Saturday, July 30, 2011

Crit Group or Novel Pod—Patience Level May Decide

I attended a critique group this week which I had been a part of for a couple of years. I adore the participants.  But after attending this week, I remembered how stressed out I used to get as we went around the table.

The group is fairly large, twelve attendees on a quiet night. Since I last atteneded, they have implemented line numbers on the submissions so they can refer to a specific part of the piece.

I was wanting to pull my hair out.
I love these people, but I can't take fifteen people discussing issues which are editorial in nature.

Am I nutz, or is a critique a little higher level than an edit? I say, make your nits on the hard copy you give to the submitter, and share how you felt about the piece. What I think is valuable in the face-to-face is expressing how you found the piece.

 - Did the character speak to you?
 - Could you feel in the setting?
 - Could you set aside your disbelief?
 - Did the language flow so that it was comfortable to read?
 - Did you laugh, cry, become sensually intrigued?


The critique process pays big dividends. I still want to participate, but I'm afraid my patience level will force me to stick to the novel pod, where I am constantly engaged. I can't sit and listen.

Drives my beezonkers.

It's me folks. . . not you.

Regards,
Mac
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Working on novel number nineteen!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sampling Authors via ePublished Works


One of the side benefits I've found since buying my tablet, is the number of emerging authors I've been able to sample (for free…that's a big deal for me, 'cause I'm really cheap.)

I discovered C.L. Bevill,  and J.C. Phelps for example. Now I've learned of Claire Farrell through her novella, Thirst.

I write about vampires, sorta, though I call mine revenirs. More a cross between immortals and shape shifters, but they got them fangs. Yeah baby! And since I've written about an autistic savant, lean toward the OCD personality myself, there's a double whammy in favor of Farrell's protagonist. So it was written in stone I would love Farrell's protag, Ava Delaney.

But dang, I was upset when Thirst concluded. I guess I'll have to buy Taunt to get more of Ava.

While I enjoyed the innocent Ava the most, I can see why Farrell had to mature her, give her an edge going forward. But she better keep her counting going. One jeer is Thirst's cover. It implied some erotica harem thing going on, so almost didn't try it. Go figure it's about a carrot top with freckles, in Ireland.

Speaking of Ireland, I dinged Farrell in one area, setting, because I didn't know Ava lived in Ireland until the prologue. What was with that? The whole cityscape she drew never came alive for me. But Thirst was all about the enduring protagonist, for me.

Go download Thirst today, if you haven't yet.

Regards,
Mac
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Working on novel number nineteen!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Learning from Another Author

Arthur Slade—Drauger (2011)
As a writer, I'm glad I have an excuse to read outside my genre, to learn from my fellow writers. In this case, it's MG fantasy. Even more fun than YA fantasy, because I have even more excuse to suspend my disbelief. And how wonderful is that?
If you want an excuse to read outside your genre, Drauger is a good one to go for. Not being a regular MG reader, I'm sure I didn't appreciate his writing as you might. But this was still a solid novel even by me.
I believe I could apply one writing rule if I edited Drauger: Limit thy characters. The more characters you have the more your reader has to keep in her head. It limits the available empathy available for the protagonist. I would have stricken the cousin. That's just me.
And I'll suggest a rule the experts SHOULD list: Deign never hurt a canine. This should be the eleventh commandment. If you've ever viewed my blog page outside of a reader, you know I love dogs. Sorry Mr. Slade, but I can't forgive you for that.
Regards,
Mac
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Working on novel number nineteen!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lot's Return to Sodom—Sandra Brannan (2011)

I looked forward to reading Brannan's sequel to In The Belly of Jonah. While I experienced disappointment in the early chapters, the author saved my interest by giving me several characters to shift my expectation of guilt.

Brannan weaves language well, created a good character, but the writer in me screams to say, this could have been a much better novel. One of the reasons I'm holding out for traditional publishing, for the support the writer gets to polish a work.

The copy editing of Sodom was again excellent, but the developmental editing was weak. While the casual reader will be satisfied with this novel front to back, I felt there were too many situational clich├ęs and contradictions a good editor would have cleaned up. Example: From the other side of a loud bar Liv hears her brother order a specific kind of beer, only to have to shout in his ear a moment later to be heard. As I said, the casual reader probably won't be irritated by those kinds of things. It's easy for the writer to miss them in a self-edit. But these should have been caught by the subsequent editor.

On the early chapters, I feel Brannan tried to live to the writing rule, "Start when the story starts." The way she did it however, made it feel like background that should have been weaved bit by bit within the story. The first fifteen chapters could have been scrapped, in my less-than-humble opinion.

In Jonah I complained about the head jumping. Ditto with Sodom. A good story doesn't even have to have much of a plot if we care about the protagonist. Driving so much of the story from different characters' point of view weakened my buy-in for the protagonist. Was that Liv, or Streeter?

The slight that slapped me about the head and shoulders as a writer: telling me over and over what I already knew.

I am unsure I would read another Brannan novel. I expected the sequel to be better than the first. The plot was more sophisticated, but I tired of the dialog and telling. I needed to be shown a story.

Regards,
Mac
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Working on novel number nineteen!

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Worthy of being published," he wrote.

I just read a blog by a successful agent, and he pissed me off.

I've been reading a lot of self e-pubbed authors lately, and haven't read one title that was "bad." Often the copy editing left much to be desired. But then I've read authors with thirty books behind their name, and found typos, plot contradictions, and cliches out the kazoo. And I have closed the cover, unfinished, of many traditionally published authors.

The world has changed. The industry needs to catch up.

Consider returns. If the industry can't make money on those that slip through the gatekeepers today. . . .

