Friday, December 26, 2008

Shiny New Year

I perhaps should have named this blog "How to Post Irregularly and Expect People to Still Be Around When You Manage to Update Again."

Generally, I don't do New Year's resolutions. I've found that if I haven't forgotten them by the time I remember to write the correct date, I've put them aside anyway. Still, it's a good time to rearrange priorities and my writing, both of the blog and of fiction, are shooting to the top of mine.

A Writer's Block will still be about reading and writing with a heavy emphasis on my beloved urban fantasy. I will still post whenever I want, but it'll be with a minimum of once a week. Oh, and it will still have much to do about my shift--or lack thereof--from would-be novelist to novelist.

Welcome to my shiny New Year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Post NaNo Update

Middle thing first...I'd never heard of Nathan Bransford the literary agent; now that I have, check out his 2nd-Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge. If you're another fledgling writer with a manuscript (and read this by Thursday, 4pm Pacific), why not give it a try?

First thing second, I made it just under 30,000 for NaNo. As much as "this is the year", I'm not all that upset. I like the story, I like that I can finished it with a lot more thoughtfulness, and I like that I can then go back and rework the themes and ideas that got lost in the mad rush to 50,000.

Last, but absolutely not least, A.J. Menden's Penominal Girl 5 has been nominated for Romantic Times' 2008 Reviewers' Choice Award for Best fantasy/futuristic romance. You go, girl! (And those of us who haven't already should give the publishing industry a push by picking it up and seeing what all the buzz is about.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mid (almost) NaNo Update

A Writer's Block is lucky that dust does not accumulate in cyber space. Poor neglected blog!

And the neglect only builds. I made the title a few days before the mid-point and am only coming back to finish the post now, a couple of days after. Here's a quick update before life pulls me away again.

I'm way behind on NaNo--16,000 words behind. I went to my second mini write-in (mini because it's just me and another newbie in our area) and they are helping to propel me forward. There is a chance, however slight, that I'll catch up and make goal.

My big "DAMN IT" happened right after the write-in. Since half of our meeting happened at the library, I took the time to return and pick up books. I've found that I can keep a certain balance, stories are great while I'm writing. If the story's good, it makes me want to write in celebration of it. If it's not good, it makes me want to write something I enjoy more. So long as I don't go unbalanced and read to the point of not writing, it's all good. So I cracked open C.E. Murphy's The Queen's Bastard knowing nothing but that it was a C.E. Murphy book so there was a significant chance that I would like it.

I cracked it open and was interested immediately. I only had time for a page or so, then I flipped it over to finally find out what it was about. And there was a pet character of mine that I kept promising I'd write about when I finished other projects.

Oh, she's not MY character. Murphy didn't hack my locked LiveJournal entries and steal my ideas. It's just a horrible, disheartening coincidence that, save her character being the bastard of a queen and mine the bastard of king and whose sister is the monarch she serves, the characters are eerily similar and Murphy--at least at first glance--did it better than I probably would.

Let that be a lesson to those of us who would start are careers someday. All these nifty ideas seem to be floating in the ether, and if we keep putting it off, some brave and talented writer will beat us to the punch.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I get it, I get it!

Sometimes, things just come together.

1) I was griping to someone in my writers' group about about my disappointing climax and she suggested that I go back and find the point in the story where I felt like I really had control of it. And to just read it. No editing!

2) Starting at the end and working back, I found huge sections that I barely even remembered. Looking at it as three acts, it's really the first that I knew what I wanted. I had some clue during the first part of the second. And right around the middle of the book, I fizzled.

3) National Novel Writing Month is coming around again! It had been the furthest thing from my mind, but when it was brought up, I felt like I could give myself permission to start working on something new--sort of a mental breath of fresh air.

4) The books I'd requested from the main library to the local branch were finally in. I didn't even remember what they were, so it was a present surprise to find among them, "Building Better Plots" by Robert Kernen. I've been at this long enough to know that no book is going to write my stories for me. At the same time, I've been at this long enough to know that neither outlining nor flying by the seat of my pants has worked in getting a story, no matter how great it starts, to a conclusion that's ready to ship out to editors/agents.

These things came together for me when I was diligently outlining my new story and I hit that part in the middle of the second act where I had nothing to say. Why is it always there? How is it that with these characters I'm interested in, a great idea, themes that I really want to explore...I end up going, and then more stuff happens?

