Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Order of Things and Fatal Flaws

So.  A short while back I told you about how I'm working way too much out of necessity, getting home late, no time off, blah blah blah. I also said I 'd give you an update on what I'm really working on, you know, the important stuff: the writing I squeeze in whenever I'm not too tired or mind dead (this is when all you can handle is re-runs of Criminal Minds or whatever show you're currently following, like The Killing, which could be a post all itself...).

Anyway. I am currently making slow progress on an old project I haven't quite given up on: GRIMOIRE. Some of you might remember me talking about it. I queried it and got a lot of requests for partials and fulls but ultimately no takers. Why? I'd read the manuscript a million times and every time I came away thinking, damn, that's a great story! Why didn't agents like it enough to take it on?

And I finally figured out why. I found the fatal flaw. It was the order of things. Especially the order in which information was presented through dialogue. Either the conversation didn't track quite right or a question wasn't asked when it should've been. Fixing this flaw has involved a whole lot of cutting and pasting, rearranging dialogue, adjusting events...basically revising - again. But in the end, I hope I'll have something I can be truly proud to send off, or, perhaps even publish myself.

Meanwhile, ponder this question I heard on The Big Jab, a sports radio station my son listens to:

Would you rather keep your thumbs and go bald or keep your hair and lose your thumbs?

PS As of this writing, Dianne Salerni and I have two spots left for October's First Impressions. Interested in having your first page critiqued by two authors? Check out my sidebar for the details. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

First Impressions - untitled

Our final first impression comes from Talynn, who unfortunately is in the midst of a move and without internet. Because of that we have no piccie or title to share, altho I did find Talynn's blog, Ink in the Book. Here is the first page of her manuscript, which we think is either a YA steampunk or fantasy. As always, my partner Dianne Salerni will be critiquing this same first page on her blog so head over and see what she thought if you get a chance. 

The clockwork dragon detonated in a barrage of fire and metal.
I yanked the sword I wielded and shoved the shield in front of my body, but it was too late. The acid laced fire already started to melt the silver blade. I growled and flung the weapon away from my body. It settled (settled feels like a weak verb here in comparison to the others used thus far) in a muddy bog and slid beneath the surface. The dragon hissed and disappeared, transmitted (ooh, wait, I want to know more about what this means) back to it’s creator, though it left most of it’s working parts scattered around the battleground.
“Echo!” I yelled over the explosion of noise. “It’s over. You can come out now.”
My twin sister had been standing behind me a few minutes earlier, tucked away in safety, but now (who is she fighting now? And with what? Didn't her blade melt? Or do you really mean:  My twin sister had been standing behind me a few minutes earlier, tucked away safely while I fought alone in the damp muskeg.) I fought alone in the damp muskeg. I scrunched up my nose, the acrid smell left behind from the dragon burned when I breathed. I glanced around me. It wasn’t easy to concentrate on the battle when Echo wasn’t in sight. (Why?) Nothing but dark shadows, where the bog mixed with cypress tress and deep caves in the distance. All I could make out was rocky crags with dark circles that looked like black eyes keeping watch over the swamp. Creepy, even for me. Echo wouldn’t have run in there. With one last look around, I walked back toward base camp, betting my cards she’s run home to the safe house.

My first thought is that this is a pretty cool beginning. A clockwork dragon? Transmitting back? Transmitting back where? And who's its creator? Lots of interesting questions to encourage the reader to turn the page. I would've liked a little more character, but I like that our narrator is worried about her twin and the last line makes me worry, too! The only other thing I'll mention is the second paragraph which suggests that the fight is still going on but nothing happens. It seems more like the aftermath to me. But that's an easy fix. Either show that the fight is continuing or reword the paragraph. Other than that, I thought this was a darn good first page.

Readers, what did you think? Any thoughts for Talynn?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Guest post with author Julie Musil

I am thrilled today to turn my blog over to author Julie Musil, who offers Writing Lessons Learned from her latest read. I'm a big fan of Julie and I love her lessons. I hope you will, too.

Writing Lessons Learned from HOME FRONT

One of my favorite unintentional things to do while reading a great book is to take away writing lessons. I love jotting down helpful techniques used by some of my favorite authors, such as Kristin Hannah.

Here’s a brief blurb of Kristin Hannah’s novel, Home Front, which I recently finished.

Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life--children, careers, bills, chores--even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a soldier she has always understood the true meaning of duty. In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could’ve foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own--for everything that matters to his family.

Here are some writing lessons I learned from this gut-wrenching book (Alert! If you plan to read this book, and don’t want to know any plot points, read no further!):

   Role Reversal--the main character, Jolene, is a female helicopter pilot in the reserves who is sent off to war. I normally think of men in this position, which is just me stereotyping. The female warrior angle was really cool. The end of the book included an interview with a real female helicopter pilot, which was intriguing.
   Unhappy Goodbye--leaving for war must be bad enough. But leaving for war while your marriage is crumbling? Saying goodbye to a tween daughter with attitude? These sad puzzle pieces made Jolene’s goodbye even harder. How can you repair a marriage and guide a young daughter when you’re thousands of miles away?
   Natural Conflict--Jolene is Army Strong and believes in her mission. Her hubby is a talented lawyer with strong beliefs of his own, and doesn’t support her mission. This natural conflict added layers to the plot. If the husband had been supportive, a heap of conflict would’ve been missing.
   Character Flip Flop--at the beginning of the story, Jolene is a can-do, turn-that-frown-upside-down kind of person. After a tragic injury, she changes completely. The internal dialog is what carries this massive change. The survivor’s guilt, the frustration, and the depression all add to this believable character shift. There are some things in life you just can’t fake your way through.
   Make Matters Worse--just when the situation was bad for the main character, the author made things worse. Going off to war is bad enough, but then add a fractured marriage. A fractured marriage is bad enough, but then add traumatic injuries. Injuries are bad enough, but then add deaths of friends. Kristin Hannah is brilliant at piling it on her poor characters.

