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Carving The Light https://www.createspace.com/3439520 Also available at Amazon.com. Merchandise can be found at: http://www.cafepress.ca/CarvingTheLight

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012 - Carving The Light is a Quarterfinalist!!!

I'm still sort of in shock, and struggling to figure out what I want to say, let alone how to say it, but I promised myself that I would do my best to get some thoughts down tonight, on the eve of this very crazy day.

Carving The Light was announced as one of the 250 General Fiction novels to advance to the Quarterfinal round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I can't believe it! I checked the list, saw my name, and was in the processing of refreshing the page (I was certain that I was still looking at the 2nd round list instead of the quarterfinalist list) when I got the first congratulatory note on my Facebook profile page. It was true - it was real. I'm a quarterfinalist for the first time ever!

Before I talk about my reviews this year, let me first talk about last year. It was my first time entering the contest, and I met a lot of wonderful people (many of whom I'm still in touch with), and learned SO much about the contest and the process of finding a publisher and/or agent for my work. I got help from the awesome folks on the Pitch Thread, and they helped me craft a pitch that was good enough to get me through the first round. After that, it was a matter of waiting for the excerpts to be reviewed by two different Vine reviewers to see who would advance to the Quarterfinals from there.

I was not one of them. My reviewers both pretty much hated my excerpt. They didn't like the characters, they felt the plot was slow to nonexistent...there wasn't much good to say about it at all. And I was heartbroken. More than that, I'd already lost all faith in myself, before I even wrote the book. But this was somehow more personal. I'd had faith in the characters - in the story - and now it seemed I'd been mistaken in that, too.

So I pouted a good long while, and then wrote the first draft of a whole different story to enter this year. A couple of months before ABNA submissions began, however, I slowly began to realize that Carving The Light and I weren't done with one another yet. There were still revisions to be made, and it still needed to make another run at this whole contest-entering process.

I started trying to come up with ways to change the manuscript and make it stronger. I went through all of the criticisms that had been brought up in conversation over the years, and the two reviews I received in the second round last year. I even tried to come up with ways to make it flow a little more logically for my own mind.

I focused on the beginning; on making the excerpt strong. I wanted to make it move faster, and have the tension build for the reader as much as it was building for the Collins girls as the weekend grew closer. I made the time between the death of their parents and the present events, so everyone is younger. This benefits Trick the dog especially well. I was also told to focus on the present more in the beginning, so i moved some flashbacks either further back in the story, or took them out all together. I tried to lose most of the adverbs in the excerpt (though I suspect they are still plentiful in the rest of the manuscript). I tried to make Sarah stronger and less willing to just accept all of Sam's crap all the time. I think there were other things, but I am too distracted to remember now. Suffice it to say, I tried to create a stronger beginning, and am now wishing I'd spent more time on the rest of the manuscript, since now it's all going to be read from start to finish, and by Publisher's Weekly, of all things! Egad.

Additionally, there were some small but wonderful changes in the ABNA process this year. One is that the Vine reviewers were also given a copy of the pitch to read with the excerpt, which would give them a chance to see where the story was going once the beginning pages had been read. Another was that the reviewers were able to list their preferred genres to read, which means there was at least a minor chance that our manuscripts would end up in the hands of readers who wouldn't hate them from the opening lines.

Based on my experience from last year, all of this made me hopeful that my reviews would be a little better this time around. I used the same pitch to get through the first round again, and then basically just prayed quietly that my literary baby wouldn't be quite as chewed up this year.

NONE of that made me think I'd make it through this round to the quarterfinals, though! I mean, I didn't even talk about it! I didn't tell anyone how nervous i suddenly was this morning, waiting for the lists to go up. I couldn't mention how many times I checked the boards to commisserate with my fellow 2nd round authors as we all waited together. And even when I actually saw my name on the list, it wasn't until after I'd received my first congratulations (Fielder, that was all you, so you know) that I verbalized the impossible. Somehow, Carving The Light had made it through, and had become an ABNA Quarterfinalist at last!

