Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

It's that day again -- New Year's Eve. Already people are making lists of things they want to do in 2013, the ways they want to change their lives for the better. The most common resolution, I think, is the one to lose weight. Probably because they've spent the last week to ten days eating cookies and pie and chocolate and all kinds of yummy treats. Me too, but I managed to not put on the pounds. Whew!

2012 wasn't a bad year for me. It was kind of an average, ordinary, not much happened year. It was better for some, like people who won the lottery, and worse for others, like people more affected by Hurricane Sandy. We were lucky to escape that unscathed, and I feel so bad for so many who lost so much. Overall we had a good year.

Looking back through this blog, I did a post about this time last year, and made some goals...

1. Hopefully Beautiful, Marvelous Agent Lady will sell Smoke & Mirrors to a great house and for a great deal. I have faith in her.

Haven't gotten there yet, but we're still working hard at it. There were a couple of bumps, a technical difficulty or two, and a hurricane that basically shut down the NYC publishing industry for weeks. 

2. Finish the Library of Athena series. One book left.

Yeah, I didn't even start this yet. More about that later.

3. Finish another Steampunk novel.

Nope. But I did start one, and got about a quarter of a first draft, and wrote an awesome Steampunk short story that I submitted and hope to have news on this year. That's something.

4. Write, write, write

Sigh...

5. Finish Grad School. By this time next year, I'll be done. Just two semesters to go.

This I did. Done. Finished. Absolutely no more classes left. Grades have been posted, just waiting to get the degree awarded. This has been three LONG years, and for about half the time, I was working full time too. At some point I decided that rather than make myself upset and frustrated trying to do it all (working, school, keeping up my exercise, my son's football season), that I would write all summer and then take a writing break during that last semester. So now I'm done. At first, I just sat back and enjoyed the fact that I could spend time doing what I wanted, though for awhile I felt guilty just sitting and watching TV, or sleeping in on a Sunday and not spending the whole day in the loft, with my face glued to the computer, writing academic papers. Took some getting used to, being finished.

6. Take the family camping at least once. We have a car that will make it, and Boy's never been camping. Which I find a terrible shame, since he's nine years old already.

Did this too. So...two out of six? Oh, and I joined the gym and started working out, which wasn't on the list, but I need a gimme.

I did get around to doing some other things I had been wanting to do for a long time, like breaking out and going to a different SF con, Balticon. I hope I get invited back, because it was a good time. I went to all the normal events I attend, and managed to get myself into one or two more, which has been a goal of mine for awhile, to get out and physically attend author events.

I DID release a new book -- The Sword of Danu. So that's something. Now that school is done, I am trying to get back into the writing groove, to leave my student self behind and rediscover my writer self, trying to find the inspiration to put down more words. The well has been a little dry, so it's been slow, but I'm getting there. Having a bunch of really great books given to me for Christmas has helped. Watching certain TV shows, believe it or not, helps too.

So, 2013. Now that it's almost here I need to make some goals, because I have let too many things go for too long. Here we go...

I have three books to finish. The current Steampunk novel, the final Library of Athena book, and a new edition of Return to Zandria. The last two are contracted already, so I need to get on it. Back into the saddle, girl! Look for the new edition of Talisman of Zandria in the coming year!!  What else..

* Keep working out. I've lost about 10-12 lbs and I want to lose at least another 10 by mid-year, but to keep up the exercise is really the goal. I feel good when I exercise.
* Seriously keep paying down my bills. I've come to the realization I will probably never be completely out of debt, but I can put a dent in it.
* Get back to writing at least 500 words a day.
* Blog more. I had something like 50 blogs last year. Less than one per week. I need to do better, because blogging goes along with ...
* Do more promotion. I've kind of let it slide lately with the school and work, and I need a new plan. Maybe some updates to my website. I want to be more 'present' on this blog and the others I'm involved it. I've not been as active as I should have been. I think we need some more contests and stuff.

*I'd say sselling Smoke & Mirrors is one of my goals, and it is, but really there's nothing I can do about it. It's in my capable agent's hands, an even more so in the hands of the editors she's given it to. So I can cross my fingers and hope that it sells this year -- I think it will.

What are you looking forward to in 2013? What kind of goals do you have?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Auld Lang Syne

Here we are in that happy holiday period in between Christmas and New Years. The kids are off school, lots of people have off work, the preparation for the holidays are over, but the parties often continue.

It's also a time when people tend to take a step back and look over the past year.

So that's what I'm going to do.

Professionally, the biggest things for me were the publication of REALITY ALI, and signing a contract for three more books in the series.

Personally, the highlight of the year was when my daughter got a clean bill of health after battling a recurring problem for the over a year.


