Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 is here!

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all the terrific people I've had the privilege of knowing, working with, being friends with and generally sharing my life with via this blog - a very Happy New Year!

READ ON...
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my Full Feed RSS.
You can also Subscribe by Email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Excerpt - Decoding The Lost Symbol

Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction (A Touchstone Paperback Original; November 2009; 0-7432-8727-4; $14.99) is the first book available in bookstores analyzing the mysteries inside The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.

Simon Cox, bestselling author of Cracking the Da Vinci Code and Illuminating Angels & Demons, offers the first definitive guide to all the mysteries featured in Dan Brown's latest novel. Based on extensive research, this A-to-Z guide lists the real people, organizations, and themes featured in Brown's book. Easy to read and straightforward in its layout, it includes illustrations and color photos of the settings and artifacts referenced in The Lost Symbol.

It was April 2009, and I was just arriving at the London Book Fair at the Earls Court Exhibition Halls. I was intending on catching up with friends, my UK publisher, and having a general look at what was new in the publishing world. However, I knew that something remarkable had happened the minute I had arrived. An air of excitement and expectation filled the packed halls, and smiles were emanating from all around. Grown men were close to tears.

I instantly knew what had happened: the new Dan Brown book had been announced.

This was to be the start of nearly five months of manic preparation and debate. Clues and hints would be given out, opinions bandied about, and crazed supposition would fill thousands of web pages. However, let's wind back the clock to the publication of Brown's previous Robert Langdon thriller, The Da Vinci Code, in 2003.

Back then, Dan Brown was a semisuccessful author of several thrillers, one of which was the first Robert Langdon novel, Angels & Demons, published in 2000. Sales had been average to poor, and Brown's publisher decided to take a gamble with The Da Vinci Code, sending out ten thousand free copies to bookstores and their book buyers, reviewers, and trade professionals. The plan worked, and soon sales really began to take off.

At the time, I was the editor in chief of a U.S.-based newsstand magazine called Phenomena. The Da Vinci Code was starting to cause quite a stir within the alternative-history genre that I inhabited; in fact, several authors that I had worked for as a researcher had their work credited as source material for Brown's book. (Phenomena even ran an article "casting" the movie version of The Da Vinci Code, should it ever come to pass. For the record, not one of the actors we thought would be so terrific in the roles of Dr. Robert Langdon, Sir Leigh Teabing, and the book's other characters was cast for Ron Howard's 2006 film starring Tom Hanks.) Eventually a small London publisher approached me about writing a short guide to The Da Vinci Code. The book, Cracking the Da Vinci Code, went on to become an international best seller in its own right. I subsequently wrote Illuminating Angels & Demons, a companion to Brown's other Langdon-based novel.

Intriguingly, the dust jacket of the U.S. hardcover edition of The Da Vinci Code seemed to contain clues hinting at the next novel in the series. This fascinated me, and I found out all I could about these clues and the secrets that they potentially held.

Time passed, and rumors began circulating that a title had been chosen. The new book was to be called The Solomon Key -- an apparent reference to a medieval book on magic with the same title. Impatiently, I began researching all that I could about this centuries-old text, which supposedly was written in Italy during the Renaissance but claimed a lineage that went all the way back to King Solomon himself. Perfect material for a Dan Brown thriller, I thought. Brown's publishing team registered a new website, solomonkey.com, and everything seemed poised for the new book to arrive soon.

More time passed . . . and more time passed . . . and still no definitive word about the new book, though plenty of fresh rumors abounded: Brown had scrapped the book; there would be no follow-up to The Da Vinci Code. Brown, exhausted from having fended off a high-profile copyright-infringement lawsuit in London, had decided to take an extended break from writing. It was even claimed that the 2004 movie National Treasure, starring Nicolas Cage as a treasure hunter seeking a mysterious war chest hidden by the Founding Fathers, had stolen so much of the forthcoming book's thunder that it required a complete rewrite. The unsubstantiated allegations were completely fanciful, of course, but they replicated over and over like a virus on the ever-conspiratorial internet sites that monitored the story, sending the rumor mill into overdrive.

Then came the 2009 London Book Fair. Only a couple of months before, I had predicted to my UK publisher that the announcement would indeed be made at the London event. More in hope than expectation, it has to be said, but accurate nonetheless.

