Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Book Tour - Germ

Once upon a time many moons ago there was a fraidy-cat reader. She talked about her fears here in reference to reading the first novel of Robert Liparulo. You may recall that Bob chided me (albeit gently!) for being afraid of his novel, and I did brace up and read it when it finally arrived on my doorstep. Okay, a few months after it showed up.

And I lived through it. See?

Now, Bob, here's something you did right. You came to visit my blog in person, not once but twice. And by doing so, you GUILTED me into signing up to review your second book, Germ. No, I know it wasn't on purpose, but it did have that effect on me. (And no, we're NOT going to talk about my relationship with my mother here!)

Long story short, Germ has been in my TBR pile for over a month now. I even knew when the tour dates were. I just, um, never picked it up. I heard a rumor though about someone who really loves Liparulo's writing, and being as she heard about him first right here In My Little World, she's agreed to guest blog on Friday, so stay tuned!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Book Tour - If the Shoe Fits

I have started getting more organized, honest. As of February, I know exactly which tours I've signed up for. January, not so much. I believe I signed up for this one, but I haven't received the book. THAT might have something to do with not having had a chance to check the mailbox the books come to for over a week. At any rate, my participation in the weekly tours is declining over the next few months as I am constantly scrambling to find enough reading time...and blogging time. For awhile I signed up for all the books except the ones that really looked UNinteresting to me. Now I'm signing up only for the ones that really grab my attention. I wish I could do it all, but reality is that I have other things that also need doing. I think I've talked my mother-in-law into signing up for the tours, though! She's read most of the books I've gotten so far. I'll post a link here if I set up a blog for her. (**Adds something else to the to-do list.)

Why do I think I signed up for this tour? Well, because it's by Marilynn Griffith, that's why! I read Tangerine a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I'm certain I will also enjoy If The Shoe Fits.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book Tour - The Door Within Day 3

It's been a lot of fun cruising around reading other blog posts on The Door Within Trilogy. Today I absolutely have to get some work done, but first I wanted to share with you a brief interview that the author, Wayne Thomas Batson extended to me. Looking around the tour, I'd say he might be the most blog-interviewed author we've featured yet!

I wanted to talk to him a little about the process of writing and getting published.

VC: When did you complete your first novel and was it/ is it publish-worthy? How many manuscripts lay dead and buried before the first publishing contract?

WTB: I completed The Door Within (the first time, HA!) in 1998. It was more of a novella at that point, maybe 125 pages. Even at that time, it was a winning concept, but not even in the same zip code as a publishable novel! There were still too many holes in the storyline and my language skills needed much more work. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to send it in to publishers anyway, lol! I made dozens of copies of the manuscript and shot them off with proposals and queries to any publisher that had the slightest interest in fantasy. And then…it snowed rejection letters. “Dear author, we’re sorry to inform you that your manuscript does not meet our current needs. We hope that you find a home for your work.”

And that’s it. After that, I worked on my craft. My wonderful students read Door Within manuscripts as a part of their Strategic Reading practice. But at the same time, they put on the critic hat and became my editors year after year. Slowly the book came around. I learned to pace the story, to amp up the action and intrigue, to make cliffhangers at the end of every chapter. ;-) But a real turning point came when I took a poetry class at McDaniel College. The supremely gifted published poet Kathy Mangum taught the class, and I learned so much about the economy of language. Every single word suddenly came under scrutiny. My craft improved markedly—I suddenly had a toolbox and a palette with which to tell the story.

And as for manuscripts dead and buried...none. There are only versions that I abandoned. ;-)

VC: What is your process from the inception of your idea to a finished draft? (ie: do you outline? do you write in order?)

WTB: I am definitely an outliner. I will spend close to a month story-boarding a novel from beginning to end. I end up with about 3-4 sentence summaries of each chapter I plan to write. Then, I start the manuscript and write straight through following the outline. Some call this rigid. Some say this steals the creative thunder. Not so at all. First, I get some of my most creative stuff during the outline, while I have the WHOLE story rolling in my head. And secondly, the outline is not restrictive. I often add several chapters or move chapters around.

And usually my editors at Nelson have great ideas, so we change or cut to make the story as intriguing as possible.

VC: Do you have ideas or plans for novels outside of your current genre? And is Isle of Swords (your spring 2007 release) fantasy?

