Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Review from Mrs. Giggles

So I mentioned yesterday that One Night in Boston was just reviewed by Mrs. Giggles, a notorious no-holds-barred reviewer. I didn't expect her to get to it so quickly, since it just released last week, but there it was from Google Alerts yesterday morning, waiting in my email inbox.


She's been known to slice up authors for breakfast, giving scores below 50 (out of 100) without blinking an eye. In fact, on the same page as my review is one that got an 08. I kid you not.

What did she give me? A 73.

I know, not too shabby at all. But it was the review itself that made me laugh out loud. She HATED my heroine. In part, here's what she had to say about poor Maggie:

The heroine is such an irritating creature. She's stupid, which is bad enough, but she is also very emotionally needy, irrational, and neurotic. She overreacts too often. Maggie is like this black hole that sucks all the joy from the people around her because she demands that they cater to her all the time.

Perhaps it is fortunate that the hero in this story, Jack Major, is rich and has enough brainpower to ensure that Maggie will never have to worry about having a thought ever again.

If you want to read the whole review, go here, though WARNING! there are several plot spoilers in there.

My favorite paragraph, though, is this one:

Make no mistake, I recognize that under any other circumstances, I will love One Night In Boston. It can be a shamelessly manipulative story at times, but Ms Boniface's writing style is such that I can be easily persuaded to let her play me like a violin. The author takes the trouble to explain her characters' emotions so that I have a good idea what is happening inside her characters' heads. As a result, I find these characters pretty memorable. What I'm trying to say is that this book affects me, which is the reason why I grade this book pretty high despite my problem with the heroine.

Aha! I think there's actually a compliment in there, if I'm not mistaken. And the fact that my review is paragraphs longer than many she writes (she REALLY did not like Maggie) just leads me to think, hey if she despised the heroine, at least something about Maggie engaged her to that level of emotion, right?

Whew, you definitely have to have a thick skin for this sort of thing. I was cheered after reading this review to see that Google Alerts also let me know about a 4-star review of ONIB at the Mobipocket site.

Either way, it's OK, I suppose. I checked my writer's ego at the door a while ago - advice I will pass along to anyone else who's published or nearing publication or even thinking about it. :)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Fridays Feast

Happy Friday Feast!!

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how polite are you? Hmm...about an 8, I'd say. I have my moments where I lose patience (and politeness along with it) - mostly with ignorant people and bad drivers :)

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud? Actually, a review of my novel One Night in Boston that I read this morning. Mrs. Giggles (she's famous for lambasting people's work) tore it apart, up one side and down the other, and still gave it a 73, which is high for her. Too funny. More on this tomorrow.

Who is your favorite cartoon character? I guess Bugs Bunny. I loved the traditional Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid!

Main Course
Tell about the funniest teacher you ever had. I honestly can't think of a "funny" teacher. I had a couple of math teachers in HS who made us laugh only because they were so far out there.

Complete this sentence: I strongly believe that ______________________. The world would be a better place if people slowed down and appreciated what they had, rather than complaining about everything they don't.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

3 Brief Reviews

First off, prayers this AM for everyone involved in the horrific bridge collapse out in Minneapolis. What a terrible thing.


I mentioned last week that I made my way through 3 books while on vacation:

Welcome to Temptation by Jenny Crusie - I had wanted to read another Crusie novel, and while this one was definitely a juicy read, I didn't enjoy it as much as Faking It. In this story of a pair of sisters who come to Temptation, Ohio, to film a documentary and get caught up in the manipulations of the local mayor and town board, Crusie does do a terrific job painting the idiosyncracies of a small town, All the characters are quirky and well-drawn. The attraction between Phin (great name!) and Sophie is hotter than hot, too. I really enjoyed the first half and only felt my interest wane after the plot got SO convoluted that I had trouble suspending my disbelief anymore. Still, it was a quick, entertaining read.

Little Children by Tom Perrotta - A interesting dark satire on suburban life that my mom passed along to me. I didn't really care for this one; it's the story of a bunch of dissatisifed spouses who end up having affairs with each other while also banding together against a register sex offender who comes to live in their "perfect" small town. Perrotta definitely lambastes the 30-something couples who live in their nice homes and drive nice cars and couldn't be more unhappy, but after a while I got tired of reading about self-indulgent adults who should know better.