A press release was handed out by Brown's publishers, and suddenly a new title presented itself. The Lost Symbol, to be published on September 15, 2009. What could such an enigmatic title mean? What was lost? Which symbol? The race was on, the game was afoot, and I rushed headlong into research-and-reading mode. What you hold in your hands before you is the outcome of that labor.

Before long, a new website appeared, at www.thelostsymbol.com, though nothing but a holding page was evident for quite a while. Then, out of the blue, the site added links to a Dan Brown Facebook page and Twitter feed. Excitement grew to fever pitch, as thousands of people became Facebook and Twitter followers of Dan Brown overnight.

Steadily, these new media outlets began to reveal tantalizing clues and tidbits of story line. With each revelation, I furiously took notes and researched everything I could find. It was as if a whole new world were opening up. It was a cornucopia of material, and I started ordering more new books for my library to cover some of the subjects mentioned.

Some of the clues actually gave coordinates to several locations, such as the so-called Bimini Road. This unusual underwater structure off the island of Bimini in the Bahamas is claimed to be a man-made edifice and a remnant of the lost island of Atlantis. I had spent two summers on Bimini a number of years back as part of my research for a book about Atlantis. "Great," I thought, "now I have a head start on some of the material." Coordinates were also given for the Great Pyramid of Giza, the last standing wonder of the ancient world and another place with which I was intimately familiar. Then there were coordinates to Newgrange in Ireland, a monumental passage tomb built around five thousand years ago. The stone structure is famous for its alignment to dawn on the winter solstice, when a narrow beam of light briefly illuminates the floor of the chamber. I had just visited Newgrange with the author and Freemason Chris McClintock.

Possible adversaries and secret societies were hinted at. Ciphers, codes, and cryptograms were revealed. Historical figures were mentioned. It was all adding up to a furious game of who could be first to reveal the answers to the clues. Websites sprang up detailing the background and history of some of the people, places, and groups being mentioned. It was an internet feeding frenzy.

Then I remembered something: Bishop Manuel Aringarosa, a character from The Da Vinci Code, whose name had a hidden meaning. Aringa is the Italian word for "herring"; rosa means "red." Dan Brown liked to throw multiple red herrings into the mix. I began to look at the Twitter and Facebook clues in a new light. What if many of these were indeed red herrings? What if I were immersing myself in subjects that weren't included in the published book? That's when I stopped even looking at the Facebook and Twitter pages. After all, everything would be revealed on the day of publication, September 15.

Even this date, we were told, was part of the puzzle; chosen specifically for the book's release. I began to check almanacs, history books, websites, conspiracy theorist blogs, but found nothing. Then it hit me: 09.15.09; 9 plus 15 plus 9 equals 33. So it was true. The Freemasons, and specifically Scottish Rite Freemasons, would be a central theme of the book -- something that had been hinted at on the dust jacket of The Da Vinci Code years ago.

Then, before I knew it, publication day arrived. I began reading The Lost Symbol furiously. When I finished some twelve hours later, I realized that my suspicions had proved correct: many of the clues leaked over the previous months on Dan Brown's Twitter and Facebook pages were indeed aringarosa -- red herrings. There was no Morgan affair; no Aaron Burr; no William Wirt (and the strange story of his skull); no Knights of the Golden Circle; no substantial mentions of Albert Pike; no Benedict Arnold; no Confederate gold; no Babington plot; no Alexander Hamilton and the origins of the New York Stock Exchange; no Sons of Liberty; no Lost Colony of Roanoke; no Robert Hanssen, the U.S.-born Russian spy; no Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.

Cleverly, there was no Key of Solomon, either. Instead we have a family with the surname of Solomon, who hold the keys to the eventual outcome. The Great Pyramid figures in the story, though not prominently and not in the context that many had thought.

Dan Brown and his publishers had managed to pull off something of a coup, keeping the plotline of The Lost Symbol pretty much under wraps until the day of publication (although a couple of U.S. newspapers did print reviews the day before, in defiance of the publisher's embargo). It was an amazing feat, especially considering that the book's print run exceeded five million copies, and it guaranteed Brown a huge amount of media and public attention.

So: what did we end up with? Is The Lost Symbol a worthy successor to Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code?

