Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fans and Decisions.

Spending time with your greatest fan is a plus especially when he's your grandson. On a recent trip to Florida for a high school graduation I was bugged by my grandson as to when the final book of The Henge Betrayed series will be available. The interesting conversation made me feel great. He has read the first three books more than once and has passed them along to one of his teachers who is also waiting for the book to arrive. J feels the books would make a great video game since there are so many adventures in the three he's read so far. He's a great reader which may be unusual in a boy but he's always enjoyed reading. During out talk, I told him what I had done with the fourth book. That was to make a decision. The book had been at the publisher for a year with no word about what was going on despite a number of emails. In this day of electronic publishing there's no reason for books to linger with the publisher. I don't know why this happened but looking back on my contract, I realized this was par for this particular publisher. Granted the books haven't sold well with them perhaps my fault but perhaps not since I've promoted and placed ads for the stories in a number of venues. So I came to a decision.

The first book Flight was out of contract and the fourth book was withdrawn. Rights back were given. I decided that I won't sign contracts that state a book's stay with a publisher will begin on publication rather than on acceptance but that's for another day. What was the Henge Betrayed series will be published under the series name as Affinities and the first book will be out maybe as early as today and the fourth book will follow in several weeks. This comes about three weeks after acceptance. The first book Escape will have a new cover the falling tower from the Tarot cards and it is a symbolic cover. The figures falling from the tower to me represent the four children's parents who metamorphosize into birds who protect the children. The final book is entitled Confrontations and my grandson is eagerly waiting for it to arrive. He says he'll but his mother to let him download it onto her Kindle Fire since he must read it right away. The book will also be in print and I'll have to order a slew since most of my grandchildren have a major or minor role in the books.

So that's my news. I'll have to figure how to change the cover that's used here on the site as the book that shows who I am and that will be done soon. I want the Confrontations cover there when that happens. I wish I could have spoken to his teacher to discover why she liked the books. Building fans a book at a time is a good way to go. By the way I'll be J. L. Walters on the covers to distinguish these books from the ones I write for other publishers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Writers Need Itchy Feet

In my middle-grade fantasy series, The Adventures of Rupert Starbright, young Rupert shakes the leaves from his gray world and travels afar to magical lands and strange new roads. The impact on him is immediate and powerful.

As a writer, travel is one of the greatest sources of inspiration and, I feel, a must for anyone who writes for love and or profit. I recently took an amazing trip with my wife to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We chose the Mediterranean as our destination and got to see amazing places in Spain, France but especially Italy where I felt a strange and wonderful sense of belonging. Being of Italian decent, I fell in love with this beautiful land which felt like home from distant memories.

I despise the "ugly" traveler. Be they American or Zimbabwean, nothing irks me more than folks who find it necessary to make comparisons to their homeland with the places they visit- pointing out flaws or problems in the guest land. When traveling soak and revel in it all. The bumps and bruises are part of the character of a place. Unless you hail from a Utopian heaven-on-Earth, there is no sense in pointing to the black stains on the kettle, to use a cliche.

Exposing yourself to new landscapes, faces, foods and cultural artifacts makes you a better person. It sparks the imagination and adds new entries into our inner library of sights, sounds, smells and tastes that can be later plucked and put on the page. But beyond the practical use of your experiences in your writing, it opens up your mind and broadens your outlook. If you let it.

Its fun to see the popular tourist attractions, especially if it is your first visit to a place. But it is also a great fun to find peculiar and unique sites. Being animal lovers, especially cats, my wife and I learned that there was a cat shelter located in the heart of Rome. We found it on the map and were determined to visit this site which was located in an ancient Roman ruin known as Largo di Torre Argentina. Fresh off our flight from NYC, we wandered the sunny Rome cityscape until standing before us was a square block sized sunken ruin. Dotting this landscape (where Julius Ceaser was killed in 44 AD) were fuzz balls of difference colors. I volunteer at a NYC cat adoption center but to see one of this nature was a joy. We met many of the residents, some who looked rather beat up but were very friendly and obviously well cared for. Despite the huge difference between Ollie's Place in NYC and Largo di Torre - the common denominator was the love of gattos. The distance from NYC to Rome shrunk to pea size. It proved that we share so much as humans  but simply do things with different cultural masks.

