Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's That Time of Year

It's the time when people stop and take stock of their life and what they want to do or not do anymore. It is the time of New Year's Resolutions.

There are of course the typical resolutions: Lose weight, eat less, exercise more. At this point, those things kind of go without saying, and are rather continuous resolutions. There are other things which are more goals and dreams rather than resolutions: get a huge book deal with my next book. But that isn't something I can resolve to do and magically have it happen. So what kind of resolutions am I going to make for the next year?

1) Hug my children more. They will be 15 and 12 in the coming weeks and are past the age of spontaneous cuddles. But that doesn't mean we can't all benefit from a few more hugs.

2) Laugh more. It's not that I don't think I laugh enough, but it seems like the kind of thing that I could benefit from doing a bit more of.

3) Get outside more. I need to remember that as fascinating as the world inside my computer is, there is a whole wonderful world out there that needs to be entered into as well. And that could help with the getting more exercise thing too.

4) Accept the fact that I am basically an introvert - and therefore not beat myself up about not being as active in social media as other people are.

5) Write every day. I write most days, it's true. But even a little bit, every day, will go a long way.

So that's my list. What's yours?

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top YA Picks of 2011

Besides being a YA author, I'm also a reviewer at YA Books Central.

I've also been a panelist for the Cybils:

I've read close to 100 books so far this year.  Most of them have been YA.  For the past few years I've shared some of my favorite books on my LJ blog site.  Remember this is all subjective.  There's been tons of great books out there this year.

So far here's my picks:

10. Chained Reaction by Simone Elkeles

9. Hourglass by Myra McEntire

8. Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

7. I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler

6. Unleashed by Nancy Holder

5. Amplified by Tara Kelly

And tomorrow at #4

Solstice by P.J. Hoover

I'll be counting down until I reveal my top YA pick of the year.  I'll also list some honorable mentions plus 2012 books to look out for!

Check my LJ blog for more!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Weird Epiphany About Bram Stoker's Dracula

Once a year or so I grab an old classic and read it. This is quite a lot of fun as not only does it force me outside of my usual reading circles, but it can teach me about how novelists wrote during other eras and even give cool insights on the time periods and the people themselves. 

Several years ago, I decided to read Bram Stoker's Dracula. It was a lot of fun comparing the book to all the Dracula movies I'd seen over the years, looking at what the films kept from the book and what they didn't.

But what amazed me most of all when I read it was how strong Mina was. She wasn't anywhere near the helpless female needing rescue that is normally her role in the movies. Even while slowly being subverted by Dracula, she was the one giving the men ideas and information and trying to figure out how to bring him down.

Earlier this week I had an epiphany about that. One that actually flows somewhat contrary to the articles I found online about the novel's themes and what Stoker tried to convey through the work.

Figured I'd go ahead and try to throw it out here for anyone else who's read Bram Stoker's Dracula novel. (This is somewhat visible in most of the movies too, but since they normally use Mina as window dressing, it won't be as noticeable. Definitely obvious (at least to me!) in the novel.) Hopefully you can chime in and share your thoughts or just tell me if I'm nuts or not. :P (It has been a while.)

Some stuff I saw stated that Bram Stoker was using the novel as a warning to people not to lose the old ways to the technological revolution going on at the time the novel was written, and they cited Dr. Van Helsing and many of the things he says as proof of it. The argument went so far as to say the novel was showing that modern women were a bad thing and that the promiscuous fantasies of the male readers was where it was at.

But when you look at Mina and her HUGE role in the novel, both in making the men aware of what was going on and several times pushing them to action or figuring out solutions for them, I can't quite buy that.

Instead, I would suggest that Mr. Stoker actually looked down on many of the old social expectations for women, especially all the antiquated ones. That the old and possibly even current Victorian values thrust on women were sucking the life out of them, turning them into soulless automatons who lived purely to satisfy their masters or their raging appetites. That education and intelligence should be fostered in women, as they too had much of value to impart.

Mina, an educated and strong minded woman, was actually able to fight against Dracula's manipulations, struggling against the role he would assign to her as a subservient plaything. Using her intelligence and strength of will to save those around her from the male chauvinist vampire pig! (Was that too much? lol)

What do you all think? Was Dracula a warning of the encroaching modern world and the powers it was giving to women, or actually a celebration of the freedom and benefits of letting them be more than the weaker gender?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Musings

I have been reading other posts, although I don't always leave a comment. I know I should. I love it when people comment on my posts. That aside, I am surprised to be the first to write about Christmas. This should have been easy for me, but somehow it isn't.

