Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Last Scene Alive

Last Scene Alive
Last Scene Alive by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Found Last Scene Alive in the new book section of my local library. I generally like Charlaine Harris novels and have read other books in the Aurora Teagarden series.

It was not a bad book – but the ‘but’ is, I didn’t find it thrilling , gripping, or something that I’d label as enjoyable to recommend to others. Last Scene Alive is a formulaic murder mystery.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dubious Advice?

I should really post more about writing - that's what this blog is for.

I'm sorry that I'm more in the mood to work on Neferseshotep this month rather than more my sequel to The End of the World Sucks.  Sometimes, I need a break from Vanna and Thanos (they have issues).

Anyway, for a while I've been receiving critique advice to make Neferseshotep more like Tolkien.  The reasoning was sound.  A beloved classic where a group of characters who didn't talk over each other in conversation, that's exactly what Tolkien did.  I should have remembered there were hardly any female characters. 

Off the top of my head, I've read Tolkien, but I don't recall what he did in his writing style that made his story stand out so I plucked The Fellowship of the Ring off my daughter's bookshelf and got to work rereading it.

Uh yeah ... I hadn't gotten that far into the book, but I noticed the style dates the work.  I'm not sure it's the best approach for me and/or Neferseshotep.  There's lots of 'tell' at parts, and Gandalf is a know-it-all, answering questions at length for pages.

Here are some examples from The Hobbit .

          Insert a first person narrator to provide the reader with information (page 3) -
     Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale.
The importance of communicating information to the reader may be done through omniscient narrator and quick changes of internal viewpoint, even within the same paragraph.  This is also a good section of lumping dwarves together, rather than making them distinctive (page 8) - 
... Not a ring, but a hard rat-tat on the hobbit’s beautiful green door.  Somebody was banging with a stick!
     Bilbo rushed along the passage, very angry, and altogether bewildered and bewuthered – this was the most awkward Wednesday he ever remembered.  He pulled open the door with a jerk, and they all fell in, one on top of the other.  More dwarves, four more!  And there was Gandalf behind, leaning on his staff and laughing.  He had made quite a dent on the beautiful door; he had also, by the way, knocked out the secret mark that he had put there the morning before.
     “Carefully! Carefully!” he said.  “it is not like you, Bilbo, to keep friends waiting on the mat, and then open the door like a pop-gun! Let me introduce Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and especially Thorin!”
     “At your service!” said Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur standing in a row.  Then they hung up two yellow hoods and a pale green one; and also a sky-blue one with a long, silver tassel.  This last belonged to Thorin, an enormously important dwarf, in fact no other than Thorin Oakenshield himself, who was not at all pleased at falling flat on Bilbo’s mat with Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur on top of him.  For one thing Bombur was immensely fat and heavy.  Thorin indeed was very haughty, and said nothing about service; but poor Mr. Baggins said he was sorry so many times, that at last he grunted, “pray don’t mention it,” and stopped frowning. 

The follow-up advice when I questioned the applicability of Tolkien's style to modern epic fantasy, or the possibility that they were thinking the movies, rather than the books.  Response: read George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series.  That's what you need to imitate, but at the same time simplify the entire story by removing characters and set up scenes so no more than two characters appear in it.

To comfort myself, I've started some new spreadsheets.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Watch those words

Even with this time off, I spend more time on finding work than on writing fiction.

The I.T. industry has changed so there are more contractor opportunities than ever, and some can turn into a permanent hire.  Contracting is not ideal, but affords some flexibility - though I prefer stability over flexibility.

There are many contracting firms so I receive frequent calls from companies I haven't heard of before. That's OK though, because they'll tell me about the job, their client, what they'll pay, and how they'll pay it.  If I like what I hear, I'll say 'yes' in some way.  Then they'll send me an email asking me to respond back with my acceptance and giving them the right to exclusively represent me for that single position at that rate at that location.  Some end clients have so many similar job postings that there may even be a position number included - like Verizon Wireless begins their positions with VZW.  If someone else calls me about a job at Verizon Wireless, I need to compare the job numbers so I don't have two different companies represent me for the same position.  That's breaking the rules, but it's alright to have another company represent me on a second job at Verizon or wherever.

