Thursday, March 31, 2011

Release of Odessa of the Seraphym Wars YA Series

At 15 Myrna was attacked by demons. At 17 she was sent to kill them, with the help of six other teenaged Vigorios. But are the romantic advances of three warriors demonic distraction or real love? How will she know in time?

So, Friday’s the BIG day!

For nearly 30 years I’ve thought about, dreamed, written chapters then tossed them, talked about, researched the product that releases Friday, April 1st. The irony of its release falling on April Fool’s Day has not been lost on me, either.

For 99% of those 30 years I was too busy teaching or mothering to take time to write. I got up at 5 am for a while and typed away on my portable typewriter, but that grew old and didn’t last long. But the story—the girl who would save the world from evil—never left me. It changed, grew, evolved, changed some more. But from beginning to end, the basic story stayed the same.

So now it begins. Officially. For all to see—or read. I hope readers will see the story in their heads as they read it. I did. It was plain as a movie during the writing. And as I reread, revised, tightened, edited and prepared it for public consumption, I thought it was a pretty darn good story. At some points I laughed, at others I cried. Lots of adventure, lovable and intriguing characters, some sexual tension, childhood and teenaged issues to deal with all set on a foreign world full of danger and creeping evil. Then there were the dragons. How could anyone NOT like a story with suspicious, evil, shape-shifting dragons? Right?

Then why, as I write this, is my stomach churning and I feel nauseated thinking about others reading my story? For 30 years I’ve wanted this. I wonder if each book release will be this tension-filled. Do you suppose there comes a point when an author says, “I’m a good writer and I know it because I have a truck-load, no—not big enough--train-load full of fans.” And with every release they sit back and sip champagne? Somehow, I don’t see myself ever reaching that degree of calmness. I’ll always worry if it’s good enough, scary enough, well-written, intriguing, will hold the reader’s attention.

I guess I’ll know soon. It’s a blessing and a curse. But I’m glad I wrote it and can’t wait to write the next one. Even if I end up with only one person who really enjoys the story, it will be worth it.

Here’s the OFFICIAL Blurb. Hope you like it.

“Did anything…uh…traumatic or horrifying happen to you lately?”
            I shuddered, nodding.
I sat cross-legged on one end of the sofa, facing Michael at the other end.
“Yeah. You could say it was horrifying.”
I was so glad today was Saturday. It was the one day of the week I didn’t have school or work. I sat cross-legged on the sofa, watching my favorite classic movie, The African Queen, and munching on a bowl of popcorn resting in my lap. Suddenly my body went rigid. I sat bolt upright. My vision spun in circles. The room became kaleidoscopic. A rushing roar echoed in my ears. Then I saw my brother Quinn running around in circles, screaming. Wide-eyed, I stared, transfixed and mute. A boy with blond dreads, wearing a black leather jacket and ripped jeans, chased him across a field. Once close enough, he threw some kind of liquid from a small red can on Quinn.  A smaller boy with spiky red hair tossed something small that glowed in the dusk. It landed on Quinn’s chest.
Flames shot high into the darkness as he screamed and continued running around the grassy enclosure. Insane laughter echoed in the still darkness. The crackling and popping of the flames snapped like firecrackers. Quinn’s arms flailed wildly, like he was trapped in a giant spider web. My hands balled into fists, wadding my skirt in my hands. I smelled the acrid, sour stench of burning flesh and hair but couldn’t scream. I was frozen—watching. Three teenaged boys, all wearing black leather jackets, surrounded him, laughing hysterically and pointing. An oddly metallic odor of sweat mingled with the bitter odor of searing flesh. Trees closed in like spectators, hovering in the blackness of night. Mute. Unemotional. Uncaring.
Quinn rolled on the grass, screaming a banshee wail while trying to put out the flames. Then he lay still. Silenced. The red-haired boy poured more of the flammable liquid onto Quinn’s back. The black-haired teen threw a match and Quinn flashed into flames again. This time there was no movement. There was no screaming. The laughter and pointing stopped. The three boys sneered at the flaming, blackened corpse at their feet.
“Too fast,” the smallest boy said, his hair the color of fire.
             “Too easy,” the black-haired boy declared with a kick at Quinn’s head. “Whatcha  gotta say fer yerself? Shoulda paid me back, slacker.” His voice slithered slowly like the snake his boots were made of.
 “Not enough fun,” said the third. He stared at his feet, his long blond dreads falling across his face until he turned his head to look at the smallest boy. A port wine birthmark covered his cheek and part of his neck.
            “Yeah. What video game did ya buy anyway? Sumthin’ with demons, I hope!” the small boy squeaked, his high-pitched voice grating on my nerves. All three of them roared with laughter.
            “Loser,” the black-haired boy said. A wad of spittle flew onto Quinn’s back and sizzled.
            Finally I screamed. As though released from bonds, I leaped up from the sofa. The stainless steel bowl of popcorn flew through the air, scattering kernels across the beige carpet and clattering upside down on the coffee table. Tears streamed down my face. My parents ran into the TV room. “Oh, my God! NO! This can’t be happening again…” I wailed, holding my head.
            “What’s the matter?” my mother, Ashley, said, as she pushed my long hair back from my sweaty face.
            Gasping with hiccups, I took a deep breath and, between bouts of crying, told them everything I’d seen. In unison they turned their heads and looked at the television. A Katharine Hepburn film danced on the screen.
            “Are you positive?” Dad asked.
            I stared my dad in the eyes and nodded. “Absolutely. You know my visions are always right. Mom.” I looked at Mom’s white face. “We have to try and find him. Maybe it didn’t happen yet. Usually it’s a warning. Remember Jarrod? And Marcy when she was three?”
Dad’s face went ashen and Mom’s hand, still resting on my back, began to tremble as it flew to her mouth.
“Oh, my God,” Mom said, “we would have lost both of them had you not seen.”
            “I’ll try to call him on his phone,” Dad said, leaving the room in a hurry.
            Moments later he returned. “No answer. Should I call the police?”
            “We don’t even know where he might be,” Mom cried, holding her face in her hands and rocking back and forth on the sofa beside me.
            Dad knelt down and made eye contact with me. At first I didn’t see him. I saw Quinn again, running across the grass in flames.
            “Where was he? Could you tell?” he asked.
            His eyes, too, were already red-rimmed, as if they knew the truth.
            “All I saw was grass. Like a park, maybe. But it seemed small. They took their time.”
             I hiccupped, crying again as images of Quinn, much younger, flashed through my mind. Trying to pedal his red bicycle as I held it steady for him. Crawling into my bed in the middle of the night because he’d watched a scary movie. Rolling around on the grass in flames, screaming.
            “I can’t just wait until we hear something. Cops won’t do anything based on a vision. I’ll drive around and see if I get lucky.” Dad looked at me, his face long and eyes sad. “I hope this time you’re wrong, hon.”
            “Me too, dad. Me too.” I shook my head, rubbing weeping eyes.
            Still hiccupping, I sat on the sofa and shut my eyes. Maybe there was a detail that would direct Dad. My head throbbed and my nose was stuffed up from crying. I hoped another migraine wasn’t starting. The scraping sounds of Mom scooting around on the floor picking up the popcorn irritated my brain. I’d noticed before that my hearing was super acute during and after a vision. But I knew she had to be doing something, so I pretended not to notice
            When Dad returned without news, we all sat in a huddle on the sofa, crying and praying. Jarrod, eleven, and Marcy, fourteen, came home and learned of my vision. Since I’d seen him die, they knew there was no hope. My visions were always true.

