Friday, August 29, 2014

The Cephalopod Coffee House - Hollow City


http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/
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.

http://www.amazon.com/Solomons-Compass-Carol-Kilgore-ebook/dp/B00C0F8DZ2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408365018&sr=8-1&keywords=solomon%27s+compass

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 :)

 http://underthetikihut.blogspot.com/

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?




http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/a-maine-lighthouse-welcomes-guests/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

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."
"What?"
" 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.
"No."
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

Cars

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.

***



http://www.amazon.com/Effigy-Coile%C3%A1in-Chronicles-M-Fifield/dp/0996107401/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406206891&sr=1-2&keywords=effigy


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

Scarlet


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?


* PEACE & FORGIVENESS




Friday, July 11, 2014

Once upon a time...


I imagine a lot of you are familiar with this show but I only have Netflix streaming which means I'm usually late to all the games. But really, it's just as well or else I'd never get any writing done. Anyway, I'm still on Season One but here's a few things I think the show does well. If you watch let me know if you agree but no spoilers please!

The Good:

1. It's a fairy tale! What could be better than that? Oh, right, a twisted fairy tale! Perfect.

2.Characters to love/hate. You gotta have them and this does, beginning with Henry (who almost makes me want more kids), Snow White (played flawlessly by Ginnifer Goodwyn and is she fucking cute as hell or what? And I mean that in a nice way, not nauseatingly cutesy cute, but cute like a kitten you must save), Prince Charming (played by Josh Dallas who is most definitely charming), and of course, the Evil Queen Regina, played silkily by Lana Parilla.

3. Lots of questions/mysteries/conflict. These, of course, keep the plot moving forward and I love how the writers twist the stories of well-known characters like Cindarella and Jiminy Cricket and then show their mirror images in the town of Storybrook (and man, I WISH there was a Storybrook, Maine because I would've sold my house and moved there years ago!).

4. The Unknown, ie, Rumplestiltskin. Mind you I'm still in Season One but I have no idea what he wants. I like unpredictable. It keeps me interested.

The Not so Good:

1. Rumplestiltskin. Although I find his character interesting and unpredictable, Robert Carlyle (or the writers) really needs to tone him down a bit - imo. And let me just state for the record I happen to like Robert Carlyle; he was awesome in Trainspotting and The Full Monty, but I think Rumple would be much more sinister if he wasn't so over the top in the fairy tale parts. He's much better as Mr. Gold in Storybook.

2. The Fairies. The scenes with the fairies are my least favorite because...well, they're just plain ridiculous, especially in the episode I recently watched where they were making like warriors and dropping fairy dust bombs. I'm sorry but, no warrior would ever wear the outfits these fairies wear and I suspect, no self-respecting fairy would either!

Do you watch Once Upon a Time? What do you think of the show?


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

First Impressions - Running Verse


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Our final First Impression for July comes from Manju Howard who blogs at Share Writing Ideas.  This is the first page of her MG novel, RUNNING VERSE, and do go see what Dianne Salerni thought of this page here.


Running Verse

            When the whistle blows, I dash to the girls’ locker room. I hate wearing the school approved white t-shirt and orange gym shorts. Changing back into my black clothes is a relief.
            Are they watching me? I glance over both shoulders. Five girls gab in the opposite corner.
            I dive into my book bag and pull out a canvas sack. Today’s loot includes a toothbrush, toothpaste and three-pounds of mixed nuts. I twitch like a nervous bunny. The sack slips out of my hand and thuds on the hard floor.
            “Are you okay?”
            I spin around to find the new girl. She hovers so close that I feel her exhale in my face. Taking a step back, the locker door slaps against my side. That hurt.
            “Yeah. Fine,” I reply. We stare at the sack lying between us.
            I yank it off the floor and my not-so-new toothbrush falls out. She looks down at the brush, which slid next to the heel of her shoe. For a second I think she’ll pick it up and hand it to me. But she inches away like the bristles might bite.
            I bend down and stretch out my arm to retrieve the thing that I will never stick in my mouth again. Turning toward the open locker, I toss my sack inside and fling the gross toothbrush on top. Then slam the metal door shut.
            The new girl gasps. She must think I’m crazy. “Sorry. Hi. How are you? Okay?”
            She raises her eyebrows. “I’m Brook – It’s really Brooklyn. But I figure new school, new name. Right? It’s like a do-over. I mean no one here knows me.”
            As I wiggle my socked feet into pre-tied sneakers, my head bobs in agreement.
            Brook continues chatting about her new bedroom, her new house and her dad’s new job.
            The locker room has cleared out. I check the time on my cell phone. I’m late.
             Brook unclips her hair and a zillion beaded braids bounce around her face. Her perfect complexion is a shade darker than my olive skin.
            Leaning toward me, Brook whispers, “What’s in the sack?”
            What should I tell her? Nothing. I’m not sharing my screwed up life with anyone. Okay, remain calm. She seems nice. “I’m Samantha. I’ll see you around.”
            “Sam, what are you hiding?”
            I choke on saliva that magically appears in my mouth.
***