When I was a kid, writing my stories and little books, I loved Christmas so much that I would find a way to put it into everything I wrote. I listened to Christmas music in July. I joined the chorus in high school and delighted in the Christmas concert. And cookies? Well, this foodie writer doesn't even need to go there.

As a grownup, however, Christmas has become somehow sadder and I am trying to find a way to get past that. The past few Decembers, and now this one, have been pretty rocky: a brother diagnosed with aggressive cancer, a daughter with a mental/physical health issue that slowly drained our energies and left a sort of numb depression in its wake, and this year, the unexpected death of an "adopted daughter," the best friend to my younger child since they were both in high school. With all of that going on, it's tougher to see the brightness of the lights, tougher to hear the magic in the carols, toughest of all to find that fierce holiday joy within.

Shortly after Christmas, one year comes to an end and the next one slides neatly into place so that we all can carry on into the new year. As a kid, one year to the next never made much difference, since I felt like I was in grade school for about 50 years, and high school for another 10. Or so it seemed. I didn't realize the way I do now how quickly those years flow away and how time is always nipping at our heels, even if we don't pay attention.

I know that I am not alone in loss. I also know that there are folks out there who have it twenty times rougher than I'll ever know. But somehow they still manage to find the magic in the season. And I wonder, how do they do it? How do they rekindle that flame of hope, of laughter, of down-to-the-bone happiness in the face of everything they have suffered? I don't know yet but I sure plan on finding out.

Life is very short. This December in particular has underscored that lesson for me. And I don't want to go through the rest of my life being sad and depressed and defeated. Wow! That sounds like a New Year's resolution. I never usually made New Year's resolutions because I figured, why wait until January to make a change? On the other hand, January is coming up fast, so what the heck. I am going to do my best to find a way to seek the joy and the happiness and all the sweetness I can find in this upcoming year because, well, why not?

Lauren, honey, in your short time on this planet, you taught your best friend's mom one helluva lesson and I'll try my best to get it down pat. This one's for you.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Looking at Quests

Lately I've been thinking about the kinds of plots. Quest plots are I believe one of the most used ones in YA literature. I've used this in both of my YA series. The Henge Betrayed and The Jewels of Earda. The characters are looking for something be it a person, place or thing. So the following speaks about Quests.

Both of these series started as single books and at the end of each the characters found there was something else they needed. Sort of like the process of growing up. Something some of us may never do and this is a good thing.

Quests are one of my favorite plot devices. This can be used in many genres. Simply put a quest plot involves a search for a person, place or thing. There also has to be a parallel between the person's motivation and intent to the object being sought. In The Henge Betrayed Flight- the characters are sent away from their home to find a teacher.

During the quest the character or characters must cover a lot of terriroty for the search will lead them to various settings but this can't just be a random wandering. While it may seem to be casual, the questor must have a plan. While writing The Henge Betrayed - Flight, my four characters wander from their home to a large town to find this teacher who will show them how to use their affinities for the elements.

Generally the character starts out from home and ends up where they started. In the case of Flight, since this was a four book adventure they don't return home but finding no teacher decide to fins a Refuge.

During the quest the character must change. By the time the four book series ends in Confrontation the characters are older and have learned how to use their affinities.

What the character or characters in a quest story find during the search learn knowledge or wisdom. This is a maturing process. In the Henge Betrayed series the young people learn about themselves and about the world around them. They are able to face and defeat evil.

Quest stories always start with an incident that sends the haracter on the search. There will be other characters they meet. Some will be traveling companions and others chance meets. Make sure your character and reader understand why they have set off to find this person, place or thing. In the end the character will either succeed or fail to complete the quest. What the chaaracter or characters discover may be different or not from what sent them on the quest.

Elements of the quest story may find their way into other kind of plots or the quest story may contain bits of other kind of plots.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Defending the Boob Tube

am not shy about my disdain for much of modern TV. I do not like reality TV shows that promote mean-spiritedness, ignorance and just plain idiotic behavior (insert show name here:______).  I am tired of witless sitcoms that rely on joke telling rather than letting the humor come from intelligent and well developed characters like past shows such as Barney Miller, All in the Family, Seinfeld and MASH.

But I had a thought recently on a very positive aspect of TV, even modern TV. Often I will see people posting on comments on Facebook accusing TV of being a mind control device and the programmer of people and our society.  Might be true on the negative side but for this blog I want to defend that power as positive tool for social change.

