Welcome. This blog was started three years ago by four aspiring writers who are now three published authors of novels and short stories (Barbara Elsborg, Dawn Jackson, Arlene Webb) and one multiple award-winning writer (Laurie Green). We blog to keep readers updated on our new releases or other random topics. We hope you enjoy your stay. :] Coffee?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book Utopia's Favorite Heroines

Book Utopia has named its The Favorite Heroines of 2008 and Barbara's Daisy Leaf (PERFECT TIMING) is one of them!

Book Utopia says: "The joy of Daisy in this erotic romance is her sharp sense of comedic timing and the awareness on the part of the reader that this is a woman not to be trifled with. "

PERFECT TIMING was Barbara's first novel to be published. It was followed by THE CONSOLATION PRIZE and FALLING FOR YOU. Barbara will have eight more novels coming in the next year including additional novels in the series begun with PERFECT TIMING (Contemporary Romance/Erotica) and THE CONSOLATION PRIZE (Fantasy Vampire Erotica).

You can find links to Barbara's published works in the list at the right.

Congratulations, Barbara!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

THE SPECIAL GIFT Audio Excerpt

Barbara's short story THE SPECIAL GIFT included as part of the MEN IN SHORTS ANTHOLOGY on Ravenous Romance now has an excerpt in audio format available. Go to this page and click on the "Listen to an excerpt" button. The opening of Barbara's story follows the introduction by Lori Perkins. I think you can get a great sense of Barbara's humorous voice in his excerpt.

Notice: This is an adult site for erotica stories.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

FALLING FOR YOU Reviews

Two reviews are up for Barbara's FALLING FOR YOU from ParaNormalRomance.org. Check out what they have to say.

FALLING FOR YOU is the second in Barbara's Trueblood series. The third will be upcoming.

You can find the link for falling for you under the Published Works sidebar on the right.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Barbara's and Dawn's Short Stories Published Today

Both Barbara and Dawn had short stories e-published today in the Ravenous Romance Men in Shorts anthology.

Check out the brand new Ravenous Romance site with Barbara's THE SPECIAL GIFT (excerpt available) and Dawn's WHY'D IT HAVE TO BE SHORTS? (click here).

Please note: This is an adult erotica/romance site.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sex and Shoes.

http://www.ravenousromance.com
My first published story and I'm so excited.
December 1st looms ahead. The Sex and Shoes Anthology is due to be released. Please hop over to Ravenous Romance and get your copy.
You'll be glad you did.
:)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Holiday Reminder...

Support your favorite writers.
Buy books as gifts.
This is a tough time for writers and the publishing industry. The down turn in the economy has resulted in layoffs, the closure of independent presses and fewer books being published or sold. If you're a writer or if you love to read, you can do your part by buying books as gifts this holiday season. Or anytime.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Falling for you - out today!!!!

Falling for you is now available from Loose Id!!!

http://www.loose-id.net/detail.aspx?ID=834

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Buzz for Barbara

A new review of Barbara's Vampire Paranormal THE CONSOLATION PRIZE (Loose-Id) can be found here.

Congrats, Barbara, on another great review.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Three More Novels Coming By Barbara Elsborg

Well, it's official. Barbara is definitely on a major roll!

Ellora's Cave has just accepted three more of her novels to be e-published in the near future. All of us here at Take it to the Stars are very excited about Barbara being on a very fast track toward "Star-dom." Someday we'll all be able to say, "I knew her when..."

Congratulations, Barbara, for the...what?...fifth, six and seventh times? :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sex, lies and reviewers

Oh criticism. Can't live with it and can't live without it. I'm convinced that my natural state of - say no until it's proven you need to say yes - has led me to be the world's worst pessimist and a hardened critic. My mother spent her life criticising me in an attempt to make me better - a better swimmer, reader, piano player etc etc. The only lasting result has been to make me hyper - critical of myself and others. Somehow every job I ever had - apart from the selling of cyanide, involved me picking fault with others. I inspected businesses and then moved on to inspecting schools and wrote reports listing their faults - oh and the good bits too. So I'm used to giving criticism. I critique others work as honestly as I can and they critique mine. So I'm used to receiving criticism too.


Now I'm out in the wide world and strangers are offering opinions on my stories. I hear the cries - All subjective. One person's POV etc etc. I never read them - many proclaim. I couldn't not read a review of one of my books. The very typing of those words still sends a shiver of delight down my spine. I'm lucky. I finally heard yes from a publisher. Not in the sphere I wanted but it was still a yes. Now I live with the consequences. My babies have faults and it's my fault they do. I wanted them to be perfect and they're not. I still love them. But I'm going to keep trying to be a better and better writer and maybe one day I'll please everyone.

Ohh - a flying pig!!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

How to deal with stress

Well for those who thought this was going to tell you how to deal with stress - sorry. I wish I had the answer. Maybe living on an isolated island - adequately supplied with food, water and books (and writing materials of course) would mean no stress. But wait - I couldn't go swimming - there might be sharks. If I stay on land - there might be maneating spiders and I want to be the only maneater around - assuming a decent hunk gets washed up. There would be no one to listen to my stories. No one to complain to. No son to pick up after. No daughter to console on the phone. Oh no, I'm stressed. I'm too expert at imagining problems to ever have a calm moment. Even stroking the dog is stressful - not my dog, he needs walking, feeding, playing with. Oh and that sad face - he always wants food and I have to say no. I've had my instructions.
Ohh I've had an epiphany - say NO. NO NO NO NO. I am not going to do your ironing, your washing, walk your dog, cook your meals, listen to you moan. I'm going to be selfish for the first time in my life and do what I want when I want.

Moment over. I'll just do the ironing and stick a brush up my backside to clean the kitchen floor while I'm at it.

Friday, October 31, 2008



From Take it to the Stars

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Sales!!!

Barbara and Dawn have both just sold short stories for the upcoming anthology "Men in Shorts" to be published by Ravenous Romance.

Congratulations Barbara and Dawn on your latest successes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award

Frances of Frances Writes blog recently awarded the "I Love Your Blog Award" to Take it to the Stars. Such an honor.

The rules for this Award are:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog

2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you

3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs

4) Add links to those blogs on your blog

5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!


We'll put our heads together and post our nominees as soon as possible. :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman 1925-2008


Tony Hillerman, author of Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels featuring Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee — died in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Sunday of pulmonary failure. He was 83.

Born May 27, 1925, in Sacred Heart, Okla., population 50, Tony Hillerman was the son of August and Lucy Grove Hillerman. They were farmers who also ran a small store. It was there that young Tony listened spellbound to locals who gathered to tell their stories.

Hillerman wrote many novels including "The Blessing Way" in 1970, "People of Darkness" in 1978, his commercial breakthrough "Skinwalkers," 1987, "A Thief of Time," which made several best seller lists, "Talking God" and "Coyote Waits." In all, he wrote 18 books in the Navajo series, the most recent titled "The Shape Shifter."

Many of his novels explored cultural conflicts and differences in undersstanding. Tony Hillerman said, "I want Americans to stop thinking of Navajos as primitive persons, to understand that they are sophisticated and complicated."

Although he was accused of exploiting the Navajo culture for personal gain, the Navajo Tribal Council honored him in 1987 with its Special Friend of the Dineh Award. He said he took greater pride in that than from the many awards bestowed by his peers, including the Golden Spur Award from Western Writers of America and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, which elected him its president.

Although best-known for the Navajo series, he also wrote more than 30 other books, including the memoir, "Seldom Disappointed"; and books on the history and natural beauty of the Southwest.

In "The Spell of New Mexico" a collection of essays, Hillerman wrote "Those places that stir me are empty and lonely. They invoke a sense of both space and strangeness, and all have about them a sort of fierce inhospitality."

He also edited or contributed to more than a dozen other books including crime and history anthologies and books on the writing craft.

I had the great pleasure to meet Mr. Hillerman when we were both members of Southwest Writers, and I will always remember him as being very personable and down-to-earth. He will certainly be missed.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ravenous Romance

Earlier, we mentioned that Dawn has an upcoming short story for an anthology on Sex and Shoes that will be e-published by Ravenous Romance.

To find out more about Ravenous Romance you can read the press release here and sign up for a free iPod Touch giveaway here. This is an exciting new site.

Ravenous Romance is being added to our sidebar, as well.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Missing Chapter Twelves and the Strange Things Writers do.

I was recently asked why chapter twelve is missing from my novels.
Uh, okay I'll fess up.
It's cursed.
Really it is. In the spirit of Halloween I'd thought I'd tell you about it.
One morning about a year ago, I woke up at 3:00am to a chapter trying to pound it's way out of my head. All writer's know how it is when a good muse goes bad. She demands at the oddest hours to be heard. Ignore her at your own peril.