It cannot take two and three years to get a work in print in this age of technology.

The printed novel as the centerpiece is the Beta of video.

And the pricing of soft copies of traditionally pubbed books is ridiculous. I laugh when I see e-novels on Amazon for $16 and more. How can they justify that?

Reminds me of agents who refuse to accept queries via email. They don't even realize they're dinosaurs. Look in the sky and see the dust eclipsing the sun.

"Worthy of being published." He insults both the writer and the reader. Agents scan hundreds of queries a week looking for excuses to discard them, because they only have time and slots available for a select few. The restrictions are created by the technology and process the industry sticks to. You cannot tell me only one in every three thousand manuscripts that come across an agent's desk is worthy of reading.

Sticking with cash cows and refusing to change only postpones the inevitable.

And don't insult us by implying only the agent is wise enough to pick a worthy manuscript.

Regards,
Mac
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Sizzling Sixteen—Janet Evanovich (2011)


Janet is definitely consistent. Stephanie maintained her ditzy, down-home glamour and remained in her predictable pickle.

We don't read Janet for plot. We escape into make believe where the good guy never gets hurt, Ranger remains diligent, Grandma Mazur skews reality, and Lula proves an infinitesimal IQ can keep a soul alive.

Always a fun read from page one on.

Janet, I love you.

Regards,
Mac
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Working on novel number nineteen!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bite Me—Parker Blue (2008)

This marvelous, character driven novel is a testament to the failure of categories. Okay, yeah, it's a paranormal. It's humorous. But does it have to be tagged young adult? Oh my. This fifty-something enjoyed the heck out of it, reading it in two sittings (I got interrupted). Can't wait to read more from Parker Blue.

Blue teases you with sensuality. The long arching plot lulls you into simply sitting back and enjoying the protagonist's personal-life-conundrums.

Have I mentioned I like snarky characters? What's not to like about a smart-talking hellhound that looks like Benji? I write about good-guy vamps, so Blue had me at the get-go. And who can't dream of real-life sucubi? Yeowi.

If you failed to pick BITE ME when it was marked down, your loss, but get out there and enjoy a few hours of reading with Blue.

Regards,
Mac
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Working on novel number nineteen!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In the Belly of Jonah: A Liv Bergen Mystery—Sandra Brannan (2010)

If you didn't download this when it was marked at $0.00, nanny nanny poo poo. But hurry out there and snatch her second novel. It is still free. I mean FREE. How can you go wrong! I'm eager to read Sodom. 

Okay, you may think I'm not rating Johah very high. I mean, look, a lot of three stars over there. But I am one heck of a tough person to please. As a writer bleeding to get published, I read every novel word for word, and analyze the beegees out of every paragraph to learn what I can from the author. And I like my plots to look a lot more like "B"—than what Jonah looks like "A"—how I would depict Jonah.

I enjoyed Brannan's voice. Enjoyed her character. Would have liked to have "seen" a little more of what Liv looked like. So she is big boned. Wouldn't have minded a little more sexual edge in the overall novel. (I like sex with my violence.) I liked she played collegiate basketball, so I knew she had a pair, and I liked that was evened out with her lack of self esteem and motion sickness. So she is far from perfect. A real person you could love, and want to cuddle with.

On Brannan's craft, good voice and clean writing, but I don't like head jumping. I think this would have been a much stronger novel if we never saw the antagonist's life. I didn't care about him. I cared about Liv. Didn't want to know his life story. I certainly didn't need to be inside the mind of the two other supporting characters. The action was centered around Liv, and it should have been completely, in MHO, told from her point of view.

But still a good read.

Go read Jonah, and snatch Sodom while it is still free.

Working on novel number nineteen!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

J.C. Phelps—Color Me Grey (2004)

Since buying my tablet, I'm reading much more, enjoy reading more, and via all the free downloads authors offer to get a following, I'm getting to sample a lot of great work.

One of those novels I downloaded for free made me hyperventilate. I had found a new,  favorite author. The writing was sharp and hilarious, ala Janet Evanovich, with better plot. I haven't fallen in love with a character as whole heartedly since Ruth, in The White Dragon. I was ready to buy everything Phelps had in Amazon.

Ahhh, but then I finished Act I. Act II was the feared, innocuous muddle in the middle. Telling narrative that could have been summarized in a half-dozen paragraphs. Unfortunately, the reader must slog through it for a couple hours. Then. Great. Act III, and the coming climax. Argh. No climax. No action. The protagonist wasn't even engaged. She described (telling) the action she saw via a satellite feed. Not riveting. Plot was a letdown.

Color read as though someone else wrote Act II and III.

I optimistically look forward to reading subsequent novels though. If she could be that phenomenal in the first part of Color, she has the writing skill, a great funny bone, and knack to build a terrific character. She just needs the editing to get her over a learning curve. I cringe when I read my earlier writing. I'll bet the following sequels rally to the quality of the early chapters of book one. If not, I may have to hunt her down and bludgeon her about the head and shoulders. Dang, I loved the first third of the book.

Regards,
Mac
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Working on novel number nineteen!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

C.L.Bevill is Ready for Reading

I finished my fifth read of six free downloads for C.L. Bevill. My impression of her writing skill has improved with each piece. I'm glad she has seven more titles to download.

The less than superior editing was my only complaint with any of them. Bevill has a terrific story mind, verging on genius with characterization. While a good editor would no doubt recommend some reduction in her narration here and there, Bevill will surely entertain you.

Writer's may get irked by her frequent changes of POV, but if you sit back and allow yourself to flow with the story, you will be entertained, and isn't that what reading is about?

If you haven't read one of her stories, why? Get to it.

Regards,
Mac
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Working on novel number nineteen!