Friday, September 28, 2012

Unexpected Fun with My Little Pony!

By pure accident I ran into Rebecca Enzor's My Pony Fest 12 contest. The premise of the contest is to use a   character from your publiched or unpublished novel and turn one of them into a Pony. Rebecca has a link to Pony page and a Pony creator.

For whatever reasons this bit me hard and I went a little crazy making Ponies. Here are the results:

In The Service of Samurai

Asaka - Undead (skeletal) samurai
Miko - Undead (Skeletal) Geisha
Toshi - young map maker kidnapped by the undead

Willing Sacrifice

Dal - part of an entertainment troupe and member of a secret organization

La'tiera - Bearer of the Eye - being kept in isolation for her supposed protection

Aya - young rapscallion who ends up finding La'tiera

Cross-eyed Dragon Troubles

Clarence - cross-eyed dragon who is fascinated by humans

Talia - new student to the Dragon Knight's Guild

Larana - her life is turned upside down when a mysterious group of men try to kidnap her.

Torren - somewhat bitter mercenary with a past he'd rather forget

So as you can see, I got the bug bad. Now to figure out how to do lace to create Pony's for my most recent book. Heh heh heh.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thank You, Peggy!

Thank God for Peggy Tibbetts. Those of us on this blog know who she is, and I was lucky enough to get her to review Saving Jake for me. Then I got even luckier when she read my next manuscript. She actually liked it, even though it needed all kinds of work, and offered to publish it at Sisterhood Publications, her current literary home. I was astonished. At the time I was in the depths of the I-have-no-talent and writing-is-just-a-pipe-dream nightmare I seem to subject myself to on a fairly routine basis. I don't know why, but this particular bout was the worst I've suffered in years. Enter Peggy.

She took the time to do an in-depth critique of my manuscript. (I admit it: I didn't look at it for weeks because I was terrified to find out what she really thought of it. I'm a coward!) And when I finally got past all of my own angst, I took her words to heart and made all sorts of corrections and revisions to get a final draft.

And then I flew in the face of all logic and decided to try self-publishing this thing myself on Amazon. Insane, or what? I had a legitimate offer from a fellow writer and here I was turning it down. One reason is that my fiction and Peggy's are not exactly cut from the same bolt of cloth. We both write YA and that's about it. I went onto the Sisterhood Publications website and was awed by the subject matter they house. They call it "edgy" fiction and it certainly is. Anyone who has read Pvt. Liberty Striker will know exactly what I mean.

Like Peggy, I will glean subject matter from current headlines, but then I go away and fabricate a ghost story out of it. My work reflects the way I see the world. I like to think it's scary when I need it to be, but it is not edgy. Not like the work I saw at Sisterhood. So I decided to give e-books a try independently. And Peggy, being the very gracious lady she is, gave me a huge hug by e-mail and wished me the best. (Talk about your class acts.)

So I hope to launch my newest novel very soon. The title is Haunted, it is a ghost story/murder mystery, and I hope people who read it will like it. I followed a lot of Peggy's suggestions and stubbornly left other areas untouched, but the book is all the stronger for her input, that's for sure. My goal is to upload it some time next week, just in time for the Halloween season, but life has gotten in the way yet again and I might be a bit delayed. But I learned something else from Peggy: don't give up (ya big wimp). Yes, the little aside is mine, but it was probably on her mind, too!

So thank you, Peggy. Let's see what happens next.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Books On Your Shelf ala Janet Lane Walters

Just this morning while deciding what to write about here today, I looked at the variety of research books on my shelves. I could go to the library or search the internet for the facts I need when doing research and I do, especially when what I want isn't found among the variety of books there. Some of them I'm not sure why they're there but I keep them.

What about you? Do you have books on your shelf that you scratch your head and wonder why you have them? Do they come in handy when you need some fact and you're not sure where you'll find them.

I'll talk about some of these books. There are a lot of baby name books and none of them are the same. Then there are the books geared toward mystery writing like ones about poisons, scenes of the crime. I have a lot of history books about specific times. The ones I often delve into are dictionaries one with seven languages and one on English Entymology. I have books on weapons and types of fighting and the art of war.

