back started up again, so the water bottle made another appearance.

This morning, even though I left the car running, I still had to scrape off some ice off the damn thing. Yeah, the ice was so thick that I had to use the scraper as a pick just to chop through it all. And when you're not exactly 100%...

Anyway, I made it in to work. I really wanted to finish up critting the novelette that I told someone I'd crit for them, but I wanted to do it justice, and yesterday wasn't the day for much of anything (except slogging around the house with dishelved hair, heh). So I'm going to try to finish it up over the weekend, where, of course, we'll have another storm to look forward to (Nor'easter', anyone?).

Ah well.

~Nancy Beck


Terry Pratchett

I haven't read any of Terry Pratchett's books, and I doubt I ever will (I just don't think they're for me), but it was interesting to read in Publisher's Lunch that he has the beginnings of Alzheimer's:
We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism. For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, I expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers. Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet.

That really, really sucks. Naturally, I wish him and his family well.

~Nancy Beck


And Now Something For The Wheel of Time Fans

I gave up on the Wheel of Time (WOT) series by Robert Jordan at about the 4 book mark, but plenty o'people plowed ahead through the rest of the series. Robert Jordan, unfortunately, didn't finish the series because of his untimely death.

Well, WOT fans, unite and rejoice! Tor has announced the Brandon Sanderson will finish the series.

The very last book of the series is entitled A Memory of Light. Yes, THE last WOT book, what a lot of fans have been dreaming of for a long time.

It looks as if Mr. Sanderson is a logical fit, as he credits Mr. Jordan as an inspiration for his decision to become a writer. I wish Mr. Sanderson a hearty congratulations and good luck, too. :-)

You can read about it on The Book Swede's blog.

~Nancy Beck


Having Trouble Getting In Your Daily Writing?

I'm sure there are plenty of nudges to spark your writing (like writing prompts, although prompts have never seemed to work for me), and I thought this site, Black On White, looked like an interesting place to help with that.

I haven't used it yet, but it might be something to look into. It has an email ilst, too, which might be a great way to have someone light a fire under your butt just when you need it the most (like if you've been rejected for the 20th time or something).

Since writing is such a solitary pursuit, it's always nice to find people who understand where you're coming from and can offer their support.

ETA: The original link I had (the url of which was suggested by the website) has been changed, bringing you to the welcome page of the site. (Sheesh! The things you have to look out for!)

~Nancy Beck


The Latest On My Writing

I started in on Chapter 4 yesterday, clearing out quite a few things, combining other stuff, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

I revised about a third of it, and I wondered if maybe I should have another character, specifically, Viv, start in on her observations. (She's cynical, a wise-ass, and a usually caustic tongue, but she treats people who help her like gold; oh, and then there's something my MC, Rita, and she have in common, but Viv's not forthcoming about it).

Anyway, I'll probably print out this chapter and go over it even moreso, as I only have a vague idea as to where I was going with this when I originally wrote it, lol. I'm not sure if I want to go down the original road, but I'll see. Depends on whether it sounds squicky, and if I feel it's still important to the story.

Because at a certain point (the mid-point, that is), the story is going to veer into another, better direction than what I originally wrote. The middle is lukewarm at best, and most of it needs to go.

I'm also helping out a fellow writer by critting her novelette. I love the MC and found the story intriguing; pulled me in!

That's about it for now. Back to my day job! :-)

~Nancy Beck


My Revisions

I realized late last week that I certain part of Chapter 3 in my WIP made no sense.

My MC, who's wearing nothing but a bra and panties (you'll have to read to find out why, lol ;-)), and only has a blanket to cover her, is standing in someone's house, talking as if she's wearing a dress or something.

Nope, says my brain, that wouldn't happen.

My MC is whisked back in time by a Roman goddess, so her mind's already a little messed up. ;-) So why should she be perfectly fine just standing around, in her undies, talking to people she's just met? And why wouldn't at least one of those people point out that, um, it ain't natural for a stranger to be standing around with a blanket tugged tight around her?

Yeah. Exactly. So I had to do some cuttin' and pastin' to get one of the other people to say something snarky to her, have her do a little freak, then run into another room, slamming the door behind her. Mission accomplished!

As it originally read, it was important, in that the MC received some good info about the people in the house, etc., but it wasn't right the way it was written. I feel it reads much better now, although a few tweaks here and there is not out of the question. I can guarantee there'll be some other revisions on this, but not as extensive.

The middle part of the story is going to drive me nuts, though. ::sigh:: I wasn't sure originally what I was going to do in the middle of the story, but I wrote what I came up with at the time. My latest idea (especially after reading about a writer Agent Kristin just recently took on) is from a book that's coming out in 2009, and that has an element or event that's the same in my story; different story, though (and I don't think the 2009 book is a blend of SF and fantasy).

Anyway, I took care of that over the weekend, and look forward to hashing out more stuff in the coming days and weeks.

I still plan to start sending out queries in February next year, and I'm determined to keep that deadline in mind.

~Nancy Beck

Evil Editor's Writing Exercise

I love going to Evil Editor's blog. Sometimes he has writing exercises, especially when the till is low.

I decided to partake of this one. Why? I dunno. Maybe it was because it had something to do with a private detective or something. Anyway, there are others that were submitted including from yours truly, and they all had me cracking up.

Mine is Number 6. Go ahead. Have some fun here.

~Nancy Beck


Fantasy Book Recommendations

I'll get to how-to books in another post.

Lately, I've been buying books like they're going out of style. It's like I can't resist picking up something where a) the cover looks cool and b) the first page or two has me hooked. Although that didn't happen this past Saturday; absolutely nothing grabbed me.

Here, then, are the really good books I've read this year and can heartily recommend (in no particular order).

Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder (full review is here)

You might think that a story about a food taster in a military-type kingdom (for want of a better word) wouldn't make for a good, fast-paced story. And you'd be wrong. Written in first person, this is the account of Yelena, who murdered a higher-up's son. She doesn't attempt to say she didn't do it, only that she had a good reason to do it. She's taken from the dungeons and passes the test to become a food taster. She's kept there because she needs to take an antidote for the daily poison she's given (one of the stipulations for her life being spared).

She becomes part of the castle and government intrigue--and is somebody trying to murder her? First in a series (this is typical for fantasy, BTW).

Magic Lost, Trouble Found, by Lisa Shearin (full review is here)

This is my favorite book of this year, and it's a debut, to boot. Rather than get more gushy over this story (heh), just read the full review for why I liked it so much and why I think you will, too. First in a series.

And it's not just the fact that two of the goblins are sexy. But that just adds more fun and complications to the story (a good thing, for sure :-)).

The Princes of the Golden Cage, by Nathalie Mallett (full review is here)

Despite question mark problems that irked (Daffy Duck: "Hmm, pronoun trouble!"), this is still a good read. Another one in first person and yet another debut, this has a Middle-Eastern flavor that takes it out of the usual European-type world of fantasy. I especially liked that the MC was a bookhound (kinda like me, heh), but didn't have a jelly spine. First in a series, although the main problem is wrapped up by the end.

Okay, there aren't many here, and I hesitate to recommend Throne of Jade only because you have to read the first in that series (His Majesty's Dragon, although I like better its title in Britain, Temeraire, which is the name given to the dragon). Read the first one before deciding if you'd like to continue with the series.

~Nancy Beck


Where the Hell Have I Been?

I know I said I'd leave a post on Black Friday with recommendations for good how-to books and fantasy books, too.

::har de har har::

Well, that came to pass, didn't it? ;-) There's been plenty o'happenin' around my neck of the woods. There was Thanksgiving, which we spent at my brother's house. He and the kids looked great, everything was fun - including their new dogs. Both are very sweet, although Emma (a golden retriever) loves to jump; but she'll also lick you within one inch of your life! :-) The other one, Jesse, is equally sweet, and kind of shy. She reminded me a lot of our own Frodo (a Husky/Malamute/Ingredient X mix), especially when we first got him; he was shy and nervous about everything around him.

The other significant thing over these past few days: I've revised the first 3 chapters of my WIP. Yay me! :-) I'll admit that I was a bit down about the opening (first chapter, actually). So I decided to try a couple of different ways of looking at it, including a complete overhaul of the opening scene.

