Monday, October 31, 2011

Urban Legends

In keeping with the Halloween mood, I thought I'd share a few urban legends that are in my YA paranormal and my upcoming re-release EARRINGS OF IXTUMEA.

In CROSSED OUT, Stephanie ends up going to Hillary's, her arc nemesis's, home. Hillary dares her to go into the bathroom and call on Bloody Mary. Hillary knows a little about Stephanie's secret--that she can see the dead. But Stephanie refuses to let Hillary get to her and goes into the bathroom, little knowing that her 'gift' might summon someone else.

In my upcoming book EARRINGS OF IXTUMEA there is the urban legend of La Llorona, the weeping lady:

There are many versions of this story. One claims that La Malinche, the trusted aide of Hernan Cortes and his mistress was the basis of the story. I also found many other versions from different countries. But all stories had one thing in common; a former mistress is jilted and she feels the only way to get her lover back is by drowning her children.

Here's one version of the story--

One popular version of the legend takes place sometime in 19th century. A beautiful young woman with two small children was living in the poorest section of Juarez, Mexico, the town across the border from El Paso. She was madly in love with a very rich man. He felt the same way about her, but he, having no interest in children, refused to marry her. So, late one night, the woman took her children to a bridge over the Rio Grande river. In the dead of the night, she heartlessly stabbed her children and threw them in the river to drown. Still wearing her bloody nightgown, she went to her lover's home to show him the great lengths she had gone to be with him. The man, seeing her blood-streaked nightgown, was horrified and rejected her. Then, finally realizing the horrible mistake she had made, she ran back to the river screaming, crying, and tearing at her hair, desperately trying to save her children. But it was too late. The woman stabbed and drowned herself in the same river. The legend has it that as punishment for her unspeakable sins she was given the head of a horse, and was to wander the banks of the Rio Grande for all of eternity looking for her lost children.

While cleaning out my writing room I came across the book, CHICANO FOLKLORE by Rafaela G. Castro. Inside this book are numerous legends, folktales, traditions, rituals, and religious practices of Mexican-Americans. Today's urban legend is listed under Maria de Jesus Coronel de Agreda( The Blue Lady)

In this legend a woman dressed in a blue veil or the blue habit of a nun appeared to help the sick and afflicted during the seventeenth century. Legends of the Blue Lady circulated in New Mexico and Texas during the mid-1600's. Stories reported that she liked to help women in need and poor children, though her goal seemed to be to Christianize the Indians of the Southwest.

Adina de Zavala cites a San Antonio legend about a mystifying woman in blue who appears once a generation, out of the hidden underground passages of the Alamo, bearing a distinctive gift that she bestows on a woman. The woman is always a native Texan; she may be young, old, or middle-aged, but she is always a speical woman, "pure and good, well bred, intellignet, spiritual, and patriotic." The gift that is bestowed on her is the ability to see "the heart of things," and the woman is instructed to use the gift for the good of the people of San Antonio and of Texas.

Also I can't forget  another Mexican urban legend--the chupacabra.

This is from a May 15, 1996 CNN article.

From Correspondent Lucia Newman

I guess if CNN reports it, people start believing it!!

Is it a mutant vampire? Is it an extra-terrestrial? Or is it simply a figment of someone's overactive imagination?

The chupacabra defies definition, but several strange and unexplained incidents in Mexico are causing locals to believe the creature is more than just a myth.

Legend has it that the chupacabra -- Spanish for "goat sucker" -- has fiery eyes and resembles a cross between a giant dog and a lizard. The creature is said to walk upright on two feet, sink its fangs into its victims and kill them by drinking their blood.

The creature has been accused of killing goats, sheep and chickens and generally terrorizing Mexico's countryside.

"It's horrible because we don't know what it is," said a woman. "I don't think its a coyote or a dog like officials say because a dog can't kill ten goats with a single blow."

Those who claim to have seen it say the goatsucker is big and hairy with wings, long fangs, and legs like a kangaroo.