The entertainment that a nation embraces does more to effect the zeitgeist than does politics or religion. Music, movies and TV is what shapes our values and culture much more than Obama, the Pope or the republican party.  If you go back to the 70s there was a slew of TV shows with all African- American casts. At first some seem to embrace stereotypes but as you watched the shows (like Good Times, The Jeffersons, etc) you saw how they looked deeper into personalities. Into the everyday fears, wants, needs and loves of these people that white American began to see were not that different from their own. Unlike the parents generations at the time, kid's minds were open to people different from themselves and discovered there was nothing to fear. By the time a show like The Cosby Show aired, suddenly America was watching a black family that did not live in poverty but were upper middle class. They were just fellow Americans. This combined with music ranging from blues to rap to hip hop, white American youth embraced African American culture and the result as been a huge improvement in race-relations. The fears and bigotries of the older generations is often mocked and laughed at by people who grew up in the 60s and since. So TV did, in fact, play a sort of mind control role but one that made us better as a nation. 

Since the late 90s or so I have seen this same process being done with gay Americans. Shows like Will and Grace throughGlee, etc. has exposed straight America with examples of both stereotypical gay people to more nuanced, three dimensional aspects of gay life. More and more the youth of America are embracing gay friends and the I believe, little by little, the fear and ignorance that has labeled homosexuals as deviants and perverts or diseased, will fade away.

So once again, TV is serving the betterment of the nation.

What is next? I think Muslim Americans will be next to benefit. Just like African Americans and gay Americans, Muslim Americans have suffered from negative stereotyping in movies and TV but this will change. Much of the fear is driven by government and news media. But I have already seen the start of incorporating Muslim characters that are NOT terrorists into commercials, movies and TV. I  think this will become a trend.

So maybe TV, the boob tube, is not as booby as I thought? Maybe it is a mind control device? Maybe it does mold our culture? Maybe this is a good thing?

In ten years no one will know who Snookie was. But in less than ten years, I can definitely see a Jimmy Mohammed Showabout an Islamic research scientist and his typical American family dealing with typical family problems. And it will be a hit in middle America. And we will be better for it.

Mike DiCerto is a filmmaker and author of books including his latest: THE DOOR TO FAR-MYST: The Adventures of Rupert Starbright.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New series explores the power of imagination

My last post, “This year in reviews” looked back at the books I reviewed in 2011. I have one more to add to the list. Mike DiCerto is one of our YAAYNHO authors, the lone guy among fifteen “pretty heads” (see masthead). Recently I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing his book, The Door to Far-Myst, the first book in the Adventures of Rupert Starbright. In the process I got to know Mike a little better. Did you know he’s an award-winning novelist, filmmaker and MST3K fanatic? It’s true. And he has a real winner with The Door to Far-Myst. I loved it and I’m really excited about this intriguing new series where young Rupert explores the power of his imagination.

Check it out --

The Door to Far-Myst
By Mike DiCerto
Zumaya Publications
August 2011
192 pages

Graysland is a dull, colorless place where the adults force the kids to rake leaves to burn for fuel which makes steam for heat and power for lights. It doesn’t get any duller than that for Rupert Dullz. Until Pie O’Sky shows up with his colorful “bagoon”. Pie, a talented and colorful chap himself, tells Rupert and his friends about the land of Far-Myst, where imagination drips “off the trees like sweet sap”. He shows them a magical wooden door and says the first one to use his imagination to unlock it will go with him on a fabulous journey to Far-Myst. But the adults don’t want the kids to have anything to do with Mr. O’Sky, or imagination. Rupert’s dad forbids him to try and unlock the magical door. But Rupert believes he can find the cure for his grandma’s “coffus” in Far-Myst. So before Rupert can use his imagination to unlock the door, he has to use his imagination to sneak out of the house.

Eventually Rupert succeeds and sails away in the bagoon with high hopes. But when they arrive at Everstood Castle and meet Queen Chroma, all is not what it seems. Rupert learns the future of Far-Myst is threatened by the evil Murkus, who is stealing the children and spreading darkness. When Murkus’s nightwingers attack, Dream Weaver escapes with Rupert and they embark on a perilous journey through a mysterious land of imagination.