The Lost Symbol is, in the end, a pretty good thriller that keeps Robert Langdon on his toes and involves some big themes and historical enigmas. However, it's the deeper, more hidden elements of the book that I believe will have the most impact over time. Between the lines of the novel, Dan Brown has attempted to write something akin to a hidden Hermetic text. It's a bold and ambitious undertaking, and one that I applaud him for. Indeed, the last ten chapters of the book and the epilogue are more or less an extended treatise on Deism, Hermetic thought, and religious tolerance.

The Freemasons are the secret society of choice this time around. I'm sure that there will be those who see Freemasonry as a covert, sinister movement intent on power and blasphemy. I see it rather differently. I am not a Freemason, nor will I ever be one. But I do know many Freemasons. Indeed, Ian Robertson, one of the chief researchers for this book, is a Freemason, as is my friend Chris McClintock, author of the soon-to-be-published Sun of God book series on the origins of the Freemasonry and its symbolism. Neither of them is in any way sinister, nor are the countless other Freemasons that I know and respect. I like the stance that Dan Brown has taken with Freemasonry within The Lost Symbol. Many commentators thought that the Masons would, in effect, be portrayed as the "bad guys," but this is not the case. In fact, Brown makes a convincing argument for Freemasonry being a tolerant and enlightened movement with some interesting and forward-thinking ideas.

While it should be said that Freemasonry is a secretive society, it is not a secret society. Membership is easy to research and find out about, and most members are not shy about letting you know that they are within the craft, as it is called. Since the heyday of Freemasonry in the eighteenth century, it has attracted men of a certain social standing and, to an extent, still does. But the group has become more welcoming as of late, and I hope that this trend continues.

One of the things I wanted to get across within some of the entries of this book is that maybe it's not Freemasonry we should be wary of -- instead maybe we should fear the real secret groups and societies of which we know very little or nothing. Then again, maybe we are simply chasing shadows, wisps of rumor and supposition that have tormented us for millennia; a fear of secret and hidden things that, in the end, may not be that secret or hidden after all. Another thing worth noting is that although many of the people mentioned in this book were not Freemasons (Pierre L'Enfant springs to mind), or at least we have no evidence that they were, they would have been intimately familiar with the society and its workings. Many of their contemporaries and peers would have been members, and the craft would have been all around. It seems likely, for instance, that Thomas Jefferson, though we have no direct evidence of his membership in a Masonic lodge, did have sympathies with the Masonic ideals of brotherhood, enlightenment, and religious tolerance.

Once again, like my previous guides to Dan Brown's books, this book is laid out in an easy-to-read A-to-Z format. There are some sixty entries in all; fewer than in previous guides. This was deliberate, as I wanted to give you a much more in-depth took at some of the themes, places, people, and groups featured in the novel.

The BBC in the United Kingdom once called me "a historian of the obscure," a title that I like very much indeed. I have aimed to bring you some of that history of obscure and hidden subjects within the pages of this book. If you feel the urge to look deeper and delve further into some of the interesting subjects highlighted here, take a look at the bibliography and start building your own library of esoteric and arcane subjects. Just make sure that you remember to sleep and eat while familiarizing yourself with the ancient mystery traditions -- it's an addictive pursuit but also a very rewarding one, and one that I hope many of you will undertake.

If you want to talk about, debate, or extol any of the subjects in this book or the novel itself, head over to my website at www.decodingthelostsymbol.com, where you will find a forum for debate and articles and blogs. If you want to contact me directly about any of the issues raised, I have my own Facebook page under my name and can be found on Twitter too (@FindSimonCox).

Writing this book was a lot of fun, and it has given me a newfound respect and admiration for the men who founded a new and fledgling nation in America, at the end of the eighteenth century. As a British writer and historian, it's a period of history that I was not that familiar with and I have really enjoyed the research and subsequent writing about this tumultuous time. The Founding Fathers really were incredibly enlightened and forward-thinking men, who guided the formation of a republic with steady hands and an unwavering resolve. I will forever look at them, and this period of time, in a brand-new light from now on.

I hope you enjoy Decoding The Lost Symbol, and find its contents enlightening and interesting. I pass it on to you with the hope that you will find it as fun to read as it was to write.

Simon Cox
Bedford,
United Kingdom
September 2009

The above is an excerpt from the book Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction by Simon Cox. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Simon Cox, author of Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction

Author Bio : Simon Cox, author of Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction, was the founding editor in chief of the successful newsstand magazine Phenomena. Having studied Egyptology at University College London, he went on to work as a research assistant for some of the biggest names in the alternative history game, including Graham Hancock, Robert Bauvel, and David Rohl. He splits his time between Britain and the United States.

