Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Finish another Steampunk novel.

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

4. Write, write, write


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Auld Lang Syne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

Teen Temps in Texas! Indoors!

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

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

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

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

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

(Gigantic ice buildings at the Harbin Ice Festival)

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

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

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

Sphinx on ice! :)

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

Lights inside blocks of ice.

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

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

Loved this waterfall.

The angel was very cool.

Lit nativity scene.

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

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012



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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Children and problems

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

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

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

The best kept secret -- Amazon Children’s Publishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peggy Tibbetts

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

Become a Facebook fan
Love dogs? Like Zeus and Pepé -- the odd couple

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Next Big Thing

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

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

What is the working title of your next book?

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

Where did the idea come from for the book?

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

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

What genre does your book fall under?

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

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

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

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

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

2) Galactic agents protect primitive worlds from invasion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 7, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 6, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


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

Christmas Graphics
Facebook Graphics, Christmas Graphics at

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Shopping List.

Hi all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays!