2008-12-31

Happy New Year! - Er, Well, Almost

I receive two - count 'em, two - Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas this year (that's what happens with an overlap of bosses :-)).

What I Bought - Part I

I took care of the smaller of the two a couple of days ago. That was all fiction, including one mystery, something I don't read a lot of now, as I tend hugely towards fantasy. However, as a teenager, I went through a major stage of reading mysteries - although they were all by Phyllis A. Whitney (see this for what a gothic mystery is). Yeah, the usually-orphaned girl in a castle trying to solve a mystery - that was wondeful for me to read at the time, because I was shy and a lot of people put me down.

The mystery that was part of this buying spree is for the cat lover in you (if it's in you ;-)); it's the first in the Midnight Louie mysteries, set in Vegas, baby! (Always wanted to say that, heh.) But it looked like fun, and it's been on my wish list for some time.

I also picked up a Rachel Caine book (Ill Wind, the first in her Weather Warden series)

If you get the idea that I'll probably be reviewing a number of these books - jeez, how'd you guess that? ;-)

What I Bought - Part II

Today I bought a couple of non-fiction books, one particularly good for writers (called The Web-Savvy Writer: Book Promotion With a High-Tech Twist), the other good for people into vintage clothing or, someone like me, into the 1940s and its fashions (and how it pertains to my current WIP). Plus I picked up a couple of used novels, notably for me, Goblin Quest. That's something that's been on my To Read list forever (well, it feels like forever, anyway ;-)). I also picked up a Martha Wells book, the first in the Fall of Ile-Rien series called Wizard Hunters.

Ah, so I'm closing out 2008 with yet another book buying binge (just like 2007, although that book buying binge was earlier in the year).

Have fun writing - and reading!

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-29

Green Rider - A Review

Green Rider

Publisher: DAW
464 pages

This is Kristen Britain's first book in this series. I think it's a good first effort, but I feel that she missed a few things that really would have made it stand out.

As fantasies go, it's a standard, "youngin' who doesn't know she has magic powers" type of story, but that's not necessarily bad. Every now and then I like to read stuff like this because, in the right hands, I can be transported away from the present and can become the MC and live vicariously through that character.

Reminds Me of Tolkien

And Ms. Britain says in her acknowledgments that she was introduced to The Lord of the Rings at a young age, and it's obvious (at least to me and some Amazon reviewers) that she took a number of things from LOTR.

Not that that's a bad thing - and she doesn't cleave onto it like other writers have. (If you're going to be heavily influenced by past writers, at least make your writing your own. That includes invented beasts and invented languages.)

The Story

Karigan G'ladheon (yes, the dreaded apostrophe!) is expelled from school and runs off into the nearby forest. A Green Rider - a rider who couriers messages to and fro - emerges with black arrows in his back. He tells Karigan that she must get the message bag to the king; an important message is within, and the messenger knows he's not going to make it.

All sorts of magic happens to Karigan, almost from the get-go, although she doesn't understand why. She touches a brooch that she gets from the rider, wishing herself invisible when some men start following her (um, they don't want to ask her to dance ;-)).

She manages to get out of that one, coming to with two elderly ladies checking her out, Miss Bayberry and Miss Bunchberry.

(For LOTR fans - these are the equivalent of Tom Bombadill.)

They live in an interesting house, inhabited by ghosts, telling Karigan that their father was interested in magic and picked up all sorts of magical paraphanelia over the years. She's deposited in a room by herself, picking up a moonstone that lights up at her touch (that hadn't lit up - ever - for the Berry sisters), wandering over to a telescope.

(Think of the telescope as Galadriel's mirror - that basin in the movie that Frodo looks into and sees things that may come into being - or not.)

This has the same affect on Karigan - she sees people and events, but such people and events will only happen if her life continues as it is. They see Karigan off, giving her a couple of magical things that they hope will help her, if she needs them. (Of course she uses them.)

I would've liked to have seen these characters developed more, as they were quite fun (two spinster aunts, with impeccable manners? Yeah, works for me.) Karigan gets involved with a couple of brigands who tie her up and push her along to what Karigan thinks is going to be her death.

She finds out that there's some kind of intrigue going on in Sacor City, which is where the king is. What exactly that intrigue is, is what the story ultimately is about. (Yes, magic is involved, as well as gameboard called Intrigue, believe it or not.)

The Final Verdict

The last 40 pages or so really dragged for me. I skimmed a lot, but I managed to figure out that some of it was important.

If Ms. Britain had developed the spinsters and a couple of the other characters (the female brigand was pretty well done, though), I think I would have enjoyed this even more. Also, cutting out a lot of words near the end of the book also would have made it more enjoyable.

I give it a C because it's a good first effort. Whether I'll read the rest in the series - don't know as yet. This one is a standalone, thank goodness, so if I decide to pass on the rest of the books, I haven't lost anything.

All in all, an enjoyable read, but it could have been rendered a tad better than it was.

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-26

Check This Out - Firebrand Literary

Got the heads up on this from my cyber friend, Liz Brooker. ::waves at Liz::

From 15 December 2008 to 15 January 2009, Firebrand Literary is accepting chapters of your manuscript without benefit of a query letter.

So those of you who suck at query letters ::raises hand::, this might be a godsend.

What They're Looking For

Unfortunately, the agents there aren't looking for my particular genre.

The agents are primarily looking for children's books, YA (that is, Young Adult), and MG (Middle Grade). They even say they'd look at picture books for what they're calling a "Query Holiday."

The specific info can be found here.

To send the first chapter or first 20 pages, the email address is: queryholiday@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . (Hmm, a gmail address; makes sense, as they're probably going to receive - if they haven't already - a huge slew of first chapters.)

Go For It!

If you write in any of what they're looking for, your ms. is finished, what the heck - go for it! Go to the website and follow their instructions to the letter. There are only three instructions to follow, so this isn't rocket science (to use a well-worn cliche).

They say they'll respond to all emails received at that special email addy (queryholiday@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) by February 1, but the absolute deadline for them to receive your first chapter is January 15.

So get cracking! And good luck! :-)

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-25

Happy Holidays to One and All!

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hannukah!

Happy Kwanzaa!

Christmas Eve was spent at my mother's house; nice and comfy-cozy, with lots of food to go around (stuffed peppers, kielbasa, and pierogies [basically, dough stuffed with mashed potatoes]).

Celebrating On Christmas Eve

My family and I always celebrate Christmas on the Eve. This goes back to when the family first started popping out babies back in the 1950s (and where one of my uncles - one of my father's brothers - would tell those kids born during that time of his exploits in a POW camp in Germany; we're talking Stalag 17, of movie fame).

By the time I came along in 1962, that uncle - Uncle Joe, a really swell guy - had stopped telling everyone about that. And, as typical for that generation, didn't tell anybody about his silver stars or any other medals he received.

But, getting back to celebrating on Christmas Eve, the parents of that generation decided that it would be easier if my dad's side celebrated on other than Christmas Day - to avoid any of the squabbles that some families get into when deciding, "Where are we going to go this year?"

So there's no problem with me going over to my husband's side on Christmas Day; I'm used to the day itself as an anti-climax. Almost. :-) We still received presents from our parents, as opposed to receiving presents from the paternal aunts and uncles and cousins - lord, the cousins we have! - so it was still a nice, but low-key day.

Believe in Yourself and in a Higher Power

I always liked Mr. Spock from Star Trek because there was a struggle between the logical (Vulcan) side and the illogical (human) side of his nature.

Although I believe in God, I truly think that there must be a higher power in the universe, or else why is there only one planet in this particular system that has life as we know it? (I know that's kind of narrow minded, but go with it.) I also think there are other life forms out there, because I also think a higher power wouldn't just create life on one chunk of rock - considering how huge the universe is.

Belief in a higher power = belief in yourself. You can do anything you want, especially in a positive frame of mind.

May the writing muse tickle your creative juices!

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-22

Crappy Mood This Morning

I was all set to go to work this morning, this after a Sunday where we got dumped on with more freezing rain/sleet.

Well, my front and back windshields were coated with thick ice, so I thought I'd hack away.

Except I hacked away a little too ferociously up front - little ol' me put a bunch of cracks in the windshield.

Uh, Mom? Can you spare about $200? (I sent an email for an estimate, so I'm hoping to get an idea of the dollar amount so I can have it taken care of this Friday; yeah, I know - Black Friday. Big whoop. ;-))

The car is still drivable (as I can still see out the windshield), but then I confronted another problem.

For some stupid/inane/idiotic reason, the people who run this town don't realize that the small street behind the house is, actually, A STREET. There are people who park their cars back there, and even use it to drive up and down (fancy that!).

And guess what? During a snowstorm or snow emergency, we have to get our cars off the streets for plowing.

Well, if the town bothered to plow the street behind us (School Street) more than once or twice, maybe there wouldn't be a problem of someone getting stuck back there and blocking the @($&!#@! way.