Then there are those about various cultures. Ancient Egypt, the Celts, Indians of the Americas, a lot on the Incas and the Aztecs. There are books like life in a medieval village or of Imperial Japan. There are books that have house and apartment plans. Once that show a castle of a village in Ancient Egypt.

I can't forget to mention all the ones on Astrology, ESP, alternate methods of medicine and the ones that give medical information.

What amazes me the most is how often I've lifted one of these books from the shelf to find the little detail I've needed to help develop a milieu, a character, a setting and even to find the seeds for a plot.

What about you? Do you have books on your shelf that only a writer would find of use as they creat a world peopled by characters you want everyone to read? Do you find inspiration from these books?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Glowinski’s Library

As a part-time book reviewer I receive more books than I can possibly read and review. Let me take this opportunity to remind authors and publishers: always contact a reviewer first and ask for permission to send your book, otherwise it won’t get reviewed. With all these books stacked on shelves, every now and then I need to clean house. Our local library can’t accept donations of books marked as ARCs, galleys, or “review copy not for sale.” Believe me it’s not always easy to find places to donate your extra books.

Years ago I was contacted by a Polish librarian, Tadeusz “Teddy” Glowinski. He lives in Olesnica, Poland. He was looking for authors who would be willing to donate a copy, or copies, of their book(s) to his library, Glowinski's Library. Perhaps some of you have been contacted by Teddy. The slight catch of course is the cost of postage to Poland. I sent him copies of my books, Rumors of War and The Road to Weird. At the time I think the postage amounted to $8. I liked the idea of having my books in his little library in Poland so I was happy to oblige.

Tadeusz “Teddy” Glowinski
The idea for his own library came to Teddy while working as a librarian at the town’s old, underfunded library. Also a book collector, Teddy wanted to donate books from his own collection to the library but they weren’t interested. However when he finally opened Glowinski’s Library, police officers showed up and confiscated the books. Find out what happened in Krzys Wasilewski’s article, The Librarian Who Loved Books.

Glowinski's Library

Through the years we’ve kept in touch. I recently sent him a large box of books, including my own Letters to Juniper and PFC Liberty Stryker. I admire Teddy’s determination and love of books. The world needs more people like him.

Would you like to spread your books around the world? Consider donating your book(s) to Teddy.

ul. Waly Jagiellonskie 20
56-400 Olesnica
Poland - Polska

Peggy Tibbetts

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

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Friday, September 14, 2012


Following up on Christine's blog on villains, I would like to discuss minions. You can judge a villain by his or her minions - those people/beings carrying out the villain's orders. Sauron had a vast array of minions - from Ringwraiths to orcs, goblins and cave trolls. Voldemort had his Death Eaters. In Avatar, the Last Airbender, the Firelord had armies of masked firebenders. In Star Wars, Darth Vader had stormtroopers. Doctor Drakken in Kim Possible occasionally has minions besides the powerful Shego, and then there are the hordes of unnamed Decepticons in Transformers Prime that seem to appear out of nowhere.

Most of the faceless minions seem to exist only to carry things, threaten the heroes, and be beaten (or run away) at the end of the story. They are stock characters in both fantasy and science fiction stories. They can be clever or oblivious, inflexible or cowardly, depending on the needs of the story.

There have been some movies lately focusing on the minion. Igor (2008) told the story of one mad scientist's assistant who was more intelligent than the scientist and wanted to be one himself. Two other charming animated films appeared in theatres the same summer (2010): Despicable Me with its crowds of short overalled minions, and Megamind with *one* minion (named "Minion").

Now, much as I liked Igor and his fellow minions, I *really* liked the minions of both Despicable Me and Megamind. The two types couldn't be more different, though. Minion of Megamind is an alien fish in a giant armored suit. He/It is smart, loyal to his childhood friend, supports his zany plans but yet is not afraid to tell Megamind when he has gone offtrack. He also seems to be a good actor (as much as a fish in a giant armored suit can be with just a wig and an apron). In one scene he clearly is the equal of his friend.

