Friday, April 29, 2011

Nest Cam Addict Returns!

Yes, it's the return of the nest cam addict!

Thursday was banding day for the San Jose and San Francisco peregrine chicks (4 in each nest). It's always fun to watch the banding at San Jose, as the nest cam, located atop City Hall, has streaming video, so you can see every moment.

First the parents start swooping by the nest box, then the camera focuses on rappelling ropes dropping down, and it's showtime!

The banding video is available online here. It's in five five-minute blocks (abbreviated from the full banding sequence). edited: The long version now comes up first, but there are shorter versions off to the left that you can change to. Banders both in San Jose and the Midwest wear helmets because the defending parents are very protective of their young. Glenn Stewart in San Jose occasionally has a helmet cam.

Neither the streaming video or the banding video has sound, but you can see the chicks' beaks moving as they are picked up and observers from the nearby parking garage reported that the parents were kakking alarm cries.

It's interesting to watch the chicks huddle together as each sibling is picked up. The last remaining unbanded chick tried crossing the nest area to hide among its banded siblings while Glenn was working on #3.

Banding time is also when the watchers find out what the sex of the chicks are. And that is from the size of their feet.

From the site
"Q&A: Q. How do you know what sex the chick is when you band it?

"A. By the time the chick is old enough to wear a band, we are able to sex the bird by the size of its feet and thickness of the tarsus. By the time they reach 3 weeks of age they have achieved adult weight at about 650 grams for males and 950 grams for females. As you can imagine the difference is quite obvious to the practiced eye. If there is any doubt we use the larger female band."

Looking at how big some of those chicks are standing next to their father at past feedings, I've got my guesses. I'll find out for sure soon. (later report: 3 males and 1 female. My guesses were off.)

Prey remains are studied, so you'll see, once banding is done, that Glenn will sort through and bag feathers and other material from the nest box. Then it's a wave to the watchers atop the parking garage, and he's back up the wall.

The chicks recover fast - usually falling asleep in a heap - but the parents will continue to make attack runs until the humans leave the City Hall roof (a victory in peregrine terms).

And now it's back to watching. The chicks have discovered their new bling and the watchers can identify via band number and start to attach a personality to each chick (they will receive names later). The wandering stage began Thursday night when the chicks started exploring outside the nest box. More fun!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Reminder of the Funniest Writer in Modern History: Shel Siverstein

Sheldon Allan Silverstein (September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999) better known as Shel Silverstein, was an American poet, singersongwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, screenwriter and author of children's books. He styled himself as Uncle Shelby in his children's books. Translated into 20 languages, his books have sold over 20 million copies. Silverstein had two children. His first child was daughter Shoshanna (Shanna), born in 1970,  Her mother died five years later. Shoshanna's aunt and uncle raised her from the age of five until her death of a cerebral aneurysm at the age of 11. Silverstein dedicated his 1983 reprint of Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros to the Marshalls. A Light in the Attic was dedicated to Shanna, and Silverstein drew the sign with a flower attached. Shoshanna means lily or rose in Hebrew. Silverstein's other child was his son Matthew, born in 1983. Silverstein's 1996 Falling Up was dedicated to Matt.
Silverstein continued to create plays, songs, poems, stories and drawings until his death in 1999. He died at his home in Key West, Florida on May 9, 1999, of a heart attack.