Didn't work.

I decided to get out an old version of StoryCraft software. This is software based on the Jarvis Method (which is based on Joseph Campbell's ideas on the Hero's Journey). I think it helped me nail down exactly what I wanted to accomplish in this novel.

I also dug out an old electronic version (close to the original draft) of the complete WIP.

Before doing any revisions, I went online to kind of ease my mind as what I'd originally written. I found something that did just that; we have to get invested in the MC and her world before the inciting incident occurs. Mine occurs in Chapter 2. But I have foreshadowed a few things so it's not all "WTF?" moments. In fact, one thing foreshadowed isn't seen again until the end of the story. (That's like in a mystery story where you might describe a cane in intricate detail, and then have that cane used later on in the story for whatever reason. In fact, you better use that cane somewhere along the line, or why else go into such detail?)

Anyway, something clicked for me yesterday. I worked on those first 3 chapters throughout the day. Everything just flowed, until I got to the 3rd chapter. I had a few scenes with a minor character that were funny, and I tried to get rid of that character's insights and meanderings and think about what my MC would see and hear instead.

It was awkward, to say the least. The scene after that (which is the start of the next chapter) is in the MC's POV, and partially talks about what happened with her interacting with the minor character. I know, I know, I should've just done it in one or the other POV, but for whatever weird reason, I wrote it from opposing viewpoints. What I'll do is I'll go through what I wrote in the 3rd chapter and compare it to the 4th chapter, keeping what I think is good, trashing what I think is bad.

Oy. I want to get through the rest of the story by next February, do maybe one last revision or run through, then start crafting the query letter. ::gak:: I'd rather go to the dentist than do a query letter.

I'll do the recommendations thing tomorrow.

~Nancy Beck


You May Have Noticed Something...

...then again, you may have not.

WTF are you talking about, you say?

Well, I've been reading up on a pretty good fantasy review blog, one that does only fantasy debuts - Fantasy Debut Blog. It's quite good, and I notice Tia, the blog owner, picked up on the same debuts that I did (or maybe it's the other way around ;-)).

Anyway, that made me think (which isn't always easy to do, let me tell you). I'd changed the reviewing portion of what my blog is about to include mystery and romance reviews. I was starting to get into mysteries again, and I'd only just begun getting into romance (and I don't mean paranormal stuff, which I'd normally read anyway, because of the fantasy element).

Tia said something on her blog that struck a chord with me: She wanted to limit what she reviewed because she didn't have the time. So she chose to review only debut fantasy.

So...I've decided to only review fantasy. I'll still read mysteries and romances, but I won't do any reviews of them. I'll do all the other writerly-type stuff, too, but I'll just stick with fantasy reviews because it's what I keep turning to to read, it's what I write, and I understand most (if not all) of the tropes of fantasy.

Those reviews that were not fantasy I've already deleted. Since I have mucho books to go through, there'll be more reviews coming along, have no fear. ;-) (Or maybe you do fear it, thinking, OMG, more of those crap reviews about books I don't even care about? My hope is that you'll just click on the book cover, buy the book through Amazon, and throw a few pennies my way. Shameless plug, yes. Heh.)

I don't know if I'll be posting tomorrow, as I have to drive to my brother's house in south Jersey for Thanksgiving. I will post on Black Friday, with some recommendations on good books to buy (yessss, more Amazon book covers coming your way, mwahaha! ;-)).


~Nancy Beck


What I'm Currently Reading #5

After finally figuring out how to upload book pictures with my Amazon Associates link embedded within (yay!), I figured I'd post about what I'm reading.

It's a book I picked up several months ago. It's called Stolen Magic, by M. J. Putney. Apparently, it's the 2nd in a series, but it's not one of those books (at least so far) where the author expects you to remember what came in a prior book. (Methinks this is because the stories may be standalones, with nary a cliffhanger ending in sight.)

It's an historical fantasy, and it's set in 1748, just before the Industrial Revolution. Simon Malmain, Earl of Falconer, is a Guardian, a family of mages who try to keep rogue mages contained. Well, right off the bat, something goes wrong to the Earl: He's changed into a unicorn. (Cool.) He manages to get away from Lord Drayton, the rogue he's supposed to bring in. Instead, he barely manages to get away.

But Lord Drayton wants the unicorn back, for its magic. So one of his underlings takes Drayton's ward, a simpleton lass named Meg, and leaves her tied up in the forest, to bring the unicorn back...

I'm a bit further along now, and it's quite a nice read to this point. I enjoy combinations like this (that is, combining the historical with fantasy; SF is also enjoyable, as you will note in my post on Time and Again).

After that? Sheesh, my reading pile is, um, piled in a corner of this one room of the house. Plus, I've also got a few books at work, hidden away. (Mwahahaha!!) Anyway, I'm unsure where I'll go after this; I might go for one of the books at work, because I've given them short shrift lately.

~Nancy Beck

Time and Again - A Review

Time and Again
Touchstone, 400 pages

Back in the 1970s, my mother would get Reader's Digest Condensed Books delivered every month. (She still does.) And every month I would look through that fat book to see which of the abridged books I wanted to read. Sometimes there weren't any that interested me, but there usually was at least one.

This book was one of them.

I guess I've always been fascinated with the idea of time travel. Who wouldn't want to go back in time and check out historical figures or just observe a culture and its everyday life, something totally different from your own?

Simon Morley works as an illustrator/artist for an advertising agency in New York, a job he snagged after attending college and the army before that. His job pays decently but it's boring. A man comes to his office and tells him that he's with the army; the army/U.S. Government is working on a secret project. Would Simon be interested in taking part in the project? Si would have to leave his job and all of his friends behind - including his girlfriend, Kate, who owns a small antique shop - but as Si's parents are dead and he was an only child, the army guy tries to convince him that it shouldn't be too hard to make the break.

Si agrees to join, naturally. But he asks those who are heading up the project if he can pick the time period and the place. He chooses 1882 New York. The reason? Someone in Kate's family lived during that time, and she's always been curious about a half-burned letter and envelope (both colored blue, of all things); what exactly happened to her ancestor?

He goes back in time not by using any sort of machine, but by dressing in period clothes, living in an apartment that was around at the time he's going back to (1882), and by using some sort of hypnotic state.

It works, and he's transported to 1882 New York.

Kate manages to sneak in on one of his transports back, and they have an uneasy but interesting time of it. They find out that Times Square is every bit as noisy in 1882 and in 1970 (when the book was originally published), that certain landmarks aren't where they are in 1970, and that the Statue of Liberty's arm - the one with the torch - is on display!

Those in the project decide to push Si further within 1882 society by having him live among people; there, he falls in love with Julia, the niece of the owner of a brownstone. He meets up with Kate's ancestor...with not so good results.

He's then given an ultimatum by those running the project, something the original "owner" of the project refuses to be in on. But Si goes back one more time, deciding to take things into his own hands...

Mr. Finney gives some sort of claptrap about Eistein and his theory relativity to explain how Si and others can go back in time; it's quite lame, but I could go along with it.

Where this book truly shines is in its evocation of a time long past. You can actually feel the joy of being in a sleigh singing "Jingle Bells" and understanding what that meant; the aforementioned Statue of Liberty's torch arm being on display is a wonder, especially as it towers above the trees; and there are still farms in Manhattan at that time. And that's what Mr. Finney has imbued this illustrated novel with: a sense of joy, a sense of wonderment. And, yes, you read that right: There are black-and-white illustrations as well woodcut-type sketches of scenes around New York at that time (including a couple of photos of the torch arm). Be warned, though: Mr. Finney goes on and on with descriptions of the people he meets and the sights he sees, and they are quite wordy. For me, this worked, because I have a deep fascination with history. But I could see this being quite tedious for some.

Where I felt there was a let down were at various points in the plot. The beginning is quite slow until the army/government guy shows up. There is one scene later in the book where Mr. Finney is describing a fire in such detail; I felt some of that could have been cut. Si also lets loose with a whole big deal about pollution destroying the planet and all (this is 1970, and there were a lot of serious environmental problems at the time) which I felt was too preachy; where did that come from? There wasn't much foreshadowing - just a sentence or two - so that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

Also, there are some terms that I found curious, even for 1970. Calling the women in the office "girls" was merely irksome (and I got over that pretty fast). But calling black people Negroes? Huh? WTF? I grew up at that time, and I can't for the life of me remember my parents or anyone in my family calling black people Negroes (or the disgusting other "N" word). Also, some of the clothing terms just sounded weird, like referring to men's dress pants as "wash pants" or something equally as strange.

