Tuesday, February 22, 2011

They called the President what?

Did you know there’s a U.S.president whom people called Bubba? And one whose college buddies dubbed Iron Butt?

Want to find out who? In honor of President’s Day, I’m posting several presidential nicknames as well as a few hints. See if you guess which president the moniker belongs to. If you’re right, I’ll post the name along with yours. And later, I’ll give you all the answers.

Ready to play? Here we go:

  1. Growing up in southern United States, this person was called Bubba by his family.

  2. This law student put in so many hours studying, he earned the nickname Iron Butt.

  3. This president hated to waste electricity and would actually patrol the White House, turning off lights, a behavior that caused his staffers to dub him Light-Bulb Lyndon.

  4. People who didn’t like this reforming president used to refer to him as That man in the White House.

  5. As a 23-year-old geologist he surveyed lands in the Australian Outback. His co-workers referred to him as The Chief.

  6. Having been trained as a tailor, this president earned the label The Tennessee Tailor.

  7. His opposition deemed him The Senator from Pendergast, Mister Missouri and High-Tax Harry, but you probably know him better by Give ‘Em Hell Harry, the name he used in his campaign slogan.

  8. This president, now deceased -- whose 100th birthday was celebrated recently -- was called Dutch and The Gipper.

  9. This president’s given name was James Earl, but he went by one of the common nicknames for James.

  10. Most called him Jerry, but so many people felt he was such a nice fellow that Mr. Nice Guy became one of his monikers. He was born with the name Leslie Lynch King, Jr.

  11. This man was known as The Sage of Monticello. At the time he was president, they proclaimed him A Man of the People. His face is on an American dollar, but I won't tell you which one.

  12. Creek Indians called him Sharp Knife. Soldiers under his command said he was as tough as hickory, earning him the name Old Hickory.

  13. Let's end with an easy one. Growing up, he liked to be known as Barry. The press dubbed him No Drama Obama.

Have the nicknames helped you guess each of these presidents? Please post your answers in the comments and thanks for playing.



Monday, February 21, 2011

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Christina Henry

Black Wings
November 2010

Book Blurb:
Escorting souls into the afterlife leaves Maddy little time for socializing-until devilishly handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in her building. But when demons start appearing on Maddy’s front lawn, she realizes there’s more to her new tenant than meets the eye...


The Main Characters:
Maddy is an agent of death, complete with black wings which sprout from her back when she’s on assignment, who escorts the newly departed to “The Door” so they can get to where they need to go. It’s an unpaid job, handed down through her family for generations.

Gabriel is a hot half-angel/half-demon sent to protect her from the otherworldly creatures that have suddenly started showing up on her doorstep wanting to kill her.

I started out liking both characters. Maddy’s got a smart mouth and humorous things just seem to happen around her. Gabriel is hot and mysterious. Then I found out she was a 32 year old virgin. Palease! In modern day Chicago? Why, might you ask? No deep, dark reason really. She’s just been busy writing recipes for magazines alone in her kitchen while she waits for her assigned soul pickups. Silly, really. She’s also not a deep one. Her best friend gets eaten by a demon and half of her coworkers end up sliced and diced in front of her and she mechanically goes through the reactions and emotions before moving on rather quickly. I never felt her sorrow, her loss. When you’re writing in 1st person, the emotions should come across deep and raw. This didn’t happen with Maddy. Then poor Gabriel lost his hot factor as the book wore on. Somewhere along the way he went from alpha to omega and never really got his sex appeal back.

Beezle is the best of the bunch. He’s her gargoyle sidekick and an absolute hoot.


The Romance:
There’s a few sparks between the two when they first meet. As soon as she clamps eyes on him, she’s thinking “I’m gonna give it up to this guy.” Nope. Didn’t happen. She’s still the big V by the end of the book.


The World Building:
I think this is the part I had the most trouble with. In Ms. Henry’s world, if fallen angels do the nasty with human women, their kids are born nephilim – red-skinned demon creatures who like to eat people. Got that. Unfortunately, there appears to be exceptions to this rule. Otherwise, our intrepid heroine would be one of the big, bad uglies since her daddy turns out to be a fallen angel. I can usually follow along with the best of them, but I kept getting confused on why some of the fallen’s offspring were born evil and red and others were born more human-like with powers and wings, like Maddy. There was no consistency in it that I could tell.