So while I was on the phone with my daughter last week, I received a voice mail that Vonage transcribed into text as -

"Hi son, it's him put technologies. I'm just calling to message I will bring them up a plan for the rest of them will and Ashley. I just was in the kitchen. The assistant in New Jersey. If you understood for this person please contact him. My number is 856-.... My extension is 107 I repeat 856-.... My extension is 17. I'm sending regarding this please go through that and get back to me. Think we" 

I then was forced to listen to the wav attachment myself to see if I could figure out the correct extension or the caller's name.  Vonage did the better job.

The guy called again, and his conversation skills hadn't improved.  I was able to get a rate and town, and said send me over the email and I'll confirm.  Some firms will suggest wording, and his did, along with the rate without benefits and the job description.  No name of an end client.

He requested I reply -

'I give' - Company X - 'the right to exclusively represent me.'

What could this mean if I responded with that?  That from this point forward Company X is the only consulting company that can represent me.  If I find my own job even, I could be held liable.  The rate is not in the phrase, so what if they find me a job bussing tables at a diner for minimum wage?  What if it's far away, where I wouldn't want to commute?  Anyway, the email I sent back was not what he expected to receive.

This also applies to author agent contracts. Agents are in the business of selling.  That's good, because they're supposed to represent you as the author.  They sell your work, that's how they get paid.  An agent also has a relationship with publishers (or at least you hope they do).  That business relationship is also important to them, and you as the author are expecting it to remain professional with regards that the agent is working for you in an ethical manner with their connections.

However, sometimes the contract can be loose either through a reluctance to keep updating them for every client, or due to the unknown amount of time it takes to 'sell' your work.  Unlike my contractor situation, your agent should remain your sole agent to all publishers for a period of time to sell either all your work, or a specific work.  Agent Joe is not limited to pitching you to Penguin, so don't worry about getting Agent John to represent you to McGraw-Hill.

What you do want is some escape clauses that are not draconian sounding.  What if Agent Joe has a life-changing event, and no longer actively represents you to publishers?  Wording such as if a publishing contract has not been signed one year from this date, you have the option to dissolve your relationship with Agent Joe with a notification such as you or Joe mail the other a certified letter.  You don't even have to go into whose fault that is - your work may be a difficult sell, Agent Joe may not be presenting it properly, or Agent Joe's publisher relationships are not the right publishers for your work. Give Agent Joe some benefit of doubt because he's not paid until you're sold, so doing nothing except getting you to initially sign is bad for his business too.

Authors can't just write - they need to read too.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Added Appearances Calendar


I'm working on getting out there to sign books and talk about writing, what to do with a manuscript, querying, and all the stuff that gets something from 'I got an idea' to a book.

I'm a member of the New Jersey Authors Network.  Jon Gibbs and others contact libraries and keep the rest of the group aware of upcoming opportunities to speak about their experience and maybe tell some war stories, but also to offer advice.

When I first tried National Novel Writing Month, I didn't have a project plan all laid out regarding what I actually did.  I thought that step 1 was get an agent or publisher, then changed my mind when I found out more about the length of time between acceptance and 'on the shelf'.  Also, I don't mind edits, changes, or rewrites, yet I don't want the story molded to the formula because the formula worked for Best Seller Girl.  And see, I was ahead of the curve with a New Adult heroine, rather than de-aging Vanna to a teenager.  I could be foaming at the mouth now being asked to age her back up to New Adult today.

While there, I could also learn from my fellow panelists.  Publishing is changing at a rapid pace.

So I'm adding a tab up on the top for a calendar of appearances.