Month: October 2011 Page 2 of 5

Book Review: Echo McCool, Outlaw Through Time

*** Not my favorite but it might be yours.

The main character is a boy throughout the book, but Echo, a girl, has just as strong a part.

About 190  pages.

Echo McCool:  Outlaw Through Time

by Roger K. Driscoll

In short: a magical girl from the distant past, trapped in a tree throughout centuries, is awakened by a boy to help avenge the murder of his mother and rescue his sister.

The story starts out with Echo’s story in the past.  Her entire family, rebels against powerful nobility (like Robin Hood and his band of thieves), have been killed, except for one sister.  Echo is half-dryad; her mother is one of the spirits of the trees.  Poisoned by a pursuer and near death, she hides inside a hollow tree.  The tree heals her, only to leave her sleeping for centuries.

Her distant relative, Jason Fleeting, has been orphaned and lives at a school after the murder of his mother, the disappearance of his father, and the kidnapping of his sister.  He’s playing in a tree when he falls out, conks himself on the head, and goes into a coma.  While in the coma, he’s visited by Echo’s dryad mother, who will help him find his sister if he rescues her daughter, Echo, whose tree is about to be cut down and cut into firewood…which will mean Echo is chainsawed in half.

Jason saves Echo, and the two of them go on the adventure of a lifetime to save his sister.

Good characters, very readable.  I had two things that bothered me to the point where I can’t give it a personal woo-hoo  of a rating.

One, there was a bit too much talking and explaining.  It was only in a couple of spots and I read past it, but I wished things had moved faster at times.

Two, I play some role-playing games.  One of the things that happens in those games is that you have to make sure that no one power is so strong that it makes the game unfair.  I think that Echo has such a power:  the ability to see anything that happens in the past, and to spend no time in the real world to do so.  That means in a story where there’s a mystery, like here (what happened to Jason’s sister?), the characters can instantly know the answer.  Sure, there’s a lot of adventure involved in actually rescuing his sister, but I was disappointed.  It felt like there was no chance that the bad guys would win, because the good guys always knew their secrets.  I like the illusion that the bad guys might win, even when I’m pretty sure they probably won’t.

This is not to say that it wasn’t a fun read, because it was.  Lots of fighting, adventure, sneaking around, getting blamed for things they didn’t do, and wearing amusing disguises.  A lot of kids liked the book a lot, and I can see why.  I just can’t say that I loved it 100%.

Book description (from Amazon):

Echo McCool is a magical, medieval girl with attitude. Don’t get on the wrong end of her jump kicks, flick-flaks and open-palm strikes. In her own time, Echo escapes death from a poisoned arrow and hides inside a hollow oak tree. She lies dormant for hundreds of years but in the present day she is awakened by Jason Fleeting, a twelve-year-old runaway from a children’s home. Together they set out to solve the murder of Jason’s mother and to rescue his kidnapped sister Lauren.

About Roger K Driscoll (from Amazon):

Roger K Driscoll lives in a little house near the old oak tree and disused railway line where he used to play as a boy in the 1970s. He believes that the most important part of any book is its reader. Without a reader, a book can never come alive. Please visit Roger’s website echomccool.com.

Click here to read the beginning of the book.

Click here to buy the book or to find out more.

Submission Tips from the Slushpile

As you may know, I read slush for the wonderful Apex Magazine.  I previously posted some tips for submission, but someone asked me to write some up, and I ended up with different ones.  Who knew!

Here they are:

  • There are a lot of decent stories out there.  You have to better than all of them to get on the short list.  And then you have to be better than everyone on the short list to get published, or at least you have to be exactly what the editor is looking for, or be what caught the editor’s eye.
  • Submitting a short story is a job interview.  Be 100% professional – follow directions and edit to as near perfection as you can get it. You’ll never get a job because someone feels sorry for you; you only get the job if you beat out the other applicants.
  • Your job as a writer is to hook the reader from the first sentence and never let go.  If you can’t do that, then you’re not the person for the job.  There is no “keep reading, it gets better, you’ll like it…” in a short story.  Maybe in novels, but not in short stories.
  • If you sound like everyone else, then the only way you’ll get the job is if you are better than everyone else.  If you sound like you, then your chances greatly improve, as long as your story is decent to begin with.  The novelty and individuality of your voice, as a writer, is what makes readers read your stories rather than someone else’s, especially with short stories.  You can be less than a perfect writer if you sound like an individual instead of a cookie cutter.
  • Make me feel something to the point where I can’t help reacting: get me laughing out loud, crying, hair standing on end, gaping with the slow unfolding of horror as I realize that things weren’t as I thought they were, beaming as two people fall in love…

Back from Pikes Peak Romance Writers

I lived!  Fortunately, I knew quite a few people in the room at the Pikes Peak Romance Writers meeting, although I have to admit I kind of went into extrovert mode for a while and thus into an altered state in which I can’t quite remember everything that happened.  Weird, that.  I finally got to talk to some people that I recognized from PPW meetings but hadn’t really met, which was nice.