My antagonists, says my new found understanding, are pretty on paper, but aren't coming alive in my mind. Just past the halfway point where the stakes are supposed to rise to ever greater heights, I've exhausted the one who would make that happen.

I know it. Now I gotta fix it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What Sarah Monette knows about writing

Reading this in Storytellers Unplugged, I thought it was too good to not share.


What do I know about writing?

I know that it’s hard.

I know that if it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun.

I know that learn by doing is the only game in town.

I know that the only way out is through. And there aren’t any shortcuts. Anything you think is a shortcut is just going to get you in worse trouble.

I know that most of the cliches of writing advice–write what you know, omit needless words–work better as koans, as meditations, than they do as advice.

I know that fiction is all lies.

I know that you have to tell your lies as if they were truth. Lots of circumstantial evidence and telling details. And conviction.

I know that in the end, it turns out that those lies are all there to point the way toward the truth. Or a truth. Or some truth. If we could just tell the truth straight out, it would save a lot of time.

But on the other hand, telling lies is fun.

I know that even now, when there isn’t so much as a drop of creativity left in me, I’d rather be writing than not.

I know that my creativity will come back–it’s like stalactite formation: slow but inexorable–and that pretty soon the whole gaudy gruesome carousel will start up again.

I know that writing never stops challenging me. And if it ever does, I’ll know I’m doing something wrong.

And I know, even when I hate it as sometimes I do, that writing is the best damn job in the world

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A new blog and books to boot!

I'd never run across Book Binge before, but with their contest to win seven Shomi books, I'm in love already!

Those of you who have followed the opening of A Writer's Block know that I flirted with Shomi's first contest for publication; it wasn't for me, but I still love the idea of fusing "romance, fantasy, sci-fi and everything in between." I've read the first three, Wired, Moongazer, and Driven, the last of which was my favorite. The post-apocalyptic word of Driven captured my imagination a little more than the others, but that's not to say that the reality jumping in the other two novels weren't worth the ride.

Eventually, I'll probably read the entire line of books, but I'm most looking forward to Phenomenal Girl 5, both because I have the privilege of "cyber knowing" the author and because I want to see more of how superheros work in novel format rather than comics. Also, Eve Kenin returns to the world of Driven in her not-quite-sequel Hidden. Will she be able to work her magic on me with new characters? I look forward to finding out!

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I had it, and it was brilliant, but I lost it.

The plan was to rush to the computer and jot down the few lingering tidbits of dream that remained, hoping to rebuild it from there. But I thought, "I can hold these fragments while I start the coffee." And then nature called. And now, I sort of still see the back cover...a girl--just a bit too young for the initial thought to be "a woman"--with near buzz cut short red hair besides an older man, both in trench coats and glowing with power, surrounded by dark.

See, I dreamt of a graphic novel...sort of Neil Gaiman meets steampunk in the prelude, and dark gothic by the end. Something jarred me out of deep sleep, and in that forgetful, not truly awake level, one part of my brain wondered about the lingering adventure that turned into a graphic novel even as another part had gone on ahead and focused the writing progress I made last week and what I intend to write today.

Too much was lost by the time the first part realized that it wasn't a story I'd read before, but rather one I could write.

Next time, the coffee and restroom breaks will have to wait.

I feel good about the fact that there will be a next time. And that leads to last weeks progress. From the goal of 7,000 words, I have ::drum roll:: 181. And I'm thrilled. Rather than lamenting about how much I suck and trying to delve deeper into my personal abyss, I feel like I've met the unwritten goal of shocking my system. Think of it as a mental/emotional defibrillator.

There are a lot of reasons why wanna-be novelists stay wanna-be for however long (years, forever). Some of us just aren't novelists. We love to read, perhaps have a bit of the creative spark, and think, "I should do that." And then never do because it's more of a recurring waking dream than a goal. Others never get into the right mind frame and put it off. Doing it after the baby's in school becomes doing it after all the kids are off to college or something. Others get lost along the way. That first attempt gets deleted or put into a drawer...and so does the second attempt, and the third...

And some of us have Issues.

I, friends and neighbors, have Issues. So for me, this isn't a matter of putting it off until later, or thinking that I would like to write but not being a writer. It's like writer's that goes far beyound my fiction, affecting everything from weight to my parenting style. And I do need that occasional dip into the abyss to sort out why I am who I am, and try to fix the bits that seem broken. It's not as simple as "I'll write this many words today."