You can visit his website at www.DecodingTheLostSymbol.com.
Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my Full Feed RSS.
You can also Subscribe by Email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Ian Rankin's Exit Music - Review & Giveaway

Exit Music (Detective John Rebus Novels)Exit Music (Detective John Rebus Novels)

Synopsis - It's late in the fall in Edinburgh and late in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he is simply trying to tie up some loose ends before his retirement, a new case lands on his desk: a dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong. Rebus discovers that an elite delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, looking to expand its interests. And as Rebus's investigation gains ground, someone brutally assaults a local gangster with whom he has a long history. Has Rebus overstepped his bounds for the last time? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, controversial career, will Rebus even make it that far?

One of the most engaging series set in Edinburgh comes to a suspenseful and spectacular finish with this book and I have to say I'm most sorry that it has ended. Sarcastic yet astute, Rebus can be termed as Holmes' Scottish counterpart - plus the intuition but minus the drugs, although Rebus does smoke like a chimney. It is one last chance for Rebus to settle some old scores and perhaps go out with a bang having captured his nemesis - well, that would been ideal yet cliched. And that's not what happens. However, what does happen is so convoluted and mired in politics, sex, drugs and whatnot to keep both the reader and Rebus guessing and wanting more even after the last page has been turned. Read it, and you won't know how a whole wintry day (and night) has gone by.

Extras : 

Photobucket
GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Recommend me another detective series set in Europe.
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of January 31, 2010.

Eligibility  US & Canada only. No PO Boxes.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my Full Feed RSS.
You can also Subscribe by Email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks - Review & Giveaway

Dear JohnDear John

Synopsis - An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else.

Nicholas Sparks sure knows how to tug the heartstrings in yet another moving & romantic story of star-crossed lovers. I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook edition which is read flawlessly by actor and voiceover artist Holter Graham. His voice is soothing and hypnotizing as he narrates the conflicts and the love and the bittersweet aspect of it all. And with subtle changes of tone and pitch, Graham is able to distinguish the various characters with aplomb.

You can listen to an excerpt here. And even watch the movie trailer there.

Photobucket
GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this audiobook will go to one lucky reader.
Note - No PO boxes, please.

To Enter
  • Recommend any other Hachette audiobook to me. (other than the ones reviewed on this blog)
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of January 20, 2010.

Eligibility  US & Canada only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my Full Feed RSS.
You can also Subscribe by Email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Janet Chapman's A Highlander Christmas - Review & Giveaway

A Highlander ChristmasA Highlander Christmas
353p, Pocket Star

Synopsis - Camry MacKeage has absolutely no intention of telling her parents that she left her job as a NASA physicist for the small-town life of a dog-sitter -- which is why she's spending the holidays alone in coastal Maine with her furry friends Tigger and Max. Unfortunately, her irresistibly handsome rival, scientist Luke Pascal, accidentally spilled the beans. Now he's on a mission from her mother to tempt Camry home for the family's annual winter solstice celebration. But Luke is hiding his own secret, and he'll need a little bit of magic to earn Camry's trust...and a whole lot of mistletoe to seduce his way into her heart.

Books that feature our four-footed friends and that too at Holiday times have a way of nestling in my heart and mind. And so is the case with this wonderful, heart-warming book. Chapman has a knack for creating characters who make you fall in love with them and of course, with each other! There's enough mischief, magic and mayhem in it to delight even the coldest heart this Holiday season.

Photobucket
GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Recommend me another holiday romance filled with magic.
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of January 20, 2010.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!


Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my Full Feed RSS.
You can also Subscribe by Email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Author Kelly Gay and Better Part of Darkness (& a Giveaway!)

Readers, please join me welcoming Kelly Gay, author of The Better Part of Darkness who's guest blogging here today! This book is an electrifying debut urban fantasy that introduces readers to Charlie Madigan, who Jenna Black (bestselling author of the Morgan Kingsley series) describes as "the epitome of the modern kick-butt heroine!"

Synopsis - Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim -- but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?

