May 28, 2011

Made of Awesome Contest

*REVISED 5/29/11*

Title: Note to Self
Genre: YA Gaslamp Fantasy/Steampunk
Word Count: 77,000

Note to Self

The coin and train ticket Mr. Minchin pushed into her hand at the gate of the orphanage meant one thing to Gracie—freedom.
Freedom to search for her family.
The pretense that Gracie planned to spend the rest of her life plucking feathers off dead chickens, was as much a ruse as Mr. Minchin’s parting words that he regretted sending her away. She even suspected this job recommendation was his final revenge for all the fights she’d started with the other children. Though in her defense, she’d ended most of the spats long before Mr. Minchin had need to intervene with his yardstick.
She didn’t know why her aunt and uncle had never come to claim her, but if they were still in Chicago, despite the passage of eight years, she intended to find them. She refused to believe Mrs. Minchin’s explanation that they simply hadn’t wanted her.
“That money is only to be used as a last resort.” Mr. Minchin wagged a liver-spotted finger at her. “Things are different in the real world. If you’re sassy with your supervisor he’s going to garnish your wages rather than slap your knuckles with a ruler. And if you lose your job at the Rochester poultry factory, don’t bother returning here, since once I close this gate, you’re on your own.”
She nodded, tucking the coin into her skirt pocket; the money wasn’t a parting gift, it was his insurance to get rid of her for good.
 “Don’t worry. You won’t be seeing me again.”

Thanks to everyone who has commented on the old version.
Check out the contest details here:

May 18, 2011

Coloring Contest!

Steampunk Coloring Contest

In case you haven't guessed, this was my entry for the Angry Robots contest.
Although I have dabbled in making my own weapons for conventions and cosplay purposes, I didn't have any good photos that I thought could win the Angry Robots contest. So, I decided I'd throw together a quick steampunk fashion drawing as an entry.

Do I think it will win? Not a chance, but it was fun to take a break from writing and get in touch with my artistic side again. It's really helped me get out of the funk I've been in as a result of my "empty inbox blues." That means all of you benefit because it inspired me to hold a contest!

The reward is a $10 E-gift card at either Barnes&Nobel or's choice.

  If I end up with more than 50 followers at the end of the contest I will award a second $10 gift card to another entrant.

How it Works: 

1. Earn one entry by being a follower of this blog and leaving me a comment about how lovely you think my ladies are.

2. For +1 entry, spread the word on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook and provide the link in the comments section.

3. Earn an extra +3 entries by picking one of the uncolored figures to color in on your own.  (You do not get extra points for coloring in both.)

To color the image in I suggest print, color, scan--or Photoshop/Window's Paint is fine. Let your child color it in if you don't want to; this is not a contest of skill.

After you're done, share your completed picture on your blog,  Facebook, or Twitter then leave me another link to your beautiful artwork in the comments section.

4. The winner will be selected by a random number generator on June 1, 2011.

May 17, 2011

Made of Awesome Contest

This is not the Groundwire contest I promised (which will be posted tonight at midnight) but another one of  Shelley Watter's agent judged contests.

Judtih  Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates

She is currently building her client list and looking for all types of fiction, especially middle grade, young adult, urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance.

The contest will involve entrants posting their first page (250) words on their blog, then doing a traveling roadshow critique of the other entrants. The final versions will be posted on Shelley's blog where Judith will review the pages and pick one for a 10 page critique.

Check it out here:

Divergent Review

In Divergent, society is divided into five factions. Each faction is dedicated to  the cultivation of a particular virtue that they feel the lack thereof, most contributed to the war that put the world into its dystopian state. The five factions are: Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peace lovers) and Erudite (intelligence).

Once a year all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, this is a difficult decision as her aptitude test did not point to one faction specifically, but three, which classifies her as “Divergent.” 

Told to keep her divergence a secret, Beatrice struggles to decide where she fits in on decision day and in an expected turn of events, leaves the Abnegation faction she was born into, for Dauntless.

During the highly competitive, dangerous,  and nonsensical initiation that follows, Beatrice/Tris struggles to determine if she made the correct decision to abandon her family and heritage.

Not knowing who her real friends are, or if she can handle the romantic feelings she feels for her instructor, Tris soon learns she has bigger problems. It seems some key members in the Erudite faction are plotting to overthrow the seemingly perfect society, and they do not take kindly to people who are divergent.  Tris now carries the burden of knowing that her secret might save those she loves, or it might destroy her.