I returned from this adventure filled with a desire to continue to learn to speak Italian, to read up on Italian history and to write. My itchy feet were scratched for now and I feel a richer person for it. I await the next itch. Until then- bouna scrittura!

More info on Mike DiCerto's books can be found at

Monday, May 28, 2012

I'm hooked on Rupert Starbright

I hope you are enjoying the Memorial Day weekend!

This month I’m posting my review for The Secret of My-Myst by Mike DiCerto (another YAAYNHO blogger). This is the second book in the Rupert Starbright series which I love because it’s all about the magic of imagination, which is such an empowering message to young readers. And the cover is totally cool. I hope you will join me in introducing this fun new series to all the kids you know and love.

The Secret of My-Myst
The Adventures of Rupert Starbright (Volume 2)
By Mike DiCerto
Zumaya Publications 
April 2012
240 pages

The Secret of My-Myst is Book 2 in the Adventures of Rupert Starbright series. And Mike DiCerto does not disappoint. We jump back into the thick of it with our hero, Rupert and his companion Dream Weaver. The evil Murkus still enslaves the children of Far-Myst while his darkness spreads across the land. He is more terrifying and powerful than ever before as a flame-throwing, winged Dragon Lord. Rupert is still trying to make his way home to Graysland. On a quick trip to the outhouse, Rupert crosses paths with Quix and Xerks, Murkus’s boy soldiers. They lure him into the Wildness with the promise of finding the treatmentia bush to cure his grandmother’s coffus. After all, the only reason he even came to this bizarre-o-land was to help his grandmother, who happens to be a very wise woman. But now he’s stuck here.

As much as I would like to go on and on about this captivating tale, you really must enter the mysterious land of My-Myst with Rupert and meet the shape-shifting Truseens for yourself. Be prepared to lose all contact with the outside world while immersed in this mesmerizing adventure. Once again imagination plays a major role – which I love. Amazing things are learned about the Weaver kids. And the path to victory does not necessarily mean destroying the enemy.

The Adventures of Rupert Starbright is a top-notch, original fantasy series. For all the questions The Door to Far-Myst (Book 1) asked,  The Secret of My-Myst answers – then asks some more. Along his journey this time, Rupert discovers a connection between Graysland and the strange lands of Far-Myst and My-Myst. See if you can figure it out. I’m pretty sure the answer will come in Book 3. I confess, I’m hooked on Rupert Starbright.

Peggy Tibbetts

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Jigsaw Puzzles and Writing

Over the years, I've come across several blogs and articles comparing writing to working on a jigsaw puzzle. In some ways the comparison seems apt. As Patricia Wrede commented in her blog, "Some people start by doing all the edges," which to me is like setting up an outline and filling in the story from the outside in. "Some people do all the trees and houses first", such as the worldbuilding. And then there are those who work on whatever pieces fit together and expand outward, whether it be character interactions, action scenes or quiet moments.

Pat Grant pointed out one problem with the metaphor that I've run into many times - that the jigsaw puzzle usually comes with a cover picture so that the assembler has some idea what the goal is. The writer, however, doesn't always know what the end result will be. Short story? Novella? Novel? Though the author does know whether she is writing a western or a fantasy, the minor details and how they all fit together can often be a surprise.

There is the real life fact that the jigsaw puzzle, whether box or web form, comes with a limited amount of puzzle pieces. An author, however, may often find additional pieces on the mental tabletop. This could be because there are several puzzles jumbled together - either several books of a series or perhaps a couple of completely unrelated books are warring for attention. The latter happens all too often to me, as I'm usually working on more than one story at a time. The problem comes in when I find myself trying to fit one of the YA sf pieces into the fantasy story. It might seem to fit at first, but not with any of the surrounding ones. As long as I can keep my jigsaws separate, though, a good mental break if one puzzle is being stubborn is to switch to a different one.