So...I found the MC, Si, engaging, and the evocation of a time past fascinating. If you can get past the few downer things I've mentioned, you'll get to a most satisfying and understandable ending.

~Nancy Beck


This is Fun - Sort of

I was wandering about the blogoscape this morning, landing on agent Nathan Bransford's blog. A prior posted pointed to this post on Paperback Writer's blog.

Fun stuff - unless you fall into one of those categories.

My current WIP? Well, let's see. I'll go down the list:

"1. Amazing McTechno Thing. Your novel features a fantastic gadget, method of transportation or scientifical process..."

Well...kinda sorta. ;-) It's sort of a fantastic method of transportation, in that I have a Roman goddess (not one of the well-known ones) transport the MC back in time. She opens a door, and, amazingly(!!!), the doorway no longer is there. It's the front part of a movie studio administration building (made-up studio, of course), complete with bushes and path leading up to the front door. Heh. If you like that kind of fantastical stuff - and the way I describe it is, I think, a lot of fun (think of an old movie that opens in black-and-white but changes over to glorious Technicolor).

"2. Brother McVampires."

Not in this one. Although I have an idea germinating that includes some vampires in a weird, off-the-wall way, although neither (they're brothers) would be the MC. They would help out the MC (who's a werewolf, BTW), as they've already staked their claim (ha!! Get it, get it? Nudge, nudge, nudge...) Oops, sorry. But, yeah, it'll take place on Broadway and environs in an alternate New York (although some might say NYC is already there, heh ;-)).

3, 4, and 5 don't pertain to this WIP or my idea (or even another idea I have).

"6. Happily Ever McAfter."

This is a staple of most romances, of which I'm not writing one. My story has a bittersweet ending to it, which I think makes sense (at least, to me it does).

7, 8, and 9 don't pertain to anything I've written.

"10. Whodun McIt. Your novel has a murder mystery solved by an ex-cop, ex-therapist or ex-Fed detective with a dangerous but heart-of-gold sidekick who is beaten up or killed; the villain will either be a beautiful dame, a fat man or a good friend of the detective."

In my prior WIP (which I hoping will morph into something else), it was a murder mystery or sorts (paranormal division), but it was going to be solved by a woman about to lose her job, had just recently gone through a divorce, was fiercely protective of her dog, and worked out to exercise videos (not necessarily in that order). The villian was a beautiful dame, but she wasn't of this world, and was having a hard time getting used to a human body.

I suppose I could've done something with that, but it just wasn't working for me. Meh. I'm stealing some stuff from that and will be using it in something else.

A fun little exercise, nonetheless.

~Nancy Beck


Poetry.com Is a Scam

This is probably old news to those who've been writing a while or to those who've researched the crap out of stuff (like me, heh).

Poetry.com and all of its iterations are SCAMS. Period.

This organization is as bad as PublishAmerica (PA) because they take everything. Want to see your poem with your byline? Buy one of their over-priced books (about $50).

Stay as far away from this one as possible.

Still unconvinced? That's okay; you should always do some research before sending off your babies. Try these:

Literary Scams

Absolute Write - Bewares and Background Checks

Ink For Blood LiveJournal - Poetry.com

If you want ideas as to where to send your poems as well as some nice support, the Absolute Write forums has a Writing Poetry section under Writing Studios. People there will give you the straight poop as to where to send your poems, payment, etc. (And by no means look for a literary agent; agents don't rep poems because there's not enough money in it for them, unless you happen to be well known, like Maya Angelou. If someone does offer to rep your poems, tell them to get lost: They're a scammer, only intereseted in separating you from your money.)

~Nancy Beck


Support the Writers' Strike!

I usually live in a day-to-day haze, but even I've heard about the writers' strike going on in Hollywood.

The gist I originally got was that "writers are asking for too much" and "your favorite shows are going into reruns" and "your favorite shows might be canceled." Well, that might be the case, but so what? Writers are way down on the food chain, especially in Hollywood. They're expected to come up with brilliant scripts for very little pay.

I'm reminded of something I read in one of the many movie studio books I have lying around my house. I read about Fay Wray (yeah, she of King Kong fame) saying that she literally worked around the clock during The Depression, working on one movie during the day, taking a short break, then reporting for another movie at night. She said she was glad of the work at the time, but she was utterly spent, and I'll bet she wasn't well compensated.

Then the actors unionized, and producers could no longer do that sort of stuff.

This is along those lines. As an aspiring writer, I want the writers in Hollywood to get their due, whatever that is, be it more up-front money, more in the way of pensions, whatever. I know for a fact that most published fiction writers cannot write 10-12 hours per day; they have day jobs, just like the rest of us. (Stephen King and J. K. Rowling and other super successful writers are the exceptions.)

I really admire people like Tightrope Walker, who's a writer on House, my favorite TV show.

To get more insight into this, go to her post and read it through, as she's more up on this than I am. (It's a long post, BTW, but a worthwhile and enlightening read.)

I wish them all the luck in the world, and I truly hope this goes in the writers favor. (BTW, the support avatar on the upper right side of my blog I copied from here.)

~Nancy Beck


What I'm Currently Reading #4

Yeah, I didn't label one as #3 because I was in a foul mood (to put it simply).

I finished up The Gun Sellera few days ago; simply wonderful! I'm not going to offer up a review as it's outside the scope of this blog (it's a suspense/thriller novel), but suffice to say that although it's humorous, there's a definite plot. One of the things that got me about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was that while I found it funny (especially the thing with the towel), there was absolutely no plot. At least to me there wasn't a plot. (No doubt someone who reads SF/fantasy will beg to differ, and that's fine; whatever floats your boat, er, spaceship.)

If I'm going out of my way to read a book, I like to have some semblance of a plot. It doesn't haven't to be something "ripped from the headlines" or that will teach me something about the U.S. social fabric.

It's also possible that I just read HH at the wrong time; I may re-read it at some point. But with so many other books to read, it'll probably be a while.

Right now, I'm reading Time and Again by Jack Finney. This is one I read as a Reader's Digest Condensed Books selection back in the 1970s. Yes, it was actually printed then (1970, to be exact), and it's a lovely time travel novel. Si Morley, a NYC ad guy, travels back to NYC circa 1882. At first, he's merely curious about his surroundings, contrasting it with the "modern" NYC of 1969-70 (an almost-dying Hudson River, endless noise, lots of interesting old buildings replaced with ugly glass buildings), but then he becomes more and more involved with that society.

I hadn't read this since it originally came out (when I lived not too, too far from NYC), and I started to wonder if my tastes had changed: The beginning is quite slow. However, once Mr. Finney got into the specifics of 1882 NYC (imagine seeing the disembodied hand of the Statue of Liberty on display!), I raced through it. Quite evocative and totally mesmerizing.

And, of course, I understand why it's slow going at first. We have to see the Si in his dull ad job (he's into the sketching/drawing end of it), which is one part that motivates him to go back. Another is his current girlfriend, who would like to know what happened to one of her ancestors.

Anyway, I'm rolling along in this book, and should have a review up in a few days.

~Nancy Beck


The Princes of the Golden Cage - A Review

Princes of the Golden Cage
Night Shade Books, 320 pages

I saw a review on a writer's blog or website and was intrigued, especially as the general idea here - that of Arabic princes locked up in a cage - is based on historical fact.

The story, though, is pure fiction.

Prince Amir lives in luxury with the rest of his brothers, except that they can't leave the premises. Then, once his father decides on his heir, the rest are free to go - that is, the rest will be killed. After all, who needs the rest of them?

While Amir's father is off doing what sultans usually do, his sons are fighting it out among themselves, with their positions as favored to be the heir posted for all to see.

Amir, alas, is well down the line, and he doesn't mind it in the least. He can handle a sword pretty well, but he's decided to keep away from all but two of his brothers. He keeps himself entertained with books, especially with books on magic, and working on alchemical experiments.