Silverstein's editor at Harper & Row, Ursula Nordstrom, encouraged Silverstein to write children's poetry. Silverstein said that he never studied the poetry of others and therefore developed his own quirky style, laid back and conversational, occasionally employing profanity and slang. In the Publishers Weekly interview, he was asked how he came to do children's books:
I never planned to write or draw for kids. It was Tomi Ungerer, a friend of mine, who insisted—practically dragged me kicking and screaming into Ursula Nordstrom's office. And she convinced me that Tomi was right; and I, quite frankly, could do children's books.
The relationship between Ursula Nordstrom and Shel Silverstein was mutually rewarding. He considered her a superb editor who knew when to leave an author-illustrator alone. Asked if he would change something he had produced, he answered with a flat "No." But he added: "Oh, I will take a suggestion for revision. I do eliminate certain things when I'm writing for children if I think only an adult will get the idea. Then I drop it, or save it. But editors messing with content? No." Had he been surprised by the astronomical record of The Giving Tree, his biggest seller to date and one of the most successful children's books in years? Another emphatic no. "What I do is good," he said. "I wouldn't let it out if I didn't think it was." But The Giving Tree, which has been selling steadily since it appeared ten years ago and has been translated into French, is not his own favorite among his books. "I like Uncle Shelby's ABZ, A Giraffe and a Half and Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back—I think I like that one the most."
Silverstein's passion for music was clear early on as he studied briefly at Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. His musical output included a large catalog of songs; a number of which were hits for other artists, most notably the rock group Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show.[6] He wrote Tompall Glaser's highest-charting solo single "Put Another Log on the Fire," "One's on the Way" (a hit for Loretta Lynn), "The Unicorn" (which became the signature piece for the Irish Rovers in 1968) and "25 Minutes to Go", sung by Johnny Cash, about a man on Death Row with each line counting down one minute closer. Silverstein also wrote one of Johnny Cash's best known whimsical hits, "A Boy Named Sue".
He wrote the lyrics and music for most of the Dr. Hook songs, including "The Cover of the Rolling Stone", "Freakin' at the Freakers' Ball," "Sylvia's Mother", "The Things I Didn't Say." He wrote many of the songs performed by Bobby Bare, including "Rosalie's Good Eats CafĂ©", "The Mermaid", "The Winner", "Warm and Free" and "Tequila Sheila". He co-wrote with Baxter Taylor "Marie Laveau", for which the songwriters received a 1975 BMI Award. "The Mermaid" was covered in 2005 by Great Big Sea, which released its version on The Hard and the Easy album.
Silverstein's "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan", first recorded by Dr. Hook in 1975, was re-recorded by Marianne Faithfull (1979), Belinda Carlisle (1996), and Bobby Bare (2005) and later featured in the films Montenegro and Thelma & Louise. "Queen of the Silver Dollar" was first recorded by Dr. Hook on their 1972 album Sloppy Seconds, and later by Doyle Holly (on his 1973 album Doyle Holly), Barbi Benton (on her 1974 album Barbi Doll), Emmylou Harris (on her 1975 album Pieces of the Sky) and Dave & Sugar (on their 1976 album Dave & Sugar).
Silverstein composed original music for several films and displayed a musical versatility in these projects, playing guitar, piano, saxophone and trombone. He wrote "In the Hills of Shiloh", a poignant song about the aftermath of the Civil War, which was recorded by The New Christy Minstrels, Judy Collins, Bobby Bare and others. The soundtrack of the 1970 film Ned Kelly features Silverstein songs performed by Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and others.
Silverstein had a popular following on Dr. Demento's radio show. Among his best-known comedy songs were "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (Would Not Take The Garbage Out)", "The Smoke-Off" (a tale of a contest to determine who could roll—or smoke—marijuana joints faster), "I Got Stoned and I Missed It" and "Bury Me in My Shades". He wrote "The Father of a Boy Named Sue", in which he tells the story from the original song from the father's point of view, and the 1962 song "Boa Constrictor", sung by a man who is being swallowed by a snake although it is now better known as a children's playground chant.
A longtime friend of singer-songwriter Pat Dailey, Silverstein collaborated with him on the posthumously released Underwater Land album (2002). It contains 17 children's songs written and produced by Silverstein and sung by Dailey (with Silverstein joining him on a few tracks). The album features art by Silverstein.
In 2010, Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein was released on Sugar Hill Records. Artists covering Silverstein songs include Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket and Bobby Bare, Jr.

'Backward Bill' from A Light in the Attic 

Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back

'Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too' from Where the Sidewalk Ends

The Actual '73 Giving Tree Movie Spoken By Shel Silverstein

The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein

Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back

'The Toy Eater' from Falling Up

Character Procession

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Never Say Never

When I was a young thing, I used to look at the silly things some people did and say "I'll never do that." Maybe you can relate. Here are some of my nevers:

1. I'll never get married. My dream was to be either an opera singer (hahaha), a ballerina (graceful as a giraffe), or an ice skater (no comment).

2. I'll never have children. Dirty diapers, throw up, phew. (Hope you're not eating while you read this.)

3. I'll never be a teacher. My teachers were all old. And kids played tricks on you.

4. I'll never be a nurse. The sight of blood makes me faint.

5. I'll never be a writer. Had enough of writing in school. Making outlines and topic sentences. Ugh.

Fast forward to the magical years when I'm considered an adult and can do pretty much whatever I please, so long as it's legal.

1. Marriage: I got married right out of high school. Instead of being an opera singer, a ballerina, or an ice skater, I was a housewife, secretary, clerk typist, and college student.

2. Children: I had four sons, three still living. I changed tons of dirty diapers. (This was before throw-a-ways, so they had to be washed too.) And I won't mention the other, in case you have a weak stomach.

3. Teacher: I graduated from the university and became ... you guessed it ... a teacher.

4. Nurse: I'm not officially a nurse, but I keep my husband's prescriptions in order, I stab his finger for blood sugar tests. (The blood oozes out.) I fill his syringes with insulin.

5.Writer: My five novels for tweens and teens are out, with five more stories under contract.

So no longer do I say "I'll never do ..." because life is funny and I may just end up doing exactly what I say I won't do.

How about you? Are you doing things today you said you'd never do? If you are, remember Never say never.

Happy reading and writing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rerun Blog - the Five Worst Blog Titles Ever

This month's blog kind of snuck up on me - it's been a hectic month. My husband was in the hospital, I got a new job, I've had my head down in the Revision Cave, and I've been doing interviews and writing blog posts for my Virtual Book Tour next month. I'm sure that at some point I had something to write about, but I've completely forgotten what it was. So I'm recycling this one that I posted on another group blog, because they have completely different audiences and most of you probably haven't read it yet. If you have, well... how about that Royal Wedding? 

(I'm kind of excited, I admit. I write fantasy and fairy tales, and what's more fairy tale than a common girl becoming a Princess in a big overdone, hugely expensive to-do??) Anyway, enjoy!