In the north of Mexico, terrified peasants have tried to hunt the chupacabra with the help of police, but even a handsome reward hasn't been sufficient bring about the capture or a photograph the mysterious creature.

This goatsucker is also being blamed for at least one broken marriage: A man has demanded a divorce from his wife after failing to believe her story that the marks on her neck were caused by the goatsucker.

Authorities say tests on goat victims indicate the so-called goatsucker is probably a wolf or coyote. But that's done nothing to abate the goatsucker fever sweeping Mexico.

Some say the chupacabra has been invented by the government to draw attention away from Mexico's acute economic crisis.

"The goatsucker is the government, because the people are suffering horribly from poverty," one woman said.

The real identity of the goatsucker may never be known. But in times of crisis and stress, it's at least a distraction.

Friday, October 28, 2011

True or False? A Blog Will Show Readers What To Expect In Your Books

I read blog posts that I gather together through Twitter (as I do a mashup on Mondays called Mind Sieve on my regular blog) and I've seen all sorts of lists, blog help posts, and writer advice posts that tout that aside from giving of yourself so readers get to know you, that it is also a medium for them to get a feel about your writing style/voice and will thus help make readers interested in your books.

From Socious

Since the first time I saw the part of that statement with regards to style and voice it's been eating away at me. Because in my mind, I don't think that's entirely correct.

Yes, a blog will show whether or not I can string two sentences together and have a grasp of basic grammar. It will also show if I can be entertaining or even amusing, but not what my books are like.

A blog is about sharing and creating conversations. Sometimes it's even about imparting wisdom or lesson's learned. Yet it's not really a story or novel. Yes, both entertain, both should have a beginning, middle, and end, but not in the same ways. My voice is totally different in my blog posts than it is in my stories. And even between stories, my voice can vary depending on the genre and POV. So how could a reader know what my books would be like by just reading my blog posts?

I do feel blogs can bring us closer to readers and other writers, as through them we get to know one another and can connect. And, if they like me enough through the blog, they might go ahead and click on over to the website and check out my books. There the sample chapters would do the job of showing my actual writing voice and whether or not it was one that appealed to them. But it would be a side effect of the blogging, not something the readers would have known about until they went the extra step and clicked over to the website.

Am I full of it? What's your take on this? Convince me! Let's discuss. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Season of Inspiration

Although April was once called the cruelest month, I don't think it has much over October. Autumn is the time of fiery leaves, apples and pumpkins, the smell of someone's wood-burning fireplace in the evening, and the approach of the holiday season.

At the same time, it is the time when those fiery leaves turn brown and drift lifelessly away, when the ground itself turns gray and hard, and the sun slips into away so early that we both leave for work and arrive home in the dark. Winter is creeping up on all of us and I know it's just a matter of time before we face blizzards, freezing winds, and the never-ending battle of shovels vs. snow.

And yet I can honestly say that autumn is the time when my Muse feels the closest to me. For some reason, she? or he? whispers in my ear as well as in my heart more during this change of seasons than any other. Branches that are going bare -fine brown lace against a twilight sky- or skeletal wildflowers in the vacant lot down the block evoke sometimes overwhelming feelings of loss, of need, of anguish, and my better stories are all born of that painfully rich earth. I never realized how many of my stories are set in autumn until I consciously counted them, and I also found, to my surprise, that those stories cost me more to write but grant me a deeper sense of accomplishment than my lighter summer fare.

Autumn was that way for me even as a kid. It meant walking past that scary house five doors away from mine when the afternoon was already growing dark, or imagining that the solitary man or wizened old woman I passed on the street as I walked home from school were really denizens of a shadowy other world that threatened to engulf me if wasn't careful.

So now October is passing and once again I feel those pangs of longing and sad nostalgia tugging inside of me. Here's hoping I get a good story out my Muse this time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Exploring Words - The curiosity factor

My granddaughter is in second grade and she has a reading assignment every night and that's to read aloud to someone for fifteen minutes. The other evening Grandma was the person to hear the reading. When she comes to a word that's new to her she wants to talk about it. I enjoy this part of the session.