Anyway, she was banging away in my head screaming at me to get up. So, like a good little writer I did, and gave into her demands. Come six-o-clock it was done. I was so pleased with myself. Some of the best work I'd done to date. Original, creative and just plain inspired. I was in love with that chapter. I backed it up to disc, I backed it up to a travel drive and I backed it up to the hard drive...

Do you get the feeling something bad happened???

In spades.

The disc became corrupted, the computer crashed and the travel drive fell out of my purse somewhere when I'd been out and about in town. I re-typed, doing my best to recover the exact placement of each clever word, the feel for the chapter. No matter how I tried, I just couldn't get it to work. After I'd worked to retreive the original for several hours and finally managed to throw something together that was okay, I backed it up to another computer (the one my kids use) and left it open to come back and play with. Thinking it would be a great idea to put it on another disc, since I lost my only travel drive, I did and left it at the desk.

Bad idea. My children decided they needed a disc for their music and erased (yes it was re-writable) and I not only lost the chapter, I lost the entire story. The children also managed to lose the open page. Never, leave a story open with teenagers around.

The only way I could recover the story (Yes, you guessed right. Only up to chapter 11) was to go to my online critique group and pull it from the post. I can't tell you how glad I was I'd posted it to my private queue. (If you're not a member of this site BTW, I highly recommend. http://www.critiquecircle.com/)

So, to make a long story short, I re-wrote that blasted chapter five times before it stuck, and never did it seem as good as the original.

This chapter has been a nightmare for me in other stories as well. I've lost it in one other, I've hit major writer's block on multiple occasions. All disaster seems to drop on me when I hit chapter 12. It never comes to me smooth and I've begun to despise it.

Therefore, if you notice the header Chapter 12, with one sentence under it "Please proceed to chapter 13", this is why. Crazy? Oh yes. Superstitious? Without a doubt. Am I afraid of that chapter? Oh yeah.

Moral of the story...
Back up everything to Gmail and don't write a chapter 12. (However, I sometimes will change it after I finish the story) Don't want anyone to think I can't count, or heaven forbid, I've lost it.

So, what are some of the crazy things you do? Tell me I'm not the only one who's gone insane. Do you have anything you do for luck when you write? Any routines you won't break because of bad Ju-ju? What?

Monday, October 6, 2008

On Genres: A Necessary Evil

Here's an always informative and thought-provoking subject from the Fictionautics:

On Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction and Genres

This article focuses on informing readers what falls into what genre (or the best guess) and why.

As a writer, I struggle with how to pitch my work. The boundaries that define many of the genres and subgenres are blurred at best. If I describe my novel as "near future military science fiction romance with paranormal elements," most agents or editors won't read past the first line. Calling it simply speculative romance, slipstream or paranormal romance doesn't begin to give a sense of the elements of the story. I normally fall back on science fiction romance and then try to cover or at least hint at the other elements in the pitch paragraph.

So why even have genres?

Doing away with genres altogether creates a new set of problems. As a reader, I want to be able to filter or search for books that tend to have science fiction romance elements (even though when I execute that search, I often get novels that I'd categorize as pure fantasy). If there are no genres, will I have to sift through thousands of titles and blurbs to find the type of story that interests me?

So we struggle with genres, subgenres and cross-genres as best we can. The author of the article made a point that I agree with. When writing, don't restrict creativity to labels. Just write it and worry about pidgeon-holing it later.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Interview Up

My interview is up at The Galaxy Express if anyone wants to take a peek.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

And Now for a Little Shameless...

...promoting of my co-blogger's work.

Barbara's PERFECT TIMING was reviewed on The Good, the Bad and the Unread blog and what a lovely review it is! Not to mention, spot on! :)

Check it out here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And Then There Were Two...

Notice our new look? I thought a bit of spiffing was in order since we're on the verge of making a major announcement.

*fanfare and drumroll please*

Our own Dawn Jackson is going to be published!

We're very excited to announce she's had a short story accepted for publication in an anthology, and this has created a lot of interest for some of her other work. I'm not sure if I'm at liberty to share the title of the short or anthology yet, so I'll save that for a follow up post. What I can tell you from first hand experience is that Dawn is a very talented and highly prolific writer. All of us here at Take it the the Stars are certain this is just the start of a long and wonderful career.

Congratulations, Dawn!

From Arlene, Barbara and Laurie

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weird Titles

For the past 30 years, the Bookseller magazine has awarded a prize to the oddest book title it can find. BBC radio is curently offering a prize to the listener who invents the most interesting opening paragraph for any of them.

I had to share these titles -
I think my favourite is 2005.
I also have to admit I bought one of these - 1989 - well you never know when it will come in handy!



1978: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (University of Tokyo Press)
1979: The Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution (Transaction Press)
1980: The Joy of Chickens (Prentice Hall)
1981: Last Chance at Love: Terminal Romances
1982: Population and Other Problems (China National Publications)
1983: The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling (MIR)
1984: The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today (Constable)
1985: Natural Bust Enlargement with Total Power: How to Increase the Other 90% of Your Mind to Increase the Size of Your Breasts (Westwood Publishing Co)
1986: Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality (Brunner/Mazel)
1987: No Award
1988: Versailles: The View From Sweden University of Chicago Press)
1989: How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art (Ten Speed Press)
1990: Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual (Lace Publications)
1991: No Award
1992: How to Avoid Huge Ships (Cornwell Maritime Press)
1993: American Bottom Archaeology (University of Illinois Press)
1994: Highlights in the History of Concrete (British Cement Association)
1995: Reusing Old Graves (Shaw & Son)
1996: Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (Hellenic Philatelic Society)
1997: The Joy of Sex: Pocket Edition (Mitchell Beazley)
1998: Development in Dairy Cow Breeding and Management: and New Opportunities to Widen the Uses of Straw (Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust)
1999: Weeds in a Changing World (British Crop Protection Council)
2000: High Performance Stiffened Structures (Professional Engineering Publishing)
2001: Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service (Butterworths)
2002: Living With Crazy Buttocks (Kaz Cooke - Penguin
)2003: The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (Kensington Publishing)
2004: Bombproof Your Horse (J A Allen)
2005: People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It (Gary Leon Hill - Red Wheel/Weiser Books)
2006: The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification (Harry N Abrams)
2007: If You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs (Simon & Schuster US)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Collaboration

I recently had a revelation. My brother also writes. This was a huge surprise. I mean, you’d think two siblings would talk about the driving forces in their lives. Not always so, apparently. It took a family tragedy to get us talking.

And as we talked, an even bigger surprise followed—he writes Science Fiction with some decidedly male/female interaction. (Notice that I don’t call it “romance,” because, well you know, he’s a guy and there’s this stigma against guys writing romance.) Makes you wonder if there’s some sort of genetic connection to our writing compulsion, doesn’t it? Or maybe it’s just the way our brains are wired, not just genetically, but since we were shaped by the same environmental factors in our formative years. I dunno. But I do find it, as Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

So after a deluge of emails back and forth, we decided we’re going to try our hand at collaborating on a series of short stories, and possibly a novel that he’s been working on for a number of years.

I thought this might make an intriguing series of posts for Take it to the Stars. I’ll keep you all informed about our progress. I’ll title these articles: The State of the Collaboration. Maybe Terry will even chime in with a post or two. And if we get to the point of publishing or e-publishing something, well, you’ll hear it here first. Deal?

*sticking figurative toe in figurative water*

This could be a blast. Or not.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Science Fiction.

Let’s open up a big, cliché can of worms.

Yes?

This post was inspired by a recent pissing match I witnessed.

I write science fiction romance. What is acceptable material for science fiction? Is there a difference between “hard core” science fiction and “soft core”? Really, is there?

I think I've said it before. All science fact had to be proved at one time or another.
Go back to the 1700's and before we had aircraft. Think of the views of the people then. You'd have been burned at the stake for suggesting man could fly through the heavens or talk to someone across the seas or view them on a computer screen. Science is thinking outside the box, taking fantasy elements and if not proving them, giving a reasonable theory as to how it could work. It's making the impossible, possible.

You still with me?

I get so irritated with people who say "That's not possible, so it's not science fiction." I wonder what our ancestors would think of cell phones and planes? Gas engines and solar power?

All science starts in fantasy. That’s where its roots are.

Here’s an example: Who would have thought a person or object could be rendered invisible to the naked eye by bending electromagnetic energy? They're doing it now. Five, ten years ago, that was fantasy. The invisible girl in the fantastic four. Hogwarts Express. How many stories use invisibility???

Guess what? It's science. It's proven.

Writing Science Fiction is no different. There are two parts to that. Yes, science-proven theories and fiction. Bald face lying. Storytelling.

