Review: Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows

I picked this book because the premise intrigued me. A world where everyone is reincarnated perpetually, and suddenly a new soul, Ana, is born, replacing an old one, and Ana sets out to find out why. I thought it was a neat idea and wanted to know how the author was going to play with it.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed with it. The writing itself was decent, and there was nothing really wrong with the story for what it is, but I went into the book wanting to know the explanation for why everyone is reincarnated – expecting the story to be about that, only to find that it was about eighty percent romance, and the premise that drew me into the story was reserved mostly for worldbuilding and the climax.

The worldbuilding was cool, I only wish there was more of it. I liked how there was some of the traditional fantasy props, like the dragons and centaurs and sylph, alongside a technologically advanced civilization. It made sense that they would be technologically advanced, since they do get reincarnated indefinitely, and have all the time in the world to pursue a project. The culture and practices of the people definitely reflected the fact that the people have infinite time to accomplish things, but also were very much set in their ways, without being a culture full of elf-like imperious wisdom where everyone is as rational as a vulcan. Longevity in this world doesn’t preclude mischievousness or passion.

On the other hand, while being a believable cast, they are, by and large, black and white. You can tell the black hats from the white hats from the first time you see them, and no one surprised me later. But not only that, it also seemed like most of the characters were run through the filter of whether or not Ana thinks they’re a threat to her relationship with Sam, and I felt through the whole thing that there was more importance put on that than on whether or not they were going to stop her from trying to find out the truth about her origins. Which, of course, was what was most important to me.

The romance itself – I’m no connoisseur of romance, but I thought it was ok for what it was. It’s a guy-rescues-helpless-girl romance, and that’s a hard sell for me, but I understand it appeals to others more, so I’m quite possibly just not the target audience for this book.

I was also a little frustrated by the lack of progress in the main premise – the search for Ana’s origins. There was some, but I had expected far more by the end of the book. We don’t get to understand what happened any more than at the beginning, only learn who was behind it.

And then there’s Soul Night. It was mentioned several times, characters wondering aloud what would happen on Soul night, but when Ana asks what it is, she’s brushed off, and it was terribly obvious that the author has something regarding Soul Night planned for the next book and was slipping in a hook. If Ana knew what it was, and just didn’t bother explaining in the narrative, that would be fine, I could accept that it was being saved for later book when it became relevant, but in dialogue, the brush off seemed so artificial.

But the book is really not as bad as I’m making it sound – I think young women who love a good romance would definitely enjoy the book, and it’s a good debut novel, overall.

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Tor/Forge going DRM free

I don’t normally post more than once in a day, but there’s been some pretty huge news in publishing today. I heard talk about it being a possibility – Amazon is all about trying to eliminate the middle man, and I keep thinking, wait, isn’t Amazon the middle man?

Cory Doctorow, an activist for copyright law has some thoughts:
http://boingboing.net/2012/04/24/tor-books-goes-completely-drm.html

And so does John Scalzi, who’s published by Tor and directly affected by it:
http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/04/24/torforge-to-go-drm-free-by-july-immediate-\
thoughts/

As a customer, and an e-reader owner, I think this is great. From the beginning, my biggest reservation in buying an e-reader has been that I didn’t want to be pigeon holed into a single reader, and not be able to share a book with my husband. I mean, if I buy a paperback, I read it, then my husband reads it – that’s legal – but if my husband buys a Nook and I have a Sony e-reader, I can’t put that book on his e-reader. We’d have to buy another copy, and if they’re charging just as much for an e-book as a paperback, that’s just unreasonable, imho.

As an author, I think it’s cool too – my own future potential customers will get more bang for their buck – there’s no reason to pay the same for a different format if you don’t get the same rights over it. I understand charging the same for an e-book as a paperback – there are fixed costs of editing and formatting that go into both a paper book and an e-book, and my understanding is that the cost of producing the two isn’t that significantly different. But if the customer doesn’t get the same value from the end product, that’s not right.

As far as piracy – DRM is a joke. DRM has never stopped piracy, it’s too easy to strip. If people are going to pirate, they will pirate, and a bit of software isn’t going to stop them. That, and not having DRM on your work doesn’t invalidate your copyright. There are those who’s defense of DRM consists of “I want to make sure people really know that they shouldn’t be stealing my work.”