And now, here's Kelly herself - Welcome, dear author!

divider,separator

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
When I was asked to write a holiday guest post for A Book Blogger’s Diary, I was thrilled. (Thank you!) :-) Being an urban fantasy author who pens dark themes and events, it’s a nice break to talk about the holidays. In THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS, my heroine, Charlie Madigan, is a single mom to an eleven-year-old daughter, Emma, and while trouble brews and supernatural beings abound, one thing that grounds Charlie is her family, and one of the things that drives her is making her world a safer place.

My daughter is not quite Emma’s age, but she’s old enough to know that not everyone in this world is as fortunate as she is. She’s old enough to understand that wars are fought and people do bad things for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense. And she is old enough to care. So, this holiday season is all about supporting those who make our world a better place.

Recently, we read a story about the men and women soldiers in Afghanistan. How some units, depending on where they’re stationed, are in desperate need of the basic essentials: toothpaste, feminine products, Tylenol, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, underwear . . . all these basic things we use daily and probably don’t think much about. Our soldiers are out there fighting a war, putting their lives on the line every day, and they need socks because the weather is turning cold. They need gloves, and they’d be thrilled to have some gum, some books or magazines to read, and stationary to write letters to home.

I write about a woman who puts her life on the line for her city. I spent a lot of time researching women in law enforcement and the military. And, after reading this story, it really struck a nerve with me. So this holiday season we’re giving to a charity called Any Soldier. You can select from the many contacts, read their stories, the things they need, request the address, and viola. You shop. You send. And it’s an awesome feeling to know that once that box arrives, the contact gives it to those soldiers in his or her unit who get very little or no mail at all.

I know this is something Charlie and Emma would be gung-ho for, and so are we! So consider choosing a charity this Christmas or as a way to ring in the New Year. It’s amazing how wonderful it feels to give, and it’s even more wonderful to see how excited my daughter is to pursue this holiday project.

Happy holidays everyone!
Wow, that's a great idea, Kelly! As great as the story of Charlie Madigan which I'm really enjoying reading (I only have about a hundred more pages to go - ah, the suspense, it's just about killing me! Look for a review soon) and I'm already hoping this is the start of a great new series. The breathless pace, the vivid characterizations, the magic which is the very fabric of being, all set it a place where heaven and hell have become one - all combine to make this urban fantasy is a must-read.

Photobucket
GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Recommend me another urban fantasy series that you think is a must-read. (something that's not mentioned in this post)
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of January 18, 2010.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my Full Feed RSS.
You can also Subscribe by Email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Author Guest Post - Gayle Trent (& a Giveaway)

Author Gayle Trent at A Book Blogger's DiaryGayle Trent authors two cozy mystery series, one for Bell Bridge Books and one for NAL. Her latest book is Dead Pan by Gayle Trent at A Book Blogger's DiaryDead Pan, the second book in the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery Series.

In Dead Pan, several people become sick at Brea Ridge Pharmaceuticals’ annual holiday party for its employees, and one–Fred Duncan–dies. Fred’s mother insists on Daphne’s help in learning why Fred died; and since none of the food has yet been exonorated, Daphne feels compelled to find out what made everyone so ill. She’s pretty sure it wasn’t her cake, but she can’t be certain until the police complete the lab results. Was this an accident? Or did someone set out to kill Fred?

Hmm...sounds like just the thing to read on a cold winter's night, doesn't it?! Want to win a copy? Read on...

divider,separator

Have you got a writer on your gift list? If you have (even if that writer is YOU), and you don't have a clue as to what gift to buy, I'm here to help.

Let's start with the simple things. I love these greeting cards/bookmarks. They're great and designed to go with any book, genre, etc. The cards are $3.95 each and you can buy them from retailers or from the company's online store. (http://www.inmybook.net/inmybook.htm)

Literary Calligraphy: This "All American Note Card Assortment" blends watercolor images with text from American writers. See these beautiful note cards at
http://www.literarycalligraphy.com/stationery/allamericards.html.

Women Writers Journal -- cloth-covered with lined pages. The Library of Congress has a women writers tote for $24.00. The women writers featured are Gertrude Stein, Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Jane Austen, Phyllis Wheatley, Charlotte Bronte, Mary Shelley and Sylvia Plath.

Submission Trackers: There are several versions of submission trackers. Most also offer a free demonstration. I'm sure any of them would be beneficial. See these to determine which might best suit your writer's needs.