Also I got to Boston this summer. This has been a running joke in our family. Every time we started to think about a trip to Boston something would come up that would sideline it. Not this year. This year I actually got there. 

I also went to my first writer's conference, which was lots of fun and I know I'll have to do that again sometime.

Another highlight was getting to hear my son play his trumpet in the middle school jazz band. His solo starts at about the 2 minute mark.


The must surreal highlight had to be getting our German cuckoo clock fixed at a sushi restaurant. That's something that just might find it's way into a story sometime.

The year hasn't been perfect, there have been horribly tragic stories in the news and our state got hammered by Superstorm Sandy. While our family escaped any property damage, friends of ours were not so lucky. I know it's been a hard year for many in many ways. But when possible I like to focus on the positive.

So, please, share what the happy highlights of your year have been. And here's wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2013.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Teen Temps in Texas! Indoors!

Down here in Texas, winter sometimes feels like it's only a foot note during the holidays with a day here or there of truly (To Texans) cold temperatures.

This winter it's been even warmer than usual  and playing sinus havoc by rising to the 70's and 80's then plummeting to the 30's for a day or so then swinging back up to the 70's again.

Having lived down here now for twenty years plus, true cold is not something I've thought of as getting to experience again. But I was wrong!

I now work in Grapevine, TX and my boss and I noticed that the Gaylord Texan Hotel would be doing a Christmas event. Figuring we were too close to miss out, we took an early lunch one day and went to experience - ICE! Merry Madagascar


In this huge hotel, way off to the side, they set up a giant tent, bring in an absurd amount of cooling units. In the traditions of the famous Harbin Ice Festival in China, the owners of the Gaylord Texan have striven to bring us a little of the amazing ice shaping art seen there down home to Texas.

(Gigantic ice buildings at the Harbin Ice Festival)

And though we love to say everything is bigger in Texas, with ice we couldn't do as big as China, but the fact we can at all is amazing!

With temps down in the teens, your admission ticket also gets you your very own parka (you'll need it) then you can see what the 40+ Chinese artisans the hotel brought from overseas created for the delight of those willing to pay.


Marty, Gloria, Alex, Melman, all our favorite Madagascar friends are there. (The man in back is sporting one of the provided and essential parkas.)



Sphinx on ice! :)


The pic above is actually a set of ice slides. The boss and I actually went and slid down the thing. Heh heh (It was only us and one other set of adults at that time of day, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves! Bwahahaha) (No one present to take embarrassing Youtube videos that might go viral. Heh heh) 


Lights inside blocks of ice.




And what would Madagascar be without the Penguins? (Hey there, Skipper) 

The lemurs are also in attendance, but I didn't end up with a pic of them. Hmmm. (Did King Julian abscond with it?)


Loved this waterfall.


The angel was very cool.


Lit nativity scene.


The boss and I, knowing a little about what we were getting into, dressed up for this. Cap, gloves, multiple layers of clothes. Even having to take my glove off to make the phone take pics, I was able to tuck it away and keep warm. Every zipper and button was closed. I was doing pretty good throughout, but the boss wasn't so lucky.

By the time we finished the 20 minute or so walk through the exhibit she felt like she'd turned into ICE. Hee hee!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

CAUTION



CAUTION: BLOG POST UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Seriously. Watch this space for a hopefully more thorough job of it in January, when my turn comes around again. 

As it is, I just sent the grandson off to daycare with the husband and have enough time (ten minutes), I hope, to get something up here on my assigned day. Then I need to hurry off to my three-month old job while trying not to think about the cookies I need to bake (about six different recipes by Christmas Eve), the presents I need to wrap, heck- the presents I need to buy, and the appetizer I promised for the dinner party this Saturday.

I know all of us are up to our necks in commitments and time constraints so I'd like to wish all of us a great, fantastic, fun Christmas and a blessed, peaceful, quiet, productive New Year. This is an amazing group of authors I've found myself aligned with - Merry Christmas to all and God Bless Us, Every One.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Children and problems

Sorry this is so late but my youngest daughter had surgery so I'm going to make this a bit about her. She was our holiday child. She arrived just before Thanksgiving, as a nearly four year old via adoption. There were problems since she was an abused child but she had a beautiful smile and was a beautiful young girl. What I remember most was her excitement at her first Christmas with her and how she was so excited about her presents including a black baby doll that was just like her. She may still have that doll somewhere in a closet. She's now the mother of four and has overcome all her problems.

One of the books I gave her at her first Christmas was called "Never Tease a Weasel." I can still recite many of the words since I read it so many times.