What do you think of these writing lessons? Have you used any yourself? Have your read Home Front, or any other Kristin Hannah novels? Any new writing lessons you’ve learned lately? Please share!

Julie Musil writes from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Her YA novels The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire are available now. For more information, or to stop by and say Hi, visit Julie on her blog, on twitter, and on Facebook.

Friday, September 5, 2014

First Impressions - Out of Touch

Back again today with our second First Impression of the month, this one from Robin Richards who blogs over at Your DailyDose. Here is the first page of OUT OF TOUCH, which you might remember from a previous First Impression...

Chapter One
It was astonishing, when a person actually thought about it, how little a resume revealed. For instance, whenever I touched an emotionally charged object, I saw and felt everything that person did. There was not one word about this "gift" littered in amongst my vast and dismal Job History, Experience, or Education. I closed my eyes and pondered that bizarre fact, as well as the exhilarating idea, that my visions, for the first time, were not going to ruin a job for me. I was Julia Roberts becoming my own Pretty Woman and I gleamed shiny as a newly minted silver dollar. I traced my finger over today's date on my calendar and was tempted to write down "promotion" to inspire destiny to hurry.
Roger Brown stood over my desk. My boss. "Gigi, can I see you in my office please?" I smoothed down my suit jacket and tried, with a modicum of success, to erase the goofy grin painted on my lips. Destiny had arrived wearing a golf shirt and Polo and wanted a private meeting.
He settled into his chair, cleared his throat, and fidgeted with his name plate. When I sat down the sharp pain in my thigh caught me off guard. I groped for the offending object and was assaulted by a vision when my fingers made contact.(Too passive. )
I was (was is too passive a verb here, how about, 'I groped for the offending object and the second my fingers made contact a wave of desperation and lust slammed into me.' Or something like that.) swamped by desperation and lust. I saw my co-worker, and biggest competition for the Publicist position, Bambi, half naked. Roger tore off his clothes in an effort to catch up. When he dropped the cufflink, the connection was severed.
I stared at my hand, and the cufflink, in horror. I wanted to take a bath in rubbing alcohol.
"....understand that Bambi is more qualified for the promotion," he said.
Bile rose in my throat. Bambi stooped lower than I dreamed possible to beat me out of a promotion. And Roger... it disgusted me (telling. I'd delete the whole sentence, that way I see her thinking about Roger and Bambii, then shaking her head, obviously disgusted, without you, the author, telling me.) that he fell for Bambi's obvious move to pull herself up the ladder. I shook my head in an effort to erase the scene of them together.
"I realize that this is a tough break," Roger said, "but refusing to accept it doesn't change anything."
" I know this is a disappointment. "
This was more than a disappointment. This changed how I felt about Roger as a boss. As a man. As a human being. "You and Bambi have (did you mean had?) sex...." Time stopped. My brain reconnected to my mouth and I sat there frozen in horror. I wanted to suck the words back in, but it was too late. The damage was done.

My first thought is that this is better. My second is that it can still be improved a wee bit. Here's how I might revise that first paragraph:

It was astonishing, when a person actually thought about it, how little a resume revealed. For example, there was absolutely nothing in mine to suggest I had the ability to touch an emotionally charged object and see and feel everything that person did. Or the fact that my little 'gift' had sabotaged every job I'd ever had. Until now.
I closed my eyes and pondered that bizarre fact, as well as the exhilarating idea, that my visions, for the first time, were not going to ruin a job for me. I was Julia Roberts becoming my own Pretty Woman and I gleamed shiny as a newly minted silver dollar. I traced my finger over today's date on my calendar and was tempted to write down "promotion" to inspire destiny to hurry.

The rest of the changes I'd make are noted above. But remember, this is just my subjective opinion. Readers, what do you think?And do head over to Dianne's blog to see what she thought of Robin's first page. Monday we'll have our final FP for the month.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Impressions - Crimson

Well. Here we are, beginning of the month, and it's time for First Impressions again. Today we have the first page of CRIMSON, a fairy-tale spin-off of Little Red Riding Hood from Ashley who blogs at The Tattered Page (what a great name for a blog, eh?). Dianne Salerni will also be critiquing this first page so do hop over and see what she had to say if you get a chance.

