Friday, October 31, 2014

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - The Goldfinch

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, whereby we get together and post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us by clicking on the pic to see the other participants.

This month I'm going to talk about The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.

This third book by Tartt is told from the point of view of Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker whose mother is killed in an explosion at a Museum, resulting in his acquisition of a Dutch Masterwork called The Goldfinch, a ring from a dying man, and a lifelong obsession with Pippa, a girl he meets minutes before the explosion. Having been abandoned by his father he ends up - practically by chance - living with the family of a wealthy but geeky friend - mean older brother, typical younger siblings, the strangely cool mother, and the mentally ill but nice father. I think it was this part, when Theo first goes to live with this family, that was most poignant. The way Tartt describes how Theo misses his mother was heartbreaking and the limbo he lives in (more like a guest than anything else), serves to keep Theo apart from the family, and alone.

Then his awful father shows up out of the blue and takes Theo to Las Vegas where he meets Boris, and enough booze and drugs to help him forget. But of course, the painting is still with him, wrapped up tight and hidden in a pillowcase, a constant reminder of something beautiful as well as a source of supreme anxiety for Theo, who fears more than anything its discovery - and the consequences.

My thoughts about this book are perhaps best summed up by this excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review: "...there's a bewitching urgency to the narration that's impossible to resist. Theo is magnetic, perhaps because of his well-meaning criminality. The Goldfinch is a pleasure to read; with more economy to the brushstrokes, it might have been great."

Which was why I was 5 days late getting the book back to the library...

So. What are you reading? Have you read The Goldfinch, or any of Tartts other books? 

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Today I’ve got an interview with Crystal Collier, cheese lover, and author of Soulless, sequel to Moonless, AND a rafflecopter giveaway with some pretty darn cool prizes.

Crystal, thanks for coming and congrats on your release of Soulless. This is the second book in The Maiden of Time books, but tell us a little about the first, Moonless.

Moonless is Jane Eyre meets Supernatural.

In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night.

Things that change for her that evening: her physical appearance—from ghastly to breathtaking, an epidemic of night terrors predicting the future, and the blue-eyed man’s unexpected infusion into her life. Not only do his appearances precede tragedies, but they’re echoed by the arrival of ravenous, black-robed wraiths on moonless nights.

Unable to decide whether he is one of these monsters or protecting her from them, she uncovers what her father has been concealing: truths about her own identity, about the blue-eyed man, and about love. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with the man of her dreams and risk becoming one of the Soulless.

What an interesting premise! Did you plan this to be a series or did it evolve?

MOONLESS was definitely a stand alone when I wrote the first 100 page draft years ago, but as the key characters came into focus (characters who had been in my head for 20+ years), it became pretty obvious this was only going to be a piece of a much larger puzzle.

Where did the original idea come from?

A dream. I saw the girl who had been shunned by society, but who had finally found her own way in the world--with or without her father’s approval--and I loved her. I had to write her story. Her blue-eyed mystery hunk only moved the process along.

I love dreams that prompt stories. What did you learn from writing these two books?

How amazing it is to have my characters live in other people’s heads too—because they’re stinkin’ awesome.

Favorite cheese?

Vanilla cheese (that goes with anything): Muenster. BUT to pick an actual favorite? Erm, that’s like asking me which star is my favorite, or which kid I love most. Seriously.

Sort of like asking me what my favorite book is; how could I possibly choose just one? Speaking of books...Last and next book on your TBR list.

Last: Forever Fredless. Next: Rise and Ruin (probably).

And, just for fun, what was you first car?

A midnight-blue Chevy Blazer, and man did that thing have spunk. 


Monday, October 27, 2014

So...I have this dog

His name is Jonah and I was sharing a pic of him the other day with a fellow blogger who asked why I never post about my pets. So I thought, well, why not post about Jonah?

This is what he looked like when I first brought him home:

Then he got bigger:

And bigger:

And finally all grown up:

The trouble is he doesn't act like he's all grown up and he is now SEVEN years old. Plenty old enough to know that counter surfing is NOT okay. Neither is pulling the lint out of the garbage in the bathroom. Or rummaging about in the cat boxes. And definitely not eating empty cereal boxes (there might be a crumb or two left...), all the pears in the bowl (even though the bowl was pushed way back into a corner), a nearly empty box of sugar, toothpaste, grass, more grass, and especially not the special Jim (the cat) food at $1.69 a whack! Which btw, was in a box with plastic on it and, more importantly, IN CANS! Yep. He got all those cans out of the box, opened them all up, and ate all the Jim food.