Bottom line, if science fiction read like science we'd be reading textbooks, not stories that compel us to keep turning the pages. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Time Travels as Beach Reads!

I was very enthused to get this link in my Science Fiction Romance Google alerts. These two Time Travels (*ahem* I count those as Sci-Fi) are being called juicy beach reads.

I checked out the blurbs and I agree they do sound enticing. At least one of these (THE GARGOYLE) is probably going to go into now my famous Leaning Tower of TBR.

Here's the link so you can check out the article yourself. http://www.projo.com/books/content/lb_beach_reads_08-19-08_1DB7HE8_v6.2833a8f.html

Friday, August 15, 2008

Polite behaviour

I know it's frowned on to use blogs to moan about agents, publishing companies, etc etc and I'm not getting at anyone in particular - (well I am, but I won't say who) but where has politeness gone? Why can't an enquiry by email be answered with a yeah or nay? Is it so difficult and time wasting to offer a polite reply to an enquiry? I know many agents etc get lots and lots of enquiries but I think it's so rude to not even give a response, particulary when you respond to a request they put out for something. This agent - who will remain anonymous because I'm not into getting at individuals - asked - no, pleaded on his-her blog for a certain type of story. I happen to have written what he-she asked for and sent a polite enquiry with the first three chapters and synopsis. I'd rather have had a brief - sorry, not for me - than to be ignored. This was the second time I had no response - different submission. I told myself the first time - well, he-she might not have got the email. Second time I realise it's the way he-she operates. It's arrogant and unpleasant and you know - I wouldn't want him-her as an agent. I don't care how many hundreds of emails he-she gets - it's easy to flip a reply back.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Heads up.

Heads up Skiffy Rommers, Susan Grant's got a new book out in Feb of 2009.
'The Warlord's Daughter.'

Go here for a sneak peak at the cover. http://susangrant.blogspot.com
It's beautiful.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tor Science Fiction Romance Discussion Group

Well, Heather over at The Galaxy Express has done it again. She's a virtual dynamo at promoting our particular addiction. Check it out and register so you can join the fun:

http://www.tor.com/index.php?option=com_fireboard&func=view&id=919

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Want to Believe

Ah yes, our classic question, once again.

Is it Science Fiction Romance?

I Want to Believe, the latest X-Files motion picture is about to be released. Are you an X-Filite, like I am? What intrigued you the most about the show? The never-ending quest for the truth about extraterrestrial presence on Earth, or the relationship between FBI partners Fox "Spooky" Mulder and Dana Scully? I considered myself a huge fan of the series, but recent reviews dished out a tidbit that I missed somewhere along the way and left me open-mouthed. Mulder and Scully had a child? OMG! How did I miss that plot twist?

I hope to see the movie when its released. Although hints reveal the Mulder and Scully still won't find the truth that's out there, I wonder what new developments might happen between them? So, is the X-Files a Science Fiction Romance? In my book, you bet!

Read more here:
http://www.dailynewstribune.com/movies/x634931841/I-Want-to-Believe-will-leave-X-Files-series-fans-with-same-questions

Monday, July 21, 2008

Computers can endanger health

Apart from eye strain and finger strain, and the fact that using the damn thing is compulsive, watch your step!!!! I put down my laptop to answer the phone, tripped on the lead for the mouse, because I don't like the touch screen cursor and went flying! Blood all over the place, broken arm, broken leg - okay not broken arm and leg but there was blood. And there will be bruises since I landed flat out on the floor. Hoisted myself up and staggered to the phone only to hear a ship's siren and an automated voice saying - This is your captain speaking. One advantage of automated calls - you can say what you like and they can't hear you.
Oh good grief - I hope I hadn't just won a cruise.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Consolation Prize


Well, The Consolation Prize has a tentative release date with Loose-Id of August 5th. Yippee!!

Isn't the cover great!
Thanks again to Dawn and the crew for help with the blurb!
You are invited to spend four days at Sunset Spa, Washburn Hall. Accommodation and nourishment provided. All spa treatments included.’
It should have been a big thrill—an all expenses paid trip, but it was the topping on Chloe’s really bad night. She’d lost her promotion, destroyed a pair of designer pumps and given in her notice. Washburn Hall, where her family died, was the last place she wanted to go. But Chloe is pulled towards the spa by forces beyond her control.

Luka is handsome, rich and gay. That’s what he’d like everyone to think. Luka is a Trueblood, a fertile vampire. Not a bad thing, unless being staked out in the sun and fried to a crisp is appealing. But his secret is out. Shanghaied into stud service, he’s chained up in a basement.

Chloe wonders if the gorgeous naked man in chains is part of the all-inclusive package. Free him and run. Simple enough. After all, the only thing between Chloe and the man of her dreams is a few horny vamps, a decent set of bolt cutters and a step-grandmother from hell. Piece of cake.

Who said the trip to the spa wouldn’t be fun?


Friday, June 20, 2008

Great lines.

So, we all see them. We all think wow, that's clever or that's great. We've seen them in classics and not so classics. We've heard our favorite actors say them. "Frankly, Scarlet. I don't give a damn." or "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." And a personal favorite--"It's been a long time since I smelled beautiful."

Or from novels, unforgetable words that send a shiver down our spines as in Ray Bradbury's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes'--"The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm."

How about the image this invokes? "In a galaxy far, far away..."

The point is, there are some lines you'll never forget. You hear them, read them and you know exactly what story they came from. An image instantly forms in your mind and you smile. I'm curious, what are your favorite lines?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Choosing Titles

Oh, what a problem. I like to have a title before I start writing, if only to name my document but if I can't come up with one, I launch into the story hoping inspiration will strike before too long. Perfect Timing was not the first choice for that story but 'Driving Miss Daisy' was a bit risque and too close to the film I would guess, so dismissed. Perfect Timing is hardly original but it does fit the story I wrote so I grew to like it. We can all get very precious about our titles, fearing someone will beat us to punch. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant one, only to google and find three other books using it. Oops.
So what makes a good title? Short, snappy? Does it come before you start? When you finish? In the middle? Do you brain storm?
I like series titles eg. Naked Prey, Hidden Prey or Dark Lover, Dark Lord, or Lover Revealed, Lover Awakened - shame I haven't written a series!
My first ever full length story was called Unnatural Selection - about a girl raped by her step father who then runs to New York and gets trawled up in the underworld and becomes the mistress of a mafioso and is then kidnapped by his even worse son. She brings their drug empire down almsot singlehandedly. I thought that title was sooo good. Pity the story wasn't!
My latest story is about a werewolf and a vampire and I'm struggling. Moon struck. Moon shine. Man in the moon. Moon lust. Blue moon. Sense a theme? I probably need to drop the moon. Overdone, over used, over.... but inspiration still hasn't grabbed me by the throat and ripped it out. Oh no, that was the werewolf.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rants

*Snort*
Just went through the bulk mail, and I have to laugh at some of the names they come up with to sell their male enhancement products. Do they really think this is going to entice me to open this spam? Here are a few fine examples.

Ava Shaven
Fanny Call
Brad Hung
Antwan Crotch
Randall Balls

Yes! Sign me up. With that kind of marketing, how can I resist?
Delete.
Delete.
Delete.
Wait, what’s this one? Guaranteed to make me smile. Uh, only when I hit...
Delete. *giggles with glee*

You want to make me smile, Randall? Bring me a large iced coffee, x-tra, x-tra and leave me alone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Adventures in House Flipping and Multiple Reasons Why You Shouldn't Let Your Husband Watch Home Improvement Shows Part III.

Spiders.

Not just any spiders, cannibalistic spiders that are as big as a mouse living in the crawl space under my house.

I suppose I should probably explain a couple of things about me. I’m an Army woman, hard core, tough as nails. I’ve crawled through the mud, trained with men and held my own. But when you strip off all the layers of mud and camo, underneath it is all girl. That being said, I like perfume, dressing up, wearing heels, and along with being female, I have female fears. Have I ever told you the one thing I'm terrified of?

Snakes—no I think they're cute.

Mice—nasty—but no.

Men in net shirts and denim cut-offs—okay you got me there, but that should put the fear of god into any woman. Bonus terror points for back hair.

NO, my greatest fear by far and with gooooood reason—spiders. You get one near me and I'll have a heart attack. You see, it started as a child when I got one of those great big white, marshmallow-bodied, barn spiders caught in my hair. It escalated when I was in the Army, on a training exercise and was bitten all over my face by a spider. My eyes swelled shut, I couldn’t open them and I could barely breathe. They had to rush me back to post before my throat closed up. So no, I don’t like them.