It's that time of the month again. No, not THAT time of the month, time for me to post here at YAAYNHO, my chance to shine and come up with some witty and poignant bit of prose meant to inform or entertain.

That's a lot of pressure. I mean, it's only once a month, and yet some months I get the notice that my day is approaching and I tense up. What am I going to write about? My mouth goes dry - what if no one reads what I wrote, or they HATE it? What if I can't be spontaneous and funny and we lose readers and I get kicked out of the blog? (wait, this is MY blog. I could kick myself out, I guess.) I've been working on guest blog posts and interviews for a Special Something I'm doing in May, and I tried to be sometimes serious and sometimes humorous, and here's what I've concluded: it's hard to be interesting.

I mean, with all the bloggers and authors and tweeters out there, I'm just another voice in the wilderness. I know some people have huge audiences for their blogs, cranking out daily articles that aren't too long (because now we know that people want sound bites, not manifestos) and that grab their readers and make them want to come back. It's hard to do day after day. I used to try and blog every day, but it got to be monotonous. Not much happens to me on a daily basis. So I gave up the every day thing and only post on my personal blog when I have something to say, usually related to my writing, or only really important things in my life that I want to share. I tweet and post to Facebook, so if you're really REALLY interested in the minutiae of my daily life, there you are.

But, in honor of those who feel the compulsion to blog every day, even if they have nothing interesting to say, I give you the Five Worst Blog Posts Ever (titles only; not real links).

5. Catwatch, Day 65: Hairballs Ahoy!
4. What I Ate For Breakfast  (unless you're talking about chocolate-covered bugs or something, no one cares. And if you ARE talking about chocolate-covered bugs, um, well, I don't need to read about it, do I?)
3.  How to Make Hospital Corners or: My Life in Dustbunnies
2.  Three Things I Found While Cleaning out My Purse
And the number one WORST blog post ever....

1. My Colonoscopy (A Video Blog)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Flying and the World

I flew this week. I don't like to fly. I used to like to fly, but now it's become more of a hassle than anything else. It's not fun anymore. Gone are the pleasantries of flying. No more catering to the customer. I rather felt like a bit of cargo, just along for the ride. The folks in first class, now they were getting the pleasantries - hot food, wine, coffee, pillows, blankets, foot rests, snacks, free WiFi. One hostess to all 16 of them. The rest of us? We got offered one drink on a 6 hour flight. No pillows. No blankets. No movies. Not even anyplace to plug in a set of headphones to listen to music. Headphones I brought along specifically for that. So, it was 6 hours of alternating between reading a book, reading the inflight magazine, and staring absently out the window at clouds.

You can imagine a lot when staring at a field of white, puffy clouds for 6 hours. I kept thinking what a cool world that would be - to be able to drift along on the clouds, peeking through breaks in them at the world below. And I saw something I hadn't seen before - the edge of the clouds. Yes, the edge. Hundreds of miles of white, puffy landscape, vaguely resembling a huge snow field, and then suddenly a low bank and a drop off of some 30,000 feet. It was quite interesting. And a little frightening. I can imagine a cloud mother, hovering over her child: "Don't get near the edge. It's a long way down. Step back! You're giving me heart failure here. Get away from that edge!" Or something like that. Quite dramatic.

I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out where I was in the USA. I know that the plane was diverted further south than anticipated due to the inclement weather across the midwest (read: tornadoes). I saw lots of flat. Lot of flat. And then snow in those flats. And some little towns, their lights shining in the gloom. Course, it was sunny way up where we were. But down there? I could imagine it was cold and wintery, even in mid April. I felt sorry for those folks, looking at their vast fields covered in snow, their roads dry and bare but winding through a bleak landscape. I pictured them bundled up in their coats, breath steaming, feet pounding on the wooden floor, dislodging snow. They were no doubt looking forward to a hot cuppa and a warm fire.

But the place I had just left? Bathed in sunshine, temps in the 80's. Those people were in shorts and tank tops, I'll bet. Sipping cold drinks, and fanning themselves to escape the heat. Flip flops and sunglasses. And just a few hours, by plane, to the west they were pulling on mittens and wool hats to check on the farm. Brrrr.

So, back to the clouds. They were thick, then thin, then thick again. Finally I saw swells on the ground below - mountains? But not my mountains, not the pointed, snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range. Where were these rolling hills? I had no idea where we were. I checked the map, guessing maybe Wyoming. Certainly these couldn't be the Rockies, could they? I really wanted them to be the Cascades, because that would mean I was almost home. But no, checking the watch showed at least another hour of flight. How many miles was that? Why was the ground moving by so slowly?

Now lights were appearing in the towns so far beneath me. What towns and cities were they? Why was there someone living so far out there? Away from any sizeable city? Long, desolate roads leading to a shining beacon. How many miles away from each other were they? Distance seemed too hard to judge from my lofty perch. Long ribbons of road stretching off into the distance, going where? How long would it take to drive that? I realized that most of us drive the freeways less than 100 miles in any direction on a routine basis. Only on those long road trips of discovery would we venture down one of those black and gray strips that criss-cross the country. They all seemed to sad and empty and lonely. I looked away for a while, back to reading, not wanting to feel the emptiness.

