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:

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” ( ) 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” ( ) in my early thirties and “Earthbow” ( ) 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 ( and Lachesis Publishing ( 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 –

My books

My blogs:
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx

Friday, December 10, 2010


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

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 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.

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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

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!