Memories could change in fifteen years. Altering to fit how you wanted to remember them.
When I woke the light of the morning was still gray. For a few moments I continued to lie in bed counting the seconds on my old clock. Finally settled in my morning skin I stood up and walked to the window. The only one I had in my matchbox bedroom. Fog still clung to the glass as I gazed out at the Statue of Liberty in the distance from our small high-rise apartment in Red Hook. My father moved us out to Brooklyn when I was three years old after it was clear he could not afford to pay the mortgage on the bungalow in New Hartford. That was what happened when half the family income vanished into thin air along with your mother. For about a year, he put up a good fight though, wanting to at least let me keep my home since I could not keep my mother. The mother I could not remember. Or maybe my memories choose to be forgetful when it came to her? (This last sentence is in the present tense while the rest is in past - watch your tenses.)
Cracking the window open, my nose was instantly assaulted by the delicious aromas of the local bakery across the street. I remembered the first time I had a crescent roll. Flaky, buttery and sweet. My father held my hand as we made our way to the other side of the black paved road. The bakery normally did not sell to customers before 8 a.m. but my father wanted me to try the crescent before I went to daycare. It was my first day. But the owner of the shop was a Vietnam veteran and could not refuse my father’s request. (why? Is this important?) Ever since then, if Dad was home from deployment we would head over there to enjoy a crescent as he walked me to the train station before school.
The neighborhood was starting to yawn and stretch. Old men were walking out of the grocery store with their morning newspaper and hot tea. Mothers were juggling their workbags and their sleepwalking toddlers. The stoplights were doing their dance for an invisible audience. Exhaust clouded the air as cabdrivers rub their hands together and waited for their engine’s to heat.
As I watched the other world carry on, I wondered why it got to continue on when mine did not. As if nothing happened. Sighing, I shivered to shake the chill that settled in my bones. Didn’t matter that the heat in the apartment was stifling.
First thought: I like the first line.
Second thought: I've heard it said more than once we should never start our stories with our characters waking up. Probably because not much happens. They get up, shower/shave/brush teeth what have you, and then they go about their day. Just like everyone else. But our characters have to be more interesting than we are otherwise we wouldn't read about them, right? So, in order for this to be a better first page, I';d start when the action starts, or the mystery, or whatever it is that pulls this character out of her normal everyday life and into the interesting one we want to read about. The back story, the moving from New Hartford to Brooklyn, that can come later or in smaller pieces. For example, when she leaves the apartment, is she going to have to lock a lot of locks? Is this place less safe than where she used to live? Maybe she'll remember that briefly as she leaves, make comparisons in her mind. The main thing is to intersperse description with action (no easy task - I know!) in order to move the story along and thus keep the reader's interest. As this first page stands, all the reader knows is that a motherless girl is waking up in her smaller apartment. The first sentence, on the other hand, is what makes this first page interesting and I think that's where the focus needs to be. Why is she thinking this? Why is she remembering her mother on this day?

Thank you Ashley for submitting and I hope this helps. Readers, I hope you'll chime in and offer Ashley your thoughts on her first page. Friday, we'll have another First Impressions :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pawn Star

Some of you may remember when I was unemployed last year. Well...I got hit again this year which led to me to picking up a bunch of part time jobs and working a lot more hours than I'd really like to and only one day off. This makes for a tired little camper. So tired in fact that I've hardly had energy for writing never mind blogging. And instead of reading something new from the library I got out my old tattered copies of The Hobbit and LOTR, which I've read about a zillion times. But. One one of my jobs is working at a pawn shop/antique store, which means I get to see a lot of old and interesting stuff. We have swords, duck decoys, art, china, and a whole room devoted to nautical items like portholes, propellers, ship wheels, and anchors. One of the things we got in recently was a gorgeous carpenters tool chest with thick brass corners and hinges in mint condition - seriously, it was a show piece - with slide out drawers and a compartment for saws. I should've taken a picture. But we had it less than 24 hours before someone bought it. Then there was this cool loon carving I told my son he had to see.

He bought it. Last weekend we had a yard sale, and my son came by and bought a few more things, like this bottle:

this lovely box of ornaments (I encouraged him to buy these; they were just so pretty!):

and this odd item:

We don't know what it is and neither did my boss. If you know, please speak up!

Anyway. As you can see, I kind of like my new job; it's fun and interesting. And I can see why people get addicted to 'finding the next treasure.' I'll let you know if one comes in our door :)

Meanwhile, due to the fact that my work hours aren't likely to change any time soon, I may not be around as much as I'd like. I do, however, have a few fun things planned, like First Impressions starting tomorrow, a guest post from author Julie Musil on Saturday, an update on what I'm working on, and of course, the Cephalopod Coffeehouse at the end of the month. In other news, West of Paradise currently has 43 reviews with an overall rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars!

Yay me!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Cephalopod Coffee House - Hollow City
Today is the day we talk about a book we've read, supposedly within the last month but I'm still slogging through Guns, Germs, and Steel so you're getting a review of something I read last month, which was a much better reading month anyway. Click on the pic to see what the other Coffee House members are reading. As for me, I'll be telling you about Hollow City by Ransom Riggs.

I think I enjoyed this just as much as the first book, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

...and that was as far as I got before hitting schedule and forgetting to finish writing my review. My apologies to those who commented thus far but I've been working far more than I would like (more about that later) and I completely forgot about this. Now on to what I really thought about this book...

I liked it a lot and I will definitely be reading the third installment when it comes out. I love all the peculiar children and their strange gifts like floating away, being invisible, and swallowing bees (ick!). This story continues from where the first left off with Jacob and the crew of peculiars trying to escape the island and get to the mainland and London where they hope to help Miss Peregrine who is stuck in her bird form. If you like time travel, people with strange and unusual abilities, and things that go bump in the night, you will probably like this.

See you next Wednesday for First Impressions :)  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Author interview - Carol Kilgore

Today I have author Carol Kilgore here to answer a a few questions, tell us a little about the book she's written, and a little more about the book she'll soon be releasing.