One word was select. We listed a few other words that had the same or similar meaning. She thought of choose and pick. Grandma added opt. Not that this word is used frequently except in crossword puzzles. Then we talkked about each word. Select she decided was a word rich people would use. Choose was a Mommy and Daddy word. Pick was for apples and books. Opt she had no idea who other than Grandma would use but she decided she would use the word when she went to school. I'm waiting to hear the results when she says, "I opt for that book."

We had another discussion on the word propped. The context was the character sat on her bed propped by pillows. My granddaughter's thought was "That's just like when you bring Mommy breakfast in bed and she shoves pillows behind her so she doesn't spill the food."

It's rather a joy sharing reading sessions and hearing her puzzle out the meaning of words and being delighted in learning new words. What really interested me was the curiosity factor. How many children question and explore words and how many just absorb without ever thinking about the meanings and shadings. Perhaps this is a writer in the bud or just a child who will always love reading.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sex, Violence and the F-Bombs.

My wife and I do not have kids. We have a cat. So whatever we read or watch on TV is really of little concern to Cosmo. If he wants to watch he does. We have no regulations for his TV viewing because although he REALLY does sit fascinated by certain shows (he loves Seinfeld) he would prefer to run and tumble with a stuffed mouse or pass out on our laps.

I have numerous friends who were allowed to watch whatever they wanted growing up. Horror, raunchy college films, off-color comedy–it was all cool with their parents and they seem to be normal and well adjusted humans (although perhaps a touch more jaded but I would need to do more research on that).

Me?  I was not even allowed to watch Saturday Night Live as a kid. R-rated movies? Hell - I mean - heck no!

I cannot say for certain how my own censoring would be if I were a parent although I think much of that decision would have to do with my own judgement of the maturity level of my kid. There are, for example, different types of violence. A film like Casino has some very disturbing moments I will even fast-forward through. I see no value in a ten year old watching a man have his eyes popped out as a vice squeezes his head. It's nightmarish. I am not an expert but it could have a lasting, negative impact on their psyches. Super Hero movies have a comic book level of violence that is usually done to monsters or fanciful beings that seem to me to have much less of a disturbing quotient. I am not sure if I am right about that, just my opinion.

I once sat in a film festival screening of a very violent film. A mother sat in front of me with her eight year old daughter. I watched with amusement as she covered her kid's eyes every time the male star appeared on screen in his underwear. No sex or nudity just his tighty-whiteys. Yet she let her daughter watch the bloody, human on human violence. This seems to happen often in our society. When I was a kid there was a much better chance I would be allowed to watch a violent film (like the original Roller Ball) if there was no sex in it. Our culture seems to deem sex as a much worse offense than violence and parents, especially of my parent's generation, feel the same. (I think it may have more to do with their discomfort of watching sex in front of their children and I can totally understand that.) I actually feel that most drawn out sex scenes are gratuitous and the longer they last the more likely it is padding in a mediocre film.  But is it damaging for a pre-pubescent child to watch sexual images? We all know that as soon as they reach a certain age this will become unavoidable as they begin to explore their own sexuality. Is there a cut-off age? I do not know.

Cursing is something that drives the adults of my parents age (those who were kids during World War II) crazy. They hate it. I think it has to do with the fact that they grew up with great films that were heavily censored (there were much stricter standards in the 40s than the 30s) so they seem to be extra sensitive to it.  After all, NOBODY actually cursed when the world was black and white! Right? I made a movie with my cousin called NO EXIT and I recall we were more concerned with our parents hearing the 300+ F words that filled the film than we were all the shootings and stabbings!

Folks from the baby boom era (and later) are much less offended by bad language. In fact, they tend to find great amusement in it. How can you not laugh when you hear Tony Soprano spray the F-Bomb with the finesse of a Renaissance artist? We all love to quote Goodfellas and find it ridiculous watching it on TNT or some other channel that replaces the classic F word with "freakin".