What about you? Do you have a particular book that one of your child listened to over and over again? I believe all my children had a favorite one and strangely enough I remember a bit of each of those books.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The best kept secret -- Amazon Children’s Publishing

I have been an Amazon Vine Reviewer since 2008. Every other week I receive an email featuring dozens of free products -- from books of every genre to iPhone covers to toys to dog treats. Amazing stuff – really! I get to pick two items shipped free. All I have to do is review them. The only downside of this Vine arrangement is supplies are limited. About half the time, the products I choose first are already gone. Even so, I feel lucky to be a Vine Reviewer. Last month my catalog choices were slim. The toys were all gone, only books left, and few of those. I chose these two new picture books -- 





When they arrived I discovered they are both published by Amazon Children’s Publishing. Firefighters! is a paperback (also in board book, and Kindle edition – of course). 1-2-3 Va-Va-Wroom! is a hardcover (also in Kindle edition). Rhyming text and action-packed, colorful illustrations make these books a hit with my almost 4-year old grandson. I read and review lots of picture books. My grandson enjoys these books every bit as much as he enjoys two books I recently reviewed, Boot and Shoe (Simon & Schuster) and Wumbers (Chronicle) -- if not more.

I knew Amazon had gotten into the publishing business in 2009. But I thought they were publishing nonfiction and adult genre fiction. I didn’t know Amazon had a children’s publishing division. Out of curiosity, I googled “amazon children’s publishing.” The first thing I learned is that Amazon Children’s Publishing publishes “Quality books for young readers of all ages, from toddlers to teens.” Click on the link to see the broad -- though somewhat still limited -- selection of books for young readers. Quite impressive.

As it happens, I have three picture book manuscripts I think might be a good fit for Amazon Children’s Publishing. But I couldn’t find any submission guidelines at their website. I did find an email address and sent a request for submission guidelines. As of this writing I haven’t heard back. I will post an update here, if and when I do receive those guidelines.

I googled “amazon children’s publishing submission guidelines.” All I could find was a blog post from author/editor Deborah Halverson at DearEditor.com: Submitting to Amazon Children’s Publishing:

“Tim Ditlow, Associate Publisher of Amazon Children’s Publishing, spoke about his months-old program at the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference last week. While official submission guidelines are still being created, he said ACP is indeed accepting unsolicited submissions. For now, send a query email to acp-submit@amazon.com. Attach your full picture book ms or the first 3 chapters of your MG/YA fiction as pdfs or Word documents. There’s no time frame for responses yet.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have no beef with Amazon. They sell my books and they give me free stuff. I own a Kindle and I buy lots more books and stuff at their website and partner sites. We have a symbiotic relationship. But Amazon is notorious for their lack of communication. It’s not always easy to get an answer to your question. In one way or another we have all experienced it. Everyone has an Amazon story. But in this case, with Amazon Publishing, one would think they might get hip to the whole communication thing – like, social networking. But there’s no “follow us on Twitter” or Facebook buttons on their website either. So apparently not. 

That’s unfortunate because I also googled onto this article:  Amazon Struggles to Crack Publishing. As it turns out Amazon is finding out something we “indies” have learned about the publishing business –– distribution is a bitch.

Here’s a picture book concept – this little author mouse has a suggestion for the giant Amazon king of the jungle: Fix this distribution mess! If anyone can do it, the mighty Amazon can. In the end, they will set us all free from the tangled Ingram-Walmart-Target-B&N-Baker & Taylor web that’s keeping thousands of books out of stores and libraries – yours and mine included. 

How about the rest of you “indies” out there? Do you have any advice for this struggling new indie publisher?

Peggy Tibbetts

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Brief introduction, as there are several authors blogging here. Kathryn Sullivan here, author of the YA fantasies The Crystal Throne and Talking to Trees and the sf/fantasy anthology Agents & Adepts. My children's picture book, Michael And The Elf was just republished by Guardian Angel Publishing on Tuesday and released in both paper and e-format so I'm still bouncing around about that. There's more at my website.

I've been tagged by Gary Russell as part of The Next Big Thing blog-a-thon, and, as I don't have a blog of my own, I'm posting the answers to the ten questions here. Followers of YAAYNHO are probably already familiar with my answers, but here we go!

What is the working title of your next book?

The series will be called Explorer-in-Training. The working title of the first book is Invasion of the Space Bugs. I'm also working on another book set in the universe of my galactic agents from a few stories in Agents & Adepts, but I haven't even settled on a working title for that one. The file names have been Jan scenes and Vanishing, but those are just placeholders.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Back when the main character was still talking to me (long story) she said she wanted to be an explorer like her grandmother, who had found the planet that the colony was now settled on. But first she has to finish school. And then the bugs came.