My thoughts:
Are they watching me? Who are the 'they' referred to? The girls gabbing in the corner? Or someone else?
Today’s loot... I assume Sam stole this stuff, but from who? And why? I want to know more about this. It feels important and knowing a little more about it here might help me connect better with Sam.
"I'm Brook - It's really Brooklyn..." I wonder if Brook would actually give out the rest of the info (beyond her name) or just leave it at the name, assuming she really does want a do-over. If she does want a do-ver, then maybe she would offer the rest of the info later, after she and Sam are better friends. Or, maybe Brook is the sort of person who shares right away; maybe she's hoping to make a friend.
I’m not sharing my screwed up life... And just what kind of a screwed up life does Sam have? I definitely want to know more about that!
I choke on saliva that magically appears in my mouth. The word magically feels off here. Saliva doesn't magically appear; there's a reason for it, either nerves or a taste or something.

My first impression is that while there are some interesting questions raised on this first page, none of it draws me in quite enough. I think the loot is the most interesting of all because it tells us that Sam steals stuff, but not why. I'm not sure if the why should be revealed yet but I think elaborating a little more about the loot would go a long way toward helping the reader connect with Sam. Especially the three pounds of nuts. What's up with that?! My suggestion would be to give us a little more internal dialogue from Sam to show how she's feeling. Is she pleased with her loot? Did she intend to steal those particular items? And if so, what made her choose them? This could reveal a lot about Sam (without necessarily giving things away that need to be revealed a little later) and thus connect the reader to the main character.

Now, what do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? Have any suggestions/comments you care to share?

Monday, July 7, 2014

First Impressions - Ninja Squirrels of the One Hundred Acre Wood


Our second First Impression comes from Mike Hays.
You can find Mike here, and to see what author Dianne Salerni thought of this first page, head over to her place. Here is page one of Ninja Squirrels of the One Hundred Acre Wood, Book One, an MG fantasy.


“The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.”
-Japanese Proverb

I. The Wood, Bees, and a Bear
Chapter 1
     It was one of those beautiful days when all seems good in the world. The sun filtered through the trees and, in the open meadow, the rays danced along the waves of grass. Two black squirrels ran down a gravel bank toward a lazy creek, one chasing after the other. The leader's tail swished and bounced in the bright sunshine as it bounded to the edge of the creek and jumped to a gray stone several feet off the bank. The squirrel hopped from stone to stone over the water until it reached the other side.
The second squirrel followed across the smooth stones of the creek bed and onto the opposite shore, where both squirrels raced toward a thick wood. They spiraled up a tree trunk and jumped to a branch of the adjoining tree, racing in the branches across the canopy. The second squirrel matched each twist, turn, and leap with near perfect precision. From tree to tree, they moved with grace and ease until they reached the last tree at the edge of the wood.
The first squirrel dove down the trunk and bounded into an open field of tall grass. It stopped just past the edge of the tree's shadow line and hid in the thick, deep grass. As the bushy black tail disappeared into the grass, its black head popped up and scanned the open ground. The squirrel looked across the meadow at a grove of pine trees with a single oak tree in the middle. The second squirrel move alongside.
“By the way, I’m Konran, Kon to my friends,” the lead squirrel said, swinging its tail around and tapping the other squirrel on the shoulder.
The second squirrel repeated the tail tap. “I’m Kuji.”
Kon looked Kuji up and down. “Master Jonin says you’re the one,” he said with a wary look.
Kuji shrugged. “I don’t know nothing about any of that. This is where I was told to go at the Academy. ‘Meet a black squirrel at the creek crossing around midday’ was all they told me.” He looked toward the pine grove. "Is that it?" he asked.
Kon nodded his head. "Yep, that's it, headquarters. Kuji, welcome to the One Hundred Acre Wood."
"Whoa!"
"Better close that mouth of yours before a bug flies in there." Kon jumped into the grass and bounced in the direction of the pine trees. "Race you there!"
"Hey! Wait!" Kuji yelled, chasing across the deep grass. "I have no idea where I'm going." 