The minions of Despicable Me, however, have been created by Gru. Together in a group, they look alike - overalls, goggles, yellow skin and a few hairs - and speak a very strange language. However, they do have individual differences - some are tall, some short, some have one eye, others have two - and individual names that their creator Gru knows. They are loyal to Gru, but the personalities of each vary. Some are very smart; others are childlike and amused by the odd things (as shown on a separate DVD with three mini-movies).

In each movie, as soon as the audience meets the minions, you know these villains (Megamind and Gru) are not all bad. They can't be. Both Minion and the little minions are just too *nice* to be loyal to a truly bad person. And Megamind and Gru obviously care about their minions - unlike other villains and their faceless armies of supporters.

Often minions exist to demonstrate the overwhelming force of the villain. After all, what would any conqueror be like without their enormous army? Minions carry out the villain's plan and follow his or her orders without question. The few times in literature or film that they dare to question orders, they are usually killed (there are always more minions to replace them). The ability to have that many beings fear the villain emphasizes his or her power.

But I did enjoy seeing villains with minions who actually argue with them. Minions who are cute and cuddly in their own right.

Have you come across any memorable minions?

By the way, Despicable Me 2 will be released sometime in 2013.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Suggested Middle Grade Reading List

Just in time to start school, I decided to create a list of the Best Middle Grade books. Parents can use this to recommend old favorites for their back-to-schoolers, kids can use this list as a guide to selecting the absolute BEST books written for readers aged 10-15. See how many of these do you remember reading?

If I missed YOUR favorite, please list it in the comments section.

1984 by George Orwell
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn  by Betty Smith
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
A Wrinkle in Time (and others) by Madeline L'Engle
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Alices’ Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charley Bone series
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Crispin by Avi

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Feed by M.T. Anderson
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling
Hatchet (and many others) by Gary Paulsen
Holes by Louis Sachar
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Journey to America by Sonia Levitin
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Life of Pi by Yann Martell
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks
Messenger by Lois Lowry
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C O'Brien
My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Nory Ryan's Song by Patricia Reilly Giff
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Clearly
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen
Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Sounder by William Armstrong
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Doyle
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
The Black Pearl by Scott O'Dell
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

The Book Thief by Markus Zusa
The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli
The Fighting Ground by Avi
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The High King by Lloyd Alexander
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
The Last of the Mohicans by James Cooper
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
The One-Eyed Cat by Paula Fox
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinan Rawlings
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Water Sky by Jean Craighead George
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Prizes, puzzles, scavenger hunt and treasure hunt coming September 1st.

Twilight Times Books will offer contests and a chance to win free ebooks in the coming weeks.
Celebrating fourteen years as a publisher.

The treasure hunt contest will run from Sept 1st until midnight EDT September 30, 2012.

Join in a scavenger hunt as well as a treasure hunt for "jewels" scattered amongst our authors' web sites or blogs. The jewels (a small .jpg image) will generally be on the first page of the author's web site or blog. List of participating authors.

Treasure hunt: Correctly match a jewel with the author (jewel is located on the author's web site/blog). 20 points

Scavenger Hunt: Correctly match a phrase from an author's web site/blog with the author. 20 points

All valid Treasure Hunt contest entries are eligible for drawing.
Winners will be announced October 10th.

Prizes. First Place: B&N Nook Color and $50 Gift Voucher

Second Place: Kindle Fire and $35 Gift Voucher

Third Place: Google Nexus Tablet and $25 Gift Voucher

Fourth Place: Basket of 12 print books (Retail value $150.00+). Winner's choice of selections from historical/literary, humor, mystery, SF/F or YA baskets.

Fifth Place: Basket of 12 ebooks (Retail value $75.00). Winner's choice of selections from historical/literary, humor, mystery, SF/F or YA baskets.

See the rules and entry forms at the Twilight Times Website (link above.)

Twilight Times Books
2012 Foghorn Contest

Foghorn contest [Blog and Tweet for bonus points] -- not required to participate in the Treasure Hunt drawing. You will need to submit a separate entry form for the Treasure Hunt drawing. Blog or tweet and post to Facebook between Sept. 1st and Sept. 30th in order to earn points to win free ebooks.