I can't even turn the car around to go the other way, as it's all caked with ice. Even my hubby wouldn't be able to turn his car around, and he has front wheel drive. See, it's a tiny road to begin with - only one car is passable at a time - and the snow and ice and the un-plowing thereof make it even smaller.

And, of course, they didn't put down any ice melt or gravel.

That's my rant for today. Florida sure looks good this time of year. :-)

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-18

More Words and Rearranging and...

So I was typing away a few days ago and realized that my Chapter 7 was like the Energizer Bunny: It kept going and going and going...

What to do?

I decided to leave it alone for a few days, to let it all simmer in my brain. I finally decided to cut out a lot of words pertaining to Viv taking Rita to Viv's work location (a really crappy publisher, one bought and started by good ol' mommy for her two wunderkinds).

But something at first funny, then more ominous, happens. I wanted to end this chapter with the ominous thing.

So, yesterday, I moved most of the stuff about going to work to another tab - so I can use those words if I think I need them. I typed about 350 new words, rearranged a few things, and voila! It's now the way I like it (for the moment, naturally).

Chapter 8 is one of the best chapters I've ever written - if I so humbly say myself (okay, so I'm not so modest/humble about that!). It's having to deal with a death, and in a strange way for Rita...

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-17

More Publishing News - Bad and Good (Eh? Good?)

Here's some of the latest from Publisher's Lunch:

Penguin Children's

Kathy Dawson will join Penguin Children's Dial Books in the new position of associate publisher, reporting to Lauri Hornik. She will work help to strategize and develop the list while acquiring and editing both novels and picture books. Dawson was formerly editorial director at Harcourt Children's.

So if you write kid's novels/picture books, time to add Ms. Dawson to your rolodex.

Macmillan U.S.

A restructuring throughout Macmillan in the US announced yesterday internally eliminates 64 positions from throughout the company's imprints and divisions (including cuts at their college business, central services for the whole company, and Scientific American magazine), representing about four percent of staff in all. CEO John Sargent writes in the memo, "Going forward we are tightening our belts in response to the current recession, but we are also reorganizing and rethinking our business to position ourselves for the long term."

Which probably means: We're losing a lot of blood, and applying a tourniquet just ain't gonna do the job.

More Macmillan U.S.

A consolidation of the company's many children's lines into a single Macmillan Children's division was the other focus of yesterday's announcement, though Sargent says "we've been working for quite some time on what is the best approach to move us forward in the marketplace." With a variety of acquisitions and start-ups in recent years, "when you roll up our children's business now, it's a lot bigger than it was operating as disparate individual companies." Henry Holt head Dan Farley will oversee the new Macmillan Children's Group as well, with group svp Jean Feiwel running Feiwel and Friends, Square Fish, Priddy Books and Holt Children's, and svp Simon Boughton running Farrar, Straus Children's, Roaring Brook Press, and First Second.

Having been part of an acquisition just recently, I can tell you that a lot of heads are going to roll before Macmillan gets it all together. Of course, there will probably only be a skelton crew to take care of day-to-day matters. (I see it here, where the other piece of the patents pie is getting rid of one temp; no matter that she takes care of a lot of things.)

As my hubby would say: Owen well. (Inside joke, heh.)

And I Found This Interesting - Borders Books

Borders will buy books from the Harper Studio imprint at a deeper discount of 58 percent to 63 percent off, on a nonreturnable basis. Borders evp of merchandising and marketing Rob Gruen repeats the company's expressed position since George Jones took over: "The idea of taking inventory and then shipping it back isn't a good idea for anybody. We're open to all publishers to discuss alternatives to the traditional return model."

Harper Studio is part of HarperCollins, and, if I read it correctly, Emeril Lagasse's (BAM!) cookbooks are published by them. In fact, this post on agent Nathan Bransford's blog is quite informative. Author's will get less money up front (as of that post, dated July 2008, advances are capped at US$100,000 - um, I'll take it! ;-)), and according to the post, instead of royalties, utilizes a profit sharing model that incorporates expenses on one side of the ledger (expenses will include publicity and unit production, but not editorial and overhead), and income on the other side. Profits are split 50/50, and accounting reports four times a year, translating to a break-even point at around 25,000 copies sold.

I don't mind the monetary amount, but I'm not sure I'm sold on the no royalties bit. Profit sharing? I don't know - count me skeptical.

Oh, and they only accept non-fiction, so that leaves me out of the loop, dammit.

Maybe I should write a memoir but change enough names and events to pass it off as a novel?

Oops, wait, that's been done.

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-11

Publishers Will Do Just About Anything

Think I'm kidding?

Here's the listing from Publisher's Lunch:

Random House and Ballantine are offering free books to read on the iPhone via Lexcycle's fast-growing Stanza reader. (The app has been downloaded approximately 500,000 times.) The works come from the backlist of popular authors such as Alan Furst, Julie Garwood, Charlie Huston, David Liss, Laurie Notaro, Arthur Phillips and Simon Rich, and include promotional excerpts for new hardcovers scheduled for 2009.

The company says it is also "providing links to retailers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble.com, Borders.com, Powells.com and IndieBound.org to encourage readers to purchase more books by these authors."

I'd consider it if (a) I had the extra money and (b) I had an iPhone (for an explanation as to why I don't have an iPhone, see (a)). There would also have to be some fantasy authors included in the mix; I like the idea of promotional excerpts - why buy the book if you find the first chapter (or whatever is considered an excerpt) boring/stupid/confusing?

If you have an iPhone, would you go for this?

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-10

Reading, reading, reading

I'm up to about Chapter 10 or 11 of The Secret Atlas. More court intrigues, and more intrigues in general. There was one chapter about a monk of some sort, a shyster court minister, and some dude letting loose with quotes from the writings of a guy who is looked at as a profound thinker (think along the lines of Siddhartha Gautama - the Buddha).

No discourses on Buddha here, BTW. Just using the good Buddha as a (poor, I know, I know!) comparison.

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-09

Back In the Saddle Again

I started work - part time - yesterday. Yay me! ;-)

Anyway, I also did some more writing. Now in an earlier post I might have mentioned that I was about to finish up Chapter 7.

Nope.

I'm on Chapter 7 now. I actually deleted a whole bunch of crap equal to about two chapters, so maybe that's where I got confused. I did write 247 words yesterday; however, my husband interrupted near the end of those words, and now I'm unsure if all of those words will stay. It's mostly dialogue, but did have some descriptive stuff near the end; I think the descriptive stuff will have to be a little more descriptive and less rushed.

At the moment, my thinking is that I'll intersperse some thoughts while Rita somewhat slowly puts on clothes - while Viv stews and steams that it's taking Rita too long to get changed and come to where Viv works.

Except there will be another telephone call...will they make it to the Poverty Row publisher that Viv works for?

Double or nothing they don't.

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-05

Some Thoughts - And Maybe a Tweak For Story Ideas?

Lucasfilms (the production arm owned by George Lucas, he of American Graffiti and Star Wars fame) puts out these nifty, short documentaries which air on History Channel. I just finished watching one earlier this morning (they're part of History's Cable in the Classroom, which last, I think, from 5:30am to 7:00am), and it was all wrapped up in about 30 minutes.

Mata Hari - Not Who You Think

I think most people have heard of Mata Hari, the female spy from World War I. I suspect that many (including me) don't know much about her background, just that she was an alluring spy that lost her life by firing squad.

"Mata Hari" is (if I remember correctly) a Malaysian term that means something like, "early dawn." (It's not always easy to remember these things this early in the morning, lol.) This ties in, though, with Mata Hari's early life.

She was born with the first name of Margereta (Dutch, I believe). In the space of one year, her father's business went bankrupt, he abandoned the family, and her mother died. Still quite young, she apparently got by on her wits and her beauty. She eventually saw an ad in the paper for a gentleman asking for a young lady to take as his wife.

She accepted, got married, had two kids. Her husband was in the army, and they moved to the Dutch East Indies. This is where Mata Hari came up with her name, from the natives who lived there, their sinuous dances...

Mata Hari soon became bored with her routine, but not before another tragedy struck her: One of her children died.

One thing led to another; her husband and she soon divorced. She moved to Paris.

The Dancer

But of course she needed to survive, somehow. She wasn't married anymore, so she started on a PR campaign, during which she came up with the Mata Hari moniker. She sent her picture to the newspapers, writing up the copy, and soon she was a scantily-clad dancer, often donning bellydancer-type gear, with plenty of veils, and plenty of exposed flesh.

She became a rich dude's mistress during what became known as La Belle Epoque. Thus, she was able to live in the lap of luxury, which was all she really wanted (do you get the feeling that she really, really liked men? ;-)).

And Then Came the Spying Bit

But how she got entwined into spying was, well, she certainly didn't do it for ideology. She did it because some dudes offered her a ton of money. She was a double agent, but neither side knew, at least for a time. She was first approached by the Germans, who offered her 20,000 francs. Later, she was offered a million frances (would I kid?) by the French.

When the French suffered a number of defeats during World War I, I think the government was looking for a scapegoat. Yup, you guessed it. There are still transcripts available that give out with all the info I've outline above.