 Thankfully he leaves the cans behind, crushed and scattered around the living room, and for a second, looking at him, I think, my God! He's seven freaking years old?! Can't he finally grow up and behave? But then I look at him again and that face (so kissable), and all I can manage is a half-hearted, "Jeez, Jonah..." Because the fact is, he's never going to grow up. He just isn't, and anyway, he's only going to be here for a short while so why waste a lot of time scolding him for stuff he can't help? Why not just make all his years as happy as possible? Which I think is ultimately a pretty good idea.

So, yeah. That's the story of my dog, Jonah, who isn't very well-behaved - but he is very much loved.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mage Revealed

Today I want to introduce you to a very special friend of mine, author CD Coffelt, aka Huntress. You might know her from Unicorn Bell, the blog she founded, or you might know her from her first book, Wilder Mage.

I can't remember exactly how we first met, but at some point we started exchanging manuscripts, and I credit Huntress with making me more aware of all my passive verbs and my overuse of the word 'which.' She's one of my most valuable critique partners. I've also read Wilder Mage, the first book in The Magic Withheld series, and an early draft of Mage Revealed, both of which I highly recommend if you like urban fantasy ala Jim Butcher style. Don't know Huntress? Here's what other bloggers you might know have to say about her...

"A do-or-die writer, Huntress is honest, honed, and ornery. Her characters are bold and deep and meld together like the colors in a Van Gogh painting. I enjoyed working with her in the early days of Unicorn Bell and reading her awesome stories!"
Tara Tyler, author of Pop Travel The Cooper Chronicles, Book One and Broken Branch Falls Beast World, Book One. 

"CD is an awesome writer with a generous heart, a genuine spirit, and a devotion to friendship. She rocks. Now, go buy her book before I go all Ninja on you!"
Alex J. Cavanaugh, author of the Amazon best sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm.

"Carol is truly one of the blessings in my life. Although shy, she's a great listener and always knows how to calm me down. She's been my critique partner and friend for years. Congrats on the release!"
Charity Bradford, author of The Magic Wakes, and Stellar Cloud.  

"I'd say that I'm not sure what to share about Huntress, but when I think of how gifted a writer she is, how spectacular she is when providing critiques, and how much fun I have interacting with her in Bloggy-land and Facebook, well, I guess I DO have something to say. So for Huntress, I make this wish: May the golden threads you've woven for this and every story reap you all the bountiful fruits your hands and heart can hold, okay, maybe overflow a little...or a lot :-)"
Angela Brown, author of NeverloveFrailties of the BondAtone, and They All Fall Down

Struck with enough malevolent Spirit to turn him into a raving beast of a man, Bert Reese fights to remain human. Alone, he walks a slender path between sanity and madness. Then, an unlikely source enters his life to help—one of the now-hated mages.
   But Ashleigh is different and calms his butchered senses. Her fierce nature is the only rock that stands between him and the crevasse that is beast. In all ways, she walks beside him toward a new beginning. But at the end of their journey lies the one who used Spirit against him. Questions arise; did Tiarra, head of the Imperium, lose her magic, die, or simply give way to the new order? Or, like a spider, does she wait for a mage to blunder into her web?
   Forced on him without a care for his humanity, Bert is the mage who should not exist, born with a different kind of magic. 
   And the gates of Hell are no match for the magic he wields.

Author C.D. Coffelt’s world of magic started in Wilder Mage with the words “The earthquake wasn’t his fault. Not this time.” It continues in Mage Revealed, the second book of the three-part series. Watch the book trailer on YouTube.

Excerpt from Mage Revealed:

Energy slithered around him, encased him and…
All the elements slammed into him at once filling him like a bursting dam, sloshing into a maelstrom of Fire, Earth, Air, Water, and Spirit. Magic filled him, cascaded into every pore of his skin until there was nothing left that was of his essence.
He raised his arms. “I am a wizard,” he said.
His words echoed, like the roll of a bass drum in an empty coliseum.
From his fingertips, fluid lightning forked and shot into the empty sky. A violent whirlwind as tall as he wanted it to be caught up a whirl of leaves. A roar of Fire sprang from the palms of his hands, crowned his head. And Spirit, the silvery element waited for his command, to charge into any foray he so chose.
He turned to the panting women, frozen in the grip of panic and fright.
“I am a wizard,” he said again.