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason - This one was recommended by one of my students last year, and it's a similar sort of historical thriller as The DaVinci Code. Two Princeton roommates are studying an ancient text, trying to unlock its secrets, and in the meantime get caught up in scandal and murder happening on campus because of others trying to solve the secret as well. I did enjoy this book, though it got a little long in places. The authors are young guys in their 30s, best friends who went to Ivy League schools themselves, and they've done a thorough job in creating this storyline. Good ending, too, with enough of a twist that I had to read it twice.

Have you read anything good lately? Besides One Night in Boston, I mean ? :)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Jim Melvin

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today we have another author interview, this time with fantasy writer Jim Melvin. Sit back, relax, and learn about his six-book series premiering in fall 2007, The Death Wizard Chronicles.

Hi Jim! Thanks for joining us today.

1. Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in New York state, but I spent most of my life in and around St. Petersburg, Florida, where I worked as a journalist (reporter, designer, editor, supervisor) at the St. Petersburg Times for 25 years. I wrote a horror novel in my early 20s called Sarah's Curse that was represented by an agent but never published. At the time, I wasn't overly concerned because I believed my second or third novel would be the one that hit it big. However, I got married, had kids, and began working 50-hour weeks -- and there never was a second novel. Until now. Three years ago, I finally became serious and began writing my series. Now I'm just a couple of months from completing all six books.

2. When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I first began to write in my late teens. The trigger came when I began to seriously question what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I'm one of those people who is equally good at both language arts and mathematics. A friend of mine went on to be a nuclear engineer. I'm glad I chose writing instead.

3. Tell us about your upcoming publication.

The Death Wizard Chronicles is an action-packed, six-book epic fantasy that is adult in tone. If it were a movie, it would be R-rated. However, there is a lot going on between the lines, especially in terms of Asian philosophy. I am a Buddhist in the Theravada tradition and have spent many hours meditating. My protagonist is called a Death Wizard because he is able to meditate so deeply, his heartbeat stops and he enters the realm of death, where he feeds on death energy. I originally conceived the series in my early 20s, but did not starting writing it until my mid-40s. In some ways, I'm glad this happened. I'm much worldlier now than I was then. This is my time.

4. How do you go about developing your characters?

Before I write a single word, I play scenes and character interactions over and over in my head. I do this while driving, in the shower, before I fall asleep at night, etc. So by the time I start to write, I have a firm grasp on the traits of my characters. Still, that doesn't mean that they don't evolve. In any long work, your characters will grow in unexpected ways and directions.

5. Tell us about your promotion strategies. How do you plan on making Jim Melvin a household name?

I'm going to market myself online as much as I can. Experienced writers such as Chris Stevenson and Bob Andelman have been a big help to me, in this regard. And I do have one ace in the hole. I have a lot of friends in high places at the biggest newspapers in the United States. I'm going to call in some chips and get as many features/reviews as I can. Hopefully, this will build a groundswell.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring, unpublished writers?

You have to try to improve yourself -- at least a little bit -- every single day. You can do this in a variety of ways. Read fiction and nonfiction. Talk to as many other writers as you can. Interview experts who have the knowledge you lack. Ask yourself, "What is it that I don't know?" And then tirelessly find a way to know it.

7. What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

Fantasy is by far my favorite genre. Horror is second. Everything else a poor third. My favorite author is Tolkien. I've read LOTR at least 25 times. I also love Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Steven Erikson, and Stephen Donaldson. John Updike is another personal favorite. But no one compares to Tolkien, in my opinion. Still, my style/content is closer to Erikson's than it is to Tolkien's.

8. What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

Most difficult? Describing settings of which I am unfamiliar. I had to read a lot of books on medieval architecture before I felt comfortable describing palaces, castles, etc.
Most exciting? That's easy. I love writing the ending. To me, that's what makes everything else worthwhile.

9. How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Right now, I'm very lucky to be in the position of not having to work. But I am a house-husband with three young kids, so it's not like I'm not busy. I write and/or edit from 8 p.m. until midnight seven days a week, virtually without fail. TV? Forget it. I also try to squeeze in an hour or so during the day when the kids are in school or summer camp. On this schedule, I've been able to average about 40,000 words a month.