1)Power Tracker (http://www.write-brain.com/power_tracker_main.htm) - Features include automatic follow-up reminders and searchable notes.

2) Quick Query Tracker
(http://www.worldwidefreelance.com/qqt/) - Includes backup feature and ability to save favorite market details.

3) Write That Down
(http://www.writerssupercenter.com/writethatdown/) - Features automatic letter of inquiry generator and resume of published work.

4) Luminary Writer's Database
(http://www.luminarypub.com/services/writersdb/) - This is an online database and it's f*ree. The service allows you to keep track of submissions, acceptances, rejections, amount of money earned, etc.

5) SwiftTrack for Manuscripts
(http://www.swifttechsoftware.com/tracking.htm) - Features 14 different types of reports.

Writing Books:

1) Writer's Market 2010 (Writer's Market) is always a popular choice. You can now get a deluxe version that includes access to the Writer's Market online database. If your writer has a specialty, you can get Writer's Market 2010 (Writer's Market); Novel & Short Story Writer's Market 2010 (Novel and Short Story Writer's Market); Songwriter's Market 2010 (Songwriter's Market); 2010 Photographers Market (Photographer's Market); Poet's Market 2010 (Poet's Market); and 2010 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market.

2) If the writer you're buying for is considering self-publishing, Dan Poynter's book, Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, 16th Edition: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book (Self Publishing Manual)will get him/her on the right track.

3) If your favorite writer already has a book in print, consider John Kremer's 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, Sixth Edition (1001 Ways to Market Your Books: For Authors and Publishers). (http://www.bookmarketing.com/) Other good books on the subject include Publicize Your Book: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book the Attention It Deserves by Jacqueline Deval; Confessions of Shameless Self Promoters by Debbie Allen; and Guerrilla Marketing for Writers : 100 Weapons to Help You Sell Your Work by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman and Michael Lar.

4) A freelance writer? Some good options include The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success (The Renegade Writer's Freelance Writing series) by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell; How to Write Irresistible Query Lettersby Lisa Collier Cool; Feminine Wiles: Creative Techniques for Writing Women's Features Stories That Sell by Donna Elizabeth Boetig; and Facts in a Flash: A Research Guide for Writers by Ellen Metter.

5) If your favorite writer is a budding Hollywood screen writer, you might want to get him/her The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski; The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script, by David Trottier; The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Insider's Secrets from Hollywood's Top Writers by Karl Iglesias; or Power Screenwriting: The 12 Stages of Story Development by Michael Chase Walker.

If all else fails, pens, pretty stationery and/or gift certificates to booksellers, office supply stores and computer stores are always welcome!
All good ideas! I personally am intrigued by the Women Writers Journal by LoC. 

Photobucket
GIVEAWAY

The Prize

Readers from the United States may enter to win a copy of the trade paperback edition of Dead Pan, and readers worldwide may enter to win an e-book edition of Dead Pan. It just might make an excellent gift for you this holiday season!

To Enter
  • Leave me your idea of an ideal gift for someone who loves books! (apart from gift certificates, cards and the ones Gayle's listed above).
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner
  • Anonymous comments without an email address will not be considered.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline 

Since this giveaway's coming so close to the holidays, I'm going to give it an extended deadline.
Midnight CST of January 31, 2010.

Eligibility  OPEN WORLDWIDE.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

______________________________________________________________________
If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my Full Feed RSS.
You can also Subscribe by Email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blog Tour, Review, Giveaway - Ivy & Bean : Doomed to Dance

CONGRATS TO LUCKY WINNER - WENDY!

I love books that have the power to make me feel like a young girl again, while at the same time making the adult in me laugh and shake her head to read the antics of the characters. That's exactly the case with Ivy and Bean : Doomed to Dance (book 6 of the series) in which author Annie Barrows shows young readers what happens when they get exactly what they ask for.

After begging their parents for ballet lessons, Ivy and Bean finally get what they want...well, not exactly. Much to their surprise, it turns out ballet lessons do not include karate chops and roundhouse kicks to the villain's heart. The girls have no interest in learning how to dance gracefully, but they promised their parents they would finish the entire ballet course!

When it comes time for Ivy and Bean to participate in the ocean-themed class recital, the girls must figure out a way to get out of it without breaking their promises. The result is the brainchild of some devious thinking that takes the young girls of an adventure of a different sort!