The agent story is a mixture of a story I had been working on with someone else before the opportunity fell through (another long story) and one with another agent finding an alien in a swamp. I've been reading that short segment at a few conventions and people seem to like it.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA science fiction for the space bug story. Vaguely science fiction for my galactic agents story.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I wouldn't even try to attempt that. I don't follow enough shows or movies to know the names of actors and the actors in the movies and shows I do watch wouldn't be suited for my books.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

1) Young girl plans to be an explorer like her grandmother.

2) Galactic agents protect primitive worlds from invasion.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I don't have an agent. Amber Quill Press has published my other books, so I'll check with them first. If they're not interested, there are several other e-publishers and presses I can query.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I'm still working on the first draft of both. These are both taking me longer than normal for me, but I'm blaming events in real life.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

One of the reasons I’m writing the YA book is because there’s been a dearth of YA science fiction books lately.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The galactic agents series in Agents & Adepts were inspired by James Schmitz's Agents of Vega and Lloyd Biggle, Jr.'s Watchers of the Dark and the series that continued from that book.

The space colony book was inspired from an assignment some of my friends' children had to write on what they wanted to be when they grew up. The character just suddenly piped up, "I want to be an explorer like Grams."

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

There will be bugs and aliens. And girls who like science and engineering.

To continue the blog chain I am tagging Christine Norris, Gloria Oliver, Laura Underwood, James Hoch, and Stephen Zimmer.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Relatives

There's a meme going around Facebook, "Cousins are the first friends of our lives". While I'm not sure how true that is, my father came from a large family and I definitely recall all the times my various groups of cousins came to visit. The family reunion held at my Aunt Mary's is still recalled by my elder cousins as the 'last time we saw' that particular uncle or cousin.

My relatives were important influences in my life. And not just with hand-me-downs. My cousin Andy got me interested in superhero comic books. Great-Uncle Arden got me started rock tumbling (much to my parents' dismay, as it's very noisy) and making something with all the pretty stones I kept picking up.

Large families were beginning to fall out of fashion when I was growing up. I only remember two families larger than my own. Every summer my sisters and I would eagerly wait for our friends, the Keatings and the Fishers, two large families of cousins, to arrive at their neighboring cottages. We played spies, cowboys, or detectives during the days and in the evenings, huge, loud games of Spoons around a long table or Red Light, Green Light across dark lawns while fireflies flickered on and off.

Eight Cousins, Little Women, Little Men, The Happy Hollisters, The Bobbsey Twins - all of these were popular books featuring large families when I was growing up. There were books as well about only children, and those I also enjoyed reading, especially during those times when I wished I was an only child. Times when I wanted to escape from having to listen to older sisters or look after a younger sister. I've noticed books with large families reappearing again. Patricia Wrede's Frontier Magic series is set in an alternate historical period, when large families were common. I used to think large families of 10 or more children were rare, until I started working on my family tree. Ten or twelve children were normal! Not all survived, which meant for sad moments when hitting things like two columns in the 1900 census: "How many children, "How many children living".

Nowadays a family have one child, three, or even five. But that's not always reflected in YA books. In the literature, the standard seems to be one or two children. Often the reader is never aware of how many brothers or sisters a character might have, outside of the main character.

While the 'birth order theory' is no longer accepted, there are some characteristics that first born children share which are different from only children or last born children. I'm the fourth child in a family of five, and I'm quick to spot when a character supposedly from a large family behaves as though he or she was an only child. This could be due to the author's lack of experience with large families. But there are exceptions. Although Harry Potter is famous for being an orphan, he had a cousin. Harry's best friend Ron Wesley is part of a large family. Both Ron and his family are very believable.

Have you come across books with unbelievable families? What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

PLANNING YOUR STORY: PART 1


PLANNING YOUR STORY: PART 1
You think you have an idea for a story or book. But it’s nebulous, fuzzy and feels just out of reach. You stare at the blank screen or paper, depending on how you plan or write. Nothing happens.
We’ve all been there.

As I contemplated Nanowrimo this year I sat inside those shoes. This was the third year I’d be working on the same story concept. Each attempt had evolved into a different story. But none were the right one. None had that spark. In fact, I couldn’t even finish any I’d started so far.

So I sought help. I read books and blogs and thought hard.

Then the story began to coalesce into a real plotline with protag and antag and all of the turning points and climax and and and. I got excited. Finally the story was writing itself, almost, but at least all of the necessary elements were there.

Now that I’ve finished my Nanowrimo with over 50,000 words by November 25th, and I’m into the climax of the story, I’m finally pleased and excited to begin editing and polishing. I finally think I got a good thing written that others will enjoy reading.

Isn’t that the reason we’re in this business?

So now you’re asking, “What did you ask yourself to attain such magnificence?”

I’ll give you some questions to ask yourself in the planning stages. These should guide your thinking and start the ball rolling. They did for me.

PREMISE-This gives you a clear idea of what the story is about:
·         What if?
·         What is expected?
·         What’s unexpected?