They know. That defense is assuming that people downloading illegal content don’t know that they’re doing something illegal, or they do, but the message hasn’t been made clear enough. I think it’s dangerous to start implying that an author who’s work is not protected by DRM has less of a claim on the copyright than one who’s work is DRM’d. Because it absolutely is. It’s equally illegal to share copyrighted material whether it’s DRM protected or not, and Tor has made it clear that they will be going after violators just the same as they always have.

Because DRM isn’t about piracy. It’s about locking customers into a reader made by a particular middle man provider, so that they can’t go buy books from someone else. Tor/Forge doesn’t make e-readers, so they have no vested interest in forcing customers to buy products locked into a particular device. They just want to sell books.

So I’m hoping to see this become a trend.

Keycon 29, Query Letter and Synopsis Panel

Keycon is my home con, here in Winnipeg, and I’ve gone every year since I learned of it’s existence. They’re always encouraging people to do panels, so this year, I’m jumping in to do one.

With only minor publications to my credit, I haven’t felt qualified to do a panel on anything that mattered to me, in the past, but over the last few years, I had the opportunity to participate in a proposal package focus group as I prepared to submit a novel I’d managed to get to final draft. I learned a lot from that focus group, and came out with a query letter and synopsis that got me a request for the manuscript from a managing editor at one of the Big Seven, and another from one of the six or so agents I sent it to – one of the top agents in the industry.

I haven’t got representation thus far – I’ve decided to go back and revise the novel since, but that’s not what a query and synopsis is for. It doesn’t sell the novel, it gets you the request for the manuscript, and my query letter and synopsis did that with a very good ratio. And so I finally feel like I have proven I know something legitimately enough to teach it.

My panel is tentatively scheduled for 1-2pm on the Saturday of Keycon 29, May 19th, 2012, at the Radisson hotel. I’ll have pens and paper for anyone who doesn’t have them, and there will be exercises. It will be most useful to anyone with a finished novel, ready to submit, but anyone is welcome, of course, at any stage in the writing process. I’m very excited about it, it’s the first time I’ll be running a panel – and on that note, I shall go and finish my notes for it!

New Critique Group

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to regularly attend a critique group – my old one in my home town is too far to get to on a regular basis.

But I heard from a friend about one that meets down the street, and I never would have heard about it if not through the grapevine. So I checked up on it, and the owner of the store where they meet said to bring something to read and come by.

They’re a mystery writers group, but they have decreed that their definition of mystery would be very broad, to include anything with mystery in it. With my love of intrigue, most of my work fits their broad definition, which is awesome, because they’re an awesome group and I’m very excited to have found them.

With my old group, bless their hearts, but there was always a genre gap – they were writers of memoirs and non-fiction, mostly or literary fiction at best, and while they were always open minded and never snubbed me for writing genre fiction, I always felt like they weren’t quite sure what to make of me.

These guys, even if they’re mainly into mystery, we were far more on the same page, and I got great constructive feedback on the setting and fight scene and suggestions on how to make them better. They were all very nice people — and good writers, and they seemed to like me too. I’m very much looking forward to meeting with them again next month!

Bad for Characters, Good for the Story

Sometimes I brainstorm with my husband, throwing ideas around, and often his response to a random idea is “Yes, but then (insert complicating factor that he knows he knows more about than I do.)”

He’s not a writer, so he sees this as a problem. I look at him and blink, and explain that that’s not a problem, that’s delicious new potential source of external conflict in the story. There are the times when I see a complication and realize right away that it’s going to side-track the story in a direction that I don’t want to go, but at the brainstorming level, when I haven’t started writing the story yet, or solidified the plot, it’s not a problem.

The times when it’s a problem are when I’ve written the story and have a plot hole that needs to be filled, and I’m trying to think of a way to fill it. Then, those are the times when I want something uncomplicated – a simple thing to throw in to pull things together.

At the developmental level though, hey, anything goes. Ideas toss around in my head, and eventually they settle into something coherent, but until something’s been put on paper, my mind is open to all ideas. I mean, sure, it wrecks my characters’ lives, but who cares about them? (By the way, I hope I never ever meet any of them in person, because most of them would kill me. Especially Michel, and he would enjoy it.)

