Thursday, June 30, 2005

Happy Independence Day!

I'm heading out for a big family reunion in Chicago. It'll be hot, humid, and I'll be six and a half months pregnant. And there was much rejoicing.

Seriously, we're gathering to celebrate my grandparents' 50th Anniversary. I'm carrying their first great-grandchild and my aunt is carrying their eleventh grandchild. There will lots of belly-patting. This will also be the first time I've seen my brother since he came back from Iraq in April. All in all, it's shaping up to be an awesome weekend.

So be safe whether you're traveling or partying at home. Let's remember the positives of the holiday and see if that can get us to learn a few things about how to make our country's present and future better.

Writing Again

I think I managed to write a grand total of 1000 words during the months of February, March, April, and May. That is, 1000 new words in an actual draft of a novel or story. I did do a decent amount of pre-writing/worldbuilding for the on-line writing course I'm doing at Forward Motion. And we started writing the draft this month, so now I'm writing on a regular basis again. Unfortunately, right now I only have the time and energy to focus on Strings of Discord (note the new title, with a still unfortunate abbreviation of SoD), so I've had to put The Masque on hold for a bit. If I do work on another project while writing SoD, it will be Princess Incubus if only to finish a short story and see about entering it into a couple of contests.

SoD is going pretty darn well. The course has really allowed me to find a way to do a decent amount of plotting and such before I start writing without suffocating the organic writer in me. Before this book, I would sketch out some vague ideas of plot, characters, and world, and then I would just start writing and see where everything went, trusting that all the information I thought of for the book would be in my head whenever I needed it during the draft creation. A very difficult way to write, not efficient, and showed me some very, very nasty first drafts. Now I've found a way to document my ideas better, get Muse cranking out a few more details to keep me from wandering around for 20,000 words before I know where it is the book needs to go, and just in general keep me coherent and focused on the story at hand. But I still don't know too much about the story to make it boring to write. In short, I've found a way to be an organic writer with enough of the trappings of pre-planning and such to make me more efficient and (hopefully) more effective. Very exciting.

Plus, SoD has just been fun to work with. After three years of waiting for this story idea to shake loose from the death grip Muse had on it, I've got lots of information on this universe and series. Feels very good. Starting the book has been a bit rough, mainly because this is the first book in a seven-book series (I think), and I'm trying to lay a LOT of foundation without being overwhelming. But it's amazing to have such a clear sense of direction.

As for The Masque, part of the reason I decided to put it on hold for a bit is so I can go back and work with this project using what I learned from the writing course I'm taking. It's just a matter of difficult timing that I'll have to keep it on the backburner for a while. Once I get SoD really moving, I'll probably start finding ways to work in some worldbuilding and such for The Masque. It would be nice to get right back into writing that book as soon as I have a draft of SoD completed (the course is designed to give us about a year of draft creation).

And as for Human Dignity, I have finally decided to shelve it and let it revert to a fond place in my memory as a great first book that I learned a lot from. I know I could make it a saleable novel, but it would take a decent amount of energy and time that I certainly don't have now, and would rather put toward my current projects anyway. Maybe I'll revisit it a few years from now. But it needs to retire to a place of honor for the moment.

So that's the latest on my writing. I'll update the SoD wordcount every week, and I hope to get between 2000 to 3000 words a week, if not better for a while. My writing time will most likely take a marked hit come mid-September, and I want to have some nice padding built up so that I won't be struggling to make up missed words once things settle from uber insane to very insane after Andrew arrives.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Fodder for the Page

There are times when I wish I had a flashing neon sign or sign crawl over my head that went something like, " WARNING: I am a writer. Anything you do and say can and will be used in works of fiction." This should be played as part of my phone message, too. If nothing else, the number of stupid things I have to witness might diminish. Slightly.

For several weeks, every Wednesday evening, our phone would ring, I would answer (I generally answer the phone, Mark being more toward the shy side of these sorts of things), and the caller would immediately hang up. It was a strange pattern, one that really piqued my curiosity. So I had Mark answer the phone a couple Wednesdays ago instead. Sure enough, a woman asked for the man who had our number previously (two YEARS previously, mind you), Mark did the basic "wrong number" thing, and we have not had the mysterious hang-up caller since. I'm thinking old flame, ex-lover looking to reunite, something. The writer mind is furiously coming up with ideas for this repeat caller's actions. Of course, it could all be coincidence, but you just don't DO things like that around a writer. We go nuts with this stuff.

