Saturday, March 31, 2012

Letters to Juniper is a finalist!

I am thrilled to announce Letters to Juniper has been selected as a 2012 Colorado Book Award Finalist in the Juvenile Fiction category!

The award event will be held June 22, 2012 at Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival in Aspen.

Peggy Tibbetts

Now available at Amazon!
PFC Liberty Stryker
Letters to Juniper

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Music to Write By

I've always written with music playing in the background. When I was a teen writing at my desk in the basement, the music helped drown out the other members of the household. The same applied when I was trying to write while in college in my dorm room and later my room in the boarding house.

But the music was never just a form of 'white noise'. I usually choose music that would set the mood of the scene or the overall book. Soundtracks, instrumentals, New Age and electronic music are usually among my choices. For one important chase scene in an early book I remember playing "Classical Gas" over and over again.

That lead me to create the first of two rules I have for music listening/writing. Number one: Wear headphones - especially when in an area with other people who may not appreciate hearing your choice of music over and over and over again.

Rule number two: except for very rare scenes, no music with vocals is allowed. That's because if there is singing, I usually end up singing along and not writing. Which defeats the purpose of having music playing in the background.

The exceptions for that rule include Celtic music or the Lord of the Rings soundtracks or groups such as Clannad or Enya if I'm writing about elves or my wizards.

For science fiction writing I tend to use soundtracks from science fiction films and television shows or electronic music. I used to be able to find good electronic music in stores, but now I rely on visiting the Horizon Music booth at local science fiction conventions.

For fantasy writing I will use soundtracks from fantasy films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Waterhorse, How to Train Your Dragon, or Celtic or New Age music. The Soundscapes channel on my cable TV network often has interesting pieces that I can then track down via Amazon.

It's not that I can't find classical pieces that make me visualize magical forests and fantastic creatures or inspire me to write about spaceships sailing starry vistas. I can and have. But these are what have worked for me. Right now the CDs for the current writing projects include Transformers Prime Season One music, Sherlock: Music from Series Two, the Real Steel soundtrack and several assorted electronic music CDs.

What are your favorite choices of music to write or read by?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

103 Synonyms for ANGER or ANGRY

Sometimes certain words keep popping up in your manuscript and you wish there were other forms of the word you could substitute. Or maybe you’re looking for a more specific term for the basic word you have in mind. Well, if the word you’re using is ANGER or ANGRY, here are 103 useful alternatives:

