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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Funny Quotes: Beautician and the Beast

I'm a little tired of focusing on the Marcher Lord Select contest, so I'm taking a break today.

The Beautician and the Beast with Fran Drescher and Timothy Dalton was a fluffy little movie with a very old premise: beautiful woman tames savage man. The difference with this movie is the woman is Jewish with a New York accent, and Timothy Dalton is just yummy as the president-for-life (or dictator) of a small European country.

I'd only seen Drescher in The Nanny, but she's got her nasally voice under control in this movie, and it turns out she's a pretty good actress. She has excellent comic timing, anyway.

It's a cutesy little film and I enjoy it more than I should, no doubt. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"Class, it's called Revlon, not Dutch Boy. What do we say? Flashy, not...?"

"You should go for your dream. I did."
"But, Daddy, you run a stationary store."
"That was my dream! I love cards."

"Are you kidding? I could find food at Gandhi's house."

"You're nicer than our old teacher. Her breath smelled like something died farting in her mouth."

"We didn't study Romeo and Juliet..."
"West Side Story, children."
"Oh! I was aware of the gang problems in New York, but I didn't know they were so proficient in ballet."

"Do I not intimidate you at all?"
"Is one of your sideburns shorter than the other?"

"Mom, what's my chicken eating?"
"Same as the rest of us."
"You fed the chicken chicken?"
"I should make two dinners? I don't have enough to do? Besides, it's delicious."
"It's Silence of the Chickens!"

So, I'm laughing now. Hope you are, too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Here's How It Will Go

Marcher Lord Select has posted the general rules for voting (very general rules) under a post which bears the same name as this post.

Go to their forum website listed to the left on my blog. I highly recommend saving this link into your favorites or bookmarks or whatever.

Register at the upper right corner. This is free. Choose a user name and a password you'll remember. My user name is robynnt (shocking!) but others choose more creative names. Feel free to improvise.

You'll be allowed access now to the posting sites, but here's the run-down on the contest I entered.

The premise will be posted first and voting will happen mid-November. This may or may not immediately knock out some people. They haven't decided yet.

The back cover blurb will be posted after that. Voting will happen at the end of November and reduce contestants to 20.

The 1 page synopsis will be posted from those 20 and voting will take place on those end of December and cut to the final 10.

The first 500 words will be available for download at that point and voting for the winner will happen end of January. All this is subject to change as they work out the kinks.

So, it could either be a very long winter of alternating fears of success and failure, or it could be a short stint of mocha java chiller-fueled depression and resignation.

Anyhoo, God willing, I'm ready for whatever happens.

So, this could win the prize for the most boring post ever. I'm so bored I'm going to stop writing now.
After I say, my fiction writing...much better than this. I promise.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

100% Chance for Rain

Today was supposed to be my great day. I submitted the contest info yesterday, and today I could take a deep breath and not worry about anything until next Monday.

It's not turning out that way.

Hmm. This must be real pain. I don't want to write about it.

I have to provide more information to the contest. Either I missed something, some instruction somewhere I am not tech-savvy enough to discover, or I completely misunderstood who may enter the contest. I am waiting to hear back from them, but it makes me sick to my stomach to think I've done something wrong (even if I haven't).

I also discovered an old friend has become a moderate in the intervening years since we last saw one another on a regular basis. This is not a sin. It's not even something I think is necessarily wrong. But when I think of the number of people I know who seemingly cannot see the coming storm...it hurts me inside, way down in my gut, where I don't want to eat, and cannot sleep, and don't know what to do or say. In fact, there is nothing I can do or say. The changing of worldview is for God alone. This is probably something I should reserve for my other blog, but at the moment, the two incidents coming so close together have pretty much knocked me on my back.

I used to call Thursdays "Bite me Thursdays." They were my most hated day of the week. Thursdays are when everyone who put off what they should have done Monday realize that tomorrow is Friday and I need it done NOW! That kind of attitude only makes problems for customer service representatives.

For many years now, Thursdays have been as good as any other day for me. I think it was a change in my attitude, praise God.

But today feels like a "bite me" day, and I hate it.

I will pray for my friend, and pray for my country. I will pray for myself, because I don't want today to be "ruined" because of my mood. I will plod along and have faith that the sun will be out tomorrow, and in the meanwhile, the Son is with me right now.

All hail the power of Jesus' name, let angels prostrate fall, bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of All!

Sorry about the downer post, dear readers. Today my heart is heavy. It seems dishonest not to admit it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Now?

The barn door is open, and the horses have eaten the children.

For those of you not familiar with Saturday the 14th, that's a metaphor for I submitted the acquisitions form today.

It was remarkably simple. I checked and double-checked my spelling, spacing, word count, etc. No doubt I missed something anyway. I usually do.

I did make a few minor adjustments before I sent everything. I have no idea if I made it better or I'm just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I guess we'll see.

As far as I can tell, the actual contest starts Nov 1. You may be sure I will be reading the message boards and keeping you informed.

Yesterday (I think) I posted the website address where you can go to register for free and be part of the voting process. I'll try to get that up as a link in this blog for any newbies who join me along the way. I've never been a part of the audience voting thing (I've watched exactly 60 seconds of American Idol - the time it took me to realize what was on, get up and change the channel).

I plan to have another book review for you next month. This book was published by Marcher Lord Press, and will give you an idea of what I'm up against and why I'm so nervous/excited/nervous.

I'm already way behind on my morning's scheduled events, so I'll sign off for now.

Thank you for your support and your prayers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One More Day

Last day, Capricorn fifteens, year of the city 2274.

I'm not going to be blown up tomorrow (at least, I hope not), but that line from Logan's Run keeps going through my head.

I've got all my words in order. I read over them every time I sit down. I think, without actually hiring a professional (professional what I couldn't tell you), I'm as ready as I'm going to be.

I comfort myself with the thought that I have as much chance as anyone else (like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Since the judges are the audience themselves, this is a relatively cheap way to find out if anyone would read Star of Justice based entirely on a 20-word premise.

I find myself impatient to be done. If I'm rejected, let it be quickly. If I'm accepted...ooooh, there's the nausea.

I'm tempted to submit today. I don't see any great flashes of inspiration coming in the next 24 hours, but you never know. Murphy's Law tells me five minutes after I submit, I'll have the best idea ever for how to arrange things. Nothing I can do about Murphy.

I haven't treated this like a high school paper. You know, the putting off and putting off until the very last night when you scramble until 2 AM to throw something together? Maybe some of you didn't do that.