Occasionally, though a particular piece/idea/character just refuses to fit. That's one advantage the writer has over the jigsaw assembler. If the story works without that piece, it can be pulled out and left to grow its own story/puzzle.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

An amazing Dystopian series, an intriguing MG read and a delightfully different YA book

  An amazing Dystopian series, an intriguing MG read and a delightfully different YA book
The amazing series, of course, is The Hunger Games. OMG! I had read book one a couple of years ago and just never went on to book two. What a mistake! So after the movie came out and blew my socks off (not that I ever wear any since I live in my Birkenstocks) I just HAD to read the rest of the series. The funniest part of the story, though, is that my hubby, who devours nonfiction, biography and religious books, read books two and three before I could even get to them.

So over the past month, in addition to:  
  • ·         making stuff and organizing my daughter’s June wedding
  • ·         editing Harpies, Book Two of Seraphym Wars
  • ·         revising Laman, Book Three of Stardust Warriors
  • ·         doing Travel Soccer with my youngest son
  • ·         helping my oldest son graduate high school and finish his first semester of college at the same time
  • ·         preparing for the Summer Reading Teen Party blog hop I agreed to join
  • ·         blogging on my many blogs
  • ·         showing my Victorian house which is for sale and we hope to be moving after the wedding
  • ·         keeping the log house I rent out as a Vacation Rental clean and occupied
  • ·         I read. Four books at a time.

My husband asked, how do keep them straight? I answered, they’re all different and good. Oh, yeah, and I listen to Harry Potter on my iPod in the car—for the millionth time, to analyze why it’s such a good series.

 But, back to The Hunger Games series. After seeing the movie I was so excited to imagine book two being filmed but had no idea how exciting it would be until I actually READ the book. Then I saw a blurb that the direction of the first movie was refusing to do the sequels because he didn’t have enough time to prepare and the actors/actresses might refuse to work with another director! Let’s all home that work out because I thought Catching Fire was the best of the three books. I raced through it then sat stunned at the cliff-hanger ending and ran even faster through Mockingjay. If you enjoyed Hunger Games, the book or movie, you MUST read the rest of the series.

Now, there are several authors I’ve read lately whom I really admire for their ability to write—voice and style. Suzanne Collins is one, of course, as is Cassandra Clare with her Mortal Instruments Series, which I am in the middle of reading. But I also discovered a couple of new authors whose writing is just as well done and captivating as the best-sellers’.

C. K. Volnek’s MG book, Ghost Dog of Roanoke kept me spellbound as I poured through it each night or whenever my son was at soccer practice. It combines obviously well-researched history of the missing Colony of Roanoke Island, Virginia with credible Native American lore. She did an amazing job finding her way to the past while maintaining a foothold in the present. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters and loved the way she introduced and dealt with the ‘evil’ antagonist, including how and why it came to be. I think any Middle Grade reader would enjoy this book and it could easily be used in any fifth-grade classroom during the study of American History. Well done, C. K.

The YA book I just finished reading and found amazingly well-written, well-crafted and couldn’t wait to finish was Colors Like Memories by Meradeth Houston.  She took the idea of guardian angels and created a fascinating, plausible world and culture around which to weave a story of loss, grief, love and recovery. Not only do we get a peek into the world of the Sary, but she dealt with an abusive boyfriend, suicidal/cutting teenager dealing with an alcoholic parent and loss of her mother. Yet the characters never seem too needy or angsty—and find the strength they need when they need it. I found that reading Colors Like Memories while also reading The Hunger Games books wasn’t a jarring change as one might assume given one is a new author and the other a best-seller. Colors Like Memories held its own with interesting characters, plot twists and good, descriptive writing. Well done, Meradeth.                                                                                                                                

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eric Hoffer Awards

I have a bit of good news today. We, as authors, work on our stories, brainstorm them, write them, revise them, revise them, revise them ... you know what I'm saying. And when the book is finally out there for people to read, we cross our fingers that someone will like it. Now, contests mean different things to different people. Some don't care for them; others can take them or leave them; others think they're great. All I can say is placing in a contest sure does feel good to me. It makes those months and years of writing, crying and wanting to give up worth every smile and tear. And now for my news .

My YA Historical Novel, Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines, is an Honor Book in the 2012 Eric Hoffer Awards, Young Adult Category. They even have a short review of the book here. I am honored to be honored. This is the second award for Caves. It also was a Finalist in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Novella Category.