Guess who was in the crawl space laying down ant poison? Yeah. All was going fine. I’d sucked it up and braved the underside of the house. I mean, how bad could it be? My husband, kids, even his 80 year old grandfather had been under there all week. So when my husband told me he really could use my help putting the ant poison down, I figured, why not. Nobody has said anything about stuff crawling around under there. I donned a pair of jeans, leather work gloves and a cap. Looking like a true house-flipping professional, I sucked in a deep breath and crawled into the darkness. Flashlight in hand, I worked my way along the foundation until I was about three quarters of the way back, about 80 feet, when I shined my flashlight on this support beam connected to the sill, looking for ants, something scurried along it. Of course I think it's a mouse. I follow the critter’s path with my ray of light. To my horror I discover it’s not a mouse, a rat, or anything of the mammal persuasion. Oh, no it would have to be the one thing that makes the blood in my veins run cold and it was staring at me.

A great big hairy brown spider. Of course like an idiot, I sat there on my hands and knees, paralyzed with fear, watching it. Soon it was joined by a friend, not quite as big as a silver dollar. Then another about the size of a quarter. The smaller spider crawled over to the biggest one and when it touched its hairy brown legs, the gianourmous spider sprang, bit it and started to wrap it in silk. What came next was the makings of a horror movie, it started to eat it. Barely able to keep breakfast down, I decided I couldn’t allow it to remain under my house. After all, it might find a way to enter the domain above and that was not acceptable. So like a moron, I took this board and squashed it. Green goo squirted out its back end, and then the damn thing proceeded to crawl away. One more time, but with greater force. I smacked it as hard as I could, vibrating the beam.

In that moment, I learned a valuable lesson. Spiders travel in packs. Really, really, big packs. I’m not kidding. Great big and hairy wasn't alone. Two hundred of his friends took that moment to jump from the beam like living popcorn.

How fast do you think one woman can crawl on her hands and knees from under a house? I think I set a record and I'm sure my scream loosened a few floorboards. Never, never again. I'm tossing an insecticide bomb under there. I'm traumatized, scarred for life. And that bastard of a husband knew they were under there when he sent me. “Oh let’s send the wife under there, ought to be good for a couple of chuckles. Har, har.” We’ll see how he likes it when I take the scissors to all his underwear. See, I’m a girl, I like lacy clothes, looking pretty, I’m scared of spiders and among other things, I can be vindictive. Real vindictive.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words


"The Agony of Defeat"
-- the late Jim McKay

Owner Michael Iavarone and Big Brown after his crushing defeat in the Belmont Stakes yesterday. Big Brown's loss ended his bid to capture the first Triple Crown in thirty years, a feat many, including his trainer, believed was "a foregone conclusion."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Welcome to Rejectionville...

or You Gotta Have Faith

To quote Joan Rivers, “Can we talk?”

I’m not supposed to blog that I’m not breaking down doors and setting the world on fire with my queries letters. Ah, well. My Mom taught me never to lie.

Since the most common advice to an aspiring author is “keep trying” I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. But, it does get frustrating. (I know, I’m not supposed to admit that either.) And not just for my own work, but also when I see my peers meet with the same closed doors* when I know first hand how wonderful their work is. I’m beginning to think “market” should be a four-letter word. [*Barbara, of course, has now broke through the debut author barrier, since she’s published one novel and has sold two more.] I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it once more (today, at least): Some of the best novels I’ve ever read have yet to be published.

So I’ve done a lot of chatting, commiserating and war-story exchanging with my peers and I’ve come to a conclusion. What’s the most important factor in turning an unpublished project into a published novel? Faith.

To put things in perspective, here are a few familiar names that made it through the chamber of torture we call the query process.

William Saroyan received about 7000 rejections (a 30-inch stack!) before he sold a short
Ray Bradbury has received around 1000 rejections over his 30 year career
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- Rejected 150+ times
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach -- Rejected 140 times
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde -- Received 76 rejection letters
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -- Rejected 38 times
Chicken Soup for the Soul by Hansen and Canfield-- 33 rejections, dropped by agent
Watership Down by Richard Adams -- 26 rejections.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle's – Rejected 26 times
Dune by Frank Herbet – Rejected nearly 20 times
M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker -- Rejected 17 times
Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot -- Rejected 17 times
The Diary Of Anne Frank -- Rejected 16 times
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – Rejected 9 times
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child – rejected repeatedly

Surprised? Look at the comments on some of these:

Tony Hillerman was once told to "get rid of all that Indian stuff."

Someone said of J.G. Ballard: "The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help."

About Sanctuary, William Faulkner was told: "Good God, I can't publish this. We'd both be in jail."

Of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, someone wrote: “The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material.”

And how about this classic: “I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."

You see? We are not alone in the rejection universe! There’s a lot of famous people here with us.

Everyone gets rejected. Yes, rejections hurt, but they aren’t intended to cause injury. Agents and editors have a genuine interest in seeing authors—especially debut authors—succeed in a big way. If you’re ready to give up after a few rejections (and many do) then maybe all you need is some perspective.

Writing is a business. I think the failure rate of most new businesses is probably more than 90%. The ones that make it are the ones that believe in their product. They know what they sell is quality and that it deserves to be on their shelves. Writers are no different. First and foremost, they have to believe in what they’re selling.

Being an agent or a publishing house is a business, too. Most agents are taking a huge chance when they give a writer’s work the nod because they see something shiny and sparkly in the work. They’re taking a chance that their attention, time and effort is going to pay off. They are acting on faith. There’s no guarantee they’ll get any return for all their hard work. Publishing houses are also taking a huge chance, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. They spend a lot to produce and distribute an author’s book, and they take on a lot of risk. They do this because they believe the book is going to make a profit. In order for an agent and an editor to believe and have faith in your work, you have to believe in it first. Believe it’s the best possible product it can be and that it’s going to turn the world on its ear. If you don’t believe it, who else will?

Receiving a rejection does not mean that your work sucks. The most likely reasons it was rejected have to do with market or not being a good fit for what an agency or publishing house represents. Sometimes it can be about the agent’s or editor’s mood that particular day, or personal taste, or an element in the story that strikes a negative chord with them. None of this has anything to do with your writing ability. None of this means the next person you query isn’t going to fall in love with your work.

You can save yourself some pain by researching who you should query. Sure, you can send out a hundred queries at a time, spray the industry with random bullets, as it were, but what’s the chance of hitting the target when you aren’t even aiming at one? Put another way, if you’re selling beef, you wouldn’t blanket query a bunch of vegetarians, would you?

Query smarter. Select your targets carefully.

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to boldly go out and find that certain genius who’s going to recognize the potential in your manuscript. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into a five-year mission, but be prepared to do what it takes, as long as it takes. To quote one of my MC’s favorite phrases: “Keep your eye on the prize.”

And meanwhile, remember…you’re in very good company in Rejectionville.

Here’s a few links that might also help inspire you:
http://literaryzone.com/?p=340
http://www.theroseandthornezine.com/Article/31Rejections.html
http://www.debbieohi.com/personal/rejections.html

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The soft side of a man, odd habits and quirks.

We all have our thoughts on what makes or breaks a romance story. For me, nothing makes a story more than when an author has a character driven novel and the reader feels like this character is real. They have pasts, they have problems and yes, they have habits and quirks. These little touches can really bring a story to life.

I watched my husband with a hummingbird the cat got last week. I’d been painting the door and had it cracked open for the paint to dry. The cat bumped through and raced for my son’s room. My husband sat up in his chair, then bolted to his feet. “He’s got a mouse!” The cat dropped his prize at the foot of my son’s bed, just as my husband got there. Not a mouse, a hummingbird. It buzzed past his head and landed on the dresser.

The thing that really struck me, that tugged at the heartstrings and made me all mushy inside, was the way he scooped it up and cradled it in a dishtowel. Its little heart was pounding a thousand beats a minute and we didn’t know if it was too frightened to fly, or too hurt. It had flown up to the dresser, but after it got here, it collapsed. My husband was so gentle with it, so concerned. A side I rarely see, of my rough around the edges soldier boy. I’m talking a hard-core, combat trained, tough as nails Gulf War Army Veteran.

I love a man that once in awhile can let that softer side slip and give you a small glimpse, as my husband did. It genuinely upset him. He kept telling it, "It's okay sweetheart. It’s okay." He took it outside, nestled in the towel, and put it up high where it was safe. All along talking so soft. One of those fleeting ‘Aw’, moments for me.

Then he screamed at the cat and called it an asshole. A very fleeting moment, but that’s the man I know and love.

So, why am I telling you this?

The best stories imitate life. If you intend to build realistic characters, you need to work real life into the story. Take things that happen you, like the situation above and use them to breathe life into your text. Give your characters, character. Watch, observe, and write what you see. Spy on people. Snoop and be nosey. Go ahead, you’re a writer, you have a license to do it. In my opinion, the most compelling characters are those that have odd habits, little quirks and occasionally you get a glimpse of a rare side of them, as I did with my husband.