10. Can you tell us about your next writing project?

I live, eat, and breathe The Death Wizard Chronicles. When I'm finally done, there will be another project -- probably a standalone horror novel. But as of now, I have no idea what it will be about. That's not to say I won't be excited about it, when the time comes.

Interested in knowing more? Stop by Jim's blog. And thanks for joining us today!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Have You Heard of this Author Yet?

Her name is Patricia Wood, and her debut novel Lottery is coming out this week.

From her website:

Perry’s IQ is only 76, but he’s not stupid. His grandmother taught him everything he needs to know to survive: She taught him to write things down so he won’t forget them. She taught him to play the lottery every week. And, most important, she taught him whom to trust. When Gram dies, Perry is left orphaned and bereft at the age of thirty-one. Then his weekly Washington State Lottery ticket wins him 12 million dollars, and he finds he has more family than he knows what to do with. Peopled with characters both wicked and heroic who leap off the pages, Lottery is a deeply satisfying, gorgeously rendered novel about trust, loyalty, and what distinguishes us as capable.

Looks like a terrific read, and one I can't wait to get my hands on. Here's a link to a great article that just came out in her local paper, and check out this blog post for a humorous look on how selling a debut novel for a six-figure advance still doesn't mean you'll become a household name. :)

Oh! I almost forgot: here's a contest from author Gay Walker where you can win your very own autographed copy of Lottery! Just mention the book and author by name on your blog, then let Gay know. (Thanks Marianne for this tip!)

So go out and support a brand new author!

Monday, July 30, 2007

And The Winner Is...

A hearty congratulations to ollie1976 (jen), the winner of the Boston Bonus Basket drawing! Jen, email me at and we'll work out the details. Thanks so much to everyone who left comments last week to help me celebrate the release of One Night in Boston.

And speaking of which, here's an interesting thing: someone has already reviewed it, at the MBAM website. Unfortunately, that person only gave it 3 stars out of 5. Here's the comment, in full:

"Good plotline and well-written but I think it would have been better if it focused more on the present w/ the 2 leading characters."
OK, well, yeah, it's a 24-hour novel, so to get some info across, there are flashbacks. And hey, my editor liked the technique. Still, at first I was like, what? 3 stars? That's 60%...or a failing grade. Terrific.

Then I had to back up and remember a few things.

1. No author gets 100% 5-star reviews from everyone. Thanks to the amazing human brain and the variety of human opinion out there, some people will like your work, some people won't, and many will probably fall somewhere in between.

2. I'll take the "good plotline" and "well-written" comments anytime. A lot of the stuff that gets published isn't.

3. I really, really enjoy writing. Somewhere in the last few weeks, with all the hype of my release date and promoting my novel, I haven't had a chance to write very much at all. And you know what? I miss it. Yesterday I sat down for a solid few hours and wrote 1000+ words on my current WIP. And it was so joyful. I have to remember that while publishing is nice, and reviews will be up and down, the craft of weaving a story is my first love.

So that's what I'm off to do now, more work on One Night in Memphis (and hey, no flashbacks in this one!). What are you up to today?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Whew...I'm Back...Finally!

Well, I'm back from my vacation (which had a spotty Internet connection, thus my absence the last couple of days)...

Long day of driving yesterday, like about 10+ hours in the car along with thousands of other travelers. Traffic actually wasn't bad except at the I-95 merge in Delaware/New Jersey. But why, oh why, do so many people drive SUVs and mini-vans? I know the answer logically, I suppose: families with kids need the room. But they're such gas guzzlers. Worse than that, they kill me vision-wise on the road because I'm driving my tiny, conservative Toyota Corolla and I'm surrounded on all sides by these enormous vehicles strapped high with bikes and coolers and luggage and I can't see a thing. Really.

What is it about vacationing that makes one glad to be home? As much as I enjoyed the relaxing time away, there is something about walking into one's own house, sleeping in one's bed, that feels better than the whole vacation week put together. Of course, today there's laundry to do and groceries to buy and a lawn to mow and...

But still.

Last day to enter my "Boston Bonus Basket" contest! If you leave a comment today, your name will be put into the drawing one more time. The winner will be announced tomorrow...good luck, and thanks for stopping by!