Friday, May 22, 2009

Stepsister Scheme - Mini Review

"The first in what looks to be a 4 or 5 book run, The Stepsister Scheme is an enjoyably cheeky examination of what happens to three famous fairy tale princesses after the "happily ever after".

Cinderella's Prince has been kidnapped so her magically powerful mother-in-law assembles the princesses (also Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) in what can be described as a sort of Charlie's Angels-style ninja strike force. They set off to rescue the Prince, encountering lots of danger, intrigue, and magic along the way. The tone is an interesting blend of heroics, humor, and some "darker" themes. Inventive and original, it does not disappoint by being a typical "mining" of the fairy tale world.

The only negatives are a somewhat gratuitous deus ex machina level character trait for one of the princesses and some rough sexual imagery that kept me from recommending the book to the pre-teens in my family. Yes, despite the cover art obviously designed to appeal to the younger set, this is a book for adults and older teens. Other than that minor quibble -- Recommended."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blade of Tyshalle - Mini Review

"The second book of Matthew Stover's "Caine" series, "Blade of Tyshalle" is equally as entertaining and well-written as "Heroes Die".

This time around Hari must deal with an even more potent array of foes, both old and new, who have conspired to completely, and I do mean COMPLETELY ruin his life and those of the ones he loves. Their collective goal is to break Caine and make him suffer to the point of despair before killing him. If they were dealing with an ordinary man they might be justified in thinking they'd succeed -- but this is Caine. Never one to surrender, he begins fighting back with a ferocity that is both breath-taking and satisfying. Recommended."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Query Letter

Okay, so you finally get your novel to the point where you think it's ready to be seen by a publishing professional. That usually means sending it off to an editor or literary agent. But as every aspiring author should know, nothing sours the disposition of one of these hardworking book folk more quickly than a big ol' unsolicited manuscript. They don't want them, they get mad at people who send them, and they immediately flush any that show up in their virtual or physical mailboxes.

So what do you do? Write a query letter, of course.

The purpose of a query letter is to briefly describe your manuscript (c.300 words or less) and ask if it's okay to send them the first chapter or two. Most sources that I've found seem to think that writing a good query is nearly as important as your actual novel and great care should be taken when crafting it. That makes sense to me. Since you can't just dump the whole manuscript on an editor's desk, that one page letter has to be pretty darned good.

The ideal query letter intrigues the editor or agent just enough so that they want to read more.

After Leonard was rejected at the query stage by the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, sniff, I began to suspect that I needed some help on my own query (genius that I am). Fortunately, I had somewhere to turn for help, running it past Evil Editor and his trusty minions. They offered some very helpful suggestions about how to make it better. I highly recommend putting your query to the test over on his site. They can be a little rough (tough love), but if you check your ego and go there to be educated, you'll benefit immensely from the feedback. I know I did. Oh, and another cool thing is that it's all for free.

Here's how my query letter turned out:

Dear (Editor),

Leonard the Great is a middle-grade fantasy novel (77,000 words) set in the days of King Arthur. It's the story of Leonard Albacore, a young page who dreams of getting Sir Ronald the Mediocre, his kind but incompetent master, a seat at the Round Table. After a chance encounter with a suicidal dragon, he cooks up a plan that will get both of them what they want -- death for the dragon and a sure-fire invite to Camelot for Sir Ronald.

But the plan backfires horribly when the snooty Knights of the Round Table show up and arrest Sir Ronald for "attempted bravery without a license", dragging him off to Camelot's dungeons.

Wracked with guilt, Leonard vows to do whatever it takes to free his master. But it won’t be easy. An ancient evil has taken over Camelot, and unless Leonard can figure out how to defeat it, both Sir Ronald and Arthur’s dream are doomed.

Full of rough and tumble action, this boy-centric novel is also rich with irreverent asides and unique characters.

I would be happy to send a sample chapter at your request.

Sincerely,
Roger Eschbacher

So there you go. Short, to the point, and (hopefully) effective. Bring on the multi book deals!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Heroes Die - Mini Review

"I guess I'm a relative latecomer to the whole sci fi/fantasy mashup thing but dang! I am loving this sub genre!

Like Williams' "Implied Spaces", Stover's "Heroes Die" is a perfect blend of hard sci fi and sword and sorcery style fantasy. On Earth, Hari Michaelson is a wildly popular actor whose off world adventures are recorded through his eyes and sent back real-time for the amusement of his fans. On Ankhana, Hari is known as Caine, perhaps the most lethal assassin who has ever lived. When the "link" to his ex-wife, (also an actor) is mysteriously severed and a clock starts ticking toward her demise, Hari contracts to go to Ankhana and save her -- realizing that with the lethal forces arrayed against him, it may end up being his own personal "series finale".

Magic, technology, swordplay, and fey creatures abound in this richly told tale that is so well done and captivating, I'll be immediately moving on to the next book in the series. Highly recommended."