For me, it meant: What if Rayna didn’t have red hair? (the cause of all her problems); What if she wasn’t a twin? (another serious issue she faces) and so. What is expected? Rayna will hate the restrictions of living in the Gestortium. Her red hair will cause problems. What is unexpected? (this is harder to predict and I didn’t know until I started writing the story)

So what became the PREMISE for my story after all of my thinking? This:
Hidden away from society for her protection, Rayna is forced into her societally expected role under duress and endangered by the very reasons she was hidden while discovering the truth of her birth, who she is and what her future holds.


Next month, determining your BIG PLOT MOMENTS, aka turning or plot points.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

NO POST

I had planned what I'd talk about today, then my husband got sick and is now in the hospital. So all I can say is MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Christmas Graphics
Facebook Graphics, Christmas Graphics at WishAFriend.com

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Shopping List.

Hi all!

Yesterday I took my last exam, in my last class of Graduate School. Now it's all over except for the crying, as they say. I'm just waiting for grades and that little note on my transcript that says "Degree Awarded". Wow, what a relief. Three years and I never thought I'd be at the end. Special Project done, Portfolio done... all DONE!

I get my life back! I can write again! Woo Hoo!!!

And while I am exited to get back to it...I need to take a minute or two to breathe. Watch some TV and enjoy not having to spend every spare minute reading or writing academic papers. Recharge my batteries and rediscover my author-self. If you haven't noticed, I've also been neglecting my promotional responsibilities lately. So here you go.

It's the holidays. And you, like many, are frantically looking for that perfect gift.

Here's my suggestion: Look to the right hand side of this page. That's it... just a little further...there. See all the pretty book covers? With the links beneath? Go and check out the books of all our YA Authors You've Never Heard Of. We've got a pretty wide range of stuff, and it's all great. Even better, you'll be supporting authors and indie publishers -- small business people. You don't even have to buy a physical book. If you buy someone an e-reader, like a Kindle, you can buy them the ebook and send it.

AND... I know I am a member of Authorgraph, which is a really cool site where you can get an electronic signature for those books. Just FYI, I actually physically make the signature for every request. It's not a copied file, but an actual signature, kind of like when you sign the credit card pad at the store. I believe several other authors on the blog are members too. So you can get a SIGNED book even without having a physical book or traveling to meet me! How awesome is that?

And if you really want a signed physical book, well, I could be persuaded. I have some copies here at home, just a few, that I would be happy to sell to you and sign. Just drop me an email. OR I even have some bookplates lying around that I can scrawl my John Hancock on and drop in the mail for you.

So, while I am counting the blessings of this joyous season (and I will be doing some celebrating, don't you worry), I hope that all of you will do the same, and that your shopping is worry-free.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Here We Go Again

Probably used that title before, but, well...here we go again. LOL It's winter here in the northern hemi. I don't care much for winter. I like sunshine, although I'm also not a fan of extreme heat. Nice and moderate, 72-75 with sunny skies and a nice gentle breeze off the ocean. Do I hear Hawaiian music? Anyway, I digress. This winter is being especially trying on me. Not actually because of the weather either. It's been wierdly nice here up until a few weeks ago. Now we have our usual winter weather - gloom, gray, rain, more gloom. Day after unrelenting day. I live for those moments that the sun manages to pierce the darkness and let in a little natural Vitamin D. I strain to catch a glimpse of blue sky - anywhere. It really does lift my spirits. Add to all of this gray dreaydom, the holidays, and well, there you go - or here we go again. Seems to me that people should be a little nicer come the holidays, a little more thankful for whatever they do have, a little more courteous. But...well...doesn't seem that way. Watching news shows about the fighting during Black Friday is bad enough, but actually getting out in the mayhem that is the holidays is not for the faint of heart. Traffic whizzes past me on the freeway, completely ignoring the speed limit signs and the cops scattered here or there. After all, they can't stop us all, now can they? seems to be the prevailing thought process. Fighting over parking spots at the mall. Chewing out the cashier because he or she isn't moving fast enough. Complaining when an item is out of stock. (My goodness, will you die if you have to wait? I mean, actually die?) Everyone is in a huge hurry, tailgating, passing, cutting each other off. I had a city bus almost take me out today because he was in such a hurry that he only saw the person waiting at the bus stop at the last moment, and so swerved in front of me to make the stop. It's frightening out there. The only thing that seems to quiet the chaos, to calm the roar, is good snowfall. No one here knows how to drive in the snow. All of the hills are littered with cars, while people hoof it. But, at least, it's quiet. But then, the snow melts, and, well, you know what that means - here we go again. (Pictures would have been included but my computer decided to simply die on me, with no warning. Just dead. I am using a borrowed computer to do this blog. So, no nice pictures of Hawaii.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another NaNoWriMo Conquered

Another November draws to a close and I can proudly say I am one of the NaNoWriMo winners who has written 50,000 words in a month.