1.         Acrid: extremely harsh (or an unpleasant taste or smell)
2.         Acrimonious: harshly unpleasant
3.         Aggravated: angrily agitated
4.         Angered: made angry
5.         Annoyed: angry about being disturbed
6.         Antagonistic: angrily opposed
7.         Antipathetic: expressing aggression or aversion
8.         Apoplectic: violently angry, from the word apoplexy, meaning having a stroke
9.         Ballistic: explosively angry, from the word meaning projectile flight
10.       Bellicose: aggressively angry, from the synonym for warlike
11.       Belligerent: see bellicose
12.       Bent out of shape: as in stooped over while screaming
13.       Beside oneself: seeming out of character
14.       Bitter: resentful
15.       Blue in the face: see frustrated, from the idea of facial discoloration caused by extreme emotion
16.       Boiling: extremely angry, meaning being agitated like heated water
17.       Bristling: defensively angry, like an animal’s hair bristling as it responds to a threat
18.       Burning: extremely angry, from the body overheating due to intense feeling
19.       Caustic: cruelly angry, or sarcastic
20.       Chagrin: distress caused by humiliation or failure
21.       Cheesed off: see frustrated (also “bored” or “disgusted”)
22.       Choleric: easily angered
23.       Churlish: disrespectfully angry
24.       Cold: emotionally remote anger
25.       Contrary: uncooperatively angry
26.       Cool: angry but emotions are held in check
27.       Cross
28.       Disgruntlement: ill-humored or discontented
29.       Discontent
30.       Displeasure
31.       Embittered: made upset
32.       Enraged: violently angry
33.       Exasperated: see frustrated
34.       Fired up: see hot
35.       Fit to be tied: extremely angry, suggesting that the angry person should be restrained
36.       Flare up: so angry you might turn into fire
37.       Fly off the handle: refers to loose ax head flying off the handle when swung
38.       Foaming: so angry as to suggest insanity caused by hydrophobia (rabies), as in foaming at the mouth is symptomatic of the disease
39.       Frustrated: upset due to obstacles or challenges
40.       Fuming: extremely angry, from the association of a volcano or other heated natural phenomenon
41.       Fury: destructive rage; refers to mythic Furies (avenging Greek deities who torment criminals and inflict plagues)
42.       Furious: intensely angry
43.       Galled: fret or wear by friction; become sore from rubbing
44.       Go berserk: ancient Scandinavian warrior frenzied in battle and held to be invulnerable
45.       Going crook: losing one’s temper
46.       Hopping: jumping up and down to express anger
47.       Hopping mad: see hopping
48.       Horn-mad: extremely angry
49.       Hostile: actively intimidating, unfriendly, or resistant
50.       Hot: physical discomfort caused by anger
51.       Hot under the collar: see hot
52.       Icy: see cold
53.       Impassioned
54.       In a lather: referring to ‘lathering at the mouth’ from Rabies
55.       In high dudgeon: state of indignation
56.       Incensed: see indignant
57.       Indignant: angry because of a real or perceived slight or unjust attack
58.       Inflamed: see hot
59.       Infuriated: see furious
60.       Incense: set on fire
61.       Irascibility: easily provoked anger
62.       Irate: see furious
63.       Ireful: see irate
64.       Irk: irritate
65.       Livid: intensely angry to the point of being unable to control oneself (livid, however, can also mean “bruised,” “pale,” or “colorful,” with the second sense associated with pain, shock, or fear)
66.       Mad: insane or crazy; also used to mean angry as in unable to think clearly due to madness
67.       Malcontent: displeased
68.       Outraged: angry about an offense
69.       Passionate: easily angered
70.       Peeve: resentful
71.       Perturbed: upset (or confused)
72.       Pissed off: aggravated
73.       Piqued: aroused through provocation
74.       Provoke: arouse to feeling or action
75.       Rabid: see foaming
76.       Raging: see furious
77.       Rancorous: malevolently angry
78.       Rankled: resentful
79.       Ranting: irrationally angry
80.       Raving: see ranting
81.       Riled: upset; quickened heartbeat
82.       Roiled: see riled
83.       Ruffled feathers: as in a bird’s raised feathers to intimidate
84.       Seeing red: so angry that one’s vision is blurred by excess blood flow in the eyes
85.       Seething: repressing violent anger
86.       Shirty: British for irritated
87.       Smoldering: see seething
88.       Sore: see indignant
89.       Soreheaded: see indignant
90.       Steamed: see hot
91.       Steaming: see hot
92.       Storming: anger suggestive of stormy weather
93.       Stormy: see storming
94.       Teed off: annoyed
95.       Tetchiness: (tetchy) another form of touchy or irritable
96.       Testiness: easily annoyed
97.       Ticked: angry; also “ticked off”
98.       Vexation: troubling
99.       Vitriolic: see caustic
100.     Worked up: upset
101.     Wrathful: see furious
102.     Wroth: see furious
103.     Wrought up: see “worked up”

Harpies, Book Two, Seraphym Wars Series (out soon)

Transported to a planet he'd never heard of was the least of fifteen-year-old Griffen's problems. Learning to control his suddenly increasing strength and new ability to pull lightning from the sky takes some getting used to.  Angry preteen Seth joins the quest; meanwhile discovering his combusting ability as a fire-starter. Driven to find the last Vigorio, a young girl able to experience others' emotions, they journey together toward their destinies as warriors against Narciss, Ruler of Tartarus and his Legio of demon-dragons. But Belial, a power-hungry demon determined to win Narciss’s approval makes their trip miserable while Narciss’s Harpy henchmen take matters into their own hands.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Horses and Dogs and Cats and Other Critters

Are you an animal person? Do you use animal characters in your stories? Have you ever had a weird or unusual critter that you just had to include in one of your works? If you have then you can relate to what I’m saying. If you haven’t, why not?