If you’re still interested and want to read more, click this link to buy this awesome story in eBook form (a print version will be out later in the year)

Be sure to stop by my main blog and sign up for the incredibly awesome Release Party Giveaway Pack. Release Party lasts until April 8, but the tour (and 8 more prize packs) goes all month.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fun Sites and Marketing Ideas

You may love marketing and have no trouble with it, but for me telling others about my books is one of the hardest parts of being a writer. For one thing, it takes time away from my stories. I'd much rather be creating characters and scenes than searching for places to promote my books. Nevertheless, the truth is if we want readers to know about our novels, we have to tell them. So today I thought I'd share some of the places I haunt ... um visit ... to get the word out about my work. You may be familiar with some, or even all, of them. But here they are, in no particular order:

1.  Free Book Friday:
The site is exactly what it says. Free books are given away every Frieday. I won one time. They have four sections: Fiction, Romance, Teens, and Indie, where they do author features and interviews. I'm the featured author the first week in April for the Indie section.

Free Book Friday was created by Jessica Brody, author of two adult novels and her brand new young adult novel, THE KARMA CLUB, about three girls who decide to take Karma into their own hands by getting revenge on the ex-boyfriends who broke their hearts. To view the award-winning book trailers and read excerpts, visit her website at:

2.  Another site I enjoy visiting and advertising my books on is Teens Read Too.

At this site, the creation of Jennifer Wardrip, you'll find book reviews, author interviews, monthly contests, author directory, a book club, and so much more.

3.  Then there is Teen Reads.

You can subscribe to their newsletter, read features, reviews and see the opinions of teen reviewers about the latest books.

4.  Young Adult Books Central has tons of great stuff.

Kim can tell you more about this place. She reviews books for them. You can spend a whole day there, they have so much interesting info.

If you're interested in agents, try:

5.  Query Tracker:

6.  Agent Query:

7.  Also the American Library Association has news about favorite books and contests, plus other things.

8.  And if you want to learn how to become a millionaire writing eBooks, see Amanda Hocking's blog:

The latest news is that she's signed a deal with a major publisher.

Now this should keep you busy. Oh, don't forget to write a little too.

Any more places to add?

Monday, March 28, 2011

How much is too much in YA? Or; don't be afraid of the squicky stuff.

Last fall, I was on a panel at a convention, and the topic of the convention was "What's too scary for YA"? I think that was it, but if not it was the gist of it. My answer was, "If you've read THE HUNGER GAMES, pretty much nothing." It's kind of a flippant answer, but the audience laughed and that's what I was going for.

But it's a valid question. There's nothing 'out of bounds' for YA literature; if you've read widely, you know this. I once had a publisher decide not to release a series of books I had worked on freelance, because the main source of magic was a weird kind of shotgun. The series was TERRIFIC as far as I was concerned, and I tried like anything to get them to put it out there. "Have you seen what's on the YA shelves? Have you physically gone to the bookstore and looked? There's drugs, suicide, rape, death, cutting, abuse. These books use guns to shoot magic -by YA standards they're practically tame!" But in the end they did not put them out there. A shame, because they were really wonderful.

Not that all YA is like that, of course. There are plenty of stories that have hard choices but no squick, some that involve emotional choices instead of physical ones. But YA writers certainly don't shy away from difficult issues or events in their books. Bad Things happen in Upper-Middle Grade stories too, and in adult stories. But if I were to write about a death, for example, you would write each differently. Murder happens in MG books, but you probably won't see it, it will happen 'off screen', and the reader will hear about it after the fact, or if a car goes over the cliff and explodes, we can assume the passenger is in fact dead, but the author might not write about the flying brain matter or the smell of burning hair. In YA, the murder might happen 'on screen', and it will be a little more graphic but an explosion might include the more detail. In an adult novel, well, if you've read Stephen King (which I read in High School, but that's another story), then you know what I mean.

Just like writers shouldn't turn their characters away from the hard choices, they shouldn't turn away from the tough scenes. If someone's going to die, they need to die. If they're going to be in a fight, or assaulted, or stabbed by a letter opener, they should be. It can happen on the page and not be 'too adult'.

In my novels, I've had people die in nasty ways-- being eaten by a Minotaur (happened in the dark while people ran away, no one actually saw it), sucked into the floor of an Ancient Egyptian temple, and nearly fall over a cliff. I had a main character chop off a monster's head. And these are TWEEN books. With a few well-turned phrases and a character that shut her eyes, the scene was perfect; in fact, one Amazon reviewer said the book was 'surprisingly clean and gore-free', even though the mythology I was using was decidedly...not. The 'squick' was part of the story I needed to tell, and skipping it would have meant I was shorting my readers and my characters, denying them the payoff and the thrill of the adventure. It would have meant that I was the coward. If it's too easy, it's not worth the effort of reading. If the same book was YA, I probably would have written that scene differently. Probably.

