Friday, December 30, 2011

The End of the Year

"Just a few more hours/that's all the time you've got/Just a few more hours" Those lyrics are from Get Me to the Church on Time from the Broadway musical, "My Fair Lady." The song is actually about the last few hours of freedom before the guy gets married, but they are appropriate now, as well. Because it is "just a few more hours" until we turn over another year. And, as so many others are doing, I'm looking a little bit back, and a little bit ahead. On the big scale, it was a bit of an unsettled year. The weather was unsettled in a lot of areas, with storms and earthquakes and disasters seeming to occur on a regular basis. On a smaller scale, here in my world, we had a freak snowstorm in late October, and are still having unseasonably warm weather interspersed with a chilling cold day now and then. Wind, rain and hot weather were a bit topsy-turvy all year as well. We lost some big news names: Kim Jong-il, Anne McCaffrey, Harry Morgan, Bil Keane and Steve Jobs, just to name a few. Some things changed, some did not. All in all, it was a year much like any other, with ups and downs, good and bad, highs and lows. And now it is time to say good-bye, and welcome in a bright, shiny new year.

New Year's always holds a bright promise: this one will be better. Whether you are a resolution maker (I am not), or you prefer to just hold out hope that things must go better, the feeling is there. We've sent the old away, it's behind us, and we can look forward to something better.

And you know what? I think that is a good thing, as long as you realize that the New Year alone is not going to fix everything. You have to add your part to it. The turning of the year gives you the chance to put the past behind, and face a new, improved future. But it will happen only if you make it. January 1st presents you with a blank slate, and that's all it is responsible for. Keeping the shiny, and making the new last is all on you. And that's not a bad thing, either. We all need to get more involved, more motivated and just do more. So whatever you want to happen? Get out there and "Make it so!" as Captain Picard would order. Do it. Even if it's just a small thing that affects only you and your life. It's worth it, because next year at this time, you can look at that one thing and say- I kept this shiny and new all year long. And that, my friends, is worth more than all the big, sweeping resolutions that are forgotten and abandoned. Happy New Year!

And one last thing that has nothing to do with New Year's, other than it is the deadline for this: Writer’s Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers is taking votes.

I'm asking for votes for one of the most useful websites and podcasts for writer's I know: I Should be Writing by Mur Lafferty ( It's informative, interesting, sometimes tough, sometimes personal, but always has good, solid, common sense advice, plus interviews with everyone you want to hear about.

I have gotten a lot of benefit from ISBW. I've voted! It should be included on the list. If you have listened or read ISBW and think it's worthwhile, please add your vote. I thank you and I know Mur does, too!

The basic instructions: 1.Send an email to: 2.Put 101 Best Websites nomination in the subject line 3.Write a brief note asking for WD to consider the site for inclusion in the 101 Best Websites list and make sure to provide both the NAME of the blog/site, as well as the URL. I Should Be Writing 4.The deadline for nominations is January 1st, and winners are announced in June.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

For All Of You

Merry, Happy, Joyous, Fun-filled, Festive, Jolly, Cheery, Love, Light and Laughter to All!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm sorry, Ms. Self-Published Author, But You Just Lost a Sale

I found a link to a book on a friend's Facebook page. Apparently, the book was written by a friend of his. Since I am all for supporting new authors, I figured I'd go take a look. I went to the Amazon page for the book and the title and blurb sounded interesting, so I clicked on the "Look Inside" link, which took me to a preview of the first 5 or 6 pages. And that's where the trouble began.

Let me start by saying I have no problem with self-publishing. In fact, I am considering going that route if I ever manage to get the novel I am working on in decent shape. It can be a good way to get a book out and into the hands (or ebook readers) of people faster than going a more traditional route. But there are some pitfalls and this particular book fell deeply into one of those pits. What was wrong? It needed a good editor.

The opening of the story was not bad. I was interested in the subject. But there were so many grammar and puntuation errors in those few pages that I found myself getting popped out of the story and wincing (and mentally correcting) every other sentence. Missed commas, commas where they didn't belong, choppy sentence structure, all of that and more. I have no idea if the rest of the story held up to the premise and I will never find out, because if those first pages are any indication, I would find it exceptionally hard to read, no matter how good the idea may have been.

It's too bad, really, because if the author had gotten a professional editor to work on the book, I probably would have bought it. Getting a pro to edit your book before you self-publish is one of the constant themes you see in books, articles and blogs relating to self-publishing. Sure, it is going to cost you some money up front, but isn't it worth it to ensure that people will buy the book? A good editor is going to do a lot for you in polishing your story, with both the mechanics of writing and style and content. We all like to think we are already good at all that stuff, but as the author, you miss stuff. Always. And your mom or your best friend aren't likely to be much better, unless they happen to be pros. An editor is trained to look beyond the surface story, and pull apart all the things that are wrong.