WTB: Valerie, I have about 20-25 concepts for future novels. They exist in folders (backed up about 100 times, lol) on my various computers. Some are as short as a paragraph; some are as long as 10 chapters. Isle of Swords is a pirate adventure—so not really fantasy. Of course, there is still room for a little fantasy in such a tale.

After Isle of Swords and a possible sequel, I plan to jump back into fantasy. I’ve been soaking up ideas for what may be a huge—I mean, epic—fantasy series. The plot grows exponentially every time I think about it. So many interesting fantasy races are popping up and introducing themselves. Creatures—ah, the beastiary is growing crowded. I can’t wait to get to work on it.

VC: You're a middle school teacher. Do your students read your novels? What kind of response have you gotten from them?

WTB: Loaded question. Seriously though, if it weren’t for my students, there would not be a Door Within Trilogy. 1993, Arundel Middle in Odenton Maryland. My students challenged me to complete an assignment that I had given them: write a short story. That short story became The Door Within. Over the years through teaching in Anne Arundel, Carroll, and Howard Counties, the story grew. My students were actually the first editors to ever lay eyes on each of the trilogy books. My students are reading Isle of Swords this year.

Now that all three books of The Door Within Trilogy are published, I see my students reading them all the time. The feedback has been wonderful. Funny thing is, the media specialist at my school just did a school-wide poll: What is your favorite book?

Eragon was #1, Harry (well, you know) was #2, and my Door Within books were #3.

VC: Thanks so much, Wayne. That was a fascinating *Glimpse* into your life!

Check out Wayne's blog for a 90-second trailer for the series!

Book One, The Door Within
Book Two, The Rise of the Wyrm Lord
Book Three, The Final Storm

I almost hate saying goodbye...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Book Tour - The Door Within Day 2 -- and a half

I have to admit I have gotten NOTHING done today other than cruising the other blogs for tidbits on The Door Within Trilogy and I simply have to share with you some specific links. Wayne did a TON of interviews (check back tomorrow for one right here In My Little World) and here is info on some of them.

Gene Curtis had a great interview with Wayne in which they discussed marketing extensively. Rebecca at Speculative Faith also touched on that subject in her interview.

Curious about art and covers? Chris Deanne talked with Wayne about that.

Beth Goddard discusses the read-aloud qualities of this trilogy to kids age 7 and 8.

Marcus Goodyear did a terrific podcast interview. Whoa. Somebody knows how to use technology!!!

How is a writer like a hawk? Wayne tells all in this interview with fellow writer Sharon Hinck.

Kevin Lucia has interviews and reviews.

Rachel Marks and Wayne talked about the intelligence of young readers, while James Somers focused on writing skills in his discussion.

My favorite thus far? Cheryl Russel posted an interview with the main character of The Door Within, young Aidan Thomas. Check out and enjoy them all!

Book Tour - The Door Within Day 2

In the second book of the The Door Within Trilogy, The Rise of the Wyrm Lord, Aidan's new friend Antoinette makes the journey into The Realm. Unlike Aidan, Antoinette is full of confidence. She has heard all of Aidan's stories; she's read the Book of Alleble and believed in The Realm most of her life. She believes she is prepared for her journey and her mission for King Eliam. But Aidan has asked her to watch out for the Glimpse of his best friend Robby. How can Antoinette choose when her two tasks come into conflict with one another?

One of the coolest ideas Wayne Batson came up with for this novel is the concept of reading tree rings. One of the knights explains (page 187):

"The rings of most trees tell only the most general tales: those of fires, floods, or extremely cold winters," Nock explained. "But King Eliam gave the blackwood trees a different kind of awareness. They do not have eyes or ears, but through wind and soil, bark and leaf, they sense much more than ordinary trees. And for those who have the skill, their rings tell fantastic tales."

"There is much here about his children," Nock went on, skipping many rings and dwelling only on those that were broken or disturbed. "He is sad because one of his sons fell near the river. And here, he loses a limb to the wind. Let me see, no broken lines until..."

Nock slid around until he came to the last ring. Then he stared, and his face contorted with sadness. He began to read aloud. "This is just before the end. 'The dark one has returned,' he says. 'He is not alone this time. There are many soldiers. They bring a burning blade...'"

While the first book, The Door Within, could arguably stand alone, the same can't be said of The Rise of the Wyrm Lord. You will want to have the third book, The Final Storm on hand before you're done book two.