Similarly, I was at the OB's office again for yet another ugent, unplanned appointment (dizziness and really, really bad faint spells that seem to be the worst first thing in the morning at work--nothing wrong with me according to bloodwork, urinalysis, blood pressure, etc, just likely pregnancy's fun increase of fluid in the body is exacerbating my previously annoying dizziness issues), and the OB (not my new one, but a different one) kept checking herself out in the mirror on the back of the exam room's door while chatting with me. Of course, this gets me looking at this chick's appearance, thinking about her morning pampering routine, if she's always catching glimpses in mirrors, what others around her have noticed. In short, I'm trying to piece together a psychological profile.

You gotta be careful what you do and say around writers. We're always considering new material, and it could be you. :)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Comments Changed

I was getting some feedback that my Haloscan commenting service wasn't playing nice with all of my many commenters. So I switched to Blogger's commenting feature. This means all the witty things ya'll said in that past have gone down the cybernetic drain. Sorry, but enjoy the new feature.

A Note on Rhetoric

Here's a good rule of thumb: In today's society, using inflammatory rhetoric--such as comparing Gitmo to a gulag or a concentration camp--will get you a soundbite, but it will also detract from your point. It's unfortunate because everyone's discussing the way you said something, not what you said. Instead of debating what's happening at Gitmo and whether or not it's appropriate for any prisoner detention area, let alone one run by a democracy, we're flinging more blame and insults and indignation back and forth about bringing up the Nazis. There's a reason Godwin's Law came about. It's because you end up debating how the comparison is or is not apt, instead of the substance of the debate. What a waste of time, and what a disservice to the real issue at hand.

By the way, stories like Durbin's speech and the way they're reported do more to confirm my opinion that the media is neither liberal nor conservative but sensationalist. Before long, all the newspapers will be tabloids.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Who Says SF is Dying?

The Onion shows us a glimpse of the future.

Monday, June 20, 2005

More Pregnancy Fun

I learned over the weekend that a buffet is a beautiful thing to a pregnant woman. We went to our local gambling town, Blackhawk, this weekend to see what we could make of the last of our tax refund money (broke even). And I discovered the joys of the buffet. Andrew rather enjoyed himself as well. Never have I experienced so many "me wantee" reactions in one small area. The best part, of course, was that I could fulfill the "me wantee" to my heart's and stomach's content. And I did. Mark took a quick break from his poker table to share some of the meal with me. Then he left and I went back for fifths, sixths, sevenths, etc. :) At first it was all the meat that amazed me. By the time I had eaten prime rib, salmon, pork tenderloin, ribs, and crab legs, I realized that I should probably fit some veggies in somewhere. So I loaded up a plate with a salad and some sauteed green beans. Delish. I finally slowed down just in time for dessert, sadly. So I only had half a slice of a Death-by-Chocolate sort of concoction. And then two hours later I wolfed down a serving of chili cheese fries.

Andrew was one happy fetus Saturday evening. No wonder he's been pissy today--all he got was some piddly sandwich for lunch.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Pregnancy Irony

I should've thought about this earlier in the pregnancy. I mean, it really is par for the course. For the first time in my life, I have a decent amount of, shall we say, "substance" to my upper torso region. Unfortunately, I also have quite a bit of substance in my lower torso region at the same time. So my newfound assests are quite effectively even more dwarfed than they had been previously. From what I hear, these assets will, um, "hang around" a bit after delivery, thus hopefully giving me a chance to make the most of the temporary enhancement. Nothing too crazy--just certain tops and dresses look ridiculous at my normal size and don't with my natural improvements.

Hey, sometimes it's the small--or rather not as small as before--things that get you through a boring day at the DDJ.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Happy Birthday to ME!! :)

Yay, I'm 27 today. Sounds older than I feel, especially because for the most part during the pregnancy, I've felt so young, like I can't possibly be ready for a kid. Baby the Second should be around before I hit 30 or shortly thereafter, which is exactly the time frame I always wanted for having kids. But man, it still seems way too young mentally. Physically it actually seems a little old. This is confusing!