Living the life of a monk, Amir's life is upset when one of his brothers is murdered in a strange way; it looks as if it has dark magic written over it, something which the Grand Vizier thinks Amir might be able to figure out.

Or is Amir being looked at as the murderer precisely because of those experiments?

He meets up with one of his blonde brothers, Erik, after the first murder, but Amir cannot figure out what is going on or how to stop the murderer; his brothers are dropping like dead flies.

Romance comes into it when Amir picks up something of Erik's, a locket with a picture of a fair-haired maiden inside. Amir is almost instantly smitten with her, yet dismisses himself as a suitor because he is so far down the heir line; she is betrothed to the next Sultan.

Amir and his brothers have never been outside the palace, aka the cage. Will Amir die with the rest of them without tasting freedom?

I found this an enjoyable read. Parts were tedious, but the story moved along at a decent clip. I found Amir to be an interesting character - a bookworm with a bit of a temper (at times). What endeared me even more was how he cared for the two brothers nearest him, Mir and Jafer, both of whom seemed to be insane. Amir was afraid one of his other brothers would do them harm, so he usually would get food with them, and talk to them...when they would allow him to do so.

What brings this book down slightly might just be personal irritations, but they are irritations nonetheless. There were a lot of run-on sentences. While I don't mind run-ons from time to time, I just felt there were too many so that my eyes would glaze. (There must been quite a few for me to remember them, unfortunately.) Fortunately, this was not an ongoing problem, just one that seemed to crop up from time to time.

The other irritation were the obvious questions not ending in question marks. I'll admit that that's nitpicky. But it brought me out the story anyway, to the point where I'd say, "Question mark, question mark!" Either the author has something against using question marks (which I doubt) or maybe her editor just missed this. I can't imagine that most of those question were actually statements made by different characters. (Sure, I get that questions can be said in such a way that they sound more like statements, like when a character is pissed off at someone.) Again, that I noticed it means that maybe the editing was off.

That's not to take away from this story, however. I found the story and characters interesting, and look forward to the next in this trilogy (seems like most fantasies are trilogies now-a-days).

Anyway, worth a looksee.

~Nancy Beck



I've be doing some critting this week over on Absolute Write's Share Your Work forum. I've been doing some pretty extensive crits, and I guess I'm just curious as to how some of the writers are going to take what I've given them.

Not that they have to take anything of what I've said, of course. Everyone knows their own stories better than anyone else (at least, they SHOULD know).

So far, one writer agreed that his descriptions were overwhelming the story, although he didn't take too kindly to my not liking omniscient POV. (That, of course, is a personal thing which I didn't make clear in my original crit. My bad.) Another liked what I had to say about her prologue, and was going to keep it in mind. She's already posted a revision (which I haven't gotten to yet).

I critted another 2 stories (whew!) today. One was about dragons. I felt this writer started in the wrong place, opening with a last-of-its-species dragon. I mistakenly thought this was the MC until I read on, where he talks about people in a nearby village (and one person in particular). When he has this particular person look up at the mountain and see what he thinks is a dragon - yup, I think this is where your story starts, because something is going to happen.

Another one was an excerpt from further into a story. It was interesting, but I felt this author used too many run-on sentences - including the very first one! (This wasn't from the opening chapter, but somewhere in the middle of the book.) I just finished reading a book - which I should post a review for - where the author did pretty much the same through several portions of the story. Drove me crazy. And another odd thing was that a number of questions that were clearly questions didn't end in a question mark.

Crack that whip!

Meh. I know it's not something to get completely overwhelmed by, but I did find it irritating, thinking "Question mark! Question mark!" over and over.

I'll probably post that review tomorrow. It's a debut (I love finding new authors, don't you?), and I still found the story pretty good.

~Nancy Beck


Airleaf Victims, Unite!

Read up on this on the Absolute Write Water Cooler (see the sidebar for the link to the general site), and on the Writer Beware site. Apparently, Airleaf aka Bookman Marketing, has been spamming the hell out of people for a few years.

That would be bad enough.

What's worse is that Airleaf enticed enough poor souls to part with their money, to have their book, er, published.

Which makes sense in a few cases.

But Airleaf bilked these people out of more than $1,000 in a lot of cases. Well, Bonnie Kaye, who coughed up $1,850(!!) to Airleaf, decided it was time for revenge against this sham marketer and/or publisher (or is it both? Sheesh!). She's started a website to get back at them. It's called Airleaf Victims Fightback, and on it, she gives her story and those of others who've been scammed.

Good for her and 90+ authors who've decided to take legal action against the company in the state of Indiana. Go to the website and read some of the stories - one poor man was taken for $10,000!

Airleaf must be completely shameless. I hope for the best for Bonnie and all authors who've been defrauded. Maybe the law, at the very least, shut down Airleaf!

~Nancy Beck


Anomalos - Yet Another Publish America?

Bah. I went over to the Writers Beware blog and saw the entry on yet another printer playing at being a publisher.

The one in question is called Anomalos Publishers, and you can read the post here.

In their FAQ is the same, tired old crap that makes you want to run away screaming. Stuff like:

"...nearly all traditional publishers have scaled back or eliminated altogether their willingness to publish new authors."

Anomalos authors often order as many as 10,000 to 20,000 copies in the first run, but 1,000 is the minimum we require."


Guess what? "Traditional" publishers (a term I think Publish America (PA) came up with) still publish new authors; they do it all the time. Because authors decide to stop writing. Because authors die. Because authors don't necessarily come out with a book every year (like Nora Roberts, who I think writes up more than one book a year - wow!!!).

Anyway, remember, all authors - yes, even the bestselling ones - were once newly published. (Fancy that!)

As to buying your own book...sorry, that's straight from crappy old PA's way of thinking (after all, they market to writers rather than readers, so from where do you think they get their money?). And a minimum of 1,000 books? Math isn't my strong suit, so you should look at one of the anonymous posters who made a hypothetical example.

The amount of dough you'd have to shell out in that poster's example? Something like $9,000!!

Uh, no.

That's not how it works. How it works is that the author never shells out any money upfront. What incentive is there for the "publisher" to market your book if you give them money right away? Right, zippo. Real, legitimate publishers give you money; a bigger publisher even gives you an advance. So the publisher is in the hole from the get-go (and you get to keep the advance, whether book does well or not).

Don't leave out the smaller publishers, especially if you have a book that you think is hard to place (too quirky or whatever). Although smaller publishers generally don't give out advances, you also (usually) don't have to worry about getting an agent; you can submit to them directly.

Always, always, always do your research before sending out your baby. You'll save all those extra dollar bills in your wallet.

As for Anomalos - meh, pass, of course. If all you want is a book in your hand, head on over to Lulu.com.

~Nancy Beck

Free Writing Courses

Say you haven't written at all or you haven't written in about a year, due to illness or life being especially cruel or busy.

Well the BBC has some nice mini-courses to give yourself a kickstart or a refresher. And, they're free, which can come in handy. :-)

They're split into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced courses (with exercises), and these might just be the thing to help you out when you're sitting scratching your head, wondering, What the hell do I do now?

You can find them here.

~Nancy Beck


What I Was Going to Do...

I was going to offer up a review of the latest book I finished, but as I'm fighting sinusitis ::sigh::, I'll instead just list here the next book I've started up.

(Yeah, I have an insatiable appetite to read books. Kinda takes my mind off my cruddy personal life.)

But I digress.

I'm a huge House fan, and I was surprised to find that Hugh Laurie actually wrote a novel back in the 1990s. (I also didn't realize he'd been in Blackadder, among other British series; I did know he was in the Stuart Little movie.) Since he has an extensive comedy background, it's no stretch to find out that his novel, The Gun Seller, is a humorous take on the suspense/thriller.

The opening chapter really made me laugh. Nice. :-)

Of course once I'm done I'll throw up (if you've read the book, you'll know that's a bad choice of words) a review of it.

~Nancy Beck


Nathan Bransford's Paragraph Contest

Well, he and someone named May have chosen 6 finalists...I wasn't among them, alas, but now you get a chance to vote on the one that really grabbed you.