But soon, the Cascades were beneath me. Those glorius peaks, covered in snow, indicating home wasn't far away. A beautiful sunset above the clouds, more and more lights below. Civilization! And my thoughts drift back to the pioneers. What it must have been like to confront those mountains with only wagons and horses and sore feet. Not knowing how treacherous they were, how wide, what was on the other side. Pushing forward, day after day, and finally, finally, reaching the other side and seeing the ocean before them. The end. Home. Sigh. Welcome back.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Prantics of a Word Geek

I'm a word geek. I totally admit it. In high school I wrote an essay on Orthography - the history of spelling.

One fascinating word fact is that Shakespeare reportedly invented (or used in writing for the first time) about 1700 words. Some words he is credited with inventing are amazement, assassination, employer, eventful, flowery and sanctimonious.

And of course Shakespeare was not the only one to add words to the language. There are many examples over time.

What is clear is that our language would be a lot poorer if not for the willingness of writers throughout the ages to take chances with words and use them in new and exciting ways.

I bring all this up in order to lay claim to a word I invented way back in 6th grade. At the time I was simply told that although it was a good word, it wasn't a real word. Now I say, who is to say it isn't a real word? If Shakespeare could invent words, so can I.

The word in question was "prantics". As in: The prantics of the young children became a source of annoyance to the teacher.

Prantics, in case you can't tell by the context is a combination of the words pranks and antics.

I think the world is ready for a word like this. Just remember, you saw it here first.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Free Book Friday Indie

I'm the featured Indie author this week at Free Book Friday Indie:


by Kim Baccellia

Paranormal YA

Lachesis Publishing

3 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, April 22, 2011!

About the Book:
Following the light can't be that hard, right? So why don't the dead just do it and leave Stephanie Steward alone?  However nothing is ever as simple as it should be, as Stephanie learns when her hidden 'gift' becomes more than a nuisance, quickly turning into a liability.If she can't learn to trust someone with her secret, the world as she knows it will go to hell. Literally. But if she doesn't choose wisely, she might just end up learning firsthand how hard it is to follow that light.
Because she's next on the list to be crossed out.

Exclusive Interview with the Author!

1) What genre have you not yet written but really want to try?

I'd really love to write a historical romance.

2) Since becoming a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to you?

Probably having a book reading and signing with other SCBWI writers at an Indie book store that I really loved.

3) Be honest, how many drafts did you have to write for this book?

Ohmigosh, you know I kind of lost track! No seriously, it takes me about a year to write a rough draft and a couple years are spend on the revision process.

4) What’s your favorite part of the writing process? What’s your least favorite?

My favorite part of the writing process has to be the writing the first draft. I try not to let editing get in the way. During last year's Nanowrimo I gave myself permission to do this. It was very freeing.

My least favorite has to be editing. After a while it gets really hard to find all the typos. Thanks goodness for critique buddies!

5) How did you get the idea for the novel?

The inspiration behind my story Crossed Out came after a full day of attending writing workshops at the Maui Writer’s Conference back in 2004. At that time I was pitching my YA multicultural fantasy Earrings of Ixtumea to a couple agents and editors. I was also writing an edgier YA based on the craziness of my teen life growing up with a violent bipolar father. So writing a paranormal was the last thing on my mind.

My husband told me he had an idea for another story. Curious, I asked what it was. Using the ‘what if’ scenario, he asked what would happen if it was someone’s job to make those crosses you see on the side of the road. That person not only made crosses but helped the dead cross over to the other side.

I couldn’t help but think of my own sister, Colette that had been murdered by her ex boyfriend back in 1993. That event totally changed my whole family who never in a bazillion years thought someone we loved would be killed in this matter. No matter what anyone says, you never really get over a tragedy like that.

I decided to use a personal experience I had right after the death of Colette. What would happen if those who’d been killed in a violent matter didn’t know that they were in fact dead? The main job of the ‘rescuer’ would be to decorate a cross with something that reflected the life of the recently deceased. This would help the dead cross over.

Only later did I find there are people who are in charge of making those wooden crosses for MADD. One of these gentlemen even joked telling me he didn’t know that he had another responsibility with making those crosses!

Another thing that weighed heavily on my mind is why just settle with crosses? Not all people believe in them. My brother-in-law is Muslim so I asked for some input on having a Muslim crossing.

I also wanted to show a teen that struggles with her gift. I have a hard time believing that all people with paranormal abilities embrace them. And this feeling was reinforced with the recent TV show Psychic Kids.

About the Author:

Kim Bacciella is the YA author of EARRINGS OF IXTUMEA and her recent release CROSSED OUT. Her third book, NO GODDESSES ALLOWED, has a tentative release date of Dec. 2011. She is a reviewer for YA Books Central. Visit the author online at:

**Please enter to win by going to the site and leaving a comment!  I might even throw in some Crossed Out swag!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Editing in the 21st Century! My experience in Interactivity

With all my other published books and short stories, the editing process was always very similar - once the work had been accepted and editing time came up, the publisher went through the manuscript then sent it back with the edits (normally by email sometimes regular mail) for me to review, make changes, and if necessary go another round.