When Coast Guard Commander Taylor Campbell returns to Rock Harbor, Texas, to tend to her uncle’s estate, she meets a mysterious former Navy SEAL, Jake Solomon, and learns her uncle didn't drown accidentally. His murder was one in a string of murders of a group of Vietnam veterans who called themselves the Compass Points.

Before her uncle died, he sent Taylor a message with the location of his buried treasure. Unearthing it will place her squarely in the killer’s crosshairs, but she’s determined to fulfill her uncle’s last wish.

Jake, sent to protect her and find the killer, has other plans. His mission would be much easier to accomplish if he could forget how good she’d tasted when he kissed her.

1. Where did the idea for Solomon’s Compass come from?
My ideas rarely come tied in a neat little package. Solomon's Compass was no exception. I knew the story would be set on the Texas coast, and I wanted to write about a small ship chandler. Nothing came together for me, so I let that idea simmer. I also wanted to write a story about the Coast Guard, and that one was starting to take shape. Then one night I had a dream. When I woke, I knew how to make the story work. I combined elements from both stories, changed some the characters around, and Solomon's Compass was born. But it wasn't an easy birth.

2. Wow, that’s pretty cool that a dream helped you pull the two ideas together. Who did you model Taylor after, if anyone, and how did her character reveal herself to you?
I modeled Taylor after USCG Captain Anne Ewalt, now retired. I didn't know her, but she agreed to a couple of short interviews. When we spoke, she was the commanding officer of the USCG Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia. She graciously took time from her busy schedule and answered all my many questions. Like Taylor, Captain Ewalt was a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, and every inch a Coastie. My husband is also a retired Coastie, so I've been around the Coast Guard for many years. There's probably a little bit of a lot of Coasties in Taylor. When the book was published, I sent a
copy to Anne. After reading it, she emailed me with an idea for a sequel and said, in part, "...every time you mention Taylor's crew, or her CG life, or her choices, pressures, etc. I say to myself, 'She got it exactly right!'"

3. That must’ve made you feel good! What did you learn from writing Solon’s Compass?
A lot! Mostly I learned how to trust my subconscious - not just in writing but also in life. I also learned more about the history of the Coast Guard, especially during the Vietnam Era. A few of the other things I learned were the principles of sailing a catamaran, what the cover of an old James Bond paperback looked like, and the importance of decluttering!

4. Ha! I need a lesson on decluttering! Tell us what you’re working on now…? Where did the idea come from? When will it be released? Cover pic?

I've just sent SECRETS OF HONOR to the formatter, and it will be released in Kindle and print on September 15. Like with Solomon's Compass, the idea for Secrets of Honor arrived in bits and pieces. If anything, it was even more scattered. I'm not sure what my initial inspiration for the story was. One day it was just in my head to write something "spylike" that had a jewel thief as the main character. In the first version, Kat and Dave were not a team, and there was a whole other subplot that I stripped out, as it didn't add anything to the message of what the story turned out to be. When I did that, I discovered that I needed different motivations for most of the characters. Once I had those, the story came together. I'm still in love with the cover, which was designed by the awesome Linda Kage. My next project will be a trilogy. I'm currently mapping out the overall elements of each of the three books and the trilogy itself.

5.  And just for fun, what was your first car?

Omigosh, major flashback! My first car was a beat-up, OLD, black Ford with a stick shift on the column and no air conditioning. Whenever my speed dropped below 30mph, I had to downshift or it would chug and lurch like a zombie with the hiccups. It's because of this car that I learned to drive fast :)

7. Finally last book read and next on your TBR list?

The last book I read was Organized to Death by Jan Christensen. It's a lighthearted mystery with an amateur sleuth who's a professional organizer. It's fun, and there's a romantic element with Hank the Hunk. I just started reading Blessed are the Dead by Kristi Belcamino. It's a darker story about a crime reporter at a newspaper, and so far very good. I highly recommend both books to readers that like reading in these genres.

Thanks for the recommendations, Carol, and thanks a bunch for coming by :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gone visiting

Today I am off visiting Julie Musil. Come by if you get a chance. Meanwhile, how would you like to live here for the summer?

Here's a close up of the place - The Cuckholds. Click on the pic to read more about it, and how you could stay there - assuming you could afford it; a two might stay (the minimum) is $700. Pricey perhaps, but it sounds like it might be worth it...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Author interview - Susan Gourley

 Recon Marine Mak agrees to lead the combined scientific mission intended to track down all the illegal genetics labs. The trail of betrayal and deceit crosses from one galaxy to the next, each stop exposing atrocities that Mak can't help but take personally. Only one thing keeps him from quitting the mission. Doctor Molly Drant, the brilliant civilian who shares Mak's insatiable quest for scientific knowledge. Molly's brave, steady presence helps Mak face the horrible experiments performed on soldiers. It all reminds him too much of his own creation in an epigenetics program.
Mak's admiration for Molly deepens into something more and the genius doctor returns his regard. Recon Marines know little of love but Mak enjoys any type of education. But before he can learn the depths of Molly's affections, the increasing dangers of their mission catch up to them. A traitor traps Mak and Molly in a horrific military exercise intended to cover the tracks of the criminals they've chased over a million miles of space. Molly's genius will be tested along with Mak's soldiering skills but only love and trust will insure their survival. 

You can also find Susan at her website.