The overuse of cursing is sign of laziness. We all use them but it can get out of hand and become silly and ignorant. However, humans DO use them and to eliminate them from entertainment completely is just as silly. AS for their negative impact on kids? I think kids will emulate their parents and how THEY use the words. I really think they are harmless.

Like I said, I do not have kids of my own so I can only theorize how I would censor my own. But like anything else, it seems the example set by the parents themselves will have a greater impact and will make the kids much more impervious to any damage done by sex, violence and f-bomb shrapnel.

What do you parents think?

Mike DiCerto (  is a filmmaker and author of two books, including the first of a new series called THE ADVENTURES OF RUPERT STARBRIGHT: THE DOOR TO FAR-MYST. Available from Zumaya Thresholds. A book that has no sex, NO F-Bombs and only mild violence!

Monday, October 17, 2011

How do I know when to stop?

“The point of good writing is knowing when to stop.” ~ Lucy Montgomery

As I mentioned in my last post, I am working on the final edits for my next novel, PFC Liberty Stryker. Like every writer at this stage, I ask myself, “How do I know when to stop?”

Many writers believe it’s hard to know when to stop editing. Let’s face it we spend a hell of a lot of time revising our work. John Irving said, “Half my life is an act of revision.” If you’re like me, even after a book is published you see where you could have added a word or two, here and there. Oscar Wilde said, “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.” How depressing. I prefer to finish mine, thank you very much. Whether we abandon our books or finish them, at some point we do have to let go.

I have compiled a check list gleaned from years of editing my own and other writers’ works, and listening to what writers and editors say about revision. At each stage in the re-writing process I use the guidelines below to improve my story. This is my map to the finish line.

  1. Can you summarize the story in a sentence or two?
  2. Details: spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, italics, formatting
  3. Is your main character an interesting person?
  4. Does she/he have flaws?
  5. Does your main character change throughout the story?
  6. Is every character necessary to this story?
  7. Have you chosen the best point of view?
  8. Does the beginning draw the reader in?
  9. Is there tension in this story?
  10. Does each chapter provide information that moves the story forward?
  11. Does every scene?
  12. Does your dialogue move the story forward, as in no idle conversations?
  13. Does everyone sound alike? Can readers tell who’s talking without dialogue tags?
  14. Is there unresolved conflict until the end?
  15. Does the story end where it’s supposed to?
  16. Do you like this story?
Coming soon: PFC Liberty Stryker
Peggy Tibbetts

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Friday, October 14, 2011


I remember many more holidays when I was growing up than those celebrated today. Some were national - Columbus Day, Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Arbor Day, Flag Day. Some were local, such as Founder's Day or Maxwell Street Day (which in small towns in Wisconsin was celebrated by city-wide sidewalk sales. Each town had a different day in August so people in neighboring communities would come and shop) or Octoberfest. Some were religious. I was raised Roman Catholic, so quite a few saints had their holiday celebrated with the entire class attending Mass. May Day to me isn't memories of parades of armies and weapons but of decorating small altars with the first flowers of the season. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, so St. Patrick's Day was the wearing of the green (and/or orange when I graduated to a public high school) by students of Irish ancestry, followed by St. Joseph's Day two days later and the wearing of the red by students of Italian ancestry.

There were so many holidays that the most valuable book in a library's reference collection was The Book of Holidays (or various versions) just so a teacher could keep track. This was also a useful resource when researching various countries and cultures for Geography and History classes to see what holidays were celebrated by others.

But then the Catholic Church changed the list of saints, dropping many (including the one my grammar school was named for) and the Federal holidays changed to those that could be celebrated over a three day weekend such as merging Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays. Some holidays fell out of popularity - though stores seem to remember them for sales. Holidays that could be celebrated with a card were added, as well as others (such as Read an Ebook Week) that one has to be in the know to even realize they exist. On the plus side, there is now more awareness of other cultural and religious holidays and more mention of them in the media.

Celebrations and holidays can unite a community, whether it be a classroom, a town, or a country. Each can have rituals or customs that either make sense (the planting of trees on Arbor Day) or originated so long ago that no one remembers why they began.