I remember when my youngest son was three. My older child was six at the time and used to hide behind the shower curtain and jump out at his brother when he sat down on the toilet. It scared him something terrible. He’d run out, pants around the ankles, screaming at the top of his lungs and crying. He took to wearing a happy meal, trick-or-treat bucket on his head and carrying a water pistol after that. In his mind, he was well armed. Regardless, he’d always rip the curtain back before he sat down. Twelve years later, he’s lost the bucket and pistol, but he still rips that shower curtain open. I hear it every time he goes into the bathroom. He’ll probably continue to do this for the rest of his life. For him, it’s second nature. An odd quirk.

It’s those odd quirks I love in the stories I read. All kinds of experiences shape and mould us into the people we become. Why should it be any different for our characters? Take time and think about your characters as children. What experiences did they have? What makes them the men and women they become? There’s nothing worse than cookie-cutter characters. You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all seen them. They fall flat and the readers don’t care about them. If you want them to walk off the pages and capture the hearts of your readers, build these traits into your characters. It will breathe life into them. Go ahead, give them quirks and habits, make them a bit neurotic, a klutz, or compulsive. These little life events make great material. Use them.

It's about a grizzled veteran and a hummingbird, a child and his fear of the monster in the shower, and the three hundred pound, bear of a man, neighbor, that takes the trash out in the morning only to meet a baby skunk. He dances around in his wifes fluffy pink robe, trash bags in hand, screaming like a little girl. Unforgetable moments that make you laugh, cry or react. These are the elements of a great story. These are the things I love to see.

The best books I’ve read have characters that are developed in such a manner. It’s all part of the world building. In Sci Fi and Fantasy we’ve got great elements to play with and sometimes we get so caught up in our worlds we forget it’s the characters that make these worlds come to life. So go ahead, give em some quirks. I dare you.

As for our friend the hummingbird... Not to worry. It survived. After about an hour, we went back on the porch where we'd left it. It was gone.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Ramble: Coincidence in Fiction

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is coincidence.

Sound familiar? How about this? "Life imitates art."

The question of coincidence has been a plot point in at least one popular movie. In Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone's character is a wealthy heiress and author. When her parents and a lover die in circumstances very similar to murder scenes from her books, detectives are suspicious. The coincidence might be incriminating evidence.

Coincidence in fiction is a real concern, or there wouldn't be a reason for the above paraphrased blurb.

Coincidence happens.

As writers, the need to pen "fresh, original" material craved by editors and agents, but even when we think our ideas are exciting and new, that may not be the case. I mentioned Dawn's run-in with the Crystal Skull problem in my Cliches and Icons post. Sometimes writers create situations in their minds that have already happened, will happen in the future, or become part of pop culture. Ever heard the adage about putting a monkey in a room with a typewriter and eventually he'll (or she'll) write an entire novel? Yeah, it's kinda like that. If you can dream it up and type it, it's probably something that actually happened somewhere, sometime, or is in someone else's novel.

But coincidence in fiction isn't just about names or a sequence of events. Sometimes things can take an almost prophetic turn.

I wrote an early draft of Draxis many years ago. As fate or bad luck or forces of irony would have it, my main character's name is Katrina and there's a reference to her in an ancient legend as "The Wind of Change." Lo and behold, years later the name Katrina comes up for a developing hurricane in the Atlantic, and this terrible storm proceeds to devastate New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast. People die or endure terrible hardship, and an entire region is left a water-logged wasteland. Suddenly, critiquers who had no problem with my character's name the week before became incensed that I would invoke such terrible memories by using it. I thought a long time on what to do. I resisted changing her name; I felt it suited her character. My decision was to--pardon the inappropriate pun--weather the storm. A friend pointed out that no would would have taken exception to a character named Andrew or Camille, but those had also been devastating class five hurricanes. Time passes and painful memories fade. It was only the timing that made my character's name controversial. I kept her name Katrina. I haven't had a negative comment for over a year. Public sensitivity ebbs and flows.

Names can be a touchy subject. No one quibbles if your character is named Mary, John or Thomas. Come up with something more exotic and chances are someone else did first. I changed the names of two of my characters multiple times before I was satisfied with Ryn, my staunch, manipulative admiral in P2PC, and Timmar, my Jeckyl-and-Hydesque assassin in Draxis. As it turned out, both of my "original" names were character names in novels I later read. So much for originality. Since I'm an avid reader of both authors' work, I worried about this quite a bit. I emailed them to express my concerns (dismay) over the coincidence and wondered if I should (*sigh*) change the character names, yet again. Both had a similar response. [paraphrased] Don't worry about it. This is far from a rare occurrence in fiction.

Yup, coincidence happens.

I haven't changed the names (again) to date, but I may in the future. This will be a good question to ask an editor when the books reach this stage. As writers, we have to think of our work like clay. A WIP is exactly that, a work in progress. It can be reshaped, tweaked, and manipulated at any point in the editing/marketing process. Nothing we write is carved in granite.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday Morning Ramble: Cliches and Icons

My co-bloggers and I have had a few conversations recently about the new Indiana Jones movie, the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You see, in one of Dawn's novels, a major element is a crystal skull. Now she's in a situation. Forge on at the risk of agents or editors deeming it "a cliche' that's been done before" and assuming she copied the idea from popular media, or come up with a new artifact in its place that might not fit the story as well.

Dawn said: The thing about it is, nobody had anything like it. It took a lot of research to pull it off and make you feel like you were in SA when I've never been there. I chose the crystal skulls because they've been found on every continent on the planet and the true mystery is that nobody knows where they really came from. And here's something to chew on, if a silcone chip can store the data it does on a computer, what could an object that size hold?

We try to dream up original, fresh ideas, but how original is original? How fresh is fresh? That can change in a few weeks. Sometimes in a day. Even in minutes. If you've been working on a manuscript for a while, chances are someone is going to come up with something close to your premise, your characters or an important story element, or there's going to be a major news event that echoes it. How quickly can you roll with the punches and transform an overnight cliche' into something else?

Writing requires a lot more than talent with words, plots, dialogue and character development. Like any business it's about knowing the market, the market trends, and the competitions' product (though it rankles me to think of other writers' work in that way). As writers, we have to be in the know. Sometimes we have to make gut-wrenching decisions about our work because of recent events. At other times, we have to weigh the risk. In time, a cliche' may no longer be a cliche' but a rediscovered idea. Something that's fresh once more.

Part II: Coincidences will be posted soon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Blog

For all the SciFiRom fans out there, I've been notified of a new blog devoted to this subgenre: The Galaxy Express.

Yea! We're gaining momentum.

Be sure to stop by and visit this gorgeous, well organized site. Heather obviously spent a lot of time on it, and her posts feature her unique, fun voice. Be sure to check out the SciFiRom authors by decade.

http://thegalaxyexpress.blogspot.com/

We've also added it to our blog links at right.

Telling the truth-

- as far as your opinions of books are concerned. Always, sometimes, never?
I suppose in a private conversation you can say what you think about a book, assuming you're not my husband and it's not my book he's talking about. Only - it's wonderful - will do, dear, if you value your bits ands pieces.
But on the internet where your opinions can be read by the world and possibly the author you're reviewing , how truthful dare you be? If you hate a book, would you tell everyone? If there were aspects you didn't like, would you always temper them with praise for the few bits you did? Easy to proclaim your love for a story. Far harder when you detest it.
I made the mistake once of telling the truth about a debut book in a very blunt way and I upset the author. She said I didn't but I know I did and I apologised. Not for the fact that I hated her book for so many reasons, but the way I expressed my opinion. I don't like to upset people and I thought about how I would react if someone hated any of my stories. Rejection from agents and publishers is one thing, but a deep down detestation of something that might have taken a year to write is something else.

But in this world we live in, praise is seen as all -important. Do we only want to hear praise? Can't we learn from constructive criticism? We should be able to and I hope I do but I'm very cautious now about reviewing anything I really don't like. Consequently I wonder if authors get a false idea of the way their books are perceived. If everyone gushes, do they think they've written a masterpiece? Are you brave enough to tell them you didn't like it, when the rest of the world appears to?