Though, to be fair, he’s learning. At first, he would hear my half-formed ideas and say he didn’t like them, that it didn’t sound interesting at all. I would be frustrated at his reaction, knowing that he didn’t see the story in it that I saw. But after a while, he realized what half-formed ideas meant, and realized that there would be more to the story that what I could convey at that stage in the development. He’s told me he’s become fascinated with the process of the creation of a story, and thinks it’s neat to have seen it happen from the first ideas, all the way to final draft. He has faith in me, and because he’s always been honest with his opinions of my work, I know it’s real faith, not a pat on the head. My husband is awesome, and I am blessed. 🙂

Book Review: Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, by Genevieve Valentine

I glanced over the nebula award nominees for this year to see if anything piqued my interest, and saw this one. Steampunk, set in a post apocalyptic setting – I was sold. It’s a circus of undead performers, enhanced with hollow bones for the acrobats to make them light as birds, a human trapeze, a strong man with a steel spine, and his brother saved from fever with mechanical lungs. Once there was a man with wings, like a bird, until he fell.

I went into it not knowing what to expect, so I’m not sure what I expected. It’s very experimental, style wise (literary, some might say). The Steampunk is more a veneer over the top, an aesthetic choice, which I love. Genre wise, I would call it magic realism, because there is magic, but the way magic works is never explained, but used in more of a free-form way.

The story made me think of Peter S. Beagle or Neil Gaiman. I don’t think I’ve read anything so subtly creepy since The Innkeeper’s Song. It’s about beauty and love and death, and the writing itself is beautiful too.

I normally find things this experimental to be annoying, but I think that’s often because “literary” authors sometimes think that the writing is everything, and they don’t have to have a story to tell. Miss Valentine has a story to tell. She doesn’t tell it in chronological order, and the point of view is all over the place, running from first to third person and not skipping second person, and yet, the confusion at first didn’t bother me. It was obvious fairly quickly that it was told out of order.

Also, I liked the scene openings she had sometimes, the ones that start with “This is what happens when (insert framing phrase to tell me where she’s jumping into the story.)” It was as unsubtle as a slap in the face, maybe, butso much less annoying than the author using dates to tell you when something’s taking place. I can’t stand that, I can’t keep track of the numbers in the dates, so they might as well not be there. This? This was effective and efficient.

Overall, I loved it, it was beautiful.

Celebrating Introverts

Someone posted this on Facebook, and it certainly rang true for me.

All of my childhood and adolescence, I was made to feel ashamed for who I was. My parents would get mad at me for pulling out a book while there were other people around, said that I should be being sociable. There was something wrong with me.

They even found a name for it – Aspergers Syndrome. There was something wrong with me that made me this way.

I’ve learned to hide it; learned to cope with a world that wasn’t made for people who don’t want to be at a keg party all the time. A few drinks, and I can handle the noise and the constant chatter and madness of what people call the normal. I can even enjoy it for short periods of time, but that still usually requires alcohol to numb my senses.

Aspergers Syndrome is just the way I explain it to my family when I have to tell them I need to be left alone for a little while.

I’m blessed though, with a husband who gets it, gets me, and is also happy to curl up on the couch together reading books. He’s learned that when I start to get grumpy and snappish, that more than anything, I need to get some writing done, because that makes me feel better.

I have friends now, who accept me and like me for who I am. Not one person said a thing at the new year’s party last year when I was twenty pages from the end of an amazing book when I got there, and sat down on the couch while they played board games, and finished the book before joining the celebrations. No one made me feel ashamed, or like what I did was unacceptable. I didn’t even feel, among them, that I had to hide away in the bathroom or someplace where they wouldn’t notice. No one even tried to drag me away from it.

It’s within geekdom that I’ve found these people, which seems to be a unique place where people are accepted in ways that they are not anywhere else. On average, people who cluster into these social circles tend to be the most tolerant people in the world, from abhorring racism or intolerance of alternative sexualities, to tolerance of social quirks. Granted it does end up leaving space for some people to be jerks, especially since it tends to be dominated by males, but the females that end up there are often the women would describe themselves as usually getting along better with men than other women, and that seems to be the sort of women I get along best with.

It’s been a healthy place for me to grow, and I’d like to thank all of my friends for being exactly who they are.