Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years - That Drinking Holiday

New Years Eve used to be a time spent with family, feasting and celebrating a new year with a toast at midnight. Unfortunately, it seems to have become more of a "drinking holiday" for a lot of people. I read headlines that say police are gearing up for emphasis patrols to try to get drunk drivers off the roads.

I was curious as to why this holiday has become so alcohol saturated. I did a little research. It seems that the pagans liked to celebrate the old year's passing with feasts, sacrifices and abundant toasts to a variety of gods and deceased family members. If you had a big family, that could be a lot of toasts!

Fortunately for them, they weren't driving high-powered vehicles at high rates of speed. If they fell while walking, they might get a nice bruise or even a broken bone or two, but it wasn't likely that they would be reduced to bits.

Every year dozens of people die in alcohol related deaths on our highways. These numbers increase on New Years Eve. In one study, "90 people had died in alcohol-related traffic crashes in the 12-hour span between 6:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and 5:59 a.m. the next morning. Four weeks later, on the same night of the week, the death toll dropped dramatically to 20". In my opinion, 20 is still too many.

Every year, families have to start a new year with the death of a loved one - whether they are the person who had been drinking, or a victim of a person who had been drinking. I have to honestly say that New Years Eve terrifies me as a parent of three young people.

I am taking this opportunity to ask all of you out there to please not drink and drive. One small toast at midnight should be sufficient to ring in a new year. Let's start the new year with health and vitality, not a hangover. And let's start it with life, not death or sorrow.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blizzards and Plot Twists

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Out here on the East Coast we got hammered with a bit of a blizzard on the day after Christmas. I figure there's got to be some way to tie that in to writing.

How about unexpected plot twists.

See, this storm was unexpected (at least by me, but perhaps I wasn't paying enough attention). On Friday the forecast that I heard was that "there might be some snow, Sunday." Christmas day my brother mentioned we might get as much as 18 inches. (That raised my eyebrows a bit!)
When all was said and done we had close to three feet of snow by Monday morning.

That was not how the week was supposed to go.

But it is how the week is going.

And what about in a story? We plan and plot and organize and then we find the story going off in some other, unexpected direction. Do we try to rein it in and stick to our original plan? Or do we let the blizzard blow and see what we end up with when the skies clear.

I say take the unexpected twists and work with it. Maybe your story really knows what it needs. Let it tell you.

And if it doesn't work, you can always shovel away all the extra stuff and start again.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year Resolutions

Ok, I admit it. I’m a total control geek. I blame it on that one BYU class I had to take when I ended up getting in trouble because—cough, cough—I partied too much. That class showed  how to schedule a day down to the hour. I guess the OCD part of me was hooked. Now I make schedules and even use sticky notes on everything. This helped tons as a teacher with planning and getting things prepared for that school year. 

I also admit, I do the same thing with my New Year resolutions. Goals help me toward achieving things like finishing a first draft to even starting a new project.

This year will be no different.

My writing goals for 2011 include:

Finishing my YA dystopia.

Finishing my first draft of CROSS FIRE. Then plan to do a massive, intense revision. I won’t just do the revisions piece by piece but rather do it as one major project. **This will prove very interesting!

Do the revisions, edits on NO GODDESSES ALLOWED



My reviewing goals include:

Continue to review books.

Don’t just sign up for any book. I found requesting too many books equals getting overwhelmed and not doing as much as I should.

Plan to read some books outside of my genre which is YA.



My personal goals include:

Watch weight

Continue to exercise

Mediate at least once a day. Need to get my blood pressure down



What are your goals for this coming year? Do you make goals? Please share!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cross-eyed Dragon Troubles Book Trailer

In the last few years authors have had to take up more and more of the marketing duties which were once handled by publishers. One of the ways to do this are by the use of Book Trailers.

Book Trailers are meant to be no longer than a couple of minutes and pack enough punch to get you guys interested enough to bite and take a closer look at the book. (A lot like the hook I talked about a month or more ago.)

I've procrastinated making mine but am slowly catching up. (Trolling for appropriate pictures make my eyes hurt! Looking for fodder is harder than making the darn thing!) For this latest video I started using a piece of software called Anime Studio. I think it really pumped up the quality of what I can make by a lot!

Watch the video and then I'll go through the steps I took to get it to the finished product. (Hopefully it won't be too lame and you won't cry to get your 1 minute and 13 seconds back.) :P



It's always best if you have some kind of plan before you ever start. Basically what you hope to say/show and the order.

There are several picture sites where for a fee you can download royalty free pictures (a few even have video clips) to use in the book trailer. There is one I know of that allows you to use them for free, but you have to make sure to give the photographer credit. Always need to make sure you're not infringing on someone's copyright. This includes the music and photos.

Here's a few of the ones I've been to or used:
www.dreamstime.com
www.bigstockphoto.com
us.fotolia.com
www.istockphoto.com
www.freedigitalphotos.net

Another option too is Deviant Art. If you find something nice there, you can email the artist and see if they'd allow you to use it in the video, giving them credit at the end. Some will and some won't.

For all these though, be prepared for your eyes to want to fall out of your head after hours and hours of scrolling through stuff! But if you end up with the perfect picture/drawing, it is well worth it. (Just give yourself time to recuperate! lol.)

Of course using photos you took does make things even better! Those are yours to use as you see fit. :P You never know what you may have hiding in an album somewhere. And with camera phone, nowadays, taking pictures is even easier. Just make sure the photo quality is high enough for what you have in mind.

I use two pieces of free software to put the video together. 1) Movie Maker, which comes standard with all computers using windows. 2) Audacity, which is a free down loadable audio recording and editing software (you will need a microphone or headset to use this to best effect).

The great thing about Audacity is that once you find your background music, you can open it up in the software then record your voice to add to the track. Even better, (make sure to save as the project) it keeps the soundtrack and the voice track separate so you can add silences in your voice parts to manipulate when they occur. This becomes very important when you're putting all pieces together in Movie Maker.

Like I said before, this year I also bought Anime Studio. The great thing about this piece of software is that you can add 'bones' to pictures to make them move. Even the Text can be manipulated. So you can make the book trailer less static. And it's even kind of fun! (You will export your project as an .avi to add to Movie Maker)

So, you have pictures, video bits, the music. Now all you need to do is put them together. Movie Maker will help you do that. Movie Maker allows you to import all the bits and then you can arrange them in any order you like, adding transition effects, scrolling text, and end titles.

The beauty here is that as you add each thing, you can preview it, and also see what time it falls on the video. This allows you to go back to Audacity and tweak your spoken parts so the timing is perfect.