***

First impression: for an MG fantasy, it takes too long to get to the two squirrels talking - imo. There's also some awkward phrasing which confused me, some of it caused by the use of the pronoun it. If eventually the squirrels will be referred to as he/she, I might start now. Overall, I think if the first three paragraphs could be condensed so we get to the meeting sooner, that way we get to meet our main character sooner.

On the positive side, I LOVE the first line. I can feel what kind of day it is. I also love how the squirrels are described and any revising of the paragraphs must include all those great adjectives like swished, bounced, ran, raced, etc. I really got a sense of them acting exactly like squirrels - and I happen to like squirrels! Lastly, I would definitely read on because I want to see how the bees and bear come into this chapter! 

What do you guys think? I'd especially like to hear from those of you who read MG as I don't read enough to consider myself an expert by a long shot. Plus, you know we love comments and comments help authors get better!

See you Wednesday with our last First Impression for July :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

First Impressions - Coward and Capes


Wow. A month went by fast! I don't know about you but it's definitely summer here, with temps in the 80s and high humidity. But I'll take this over winter any day! 

Anyway. It's time for First Impressions, whereby author Dianne Salerni and I critique your first page. Today we have the first page from Garrett Vander Leun's YA novel, which "combines some of the superhero themes and real-world history of a book like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay with the wild, coming-of-age adventure found in the movie GOONIES."



COWARDS AND CAPES



CHAPTER ONE
1984

There are consequences for breaking a supervillain's window.
"Charlie!" Glenn yelled.
"What?" Charlie had already moved on.
"You just tossed a newspaper through the window of that house!"
"I what?" Charlie's big face recoiled into his neck meat. "No I didn't."
Once a liar, always a liar. On the day they'd first met, Glenn caught Charlie drawing a picture of Golem inside his math book. His black leather costume, the signature aleph engraved on the forehead of his cowl, and two middle fingers poking right through a set of algebra problems. It was crude, vulgar and completely illegal.
Glenn had tried reminding the brazen artist to maybe not draw a Cape in public. And Charlie, being Charlie, whipped around with a reply. I'll tell you what's illegal - me being best friends with Golem and him teaching me fifty-seven different ways to shut your fucking spaghetti hole for good.
Which was a pretty stupid reply considering the Capes had been dead for decades. Controlling the urge to tattle on the well-fed liar, Glenn whispered something back. Fine, he'd said, but I'm a Cape Chaser, too - and for your information, I hate spaghetti.
Glenn squinted at the house. "Just go deal with it, Charlie."
"Deal with what though? Seriously, nothing happened."
"I heard it break, or whatever." Glenn could hear a beetle break wind in the quiet of their morning paper route. Everyone said that if the Soviets were going to launch again - and they were definitely ready to do it again - then they'd do it in the dark. Everyone who was anyone stayed inside until the sun came up. 
"Look, I'm sure whoever lives there gets it. Accidents fucking happen."
Charlie's constant cursing made Glenn twitch with itches. Sure accidents frigging happened, but that was not an accident. "You did like, you..." He brought his hand back behind his head to show Charlie how hard he'd tossed the newspaper. "You chucked it - sure as '64!"
God, he sounded like one of his teachers. I told you kids we had a test today, sure as '64! It had almost become a joke, as throwaway as two digits in a phone number or a street address. 1964 was the joke with an endless punchline.
First the Soviets launched, then the Capes died stopped it and that caused a worldwide blackout. Almost two million people died and all kinds of industries along with it. Music was gone, the film industry expired and the general business of being happy was flat-out extinct.

***
 On the day they'd first met, Glenn caught Charlie drawing a picture of Golem inside his math book. This confused me. I'm not sure who Golem is so the significance - if any - is lost on me. On the other hand, the fact that the drawing is illegal is curious. Is drawing Golem illegal? Any drawing? Only drawings in school books? In my mind, this is a clue telling me that things are not the same in this 1984.