I do it for the motivation and the challenge.

I also did it this year as a way to bang out the first draft of the third book in the Reality Ali series.

This is the fourth time I've reached my goal. One year I did not. That was partly due to getting the flu right at the beginning of the month, which threw off my momentum, and having a story idea I wasn't thrilled with.

So now what. I've written 50,000 words. I have a book, right?

Kind of right.

I haven't reached the end of the story yet - so I'm not really done. Which is fine.

But even when I reach the spot where I feel like I can say "The End" I won't be done. I'll be done with the first draft, which is like being done with the outline in a picture or the skeleton.

The next step is to put it aside and work on another project for awhile. That way when I come back to the manuscript it will be with fresh eyes. At that point I'll see what works and what doesn't work and I'll flesh out the story and the description and pretty much everything that makes a book something interesting to read.

So, it's not done yet.

But I still feel accomplished.

Also a bit humbled, because my fifteen-year-old daughter reached 50,000 words a couple of days before I did.

Reached any goals lately? Doesn't it feel great?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cybils Love

I'm excited to be a part of the Cybils-Children & Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards-again this year.

The Cybils have been mentioned in School Library Journal: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6536666.html

A little FAQ:

What's a Cybil?
The Cybils awards are given each year by bloggers for the year's best children's and young adult titles. Nominations open to the public on October 1st.
Can anyone nominate?
Yes, anyone may nominate one book per genre during the public nomination period. New this year, we are asking authors, publishers and publicists to wait until after the public nomination period ends to submit their own books.
How do I nominate?
We post an online form for public nominations from Oct. 1-15 every year. The form will be live at www.cybils.com at 12:00 a.m. on October 1. This year, we’ve tried to make the form mobile-friendly, so you can use your phone to nominate if you prefer. Authors and publishers may use the public form to nominate books other than their own, but should contact sruth@wandsandworlds.com for information on submitting their own books.
Which books are eligible?
Any English or bilingual books published in the U.S. or Canada between the end of one contest and start of another. For 2012, that means books released between Oct. 16, 2011 and Oct. 15, 2012. Books must be specifically published for the children’s or young adult market.
PLEASE NOTE: Born-digital ebooks are ONLY accepted in Poetry,YA SFF, and YA Fiction.
More contest info:
Cybils penFinalists are posted January 1st. Winners are announced February 14th. Winners receive a fountain pen in an engraved wooden box. 



This year I'm on the first panel and get to read/review YA fantasy/Sci-Fi books.

I thought I'd share a taste of what I've been reading so far so everyone can see how the 2012 YAs are filled with awesomeness!

This is a retelling of the story THE LITTLE MERMAID told in a haunting, chilling way.















This is one emotion-packed zombie tale that kept me on the edge of my seat.
















A fresh retake on Edgar Allan Poe's MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH only this is in a futuristic world.
















Loved the voice of this story where a teen finds out she's part of the family Grim Reapers.




Not all books we judge are tradition ones.  This one BECOME is about a girl who's half human/half daughter of Lucifer.  She's set to Earth on a mission.  So far loving the voice of this one!














Intriguing premise set on Mars. Action packed writing with one strong female protagonist.
















A great read for teen boys:




Dystopia where it's illegal to make movies with footage from the net. Lots of computer backdrop and a futuristic Charles Dickson's feel.
















Also there's time travel ones:



















Ones with a ROSWELL feel:




















Really enjoyed this YA dystopia meets THE BACHELOR. Engaging storyline with a protagonist you can cheer for. 

















Friday, November 23, 2012

Angry Birds - The Star Wars Edition

Oh yeah, you heard right...Angry Bird Star Wars!

Not a combo I ever expected, but it's actually quite fun. Here's a few pics to show you what I'm talking about.

1st opening screen. You can see the Angry Birds version of all our favorite Star Wars Heroes. Hee! 


A sligthly wacky but ever so recognizable theme song starts here. Wish I could take a zoomed pic of this as the tie fighters have snouts and piggy ears. Heh heh.


Tattoine is the first puzzle world. Also, you can see the Deathstar from here. Love the creativity of making everything look pig like. Too cute!


These are all the Tatooine levels. You can see a Sand People Pig on the right. On the left are quick movies. The levels/planets are playing in actual sequence to Episode 4. 


One of the Tatooine puzzles. Click the link to enlarge the pic to get a real nice look at the Pig Storm Troopers. Hee! As their armor takes damage, you can see the real pig beneath. 


The baddies get lasers on some of the screens. Which is only fair as the characters get powers!

