Friday, August 31, 2012

Wonder Can Be Found In The Most Unexpected Places!

Hi, all!

Wednesday night I was at home, watching TV with Ole Hubbins when I got a weird text from my daughter. She was with her hubby at IHop to meet their gaming group as they do on most weeks. Except this time, something awesome was happening at the restaurant - the IHop was being visited by the folks from BensBalloons.

From their website. Is she not adorable?!?!

In an awesome marketing ploy, they were making balloon art of anything the kids and grownups made requests for for free!

Here's the first picture she sent me of what they were doing there:

Dr Who will be so jealous if you have one of these! Hee!

Then they got to ask for something - so they did. And even though the balloon artist had never heard of it, his buddy looked it up in the internet and this is what they did:

Showing your Cthulhu Pride!

Here are some more cool pictures of their awesome art from their website:

And even more amazing, they do a lot more than just balloons! They entertain with juggling, magic, uni-cycling, face painting, concessions, training classes and more! So very, very cool. (Now I just need an excuse for a party to hire them! Heh heh)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


A writer friend of mine who publishes under the name Scarlett Dean had a book out several years ago titled Unfinished Business. The premise is that objects can be haunted and that anyone who brings such an object into his or her home also brings along the spirit attached to it.

Apparently, for those of us who are open to the concepts of the supernatural, this is more than just a premise. John Zaffis, for instance, a paranormal investigator, has his own TV series called "Haunted Collector," a show that deals with disturbed objects and the folks who are being disturbed by them. Just recently, I saw a special entitled "Possessed Possessions" that was rather like a haunted Antiques Road Show, except it was on board the very haunted Queen Mary and the evaluations were not for current worth, but for current supernatural manifestations. People brought in their auction-bought antique dolls, inherited porcelain tea cups, life-size wax statues of Rudolph Valentino, and even a 19th century Colt once owned by a Texas Ranger. The psychics and other investigators would give a reading on each object and then ask the owners questions to ascertain the accuracy of their readings. 

The one question they never asked was "And why exactly did you feel the need to have this in your house?" I can understand inherited items. I don't get purchasing something as creepy as an antique doll that you subsequently relegate to the storage facility because you don't want to have the thing anywhere near you.

Of course, I am being far too harsh. There are a number of resale and thrift shops around my house, and one day, I became enamored of a set of nesting porcelain bowls. They were a beautiful peach color with decorative green leaf work on one side, and they were both stunning and useful. My husband bought them for me as a surprise present and I was thrilled with them. Until I got them into my kitchen.

For about, oh, 10 years or so, these beautiful bowls have been languishing in a cabinet just to the right of the kitchen sink. I don't know why I've never used them other than the fact that they make me uneasy. They are as striking as they ever were, but if I never bring them out to look at them again, that's fine. So why did they seem so beautiful but also so ordinary at the store and not in my house? I have no idea. 

If anyone hears of a haunted Antiques Road Show turning up in the Chicago area some time in the near future, let me know, okay?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Discovery of an old manuscript by janet lane walters

Several months ago, I was sorting out my old files and I discovered the carbon copy of a manuscript that took me back about 30 plus years. I remember fondly the wonderful letter I recieved from the editor of a publisher and the down side that the publisher had decided to stop publishing fiction and going only to non-fiction. When the manuscript came back with the box torn and some of the pages missing, I decided to forget that story. The good copy was tossed and I forgot there was a carbon available.

So with the discovery I decided to look the mss over and see what about it had made the editor think the story was good. What I found was there was indeed a story and some interesting characters but the writing needed some help. Some of the problems were caused by styles of the past, like instead of John said using said John. Funny how this leaped out at me. Other things were just stylistic things caused by the author. Halting the story to put in a long passage of back story that I realized was where the story began. Or putting in long blocks of setting without having the characters experience the scenery through the senses.

The story is about a group of young people who leave a contained community to go out into the world and see if the world has recovered from ecological and the haves versus the non-haves. They also take the villain with them. There will have to be some changes in the plot, but this is a YA story of growth and change that I'll be working in slowly but surely. It's going to be a journey of discovery and I'll have a chance to see what the editor saw in this story that inspired him to write a long letter of encouragement.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Amer Ican's Farm

Mr. Amer Ican's farm was once a beautiful and serene place to live. But a dark cloud was billowing over the lovely lands and the animals were starting to hate each other. They formed into to groups that became pigheaded and locked into their own thoughts. This divide had been going on for weeks and it seemed to start ever since Chicken Little and Doffy the Duck moved onto the farm. They were charming and funny and very loud in voice. They set up large bulletin boards on each side of the farmland and would post messages for all the animals to see. Some were informative like the weather or how the corn and potato crops were doing. But more and more Little and Doffy began to compete with each other as to which board would get the most views.