Barrows' writing is very natural and its easy to imagine the two girls' disappointment at learning ballet is hard work and not all action and fun. Their inventive ideas to get out of performing and how it all ultimately ends makes a delightful story for kids and adults alike. The relationship between Ivy and Bean holds no surprises and its easy to like and understand (and even envy) their friendship, even though they're really not all that similar.

You can read more about this fun series as well as enter contests, view videos etc at the official site at Chronicle Books. Check out the trailer to get a sneak peak at what mischief Ivy & Bean have gotten into now :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke-Sx-AYxcc

Photobucket
GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Read any other interesting children's book recently? Tell me about it (and why you're recommending it).
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of January 15, 2010.

Eligibility  US & Canada only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my Full Feed RSS.
You can also Subscribe by Email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro talks about her Saint Germain Series

CONGRATS TO LUCKY WINNER - MARIE!

Burning Shadows: A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain (St. Germain)Readers, please join me welcoming Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, author of the popular Saint Germain series who's guest blogging here today!

If you have not read the series, Quinn Yarbro is well-known for her impeccable historical research and her Saint-Germain books are among her most popular works. This past summer, Quinn was a co-recipient of the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association. She was also the first woman to be named a Living Legend by the International Horror Guild (2006) and she is one of two women to be named a Grand Master of the World Horror Convention (2003). Her latest book is Burning Shadows. More information can be found on http://www.chelseaquinnyarbro.net.

divider,separator

Saint Germain and a Star’s Entrance 

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosIn any long-running series about a single character, it is important to give that character a star’s entrance in every book — that is, a way of introducing the character to the reader in such a way as to focus the book on that character. Almost all novels need some kind of distinction for the main character the first time he or she shows up on the page, but in long-running series, this becomes increasingly significant, for those introductions tend to shape the series, not only in tone, but in the understanding of the continuity of the books of the series. I’m hyper-sensitive to star’s entrances, both in my work and the work of others, and I often spend more time working out those first sights of Saint-Germain than I do in putting together the letters that frame the chapter that introduces him.

Sometimes it has been easy to do the star’s entrance, other times it has been a bit of a struggle, and since all Saint-Germain novels begin with letters that set the time and place of the story — necessary with a four thousand year old character — placing Saint-Germain in the context of the story is essential. One of the most difficult star’s entrances in terms of writing, was in Hotel Transylvania, not only because it was the first first look at the character, he, as a significant deviation from other literary vampires at the time, needed to be established as a Good Guy before he was revealed as a vampire. His meeting with the alchemists brought him on stage so that his strengths and skills were displayed without having to account for certain aspects of his behavior. In many ways he has a second entrance in the book, that being at the midnight supper with Lucienne Cressy.

In The Palace, Saint-Germain’s star’s entrance was truly easy. It was simply a matter of letting the builders talk; when Saint-Germain walked in on them, the focus was so automatic and complete that the chapter almost wrote itself. It remains among my favorite Saint-Germain entrances. Blood Games was a dicier star’s entrance.  "Stop that" is a strong first line, and it shifted the center of the action to Saint-Germain in a way that promised a load of trouble later on, always good in a star’s entrance. In Path Of The Eclipse, Saint-Germain doesn’t appear until the second chapter, and that made for a little trickier set-up, but since T’en Chi-Yu’s predicament was what put Saint-Germain into the story line, his quiet entrance after her largely fruitless appeal to the powers-that-be gave a good chance to reveal why he might accept the post of her executive officer at her remote fortress at a time that foreigners were being viewed with suspicion in Lo-Yang. Tempting Fate had one of the most complex star’s entrances in the series; there he was in prison, and he made the guards uncomfortable. His calm in the face of tremendous threat truly planted his character in the readers’ minds, and helped, I hope, to increase sympathy for the eventual tragedy later on.

Returning to the series after a nine-year absence, and the three Olivia books, gave me another series of challenges. Generally speaking, I was fairly pleased with the star’s entrance in Darker Jewels: the dialogue between Saint-Germain and Istvan Bathory set up the story effectively. But with the central conflict being some distance away, both in pages and mileage, it was difficult to get the tone right. Better in the Dark was another passive star’s entrance, and unlike almost all the rest of the Saint-Germain stories, it established his vampirism at the git-go. When I wrote it, I knew it was risky, but since it was important to the story that he be more bound to Ranegonde from the beginning than she was to him . . . Mansions of Darkness was a special case, because I started the book on what eventually became Chapter 4 of Part I. By the time I cycled back to Don Ezequias, I had done three star’s entrance set-ups, and had to restructure all but the first. Since I rarely rewrite, this was a particularly awkward start to that book for me.