Check out what other bloggers are saying:
Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
K. D. Kragen
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John Otte
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver
Tessa Edwards

Monday, January 22, 2007

Book Tour - The Door Within

CSSF Blog Tour

Adventures are funny things.
They may creep out of holes,
appear down a seldom trodden path,
fall out of a tree,
or even arrive in an envelope,
but they always start in the same way.
Adventures always begin with the unexpected.

Thus begins the first book of Wayne Thomas Batson's trilogy, The Door Within.

I hate to admit how quickly I read the first book, and not so much because I was riveted to it as that I wanted to be done so that I could send at least one of the books home with my daughter after Christmas, giving her a chance to read one before the blog tour.

The Door Within is the story of teenaged Aidan Thomas. When his grandfather suffers the ravages of advanced age, Aidan's parents make the decision to move from Maryland to Ohio to care for the old man. Aidan has been a misfit for much of his life and had recently made a new friend; he is angry at being torn away from his home and quite unimpressed with his senile grandfather.

Strange things begin to happen to Aidan shortly after the move: the sense of being watched, the terror of nightmares, and the weirdness of three clay jars appearing into what had been an empty space in a creepy basement. These three jars contain scrolls with a fascinating story about a place called The Realm which includes the Kingdom of Alleble.

Aidan begins to believe that The Realm is real, and that King Eliam of Alleble is calling him. In a rare lucid moment his grandfather encourages Aidan to find the key--the key to the Door Within. Aidan believes and is brought into The Realm to become the Twelfth Knight. The knights are sent on a mission to persuade the King of Mithegarde to rally with Eliam rather than Eliam's enemy, Paragor.

During this mission, Aidan learns the true nature of The Realm's people, the Glimpses. He also finds the true reason he was brought to The Realm--the task only he could accomplish--and that he is never alone.

Wayne Thomas Batson writes for a tween audience in this epic fantasy adventure. Many of the traditional fantasy quest elements play a role in this story, from knights and castles to dragons and swords. But Batson puts his own spin on these elements (and others) to create a new world where faith and goodness hold out against evil and terror.

The major negative I found in The Door Within was the use of exclamation marks. Not only was way too much of the dialogue melodramatically exclaimed, but a considerable amount of the thoughts and actions as well. It took a bit of effort to ignore the telltale marks and focus on the story alone.

Secondarily, the point of view was not rock solid. It seemed to me that Aidan was privy to way too many thoughts that weren't in his own head. (This was an even bigger problem in the second book, The Rise of the Wyrm Lord, where there were two protagonists.)

By the third book, The Final Storm I wasn't noticing either of these problems anymore. Whether they had ceased to exist I couldn't say. I do know that the story line got stronger and stronger throughout the series. Stay tuned for more tomorrow...and an interview on Wednesday.

I should stop whining

...but where would be the fun in that?

The crits are moving right along and I'm reasonably caught up. Which doesn't mean I can start slacking off, but I can stop panicking. I even got two solid hours on Mar's novel on the Palm last night on the bus, so I'm nearing completion on it.

On the bus? Well, I spent the weekend at my sister's for a couple reasons. One, my mom, who lives nearby, hasn't been feeling well. I saw her at Christmas but she's had a few issues since then and I wanted to see her for myself. She seems to be doing alright, all things considered. The other reason to go over is because a couple years ago my sis and I started scrapbooking the family tree. We had some photos and memorabilia (cards and such) starting from 1897 and wanted to record the family history as best we could while there was still someone around who knew some of it. We've only managed 2 or 3 weekends a year since starting, and we are closing in on 1964 now, so we're pretty happy with the progress in general.

The bus pulled in at 11:30 last night (and I'd gotten too little sleep the two previous nights as well) so I forgot to email my reviews of The Door Within trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson to my work computer. I'll post up when I get home in a couple hours. I've got lots to say over the next couple days!

Friday, January 19, 2007

An author weighs in on *how much* to include

From the journal of Author Elizabeth Bear, They Must Need Bears:

On exposition: like everything else in writing, it's a tension, and a line that you will wobble back and forth over a thousand times while you learn your craft.

First you will not explain enough. Then you will overcorrect and explain too much. Then, you will become enamored of your own cleverness, and become cryptic and mysterious. Then you will become frustrated by the rejections that read "This is beautifully written, but too ambiguous," and you will over-explain. Then you will under-explain. Then you will over-explain and your first reader will say, "but this is boring." Then you will under-explain... and you will sell something. And then you will not sell anything else for a while, and then you will over-explain and sell something. You will bemoan your fate. You will bemoan the stupidity of editors, or their fickleness.