Hopefully at the end you will have something to be proud of that you can share. And while it may have taken a lot of time to create, it won't be going anywhere and you can use it for years to come at your website, promo CDs, and whatever else you can think of. Make sure to upload it to Youtube. You can get code there to embed it at your webpage, or blog. Even better join Blazing Trailers where you can join a ton of authors and display your trailer with theirs.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tis the Season To Be Typing


Tis the Season To Be Typing
Reader beware! I’m throwing this together out of nothing. I’ve been otherwise occupied by a broken ankle, when I should have been prepping this blog entry.
I’m definitely a Christmassy kind of person. Years ago, I would make Christmas tree ornaments each year for friends and people I worked with. Since I had so many to make, I always began the process in mid-summer. And to get in the mood, I would play Christmas carols while I worked. I used headphones to listen, so that people didn’t think I was entirely out of my gourd.
Long after I stopped making holiday decorations—up until right now—I’ve never given up the whole mood that goes with the holidays. I love watching “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and learning—once again—how Santa got both the name Kris Kringle and Santa Claus, what made the reindeer fly, why Santa has a beard, why the toys were put into the stockings, and so on. And I love what I consider the best song in the special, “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”. Any child that is starting to not believe in Santa Claus should be good for one more year after watching that special.
I also love watching “A Christmas Carol” (the one starring Alistair Sim!), my absolute favorite Christmas film. To say nothing of “White Christmas”, “A Christmas Story”, Miracle on 34th Street” and most recently “Elf”. Oh, I can’t forget “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Frosty the Snowman”. I never get tired of Christmas carols and rarely get peeved or impatient by long lines in stores—except maybe the food store, but that one is a year-round vexation.
This year, Christmas activities are being outweighed by work (writing) activities since I’m housebound over the holidays. Not that people aren’t visiting or sending me cards—and I appreciate them! But normally, I would be out at church functions including Advent services and the yearly Christmas Cantata. And of course I would be standing in line, silently singing along to carols while I waited—if I could get to the stores.
Instead, I’m writing—and writing more than the average teddy bear. My “Earthbow” (http://bit.ly/b9vDW1 ) was published this year. Immediately afterward, Dave at Gryphonwood asked me what was up next. Well, it’s like this, I told him: the next up is a three volume story currently with the umbrella title of “The Gryphon and the Basilisk”. I wrote the first draft of it back in the early 80’s and the first draft was written in longhand. Over the years, I’ve hired typists to type up sections of the manuscript, and later also keyed in other sections to WORD files. Now I’m on the third volume and face eight very long chapters that I have only in the original longhand—approximately one hundred seventy (500-600 word) pages of story that need to be converted to WORD.
This Christmas really is Tis the Season To Be Typing.
When I started working on this phase of the project, I was less than enamored with it. I still am. And then I got thinking about a Christmas many years ago—just over 50 so far as I can remember. One Christmas, I asked for a typewriter for my gift. We didn’t have much money but my parents were able to find a refurbished manual typewriter to give me. (There were no electric typewriters back then.)
Very, very late Christmas Eve—or maybe closer to Christmas morning—I slipped out of my bedroom and into the living room, to see if there was a typewriter waiting for me. There was! I was so excited! I ran my fingers over the keys and finally took a shot at hitting one of them. The typewriter—as typewriters did in those days—made a loud click. Freaking for fear I’d awakened someone, I rushed back to my bedroom. And acted all surprised a few hours later.
I learned the basics of typing and soon was turning in all my school assignments typed—even some of my math homework. (Try typing multiplication and division problems and see what ‘fun’ that was.)
A short time after this, I began typing my first written story. It involved time travel and I was the heroine, working for the government on a project to go back in time and fill in bits of historical detail missing from records. That may sound dull but it was an adventure story, since my partner (a very cute boy) and I were always getting into trouble. I showed the first part to my parents. I don’t actually remember their reaction but I do remember that they were generally supportive of any project that I did.
I also worked on a pastiche (essentially fan fic) of many different horse stories I had read. My teacher found out about the latter and asked me to read snippets from it during home room. I can’t imagine what the rest of the kids thought! I still feel sorry for them because this story really wasn’t very good.
Those two attempts at writing were my last efforts until 1979 when I tackled “Seabird” (http://bit.ly/bKBQ7x ) in my early thirties and “Earthbow” (http://bit.ly/b9vDW1 ) two years later. Oddly enough, I wrote these and their sequel “The Gryphon and the Basilisk” in longhand, even though I had an electric typewriter by then. One reason I did this was that I could write anywhere I thought of an idea or a new passage, even at work.
Over fifty years after first typing in the living room at Christmas, I’m keying in parts of the G&B manuscript in the living room over the holidays. The circle is complete.
A Blessed Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!
Sherry Thompson

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Of cats real and imaginary and imaginary animals of various kinds

I am not a dog person. Cats are my faithful both real and imaginary kinds of cats. I've often wondered if this love of cats is a writer thing or something about my nature. People often think of cats as being sneaky and other things. I kind of think they are just very private persons. We no longer have a cat living with us and I still miss the one my children referred to as my "familiar." Actually Robespierre was a twenty plus pound Maine Coon Cat who my boys found when he was probably no more than three weeks old. He has been featured in some of my cozy mysteries and variations of him are found in other stories.

Do you use animals in your stories, ones that are out of theordinary. In The Henge Betrayed series, there are a few. The forstcats have the ability to send pictures of places they are. The perfect spy weapon since Ky who rescued them is able to communicate with them. This story also has an imaginary animal called a war steed. This is sort of a horse but with a single horn like a unicorn. They are choosy about who will ride them and pick their rider. There are also coursers in this story that resemble horses but with longer bodies and some unhorse like qualities like their ability to travel on the desert.

I love dragons. We all know they don't exist but we wish they did. Not the mean people-eating kind but like the ones in books that we enjoy. The Cross-eyed Dragon comes to mind. and also the one Novak writes about. I also have some steeds invented for another world. Wind steeds who have long flowing hair that when rode unsaddled looks like wings. In these stories I'll write one of these days there are cats who delight in swimming, ones with an acid like poison in their fangs, sand cats and ones that can fly. I guess you can see I like cats.

What about you? Do your stories have animals other than dogs and ones that are real or imaginary?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Sale!

From my publisher:


Hey Readers LBF Books (http://www.lbfbooks.com/products.asp) and Lachesis Publishing (http://www.lachesispublishing.com/products.asp) are having a Holiday offer. What kind of offer? 40% off all books in print and ebook. All you have to do to get the discount is use the code 2010HolidayDiscount just as you are paying for your purchase. Pass on the word!



Yes, that's right! CROSSED OUT is on sale for this month! Just in time for the holidays!
 

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to Write a Dogoir

Due to unforeseen circumstances, there has been a minor delay in the release of Letters to Juniper, which is now scheduled for early 2011.

I don’t normally discuss my works-in-progress—or WIPs. I’m making an exception with this one for two reasons: a) I need blog fodder – just kidding – sort of; and b) the manuscript I’m working on is already published – sort of.

“Crazy Bitch” began two years ago as a series on my blog, From the Styx, after my dog Venus was diagnosed with Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD). Frustrated at the lack of information and/or case studies available, I decided to make Venus a case study.