"The Sky is Falling!" was Little's first attempt to gather attention his way. For days and days the poor animals were scared and wandered around glancing skyward. Of course the sky never fell and Chicken Little just smirked and explained that he really meant it could have fallen. 

Then Doffy the Duck announced on his board that some of the animals on the farm were really planted there from a competitor's farm and were up to no good. They could not be trusted. They were actually undermining the farm and its productivity and needed to be watched and spied on.

The tone of the farm grew darker and darker. The animals began to side with either Chicken Little or Doffy the Duck and soon it was as if there were two separate farms. It got so bad that none of the animals could put together a thought or an idea without first checking what Little or Doffy thought.
"If we don't approve of the thought then it could not be thunk!" was what they would say- always with smile and a pat on the back.

At one time all the animals mingled without problem. Even if they disagreed on what feed they liked or what kind of weather was best they could still wander the pretty farm and chat about it. Like civilized animals. They would lay out the facts of their arguments and present them to each other and that was that. Now the animals only spoke to animals who thought like they did. Corn feeders never hung around with grass nibblers. Horned animals stayed far away from feathered creatures. It got so bad that animals with fur began to shout that the animals without fur were bad and they should go and buy fur coats. The skin animals demanded that the furred creatures shave!

It seems all the animals were getting ready to elect a new barnyard representative. Gorby the Goat and Pilly the Pig were up for the post and all the animals were split down the middle as to who they wanted to lead them. Chicken Little had chosen Gorby to run and Doffy tapped Pilly. They were given a list of ideas and were told never to stray from this list.

The list was easy. Gorby promised and talked about everything Chicken Little posted on his big chalk board and Doffy only spoke of things Doffy wrote on his.  The rest of the animals never needed to even consider who they would vote for. They were handed the choice. It was so easy they never even needed to ask questions of Gorby or Pilly! Life was simple. No thinking required. The animals grew fatter and lazy and although they would say they were happy they were grumpy and angry and yelled a lot.

Over the weeks leading up to the election Chicken Little and Doffy duck began announcing terrible things about Gorby and Pilly. They were half truths, exaggerations and outright lies. It didn't matter because the animals were so divided and so locked into how they were told to think it did not matter.
"I hear that Gorby hates all chickens and wants to starve them all!"
"Oh, yeah! Well I heard that Pilly is gonna give all the best feed and all the best barns to his pig friends!"

On the day of the election, Silby the horse and Romeo the bull were walking to the slop bucket where they would cast their vote. They were arguing in great huffs and whinnys. You see, Silby was a devout Dofficrat and Romeo was all, 100% grade A Pillocan.

Sitting on a wooden fence, over the slop bucket was Jimbo the Cat. He smirked as he watched each of the animals come to the bucket and cast their vote. Many ignored him. Romeo, however, was one of those animals that needed to know how you stood on issues. If you were not on his side he would treat you like an enemy, like a slaughterhouse worker.

"Hey Jimbo," Romeo said to the grey and white tiger tabby. "Who you voting for, cat?"
"That is my business," Jimbo said.

"Did you hear that Gorby hates all chickens?"

"No," Jimbo said. "That is not true."

"Yes it is. It was in big bold letters on Chicken Little's board!"

"So. I have seen Gorby with chickens many times. I saw him help one cross the road. I even saw him share an old apple with Momma Poultry."

Romeo frowned but seemed confused. Silby the Horse chimed in.

"How about Pilly? I hear he is gonna tear down all the barns and build fancy new ones for only his Porker buddies!"

Jimbo laughed. "How can he do that? Farmer Ican owns the farm. He will not have the power to do that."

"But Doffy said he would! I read it with my own eyes."

Jimbo shook his head and cleared his throat.

"What color is the sky?"

The horse and the bull shrugged and looked skyward.

"Blue!" they said in unison.

"How do you know? Did you check with Doffy or Little's board to make sure?"

"We don't need them to know what color the sky is. I can see it with my own eyes!"

"Friends, did you ever bother to talk to Pilly or Gorby? Did you ever think Chicken Little or Doffy Duck have the facts wrong? Or may be working for someone else? If you trust your own mind to see the color of the sky, why don't you trust your own minds to see the truth about the candidates and about  your fellow farm friends?"

Silby and Romeo looked to each other and dropped their heads in great shame.

"We have all been granted wondrous and powerful minds. And great hearts. Learn about your fellow farm animals using those great tools. Forget the boards. The boards have neither mind nor heart."

And with that, Jimbo raced off to chase a wind-blown leaf. With great joy.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Sisterhood Publications is making news!

A year ago, Sisterhood Publications was a fledgling indie publisher with a whole lotta spunk and only two books in publication -- ­ Sisterwife by Natalie Collins, and Letters to Juniper by Peggy Tibbetts. There have been some mighty big changes since then.
Letters to Juniper was named a Colorado Book Award Finalist. Even though it didn’t win the big prize, Sisterhood showed she could run with the big boys.
Right out of the gate, Fatal Kiss by Suzanne Barr raced into the top 25 best sellers in true crime at Amazon, and has stayed there since. Watch Sisterhood Publications Facebook page for exciting news about this outstanding true crime novel! Read a review here.

