Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology

I've spent so much time talking about State of Horror: Louisiana and my upcoming novel, I neglected to mention a side project I was involved in with the SinC Guppies. The Guppies sent out a call to its ranks a while back: send us your best stories with a fish theme for inclusion in our first anthology. The stories were blind-judged by the members, and I was flattered to make the final cut against very tough competition.

Wildside Press accepted the collection of stories earlier this year, and Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology will be out in print before Malice Domestic. It's already available on Kindle, Mobipocket, Diesel e-Books, and should soon be on sale in print.

My tale, "New Age Old Story", takes place in Asheville, North Carolina - the city of my birth. It involves a lovelorn lesbian detective, an aquarium owner who paints auras, a dead councilman, and a lavender fedora. I hope you'll consider picking up this collection.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: A Heartbeat Away

A Heartbeat AwayA Heartbeat Away by Michael Palmer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As Michael Palmer’s books rise in popularity, he raises the stakes higher and higher. His earlier books focused on doctors running afoul of conspiracies in their local hospital; now, his writing eye is fixed on terrorism and government conspiracies - with a medical twist, of course.

In A Heartbeat Away, the first physician we meet is the President of the United States. James Allaire is preparing to give the first State of the Union address of his second term. Among the issues he plans to focus on - in front of his assembled allies and enemies - is terrorism, most notably that of Genesis, which appears to be a home-grown left-wing cadre. As he makes his opening remarks, small explosions occur throughout the crowd. Genesis has planted a Level Four virus, WRX3883, around the congressional chamber, and everyone there has just been exposed to it.

The back cover of Heartbeat lists the presidential order of succession. This becomes relevant quite quickly. Everyone listed in that order was at the address except, ironically, the Secretary of Homeland Security. Palmer lets the reader know that at least one person in the line of succession must be away during such events because of revolting developments like this.

Allaire knows the virus is highly lethal; he discontinued the government's development of it after it was stolen. It acts like SARS with a side helping of Ebola is also contagious. He must control the panic in the Chamber - and seal the building. No one gets in, no one gets out. The scientist who headed the WRX3883 project is missing. Her subordinate, Griffin Rhodes, is in prison for stealing the virus.

Rhodes is the only chance they have. Allaire promises him a presidential pardon if he comes up with a cure. The secret lab has been reopened and his old lab assistant will be waiting for him. Rhodes demands a witness. He was framed for the theft and railroaded into prison. He doesn’t trust the president. Angela Fletcher, a reporter for the Washington Post, will follow Rhodes and make sure that no one changes ‘fact into fiction’. That, and every drama needs a love interest.

The newly freed Rhodes goes to work on finding a cure. Angela tries to locate the missing WRX3883 project head. Genesis, which has eyes and ears everywhere, targets the would-be saviors. Meanwhile, they’ve contacted the Speaker of the House and offered her the cure – and the Presidency – if she cooperates with their demands. It makes for a barrel of fun.

I like stories with a medical angle, and Palmer gives us a taste of the science involved, doing a good job of explaining the research and aspects of human biology without going into pages of jargon. Are there some five-dollar words in there? Yes, but you can speed-bump over the worst parts or fire up Google. Don’t worry, he gets back to the story quickly.

I also enjoyed the political backstabbing that began almost immediately. Palmer does not identify his office holders by party affiliation and does his best to avoid making them resemble their real-life counterparts. I couldn’t suppress a snicker, though, when the senior senator from my state ran afoul of the Secret Service. It was only fiction, after all…

I initially had problems ‘buying’ a group like Genesis: left-wing terrorists of this magnitude? I’m sure there are violent loons on the left; it’s their level of organization that bothers me. Genesis is not what it seems, though. I’ll leave it at that.

What I would have liked: a little more medicine. There are seven hundred infected patients, but we don’t see much of how WRX3883 affects them or what’s being done to help them. A scene where Doctor Allaire was treating a sick congressman would have been nice. He should have been berating himself the entire time, too. Presidents sometimes have to do vile things for the best interests of all, but he should have regrets.

Another problem: Allaire’s political enemies are too one-sided. They hate him – no surprise – but most villains see themselves as the heroes. They also have personal principles and agendas. Perhaps Palmer didn’t want to get into those because then we could ‘peg’ them politically, but at the very least they should have families and people they worry about. The Speaker’s actions at the end were too over-the-top for me. Perhaps, if Palmer had shown her being more affected by the illness, it would have helped.

Spoiler alert for my biggest complaint: the virus WRX3883 was being developed in the first place because it had a side effect that worked better than truth serum and also dissolved self-control. It would have made it damned hard for the Speaker to conceal what she’d done with the Vice President. The arguments that would have ensued when everyone began telling the truth could have also been damned interesting.

