Saturday, March 23, 2013

1 Star + 2 Stars Does Not Equal 5 Stars

I lately joined Goodreads, (check me out!) and I am loving using their electronic book shelf to build my tbr list and also mark off what I’ve already read. What’s stymieing me? The ratings. 1-5 stars should be simple enough, right? 

5 = I’d recommend it to everyone, I loved it
4 = I really enjoyed it but it wasn’t perfect
3 = Passable, it was a good time, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it
2 = You’d have to be bad for me to give you this 2, I’d warn people off of your books and want my money back
1 = Holy shit, you are giving books a bad name. I wish I’d never met you.

See, here’s my problem. I need a different set of rankings for each genre, and I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Let’s talk my two favorites, Romance versus Spec Fic. (ie fantasy and sci fi) (also note: I write and love both genres)

Now, for me, what makes a good romance is sizzling romantic/sexual tension, not just sex sex sex. In fact if they never even get to the sex part, I’m fine with that. But when their eyes meet and they have that, “I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t have you, but I can’t” moment, I swoon. That’s the good stuff. The anticipation, the warring. But I digress.

Romances, as we know, are constrained a bit more by formula than SF is. There pretty much HAS to be a HEA (happily ever after), the main characters are going to be the Hero and Heroine who fall in love, they’re going to fight against it before they give in, and so on. This type of story can be done intricately, uniquely, beautifully, breath-takingly, originally and artfully. Formula doesn’t mean bad. It just means…restrictive.

I’ll be honest. The first book I ever came up with was Sworn Sword, a high fantasy novel. The first book I ever wrote was Dishonorable Intentions, a historical romance. Why? I found writing within the structure of a romance just (and don’t hate me for this) easier. I could give the whole “easy to do, hard to do well” argument and so on, but you know I love romance, so you can assume I have nothing but respect for it.

Let me be very honest here, it’s easier to plot a romance, and because the main focus of the story HAS to be on the romance, the rest of the plot is by necessity, simpler.

Where am I going with this, you ask? The rankings.

For me (and I think this has to be true of others) a romance novel that’s a 5 just isn’t the same as an epic fantasy that’s a 5. There’s just so much more to an epic fantasy novel. Character development, plotting, themes, world building…it’s no contest. And there’s nothing wrong with that.  As much as I hate the saying, “it is what it is” is valid here.

I’ll happily give great romance novels like Sealed with a Curse by Cecy Robson a 5 on Goodreads, but I wish I could say “5 for a romance” so people don’t think I think it’s on par with Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince, which is a 5 million for fantasy. (Is 5 million stars a valid ranking? It should be.)

 How do you feel about giving 5’s in one genre vs another?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Time Has Come…for Jaguars

So there I was, Barnes and Noble, three years ago, standing in a place I rarely find myself—in front of the Harlequin book display. What was I looking for? Why the Harlequin Historicals, of course, which they stopped putting in their displays at that time. (The bastards!) Thus thwarted, I was left in want of a book. I had a need. I wanted…something. I didn’t know what.
Then I saw the Silhouette Nocturne offering that month and a cover caught my eye. It was called Sentinels: Wolf Hunt, and it was all green and bad-ass looking, without a cheezy clinch cover.

As opposed to a cheezy clinch cover:

Shoot me now, I can’t help but disrespect the book even knowing the helpless author had no say.

Needless to say, Sentinels: Wolf Hunt caught my eye and shouted, “I’m what you’ve been looking for, grab me now and start reading. Well ok, not while you’re driving home, but then DIRECTLY after you park. Maybe before you get out. Well, at least take your seat belt off…” (What can I say, it was a chatty book)
So, buy it I did and take it home I did.
I read about 30 pages into it and stopped, put the book down, not to be touched again.
Now there I was last night, 3 years and 3 moves later, and Wolf Hunt has been with me the whole time, sitting on my shelf in the dreaded tbr pile. (To Be Read).
Suddenly, the book’s time was NOW. I knew it without a doubt. I wasn’t even sure it had survived the big move to Florida when I’d left two bookshelves full of books still at my mum’s house in NH. But after a search of my 4 bookshelves here, (yes, 4, in a 2 bedroom house, some shelves 2-books deep) I found it!
I settled in for a night of reading, trying to remember why page 33 was dogged eared. I figured it out shortly. This was the 4th book in a paranormal romance series.
Now, don’t get too worked up, a paranormal romance series is nothing like a fantasy series. They have different hero/heroines each time so you don’t normally need to read them in too much order. My plan last night had been, if I like the one I already owned (the 4th), then I’ll go back and buy the others.
However, 30pgs in, it became clear that if I kept reading this one, she’d spoil the endings of all the others for me with the way she kept referencing them. That, and my enjoyment of the book so far, convinced me to bust out the trusty ole Kindle and buy the first book, Sentinels: Jaguar Night.