Setting the goal and making the decision about letting this go if I'm still here in a year got me to understand that I can't. Oh, I'm not taking it back! The decision stands. But writing isn't just something that I do, it's part of who I am, and I never quite got what I meant until it came down to honoring it or losing it forever.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More about doing it...

The previous post's title made a lot more sense when I was planning to write as much about my stalled writing process as about the book being reviewed.

I wrote that hours ago--yesterday, since it's well past midnight. But instead of finishing, I did mommy things. OK, I can't stop being a mother to be a writer. But I watched TV, nothing that I HAD to see. I swept the kitchen floor. I fooled around on Facebook. I had sex. I thought very clever thoughts about the difference between analysis and behavioural psych. I picked up Unleashed and started reading again. (And I could bitch more about how the story's crafted, but it's still a good story. Check it out if you're into YA.)

Now it's ass o'clock in the morning, I can't sleep, and I'm ready to chuck clever for down and dirty. I've done the exercises in The Artist's Way. I've soul searched. I've done...crap. I know all the setbacks and harsh bits of life that got my internal soundtrack stuck on "you're not good enough, you'll never make it." While it's lovely that my best English teacher, a bestselling author, and my own creative heart tell me that I have talent, it's obviously not their voices that I'm heading.

Whatever. This is the point where I stop thinking about, stop trying to work it out, and just start doing.

Seven thousand words a week. I make my commitment here and now, with no bribes to get me to do it, and no punishments if I fail. I'll post a note about hitting or missing target from time to time because this IS supposed to be about my journey for good or ill. But that's it.

Or that's mostly it. If I'm still at it a year from now with nothing to show but not-quite-ready manuscripts, I'm packing it in.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Make like Nike and "Just do it."

When Jackie Kessler posted in Fangs, Fur, and Fey offering up author copies of Hotter Than Hell for bloggers, I jumped at the chance to get a copy. A free book from a new-to-me writer, sent by the author herself? Hell, yeah! Plus, I saw this as step toward perhaps being an official reviewer, as opposed to being any old opinionated reader with internet access.

I had no idea that it would become a part of the psychological jumble that keeps me a would-be novelist.

Kessler sent the book immediately, and jumped right into reading. Only the review writing began and ended in my own mind. I thought about the good, the bad, and the particularly interesting bits, but they never seemed to make it onto the screen. I spew my opinions all the time; this shouldn't be so hard!

Leaving my psyche alone for a bit, I recommend the book. The bad news is that it's the third in the series. The good news is that I was able to follow it without reading the first two, which are written from the point of view of our narrator's former lover.

The problems with book reviews is that there's no way of knowing if someone has similar tastes. I grew up on "classic" fantasy and discovered urban fantasy decades ago, falling in love with stories by Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Pamela Dean and so on. For readers like me, urban fantasy didn't begin with Laurell K. Hamilton (I actually read a discussion where an author pretty much wrote that; I only recently stopped twitching), though we might point to her middle books to trace the time when UF came smashing headlong into paranormal adventure, some how got attached to paranormal romance, and then publishers seemed to decide it was all one big thing.

While that works fine for the publishers, the Internet is littered with uf fans writing, Remember when world building and supernatural elements were much more than window dressing for an impossible relationship that always seems to work out in the end? And paranormal romance readers examine perfectly satisfying stories and wondering why there wasn't enough emphasis on the relationship and what's with the (logical based on everything that's come before) ending.

Hotter than Hell is one of those books that can please readers from both sides of the bookstore isle.

Daunaun is an incubus--a bad guy by default, capturing souls slated for Hell now before they can repent later. It's fun getting the action from his point of view, rather than seeing him through the eyes of his victims. The sex is hot and when he means vulva, he says vulva. There's a lot to enjoy here.

That doesn't mean that the story is perfect. There are three main mysteries in the book: one that is more a curiosity than not, and two that directly effect whether Daun lives or dies. Demons attack and he wonders why in the sort of way that one might wonder why the sky is blue. OK, so maybe he prioritizes differently than I do (me, I'd worry about the guy who's trying to kill me today before I worried about the task that, failing it, might kill me in three days). But getting over that, the answer to the other mystery is so clear to the reader that you start to wonder what the hell is wrong with the narrator. How can he possibly experience the same clues he's relating and not finding that one and one make two?

There were times when that seemed almost too annoying, but the story remained interesting, and the character's growth became a welcomed pay off. Thumbs stars out of 5...I've got to start my own rating system. Meanwhile, add this series to your To Be Read list.