C.D. Coffelt lives outside Skidmore, Missouri with a bemused husband and way too many cats. She is a member of the Missouri Writers Guild. But despite that bit of conventionality, she adores all things fantasy with a special love for urban and epic.

With a passion for good writing and Doritos as companions, locating Middle-Earth on a dusty road in rural Missouri wasn’t difficult. All it took was a little Magic, hours of reading, and an overactive imagination.

She blogs as Huntress on, Facebook, Twitter, and her writer’s critique site, Find her books at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Congrats, Huntress :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A few more pumpkins...

this one was my favorite :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014


As many of you know, every year at this time Damariscotta and Newcastle, aka the Twin Villages, celebrate Pumpkinfest, which features massive pumpkins that local artists decorate, a prize for the biggest, a pumpkin catapult (hey, we know how to have fun here), and a pumpkin regatta (yep, guys - and gals - in pumpkin boats). It's a lot of fun but my favorite part is always the big pumpkins lining the streets all carved and painted. Here are a few that caught my eye...


loved this one with the sea monster

and this one with the purple flowers...

yep, that's 1695lbs!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why I love Buffy

Recently my son and I have been re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And yes, there's a significant cheese factor I may have overlooked the first time, but guess what? It's just as funny - if not more funny - than it ever was before. And I mean funny in a brilliant way. Let me give you an example of just how brilliant.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the show, spoiler alert.

In this episode from season 3, Spike returns to Sunnydale and kidnaps Willow in the hopes of creating a magic spell that will make Drusilla love him once again. Meanwhile, Willow and Xander are secretly lusting after one another (with Oz and Cordelia clueless); Angel is back, no longer demonic, and Buffy is trying to resist her feelings for him (why, I ask you? Why? Okay, so he killed a few people when he was demonic, but he's good again now and anyway everyone knows he and Buffy belong together. right?). Anyway, there's a lot of emotion in this episode between the secret lust, unfulfilled passion, and of course, poor broken hearted Spike. At one point he goes to Buffy's house and gets her mother to invite him, then, instead of doing something horrible, Spike pours out his heart to her.

Then, just to make things more interesting, the Mayor of Sunnydale (and is he awesome or what?!) has sent a few thugs to take care of Spike who's on his do-not-pass-go list. Buffy and Angel are forced to join Spike in order to save Willow and Xander, and Spike delivers these words of wisdom:

See? I told you they belong together.

Anyway, the obligatory fight scene ensues, after which all the vampires and demons are dead, and Spike does an about face and says,

"Now that was fun! It's been so long since I had a decent spot of violence; it's put everything in perspective. I've been all wrong-headed about this. If I want Dru back I've just got to be the man she loved. I'm going to do what I should've done in the first place: I'm going to find her, wherever she is, tie her up, and torture her 'til she likes me again."

He then tells Buffy and Angel where Willow and Xander are, and off he goes. Unfortunately, by this time  Cordelia and Oz have found them (thanks to Oz's wolfy nose), and caught them kissing. The last few scenes show the fallout. Buffy tells Angel she can't see him any more, Willow is all sad in her room, Xander moping  in the library, and Cordelia and Oz broken-hearted. It's a total dwell scene for everyone.

Except Spike. In the final scene of the show there he is, driving down the road in that car of his with the windows all blackened against the sun. He's got some punk rock blasting away and he's as happy as a pig in shite.

That's why I love Buffy.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Unbreakable is the second film M. Knight Shyamalan directed, produced, wrote, and acted in. Bruce Willis stars as the hero who discovers he's literally unbreakable after a train wreck kills everyone except him. Samuel L. Jackson plays his opposite and nemesis, a man who's stricken with a rare disease in which bones break all too easily.

I loved how their stories unfolded over the course of the movie, how Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson's character) is born broken and suffers all through his life with bones like glass. Comics are his only friends and it's through them he comes to the conclusion that if there's someone as breakable as he is, there must be someone who isn't. This leads him to seek out, and find, David Dunn (Bruce Willis' character). How the two interact and what happens after is riveting, from the parts where David explores his ability, to his private life with his son, excellently played by Spencer Treat Clark, and estranged wife, played by Robin Wright (who I will forever picture as Princess Buttercup, but that's another movie...).

I remember when I first watched this film and wishing there was a sequel.

Have you seen Unbreakable? Like M. Knight Shyamalan?