Bad things happen to good characters. Sometimes really bad things. Just ask Katniss. But, a good writer will allow those bad things to happen without making them sound either less frightening or important than they are or too graphic for the intended reader.

Because every story needs a little surprise, doesn't it?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones, 1932-2011

Diana Wynne Jones 1932-2011

Diana Wynne Jones, British YA fantasy author, has just died. I don’t have any details yet, though I’m sure they will begin popping up over the next couple of days.

I began collecting and reading her books back in the early 1980’s and have virtually all of them. Aside from all the fantasy sets and stand-alones, there’s the “Tough Guide to Fantasyland”, an excellent primer for fledgling fantasy authors (and readers) on many of the pitfalls in genre-spinning, set up as a kind of fantasy adventure. People may know her best for “Howl’s Moving Castle” because it was turned into a film a few years ago.

The World Fantasy Con gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award a few years ago, but that did nothing to slow down her literary output! J She won the Mythopoeic Award for the Dalemark books. Alas, I’ve never finished reading these—somewhere in the midst of Diana’s lengthy career I just plain ran out of time to read--that includes reading my favorite authors. (This is exacerbated by the fact that I am an incredibly slow reader, so once I got behind I’ve lost all hope of catching up.) BTW, she was also nominated for the Mythopoeic on several other occasions.

I was introduced to Diana Wynne Jones via her Chrestomanci series, which is/was still ongoing at the time of her death. These are set in a universe where magicians perform real magic, generally divorced from the forces of good or evil. However, when someone steps over the edge, there’s the head of the magicians to set things straight—and provide yet another exciting and often humorous adventure. I particularly enjoyed "The Magicians of Caprona", which reminded me a bit of a comic light opera. Actually, I recommended this to a part-time opera singer with whom I used to work and she said she enjoyed it.

Probably my favorite books are not as well known today. There’s “Archer’s Goon”, in which amongst other things a large kind of half human, half-troll takes up residence in a household, without really explaining why. Chaos erupts in the house and spills over into the street and through the town, until the hysterical reason for all the disruption becomes clear toward the end of the story.

My other favorite is “The Ogre Downstairs” which sounds like the same book, doesn’t it? Far from! A blended family courtesy of a marriage between a widow with children and a widower who also has children is the driving force here. The woman’s children refer to their new step-father as “the ogre”. (Hint: he neither looks nor acts like one.) In the course of the story the children come into possession of a very special and perhaps mischievous chemistry set. Thanks to the property of the materials and the experiments suggested in the box, hysterical, dangerous and just plain loony situations and adventures erupt. One of my favorite parts involves dust bunnies coming to life and being hunted and eaten by toffee candies which are rather like panthers. The toffee panthers, liking warmth like most cats, tend to want to take naps on the heat radiators and sometimes melt themselves to death, making for messes that are fairly difficult to explain to a grown up.

I had the pleasure of meeting Diana Wynne Jones at an early-mid 1980’s convention. Sadly, I’m not sure which one it was but it would have been either a Darkover when they were still held in Wilmington DE, or else a PhilCon in Philadelphia. Ms. Jones told us many fascinating stories and read from her works. She talked about her sons and I remember her saying that while she had trouble with technology including machines like cars, he was very good when it came to fixing them—which worked out fairly well for her.

Well, she wasn’t kidding about the peculiar tech problems she had. Picture this—honestly just as it happened. As at most conventions, the authors, editors, agents and publishers would sit usually in groups of 5 at a raised table at one end of the room for panel discussions. In most cases, as in this case, there would be two microphones on the table which the guests would shift around so that the current speaker could be heard. The microphones worked quite well for everyone except Diana. Whenever she so much as touched one, out of the speakers in the room would come very loud Christmas Carols. (It was late November and this is what the host hotel was playing in the hallways and restaurants.) It didn’t matter which microphone she touched. It just kept happening. No carols came forth for any of the other speakers. All we could do was go “Whoa!”, and all Diana could do was not touch a mike and speak very loudly.

C. S. Lewis said once that in Heaven all is silence or music. (Hell is all noise.) I sincerely hope that Heaven’s music flows around its denizens without the benefit of tech.

R.I.P. Diana.


From another site:
Diana Wynne Jones was born in London in 1934 and studied at Oxford with both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. In 2007, she received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.


My Partial Bibliograpy:

A Sudden Wild Magic

Archer’s Goon

Aunt Maria

Black Horses for the King

Castle in the Air


Chrestomanci cycle (includes Conrad’s Fate, Mixed Magics, Charmed Life,

The Magicians of Caprona)

Witch Week UK US

The Lives of Christopher Chant

Dalemark Quartet (includes Cart and Cwidder, Drowned Ammet, The Spellcoats, The Crown of Dalemark)


Enchanted Glass

Fire and Hemlock

Eight Days of Luke


House of Many Ways

Howl’s Moving Castle / Howl Tales

Power of Three

Puss in Boots

Stopping for a Spell

Time of the Ghost

The Four Grannies

The Game

The Homeward Bounders

The Merlin Conspiracy

The Ogre Downstairs

The Year of the Griffin / Dark Lord of Derkholm

Tough Guide to Fantasyland

Unexpected Magic (sh stories)

Who Got Rid of Angus Flint?

Wild Robert

Wilkin’s Tooth

Witch’s Business

Other sites with information


J Scalzi’s blog:

SF Site:

Official Websites:

Many Worlds of DWJ:


Friday, March 25, 2011

Dreaming My Life Away

Do you dream? I don't mean daydream, those wishful thinking, what-if dreams of the daylight. I mean the dreams that take hold at night, during the hours of dark and quiet.

Sometimes I dream very vividly, almost startingly so. If I wake during the dream, I always believe that I'll surely remember "this" one because it is so strange/powerful/meaningful etc. And I seldom do. Oh on occasion, I will remember bits and pieces, but rarely the whole thing. And it's always interesting to me when something stirs the memory of a dream. It's like being in fog - you can sort of make out the objects around you, but they aren't quite clear.