I learned in college that procrastination doesn't really help anything. I've treated this contest, and the submission process prior to this contest, like something I wanted to do, something important and life-changing. Maybe because it could be.

I'll wait one more day. I'm almost half-way through the editing process for the manuscript. Keli Gwyn calls it polishing (she's one of the bloggers I follow). That's as good a descriptor as any. I can't believe it's taking me so long. It's not like I'm rewriting anything. Mostly, I'm inserting reasonable chapter breaks. Of course, it might be faster if I didn't have a cat in my lap and one on the computer desk with his tail in the way, but maybe not. At this rate, I'll have Star of Justice polished on schedule by Nov 1, which meets both my original deadline and should have it ready in case I go to the next level in the contest. That's when I'll blow up.

Last day, Scorpio twenty-fours...

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm Confused

I spent some time this morning going to the MLP forum website (?) The Anomaly at http://wherethemapends.proboards.com/index.cgi. Apparently, this blog doesn't let me copy and paste links. Grrr.

Anyway, I'm not familiar with message boards, or forums, or new websites where I have to pick through pages of material looking for instruction. I've never been on such a thing before, to my knowledge. Old-fashioned turtle, remember? It's a bit confusing and a little anxiety-producing.

The Marcher Lord Select site, which hosts the contest I'm entering, has several articles about the contest, but even though they say New, they seem to be dated Old. I'm also getting the idea I might need to have the first 60 pages ready to submit, which I do, but I don't remember that from the rules that I received. I'll probably be emailing the contest info I do have to my friends and family so you all can log into The Anomaly and vote (hopefully for me, but I really would rather you voted for the book you like the best. If it happens to be mine, Woo-Hoo!). You may also use the above link to do so. You have to register, but it's free and mostly painless.

It sounds like there are more than 60 entrants so far. Better than 1000s.

I'm starting to freak out a little again, but that is to be expected. I'm submitting in two days, and after that, it's out of my hands. Like it was ever in my hands to start.

I do encourage you to take a look at MLP's website, whether you register or not. These guys are doing a real service to Christian fiction readers who don't fall into the otherwise huge category of married, white females who read romance that the regular Christian bookstores support. They give me hope that not only can my stories get published, but they will be read, too, if people like me know they're out there.

In a society where books about vampires and drug addicts seem to top the list of general favorites, MLP offers a more palatable option.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Results Are In

As you can see (for the next few days, anyway), Sentence Three won the opinion poll with 51% of the vote. I therefore ignored the poll completely and did it my way.

Just kidding.

I didn't really care which opening sentence I used. It was remarkably easy to incorporate the new sentence into the existing story structure without any noticeable loss or change of meaning. Caissa is still sitting on a rock in the middle of a prairie writing in her journal. She just hears the approaching horses a little sooner. No big deal.

I have now written everything required by the contest. I don't like the 10 word premise very much so I'll continue to fiddle with it until Wednesday. Who am I kidding? I'll continue to fiddle with everything until Wednesday.

I"m up to page 186 of 614 for editing purposes. I've already increased the chapter count by 8. I expect most of my chapters will get broken up into two or three by the time I'm done.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the poll. Thank you to everyone who continues to pray for me. May God's blessings be upon you all.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Best Present Ever

I love birthday presents. I'm suspicious of most other presents (Why are you giving me this? What do you want? This is something you're just getting rid of, right?), but birthday presents are welcome.

I've had some wonderful presents over the years. I have one friend who used to buy me gargoyles. She didn't like them. She was embarrassed to go into the kind of stores that would sell gargoyles, and she was very vocal while in those stores that she was buying it for someone else. The funny part is, she bought the absolute best gargoyles I've ever seen. I asked how she did it, and she told me, "I just pick the ugliest one." Well, it worked. I still have all of them. Thank you, Monica.

The first best present ever was from my elder brother. I was 11 or 12 (I can't remember now, but I was young, maybe younger than that), and Helen Hocker Theater was presenting Dracula for Halloween. As Dracula is one of my favorite books, I wanted to go, but no one wanted to take me.

My brother gave me a birthday card good for two tickets to Dracula. See, he loved theater, he was old enough to drive, and he was willing to spend three hours with his bratty little sister because he knew the guy playing Renfield.

I loved the play. More than that, I loved my brother for taking the time to go with me. He taught me about suspension of disbelief that night, my first lesson in good story-telling.

He's given me a lot of gifts over the years, and many of them qualify as the best present ever. One of them was a memory card that allows me to use my home computer to write this blog. One of them was the DVD release of Quark, one of those campy, horrible, only-six-episodes-aired sci-fi shows I've written about before. It's possible this show may be known and quoted only by my immediate family. Actually, it might have been a Christmas present. Doesn't matter.

His love language appears to be gift-giving, like our mother, and he is very good at it.

I would say, though, the best present ever from Eric falls into two categories. First, my nieces, those two young ladies whom I love so much. Being a part of their lives has been the greatest privilege I have ever known. Second, my brother himself, who has become a friend, advisor, and occasionally a phone technician, auto mechanic and heroic yellowjacket killer.

I never would have thought when I was the little princess that my geeky elder brother and I would become such good friends. Without my nieces to bring us together, I'm not sure we would have figured out how much we like each other. I'm so glad we both had the chance.

So, thank you, Eric, for all the presents over all the years. I have loved each and every one, but I love you most of all.

Unbeknownst to me, my dear elder brother was creating my first website while I was writing this post, http://www.robynntolbert.com/. * It's still rough, but it will become great. Thank you again, Eric!

*The website has since devolved back into this blog because I like blogging better than website maintenance,

Friday, October 23, 2009

5 Days to Go

I'm on page 87 of 613 as far as editing goes. Those are double-spaced pages, by the way.

So far, I've taken out two paragraphs of unnecessary backstory, exchanged a lot of underlines for italics, and changed some questionable language to less questionable language. I'm aiming for the PG rating, here. Can't go for G due to graphic violence. Three cheers for severed heads! I think graphic applies. Would you consider hands getting chopped off and bouncing off someone's chest graphic? I would. Then I remember the story of Ehud in Judges and I think, the Bible has some graphic violence of its own, so I don't feel so bad. Not that I'm writing anything as inspired as the Bible. I'm just saying.

I've started a 10 word hook. I don't like it, but it seems accurate enough. It just seems so ordinary boiled down to 10 words. I'll keep working it.

I'm working on a 20 word premise, which is 10 more words than the hook but I keep ending up with 16 or 18 instead of 20. My natural self-editor at work, I suppose. According to Make Every Word Count, I should make every word count. That's what I'm trying to do.

