Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: ARC Swim The Fly

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Templar Publishing (1 Jun 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1848774532
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848774537

Fifteen-year-old Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Coop and Sean, always set themselves a summertime goal. This year's? To see a real-live naked girl for the first time. But this mission impossible starts to look easy in comparison to Matt's other challenge: to swim the 100-yard butterfly and impress the gorgeous Kelly West.

I was recently given the opportunity to receive an advanced review copy of Swim the Fly by Don Calame. The blurb spoke of a YA novel for boys, full of laughs and surprising heart. I found a lot more in this book; a complex message hidden beneath glib dialogue and teenage drama.

This book is a must for any lover of the genre. It is a sure hit for boys, with characters they will no doubt be able to relate to and situations familiar. For the female persuasion, the book is a unique chance to peer into the inner workings of the teenage boy. And ladies, this is an invaluable opportunity.

The character of Matt is a sweet one, sincere if not a little misguided. With friends, Coop and Sean, Matt goes through a summer of firsts. The first girl he gets seriously interested in, the first strains of a previously unstrained friendship, the realisations that sometimes the truth is the better way, and of course, the determination to spot their first naked girl.

This book was reminiscent of American Pie. Horn-dog teenage boys and a sure-to-be catastrophic pact makes the story comic gold. I laughed out loud numerous times during this read, caught myself wrinkling my nose in disgust and inching closer to the pages as the male psyche had me intrigued.

It answered a lot of the age-old questions about boys: do they really think about sex THAT much? Are they really THAT disgusting? Do they really think THAT’S what it takes to get a girl? The answers are endless, but heed this warning well, not all the answers are ones we want!

What surprised me about this book was the big, beating heart at its centre.  I was warned about the softer side, but being primarily a book about three teenagers determined to get their first glimpse of a naked girl, I figured, hot soft could it be? Turns out, pretty soft. There was no mush, but a softer side nonetheless. It isn’t shoved in your face, more like lies underneath the surface, gently whispering what you realise you actually knew all along.

No matter your age or sex, you will go on a journey of discovery with Matt as he figures out not everyone will react the way you expect them to, and how to look beyond what was in front of you all along.

The hair-brained and disastrous schemes will have you rolling around in your seat, the cringe-worthy moments making you feel so mortified it was as if it was happening to you. But the happy moments will light a little warm fire in your belly that not even a thug like Tony Grillo can put out.  


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Computer is mightier than the Sword

As a modern day writer, we sometimes might use a pen or pencil to scribble our musing down, but mostly I think we use our computers. So it's important to take care of the tools of our trade. Here are a few things I do to speed up my computer. If you’re like me, as you write you find a million reasons to surf the Internet. Sometimes they are even valid reasons, like research... anyhow, one of the side effects of all this poking around can be a slowing down of your computer’s speed. I’m going to walk you through a few things that may help.
Start at the start button (the bottom left corner on your screen)
Click on ‘Control Panel’
Click on ‘System and Security’
Click on ‘Administrative Tools’
Click on ‘Free up disk space’
This will run quickly or slowly, depending on how long it’s been since you’ve done it. When it has finished a small window will open up. Under ‘files to delete’ put a check mark in ALL of the boxes, don’t worry, it won’t delete anything important even if it is checked off, it just deletes the garbage stored in your computer.
After you check everything off, Click on ‘Clean up system files’
Again, this may go quickly or slowly depending on how much stuff is there. When it is done configuring, the same box will come up again, click okay, then another box will appear and ask if you are sure you want to delete all the files, say yes!
Back in the administrative tools click ‘Defragment your hard drive’
Click on ‘Analyze disk’ (this may take a while)
When it’s done click ‘Defragment disk’ (again, this may take a while, um, a long while if it hasn’t been done for a long time)

Okay, now that this is done, open up your Internet and go to the top right corner and look for ‘Safety’. Click on it then in the drop down menu click ‘delete browsing history’
I check off everything except ‘form data’ and ‘passwords’ (I like being signed in automatically lol) once you’ve checked off the other stuff click ‘delete’. This gets rid of tracking cookies and browsing history (a list of everywhere your mouse has taken you) and stuff that sites like to send to your computer to sit in storage there (I'm sure there's a reason, but I sure don't know what it is)
I recommend you do the first half - freeing up disc space and the defrag - with everything on your computer shut off. (no word docs or email things open) I further recommend you run through this process twice, it should go much quicker the second time, if it doesn’t, run it a third time. Sometimes when the defrag is not done regularly it takes a couple runs through to get everything as it should be.
This should help your system speed up some. A little something extra besides just depending on your security system to do everything. Your computer is a big part of what you do as a writer. From communicating with your publisher, to marketing yourself and your book, and even research (playing on Facebook if you prefer...) So like I said earlier, take some time to take care of one of a writers valuable tools.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ed and the Passive Voice

Let me introduce you to a friend who knows passive voice intimately. His name is Ed. Okay, he isn’t really a person, and undoubtedly isn’t a ‘he’, but Ed is my friend—our friend.

I’ll get back to Ed in a minute. First, I want to show you what passive voice is. The following paragraph is riddled with it:

The missing child case had been solved by Jack Long, the Police Chief. Two-year-old Savannah Smith was discovered after several hours of probing beneath the debris covered waters of Copsey Lake. He had located her. She had been sleeping in the back seat of her mother’s car.