Wow...he is so not attractive. Is he supposed to be? Yikes! Ok...moving on...

Now I’m reading this (and planning on reading the ones that come after) in attempt to finish a book that has been on the tbr pile for 3 years.
Mind you, that’s not the longest a book has been on my tbr pile. The record for the longest I’ve physically had a book that’s sitting on the tbr pile belongs to C.S. Frieman’s Book One of the Coldfire Triolgy, Black Sun Rising. 8 years and counting.

Michael Whelan’s cover art alone convinced me to purchase it. That series’ time approaches rapidly, though, I assure you.

As does this series’ time, given as a gift by one of my bffs, Justin Formanek. War of the Spider Queen.

Considering my next book revolves around betrayals, a series about the Drow is timely.
What’s the longest you’ve physically owned a book and not read it?

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Look what arrived on my doorstep this week!

My first novel, Dishonorable Intentions, was published in ebook format 5 years ago but never went to print. When I received my royalty check last month I had payment for royalties on a paperback copy, to my immense surprise. I checked my ancient email address and wouldn’t you know, the book had been released in paperback format back in October! The publisher had emailed to tell me but I never check that email anymore.


Now I have my very own paperback copy of my first novel!

While the cover is gorgeous, you should kind of ignore it. Looks like a contemporary, right? It’s a Regency-set historical romance. So silly. But I can’t complain, since the cover is beautiful.
I am one happy author right now :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Holy First Novels Batman!

My crit partners and I met at Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program. We started our degrees at the same time, each working to write our first novel in the SF (speculative fiction) genre. For me, I was writing my baby. Telling this story was the reason I became a writer in the first place. I had written a romance novel first as a warm-up because I didn’t want to be learning the craft while trying to write my masterpiece at the same time, so this was actually my second novel.
We had grand ideas and even grander ways to say them. Our ideas were so big, so broad, so amazing that we had to give full voice to them! (or so we thought) For me, this was before I learned the difference between a first draft and a full second draft. Before I learned how to take time away from the manuscript and come back with a scalpel to cut the fat away. I’m not saying that my critique partners’ novels needed that treatment, but mine certainly did.
We were comparing word counts on our masterpieces and I got a huge chuckle out of the ridiculousness of it all.
To put it in perspective:
·         Jen’s current (almost sold) YA fantasy novel is ideal for the genre at 88,000 words
·         I don’t have the final count on Diana’s The Drift (present-day sci-fi) but I think it got published at about 100,00 words
·         Empress Ascendant is considered a little long at 118,000 words
Here’s the totals on our first attempts:
·         Diana – 158,400 words
·         Jen – 169,000 words
·         And the winner for the ridiculous prize is…me, at 184,700 words.
Holy crap.
After I spent time away from the ms and learned how to really self-edit, I trimmed it all the way down to a respectable 117,000 words. But still. 185,000 words to begin with? Wow. Just…wow.
I believe I still hold the record for longest thesis published by Seton Hill. A dubious honor indeed.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Get the Elephant Gun, We’re Hunting Agents

I’ve been through the Great Agent Hunt three times now, once with a Regency-set Historical Romance, once with an epic fantasy novel and now with a space-opera. Third time’s a charm, as they say—I landed myself an agent with the space-opera, Empress Ascendant!
I will be represented by literary agent Richard Curtis of Richard Curtis Associates, Inc.
I hate when authors don’t list their agents on their website like it’s some kind of great secret. Especially when, as an unpublished author looking for an agent, one of the first things you’re supposed to do is research which agent represents your favorite authors (the ones your writing is most similar to). Why do we make things so hard for each other?
In the spirit of maybe helping another author out, here are the stats on my agent search:
First queries sent out: January 20th, 2013
Offer for representation made: February 24th, 2013
Queries sent: 21
In-person pitches made: 2
Responses: 12*
Requests for partials: 1
Requests for full ms: 3
Query letter rejections: 8
* The number of responses is skewed because I withdrew my query for consideration after receiving the offer from Richard Curtis.
If I can find the stats on how many queries I sent out for my epic fantasy, Sworn Sword, I’ll add that in here too.