Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Giveaway: "Star of Justice"

I have found myself in possession of TWO copies of Star of Justice, by Robynn Tolbert. Her little twisted Turtle mind somehow sees me as an editor, and she sent me a copy even though I'd already bought one. Truthfully, I'd consider myself a beta-reader, since I did very little "editing" of her manuscript (mainly because it didn't need it!)...but that is neither here nor there.

There are, rather, two other things that are more important here:

  • One, the book is GOOD. No, not good. Awesome. Freakin' awesome, actually. One of those books that is ridiculously long but makes you scream, "No, it can't be over yet!" when you come to the end.
  • Two, as I mentioned, I have an extra copy. Lovely as it is, the words are in fact the same in both copies and therefore I need only one.

The task then falls on me to find a home for my extra copy. I didn't want to do something generic. This is no generic book, after all. And truth be told, no generic author. So, I need something clever and unique. I also need an idea that is both fun for ya'll and totally self-serving for me. (Okay, so I don't "need" it to be self-serving, but I want it to be :P.)

Well, as it happens, I have a speaking gig in September at my library, where I intend to talk about fantasy writing. Out of the blue today, I was struck with the idea of doing a giveaway there and needed an idea for how to choose the winner other than a simple random drawing. I thought about the Necronomicon (a sf/f/h con I frequent), which has lots of contests and games, including a few trivia contests.

There! That's it!

No, no....I'm not giving away Star of Justice there. I'm giving away a copy of Finding Angel there. I'm going to use the contest idea to generate my unique giveaway of Star of Justice HERE. Keep up, people.

THIS is where the Star of Justice giveaway ties to the other giveaway. I intend to do a trivia contest at my speaking gig.

So I need trivia. About fantasy novels.

Here is what you do:

Email me at khDOTfindingangelATgmailDOTcom. (change the DOT to a real dot and the AT to an @, of course). Please put "TRIVIA SUBMISSION" in the subject line. Do NOT put your submission in a comment here.

Include in that email a trivia question AND answer about a fantasy novel. Let's not go for obvious, but not terribly obscure either, okay? And give the correct answer. If I have to check the facts and find out you tried to make me look stupid, I'll send you something mean instead of the book :P.

I want at least 50 submissions (so I have a good selection to choose from for my gig, but your entry still counts even if I don't use your submission). I will not pick a winner until I reach that number. NO, you may not enter more than once--that gives a crazy unfair advantage to the uber-nerds out there. And it means you ought to tell your friends about this so we reach the 50 submissions!

I'd actually love to reach an even higher number. So let's sweeten it a bit. If I reach 75 submissions, the winner will also receive a print copy of Aquasynthesis (the anthology put out by my publisher). If I reach 100 submissions, the winner will also--on top of SOJ and Aquasynthesis--receive a copy of Fred Warren's Odd Little Miracles. And if I'm totally slammed with submissions...well, maybe I will throw in a copy of Finding Angel :). I might do that no matter what, actually, if ya'll behave.

Okay...we need a time frame. Partly because I need to have all these in and sorted BEFORE my gig, or it does me no good :P. And partly because I don't want to sit around waiting forever to "see if we can hit" the next goal. Gotta draw a line somewhere, right?

So, let's call the deadline at June 27th, since that's Angel's birthday.


Really? You think I'd do that? Scroll back up, lazy bones.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What Have I Started?

Well, it's happened twice this week. Two comments I made online have spawned blog posts by other authors. Most cool :).

First, I posed a question on Facebook about an author's obligation to sticking to stereotypes in order to meet readers' expectations about characters. Bryan Thomas Schmidt tackled the idea in his blog, The Importance of Reaching Beyond Female Stereotypes. Awesome post, I must say.

And then today I wake up to Mike Duran's post that expands on a previous discussion in the comments of an older blog post. Check out that one first if you'd like, then go read today's post, Should Christians be Obligated to Promote Christian Art? As usual, the discussion has sprung up like wildfire.

Thanks, guys, for making my blog post so easy today! :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

First Time Author Reviews

I've mentioned on here that I'm a member of Amazon Vine, which means I get some free stuff in exchange for reviews. I do mostly books. Go figure :P. And most of those books, I've realized, are first books. I could turn this into a post about marketing and new authors, but I won't. Just saying it does make sense, since it's the first books that need to get "out there." I know this all too well.