Fascinating stuff, and like I said, all wrapped up in 30 minutes. I also watched an interesting documentary on Puccini, how his operas were groundbreaking, in that they weren't about aristocratic people (La Boehme means "The Bohemians") but about everyday people.

And that's your history lesson for today. :-)

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-04

Publishing Is Getting Hit By Economy, Too

It looks as if a number of publishers are reorganizing, probably due to even thinner bottom lines.

Random House

According to Publisher's Lunch, Bantam Dell group president and publisher Irwyn Applebaum is leaving the company immediately after 25 years there, while the publishing line itself is being absorbed by the Random House group, under Gina Centrello, along with the Spiegel & Grau unit that had been part of Doubleday.

Doubleday president and publisher Steve Rubin's job is no longer going to exist because Doubleday is no longer going to be a freestanding group. The CEO of Random House is "in discussions" with Mr. Rubin "about creating a new role for him."

Other lines will be absorbed by Knopf (Doubleday and Nan A. Talese) and Crown (Broadway, Doubleday Business, Doubleday Religion, and WaterBrook Multnomah).

Harcourt Houghton Mifflin

A number of employees have been laid off. Publisher's Lunch thinks the parent company has given up on the trade line, so if your agent has been thinking of pitching here, he or she might want to rethink that.

Thomas Nelson

Ten percent of the workforce was laid off (about 54 people, according to Publisher's Lunch). They had laid off about 60 people back in April. Apparently their sales were off in September and October, which prompted the most recent layoffs.

Simon & Schuster

Thirty-five positions across the company were eliminated, due to "an unavoidable acknowledgment of the current bookselling marketplace and what may very well be a prolonged period of economic instability," according to CEO Carolyn Reidy.

Talk about stretching the thinning ranks even thinner. Not sure if this means more editors have lost their jobs, which means those who are lucky enough to have their books published in the upcoming year or so may have to deal with editors who are even more nervous and backed up (not to mention the authors, too).

So the economy is reaching into a lot of sectors, not just the financial and automotive ones. Count your lucky stars if you have a day job, but never, EVER give up hope of landing that publishing contract. Just write your very best, including those interesting characters...and you never know what may happen.

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-12-03

More Writing

Forgot to say that I wrote some more stuff yesterday.

I wrote about 425 words, and I decided today that that will finish Chapter 7. I originally intended to add more to that particular chapter, but it'll be more of a tease (and a bit of foreshadowing) for what happens in the next chapter.

The next chapter may be more or less left intact, but, well, you know how that goes. ;-) What I say here at the moment may be forgotten once I start writing, lol.

Love and kisses,

Nancy Beck

2008-11-28

Today's Writing

Yippee! I wrote 828 words today. Nearly finished the new Chapter 7.

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

Work Backwards

This is a writing technique that might work for you, especially if you're in the beginning stages of a story.

Start With the Ending

I've been writing/editing/whatever Yesterday's Gone for a number of years now, and I think I'm finally getting to the endgame. (Taken with a grain of salt, as I've said the same thing for...many years now. ;-))

Anyway, I read a suggestion somewhere that sometimes knowing the ending and working your way back to the beginning gets the juices flowing.

But, you wonder, how might it help me, the Person Who Already Has the Ending and Needs a Spark to Get Back Into Writing Again?

Well...this particular idea might not spark a damn thing, but you never know.

It Might Make You Rethink a Thing or Ten

Ugh, you're thinking, rethinking means editing again. Yeah, I know, brother, do I know! If I didn't like the characters of my current WIP, I think I would've trashed it a long time ago. I also think the story is worth telling.

I decided to try a workback from the ending, and almost immediately came up with another idea to make the ending (and what comes just before it) a tad more interesting (Rita had better keep on her toes!). I also rethought certain parts I'd last inserted and realized they were boring and didn't really do anything good for the story. Cut, cut, cut! (Although I haven't gotten to that point, as yet.)

An Example (Sort of)

Let's say you want to write a murder mystery. You start with the ending, where the murderer is uncovered. Maybe before that your heroine is smooshed in the fact with a pie with a stick of dynamite in it. (I figure if cartoons can have a plethora of TNT without any good reason, so can I.) Before that, the heroine is running through the spooky mansion, trying to get away from someone she thinks is coming after her with a knife (psst - no, no, Ms. Heroine; it's D-Y-N-A-M-I-T-ETM).

I think you get the idea. This might just open up a portion of your brain and tweak it in such a way that leads to some really great ideas. (But skip the dynamite stuff above; I have trademarked that idea, as you can see by the little "TM" above). :-))


With me, I usually have the ending all figured out in addition to the beginning; it's the stuff in between that makes me want to pull out my hair. ;-)

It's basic, but it just might be the trick that helps you get your story written - or rewritten.

Love and kisses.

~Nancy Beck

2008-11-27

What I'm Thankful For

In the past, I would stuff my face full of turkey, watch the football games, and snooze on Thanksgiving Day. I would give the "thanks" part of it lip service, if I thought of it at all.

Not this time around.

No, this time I need to reflect and truly be thankful.

Because I could've been six feet under.

That's what happens when you have a ruptured brain aneurysm.

So I send out my thanks and deep appreciation to:

  • EMTs. Several people where I work - and I don't know their name, unfortunately - have EMT certifications, and am I ever grateful for that. When I came to (which I think was after a few minutes or so), three or four EMTs were already in the bathroom, holding onto their gear. And they'd already called the ambulance, too. Thank goodness none of them paid attention to what I was saying (silly things like, "I don't think I have to go the hospital." Yeah, right!). May all of them be prosperous and healthy.
  • The Emergency Room at Hunterdon Medical Center. Although they originally took me in, thank goodness for them to recognize that there might be another medical center - and doctors - that might be better equipped to deal with my condition. They wasted no time in getting me back into an ambulance and whisking me off to Overlook Hospital, which is, literally, on the other side of where I was (fortunately for me, Route 78 goes through Hunterdon County, and it's a fairly straight shot to Overlook).
  • Dr. Benitez and Overlook Hospital. This hospital, located in Summit, New Jersey, is known for its work with all things neurological (and having to do with the heart, too). Although I don't remember actually arriving at the hospital nor of meeting the good doctor, I can't speak enough praise and thankfulness. Dr. Benitez has actually written peer-reviewed papers on taking care of brain clots/aneurysms. I actually read of one man in his 30s or 40s who had a stroke and had to be airlifted to Overlook. Dr. Benitez saw a clot in his brain, yanked it out using what's called coiling, and he was able to go back to work part time three months later. Sound familiar? Although I'll be going back on a part-time basis two months later; it all depends, naturally, on the severity and where the clot/aneurysm was located. I was fortunate in that I only had a bit of brain fog, which the speech therapist helped tweak quite nicely.
  • Cards, letters, emails, well wishes from friends, acquaintances, co-workers. I can't tell you how much this helped me. I received three separate bouquets of flowers (all lovely), and an absolute ton of cards. For those who didn't send cards or flowers - your well wishes were quite a help, believe me.
So try to remember that Thanksgiving Day is more than just about turkey and football games.

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-11-26

What I'm Reading Right Now

I started reading A Secret Atlas, by Michael A. Stackpole last week. It has an Asiatic feel to it, and I'm not just talking about the martial arts aspect of it, although that definitely helped decide me on its Asian flavor.

There are certain warriors (for want of a better word) who live a very long time, and don't strike out at the least provocation. As the story opens, one of these warriors sends a female bandit (with decent sword mastery, according to that warrior) to a school to become an even better master of the sword - minus the banditry, of course.

Naturally, the warrior and the bandit aren't just talking by the side of the road when they come upon each other, but I don't want to give out everything.

Basic Premise

The basic premise of this story is that there was wild magic two thousand or so years before which physically iced over the world (among other things). No one dared travel anywhere during the time the ice covered continents, for fear of never returning - and/or being a victim of that wild magic.

After the ice began to melt, one man made it his mission to draft maps that would guide the seafarers/traders of the world - for a price. He figured it would make him and his family rich - which it has.

But there are still unchartered regions of the world where the ice has not melted, and tendrils of that wild magic still exist. That dude who drafted the maps is still alive and still wielding his oomph around the world, to the point where he still sends out family to go out and map more of the world.

So Far...

I'm up to Chapter 8 of this 600-page book, and it's held my interest so far. There is a lot of intrigue, and I've just gotten to a place in the story where beings that aren't human have arrived at the map dude's house (he's invited them). This is taking place during a festival (kind of reminds of "Festival! Festival!" and Landrew of the original Star Trek series). Anyway, I'll have to see if anyone goes mad in this story; not that I would be disappointed if no one did. That there's court intrigue is something different for me, and I'm enjoying some of the pettiness and shrewdness that's gone on already.

Interesting Aside

Believe it or not, this particular book is dedicated to - Senator John McCain, of all people (it was published in 2006), and I'd forgotten that when I picked it up last week. Funny, in light of election year, eh?

Another interesting aside is that four years ago I couldn't stand either candidate the two major parties put front and center, so I went the write in route.