The ‘IT’ Factor:
I honestly can’t say what sold this book. While it certainly wasn't a wall-banger, there was also nothing ground-breaking here. Fallen angels, agents of death, demons -- they’ve all been done before. The author’s voice is often humorous but then she would get very mechanical in her writing: I went here. I did this. I felt sad. And so on. I have to say I liked the 1st half of this book if I overlooked the whole silly virgin thing and the jumbled world-building. But the 2nd half lost steam for me and by the end I really didn’t care if Maddy and Gabriel hooked up or not.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Long Lost Me

It's been a busy - and snowy - winter, and I haven't gotten as much accomplished as I'd hoped. However, I have put my finger to the pulse of publishing again recently and hope to give you some updated information soon.

So here's my question: What do you want to know about paranormal fiction - urban fantasy - dark fiction - from the agents and publishers who buy it?

There's been a lot of moving around in the publishing field since the economy went south. As you've all probably heard, for example, Dorchester went to epub in a move to become more financially stable. And self-publishing has become a viable option for many authors who haven't been able to tap into traditional publishing.

Here's your chance to ask anything, and I'll take it to the publishers and agents and find out what you want to know. I'm gearing up for RT Booklover's in LA in April, and I want to have a good knowledge base to get some business done. So let me know what you want to know, what you're curious about and who you'd like to ask about your current WIP. Maybe we can arrange a guest editor or agent or two soon, to talk about your projects.

Let me know as soon as you can because I'll be making my calls starting this week!
Happy writing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Reading Aloud For Revision

This Valentine's Day I had the opportunity to participate in a live cyber reading at the Savvy Author's webinar, Digicon--the ePublishing Revolution: http://www.savvyauthors.com/vb/forumdisplay.php?1154-DigiCon-The-ePublishing-Revolution. I had about 10 minutes to introduce myself and share a scene, so I decided to go with the first pages of my latest novel, One Thousand Kisses (http://store.samhainpublishing.com/thousand-kisses-p-6253.html). After all, we perfect the beginnings of our books to lure in readers. What better lines to lure in listeners?

I'll be the first to admit I haven't done much "professional" reading aloud since I was in graduate school for poetry, a totally different genre than romance fiction. The experience of writing it is completely different; the experience of reading it to yourself is completely different; and the experience of reading it aloud and listening to it is completely different. Sure, I read to my kids and occasionally in a critique group; I also read aloud some when I was teaching college English (clearly not my own work). But as I discovered, reading your romance fiction aloud is pretty different from reading poetry or kid's books, and I think I know why.

I write my romance fiction to be read to one's self, not to be performed.

One thing I've noticed about being read to -- it's easier (for me) to listen to kid's books and middle grade or young adult fiction, whether they are audio books or my dear husband doing his bedtimely duties with the Diary of the Wimpy Kid. The Harry Potter series is well-known for being an awesome listen, in no small part due to Jim Dale, the narrator, but also due to Rowling's genre and writing style.

Maybe it's easier for me because I have a short attention span, but I think it has more to do with writing quirks that make a story easier to follow, particularly when your narrator (for instance, ME) has no business doing "voices". That, I found, was one of my biggest hurdles in reading aloud. As such, it might affect things disproportionately if I were to use reading aloud as part of the revision process. From a read-aloud guide I found at this website (http://www.readaloudnebraska.org/pdf/readingaloudguide.pdf), I would have to agree with this statement: "Dialogue can be difficult in reading a novel aloud; if you must read a book heavy with dialogue, be sure that it’s clear who is speaking. Many books with a lot of dialogue use indentation to show who’s speaking, which is impossible for the listeners to follow."

Romances are often dialogue heavy. And with current editorial styles, writers are advised to cut as many dialogue tags as possible, as long as it's clear to the reader who's speaking. But the reader has the advantage over the listener. So when I read aloud, I found myself wanting to add the dialogue tags I'd so carefully taken out as well as re-state character names where writers are advised to use more pronouns. The READER can tell what's going on and doesn't want your protagonists' names said over and over, but the listener has different needs.

The other issue I noticed with my experience was when small--I swear they are small!--sections of narrative interrupted the action or dialogue. This, actually, is something it's recommended we writers cut down on when we can. Don't stop the flow. But when you're reading aloud, a sentence or two can seem like a disruptive tangent while a reader, with the book or ebook in her hot little hands, can more easily follow the narrative.