Milt Mays and Robin Nolet both talked about their different roads to publishing, too, which was great.  It was funny, though, that Terry O’Dell and Magaret Brettschneider (of the people I recognized and knew were in self-publishing; apologies to those I missed) were both in the audience, and I just assume they both know more than I do by a long shot.  However, I think what has proven true so far is that ebooks and this new wave of self-publishing with POD are still so new that everyone who so much as dips a toe in that water can have something useful to share–and to learn. “How did you do THAT?”  “Did it work?”  “Oh, that’s an awesome workaround.”  “Good warning…I’ll think twice before I do this other thing.”  If I get nothing else out of self-publishing, it’s the pleasure of knowing other people who like to poke around like I do, who take an experimental approach to publishing, rather than a fearful one.  (Not that sheer panic isn’t involved.)

I passed out my Roadmap to Indie Publishing, and that went over well.

Other notes:

  • To those who don’t understand Facebook/Twitter:  Just talk to people.  You’re a writer; you are, by definition, interesting.  Yes, on occasion, tell people about the work you have to sell.  But mostly talk, and listen, and respond.  If it were a private conversation, it wouldn’t be on Twitter.  (Treat it like a cocktail party where you can jump into anything interesting, say anything [as long as it’s interesting], and show up for in your bathrobe.  Downside:  having to provide your own booze and snacks…)
  • I can’t recommend starting with Smashwords strongly enough.
  • My two biggest setbacks (although I doubt I would change them) have been 1) writing under more than one name and 2) giving stories away for free to my family.  Doing so set me back three months.  I’m just starting to recover.  Your family and friends are part of a critical mass that you need to get started, and I should have waited.  But eh, it makes me happy.
  • My friend Mark Fassett is the guy who does the awesome writer software:  Storybox is for writing, and helped me crank out words about 50% faster than I had before (when I’m on a roll, that is), and Trackerbox is for tracking your sales on Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, etc.  Nice.
  • I sold two books!  However, I was also a dork…due to the magic of the Internet, I can take orders for books, have people pay online with credit cards (via my PayPal merchant account), and have the books shipped to them.  I forgot to mention this…even after I created some last-minute order forms.  Siiiiigh.  I also didn’t have coupons ready for free books, like Robin did…AND I forgot to pick up one of her coupons.  I had biz cards, but they were the old ones that just have this site on them.  My head = attached, but only barely, in case you were wondering.
  • I brought books with me in a rolly suitcase a la Beth Groundwater, which worked very well, but the books slid around, and now one of the covers is bent.  I’ll have to rethink how to pack them.  But otherwise it was handy.
  • I think it was Milt who mentioned that Tattered Cover has a local authors program where they will also consider self-published authors.  Neat!  Link to program is here.  “Local authors” is definitely Colorado authors; possibly those from Wyoming, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, Arizona, and Kansas; and possibly authors from worldwide who are writing specifically about Rocky Mountain state-related topics.
  • I plugged for NaNoTryMo:  The Pikes Peak Writers’ NaNoWriMo write-ins, which are at the Imagination Celebration station, at the Citadel Mall.  They’re from 6:30 to 8:30.  It’s free!

I wish I’d taken more notes about what my fellow authors had said…ack!  I though I’d written down stuff they were doing and wanted to copy, and I didn’t!  What a dork.  I guess I was just too excited 🙂

I hope everyone had fun and will consider trying at least to put up a short story as an ebook.  Don’t knock it until you try it 🙂

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-10-23

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Kid Writers: Join the Young Writers’ Program in November

My daughter signed up for the Young Writers’ Program this year (her first).  Then sat down and wrote like 500 words.  Okay, November hasn’t started yet, but who am I to tell her she has to wait?  I’m not that foolish.

You’re a kid.  You’re a writer (or you just like making things up but you’re not sure you’re a writer; you might be a game designer or a director or a singer, you haven’t decided yet).

There’s an awesome writing challenge coming up in November called the Young Writers’ Program.  It’s part of the National Novel Writing Month.