Aw, could you guess it? Yup, McCain.

This time around, I couldn't vote for him because of his running mate (and I have my own reasons as for why), so I voted for Obama. I think four years ago was McCain's time, not now, but it is nice to see him offering help to the President-Elect.

And we all should hope for the best for the President-Elect, no matter what our party affiliation (I'm an independent, BTW).

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck

2008-11-25

I'm Writing Again

I'm going to try to update this blog as often as possible now. I feel a new vim and vigor that I haven't felt in a while.

I've already reworked Chapters 5 and 6 in the past 3 days, typing about 250 words on Sunday (before heading off to Mom's for a nice lunch), and then about 280 words today.

A Possible Goal

My thinking - and this could change at any time, depending on how I'm feeling - is that I'm going to try to do about 500 words a week between now and the end of the year. That includes new words and editing.

I'd really, REALLY like to send this thing out beginning next year. Yeah, yeah, I know that means the drudgery of putting on my thinking cap and putting together a query letter, but I don't care.

I think this could make some money for a publisher, not to mention the agent. :-) And I've decided agenting is the way to go right now. If I don't get any nibbles after 2-3 months, then I'll think about reworking my query letter. The good folks over at Absolute Write will be a good help, I'm sure.

Other Goals

Goal Number 1: Reading

I started reading novels again, too, but I'll talk about that in a separate post. What's good about the current novel is that it's written by a man; for some reason, I have a bias against male writers - and I don't know why.

So far, so good on this one, but, again, I'll write a post on that either tomorrow or on Friday (I'll have a special post on Thanksgiving Day, in between watching the football games - and YES, I understand football, so there's never been a football widow in this house).

Goal Number 2: Starting on Another Story

I'd also like to start thinking about another story to start in on, once I'm satisfied with the current one. I have a few ideas (in the fantasy realm, naturally), but I'm not going to decide just yet. I've written the beginnings of two, one that's been kicking around in my brain for some time, another that just kind of came to me after seeing a documentary about the Dust Bowl on the History Channel.

There's also one other one I'm considering, and my best guess is that's the one I'll probably go after. It's also a potential series, so we'll see how that goes.

Goal Number 3: Write 500 Words a Week

Considering I'll just be getting into the swing of things workwise next month, I feel 500 words a week is doable without overtaxing myself. I can't tell you how good it feels to be working on something again, and to be going onto some of the writing sites/blogs again.

Writers are so awesome. :-)

Goal Number 4: Learn How to Buzz My Book

I'm thinking of the social networking sites, of which I haven't bothered to even look at. Rather than bother with that stuff during the day at work - where I probably wouldn't even be allowed, anyway - I'll set aside about half an hour to an hour a day to get to know the ins and outs of My Space, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

After what I've just gone through, it doesn't sound in the least bit daunting - and could be quite lucrative: Look what Stephanie Meyer has done with Twilight and her other books (how many millions did the movie make over this weekend? Something like US$70 million or something?). She did some social networking to get buzz going on her book.

Of course, she had to written a pretty good book to begin with.

Goal Number 5: Write More Interesting Posts on This Blog

I think I'm going to start writing more on tips and tricks and stuff that's helped me. I've kind of gotten away from that (for obvious reasons), but I'd like to start offering that stuff again.

Why? Because I find it fun and interesting. And if it works for someone else - even better! :-) If people don't find it useful - or if I'm just writing for just me - that's fine, too.

Need to keep Ye Olde Braine stimulated, ya know.

Have a prosperous day, week, and year!

2008-10-28

Here We Go Again

So you think the kidney thing was something to face, eh?

Well, I got that beat (unfortunately).

I had a brain aneurysm on September 29. Fortunately for me, it did not burst. (Check the Wikipedia article to see what it is; scary stuff.)

Anyway, I was also fortunate in that I wasn't driving. It was late in the day, about 4:30pm or so, and I was sitting on the toilet. I felt light headed, wondering what the hell was going on. I leaned forward a bit, hoping to send a little blood to my head. (I've fainted before, and the usual thing to do was to get my head between my legs, so the blood would rush to my head.)

Didn't work.

In fact, I fell off the toilet and have a little mark on my nose to prove it.

I was fortunate several more times. There was a lady in the stall next to me, and I believe she went and called for help. Help came in the form of several EMTs. Now, where I work, there are many people who are also EMTs, so I believe that's why the ambulance was called so quickly and why so many (must've been 5 or 6) showed up at once. They made a sort of stretcher out of big blanket and got me onto a guerney. While this was all happening, my friend Lynne got in touch with my husband, picked him up, took him to the first hospital's emergency room (I refused the first hospital they wanted to take me to, which is where the ambulance was from).

However, once I got to that hospital, they determined, very quickly, what I might've had and sent me to the best hospital I could've gone to for what I indeed had - Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey.

Why That Particular Hospital?

Very easy, bunky. It's well known for its status as a neurological hospital (working with people with strokes and heart attacks and aortic aneurysms, too). In fact, the neurosurgeon who worked on me I later found out was responsible for developing the surgical technique, called coiling, that fixed me. (I'll be seeing him for a follow up visit later today.)

And the Prognosis Is...

Have I already said I was fortunate? Um, yeah. Here's another one. I've gone to three outpatient speech therapy sessions, and other than a little bit of brain fog (I have some trouble putting together lists of things), I'm okay. I had the aneurysm in the right frontal lobe. The therapist told me if I'd had it on the left side, I probably would've had some language problems. Instead, the therapist is giving me "homework" to tweak those parts of my brain where I'm having my foggy moments.

I can't drive a car (wouldn't want to, right now), and continue to get stronger every day. My hubby helps me up and down the stairs, but I can putter around downstairs without any trouble. (The first day, I could barely walk at all, but then again, I'd been flopped down in a hospital bed for quite a while, and had only recently been given a walking routine at the hospital.)

I'll Have to See What the Doc Says Today

I'm hoping that soon he'll say that I can start working out again. Nothing complicated, of course, even if I can just do yoga, that'll be an improvement over just watching TV. And I know how to start without weights and gradually increase them, so I'm not a beginner when it comes to working out.

But that's in the future, for the moment. The doc will probably prescribe some sort of walking regimen, which I'm all for - although not today (danged rain).

I'm very happy to be alive, thank you! I'm not yet done with my life, and I'm glad I'm being given another chance. I wanted to thank everybody at work and all our friends for the cards and well wishes and all.

Just call me the female Job.

2008-09-22

I Know - Where Have I Been?

Well...

I was feeling really sick a few months back. That, combined with continued stress (husband not finding a job, company that I work for bought out by another company), gave me what I thought was a bad back.

In February, I received some pills for my bad lower back. I thought that would take care of the problem.

Nope.

The pain came back again in June, and I knew something wasn't right. So I went off to the doctor's office. I was again prescribed some pills for the pain, but this time, the doctor thought it would be a good idea to have some blood work done, as I hadn't had a physical done in quite some time.

The urine test came back - blood in the urine.

Not gushing, mind you. But just enough to have the doctor's office calling and leaving me messages.

To make a long story a bit shorter ;-), I went to a urologist, who told me my kidneys weren't in good shape. Especially the left one. Now, I've known for 7 years that my left kidney was smaller than my right. Didn't think anything of it, except that it was strange (threw me for a loop). Since the doctor didn't say anything about it, I didn't think there was a problem.

Meh.

Anyway, I've already been through 2 minimally-invasive surgeries as I write this. The first one was to insert 2 small stents (which circumvent logjams in your arteries or wherever) on the ureters (which are the tubes that lead from the kidneys to the bladder).

As he figured would happen, the right kidney's flow through the ureter improved a bit; the left one did not. In fact, the left kidney is only functioning at 11%; it also is so crappy that keeps introducing infections into my body, which might explain why I've had so much pain in my abdomen over the years).

Anyhoo, the bottom line is, once he sees the larger stent that's now on my right ureter working fabulously well (being positive is the only way to be!), he'll then take out the left kidney.

Yup.

I'll be a 1 kidney person, probably by the end of this year.

To which I say - fine. If the left kidney is barely functioning, and it's operating like an infection machine, it's not doing a friggin' good thing. Obviously, though, the doc wants to make sure my right kidney is working at 110%, since it'll be the only one left.

So that's where I've been, you stalwarts who've insisted on keeping track of this blog. (And more power to you, because it's been...what...3 or 4 months since I last posted?) I'm also going to be working on getting my high blood pressure under control, which I desperately need to do. (I'm not going to even tell you the numbers at the last same-day surgery; just know that they were too high; something I've never had to deal with in the past, although there's plenty of hypertension on both sides of my family.)

Hopefully, I'll post a little more regularly, like 2-3 times per month. It's all going to depend on how I feel, when hubby gets a job, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Only positivity here, though! Prayers, good thoughts, crossed fingers and toes are the only things allowed, lol.

I've felt like the female Job the past few months: If it's not one downer thing, it's another, lol. But, as you can tell, I'm very optimistic about life and stuff.