I have compiled all those blog posts and I’m re-writing them into book form. A dog story. A memoir. In an interview, Julie Klam, author of “You Had Me at Woof”, used the term “dogoir”. Works for me.

When I began the blog series, I planned all along to put them into book form. To prepare, I read every dog story I could get my hands on. I researched and read countless articles on memoir writing. At the same time I was researching dog behavior, psychology, and training, plus keeping up with CCD research, and every day life with two giant dogs that didn’t always get along. No matter how well I knew the genre or my subject, nothing prepared me for the process.

My other books are fiction, which is not to say I haven’t written nonfiction. I have written articles and blog posts – just not a memoir. This is a big switch for me. At first I didn’t think it would be any big deal to take the blog posts, re-write them and put them into a book. Wrong. I am not re-writing a character’s story. I am re-writing my beloved dog’s story. And since it’s from my POV it’s also my story, which is the memoir part.

Digging up the past two years and working through it has proven to be more of challenge than I had expected. For one thing it’s a slow process. In re-telling actual events in my own life it’s easy to get bogged down in the details. I find I have to adopt a mindset before I sit down with the work. I have to practice distancing myself from myself – as in the character of me, or the “I” in the story. See what I mean? It can get confusing. Luckily I have written a couple novels in first person. With a memoir, it’s just the opposite. Instead of getting into character, I have to get out of character. Then I am better able to recognize which details are important to the story.

Truth is another big issue with memoir. For what is truth? My World Book dictionary says truth is “the fact or facts; matter or circumstance as it really is”. Let’s face it “circumstance as it really is” can often be tedious and boring. The writer-in-me wants to go all James Frey and embellish the hell out of the facts. The “I” character balks at saying words she never said or doing things she didn’t do. Yet, the writer-in-me argues, in a memoir, the truth is limited to how the “I”-character perceives it. It could be an even better story if the writer-in-me incorporates my 20/20 hindsight omniscience into the picture and stirs things up a bit. Because I am a fiction writer I suspect it will be a constant struggle through this process. But in this case, the truth is pretty well covered by my own blog posts. I’m glad I have them as a basis for the re-write. They keep the writer-in-me honest.

Peggy Tibbetts

Coming in 2011 –
LETTERS TO JUNIPER

My books

My blogs:
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fashion

One part of world-building I tend to leave until last (unless it is an important element in the story) is fashion. What do people wear? What are the garments called? Do I use the present-day terms? Do I make something up? And what, according to the society, is considered fashionable?

The first part of my last book, Talking to Trees, was set in our world with a 13-year-old who considered herself fashionable. I work at a university, so I'm used to what college students and recent graduates from high school think is in fashion (more on that later). But for trends among the younger set, I had to consult those more expert. That included my niece, some friends' daughters, some teachers of that age group (including my younger sister and another niece) and parents. For visual aids I could consider shows aimed at that age group, always keeping in mind when the show was filmed. Styles change quickly.

Some styles don't change quickly enough. Bare midriffs have mostly faded away from the college campus (though that could be due to the cold winter temperatures here). The pajama bottoms style is still strong, as is the 'almost falling off' jeans for males and extreme low riding ones for females. There's always the discussion in the news of the "wardrobe malfunction" for low tops but I never hear any talk (except among faculty and staff) about how uncomfortable it is to walk behind those underwear exposing practitioners (or, worse still, to see the back view seated in chairs). I guess there's a story or two there.

Another trend is whether to wear the shirt/blouse tucked in or untucked. But that decision isn't often mentioned.

One could say that for present day clothing, the writer doesn't have to go into great detail. Jeans, tee shirts, sweatshirts, suits, coats, jackets, ties, dresses, slacks, shirts, blouses, vests, sweaters, skirts, boots, high heels - all are common enough terms. It's only when you want to point out how fashionable your character is that more detail needs to be used, but then you also have to consider how quickly that will date your story. Are the jeans ripped because the character has been in a fight? Poor? Or is it a fashion statement? And then there are regional differences. Do you wear tennis shoes or trainers or tennies? Running shoes, athletic shoes, gym shoes or a brand name? Do you wear a vest or a waistcoat? What about fabric? Fleece, cashmere, or silk would all mean different things fashionwise than wool or cotton.

For fantasy there are generic terms - cloaks, tunics, smocks, boots, sandals, vests, breeches, skirts, kilts, robes, gowns - that don't require much explanation or description of the details. Unless you want to get into the embroidery. Or tassels. Or magical reflecting properties. But do you describe a kirtle? A cheton? A cotehardie? A jerkin? Or do you expect readers of fantasy or historical stories to know what you are talking about? If you do use the wrong term, however, you can be sure that there will be a reader who will notice.

For science fiction stories, there will be protective suits, pressure suits and/or space suits to mention, as well as other clothing choices. Does everyone on the space station wear overalls (or coveralls)? What type of necktie is popular in your future society - Ascot, cravat or bolo - and are bow ties still cool? What will teens wear? Will there be different casual attire for those living in rural areas on the colony planet versus those living in the city? Do merchants wear different fabrics than pilots? Are there fabrics from other planets? Would your main POV character notice?

And, what does your nonhuman characters wear? Does your dragon wear a scarf? Jewelled talon covers? Do your furred aliens wear only a harness or trousers and a vest? Does your crablike alien police wear badges? Do you mention how those are attached to the shell? (I did in one story). On ships do your alien crew members wear the same uniform (with modifications) as the humans?

For YA stories (both fantasy and science fiction), usually the most important questions are 1) is there a school uniform, 2) is it the same for both male and female (and nonhumans), and 3) what modifications are allowed for the fashion conscious?

Because Jody in Talking to Trees is fashion conscious, I had to mention what the characters wore. Jody looks down on Jeanne, who wears jeans and a plain sweatshirt, and she complains when her brother Peter choses to wear a sweatshirt and jeans with multiple pockets and loops (which he fills with food and a flattened roll of duct tape). Jeanne and Peter know they will be walking through forests and across plains and dress appropriately. Jody, on the other hand - well, Jody's denim jacket is illustrated on the cover. There is a reason why leaves are growing on it.



Do you notice fashion choices in books?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rebecca Ryals Russell, MG/YA Fantasy Author, Joins the Fun

            I recently received the honor of an invitation to join the illustrious gang here are YA Authors You’ve Never Heard Of. I have to admit I fit that category as I’m not yet even a published author. My debut novel, Odessa, comes out April 1, 2011 from MuseItUp Publishing.

            Odessa is the first book in a five-book YA series called The Seraphym Wars. There is more about Odessa and my other books, their release dates and an excerpt at the end of this posting.



