Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: Jabberwocky by Daniel Coleman


One, two! One, two! and through and through the vorpal blade went
snicker-snack!” Blood pounded in Tjaden’s ears as he breathed in the acrid
odor, and his sword didn’t falter. Not after the convoluted road that had led
him to set out alone to find and slay the manxome Jabberwocky. But the secrets
he’d learned about the Jabberwocky’s sorrowful past made it a sour

How different would the situation be if the girl he loved wasn’t at risk?
Why didn’t anyone tell him the dark secrets surrounding the Tumtum tree?

Jabberwocky is the untold story behind Lewis Carroll’s epic poem.
Meet the characters and creatures that inhabit the world long before
Alice ever fell down the rabbit’s hole.

Mini Review: This short book does a great job retelling the Lewis Carroll story, with realistic definitions for the words that are nonsense. I got it after hearing Tjaden's encounter with the Cheshire cat, which was spot-on for Lewis' character. I'd hoped there would be more of that kind of interaction, but the story is really a standard boy-becomes-hero tale. However, just because it's a standard tale doesn't take away from the enjoyment. I read the entire thing straight in a few hours, and if you know me and my lifestyle, you know the book had to be good to get me to sit still that long. I'm looking forward to Hatter, Coleman's next book. Great book for middle school readers on up.

Read a Sample at

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Novel's Journey: Short Story Time

I'm doing revisions on Discovery now that I've gotten some feedback from my critiquers. However, in the meantime, I'm writing some short stories.

Not all novelists can write short stories, but I believe all novelists should try. Short stories are a lot of fun, and they give you a chance to explore parts of your characters that really don't fit in the novel but aren't big enough to constitute a novel in and of themselves. For example, I just wrote a short story based on Deryl Stephens, my psychic in Mind Over Mind. Deryl's abilities came upon him suddenly with puberty, in a well-to-do boys' school. Deryl's mother was killed a few years earlier, and he "lives" with his aunt and uncle, which really means, he's in year-round boarding school with holidays at their house. So while they love him, there's no real relationship there, and certainly not one where he can say, "I've got telepathic powers!" and they'd actually believe him. In the novel, I'd talked a little about some of the stuff he went through, but the book takes place five years later.

However, Damnation Books has a call for entries for an anthology about the more realistic side of having superpowers, and I thought it'd be a great chance to explore some of those torturous first days of having powers-and not being able to control them. "Illusion" follows Deryl through a day of school, from the morning ritual of reminding himself who he is, to accidentally solving an algebra problem with calculus, because that's how the teacher would do it, to inadvertently using telekinesis on a bully to stop him from hurting someone else to once again, and trying (and failing) to convince the school counselor that he really is psychic. It's a sad, dark story.

There isn't enough in the story, however, to make a novel; in fact, it took two days to beef it up to the minimum word requirement. But in writing it, I learned a lot about Deryl, and (my apologies to Deryl) I enjoyed imagining this horrible day for him.

As the cool water struck his back and plastered his hair to his scalp, he began the mantra: "My name is Deryl Stephens. I'm thirteen years, four months, and seven days old. I'm in eighth grade. My favorite subject is science. I like meteorology best. My worse subject is social studies. I like raspberries and hate chocolate…" Every detail he could think of that was his, he muttered aloud, forcing himself to hear it above the wants, needs, pains and thoughts of the population of the George Weinmann School for Boys. Sometimes, it was enough.

Once showered and dressed, he reached under his bed and pulled out the bottle of Motrin hidden there and poured eight into his hand. The bottle rattled. He'd have to buy or steal more soon. He took two in anticipation of the headache to come and stuffed the rest into his pocket. He shoved the bottle back into the mattress, through the tear, securing it among the filling, then pulled out a small framed photo. He ran his fingers over his mother's hair, traced her smile. Her eyes looked wrong in the photo; they always did. No camera could capture the life that shone from them, or the hidden knowledge that darkened their depths. She would have understood what he was going through; she would have helped him. But it was too late; he couldn’t talk to her now, and he couldn't imagine what she would say. He shoved the photo back next to the painkillers, then went to wash the tears off his face.