I voted for Sophie W and her imps. It just sounded like the fun beginning to a fun story. My 2nd choice was Regan and her SF entry...really creepy. But I guess I'm in a "I wanna read fun stuff" mood, so that's why I chose Sophie's.

They're all good choices, by the way, and they're not all spec fic, either, lol.

Why don't you join in the fun and leave your comment/vote? The post is here.

~Nancy Beck


What I'm Reading Now - Part Whatever It Is

It's cloudy, it's raining, my endo is acting up big time, and the personal crap is still up in the air. (Just a really fine day all around, ya know?)

So I'm in a cranky, sarcastic mood, in case you hadn't noticed. (Which is why I made the prior post, to at least make up for my crankiness.)

Having just finished a really great fantasy novel, I'm now forging ahead and...reading another fantasy novel. :-) Actually, it's pretty good so far, and what hooked me into it was a good review (a surprise to the person reviewing it) another blog. The main thing in this particular story is that the place where it, um, takes place is a cage.

No, this isn't about werewolves or some kinky sexual thing, but the idea here is that Princes of the Golden Cage (which I can't link to because I have to use freakin' Internet Exploder because Firefox isn't working here at work, and this Exploder version doesn't have tabs) holds all the princes of the sultan until one of them is deemed worthy of becoming the sultan's Number One Heir. Oh, and keeps the princes from doing naughty things, like killing the sultan and his yes men.

Yeah, it's actually based on something in Turkish history (or somewhere thereabouts), and the author, Nathalie Mallett, thought it sounded interesting and turned it into a fantasy/mystery.

Yum. Nice. My two favoritest genres. Kinda like the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cups commercials (you know, the ones where two people "accidentally" bump into each other, one holding a jar of peanut butter, the other with piece of chocolate).

I just started it, and it'll be interesting to see where Ms. Mallett takes this (another debut author for me, as was Lisa Shearin).

~Nancy Beck

The Joys of Falling Underwear

Need a romance fix?

Strike that. Need a weird/creepy/cheesy romance fix? (It's not porn, I swear!)

Then you must check out this section of the lileks.com site. (ETA: Changed the link, which hopefully works now.)

It's the art(?) of Art Frahm, a dude who liked to paint sexy chicks (in the 1950s) in every day garb, with one exception: Their panties were always shown falling about their ankles (or thighs). Oh, and the dude had a thing for celery, too.

No, not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. ;-)

Have a good, cheesy time with the, uh, art of Art Frahm and have a chuckle or three. And then check out the rest of the site, and see if some of it doesn't make you want to pluck out your eyeballs.

~Nancy Beck


News on the Fantasy Front

I received an email from Amazon this morning about Diana Pharaoh Francis (don't you just love that name? Oh, how I could go on and on about people's names...) and her latest, which is due out on November 6. It's called The Cipher, and I remember when I sent her an email about her Path series (also excellent and recommended, especially her first one, Path of Fate), that she thought this next series, Crosspointe, was even better than Path.

It's another water-based society (yes!), and it sounds intriguing. Hop on over to her website for a peek at the first chapter.

What is it with me and water? I just think I'm a water person and have been for most of my life. Nothing would thrill me more than to chuck it all and buy a houseboat. Imagine going to sleep at sea...

But I digress, heh. The next bit of news is one I found out by accident.

I've read C. E. Murphy's first book in her Walker Papers trilogy, Urban Shaman, just this past year. As I have mucho books in the To Be Read pile, I'd bought the next book in it, Thunderbird Falls, but I haven't read it as yet (and I haven't yet bought Coyote Falls). Well, she's out with her next, The Negotiator trilogy, starting off with Heart of Stone. It's about a Legal Aid lawyer coming to the defense of a gargoyle (heart of stone - yeah, I get it :-)) who's been charged with murder. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

Ah, so many books, not enough time!!

~Nancy Beck

Magic Lost, Trouble Found - A Review

Magic Lost, Trouble Found
Ace, 352 pages

Raine Benares is an elf and a fair-to-middling sorceress in the world of Mermeia (think of a big version of Venice populated with elves, goblins, and magical "experiments"). She's also a seeker, which means she finds things for people who want things found (although sometimes those people later regret that). Raine's first problem is to keep an eye on Quentin Rand, who's breaking into a necromancer's house. Raine doesn't know what Quentin is after, but she wants to make sure he makes it out of that house in one piece; she's used him on a few jobs before and trusts him - sort of.

One of Raine's cousins, Phaelan, joins her in the alleyway across the street, ready to help, if need be. Raine slipped a tracking stone on Quentin, and it allows her to see things from Quentin's point of view. He's in the necromancer's bedroom and takes out a white stone box.

Raine falls over when Quentin opens the box.

Phaelan helps her back to her feet, and she severs the connection to Quentin. But it's not long before all hell breaks loose. They hear a lot of glass breaking and Quentin's shouts. They head to the back of the house and scramble to the top of a wall. Then Quentin is on the bedroom's balcony, except he's not alone: The Khrynsani, an old goblin secret society and military order, has joined him, and it's not to enjoy the night air.

Quentin jumps into some bushes to get away from the goblins, but they follow him. Raine and Phaelan take care of the Khrynsani as best they can, with a minimum amount of blood shed. When Raine asks what Quentin stole, he's hesitant until he pulls out a chain from under his shirt. It's holding a strange but plain amulet...

...an amulet, Raine finds out, that has unbelievable power, which was taken from a soul-stealing stone. And, when she puts it on, to hold it for Quentin, she finds she can't take it off without dire consequences.

The Khrynsani aren't the only ones after her. There's also the current goblin king's brother-in-exile, and a slimy character named Sarad Nukpana. She hopes to survive with her relatives and friends giving her help, specifically, her brother, Piaras, Garadin, her godfather and former Conclave mage, Paladin and spellsinger-extraordinaire Mychael Eiliesor, and Tamnais Nathrach (Tam), a shaman of royal blood.

Can they keep Raine safe and put the amulet back where it belongs? And if the amulet is put in the box, will that be the end of Raine's troubles?

This is a well-crafted and fun story, with interesting characters and many hints of romance (which adds to the story but doesn't overwhelm it). Raine is a kick-ass heroine but no Mary Sue; she has her faults, gets nicked up from time to time, and at times her romantic feelings nearly get the best of her.

As a wannabe author, what I liked (and envy!) is how succinct Ms. Shearin is with her descriptions: They're always just right, which means I get an idea of what something looks like without it being too skimpy nor too wordy.

Take this passage from the first chapter:
The city of Mermeia in the kingdom of Brenir consisted of five islands that had been forced into existence by the determination of its founders, and kept from sinking by the greed of its merchants. A powerful force, greed. It made solid ground where there had once been marsh; built palaces and trading houses where there were reeds; and inspired humans, elves, goblins, and magic users of all races to live together in a city separated only by the canals that marked their respective Districts. Sometimes we even got along.
So we get an idea of the lay of the land, what sort of people/species we'll be reading about, and the MC's cynicism in one paragraph. Nicely done!

This is Ms. Shearin's debut offering, and it's hard to believe, because it's so well done. (And did I say how much I loved the kick-ass, cynical Raine? Ah, oops, yeah!) Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until next year for the next in the series ::sniff::, but Ms. Shearin has graciously included two chapters from her second book, Armed and Magical. Chapter One is here, and Chapter Two is here.

I can't wait! :-)

ETA: Armed and Magical is coming out in April 2008! Must. Wipe. Off. Drool. ;-)

~Nancy Beck


I Decided to Redo the Beginning

And I can blame it on Nathan Bransford's contest. He's very nicely (and courageously!) offered to look at the first paragraphs of works in progress, with a further offer of a partial crit going to the winner.

A bit of background. This is a time travel novel, with the protag, Rita Fuentes, an adoptee who wants to find out who she really is. Her adoptive mother, Margaret, has provided her with a last name of her birth mother, but little else. The phone call she's on will decide where she goes from here.

So here it is, from my WIP which is now titled (I think for about the 5th time), Yesterday's Gone.

Rita Fuentes paced around her adoptive mother's kitchen table until she was sure she'd leave a groove in the linoleum. She stopped in front of the wall phone, staring at the calendar next to it. Just tell me you've found me, Rita thought, flipping through the months with her free hand until she reached September 1974. She froze when she heard the other woman say, "Sorry."