When I look back at my work, both published and unpublished, I see that animals turn up in about half of my novels or picture books. In my first published young adult novel, Secrets I Have Kept, a little Australian Blue Heeler named Chopin plays an important role in the story. Why did I use a blue heeler? At the time, our pet was … you guessed it … a blue heeler. He was a little stray that either wandered away from home or was thrown away by his owners. Whichever, he was then our dog. We get a lot of discarded animals in the country. Chopin adds a touch of humor as well as protection for his girl in the story.

Another ya novel, Rebel in Blue Jeans, is stuffed full of animals. Rebel lives on a ranch, so she has horses, dogs, and a cat, pretty much like I had once upon a time. Rebel’s mare and foal are loosely based on my little foal that the vet did not expect to live. Well, he did and is a part of my novel, though I make him healthy in the story because I hate thinking of how we almost lost him. Rebel also collects stray dogs and cats, much like I do. In the story she has two dogs and a Siamese cat, along with a wounded red-tailed hawk, along with her mare and foal.

My newest release, Life on Hold, has a black cat. Yep. Among the many stray cats I’ve fed through the years, one of them was a sweet little girl with lovely black fur. She hung around for a long time. She even had a litter of babies, just as black as she was. Sadly, they disappeared, probably caught by coyotes or dogs. The black cat in my story is in remembrance of little no name and her family.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog published my story “Traveler” about another blue heeler that showed up at our house one day. He’s pretty much a free spirit, but still hangs around for a handout. He sleeps at our son’s house then roams the neighborhood, making friends with everyone.

My first picture book, Frankie’s Perfect Home, is about a young armadillo. Now I don’t have an armadillo for a pet, but armadillos do live in our pasture. I’ve seen them and even snapped a picture or two. So, of course, I had to write about an armadillo. They are such fascinating creatures. We won’t mention the picture books about animals that are in various stages of writing or have not been published.

Yes, I’m a lover of animals, so it’s natural for me to include them in my stories. Some of my favorite books with animal characters are: all of the horse books by Marguerite Henry, Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath, and I could go on and on. What are your favorite stories with animal characters?


Monday, March 26, 2012

Do I need an agent?

I copied this from my regular blog. If you'd like to check out my series of video blogs, they're over there at my Wordpress site

I was going to do this as a video blog, but frankly I just don't have the energy today. I'm a writer, right? I can make this just as amusing and interesting as a video blog, right?


Okay, well, this is one of those questions writers often ask, especially if they've tried and failed to find an agent. Do you really NEED an agent? And, like so many questions in life (and in publishing), the answer is this:

It depends.

What it really depends on are your publishing goals. There are TONS of small and/or micro presses out there (every one of the writers on the YA Authors You've Never Heard Of blog is published by one or several) that don't require you to have an agent to submit a manuscript. And based on the average royalty you can expect to receive by publishing with one of them, most agents won't bother negotiating with them, because it's just not economical or really worthwhile for them. Most of the time authors do just fine on their own with any one of those little guys.

If that's your dream, your highest publishing aspiration, then the answer is no, you probably do NOT need an agent. I managed to secure five publishing contracts all on my own, and all with micro-to-small publishers. I've had fun publishing with them, and I've worked hard to promote each title. Nothing wrong with that at all.

BUT...if you, like me, are really seeking that next step in publishing (see: publishing with bigger houses),
then the answer may be different. There are a lot of reasons to get an agent. First of all, MANY of the bigger houses don't accept unsolicited submissions. Some are so strict they only take agented submissions.

There ARE ways to have your work looked at by these big publishers without an agent -- such as going to conferences and networking with editors, doing a pitch or having a critique at a conference is a good way to do this.  I've managed to do this once or twice, and it is WORTH the price of conference admission to meet agents and editors in person in an environment where you are expected to talk shop.

To a certain point. Do we really need to have the conversation about NOT trying to pitch your work in the ladies' room? Okay, just checking.