Thanks for letting me share my news with you. Have a super week. Happy Reading and Writing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's here it's here!

My turn to blog came up just in time. My publisher and I have been working so hard to get the new Library of Athena book, The Sword of Danu, ready for publication. And despite some minor (though on Friday they didn't seem so minor) snags, the book SHOULD be available in print in time for the launch party, which will be held on Sunday night at Balticon.

I was really afraid the book wouldn't be ready in time, not through any fault of mine or the publishers. This is just how things sometimes go. But I am excited they will be ready.

The book is not yet on Amazon in print, BUT... the Kindle edition IS available!

So... go and get it!

The Sword of Danu for Kindle

Look for it on B&N for the Nook later this week. Add it on Goodreads. Like it on Amazon! Meanwhile, if you are available this weekend, live in the Baltimore area and have nothing better to do, come on down to the con. It's actually in Hunt Valley, but there are a lot of great panels, and autograph signings, and the launch party. And hopefully copies of the new book!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's My Time of Year

I always love this time of year. First there's Mother's Day, a day where I am perfectly justified in not doing dishes or cooking dinner.

This year Mother's Day was closely followed by my wedding anniversary. That meant a nice dinner out with just my husband.

And in a couple of weeks I celebrate my birthday and get to be pampered all over again.

Like I said, I love this time of year.

This year there's an even better reason for me to love it.

In a matter of weeks REALITY ALI will be available to buy. I'm so excited about this book. The characters have morphed their way through many stories on their way to this book. Ali herself has gone through several name changes, but always she's the same lovable girl readers will meet next month.

The original Ali, then named Casey, first appeared in a story I wrote in high school. And I'm not going to say exactly how long ago that was, but let's just say that the kids in that story did not have cell phones, or MP3 players, or laptops, or pretty much anything that kids these days have.

My character grew with the times, and now she's a thoroughly modern girl who wants to be famous, just like her movie-star mother. And what better way, than create a web-based reality show with her friends. And, against the odds, she does become famous. But it's not at all what she hoped it would be like.

Only another month and you can find out why!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Strong YA Heroines

Helpless No More
Strong Heroines in YA

It never ceases to amaze me when you mention YA, some people automatically think of the book Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.  They think all YA books have what I call the Bella syndrome—a teenage girl that whines about how life means nothing unless she has a guy in her life.  In the second book of the Twilight series, Bella spends most of the book in a depressed funk after Edward leaves. She even tried to jump off a bridge to end her life.  She did all of this because her life meant nothing if she didn’t have Edward.  In other words, life without a boyfriend means you are nothing.
What a bad message for teens out there.
Another heroine had to be Buttercup in The Princess Bride, who besides being annoying, waited for love and kind of gave up toward the end.  It was Westley who saved the day.
Thankfully not all YAs do this.  The teens I’ve spoken to love strong heroines that are happy with themselves with or without a significant other.

In TV one strong heroine has to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

She’s the one who kicks vampire butt and doesn’t mess around with anyone.  Though the TV series came out in 1997, she now has a cult following.  It’s so big that there’s now a comic book series that can expose a whole new generation to her.

I admit I’m more of a Faith fan:

Yes, she’s slightly disturbed but she’s also multilayered with her own vulnerabilities. The last season of Buffy showed this.  And yes, even Faith now has her own spin-off comic book series where she’s the one helping Angel find redemption.

Hermione in the Harry Potter series is another strong protagonist who doesn’t wait for Harry but rather does her own part of standing up to the dark side.

In recent YA novels there’s some great strong heroines:

One great example of this has to be Katniss in Hunger Games.  She’s not only strong but it’s not a guy but rather the love of her family that motivates her. She volunteers to be a tribute for the games so her younger sister won’t have to do it.  There is a love triangle but only later on in this series.

Tamora Pierce’s books alway have very strong heroines.  One of my favorites has to be Beka Cooper:

She’s a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, and she's been assigned to the Lower City to help fight crime.  She’s tough but also has her own vulnerabilities.  Got to love that!

Another outstanding heroine has to be in the recent YA release Grave Mercy:

Ismae flees a brutal arranged marriage and goes to a convent where she’s trained to be an assassin nun.  This is in 1488 when most women didn’t have choices.  An amazing tale.