When developing the world for a science fiction or fantasy novel, adding holidays and celebrations helps establish traditions for your society. Do your elves have a spring or an autumn celebration? Do your dragons celebrate hatchings or first flight? Are the birthdays of royalty celebrated by the whole kingdom or only the royal family? Are there fall festivals similar to modern day Renaissance Fairs?

Will the holidays of today be celebrated in the future? Do the people in a space colony celebrate the day the first ship arrived? The day the space station was completed? Do they have the equivalent of Thanksgiving? Are there parades?

What are some of the celebrations in your books or your favorite stories?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Werewolf-what? No, Rugaroo.

A few months ago I began a series of articles concerning the various mythological and myth-based creatures I use in my two series: Seraphym Wars for YA and Stardust Warriors for MG. Today I’m discussing a monster new to me. I was watching one of my favorite shows the other morning, Supernatural, and the boys had to confront something called a Rugaroo. I immediately jumped onto Google to investigate this scary, intriguing creature. Here's what I found out.
The term Roogaroo, Rugaroo, Ruggaroo, Roux-Ga-Roux (among other spellings) probably stems from the French word "loup garou" for werewolf. According to Barry Jean Ancelet, an academic expert on Cajun folklore and professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the tale of the rougarou is a common legend across French Louisiana. Both words are used interchangeably in southern Louisiana. Some people call the monster rougarou; others refer to it as the loup garou. However, the Rugaroo is NOT just a werewolf. It has similar but different characteristics. For one, it can shape-shift at will (not just full moons) and not into a wolf form. It can take on the shape of any animal--even human.
The rougarou legend has been spread for many generations, either directly from French settlers to Louisiana (New France) or via the French Canadian immigrants centuries ago.
In the Cajun legend, the creature supposedly prowls the swamps around Acadiana and Greater New Orleans, and possibly the fields or forests of the regions. The rougarou is usually described as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to the werewolf legends. As with fairytales, it is believed that often the story-telling was used to instill fear. Supposedly, elders used the stories to persuade Cajun children to behave. Another example relates that the wolf-like beast will hunt down and kill Catholics who do not follow the rules of Lent. This coincides with the French Catholic loup garou stories, where the method for turning into a werewolf was to break Lent seven years in a row.
A common blood sucking legend speculated that the rougarou was under the spell for 101 days. After that time, the curse was transferred from person to person when the rougarou drew another human’s blood. During the day the creature returned to human form. Although feeling sickly, the person refused to tell others for fear of being killed.

Other stories range from the rougarou as a headless horseman to the rougarou derived from witchcraft. In the latter claim, only a witch could make a rougarou - either by turning themselves into wolves or cursing others with lycanthropy. As with legends passed by oral tradition, stories often contradict one another. The stories of the wendigo vary by tribe and region, but the most common cause of the change is typically related to cannibalism.
A modified example, not in the original wendigo legends, is that if a person saw a rugaru, they would be transformed into one. Thereafter, they would be doomed to wander as a rugaru. That story bears some resemblance to a Native American version of the wendigo legend related in a short story by Algernon Blackwood. In Blackwood's fictional adaptation of the legend, seeing a wendigo caused one to turn into a wendigo.
According to The American Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 134, No. 10. published in October 1977:  "Lycanthropy, a psychosis in which the patient has delusions of being a wild animal (usually a wolf), has been recorded since antiquity. The Book of Daniel describes King Nebuchadnezzar as suffering from depression that deteriorated over a seven-year period into a frank psychosis at which time he imagined himself a wolf. Among the first medical descriptions were those of Paulus Aegineta during the later days of the Roman Empire. In his description of the symptom complex, Aegineta made reference to Greek mythology in which Zeus turned King Lycaon of Arcadia into a raging wolf.
Folk-etymology links the word to Lycaon, a king of Arcadia who, according to Ovid's Metamorphoses, was turned into a ravenous wolf in retribution for attempting to serve human flesh (his own son) to visiting Zeus in an attempt to disprove the god's divinity.
There is also a mental illness called lycanthropy in which a patient believes he or she is, or has transformed into, an animal and behaves accordingly. This is sometimes referred to as clinical lycanthropy to distinguish it from its use in legends.
While the wolf is the most common form of were-animal, in the north the bear is common in legends. In ancient Greece the dog was associated with the belief and today the were-boar variant is known through Greece and Turkey. 
Even if when the term lycanthropy is limited to the wolf-metamorphosis of living human beings, the beliefs classed together under this head are far from uniform. The transformation may be temporary or permanent; the were-animal may be a metamorphosed person, or maybe a double whose activity leaves the real person unchanged. It could be a soul seeking to devour while leaving its body in a state of trance. Or perchance a messenger of a human being, a real animal or familiar spirit, whose connection with its owner is demonstrated through injury, by a phenomenon known as repercussion, to cause a corresponding injury to the human being.