I wrote a page and a half synopsis last week, so I'll boil that down for my 750 word synopsis.
I'll revise the first 500 words tomorrow after my voting poll closes.

Hmm. That's seems like an awful lot of stuff to do in 5 days.

There goes my eyelid.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

7 Days to Contest

It's in earnest now. I've been working on the premise and cover blurb, and I'll work on the first 500 words after my poll closes tomorrow, but I also want to read through and revise my manuscript one more time.

I haven't been to the acquisitions form page yet to see what I have to send or how I have to send it. That will probably happen today. You may be wondering why it hasn't happened yet.

I don't handle stress well. I suffer from "eye twitch." My optometrist tells me it's caused by an excess of histamine, and I certainly have that, but stress is what triggers the twitch.

I can feel it building, a little bit of tension in my left eyelid. I haven't started twitching yet, but the last time I did, it lasted four months. That's a long time to tolerate a twitching eye.

This is why I'm taking one baby step at a time. I'm trying to convince my eye there is nothing to worry about. Everything will be fine. I don't know if it will believe me.

I don't plan to wait until the 29th to submit, actually. I'm thinking the 28th is better, so technically I have 6 days to contest, and then the Sabbath rest, followed by mozzarella sticks and a mocha java chiller.

I would like to say I'm excited. I can't get excited about this. Excitement leads to hope, and I really don't think I have a hope of making it past the first round. I hate the crash of hope deferred, so I prefer to remain in a semi-calm state of disinterest.

I do have moments when I think "This is good. I'm doing a good job," followed almost immediately by "too bad it won't matter."

Welcome to my thought life. Depressing, isn't it?

Don't let it get you down. I don't dwell on this stuff. I'm just a turtle, plodding ahead, trying not to worry about what might happen.

I can promise you, if I make it past the first round, they will hear the "Woo-Hoo" in Colorado Springs. Followed almost immediately by the sound of vomiting.


PS: I just checked the acquistions form requirement. It's basically the same things as the contest wants, just slightly different word counts: 10 word hook, 100 word premise, 750 word synopsis and first 500 words. Sounds about right. I'm strangely calm right now. I'm sure I'll freak out later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What is Marcher Lord Press Thinking?

Part of the contest is a 20 word premise, meaning a 20 word "what the book is about" sentence. As you may imagine, this is not easy. How do you boil 600+ double-spaced pages into 20 words? More importantly, 20 words that pique someone else's interest? I have no idea. I've just started writing sentences. Hopefully, some of them will make me happy.

I also have to write a short back cover blurb. That's the bit of writing on the back of the book that you turn to after you've seen the cover and title and gotten interested enough to pick up the book...

(Forgive me. I got distracted when Skamper rolled a grapefruit off the table and chased it around the living room floor. I was going to yell, but he couldn't have been cuter if he were holding a puppy)

So, you're staring at the back cover and wondering if the book is worth $8 or $10 or $15. If you like what you read on the back, you'll flip the book open and read the first couple of paragraphs, or the first 500 words.

That's the rationale of the contest. Writers don't think about marketing issues; they just write books. Unfortunately, without marketing of some sort, good books don't get read.

I have a good book. I need some good marketing. That's why I'm asking you to vote in the poll.

I should warn you the sentence I choose may not read entirely like the one you voted on. I wrote the "thudding hooves" sentence in about 10 seconds, and it annoys me that her head comes out of the journal and not her attention. If it's annoyed some of you, my apologizes. I was freaked out when I wrote it.

Since this is a contest, I don't know how much I should put on this blog before I submit it. I don't think the opening sentence is a problem since it gives me a direction, and it likely won't stay the same anyway, but the rest I'll keep back until after I'm rejected. Just in case.

It occurs to me some of my blog readers may not be familiar with my book, since it's never been published. When I wrote it, I allowed a select group of people to read it and give me feedback. That was six years ago. Perhaps knowing the genre will help you pick a sentence.

Star of Justice is a Christian fantasy adventure romance mystery.

You might now have a better understanding of why I'm having trouble with the 20 word premise. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Well, yesterday's euphoria didn't last long. I posted my entry, went to my inbox and freaked out.

Marcher Lord Press has decided to hold two contests. The first involves 40 manuscripts that will be voted on and out like American Idol. No problem. Those stories appear to be pre-selected. The second will be for new manuscripts and focus on things like 20 word premise, 100 word back cover blurb (I love that word), and the first 500 words of the book. The contest entry deadline is Oct 29.

You're thinking, "That's great! Way to go, Turtle!"

Yeah, not so much.

See, not only does it move my arbitrary deadline for submission four days closer, but it means I will no longer be one of 20-40 manuscripts, but one of who knows how many manuscripts, all vying for the prize of a guaranteed acquisitions review.

There's no point in not entering the contest. This will be the only thing Marcher Lord will be doing for the next four months. When I get rejected in the first round, I'll have a choice of sitting on my manuscript and waiting for the contest to be done to try again, or look for another publishing company to try.

You're thinking, "Don't be so negative. You could make it."

Yeah, except my first 500 words...not so exciting. I start the action within the first two pages, but not within the first 500 words. The first 500 words are setting the scene and telling us just how boring a person Caissa is when we start. If they had paint, she would have been watching paint dry in the first 500 words. The book doesn't stay that way, but it does start that way.

That's why I posted the poll. I may change the opening.

I hate doing it. I like the opening. But as it is right now...I don't think it has a chance against someone who opens with a gunfight or a life changing decision.

Anyhoo, I'll definitely be writing about rejection soon. Sooner than intended, mostly likely.

Please vote in my poll. Feel free to comment. I need your prayers more than anything. Not the kind where I win, but the kind where God grants me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Oh, and sleep. This sort of challenge keeps this turtle up at night. If I can pray for you while I'm awake, let me know.

I just checked my inbox. No news is good news today.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chapter Breaks

I'm feeling a little more positive today. I don't know if it's the anticipation of partly sunny weather or getting back to a scheduled work day, but at the moment, I feel good, dana-nana-nana-nah.

Anyhoo, one of Marcher Lord Press's tips is to keep chapter length between 15-17 pages. Jeff the editor uses some kind of mathematical formula to do this. It appears to work for him. He's not only a publisher of his own press, he's also a multi-published author.

I prefer a slightly more organic method. I'm reading through the chapter, finding the tensest moment and putting a chapter break there.

Bwahahahahaha! That's an evil laugh. It's important to have a good evil laugh. Check out Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog for proof.