My birthday gift? The DDJ is struggling. I may be looking at another layoff. And I do consider this a gift--as long as they wait until at least Sept 15th before they give me the axe. Then I'll have five to six months of unemployment benefits with which to not only find a better job but to spend as much time with Andrew as possible! And the money might not be as tight as you would think because as long as the unemployment lasts is as long as we don't have to mess with daycare costs. But we're a few months from knowing if things are as dire as layoffs. Really feels weird to be rooting for unemployment again. Knowing my luck, though, they'll keep me and fire everyone else so my workload goes from the two jobs it is now to four. *sigh*

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Scraped the Surface, the Movies Did

(I guess I better warn Jaquandor that he might want to skip this post as I give a mixed review of a Star Wars movie. So Jaquandor, you've been warned. :) Also, there's some spoilers, but seeing as how we're weeks away from the premiere, I don't know why I mention it.)

I saw Revenge of the Sith a week and a half ago, and I think finally the impressions and thoughts and such have simmered enough to let me post coherently and completely on the experience of the prequel trilogy, or whatever the hell it should be called. First of all, I do want to congratulate Lucas for answering the big questions: How did Anakin get to be Vader? How did the Emperor gain his power? How did the Jedi fall to the state we saw them in the original trilogy? Those are good questions and we got capable answers. Sadly, though, I realized as I watched Sith end that we only got answers that scraped the surface. We could've had more. We could've had another trilogy that does more than just entertain and look pretty. There was a promise of that in Phantom, and tantalizing glimpses in Sith, but Lucas dropped the ball where he so gloriously ran with it in the original trilogy. They're fun, beautiful movies that set out to tell us something and told us that something, and I'll buy the boxed set when it comes out. But I'll never be able to treasure these movies as I did the original trilogy, though I see many ways in which it would've been possible for the prequels to have been the treasures that the original trilogy is.

What do I mean by that? Well, I do want to make it clear that my opinion of the movies stems mainly from my writer's mind, and how I look at the construction of stories and characters. I don't know if that's a "fair" thing to do to any movie, but it's my frame of reference all the same. I had similar issues with The Chronicles of Riddick regarding how we were deprived of some fascinating worldbuilding and characterization in favor of stunning action sequences. Worldbuilding has never been and never will be difficult for any Lucas film. He always does an amazing job of showing us diverse worlds and creatures and making everything fit into the worlds he creates. He balances the showing and the telling so we believe that these worlds exist somewhere and life happens in the complex ways it happens for us. But characterization has been a huge issue throughout the prequels, and it is what's kept me from embracing these movies as I did the original trilogy.

Take Anakin. He's the focus of the prequels, and we've got to believe that he can go from a good kid in good hands to an evil man in evil hands. We've got to see that journey. And we've got to be cheering for him to stay good and wanting him to not become evil, even though we know he has to. Phantom did an excellent job of starting us on Anakin's journey. Attack then proceeded to do nothing to enhance or even advance his journey, unless somehow showing a whining brat of a teenager not getting his way and snapping when his mother dies qualifies. I didn't believe a thing about Anakin in Attack. He had no depth. He was a stereotypical brat. His destruction of the sand people seemed more like an escalated temper tantrum that happened to be convenient than vengeance for the death of his mother. And Padme wasn't someone he loved so much as an object he wanted to possess, most likely because someone had told him he couldn't have her. It was like he was already Darth Vader and the good Anakin had vanished in puberty.

And then we have his arc in Sith, which starts out OK. He's obviously conflicted with very good reason. He's got people he respects telling him different things and expecting everything and nothing from him at once. He's afraid for the safety of his pregnant wife and wants to do anything to protect her because he failed his mother after he had similar fears. I'm with him in this movie, believing that struggle, and thankfully forgetting about the shallowness of Attack. Everything's going along fairly well until Mace Windu goes to arrest the Emperor. Anakin, in a rough spot, tries to stop the battle between the Jedi and the Sith Lord so the Emperor can be arrested and the Jedi don't have treasonous taint on their hands, and ends up helping Mace to his death. Anakin staggers, says, "What have I done?" and I'm prepared for a battle of wits and perhaps light sabers as Anakin attempts to haul Palpatine to prison. Instead, ten seconds later, Anakin is on his knees, pledging his allegiance to the Sith.