I'm reading a romance by an author I like very much. It's her latest book and I paid $14.00 for it. She's a bit formulaic but generally I like the formula. Forceful MCs - straight down to the heavy stuff with blunt language. But in this latest, the woman is vulnerable, trying to look after her sick brother, even contemplating the horror of sleeping with a guy (not the MC) in order to get her brother the help he needs. All OK so far. Then suddenly, the MCs are in bed together. The woman who was sweet and gentle although determined and brave- is so desperate to get into bed with the hero I was taken aback. Her language changed, her behaviour - everything. It was such a character jump, I wondered if I'd skipped a few pages by accident. In addition, the POV changed so much it was confusing.
The story has been bought by one of the big publishers so someone must have read it and loved it but I don't know why. I've read almost every book by that author and this is the second that has left me disappointed. (Not the one I read prior to this but a year or so ago) It has to be the name that's sold it and to be honest, the name sold it to me but I wonder if these big names ever get anything rejected?
I

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Take It To the Stars Q&A

What do you find sexy in a story and what falls flat? Do you like explicit scenes, or do you preferred it toned down with closed doors and everything left to the imagination, or something in between. What makes a great Romance great? What makes a character sexy, puts sizzle between the pages and what turns you off?
In a nutshell, tell me what makes a Romance story one you'd pick up and read from cover to cover. The Happily Ever After is a given, I want to know about everything in between.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Brenda Novak 2008 Auction

Thanks to Dawn for letting us know about this one.

The Brenda Novak 2008 Online Auction to Benefit Diabetes research has something for everyone, but especially for those who write. You can bid on a variety of agent evaluations, author critiques, and editor evaluations. What a great way to get solid feedback on your novel, and participate in a good cause at the same time. You may see some well known names among those listed. There are also an assortment of items--jewelry, handcrafted items, books, you name it.

http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Home.taf

Check it out, join in the fun, and help benefit diabetes research.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time

Sometimes I wonder if it's worth getting out of bed. Today I should have stayed there but since I didn't - have a look at how not to spend your time.
-woke at 2.00am - I'd like to blame jetlag but it was drunken son and friend rolling home.
-woke at 3.00am - That might be jet lag or possibly husband snoring
-woke at 5.00am - Got up, switched on computer and since house was so cold, sat in nighty, scarf and son's T-shirt to work.
- 5.15 - made coffee and settled back at computer
-5.30 -one word written, made another coffee.
-ooh kitchen a mess, dishwasher needs emptying, broken glass on shelf, prawns on the kitchen table, strange thing in sink?? Yuk.
-6.00 - escape to gym
-8.00 -return feeling self-righteous but exhausted
-8.30 start writing four times only to be interrupted to make tea, breakfast, wash son's essential clothing he hasn't managed to put in his own machine, make more tea, iron son's essential clothing
-11.00 - five words written. Daughter is bored and wants to bore me. Send her shopping with husband. Son decides to bother me.
-11.45 I put 12 books up for sale on ebay - after daughter explains intricacies of camera. Oh that switches it on! Realize I've made mistake with postage and will be giving the things away.
- my presence is demanded to help get garden furniture out of the attic. I didn't need all my toes anyway.
-BBQ - great, I only have to organise food, table, drinks - clean up everything but not cook. Isn't that thoughtful
- Son washes garden furniture - what a saint
-daughter wants mother to drive her to rail station. 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back. 12 speed cameras, 18 sets of traffic lights and creativity slumping every minute that passes.
- son has already left when i get back.
-Hooray- me time.
- son has left hose running - water bill will now be huge. Husband discovers that son has left hose on for the whole of last week while we were away. Huge bill will now be giant huge bill.
-Damn - plot crisis, character crisis, worry over water bill
- husband calls for tea
-husband calls for food
-husband calls for - well he can forget that.
8.00pm - delete all 150 words I managed today.
Bedtime.


-

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Nick DiChario

Another epic novel made it into print this month, and I wanted to add my two cents in promoting it. Based on Nick DiChario’s first novel being such a success, knowing he’s a talented intellectual with a delightful sense of humor, I can’t wait to get my copy of VALLEY OF DAY-GLO.

I had the privilege of Nick’s help when I took my first, non-college, writing class. Not only a remarkable teacher, a quote from him gets me through the low spots as I attempt to break into the sci-fi market. ‘Wonderful weird.’ And those 2 words are all I’ll say about me.

In Nick’s words:

My first novel, A Small and Remarkable Life, is set in the middle 1800s and is as much historical as it is science fiction (maybe even more so). I did a lot of historical research on how people lived and survived in those days, and some of it even got into the book.

My second novel is completely different. Valley of Day-Glo is a far-future, post-apocalyptic comedy written in the absurdist tradition of some of my favorite authors (Franz Kafka, Mikhail Bulgakov, Samuel Beckett, Kurt Vonnegut, for example.) The story has a completely different style and tone from my previous novel, and I hope my readers will enjoy the departure.

A blurb I copied of Small and Remarkable Life:

The much-anticipated first novel by Hugo and World Fantasy Award nominee Nick DiChario puts a spin on the story of being stranded on an alien planet, cut off from your own people, unsuited to your new environment, and physically different from everyone else. This is what the young alien Tink Puddah must face when his parents are killed on their first day on Earth in the year 1845, and Tink finds himself stranded in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

A story of courage, determination, hope, and survival, A Small and Remarkable Life chronicles the journey of two people headed in very different directions: the alien Tink Puddah, a lonely outsider who finds the strength and resources within him to endure the most brutal and unforgiving conditions, and the holy man Jacob Piersol, determined to save Tink's soul, but tortured by his own past and the God who seems unable to console him.

A blurb I copied of Day-Glo:

In the grand tradition of Vonnegut's absurdist fiction, Nick DiChario’s second novel Valley of Day-Glo, a post apocalyptic satire, tells the story of young Indian brave named Broadway Danny Rose and his search for the mythic titular valley where "death becomes life".

Following a nuclear blast, the Iroquois are among humanity's only survivors. Some have returned to the ways of the past, while others attempt to honor those same traditions, while at the same time drawing their names from the buried remnants of white (or Honio’o) society. Many take their names from films or theatre, such as Broadway Danny's parents, Mother Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Father The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Using Iroquois myth and tradition as a touchstone, DiChario skillfully roasts our materialistic and gluttonous society. Danny's journey from his homeland to the mythic Valley leads him to civil war, love and loss, hermitage and pyramid schemes. Science fiction is often called the genre of ideas, and Valley of Day-Glo is no exception.

AWARDS:

World Fantasy Award nominee

Nominated for two Hugo Awards

John W. Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer

A Small and Remarkable Life was nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel of the Year (2006).

Some of Nick's plays have been presented in Geva Theatre’s Regional Playwrights Festival in upstate New York

WEB SITE: http://www.nickdichario.com/


--Arlene

Monday, May 12, 2008

Writers At Play

In my internet wanderings, I found this blog of like-minded writers and accepted their invitation to "steal" their "Writers At Play" logo and install it on our blog. See lower right. (I figured since they posted an invite, they wouldn't mind a spontaneous snatch.) Since we are also writers at play, I couldn't resist.

Click on the icon to visit their site, or click in the link list under "Other Blogs/Sites of Interest."

Friday, May 9, 2008

Moonstruck to be Released May 25

In my blog site wanderings, it came to my attention that Susan Grant's MOONSTRUCK will be released later this month (May 25). I'm looking forward to reading it, as the advance reviews indicate it will be an edgier Sci Fi Rom...maybe even a breakthrough novel.

Here's the link to Susan Grant's web page featuring MOONSTRUCK. (Dawn, I'm sure you already have this one earmarked. :) )

http://www.susangrant.com/books/moonstruck.htm

I don't want to miss this one.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Long books

Does the length of a book matter when you choose what you want to read? The days of the bonk-busters are sort of over but every now and again, I come across an enormously long book by an author I like and have to do a hard think over whether to buy it. Last time I was in the States, I bought 'The Summer Garden' by Paullina Simons. I've read everything she's written. Loved them all. The Summer Garden is the third book in a trilogy about Alexander and Tatiana. It's a whopping 839 pages. Very hard to hold when you're lying in the sun!!! It was a great story and I was so invested in the lives of the characters by the end that I sobbed for the last 50 or so pages. Not because someone had died but because I couldn't stand to think that they might. After 839 pages I was in the story with them in a way I haven't found with shorter books. BUT I think you'd really need to be a fan of Ms Simmons to even buy this size of book in the first place. I saw a few reviews that claimed it was rather repetitive. I disagree. She built the world of their relationship in great detail and made me understand the strengths and weaknesses in their marriage. Maybe she didn't need 839 pages but I was hooked all the way through.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Blue Devils

This is the US Blue Devils, a military horse unit my spouse is a member of, carrying in the colors at the Rolex Horse trials, the largest horse show in North America. Over 75,000 people on the grounds, 25,000 in the stands and a world wide television audience of over 1 billion. This is the first time in the history of this event that any Army unit has been allowed to carry in the colors.

Left to right CW4 Dyk on "Piet Hein" SFC Babb on "Calvin" and Captain Avison on "Capito."