Why?

Because. It's as good a reason as anything else.

Much love,

Nancy

2008-06-20

Word Count - and Birthday (Tomorrow, That Is)

I'm such a scatterbrain these days.

Movie I Watched Last Night

I meant to put up my word count at the site yesterday, just after I finished watching a really good movie last night (an old one, naturally ;-)) - Bridge to the Sun, a true story about a woman from Tennessee who marries a Japanese diplomat in the 1930s, and when he's deported from the U.S. soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she goes along with him. The ending was very sad; I had tears in my eyes as I went upstairs to bed.

So of course I washed up and went to bed. Silly me.

Da Actual Word Count, Man

Here's my word count for yesterday:

6/19 - 147 words

Amazing that I managed to get in any words, as my back (again) was acting up - I actually stayed home yesterday. I'm at work today, finishing up a project that's due on Monday.

They Say It's Your Birthday

And my birthday's tomorrow - the first day of Summer! LOL, I used to love the summer because school was over the year and because we'd usually go and visit family down the Jersey shore.

Now? Meh. I melt if it's too hot, and I never sit outside just to get a tan (I burn anyway, lol). I might as well just sit in a nice, comfy air-conditioned room and read a book.


Have a great weekend - whether it's your birthday or not! :-)

~Nancy Beck

2008-06-17

Hatchette vs. Amazon

Interesting post about Amazon removing the "Buy Now" button from certain Hatchette Livre UK books.

Hatchette isn't exactly a fly-by-night outfit. And it also sounds as if the situation for a number of UK publishers is a lot more dire than here in the U.S. (judging from the posts, that is).

Amazon better be careful, or this PR stuff is going to spiral out of their control.

~Nancy Beck

2008-06-16

Fake SFWA Contest

Can you believe the nerve of some people?

As most writers in the spec field know, SFWA stands for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. In addition to being a membership-type organization (where you can get some gigs that are only available to members, among other things), they also have some very useful articles on writing; those articles are free.

Here is the SFWA site.

Fake Contest - and Some Chutzpah

Jeez. Did they really think they could get away with it? (Apparently so.) The writers community on the Net is quite strong, so it's only going to take a little time to send this around the globe.

I found out about this on the Absolute Write Water Cooler, which lead me to the Writer Beware! blog, where you can find more information.

If you've entered the "contest" (which was put out on Craiglist - sheesh), contact Writer Beware at beware [at] sfwa [dot] org, substituting @ for [at] and . for [dot].

~Nancy Beck

Word Count

Damn.

Why is it that over the weekend I can never remember (or rarely remember) to put in my word counts? @)#&*@&$! (That's just me cursing a blue streak for being so forgetful.)

Anyway, here's the totals for Saturday and Sunday:

6/14 - 143 words
6/15 - 207 words

I need to tie that proverbial string on my finger; not that I'd remember what it's for ;-), but, well, I might surprise myself.

~Nancy Beck

2008-06-12

Writing Excuses

I was over on The Book Swede's blog (one of many very good fantasy & SF review sites/blogs) and noticed he had a post on writing advice.

My eyes fell on one of his website/blogger/forum suggestions - Writing Excuses. It's a podcast, but don't worry about having an MP3 player: You can click on the little right arrow within the post.

Sound quality is quite good - even on this old fart of a work computer. :-) The first podcast I semi-listened to was one of their regular (free!) ones - Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. It's their take on overcoming writers' block.

And Who Are "They"?

Glad you asked. ;-)

It's a threesome:
  • Brandon Sanderson - He wrote the Mistborn fantasy series. I haven't read it as yet, but it looks and sounds interesting. Meh. So many books to possibly read, so little time (and money, at the moment, lol.)
  • Harold Taylor - A cartoonist. I'm not up on his stuff, but a cartoonist, as far as I know, has deadlines just like any novelist does.
  • Dan Wells - A horror novelist. Horror isn't my cup of tea, and the loading of his - and the others' bios - were taking forever to load (stupid computer), so I clicked the stop button.
Sounds, though, as if they'd be quite able to offer all sorts of advice, considering they're pubbed authors (I wonder if Mr. Taylor has any graphic novels pubbed? Just wonderin'...).

Might be worth a look around, especially if you have trouble (like me) getting your butt in the chair and typing away, or any other problems you might have with your writing.

I love finding a new writing resource, and this looks like it might be a good one.

~Nancy Beck

2008-06-10

Word Count

Thanks

First, I wanted to say thanks to all who left a message re my low back pain. I'm not out of the woods as yet, but hubby has managed to do some really good massage back there. I'm also going to order a book on back pain to get some more ideas - not that I want hubby to give up on the massages, lol! :-) Hell, no! But if I can do other stuff (safe stuff; I can still walk around without any problems, so I don't want to take any chances with putting my back completely out of whack) when he's not around, so much the better.

Besides, it'll give the dogs a chance to butt in even more. ;-)

Word Count

I've managed to do a little writing today, after a break over the weekend. I'm working on this romantic fantasy, and if I carry it through to the end, I have no doubt that it'll end being more fantasy than romance. (Typical me, I tells ya! :-))

So the word count for today is:

153 words

Have a great day! :-)

~Nancy Beck

2008-06-05

Last Post Until Next Tuesday

My lower back is acting up big time, so it's hard sometimes for me to come with creative things to write here. So I'm going to concentrate on mundane things like filing (at my day job) and being somewhat of a bump on a log at home.

Hubby will continue to give me those nice massages, and I'll do what I can with accupressure/whatever, but I'm going to take a wee break from creative anything over the next few days. It's hard for me to be creative anyway when I'm in pain.

So don't look for any further posts until next Tuesday, at the earliest.

~Nancy Beck

Self Pub to Commercial Pub

I'd only read about this the other day, with the reviewers on Amazon crazy about the book (with one even saying he wished it would become a movie. From what I read I forget where, that's going to happen, too (well, hold your breath as to whether or not the film gets made; the rights being bought is one thing, while the actually making of the movie is another).

Anyway, here's the blurb from Publishers Lunch:
Leinad Zeraus's (aka database consultant Daniel Suarez) originally self-published debut technothriller DAEMON, "the story of a terminally ill game designer who unleashes a diabolical, self-replicating Web entity that enlists disaffected Netizens in its mission to destroy civilization," to Ben Sevier at Dutton, in a pre-empt, for publication in fall 2009, followed by a sequel, by Bridget Wagner at The Sagalyn Agency (world).
~Nancy Beck

2008-06-04

Former Mardi Gras Books Authors - Read This

I posted last year about Mardi Gras going down the tubes and figured, well, they'll just fade from view, drop off the Internet...

Not

I read a post on the Absolute Write boards that the former owner of Mardi Gras is still selling books under the Mardi Gras banner, at least as of May 20, 2008.

Check out the Dear Author post of that date.

Epublishers Biting the Dust

Mardi Gras was one of a string of epublishers (all romance epublishers, if I'm not mistaken) that tanked last year and into this year.

Now, from the gist of this, it sounds as if all rights were supposed to revert to the authors. If that's the case...what the hell is the former owner doing, selling those books?

She's selling them from this website. I haven't looked at the site, but the mind just boggles that someone would do this. How can she sleep at night?

Check to See If Your Books Are Up There

If you had a book published by Mardi Gras, and then the rights reverted to you last September, I urge to look at the site in the link above. And you might want to get a lawyer involved.

~Nancy Beck

Word Count

Well, I wrote 2,000 words yesterday, but I wasn't sure if I should post it.

Ya see, I'm a little burnt on my current WIP, so I wrote 2,000 words of an idea I have. There's a fantasy element (naturally), and there's also a wise-ass narrator (first person POV).

The only reasons I didn't include it was because 1) it's not part of my current WIP and 2) this just might die right where it is (that is, I might not take it to its fruition and try to sell it).

But I'll leave this post, and see what my Word Count Buddies decide.

~Nancy Beck

2008-06-03

To Be Read

Well, I started to read a Mercedes Lackey/Roberta Ellis book (Ill Met By Moonlight), but after getting only to the 2nd chapter, I've put it aside. Just isn't the right time for me to read this one; plus it's historical fantasy, and I really don't want my mind to compare it to my current WIP, lol. (My brain sometimes gets hung up on such comparisons, even though IMBM isn't set in World War II; it's that it's in the same genre, has been published, everything comes together well, yadda yadda yadda.)

Anyway, I tossed that one aside for now and started in on Lynn Flewelling's first novel, Luck In the Shadows.. (What is it with me and "Luck" in the titles? Lol!) I'm well into the 2nd chapter, and, so far, so good. We'll see how I feel as I go further in (it's firmly in the fantasy genre, although I don't think I'd call it epic fantasy, at least, not at this point). There's already an interesting twist hinted at by Ms. Flewelling - something that I knew about one of the characters going in, so it's not a complete surprise. I guess I'm just a bit surprised at how early in the story the hints come.

I'd been curious about this book/series for some time, so time will tell if it's totally to my liking.