1. Where did the idea for The Marine’s Doctor come from?
The Marine's Doctor is the third and final book in my Recon Marine Series with New Concepts Publishing. The idea parked itself in my head years ago when I first saw Kurt Russell in the movie Soldier. Russell was a futuristic soldier who had been selected at birth and then brutally trained to be a soldier. The plot of the movie revolves around his group being replaced by a new generation of genetically enhanced soldiers. Russell finds his humanity as he battles the emotionless replacements. My Recon Marines are genetically engineered soldiers who want to like other men but haven't a clue how the civilian world works.

2. What did you learn from writing this book?
My heroine in this book, Dr. Molly Drant, isn't a physical kickass woman. She's a genius with a compassionate heart. She uses her brains to save the day. I loved writing her and figuring out how to demonstrate her intelligence without appearing a snob.

3. What author would you like to be compared? Why?
I fell in love with futuristic romance years ago reading Jayne Castle who I now know is Jayne Ann Krentz. I admire the witty exchanges between her characters and the unique worlds she created. Please someone compare me to her. LOL

4. Tell us what you’re working on now…? Where did the idea come from? When will it be released? Cover pic?
 I've started another science fiction romance series and the first one is under contract though I don't have a cover picture or release date yet. This series takes place in space, think space opera with more romance, where humanity has established scattered colonies. A vicious enemy travels through the outer regions like a swarm of locusts and kills everything in its path. The remnants of one distant planet has learned how to kill the enemy and will fight side by side with humanity in a last attempt to keep mankind from extinction. The Warriors of Gaviron search for revenge and find new hope with the brave Earthling women they encounter.
 I'm also outlining the final book in my fantasy series, THE MORBUNDA SAGA, that I write as Susan Gourley

5.  And just for fun, what was your first car?
My parents gave me an ugly green Rebel. It was a mid-sized sedan with a huge eight cylinder engine. It could fly. Gas was cheap then so it didn't matter to me that it was a hog. I think it created my bad driving habits because it ran like a warhorse. That big engine was hard to get started in the cold though and caused me lots of problems now and then.

7. Finally last book read and next on your TBR list?
I just reread The Black Prism by Brent Weeks and am going to reread The Blinding Knife by Weeks before the third book comes out at the end of the month. I have a stockpile of books on my Kindle that I'm going to read when I go on vacation in September. Most of those books are from my blogger buddies.

Find The Marine's Doctor here at an early discount. It will be available on Kindle and Nook soon.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Stand by me

Many thanks to the Cephalopod Coffee House for coming up with this idea for a bloghop in which we review/comment/dissect a particular movie. This month it's Stand by Me, directed by Rob Reiner and based on a short story by Stephen King, called The Body

I actually read the story long before I ever saw the movie, being a long time SK fan, and I was especially pleased that the movie was as good as the book, which is often not the case with King's movies. I also thought the cast was perfect, from Keifer Sutherland as Ace to the four boys that play the main characters. What a great coming of age story as only Stephen King could write it. Honestly, I have nothing negative to say about the movie or the book - but, it has been a while since I've seen it so maybe some of the other participants will find something.

One last thing I'll mention is that this movie has some great scenes and one of my favorites is the one where Lardass Hogan gets his revenge.

Have you seen this movie? Read the short story? What did you think?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

First Impressions - Out of Touch

 Our last First Impression of the month comes from Robin at Your Daily Dose. OUT OF TOUCH is the first in a paranormal mystery/romance series. Author Dianne Salerni is also critiquing this first page so head over to her place for a second opinion.

Chapter One

After college, I ran through jobs faster than a line of cars in a McDonalds drive-through at noon. 
I currently work for Brown and Bell, a small PR firm in Rockdale. As an Assistant Publicist, I've learned the ins and outs of marketing and am in the running for a promotion. I've been here almost six months, which is the longest I have worked anywhere, and I like it. Not incidentally, when I hit my six month employment goal I will finally move out of my mother's house and into an apartment of my own.
I looked up and Roger Brown was standing over my desk. My boss. "Gigi, can I see you in my office please?"
It wasn't a question.
I followed him in and he closed the door. He settled into his chair, cleared his throat, while his eyes darted around the room, not quite knowing where to settle. His obvious discomfort set off my internal alarm. I grasped the arms of my chair braced for what was to come. The sun bounced off a diamond cufflink on the floor. Without considering the consequences,  I picked it up. 
I was swamped with a feeling of desperation and lust. The vision unfolded revealing  my co-worker, and biggest competition for the Publicist position, Bambi, half naked. Roger tore off his clothes in an effort to catch up. When he dropped the cufflink, the connection was severed.
"....understand that Bambi is more qualified for the promotion," he said.
Bile rose in my throat. Bambi stooped lower than I dreamed possible to beat me out of a promotion. And Roger... it disgusted me that he fell for Bambi's obvious move to pull herself up the ladder. I shook my head in an effort to erase the picture of them together.
"I realize that this is a tough break," Roger said, "but refusing to accept it doesn't change anything."
" I know this is a disappointment. "
This was more than a disappointment. This changed how I felt about Roger as a boss. As a man. As a human being. "You and Bambi get naked and I lose out on a promotion. Unbelievable."
I didn't realize I spoke the words aloud until  his eyes opened wide and then narrowed to slits.
 "Oh, crack." I muttered to myself. When I was a kid, and things went sideways, I said, "Holy firecracker." Over the years it became just crack.
I desperately needed time to think this through and had none. Roger Brown stared daggers at me, waiting for an explanation. I could try to laugh this off. In the past, that sometimes worked.  But, I would still have to work here. For him. With her.
He finally spoke. "Do you have proof?" (Would he even admit to it? Or would he say, "Excuse me?" in surprise, because, well, how did she know? How could she possibly know? That will give her an out and she'll answer/mutter,"Nothing."- just a thought...)
Have any of my visions ever been wrong? No. But, I had no reasonable explanation.
He shrunk into the chair like a Lay Flat To Dry blouse run through the dryer. I watched him mentally calculate the risk of keeping me around. I knew that look. I'd seen it on the faces of most of my previous bosses.
           The whisper of the ax cleaving the air preceded his verdict. "You're fired."