Once, though, when I was hospitalized and on pain meds, I had a dream to beat all other dreams. I "saw" one of the main characters in my books, standing next to the bed. He chatted softly with me. I wasn't alarmed at all, but rather comforted by his presence. In the books, he is a wise and gentle man. So, it was not a surprise to find him so once he had stepped from the pages of the book into "reality". I have had other dreams about "him" as well. You see, I have a 6 foot mannequin in my room of this character that I take to Ren Faires to grace my booth. And occasionally I have dreams about him just moving about a bit, coming to life. I respect his wisdom, his knowledge, his compassion.

It makes it sound like he is a "real" person. Perhaps he is, on another dimension or something. Sometimes when I read his dialogue, I wonder where it came from. I don't have that sort of command of language. I am not that wise. I am not near that patient. So, it always surprises me to read his dialogue. What inner part of me is that coming from? Is it coming from the same places the dreams come from?

I have heard many, many authors who claim that their characters are, in fact, real, not merely a figment of their imagination. And sometimes I wonder - where are these characters? Are they existing in another dimension that we can only touch during our dreams?

JennaKay Francis author of The Guardians of Glede fantasy adventure series

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Typical Teen

The typical teen is way into texting (or maybe even sexting) and going to the mall, and the latest pop stars. They dress in skimpy clothes and make sure to watch Glee every week.


Or is it?

Is there a typical teen?

For that matter is there a typical adult?

One problem with writing for teens when your teen years are a wee bit in the past, is that things do change and I find that things I liked or did as a teenager may not resonate with kids of today.

But that's okay. I have a teenager of my own. I can see what she likes and use that. Right?

Maybe not.

My teen doesn't fit the above example of a typical teen. (Maybe no one really does). Her sport of choice is archery, she doesn't like to text - though she has plenty of chats with people on Facebook. She doesn't watch Glee, instead her favorite TV show is the Robin Hood series from the 1950s. (We have a few seasons on DVD). She does like to go to the mall with her friends, but she's not into buying clothes (they have a uniform at their public middle school, and that may play a part). She writes for fun (to the amusement of her classmates) and is never without a book.

And she has friends just like her. (Except maybe the Robin Hood TV series part).

Once a critique buddy questioned my use of a reference to a song from Grease in my story. She wondered perhaps if teen's today would know it.

I know my daughter would know it. She's seen three different live productions of Grease - and each time she's known people in them.

Pop culture for today's teens doesn't necessarily start the moment they're born. They can still experience things that pre-date them.

So don't worry that the teen you are writing doesn't look act like a 'typical' teen. That teen will be like someone. And that person will be delighted to find a character to relate to.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Must Follow on Twitter

I just found out one agent is now on Twitter.  It's Donald Maass.  I was lucky I got to attend his Breakout Novel workshop with a bunch of writer friends a few years ago.  His workshop was great.

Follow him at @DonMaass

He's been twittering daily #breakout prompts

Here's an example:

For your MC, what are the best things about these times? The worst? Create a passage of his/her take on this era.

If you haven't read the book, do!  In the meantime follow him and pick up some great prompts.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Truth vs Fiction

Ever hear the adage "Truth is weirder than fiction"?

That's only a part of it. The actual entire quote reads - "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." (From our very own Mark Twain - I'd always wondered where it came from. Yay, research! But I digress...)

I've always found it a very interesting quote, especially in how deeply it actually affects those of us trying to jockey around words.

Truth/Life don't have to make sense. Things happen out there everyday from an unbelievable amount of coincidences, comedy of errors, idiocy, plain good or bad luck, or a combination of any of the above and more. Control is an illusion.

In fiction, though, you don't have that kind of leeway. As Mark Twain said, "Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities..." Meaning the order of events has to make sense, and more so, be believable! Whenever we write, we must always keep in mind to answer all the pertinent questions - who, why, where, what, and how's.

Even though we write 'make believe', our stories still have to make sense, follow a path, normally have a beginning, a middle, and an end. If we don't cross our T's and dot our I's, we'll lose the reader. We'll inadvertently cross the boundary of the audience's suspension of disbelief (which can vary by reader) and crash and burn.

What's really weird about this (to me anyway) is how something can have happened for REAL, with video and evidence and eye witness reports and I still can't use it in a story, because I can't find a way to make it believable, yes, even though it did really happen! But if I can't fit in logic and believable causality, no matter how true, it just won't fly. The story will get dismissed and I'll get weird looks from my peers. lol.

So beware! The Truth Is Out There, but as authors we can't always USE it! Consistency, believability, and making sure you have all the angles covered like motivation, cause and effect, logic, world dynamics, is the only way to go. When you have all your ducks in a row you can then take readers to worlds and circumstances bigger (yet more cohesive) than reality itself. :P

Good luck!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crush & Inspiration

British actor Michael Praed has no idea, but his portrayal of Robin Hood back in the '80's served as the basic inspiration for the title character in my novel, Saving Jake.

Back in the day, I would have been labeled as "boy-crazy." I admit it. Always was, always will be. Even as a very young girl, I never thought boys had cooties, ever. I thought they were fascinating. As I grew up, I gladly suffered through a series of fairly serious crushes -serious meaning that my celebrity crushes lasted years and my boys-in-my-class crushes lasted weeks: George Harrison, Jim Yester, Pistol Pete Maravich, Robin Zander, and then as I grew into adulthood, obvious ones like Sting (Dune, anyone??), Matthew McConaughey, Eric Bana, Damian Lewis, and of course, Mr. Praed. (Years, I tell you.)

What this has to do with writing is simple. I never know when someone's face is going to kick off a story somewhere inside of me. I can't predict when this will happen, who will trigger it, or even why. I think that's actually part of the fun! But it happens, and pretty regularly. Michael Praed somehow gave me Jake Holdridge, a talented, sensitive, artistic rich kid who is being railroaded into the family business and becoming more despondent and suicidal as things progress in that direction. Luckily, he has a best friend who has a very odd psychic talent. Ah, but to learn more about that you need to read the book!

Seriously, though, plugging my novel notwithstanding, I find that some of the joy I have in writing is watching what my little adult crushes kick off in terms of story lines and character development. By the time all is said and done, people who know the basis for any of my stories look at the original inspiration compared to what I've written and say things like, "This is based on who?" I guess that's a good thing in terms of legal niceties.