This means my chapters don't always fall in the 15-17 page range, but even the tip says it's a median not a standard.

I resisted this idea at first, but after realizing some of my chapters were 40 pages long double-spaced, I decided Jeff might have a point. Even I would get tired of reading that.

As a consequence, my chapter numbers are now all screwy-wumpus (or ferdoodled, Susie). So, for those of you who planned on jumping ahead to read chapter thirteen, you can't. Chapter Thirteen has moved, and I'm not telling you where it is.


See? Evil laughs come in handy.

Boy, the spellcheck had a field-day with this post.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tip 60

People seem to like it when I write about my feelings on this journey. The Vulcan in me resists, but the narcissist says "OK, as long as it's about me."

I've read through tip 60 in my 100-tip journey. On the one hand, I'm feeling pretty good about things. Most of these tips I know and practice. I'm not claiming mastery, but I am claiming bachelor-y (master's degree, bachelor's degree). I know 'em; I try to do 'em.

On the other hand (that's for you, Larissa and Tevya), some of these tips I don't have.

They've one called circularity, which is a great concept, but it's new to me and it's not in my book.

There's another one about viewpoint: specifically, writing narration from character viewpoint instead of narrator viewpoint yet in third person instead of first. For example, the story sounds like Winnie the Pooh instead of the English guy.

I see the point, but I haven't done it in Star of Justice. My narrator is the narrator. To be fair, the narrator sees things from Caissa's point of view (or POV), but it is generally a distinct voice and I use a distinct voice when I read it to mom. Is this a problem? Jeff the Marcher Lord Press editor/publisher admits this is a subtle skill. Is it a deal-breaker thing? I don't want to rewrite my entire novel to employ this subtle skill. I don't even know if I could. If this is the reason my story gets rejected, I'm thinking I'll submit somewhere else and come back to Marcher Lord with another story.

Am I just looking for reasons to quit and hide in my shell? Is the ongoing lack of sunlight making every flaw seem worse than it is? I'm thinking, you betcha. That coupled with the general fear of success may be working against me here.

Once again, I'm going to just keep going and see what happens. I was reminded tonight I should be praying about this before I do anything else. Proverbs 3:5-6 says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." I once heard that translated as "tell God everything first and He'll show you the right way to go." Funny how we translate English into English. I don't know if there is a right way in this situation. Right now, I'm just looking for a way to keep going.

Sunlight helps. Thanks for the sun, Lord. Keep it coming.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


In The Silicon Mage by Barbara Hambly, the villain is a computer that draws energy to power itself from two different dimensions. The villainous side effect, and the reason this is a problem, is the loss of the will to live for the inhabitants of those dimensions. Our heroes endure this for weeks as they plot to destroy the computer and save the universe.

I've been without sun for - what? A week now? I have every light in my house on, and it's not helping with my will to live. This is why I read and write about heroes. I don't have the stamina for real problems.

I'm going to bed.

God willing, the sun will be out tomorrow, and I can get on with my life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why Listen to Me?

When I started this blog, I had no idea what I would write about. Seems I've chosen at this point to focus on my journey toward publication. I tell you what I'm doing, feeling and learning in the hopes you find it of interest and perhaps value.

I've noticed some of my blogs have a lecturing tone. That wasn't my intention, but my training is in education and general know-it-all bossiness, so it doesn't surprise me that I would tend to write this way.

However, I like to know the credentials of anyone attempting to convey information (part of my Judgmental character). It helps me gauge how much weight to give to his words. Great speakers don't always have a mastery of their subject, after all. I'm thinking our current government proves that.

I have never written professionally, by which I mean I have never received a paycheck for something I have written. I am, what is called in the trade, an unpublished author.

This is not to say I have never written for an audience before. I wrote scripts for youth groups in my teens and puppets shows in my 30's. I wrote dozens of papers in college, some of them requirements for my degree. I had to write a Masters' Thesis (although I honestly can't tell you what the topic was). I have been writing a lot for a State Sovereignty committee in the last few months, and those fliers and brochures are making their way across the state.

In my late teens, I attended six or seven Christian writer's conferences. I wasn't ready to pursue publication at that time, but I listened to Loma Davies, Sally Stuart, Ruby Lewis, and many others about how to improve my craft (this was 20 years ago). I have a dozen books on professional writing in my library. I have read them all and done my best to apply them. Two of my absolute favorites are Fiction is Folks (which I loaned out so I can't remember who wrote it) and Make Every Word Count (which I can't find so I'll have to buy a new copy). If you own no other books about writing, but you want to write, buy these two. You will not regret it. They surpass genre issues and give solid advice on how to write well. Most of what I know and do I learned from these books.

So here I am, 20 years later, ready to publish. I know this because I attended a writer's conference this year and actually applied the lessons I learned 20 years ago about how to make the most of a writer's conference. I think I just needed the time to grow up.

I'm kind of glad I waited, though. I wouldn't have written Star of Justice 20 years ago. Elementals would have been a completely different story, probably OK but I like it better now. Timing is everything, in life and in stories. I'm hoping I finally got my life synchronized.

Anyway, that's me. Now you may decide how much weight to give my lectures.

Oh, one other thing I've meant to address for a while now. The general rule about numbers is those that can be expressed as one or two words are written out and anything bigger is expressed as numerals. I break that rule in this blog because I like the way the numbers look in this font, and it breaks up the page in an interesting way. In any other writing, I follow the rule.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

To Revise or Not To Revise

So you've finished a book (or paper). You think it's pretty good. You submit it (or hand in a rough draft). What you get back has a nice note on it telling you it's not what they're looking for. If you're lucky, they make some suggestions for improvement.

What do you do?

This hasn't exactly happened to me yet. When I submitted Star of Justice to Tor six years ago, I got a flat rejection form letter. No biggie. I knew they'd never accept me anyway, and I wasn't concerned about getting published, so it didn't bother me.

Now, though, I will face a choice. If I get rejected, what will I do?

I will not kill myself. I may cry and eat a large Sonic mocha java chiller with mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce and regret it for the rest of the night, but that's probably as far as the pity party will go.

More to the point, as I review Marcher Lord Press's writing tips, what should I do when I find one I violate?

I've said before that writing is a skill and an art form. Rules exist but within those rules is amazing flexibility to communicate.

The wrong choice is to ignore their tips. If these are things they will use to decide if I am the kind of author they can hire, then I must seriously consider their criteria or risk flat rejection. On the other hand, I think it's also wrong to change an entire manuscript just to avoid one publisher's pet peeves. So what do I do?