(And I'll blog about my writing dysfunction in just a little bit.)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rambling thoughts.

Descriptions are important.

I'm supposed to be writing about something else completely, but I've just started reading Kristopher Reisz's Unleashed, and on my way to deciding whether I like it or not, I'm bothered by the lack of descriptions. I guessed immediately what the main character looks like because there's a guy and the girl on the front cover. Be nice to have some sort of description--what if I had a later copy with a different cover...or it had been damanged --but that does for him. And he's got a chick holding him on the front, three other teens in the back. The girl he's with on the cover and one of the guys on the back are black. So this is the group of kids he's with at the start of the book? I mean, his best bud's name is Bwana. Like most people reading it, my initial reaction is "what the heck sort of name is that?" Some others, like me, will immediately assume it is the sort of name certain black parents might give a child as an alterntive to a "slave name." (Just looked it up, by the way. It's Swahili.)

OK, whatever. On page 19, there's Misty toying with her lip ring. Aha! The chick on the cover has a lip ring! And the other two with Bwana are two out of three of his remaining original group? What do the other people in the story look like? ....Oh, but wait. I'd forgotten (totally blanked it until reminded on page 22) that Misty has a brother.

This, of course, is much ado about nothing. I didn't relate well to teens when I was one, I'm a Bostonian and they're in Birmingham...real descriptions sometime soon after the characters were introduced might have helped me not have this total sense of disconnect. But it's interesting enough to keep me reading for a bit.

Maybe tomorrow, I'll write what I should be writing now.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

But you can't always let it stew, can you?

In my last post, I wrote a little bit about my process. In short, nothing comes as a fully packaged idea. I'll get a bit here--the first spark of inspiration that gives me a character--then work out what's happened in this person's life to make them who they are. Later, something about their personality will give a clue as to the story around them. And going from story idea to actual plot is the bulk of the work.

Sometimes, this can be relatively short. Maybe a month ago or so, the idea of writing about a sympathetic Satanist bloomed in my mind. I had a vague idea of what she looked like and knew that, other than her religion, she'd be relatively ordinary. No fangs or fur, and if she used any magic at all, it would the sort that modern witches believe in that skeptics pass off as coincidence. Bits and pieces filtered in as I let this sit on the back burner. The male lead appeared...there was some sense of what her story would be about, though the more I tried to put it together, the more it slipped through my mental fingers.

For the most part, I left it alone, having my other example of "letting it stew" to calm me. See, while "Satana" (I know, my working titles suck) is coming along in a matter of weeks to months, I had the initial thought that became Quinn's Tale back in 2003. I was doing the dishes and thought, "A banshee howled when I was born." I dried my hands, wrote it down, and went back to what I was doing. It was many months before I found out who that statement belonged to, and years before he'd cooked long enough to start demanding his story be told.

Which brings me back around to Satana and why I'm writing this entry. I woke up a little bit ago (which is why this may be a little rambling, btw) and suddenly had it. Whether in the forefront or on the back burner, I've been trying to figure out the catalyst...the crime...that gets a police detective knocking on the door of the ex-girlfriend he'd dumped when he found out she was a Satanist. More importantly, what would get her involved rather than calling him an intolerant bastard and slamming the door in his face?

Now I have the answer. After this, I'll pull up my OneNote file and jot it down. But here, finally, is the question...Am I going to have to break my stewing habit and force myself to use a different process? I mean, this is great for a wanna-be. The characters feel real when I'm writing. I enjoy what I do, and I get fantastic reader reaction. But the goal isn't to have fun with my hobby. The goal is to eventually do what I love for a living. I don't see a publisher giving me a contract for "whenever". Have I set myself up with another way to fail?

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Write what you love.

Every fledgling novelist hungry for the piece of advice that will make it all come together for them has heard that little gem. It--like most of the advice we receive--is fairly common sense. I mean, if you write something just because you think that's the way the market is going, at the very best, you could end up with a contract to produce more stuff that you don't even enjoy writing. More likely, you either won't finish at all, or perhaps will finish only to have a story that doesn't excite editors any more than it does you.

I know this as well as anyone, but when Kelley Armstrong announced the Shomi contest to her Online Writing Group, I jumped. Pushing aside my misgivings about the writer's guidelines, I decided that I would write the best sci-fi meets fantasy meets magic ever written. It would be the love child of William Gibson and Nora Roberts with heavy influence of the anime I try so desperately to ignore when my husband monopolizes the TV with them. And it would have dragons!