Oh, and not to slight those guys who I actually know and love, the first love of my life inspired the main character in my now out-of-print first novel, Dead of Summer. And the tall, funny, green-eyed cutie who I eventually talked into marrying me was the basis of one of the young heroes in the only sci-fi fantasy tale I've ever written. So yes, sometimes lightning does strike closer to home.

But it's fun to go to a movie and watch a story with a domino effect. Great movie. Wow, the lead actor's face makes me think of someone who lives in a private world of his own music and is about to get a wake-up call from a seemingly stern old woman who is actually a magical being... but that's for another novel.

Hey, I included a pic of Mr. Praed as Robin Hood. Maybe you'll get inspired, too!

Monday, March 14, 2011

An Irish Love Story

Like shamrocks and leprechauns, the Claddagh ring is a symbol of Irish heritage. In my novel, Nothing but Trouble after Midnight, the ring plays an integral part in the storyline. Enjoy the excerpt, and have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I took a deep breath as I opened the box, finding an intricately designed golden ring. Two tiny hands held a heart, and on top of the heart was a crown. I couldn’t remember the name of the ring, but I had seen it before in family photos and on the hands of his relatives.

“I like it,” I said.

“Do you know what it is?”

“A ring?” I asked, not intending to play the sarcastic card.

“Yeah, but it’s called a Claddagh ring.” He slid it onto my right ring finger, facing the crown outward. “And when it’s worn like this, it means a girl is available.”

“Should I wear it this way?”

“No,” he chided playfully and turned the ring so that the crown faced inward. “Now, it means,” he started slowly, finding my eyes, “that you have given your heart to me.”

“Oh,” I breathed out, and he continued, holding my hand lightly in his. “And not only that, each picture is a symbol. The hands represent friendship whereas the heart stands for love, and Chloe, we have been blessed to have known both in our lives.” He looked directly into my eyes as he continued, “You were my first friend as well as the first girl I ever loved.”

He leaned in, his nose brushing mine a few times, and then he settled in for a soft kiss, warm and buttery. He pulled back slowly and smiled.

“And what about the crown?” I wondered.

“It stands for loyalty.”

“Like a promise for next year?”

He nodded. “Or longer.”

I took a deep breath, since our impending separation caused sadness to spread in my heart. I didn’t want to think about it and changed the subject. “What does it mean if I wear the ring on my left hand?”

“Uh, we’re not ready for that.”

I didn’t heed his warning and slid it onto my left hand anyway. I looked at him, awaiting his response. “Now, we’re engaged.” I thought about my earlier musings, and then turned it around so that the crown faced inward, thinking I knew the significance of the ring’s last position. “And now?” I bit down on my lip.

“And now,” he repeated, shaking his head. “We’re married.”

“Well, if we’re married, then it’s okay to—”

“Chloe,” he started, laying a gentle finger on my lips. “I love you.” It was one of those really sweet ones that comes out all breathy and shaky, and I felt the words enter my heart and knew they would remain with me forever. “And because I love you so much, I want us to wait. It won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do.”

“I know,” I conceded softly, falling into his open arms. He wrapped me up tightly, and I spoke into the crook of his neck, “I love you too.”

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Childhood Readers and Favorite Books

My Childhood Readers and Favorite Books

Be prepared! There's a quiz at the end. Which were your favorites?

We were very poor when I was growing up. Because of this, I rarely received new books until I reached my early teens and began asking for them for my birthday.

I’m not claiming I was never given any books. One of my earliest was a tiny collection of fairy tales—each its own book, and once all housed in their own cardboard box. Published by Birn Brothers of London, each book was only about 3 by 3 inches, each cover a drawing of the story inside & colored mostly in royal blue, orange-red and yellow. Every other page within—they have about 80 pages each—was a rather intricate ink-drawn illustration of that part of the plot. I still have some of them: The Three Bears, Jack the Giant Killer, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Hop O’ My Thumb, & Beauty and the Beast.

I tried to find these on the web but the closest I could come was at:

They were my first introductions to fairy stories and fables. Once I knew them practically by heart, I always looked for more but it would be many years before I had a copy of Grimm, Andersen, or Lang. (I actually asked for Grimm and Andersen for my birthday when I was a preteen. The Lang set I bought as an adult.)


My parents gave me some Golden Books—who here remembers those from their childhood? Most of these held one story each: shortened versions of Little Women or Little Men or early spin-offs from TV shows like Rin-Tin-Tin or Spin & Marty from the Disney show.

The Golden Book that I remember best was huge: both thick and composed of larger pages than most Golden Books. I can still remember coming home from someone’s house or the store, flipping through it and just staring at all of the stories and the illustrations. Treasure! Once I had worked my way through from end to end, I had consumed: Heidi, Peter Pan, Hans Brinker (The Silver Skates) and a variety of fairy tales I had never read before. My favorite involved a young man tasked to find out where three princesses went at night. (I think they went dancing.) He followed them for three nights and brought back proof of their whereabouts: a silver leaf, a gold leaf, and a diamond leaf. Of course, he was rewarded by marrying the princess of his choice.

The Golden Book that I loved best was the one on horses. I was enamored of horses at that age, and I thought every color illustration a work of art. I also set about memorizing various useless but fascinating facts. Did you know that Arabian horses have one less rib than other horses? So said my Golden Book. I also had a copy of Black Beauty.

Well, by now, I’d developed the reputation for being a bookworm, so it’s no surprise that my best friends gave me books for my birthday. That’s how I acquired “Donna Parker at Cherrydale” and “Polly French & the Surprising Stranger”. (These were my first introductions to “teen romance”, to the extent that it was mentioned or described in those days. (1950’s)


School Readers

Now, for a little “school reader” esoterica. You’ve been wondering when we would hit this section, right?

In many ways, the backbone of my childhood reading collection for years would be readers which my parents had used in elementary or junior high school. Both sides of my family came from the same city and, at that time, parents were required to buy some of the books that their children used in school. Thanks to this, I still own my mom’s second grade reader, my dad’s 8th grade reader and the fourth grade readers of both parents.

These are real treasures on more than one level. Obviously, there’s the connection to my parents. In addition, most of these books were filled with beautiful illustrations. The variety of stories and the enormous breadth of authors is truly astounding. Excuse me while I bore you a little bit with some of the details:

The Winston Companion Readers---Second Reader; Winston, 1923.