Meanwhile Sisterhood maintains a lightning pace. In addition to Fatal Kiss, two hot new thrillers from Natalie Collins were released.

Killer Instincts --“The surprising end will leave you feeling as if your best friends have ridden off into the sunset.”

Latter Day Secrets -- “Suspenseful and surprising, this fast paced novel is difficult to put down.”

Plus an explosive young adult ­ or new adult ­­ war adventure by Peggy Tibbetts.
PFC Liberty Stryker -- “This book shows how an author can take a topic a reader may not generally be interested in and make it a real page turner”

Coming soon from Sisterhood Publications
Evacuation Plan -- “Joe O'Connell has employed masterful storytelling skills to compose an achingly captivating symphony from all these life stories that could very possibly change the way you view your own life ­ and death.”

Check us out at Sisterhood Publications and like us at Facebook

Peggy Tibbetts

Now available at Amazon
PFC Liberty Stryker
Letters to Juniper – 2012 Colorado Book Award Finalist

Become a Facebook fan

Friday, August 17, 2012


Take a bus to work. Take a plane to a conference. Drive a car. Walk. In real life the act of traveling can take minutes or hours or even days. In a story it can be skipped over in a few sentences. "He drove to work." "She flew to London." "They rode in the stagecoach to the river then continued via paddlewheel downstream to the city."

But sometimes the act of traveling is part of the story. The Fellowship of the Ring would have been much shorter if the story only focused on the Shire and Mordor and skipped all the traveling between the two locations. Many other "quest" stories also include an interesting travelogue along with dodging assassins and training on the road. Others, unfortunately, seem to think that the travelogue is the point of the story and proceed to have giant infodumps intermixed with occasional mentions of the characters. In my own books, The Crystal Throne and Talking to Trees, the characters must travel a great deal in order to find help.

There is a fine line between keeping the travel setting interesting and boring your reader with what they might consider unnecessary information. Is it important to the story for your readers to understand the entire history of the city? Do you need to focus on the difference between horses and the "equines" of your alien planet (especially if the inhabitants of that planet have never seen a horse)? Do your readers need to know how aircraft work in order for you to mention that the characters are on a flight between Detroit and Minneapolis? Do you need to go into the history of trains or buses? If your character stops at a spaceport on Titan, do your readers really need to know what means of propulsion each alien spacecraft uses?

Even the best plans for travel may be disrupted. Peter in Talking to Trees mapped out where he needed to go, only to find the Watcher had other plans.

Peter stumbled forward and tripped over the uneven floor. Floor? Recovering his balance, he turned, intending to complain. But there was no Watcher behind him. Only the remains of a stone wall with a tall panel of silver-gray wood. "Oh, great. Now what?"

He turned slowly, studying his surroundings. There was the ruined wall behind him and tumbled stone blocks that could be the remains of a matching wall off to his right. The ground fell away to his left, and he walked over to look out over the edge. "You have got to be kidding me!"

The hillside sloped down to the edge of a big lake. Was it a lake or a sea? He tried to spy the other side, but water stretched as far as he could see, muddy and still. He looked at the water's edge, wondering how deep it was.

Walking around the ruins took only seconds. There was just the one partial wall, part of a floor, and a jumble of stones. The small hillside the ruins stood on was the only patch of dry land he could see. The hill was completely surrounded by water.

Peter sighed. The Watcher really had it in for him. What did it expect him to do here? What could he do here? "Where is here, anyway?" he muttered. He didn't remember any large seas on his map.

He unslung his backpack and pulled out his homemade map of the Lands. Spreading it out on the floor, he looked from the map to his surroundings.

He was right. There was no large lake or sea on it. But all he had learned about the Lands had come from elves or Windkin. Perhaps this was in an area where neither had explored? Or outside the Free Lands entirely?

Peter shook his head at that thought. He had to be somewhere in the Lands. Somehow he was sure of that. But where? He couldn't even be sure he was in the same time period as Jody and Jeanne. "I thought it would be so easy," he complained. "Just head east of Windgard and--"

He paused and looked again at the map. He looked out at the water. "You dumped me in the middle of the Great Flood?" he shouted at the wall.