The genealogist coughed, then said, "Don't have all my papers. Be right back."

Rita unfroze long enough to clench her teeth. "Take your time." Wrapping and unwrapping her finger around the phone cord, she turned her gaze to the nearest wall. What was her adoptive mother, Margaret, thinking when she put up that bright green and orange wallpaper? "Guess she had to make sure one part of the house fits in with what passes for decorating." Fitting in. For seven long years, since the hippies' Summer of Love, she'd wondered where she fit in.

"Thanks for holding, Mrs. Fuentes."

Rita held her breath.

"Unfortunately, I can't find anyone in Los Angeles with that last name who had a baby named Rita on September 28, 1942."

Rita blinked, but tears already pricked her eyes. "But adoption records--"

"Usually aren't available to the public, Mrs. Fuentes."

That's not the entire 1st chapter, but it's a nice chunk of it. The time travel takes place not long after this exchange. BTW, Rita is into mythology, and it's through knowing some mythology - and some mythological beings - that she's transported back in time...

~Nancy Beck


I Miss Miss Snark, Too ::sniff::

I saw a post on Patricia Wood's blog about how much she misses Miss Snark.

That's the "too" part of the title of this post. Every day, almost without fail, I would start out my work day at Miss Snark's blog, and lament either when she didn't post for a few days or my work computer would go @&*$&! on me and wouldn't connect to her blog.

It was soooo much fun, esp. when she got going on some subject or another. Yanno, there just isn't anyone else out there with the combination of snarkiness and fun (of course, it helped that she was anonymous).


Just one more time I'd like to have her post about Killer Yapp, or Grandma Snark.

Oh, and it's Miss Snark, not Ms. Snark! ;-)

~Nancy Beck


Joe Torre - A Class Act

The Yankees skipper is gone.

Joe Torre decided to turn down management's offer yesterday; a press conference is scheduled for 2:00 today, so he can give his side of what went down.

Except, since he's always been such a classy guy, I'm not expecting him to point fingers, hem and haw, whine, or otherwise carry on.

No, I expect him to say something keeping within his character: That it was quite a time he had as manager of the Yankees, he's thankful for the World Series wins he has, and will probably say something good about all the men he's managed over the years.

I listened to one of the New York stations this morning, and I agree with one of the announcers, in that I don't think this was a salary issue for Mr. Torre. So what was the issue? He'll probably say something at 2:00, but my speculation is that he thought a one year contract was not enough.

I think he may have felt that with a lot of younger pitchers and other players coming into the mix, it would take more than a year to help them hit their stride, to help them get past the inevitable bumps they're going to have. Although players can sometimes come out like gangbusters the first year or the first few times at bat, sustaining that isn't an easy thing (human nature being what it is). And I think Mr. Torre thought he could nurture those players, bring them along at a pace that would bring them a career rather than a flash in the pan.

(Not that he's a miracle worker; there was one player - whose name escapes me at the moment - who had home runs his first few at bats, a la Shelley Duncan, but who faded from the Yankee scene due to injuries and who-knows-what-else.)

But I digress. It's been 12 years since the Yankees had a different manager, and it already feels strange knowing that Mr. Torre isn't there. I'll survive, and the Yankees will find a different manager, whether it's Mattingly (who shares the exact same birthday - same year, in fact - as my hubby :-)) or somebody else, and Yankee fans will throw cheers and jeers his way, just the same.

Good luck, Mr. Torre, in whatever you decide to do from here on out.

~Nancy Beck


This Is Bad...and Perplexing

I just read a review on Amazon for a vampire romance novel.

This line is Just Plain Bad: "his chest was like paint rollers under the skin." Um, heroine to hero, I assume.

Or maybe I'm assuming too much.

But...what the heck does that mean? What the hell does a paint roller feel like under the skin? Is this something the author experienced first hand?

Eewwww...I really don't want to go there.

ETA: As I haven't read the book (and I doubt that I will, unless I can find a used copy), the line might actually be: "...looked like he was smuggling paint rollers under his skin." And it refers to six-pack abs.

WTF? Why not just say he had chiseled abs or something just as simple (and not as silly or squicky?)

Seriously, though, how can any editor or publisher worth their salt leave in something like that?

It just boggles.

~Nancy Beck

Pay to Have People Come to Your Booksigning?

Well, that's what the Donald (Donald Trump) and his co-writer, Bill Zanker, did yesterday. It was a promotional ploy to get people to buy their book, "Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life."

The NY Times blog post is here.

If you think this is anything like what people do to be the first one to have a novel going on sale (a la J. K. Rowling) or the first in line to see a Star Wars movie...you'd be right. Some dude camped out for three days in front of the store just so he could be the first in line.

Okay. Whatever makes you happy. :-)

~Nancy Beck


Another Book to Recommend

One presenter said something in her crit of a portion of the first chapter of my WIP that niggled something in my brain.

BTW, she thought it started out strong, but lost a bit of steam towards the end, so it wasn't all daisies and sunshine. ;-) Anyway, one of the things she said that the idea I've come up with - an adoptee going back in time to find her birth mother - was fun, but that I needed to make sure that it was unique to my particular story.

Unique? Wait a minute, says I, that unloosed a bit of squicky memory.

So I decided to go through where some of my other writing books (don't we all have billions of them, some good, a lot that suck?), and couldn't find the one I had in mind. As I hadn't had a V-8 (and don't anticipate ever having one again, as it tasted horrible), I finally remembered it was upstairs in the bookcase up there.

Yes, the one I have in mind is this one: Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. Yeah, that Donald Maass, the one who has his own literary agency?

I'd forgotten that this book is what helped me think differently about how my story was going to flow. Originally, it was: woman goes back in time, hangs out with her adoptive mother and girlfriends, and finds her birth mother, after not too much detection time.


In one chapter, Mr. Maass said to escalate the stakes. So how could I escalate the stakes with this particular story? I wrote and rewrote stuff; I let my mind wander. I, of course, looked at some examples Mr. Maass included in the book (really good ones, too; led me to an excellent early novel of George R. R. Martin called Fevre Dream, about vampires on the Mississippi in the years just before the American Civil War; yes, dear reader, he made it work!).

My idea made it more interesting, in that my MC has to do more work to try to meet her birth mother. And it's because of something she's done (I won't get into either here, heh). In fact, this does more than psychologically change my MC.

Anyway, although Mr. Maass gears this more toward a midlist, or already-published, author, don't let it get to you. I do have one pub to my credit, although that was 3 years ago (::sigh:: for a short story). I still used some of what he comes up with in here, and, if nothing else, he includes some really good excerpts that may make you want to go out and get the book.

It might be something to consider. I didn't bother getting the workbook, but that might help, too.



Final Thoughts On the Muse Online Conference

The conference is technically over, although the info in the forums (including chat transcripts) will still be available for the next two weeks to those who registered.

So...was it worth it?

Well, first off, it was free, and who's going to turn up their nose at that? :-)

Second, there were a couple of duds at the conference, with one presenter basically talking just about himself (during his chat) and all of the services he has available, and another presenter just giving us links to her characters' websites or whatever.

The first one imparted a couple of things, but it irked me about his services. (There was a forum where you could provide links, which is what I think he should have done.)

At least I came away with a little bit.

The second presenter? Either she wasn't prepared, she figured it was a good way to promo her novels, or she figured she could just wing it (she didn't send any stuff prior to the conference, which would have made up for the lack of anything constructive).

Note to presenters: Please don't wing it. Send something ahead of time (even if it's just two or three pages of "this is what I did") or give us an exercise or two to work with and let us know what worked and didn't with our stuff.

BTW, humor doesn't make up for the lack of exercises or paperwork sent ahead of time. Sorry.

All in all, though, I thought this was a well-presented cyber conference. Those presenters whom I didn't sit in on the live chats provided exercises, and provided their opinions, for which I'm grateful. (Whether they liked what I did or were confused or whatever, I don't care; how else am I going to go forward with this writing gig if someone doesn't give me an idea of where I'm at?)

For me, the best of the live chats was from a lady who gave ideas on pet publications; I'm looking at doing some non fiction to get in some extra bucks. She came up with a bunch of things I never would've thought of.