Post a review of a Twilight Times Books title on or between Sept 1st and Sept 30th. 10 points

Tweet about the Twilight Times Books treasure hunt. 5 points Twilight Times Books 2012 Treasure Hunt. Prizes, puzzles and scavenger hunt starts September 1st

Mention the TT Books treasure hunt on your Facebook page, web site or blog. 5 points Twilight Times Books 2012 Treasure Hunt. Prizes, puzzles and scavenger hunt starts September 1st.

Tweet about the Twilight Times Books ebook sale. 5 points 100 #ebooks w/five star reviews on #sale $1.99-$3.99 via #Nook #Kindle #Sony til Sept 30th. #Mystery #SF #YA

Follow Twilight Times Books on Twitter. 5 points.

Mention the Twilight Times Books ebook sale on your Facebook page or blog. 5 points.  An ebook sale for book lovers 100 ebooks with five star reviews are on sale from Twilight Times Books. Priced from $1.99 to $3.99 now via our ebook distributors: Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook,,,, Sony, etc. until Sept 30th. Historical, literary, mystery, SF, YA and more.

Again go to Twilight Times site for rules and the entry form.

Good luck. Have fun.

Redemption of points earned

20 points - one free ebook

40 points - two free ebooks (first 100 entries may substitute one paperback from basket of books)

60 points - three free ebooks

80 points - four free ebooks (first 100 entries may substitute two paperbacks from basket of books)

100 points - five free ebooks

120 points - six free ebooks (first 100 entries may substitute three paperbacks from basket of books)


Monday, September 10, 2012

Villains...characters we love to hate.

There are a lot of really great villains out there, in books and in TV and movies. There are a few things that make a villain a good antagonist (and they're not always the same, BTW), but I tell newer writers when they ask me that they have to remember a few things about villains.

1) Make the villain sympathetic. At least a little bit. Now that sounds weird, I know, and I'll explain in a minute. We shouldn't like him right away, of course, because we have to grow to love our protagonist and dislike our villain, but at some point we have to understand at least a little bit of why he's doing what he's doing. There are exceptions, and because they ARE exceptions, they can be insanely scary. But if your villain is just a mustache-twirling guy doing something mean for the sole purpose of being mean, well, he'll probably come across as one-dimensional and not very good.

2) One thing you must remember, the most important thing when writing a villain/antagonist:

They think they are right.

They are the hero in their own story. The story you're reading, the story the author wrote, is from the protagonist's POV. But if you were to write it from the antagonist's POV, you'd have to turn it on its head and make that villain the hero. Which is why I usually give my antagonist some kind of backstory, even if it's only in my head, because that will color everything he does. This also can help with the sympathetic bit, if the villain's backstory is kind of sad.

My top-five villains:

1) Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty): She is deliciously bad, but again, she has a reason for doing it. Revenge is a really great motivation for kicking some butt. And she turns into a dragon. Which is just awesome.

2) Voledmort: how can you not love to hate old Voldy? It takes five books to discover his back story, but it's SO GOOD. By the very end, you do feel a little bit bad for him, because he's had a bad life-- orphaned (like Harry), rejected by his birth father who was a Muggle. Who wouldn't be a little bitter against Muggles after that? He wanted to conquer death, and well, things got a little out of control. By the end of the series he's a little more pathetic than frightening, and you still want Harry to win but you still feel a little bad. Voldemort's had a sad kind of life.

3) The Master (Doctor Who): Many people have played The Master over the 50 years the series has been on the air, but the latest reincarnation--oops, I mean regeneration-- was by far the best. I loved to hate that guy! He was bad, evil, mean, and just plain silly. He was a little bit psychotic, but he was driven mad by looking into the Time Vortex when he was a boy. Hey, it happens. And all he wanted was a planet to call his own, since Gallifrey went teets-up. Who doesn't want that? His humor made all the killing and Earth taking-overing just seem a little more fun.

4) The Joker (Heath Ledger version): this is the exception to the rule of the sympathetic villain. You never really know The Joker's backstory, not really. There's no motivation for his behavior that we ever know. And this is why he's so great, so terrifying, because he's one of the very few villains who just wants to watch the world burn.