I'm writing this blog post at the airport in Detroit. Yesterday (Saturday) I was flying from Lansing, MI, to La Crosse, WI, with a stopover in Detroit. The stopover was only supposed to be an hour. I should have been suspicious when I got off the plane from Lansing to find the gate for my connecting flight directly opposite. Usually the gate for the connecting flight is on the other side of the airport. We boarded, sat down, and then the pilot came on the intercom that there was a problem with a valve (which was blasting hot air into the front rows of the plane). So everyone had to get off the plane and wait until they fixed the problem. Hours passed while they tried to find either a new plane or fix the problem. Seven hours later, they found a possible plane but needed to find crew (as the previous crew had to go offshift). About midnight, the steward and then the pilot arrived, but no first officer. So by then Delta decided to cancel the flight and rebook the remaining passengers for flights the following day and send us all off to a hotel for what was left of the night.

A straightforward tale of woe as it stands and a major example of "how not to handle" a situation. The supervisors vanished, leaving the poor gate attendants (two volunteered to stay past their shifts to help us) to give what updates they could. But the gate attendants didn't have the authority to even issue meal vouchers until after all the airport food places had closed down for the night.

However, as I'm a writer, this will show up in a story sometime. Maybe the plane was sabotaged deliberately as part of a mystery. Maybe the reason was one of the many irritated passengers. Maybe the Bad Corporation in charge of the spaceport was trying to strand the expert investigating a problem at the end location. Or maybe I need to write another spaceport-based story (this isn't the first time I've been stranded or had 'interesting' flight problems).

Perhaps that's why some of my most frustrating nightmares are about me not being able to get somewhere. Such as dreaming I need to take a test but things keep popping up to stop me from even getting across the parking lot to the building the classroom is in. Or I get to the building or can't find the classroom.

Oops, one of my fellow passengers from last night's cancelled flight just noticed they've changed the gate for today's flight. And so it begins...

Have you subjected your characters to interesting travel misadventures? What are your favorite travel or travel/quest stories?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lest We Forget: Alfred Hitchcock Director Extraordinaire

Scriptwriting for a movie is similar to novel writing. Both need fully-fleshed characters, a logical plot and setting. When the script is good and the movie is well-directed, it works.

One of my favorite movie directors of all time was Alfred Hitchcock. I grew up watching his fabulous films. In fact my most vivid movie memory is of being twelve-years-old, babysitting my seven-year-old sister while we watched The Birds (1963). Neither of us went to the bathroom alone at night for several weeks! But oh my, what a film. I showed it to my own children when they were preteens and the hilarious part was—they loved it! It had become campy over time, but the emotional value was still there. Classic Hitchcock.

For those of you too young to know about this director or haven't seen any of his classic films, watch some with a pad and pen. Take notes as you discover the plot points and character arcs. What is the inciting incident and where does it fall? When does the main character decide to take action (plot point two)? Where does the climax fall and how is it built up to? Because his movies are relatively short and simple, it is easy to formulate the plot and learn how to apply it to your own writing.

Here’s a bit about Alfred Hitchcock for those who don’t know him or have forgotten:
Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born August 13, 1899. His father was a green grocer in London, England, named William Hitchcock; his mother was Emma Jane Whelan and he had two older siblings. Raised as a strict Catholic, he attended Saint Ignatius College for engineering and navigation. In 1914, when Hitchcock was 15 years old, his father died. His first job outside of the family business was in 1915 as an estimator for the Henley Telegraph and Cable Company. His interest in movies began at around this time, frequently visiting the cinema and reading US trade journals.

In 1920, Hitch, as his friends called him, learned about a studio opening in London and managed to secure a job as a title designer. He designed the titles for all the movies made at the studio for the next two years. In 1923, his first opportunity to direct occurred when the director of Always Tell Your Wife (1923) couldn’t continue due to illness and Hitch finished the movie. Impressed by his work, studio chiefs gave him his first real directing assignment on Number 13 (1922); however, before it could be finished, the studio closed its British operation. Hitch was then hired as an assistant director for the company later known as Gainsborough Pictures. Hitch, however managed to do much more than assist. He wrote, designed titles and art directed.

Hitch was soon given his chance to direct a British/German co-production called The Pleasure Garden (1925) which became very popular. It was the break he’d been hoping for. In 1926, Hitchcock made his first trademark film, "The Lodger". In the same year on the 2nd of December, Hitchcock married Alma Reville. They had one child, Patricia Hitchcock (born 7th July 1928). His success followed when he made a number of films in Britain such as "The Lady Vanishes" (1938) and Jamaica Inn (1939), some of them which also made him famous in the USA. David O. Selznick, an American producer at the time, got in touch with Hitchcock and the Hitchcock family moved to the USA to direct an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (1940). It was when Saboteur (1942) was made that his name became part of the ‘title’; such as Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot, Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy. A trademark of his became the quick cameo of himself in profile somewhere in the film. On set he was always formally dressed in a suit.