But then he has to go kill him some Jedi, per Palpatine's orders. OK, I'm ready to forgive this brief (but humongous) dodging of character conflict and tension and watch it build again as he storms off to the temple. When he goes into the room with the younglings, I'm bracing for something truly amazing--yet tastefully done--to show Anakin's struggle. But all we get is two seconds of his face and two more of his light saber going on and then we're done. I understand not wanting to show the slaughter of children, but I don't understand the further dodging of revealing just how tortured Anakin is at that moment. Unless he's not supposed to be tortured anymore, that the weight of his good side was gone as soon as he pledged his allegiance. And I can't buy that. In a series of three movies that, as I understood it, were primarily supposed to show us how someone like Anakin could become someone like Darth Vader, dodging Anakin's character conflict seems a huge flaw. But I could've had improper expectations for the prequels. Perhaps they were just supposed to show us the mechanics of getting from point A to point B without really delving into the characters all that much.

Brief side note: When the hell did Padme go from butt-kicking Queen to whimpy, whiny, I-can't-do-anything-without-Anakin Senator? Because even though she had the poor sense to fall in love with an angsty, brat of a boy in Attack, she still ran off--of her own choice--to kick some serious ass at the end of the movie. Then all of a sudden she's pregnant and needs a man to so much as blink in Sith. WTF? We have a nice moment where she's in the Senate and we get to see some of her strength and wit with her line "So this is how liberty dies, to thunderous applause." Then she's right back to barefoot and pregnant and bed-ridden, apparantly, pining for Anakin. She shows no frustration or anger toward Anakin, which is what I would've expected, given her previous performances. She exhibits some backbone as she goes chasing after Anakin at the end of the movie, but then gives some mewling speech until Anakin quite understandably tries to shut up her whining by doing the Vader choke thing. I was actually cheering for him at that point, even if it meant killing Luke and Leia along with her.

I also had problems with the stakes of Sith, especially the final two battles. They're set up in a "who's going to survive" fashion when we bloody well know who's going to survive from the beginning. This might be where a movie just can't do what a book does. I dunno. All I do know is that I found the battles extremely anti-climactic because nothing was at stake. Absolutely nothing. That's the challenge with any prequel: surprising the reader/viewer by revealing that something they assumed from the previous material was actually wrong. MacDonald and Doyle do an excellent job of this in The Gathering Flame of their Mageworlds series. We know what has to happen by the end of the book, and we think we know how they get to that point, but boy-oh-boy are we wrong. All because we were allowed to assume something in the preceding three books that we learned was wrong. We had a hint of that with the midichlorions creating Anakin, and then learning that the Sith had the power to do such a thing in this last movie. Man, did I want to spend some more time with that little plot thread. Talk about playing with some stakes and characters and conflict. To think that Palpatine may have actually created Anakin? Whoa, that's something we weren't expecting. But it gets toyed with and abandoned, though not as quickly as the "crap, we have to mention how we can do that glowy after-we're-dead communicaton before the movie ends" line that Yoda says. That would've been another interesting thing to delve into and shake up what we thought we knew from the original trilogy.

The prequels are fun to watch and definitely beautiful, but they don't have that same transcendant quality that the original trilogy has. Which is really too bad--and kind of annoying. Especially because now I'll have to write what I think should've been seen in those movies in some fashion in a book of my own. Damn you, Lucas! I already have too many book ideas cluttering up my noggin! The one thing Lucas did absolutely right was the ending sequence beginning with Vader's first breath (though I would quibble with how he goes with the easier "your anger killed her, Vader" instead of the much more staggering "her death was caused by you trying to stop her death"). As we heard the music and saw the double-sunset on Tatooine, I was tearing up and praying that Lucas was smart enough to realize that the movie had to end right then. Thankfully he was, otherwise I would've had to have made a quick trip to California to beat him over the head with my boxed set of the original trilogy.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Writers & Ideas

Neil Gaiman recently posted an essay about the dreaded question writers get asked frequently: Where do you get your ideas? I don't find this question all that annoying--or at least not yet. Mainly because each one of my ideas has a bit of a fun story behind how it came to be something I wanted to write.

Human Dignity: Ethics class run amok, and I mean amok.