            First, more about ME. (lol) I’m actually not used to talking about myself. This whole promoting myself thing has been hard since I am by nature introverted. But I’ll do my best.
            For fourteen years I taught Middle Graders all subjects. My favorite, however, was English, particularly Creative Writing. I devised my own curriculum of Poetry and Prose and by the time I retired had students’ works published in several Anthologies. I’ve always wanted to do nothing but write, but unlike my mother’s generation of stay-at-home mothers, a second income was no longer a luxury, so I had to work. Nonetheless, I thought about my story over the course of thirty years. There were some mornings I got up at 5 am to type some chapters on my electric typewriter, then go to school for eight or ten hours. But that didn’t last long. I’m the kind of person who puts 100% into whatever I’m doing and being split didn’t work. Besides I was exhausted all the time.
            Then I started a family about mid-way. My hubby of 35 years, is from Ireland and for several years we were happy traveling back and forth to Ireland and working. Then I got the bug to be a mom, but it didn’t happen. That’s when we adopted our first baby, now 22 and working on her Graphic Design program. About 3 years later I had our first biological child, now 19 and a Freshman at University of Florida (Go Gators! and alma mater for her Grandfather who has passed) then I had a son 3 years later, who is now very much 16, with a miscarriage in the middle. About 5 years after that we decided to adopt again. This time we spent 2 awesome, scary weeks in Vietnam and arrived home on Christmas Eve with our 2-month-old baby boy, who’s now 11.
            We currently live in a 101-year-old Victorian house on 5 acres in the country. I run a Vacation Rental business out of the log house my father built to live in after Mom died and we moved into the big house to care for him. You can see pictures of it at Florida Black Bear Cabin LLC. The Victorian house is for sale if any of you want the idyllic writer’s scenario. Seriously, we’d stay if my husband didn’t have to drive 75 miles each way to work daily. Ouch!


            I really have gotten into this new Electronic Age thing. I love texting with my daughters, I live on my computer and adore the Internet. And I just today won a Kindle to read my eBooks on! I wish I’d had all of this awesomeness growing up. I enjoy watching my sons play video games and have learned so much about the gaming industry that way. I have designed multiple websites, written html (although I’m not any good at it), I have several blogs, and now I have 7 books coming out over the course of the next couple of years on eReaders as well as in print editions. What an awesome world we live in.



            Speaking of my books, here is what I have so far:
Conscientia     Available September 1, 2011
Odessa                 Available April 1, 2011
Harpies     Available January 1, 2012
Majikals     to be written (stewing in the pot at the moment)
Debello     to be written





These are a maximum of 30,000 words and so there are more of them.
Jeremiah     available November 1, 2011
Zarena     available July 1, 2011
Laman     available February 1, 2011
Mercy     awaiting word on submission
Magaelbash     awaiting word on submission
Tien     partially written
Phoebe     partially written
Luis     partially written
More to Come











Horror/Steampunk/Dystopian
For NaNoWriMo this November I wrote ¾ of a YA Dystopian Romance which I will finish by the end of this year. I have a Steampunk rolling around in the brain as well.
Don’t Make Marty Mad     Available October 1, 2011
Charles Creevy Chops His Sweetie is offered as a FREE READ on my website.










Middle Grade Chapter Books
I’m working on 2 series of these which will run about 10,000-20,000 words per book covering curriculum-based topics. They will include a Teacher’s Guide. You can follow my progress on these Works In Progress at http://rryalsrussell.com/current-project/ where I have some awesome Word-o-Meters posted.
Marcy Mouse and the Phantom Feline
Masquerade the Scaredy Cat and His Side-kick Snort I’ve posted Chapter 1 as a FREE READ.



Here’s an excerpt from Odessa, coming out April 1, 2011. You can ask for notification of its release by clicking the button on my buy page. (this has not yet been officially edited)
            I shook my head, “I can’t stab a child in the chest! I can’t kill a child!”
            He rested both hands on my knees and said in a firmer voice, “That is not a child. It is a demon. He wouldn’t think twice about killing a child. Or you. Get your sword and go now.”
            Like a zombie I rose and picked up the sword where it leaned against the corner. I carried it to the door of the bathroom where I looked back down the hall at Michael who stood there mouthing “now” and shooing me with his hands.
            I stepped into the bathroom just as she-he slid the curtain open. Twelve-year-old Tien stared at me with wide oddly-colored eyes and long black dripping hair.
            “What are you doing, Myrna?”
            I stepped forward and thrust the sword into her-his chest where I hoped the heart was. I couldn’t imagine how a simple shard of metal could destroy a demon, but I watched in fascinated horror as he swelled and changed.
            The screeching wail that ensued did not issue forth from a twelve-year-old’s throat. It climbed in timbre until the roar was a train running through the bathroom, echoing off the shiny, wet tiles. The demon, no longer able to hold the image of the child, displayed his usual golden scaly skin and horned head with large toothy maw. Claws with long nails scraped at the tiles, shredding them to dust as he thrashed madly, trying to pull the glowing sword from his chest. I wondered why the sword glowed. It hadn’t been doing that when I held it. His barbed tail lashed back and forth knocking down walls between the bathroom and utility where he struck and overturned the washing machine and water began gushing everywhere.
            It seemed to take forever, but eventually the evil creature stopped thrashing and lay still on the floor. I hesitantly stepped forward to retrieve my sword. I was sure at any moment he would grab my ankle. I tugged and pulled on the handle of the now normal-looking sword until it yanked free with a sickening glurg. Black acidic blood oozed from the wound, puddling on the tile floor as it bubbled and ate its way through to the ground.
            “Lop off the head before he disappears,” Michael called from the doorway.
            I raised the sword over my head, ignoring the few drips of black blood that fell onto my hands and brought it down hard on what should have been the demon’s neck. But as the sword dropped he poofed into thin air. The blood began bubbling on my skin and I ran to the kitchen to wash it off before it burned me any further.
            “Well. I guess you’re officially a demon slayer.” Michael sidled up beside me as I stood crying into the lather on my hands. “You’ll have some cool scars as proof, too.” He rinsed my hands with warm water and gently dried them with the towel. “Let me put something on those burns so they don’t get infected.”
            As he applied antibiotic cream and gauze he asked, “Did your sword tell you her name yet?”
            “Her?” I asked. I glanced at the black blood encrusted blade which I had been shining recently. “It’s Tyrannoctonus.”
            “Tyrant Slayer,” he rolled the name around his tongue, “I like it. Now don’t tell anyone else, ever. It gives them power you don’t want anyone else to wield.”


Here are a couple of Book Trailers I have on Youtube. Join my Channel and be the first to see more as I make them for upcoming books.
Odessa:          According to prophecy, Myrna must gather the remaining six demon-hunter Vigorios then train with the Majikals on an enchanted island. But first she has to get them there.



Seraphym Wars series:     Recruited as demon-hunter by Laud the Creator, Myrna leads six other teens across the primal Dracwald, battling monsters and dragons while assisting the Seraphym in the final battle between Heaven and Hell; between the Seraphym and Demons.






Friend me at Facebook:
I’m also a member of SCBWI (for children’s writers), Steampunk Empire, Savvy Authors, YA Lit Chat, Jacket Flap, Inkwell, She Writes, NaNoWriMo, Teen Fire, MySpace, Linked In and much more. You can find all of my Internet Footprints here.