My first thought is that I'm not wild about the beginning. The story starts when the boss calls Gigi into his office. Gigi is thinking she's going to get promoted and about finally moving out of mom's and having a place of her own. Maybe she's been marking the days on a calender in her cubby or office. Then Roger shows up. Make it brief and work in all the rest later. Otherwise, I love it, and I definitely want to know more about Gigi and her 'gift,' and what is she going to do now that she's been fired?! You've put her in a great place, making the reader both curious and concerned. Nice job.

Monday, August 4, 2014

First Impressions - Finding Home

Our second First Impressions for the month of August comes from Zoe Byrd who you can find here. Author Dianne Salerni will also be critiquing this first page so do hop over and see what she thought at her place. This is the first page of FINDING HOME. 

He was sitting on the front steps of the Laundromat when I pulled up to the curb. It wasn’t his usual spot, so I had to wonder what was going on. We had been doing this dance for the past four months. Sunday mornings I would arrive at 6 am, he would be walking out and would return for his things in about half an hour, if we passed in the doorway we’d say “hello,” nothing more really. It wasn’t that I wasn’t attracted to him, I was; I didn’t want to be a nudge. (I think you can find a more elegant way to say this.) It was just too early in the morning for conversation, and he didn’t have the look of a big talker. This morning was already different. It was January and far too cold to be sitting on cement steps at this ungodly hour. I got out of my car and went around to the trunk to retrieve my laundry bag thinking, “He must be freezing his butt off. What’s going on?” ( I probably wouldn't put the narrator's thoughts in quotations. You could put it in italics - or not. Readers? Any thoughts on this?) Hefting my laundry, and moving past him on the steps, I nodded and said, “Good morning.” He smiled as I passed him.
The temperature change upon entering the steamy room was always a bit of a shock in the winter. The condensation on the front windows almost obscured the view of the road. The room itself was lined with front- and top-loading washers and dryers. Vending machines containing tiny boxes of detergent and fabric softeners stood in the corner. Interspersed with tables, a row of multicolored wooden benches ran up the middle of the room.
 It became evident why this morning was different. Not there to do laundry, someone else had invaded our turf. When I entered, the drunk was kicking the change machine. His evening pursuits not having worn off, he was still pretty hammered. In search of a warm, dry place to crash, he wandered into the all night Laundromat. He stopped what he was doing and stumbled around the room grasping onto machines for stability as he approached me. I didn’t even get to unload my bag before he made a play. 
He looked to be in his thirties. A red and white oval on the left pocket of his navy blue shirt said “Steve.” He most likely hadn’t changed his clothing between leaving work and hitting the bar. Considering he was covered in the crusty remnants of old food and motor oil, and reeked of stale beer and cigarettes, he was probably in the right place. The blackened grease and oil imbedded under his fingernails and the creases of his hands were further evidence that he had most likely not returned home to clean up before heading out after work. He had a thick mustache and a dark mane of tousled hair. He wasn’t much taller than me. As he approached, I did what I had been apt to do for several years now; I sized him up. I watched how he moved, gauged his weight and height to my own, and looked for ways to physically unbalance him if I had to defend myself. I slipped my hand in my pocket to feel for my key ring, which was always equipped with a canister of mace.
He slurred his first question. “Hey, what’s your name? You got a few bucks I could borrow? I gotta get some smokes.”
“Nope sorry, I only brought enough to do the laundry. I wasn’t expecting to run into anybody.”
“Pretty girl like you should always expect to run into somebody. You should come better prepared.” The cloud of fetid alcohol through which he delivered his observations was becoming nauseating.
“I did come prepared, to do my laundry. So why don’t you go take a seat and I’ll do that.”
“Aw c’mon honey, don’t be like that. I been striking out all night. I just wanna talk. Maybe later we could get to know each other better.”
“I don’t think so. I would really like to just do my laundry, but if you don’t think you can go settle down over there, I’ll just take off.” Leaning heavily on me he put his hand on my shoulder. I shrugged him off and pulled my keys from my pocket. I said, “Look man, I don’t want to hurt you but I’ll spray you in the face and then I will kick the living shit out of you. So keep your hands off me and go sit down.”
“Bitch, I was just trying to be ni…” He didn’t get to finish his statement. Not without a certain amount of stealth my previous acquaintance had come in from the stoop, grabbed my inebriated admirer by the collar, dragged and slammed him into a chair. He pointed at him, silently ordering him not to move. I hadn’t even heard him come in. As I gathered my things to leave, my guardian moved back to the front steps. I went outside and sat down next to him on the cold cement stairs.
 I was truly grateful. I hadn’t been looking forward to a physical confrontation. I said, “Thanks so much for your help in there. I really appreciate your waiting until I got here. I’ll come back later, so don’t feel like you have to stay.”
 “No, I will stay. He’s not safe.” Despite a sufficient grasp of the language, he spoke with a strong, distinctly Asian accent. In stark contrast to how he handled my aggressor, he appeared timid and looked at his hands whenever he spoke.
I said, “I know, so I’ll leave and come back, no big deal. I’m sure you have things to do.”
“No, stay-I’ll also stay.”
“Thanks. That’s really nice of you.”
Still gazing downward, he smiled and bowed his head further. “You’re welcome.”
 “I’m Kate.”
“My name is Tsering.”
I smiled and pointed my thumb over my shoulder saying, “I suppose I should be thanking him too. It’s good to finally meet you.”
 He returned my smile. “Yes, it has been some time.”
My first thought is that using the drunk to get the guy to protect the girl to get them talking seems pretty cliche to me and lasts too long. I saw it coming right away, which is okay, but it sets up a certain expectation. Show me some new way that hasn't been done before to get these two characters to talk to each other, well now you've got me really interested. Does that make sense? Anyway. That said I'll just add that the end of the first page is perfect. It feels like the first meeting of two people who have been sizing each other up for a while. I like it!