A big thanks to The Armchair Squid for hosting Mock Squid Soup: A Film Society.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gears of Brass

Gear up for GEARS OF BRASS! 

A world like ours, but filled with gears of brass, where the beating heart is fueled by steam and the simplest creation is a complex clockwork device.  

Within this tome, you’ll find steampunk fairy tale re-tellings, as well as original stories that will send your gears turning.  

Welcome to the steampunk realm, with eleven authors guiding your path. 
GEARS OF BRASS is a steampunk anthology published through Curiosity Quills.  It will be available for purchase on November 10, 2014.  Within the pages, you’ll come across clockwork inventions and steampunk-ified fairy tale retellings.  Eleven authors will guide you through worlds filled with airships, top hats, and corsets. 
Meet the authors:
Jordan Elizabeth writes young adult fantasy for Curiosity Quills, including ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW which was published in October and the upcoming TREASURE DARKLY; she’s represented by the Belcastro Agency.
J. Million is the author of Last of the Giants and can always be found reading or writing.
Lorna MacDonald Czarnota is a professional storyteller and author of several books including, Medieval Tales That Kids Can Read and Tell, Breadline Blue, Legends Lore and Secrets of Western New York, Wicked Niagara, Native American and Pioneer Sites of Upstate New York, and Dancing at the Crossroads: Stories and Activities for At-Risk Youth Programming.
SA Larsen is represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary and is the author of published short stories, community-interest stories, and magazine articles focused on children. 
Grant Eagar is an Engineer who would take the tales he told his children at bed time, and transform them into fantasy stories. 
Clare Weze is the author of The House of Ash (forthcoming) and the co-author and editor of Cloudscapes over the Lune.
Eliza Tilton: gamer, writer and lover of dark chocolate; author of the YA Fantasy, BROKEN FOREST, published by Curiosity Quills Press.
Heather Talty's stories have been featured in Enchanted Conversation, as well as her own fractured fairy tale site, Mythopoetical (
W.K. Pomeroy is a third generation writer who has published more than 70 short stories/articles/poems across many genres and styles, which now includes Steampunk.
Christine Baker is the author of Lana's End, The Guild of Dagda, and many more. 
Natalia Darcy: a bookilicious reader, tea drinker and Zumba aficionado who enjoys playing cards against humanity and washing her hair with ice cold water. 
You can get your steampunk fix before GEARS OF BRASS is released in November.  To enter for your chance to win a copy of GEARS OF BRASS, you will need to share the cover.  This can be on your blog, Facebook, Twitter… Each time you share the cover image, log it into Rafflecoper to record it.  It will give you more chances to win.  The drawing for the winner will be held on October 27th. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

First Impressions - Squatch Watch

Our final First Impression for this month comes from Michelle L. Brown who has written two books for Razorbill (By the Grace of Todd-Feb. 14, In Todd We Trust-March 15.) You can find her on twitter: This is the first page of her MG humorous adventure novel, SQUATCH WATCH.

 If you’re going to be the first human to interview Bigfoot, you need bait. Great first line.
            But my bait had a sore throat. Rodney, the other founding member of the Junior Squatch Watcher’s Society, was the best Sasquatch caller in the whole state of Washington. Now that Rodney was raspy, I was stuck with my kid sister, LuEllen, who didn’t even believe in Bigfoot. Conditions were ripe for a Squatch sighting, though, so I couldn’t be picky.
            “Hurry up and put this on,” I said, handing her the Squatch suit.
            She sniffed. “Leo, I am not wearing that thing. What’s on it, dog hair?”
            “Precisely. (I'm not sure an American MG kid would use the word precisely - a Brit might.) I gathered clippings from Mom’s clients, then glued them to these coveralls. This suit is just the right Bigfoot blend of grays and blacks. Sheepdogs and schnauzers, mostly.”
            “You mean this came off the floor of the Triple P?”
            “Lu, you’re an eight-year-old Einstein. Isn’t that what I just said? Now put it on. You know you owe me.”
             I’d been doing all her chores in our garage, better known as the Pampered Pup Parlor, for the last two months to build my collection of dog hair. Of course, I hadn’t told the Kidster or Mom the reason I’d morphed into Mr. Helpful.
             LuEllen slid her skinny body into the suit. “You know I’m only doing this to prove you wrong.” She pulled a fur-covered ski mask over her frizzy blonde braids. “Ugh! What’s that awful smell?”
            “Sasquatch scent,” I said, squirting her with my mister. “It’s my own special blend of sweaty socks, rotten potatoes, and pickle juice. Mixed with wet dog hair, you’ll smell perfect!”
            “Now swing your arms when you walk, like this.” I swung my long arms in classic Sasquatch style.
            She flapped like a chicken on fire.
            “Bend your knees, and twist your hips while you take giant steps.” This time I went slower, doing my best Bigfoot swagger straight of the old 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film I’d been studying.
            LuEllen tried and face planted. “The pant legs are too long,” she whined. “I’m a lot shorter than Rodney.”
            “Never mind the walk.” The moon was up, and the man-beasts would be on the move. I  shouldered my backpack and switched on my headlamp. Then I grabbed LuEllen by her furry glove and led her a little way into the Umatilla Forest that bumped up to our back yard. We came to a clearing where I’d seen lots of deer. “I’ll spread the peanut butter sandwiches in a wide circle around this stump, then take my position in that bush. You sit here and try to look like a helpless baby Bigfoot. Hmm, I wonder how this night is going to end...