My favorites: Mr and Mrs Vinegar, The Wolf and the Fox, The Keg of Butter, How the Turtle Saved His Life, How the Sun the Moon and the Wind Went Out to Dinner, Tiny, Peeriefool; Ashiepattle and the King’s Hares. Do you see a trend here? Fairy tales!

Take a peek at the gorgeous cover at:

Many illustrations inside are nearly as intricate, especially the end papers.


My mom’s fourth grade reader was my second favorite:

Good Reading: Fourth Reader; Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1927.

Favorite Stories:

The Turnip Children, The Elephant, Some Birds to Look for this Fall, Red-Riding Hood, Fables, Mice, Woodchuck Ways, David & the Giant, The Boyhood of Washington, Thor Among the Giants (loved this!); First Aid, Chip And Peep (memorized this), The Fly (memorized this), The Fairy Folk (memorized this & recited it at some kind of Brownies show for parents); A Letter from President Roosevelt, The Runaway Furniture (Intelligent and angry furniture, with a righteous cause! Very cool!).

Look at some of the authors. Do modern elementary school readers still try to include classic writers at this age? Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Robert Louis Stevenson; William Shakespeare; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Walter de la Mare; The Younger Edda; Robert Browning; Teddy Roosevelt. (Wait til you see the authors in the 8th grade book.)


My dad’s fourth grade reader still amazes me because of the often serious subject matter and again for the illustrious authors.

Fact and Story Readers: Book Four; American Book Company, 1931.

Divided into the following sections: Pt.1 Sailing the Seven Seas; Pt.2 Boys & Girls Who Became Famous; Pt.3 Out-of-Door Tales; Pt.4 Doing the World’s Work; Pt.5 In Story Land; Pt.6 The Making of America. (Some of this was pretty stern stuff, compared to my mom’s.)

Lots of famous authors including the leaders in fairy tales:

Thackeray’s The Bronze Door Knocker (extract from The Rose & the Ring—this story scared the bejeebers out of me!)); Charles Kingsley; Hans Christian Andersen; Emily Dickinson; Andrew Lang; Jonathan Swift; Walter de la Mare. (What? No Shakespeare?)

I found the cover of this one here:


And finally my dad’s eighth grade reader. Speaking of formidable books!

The Elson Readers: Book Eight; Scott, Foresman and Company (1927)

Divided into:

Pt.1 The World of Nature; Pt.2 The World of Adventure (which includes: Masque of the Red Death; Noyes’ The Highwayman; A Christmas Carol; and the Lamb version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Pt. 3 The Great American Experiment; Pt.4 Literature and Life in the Homeland.

Authors: William Cullen Bryant; Wm Wordsworth; P B Shelley; Wm Shakespeare; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Robt Browning; Edgar Allan Poe; Sir Walter Scott; Henry Longfellow; Ch Dickens; Lord Byron; Joyce Kilmer; Daniel Webster; George Washington; Abraham Lincoln; Woodrow Wilson; Theodore Roosevelt; Robert Burns; Rudyard Kipling; Oliver Wendell Holmes; John G Whittier; Nathaniel Hawthorne; O Henry; Mark Twain.

The illustrations are few and tiny, and the cover isn’t impressive but you can find it here:

Oh. Note the nearly entire lack of women authors in any of these! I guess I never noticed back then, or I might have received a subliminal signal that “girls don’t write”. ;-)


My paternal grandfather gave me three beautiful books a couple of years before his death, which would have been when I was about fourteen. These three are still much beloved:

“Robin Hood and His Merry Men” (by Rosemary Kingston and illustrated by Alice Carsey.) So there were –some- women involved with books! The exquisite illustrations in this are priceless to me.

A collection of Rudyard Kipling’s Stories and Poetry, featuring a richly-colored cover of two men on horseback chasing each other across a rugged terrain. (Illo for the poem inside “East is East, and West is West”). I was enthralled before I opened the book. Wow, did I have trouble with the dialectical writing, though!

The Complete Sherlock Holmes (published before modern authors started adding non-canonical stories).

And that’s about it. I’m sure I had other books—well, like the complete run of Donald Duck comics (for the mysteries, I’ll have you know)—but these are the books that I treasured as a child and that I still treasure today. God bless all those who gave them to me!

What books are your treasures from childhood or teen years? Please tell us about them!

Sherry Thompson

The Narentan Tumults: SEABIRD

EARTHBOW Vol.1 Vol.2

Monday, March 7, 2011

Six Degrees of Oscar Separation

I’m not a big fan of awards shows. But I do love the Oscars. This year I had a more personal reason to tune in. Josh Fox’s documentary film Gasland was nominated.

The film contains a 13-minute segment titled “48 Hours in Garfield County”. I happen to live in Garfield County in western Colorado. My tiny town of Silt is ground zero for natural gas drilling in the Piceance (pronounced ‘pee-awns” – the “c” is silent – don’t ask me why) Basin.

When the film debuted on HBO last June, I watched it intending to write a review. But I wept through most of it. The film was way too personal. My friends and neighbors were in it. Seeing my home through Fox’s lens broke my heart. I didn’t write a review. Instead I wrote a blog post, A Gaslander’s View of Gasland.

I often write about gas well drilling issues on my blog. At the time I wrote the Gasland post, drilling had slacked off a little. But all that changed last August when Antero Energy drilled four news wells within two miles of my home. In the past, almost all natural gas drilling has occurred in rural areas, miles from towns and subdivision. Since last summer dozens more gas wells have been drilled and dozens more have been proposed close to heavily populated residential areas. This has awakened a sleeping giant in the local people. Combine that groundswell of opposition with the release of Gasland, which has attracted national attention to natural gas drilling, plus widespread public distrust of the gas & oil industry after the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and we have a rare harmonic convergence. It’s like that moment in any piece of literature or film when everything comes together and the little feller strikes a blow hitting the gi-normous beast below the knees. We have yet to know the full impact of our citizen pushback. Simply making more people aware of the dangers of natural gas drilling on humans and the environment is a victory for many of us.

Because of all that activism I have been pounding out blog posts for the past several months. Lo and behold, my blog made the news. The Colorado Independent ran an article about the film Gasland, and a New York Times article which exposed massive polluting by the gas industry. At the end of the CI article, reporter David O. Williams drew attention to a recent blog post in which I made a connection between our county’s role in the film and a group of NY attorneys who came to our area recently to discuss natural gas drilling issues.