You will sell a novel. Readers will be confused. You will sell another novel. Your editor will say, "I'm confused." You will spend a month and a half clarifying the obvious.

Readers will still be confused.

You will bemoan the stupidity of readers, or their fickleness.

You will over-explain. You will under-explain. You will put in a bunch of exposition your editor asked for and then on the CEM take half of it out again.

Finally, more people than not will understand.

Thanks to Random Walk Writer for the link. Would that I can continue to confuse people AFTER I sell something! Now I'm confusing without the right! However, the yo-yo struggle is familiar even so.

Book Tour - Arms of Deliverance Day 3

Looking around Tricia Goyer's blog and then her website, I discovered that she is practically my neighbor. She lives in Montana. Look out your window, Tricia! That's me, waving at you.

I also learned that Arms of Deliverance is her third novel about World War II and that there is a fourth one coming. She's collected many stories about the war as part of her research, and she shares them here. What a way to keep the memory alive of the men and women who have fought for freedom. Enjoy having a look around this site.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Book Tour - Arms of Deliverance Day 2

I'd like to give you a sneak preview today of the first few paragraphs of Arms of Deliverance by Tricia Goyer.

Katrine squared her shoulders and instinctively pressed a hand to her stomach as she stepped through the open doors of the café, past the yellow sign that read NO JEWS ALLOWED. She paused as the strong aroma of coffee and cigarette smoke hit her face. Men and women clustered around tables. Beautiful people in the height of their glory.

Looking around at the room's flocked wallpaper, ornate light fixtures, and marble flooring, she found it hard to believe that not too far away a war stormed. Not only battles for land and power, but a war against a people--her people...or what used to be her people.

Katrine had come here too, to escape, to blend in with the numerous transplants on the Belgium streets. More than a year had passed since she was Rebecca Lodz. With the right connections and right papers, she'd hidden herself well. Perhaps too well.

The rest of chapter one can be found here.

Some stories get lost in the over all fabric of a war. Goyer remembers that her novel is about people. I think you'll enjoy it. Deborah is giving away a copy on her blog. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Book Tour - Arms of Deliverance

Do you appreciate stories set in war-torn Europe ? You may want to check out Arms of Deliverance . This novel by is dedicated to the men of the 91st Bomb Group, who confirm the accurateness of Tricia Goyer's writing.

Against the backdrop of World War II, Goyer places her characters: a flight navigator for the bomber Destiny's Child, two female war correspondents vying for top billing in London (and on the front lines), and a young Jewish woman who passes for a German so well that she finds herself pregnant by a high-ranking Nazi officer.

Goyer takes her time bringing the characters together, in showing the threads she has been creating behind the scenes. That doesn't mean the story lags, though. There is plenty of action and drama every step of the way with characters who are human through and through.


Monday, January 15, 2007

My life is going CRIT-ical!

Wow. It seems that there are dry stretches where I don't have any critiquing to do, but right now the crit bug has attacked with a vengeance. It's my own fault, of course. Why wouldn't it be? I'd already agreed to do a brush-up crit on a novel for Mar that I'd critted in spring and she has since revised. I was pretty certain that there would be little more involved than reading and an occasional comment, and I've been finding that preconception was correct. Still, it takes time to read. I'm not complaining, mind--just stating a fact!

Meanwhile Erin had asked for crit on a selection of essays she's submitting for a grant application, and because she's offered to do a novel for me (but doesn't have a return novel ready for me just now), I volunteered to crit the essays. You guessed it. Pretty much right now.

And then I signed up for the crit group with some of the folks planning to enter the spec faith contest. That's another 25 pages a week, for folks whose writing and style I'm not familiar with. I see this is going to keep me hopping!

So now Mar tells me that the novel I've been NAGGING her to finish editing so I can crit it is almost ready. I think it's going to have to wait its turn!

Because, of course, I also have to have my own first 25 pages ready in just a couple weeks. And want to keep straight on through until I've revised the entire novel. I'm guessing by the middle of March? I'd like to be faster but I don't think it's likely, though I believe there's less to change in the middle. The ending is going to require more work again though.