Overall, though, I found A Heartbeat Away to be a good read. It’s not my favorite of his works, but it has plenty of action and keeps you turning the page.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Goodreads ARC Giveaway!

Good news! I have a box of advanced reading copies of All This and Family, Too. Most of them are slated for specific reviewers, but TWO are being given away on Goodreads. When, you ask? Now.

You - yes, you - could win a free copy of my book for Beltane. Details are below:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

All This and Family, Too (Paperback) by Sarah E. Glenn

All This and Family, Too

by Sarah E. Glenn

Giveaway ends April 30, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Naturally, I would appreciate it if the winners would be kind enough to review the book, or at least assign it a few stars on Goodreads after they read the story. It's not required, though.

Come on and enter!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guest Posting on Gwen Mayo's Blog Tonight

I did a guest blog for "Thursday's Thugs", a regular feature on Gwen Mayo's blog. The focus is usually on mystery, but I take a slight genre departure to talk about a double standard one of Marion Zimmer Bradley's most famous villains benefits from.

Read my contribution at:


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Social Media: Setting up your #FF list for Twitter

I get a double dose when it comes to dealing with social media. I have a personal Twitter account where I talk with friends, interact with people who share my interests, and promote my writing. I also have a 'business' Twitter account for my job, where I represent my department and promote its programs.

My first Twitter account was the personal one, used to stay in touch with  political contacts and swap information as it became available. Later, as my fellow Sisters in Crime moved to Twitter, I began adding friends who were writers. We engaged in chats, Retweet blog links, shared news of recent sales, etc. Now that I have a book coming out, I'm also using the account to announce updates in its production and places I will be appearing and guest blogging.

My second Twitter account was set up as a public 'face' for my department, which offers continuing healthcare education. In other words, we offer educational programs for doctors, pharmacists, etc. From that account, I forward articles I think our customers will find interesting, Retweet posts from other Twitterers (I prefer the terms 'Tweeps' and 'Twits'), make comments on the posts of others, and, of course, occasionally post a link to one of our programs. An aside: no one is going to follow you for long if all you do is plug your own product.

On Fridays, people suggest Twitterers that they think their friends might also want to follow. This is referred to as "Follow Friday" or by the hashtag #ff. People send out #ff posts to promote their friends, but they also do it as a sign of their friendship with others. I can tell you that I look kindly upon people who #ff @saraheglenn. Follow Friday can be genuinely useful - I've found lots of new Tweeps this way - but it's very, very easy to begin with a few friends and wind up, in a matter of months, sending over ten posts of nothing but Twitter IDs plus the #ff. If you follow as many people as I do, Friday is a day of many recommendations but little commentary.

What can help?

Suggestion 1: Make a special shout-out post to a few people. Marian Allen, for example, saw my blog earlier in the week and posted:
#ww @SarahEGlenn because she's photogenic.
You bet I'm going to remember that, and will be much more likely to Retweet her blog and book announcements as a result.

Mark Souza posts his "100 Best Writers on Twitter". This is a great idea because a. you know his list is finite, b. the people named are nominally part of an elite group, and c. he's included me.

Suggestion 2: Weed out your #ff list if it's gotten too large. I did this recently with both my personal and office Twitter accounts. I pulled up each account and found several that didn't exist any more. I also noticed that others only posted new material every two or three weeks. Those got cut. I looked over the content of posts as well: did they ever share useful information, like blog links? Get involved in group chats? If so, I kept them. Naturally, there was one more criterion: did they ever #ff me? Automatically a keeper.

Suggestion 3: Set some standards for the people you #ff. Once again, this will not be useful if you only have a few friends, but once you're following over 300 people they will come in handy. I follow over a thousand people on each of my accounts, but I can only #ff a small fraction of them on Fridays. Below are mine, subject to revision as needed:

My personal account:
Did they ever #ff me?
Do they represent some important group, like the SFWA?
Are they great bloggers, like Pam Spaulding or Joe Sonka?
Are they real-life personal friends, spouses, or relatives? Yes, nepotism counts with me.
Are they cool? I met Jacqueline Lichtenberg about twenty years ago, but she's still one of the best things since sliced bread. I also love BurbDoc, whom I came across during my work, but his posts are too vulgar for me to promote them as a representative of my office. However, it works fine for my personal account.
Do I just plain flat like them?

My office account:
Did they ever #ff me?
Do they represent a major healthcare body, like the AMA or the American College of Chest Physicians?
Do they provide news of interest to healthcare providers?
Are they connected with the institution I work for?
Are they popular bloggers, like Kevin MD?

Your standards may not ultimately match mine. You may have a more relaxed system for choosing people. You might even go with a weekly shout-out to a couple of friends, and rotate the people you pick each week. The Follow Friday, though, is a good way to confirm friendships and promote one another, and I hope you won't be intimidated by it.