There is clearly more to this story than meets the eye. The Door to Far-Myst, Book 1 in the Adventures of Rupert Starbright, is the start of a promising new fantasy series from a very talented author. DiCerto has created a brilliant fantasy world full of unique landscapes inhabited by quirky characters and creatures. Young readers will easily identify with Rupert’s struggle to understand the power of his own imagination and still find plenty of adventure and unanswered questions to keep them eager for more. -- Copyright (c) 2011 by Peggy Tibbetts

Visit Mike DiCerto’s website

View the awesome book trailer here.

Peggy Tibbetts
Coming soon: PFC Liberty Stryker

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Friday, December 9, 2011


The collecting impulse strikes some of us early. Leaves, bugs, buttons, rocks, dinosaur names, birds observed, shells, stamps - we organize our collections, making lists of what we have and what we need. The things collected change over time - action figures, all the works of an author, the music of a particular singer or band, shoes, the memorabilia of a sports team, the episodes of a television show, ornaments - and the drive to collect may vary in intensity, but the urge to collect is not limited to any one personality type. And although whatever is collected may not make sense to outsiders, chances are good that there are other like-minded collectors.

Adding the collecting side to a character creates all sorts of possibilities to a story. Isabella's need to collect Fireside Girl patches often is the main drive of a Phineas and Ferb episode. A child who likes to collect bugs may grow up to become a biologist or entomologist. A budding rock collector might become a geologist or a jeweler. Or just stay someone who likes rocks. For a story set in the far future, I'm confident that space ship spotting will be just as popular as train spotting or aircraft spotting nowadays.

Everyone knows that dragons collect gold. The fun part of Jessica Day George's Dragon Slippers was discovering that dragons collect other things as well. Like shoes. And dogs.

Firefly fans remember that the pilot, Wash, had a collection of small plastic dinosaurs. It wasn't a major plot point, but it added a certain something to the character.

Collections can be used as an expression of current status, or they can be a remembrance - of friends, of childhood, or just a happy time that the character revisits when sad.

I have small horse statues still from my childhood, dragon statues and artwork from when I was a big fan of the Dragonriders of Pern series and a collection of geodes (yes, I like rocks). Those were things I choose to collect. I also have some bird statues and artwork that friends gave me because I have a bird.

Perhaps a character has a collection of the teddy bears that her boyfriend gave her. If the relationship breaks up, whether she keeps or disposes of the collection would be an part of the story. And does she just throw out those teddy bears or give them to charity?

Are two characters in a story friends because they collect the same things? Or do they become rivals?

Do you have any favorite stories with collecting as an element?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Book Fun and Games at fReado

fReado is the world’s biggest book-winning site for book lovers. To win books, you play a simple game, accumulate points and use those points to bid for prizes (including Kindles and iPads).

One of the fun games is called Covermatcher where you match book covers and can win books. This game is great for authors because it gets exposure for your cover and good for readers because you can find new covers to investigate.

Another game is Hangman. Based on a wide variety of topics, you answer several items to acquire points. And authors can create games in order to display their cover art.

And recently the website added Quick Quizzes. For an author you create a five-question quiz on any topic. At the bottom of each answer page your book appears! Ten times! For readers, it’s just a game and a way to accumulate points which allows the player to choose prizes.

It’s win-win and fun-fun.
As an author, I pay $9 a month to showcase my Odessa cover, but I have created quizzes advertising all of my books as well as Facebook pages. This site is worth every penny for the exposure I receive. I also receive weekly emails listing how many times my cover was shown and how many clicks it received.

Whether you are an author or a reader, you should check out this fun and free website: fReado

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Virtual Book Tour

I know. I know. This is a group of writers for YA and MG stories. But some of us also write for younger children, and since this is the holiday season and many of you are looking for gifts for your children, grandchildren, and friends, I want to share my tour from Pump Up Your Books with you. I'm also giving away a $10.00 gift certificate to Amazon and an Angel tree decoration. If you have a chance, stop by one of the blogs hosting me and leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you and enter you in the contest. Thanks.

Monday, December 5th

Book reviewed at 4 the Love of Books

Tuesday, December 6th

Book reviewed at The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection

Wednesday, December 7th

Guest blogging at Literal Exposure

Thursday, December 8th

Book reviewed at Taking Time for Mommy

Book reviewed at One Day at a Time

Book reviewed at The True Book Addict

Guest blogging at The Christmas Spirit

Friday, December 9th

Book reviewed at Booksnatchers

Monday, December 12th

Interviewed at The Hot Author Report

Book spotlighted at The Plot

Tuesday, December 13th

Character interviewed at The Plot

Wednesday, December 14th

Guest blogging at Café of Dreams

Thursday, December 15th

Book reviewed at Reading Frenzy

Friday, December 16th

Podcast interview at Stories from Unknown Authors 2 PM EST

Book reviewed at The Crypto-Capers Review

Video book review at YA Books All the Way!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Time-out... OVER!