Luke starts out as just a plain Angry Bird (Like the Red bird in the original games). Later on though, he gets a lightsaber!!!!  A big sweep attack you can activate during his arc. 

Obi Wan has a Force push, time slow thing. That one is tricky to use.

Han Solo, when triggered, will shoot 3 laser blasts. They introduce metal walls around that time so you can actually do bank shots!

I've seen R2-D2 and 3-CPO in a bonus screen. R2 shoots lightning and 3-CPO blows up into shrapnel. 

On the space puzzles you get gravity thrown into the mix, so the thrown birds will curve or go straight depending on the celestial bodies. 

Needless to say the game is totally cute! And Chewbacca really IS a fuzzball! lol 

Here's the dramatic trailer for the game - recreation of Obi Wan and Luke at the Bar. Heh heh heh.



Hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkey Writing

Wow, I get to do an entry the day before Thanksgiving! And I can smell that turkey cooking now...

The reason I bring up the scent of roasting turkey--and I do love that smell, even though turkey is not always one of my favorite meals--is that I have one very specific writing memory entwined with it.

When I was a freshman at the University of Illinois-Chicago (Circle) campus, the school was on the quarter system: ten weeks of instruction, one week for finals, break, and repeat. Thanksgiving fell toward the end of the fall quarter so that was also the time all those pesky papers and projects were coming due. Being the queen of procrastination, the quarter system was very good for me because it didn't allow me to fall that far behind in my work. There just wasn't enough time to let things slide.

Fall quarter, freshman year, I was enrolled in an honors English class that basically had us studying Important Writers that probably none of us would ever read on our own. My reading list included Thomas Paine, Thomas Carlyle, and John Stewart Mill, among other deep-thinking heavyweights. There were times, that quarter, that I sat outside on a concrete bench in thirty-degree weather just to sty awake while I was reading these works. Rough quarter!

I devoted my final paper about Carlyle because the man wrote a book about heroes and their importance to the fabric of society. When he published, he was hardly thinking about Spiderman, Mark Spitz, or Bruce Lee, but that was the direction I took when I sat down to write. And here's where the turkey comes in.

My mother had a second oven in our basement, and that is where she would roast our turkey so that she could use the kitchen oven upstairs for other equally tasty items. The basement is where we had the stereo, so when I wanted to write, I would head downstairs, crank up the tunes, and uncap my pen.If I needed to write a paper that had a page requirement, my modus operandi at the time was to take one of those huge newsprint pads of art paper and write enough to fill the entire front side and half of the back. My penmanship is small, so when I had covered all of that white space, I knew I would meet my page requirement when I typed up my work afterward.

That particular holiday, while I was in the process of doing this, the wonderful brown-butter scent of roasting turkey filled the basement and wafted into both my consciousness and sub-conciousness. This day, the heady smell of Thanksgiving in the making always conjures up images of my basement, Thomas Carlyle, and the sounds of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" Concerto.

I have never used the November holiday in any fiction I have ever written. I've used Christmas, Easter, Halloween (of course) but I don't believe I have ever written anything about Thanksgiving. So tomorrow I'm going to take a few deep breaths of that warm, buttery turkey smell and see where I can go with it. I"m working on a book now involving college students. Maybe one of them will write a paper under the same fragrant circumstances.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dealing with a very old manuscript #amwriting


Months ago I wrote about finding the carbon copy of a manuscript, and looking at it for plot. The plot though had a few holes seemed solid and the characters interesting. This was a story that was nearly published years ago except for a matter of the timing of the submission. Put aside and forgotten until clearing out a file cabinet. I decided I would re-write it. The story was YA or one of those kind of science fiction/fantasy stories to be read by anyone. The major characters were in the 18 to 20 year age range. So I have begun to reconctruct the story and it's been an interesting study in what flies and what doesn't these days.

There were stylistic problems that weren't back there. Using dialogue tags has changed. Used to read "said John." Now reads "John said." Another was back story. The book began with an entire chapter giving the back story of the main character of the story. Actually, this seemed boring to me today. So I had to deconstruct the first chapter bringing the action to the fore and removing a lot, lot of the back story. Another problem was in that this was a carbon copy and occasionally there was a slipage problem where the letters of a word were written over each other. Some of these words will never be recovered. That's no real problem since finding words is what writers do.