There is a recurrent motif of lost or assumed identity through most of his films. As a child, Hitchcock was sent to the local police station with a letter from his father. The desk sergeant read the letter and immediately locked the boy up for ten minutes. After that, the sergeant let young Alfred go, explaining, "This is what happens to people who do bad things." Hitchcock had a morbid fear of police from that day on. He also cited this phobia as the reason he never learned to drive (as a person who doesn't drive can never be pulled over and given a ticket). It was also cited as the reason for the recurring "wrong man" themes in his films. While mistaken identity applies to a film like North by Northwest (1959), assumed identity applies to films such as The 39 Steps (1935), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), and Marnie (1964) among others. In order to create suspense in his films, he would alternate between different shots to extend cinematic time (e.g., the climax of Saboteur (1942), the cropduster sequence in North By Northwest (1959), the shower scene in Psycho (1960), etc.) Walt Disney refused to allow him to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s because Hitchcock had made "that disgusting movie Psycho (1960)".

Many of Hitchcock's films have one-word titles: Blackmail (1929), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Saboteur (1942), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Rope (1948), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), Marnie (1964), Topaz (1969), Frenzy (1972). He favored one-word titles because he felt that it was uncluttered, clean and easily remembered by the audience.

His driving sequences were also shot in this particular way. They would typically alternate between the character's point of view while driving and a close-up shot of those inside the car from the opposite direction. This technique kept the viewer 'inside' the car and made any danger encountered more richly felt. In a lot of his films (more noticeably in the early black and white American films), he used to create more shadows on the walls to create suspense and tension (e.g., the "Glowing Milk" scene in Suspicion (1941) or the ominous shadow during the opening credits of Saboteur (1942).

'MacGuffins', one of his devices, were objects or devices which drove the plot and were of great interest to the film's characters, but which to the audience were otherwise inconsequential and could be forgotten once they had served their purpose. The most notable examples include bottled uranium in Notorious (1948), the wedding ring in Rear Window (1959), the microfilm in North By Northwest (1959) and the $40,000 in the envelope in Psycho (1960). He hated to shoot on location. He preferred to shoot at the studio where he could have full control of lighting and other factors. This is why even his later films contain special effects composite and rear screen shots.

He was infamous with cast and crews for his "practical jokes." While some inspired laughs, such as suddenly showing up in a dress, most were said to have been more cruel than funny. Usually he found out about somebody's phobias, such as mice or spiders, and in turn sent them a box full of them. He almost never socialized when not shooting films, with most of his evenings spent quietly at home with his wife.
During the making of Frenzy (1972), Hitchcock's wife Alma suffered a paralyzing stroke which made her unable to walk very well at all.

He directed nine of the American Film Institute's 100 Most Heart-Pounding Movies: Psycho (1960) at #1, North by Northwest (1959) at #4, The Birds (1963) at #7, Rear Window (1954) at #14, Vertigo (1958) at #18, Strangers on a Train (1951) at #32, Notorious (1946) at #38, Dial M for Murder (1954) at #48 and Rebecca (1940) at #80.
On March 7, 1979, Hitchcock was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award, where he said this famous quote: "I beg permission to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation, and encouragement, and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen and their names are Alma Reville." He joked with friends that since this was a lifetime achievement award,  he must be about to die soon. He died a year later.

He started to write a screenplay with Ernest Lehman called "The Short Night" but he fired Lehman and hired young screenwriter David Freeman who re-wrote the script. Due to Hitchcock's failing health, however, the film was never made; although Freeman published the script after Hitchcock's death on April 29, 1980 in Los Angeles, California. In late 1979, Hitchcock was knighted, making him Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
Hitchcock directed eight different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson, Albert Bassermann, Michael Chekhov, Claude Rains, Ethel Barrymore and Janet Leigh. Fontaine won an Oscar for Suspicion (1941). He, however, never won a best director Oscar in competition, although he was awarded the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award at the 1967 Oscars. He delivered the shortest acceptance speech in Oscar history simply saying, "Thank you." Classic Hitchcock.

A Few Hitchcock Quotes
The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.

To me Psycho (1960) was a big comedy. Had to be.

Even my failures make money and become classics a year after I make them.

Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.

Drama is life with the dull bits left out.

There is nothing quite so good as a burial at sea. It is simple, tidy, and not very incriminating.

Man does not live by murder alone. He needs affection, approval, encouragement and, occasionally, a hearty meal.

Cartoonists have the best casting system. If they don't like an actor, they just tear him up.

The paperback is very interesting but I find it will never replace the hardcover book -- it makes a very poor doorstop.

Film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders.

I am a typed director. If I made Cinderella (1937), the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach.

If it's a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.

Reality is something that none of us can stand, at any time.
I like stories with lots of psychology.

Everything's perverted in a different way.

And my favorites:
Puns are the highest form of literature.