I, turtle that I am, will proceed with care. I am on vacation, so I will review all of their writing tips today, and then slowly read through Star of Justice and see whether I have good reasons for violating those tips (when I have). If I don't, I will change. If I do, I will leave it as is.

This is the moment when ego can trip up a writer. You get attached to your words, your phrases, your expositing, and you hate letting them go, even if they don't help the story. Don't worry. You will write other beautiful words. If you have too much trouble, do what I do, and save passages in another file for possible use another day. Yes, my ego is that large, but it's a concrete way to clear out clutter and the only way I was able to finish Elementals. Maybe someday I will publish those as deleted scenes or bloopers.

I also encourage you to have some faith in your own ability. After all, it is your story, not the editor's. If you believe you've done something well, leave it alone. One editor, even a very good editor, is not the entire world.

Hmm. I'm going to have to write about the ugly truth of rejection. I keep dancing around it because I wanted to wait until next month, but I can't seem to let it go. Maybe tomorrow, then.

A word of caution: pick your battles carefully. Quibbling over a word choice is nothing compared to changing a major character's personality.

Oh, and to the high schoolers submitting papers, seriously consider your teacher's suggestions, if she makes any. For now, she is the editor you must please and you don't usually get the chance to submit to another house if she doesn't like it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A New Fear

Actually, I feel better today. That's the thing about emotions. They change so rapidly.

My cousin sympathized with my fears yesterday, comparing manuscript submission to having your baby appraised. I don't have a baby, but I think he's probably right.

I read tips 11-20 last night. So far, I am familiar with most of them. The manuscript formatting suggestions took me by surprise. I was taught to always underline, even though italics are now available on computers, but Marcher Lord Press wants italics. I spent the first two hours of editing finding all my underlines and changing them. I'm skeptical that all publishers want this, but since I'm starting with Marcher Lord, I'll change. They also want only one space between sentences instead of two. Again, weird to me, but I changed it.

Tip 13 expresses the publisher's pet peeve of using any words other than said to express speaking. While I agree that said is useful and expected for most dialogue, I think it's OK to use other words on occasion. Sometimes the words themselves do not express how they are said, and I hate adding adverbs when a vivid verb is right there ready to be used. I hope it isn't a deal-breaker. I've read my first two chapters and taken out an agreed, argued and retorted, but that's as far as I'm going for now.

The new fear seems to be the fear of rejection. I've not felt it before, but I'm pretty sure that's what I'm feeling.

I like these people. I like their sense of humor. I like their movie and book references. I like their goals. I love one of their books, Starfire by Stuart Vaughn Stockton. In short, I want to be one of them. I want to write for Marcher Lord Press.

Yet, odds are good I will get rejected. I'll explain why some other day, maybe tomorrow. When that happens, I may not be able to shrug it off as I usually do. It may feel personal, and I don't like that thought.

This new fear isn't going to stop me from submitting. It may make me cry when the little pink letter comes, but I will submit anyway.

The up side of this adventure is that while reviewing and editing my book (which I haven't seriously looked at in over a year), I'm feeling pretty good about it. After all this time, it's still a good story. I'm not finding glaring errors. I'm not finding issues with the Marcher Lord tips I've read so far (except the ones I mentioned). Somewhere along the way, I learned the right stuff about writing and applied it to Star of Justice. I consider this progress.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I knew it was coming. I did not expect it so soon.

Last night I began preparing Star of Justice for submission to Marcher Lord Press. The good news is the writing tips column I'm supposed to study and apply has only 100 tips divided into 10-tip increments. I have more than 10 days until Nov 2, so I will read and apply one section per night during my normal writing time (get it, my lamb? Steady application is the key) with a few days left over in case any one tip takes more time than that.

Note: It is possible, since my Nov 2 deadline is somewhat arbitrary, for me to extend it, but I would rather not. I believe I will have enough time if I am diligent.

The bad news is as I was reading over the site in general to familiarize myself with its requirements, I came close to a panic attack. Fear is a nice word. I don't know if it goes far enough. Innards-twisting terror comes closer. I almost had to go throw up.

What am I afraid of, you may wonder? I've told you before. Success.

Parts of Marcher's website make me certain I will never be accepted by them. Other parts make me think I have a chance, and that terrifies me.

It is my absolute intention to throw everything I have into making my manuscript something that could be accepted by this publisher. Whether or not they will is an ugly truth I will cover in another post. The fact remains that they might accept it. Once that happens, my life changes forever.

I will then be required to be professional. To consider and possibly implement changes to my story. To follow non-arbitrary deadlines. To present my writing to a wider audience for review, critique and rejection in some form. Odds are excellent someone, somewhere will not care for my book.

It's enough to make this turtle want to pull into her shell and never write again. In the past, that is exactly what I have done.

This is not the past. This is now. I am nearly 40 years old. I am a professional. I meet deadlines all the time. I have made changes to my story based on comments made by those who have read it. I can do this.

I suspect I will spend the rest of the month in a low-level simmer of anxiety. You know, that state of readiness where you have to keep taking deep breaths, and your stomach remains clenched, and you're more aware of your heart beating. I feel like I just drank a 40 oz Mountain Dew with all the sugar and twice the caffeine, except I didn't.

Turtles weren't meant to feel this way. I don't like it. I pray I get past it or, like my heroine Caissa, I may spend the next 12 days throwing up a lot.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-8 NIV, I think).


Monday, October 12, 2009

It Is Finished

It is finished. If only my work is as complete as Christ's was when He said that. Perhaps I should say it is finished for now.

Elementals is written. I wrote the last chapter yesterday. Boy, was it hard not to post about it immediately, but that pesky Rule 2 got in my way. The price I pay for posting in the morning this month.

After allowing my two proof-readers to finish reading and yell at me a little, I will put Elementals aside and pull out Star of Justice. My goal is to review and revise for submission of my firstborn story to Marcher Lord Press on November 2. No special meaning to that date. I just needed a date.
Preparing for submission means several things. For a non-commissioned story (one I wrote without being asked), I must choose a potential publisher. I search for a company that publishes my genre and accepts unsolicited manuscripts (stories which don't have a professional agent supporting them).

There is no point in sending your love story to a house that only prints technical manuals for engine repair.

I also intend to try very hard not to sign on with a publisher who prints books I don't support. You might be surprised how many publishing houses have smaller houses attached that produce pure smut. Evil is a lucrative business, but I want no part of it.