He checked his schedule and his homework, making sure they held his name and not someone else's. He recited his mantra along with his first hour classroom number. Finally, with a deep breath, like a swimmer about to jump the high dive, he pulled open the door and forced his feet to take him to his--and not someone else's--first class.

I'll let you know if anything comes from it. In the meantime, I'm writing another superhero story based on an idea Rob came up with. "The Mover" begins like this: They say that superpowers should teach you an important life lesson, like "With great power comes great responsibility." Well, my superpowers taught me, "You really aren't cut out for great responsibility." It's a lot of fun.

Do you like to write short stories? How about read them? Do short stories make you want to buy a book about that character?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Novel's Journey: Discovery: When a Crit Makes You Cry

You all know the struggle I've gone through with Discovery. (If not, here's the gist: five years, four false starts, two episodes of computer eating the manuscript, three weeks of obsessive effort and 108,000 finished words.)

Now, it's with my beta readers: people whose writing I admire and who know me well enough not to pull any punches when they crit my work. They know that, despite all my word count brags and phony whining about this or that writing complication, when it comes to a critique, I don't care so much about what I've done as how do I make it even better.

I feel the same about Discovery--maybe even more so. The story started out so simple--in my discouraged moments, I called it "Love Boat in Space"--but it wanted, it demanded, to be so much more. And (aside from the computer crashes), that's part of what took such effort. I did not feel up to the task--as a writer, as a thinker, or as a Catholic. Most of you have seen my stuff; "heavy" and "deep" are not the usual modifiers.

So, I have to admit, that while I was pleased with the manuscript, I was also a little worried that I'd still missed my mark. Frankly, that would have been okay, because I have some excellent writer friends critiquing it, and I trust them to show me where I fell short.

I'm writing this on July 9. (I plan my posts.) An hour ago, I got my first critique for Fred Warren, a Christian writer who writes stories in my Rescue Sisters universe. The first three words made me cry:


Those three words told me, that despite the problems with the storyline--and he pointed out some good ones!--I succeeded in my primary goal: The Story Works!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

my novel's journey: Discovery: The Butterfly Effect

You know the butterfly effect, right? Some innocent butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon is responsible for a typhoon of epic proportions. Yeah, well, that happened in space--or at least in my novel, Discovery.

It's really very simple: I needed a good excuse to limit the exploration part of the novel to a few very intense days. So I decided to throw a rock at the Kuiper Belt Object that the alien ship crashed on. A big rock, like, well, another Kuiper Belt Object.

Okay, not quite a butterfly. But still.

All it had to do was narrow my timeline. Add a little urgency, but noooooo! Just because I summoned Big Rock, I had to deal with:

* Four people need brain scans three chapters earlier.
* One character discovers he has Alzheimer's early enough to be cured.
* Same said character had made a throwaway line about being worried about his mother back in chapter one--guess why he was worried?
* The Captain has a cat!
* Chris can't keep a secret two chapters. (Had to revise the whole timeline.) he also can't stop himself from kissing Andi in front of everyone.
* Sister Ann says something around Ian that makes him think she believes the alien device is an aphrodisiac.
* Chris becomes a totally different kind of hero--using his brains instead of his brawn. (Which is much more suiting to his character.)

Shall I mention that I needed to research all this, too?

Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but who knew banging two asteroids together was going to result in a dozen butterflies flapping their wings?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Catholic Writers to Convene August Conference in Valley Forge

Valley Forge, PA--The third annual Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE will take place August 3-5, 2011, at the Scanticon Hotel Valley Forge in King of Prussia, PA. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild (CWG) and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), it will be held in conjunction with CMN’s annual retailer trade show. The Catholic Writers Conference LIVE provides Catholic authors with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe.