Readers, what are thoughts? 


Friday, August 1, 2014

First Impressions - Jaguar

Can someone tell me why Summer seems to fly by? I can't believe it's August 1st already. Anyway, you know what that means; it's time for First Impressions, whereby author Dianne Salerni and I critique your first page. Today we have the first page from Carl Hackman's YA Contemporary Fantasy, JAGUAR. This is Carl:

And this is the first page of JAGUAR:

Her eyes of fire burned through the darkness, fuelled (sp) by hatred so intense the very center of her soul was a furnace.
     Valaria’s amber coat rippled in the moonlight as she glared through the mesh of her enclosure. A low, threatening growl rose from deep inside her chest. She paced up and down the perimeter, the frustration of her bondage clearly visible to anyone who might be watching. (I actually remember seeing a cat like this once at a 'zoo.' I was horrified that anyone would keep a cat like that in those conditions.) Aurelius, her mate, lay at the back, near the entrance. His pain wracked form shuddered; each breath sending spasms through his body. No amount of licking could stem the flow of his life’s blood ebbing from the wound inflicted by his keeper earlier that day. (you are going to punish the keeper at some point, right? Please?)
     ‘Don’t let our cubs be born in captivity, Valaria,’ he whispered, consciousness slipping away from him. ‘My time is near but you need to escape to ensure our young are born free.’
     Valaria patrolled her prison, her gaze alternating between the only thing she loved and the vast expanse of freedom just outside her reach.
     Aurelius had told her to escape, but how?
     He had said he wanted the new life growing within her to be born free. She could see no way to make his wish come true. All she could see was a lifetime of captivity ahead, for both her and her unborn offspring.
     Her attention snapped back to Aurelius as her mate’s final, shuddering, breath left his body. Her roar of anguish echoed through the countryside, sending startled birds into flight and animals scurrying for cover.


My first thought is that this is an emotional and compelling opening. Valeria's mate his been killed by their keeper and Valeria needs to escape before her cubs are born so they can be free.How can she possibly achieve this? I assume they are in some sort of zoo and knowing that the cages are kept locked, I wonder how Valeria will accomplish this, too, and I would keep reading to find out. I am, however, curious about the YA contemp/fantasy label. If Valeria and her quest is the main story, I'm not sure how YA it will be, but that's just me and I'm just a reader. Maybe it doesn't have to be labeled as YA. There was a great book by Tad Williams called Tailchaser's Song which also featured cats (domestic/feral cats as opposed to big cats) and I think it was simply labeled fantasy. But I digress! Bottom line, I think this is a great first page and I hope Valeria eats the keeper on page two...

Readers, what do you think of this first page?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I don't know why, but I've always loved cars. I'm not a fanatic; I don't know the make and model of every car I see, but I know what I like and I have my favorites. Like this:

or this:

Anyway. I was thinking the other day about how much cars have changed just since I've been driving. For example, this was my first car:

Of course, my car didn't quite look as nice as that one but I also got to drive this baby around:

This was my boyfriend's car and since he didn't have a license, guess who got to drive? His was a shade lighter than the blue curtains above and in mint condition - unlike my poor Impala. I've also driven some not so memorable cars like the Toyota Carina (which no one has ever heard of):

I learned to drive a standard on that car. And then there was the  Ford Escort Wagon:

OMG, can you say ugly? Add unreliable. I hated that car. But after that I got my one and only brand spanking new vehicle: an F-150.

That isn't my truck, but it looks exactly like it, right down to the color. Man, I loved that truck, washed it every weekend, inside and out...*sigh*

Anyway. One of my next cars was a 1984 Bonneville, which was a horrible gas guzzler to boot, but actually one of the best purchases I ever made. $1400 and I hardly put any money into it AND it never left me stranded.

The S-10 Blazer I had was another great car, and 4-wheel drive, which is a great thing to have here in Maine as you might imagine.

After that I had a horrible Dodge equivalent that spent more time in the shop than on the road after which I bought a more reliable vehicle, which I still drive today, my ever faithful Toyota Rav4:

Mine is a dark red and like my Bonneville, has never left me stranded. She is getting old, though...

But let's not dwell on sad things. Instead, we'll end on a happy note, with pictures of the two cars I'd like to have sitting in my driveway.

2010 F-150

1967 Shelby gt500

My heart is fluttering just thinking of it.