Well, not this time! For Price of Mercy I got to experience a whole new way of getting my manuscript edited. I've seen the future. And it is bright and interactive!

The publisher of several of my novels, Zumaya Publications, has been pushing the envelope to make their processes easier for themselves and their authors for years. A PHP based website with scripts so they can add books to the listings easily; most communications done through groups or online and via email, even having voice conversations using Skype; shared calendars so authors know where they stand and can book time via Google Cenlendar. Now Liz has gone one other step further.

Using what technology is already out there, she prepped me up through Google Docs to do the novel's edits. We went chapter by chapter in two hour blocks over a little less than three weeks time.

In Google Docs, we could both open the document and make changes AT THE SAME TIME! I could see where she was at all times (a little cursor with her name on the screen) and any edits she made as she made them. It even popped up a chat box beside the document so I could ask questions or vice versa! There was even the ability to add a comment box on particular lines like you can with Word's Track Changes feature.

As she'd explained before we started, the new process saved a lot of time as there was no lag between her edit and my accepting/rejecting/or questioning said changes as it all happened right there and then. It truly went pretty fast!

The only thing I believe would have made it better would have been to be on Skype at the same time, as I occasionally didn't realize she'd typed something or vice versa. (Ugh, she even did a horrible Sherlock Holmes joke on a typo of Lestrave's name which I'd accidentally made to be Lestrade. She typed that sucker out before I could type out my own, "No, don't do it!" lol.

But maybe it would be safer not to be connected by voice, or she would have heard me whine as she mercilessly slashed uncessary words off the manuscript. (Though I suppose that's what the Mute switch is for.) Heh heh. (Ah yes, editing pain never hurt so good!)

Overall it was a very eye opening experience and I think made the edit better besides. What made it more fantastic was that as we worked on this thing we were both in totally different cities, yet it made no difference. The future truly is bright!

Have any of you had experiences with new ways, technology, etc that you feel have improved your life? Some that you think have made things worse instead? Come share!


Price of Mercy - a fantasy with a medieval French flair should see the light in April or May 2011.

How best to punish treason? Make the traitors into immortal slaves!

Sample chapters and more info at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Diversions in Verse"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I have taken a hiatus from writing fiction. I have committed to writing at least a poem a day. Here is my first sonnet in over 20 years:

When I watch water falling in the spring

Like tears soaking into a bed of earth,

I cease to remember the joy it brings

To observe nature's miraculous births;

When stormy tantrums envelop the sky

And lightning gives temporal webs of light

As cacophonous thunder roars nearby,

Small children cling to their mothers in fright:

At last, behold the light after the storm

As dreary clouds reveal glitter within

Air swirls, thick and sweet, in purest form,

And sun's tender rays caresses the earth's skin;

Then run and skip across the muddy plain

Live like a child delighted by the rain.

Since writing fiction is my work, poetry is now my escape. Authors, do you turn to poetry, short stories, or articles as an "escape" from writing novels...or is it just me?

If you enjoy poetry, then visit my blog. I'm posting poetry and giving away two copies of my book this month. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lonely Little Stand-Alone in a Serial World

I write stand-alone books. I don't carry ideas for a series around in my head except for the adult murder mystery books I intend to write one day. When it comes to my YA work, I have always developed each new story with a new set of characters.

My latest manuscript, currently looking for a home, has brought back serious serial feedback, however. Some of the people who read it, including one professional editor, asked me, "Is this the first book in a series?" The question left me a bit surprised. "No, sorry," I replied both times. But inside I began to wonder what they were seeing that I wasn't.

I haven't read much in terms of YA series. In fact, I don't think I've really read any, although I am stretching my brain trying to make sure. When I was younger -a LOT younger- I read the usual ones: Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, The Bobsey Twins. I even read some of the less familiar ones like Beany Malone and Trixie Belden. As an adult, however, I haven't read any of the YA series I have run across, mostly because they tend to run to sword and sorcery or science fiction, neither of which are my first-choice genres. I'm not necessarily averse to them, I just don't pick them up very often. (Note: J.K. Rowling, as far as I'm concerned, didn't write a series so much as she wrote one long work that needed to be broken down into separate books, rather like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.)

So now I am looking at my manuscript with new eyes and lots of questions. Do I want to go further with these characters? Does their world lend itself to a number of stories instead of just one? And where would I go with them, if that's the case?

For all of you out there working on a series, I'd love some feedback. How did you know you had a multi-tale universe or group of characters? Do you think it's easier to sell a series than a single book? Do you write outside of your series? Do you ever get bored with the same people??

Oh, and if anyone can suggest a series that isn't sci-fi/fantasy (or Twilight, for that matter), hey, I'd love the input!

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Writing “Tech” From 2011 to 1979

My Writing “Tech” From 2011 to 1979

When many of us discuss technology today, it’s most likely to be a conversation about our cell phones or cars. Aside from that kind of tech, YA Authors may discuss writing programs between themselves on occasion, or engage in the interminable argument about which is better: Microsoft or Apple. Now I have nothing new to offer on the subjects I listed, but I have a long history of writing using various bits and pieces of technology and proto-technology. Here’s a brief account from the present to the past.