Lastly, I'd like to mention another Grog (group blog) I have with other MG/YA Authors at Teen Word Factory. Come by for helpful postings about writing, author interviews, book reviews, and more.




I’d love to hear from you about the Book Trailers, websites, blogs and such. Leave me some comments and I’ll be sure to respond. You can also email me at myrnawatts (at) gmail (dot) com.

I look forward to sharing more posts and hope you will find what I have to say informative and interesting.



                           Write Often, Write Well

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More Animal Tales

A few days ago we had a great discussion on animals in stories. Recent events in my life have prompted me to once again discuss animals, not necessarily in our stories but how they affect our lives and thus our writing.

Living in the country as we do, we’ve had our share of throw away dogs and cats. The latest is a cutie. Small. Black and white. Mixed something or other, though I’m not sure what since I can't find a picture of a dog resembling him. He’s polite and friendly. Doesn’t bark. The only sound I’ve heard him make was last night when the cat attacked him. He let out a yelp. Who could blame him? It seems Patches doesn’t want to share her home with a stray even though I reminded her she once was a stray.

Anyway, the little dog, smaller than the cat, looks at me as if I’m supposed to do something. What? Find his owner? I wish I could. Call him by his name? I haven’t a clue. Give him a home? We can do that. However, he was here once before, a couple weeks ago, and the minute I let him in the backyard, he squeezed through the gate and was gone. He slept in the house last night because the temperature was in the 20s. He cuddled up on the sofa. He ate anything we gave him. And he’s very polite.

Right now he’s outside. Whether he’ll decide to explore the country or stay close is anybody’s guess. As I’ve been thinking about this little stray, wondering what to do with him, some of my characters in my current work in progress came to mind. When I first met the four teens, I knew nothing about them. Their backgrounds were a mystery. As we worked our way through the story, slowly they began to reveal tidbits about their lives, their families, their troubles, their hopes and their dreams. Why are they in my story? Will they stay, or will they wander off, into a world, not necessarily of their own making, but a world that they have little control over, a world that is sometimes cruel and unforgiving, but that also can be beautiful.

What is the future of each of them? Will they reach their goals, find what they’re looking for. Or will the world be too much for them?

Will the little dog that I’m trying to decide what to call him see that we will provide him with a good home (ignoring the cat’s dislike of him)? Or will he go in search of the home that he obviously loved and people that must have loved him at one time? I cannot know their circumstances, so I’m not blaming anyone for his situation. I’ll simply do what I can to take care of him.

Name suggestions would be appreciated. In case he grants us the honor of being his parents.

Happy Reading and Writing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Do you give books as gifts?

I was going over my Amazon Wish List (yeah, I have a Christmas list, but it's easier than remembering what I want when my relatives ask), and realizing I have probably a dozen books on it. I never used to ask for books, because I would just go and get what I wanted when I wanted it.

But books are a GREAT gift. They're usually inexpensive, so you can give more than one. They don't expire, and don't need to be fitted. You can read them over and over and share them with others. There's usually no messy return issues, unless you get duplicates. There is the issue of them cluttering up the house, but I think that's a wonderful problem to have. Unless, like me, you have a Kindle on your list (I have the PC software too), or own an ebook reader, then you can give even MORE books as gifts, because usually ebooks are cheaper, AND there's spacial issue. I have a few books I really want in hardcover, because they're continuations of series I adore, but I am happy to receive ebooks as gifts.

I don't know when I decided that books would make good gifts. It just never occurred to me before. But I got a pile last year, and LOVE it. If my son read faster, he'd get more books as gifts - at this point I think I'm going to be drowning in LEGOs come December 26. I'm hoping that as he gets older he'll want more books, because I'd love to have my sun room back, to take down the toy shelves and fill it with bookshelves and a comfy reading chair...someday. And then I'll miss the toys, because I'll miss him being little and playing with toys. You can't win, I know that.

But anyway... we here at YAAYNHO have all written books. AND those book would make GREAT gifts! (sorry for the shameless plug, but it's that season.) And if you don't generally give books, WHY NOT??? If you email me, I have some copies of all my books here at the house. IF you drop me an email, I can sell you a copy and ship it to you. It will even be autographed!  Or you can buy one somewhere else, and drop me an email, and I will mail you an autographed bookplate to put inside. I'm not sure, but there's a chance some of the other YAAYNHO may have a similar setup. Wouldn't that be a nice gift - a box of autographed books?

In other news, somewhere in the hustle and bustle of the end of semester, holiday madness, and getting a new job (yay me!), my next book has gotten ready for release. It's not out QUITE yet, mostly because of some issues at the Library of Congress having to do with their software upgrade that took twice as long as it should have and shouldn't have affected my book because the publisher applied for the data weeks before they had their computer issues, but hopefully by the end of the week it will be available for purchase. I got the final cover art yesterday:


Isn't it pretty? My website has been updated with the new blurb and all, but the links aren't live. As soon as the book is ready, I'll hook it all up. It's a wildly exciting story, full of adventure and intrigue and big giant serpents. Which all a story needs, isn't it?

Perfect for someone's holiday list :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Animals in Literature

I have a friend on Live Journal who does dog rescue. She posted the other day that she has, at this moment: Blind dogs, deaf dogs, incontinent dogs, dogs with heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, hyperthyroidism, neurological damage and epilepsy, dogs who are missing fur, teeth and toes, dogs with luxating patellas, hip displaysia and arthritis. That's a lot of problems. And a lot of dogs. And a lot of compassion on the person caring for animals that otherwise might have been euthanized.

Dogs have been kept as pets for centuries. They've been found in graves, surrounded by items intended to help them in the next life. They've been pictured in drawings, following humans, feasting with humans, hunting with humans. They've protected us, loved us, been loyal to us. How could we kill them off in literature?

And, yet, it's been done dozens and dozens of times. I'm one of those readers who dislike reading of animals of any kind dying. Sure, I can see something being mentioned briefly about getting meat for food, but I don't like to focus on the life and death struggle between man and animal. And I certainly dislike having an animal die for gratuitous reasons only. Especially an animal that I have come to care about in some way.

So, I avoid using them in that capacity. I do find it odd that I can watch a show or read a book where humans die, but I get angry and upset if an animal dies. Maybe it's because I realize that humans have the intellect to understand what is happening to them, while animals don't.

I rarely put animals into my writing. Why? Several reasons, really. I get too attached. I forget they are there. And...I don't want them to die. And I'm not the only one, from what I've heard. Readers don't like to see animals die. I remember being in a critique group once and the manuscript being read had a pack of dogs. The dogs didn't perform as their owner desired and he had the entire pack put to death. It was done to illustrate the characters lack of compassion or sympathy. But you should have heard the controversy and upset over that!

Kill the dogs? Never!

So, what about you? How do you feel as a reader when animals die? Do you use animals in your writing to convey a plot point? Or do you protect them at all costs, and allow them to live long, healthy, happy lives?