Anyway, my latest pick from Amazon Vine is a YA book called Hemlock, by Kathleen Peacock. It's about werewolves, and a girl whose town is being taken over by Trackers--an organized vigilante group of werewolf hunters. For some reason, this book has made me give serious thought to my reviews of these first books. Am I being too harsh with some? If so, why?

You can see some of my negative reviews  for Amazon Vine, first books HERE and HERE and HERE.

I do have positive reviews, of course. Some first books have blown me away. (For example, THIS and THIS and THIS.) But the negative ones are what have made me think. Because as a new author, I wonder if I should be more understanding. That thought has only recently occurred to me in regards to Amazon Vine books. And it's because of Hemlock.

Okay, I know this is feeling wander-y. Bear with me.

As I was reading Hemlock, I noticed some of the same "first time author" issues I've faced. Stating the obvious, over-explaining, focusing on plot to the detriment of characterization. In some ways, those things irritated me. I found myself thinking--and this is where the whole connection thing comes into play--"Why aren't these things being fixed? This book is published by one of the Big Six publishers! They have the big bucks, and hire the best editors!" I realized I was setting the bar higher for first time authors with big presses than first time authors with small presses. Because I'm with small press, and yet my editors have scoured my writing for all these issues! So why are the big press editors not?

I feel like shaking my finger at them. Shame, shame! If we can do it with our little budget, then you surely can!

And yet....I felt a connection to this author because of shared issues. And I actually enjoyed the plot, once things got going. The author reminded me of me, the way she planted clues and revealed things later. Her ideas aren't too far from my own thinking, too--I actually have a short story published that involves a small town with an organized vigilante group of werewolf hunters. I liked that the romance in the book wasn't the main plot line, that it was second to the mystery that evolved. I wanted to root for her, because doing so was like rooting for me.

Honestly, this post isn't meant for anything but me to share this experience. I doubt I'll change the way I review books, whether through Amazon Vine or not. But the idea that ALL first authors have issues to overcome, regardless of who their publishers are, has shifted my view a bit. It's also made me believe even more strongly that I could have found a large press to take me.

What say you? Should first time authors be reviewed differently than veterans?

PS--the cover of the book is gorgeous, isn't it? But it has nothing at all to do with the story. So not getting that trend...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Slacking, Not

Oh, holy cow, it looks like I'm slacking here. No blogs in how long?

I have been busy editing since I got back from my cruise. And then busy with all kinds of other junk that would bore you if I listed it here :P. But I did speak at a local writers group and blogged some stuff about it over at THE CHEESECAKE THICKENS. Go check it out.

What I'm thinking about focusing on next here is my experience with book contests. Anyone interested?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Where I've Been, and an Award or Three

This is gonna be short and sweet. I've been out of town for the last six days. My in-laws' 50th anniversary was in February and to celebrate we booked a family cruise--which we just got back from today! Yep, five nights on the Disney Magic.

My assessment:

The ship is awesome, and the crew is more awesome. The shows are excellent. The food varies from good to outstanding. We had three stops: Key West, Nassau, and Castaway Cay (Disney's private island). Key West in a word was "meh." Nassau was cool, but there is either rich/exclusive/touristy or dumpy with very little in-between. But the pirate museum was uber-cool and the conch chowder was the best I ever had. Castaway Cay was beautiful, but simply reinforced the fact that I am *not* a beach person.

Oh, and I had a cold the whole time. I still have no voice. It didn't deter me from having a great time, though!

Did I mention I got to see The Avengers and John Carter while on the boat? Epic.

I got two bits of news while I was gone, too:

Finding Angel did not win the YA category of the Grace Awards (although it made finalist a while back).

Finding Angel DID final in the INDIE awards, which I believe means a silver medal.

And as I've already said, Finding Angel made finalist in the Compton Crook Award, too. Finalist in three contests...not terrible, I think ;).