I am still using my Dell Dimension 9100 which I bought in the middle of the 2000’s. I revised my “Earthbow” ( ) manuscript on it, and I’ve now started revising “The Gryphon & the Basilisk” on it. Nowadays, I save to flash drives, and I save often. I don’t want to lose years of work if this computer crashes terminally. (I probably have a dozen flash drives on a long bead chain.) This Dell has already had both its hard drive and motherboard replaced, and it still runs WORD 2003 on the old XL platform. Yes, it’s positively ancient by today’s standards but I’m terrified of switching software platforms or even updating WORD. And of course I'm terrified of a permanent crash.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve fallen behind the curve in tech—not just computer tech but also sound systems, phones, Bluetooth (whatever that is) and so on. Proof? I bought my second laptop (“Piglet” because it’s so tiny) over two years ago, and its Windows Vista OS –still- has me buffaloed. I’ve even had the Geek Squad people come out to instruct me on how it works. It did little good. Occasionally, I’ll cried piteously for someone to give me all-day training on VISTA and on the laptop’s newer version of WORD--preferably at Panero’s where I could stuff my instructor full of luscious food and coffee--but, so far, no one has taken me up on this.

As I said, the desktop is beginning to show signs of its age, even with the hardware face-lift it got about three years ago. I’d buy a replacement in a snap, but I am wary of new software like Windows 7 (or whatever the latest is) and WORD 2010(?). I don’t want to have –two- computers in this house, without knowing how to use either. This does not lend itself to writing output.


I bought my first Dell desktop in about 2003, but I continued to use the humongously clunky and heavy screen from the previous computer since that was still working and I didn’t really have the cash for a new monitor too. I used this 1st Dell for revising my “Seabird” ( ) manuscript amongst other things (like computer graphics). I also scanned in many, many typewritten pages of other book manuscripts which had been hand-written beginning in 1979, then typed up a while after that.

The Dell and I worked together happily for a few years—until it gave out abruptly. Virtually anything manuscript-related that I had keyed in was on disc, so I lost nothing that was writing-related. I did lose some other files on the hard drive, including some of my graphic art.


I was okay for the moment because I’d bought my first laptop the previous year, technically for audio file creation. I used it for writing instead when the Dell went down, until I got a replacement desk top. This early laptop was dubbed “The Elephant”. I don’t know how much it weighed but it was bunches. When a good writer friend has her computer die on her about two years ago, I gave her “The Elephant”.


Back then, I was still working at the university library. On a Saturday afternoon, a co-worker and I drove up to the Gateway store, where I picked out the first full-fledged desktop computer of my own. I had a lot of uses planned for this one, but writing and revising my novels were kind of side issues during this period. (This was during my 1990’s writing hiatus, brought on by heavy duties in a new position at work. I did write some short stories around then, but that was because I was taking writing courses.) Anything I wrote was saved to diskette—if I thought about it.

One of my main activities with this computer was keying in my “Analyses” of Babylon 5 ( ), a splendid SF show that few people watched. While I had WORD and Word Perfect software on this computer and knew how to use them from work, I didn’t have a way of creating the analyses as WORD files and then sending them by e-mail to the people interested in them. This was in the days of message boards, before the actual internet. Plain library staff were not permitted to have web pages, even once they became fairly common, so I couldn’t store my analyses on one, and point people to my page.

The only way I had to distribute these show analyses was via the B5 message board, using the –very- clunky university e-mail software, the only email software available to me. (Maybe some of you older folks will remember most U.S. university email addresses ending in “…”.) The email was so clunky that it didn’t have cut-and-paste, and the only way I could figure out how to correct an error was to back up to it, deleting everything between where I had stopped keying in and where the error was, and trying again.

I did key in a bit of writing stuff on the Gateway, using floppy discs for storage. And I imported many files—also on floppies--from my old word processor. I still have these floppies and I’m very glad I do or I might have lost sections of my manuscripts. (When I bought it, I made sure that my Dell Dimension had a floppy disc drive.)

(Between 1985 and 1990?)

One day I took myself up to a predecessor of Best Buy--I’ve forgotten its name--and nervously bought a Smith-Corona word processor. It was supposed to be portable, but that was largely a Fig Newton of the amalgamation.

The word processor had a small green screen recessed directly above the keyboard in which you could see perhaps the previous paragraph that you had written. I used to use it on a TV tray while sitting in one of my wing-back chairs. This made the keyboard a bit too high, so I sat on a thick pillow. The Smith-Corona was a wonder to work with at that time. I especially enjoyed the flexibility it gave me for formatting. Naturally, I saved files on floppy discs. So far as I can remember, I wrote my first draft of “The Gryphon & the Basilisk” plus a few short stories on the word processor. I used this for years, even after buying the Gateway, because writing was such a snap on it. Eventually I gave it to someone who helped me move.