JennaKay Francis
http://www.jennakayfrancis.com

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NaNo for words and NoNo for sweets

Last month I participated in NaNoWriMo, that crazy experiment where you try to write 50,000 words in a month.

Also, last month, I decided that my weight loss method of thinking really hard about losing weight while sitting on the sofa, snacking, was not working for me and I needed to try something else.

The problem with weight loss was I would look at the amount I wanted to lose and think I could never do it. It would take months. It would be hard. It would require constant vigilance and attention on my part.

Hmm, a lot of the same things I thought the first time I did NaNoWriMo.

And sure, writing 50,000 words or losing x number of pounds might seem insurmountable at the start. But what I decided is I couldn't only concentrate on the big numbers.

In NaNoWriMo it was a matter of getting those 1667 words a day.

For losing weight it was a matter of keeping my calorie count low, one day at a time.

So, how'd I do?

I wrote 50,000 words in less than a month. And I lost ten pounds (so far, I'm not done dieting yet).

What once seemed impossible, is now within my grasp. So, take that first step - you never know where it might lead you!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bringing Characters to Life

One thing I love about the holidays is the Twilight Zone marathons. This last Thursday was no exception. One episode caught my son’s interest. In A WORLD OF HIS OWN, a playwright’s wife catches him with another woman. Problem is the other woman somehow ‘disappeared’. The playwright then confesses his ability to make his characters come right to life. Unfortunately the wife finds out the hard way that she is one of his characters too.

My son asked me, “Mommy, wouldn’t it be cool to do that?”

How often do our characters speak to us? I decided last month I’d start a new project. I wanted it to be something unlike anything I’ve written so far. Well, my characters got very antsy, one in particular. I swear Carter, kept on me to write certain scenes and he couldn’t wait for me to get to act two of my story where he meets Esperanza.

We all know the rules on writing characters. To avoid stereotypes and clich├ęs. One thing I learned from a UCI extension class I took with Louella Nelson is to sketch out my characters. I go through magazines and tear out photos of people I think would look like my characters though with my current project I went to iStock. Then I list down all their strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and a wound. For example in CROSSED OUT, Stephanie’s wound is she doesn’t trust authority.

Another big thing I learned is to flesh out the villain. Some of my favorite villains of all time include Spike from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, Damon from VAMPIRE DIARIES, and yes, Rhett Butler from GONE WITH THE WIND. I try to show some weakness from my villains. It’s like someone once told me when I was writing my memoir on my life growing up with a bipolar father, that I needed to look for vulnerability. Yes, it was tough but doable.

What are some ways you bring your characters to life?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

PhilCon, Speculative Fiction & YA Literature

This past weekend, we trekked on up to PhilCon (the speculative fiction convention which has been hosted by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society for something like 60-70 years now. Over the last few years, the con is inexplicably relocated to Cherry Hill, New Jersey but it’s still called PhilCon.

http://2010a.philcon.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1

“We” is myself and Demaris. Demaris and I used to work together at the Univ of Del Library until I retired. Demaris does not write but is an avid reader of both YA and speculative fiction literature. She has, I believe, five grandchildren.

Peter Beagle (“Last Unicorn) was the guest of honor, and a variety of authors and editors filled the panels. The musical (“filking”) track was organized by Roberta Rogow. Filk is the folk music of the Speculative Fiction community. For more about it, see Jordin Kare’s essay at http://www.interfilk.org/interfilk/singout.htm

Or go to Interfilk’s many links, at http://www.interfilk.org/interfilk/filk.htm .

The big focus for me was the chance of a reading Friday evening, hosted by PhilCon and by the Broad Universe professional writers group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/broaduniverse/

Demaris and I brought along 8 copies of Seabird and 4 sets of copies of Earthbow vols. 1&2, in the hopes of selling them at the reading or elsewhere during the con. The “BU Rapid Fire Reading” got off to a shaky start—when we arrived at our room (located on a standard hotel floor) we found the door locked. A quick call to the front desk did know good. Eventually—halfway through our readings right out in the hallway by the elevators—someone showed up from the ConComm at let us into our meeting room.

I read a scene from Earthbow Vol.1, in which a young fighter named Coris is trying to sneak into the keepmaster’s room to steal a medicine needed by a servant who is desperately ill. He finds the meds, but then hears someone approaching the room’s door. He hides in the room, risking his life so doing. As I approached the end of the scene, one of the people in the room approaches his hiding place in order to search for a scroll. Hopelessly, Coris prepares to fight. End of scene. J

The reading stirred up some interest in my books, and we just happened to have carried books with us. I had brought regular copies of books to sell at half price, plus a few uncorrected proof copies from 2 years ago when Seabird first came out. These we put on the freebie table—and watched them snatched up over the next few hours, practically before our eyes. I also offered one set of Seabird & the Earthbow volumes to a dealer in the vendor’s hall, for free, in the hopes that he would make a sale with them and eventually choose to buy more from my publisher. I have no idea what will come of that. Frankly, I’ve tried it in the past with a couple of bookstores, but it doesn’t seem to have worked.

After most of the book business was concluded for the con, we settled down to attending panels. Yes, I’m just old-fashioned enough to believe that con-going involves actually sitting through a variety of “industry-related” panels and occasionally trying to get a question in edgeways. To me, this is a great way to network with other writers, as well as publishers, reviewers and editors. I happen to do less well networking at con parties. I’m no wallflower, but I do have trouble trying to change subjects to something about books at those parties, so I don’t try any more.

Anyway, Demaris and I went to a variety of panels—sometimes together and sometimes splitting up. We also attended Peter Beagle’s address, which was great once he was given a microphone. Later he sang and played his own songs and others during the intermission at the masquerade.

One panel that should have particular interest here was “How Scary Can Young Adult Fiction Get? – What are the allowable limits in writing for young adults?” Moderated by J Andrew World, with panelists: Patricia M Cryan, Christine Norris, and Peter Prellwitz.

The areas discussed were 1) defining YA lit, (MC is “underage”); 2) How graphically do you show any violence? How do you tell it? 3) Does the child or teen become scared for the characters or do they feel personally at risk? 4) Losing souls in Golden Compass; the little girl in Poltergeist; 5) Different for each child. Decide for child but with their feedback. 6) Do the events in the story cause some children to draw from their own experiences and reinforce that it could happen to them?

I asked a question or two during the panel and was able to follow up with Patricia afterwards. Patricia and her husband have a shop in Worcester MA, which specializes in Children’s Lit and in Comics. She has other related interests in her area. We’re now friended on FB.

In another panel, I met Jay Wile, a chemist who just happens to have an interest in YA literature. He promised to come home and order my books on Amazon. (By then I was out of copies). The great thing is that Jay actually did so, and now we’re corresponding by email.