So I'm trying to cut back on some peripheral stuff I've been doing, trying to get more focused, trying to act like a professional. It's an interesting life.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


The house we live in was an accident. It was never meant to be a house, really. My in-laws built it almost thirty years ago as cheap as they could because when their house up north sold, they were going to build their dream house. Meanwhile they had spent the entire summer living in a holiday trailer (with 5 kids), waiting. Come fall they realized the house wasn't selling and they needed something before winter, so got to work. This building (that we still call home) was originally called a *well house* on the building permit. The house up north didn't sell for years, and when it did, they didn't get as much for it as they'd hoped because the main employer in that town (a pulp mill) had laid off a huge percentage of its workers and the housing market was below flat. So they added on a little to the front of the well house so it had an indoor bathroom and changed the designation of the building to *house*.

It's now 36 feet long and 16 feet wide and shaped like a barn. The main floor walls are made of concrete block; it has minimal height ceilings throughout, and windows and doors that have outlived their usefulness as they all leak air. (This week that's pretty noticeable as it's well below freezing.)

In fact, it took a lot of years for my in-laws to install even the most basic of kitchen fittings: a countertop with shelves below it. Not one drawer in the space, other than a couple of old bedroom dressers on the far wall.

Fast forward from 1977 to 2000. Jim has always loved this forty acre parcel of land, so when his dad decided to sell and retire, we made it happen. I'd been hoping we could afford to build a brand new house, but that hasn't happened. Anymore, even though he has a decent paying job now I don't really want to pay for the additional mortgage a new house would call for. So, renovation. It's been an interesting process trying to figure out where to start...and where to end.

Almost two years ago I blogged about my kitchen here, with photos of the *cabinets* and the drawers that Jim built for me. And may I say what a huge difference those drawers have made? Incredible. You should just imagine a kitchen without any drawers at all. Go ahead. Try.

So here we are nearly two years later. We're finally ready, mentally, to start dealing with the issues of this house and there are MANY. And bless my dear husband's heart, he says, 'Let's start with the kitchen.'

The thing is--really honestly--that I have a very talented husband. He can design, build, or repair almost anything at all. It's just the timeline. We've talked on and off about him building the cabinets, and I know he could do it. I also know I'd get impatient and naggy and we'd fight. Sorry, but I've had 26 1/2 years experience with him (plus a previous full house reno) and I know how this would go. Yes, it would save money, but our marriage is worth more than money! So I'm content to pay for cabinetry.

We got a really good deal on custom cabinetry at our last house ten years ago as the economy was slow and the guy really needed the business. We now have the opposite economy and there's no way we can afford custom. So we've been looking at cabinetry options through Home Depot and Home Building Centre. Our favorites (yes, we AGREE!!!) are these hickory cabinets from Thomasville through Home Depot. I've been fine-tuning the layout and should have final pricing back in about a week. We've done some ball-park pricing already so hopefully it won't be too nasty a surprise!

The website says a 4-6 week waiting period, but all of western Canada has a booming economy so I wasn't surprised to learn that the actual waiting period is currently 10-12 weeks. That puts installs into April or even May, but with luck will be before the spring farmwork takes over all Jim's spare time. He does have the electrical work to do and the installation, plus countertops, and there's no point in getting carried away with the electrical until we're in rip-out mode. With concrete block walls, electrical is pretty hard to hide. The sink stays in the same place so the plumbing won't be an issue (though the dishwasher will move). His dad is a retired gas-fitter and will move the gas range for me; he's already said my new location will be easy enough, and because he did all the original work, he knows where all the runs are and how best to alter them.

We're still debating whether we're going to replace appliances at the same time. The dishwasher is junk; it needs to go. My microwave is 18 years old and needs replacing. The fridge is plain jane, but hey, it works fine, and the gas range was top of the line in its day and I don't have any complaints about it even though it's probably 15 years old or more. I'm guessing we'll see where the cabinet pricing lands and that may sway the appliance decision.

And working in flooring, I have already bought a roll of lino for the reno! Got a steal of a deal, too. The laminate we want in the living room will be below cost thanks to supplier to employee direct discounts, and same with ceramic tiles for backsplash (and the upcoming bathroom reno).

So it'll be an interesting time frame here. Looking forward to getting things rolling.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Book Tour--A Pagan's Nightmare Day 3

I'd like to share with you the first page of A Pagan's Nightmare by Ray Blackston.

Larry Hutch--all lanky, six-feet-three of him--bounded into my downtown Atlanta office at 10:45 Monday morning and dropped a screenplay on my desk. Thwack.

"This is it?" I asked.

Larry folded his arms, pressed his lips together in a kind of triumphant smirk, and nodded. "Done."