There might be more to tell ya, but I'm tired.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shaking the Dust

I've decided I need to expand upon and give some illustration of what I blogged about yesterday. I won't name the blogger I referenced yesterday, but I will say that the group in question is the ACFW. That stands for American Christian Fiction Writers, and it is a volunteer organization whose purpose is to help Christian fiction writers, readers, and publishers.

I am a member because I am an editor with Splashdown Books, the publisher of Finding Angel, and Splashdown is an "ACFW recognized" publisher. That means Splashdown meets their requirements as a Christian publisher, even though we publish very weird stuff ;).

Their requirements can be pretty stringent, and I don't agree with many of them. For example, they require their recognized publishers to have a separate imprint for Christian fiction if the overall publishing house has secular books as well.

A particular publishing house called Desert Breeze was denied "recognition" by the ACFW despite a clear distinction between their Christian and secular romance novels. They didn't want to restructure their entire house, and I agreed with them. It's ridiculous. There are other publishers with Christian "imprints" whose websites don't distinguish between books from those imprints and the other, secular books. Yet DBP has their site very well organized. This, my friends, is bass-ackwards.

DBP appealed to the leadership via proper channels. They were ultimately denied. But instead of getting on the ACFW loop and squawking, they involved themselves elsewhere, joining groups that were more secular. They've been really successful, with both their secular AND Christian novels. They did what I said we need to do in my other post--they found where they belonged, and or created places for themselves, and it's worked. They essentially ignore the ACFW--because their visions don't jibe.

One particular author with DBP, Shawna Williams, is a good friend of mine. She recently attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. Several other DBP authors went as well. From what I gather, they had a blast. And Shawna told me specifically how open the attendees were to Christian romance! Again, instead of moaning about the lack of acceptance by a particular group, these ladies involved themselves in a convention that held the same standards.

I mentioned my own publisher, Splashdown Books, and the fact that we are recognized by the ACFW. We happen to fall in line with them, but it's not because we specifically set out to meet their standards. AND we do branch out, both as a publishing house and as individual authors, into markets for our particular genres. You won't find me at an ACFW conference, but you'll find me at the Necronomicon. We at Splashdown know that we're both Christian and speculative.

My point? Success comes from focusing on what you're trying to accomplish and not spending valuable time berating what others are doing. DBP has my respect because they set out for a certain goal and accomplished it, without looking anywhere but forward.

Matthew 10:14 says, "If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave." Even God's word is not meant to be hammered into people, so what makes us think our opinions should be?

If you disagree with a group, go find another group. No inciting derision, pouting over backlash (that you refuse to address), and posting follow-up blogs about how petty that group is. Shake the dust from your feet and move in the direction you want to go. If the "other" group is wrong, they'll fall of their own accord. If not...well, there's room enough for both groups.

In an email to a friend, I likened things to this. A lot of people don't like the restaurant Hooters because of the girls in short shorts. Some customers have tried to make them change their uniform code. It didn't work--because there were gobs of patrons who love the girls and their (lack of) attire regardless of the food (which some love, and some hate). And because, guess what--Hooters has every right to set whatever dress code they want for their waitresses. (Just as the ACFW has every right to set it's own guidelines, logical or not.)

If customers want different, more modest scenery, they can go to another restaurant. If they're entrepreneurally inclined (can I coin a new phrase?), they can even open a restaurant of their own, specifically for those customers. Here's the catch--they can't stand in the middle of Hooters berating the waitresses and managers, nor drag the customers from their seats. Instead, they need to advertise their restaurant for what it is, rather than what it's not, and if there are customers who want that, they'll come.

DBP did exactly that. Splashdown is doing that.

I'm doing that, too. This is my last post on the topic. I'm shaking the dust.

(PS--I chose that top picture because I was known for my black Chuck Converse in high school. I miss those old, raggy shoes....)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Make Your Own Realm

I posted nearly a year ago on NAF about the "war" between different factions of the Christian market. Please take a moment to read "Put Down Your Sword and Write" and then come back and find out my current take on this, which has sprung from a battle I witnessed this weekend.

OK, I know some of you (all of you?) did not go read the post I referenced, so let me give a quick summary. I think too many Christian writers focus on trying to change other Christian writers. My opinion: There are different segments of the Christian reader population and there needs to be different kinds of writing to reach each of them. So, put down the swords, pick up your pens (or laptops), and write what you want.