My thoughts: Aside from the two places I marked, this read very smoothly and the voice seemed right on for an MG narrator. I also thought this was a fun first page and the idea of trying to interview Bigfoot seems like it would appeal to MG boys. However, Dianne Salerni is a much better judge of the MG genre than I am so do pop over to see what she had to say. Meanwhile I hope my MG readers will chime in and offer their thoughts.

Thanks a bunch to Michelle and everyone else who either submitted a first page or offered a comment. And if you would like to have your first page critiqued, just check out my sidebar for the FAQs. We still have spots left for November.

Friday, October 3, 2014

First Impressions - The Pet Connection

Today we have the first page of THE PET CONNECTION, a humorous contemporary MG submitted by Rebecca Anderson (MG Binders Member).

Badger Jacobs didn’t think he was an especially lucky person. So he wasn’t listening to the intercom as Principal Tessie called off the students who would participate in the Pet Connection game show. Instead Badger was picking at a hangnail on his left pointer finger.
        All around a chorus of voices quietly chanted, “Please, oh please, oh please, oh please ...” Out of the corner of his eye, Badger saw Lisa Ling with her eyes closed and hands folded in silent prayer.  From behind him, he heard Lance Swag brag, “I know she’s going to call my name.  My mom is head of the PTA.”  Badger rolled his eyes. Lance always got what he wanted including the best shoes, all the video game systems and a gold iPhone.
        The voice over the intercom continued, “The second fifth grade student will be Omar Ahmed.” There was a collective groan in the room and Badger felt Lance kick the back of his chair. Badger thought it must be rough for Lance to experience disappointment for the first time.
        Their teacher, Miss Rockford, held a finger up to her lips and motioned that everyone should continue listening. Badger went back to tugging on the hangnail. He didn’t need to hear the names of the 6th graders who would participate.  Maybe next year he’d finally get chosen.  Maybe next year he’d finally hear his name called out.
        “... and that student is Bryan Jacobs.” At the sound of his name, Badger’s whole body jerked in surprise.  Unfortunately, that included the fingers that had been toying with the hangnail and he yanked off a hunk of skin, leaving a quarter-inch gash.  (This sentence feels awkward here, interrupts the rhythm of the rest of the paragraph - imo.) At the same time, every head in his class turned to look at him.  He saw Lisa’s eyes stray towards his bleeding finger and Badger covered it with his opposite thumb.  What was going on?  Why had Principal Tessie had called his name?  Weren’t there were only two fifth grade contestants.  She had already called both of them, right?
        Badger held his thumb on his bleeding finger as Principal Tessie finished talking over the intercom.  “I’m so excited to see how the lucky contestants combine the wisdom of words, the power of pets and a little bit of magic. Teachers, please send the contestants down to my office.  I’ll have them back to you before next period.”

My thoughts:  My first thought is that this is a pretty darn clean first page. Aside from where I marked, the only other spot that gave me pause was the last sentence of the previous paragraph. I was expecting Badger to be thinking how there was no way he'd ever get chosen due to the fact he isn't lucky. But that's minor. Really, I liked this a whole lot. A lot of questions are set up in this first page, like, why is his nickname Badger? And why doesn't he think he's especially lucky? What has led him to believe this? Did the principal mean real magic? And what the heck is this Pet Connection game?! I would definitely be turning the page to find out.