I hadn't even bothered to look ahead to what this round would entail. I had to go back and read the rules to find out what's supposed to happen now. And, admittedly, part of me want to check AGAIN to be sure that I made it through before I even post this. However, I have received my two Vine reviews, and I will post both of them below. Also, once everything has been set up, you'll be able to read everyone's excerpts and reviews and leave comments of your own here.

I've read the reviews  below through a couple of times, and I am still having trouble sorting out my thoughts. I am grateful, I am relieved, I am eager to make even more changes (though I will wait for Publisher's Weekly to give their two cents first), and I am suddenly a bit panicked at the idea that I may have to revise and re-issue Carving The Light in softcover and e-book versions a third time to keep everything consistent. Sigh.

But that is for another time. For now, please feel free to read and comment on the reviews I received below, and once the Amazon links are up, I highly encourage everyone to go through and read some of the other excerpts that made it through this year. You can even read mine, since I don't think I let anyone read what I actually submitted to ABNA, now that I think about it! ;)

There are a lot of wonderful indie authors out there, and not all of them made it through to this round. I am honoured to be among them all, however, because just entering takes an enormous amount of courage and determination, and as peers and friends, I don't think I could ask for any better. I am a very lucky Sue, indeed.

ABNA Expert Reviewer
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The story line, the writing, the characters, the situations each girl finds herself in, all are strong and firm aspects of this excerpt. The book seems to be headed in a good and definite direction. The plot is interesting and held my attention. The characters are people a reader would care about and want to travel on their journey with them.

What aspect needs the most work?

Honestly, no weak points were evident to this reader.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

This reader would love to read this book. This excerpt had my rapt attention and I was sorry when it ended. I wanted more -- !!!

This would be a great book club read. This is definitely a book for women. Each character has a story to share that most women can relate to.

There is a strong sense of family and love, which just adds sweetness to the pot. However, this book has depth and isn't some sunshine and lollipop read.


ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

Three sisters, each harboring secrets from the others, are preparing to meet for Thanksgiving. Good start on a story with infinite possibilities. Thanksgiving is always a hotbed of family intrigue, and this one promises to have more than most.

What aspect needs the most work?

It's a quirk of mine, but I like knowing where events are taking place. Reference is made to plane travel, to weather issues, but I'd like a little more specificity with regard to locations.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Three sisters who have had to be unusually close due to the sudden death of their parents 15 years earlier, plan their Thanksgiving reunion. Each is harboring secrets of their own, worrying about whether truths will be revealed. Each is so self absorbed that she doesn't realize the other two are holding their own earth shaking revelations. The reader is teased about what the final outcome will be, and since the younger two have secrets of exceeding relevance, it pricks interest in the outcome. The writing is smooth, and the excerpt ended with me wanting more.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Week With Marilyn: A Non-Review

I really have no desire to review this film - there's nothing I could say that hasn't been said already a thousand times over. I feel the need, instead, to convey my personal experience while watching the movie, and what it meant to me.

My love affair with Marilyn Monroe began years and years ago, when I was in my teens. I'd read an article by an author who'd given a possible take on the star's final hours from her own point of view, and her story kind of got inside me and never went away. I feel fiercely protective of her and her image to this day, and it is for that reason that I hesitated to even see this film. I love Michelle Williams (I'd even cast her in the film adaptation of my first book, if I could), and I could tell from the trailers that she did a good job being Marilyn - but would she do as well portraying Norma Jeane? I knew the tale was told from yet another man's perspective on the icon, and I was not at all sure that I wanted to see what he had to say. I wasn't sure I even cared.

When I found out that the film would soon be released on DVD and Blu-Ray, I decided that it would make the perfect first order through Rogers On Demand for me. I could watch it in the privacy of my own home, and it would be cheaper than seeing it in a theatre, anyway, just in case I wasn't happy with what I saw. But then I started thinking: Marilyn died a decade before I was born. I've only seen a handful of her films, and none of them on the big screen. It occured to me that this might be my first opportunity to sit in a dark theatre and see her larger than life - the way people saw her at the height of her career. Even knowing it wasn't really her, I was suddenly consumed by the desire to fall in love with Marilyn the way the rest of the world had at the time; the way she'd created herself to be seen - on the silver screen.

