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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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