Other panels which I found interesting were: “The Roots of Steam Punk”; “The Shift Back to Small Presses”; “How to Get Rejected”; “Career Planning for Authors”; and one I didn’t attend because I felt I knew the answer: “Is the Full Time Novelist an endangered species?”.

I attended a variety of other panels that were not related to YA fiction, plus I spent several hours singing and listening to music in the filk room. I had a great but semi-exhausting time and—for a change—came home largely with books I had purchased rather than with my own copies.

If you have any questions about any of this—shoot them at me before I forget all of the details. Warning: my memory half-life isn’t what it used to be.

p.s. I hope that some of you will consider going back to my previous post, “Beginnings and Endings and Dingles”, and maybe offering advice on what I can do with my story fragment. See http://obscurekidlitauthors.blogspot.com/search/label/dingle

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Community

Second in importance to family is community. When creating believable characters, the writer considers what community that character will belong to/identify with. Often ‘community’ will default to a town or city, but in YA novels the default is normally ‘school’. And then further down into cliques.

Some ‘school-based’ YA novels have another division inbetween school and cliques. In the Harry Potter novels, it’s House. In the Percy Jackson series, in Camp Half-Blood (as in any summer camp story), it’s Cabin. What makes those two series a bit more interesting in the early bonding process is that people aren’t arbitrarily stuck into a house or cabin (as is done in real life) but are chosen – either by a Sorting Hat (which determines by the candidate’s temperament, psychological analysis, magical ability and the candidate’s own desire which House is best for the candidate) or by parent. What this means for the characters in those series is that they have an instant group of people with whom they have similar interests (hmm, this also fits with the recent Tinkerbell DVDs, too – the tinker fairies, the water fairies, etc.).

As a writer, it’s fascinating to observe this shortcut – you don’t need several chapters/pages explaining what drives each new character. Throw a bunch of mechanical parts in front of some tinker fairies or kids from Hephaestus’ Cabin and instantly their fingers are itching to create something. Students in Ravenclaw House are scholars. The teens in the vampire hall are bad guys (unless it’s a series where vampires are the good guys and the dryads are the ones you need to watch out for).

But, hang on, isn’t this encouraging stereotypes? Where’s the opportunity for individuality? For the equivalent of a ‘jock who writes poetry’ story or a ‘vampire who is actually a vegetarian/vegan’ story?

I say the opportunity is still there. It all depends on the writer. For every writer who locks the high school students into cliques (jock, cheerleader, smart students, bullied students) for the whole story there is a writer who starts off with the cliques and then shakes everything up.

But the community for those stories is the starting point. Will it be a community that supports the character, that stands behind him/her when there are problems, but also allows the character to grow and discover who she/he is? Will it be a community that locks the character into a role and that character spends the entire story fighting that role? Is the community just a background note that helps introduce the character but is never mentioned again?

Thanksgiving for me is a day of both family and community. I stop by my youngest sister’s house for Thanksgiving on my way to attend Chicago TARDIS, a Doctor Who convention. There’s a Doctor Who convention on that weekend because Doctor Who, the television show, first aired November 23, 1963 (the day after Kennedy was shot, but that’s something for another blog).

I’m a science fiction fan, which is one community, but within the science fiction community, I’m also a Doctor Who fan (a smaller community). I’ve been attending science fiction conventions since 1979, but the ones I most enjoy are the Doctor Who conventions. Not only because of the topic (the Doctor) and not only because these are the ones which have a greater concentration of friends I’ve known for years. But because of the combination of those factors, I also feel welcome. I know the language/jargon, I know the history, and I share a love of the program with everyone else who is attending. It's a community I've chosen to join.

In a story, the community the character chooses to join can be just as important as the family he/she was born into or where she/he grew up. What types of communities do you enjoy finding in books?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whitney Awards

Stacy Whitman, senior editor at Tu Publishing, brought this award to my attention. The Whitney awards are awarded to LDS authors. I'd love it if people would go to the site and nominate my own book CROSSED OUT.



I'm LDS but no longer live in Utah. (Well, I haven't for the past twenty years.) There's a lot of us who are writers but people don't know this.



Here's the link:



http://whitneyawards.com/wordpress/2010/11/14/whos-been-nominated-for-a-whitney/


What you KNOW or what you FEEL?

There is a famous writers adage: "Write what you know." I guess this is good if you are writing a text book. But if you are writing a novel you hope will connect and touch the reader on levels deeper than the cerebellum, then I think the proper advice should be "Write what you feel".

The difference is immense.

Knowledge of a subject can help flesh out details and create a beleivable world. On the other hand, PASSSION for a subject will pop on the page. It will glitter and spark and touch the reader. Any book, play or film created by an artist with a deep love for the subject will rise far above others of similar theme.

Say, for instance, you work as a bee keeper and you know everything there is to know about bee mating rituals and honey and combs and buzzing? BUT it does not set your heart aglow. Then consider a passion of this bee loving person- perhaps wine. They can wax poetic on the memories of certain bottles or the moments when they sipped a special bottle whiles kissing their love one. Or celebrating a special date. There are deep emotional connections to aspects of this passion. This is the writing that will resonate. It is guided by a muse. The words are not written or type to the page as much as they are poured upon with tears or laughter.

It is the felt aspect of the writer that will pulse on the page. Write what you feel. Always and forever.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Do You Twitter?

I do!

and Facebook
and a Fan Page
and My Space
and Linkedin
and Goodreads

So – please – follow me, friend me, like me, and link me. We are all judged now by our Facebook numbers.

How many of you find all this social networking overwhelming?

I see a lot of nodding heads and raised hands out there.

Oh, I’m not complaining. Or maybe I am.

I do remember the old days, before the internet, when writing was a truly lonely life. I would never want to go back to that. Not in a million years. As the popularity and presence of the internet expanded through the 90s, my career expanded, too. Through listservs, ezines, Inkspot, and Writing World, I connected with a world of writers. It was an exhilarating time – and still is. Although the internet has evolved.

Social networking is a whole different beast. A fast-paced time-eater. I do discipline myself with rules. Absolutely no games. Then I worry friends think I’m stuck up when I don’t respond to their game invitations. But it’s easy to see how I could become obsessed with Farmville, like a drug.

I keep my personal life out of it. Then I worry I might seem too aloof. But I have a stalker – and he lives in my neighborhood. So it’s complicated. I got a permanent restraining order to keep him away from me physically. I know he still stalks me online which has forced me to re-think my whole approach to blogging and social networking. I am much more cautious about sharing my personal activities. I’d have to be insane to do foursquare.

My biggest worry is that I don’t tweet or update my status daily. Does that mean I’m falling behind somehow? But I set aside a certain number of hours each day to write and I won’t give that up. Social networking is still pretty low on my priorities list. To come to terms with my conflicted feelings I’ve decided it’s a whole comfort zone thing. I do what feels comfortable for me.

I enjoy blogging. Social networking is fun. Writing is my true love. Everything else has to fall in line behind that.