~Nancy Beck

2008-06-02

Word Count and Weak Excuse

Well, I didn't type any words yesterday, so flog away.

I also forgot to use the Weak Excuses thingie - My low back was absolutely killing me. Hubby and I were supposed to go to the movies yesterday, but we ended up not going because I was afraid I'd be shifting in my seat every minute or so, trying to find that just right position. (I get fidgety when my endo acts up, too.)

Since I managed to get to work today (even though my back still hurts, even after hubby did some nice massage on it late yesterday), I'll be doing some typing today. I'll probably be ripping out some stuff that's just got me in a crabby, "Why did I put in that crap?" kind of mood.

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-30

Devlin's Luck - A Review

Devlin's Luck

Publisher: Spectra
432 pages

I've had this in my TBR pile for quite a while, and finally got around to reading it. It's the start of one of those high fantasy-type novels, but rest assured: There are no elves or orcs within its pages. Patricia Bray's Sword of Change trilogy starts with this book, and I've already ordered the other two.

The Basics

Devlin Stonehand is a farmer and metalworker from the country of Duncaer. He arrives during a festival in Jorsk, seeking to become Chosen One. The Chosen One, basically, is defender of the crown, although it's more of a ceremonial position than anything else, because the past several Chosen Ones have not lived longer than a few months.

Despite Devlin being a bit surly, he is befriended by a minstrel, Stephen, and by the head of the Guards, Captain Drakken (a woman :-)). He does have reasons for his surliness and for wanting to distance himself from most people.

Let's just say that what happened in his past caused him much pain and shame.

To test the new Chosen One, Captain Drakken decides to send Devlin to hunt down and take out some bandits who have murdered lesser nobles on one of the king's roads. He goes alone, figuring that, with any luck, he'll be killed. But it doesn't quite work out at that way, and he figures out who the murderer is by almost being murdered himself.

Then - after being given the okay by the council - Devlin is sent to the town of Esker to take care of what the local people call a skrimsal - a huge water serpent (think Loch Ness Monster).

But he has to contend with more than just the skrimsal): A populace who would rather hide than fight, and a darkly magical being that seems interested in the Chosen One and his special ring...

My Impressions

At least it's not in a subgenre that I feel like writing in, lol.

I understood Devlin from the get-go. This is a man, late 30s or in his 40s, who felt he let down his family. That he had a family only comes out in drips and drabs; his shame - or his pride - won't let him say much about them.

I liked how Devlin struggled with opening up to people, especially to the minstrel, Stephen.

Stephen is also a well-fleshed-out character. His rose-colored glasses are firmly on until he tags along with Devlin to Esker; as the story continued, his transition from a wide-eyed innocent to a cautious, thinking young man made sense. That he became one of Devlin's only friends in Jorsk was also believable.

From the looks of it, you'd think that this was the usual "guy finds out he has powers," but it's nothing as shallow as that. First, Devlin seeks out this particular position. Second, the powers (known as the Geas) are bestowed on him in a special rite.

Third, and probably the thing I liked most, was that Devlin is not an outgoing guy; he's downright surly, growling and grunting at most people. (Some people would say the same about me, heh.) He's a hardened man, and he doesn't take crap from people, and doesn't expect anything but the same in return. And yet, we get a few tender moments, like when he goes off by himself to perform a Duncaer ritual for his dead family.

Me like. Which is why I've already ordered the other two books in this series. :-)

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-28

To Be Read - The Start of an Older Fantasy Series #2

Well, I'm almost done with Devlin's Luck, and I've found it to be quite a good read.

I'll be posting a review of it within the next few days (depending on my mood, lol).

After that, I hope to get the second and third books of the series within the next week or two, so I can continue the story.

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-27

How to Get An Agent

  1. Write a book.
  2. Edit the crap out of it.
  3. Research agents to make sure they're legit.
  4. Send out your queries either by email or snail mail.

It seems that most who want to be commercially published neglect number 3.

Don't.

There are plenty of well-meaning agents out there; but being well meaning won't get you a publishing contract. Contacts are the way agents know who is buying what, and if your agent doesn't have those contacts (either by working as a junior agent at a legit agency or working as an editor at a legit publisher), guess what? Your book is going to languish.

The Worst Are The Scammers, But...

Although I'll be a bit lenient on those who are clueless, I'm not about to absolve them of everything. If you don't have contact within the publishing business, don't bother becoming an agent. Period. If you want to become an agent, then start as other legitimate ones have, by working at a legitimate agency (those that get book contracts for their authors) or by working at a legitimate publisher. Learn your trade.

I mean, good intentions aside, would you really be doing an author a favor? No. Put in your dues, and then hang out your shingle.

Writers Have to Do Their Bit, Too

But writers can't just sit and blindly send out emails to every agent they come across.

Do. Your. Research.

I can't emphasize this enough. I've read on one writers' board I frequent where a poster will say something like, "I got a request for a partial. Anybody know if this person is legitimate?"

The time to ask this is before you put in your time and energy sending out query letters. You've spent time on your novel, so why wouldn't you spend time making sure 1) Agents are on the up-and-up and 2) Rep your genre?

Treat your book - and yourself - with respect!

Research the agents in your chosen genre. Ask questions, get feedback. Craft your query letter. Then, and only then, send out your query letters. If you groan and think it's going to take time to get that query shining, tough crap: Your novel did, too, didn't it?

Don't skimp on the research part.

What's the Worst That Can Happen?

Just ask PublishAmerica (PA) people who have their first rights sewn up for seven years.

Seven freakin' years.

During which PA won't do a damned thing for you. Because PA is geared to writers, not readers. PA doesn't give a damn about marketing or publicizing your book; you're expected to fork out dough for that stuff. (No matter that real publishers do marketing on your book, despite what some people might say; the only reason they don't do a lot of marketing for your book - a book from a newbie - is that you're an unknown quantity. Since you don't have a track record, guess what? They're going to spend less, but they will spend some money on your book. Commercial publishers are in it for the money, honey, because they're businesses.)

Sorry for the rant, but it really gets me when people start peddling that crap.

In Summary

So, don't forget to do your research on agents before you send out your queries. Don't just click on that Google ad and expect instant bliss. Because most of those Google ads are for vanity presses and the like, and your wallet will be that much slimmer.

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-24

Word Count

I kept saying to myself yesterday, "Must type in word count before I got to bed, must type in word count..."

But, of course, being the doofus I am - I forgot!

So here's my word count for yesterday, May 23:

255 words

I'll be getting in my typing on my WIP later this morning.

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-23

Booklocker Files Class Action Lawsuit

Read about this on Publishers Lunch (PL). PL linked to Foner's Self Publishing blog.

Quite interesting. I'm not sure how this is going to turn out (it hasn't yet been certified by the courts), but kudos to Booklocker for trying this.

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-22

To Be Read - The Start of an Older Fantasy Series

Well, after FINALLY finishing The Cipher by Diana Pharoah Francis, I decided to dive right into another book.

So What Am I Reading?

I'm now reading Devlin's Luck, by Patricia Bray. It's an older book, more in the epic fantasy vein. It's weird, but as much as I like to read epic fantasy, I have no interest in writing it.

No, not famous last words, as I'll qualify that: At least, not right now.

Right now, I'm more interested in historical fantasy. In fact, my next idea is a twenty-ish woman in 1929 storming Broadway. My thought is to make her into a werewolf, but with an interesting twist (I'm throwing some technology into the mix, although it shouldn't be too farfetched; and besides, it's historical FANTASY, so nonny, nonny, boo boo! I can do it if I want - as long as I write it convincingly.)

Um, Can You Get Back to the Book You're Reading?

Oh, right. Devlin's Luck is turning out to be a pretty good book. Yeah, there's the usual medieval European feel to it, and the MC has some powers he doesn't know he had. But it's not some slick-behind-the ears orphan; Devlin is a widower, in what I think is his late twenties. And that powers thing? It's not exactly powers he doesn't know he had; it's kind of hard to describe, except that he's accepted as the Chosen One (yeah, I know, yet another fantasy trope!), a guardian of the Jorskian kingdom, and...well, he heals pretty quickly.

That's all I'll say for right now, except that I find Devlin to be a grumpy but heroic character (but he puts down all of his heroism, all the time; I hope he doesn't do that throughout the series, because I fear it'll get tired after a while).

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-21

Word Count

Whoops, forgot to put in my word count for yesterday, May 20:

233 words

And yesterday was not an easy day for me to write, as my lower back was killing me. (Just ask the dogs. ;-)) Stayed home from work, it was so bad.

Today...twinges, but not too bad.

Of course, though, I've had a sinus headache for most of today. ::sigh:: Sometimes, it just don't pay to get out of bed, lol.