What happened recently though, is a blogger (and writer, and editor) posted a supposed "wake-up call" to Christian writers. She is on a rampage to change the face of Christian writing, to improve it, to raise the bar of quality....

The problem is this: She is totally missing the point. Most Christian novels are written for the Christian market, for a certain demographic that, let's face it, wants that kind of novel. And quality, to a certain degree, is subjective. Yes, there are some absolutes in writing craft. But different types of books are written differently. Contemporary vs. historical, literary vs. commercial, romance vs. military thriller, adult vs. YA/MG. The rules don't all span all genres and styles. The focus is different for each. The target audience is different. The level of literary-ness is different.

You all know me. You know I don't write typical Christian fiction. I don't read it, because in general I don't like it. There ARE some brilliant Christian novels out there. And many of them are published by specifically Christian publishers. But overall, I tend to read secular novels, or Christian novels on the "fringe"--fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc, which aren't taken too well by the bulk of the Christan readership.

However, you won't find me fussing at the readers and writers who don't accept me or my weird stuff, or who write the stuff I'm not fond of--or even write poorly (imo). Instead, I look for my fellows. I hang with those who want the same things out of fiction that I want. Instead of pointing fingers and telling Others they need to be like Us, I focus on improving in the area I, and my peeps, write in. If you like what you see, you are welcome to join us. If not, you may continue on your merry way with not an ill word from me.

The reason for this is that we aren't going to move in the direction we want to move if we're dragging along people who don't want to go. Who don't, if you really think about it, need to go. They are happy, and they have an audience that they love and who loves them. Leave them be.

The whole thing reminds me of high school and cliques and social clubs. I was never one who looked for popularity. I knew that to be popular, to hang with the in crowd, I'd have to change who I was. The in crowd looked down on me, but it didn't matter--I didn't need their approval. I didn't like what they were doing.

The key, though, is I never tried to be a part of Their Club, or try to get them to change Their Parameters to accept me. Instead I ignored them, and I focused on Me. By finding my Own Crowd, I found a place I could grow through real friendships. Eventually, some of the populars began treating me with more respect--but because they saw me being who I was and not being affected by them.

Christian writers who don't like the CBA, who don't like the in crowd, can always find--or form--their Own Groups. Ignore the CBA, and ignore the populars you think are full of fluff, and forge in the direction you choose. Let them have their successes in Their Realm, and you go MAKE successes in Your Realm.

(And if you don't get the photo reference, it's from the movie Heathers, which has this message: You can't change or kill off the populars. If you want to be part of them, you have to change. If you don't want to change, make your own way.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Slowing Down to Speed Up

I have two awesome authors/editors going through Seeking Unseen right now. They're marking up my baby with lots of red ink, nit-picking, looking for ways to perfect her. Which means that very, very soon I'll be slowing down online so I can spend time working on getting rid of all that red ink and putting on a final polish!

I've also had to slow down on the internet a bit lately because I've been stepping up at church and getting involved in things there. It's one reason we left our old church--we felt like we couldn't "plug in." Well, no problems with that at the new one! So far I've joined the rotation of ladies who teach Beastie 2's early Sunday School class, Jeff and I have taken on teaching the current lesson in our own Sunday School class for the next couple of  months, and I've been somehow handed a huge chunk of an artistic project to celebrate our church's ten year anniversary (my part being the representation of the "future" of our church).

Homeschooling is getting more complicated, too, as the Beasties are getting older. Not a complaint--I love watching them grown and learn. But man, oh, man, the jumps they're taking. Which means, you guessed it, more slowing down on internet time as I focus on the Beasties.

Oh, yes, and then there is writing. Once Seeking Unseen is out the door, it will be time to move on to the next project. I actually have three major ones that all need attention! The third book in the Finding Angel series, of course. Then a novella length story that goes with the series, a prequel of sorts. The third project is a novel, completely unrelated to Finding Angel--it's an adult paranormal that's about 3/4 written, but needs finishing and editing. Not to mention the fact that it's been ages since I worked on short stories.

So, as you see, things will likely be slowing down Here a bit, but it's only because they are speeding up Everywhere Else. I am both Tortoise and Hare these days!