The challenge:  Write a lot of words during November 1 to November 30.  (You get to decide how many words.) If you meet your writing goal by November 30, you win!  Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to talk your parents or teacher into giving you prizes; the Young Writers’ Program website won’t send you any money or anything.

A LOT of kids will be participating, all over the world.

How to sign up:

Click on the Young Writers’ Program signup link here.  You will have to provide an email address.  After you’re signed up, you can add a picture, give a summary of your book, make buddies, and use the word counter to count your words.

How to pick your word count challenge:

  • A short story is usually 1000 – 5000 words.
  • A chapter in a Goosebumps-type book is usually about 1500 words.
  • A Goosebumps-type book is usually about 25,000 to 30,000 words.
  • If you want to write a book that’s the same length as a different book (like Eragon, yikes!), take the number of pages with the story on them (don’t count the title page and other non-story stuff) times 250, which will give you a good guess.

Whatever amount you pick is okay.  I suggest that if you don’t write a lot, go for a short story.  (If you get done early, you can always write another short story.)  If you do write a lot, go for a whole book. Try to write a little more than you usually do–or, if you’re feeling particularly brave, a LOT more than you usually do.

How to know how many words you need to write every day:

You can do this two ways:

  • Figure out how much you need to write every single day (30 days).
  • Figure out how much you need to write every day, minus weekends and Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving (20 days).

Personally, I always figure out how much to write for 20 days, then take two days off every week to rest, play games, and read.

If you’re writing all 30 days, you will need to write about 33 words for every 1000 words you want to write, total:

  • 1000 words: Write 33 words a day.
  • 5000 words: Write about 167 words a day.
  • 10,000 words:  Write 333 words a day.
  • 25,000 words:  Write 833 words a day.
  • 30,000 words: Write 1000 words a day.
  • 50,000 words:  Write 1667 words a day.

If you’re writing for only 20 days, you will need to write 50 words for every 1000 words you want to write, total:

  • 1000 words: Write 50 words a day.
  • 5000 words: Write 250 words a day.
  • 10,000 words: Write 500 words a day.
  • 25,000 words: Write 1250 words a day.
  • 30,000 words: Write 1500 words a day.
  • 50,000 words: Write 2000 words a day.

There’s also a calculator at the website.

How to decide what to write:

You can write about whatever you want.  Nothing is wrong.  Okay, not everybody’s going to like what you write about, but if you try to tell yourself that you can’t write about something, you’re going to get stuck.  It just works out that way.

What if you don’t like what you picked anymore?  Then add something weird, like a ninja, to your story and see what happens.  Writers do this all the time; just finish your story!

What if you have too many ideas? You can mush them together and write a story that uses all of them, if you like.  Again, writers do this all the time.  A romantic story of two spies who have to save the world from Godzilla, zombies, and evil bunnies.  Why not?

How to write all those words:

Repeat after me:

“I promise I will delete NO words during November for my Young Writers’ Project story.  Anything I write, no matter how stupid I think it is (or how great), will stay exactly the way it was when I first wrote it.  I will not fix spelling, fix the names of things that I’ve changed, rewrite anything in neat handwriting, or change anything else. Only new words are allowed.”

Then you have to figure out when you’re going to write, like right before you do your homework.

It helps if you can tell your family what you’re doing, because 1) maybe they’ll supply a prize if you win, 2) they’ll probably be proud of you whether you win or not, and 3) they might help out with chores so you have more time to write (hint hint).

How to get unstuck:

  • Skip the hard parts.  If you’re stuck on something in particular, go off and write a different part of the story.
  • Make something new happen:  have one character kill another; have two characters who don’t really like each other fall in love; have aliens kidnap someone.  In my opinion, zombies are always good.  It doesn’t matter if it makes sense.
  • Talk to someone about your story so far.  Telling a story to someone has a tendency for our brains to make up more stuff, because the person is right there, listening to you.  However, as soon as you get the idea, stop talking–run off and go write!  People who are friends with writers have to deal with this all the time.
  • Take paper and a pen or pencil with you everywhere you go all month.  Be ready to jump out of the shower, write two sentences, and jump back in the shower.
  • If writing is making you nervous in general (for example, if you think you’re a bad writer), ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I finish this story?” Um, you just never let anyone read it, if you think it’s so bad.  But what if someone stole it, read it, thought it was stupid, and laughed at you?  Well, they were a jerk who was going to be a jerk anyway

Important survival tips:

  • If you’re writing something bad about someone, change their name, so they don’t find out (or can’t prove that it was them).
  • Type on a computer if you can, so you don’t have to count EVERY SINGLE WORD.  And so you don’t have to think all the time about how neatly you’re writing.
  • Find other writers and talk to them about how things are going.  People who like to write will usually like each other, too.  We’re kind of weird.  We like to find out about things, to tell (and listen to) interesting stories, and say odd things.  Other writers will understand.  You can find writers through the links at the Young Writers Program or by asking your teacher or librarian, who can find out if there’s a program for writers in your area.
  • Go to a group writing session if you can!