He looked as if he'd run across Georgia to get there; he was sweating through his madras shirt onto my best chair. This was August, however, so I kept my composure and read his title page. Larry looked on, silent and self-assured.

I thumbed the inch-high stack of paper--thicker than the average screenplay--and felt a tiny breeze tickle my nostrils. "This is what you said I had to read...your best yet?"

"Done," he repeated. Larry sat sprawled in the guest chair and gazed out of my 22nd-story window. "I still may tweak the ending a bit, Ned. And it's not a screenplay. I wrote it in novel form."

I thumbed the pages a second time and noted the coffee stains on chapter one. "Does it have drama?"

He nodded. "By the boatload."




"Of the highest quality."

I read the first page with my usual does of skepticism. "You have got to be--"



Yes, completely nuts. At least the author lets you know straight off the bat what to expect in that regard. Boatloads of adventure, gobs of drama, and romance of the highest quality are all carefully wrapped up in nuttiness. And while this book doesn't exactly tell me what kind of Christian I want to be--or should be--I do get a very clear look at what kind I don't want to be!

Kudos to Ray Blackston and his publisher, Warner Faith. I hope the book does well.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Blog Tour - A Pagan's Nightmare Day 2

Let's talk a little about the guy who can write a novel such as A Pagan's Nightmare ...and get it published! This would be Ray Blackston. In his 'Note from the Author', Ray writes:

For years people have accused Christian novelists of using their characters as mere mouthpieces for doctrine, using them to tell the world what Christianity is. Last year a friend and I decided that it was high time someone write a novel about what Christianity is not. Larry and I did our best, and we welcome your comments via my Web site,

P.S. Larry and I confess that our idea for a Broadway musical of
A Pagan's Nightmare is still in the "Hmmm, should we do this?" phase. But I do know that Larry has already left phone messages for Sister Sledge, ABBA, and Paul McCartney.

Hmm, enquiring minds want to the Larry of which Ray speaks here the Larry Hutch of the story? Because...that's just scary.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blog Tour - A Pagan's Nightmare

I have to tell you, A Pagan's Nightmare is more than a pagan's nightmare. Ray Blackston has written a Christian's nightmare, too! This was a decidedly odd novel-within-a-novel. From the inside cover comes the first clue:
Who's ever heard of a reverse rapture?

Larry Hutch may have a few loose screws in his head, but he's determined to create a hit with his latest manuscript. While dealing with personal crises, he conceives of a strange new world: on a routine Monday morning in Atlanta, an unwary "pagan" finds himself one of the last remaining unbelievers in a world populated by Christians.

Christians can buy gas for twelve cents a gallon, while everyone else (the pagans, that is) has to pay $6.66. The radio stations alter all song lyrics to conform to "Christian" standards--the Beatles belt out "I Wanna Hold Your Tithe"; ABBA's "Dancing Queen" becomes "Dancing's Wrong." Even French fries, newly labeled "McScriptures," are tools for evangelism.

Larry's novel is a big hit with his agent, Ned. But Ned's wife--a committed Southern Baptist--is less than amused. And Larry has yet to show the manuscript to his new girlfriend, even though he's made her the unsuspecting heroine. It will take deft handling from both these men to keep their lives and their relationships intact when the world witnesses A Pagan's Nightmare.

Angela Hunt, a Christian author with multiple books published, has this to say:
Ray Blackston's A Pagan's Nightmare is a delightful tongue-in-cheek look at some of our sacred cows...and he's not afraid to tip them over! Ray does a great job of reminding us what's really important--not the trappings we've created for ourselves, but our relationship with a living, powerful God."

Definitely an unsettling book, but sometimes thinking is uncomfortable. The story lingers on...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Working hard...

So, it's time to get--and ACT--organized!

My week for having my own 25 opening pages critted is the 29th, which is good. I've been mulling over the novel and the crits I've received for a couple months now and have seen a number of ways to make things tighter. Including the first scene. I wrote about 600 words on Friday and threw them away on Monday, replacing them with about 1100 new words. They still looked good to me today (grin) so I added to them.

Tossing the first few paragraphs into chat tells me that I've got a more conflict-ridden opener, while not being overwhelming. It still needs work (snort) but it's coming. So the goal is to have a minimum of 25 pages written this week, and I'm at 11. I'm thinking 3-4 more before I can slide into the old first chapter and start adapting it.