Before submitting a manuscript, be sure to read and follow the publisher's guidelines for submission. These are almost always listed on the publisher's website. Treat those guidelines seriously and save yourself money and heartache. If they want only the first three chapters double-spaced in Times New Roman font, give it to them that way. They will not appreciate your efforts to be noticeable by sending three copies in Comic Sans on florescent yellow paper. They will appreciate your ability to follow directions.

Marcher Lord Press has a writing tips column, and they recommend any writer looking to publish with them know and apply those tips to any manuscript submitted. I will be spending the rest of the month looking over those columns. And praying. I'm reading a book by one of their authors, and I feel like I'm way out of my league with these folks. I don't know that I am, I just feel that way. That doesn't happen to me very often. I would appreciate your prayers, as well.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Masters of the Craft: C.S. Lewis

Readers of non-fiction appreciate Lewis for his amazing defense of the Christian faith. How a human was able to boil difficult spiritual concepts into understandable, applicable bites without divine inspiration is a mystery to me.

His fiction is the same way. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a very tiny book. Hold it next to any of the Harry Potter series and you will see what I mean. In fact, all seven of the Narnia books don't add up page-wise to anything JK Rowling did after her first book.

For such a tiny book, though, Lewis packs a real punch. He explores issues of truth, evil, ambition, selfishness, sacrifice and redemption, and he does it all writing to an audience of children. Those books are intended for children to read.

What's more important to me is that his conclusions are Biblical. Selfishness is destructive. Forgiveness is better than resentment. The right sacrifice can make all the difference to the world. Such difficult concepts, yet written in a simple, interesting way that a child can absorb.

To me, the most amazing part is his treatment of Aslan. I don't know if you've tried to write dialogue for God, but it isn't easy. I don't know why God does what He does most of the time. How presumptuous do I have to be to put words in His mouth in my stories? Yet I do not argue with Aslan. Everything he says and does seems very much like what Jesus would say or do if He were there.

Lewis claims he never intended for Aslan to be the picture of Jesus that he has become to his readers. If that is the case, Lewis is an even more amazing writer.

Such simple stories, simply told, yet read and cherished generations after publication. Honest, respectful stories by a man whose heart and mind were given completely to God that continue to inspire.

It is a goal, perhaps an unattainable goal, but what use is a goal too easy to reach?

Have you read a fiction book by C.S. Lewis? What lesson did you learn? What character did you love best and why?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why Fiction?

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you might wonder why I choose to write fiction stories. I can string two sentences together to form a coherent thought. I should be writing real books. Important books. OK, maybe that's my ego getting in the way, but I have had folks ask me this.

The answer is fiction books have had more impact on my life than non-fiction books, with the obvious exception of the Bible. However, many of my favorite books also illustrate Biblical truths.

This may be close to blasphemy, but my first image of Jesus as a real person was Aslan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (four years ago I would have had to explain that). I was thrilled with the movie, although I think the cartoon from 20 years ago did a better job of showing the sacrifice at the Stone Table. On the other hand, they wouldn't have been able to keep a PG rating if they showed what was really done to that lion.

I learned about responsibility and mature love from The Little Prince. That book did not make a great movie, although Gene Wilder gives a remarkably tender performance as The Fox.

I cannot tell you how much I am impacted by the The Lost Princess by George MacDonald even today. A book about two kinds of brats, and I could qualify as either one. Every child should not only read but memorize that book. All of MacDonald's short stories are good. I cannot ingest juice and biscuits without thinking of The Light Princess, or eat green or purple grapes without thinking of The Day Boy and The Night Girl.

Each of the books I listed in "Favorites" has impacted my life to some degree, and they are all fiction. Stories bring lessons to life. Jesus used parables for the same reason. People listen to stories about other people. Sometimes people listen more to stories about other people.

I can only hope to write something that reaches people the way my favorite books have reached me. I keep that goal in mind with every chapter. A good fiction book will teach you something whether you know it or not, so choose your books with care.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Gump It

This is for the recovering perfectionists. Those are perfectionists who have seen the destructive nature of their obsession and are trying to overcome it with the help of a higher power. We should have a group, Perfectionists Anonymous.

I like the movie Forrest Gump. I've heard the book isn't worth reading.

My heart goes out to poor Jenny, who spends her entire life running away from pain and ends up running away from love at the same time. I usually start crying when Forrest meets her at the Washington Monument and I don't stop until the movie's over. That's a long time to cry.

However, what I like about the movie is the single-mindedness of Forrest. It's part of his supposed disability, but the guy does one thing at a time, really well. That one thing at a time takes him places most people never go. At the end of the movie, he summarizes his life to Jenny, telling her of all the things he's seen and how she was with him the whole time. It reminds me of the death of Roy Batty (yea, Rutger Hauer!) in Blade Runner.

As a perfectionist, on occasion, I resent choices. I resent having to choose between one thing and another. Do I spend time with mom or the nieces? Do I order this dessert or that one? Do I write a book or read a book? Options that are both perfectly good, but mutually exclusive because of time. A perfectionist asks "which one is the best?" Poor grammar, I know, but better doesn't convey the sense of finality I want.

Forrest didn't worry about the best. He just did what he was going to do and focused on it with everything he had. "Why did you assemble your rifle so quickly, Private Gump?" "Because you told me to, Drill Sergeant."


My point? Maybe there is no best in most choices. Just make your choice and focus everything you have on it. Don't waffle. Don't regret. Give it your all. Gump it.

Who knows? At the end of all things, you may have a trunk full of memories you can cherish. Forrest sure did.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Ugly Truth About Writing: Clarity

Ugly truths are everywhere, even in writing. This may be the first of a series.

Writing is first and foremost communication between humans. To my knowledge, we haven't found another species yet that communicates through the written word. I don't think even Coco the gorilla can read. I may be wrong about that.

If you pause to consider, any attempt to transfer thoughts from one being to another is somewhat amazing. How is it possible that the structures in my head could ever mirror the structures in yours? Forget about telepathy. I mean simple concepts like "I'm hungry" or "that's red." Think of a poem or a song that means something to you. How was that writer able to string together a line of words that not only conveyed thoughts but meaning and emotion? Truly amazing.

The ugly truth is clarity falls on the shoulders of the writer. If you are not clear - in your goal, your words and your structure - your reader will never share your thoughts. You the writer will not be physically present in the room when your reader is puzzling over what you're trying to say. You will not have the chance to explain yourself if you miss it the first time. If you are not focused from the outset, your reader will be as confused as you are.