I bought a Commodore 64, with every intention of using it to transcribe the longhand and typed drafts of “Seabird” and “Earthbow” which I had begun writing in 1979. It didn’t work out, though I tried very hard. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Commodore’s built-in word processor assumed that the user was going to be using a Commodore monitor. I was trying to use the computer with a JC Penney’s television. (Yes, Penney’s sold TV’s in those days.) Because the software didn’t know how to communicate with the television, all I could see on the screen were a couple of dozen huge letters at a time.

Eventually, I taught my mom how to play Frogger on the Commodore. I think it was the only computer game she ever played.


My boyfriend at the time bought me a Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter. I originally used it to type up class assignments for myself, and eventually branched out into typing up papers for fellow students. Beginning in 1980 or so, I began typing up chapters of “Seabird” etc on this typewriter.

Many of these early “Seabird” chapters (and typed chapters of later books) would later be poorly scanned into the first Dell computer, causing me no end of headaches down the road when I tried to decipher the scanned-in files. In fact, just a few months ago, I finished deciphering chapters of “The Gryphon & the Basilisk” manuscript from these scanned files, which were originally typed on the Smith-Corona. Oh, what a mess that was, but it beat keying them into WORD from handwritten sheets. Which brings us to:


I wrote my very first drafts of “Seabird” and “Earthbow” in 9x5 spiral-bound notebooks—later to be revised and copied (in tiny writing) unto notebook paper which had 50 lines per side. Sometimes I transcribed a few hastily-written sentences off of the index cards I kept hidden in my pockets while I was at work.


I had something that was once considered to be a computer before the Commodore. Maybe a Tandy? It had like zero kb of RAM, and was definitely not up to running writing software. I think I got it used from someone.

It only had one program so far as I remember, and we played it on the family TV. It was some kind of aircraft landing game. You started at such and so many feet away from the landing strip and then had to control your speed, altitude, angle of descent, etc. as you came in for a landing. My family and I used to play it as a group, with a cacophony of suggestions from everyone on what to do next to whoever was at the controls.

We crashed a lot. :-)

Sherry Thompson, author of "Seabird" and "Earthbow".

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Getting to know you - Meeting the main characters for the first time

I'm often called upon by new writers to do a critique of their manuscripts. It's always interesting to find a new writer who has something to say. Lately I've been seeing some interesting characters and some who make a bad first impression. Several of these new writers have great ideas for the stories and characters one could love. Still I didn't like what I saw or what I read. What happened here?

In one story, the main character was over-shadowed by the adults in the story and by the writer's idea of how to present him. In a second the character seemed nebulous. Wordy without having anything to say. The third introduced both a hero and a heroine acting in ways that were designed to turn the character off.

There's a song from The King and I that has always run through my head when I'm beginning to develop my characters. "Getting to Know You." Always makes me want to show the main characters in a favorable light. What about you?

Even when we're meeting a stranger for the first time would you rather see them in a positive light, unless they're the villain. Showing the heroine having a temper tantrum isn't a great way to let the reader want to know them better. Sure characters can change and grow but the initial impression is often what counts. Letting the reader see the hero or heroine doing something distasteful doesn't bring that moment of saying I want to know this person better.

All three times I had to be a bit harsh when I spoke to the new writers about my initial impressions of their characters. I don't like to do this. I always want to say, "Oh, wow, I really like your characters. The only problem I find with your story is something easily fixed." When I have to say I don't like your hero, heroine or even the villain, I feel sad.

The first view of a character will stick in a reader's head. One can show the problems the character is having without making the hero or heroine a person the reader doesn't want to know.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Imagine You Can't?

I woke up and my entire bedroom had gone gray. My bookshelves were empty and not a single CD or DVD could be found. My cat was looking for his favorite catnip stuffed rat but alas it was gone. There were no toys. Not even for Cosmo. I got up and prepared a cup of coffee and tried to clear my head for a few hours of writing. I sat down at my Mac and stared at the screen. My head was full of one thought. Raking leaves. Lots and lots of dead leaves that needed to be cleared from my driveway (we live in an apartment on the upper east side of Manhattan and do not have a driveway which made this all the more odd). This was just a desire but seemed like some sort of societal duty. A cultural need. What happened to the six legged, flying kumquats that were going to attack the poor octopods onGuribia 6? Where were the images of great space battles that had been filling my mind for weeks as my great science fiction epic tickled my synapses?

Splashed across my inner movie screen was nothing but piles of black and white leaves. My imagination was gone.

How would a society in which the imagination had never been imagined exist? Could it? Would it have formed in the first place?

In my soon to be published (by Zumaya Publications) Kidlit novel, Rupert Starbright: The Door to Far-Myst, I explore such a world. Rupert Dullz was born and raised in a land called Graysland. Its a world of muted colors and constantly falling leaves. The imagination has never even been imagined.

Can such a place exist? Of is the spark of Imaginings a natural part of what it means to be human? Like Scarecrow's brain- was it always there and it simply needed to be recognized? (After all, the Scarecrow was the one with all the ideas on Dorothy's adventure!)