Not to say that you shouldn't let your mom or your best friend read your work. They are the ones that can tell you (assuming they will be honest with you), if the story works and keeps them interested as readers. But for the nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts editing, hire someone. I plan to. Because what your potential reader sees in those first few pages will convince them to buy or not to buy. And you want them to decide on buy. A book that comes across as poorly written from a mechanics point of view is just as bad as one that is poorly concieved.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Gateway (Harbinger of Doom 1) by Glenn G. Thater

The Gateway (Harbinger of Doom, #1)The Gateway by Glenn G. Thater
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was... confusing. The Gateway is the opening book in the Harbinger of Doom trilogy and as such, I didn't expect everything to be answered or settled by the end. At the same time, I did expect a coherent, integrated story that set up the next books and introduced characters that would draw me in and make me want to read more. Instead, the book seems to be a collection of vignettes, without much to hold them together.

The story centers on the knights of House Eotrus, a medieval holding in a Norse setting. The story does utilize many Nordic mythologic references and traditions. The Lord of the house had gone with a group of men to investigate mysterious happenings in the forest around the estate. When they do not return, the eldest son gathers a group of knights to find out what happened. He recruits Angle Theta, a mysterious warrior with apparently supernatural powers to help. When they go to the forest, they discover that a gap is being opened to a world of demons set to invade and destroy the knight's world. With Theta's help, they must find a way to fight the demons and close the gap.

The first problem I had with this book is the characters. They are mostly one-dimensional, with little or no physical description to differentiate them. The dialogue is off-putting, a combination of a stilted style of archaic language and a lot of modern slang. It makes them less believable as a whole.

There are odd viewpoint shifts in the book, as well. Most of it is written in third person, but there are sections in first person, as well. That kind of shift is hard to do well, and here, it just seems confusing.

There is little world-building in this part of the story. What we see is a fairly typical medieval setting with little to make it stand out as a time and place.

The action is fairly well done. In particular, the climactic battle scene is intense and fast-paced.

In all, it was a quick, okay read.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mistborn: The Final Empire is a very good fantasy. I have not read the author's first novel, but I look forward to doing so. The plot of this story is a common one in fantasy, but Sanderson twists it enough and adds some new ideas that make it interesting and definitely worth reading.

The basic plot revolves around the plan of a group of revolutionaries to overthrow the Lord Ruler, who has held complete power in the land for a thousand years. The Lord Ruler is, to all appearances, immortal and is called the "Sliver of Infinity." A band of thieves, led by Kelsier, who has survived the Lord Ruler's most heinous slave mine, attempts to depose the ruler and free the downtrodden skaa.

The "magic" system in the book is intriguing. I use the quotes because it is unlike most magical systems. No spells, no chanting, no ritual practice. There are no wizards with energy-flashing staves and no witches weaving complex charms. The magic stems from swallowing bits of certain metals, and then "burning" them internally to tap into the metal's power. It is a bit more like tapping into superhero powers than a system of magic, but it works well and is a different take on what we usually see.

World building is also done well. The landscape we are introduced to is grey and ash covered. The ash falls like rain every day. At night, dense, fog-like mists rise and cover the land. The mists are feared by most people, although the Mistborn, with their metal-enhanced abilities, move about freely in the mists. The society is comprised of the Lord Ruler, who has absolute power, at the top. The Great Houses are the aristocracy of the world, and hold the wealth and power. The skaa, considered sub-human by the elite, are essentially slaves, used for manual labor and as servants to the wealthy class. In between, are the theiving guilds, who survive on wits and by conning the wealthy.

The main characters are Kelsier, a thief and revolutionary, who puts together the plot to overthrow the Lord Ruler, and Vin, a street-wise young woman who is a member of one of the thieving guilds. Both are Mistborn, able to "burn" and utilize all the metals. The rest of the team is composed of allomancers, who are able to work with only one metal each.

The plot moves along at a decent pace, with the battles between the Mistborn particularly well done. There are some rather long passages of dialogue that get a bit tedious at times, and Vin's attendance at the upper class balls for information gathering are a bit overdone. In general, though, those two flaws don't take away from the story's readability.

Kelsier and Vin are very detailed and complex as characters. The rest of the cast is less well drawn and one or two are almost cardboard cutouts without much definition. Again, these are minor problems and don't hurt the overall enjoyment of the story.

In all, this was a very good read, and I will go on to read the rest of the series.

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