The most important part of doing a project for the Young Writers’ Program in November is to have fun!  Even if you don’t finish all your words, you had fun writing, and you got a lot more done than you would have if you hadn’t taken the challenge, right?

Good luck!

Fiction: Hand of Glory

Now available at SmashwordsAmazon.comBarnes and Nobles, and OmniLit.  Coming soon at other online bookstores.

Hand of Glory

by DeAnna Knippling

Young adult/Crime/Coming of age.  An MMORPG Noir…I think I’ve been playing too much World of Warcraft and Rifts lately.

This cover was designed by the excellent Zachary Lin.  The story was actually written to fit the inspiration from that hand…awesome.  What would a digital hand of glory be like?  I had to find out.

Georgia’s brother didn’t hang himself for being gay or for being bullied about it. He was murdered over something that happened in the game—possibly over a mysterious hacker’s item called the Hand of Glory or Butler’s Candelabra, that lets you go anywhere, kill anyone, and steal anything.  And now it belongs to Georgia.

Warning: Strong language.

When you’re playing the game, you don’t think about ethics. You don’t think about right or wrong. Kill a unicorn? All right. Bring back eight unicorn hearts, still beating, never mind the drop rate. All right.

You do the job, and the next job, and the job after that. You level. You raid. You bring home the blues and the purples and you sell them at the auction house. You donate to your guild. You build up honor and reputation, both the kind you get points for and the kind that means when you say you’re going to show up on a Saturday night for a raid, you do it. You don’t wig out.

That’s the ethics of the game: don’t wig out.

 

They said Charlie finished the raid, wrote a suicide note, and hung himself off the back of one of the support beams in the basement. Meanwhile, upstairs, I was still logged on because I had some crafting to do.

Two floors below me, my brother was thinking, “Gosh, that was a great instance that I just ran with my little sis; we didn’t wipe once. What better time to kill myself for being gay?”

Bullshit.

Okay, the fact was, his Facebook was filled up with posts from his classmates at high school calling him a faggot and a queer and threatening to expose him to the world. Like he wasn’t already exposed. He didn’t try to hide it; the only secrets he kept were other people’s. For example, I wasn’t supposed to know who his boyfriend was, but I did: Gary Martin.

Gary was in my grade. I’d known him since we were little. In a world where kids waved at you their last day of school saying they’d see you again in the fall, then disappeared forever, Gary was a fucking rock. He didn’t live down the street, but he was within biking distance. I was kind of embarrassed at first when I found out he and Charlie were together, because neither one of them had told me. I felt like Gary didn’t trust me. The guy who swapped homework with me. The guy who lied for me about being at the library. The guy who told me to get my hair cut and stop staring at my feet and dragged me onto the dance floor to make my super secret crush jealous (that last part didn’t work as planned, but I got to dance with him anyway). Charlie, well, he always had his secrets; I’ve always spied on him.

We didn’t find him that night. He swayed back and forth in the basement from that piece of wood, on a piece of clothes rope. In the morning he didn’t follow the routine of getting ready for school. It was loud; the sound of not running out of hot water was loud. I was late getting out of the shower because it took longer for the water to get cold and Mom yelled at me and I was surprised: I had water temperature vs. time down to a science.

So I tore off downstairs to see what the fuck Charlie was up to. I ran down the stairs two at a time, thinking, “That’s it, this time I’m going to tell him I know about Gary.” I kicked open the door, because it wasn’t me who was going to get blamed when he moved out next fall for college if there was a hole in the drywall. The door hit the wall so hard it punched a hole through it and stuck.

By then he wasn’t swinging.

Oh God I fucking screamed. I don’t remember breathing.

 

Fiction: Hand of Glory

Now available at Smashwords, Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles, and OmniLit.  Coming soon at other online bookstores.

Hand of Glory

by DeAnna Knippling

Young adult/Crime/Coming of age.  An MMORPG Noir…I think I’ve been playing too much World of Warcraft and Rifts lately.

This cover was designed by the excellent Zachary Lin.  The story was actually written to fit the inspiration from that hand…awesome.  What would a digital hand of glory be like?  I had to find out.