The event is being rebroadcast on Euro Sport, and NBC will do a one hour special on May 4 from 5pm to 6pm EDT. That will cover the entire three day event.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

PERFECT TIMING Party!

I found the perfect cake for our little Take it to the Stars Book Launch Party.

What do you think? ;)

OK, pass the champagne and party snacks. It's almost time...

Congratulations, Barbara, on your book debut!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wednesday is the BIG DAY!

PERFECT TIMING by our own Barbara Elsborg is now on the launchpad.

Barbara's debut novel is a funny, steamy romp that takes place during a role-play murder mystery weekend at an English manor.

Release date: April 30th

Ellora's Cave

Ellora's Cave Romantica Publishing - Home/New Releases

News Flash! Read Barbara's interview about PERFECT TIMING on the Toasted Scimitar blog.

http://www.toasted-scimitar.blogspot.com/

Read Barbara's interview on LadyJaided e-magazine here:

Lady Jaided, the Ellora's Cave Magazine

Read Dawn's promotional blurb here:

http://takeittothestars.blogspot.com/2008/04/perfect-timing.html

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another Landmark

Take it to the Stars surpassed 2,500 hits today. :)

Thanks for reading us.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Make Sure I'm Not in the Lead

My First 'Not a Comment':

Blog: Maintain or add content to a website. Intimidating. Might as well be up on stage giving a speech, but no shot of vodka makes it easier. The words once blogged are always out there...kind of like being published. How exciting! No hook, synopsis nightmare. Yes, I like this!

Writer: One who creates written word. Fill that whiteness. Characters perform or they get tortured-killer, and never get the girl-boy-alien, once their creator hits the delete key. Yes, I like this!

From grandparents to pre-schoolers, cell phones fill the air. Personal websites connect us in ways I never would have imagined as a child sitting in an apple tree, hiding from siblings and chores, reading classic and cartoons.

The world is smaller, yet expanding so vast with endless creations for everyone to share. Multitudes of universes created by authors everywhere, pictures and audio posted for anyone with connection to enjoy or rant about. Yep, interesting times.

Yet, I can't get over the little things. Despite being shown, oh I say twice, he'll say 18 times by my son how to lose that stupid little icon thing in the corner of the cell screen saying I missed a call, its bugging me on my phone now.

And now the next step to master without asking for direction, it seems too silly, is how to post. So, I'm messing around, driving aimlessly.

Laurie, if this shows, remember your meds. You keep thinking I'm real, but I'm only the drop-dead gorgeous heroine in your latest WIP (work in progress for the acronym challenged) so, delete me! Yes, able to be deleted, I like this!

Here's to losing chunks of time, writing unreality into concrete form.

Take: A manner of getting something into ones possession or control. Aggressive
It: A cousin in the Adam's family. Silly
To: Denoting a motion toward. Literal
The: He hung on a T. Visual
Stars: Massive luminous balls of ionized gas. Wondrous--I love these times we life in.




Thursday, April 17, 2008

MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND Nomination

Lisa Shearin has shared some great news:

This is what I've been waiting to tell everyone!! *HUGE GRIN* Since it's been announced over on Science Fiction Awards Watch http://www.sfawardswatch.com/ I can officially announce it myself:

Magic Lost, Trouble Found is one of five finalists for the Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award for the best debut novel of the year. The award is voted on by members of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and will be awarded at their annual convention (Balticon) on Memorial Day weekend.

Needless to say, I was thrilled and amazed to be included in such great company. Check out the other nominees -- WOW!:

The Blade Itself, Joe Abercombie (Pyr)


The Outback Stars, Sandra McDonald (Tor)


The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss (DAW)

Magic Lost, Trouble Found, Lisa Shearin (Ace)

One Jump Ahead, Mark Van Name (Baen)


Being a huge fan, I'm very excited. (As if you couldn't tell?)

Congratulations, Lisa!!!!!

P.S. Lisa's next book in the series ARMED & MAGICAL premiers on April 29, a day before Barbara's PERFECT TIMING is released on April 30.

*\o/* *\o/* *\o/* *\o/* *\o/* *\o/* *\o/*

Bullying

It seems to me that every day in the papers there's an article about bullying and people suing schools years later because they were bullied and the school did nothing. Parents are quick to rail if their child is picked on. It makes me wonder if its worse now that it was when I was at school or just that perceptions suggest that. I was bullied because I was tall. 5' 10 and three quarter inches. I was called all sorts of names and spent many nights crying into my pillow. It cut me off from any sort of relationship with boys at school because they were all smaller than me. Being the tallest girl in school aged 12 was no fun. But it made me a writer. In my stories I could be the heroine, the one that got the guy, that saved the day and I created a world where I could be happy. I read voraciously - in those days the library got shirty if you took a book back the same day because they weren't prepared to sort through the tickets manually. No problem now the computer has taken over. I read maybe 10 books a week all through my teens. The boys in the books never called me names. They were the ones I fell in love with. And that's why I fall in love with every hero I create. My favourite is Charlie - a popstar turning film star who has so many problems he tries to kill himself. He's just begging to be saved by my heroine. I just need to find a publisher who agrees with me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Part II. Adventures in House-Flipping and Multiple Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Husband Watch Home Improvement Shows.

Day 12: Today was all about ripping out walls and ceilings, gutting the monster where it sits. Gone are the boxes of mouse poop, musty magazines and discarded clothing. Nothing but walls and ceilings. My husband has decided I will be of more use at our house for the time being. What am I talking about? I know, I know. He really needed me down there. Yes and no. Things are getting a bit more complicated. My husband gathered the family earlier this week to lay the news on us. We’re not just flipping it now; we’re going to be moving in when we’re done.

So what’s all this mean? Well... It means for one, I’ve got not only one house to fix up, but two. My mission, should I chose to accept it, and I didn’t have a choice, is to pack up and stage the home I’ve lived in for 15 years. I hummed and hawed about where to start for at least an hour, then finally decided on the kitchen.

First off, where did all this stuff come from? I don’t remember having moved this much in. The first item to go, Tupperware lids. I had boxes and boxes of Tupperware lids and not a container in sight to put them on. Seems the husband likes to take the dishes, but only bring the lids home. Which begs one to ask, where do they go? I mean is it like the socks when you stick them in the dryer? Do they rearrange their molecules and shift to another plain? Where? It’s a mystery. However, I can tell you where the lids went. Recyclable plastics. Therefore, if you’re looking for a couple hundred lids for your topless Tupperware containers, there you go.

Of course, my duties don’t end there. Oh no, that would be too easy. Seems I’ve opened a catering business. Yes, you heard me. I cooked a ham dinner, with all the trimmings packed it up, and hauled it down to the work site to feed the men. I set up tables and had the whole picnic thing going. It smelled good, looked good. I was so proud of the spread I’d put on. We had a beautiful day for it too. Sixty-degree temps and sunshine. What more could a girl ask for?

An animal control officer, for one.

Yes, our picnic was invaded by not one, not two, or even three dogs. Across the way is a farmhouse that the owner doesn’t live in, but her pets do. They busted out of the fence and were on the food in five seconds flat. I had four dogs, six cats and one guinea hen. It was awful. They were jumping up on the table, in the cars, on your lap, in your plates. Worse yet, they were neglected and half-starved. And the scary thing, the dogs have bitten the neighbours before. Yikes. I had to throw the ham and run. It was a feeding frenzy. I went home and made egg salad sandwhiches and the crew ate in their vehicles.

I did call animal control. Not only for the condition of the animals that raided our picnic, but for the condition of the farm animals across the street in the barnyard. Never in my life have I seen such horrible neglect. There was this donkey, his hoofs were at least six inches long and curled up on the ends like Arabian slippers. The hooves of several sheep and horses, though not as bad, were cracked to the tops and the animals lame. Tomorrow the state is paying them a visit. The last thing I wanted to do was move into the neighbourhood and make enemies. But some things you can’t turn your back on, and the abuse of animals is one of them.

Okay I've donned a pair of ruby slippers and I'm going to click my heels together and none of this will be happening. Right? Okay here I go. Wait, how about some magic words too. Bippity-boppity-boo, or is it Alakazam? Whatever, work with me, okay? I never had girls, my cartoon viewing was limited to Ninja Turtles, Sponge Bob and Rin and Stimpy. Here we go. There's no place like home...