Lycanthropy is often confused with transmigration; but the essential feature of the were-animal is that it is the double of a living human being, while the soul-animal is the vehicle, temporary or permanent, of the spirit of a dead human being. Nevertheless, instances in legend of humans reincarnated as wolves are often classed with lycanthropy, as well as these instances being labeled werewolves in local folklore.
Many Native cultures feature skin-walkers or a similar concept, wherein a shaman or warrior may, according to cultural tradition, take on an animal form. Animal forms can vary according to cultures and local species (including bears and wolves or coyotes). Skinwalkers tend to be totemic.
Author Peter Matthiessen determined that rugaru is a separate legend from that of the cannibal-like giant wendigo. While the wendigo was feared, he noted that the rugaru was seen as sacred and in tune with Mother Earth, in the same character of the bigfoot legends of today.
The Rugaroo can vary from a mild Big-foot-type creature to cannibalistic Native American Wendigos. While the lore of the cannibalistic Wendigos is prevalent throughout the Algonquian-speaking tribes in the northern US and Canada, the Rugaroo legend comes mostly from the Ojibwe and Chippewa tribes where is it considered sacred and in touch with Mother Earth, much like the Big-Foot is considered today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From a Seriously Mixed-Up Brain

This post is just a hodgepodge of my rambling brain. That’s how I’ve been all week, jumping from one thing to another, never settling anywhere for long, like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower.

The Muse Online Writers Conference has ended. It was a week of learning, sharing, meeting new people and making friends. My workshop on Vision Boarding was fun, at least for me. We shared ideas on characters, setting, and plot. And boy, the writers had lots of great thoughts.

I planned to attend some of the other workshops, but kept too busy to do so. My organization skills need improving. One thing that’s nice about an Online conference is you can attend at your convenience. You also can be wearing your sloppiest clothes and no makeup and no one will know.

I pitched my MG story and was asked for a full. Getting it ready to send, with fingers crossed they’ll offer me a contract. A couple of my friends were asked for their manuscripts by the agents they pitched to, which makes me thrilled for them. This could be their big break.

October 20 is the National Day on Writing, started three years ago, by the National Council of Teachers of English. It sounds like a lot of fun. You can publish your writing, or tell your family, friends or students, if you are a teacher, about publishing to the National Gallery of Writing. For details check their site:

Tonight I’m lost in the world of baseball playoffs, which has nothing to do with writing, unless a character turns out to be a baseball player in a future story. (By the time you read this, the game will be over, but there’s another one Wednesday and on and on.) The game is tied at the moment. Come to think of it, my early reader that just came out, Tumbleweed Christmas, has a girl who carries her baseball glove everywhere she goes.

Are you getting dizzy trying to follow me? Never fear, it’s almost over. One last thought to leave with you.

Halloween will soon be here. What is your favorite memory?

I remember going to a party when I was in junior high. We dressed in costumes, of course. I was Cinderella wearing a long full dress my mother made for me. Well, we went on a scavenger hunt, and it was cold and windy. That skirt kept blowing in my face or else I was tripping over it. So much for being a graceful Cinderella. By the time we were finished with the hunt, I resembled the “before” Cinderella, before the fairy godmother turned her into a beautiful princess.