November is OVER.
Football is OVER.
The semester is OVER.

Which means that my writing time-out is also...OVER.

I started working on a new project on Dec. 1. I have no aspirations of trying to get 50K done before New Year's Eve, but since Thursday I do have nearly 2,000 words. The good part about it is that I have most of this book figured out in my head and on a plotting chart.

I have to admit that it was difficult, getting back into writing. The first two days, I wrote and then realized that it was all absolute rubbish. But with a little practice, and a few lightbulbs (courtesy of a re-read of Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel. I hope someone gives me Clockwork Prince for Christmas!), and a bit of on the fly editing, I am feeling better about what's down now and where the chapter is headed.

It feels really good to come home and night and have no other obligation than to sit down and write words. Nighttime seems to be when my creative juices flow the best anyway.

Basketball does start soon, but at least it's inside. And hubby can split the practices with me, and I have the Netbook for travel-writing.

In other news, the next Library of Athena  book will begin editing in January, and I hope to have a release estimate by my next scheduled post. I have been considering how I'm going to plot the final book. I know what it will be about, in general, and I know how it will end. I've known since probably book two how the series will close, and so far it hasn't changed. I have the destination, just have to make the journey.

And for those that play along at home, I have moved my personal blog. I like the LJ community, and I still have my LJ to comment on other blogs, but the DDOS and spam was killing me. So I've picked up and moved to Wordpress. Please feel free to follow, comment, throw rotten produce, whatever.

If I don't see you all again, have a wonderful and happy holiday season!!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bah Humbug

Well, it's December and that means celebrations and such. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, of course, but that is the holiday I want to discuss.

It seems that lately much of the spirit has gone out of Christmas. Now, I, personally, don't celebrate it as a religious occasion, because I'm not religious. But I do celebrate it as a time of love, family, peace and goodwill towards others. It just doesn't seem that the feeling is shared that much anymore.

It seems that the holidays have given way to stress, frustration and anger. Tempers, which are supposed to be longer, are far shorter, much like the days. At least in the northern hemisphere. I suppose those in the Southern hemi are doing just fine, going to the beach, taking in the sun, enjoying warm temps and blue skies.

Me? I'm sitting in front of my fake sunshine lamp to get the dose of light I crave at this time of the year. Ah, to be wealthy and able to have a home in the happy temperatures at all times of the year. But I digress.

My own family has finally fallen prey to the "stress" and "frustration" of the holidays. No presents, they claim. No tree. No lights. It's just another day, another week. Move on. Let's get the crowds over with and back to normal. I don't feel that way.

I love shopping for gifts, love giving them, although to be truthful I would rather give than receive. I love the lights, the glow, the peace of the season. I like going to watch festivities, to light displays, to concerts and the ballet. I like having parties, having family here to enjoy. In short, I like the season. I've often wished that the feeling of goodwill would last all year long.

But what has happened to the goodwill? The sense of peace? It seems that it's almost disappeared. Now, it's all about sales, about getting a good deal on some item. It's about being the first in line, about getting as much as you're giving, of tit for tat. If I spend $50 on you, you'd better spend that or more on me, by golly.

I just don't buy into that craziness. I pick up items all year long. They aren't expensive. They don't have to be. Gifts come from the heart, not from the wallet. People need to listen, to hear. Comments are dropped all year long from those we love. A wistful "I wish I had one of those" to something simple like "that would nice to have" or "that's cute!". I buy a lot of things at the second hand stores. Why? Well, besides the price, I find unusual things. And I feel that my money spent there is helping an organization that helps others. I'm not just putting money into the pocket of some CEO somewhere who can indeed have those nice homes in all of the sunny locations, while his workers struggle just to make ends meet. So, I shop in local second hand shops, where I know exactly where my money goes. Or I shop at craft fairs. Yeah, they can be a trifle more expensive than stuff imported from overseas, but, again, I know where my money is going. And, most often, it's unique.

So, I will decorate my tree, I will put out the toy soldiers and the santa figures in the yard, I will set up the little village with the snow and the glowing homes and the happy people in their happy little world. And I will sit at night, with the lights from the tree sparkling, and I will know peace.