CWG President Ann Margaret Lewis said this year's conference will, “focus on marketing and selling one’s written work.” Highlights of the conference include:

• Over 30 sessions taught by professionals in writing, marketing, blogging and publishing
• Pitch Sessions where writers may meet privately with representatives from four publishers
• One-on-one coaching sessions. For $35 an author can have a 30 minute private consultation with a specialist who will review their manuscript and guide them toward publication.
• Rapid-fire readings. Published authors will each have five minutes to read a selection from one of their books. A mass book sale and signing will follow.

Lewis says the conference comes at a modest cost. “Registration for the jam packed three days is only $90 for CWG members or $100 for non-members. And we have a special price of $42 for students. Our conference allows you to connect personally with Catholic publishers and retailers, to show your work, learn the craft and network.” Priests and religious are invited free of charge, but must register at the email address:

This year’s conference speakers include:

• Catholic publishing representatives Claudia Volkman of Servant Books/St.Anthony Messenger Press,
• Regina Doman, author of numerous young adult and children’s books and acquisitions editor for Sophia Institute Press,
• Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, EWTN TV host of "Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms" and author of numerous Catholic books including “Mother Teresa and Me,”
• Michelle Buckman, author of the young adult novel “Maggie Come Lately” and the adult drama “Rachel’s Contrition,”
• Angela Breidenbach, author of “Gems of Wisdom” and
• Patti Armstrong, co-author of the best-selling Amazing Grace book series and author of “Catholic Truths for Our Children, Stories for the Homeschool Heart.”

Past attendees gave glowing accounts of their experiences at the conference:
• Carol Bannon, author of the children’s book “Handshake from Heaven,” said, “Attending this conference has been the best thing I have done for myself professionally.”
• Writer Melanie Cameron concurs, “I recommend this conference as a resource for any author (or wannabe) at any stage. You will walk away empowered!”
• Maureen Martin, a consultant and trainer said she attended to connect with other professional Catholics. “It was such a wonderful, nurturing environment where we could share our faith and our love for literature.”

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization, sponsors both this live conference in August and an online conference in February to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. “Our conferences are totally focused on encouraging faithful Catholics to share genuine Catholic culture and faith in their writing no matter what genre,” says Lewis. “These events are integral to our mission of ‘creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”

Also at this year’s conference, the CWG will be presenting its first ever Catholic Arts and Letters Awards (called the “Lilies”) for the best in Catholic fiction. This award will recognize one book in the adult market and one in the children’s market for its literary merit.

Information for the Catholic Writer’s Conference can be found on the conference web site:

The CWG is a professional group of writers, artists, editors, illustrators, and allies whose mission is to build a vibrant Catholic literary culture. The organization is loyal to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

my novel's journey: Discovery: What brought me to this moment

As I thought back to my struggles with Discovery, I realized that part of the reason I could write this book now is because I hadn't written it yet. I think perhaps I had not developed the skills I needed.

In particular, I am struck at the huge cast of characters Discovery has--eleven important characters. When I first wrote this as a NaNo story in 2008, I had only written one-character POV stories. I didn't know how to work a large cast. In the next years, I wrote DragonEye, PI stories, which were even more singular, as everything was told first-person by Vern. Then my computer crashed just as Kim Richards was asking me to write a Neeta Lyffe story, and I got the wild idea to write a reality TV show about killing zombies. While Neeta is the main character, I couldn't do reality TV without all the fun back-stabbling, behind the scenes dirt and audience reaction. Next thing I knew I was in multiple heads, jumping from one character to the next and having the time of my life. It was play, it was practice, and it was what I needed to learn in order to write the multiple person saga of Discovery.

I'm not sure I subscribe to the idea that the first million words an author writes is practice, but I am sure that, had it not been for the words I'd written before, I would not have been able to write the words I have now.