My ramblings are over for now. Bye. [Do I hear shouts of joy?]

Monday, October 10, 2011

Choosing a Voice

Wow, this month went so fast, didn't it? I'm still on a writing Time Out, so to speak. But I do have big news.

I got an agent. Yes, as someone said to me, I managed to wrestle one to the ground and beat them into submission and sign me. As of October 1st, I am a client of Terrie Wolf at AKA Literary. She is representing me for my Steampunk Fairy Tale (and I hope for long after that). I am so excited! Who knows, maybe someday soon I'll be a YA Author You've Actually Heard Of!

But today I'd like to talk about voice. It's that elusive quality to writing that no one can seem to define. Agents and editors have all told me that they can't describe it, but they know it when they see it. I call it How the Book Sounds. Voice is not about the dialogue, or the characterization.

It's about the narration. I think. Voice is more noticeable in 1st person because the main character is talking directly to the reader. You hear exactly how they would think it. But in 3rd person it becomes a little trickier to pin down.

There's the narrative voice that needs to be on level with the reader- so many agents and editors say they get a ton of MG without a MG voice. So the narration needs to sound younger. If you're writing a historical, the narrative voice might need to be more formal, or use different metaphors (an epiphany I had about a year ago).

One of my favorite forms of narrative voice is the Authorial Intrusion. It's that funny form of narration when the amorphous narrator actually sort of becomes a character. Sometimes it can be really funny - think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl was a master of the Authorial Intrusive voice.

My first book, I tried to use a more Intrusive voice, but it never really worked out the way I wanted. Since I'm rewriting it, I think it's coming along better. It's still not AI, but it's amusing me in ways it hadn't before.

Take this passage from the new version of TALISMAN OF ZANDRIA:

Ivy stared at her teacup, carefully measuring her situation. There were rules about not taking food from a stranger, told to her over and over again since kindergarten by teachers, her parents, the police. Just like there were rules about not talking to strangers, and definitely never, ever going off with one. She had gotten into this mess because she hadn’t followed the rules. 
But she glanced around the cozy little cottage and thought about everything Connor had said, and listened to her stomach growl, and decided that today was the kind of day day that the rules had never considered.

It sounds a lot different than the first time I wrote it. Kind of light, kind of silly, and at the same time a serious moment. The VOICE sets the tone of the book. This book IS kind of light and silly, but it's serious at times too. It reflects the main character. Which is what a voice should DO, even in 3rd person. Unless it's Authorial Intrusion, in which case the narrative voice should reflect the narrator - and in that case it had better be Very Interesting.

I have played with various types of voice - in the Steampunk Fairy Tale, I have two POV characters, and while it's all told in 3rd person, their narrative voices are very different. 

Next time you read (or write), consider the Voice. Enjoy it as you read it. If you write, take the narration and have some fun with it - don't just say what's happening, but decide on HOW you want to say it. Make sure it fits with your story, of course, but play around and feel it out.

Don't be afraid of the voice. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Ramblings

So, here it is, my turn once again. It's been a busy few weeks here. I do craft shows in the fall and am gearing up for those. That means a lot of tagging and bagging going on. This year we have decided to get into the antique/collectible side of the show, as well. That's been fun. And challenging. And its' taking up a lot of room in my craft room as well!

I've also been working with my publisher and cover artist to come up with brand, spanking new covers for all of my books. That's been equally fun and challenging. Sometimes it's hard to say in a picture just what the book is all about. For instance, my fantasy romance FREE SPIRIT is about a young woman who is sold at slave auction, falls in love with her new 'master', but fights against the fact that he owns her. She was free, and she wants to be free again. So, how to show her struggle? I don't really want to put her in chains on the front of the book, because that is only a very temporary part of the story. Once sold, she is outfitted as a comrade, not a slave. She is essentially free already, although indebted to him. I want to show her free, yet not free. A true dilemma. Some of the other book covers are easy to place, as was THE FANE QUEEN, book 11 of the Guardians of Glede fantasy series.