The Masque: Writing exercise supposed to get you thinking about the masks your character wears and what your character might do with a mask's annonymity; I chose to write about what a Masque Ball might look like in the future, and on Mars. Then other story ideas generated by a line of dialog and watching SG-1 sparked the rest of the Masque Universe.

Princess Incubus: Someone at a con read a story from the POV of a succubus's victim. I spent the entire time wondering what the story would sound like from the succubus's POV. Decided to write it.

Strings of Betrayal: While driving between Grand Teton and Yellowstone, I happened to look into a glade that was bordered by aspen and pine trees. I saw a vision of a ephemeral creature stand in front of the aspens and vanish into the darkness of the pines. I knew there was a story there, and I've spent the past three years hunting it down.

I love sharing these stories of how my ideas came to me. Mainly because then I get to relive those moments of discovery, those instances of "Wow, that's something I've GOT to write" or "There's something cool going on here, and I'm going to find out what". That first spark is amazing, and I don't think I'll ever reach the point where I won't be willing to share the story of how I got a particular idea. But if someone just wants a general idea of where all my ideas come from, I'd have to make some vague gesture to the world and my head. I don't get all my ideas from one central source, nor do they come at me in the same way. And I don't think I've ever expected I would for anything, not science, not singing, not writing, you name it. If I ever had to rely on one source for inspiration and motivation, yick. So I guess my advice to writers when faced with this question is to first ask, "Do you mean in general or for one story in particular?" Get the person asking to think about it a bit.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Carefully Energized

For the past month, I've been sleeping better and eating better in the mornings. I've had energy to spend toward other ends beyond just getting through 40 hours of work every week. I've been using most of this energy to get Strings of Betrayal (really need to change that title) back up to speed with the on-line writing course. And get back in touch with family and friends that never heard from me while I spent a lot of time sleeping or hugging a bucket.

So I was a bit concerned when I started to have some mildly odd symptoms on Monday. Severe dizziness accompanied with mild headaches and nausea, a yellow haze to my vision, some minor swelling, and the realization that I have gained twenty pounds in ten weeks (versus the ten pounds that is recommended). I don't mind the extra weight. I expected to gain weight these nine months, and I expected my bod would gain whatever weight it needed for this little boy growing inside me. But the additive effect of these symptoms raised preeclampsia concerns. I don't have any of the more serious, red-flag-raising symptoms, and everything I'm dealing with (only occassionally, really; the new symptoms seem to be noticeable in the afternoon) is explainable as normal pregnancy stuff. But it is frustrating that just a month after getting some semblance of normal energy levels back that I have to start taking it easy again. My OB isn't too concerned at the moment, just wants me to watch the salty and sugary foods and rest a bit better in the evenings and keep drinking the 3L of water I've been chugging since Andrew first made his presence known. While bedrest has the appeal of ending my suffering at the DDJ earlier than Oct 3, it's not a situation to strive for.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Genre Issues

A while ago it got around the writing blogosphere that Tor is looking for erotica/romantica. For some reason this got me pondering whether or not The Masque and its universe would be considered in that category. It definitely has more sex and sexual themes than does your basic SF. But did that necessarily mean that it would fit more in the erotica genre than SF? I decided to pick up a couple of erotic novels by authors I respected from reading their blogs (Alison Kent being one, though I don't know if she writes romantica more than erotica, and I'm not sure where the boundaries of subgenres are within this genre or if there are any). Anyway, after reading these two books, I realized what I realized after reading a basic romance novel. I don't write either of those genres, nor do I really want to. Why? Formula.

Romance and mystery in particular are two genres that are slaves to a formula. It's the nature of the genres. In romance, the formula is as follows, and it is the primary focus of the novel. Step 1: Boy meets girl (or vice versa) and there is a Potent Attraction of some kind, which can manifest itself in everything from a look to a sexual encounter--the type of manifestation usually depends on the genre. Step 2: Something prevents boy and girl from being together. Step 3: Boy and girl overcome this obstacle. Step 4: Boy and girl finally get around to admitting to themselves and each other that they are in love. The only way you can play around with these steps is by changing subgenres within the genre. And then you encounter a much more specific formula. I'm shying away from romance novels right now because I'm sick of the formula.