~Nancy Beck

Egad - I've Been Tagged! 8 Little Known Things 'Bout Me

In my last post, I was tagged by Liz:
You'll have noticed that the dreaded tag game is in town... guess what? You're tagged. 8 little known facts about yourself to be posted on your blog.
Sounds cool. (I think. ;-)) Here are 8 little known things about Nancy Beck:
  • I stand 5 feet tall (yeah, I'm a munchkin, lol).
  • I was born on the first day of summer (that's June 21, in case you don't know :-)).
  • My mom was afraid I wouldn't be born because her mother died during the second month she was carrying me. (Note: I was born! ;-))
  • My nutty, cynical attitude is based mostly on the character of Dee (Danielle Spencer) of the 1970s TV show, What's Happenin'! (God, I LURVE that show!) Dee spouted all sorts of cynical, from-the-hip stuff, that it's stuck to me to this day.
  • I've been diagnosed with endometriosis, which means that when I have my period, um, all the blood doesn't drain out of me. (Jeez, I hope the werewolves don't hit me up for any blood. ;-)) Because of that, and because I think I've had it my entire life, I could never get pregnant. ::sigh::
  • When my sister-in-law was dating a commodities broker, he came to visit her at my mother-in-law's house (yeah, I was there); he pulled up in a stretch limo, which then took us over to the nearby liquor store. (Heh. Going to the liquor store in a limo was a fun, weird treat.) Since sis-in-law wasn't interested in being around him much anymore, he asked hubby and I to try to freak him out (we're both weird, so it wasn't a problem). We played Whip It, by Devo, on the stereo. Hubby put on a one of Devo's energy domes (looks like a plastic flower pot), took out a belt, smacked the floor with said belt (during one of the stanzas: Crack that whip!) Me? I think I was singing at the top of my lungs, twirling around, pointing at sis-in-law's boyfriend; generally, I was in-his-face obnoxious. Hubby and I found out later that we did, indeed, freak out the commodities dude (and she stopped seeing him soon thereafter).
  • I came up with a name for all the trials and tribulations of my in-laws: Beck Lore. To this day, whenever hubby, his brothers, or his sister starts in on one of Ye Old Beck Stories, my term gets included in there. (Is that pride you hear? More likely, it's a shudder, because most of Beck Lore will make you laugh until you pee, want to leave the country, or simply scream in horror.)
  • I have a slew of old movie books; basically they describe the studio (RKO, Universal, whatever), and then give short synopses of the films that particular studio put out. I only had three or four of them in the 1970s, when I was a teenager, but I read them religiously. I always wondered if I'd ever get to meet anyone in them - and I did! (Dear reader, how did you guess that? ;-)) Paramount had on its roster of actors one by the name of Eddie Bracken. Sis-in-law was (and still is) a friend of his daughter, Sue. (You think I'm a nut job. Hah!) Finally, about 10 years ago, hubby and I made a "date" to meet up with good old Eddie in his beautiful home.
It was all I could hope for - and more. Because, being forthright and confident in my abilities to remember old movies (of course, I brought my Paramount book along for him to sign, and for us to discuss), Eddie pointed at a still from one of his movies.

"And that's me in, in..."

Eddie was stumped.

Of course, I jumped in. "Eddie, that's you and Bob Hope in Caught In the Draft."

I hate to admit it, but I said it in a kind of "Jeez, don't you remember your own movies?" This, to a man in his 80s. (What was I thinking?)

But he was ever gracious, just smiling at me, saying something like, "That's right, that's right." And then he looked at hubby. "I like her." Eee hee. :-) I guess he liked it that being a youngster (hah!), I sure knew my old movies. (He was right about that, heh.)

So I got a slew of autographs from him, including one he put in a book penned by Henny Youngman. (I'm still trying to figure out THAT one.)

Is it any wonder that I have a small scene in my current WIP that involves this funny man? (Ever seen Hail the Conquering Hero? Or maybe you remember Mr. Duncan, the old toy store dude, in one of the Home Alone movies?)

I could also tell you that sis-in-law was the toast of her hometown (acting wise), while hubby contributed his voice to the production of The Miracle Worker. Or that Jason Alexander (George on Seinfeld) sought her out in New York just before Seinfeld came out that particular year. (Yeah. Truth: Jason Alexander is just a few years younger than my sis-in-law. They went to the same high school.)

Hmm...now to find someone else to tag...


~Nancy Beck

2008-05-19

Monday Morning Wrap Up: 5/17-5/18

Word Count

I got so into the Indiana Jones special on the History Channel, that I completely forgot to put in my word total for yesterday (I wrote before the special came on, lol):

5/18: 258 words

Analyzing the Words

Actually, it'll be more like analyzing my current draft. I'm uncomfortable with a lot of the words I've written in the past couple of weeks (yeah, I know; there were a number of days where I didn't write :-(), and I think it might have contributed to my not writing anything on some of those days (the rest can be attributed to out-and-out lazines on my part and some personal things that just made me blue).

I picked up a book early in the year called, First Draft In 30 Days. I'll probably do a more in-depth review on this book at some point, but I have to admit what initially intrigued me was a plan, a nuts-and-bolts plan (don't you love these cliches I'm throwing out here? :-)) to write that all important first draft.

But the woman who wrote it, Karen S. Wiesner - a romance novelist - also has a section on analyzing your current draft. It's for those of us who know - just know - parts of what they've written aren't quite right, but can't say why. (I think I know why, even though I feel some of what I've written lately needs to be in the story to foreshadow other stuff.) So I'm going to print out up to the point I'm at right now - that's about 150 pages!

Still, it's been bugging the hell out of me, and I want to see what things Ms. Wiesner suggests. (She has quite a few romance e-novels out there, so I figure she must be doing something right. :-))

What Else?

With the demise of our watering hole, a couple of our friends suggested going to another nearby restaurant/whatever, a place we used to frequent a lot more often. The food was quite good, as we sat at the bar rather than at a table. What we weren't used to was the size of the bill; the Late Great Watering Hole was mucho cheaper.

And since our moolah is slowly slipping away, we'll have to be very careful the next time we go there (which isn't going to be every Saturday, you can be sure).

Yesterday, Sunday, was kind of a cruddy day, especially in the afternoon. Hubby begged off going to the supermarket on Saturday, and yesterday was the day. But he didn't feel well (probably because of his continued depression), so I went instead. I was a bit pissed off, but he made up for it by cooking a nice chicken dinner, with gravy and mashed potatoes.

Delish!

I'm already looking forward to next weekend, when we have a BBQ to go to on Saturday, another one on Sunday, and the Indiana Jones movie on Monday! (I'm going no matter what the reviews say.)

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-14

The Cipher - A Review

The Cipher

====================================================================
Published by: Roc
432 pages

Diana Pharoah Francis throws us right into the action - and into the attitude of Lucy Trenton - right at the start:

There were some days that deserved to be be drowned at birth and everyone sent back to bed with a hot brandy, a box of chocolates and a warm, energetic companion. Today was without question one of those days.

The cutter lurched over the chop, shimmying from side-to-side in a stomach-twisting quadrille. Rain pebbled the deck and sails, sounding like hail. Water sheeted across the bow in drenching wings and swirled around Lucy's feet, too great a flood for the scuttles to handle. Her socks were soaked and she could hardly feel her toes. She ought to have had her boots majicked against the weather like her cloak. But it was a bit more majick than she could take. Cold eeled deep inside Lucy. Her insides quaked with the penetrating chill and her muscles clenched against it. She tightened her arms around her stomach, wishing she'd eaten a better breakfast and thinking longingly of her forgotten flask of tea. A few minutes later she heard a shouted "heave to!" Sailers scrambled up the shrouds to reef the handful of bellied sails. The men at the poles dug sharply into the churning water as the cutter heeled to starboard. - pg 1, The Cipher

I'd enjoyed Ms. Francis' last trilogy (which started off with Path of Fate) and although I finished all three books, I felt a little let down by the time I finished the third book.

The Cipher is the first of her latest trilogy. It didn't have quite the same affect on me as did Path of Fate (I cried reading some sections of that book, seriously), it's a good read.

The Synopsis

Lucy Trenton is a member of one of the founding families of Crosspointe, a maritime town. She's also a cargo inspector, so she's out and about ships and warehouses, even in horrid weather.

One of Lucy's problems is that she can sense magick; it overwhelms her to the point where she'll do things as if she's in a trance. The magick she senses at the beginning of this book leads her to a warehouse, and although she tries to stop herself from looking for the source of that magick, her willpower is too weak: A cipher - magically-cursed objects created centuries before by a magician named Errol Cipher - attaches itself to her arm. The weird thing is, Lucy can see this thing, but others cannot.

And, oh, the nasty magick this damned cipher can do!

She hasn't helped matters by actually collecting these things; let's just say law enforcement isn't too keen to have people collecting these things. Considering that this can be used against her by those who hate the royal family, Lucy has kept this quiet, a secret, for many years.

Until someone starts blackmailing her. This eventually sends events spiralling out of control, started by her friend and (sometime) lover, Marten. Having to deal with bad weather was one thing, but Lucy now has to contend with sylveth (enchanted "stuff" that can turn humans and animals into grotesque, murderous forms) on a huge scale by being sent to The Brambles...

But you'll have to read the book to figure out just exactly what The Brambles is.