‘Gasland’ misses Oscar bid but NYT story yanks red carpet out from under gas biz

Though it may seem strange to some, the film has changed our lives. And isn’t that the gauge of success for any artistic endeavor – be it film or literature or work of art? To change people’s lives. So even though Gasland didn’t win the Oscar for best documentary film, it has succeeded beyond our wildest imaginations. The publicity and the national attention to our plight are way bigger than a little man statue. We’re famous for something ugly – a blight on our gorgeous Rocky Mountains landscape. Our cause is hopeless. The gas industry doesn’t sometimes win or usually win – they always win. And yet a beautiful thing is happening. Through art – the power of the camera lens and the strength of words – we shall overcome.

Some things are worth fighting for even if there is no chance of winning. As we writers know, it’s not about the result, it’s about the process.

Peggy Tibbetts

Coming in 2011 –

My books

My blogs:
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx

Friday, March 4, 2011

Nest Cam Addict

Some people have bird feeders, birdhouses and/or birdbaths in their back yards and can watch the local feathered wildlife from their windows. Thanks to the internet, I have an even closer window: nest cams.

There are cameras trained on hummingbird nests, storks, penguins, ospreys and hawks as well as my favorites - owls, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons. March through May is when most of the nests are active. Viewers can watch courting behavior ranging from bowing in falcons to eagles adding branches to their huge nests. Right now eagles and owls are sitting on their eggs, despite often being buried in snow. Since I'm in Minnesota, I tend to watch through the Raptor Resource Project, which has several owl, eagle and falcon nests. Midwest falcons are just returning to their nests for the season, but San Jose has a falcon couple currently sitting on three eggs, with a fourth expected in a day or two.

Watching a falcon or eagle sitting on eggs isn't exciting right now (other than shift changes), but after the eggs hatch there will be little fuzzballs learning how to sit up and how to walk. And once they start to walk - rather than just stomping around like little old men in fuzzy coats - those chicks have definite personalities. San Jose has a video archive of the 2007 season if you want to see. Compare "Growing Fast" to "Drain Expedition".

Some teachers include nest cams in their classrooms and their students watch the chicks grow up and learn how to fly. There are sad times, too. Chicks do die, or a parent can vanish over the season. There are often forums or mailing lists associated with the cams to discuss behavior or identify which bird is which (in raptors the females are larger than the males).

I have been able to use my experience in watching nest cams in a short story written for the Fencon VI program book. In "The Rescue" nest cam watchers report a chick fallen from an eagle nest, and the rescuer finds a bit more than she expected.

I'm looking forward to the new season of nest cam watching. Clara and Esteban Colbert in San Jose, Snowflake and Dan in Fort St. Vrain, CO, several eagle nests in Canada and Iowa - always something to see!

My name is Kathy, and I am a nest cam addict.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

St. Brigid, the Irish Goddess of Fire

With St. Patrick's Day creeping up on us, I was put in mind of the Celtic influences in my book. I guess it's only natural I would include them. I married a man 35 years ago who had been in America only nine months. He grew up in Kilkee, Ireland. So we visited about five times before the kids came along, then took them all once for an extended stay, then he took each of the girls once while I stayed home with the younger kids. Now it's gotten way too expensive to fly over and stay, so it's been a long time since he's been home. And I miss it, too. I'm about a quarter Irish and mostly English (the rest is French Canadian married to a Creole). But there's something about the Celtic  mythology, Druids, leprechauns, fae, that gets under your skin and tickles your fancy. So I ended up using mostly Celtic names for my characters.

This is the first post concerning the names I chose for my characters. Brigid Saulwen Heulog is one of the Vigorios Myrna finds in Odessa. She is 16-years-old, but has lived the experiences of someone much older. Each of the Vigorios has a special talent which develops around the time they are discovered to be Vigorios. The talent played a role in their name choice. Brigid’s talent involves use of light, as in sunlight, and control of weather. Physically, Brigid is tall and thin with short, blond, spiky hair. She has a sun tattooed on her right shoulder because her father used to call her Sunny. According to baby naming manuals, Brigid means, “bright, shiny”. Since I wanted her to reflect the sun aspect as well as that of a goddess, I chose the name Brigid. According to Irish lore, Brigid was the goddess of fire.

Historically, Brigid was the Irish Goddess of Fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry - which are considered the flame of knowledge. As a healing goddess, she governs childbirth and the birthing time. That Brigid was highly regarded as a healing goddess as can be seen from the numerous healing wells dedicated to her all over Ireland. As a goddess of poetry, she governs not only the inspiration and writing of poetry, but also divination and prophecy. As a goddess of smithcraft, she governs the forge's fire. It is for these reasons that she is considered the "Bright Goddess" and is associated with the element of fire.

The Irish goddess Brigid is unusual among deities because she is found in several different religions. References to her are found in ancient Paganism, Neo-Paganism, Christianity and Voodoo.

Both Neo -Pagans and Pagans of old worshiped Brigid as a Celtic Pagan triple goddess. The term triple Goddess refers to the belief that some deities have three distinct aspects covering the maiden, mother and crone phases of life. Brigid has power over childbirth, motherhood, smith craft, peace, unity, poetry, inspiration, healing, hearth and home among others.

Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire (the forge and the hearth), poetry, healing, childbirth, and unity, is celebrated in many European countries. Born at the exact moment of daybreak, Brigid rose into the sky with the sun, rays of fire beaming from her head. She was the daughter of Dagda, the great 'father-god' of Ireland.

In Druid mythology, the infant goddess was fed with milk from a sacred cow from the Otherworld. Brigid owned an apple orchard in the Otherworld and her bees would bring their magical nectar back to earth. It is said that wherever she walked, small flowers and shamrocks would appear. As a sun goddess her gifts are light (knowledge), inspiration, and the vital and healing energy of the sun.

February 1st is a special day on the ancient Irish calendar. It's known as La Fheile Bride, Brigid's Day. This day is a celebration of the ancient Irish goddess Brigid, and marks the start of the spring festival called Imbolc.