Surely, my excitement over the dragons would outweigh the youth of the characters, the irritation at the automatic happy ending, and everything else that told me this wasn't for me. I launched into character creation and world building. I got a notebook and started brainstorming, then plotting. I wrote the first chapter. And I wrote it again. And, I think, one more time.

The story was interesting; if I ran across it in a bookstore, I'd pick it up. So why couldn't I write it?

Well, part of it was that I didn't really feel like it was my story. My characters generally seem more born than created, arising out of my subconscious until I notice there's someone new there who wants attention. The bigger part was that I wasn't writing what I love. I would enjoy reading it--and I think I can work on the story until it deepens for me--but it wasn't it.

One night during the struggle for over all this, I had a dream. I was me, but not, and still in the military, but not as graphic specialist/admin role I'd taking to get into military intelligence and psy-ops. This me was trained in what such units actually did. And in the middle of this weird adventure, there was an ex-boyfriend. Not the skinny kid I knew, but a sexy, almost dangerous man. I woke up knowing that I had my story.

In fact, I had too much of my story. The more I wrote, the less sci-fi/anime it was and the more it became the sort of urban fantasy I enjoy.

I gave up on Shomi, put the story away, and went on--just a little bitter that I'd done so much work with nothing to show. Until, maybe, yesterday.

While I was not panicking about misplacing my memory stick, I sat down to write something brand new and found...nothing. Oh, characters danced in my head, but they mocked me. "What of your current stories?" they asked. OK. They didn't, really. I may be odd, but I don't hear voices. Usually. Yet, though that isn't literally what happened, there's truth to the sentiment.

Eventually, I stopped pushing for old stories or new. I stopped grappling with my muse or my subconscious, or whatever it is that drives me nuts at times like this. I did the laundry, I hung out with the family, I listened to music....and I got slapped on the back of the head with inspiration. There, out of nowhere, appeared what was missing with this story. It may not make it perfect, but that's not the point.

I've gotten the progress that I needed, and I may have just learned something new along the way.

(Shomi novel written by fellow OWG member, A.J. Menden.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Now for something new?

My memory stick took and unknown detour somewhere between my husband's computer and mine. This could be cause for panic. Pretty much everything of importance is on there, and some of it--like ShadowDark revisions--don't have a copy elsewhere. Not cool.

But I know it hasn't been taken out of the house so, assuming the toddler didn't flush it, it's all safe, just momentarily out of reach. For now, at least, rather than panic, I'm thinking of playing around with the stories that keep tickling my imagination...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Adventures in Collaborating

I didn't so much agree to collaborate (retrospectively) on my husband's novel so much as I failed to express just how bad of an idea that was.

Long story longer than necessary: I used to write with my two oldest friends. What I discovered through our process of occasionally starting something and frequently getting nowhere, was that it doesn't work for me. As the old saying goes, "I can do bad on my own." I don't actually need help not finishing a work.

But I was the one who roped X into writing. We met through a role playing game (thank you, White Wolf ), and it was his story telling ability as much as any other attribute that won my heart. It was only a matter of time before I started to encourage him to share all those fabulous stories with a wider audience. He eventually gave in, joining the writer's group hosted by Kelley Armstrong and participating in NaNoWriMo. A fellow writer so liked his work that she put in a good word with her agent, who in turn liked the first three chapters so much that she asked for the whole thing.

That's where his path to success met a road block. This agent, who has worked with some major names in speculative fiction, loved his story as well. She offered to represent him IF--yeah, the if is the problem. The middle was weak. He could deal with that. She wanted it changed from 1st person to 3rd, which is time consuming. The more time that went by, the less he worked on it, until he turned to she-who-kept-correcting-his-grammar.

It's been both difficult and rewarding. Then, the other day, my insensitivity--or rather my failure to realize what his insensitivity might be masking--created an explusion in both the writing partnership and the marriage. Working it through as a couple helped us to work it out as a writing team, but this got me thinking of all the would-be novelists I'd heard of who didn't make it as co-authors. And that got me looking for advice from published novelists who had.

Kathleen Baldwin tells us that the first lesson in successfully collaborating is picking the right partner. Follow the link on her page to see what her partner says.

This rather rambling article includes a few words on how the married team of Agnes and Egerton Castle do it.

Holly Lisle gives the good, the bad, and the ugly--ok, mostly the bad and the ugly--in this great How-to on collaborating.