To make a great film you need three things - the script, the script and the script.
Classic Hitchcock.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Today, my post is short. I’m in the middle of edits for my forthcoming MG/Tween novel A PIRATE, A BLOCKADE RUNNER, AND A CAT. I used to hate history. Who cared who discovered what and where and when? So all through school, I cruised, learning what was necessary, forgetting most of it afterwards. Then, as an adult, I started researching my family. And history suddenly came alive. These were not just names who lived in different time periods. They were real live people who breathed, loved, and worked hard, like we do today. When I could place my ancestors in different time periods, that part of history came alive for me. They sailed across the sea to establish new homes and families. They fought for their rights and to make America the grand country it is today. History soon became my passion.

My YA historical novel CAVES, CANNONS, AND CRINOLINES is set during the Civil War, one of my favorite time periods. Another of my forthcoming stories for Tweens, SCATTERED TO THE WINDS, is set in the 1920s and deals with the Orphan Trains.

My mother and aunt - Orphan Train Riders
The story due out in January 2013, about the pirates and blockade runners, is set during the present, but the ghosts lived in the past. Yes, the pirates, the blockade runner, and the cat are all ghosts. It was a fun story to write. The editing is not so much fun. But necessary.

I discovered I got carried away with ellipses and dashes. What was I thinking? Now, I’m deleting most of them. Using the tracking on my computer is driving me crazy, but I’m learning. Delete. Accept. Reject. Oh, boy. What happened to the old-fashioned way of editing?

So, from Erik, Star, and Storm, the characters in my story, along with the ghosts, James (blockade runner), Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard (pirates), and Dixie the ghost cat goodbye for now. See you soon.

Thanks to Chris and Lea at MuseItUp Publishing for giving my characters a chance to share their story with you.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer fun...almost done

Today is my birthday. Which means two things:

a) Yay!
b) Almost time for back to school/work

I technically have three weeks left. Which is a lot of time, and at the same time, it's not. Similarly, I am torn -- I am excited to go back to work and start a new year, and sorry to be losing all this writing time. My last semester at Grad School (which is all YAY!) will start to take up time, and I have to finish my final project which will suck time, and Boy is playing football, get the idea.

I had to go and look back at what I've blogged about previously this summer, because I couldn't remember. Writing two pages a day and cosplay. So what did I get done this summer?

I don't think I wrote two pages every day. I tried, but my previous way of doing 500 words each day seemed to work just fine. As of now I have written nearly 20,000 words between a new book and a short story.

Not too shabby, but it probably could have been better. I also worked on my Grad School project, my website portfolio which is required to graduate, and other household projects, so I guess it's not that bad.

I launched a book just before summer break. Did I even mention it here? I can't remember! Agh, getting old stinks.  THE SWORD OF DANU came out from Zumaya Thresholds, in case you missed it.

We went camping. It was awesome!

I went to the gym four-five days a week. Still didn't lose any weight until I got food poisoning, but at least that weight's stayed off. Learned to Zumba and took actual yoga classes instead of just doing poses with Wii fit.

Talked to my agent a few times, but nothing new to report.

There is the sense that things are shifting, from the lazy days of summer to the hectic time of fall. I'm slowly getting prepared for back to work, planning ahead so I don't make myself crazy. School supplies and clothes are purchased, lessons are semi-planned.

Editors are starting to come back from vacation and a summer of conferences, plunging into their submissions...

Hope springs eternal with fall. But once again time will become a precious commodity. Hopefully I will be able to get it all done...

Enjoy the last bits of your summer!

Friday, August 10, 2012

On Not Writing

Ok, so I guess if I'm going to call myself a writer, I need to write. But there are so many other extenuating circumstances that seem to take me away from writing. I just recently endured 3 surgeries on one hand and 6 months of being in a splint. I didn't endure it well, as my doctor and physical therapist will most likely attest. I don't like being confined like that, and I expect this old carcass of a body to heal much faster, and much better, than it has. I am disgruntled with the whole thing.

So, once the splint came off, I got back to living. Now, when my doctor told me I could resume regular activity, I don't suppose he meant helping roll up tar paper from a roofing job. And I don't suppose he meant dragging big, heavy plastic tarps about. And I don't suppose he meant using weedwhacker, chainsaw and pruning shears and attacking a much overgrown yard. But these are the things that must be done.

To make the medical profession feel better, I did hire Mr Le and associate to do the whacking, pulling and hauling in the front yard. Ok, half of the front yard. I have a very big front yard! As a writer I don't make enough moolah to pay for more than half of the yard. And forget about the back yard, which is three times the size of the front yard.

So, I have been clearing out the debris, opening up the jungle, letting in light. And not just outside, but inside, as well. I shampooed the carpets - one room at a time. I rearranged the living room furniture since I was shampooing anyway. (Thank goodness for those silicone sliders. I can only move the couch and two chairs anyway. Everything else is way too heavy and will be in the same spot until we die. I'm guessing.)

But a weird thing is happening as I clear clutter, both inside and out. My mind is clearing. I find myself writing stories in my head. I haven't put anything down on paper yet, but there are fleeting moments of creativity whilst whacking the yard into submission. So, maybe all of this activity is a good thing. Maybe freeing my hand from the splint, the yard from the overgrowth, has freed my muse to once again be thinking of something other than 'how soon can I be free of this wretched splint'.