When an ancient human primate first learned they could open a clam with the sharp edge of another clam shell that was a spark of imagination (though it would be a few years until some true genius learned to make Tabasco from little hot peppers) It was not a product to hang on museum walls but one that certainly moved humanity a step up in the world. When these ancient clam lovers stepped into a darkened cave and decorated the rock walls with colorful images that were dancing in their minds- it was the imagination burning bright again. This use of the imagination did not have the practical survival purpose that the clam-opener did. Or did it? Is transferring the inner pictures- the landscapes of worlds that the human mind create within- onto 3D, real world mediums, a necessary part of what it means to survive as a human? Like the writer who must write or suffer weeks of mood swings, depression and driving of their partner insane. Is it hard wired into our very being to not just USE the imagination but to create real world items (paintings, books, music) with it? Was that cave with its colorful murals the first museum or the first church? Or both? Is the creative act the most basic religious impulse of humanity?

In Rupert Starbright- Rupert is faced with a challenge from a colorful man who descends from the sky in a great balloon. There is a mysterious door whose key can only be created by the imaginings of a child. The door opens to Far-Myst - the stranger's home. The child who can open the door will travel to Far-Myst as the special guest of its Queen.

Will Rupert be able to summon this odd, mysterious force calledImagining to travel to a place that sounds so much better than his boring home? And if he does, what will really be in store for him there? Be careful what you wish for. Or what you imagine!

The human imagination is a double edged sword. The same magical force that can create Star Wars and Harry Potter can also make a person think he is being followed by black helicopters and crazy killers in every shadow! The imaginings of humans can create both the IPhone and the nuclear missile.

What would happen if you could wield the imagination like a super power? Just form an idea or an object in your mind and BAM! It appears in reality? Rupert will discover that this special ability is both wondrous and dangerous. He will step from a world where the imagination seems to have never have emerged and into a place where it is out of control.

How will Rupert fair? Stay tuned. How would you? Please reply with your thoughts!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wanted: Reviewers

Great news! I know you’ve all been waiting breathlessly – or maybe not. Well I certainly have been. Letters to Juniper will be released in print in May. Now available in Kindle ebook.

Now seeking advance reviews. There’s a free ebook in it for you. That’s right. ARCs are available in ebook only.

Letters to Juniper is middle grade novel.

A gripping story about life inside a Separatist compound during an FBI standoff, from 12-year old Sarah’s perspective.

Sarah Smith remembers when she was six years old her mother died and she moved to northern Idaho with her brother and father. Their lives changed drastically. The only vivid memory she has of her early childhood is her best friend Juniper Holland. In her letters to Juniper, Sarah reveals her innermost thoughts and feelings about her reclusive life with three younger brothers under the rigid oppression of her father and stepmother who call themselves Separatists. Their lives are turned upside down by an FBI investigation into her father’s association with members of the Aryan Nation. As the tension and violence escalate, Sarah faces life and death decisions in order to survive.

In May 2007, Letters to Juniper won YA's "First Three" middle grade contest with this praise: “'Letters to Juniper’ was a pleasure to read, and the judges quickly became intrigued by and invested in Sarah's story.”

“An incredible story that brought me to tears, made me angry and sad, and evoked a myriad of other emotions, even though it is geared to middle grade readers. It is my pleasure to see this book shared with the world. Tibbetts is a skilled and masterful writer. This is a book you will want to share with your children, your parents, and your friends.” -- Natalie R. Collins, author of The Fourth World, Sister Wife, and more.

Letters to Juniper is a hair-raising page-turner that delivers a totally unexpected surprise at the end.”

Here’s your chance to join the chorus of reviews, endorsements, and kudos. If you are interested in reviewing Letters to Juniper please email me:

Still not tempted? Watch the trailer –

Peggy Tibbetts

Now available in ebook –
Letters to Juniper

My blogs:
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool!

April Fools' Day is a big deal to a kid. It's the one time you're allowed to play pranks on your friends, your parents and sometimes complete strangers.

I remember when I was young that the prank-playing was only supposed to be part of the day. But that could have been a regional thing, as nowadays one has to be on guard throughout the whole day, rather than just until noon.

Most of the time the pranks were good-natured, such as the false stories newspapers might print on that day, or, for a kid, telling a friend her shoelace was untied or telling a parent that your younger sister was stuck in a tree (make sure said sister doesn't follow you into the room when you try that).

Of course, there are always those that go too far with their "humor". I don't remember what grade it was when things shifted from planning jokes for the day to just trying to survive the day. Taped signs, water fountain mishaps, deliberate trips or shoves, all excused with an "April Fool!"

At least it was only one day out of the year. Unfortunately, some people try to continue throughout the year, excusing their behavior with a "Psych!" or "Just kidding!" and progressing on to "It's just a joke! Can't you take a joke?" I was reminded of that when watching "Tangled" and realizing the emotional abuse the young Rapunzel suffered with the continual "teasing" excused with "Just kidding."

Of course, this provides plenty of material for YA stories. Do you have a continual prankster that, for April Fools' Day, plays no jokes at all? Do you have a young child as a point of view character that likes playing pranks and can't stop? What about a prank-playing cat?

What are some of your memories of the best or worst April Fools' Day?