The best of the forums is harder to nail. For me, though, I'll pick the one on How to Make Your Love Scenes Sizzle. I didn't really think I could come up with anything halfway decent, but the presenter complimented me on that first exercise. :-) I got to the second exercise very late, but I decided to try that one, too, and...wow, I just kept writing and it was a bit sensual...

I'll be going back to my regular schedule starting tomorrow, you lucky people, you! :-)

~Nancy Beck


My Thoughts on the Online Conference So Far

The Muse Online Writers Con is in full swing, even as I type. (Just waiting for everything to get caught up in between people typing.)

The real time chats have gotten better and better. The first one was verrrry sloooow, and I felt the questions asked were too basic. The three other chats (including the one I'm on now) have been informative, especially the one on Website Essentials and Internet Marketing For Authors. I asked a question at that one :-), asking about whether having a character "own" a blog or website is a good idea for marketing purposes. The presenter said that was a good question, but his guess would be that it would be hard to pull off on a long-term basis.

Then he gave an example - he talked about Miss Snark!

Of course, I had to chime in that I missed reading her, too.

The current one is on revisions to a novel or short story. I didn't offer a question, but one of the things the presenter said was to read the story aloud. I don't know, but I found that while this was a good thing to do, I just never could get myself to do it; I can barely stand the sound of my voice, lol.

But another presenter, on the forum, said something about Adobe Reader having a talk feature. Damned if I knew that! Sure enough, it does, under the View menu (Read It Aloud). I tried it with the first page of my WIP, and although it sounds a bit funky and funny, I think this might be a good thing for me to try.

The virtual workshops are really good, with only one that I feel is a dud. I feel that presenter, while humorous (I'm a humor whore, so that's certainly not a problem with me ;-), is focusing too much attention on her websites and her characters. I'd like to see more examples of other people's characters and whether they're substantial or cardboard cutouts.

So far, I feel like I've learned a few things.

~Nancy Beck


Speaking of Romance Novels...

I just realized something last night.

I'm not very well read in the romance genre; the fantasies that I read have some romance in them, but it's usually not a heck of a lot.

But of the two romance novels I've read this year, Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey, and The Greatest Lover In All of England by Christina Dodd, I noticed a theme that struck me as funny.

Both main characters are women pretending to be men (or in Gentle Rogue, a boy).

What the heck does that say about me? Maybe it goes back to my childhood, when I was a tomboy. Oh, I couldn't play sports very well, but I could talk them up without any problem, and I climbed a lot of trees in my day. And, I never got scared during assemblies when one of my friend's father brought in exotic animals; I was especially pleased with myself when I petted a couple of snakes, while silly girls not only wouldn't touch them but they'd often let out a shriek just going by.

No doubt I'm overanalyzing this.

Time to go back to my writing...and back to the online conference.

~Nancy Beck

NY Yankees and Reading An Old Romance Novel

You're probably thinking...what does one have to do with the other?

Let me 'splain.

I was watching the Yankees last night, wondering if, yet again, the offense would be sluggish at best.

I committed to watching it because the New York Football Giants won (yay!), and I was in a good mood. Besides, I didn't feel like doing anything else.

So I decided to start in on the romance novel I have. It's an oldie from Johanna Lindsey, called Gentle Rogue. Apparently, this is the 3rd in the Malory Series, but I'm not sure it's necessary to start with the first two.

But what do I know?

Anyway, the paperback edition I have has a bland, light aqua cover with some squiggles on it. But I was reading some of the juicer stuff (it's not erotica, so everything isn't described in detail), and BAM! The Yankees erupted for some runs!

I read some more juicy stuff, and again, BAM! The Yankees erupted for some runs!


Now...is it coincidence that I was reading some of the hot stuff (for me, anyway) and the Yankees decided to become hot with their bats? (Egad, that sounds sickening. But try not to look at it that way.)

I think not.

I'm going to read some more of the book tonight, and see what happens. If it works again, guess what I'll be doing for the 5th and final game?


Okay, I'm a weirdo chick, but it's working for me.

~Nancy Beck



Boy, they sure sucked last night. Here's hoping Pettite pitches the stuffing out of the Indians tonight, unlike Wang.

Sheesh. Thank goodness I went to bed before the 5th inning debacle.


Yet Another Epublisher Goes Down the Drain - Stardust Press

But at least they're being professional about it, not slinking away into the ether.

I feel bad about their authors; their rights will be reverted, and the publisher is already setting up to make sure all royalties are paid.

All the details are on Moondancer Drake's LiveJournal post, here.

~Nancy Beck


Workin' on the Work in Progress

I should be finishing up the revision of Chapter 4 today, and, hopefully, I'll put it into high gear next week in between the online writers conference. I hope to get another two chapters done next week.

My interim goal is to join an online crit group. I did this before; last year, as a matter of fact. But I think it was too soon for me, as I psyched myself out. I now think I have a better handle on the "this is my baby" aspect of writing, and the "this is a business" aspect.

I also wrote a quick story the other day, which was supposed to be a flash fiction piece (less than 1,000 words), but I think there are well more than 1,000 words. :-) I like the concept, like the MC, so maybe I'll develop it just a tad more and send it out.

Who knows? Maybe some (paying) market somewhere will accept it. Don't know until you try. :-)

I'm also wondering about a story sitting on my laptop's hard drive. I originally thought about doing it as a short story, but now I wonder if I should expand it. It's about werewolves on Broadway in the 1930s; at least, that's the basic premise. I don't think I've developed it enough, so I may take another look-see, if not another writing stab, at it. Since paranormals are so hot right now (I know, I know - most books that are bought right now usually won't see the light of day for almost two years, so I really shouldn't follow trends), this might be the time to take a good, hard look at it. It's set during a time period I enjoy reading about, and maybe it'll be different and good enough for agents to look at.

Don't mind me; just doing a little dreaming.

~Nancy Beck


What I'm Currently Reading #2

I've been on a book buying spree lately (paperbacks only; hardbacks are too frickin' heavy to carry around), probably because my personal life is, well, not so nice. (Be careful what you wish for: If you have a boring life, BELIEVE ME, I'll take that over the nightmare hubby and I living through right now. Trust me.)

So books take me away from all that, at least for a little while.

I saw the cover of this one book in the fantasy section (duh) at the local bookstore. It looked cool, with a dirty blonde on the cover holding a huge sword, with the smirk that said, C'mon, I really want to kick someone's ass today, and it might as well be yours.


It's called Magic Lost, Trouble Found, by Lisa Shearin, and to my surprise and delight, she's repped by Kristin Nelson! :-) So far, I'm liking what I'm reading, because it has some cynical humor (some of it self deprecating), it doesn't take place in the world we know, and that woman on the cover is an elf - with a kick-ass attitude.


She's holding some sort of amulet (don't groan; this isn't the usual poor orphan finds something and comes upon powers she didn't know she had), and she's curious as to what the heck it is and why the Big Bad Dude (who sounds especially sinister) wants it.


Once I finish it, I aims to write a review, I aims to.

~Nancy Beck

Looks Like John Grisham Stepped in Some Doo-Doo

He decides to do a non-fiction book, and look what happens.

The District Attorney alleges that "Grisham and the other defendants engaged to commit libel, publicity placing a person in a false light and intentional infliction of emotion distress." This was started by one of the men in the case Grisham wrote about in the book, The Innocent Man. Both men were later exonerated and released from jail.

Maybe he should've just stuck with writing novels.

~Nancy Beck


A Writing Nudge

I have a book (that I think is out of print; I picked it up used) called Writing and Selling Your Novel, by Jack Bickham. Mr. Bickham subscribes to the Scene and Sequel method of writing, which he got from his teacher, Dwight Swain.

Anyway, I remembered a technique Mr. Bickham mentioned to get an idea if you're stuck with deciding how a certain character reacts in a certain scene.

I was stuck in the 4th Chapter, where my MC (Rita) is in the kitchen with her adoptive mother (Margaret). Basically, she wanted to get away from an argument between two other characters. She also hoped to gain more knowledge of her quest to find her birth mother (although Rita already had suspicions). Her mother is known to give melodramatic reactions to certain things, because she was in the movies in the 1930s-1940s.