Meanwhile, I'm critting the first victim's offering. Er...victim isn't the right word. Um...volunteer? That DOES sound better, doesn't it? :P

And in my spare time, which I haven't had any of yet this week, I need to review Mar's novel that I critted in spring and she has revised since. And more. Which is why I need to get organized. So if I ignore you all, maybe I'm working? Maybe...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Yelling Solves Nothing

The moral of the story is: Val should not be TRUSTED with technology. A lot of power--or even a little power--in the wrong hands is a frightening thing. Really.

How frightening?

You asked.

Remember the lovely Palm Tungsten E2 hubby gave me for Christmas? I didn't play with it much for a few days after Christmas. I could see it was going to be something that required a quiet house and some concentration to figure out. Serendipitous thought, that.

After my house emptied out on the 28th, with great care and slow, well-thought-out steps--and much reading of .pdf files--I got the baby charged up, the cds loaded onto the desktop, and performed my first synchronization. How beautiful. How lovely. I did notice that Microsoft Outlook was uploaded, and I did notice that I hadn't been using the program to its fullest. I was only using it for email addresses for our family contacts, but that wouldn't be much help in the long run. I envisioned having all the phone numbers, including cells, of everyone I knew on it, street addresses of distant friends and relatives, so that when we should be traveling I would have all this pertinent information at my fingertips. Ah yes. Visions of glory and well-organizedness. (Yes, that's a word; don't argue with me.) I began recording all this information, gathered from various sources, into Outlook.

Meanwhile, I went back to work on the 3rd. My *other* vision was accessing story outlines, character profiles, random notes, etc, from either my work computer or my home computer via the pda. It should be a simple matter, I thought. The pda would operate as a glorified flash drive.

Uh. Huh.

I installed the cds and hooked up the pda. Something went wrong; I wasn't sure what. It wouldn't let me open the profile or do anything on the second computer. A few days later when I was showing off the pda to somebody, I realized that I had no contact information. Odd.

Today (at home again) I determined to get to the bottom of things, learn more about how the thing works, since it was obvious I didn't quite have a handle on it yet. Little did I know how little a handle I really had. I struggled to synch it back to this computer and got continuous errors. Finally, with some help from Mar, I managed a hard re-set (there was nothing that dramatic ON the machine yet, nothing irreplaceable).

When there was finally a successful synchronization, I was interested to note that I still had no contact information. This very brilliant technologically gifted whiz had synched Outlook backwards, effectively deleting all the data not only from the handheld but from the home computer. I have NO database of my personal contacts. Anyone reading this, no doubt you're my imaginary friends. No doubt your info is safe in my yahoo address book. But for the flesh-and-blood folk I know, well...

I have a hardcopy backup from August '04, which isn't particularly recent. Honestly, most of the information won't be that hard to get again. Some of them I have memorized, others I have noted elsewhere. Others still I have phone numbers and snail mail addies for in my little address book. For the most part, this is just a nuisance. There are a very few, though, that I may have lost permanently. Those are likely ones I don't keep in good contact with to start with, and may not even remember they were once in my database. And that makes me sad.

And yes, I'm more than a little aggravated, too.

Now I discover that the Palm isn't really designed to work with multiple computers but that it can be done. If you or anyone you know has the same model I do, a Palm Tungsten E2, and have successfully set it up to operate on more than one machine (not networked machines), I'd really be glad to hear from you. Email me at valerierco AT yahoo DOT ca. Put something in the header so I know it isn't spam, please, if I don't already have your addy.

Oh, while I'm ranting, here's a related rant. As I've been mumbling about, the Palm is set to synch to Outlook. Then why does the Palm cd come with something called Palm Desktop? It has many of the same features--a contact list, a calendar, a task memo pad thingie--but the Palm Desktop is not even on the list of things to synch with in the custom setup (yes, I know where that is now!). So why would I use it?

So now that my Outlook is empty and the corners are all dusted out, I'm thinking, surely there is some way to transfer these files. So I've entered one address in Outlook and a different one into Palm Desktop. Then I spent a couple hours trying to figure out which direction would be easier to import/export these files.

I have a headache.

They have different file extensions. Fair enough. Outlook has a custom setting that I found after awhile that allows you to save a file in VCard format (for the Palm). Cool. So I do that. I'm hopeful that means it will add itself to the VCard homeland. Hahaha. I am the eternal optimist, and it is rarely well-founded. Today...definitely not well-founded. How do I find the VCard homeland in order to find the path to browse? I eventually find where Outlook has stored this lonely file, and I note the path. But when I do the process in reverse, to import it, the same folders do not exist. Honest. Cross my heart and hope to die; they are not in there.