Hey, Muse, nice to have you back.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reality Ali will Debut this Month

Ali Caldwell wants to be famous, like her movie-star mother. Her father, however has always carefully guarded her privacy. But now that she's away at boarding school she and her friends develop a reality show style webcast that provides her with all the fame she was looking for...and more.

It turns out that being famous wasn't exactly how she'd envisioned it.

And now, finally, this month, you can read all about Ali and her friends in the first book of the Reality Ali series.

As soon as the book is available for purchase, at various online sites, I'll post the information.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

RWA Nationals

I had tons of fun at RWA Nationals last week.  If you don't know, RWA means Romance Writers Association.  Every year it's held in one major city and romance writers from all over come for workshops, panels, booksignings, and awards.  This year it was held in Anaheim, California which is 30 minutes away from where I live.  So like my former writing teacher from UCI told me, "You really have no excuse not to come."

The first day I was there, I admit, I was overwhelmed with all the conference had to offer.  I didn't get lost getting to the hotel.  Whew.  I'm so direction challenged.  The cost of parking though was crazy: $24 a day!  Ouch.

But when I went inside the Marriot and registered I received a really nice bag filled with BOOKS!  Two were YAs: EMBRACE and Meg Cabot's ABANDON.  Both I've read and both are amazing!

Then I went to the first panel BEYOND THE HERO'S JOURNEY with the author of GRAVE MERCY: Robin LaFever!

Loved this panel so much and ended up purchasing the one book they recommended: WOMEN THAT RUN WITH WOLVES on the woman's journey.

**Robin went over archetypes:

1. Orphan--example, Dorothy of Wizard of Oz and Bella in Twilight
2. Martyr- **Everyone's needs before their own at a cost.
3. Wanderer-Chocolat, and EAT, PRAY, LOVE
4. Warrior-Buffy, Xena

Another book I purchased was THE HERO WITHIN that goes over the six archetypes.

Then I went to the Hero's Journey with YA.

Fascinating take on using the hero's journey with YA.

Then I went to Tera Lynn Child's workshop on GOOD THINGS COME IN 3s--Series writing

Got some really good pointers

**Your first book will be the best one.  Sucessful trilogies have high stakes.

I had Tera sign a copy of SWEET VENOM which I will send to YA Books Central for a giveaway.

***Yes, I love to share!

I was so busy, I ate the snacks I packed plus went to the goodies room and was amazed at all the free swag/books!  I added my own CROSSED OUT and EARRINGS OF IXTUMEA bookmarkers to one of the many tables.

So many people were mingling in the hallways.  I heard there were 2000 attendees.  Crazy, huh?

Day two:

I left early on day two to make it in time for Marlene Perez and Nancy Holder's panel.

I made it!

SERIES-OUS STAMINA went over writing series and some hints on what worked for them.

**Need to stay fresh.  Put your own unique twist on a series.

***Copy editor: Need to remember you are the director here with your story.  Copy editors might not get the whole 'story'.  For example with YA dialogue.  It might not be grammatically correct but that's your voice.

Since I just got my copy editor assigned to me, this info helps me!


This panel was a little sketchy I thought.  So I left and went to a class on PR for your book.  This one had some very interesting info on how to do press releases and how to get word out about your novel.

Check these sites for news places to query.

Also an example of how to start off a query to a local newspaper/site:
A romantic story is about_____________
Author ___________has a local connection to this community

Then it was time for booksignings!

Yes, this is author Yasmine Galenorn.  All her books were gone but I didn't care!  I was so excited to finally met her.  She's been so sweet and encouraging on Twitter.

St Martin's Press:

This is Jana Oliver, author of the YA series THE DEMON TRAPPER'S DAUGHTER.  I've known Jana back in the early 2000s when EARRINGS first came out as an e-serial with Virtual Tales.  Her urban fantasy was also an e-serial at the time.  Loved it!  Jana's success with her YA gives me hope for my own writing!

And I can't forget Sourcebooks:

I've heard fab things about CATCHING JORDAN.  Had to finally meet the author.  Had her sign a copy for me.  Sending to YA Books Central as part of a future giveaway!

I'm so mad this one came out blurry.  This is Janet Gutler!  Love her books!  So fun to meet her too!

I think I was so excited to finally meet authors, I didn't focus or something.

Other panels I went to included STEAMPUNK: How to write.

Very fascinating class!

**Some rules:

. Is a world set during the Victorian era of 1837-1901.

. Has some kind of mechanical technology or social aspect that is integral to the story line

. Story has inventions that transcend the period but use period appropriate

. Have a social commentary or look at the underbelly of society

Another highlight was having lunch with YA authors Marlene Perez of DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK series and I also finally met Tina Ferraro of PROM DRESS and also YA author Teri Clark, Flux author of HOLLYWEIRD.