Covers are important. They are the first glimpse of the world you have created between the pages of the book. They need to be intriguing, they need to spark an interest in the prospective reader, they need to convince the reader to pick up the book, to take a chance.

So, I have spent hours going over images, selecting them, playing around with them, combining them, tweaking them, making mock-ups to send to the cover artist. Creativity on a different level. And who knows more about one's book than the author?

I've also been kept busy with my own blog. I rarely have anything to say that I feel is of consequence (which is why it's hard for me to post here every so often) but I've been doing a photo blog since the first of the year. Every day. It just this morning dawned on me how long it's already been. Nine months. 280 days. 280 pictures. That's a lot of pictures. My daughter tells me that my photography is getting better over time. I'm not sure I see that myself. It all looks the same to me. (If you're interested, you can look at the pictures here: )

So, that's been my ramblings so far this year. With the upcoming craft shows, the holidays and numerous fall and winter birthdays, I'll be kept just as busy. Which is good, because those dreaded months of January, February and March are hovering out there, waiting.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Introducing Reality Ali

Once upon a time, way too many years ago to admit to, when I was a freshman in high school, I sat down on the orange Colonial-style sofa, in the room with the brown and gold and white shag rug, with re-runs of The Brady Bunch playing on TV, a clipboard with looseleaf paper in my lap and started to write a story about a girl in a boarding school.

Last week, with my daughter now a freshman in high school (and owning all of The Brady Bunch seasons on DVD), I signed a contract to publish REALITY ALI, a story about a girl in a boarding school

Is this the same story?

Well, yes and no.

There are, I think, four elements that have not changed: the boarding school aspect, the girl's last name, the fact that she is rich and the fact that she has at least one older brother. That's about it.

But, I still tend to think of it as a version of the same story. A story that has gone through so many revisions as to be pretty much unrecognizable. But in that time the story has grown and changed and matured. And that's a good thing. After all, I was fourteen when I started the first version - I'd like to think that I've grown and matured over the past years.

What can you take away from this? Keep revising. Keep trying. You never know what might happen.

And in the coming months, I'll let you know more about Ali and her quest to be famous.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Five Things I learned from SCBWI OC Editor's Day Conference

On Saturday I was able to attend the thirteenth annual OC Editor's Day.  I love going to conferences and this is the first one I've attended in two years.  My goal for next year is attend more.  Why?  Going to conferences is a great way to network, meet people from the publishing world, network, and also get motivated to write/finish your project.

I had fun meeting in person Greg Ferguson, editor at Egmont and also agent Jill Corcoran, who reps my all time favorite YA author Linda Singleton.  And it's always fun to run into friend and author Marlene Perez.

Anyway I thought I'd give you the five things I learned from the conference:

5. An editor is like a coach.  He/she help make a book better.
So true!  I love what my current editor Liz Burton of Zumaya is doing with my upcoming book No Goddesses Allowed. 

4. Yes, a brick and border can determine what the final cover will end up being.

Greg Ferguson showed what the original cover of the amazing book Ashes was going to look like.  Then one of the heads at Barnes and Noble didn't care for it.  **Personally I thought it was awesome but then again I'm not a head of a leading brick and border store. 

For Crossed Out, the idea of having a cross on the cover was put aside as my publisher was worried it would be labeled Christian fiction(which it isn't).  I love the final one!

3. Check out this amazing appt for the iPad that Ruta Rimas editor at McElderry Books recommended:

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

2. I found it interesting that most of the editors mentioned how it's the underlining core elements that need to stand out in your story. The voice needs to call to the editor.

And finally:
Be patient and love what you do.
Boy, can I tell you that on my own writing journey I'm learning how to be patient and trust me, this isn't one of my virtues! You have to love what you do too. One great thing was that even though I noticed that some of the editors aren't looking for dystopias(which my sekrit project is), the editor I pitched to was so sweet and gave me some advice/feedback on what can make my story stand out more.