In my own story Crossed Out, Stephanie doesn’t wait around for someone to help her with her little ability of helping guide the dead to the Otherside.  Even when she does get sidetracked by one hot guy, it’s up to her to stop evil.
With the recent influx of stronger heroines has also come an argument.  If a heroine is strong, will this put the rest of the story in the background? On a Twitter chat the other day, I asked author Robin LaFevers how to take care of this from not happening. She said, “Make sure and give the heroine vulnerabilities and areas in her life where she isn’t strong and in charge.”  Basically give the character layers.  This is one reason why I love these characters so much.  They’re much more than one dimensional.

Are there any other strong protagonists in recent YAs you can think of?

Crossed posted at:

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Vlog Experience Continues

I finally got down to making a video reading, one of the original ideas I'd had as to why I might want to vlog.

Below is the finished product - a reading of the first chapter of the YA Fantasy novel Willing Sacrifice.

As you'll note, I tried to add some extra bling to the reading. Editing the thing caused me all sorts of issues. Mostly during the conversion phase. But perseverance has its rewards. :P And I was finally able to find some advice on how to help with all the extra noise I kept picking up during previous recordings. (Having vents and air-conditioning going is not conducive to good sound recording, but in Texas there's little choice. Doh!)

However, this did not mean some unwanted sounds didn't make it through. Listen carefully for our dog - she's chewing on something somewhere. You might even catch a glimpse of Serenity flashing past in the background. Might see one of the cats, too! (Yeah, they weren't helping.)

Again I must ask myself if I'm insane. Having done just audio recordings before, I'm not sure why I thought this would be easier. Oi! But I am a sucker for playing with software, tech toys, and trying out new things. Heh heh.

Oh and if you want to read along and see how badly I butchered this, here's a link for Chapter 1.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Way, Way Overdue

Some time ago, Peggy Tibbetts and I exchanged books so that we could review each others' works. Peggy, being the gracious, thoughtful, and courteous type, posted her review of Saving Jake on this blog. Me, being somewhat scatter-brained and a bit, well, out of it, a great deal of the time, did not post my review of PFC Liberty Stryker. Until now. Apologies, Peggy.

Peggy Tibbetts’ PFC Liberty Stryker is an important story that is almost too grim to look at and too well written to look away. Set in the midst of war, Operation Iraqi Freedom, to be precise, the reader is invited into an intimate look at the life of a female army private. Be prepared. There is no gloss of any kind over this woman’s experience in a profession that is still overwhelmingly male. Pvt. Stryker’s life is based on survival: surviving boot camp and the inherent sexual abuse that is a part of that experience; surviving life in the harshness of the desert with bombs and bullets exploding all around; surviving the loss of friends and comrades that is war by definition; and finally, surviving the loss of her father and then the last of her innocence in one fell blow.

The adage “war is hell” is written in as a joke one soldier makes to another, but the author makes it clear that this is no joking matter. The hell of war in these pages is as inescapable for the reader as it is for Pvt. Stryker as the story is written in agonizing first person. The sentences are short and terse, fast-moving arcs that zip across the page like bullets themselves. Any sane person caught up in this mad and violent situation is going to become ill and Pvt. Stryker’s personal illness spills over into her physical condition, a condition that ultimately leads to her losing nearly everything in order to regain her own soul.

Tibbetts brings up the slogan of “shock and awe” as it applies to this horrendous conflict, then proceeds to apply it to her own story. Reading this book and not feeling shocked, not feeling awe at the writer’s ability to pluck you from the safety of your living room and into the field of battle, is an impossibility. PFC Liberty Stryker is the kind of book that will shift the way you look at war, at the military, and at our country’s place in the world. This book is necessary. 

I hope everyone who reads this will read the book. Peggy is one amazing writer, and it's well worth the journey.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Vote for Letters to Juniper

The folks at Underground Book Reviews are compiling their 2012 Summer Reading List and they want your opinion! Of all the amazing novels they have reviewed, they want to know your favorite. This is your chance to support Letters to Juniper.

Underground Book Review for Letters to Juniper

Click here and vote for Letters to Juniper

Voting will close on Monday, May 28
Winners will be announced Friday, June 1