Did you feel alienated or distracted while reading that?

The next paragraph gets the same information across, but in active voice:

After several hours of probing beneath the debris covered waters of Copsey Lake, Police Chief Jack Long solved the missing child case. He discovered two-year-old Savannah Smith sleeping in the back seat of her mother’s car.

Whew! This sounds much better, doesn’t it? Now I’ll refer back to Ed.

Verbs ending in “-ed” (Ed) help identify passive voice. Locate verbs ending in “-ed” (solved, discovered, located.) If these verbs are preceded by a form of the verb “to be” (are, was, am, been has been, have been, had been, will be, will have been, being) you are likely using passive voice. There are some exceptions to the “-ed” idea, but they are easy to detect.

“The case was solved by Jack.” –passive
“Jack solved the case.” – active

When we write a sentence where the subject is receiving the action, rather than being or doing, we are using passive voice.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quirks of Querying...

Querying is a part of a writer's life, and in my opinion the toughest part. Rejection is unavoidable, but knowing that does not make it easier.

Here is my experience with the process of querying--and how it led to publication of not one, but two books.

After jumping the hurdle of finishing a novel, I learned how to write a query letter. Polishing it to perfection, I applied suggestions from an editor friend. I even sent it to Marla Miller for a critique. After making a list of agents in my genre, I began sending out submissions.

Rejections came in many forms, from a NO, scribbled in the corner of my letter, to an encouraging note to keep trying.

Each time, I took another look at my query letter, tweaking it before sending out the next batch. Still, I found rejections in my mailbox--eventually expecting them to be there.

That is when I decided to switch things up. I stopped querying agents and began submitting directly to publishers. This took a great deal of research. I needed to find ones who accepted new authors--sans an agent. I read about how e-books are booming, and decided to look into that option. Agents are good to have, but are not a requirement for many publishers, especially in the growing field of independent or "indie" publishers.

I researched each publisher before submitting. Again, this takes time. I suggest you check each one through predators and editors, absolute write and writers beware. Next, personalize each query. What do I mean by this? Let me tell you what I did.

I took the extra time to visit each publisher's site, familiarizing myself with how they work, about their staff and the overall "feel" of their company. With the information I gleaned, I mentioned something personal about their site in my query letter. There was a particular site that didn't accept my genre, but I loved their attitude so much, I had to let them know what they were doing right.

They are the ones who not only offered me a contract, but also started a new line and expanded because I risked going against the rules. Now, I am not suggesting you go willy-nilly with your submissions. I'm saying, think out of the proverbial box. I knew I wanted this publisher, and in the end, they wanted me.

One week later, another publisher accepted a different book. Again, an independent publisher liked how I personalized my query.

Now, they accepted my book on its own merits, but the fact I got to "know" them, made my query stand out. I just had to give these pointers to my fellow writers. You are welcome to follow my road to publication at jmpowersromance.blogspot.com. Call me your tour guide if you wish. I will point out all the sights on this journey… come along for the ride and learn with me.

(Author note: You can read more comments from readers on

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gobble or Nibble?

Books are like a big, fat, gooey slab of cake. Maybe covered with cream. Thick cream. Cream so thick it’s a desert in itself. Maybe some ice cream, too. Oh, maybe it’s a hot chocolate fudge cake and the fudge is melting…okay, I’ve sufficiently given myself a serious cake craving, so I’ll get to the point.

You have that delicious cake in front of you. Do you dive right in, devour it as fast as your jaw can work…or do you take your time? Do you take small, delicate bites and draw out the experience as long as physically possible?

I asked one of my fellow wenches this question, and she told me it depended on the author. Stephen King she draws it out, so as not to miss anything, but Nora Roberts she gobbles whole.

I can’t deny that when reading a seriously, seriously good book, the urge to read so fast my eyeballs smoke is tempting. But the better the book the slower I want to go. The better the book the harder going slow is. I have conflicting emotions with wanting to make the experience last as long as possible, but needing to know what happens right now.

One of my favourite authors is Richelle Mead, and in particular her Georgina Kincaid series. Georgina is a succubus by night and a bookstore worker by day. She adores books, especially works by Seth Mortensen. In fact, she loves his books so much she only allows herself to read five pages a day, so she can make it last. After all, you only get to read a book for the first time once.

You only get to read a book for the first time once…

That is my mantra when I’m reading. How often do I live by it? Not as often as I’d like. Depending on the book, and the day, I can polish off a book in hours. One more chapter then I’ll turn out the light kind of books.

Sometimes when I finish I feel like I cheated myself out of something special. That I shouldn’t have rushed and the experience was over far too quickly.

However, I don’t beat myself up for long. If I’ve fallen in love with the book, I know I’ll re-read it. Some people find this bizarre. A lot of people I know won’t re-read a book the same way they won’t watch a movie twice, because they already know what’s going to happen. But re-reading something is like getting to fall in love with your husband all over again. How could you not adore that? Some of my favourite books I’ve read dozens of times. It’s because I re-read that my husband doesn't go made when I buy so many new books.

I’d love for you to tell me how you read. Devour or small nibbles?

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