Georgia’s brother didn’t hang himself for being gay or for being bullied about it. He was murdered over something that happened in the game—possibly over a mysterious hacker’s item called the Hand of Glory or Butler’s Candelabra, that lets you go anywhere, kill anyone, and steal anything.  And now it belongs to Georgia.

Warning: Strong language.

When you’re playing the game, you don’t think about ethics. You don’t think about right or wrong. Kill a unicorn? All right. Bring back eight unicorn hearts, still beating, never mind the drop rate. All right.

You do the job, and the next job, and the job after that. You level. You raid. You bring home the blues and the purples and you sell them at the auction house. You donate to your guild. You build up honor and reputation, both the kind you get points for and the kind that means when you say you’re going to show up on a Saturday night for a raid, you do it. You don’t wig out.

That’s the ethics of the game: don’t wig out.

 

They said Charlie finished the raid, wrote a suicide note, and hung himself off the back of one of the support beams in the basement. Meanwhile, upstairs, I was still logged on because I had some crafting to do.

Two floors below me, my brother was thinking, “Gosh, that was a great instance that I just ran with my little sis; we didn’t wipe once. What better time to kill myself for being gay?”

Bullshit.

Okay, the fact was, his Facebook was filled up with posts from his classmates at high school calling him a faggot and a queer and threatening to expose him to the world. Like he wasn’t already exposed. He didn’t try to hide it; the only secrets he kept were other people’s. For example, I wasn’t supposed to know who his boyfriend was, but I did: Gary Martin.

Gary was in my grade. I’d known him since we were little. In a world where kids waved at you their last day of school saying they’d see you again in the fall, then disappeared forever, Gary was a fucking rock. He didn’t live down the street, but he was within biking distance. I was kind of embarrassed at first when I found out he and Charlie were together, because neither one of them had told me. I felt like Gary didn’t trust me. The guy who swapped homework with me. The guy who lied for me about being at the library. The guy who told me to get my hair cut and stop staring at my feet and dragged me onto the dance floor to make my super secret crush jealous (that last part didn’t work as planned, but I got to dance with him anyway). Charlie, well, he always had his secrets; I’ve always spied on him.

We didn’t find him that night. He swayed back and forth in the basement from that piece of wood, on a piece of clothes rope. In the morning he didn’t follow the routine of getting ready for school. It was loud; the sound of not running out of hot water was loud. I was late getting out of the shower because it took longer for the water to get cold and Mom yelled at me and I was surprised: I had water temperature vs. time down to a science.

So I tore off downstairs to see what the fuck Charlie was up to. I ran down the stairs two at a time, thinking, “That’s it, this time I’m going to tell him I know about Gary.” I kicked open the door, because it wasn’t me who was going to get blamed when he moved out next fall for college if there was a hole in the drywall. The door hit the wall so hard it punched a hole through it and stuck.

By then he wasn’t swinging.

Oh God I fucking screamed. I don’t remember breathing.

 

 

Kids Write: Whatever you write is a victory.

Another post for kids who write…

Anything you write is a victory.

Almost every writer (no matter what age, no matter how famous they are, no matter how well you think they write) has moments or even whole years where they go, “THIS IS AWFUL.”

Sometimes that feeling hangs around, even after the story is published and other people are telling the writer that no, really, it was a good story.

Writers are terrible judges of what’s good and what’s bad.  (That’s not to say that most people are any better.)

Question:

If you can’t trust your opinion about your story as you’re writing it, how do you know if it’s a good story or not?

Answer:

It doesn’t matter if the story’s “good.”  If someone (anyone!) enjoys reading the story, then it’s good.  If you finish the story, then it’s good.  And when you finish the story after that, it’s even better.

Indie Review: Vermin by Allison Dickson (4)

**** Recommended, for horror enthusiasts only though.

This was a straightforward but spectacularly EWWW horror short story. A couple of exterminators have to clean up a house that’s rumored to be haunted and discover more than they bargained for: it’s either going to be a retread or it’s going to be a classic, depending on the way it’s pulled off, right?  It’s a classic.  YUCK.  I hate bugs.

Yeah, someone should buy this and make a low-budget horror movie out of it, which I will not watch.

 

Indie Review: Young Guns by Ian Healy (5)

*****Highly recommended.

A cop, a dad, or a superhero?

The main character’s daughter, who, if I remember correctly, is sixteen or seventeen, has the same superpowers as her father, but chooses to use them with the young guns. A nice story about reconciling the irreconcilable.

Superteens…gotta love ’em.

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