It's the same with mysteries: mystery presents itself, clues are chased down in a particular fashion, mystery is solved. I stopped reading mysteries at some point in college because I kept seeing the formula instead of the story and was very, very annoyed. I've found that the way for me to enjoy mysteries despite the formula is to pick a series with some sort of intriguing element. For example, Nevada Barr writes mysteries set in National Parks. As I am a National Park junky, I love these books because I can get caught up in the setting whenever the formula starts to rear its head. Although this creates the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome. If you ever run into Jessica Fletcher anywhere in these United States, turn around and run because someone's gonna die. Similarly, if Anna Pigeon is a park ranger at the National Park you are visiting, make a hasty exit because a dead body ain't too far away. The only way to avoid this syndrome in mystery serials is to have your character be a cop or bounty hunter or in a setting where murders happen frequently. Smalltown Maine and National Parks aren't them.

Side note: I'm finding paranormal romance an excellent diversion from romance formulas. Cases in point: Lynn Viehl's If Angels Burn and Holly Lisle's Midnight Rain and Last Girl Dancing (reminder: check out the freebie chapters and pre-order; kickass paranormal/suspense premise).

Romance plays a heavy part in my novels, mystery less so. But I could never write in those genres because of the formula. I prefer SF and fantasy because there seems to be a distinct lack of formula in these genres, other than your basic storytelling plot arc: hero wants something, villain presents obstacles, hero overcomes obstacles and usually learns something in the process. All nice and vague--ample opportunity to play. I suppose that authors in romance and mystery must feel that same opportunity or somehow prefer the formula, otherwise they wouldn't be writing that genre.

All this is what made me realize that, while my books might stretch the boundaries of SF and fantasy because of their romantic elements, they are most definitely SF and fantasy. This might mean I'll run into the same issues that S.L. Viehl does with her StarDoc books, but oh well. They are the stories I want to tell. And that's what matters, not the genre label.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Visions of Being a Published Writer

I've been browsing through a few blogs, reading about marketing your books, writing newsletters to readers, blogging as a marketing tool, and other sorts of things. I read these things to get a feel for what may or may not be expected of me when my Big Publishing Day comes. Lots of good ideas out there, both of what you should and shouldn't do. Mainly I just read and get a sense of "I can do that" or "can't do that" or "don't want to do that".

When I think of me as a published writer, I think about doing stuff locally for signings and interviews, working with schools to get kids reading and interested in science. I think about using my blog and maybe a message board to promote my books, something user-friendly and regularly updated/used that's intended to be fun and a way to get the word about my fabulous writing. ;) I think of someone who attends one big con a year, a local one, and a writing conference at the most. I think about being on a couple panels, trying a reading here and there (I'm a very extroverted person, and I used to do the readings at Mass, but reading my own work out loud with inflection and character and stuff just makes me start blushing furiously), using whatever popularity I have to get more butts in the seats at the art auctions, chatting with other writers and fans. Nothing too crazy.

Then I read this: Neil Gaiman's tips for a signing. Wow. I'm not sure I ever want to be as popular as some of those tips would indicate he is. That kind of success would put a lot of pressure on me, just like making the New York Times Bestseller. I'm not sure I want all those expectations. I'd rather have a decent-sized reader/fan base to keep the publishing contracts coming at a modest enough size to give me the time to write my books and the money to help out the family as much as is needed. Anything more than that might start taking the fun out of it for me, unless I figure out how to live only for myself and not get caught up so much in what the world expects of me. I suppose that would be possible, now that I think about it more. Afterall, I did kiss off the idea of a career using my degrees because I want to write. And I did it all for myself. So maybe there is hope for me to be very successful as a writer and still be true to myself and my stories. But I think I'd rather hang out in the "mid-list" popularity for a bit to make sure.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Made a Cut

My essay, The Purple Heart, made it to the second round of Holly's Talyn ARC Contest. Read the other finalists here. Now it's time for Holly to really look at the entries and decide which two make the grade. You can help out by voting here (must sign up to be a member of Holly's blog--it's free and spam-free and easy and worth it to read advance snippets of her upcoming books and such). Notice I didn't say "vote for me". There are a lot of great essays in the contest, so vote for your fave. While I've never seen an ARC, let alone owned one, and would very much like to change that, I entered the contest more out of my own need to write at least something about my brother's story, and I'll be buying Talyn when it comes out anyway, if only for the kickass cover art alone. :) So go check it out and read up on Last Girl Dancing while you're at it.