Writ in Blood was another book that set itself up fairly automatically. That doesn’t mean easily, but since the story was firmly rooted in historically recent events, I had little wiggle-room for providing the kind of star’s entrance that was possible in most of the others, where less specificity is available. Blood Roses, which had a double-role for Saint-Germain to play, required two star’s entrances, one as the exiled aristocrat, one as the troubadour, and they needed to be different, one from the other, an engaging challenge that took planning, but seemed to work reasonably well.

Communion Blood, on the other hand, wasn’t as successful as I would have liked. Somehow the rhythm was wrong, and it still perplexes me, but I couldn’t come up with a better set-up for the story, so there it is. In Come Twilight, there are four star’s entrances, one for each section of the book. In retrospect, I think Parts III and IV have the more successful of the lot; they get the movement of that part of the story going lucidly while at the same time allowing the reader to shift gears to another century.

In all the Saint-Germain stories set in generally unfamiliar periods of history, and/or locales that may be unknown to most readers, the star’s entrance also needs to be a grounding in the place, period, and problems that will command Saint-Germain’s attention. That was essential in the star’s entrance in A Feast in Exile, which was one of the most demanding of star’s entrances in the series, at least from my point of view. Night Blooming had a similar problem in that, while most Americans have some idea who Charlemagne was, most of what they know is wrong, so in setting up Saint-Germain’s star’s entrance it was important to establish that the story was about the German warlord, Karl-lo-Magne, who never was the first Holy Roman Emperor — Otto the Great was — was not the figure of legend, but the historical man, who, illiterate though he was himself, valued written records, thus leaving accounts of his long reign which made my setting up the star’s entrance easier than it would have been without all those contemporaneous accounts.

Midnight Harvest has one of my favorite star’s entrances in the whole series — thus far. His tryst with Inez was for me a perfect set-up for the story, and an engaging (re)introduction to Saint-Germain; it planted the coming Spanish civil war without being obvious about it, and while revealing Saint-Germain’s concerns, it showed that they did not appear to be immediately dangerous, only inconvenient. Dark of the Sun, on the other hand, was a demanding undertaking that required a star’s entrance that didn’t include any portion of the catastrophe that dominated the story because, of course, at the beginning of the book the catastrophe hadn’t happened yet.  

States of Grace was another star’s entrance that like The Palace, almost wrote itself. The Reformation is not a period of history I’m entirely comfortable with, and in the case of that book, for me at least, that edginess made Saint-Germain’s star’s entrance effective, emphasizing as it did, the ambiguity of his position in Venice, from the page’s behavior to the way in which Saint-Germain reacts to it. Roman Dusk, on the other hand, had a star’s entrance that was intended to lull the reader into a false sense of security, showing Saint-Germain very much at ease in a Roma that had changed a lot since Blood Games.

Saint-Germain had a second-Chapter entrance in Borne in Blood, although, in a very real sense, he has an implied entrance in the first letter of the book, the one from Hero’s egregious father-in-law. By the time we actually saw Saint-Germain, the story had pretty well established that his respite at the end of the Napoleonic Wars was about to come to an end. By contrast, A Dangerous Climate has a strong star’s entrance as Saint-Germain comes to after having been mugged out in the marshes of the new city of Saint Petersburg. That’s another one that pleased me for a variety of reasons including how well it hooked into the title. By the way, I don’t know who mugged him, but I think the Finnish Guards might have been right, and it was one of the gangs that operated in and around Saint Petersburg at the time.

Which brings us to Burning Shadows : there is a kind of double stars’ entrance in this book because it opens with a discussion between Saint-Germain and Olivia about the amount of danger posed by the Huns. I had a lot of fun writing it; only the readers know if I got it right.
I haven't read this series, but boy, now I sure want to! Many thanks to the author for stopping by with such a comprehensive and compelling post.

Photobucket
GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Tell me why you want to win, simple!
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of January 15, 2010.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my Full Feed RSS.
You can also Subscribe by Email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.