So I'm not saying that reading your fiction aloud as part of the revision process isn't useful. It is. You can find areas that trip the tongue, see things you didn't notice when you were reading in your head. However, since there are differences in the needs of the reader compared to the needs of the listener, it's probably a good idea to be aware of that when you use this revision technique.

Anyone else listen to a lot of audio books? Read aloud much? What are your observations?

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com/ * http://www.meankitty.com/

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Scares You?

Like everyone else on this blog, I have a fixation with the paranormal. Vampires, werewolves, zombies...all the typical boogeymen who go bump in the night aren't so much frightening as they are intriguing. In some cases - when written by JR Ward, for example - these "monsters" are just plain sexy. I don't think I'm alone in this belief. So this got me thinking; when the so-called monsters of fiction and lore lose their ability to frighten, what steps in to take their place?

Well, there are a thousand answers for that. Failure, success, weight gain, a football season that spans 12 months (*shudder*), these are all legitimate adult fears; fears that make childhood boogeymen far preferable in contrast. Adulthood is chalk full of completely logical, legitimate, rational fears; few of which are paranormal and none of which are fun to discuss. 

So, let's look in the opposite direction. Like I said, the typical monsters didn't scare me, even when I was a kid, but there were several (now extremely embarassing) things that did. Here's the story of one of them:

I was a child of the 80s. If there is one thing the 80s meant for little girls, it was Cabbage Patch Kids.

I have fond memories of my Cabbage Patch doll. Her name was Gretel (yes, my dad thought that was very cute). She had a lovely head of red yarn, a blue dress, and Xavier Roberts written across her bottom. She was "from" Holland, and her little, tulip encrusted, faux-wood shoes were the height of fashion, in my opinion. I loved this doll so much, my grandmother thought I would have equal adoration for the Cabbage Patch storybooks that premiered around that time. She read them to me every night before bedtime. And that's where it all went wrong. 

The Cabbage Patch storybooks told all about the kids and their adventures. It also showed their beginnings in the cabbage patch. But no good story is written without conflict, and conflict often means a villain. In the case of the Cabbage Patch kids, it meant the most frightening villain of all. Cabbage Jack, the jack rabbit.

He had a thirst for flesh of children...and poor dental hygiene.

This buck-toothed lagomorph haunted my nightmares for years. Years. He could eat Cabbage Patch kids, why couldn't he eat real kids? Hey, in five year old logic land, it made perfect sense. I wouldn't willingly go near a rabbit or a garden and I was too afraid to tell my grandmother to stop reading the books. I thought saying his name would catch his attention and call him out. 

If you're keeping score that means:
vampires/werewolves/zombies: 0
bunnies in clothing: 1

Eventually I got over my rabbit phobia, but I remember the time clearly. What childhood fears did you fall prey to that now seem, well, embarrassing? Can you top the fear of bunnies? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow, Snow and more Snow

Here's the squirrel abandoning the feeder for above-snow ground.

All of the southern Wisconsin broadcasts this week warn of blizzards, of huge sky dumps. Flakes are coming down like crazy today. Already snow is taller than the squirrels that gather at my feeder. Already, it’s thigh-high.

Shovel in hand, hefting the piled white from my driveway, I’m tempted to think more snow falls here than anyway else in the world.
Well, that’s not true.

Header by Samulli

In case you're curious, here are the cities with the highest average annual snowfall:

1. Valdez, Alaska, 324 inches
2. Mount Washington, New Hampshire, 259.7 inches
3. Blue Canyon, California, 240.3 inches
4. Yakutat, Alaska, 195.9 inches
5. Marquette, Michigan, 137.4 inches.
6. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, 117.4 inches
7. Syracuse, New York, 116 inches
8. Talkeetna, Alaska, 115.4 inches
9. Caribou, Maine, 111. 9 inches
10. Mount Shasta, California, 104.9 inches
11. Lander, Wyoming, 101.5 inches
12. Flagstaff, Arizona, 100.3 inches
13. Juneau, Alaska, 98.5 inches

How much snow does my hometown usually get? Typical, we get 48 inches of snow.
Are you shoveling today? How much snow is falling where you are? Hope it's less than we're getting in southern Wisconsin.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Climatic Data Center