So, on easily the nicest day we've seen so far this year, I made my way through the sunshine and crowded streets to the small theatre near my apartment that I knew was still screening the film.  I settled in with my popcorn and soda in the dark with about 5 other people, and waited for my experience to begin.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Television Through The Ages - Or, My Ages, At Least!

 I guess I've always been a bit of an outsider.  Not in a deliberate, cool, rebellious kind of way, but in a sort of sad, distant, my-passions-lie-elsewhere sort of sense.  I spent a lot of time alone reading, writing and daydreaming, or playing with my brother and/or the few good friends we had around us while growing up.  Sometimes, my passions were shared by those around me, but - more often than not - I was kind of loving things on my own.  Usually it was difficult (if not impossible) to find another living soul who loved something the same way I did, or with the same intensity.

 While I still mostly feel that to be true now, I find that the internet has brought geeks together in ways never seen before, and I generally feel less alone in my enthusiasm for things.  Because apparently - no matter how remote and unheard of something I love may be to the populace at large - there is at least one other person out there in the world who shares my giddy fondness for things I thought I was alone in loving.  It's really just a matter of finding those precious few.

 I've been thinking a lot lately on television shows - both those presently watched and those long gone.  It's likely that my becoming involved with The Mind Reels had a lot to do with it, actually, because part of our reason for creating the blog was to give voice to things we were loving that didn't seem to be getting much coverage in our social and internet circles.  I finally have a venue in which to talk about the things that currently have my attention, but I was thinking - why not dive into some of those nearly-forgotten passions of my youth?  Why not talk about all of the TV shows I watched that really meant something to me personally, regardless of whether or not anyone else on the planet was watching them at the time, too?

 I mean, I certainly grew up on TV.  We always had one in the house, I think.  Though we didn't always have cable, that's for sure!  Ah, the antenna days of 3 channels, or so.  Depending on the weather.  Despite having so little to choose from, we actually managed to watch a lot of TV as kids.  All the usual stuff...Flintstones, Looney Tunes, Leave It To Beaver, Little Rascals, the Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday, and a plethora of Saturday morning cartoons - some of which you'd know, some of which you may never have heard of (or maybe forgotten).  I remember having vague kid crushes on Loretta Swit on M*A*S*H* and Erin Gray on Buck Rogers.  The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman.  I would go on to have MANY more crushes on TV characters after those first early days of my existence.  Several in particular would go on to haunt my consciousness for years after - some even to this day.

 I think now, when I watch something new on TV, part of me is still looking for that undefinable spark of magic in the stories and characters I see on screen, that will get inside me and take hold.  I'll spend time later, perhaps, talking about the more current incarnations, but I think that only time and distance can really work as an indicator to how strongly things will continue to resonate with me once they are gone, so for now, I will talk a bit about some of the things I loved to watch most when I was growing up.  You can check them out below!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Introducing Some New and Expanded Content!!!

For quite awhile now, I've been toying with the idea of bringing together more of my creative endeavors into one place.  I intended for this to be solely a blog about writing, but I've encountered a few problems with that model.  One is that I find it hard to find time to write, let alone come up with a blog post about the process, on any sort of regular basis.  Another is that I don't usually wish to share my ideas and drafts before they are formed better in my mind and - preferably - on published paper.  But then looking back on the process and trying to come up with something to say about it all after the fact isn't the easiest thing, either.  By then I will have moved on to some other project or two, as well!

And speaking of other projects, I've got a lot more on the go lately than just writing my next amazing novel.  All of which is what brought me to the decision I've now made - to join together all of my little side projects into one incredibly well-rounded blog.  A place I can pull together all of my ideas and wonderings and exciting pieces of news, in a reader-friendly venue, so that it can all be shared with as many of you as possible, and maybe even pick up a follower or two along the way!

So sit back and take a look at what all is coming up for your reading, viewing and listening pleasure from now on, after the jump below!  :)