The final problem was of a different nature. My head is in a different place than it was when I first wrote the book. Won't go into what really happened to my head. We all grow and mature. 40 plus years ago, I was a mother of three and had just adopted a biracial child. Was living in a small Western Pa town where tolerance was an interesting view of people and their predjudices or what they viewed as being liberal. So some of these things had entered into the writing. Will I take them all out. Probably not. Since this book has some interesting minor characters most will stay but they will be tempered by maturity. Now I must get back to work on what was once The World Has Come Of Age and is now The Goddesses of Er. As for the last word in the title, I hope I haven't borrowed it from another writer. That word can be changed but I needed a title so I could write the book.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New Silt Library – photo gallery

Silt Branch Library -- Silt, Colorado
Our tiny town in western Colorado has a new library. The Silt Branch Library opened its doors at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 6. This new library is over three times as spacious as the old library and features a large meeting room, two study rooms, unique children's and teen spaces, a cozy reading area with a fireplace, and a plaza for outdoor reading and events. The library also has two designated computer areas with a total of ten computers for public use. 

Join me on a photo tour of our new library –
Bright and spacious
Kids reading cubby

Teens reading nook
Cozy fireplace reading cove
Community meeting room
Garage-style door can be opened to library
Courtyard between library and Silt Town Hall
Features book titles etched in concrete
Outdoor plaza -- old Silt Library in the background
Peggy Tibbetts

Now available at Amazon
PFC Liberty Stryker
Letters to Juniper2012 Colorado Book Award Finalist

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Diversity in YA

This past Saturday I moderated a panel at World Fantasy Convention (held this year in Toronto) entitled "Diversity and Difference in YA Fantasy." The other panelists were Cinda Williams Chima, Megan Crewe, E.C. Myers and Cheryl Rainfield. The panel's description focused on strong female characters, but the panelists (YA authors all and as rebellious as YA authors can be) went with the title.

We discussed the importance of having diversity not only among the secondary characters in YA but with the main characters as well. More and more readers are interested in seeing their 'face' in the story. The idea that the default for a main character should be 'boy' (as the books I grew up reading seemed to be) is losing strength at last. The popularity of The Hunger Games demonstrated that boys would read stories with girls as the main character. The idea that the default for a main character has to be white and straight should be the next to go.

Megan Crewe related how she was told by agents how her manuscript, set in Japan, would be difficult to sell. Esther Friesner's Spirit Princess and Gloria Oliver's In the Service of Samurai are both set in Japan with Japanese main characters, so perhaps that is changing.

People of color as main characters have begun appearing in YA, but there have been reports bookcovers were changed to depict a white character. Justine Larbalestier's Liar, Cindy Pons' Silver Phoenix and others have been affected this way. This might be due to a marketing decision, but more people need to speak out against it.

LGBT characters have begun to appear as secondary characters, but there needs to be main characters as well. Cheryl Rainfield's Scars has such a character. Her recent blog is about the World Fantasy panel and (as she promised at the panel) she has provided a link to books with LGBT characters.

Religion has also been addressed in recent years. YA and middle grade books such as the Percy Jackson series, the Goddess Girls series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams, Darkness Rising Book One of the Catmage Chronicles by Meryl Yourish, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch, and Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst have main characters from nonChristian religions.

There were many excellent questions from the audience. Some were from readers trying to find books with diverse characters while others were from writers interested in creating diverse characters.

For the readers, finding these books are not always as easy as going to a bookstore. Some bookstores still have YA as a general catchall, with YA paranormal shelved with YA sports. Big bookstores like Barnes and Noble have subcategorized YA, which may benefit browsers, but not those looking by author's last name. Books with people of color sometimes are misshelved in cultural studies. The advantages of ebooks are that many are searchable by tags, but often readers have to rely on lists on the web (such as provided by Cheryl Rainfield above) to find titles.

The writers in the audience wanted to know how to write about different cultures respectfully. The example was brought up of books where the only person of color was the villain. Points the panelists brought up were that stereotypes are still not the way to go. The more diversity you have in your book, the better. But having diverse characters in your book doesn't mean that your story has to be about discrimination or prejudice. You're just creating a more realistic world.

If you're worried about being accused of cultural appropriation, as long as you have researched the culture, talked with people of that culture, treated it respectfully, and, if possible, found a beta reader to make sure you haven't made any missteps, you've tried your best.

You don't want to have your story be a checklist of some kind, or a message or mission book as that will turn readers of any age off. No one likes to be preached to. There will be times when, due to your story's location or time period, that your characters may need to be from one race or culture. But if they don't, do all your characters - even the walk-ons - have to be white and male?

The panel also brought up the benefits of small press for those having problems finding a market for books with diverse characters. Small press and ebook publishers are willing to take chances on stories with new and diverse voices.

Megan Crewe and Cheryl Rainfield also blogged about the panel.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

60 Links to Writer's Resources


I found this amazing list at Galleycat, one of my favorite writing sites and just had to pass it along. Even if you’re NOT do Nanowrimo, the links here are terrifically useful and fun.



30 National Novel Writing Month Tips from 2012


Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother,  they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com