Readers, what did you think? And if you want to know what Dianne Salerni thought of this same first page, head over to her place :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

First Impressions - Moving Fear

Our first First Impression for this month comes from DL Hammons, founder of D.L. Hammons' Write Club, who has submitted the first page of his YA Horror, MOVING FEAR. As always, author Dianne Salerni will be critiquing this first page as well and you can see what she thought here.


“Are those restraints really necessary?”
The orderly continued strapping the wide leather belt around the woman’s waist without a sign he heard the question. His ill-fitting uniform of matching white pants and short- sleeve shirt suffered from a terminal case of the wrinkles and did a poor job of covering his massive bulk. The laminated hospital ID clipped to his uniform pocket flapped around like a cowboy holding on for dear life atop a bucking bronco. Working without a sound, he finished with the leather girdle and then guided the woman's listless body into the chair opposite the visitor. Only a small metal table separated the two of them.
The priest, dressed in a dark gray suit with a black clergy shirt and white clerical collar, studied the orderly. He watched without comment as the hospital employee (I think you could replace this with 'man' and it would read a little smoother - imo) treated the woman as a side of beef, maneuvering her roughly back and forth, oblivious to her own will.
Thus the reason for the frown on the priest's face. This feels intrusive to me, but I can't quite pinpoint why.
The room he had been waiting in was brightly lit, which he found odd because the intense lighting only accentuated the dust and grime. (So now we are seeing thing's from the priest's pov, correct? Then who's pov were we seeing things from before? An omniscient narrator? Just asking...)  It was clear that the cleaning staff hadn’t concerned themselves with this part of the hospital for quite some time. The filth was emphasized by a musty smell of neglect and a faint hint of stale sweat and urine, which assaulted his nose and had put him in a foul mood as soon as he'd entered the room. The orderly’s actions now only deepened it.
The priest had taken the seat on the far side of the table, putting the mirror covering the majority of the back wall behind him. On the wall to his immediate left rested an old metal radiator, fed by a pipe that ran along the baseboard and into the floor adjacent to the lone entrance. A table and two stiff chairs, all bolted to the concrete floor, were the only furniture in the interview room. I'd get rid of that and cut to the chase. But again, that's just my opinion...
The woman offered no resistance throughout her man-handling, her distant eyes providing no hint that she was even aware of the orderly’s actions. Grabbing the bulky chain hanging from the rear of the belt the woman was now wearing, the hospital worker orderly (because shorter is better here, I think) secured it with a lock to a loophole at the base of the chair. He gave it a quick yank when he was finished, jerking the woman back in her seat. Only then did he step back and look at the priest.

My thoughts: Okay, so I marked this up a bit, because I think this can be shorter which will increase the tension of the reader dying to find out what this priest is doing, who the woman is, and why she's been treated as she is.  I also think cutting some of the description will make the place seem even more stark and gloomy. This is a page turner as is, but a bit of tightening would make it killer.

Readers, your thoughts?

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Cephalopod Coffee House - Red Glove

A while back I read the first book in this series, White Cat, by Holly Black, which I absolutely LOVED. Today, I want to tell you about Red Glove, the second book in Black's Curse Workers series.

In White Cat readers are introduced to Cassel Sharpe, whose family are not only curse workers - people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands - but grifters as well. His brothers both work for the Zhakarov crime family and his mother funds her lifestyle by conning and cursing wealthy men, all with a touch of her hand. Cassel meanwhile (who believes himself to be without any worker abilities), is mourning the death of his best friend Lila (daughter of said crime boss), attends a private high school, and runs a betting operation on the side for extra cash. He also has strange dreams about a white cat which soon leads to his discovery that he's been worked by his own brothers in the biggest con game ever.

Red Glove continues from where White Cat left off, with Cassel having discovered what really happened to Lila, as well as his own ability, which just happens to be the the most powerful and rare. He's back at school for his senior year but before he can settle in one of his brother's is killed, Zhakarov offers him a job, and the Feds grab him and try to blackmail him into helping them solve his brother's murder.

I loved Cassel and the way he manages to con everyone. I also loved the world Black creates, where everyone wears gloves, curse working is a crime, and no one - not even your own family - can be trusted. I highly recommend both books in this series and can't wait to read the third, Black Heart.


Much thanks to The Cephalopod Coffeehouse for hosting this monthly event :)

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 :)