If you're a high school student writing a term paper you may not care whether your reader is confused. If you're a lawmaker in Washington, you're hoping to confuse people. If you're anyone else, writing anything else, clarity is vital.

This is why a critique/support group is a valuable tool. Having another human read your writing and tell you what they learned lets you know if you were clear in your presentation. Not every person will understand you (this is why books come in genres), but you should be able to get your point across to the majority.

This is where you must remind yourself that writing is a skill. Getting defensive is not useful. Improving your written clarity is. I confess I still have some trouble with this, but generally, I'm pretty thick-skinned when it comes to criticism of my writing. If my writing improves as a result, it was worth it, no matter how painful. You must learn to separate your worth as a writer from your written product. Mary DeMuth calls it being thick-skinned and tender-hearted.

Yes, you slaved over those words. Yes, in your mind, you said exactly what you wanted to say. However, if the reader doesn't get it, your writing failed her. You haven't failed. Your skill did. Skill can be improved; in fact, must be improved, or no one will bother to pick up that second piece of writing.

I started this blog last month, but this is not the first time I have written. I have been writing for one reason or another for most of my life. My skill has improved with time and practice. I am not perfect, as I think I have been quick to point out in this forum, but I aim for perfection. I aim for clarity.
When I miss, it's because I don't know what I'm trying to say.

The point: know what you want to say, and use all your writing skill to say it clearly.
Your reader will thank you for it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Usefulness of Soundtracks

I cannot watch TV while writing. I doubt anyone could do so and produce something worth reading at the end.

I do listen to music, though, and I've found my choice of music quite important to what I am writing. The songs cannot have any other meaning attached to them. For example, Michelle Branch's Goodbye to You is forever burned into my brain as the song Tara leaves to in the sixth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Nothing is remaking that image, thank you, Joss Whedon.

I like to make soundtracks for my stories. It's harder to do now that I have cds instead of tapes. Yes, geek readers, that's a dichotomy to you but there it is. Since I don't keep my music on my computer, it takes more steps for me to burn a cd or download an MP3 than to put in a cassette tape and press record. I am not ashamed to be old-fashioned.

The "official" soundtrack for Elementals includes Annie's Song as sung by Roger Whittaker (though most know it from John Denver), She's Like the Wind from Dirty Dancing, Desert Rose by White Heart, I Will Be Here by Steven Curtis Chapman, and Loved By the Sun from Legend, to name a few. Soundtracks will be available at the back of the auditorium. (hehe!)

However, since my radio is across the room and cassettes require flipping, I've settled for playing the Robin Hood Prince of Thieves soundtrack as I finish the book. It's a shame such a good soundtrack got stuck to such a not-good movie. I hate saying that because I love the actors, but, really, that movie only got made because Kevin Costner was on fire that decade. The script stinks.

When (and if) Elementals gets published, you can enjoy the full experience by throwing on your cd of Robin Hood (and I don't know anyone in college in 1990 who didn't have a copy) and settling in for a good read/listen.

For the record, track 3 goes with Dyana's fight with the boarase, and tracks 2, 6 and 8 go with any other fight scenes. The rest just sort of works itself out.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Could My Face Be Redder?

I learned today that I've been calling Dr. Gene Getz by the wrong name. As a consequence, I confess my sin and make atonement through correcting all my posts.

This, however, provides a perfect opportunity to discuss mistakes again.

Mistakes will always appear in your stories. Hopefully, they will be the kind easily corrected, such as typos and incorrect grammar. Or calling a kind and humble man by the wrong name.

Sometimes mistakes are more difficult. Story dead ends. Glaring plot complications. Improbable circumstances. These are harder for the writer to spot and always harder to correct, but correct them you must.

Your readers are not idiots, unless you're writing one of those idiot's guides to whatever, and even then they aren't really idiots (well, maybe a few). They know when you take the easy way out, and it infuriates them.

Your story must be difficult. To be truly heroic, your hero must face and overcome real obstacles in believable ways. This creates hardship for you the writer to create those obstacles and give your hero his believable path of victory. The more difficult the path, the more heroic the hero. Be very careful as you write not to choose the easy way out. Do not turn from the difficult path or allow your hero to do so.

Last month I wrote something to the effect that mistakes can be useful for keeping the ego in check. One caveat: do not allow fear of mistakes to cripple you into trying never to make them. That's called self-editing. While it might be a useful skill for Republican Congressmen listening to a presidential speech to employ, it can kill the creative impulse that brings your creation to life.

Be fearless in your writing, especially in those first drafts. So what if the dialogue is cheesy? So what if the teacup switches hands, or the coat changes color in the same scene? That's why we edit later.

When you make a mistake, correct it. Don't let mistakes, or the fear of making them, control you.

I have no doubt I will revisit this subject at a later date. Sigh.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Virgil Brinkman back on the air. Forgive me, but yesterday was so full I exercised my sabbath exception for this blog.

In mid-September, I set myself the deadline of finishing the first draft of Elementals. When I say "first draft," I mean a complete manuscript that has been written, read and revised by me (albeit quickly) and read by two other people with comments. That's my idea of a first draft. As I've said before, I edit the previous day's work before I move forward to catch any glaring issues and remind myself of where I'm going. Reading and editing are accomplished in less than half an hour (as opposed to fewer than 30 minutes. Are we learning yet? Grrr.)

So, I set myself this deadline, figuring I should be able to make it without problem.

I didn't make it. I haven't come close. I'm five days past and hoping I'll be able to work on the story tonight, but if I go visit my grandmother, I may not have time.

I can give you all the usual excuses. Some of them are valid. Some are not. While my goal is to publish a book before Jesus returns, I may have waited too long to start. I meant to do this before I got a life.

Being temporal creatures, we all face deadlines. Work, school, birthdays, dates for knee surgery: deadlines are everywhere. Inspiration does not happen on deadline, but it is amazing to me how inspiration will follow if you put in the plodding, day-to-day work of just writing something. Every paragraph written is another step in the writing journey. Not every paragraph will shine or move you to tears, but it will help you finish a story. I've found it much easier to revise than write fresh,
possibly because I'm often making up my world as I go, but I have to write something to revise.

Here's to a revised deadline of October 15. If I'm not done by then, Elementals is still going in the drawer and Star of Justice is coming out for review and submission by October 31.

Don't panic, faithful Elemental manuscript readers, I'm bluffing. I wouldn't do that to my second born. Or to you.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Anniversary and Evaluation

It has been one month since I started blogging. Today is my 31st post. I've heard it takes 30 days to make a habit. I have no idea if this is a habit. Some days it feels more like an addiction. That would be a "bad habit."

