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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: “Sally Slick and The Steel Syndicate"

Squee! My first peer review!

Although my own book is still what feels like a very (very, very) long five months from publication, I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the new book from Carrie Harris, writer extraordinaire and fountain of general writing knowledge. I met her during WriteOnCon last year – a fantastic  event which helped me fine-tune my pitch and helped me garner at least one agent request for manuscript during the  Con. I then took said pitch to a writing convention in May, where I received a staggering five for five requests for materials and my eventual publishing contract! Needless to say, I feel indebted to WriteOnCon, and especially to Carrie, who gave me some extremely helpful personal advice regarding publishing contracts and agents.

That being said…SALLY!

Fourteen year old Sally Slick is a mechanical genius, the only girl in a family that includes seven brothers. In 1914, girls aren’t supposed to fix engines or race tractors, but Sally is determined to prove herself to the local bullies in the racing circuit.  When her oldest brother James returns unexpectedly from Chicago with a robot and armed goons on his tail, Sally’s focus soon turns to protecting her family, evading the long, threatening reach of the Steel Don of Chicago, and making a decision that would allow her to follow a dream all but unreachable to young women in the early 1900s.

I loved the industrial, diesel-punky feel of Sally right from the beginning. Carrie has done a great job creating the grease-and-oil atmosphere of Sally’s barn-crib workshop, where she fixes up Calamity, her racing tractor.  Sally herself is a strong and admirable heroine, a young woman caught between the confusion of what a girl should be doing in 1914 and where her dreams and considerable talents are leading her. Her relationship with her best friend Jet, with whom she uneasily treads the line of best friend/boyfriend, is real and believable.

The book really takes off when Sally and Jet make a hair-raising trip to Chicago to meet the Steel Don, who holds her brother James hostage in order to secure the return of the prototype robot he and his employer, the brilliant and very odd Doktor Proktor, took from the crime boss. There in the big city, Sally and Jet meet the Order of the Jade Lotus, a group of kung-fu warriors who are determined to defeat the criminal syndicates of Chicago.  Exciting battles and Sally’s deft rebuilding of the Don’s and Proktor’s inventions result in more adventure than any fourteen year old should be allowed to have!

The book is a fantastic, old fashioned adventure, with just enough sci fi/diesel punk thrown in the mix to make it a complete hit with me.  With very few anachronisms that only a geek like me would notice, Carrie’s vision of the World War I era United States is realistic and gritty.  A couple of things feel slightly familiar – James reminds me a little of Percy in the Harry Potter books, the self-important older brother jealous of his younger siblings outshining him. (And on a personal note, Carrie, Doctor Proctor was the name of my brother's best friend's rock band in the 80's, LOL) But on the whole, Carrie has created a great book that I think will appeal to all ages of readers. I’m looking forward to more of Sally Slick’s adventures!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coming up for air!

     Wow, a lot has happened since I last posted. Getting settled in my new job as a hospice nurse took a lot more time and energy than I had originally thought! Now that I'm officially past my 90 days, and I still love my job and feel like I know more or less what I'm doing, I've had time to write again on the weekends...
      I did decide to go ahead and publish with the small press, in no small part due to the acquisitions editor, Denise, who was honest and patient and answered every question I had, and waited while I researched the terms of my contract. After going over it with a magnifying glass, pick axe and night goggles, I signed it. Then I got to do fun stuff, like give them my hopes and dreams for my cover art. (Insert squee here!)

     Now comes the waiting part...I'm still six months out from publication, and my book is now in the hands of the first editor. I've been told it goes through three editors. It'll be a little while before I receive my first revision notes, but I'm getting excited! I started making a Pinterest page for my book for self-marketing at the suggestion of another author who is also published by this press.

     Meanwhile, I've been churning out the first draft of my next work, "Nectar and Ambrosia". Nine chapters in with a planned fifteen or sixteen, I'm hoping I can complete the first draft before I get revision notes. It takes place in an entirely different mind set, both writing style and genre, so it will be tough to bounce back and forth.

Friday, June 28, 2013

I'm a princess and this is my tiara!!!

I received an email on Thursday evening:

I'm about a hundred pages into your manuscript and I really like this story. Is it still available, or have you placed it elsewhere?

 Let me know if you are still interested in a contract with (name of publisher). Signed, (Editor)"


After I had responded to her that my novel was, indeed, still available, she emailed me back and said she would like to offer me a publishing contract. 

**Thud**. That was me, hitting the floor, in simultaneous shock, glee, and excitement.

After I had picked myself up off the floor, I started trying to remember everything I'd ever read about accepting a contract with small publishers. This particular publisher, though small, seems to be reputable, and I had personally met with them at the RT Booklovers Convention Pitch-a-Palooza event that I attended earlier in the spring. They were incredibly nice ladies.

One of the things I remembered reading was that it might be beneficial to nabbing an agent once you have a contract on the table. So, I immediately emailed the two agents who still have my full manuscripts to let them know I have a contract offer.

In the midst of all this, a third agent who had a sample emailed to wish me well and also said lovely things about my character and  my writing, but she wasn't taking on the project. I emailed her back to thank her, and asked her if she had any advice about this contract I was considering. She gave me a couple of really good pointers regarding royalty standards, length of term, and being very very careful about anything in an options clause...