Oh wait … someone just sent me a message on Facebook. Did you see that funny video? I should tweet that. And I better check and see how many fans I have today …

Peggy Tibbetts

My books

My blogs:
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name (Sorry, Mr. Shakespeare)

What's in a name? For me, as a writer, everything.

I know writers who can actually work on a new story while calling their main characters "A" and "B" or merely leaving blanks where the names should be. I have never been able to do that, so I don't understand that ability at all. I envy it and at the same time, I can't help being mildly shocked by it at the same time.

My stories always start with a named character. When I write a novel or a story, I usually have a pretty good sense of where it's going, what's going to happen, and whether my protagonist is male or female. But until I have that character's name, I'm in a bit of a bind. And not much gets written.

For me, meeting a character for the first time requires a proper introduction. And the introduction by definition requires a name. When I wrote Saving Jake, I already had the name "Jake" in my head. The rest of the characterization was so easy once I had the name that I usually tell people that Jake rang my doorbell as a fully developed person. I know exactly how he looked (long hair, sad brown eyes), exactly how he dressed (bottle-green trench coat from a second-hand shop and a pair of red high tops), and exactly who he was (sensitive, artistic, and rebellious). Until I had his name, though, the rest of those details were nonexistent.

In the manuscript I am currently sending out, Daniel Rhode appeared on my doorstep, told me I couldn't write the book without him, and proceeded to take over an entire subplot that I didn't know existed until he turned up. Like Jake, Daniel's personality came intact with his name and there was very little I didn't know about him.

I find that when I'm really struggling with a story, there's a pretty good chance I don't have the right name for my main character! As goofy as that sounds, I need to know who it is I'm writing about and until they come up and whisper their names into my ear, I haven't got a clue.

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a character with the wrong name will never share his or her story with me no matter how I work at it. And having no name? That's just love's labors lost.

Friday, November 19, 2010

You Have The POWER!

Yes, you, the reader, have POWER! More power than the authors of your favorite books do.

You have the power to help make them famous, but also the power to let the book go nowhere.

“WHAT????”

No, you heard right. You have the power to make or break a book or author.

“But isn’t just buying the darn thing and reading it enough?”

Unfortunately…not anymore. Not if you want to keep seeing more books by that same author. Buying and reading the novel definitely rank supreme in things a reader can do to support an author or book. Except nowadays things have become so much harder, authors pushed to do so much more to get readers, and with less support from the publishers, that they need all the help they can get more than ever before.
This is where you come in.

“But what can I do? I like to read, sure, but I’m not a marketer.”

Honestly, it’s all pretty easy. The real trick is that the more people that do it, the more it works. And most of these take little to no time at all. (But only do whatever you feel comfortable with, if anything! Of course! You have the POWER!)

1. Tell others! Aka – Word of Mouth. (Super easy. You liked the book or the style the author uses, tell people – like family, friends, enemies, everyone. BAM!)

2. Post a quick one liner on Twitter and/or Facebook if you’ve an account there. (Extra points if you also put in the url to the author’s website or to the book at Amazon or elsewhere!) BAM!

3. A quick liner on “What are you doing/feeling today?” on My Space, Yahoo, Linked-In, other. BAM!

4. If you super loved the book, you can add it to your profile on Facebook. This actually creates a page for the book and shows other people who’ve also added it to their profile. (Probably can add it to other profiles of other online places you have as well.) Here’s one that FB auto created for In the Service of Samurai. BAM!

5. Go to Amazon and give it a star rating. You don’t have to have bought it from there, if you have an account you can rate all the books you own. BAM!

6. If you have an account at Goodreads.com or Librarything.com, add the book to your bookshelf. They give you a chance to give it a star rating too! Double BAM!

7. Have a website? Have a page of links? Add your fave authors on there! Most have a webpage with info and sample chapters, but if they don’t, they surely have a blog or LJ. (I have a large link page on my site with a ton of authors and other fun bits if you want to see what I’m talking about. www.gloriaoliver.com/links.html)

8. Some authors have banners you can use on your different web places if you want. Same thing a lot of shows and movies do. (Haven’t figured out how to do a widget yet!) If the author or book doesn’t have a banner and you’re feeling artistic, make one! Let the author know, too! They might feature you on their website or blog! (I definitely would. Though lately I’ve been on a kick and have been making my own. Check ‘em out! www.gloriaoliver.com/banners.html ) But yours might still be better. Show me! BAM!

9. Are you an artist? Make drawings based on the book. Sell yourself by putting them up at Deviant Art then let the author know! BAM! (More of your stuff the author will flaunt at their website. Seriously!)

10. Want to go the extra mile? Write a review on your blog, Amazon, Goodreads, Librarything, My Space, LiveJournal, wherever! (If you do it at your blog/LJ/MS, make sure to send a quick email to the author with a link. You might get added to their reviews page! (You definitely would on mine!)) And since you went through the trouble, remember to Tweet/Facebook/etc the fact you did a write up and give people the url so they can read your thoughts! BAM! BAM! BAM!

Remember, YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF THIS! Totally up to you. But you won’t be exercising your POWER positively if you don't! :P Honestly though, we’re just happy you’re reading! Like I said before, that is the SUPREME item on things you can do to help authors out. And that’s why you have the power. Make it VIRAL!

If you have any suggestions on other ways to help get the word out about your favorite books or authors, please share! I’m a reader too and try to share the love however I can. :)

See you!

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic
www.gloriaoliver.com

P.S. Bonus BAM! Let your reader friends know how they can help by sending them a link to this post! BAM! :P

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Anothere day with too many characters or those creeping in and staying

Sometimes I wonder why I have so many characters in some of my books. Most of my YA fantasies have this problem. The problem is that I like gangs. When I was a kid in the dark ages, I belonged to, maybe not a gang, but there were fourteen boys and two girls on the street where I loved. This may be one of the reasons for the mega casts in these fantasies. While many people write with many characters in their stories the Henge series and also the Jewels of Earda series grew their characters and everyone wanted a say.

When I began the Jewels stories, there were really only to be four main characters but then there were things that needed to be said or learned by the reader that the four main characters didn't know. Thus another character had to have a viewpoint. Never again I told myself. In the Jewels series I think there are finally a total of twelve characters who have a say. Never again I told myself.

Then I began the Henge Betrayed series and needed five viewpoint characters. I thought I could handle this and so I did. The second book began and suddenly I needed a sixth viewpoint. That one crept in. Not so bad. Book 3 was begun and suddenly a seventh character raised her head and screamed, let me in. There are things I have to say and things the readers will need to know before the series ends. No one else can do this. I am now on the fourth and final book of the series and there are nine viewpoint characters. I managed to head several -- somewhere between three and five others who thought they could add to the story. Several of these were removed because some of my characters can read the winds and thus hear the voices of other characters.

Will I ever do this again. I can't promise that since there are several ideas rolling around in my head that might mean another book, not with casts of thousands but probably more than I can imagine at this time.

How about you? Do you find characters creeping into your story and refusing to leave?