If I find any more links that might be helpful, I'll be sure to update this. Meanwhile, I've got some fiction calling my name.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


...I finished Claimed by Shadow and really rather enjoyed it. With so much info already imparted in the first book, this didn't have long sections that read like a gamer manuel. And already knowing Cassie, I didn't feel like I was missing a reason to like her. Her humanity shined through more and the story was just fun. I plan on getting the third and recommend the series. (Well, you know, so long as you keep in mind what I found to be glitchy about the first and don't come after me about it.)


If I'm going to chronicle my journey from here to there, I have to say where here is, right?

I have:
  • Quinn's Tale (I know, but the other working title is even worse), a practically finished urban fantasy novel with rave reviews from the critique group and beta readers. The end is...less than it should be, though.
  • Becoming, a half finished magic-meets-tech-adventure novel that had been intended for the original Shomi contest.
  • Push, a half finished urban fantasy novel in desperate need of re-plotting.
  • Chaos, a mostly finished urban fantasy novella that just doesn't quite do it for me.
  • ShadowDark, my husband's completely finished novel that he's roped me into rewriting with him. Great story, but the agent interested in it wants it rewritten from 1st person to 3rd, and for the middle to be...tightened.

And that's pretty much it, besides a host of stories that never made it past chapter 3, and a character who keeps poking at me to give her a plot and write her story. I'll get to her, but it feel foolish to launch yet another project with so much left undone.

My problem is making them "not undone". It's not a matter of sitting down and writing--I'm writing now. I write almost daily. What I don't seem to be able to do is get over this block that keeps me eternally on the verge.

But that's why I'm here, right? To get over that. Now, I'm wondering if I'm pretty much alone in this, or if anyone has stumbled upon my humble blog and has a similar problem. Speak up if you're out there.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Welcome to A Writer's Block

The problem with Touch the Dark and Claimed by Shadow by Karen Chance is that she never shows us why her heroine is like us...

How's that for not starting at the beginning?

In the beginning, I posted a comment to a friend's blog and discovered that I was registered. Google had apparently taken my gmail address, added it to the name I use for another site*, and created a blog waiting to happen. I didn't necessarily need a blog; I've been using LiveJournal for years to keep in touch with friends publically and to write a private e-diary, and I use the other site to publish opinion pieces. Yet, an idea had taken seed in my head and it clearly wanted to grow.

A chronicle of my success going from would-be-novelist to novelist, or of my failure--a cautionary tale to keep others from being stuck in place, too.

Like most other things, the idea was procrastinated upon until it looked like I would never do it. As Chance would have it, (bad pun originally not intended, but why write around it?) I'd started re-reading Touch the Dark--a book I hadn't liked all that much--to refresh my memory before giving the second book a shot. I kept thinking, This isn't bad. Was the only problem that I read it right after something that I loved so much more?

I'm a reader on a budget. I want to get plenty of enjoyment out of each book I buy. And I'm a serious fangirl--I like to get as many books from new authors as I can to stimulate their careers (in my own little way) and keep the books rolling in. Lastly, as someone who wants to be where they are, I've got this huge cheerleader mentality. I wanted to like it. It wasn't bad. The opening scene was one of the most attention grabbing that I've seen. So why was the rest of it leaving me flat?

When I figured it out, I took the answer as another lesson in writing, and as a reason to start the blog.

Item. The information dump. Speculative fiction writers have a big challenge in letting the reader in on how their world is different from The World We Know. When done "right", the reader gets a lot of info without feeling force-fed. As it's done in the books question, I wouldn't have been surprised to see sidebars with gaming statistics.

Item. Why should we like her? This is what it really came down to. Touch the Dark is an interesting story with the sort of feisty heroine urban fantasy readers eat up. From the very beginning, we're shown how Cassie Palmer is special. But that's a given. Genre novels are written about characters who either leap into a strange new world, or get dragged, kicking and screaming. They're all special, be they necromancers, werecreatures, vampires or vampire hunters, or relatively regular people with talents. You can't get rid of all the frills--that would just turn paranormal romance into romance, urban fantasy into everything from adventures to chick lit to mysteries. But what makes the characters normal is at least as important as what makes them special. We need that connection to a person to give a damn about the cool powers or thrilling situations.

Now, the trick will be internalizing the lesson for my own work.

.....Or, you know, cleaning up a manuscript and putting it in the mail. It's hard to get published without that.

(Oh, and that other site: dustymoon )