I've researched the terms of the standard contract the publisher sent me, and it looks totally legitimate and quite fair according to what I've seen so far. Everything seems to be in line with industry standards.

So, even if I don't win representation, I have a contract that I can accept with this little e-book and print-on- demand publisher, which pays industry standard royalties on ebooks and print, and whose authors' books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I will be a published author somewhere in the neighborhood of April 2014. 



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Writing what's painful

I got an article from one of the writing pages to which I'm subscribed entitled "Don't Avoid Painful Writing".

Usually I love stuff like this. Challenge writing forces me to do some really cool stuff out of my comfort zone. I discovered that I can write really good erotica during a challenge, to my surprise, but not without checking over my shoulder to make sure no one was watching me write!

But today I considered writing a Father's Day post for my dad, Tom, who died in 1997 of lung cancer. As I thought about it, my mind did circles around it, probing that wound and discovering to my surprise that it's still almost too painful to write about it, even now.

I guess I'm not ready to completely bare my soul as a writer yet, or to deal with that painful aspect. More specifically, I'm not ready to deal with the emotional aftermath of writing it. I don't know if that's good or bad. As a nurse, I often put away emotional aspects of my job to deal with later when it's 'convenient'. It makes me wonder how much I unconsciously put away, and how much it might be crippling me as a writer and as a person. Hmmm. Going to have to think about that one a long time, but it's going to have to be done.

Just more proof of the power of introspective writing. A writer who can create a fantasy world runs away from writing something real.

That's going to have to be an exercise for a later day.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Creativity as an answer to chaos

When you're a nurse, there's a lot of chaos. The average 12 hour shift (more like 13.5 when all is said and done) is full of call lights, orders to be translated from doctor-transcribed hieroglyphics, medications to be passed, procedures to perform.

A lot of nurses have trouble making a break from that chaos in their off hours, and have to find a way to translate that energy into something good. I like to write whenever I have a down moment when I'm in the throes of a new idea. I have trouble writing unless I'm obsessed about my current project, because being a working wife, mom, daughter, dog and cat butler can get in the way of my writing time. Finding that hour to sit down and be creative is often difficult and damn near impossible. I've discovered some new software that's really helping me organize and make the best of my writing time (Thank you Snowflake Pro! Best 50 bucks I ever spent...)

I mentioned the personal medical chaos that writing helped me get through, but another reason I write was brought home when I saw the obituary of a patient this morning. She was only 36, a breast cancer survivor who developed metastatic pancreatic and liver cancer. She was beautiful, kind, and had a loving husband and two adorable little boys who are far too young to lose their mommy. We had spoken often during her hospital stays, as I was diagnosed with cancer only a few years older than she. Whenever she was hospitalized, she would send her husband over to my floor to tell me she was there, so I could come see her. The last time she was there, I wasn't, and I heard that she had gone home on hospice. Irony there; I had just accepted a position with a hospice organization, which I will start a week from Monday.

One of my favorite authors, Zenna Henderson, had a character who immersed himself in writing a book after the death of his infant daughter. The character said, "This was my weeping and my substitute for despair. My creation to answer death."

I think that's the best reason for anyone to indulge their creativity. To create beauty out of the chaos of their thoughts, and to share that beauty in whatever form they can to lighten the lives of others. Someday, maybe, there will be one person to pick up a book or a story I've written and it might take their mind off something ugly for a little while, provide an escape and some entertainment, like so many authors have done for me.

So today, I'll write in honor of Anne Marie, a beautiful life in the midst of chaos. Whether it's just this blog post, or I get some more quality work done on Nectar and Ambrosia, it's me, stringing thoughts together into some kind of order in this insane world. As I learn the new emotional and professional aspects of hospice nursing, I will write for my own sanity and offer my creativity to answer death.

Like Anne Marie, I hope to leave the world a better place, even for a little while.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Newbie on the loose

I think that all writers love to live in the fantasy world of their own creations in their spare moments. But most of us are also avid readers, and I’ve always loved to live in the worlds of others as well…I started out with the Wizard of Oz, like many other kids, but then was introduced to Lloyd Alexander, Ursula LeGuin, and Madeleine L’Engle. My dad presented me with a hardback copy of The Hobbit when I was about twelve, and I saw Star Wars eleven times at the theaters when it came out in 1977. In high school I discovered Katherine Kurtz, and later in my adult life, David Brin and Nina Kiriki Hoffman.

I can’t remember a time I didn’t love sci fi and fantasy. I started writing my own stories when I was twelve, and even had “ famous author” inscribed on my junior high school year book. Too many years later (too many than I want to admit to, anyway; I'm still a kid on the inside!) I'm still a novice writer. I have written dozens of story fragments, four or five short stories and finally completed a full length novel which is being read by two agents and a publisher as I type this (fingers crossed!). Writing this novel started in serialized form as a way to amuse myself and my friends. When my life took an unexpected, devastating turn, it became a way to keep my mind occupied while undergoing radiation, chemotherapy and extensive surgery due to cancer. 

As I learn to navigate this crazy world of writing and querying and pitching and revising, I'm still a padawan [:)] ...and the only nurse on the block with a TARDIS license plate holder and an Evil Dead ID badge.

Welcome to my world!