HOWEVER, even if you DO get your work in at a big house and they (miracle of miracles) make a contract offer, at that point you really probably do want an agent. Or at the very least an intellectual property lawyer. Because contracts are tricky things, and an agent will be able to earn her 15% by negotiating for things like a bigger advance, sub-rights, etc...

DO NOT attempt to do this on your own. Just...don't.

Here's the Catch-22. It's harder to get an offer without an agent. But it's easier to get an agent once you have an offer. Of course it is.

Even after all this, you still aren't sure if you need an agent, here's what I love best about my agent, Terrie Wolf at AKA Literary. First of all, she's always pretty much right there when I need her. She's on MY team. If I have a question, she is a mere Tweet away. And it is her JOB to take care of all that paperwork -- like querying my work to publishers.

Which means I no longer have to:
- Keep track of where I've sent it
- Write query letters
- Receive rejections personally
- Keep track of rejections

All of which leaves me more time to... wait for it... WRITE. And promote my current titles, and actually do author-y things.  I never realized how much time I spent doing all of that until I didn't have to do it anymore. It's my agent's job, and she can devote much more time to it than I can. And she's BETTER at it than I am.

Now, all that's great, but there are a few caveats. Things an agent CANNOT do:
- Sell the book instantly
- Pull a buyer out of thin air

Publishing, as I've said a millions times, is S-L-O-W. Run by actual people. So if it takes six months, it takes six months. Editors are busy people too; they're not just sitting around waiting for manuscripts to read. Just like agents are busy people. I once waited eight months for a reply from an agent, and it was worth waiting for because of the great feedback I got. Terrie and I went through a couple of rounds of things, just because we were both busy, before she offered to represent me. An agent is NOT an instant ticket to stardom or a big publishing contract.

But it helps.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Write What You Know?

Age old writing advice. Write what you know.

How boring is that. I mean, what do most people know: school, work, traffic, grocery stores. Ho Hum. I can see you yawning already.

Is writing only to be the domain of people who live exciting lives?

Must my characters be doomed to never travel the world simply because I can't afford air fare to any exotic places?


Because I say turn that saying on it's head. Don't think of it as "Write what you know." But instead as "Know what you write about."

You want to write about Paris in the Spring but have never been there? Check what time the sun rises and sets, check which flowers are in bloom, check what time the different attractions open, and if there is a fee for them.

You want to have your characters play Scrabble or chess or even checkers. Make sure to look at the game board and the directions. You may think it's not a big deal if you make up the points a certain word earns, or the move a chess player makes, but chances are someone, somewhere, who reads your story will know if you're making your characters do something that's not possible, and will lose faith in your story because of it.

If you can actually do the thing or go to the place, even better. But sometimes that's not possible, so the next best thing is research. And the internet is a wonderful source of all kinds of information.

So, you don't have to limit yourself to only writing about what you know, but if you are going to write about something, be sure you learn about it first!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dear Teen Letter

Cross posted from:

Dear Kimi,

Some days are harder than others.  You know you don’t really fit in with the kids at school or even in your church.  They don’t get you but then again did you think they would?  You can’t forget the first time you tried to tell Michelle, your BFF at that time, what was going on at home.  You remember how the next day, you went to your lunch table and found someone else sitting in your space.  Michelle told you she couldn’t be your friend anymore because ‘good girls’ don’t say bad things about their fathers.  You also remember how in that crowded, noisy cafeteria, you felt the room crash down on you.  You wanted to escape, hide, anything but stand there feeling like such a loser.  You didn’t have anywhere else to sit so you ended up inside the bathroom stall, sobbing and wondering what you did wrong.

Kim age 18

No wonder you don’t trust anyone.  No wonder you don’t want to open up to anyone else.

But during these times you remember there is somewhere you can escape to; a magical place where you know you won’t be labeled ‘bad’, ‘weird’, or even ‘different’.

Go to the Martin Luther King Library.  I know you’ll love it there.

Once inside the library, you’ll feel a special warmth that will chase away any negativity from the outside world.  The gloominess of the Sacramento weather will be replaced with bright sunlight that will radiate through you.  You’ll crave this light and will know that the library will never let you down.  In fact, it’ll be your salvation.