Cover: Has a nice complementary color scheme with the blue and orange. This was the only visual of Chicago/the setting that I had to go off of for the whole book. Thank goodness kindle included the cover image (sometimes it doesn’t) or I might have been visually lost.

First Thoughts:  I had recently read Matched by Ally Condie before this and thought the premise was very similar. Instead of boys, Beatrice must choose between factions.  In one line, I’d sum it up as Hunger Games meets Matched.  I expected to be disappointed with this book, and to find the dangerous initiation games depressing. Surprisingly, and for reasons hard to articulate, I enjoyed it  and even recommend it--with the condition that I do think it’s all recycled material.

Setting: I was confused about several aspects of the setting. I never really had a clear picture of the city, the underground Dauntless compound, or even the  train Tris is always jumping off of. I reinvented my visual imagery about the river and the deep chasm that all the Dauntless keep trying to throw each other into each time it was mentioned since I couldn't keep a clear picture of it.

Characters: I thought a plot revelation about one of the characters was far too predictable. I don’t think I fell in love with the hero or heroine in particular, and some of the antagonists fell into stereotyped roles—so bad to the extent they seemed cartoonish. Despite their shortcomings, they had their motivations in order, and so I was able to keep reading the story without it bothering me too much. There were a lot of descriptions repeated, and more characters were identified by the shape of their nose than any other facial feature. One annoyance in particular was that Tris’s main feature is that she is small. This fact was emphasized so many times I started to picture her as a hobbit.

Plot: Certainly not anything super original. The plot moved very slowly after the first five chapters and didn’t pick up again until the end. By that time, I’ll admit I was a little bored, but I was really invested in the external events and so I had to finish it. It was an interesting read, but wasn’t so suspenseful that I read it cover to cover in one sitting like I usually do. I’d put the book down for several hours, go do something else, and when it came down to a choice between mowing the lawn and reading a book, I’d pick it up again.  

*SPOILER* sort of...

This book has a romantic subplot to it, and I’m just so glad this did not end the way The Hunger Games & Matched ended, or the way New Moon began.  However, I did feel the chemistry and relationship was a bit under developed. They have little interaction, and then suddenly she’s having nightmares about being intimate with him and they’re boyfriend and girlfriend at the end. I didn't think there were enough examples where he showed romantic interest in her to warrant their relationship. He looks out for her and takes care of her before, and he shares some of his personal secrets with her, but I never really felt the chemistry between them.  Of course, I didn’t really see why Peeta was attached to Katniss in THG either.

Random thoughts: In the opening line Beatrice is day dreaming about angels/people with wings. Roth brought God and religion into the book then did nothing productive with it. 

Having the initiates toughen up in less than a week or becoming ruthless killers in three weeks is unrealistic. 

The daredevil event where Tris glides down a zipline was full of suspense, though I don’t think it was relevant to the story or necessary to the plot.

I understand the significance of all the Dauntless faction members getting tattoos, but why facial piercings? It's just one more thing to get accidentally snagged on a piece of clothing while they're trying to win a nomination for The Darwin Awards.

Final comments: If you loved The Hunger Games, I'm sure you'll love this. Especially if you liked the slow pacing of Matched.

Independently, I’d give this a Goodreads’ “It was okay”  three star rating.  But, I am recommending it, which I don’t usually do for books that I just think are worth three stars. It reads like a debut author’s book (and it is) and debut authors are the ones who need the most support. So, half an extra star for my recommendation, and half a star out of pity makes this about four stars.

May 13, 2011

Angry Robots Steampunked Kindle Contest

 Angry Robots is hosting a contest to win a kindle decked out in a Steampunk skin.

 Contest closes midnight on May 15th

An excerpt from their website: 
Send us your examples of cool Steampunk stuff – maybe it is a photo of you in your leather and copper get up, or a picture of a day-to-day item that you have converted into a glorious piece of Steampunk tech. Maybe it is a quick sketch you jotted down in a notebook. Hell – it could even be a Steampunk inspired song you have written and performed – or perhaps a Haiku that has been spinning round the inside of your skull for the last few months.

Pretty much anything Steampunk is eligible. Except – and this is important – for novels or short stories. 

And don't forget the subjective clause:

The best submission will win the Kindle.

Does anyone else hate subjective opinion contests as much as I do?  I hope so. 
Coming up, Groundwire's first contest!