Met Jennifer Echols and really enjoyed her class on setting

**Show echoes of history in your locale
Use Google alert

Then I got to go to former writing mentor Lou Nelson's class on SETTING THE SCENE GOAL

Plus, I put some signed copies of CROSSED OUT in the goodies room.  I went back to check and they were gone within an hour!

Going was such an amazing experience and I'd highly recommend!

Friday, August 3, 2012

One of Society's Greatest Myths - Age Inevitably Breeds Wisdom

I don't know about ya'll, but ever since I was little and was able to watch cartoons and read, I've had it drilled into my head that old people are WISE. They've lived, they've learned, they've cultivated wisdom. You too can be (Insert Figure Of Wisdom From TV/Books/Movies Here) in your old age.

But like the Cake, peeps, this too is a LIE!

Yes, there are wise people out there (young and old ones!). Yes, some of them gained their wisdom by living their lives. But most of us? We're the same as when we were twenty, only now we're just wearing an older meatsuit. So if we didn't have a lick of sense back then, it's highly likely we won't have much more in our golden years.

Now that doesn't mean we don't know nothin'. You young whipper snappers do need to remember that. The wisdom gaining might be a big old fib, but it does not necessarily make you smarter than your elders. I'm just sayin'.

But it is something to keep in mind. When meeting new people, when writing about them, when socializing with them. The old bod might not allow for older folks to do the same stuff they used to when they were younger, but this doesn't mean they don't still enjoy those things.

If you were a biker Mama in your 20's, no reason you can't still be one in your 60's if the eyesight and bones are holding out. Of course, some of that mythological wisdom we were supposed to have magically acquired would help us to make those determinations more easily, so we don't make bad choices, but since it's a lie... :P

My husband and I have hung around the same circle of friends off and on our whole married lives. Many are a little grayer, a little wider than they used to be, maybe even a little smarter, but wiser? Errrrr.

So cultivate your wisdom. Grow it inside yourself as best you can. Old age will not be handing you the secrets of the universe on no silver platter. And remember that next time you go visit old Grandma or Grandpa, they might just surprise you in what they might consider fun and would be willing to learn to spend time with you. Despite their wrinkly exterior, they are more than likely still just big kids at heart. :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lonely Little Stand-Alone in a Serial World - Part 2

Last year, I came up with a short piece for this blog about how I didn't write a series but instead focused on stand-alone books, and at the time I was beginning to wonder if that was such a wise thing to do. After all, if a reader likes your work and really likes your characters, it would make sense to continue with that particular universe and that particular population. 

But I have never had a series in mind when I wrote my manuscripts. It's almost as if my characters had the one story to tell, and after having told it, went off on vacation to Patagonia or other parts unknown to me. I can find them if I want to, I suppose, but really they seem to be quite finished with me. Yet, more and more successful writers that I know keep dropping broad hints to me that a series would probably be a better product. I must admit I'm hooked on some series myself. And yet. And yet?

The only series I've ever had in mind is the usual detective kind. I don't think there's any mystery reader on the planet who doesn't carry around his or her own series internally, whether the protagonist is a cop, a detective, a moonlighter, a novelist, or a spiritualist of some kind, and since I'm a mystery reader of the first order, I certainly have a sleuth of my own currently renting space in my attic. I think a murder mystery could be fun to write. I think that all of us who read mystery stories probably would love to write them, too.

But when it comes to my YA supernatural stuff, a series never crossed my mind. UNTIL. I realized a few weeks ago that when I first started writing my little ghost story books, one of the most important settings was a place called Bridgeton Park Cemetery. When I wrote my second YA book, Saving Jake, I threw Bridgeton Park Cemetery into the story just as a private joke for myself. I didn't figure Jake was going to see the light of day anyhow. But he did. My next manuscript is awaiting my corrections and rewrites, and there is actually a wonderful place in the story to include Bridgeton Park Cemetery. I think I will.

Does it make sense to have a series that continues with a place -in my case, a cemetery- instead of with the characters? A friend of mine who is a professor of literature told me that William Faulkner centered a number of stories around a particular location. Stephen King, the King himself, set so many stories in Castle Rock that I can't even remember all of them. Not that I could compare myself to Faulkner or King, but I keep thinking that having a sense of place might give a reader continuity as nicely as a more traditional person-oriented series. It would not be like seeing the same characters book after book, but it would certainly expand the universe of every book I write that is built around that graveyard. And it would suggest that these characters could very well run into one another - or even know each other.

My still-to-be revised manuscript could use a sequel, I've been told, so I guess I would have to work up another story around Bridgeton Park. But as someone who spends free time visiting cemeteries, that probably wouldn't be much of a stretch.

Anyone else out there know of a series based on place rather than on people?