Martin Luther King Library

Within the stacks, you’ll find such books as FOREVER by Judy Blume.  This book doesn’t speak down to you just because you’re a teen but rather the author will show her understanding of your questions of so-called forbidden topics.  You’ll devour this book and others by her like chocolate and go back for more.

Richard Peck’s book DON’T LOOK AND IT WON’T HURT will show you that others get the pain that comes from not fitting in.

THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton is another book that you’ll read a number of times.

You’ll even check out more controversial books that you know are banned in your school library or deeply frowned on.  One such book, GO ASK ALICE, deals with a girl and her drug use.  Though you don’t use, you can relate with Alice’s pain.  Another book you can’t help but sneak a peek at is JAY’S JOURNAL, which deals with a boy’s fascination with witchcraft.

These messages of hope, understanding, and courage will carry you through the bad moments at both school and even home.  You’ll hide a flashlight under your pillow so you can read all night.  Your grandfather will tease you that you’re a chip off the old block.   After all didn’t your one relative write Tarzan?

Reading will also encourage you to do your own writing.  Sure, some of your short stories will come off sounding like cheesy After School Special episodes. Yes, you’ll brush your stories off as being bad, but keep writing.  This is your way of dealing with your own pain in a constructive way.

You’ll also write lots and lots of poetry.  You’ll find that you can write down all your emotions without fear of being judged.  Keep this up as later these poems will help you touch others who, believe it or not, are suffering just like you.

Books will also help when adults can’t or won’t answer your questions. You know something’s not right with your father.  You hear the whispers and see the glances. When no-one will tell you the truth, where will you turn? The library, of course.  There you’ll find the book YOU NEVER PROMISED ME A ROSE GARDEN by Joanne Greenberg and find a haunting portrayal of a girl who has her own inner demons.  This book will help you realize that maybe your own father might be mentally ill.

And finally books will give you the courage to be on your high school newspaper and validate your hunch that you can write.  I’d tell you not to listen to Kevin, who is totally a jerk, when he doesn’t give you that assistant editor position you know you deserve.  But then again you’ll learn much on the path you do choose.

Libraries are special.  You know that now and will continue to foster that love on your own child.  You’ll speak out against those who decry funding when you know how the library was your savior at an important time of your life.  Spending all those hours in the library will later help you work toward your own goal of writing.

Continue to go to the library.  Never give up your passion for reading, writing, and yes, even questioning.

You are amazing.  Don’t forget that. 


Your future self,


P.S. Jerks like Kevin, fade in time.  Trust me on that one.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I'm very excited that my first YA, Earrings of Ixtumea, has been re-released with a new publisher!  Muse It Up is the new home for my YA multicultural fantasy.  I'm excited as it had an actual decent editing job this time around.  There's a new ending too.

I love the new cover, which totally reflects Lupe.  The authors at Muse It Up are a great bunch of authors and I totally love Lea, the publisher!

Check it out!

Earrings of Ixtumea is available at:
Muse it Up bookstore:


Check back later as I'm thinking of having a contest to celebrate!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Plate of Coincidences

My life is full of coincidences. No lie!

So much so I sometimes have to wonder if they mean anything. I've tried to keep track of some of them over the years, hoping someday I'll figure out what's up. I even have a Wall of Weird at my website for them, when I remember to list them that is. And they tend to fall into specific categories to boot!

1) Time - For probably ten years or more I've had weird stuff happen with time. The most recurring one is looking at the clock at 5:55 am and pm. 2:22 is the next most popular, with 3:33 running a close third. We're talking about having this happen at least three times per week every week! Is that odd or what?

This year though, the whole game has changed. Now I've been spotting a ton of sequential number times. Though not always in exact order, they're still popping up sequentially - so like 1:23, 3:12, 4:56, 5:43, you get the gist. It's a little creepy really, and it being 2012 puts a really odd spin on it, with it being the supposed end of the Mayan calendar and all. :P

2) Themes - Some of my coincidence streaks run in themes. For example, just about every show I watched in a week's time had Mark Sheppard as a guest star. And not all of them were current shows either, an episode or two were of series he'd done a spot in years before! Or something I'm watching that comes up with a gimmick, let's say unhook the kidnapper's seatbelt (or he wasn't wearing one) and deciding to smash the car as they will be flung hard over the dash, gets used in several shows in the same week. (My husband is convinced shows only have one writer anymore. But then he's usually watching the stuff with me, so it could be me as well! Doh!)