My Take On the Book

I loved the heroine of this book, because she's strong but has flaws. Also, she's not a rail-thin MC, as a lot of MCs tend to be. She had her moments where I wanted to smack her silly and say, "Are you nuts?" But, let's face it - we all do stupid things, sometimes one after the other - so I didn't have a problem with Lucy being that way from time to time. (You've had one of those days, haven't you, where everything you say and do is stupid/inane? I know I've had plenty.)

She also gets burned up a lot, which might make her wimpy and whiny to some. But after all my trials and tribulations of the past few months, I had a lot of sympathy for Lucy, because there were plenty of times when I cried or felt like crying, and it wasn't because of any physical pain. (Lucy also has some mental anguish, because of what the blackmailer does to a good portion of her family - all going back to her obsession with ciphers.)

There's one part near the end wherein Lucy (and Marten, to an extent) are given something magickal, something I won't describe here. I fully expected Lucy and Marten to struggle more as, let's say, the evil surrounded them. But this thing they're given...I don't know...it just seemed too easy. No, there's no, "it came from out of nowhere" moment; nothing like that. It's hard to put a finger on it, but that part just felt off to me.

Rating? Who's Got the Rating?

There were a couple of slow stretches here and there, but nothing that dragged on endlessly (or anything that had me pissed off). That, combined with the uneasiness mentioned above, lead me to give this a B. A good solid B, missing an A ::by that much::.

Good enough, in fact, for me to look forward to the second book, The Black Ship.

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-13

State of Indiana Files Lawsuit Against Airleaf

Do you remember these scumbags? I originally wrote about Airleaf in this post.

What Were They?

They purported to be a publisher. Or something. Oh, wait, that's right - they were like Groucho Marx, trying to come between you and your money.

Except it was no laughing matter for those who coughed up the money.

I went to the Airleaf Victims blog and saw stuff from people who gave this outfit $4,000 and $10,000; it's utterly heartwrenching.

Relief...and Maybe Some Sort of Payment (Hopefully)

On Thursday, May 8, the Indiana Attorney General filed suit against Airleaf
...for taking money without providing the promised services in return. The lawsuit is seeking consumer restitution for at least 120 customers.
How the hell did these people sleep at night? (Obviously, they did sleep pretty well, as long as the money kept coming in.)

The AG continued:
"More than 120 people are named in the lawsuit, including many from Indiana who lost thousands of dollars,” said Carter. “In fact, hundreds more may have lost money. They paid for services. Airleaf did not deliver, and now, those consumers deserve refunds.”
Damn right they do! Let's hope that the poor victims who put up wads of cash get some sort of restitution.

You can read this more in depth at the Airleaf Victims blog.

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-09

Orbit to Expand In the U.S.

Just got this off Publishers Lunch:
Orbit says they will expand their lists in the both the US--where title count will double over the next three years, to 70 to 80 books a year by 2011, and in the UK, where the list is targeted to grow about 10 percent annually over the next three years. (Orbit is already the biggest sci-fi/fantasy imprint in the UK.) Publisher Tim Holman says, "The support that we've received for our launch season in the US - and the success that we've achieved internationally - has given us great confidence in our publishing strategy. There is a clear and significant opportunity for any SFF publisher looking to expand the core readership, and we intend Orbit to be at the forefront of the effort to attract more readers to SF and Fantasy."
Ooo, nice! :-) I have one Orbit book at the moment, although I haven't finished it as yet; the writing was a bit choppy to me, but it might just be me. ;-) I'll give it another go at some point.

But for those of us writing SFF, this is good news - another venue to which agents can sell our manuscripts. (Well, as soon as we can GET an agent, lol.)

Have a great weekend!

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-08

News From the Wacky World of Publishing

Agent Stuff

If you've written (and rewritten umpteen times) a fantasy/SF/horror novel and are embarking on that agent search, here's some agent info (from Publishers Lunch):
Agent Lucienne Diver has joined The Knight Agency after fifteen years at Spectrum Literary Agency, where she specialized in fantasy, science fiction, romance, mystery and suspense.
Time to update your bookmarks, gentle people.

HarperCollins

If you write in the children's segment, here's some really good news (also from Publishers Lunch):
The strongest-performing division, according to ceo Jane Friedman, was the US children's division, which was "on fire" with sales up almost 50 percent and operating profit up almost 500 percent.
So much for kids not reading, eh? ;-) Sounds to me like the young'uns is reading quite a bit.

Magical Realism Author

At least I think that's what Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes. (Don't you just love that name? Has a nice beat to it...I'm a sucker for unusual names and long names that have a nice rhythm to them.)

Anyway, here's what Publishers Lunch reported:
A friend of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (and head of news at a Colombian radio station) says that the author "is putting the final touches to his new novel," after having said two years ago that he was finished with writing. Dario Arizmendi says, "He wrote a first draft which he didn't like, then another, then another; then, with the fifth draft, it was ready." Running about 250 pages, the book--described as "a novel of love"--should be publishable before the end of the year.
For all you fangirls and fanboys of Garcia Marquez, this is awesome news. Of course, you'll still have to wait until sometime next year to actually read it.

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-05

Monday Wrap Up: 5/3-5/4

Time for a major flog, word count buddies. ::sigh:: I haven't written anything since Friday. Truth is, I was a little depressed over the weekend. It just seems like everything is hitting the fan right now, what with hubby trying to find a job, his depression, our worsening finances, my losing my job somewhere between June and October of this year...

I know that this sounds like a lot of griping - and it is - but it's very tough for me right now. I haven't told hubby a thing about the company I work for being bought out, and that Number One Boss' last day is October 31 this year.

Keeping it from him and a lot of other people isn't easy. And the reason I'm keeping it from people is because, well, I know they'll freak out. (Especially hubby and his siblings. Gawd, will they ever flip, and I really don't need that right now.)

So I continue to encourage hubby, to try to be happy and upbeat...but it's hard when you're staring at possible bankruptcy.

As for loans, forget it; already done that. At least Number One Boss has come up with an idea: He'll let me know when he's found something, so then I can put my ass in gear. I'll get some severance money, which I can put toward paying taxes on the loan I took out on my 401k. I do feel completely confident about finding another job, although I'll have to look far afield (NYC, I'm talking about, which ain't exactly close to home).

Looking in Pennsylvania, which is closer to home, isn't going to cut it. They pay poverty wages, when what I need is a champagne salary (which is what I can get in NYC).

And then I had to listen to hubby lose it (in a really sad way) after talking to his mother on the phone. Will she ever learn to get over spewing that Jehovah's Witness bullshit? My guess is, no, even though hubby has told her to cut it out, that he'd never be interested in joining that cult.

It is a cult - I don't care what anybody says.

Ack, sorry to go on like this. I'll take the flogging; I knew the deal when I signed up.

On the good end of things, I read some really good and funny writing exercises over on Evil Editor's blog. :-) And that includes mine - Number 2 (shameless plug, I know ;-)).

I loves a good, old-fashioned detective story; I did one thinking of movies like This Gun For Hire.

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-02

Film Fun Friday #3

(photo courtesy of The Internet Movie Database - http://www.imdb.com)

Rebecca, United Artists, 1940

"I dreamt I went to Manderley..."

Thus starts Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, which I believe she originally wrote as a parody of gothic novels that were out at the time. (I may not be correct about that, BTW.)

I'd never attempted to read the book, as I'd seen the movie several times; I did know that the ending had to be cleaned up for this movie version. This, because of the infamous Production Code; all I'll say is that it involved a murder and one of the characters.

When my sis-in-law gave me all of her classic, hardbound books a few years ago, I wondered if I'd actually read any of them. I started on Rebecca sometime last year. After all, that first line...it just had to be good.

Meh.

The beginning dragged and dragged and dragged for me. I felt like my brain was going to fall out or something - it was that dreary.

Others may like it, though count me among those who wonder why. But always remember that the way I look at it, you like what you like, and their is no such thing as a guilty pleasure - just a pleasure, thank you. :-)

So here's some trivia for ya:
  • Ronald Colman was originally pencilled in as Max de Winter. The part eventually went to Laurence Olivier, who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.
  • Naturally, Vivien Leigh tried out for the part of the second Mrs. de Winter; after all, she was in luuurve with Olivier (during filming of Gone With the Wind, too, although the studio kept Leigh and Olivier separated for most - if not all - of the filming).
  • The role went to Joan Fontaine, Olivia de Havilland's sister. She, too, was nominated for an Oscar, for Best Actress.
  • The largest of the Manderley miniatures took up nearly an entire soundstage.
Have a fun weekend!

~Nancy Beck

2008-05-01

Zombies in Egypt?

Oh, Evil Editor would love this!

Thanks to writtenwyrdd for pointing to the article.

Yes, It's An Article

It's at the website of the Archeology Insitute of America, so methinks the real world has finally come around to thinking zombies were - are? - real.

How cool is that?

For you fantasy writers, doesn't it make you drool and want to write something? Or at least beat your chest (not too hard now) and proclaim, loud and clear, "I told you academics and literary types that there were zombies!"

Or something.

~Nancy Beck