5) You tell me. Who do you think should fill this spot, and why? What villains do you love to hate?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Places Of Imagination

Eep! The week got away from me. This is horribly late. And I actually had a plan this time, too.

Places - what does this mean?

I was thinking about places that inspired creativity in me. Back when I was a kid, I used to create whole villages for my little trolls out of the brown spots in the grass. We had a few, as I lived in Southern Oregon, where it could be hot and dry in the summer. I also made some pretty awesome forts in the extremely tall grass and weeds on the lot next to the alley at my grandma's house. Don't know why, but the thought of doing battle with spiders didn't bother me then. Now? I wouldn't even think of going into a spider infested jungle like that! But I digress. My grandma also had this very kewl closet in her house. One could enter in one bedroom, push aside various garments (including fur coats), do a couple of twists and turns, and emerge in the other bedroom. Great fun there! And her basement was spooky, damp and bittersweet, having a bedroom holding a bed my dad and his brothers slept in, along with a dresser still cradling baby clothes from all those years gone by. And there were some big, really nasty spiders down there, too.

As I got older, my imaginative places were more in my mind. Although, we had an awesome yard that bordered on woods. We created all sorts of forts in those woods, and laid out trails that would take us in sheltered darkness about a half a mile. A nice reprieve when it was too hot to walk the mile from school. At least half of that could be in the woods (swinging a spider stick in front of me, of course) which led directly to our backyard. As I walked, I created in my mind. All sorts of stories, none of which led me directly home. We also had a pretty nifty treehouse at this house. A treehouse that could only be reached by several well-practiced maneuvers on branch and trunk. Maneuvers that would likely put me in the hospital if I even thought of attempting them now. But a brilliant place to sit and think and compose and spy on anyone down below.

I also remember one place at university. There was a fairly large expanse of lawn, and situated near one side of it were two arborvitae. I have no idea why they were there. There was no path, no sidewalk, no old foundation from years gone past. Just the two trees. And I quite often would walk between them, wondering if I would be whisked to a parallel universe or a past life. Yeah, I actually pondered on things like that. And, amazingly enough, I don't remember feeling squeamish about the possibility of there being a nasty web strung between the two trees either. (Get the idea that I don't like spiders? And that it happens to be "spider season" here?)

I used to like to hike, as well. There is a nice old logging road that leads to a waterfall. It's curvy and dark and cool. And sometimes shrouded in fog. What a perfect place for a carriage to come careening around a corner, horses foaming, driving leaning forward, whip in hand. I'd leap to the side of the path, feeling the heat of horse flesh, hearing the straining of the carriage as it thundered past. And, maybe, just maybe, catching a glimpse of a dark-haired young man, pale and anxious and...well, you get the idea.

Places of imagination, where creativity speaks to you. Wondrous places. Where are yours?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to School

Today my kids start back to school.

They are much bigger now than in this picture from several years ago, and maybe not holding hands as they head out the door, but the idea is the same.

Lots of kids have either started the new school year or are about to.

There's always something refreshing about the start of a new school year. The days are getting cooler, the air crisper, there are freshly sharpened pencils lying around... what's not to like?

For many people, more so than New Year's, the beginning of September always feels like the real beginning of the year.

A time to start fresh, to maybe re-invent yourself, a time to take on big ideas.

And that is a nice segue into a bit about my new book, REALITY ALI which is now available to purchase either in ebook or print book format, from Zumaya Publications and at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Ali is starting boarding school. She's not sorry to be there, in fact she's glad to be back with her older brother, Mark, again. But there is one area in her life where she is dissatisfied. Her mother is a famous movie star, but her father has kept her so sheltered that no one even believes them when she tells them. Ali wants to be famous, like her mom. And the start of a new school year, and a new school and new friends, is just the impetus she needs to do something about it.

What she does is get a friends to let her star in a webcast about boarding school. A few minutes every couple of days on YouTube. She hopes that it will lead to bigger and better things.

What it leads to is not what she had in mind. Paparazzi and stalkers were not what she bargained for, but now she has to deal with them, before things get totally out of control.

Ali had a very exciting start to her new school year, hopefully most students will have a slightly more hum-drum experience.

Happy September!