In the last 30 days I gained 7 public followers. I've had approx. 65 page views (although how many of those are me checking if anyone commented is unknown). I reviewed one book officially, and referenced many others in the course of my posts. I added various gadgets to my blog in the form of pictures, cheesy poems and a list of the rules. I developed a list of rules. I commented on the abstract and the concrete. I handed out business cards with my blog on them because I wanted the attention.

In short, I experienced the tiniest taste of fame. I like it more than I thought I would. Way more.

Blogs have certain disadvantages, too. I want to keep this one focused more on writing: my influences and influencers, if you will, on the way to eventual publication. However, sometimes I want to write about non-writing things and this isn't the appropriate venue. I created robynntolbert.blogspot.com* to catch the overflow of me. Read it only if you don't mind being called to civic duty or to question the deteriorating state of our Union.

The critique was offered that I don't get more comments because my comments are too complete.

Now I must consider whether I really want more reader participation or whether I am content to remain the only turtle wandering my virtual field of buttercups. After all, books are static. Once written, you may review but you may not influence.

Does a blog have ultimate meaning? That's one of those abstract questions I referenced earlier. I have no idea. What do you think?

*This blog is no longer available to the public.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Slow Burn by Mary E. DeMuth

I finished the book at 6 AM (thank you, Mica, for the 5 AM wake up call). I was satisfied.

A Slow Burn is the second book in a planned trilogy. It follows several months in the life of Emory Chance, a pothead, single-mother whose thirteen year old daughter Daisy is abducted and murdered in their small town of Defiance, Texas. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? You might be surprised.

Emory has lived a hard life. Her own upbringing was a quilt of abuse, neglect and hardship. To me, it was a miracle she did as well as she did with her daughter. The soul of the story is the soul of Emory Chance, a guilt-ridden sinner's soul desperately in need of forgiveness and redemption.

Another major player in our story is Hixon, the town handyman who had it from On High that he is to marry Emory or "Missy," as he knows her. Hixon has lived his own life of troubles, and his heart is burdened to care for this "orphan."

Our supporting cast includes a woman dying of cancer, a family suffering under an abusive father, the absent father of Daisy who puts in an appearance only after the child's death, the widowed owner of the local diner and the hallucinated ghost of the murdered girl. Sounds a bit like Peyton Place. Or Passions.

One other person fills nearly every page of the book: Jesus. This is a story of redemption, after all. No hole is so dark Jesus will not go down with you or so deep Jesus cannot lift you out.

What I liked about the book was the stellar grammar, the sense of southern drawl in the dialogue without the annoying phonetic spellings (why I hate Mark Twain), and the sense of grounding. I had no doubt this story occurred in a tiny, dusty, at-the-poverty-line kind of place, where everybody struggles to get by.

What I didn't like was that I hadn't read Daisy Chain, the first book. I kept wondering if I was missing something important. I did read an Amazon review of the first book and it turns out it's the story of the young man from the abusive family, so I think I'm good. Once I knew that, I relaxed a little. Mary also has a fondness for similes that was occasionally disruptive to my focus. On the other hand, I overuse still, parentheses and modifying phrases after the object, so I'm not going to throw any stones.

To the geeks and nerds of my acquaintance, start with the first book. It's about an angst-ridden boy, and geeks get that. Also, nerds with a fondness for Joss Whedon's heartless sacrifices for story impact will like A Slow Burn.

To the readers of horror, don't bother. There isn't enough suspense or terror in this story to hold your interest. A fine line between clarity and voyeurism exists, and Mary does a respectful job of telling just enough to show the pain that Emory's drug use is trying to mask without over-indulging in the gory details. Stephen King would never hold back like Mary does. He would benefit from reading this book, though.

To readers of secular, historical romance, beware. This is a love story, but not the kind you expect.

For the remaining 80% of the population, I see no reason why you wouldn't enjoy and benefit from this book. I teared up a few times, although not in the expected places, I'm sure. I read a few chapters that yanked me along to see what happened. I yelled at Emory when she stupidly followed a potential murderer into her own house! I thought even a pothead would have more sense than that. Guess not.

So, Mary, congratulations on yet another book completed and out there for stuffy-nosed, unpublished upstarts like me to read and review. Following your example, I have tried to be both honest and respectful. I hope I succeeded.

God's blessings on you and your family.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Prelude to a Book Review

I've mentioned Mary DeMuth before, and I will again, but let me bring you up to speed on how I came to review her newest book.

My reading preferences fall in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. If you walk through my library (I have actual stacks built into my basement) the majority of titles you see fall under that category. My mother preferred historical romances, and I have a good many of those I appropriated from her. I like vampires and the supernatural, too, so I have books in the horror genre. Add some textbooks I kept from college on family therapy and Biblical studies, and that's my library.

Thanks to the six cats and a dog, I don't have a lot of spending money. I only read books I own because if I like them I want to read them again. Because I'm poor, I don't buy many books. See the problem? Not one book on my favorites list in "about me" was written after 1970, and most were a good deal before then. I also don't like change. I tend to reread my books on a tri-annual rotation. That's a lot for a new book/author to come up against.

After hearing Mary speak at Roaring Lambs, I signed on to her website and her blog and kept an eye on her. Published author that she is, I thought I could learn something useful from her. I got an email early this month asking if I would be interested in getting a free book to review. Would I! Would I?

This is one of those moments when Old Me would have said "no." Too risky. Just hang back and that opportunity will move on to greener pastures and good riddance. But new, Gene Getz-inspired Me said "why not?"

I replied in the affirmative, and A Slow Burn arrived shortly thereafter.

That's when things began to fall apart. The book sat on the table for a few days instead of moving to the reading room (most people have 1 to 2 1/2 of these in their houses). I did this because I knew I would be reviewing it, and I wanted to give it several hours at a stretch to sink in. This was a mistake.

Turns out I didn't have my usual "several hours at a stretch" month. Since that Roaring Lambs conference, I've taken on a lot of new opportunities which drastically curtail my reading time.

Which brings me to today and this post. I wanted to post my review on the official "coming out" day for A Slow Burn, but I haven't finished the book yet. I am almost done, and it is glued to my side wherever I go in case I have a few minutes to read.

God willing, I'll finish it tomorrow morning and have a review by lunch. God may be willing, but this flesh is weak.

Fortunately, I did take a few moments to look at some of the other reviews, and it seems Mary has written a hit with a lot of folks.

We'll know tomorrow if I'm one of them.