Sometimes it's more general, like everything we watch ends up having pirates, or the same problem, or same colored clothes.

I've even done this with cars on the road. Suddenly one day I'll see a huge proportion of Toyotas, or red cars, or something else that matches. Never know what's going to be next.

3) Connections - A couple of recent ones had to do with the online MMO Star Wars The Old Republic! I have two characters there, a Jedi in the Republic side (Tarrah) and an Imperial Spy on the Empire side (Larana). My Jedi ran into an NPC with the name Laranna! (Who also happens to be one of the principals in my book Vassal of El!) And yeah, my Larana only has one 'n' but still...! What are the odds? Making it even more amazing is that if I'd played anything but a Jedi Consular I would have never met the NPC, as she's specifically for the Jedi Consular progression quest line!

Also, I play the game with my husband. He's playing a female smuggler who is pretty snarky (you get to pick your dialogue during quest conversations - one of the way cool things about this game). My Imperial spy, (which I play when he's out of town or when he's out) got given an NPC buddy to accompany the character for support during battles and other things (happens to all the players - you end up with like 3 or 4 you can switch between). So my spy gets a buddy who ends up having the same voice actress as John's character! So even with him not there, I'm hearing his character's voice. And this NPC is also snarky! (I can't escape!!!) :P

Oh and I have a weird connection coincidence that just happened Tuesday! I'd submitted a short story to ASIM and Tuesday first thing I'd received an email telling me I'd made the short list (aka round 3). Later that day, I came across a friend's tweet that she'd gotten an email that very morning as well telling her she'd made it to the short list! We didn't know we'd both submitted to the same magazine or anything. Should be interesting to see if we make the final cut and if we end up on the same issue! That'd be fun!

4) Deja vu - Ah, this is one I've had off and on since I was a little girl. Strangely, as some of the other coincidence types have ramped up, this one has ramped down. Still, every once in a long while I'll get that super eerie feeling I've either been or done whatever it is before. Such a weird feeling!

What about you guys? Do you have any kind of coincidences happen to you? Please share!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

But It's Research!!!

I had some free time today, knowing full well that I had this blog article due (life-long procrastinator, here), and did I spend that free time writing? Heck, no. I spent it watching, I kid you not, "Haunted Collector" on Sci-Fi. Or SyFy, as they stylize themselves now. There was a "Haunted Collector" mini-marathon on today.

My husband rolls his eyes at my taste in recreational TV, but I honestly love this stuff and I watch almost all of these shows. "Haunted Collector," like "Ghost Hunters" and "Ghost Hunters, International" provides a great way to get a ghost story fix without freaking out too badly. Sometimes there's a lot of history involved, too, so that's a good thing.

If I seriously want history and the paranormal, though, I like "Haunted History." That's not so scary either, because those ghosts are all located in places I'm not, so they don't bother me much. This is a good point to remember because my husband travels out of town a lot and I don't enjoy lying alone in my bed listening to all the new noises my house has added to its repertoire.

But there are other shows that scare the bejesus out of me, to put it mildly. "Celebrity Ghost Stories", with its fairly cheesy reenactments, always creeps me out, just because most actors and actresses are very good story tellers, and also, if this show is for real, some of them have had experiences that would have turned my hair white at the ripe old age of 12. I don't even touch Paranormal State because demonic possession is someplace I don't ever go. Fairly frightening but still eminently watchable would include "My Ghost Story," "Ghostly Encounters," and "A Haunting." Except that I've seen every "A Haunting" episode ever made, so I don't watch that one anymore. The mystery freak in me watches "Psychic Investigators" and the YA writer in me watches "Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal."

Do you know, I think there are nearly as many supernatural/paranormal shows on TV as there are cooking shows? Okay, maybe not, but I didn't even mention some of the others that are out there. ("Ghost Adventurers" fans, you know who you are!)