Legend holds that Brigid began the Irish tradition of keening (crying,wailing, and singing) over the body of a deceased person at a wake. As outlined in the following story:

Brigid became the wife of Bres, an Irish king. Together they produced three sons, each of whom became a famous warrior. Brigid and her husband came from two warring tribes and hoped their marriage would end the enmity between their kin.

Unfortunately, it did not. However, as it turns out, the battlefield death of their son Ruadan assured Brigid's role as a goddess of peace and unity.

A major battle between the two families was about to begin.

Brigid's eldest son, using the knowledge of metalsmithing that he had learned from his mother, struck the first blow, killing the smith of the opposing army. But as the warrior fell to the ground, he managed one last blow before he died and Ruandan was also killed.

Brigid's grief was enormous--for the continual hatred between the two sides of her family and for the death of her son. Her lamentations were so loud they were heard throughout Ireland and so heart-rending that both sides left the battle and forged a peace. The goddess Brigid is said to have originated the practice of "keening".
She is also credited with the invention of whistling, which she used to summon her friends to her side.

Eventually the love and respect for the goddess Brigid brought unity to the Celts who were spread throughout Europe. Regardless of their differences, they all agreed upon her goodness and compassion.

One of the most popular tales of the goddess Brigid involved two lepers who appeared at her sacred well at Kildare and asked to be healed. She told them that they were to bathe each other until the skin healed. After the first one was healed, he felt only revulsion for the other and would not touch him to bathe him. Angered, Brigid caused his leprosy to return. Then she gently placed her mantle (cloak) around the other leper who was immediately healed.

Ireland is full of springs and wells named after the goddess Brigid. Symbolically, water is seen as a portal to the Otherworld and as a source of wisdom and healing. There is a saying that Brigid rewards any offering to her, so offerings of coins were often tossed into her wells, the forerunner of the modern custom of throwing a penny into a fountain while you make a wish.

At her most famous shrine Brigid taught humans how to gather and use herbs for their healing properties, how to care for their livestock, and how to forge iron into tools. As a goddess of childbirth and protector of all children, she is the patroness of midwifery. This shrine, near Kildare, was located near an ancient Oak that was considered to be sacred by the Druids, so sacred in fact that no one was allowed to bring a weapon there.

The shrine is believed to have been an ancient college of priestesses who were committed to thirty years of service, after which they were free to leave and marry. During their first ten years they received training, the next ten were spent tending the sacred wells, groves and hills of the goddess Brigid, and the last decade was spent in teaching others.

Nineteen priestesses were assigned to tend the perpetual flame of the sacred fire of Brigid. Each was assigned to keep the flames alive for one day. On the twentieth day, the goddess Brigid herself kept the fire burning brightly.
The goddess Brigid was also revered as the Irish goddess of poetry and song. Known for her hospitality to poets, musicians, and scholars, she is known as the Irish muse of poetry. 

The goddess Brigid lends us her creativity and inspiration, but also reminds us to keep our traditions alive and whole. These are gifts that can sustain us through any circumstance. 

Her fire is the spark of life.

The Heavenly Banquet (Saint Brigid)
I would like to have the men of Heaven
In my own house
With vats of good cheer
Laid out for them
I would like to have the three Marys
Their fame is so great
I would like people
From every corner of Heaven
I would like them to be cheerful
In their drinking
I would like to have Jesus too
Here Amongst them
I would like a great lake of beer
For the King of Kings
I would like to be watching Heaven's family
Drinking it through all eternity.

Rebecca Ryals Russell’s debut novel Odessa comes out April 1, 2011. You can read more about how she chose the names of her characters and places at the various stops along her Virtual Blog Tour to be announced mid-March. Check her Odessa page or main website for dates and places she'll be visiting throughout April. And watch for a lot more about the Celtic nature of her series Seraphym Wars.

If you like prizes, appreciate good cover art or my illustrations, be sure to watch my websites for the March Madness Blog Hop March 17-20. There will be multiple prizes going to one winner in a random drawing. 

I'm also running a Giveaway Blog Hop in April, and that prize is a dilly, or should I say prize-s, since I'm doing a huge Giveaway to mark the release of Odessa. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Read an E-Book Week March 6-12, 2011

It's almost here: Read an E-Book Week. I had no idea E-Books had been around as long as they have. Now I know.

The following is from the Read an E-Book Week site and from Twilight Times Books.
"E-BOOKS TURN 40! That's right - it's been forty years since Michael S. Hart created the first "e-book". With the advent of e-books, e-book libraries were needed. Enter Mr. Hart, once again, with Project Gutenberg.

"... in just the six days from Chrismas to a little before New Year's Eve Project Gutenberg gave away ONE MILLION eBooks in less than 140 hours. . .from just one site, and there were hundreds, if not thousands, of sites handing out Gutenberg's eBooks ..."

Many publishers will be offering free give-aways of their books so check out the Read an E-Book site for more information. Twilight Times Books is offering free books at Twilight Times. (Links above) Now's your chance to stock up on some great reads. Among them are:

Behold the Eyes of Light - Geoff Geauterre
Darrell Bain's World of Books - Darrell Bain
How I Wrote My First Book: the story behind the story - Anne K. Edwards and Lida E. Quillen, Editors (My story about the book that was never published is here.)
Jerome and the Seraph - Robina Williams
Literary Sampler - Mayra Calvani, Aaron Paul Lazar and Anne K. Edwards
No Place for Gods - Gerald Mills
Striking Back from Down Under - Dr. Bob Rich
The Last to Fall - Anne K. Edwards
Tremolo: cry of the loon - Aaron Paul Lazar
Who is Margaret? What is She? and Other Stories - Celia A. Leaman.

Several of Twilight Times titles will also be available at a 50 % discount from OmniLit during the week of March 6-12. All of TT books are available at a 20 % discount from Barnes & Noble. So the week of March 6 to 12 is a good time to add some great E-Books to your list. I just haven't decided which ones I want the most. Working on it.

A number of publishers are also offering giveaways during the week.

If some of you have E-Books you or your publisher are promoting, please list them in your comments so we'll know about them.
I always like "free" stuff. I think it goes back to my teaching days, when I was always looking for materials and books for my classroon. "Free" was the magic word.

Happy reading and writing.