So...I can save the Palm Desktop contact files in Excel format. Excellent. I not only know how to do that, but I can find the darn things later. And very excited to find that Outlook can import Excel files.


Only if you have all the custom stuff downloaded off the Windows XP disk. I got out the disk, popped it in the drive, looked at the menu, and got cold feet.

With today's run of luck, I am not risking wiping WinXP off my computer as well. I'm sure I could do it. I am THAT talented.

Hubby's on his way home this evening. He phones from his cell phone. "So, how's your day been?"

Me: "Uh, okay."

Him: "Whatcha been doing?"

Me (thinking 'do I really want to go there over the phone?'): "Cleaned the house, did some laundry, went for a walk. Been working on the computer."

Him: "So, you getting things figured out on the Palm?"

Me (drat): "Um, you are sitting down, aren't you?" (Of course he's sitting down, idiot, he's DRIVING!!!!)

Do let us give credit where credit is due. Upon learning what I had done, he didn't yell or anything. Which was nice of him, because I was feeling like I deserved to be yelled at. Of course, I've been doing the yelling already. And really, what's the point? What's done is done. Yelling solves nothing.

That's today's mantra. Yelling solves nothing. But sometimes it feels good.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Why make plans?

It seems I make them just to break them.

A couple days ago I found out about a contest for unpublished Christian speculative fiction writers, thought about it (briefly!) and decided to give it a shot. Maybe it was just that my subconscious wanted to play with Marks of Repentance more than it wanted to play with Quest to be Queen. (Play equals revising, which--come to think of it--isn't play, really...don't ask!)

So I've been reading through the three crits on Marks again and making plans for revision. I can see a lot of things more clearly now. This is the novel I wrote in the spring of 2005 and revised last summer, so it's been sitting awhile and I'm eager to get back to it. It is my favorite story thus far.

A few folks are banding together to crit each other's entries, so that will give me something to do for the next month or two. Not that I was bored exactly, you understand.

Book Tour -- Tangerine Day 2

I'm intrigued by Marilynn Griffith's choice to tell the story of an older couple in Tangerine. In her letter to the reader at the end of the novel, Griffith says:
The writing of this book took me to many unexpected places in my heart as I listened and learned about the way incarceration affects families. I also had a chance to explore the depth and breadth of married love, even when stretched, strained, and abandoned. Taking this journey with an older couple was especially fun.

As someone who will be pushing fifty in the next few years (though, thank God, without a teenage granddaughter!) I felt that the main character, Jean, acted her age. Certainly she was confused, frustrated, and challenged, but last time I checked, age had no bearing on that. Some of the books I've read about thirty-somethings seemed to be written about old teenagers but Griffith did not fall into that trap. Recommended.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Book Tour -- Tangerine

I'll admit that I didn't expect to like Tangerine I'm not keen, generally speaking, on reading Book Three of a series when I haven't read the others. It didn't take me long to fall under the spell of Marilynn Griffiths' writing and to immerse myself into the story of Jean Guerra.

Tangerine is the third novel in a series called Shades of Style. (As near as I can figure, there will be one more.) The first two are entitled Pink and Jade, and being as I haven't read them, I can't tell you the significance of the colors to the contents of the novels. But from reading Tangerine I'd guess that the colors/ titles are relevant.

I expected a chick lit type of novel, maybe because of the blurb on Griffith's website. It isn't. It is the story of a fifty-ish woman whose husband had been imprisoned years before for a crime he hadn't committed. Even though she loved him still, she felt she had to choose between him and raising their daughter--and she chose the daughter although she never divorced the husband.

When Nigel reappears in her life as though by accident (with conviction over-ruled), fashion designer Jean isn't ready for her life to be overturned. Nigel has been loaned to her company to work with her on a design of menswear for Reebok. Their teenage granddaughter, Elena, finds out that her unknown grandfather is in town and sets out to do her part to reunite them. To Jean's dismay, so do her friends and colleagues at the design firm.

Mixed into this tangled tale of reborn mature love is a strong sense of God's peace and strength. Far from preachy, I found the spiritual side to this novel to be relevant to the story. I'd definitely be willing to read other novels by Marilynn Griffith.