Glenn had tried reminding the brazen artist to maybe not draw a Cape in public. This was another confusing spot. What is a Cape? A type of person? An organization? And why are they dead?

First the Soviets launched, then the Capes died stopped it and that caused a worldwide blackout. This sentence is missing something. Should it read: 'First the Soviets launched, then the Capes died stopping it and that caused a worldwide blackout.' ?

Lastly, I may be in the minority here but the last paragraph is the most interesting one to me. It immediately grounds me in the world. I wonder if there's a way to get to this quicker. I think the rest would be less confusing knowing these facts early. I'm also one of those readers who doesn't mind a little back story though I know others will disagree.

Overall impression: like I said, that last paragraph nailed it for me. There's room for improvement here but I definitely want to know what's going to happen next. 

Thank you, Garrett for submitting and readers, please do chime in with your comments! You can also find Garrett in MONSTER TOWN and don't forget to check out what Dianne Salerni thought of this first page.

We will have another First Impression for you on Monday -



Monday, June 30, 2014

The beaver dilemma

So. This is our little pond/swamp.* There's a culvert that runs under the road to a little stream that runs fast in the spring but dries up in the summer.



This spring a beaver moved in and decided our little swamp would make a great place for him to live. So he started blocking up the culvert to raise the water level. He gathered mud and branches and rocks and got the water level so high that if we had another good rain the road would probably have flooded...a little. Nothing anyone couldn't drive through, but still. Anyway, at some point the town got wind of it and sent someone down to unblock the culvert and thereby undo all of the beaver's hard work. I felt bad for him. Or her. But guess what? The next day that beaver had that culvert half blocked up again. Talk about busy. The town had to come again, and again. I was a little worried they might resort to more drastic measures like trying to get rid of the beaver altogether. So far that hasn't happened.

But the dilemma is this: What to do about the beaver? I mean, if he manages to keep the culverts blocked and raise the water level then he'll probably build a lodge. Or she'll build a lodge. Whatever. I don't know much about beavers. But the point is if the water level is high, there will probably be a lodge.Which would be pretty cool, no? But if it's too low, there probably won't be a lodge, or at least not one that's any good. On the other hand, if the water level does get too high and the road is consistently flooded, eventually it will wash out the road, and the town will have to pay to have it fixed. Not to mention the fact that by raising the water level the beaver has changed the swamp into a pond, thereby altering the habitat.

I'm torn. I like having a beaver in our swamp. But I do wonder if he disrupted anyone by his arrival. The water level is down now despite beaver's continued efforts but the damage may already be done. Maybe some eggs were lost. We have lots of birds. And of course there's the road although admittedly that's my last concern especially since I'm not affected - until my taxes go up.

What do you think? Is there any way for us all to live on this road together or does the beaver have to go?




* It's not really ours, though my land does border it.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book of the Month - The Cephalopod Coffe House


http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/

It's the end of the month and that means it's time for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse in which we talk about a book we've read. This month I read The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.


 The Moonstone was first published in 1868 and "is generally considered the first detective novel in the English language...Besides creating many of the ground rules of the detective novel, The Moonstone also reflected Collins' enlightened social attitudes in his treatment of the servants in the novel."

The plot is as follows: Rachel Verinder, a young English woman, inherits a large Indian diamond on her eighteenth birthday. It is a legacy from her uncle, a corrupt British army officer. The diamond is of great religious significance as well as being extremely valuable, and three Hindu priests have dedicated their lives to recovering it. Rachel's eighteenth birthday is celebrated with a large party, whose guests include her cousin Franklin Blake. She wears the Moonstone on her dress that evening for all to see, including some Indian jugglers who have called at the house. Later that night, the diamond is stolen from Rachel's bedroom, and a period of turmoil, unhappiness, misunderstandings and ill-luck ensues. Told by a series of narratives from some of the main characters, the complex plot traces the subsequent efforts to explain the theft, identify the thief, trace the stone and recover it.

My opinion: Although this book was written in a style that many people today would find tedious (it's very wordy), I still enjoyed it and found myself up late more than a few nights in the hopes of discovering who stole that pesky diamond and why was Rachel acting like a you know what. This is a perfect book for anyone who likes mysteries, and/or anyone who likes to read the genre. It also paints an interesting picture of the time for any history buffs :)

Have you read this book? Do you like mysteries? I don't read many but I always enjoy them when I do!