Do you like cars?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Interview with author M.J. Fifield

Today I am thrilled to have author M.J. Fifield here to answer a few questions about just released book Effigy and a few other things.

1. Where did the idea for Effigy come from?

Between my sophomore year of high school and my sophomore year of college, I wrote a series of eight fantasy novellas, and the story was most definitely finished by the end of the eighth. The problem was that I didn't want to leave the world nor the characters that I had created. Then the summer before my junior year of college, Effigy's main character, Haleine Coileáin popped into my head and wouldn't get out. Originally, Effigy was meant to be a prequel, but Haleine completely took over—as my characters tend to do—and changed absolutely everything. Effigy was no longer a prequel, but rather the first in a new series, and my eight novellas became history.

2. Ha! I can relate to characters taking over! What was the easiest part of writing this book?

Well, the page numbering went pretty smoothly after that little Microsoft paper clip guy (who quite possibly doesn't exist anymore and I've just severely dated myself) explained how it worked to me. But on a slightly more serious note, I'd say the dialogue was probably the easiest part. That has always been rather straightforward for me.

3. The hardest?

Naming characters generally gives me a hard time. Usually, my characters go through two or three names before I find the one I like. And occasionally, they end up with names like "Mercenary Guy" or "Insert Name Here" because I'm just that creative.

4. I'm picky about names, too. What did you learn from writing the book?

I learned that plotting out a story ahead of time isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world. I used to be a hard core pantser but through the course of putting this book out in the world, I have evolved into a soft core plotter. I'm sure hard core plotting is just around the corner. It's pretty addictive. If you're me, anyway.

5. What are you working on now?

I am working on Effigy's sequel, Second Nature, the second book in the Coileáin Chronicles.

6. Is there any other profession you might want other than 'writer'?

I've always wanted to be an international ass-kicking secret agent/super spy ( à la Emma Peel or Sydney Bristow). That, or a concert pianist. Or a Broadway actress.

7. I loved Emma Peel! Guilty Pleasure?

Pinterest. For some reason, I feel I must pin all the things. It's a huge time suck, and I always feel guilty after a massive pinning spree. Also, cake.

8. First car?

My first car was an 80's Pontiac Grand Am. It was brown, very ugly, and you didn't need a key to start it. It turns out that you didn't need a key to start it because it had been stolen (not by me) from some woman in Connecticut (sorry about that), and I had unknowingly purchased it from a used car dealer who went out of business shortly after this information came to light. Oops.

9. Last book read?

I just finished Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater. That woman's work rocks my world. Seriously, I would read her grocery lists. I bet they're awesome.

I love Maggie Stiefvater, too; she's amazing.


The survival of a once-mighty kingdom rests in the hands of its young queen, Haleine Coileáin, as it slowly succumbs to an ancient evil fueled by her husband’s cruelty. 
A sadistic man with a talent for torture and a taste for murder, he is determined to burn the land and all souls within. Haleine is determined to save her kingdom and, after a chance encounter, joins forces with the leader of the people’s rebellion. She gives him her support, soon followed by her heart. 
Loving him is inadvertent but becomes as natural and necessary as breathing. She lies and steals on his behalf, doing anything she can to further their cause. She compromises beliefs held all her life, for what life will exist if evil prevails? 
Her journey leads to a deceiving world of magic, monsters, and gods she never believed existed outside of myth. The deeper she goes, the more her soul is stripped away, but she continues on, desperate to see her quest complete. If she can bring her husband to ruin and save her people, any sacrifice is worth the price—even if it means her life.

Want to know more about MJ? You can find her at My Pet Blog. Interested in her book? Click on the pic to buy :)

Friday, July 25, 2014


On the last Friday of the month The Cephalopod Coffee House hosts a book club  in which we talk about a book we've read. Today I'm going to talk about the book, Scarlet by Marissa Meyers.

I read the first book in The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder, a while back, and I really enjoyed the mix of fairy tales and androids and cyborgs so when I saw Scarlet at my local library I snatched it up and devoured in a matter of days. I loved Cinder in the first book and I quickly came to love Scarlet in the second. More secrets are revealed about the Lunar Queen and her awfulness and there were more discoveries about Cinder and how she became  who she is. I particularly loved Cinder's new partner in crime, Captain Thorn who totally reminded me of Han Solo with his quick quips and attitude. Forget Kai, I wanted to tell Cinder, go live happily ever with Thorne! But of course, there is no happily ever after for Cinder or Scarlet (who discover an interesting connection between them) at least not yet...

If you liked Cinder, you'll like Scarlet just as much and if you haven't started The Lunar Chronicles I highly recommend you do so. I can't wait to read book three...Cress.

Monday, July 21, 2014

An important public service announcement

My apologies for not offering much in the way of anything new, but I've been completely wrapped up in revisions. I do however have two fun posts planned: one being the latest installation of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse on July 25 in which we talk about a book we've read, and two being an interview with MJ Fifeld from My Pet Blog on July 28.

First Impressions will be back per usual at the beginning of August and Dianne and I have one opening left. If you want your first page critiqued by two published authors, check out the sidebar for the FAQs.

Meanwhile, I will continue to visit as best I can while I address the remaining issues in my latest endeavor* (I'm down from 57 to 7 fixes, woohoo!!!). Then I can get down to the nit-picky stuff like over-used words and passive sentences and missing/wrong punctuation. After that, it might just be ready for readers...

How are you doing? What are you working on?