What I'd originally wrote, and kept through subsequent revisions, I didn't like; in fact, I didn't like it when I first wrote it. It sounded contrived, but I couldn't come up with anything else, so I kept it as is.

What to do?


No doubt you've heard or read that the brain is divided into left and right hemispheres. The left is the logical side; the right, the creative side. The left side gives us the words to write with, while the right gives us stuff like dialogue and characters' feelings. Both sides communicate with each other, but not perfectly. That's why we often have that "inner critic" at the wrong times. In other words, when we should be in creative mode, the logical mode comes in and says things like, "This sucks," or "Why are you having this character doing that?" or "That makes absolutely no sense."

A Trick to Help Out

Now that you've had your science lesson for today ;-), I'll tie it in. Mr. Bickham suggests a trick, or technique, that may help you get unstuck.

The idea is to make a list as quickly as you can, with no thought as to rationality or corniness or any of the left-hemisphere stuff. In other words, write so fast that your inner critic doesn't have a chance to say anything.

In my example, I had to think of a bunch of things Rita can think/do/say in reaction to Margaret's overreaction. Is it real or is it Memorex for Rita? I even thought of a violent reaction, with Rita slapping Margaret. It wasn't easy, but I managed to get down about six or seven different reactions. Mr. Bickham suggests 20, but that seemed excessive to me, at least in my case. I arrived at what I thought was keeping within Rita's character, as I thought any violence at this point in the story (despite my alluding to eruptions in her past) wouldn't make sense. Not yet, anyway, as she still has to get used to the fact she's gone back in time, and thus has to get used to her surroundings.

So write that list super fast, and see what your imagination can come up with. You never know; it could be a really good twist that'll send your story in an unusual but cool direction.

~Nancy Beck


Chronicle Books Redux

Wow - I've officially been noticed in writing circles! Do you know how it makes me feel that I'm one of the movers and shakers...

::shakes head, wonders where she is::

Oh, yeah, my daytime job.

Anyway, a bunch of other writers and me (see how nicely I slip myself into that delicious group known as writers? ;-)), received a polite comment from Joseph Ternes at Chronicle Books. In it, he cleared up a few things:
The information in the Newsweek article was incorrect. Chronicle Books will not receive a referral fee for recommending Blurb.com to aspiring authors or artists.

Just as from time to time our editors refer authors or artists to other trade houses, Blurb.com presents another option if they consider it an appropriate choice. This option will not be part of our response to every author submissions. There are many self-publishing options in the marketplace, though far fewer for illustrated book authors and artists. As an independent illustrated book publisher in San Francisco, Chronicle Books felt an affinity for the locally based Blurb.com and the quality of the product it is offering the public.
This is good to hear.



Communication Is the Key

Seems to me, communication is the key when dealing with your agent.

No, I'm not agented (yet), but I think I'll throw my opinion around on this one anyway. :-)

On one agent's blog, I noticed an anonymous comment from someone who, apparently, had an agent who'd been sitting on her ms. for three years. Three long, freakin' years.

What's up with that?

It's possible I misunderstood the post, but I don't think so. It sounded as if the poor writer was with a prestigious agency/agent, and it's possible that agent took on too many clients.

It happens.

The thing is, what was happening with her ms? Did her agent actually send out the puppy and get negatives all around? Did she communicate this to the writer? Did the writer ask? Did the agent ask for edits - as I assume she must have - or did the agent just leave things as is? (I would think even minor edits are necessary before sending a ms. on to editors.)

Whatever has happened, it's obvious the writer and the agent aren't communicating. It's possible the agent did ask for edits in that timeframe (3 years) and has sent it out with nobody wanting it. But it's also obvious this isn't getting through to the writer; obviously, or she wouldn't have asked about it.

Don't be afraid to ask your agent where she's sending your ms. It's part of the writer/agent relationship. You, as a writer, have the right to know where your agent is sending your ms.; after all, it's your baby, right? Whether the agent tells you straight out or you send a short email inquiry, it doesn't matter. Back scratching works both ways.

My advice to that poor dear was to politely let her agent know that she (the writer) didn't think it was working out, and to be released from her contract. Yeah, she'll have to do the whole query thing again (yuck!), and do the entire waiting game again (double yuck!), but I phrased it this way: In the 3 years your agent's been (ostensibly) sitting on your ms., another agent would've had you do some edits and sent it out to publishers, and, possibly, if the first one didn't sell, the agent would've asked for something else you're working on.

Don't be afraid to admit something is not working. Writing is hard work, as is agenting. Don't you want someone working as hard as you are?

Right. I thought so.

~Nancy Beck


What's Up With Chronicle Books?

This is just disgusting.

Read about this on the Absolute Write Bewares and Backgrounds forum and got my Irish (all right, Polish) up.

You can read Victoria Strauss' take on it here. The original article is here.

For those who don't feel like clicking on the links ;-), Chronicle Books, a commercial publisher, is teaming up with an outfit called Blurb (a self-publishing service). The bad thing for writers? Chronicle and Blurb have decided on what they call is a "mutual referral deal." Chronicle will funnel rejected writers to Blurb. If those writers purchase Blurb's services, Blurb pays Chronicle an undisclosed cut of the revenue.

Hunh? What's that you say? Conflict of interest? Yup. Even worse, this sounds like Kickback City to me. I mean, WTF is up with that?

Let's start with the conflict of interest part. When Chronicle is interested in a book, they'll offer a contract to said author; nothing wrong with that. Except Chronicle doesn't see any money until the book is on sale (after spending months on editing, marketing, etc.). What better thing to do than to reject an author, and push him or her over to something Chronicle has recommended? How can an author possibly trust a publisher like that? Victoria points out on the Writer Beware blog link above that the notorious Edit Ink pulled the same sort of crap.

Sorry, but this is just rotten. Writers get taken in by enough scam outfits like Publish America (that pretends to be a publisher) and places like Edit Ink (that pretended to be an editing outfit) without having to deal with more crap like this.

If Chronicle just came back to those they rejected and said, "You might want to try an editing service," without mentioning anybody, that I could accept (and I wouldn't expect Chronicle or any publisher to point me to anyone specific; that's what research is for).

As for the other? Well, Victoria said it quite succinctly on the Writer Beware blog:
Chronicle's referrals to Blurb will come with the weight and reputation of an established commercial publisher behind them. A reputable publisher won't tell you to do something that's not in your best interest, right? It's likely, therefore, that authors will take the recommendation seriously. This is bad enough for books that aren't publishable. But what about the books that don't fit Chronicle's list, but might be a good match for another reputable publisher? What if those books get sidelined into Blurb? Again, Chronicle will not be doing authors any favors.
Exactly. Chronicle should just stick to rejecting authors that don't fit their list. Period. If writers want to go the self publishing route...let them (the writers) do their own research and decide for themselves if they want to spend any dough.

Bad, very bad. Cross Chronicle Books off your list, unless they rescind this horrible idea.

~Nancy Beck


Muse Online Writer's Conference

Today has been an especially busy day for me at work, plus I had to endure a group-wide meeting.

Can't have everything.

Anyway, since I've never been to a writer's conference before (and since I can't afford to stay anywhere to go to one), I decided to sign up for an online one. The one I found is called the Muse Online Writer's Conference, and it's going from October 8 to October 14 (yup, a Sunday). I've signed up for a bunch of presentations/courses and online chats. I did do a little research on the people involved, trying to stay away from those who only have one book (fiction, that is) under their belts.

It's not that I want to diss one book (so far, anyway) authors; far from it. It's just that I don't think they can offer a lot in the way of publishing experience.

Meh. That sounds a bit elitest. Oh well. If they want to talk about something else where they've made money (for instance, one of the presenters has an ebook on doing reviews on just about anything, and has made money not only off that ebook, but in reviewing stuff; I would've liked to have listened to her take on the reviewing end of books and things, but she chose to give a presentation on how she got her book pubbed).

To each their own, I guess, and I truly applaud her for getting her book pubbed (definitely not an easy feat!), but I feel she had more to give on the non-fiction end of the equation.

But some of the presentations and chats sounded interesting, so I'll be giving it all a whirl. I've taken off the entire week, so we'll see how it goes (with plenty of time to continue with my revisions).

~Nancy Beck