Damn. I'll see you next week with more updates.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Stephenie Meyer

I've just finished "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer. What a story! I can't remember now why I bought it. I think I must have seen a review that praised it somewhere. Maybe on Critique Circle but this book is a real find. The interesting thing is that it's written for YA. It deals with protagonists in high school so I was a little wary of whether I'd find it interesting. But I did.
The cover is sensational. Simple and elegant as are the others in the series. Very striking. The cover alone would have made me pick it up to read the blurb.
Well, the story is about 17 year old Bella who goes to live with her father in the wettest place in the USA - in Washington State. She thinks life in the small town will be dull. Of course it isn't. She quickly becomes popular at school except with Edward Cullen. Its not giving anything away to say that Edward and his family are vampires. Edward is terrified by his attraction to Bella and so a love story is born. I think any romantic teenager or would be teenager like me - will love it.

It brought out the issue again to me of cover art, though. Until a week ago I had never read Jodi Picoult -I think that's how it's spelt. The covers feature dreamy looking child-like women and I presumed the stories were about children with terrible backgrounds - abuse etc. The one I read is called 'Mercy' and nothing like the cover led me to believe. From reviews I've read, this book is not so popular with her faithful fans but I'm glad I read it and sad that the covers put me off reading her before.

Friday, April 11, 2008

More on PERFECT TIMING

With only a little over two weeks until PERFECT TIMING is released by Ellora's Cave, I thought a little taste of what the book is about might be in order. Kudos to Dawn for writing this great teaser.

How to Seduce a Priest.

Dress as a Nun. Check.

Wear red lace underwear and stiletto heels. Check.

Drop face first in your desert and wait for the mouth to mouth. Double check.

Okay, so he wasn’t a Priest, and Daisy wasn’t a Nun, but she was really getting into the role-playing. Overall, he was her best choice. Hot, tall, rich and young. Especially young. He was also the host for the 60’s murder mystery weekend, and her best shot at rescuing her getaway from disaster.

When she’d read a 60’s murder mystery weekend, Daisy had been thinking, hippies, free love and tie dye, not varicose veins and false teeth. So, she missed one teeny, tiny word on the brochure. Over. As in, over 60’s, over the hill and when will this weekend be over?

Not one to spoil the fun for everyone else, Daisy decides to stick it out. With the hot host on the prowl, it might not be so bad.

Of course, every time she encounters Jake, she finds herself looking like an idiot. From almost knocking the… uh, bits and pieces off the statuary, to strolling in late with a sheep, she’s made quite the impression. Like an escaped mental patient. And sliding down the well-waxed banister and landing on her bum in front of him... Not a good idea.

When her charming host dresses her as a nun, Daisy wants to scream. Another impression she didn't want to make. Pious. Soon, she begins to wonder if she should go home and write the holiday off.

On the other hand, maybe not… He did wear that costume well.

Bless me father, for I have sinned...or I’d really like to.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Adventures In House Flipping





























For all of you that have been dying to see these, here they are. These were taken after a solid week of hauling out rubbish. But, I think you'll get the idea. Sorry, I hate to disappoint and not post pictures of the funnel, but a girls got to draw the line somewhere. Take note of the sill and roof-line. We will be jacking this baby up and blocking under it. Please excuse the dates on the camera. Husband malfunction.
Along the front you can see white letters. They spell out Rhythm Ranch. My husband in his infinite wisdom when he repaints the exterior, wants to repaint this name back on. Why? Is it so charming it needs to stay?

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Countdown Begins!

Everyone here at Take it to the Stars is so excited that one of our own, Flick, aka Barbara Elsborg, will be published with Ellora's Cave on April 30! Congratulations, Barbara!!!
Here's a link to the LadyJaided's Getting Nosy with Newbies interview with Barbara on PERFECT TIMING. Barbara has a rare gift with humor, as you will see!

Here's the link to Ellora's Cave main page:

Those of us who have had the priviledge of reading Barbara's other novels know this will be the first of many to come. Calling her a "very talented writer" is a huge understatement.

Excuse me, but I must run. Time for Take it to the Stars to plot our internet release party for PERFECT TIMING.

*motions Dawn, Arlene and Flick into a huddle*

Happy Monday.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Adventures in House-Flipping and Multiple Reasons Why You Shouldn't Let Your Husband Watch Home Improvement Shows

Since this wonderful project is taking up so much of my time and slowing a couple of WIPs, I figured I’d make it part of my writing. Come with me while I start this journey of insanity, someone in his or her infinite wisdom tagged ‘House Flipping’. What traumas will men like Bob Villa and fine public television shows like Flip this House bring on an average woman’s life?

Day 1: My husband has informed me he is quitting his job and going into business with his parents. First off, if you’ve ever met my mother-in-law, you’d would know why the thought of going into business with her is much more terrifying than being without the paycheck (more about that later). I nearly had a stroke. If you are like me, an average person trying to make ends meet, living paycheck to pay check, socking away for retirement and your children’s higher education, you can see why I might have issues with this. Lucky me. He agreed to keep his job, if, and it’s a big if, I help him with this Flip. April 1st, 2008, we signed on the property.

Day 5: If I could summarize the adventure I have embarked on in two words, those words would be mouse poop. Today I awoke at 5:00am, ate a quick breakfast, stumbled out of the house and drove down the road to our new property. It’s everything I could dream of, rotted sills, broken windows and a leaky roof (more on that later). It doesn’t have running water; there is a funnel (yes, you heard me) in the bathroom attached to the sewer that the previous, if not a bit eccentric owner used to pee down. Inside, lining 2500 square feet, from wall to wall and floor to ceiling are boxes and boxes of junk. It’s an old dance hall that has seen better days, and more recently served as a junque shop. Why anyone one in their right mind would think spelling it junque instead of junk dresses it up and makes it any different, I will never know. Today I hauled out boxes and boxes of crap and yes, mouse poop. I don’t think there is a shower in existence that will erase this memory.

Outside in the yard, are piles and piles of broken vehicles, furniture, mattresses, wooden pallets, a great big fiberglass cylinder that looks like a grain silo, and multiple things my husband could throw into a burn pile and set the neighbourhood on fire with. Good thing we live in a rural area, where the local townies see piles of trash and think it’s a BYOB party. Half the town of Winchester turned out last night to see us light the night up like day.

Day 6: This morning, not only did I have left over debris to clean up from the fire, I had beer bottles all over the place. I have discovered the joys of burn piles and sore backs. Today, I have excused myself to do laundry for work tomorrow, and to see about getting a tetanus shot.

Next weekend I will return with more of my adventures. Please stick around for the sequel, Flip this Marriage.
I hope to have some photos to share. You really have to see this.

Reviews

Interested to know your thoughts on reviews. I read that many authors don't read them, too sensitive to criticism they feel is only one person's point of view and subjective. EH? Don't they have to take the rough with the smooth? Do they only want to hear - this was fab? On the other hand - this is their baby and it's hard to hear that someone thinks it sucks.
I've noticed a growing trend for authors to request reviews from specialist sites. So, questions:
1. If you knew there was a review of your book out there, would you read it?
2. Would you actively seek reviews or not?
3. Would you respond to a reviewer who didn't like your book?

My answers:
1. I would have to read it. I don't have a particulary thick skin but I couldn't not read it.
2. On the fence here. Something tells me it's asking for trouble but if you have faith in your book, maybe it's fine. Ooh, I don't know. Wobbles indecisively.
3. Yes. I couldn't help myself - unless it was abusive. In which case I'd change my name to Hillary Clinton - see previous post.

Excitement mounts

Well, I am getting very excited about the issue of my first book - well ebook but I live in hope that it might make it into print one day. It's due out on the 30th April. Ellora's Cave have it in their upcoming section. www.ellorascave.com Their magazine www.ladyjaided.com has me featured as one of four new writers. I've used my own name - Barbara Elsborg -if this comes back to haunt me, I'm changing my name to Hillary Clinton. That seems fairly anonymous, right?

The book - for the two people in the world who don't know - is called "Perfect Timing". It's racy, it's erotic and it's fun. Well, better blow my own trumpet a little. That will do. It hurts my cheeks.

I'd also like to say thank you to anyone that helped critique this story, you know who you are. I'd like to thank my editor Carole Genz for her time and patience with a new author, I'd like to thank my husband for doing the shopping and volunteering for erotic research - won't tell which offer I accepted, and I'd like to thank my lucky stars that I finally, finally made it into - sort of -print. Hope I didn't forget anyone. Ooh, thanks to the cover artist too. I really like the cover!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Q & A #5 The Hook

Let's talk about hook.

What do you think makes a great hook? What books have you read with a fantastic opening paragraph? Or even sentence? Can you list any examples?

What method do you use to come up with the perfect hook? Do you think most books do or do not have a great hook?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Q - How much planning do you do before you start writing?

Do you create character charts? Do you work out the plot - start to finish? Do you run a time line? Do you know how the story will end?

My answer - no, no, yes, sort of - sometimes.
I have the germ of an idea and just run with it. Only on one or two occasions have I given up a story I started because I couldn't find a way to continue. They develop a life of their own as I write.