At any event, because I write supernatural stories, I tend to gravitate to shows like this and boy, I enjoy the heck out of them. Complete waste of time? No doubt. But good for the imagination? Take a gander at some of my stuff (shameless plug!) and you tell me!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Story Begins

Every time I begin a new story, I spend a lot of time thinking about the first three pages. There are so many things I want to put in there and there are a number of things I have put there that I need to remove. Often what I find is so much backstory that the story never gets started, at least one that will interest the readers. So I go back and restart the story. I often tear up those initial starts many times. Of course on the computer all I have to do is hit the delete button and those words are gone. So too much backstory is not the way to start a story. If needed, one can do a prologue. What sort of things need to go into those first few pages. I've often heard it said to start in the middle of the action. Starting a moment before or a moment after the triggering event has occurred is also a good thing. This means the story has begun with action of some kind. Many of my stories start a moment before the action begins. In Flight the heroine who has an affinity for Air is roused by a sound. She scents the air and realizes all is not right. Then the action begins/ Another thing I've heard is the story should begin with the character who has the most to win or the character who has the most to lose. Sometimes these characters are the same but many times they aren't. Starting with the villain is a way to begin with the character who has the most to lose. Beginning with the hero or heroine shows the character who has the most to win. Other things to show in those first few pages and viewpoint. Is the story being told in first or third person. Very few start in second person. The reader needs to know where the story is taking place. This must be done with very light touches. Spending paragraphs and pages showing the setting and the milleau will send the reader screaming. There must also be hints about what the character wants and the character might not be sure what they want. There is something missing from their life and the reader needs a hint of what this is and why the character wants a person, place or object. Just hints. There's an entire story to tell the reader why the character wants or needs to obtain his or her goal and why they want what they want. Other hints to put into the opening pages is who might be opposing them. So when you're writing, remember how important those first few pages are. Some people read the opening pages of a book before they buy them. Make sure yours pull the reader in and make them want to read more.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I admit this is a re-issued blog but I missed my deadline. Hope you find it interesting!

I don't usually do film reviews in my blog and I am not going to do one now, but a film is the topic. I love the oh-so-rare film that doesn't just hand you the cast, the plot and a two sentence road map that explains its purpose before you step in the theatre. Two of my top top favorite films of all time are 2001: A Space Odyssey and It's a Wonderful Life.  Neither film can be digested with a single viewing. I have seen 2001 a dozen times and each time I have new insights into its meaning.  I have seen that great Capra film dozens of times as well, and each time am touched on a deeper and deeper emotional level and see how powerful this film reflects on our society.

These kind of films are partially visual Rorschach tests as the viewer (like any piece of art) has to sift out his/her own meaning like panning for gold in a flowing river. I do not think I am putting Terrence Malik's The Tree of Life on that top shelf with the two aforementioned movies, but it did inspire thought. And I will definitely watch it again and it might, in fact, be placed at the top.

"I don't wanna think when I watch a movie or TV."

GOD I hate when people say that. I am not even sure I understand what that means. To me that also means "I don't wanna feel anything when I watch a movie or TV". Do these people want a single busy signal tone droning in their heads while the movie or TV show plays? Will a black void descend upon them? I'm not trying to be a pseudo intellectual or Mr. Pedantic, but for me, nothing is more entertaining and FUN, then being made to ponder and extrapolate meaning from entertainment.  And it doesn't have to be only with "high brow" films. I find incredible meaning and purpose from This is Spinal Tap. We can all find meaning in the smallest of events. And this really is the point of the movie, which I will get to later.

I noticed a polarized reaction to The Tree of Life which to me is a good sign for any form of entertainment. The film in its simplest terms, (at least this is the nugget I filtered out)  is about living life via our animal or our angelic nature. It is a choice we all make.

Humans are after all one of the endless forms of animal life on this amazing planet that floats as a spec in this amazing and mind-bogglingly humongous Universe. Life can be a horror. Toss aside war and famine and crime and reality TV. Just the day to day survival of say, a worm. How many times must this poor bugger worry, while going out to get his mail, if this will be the day he crosses fates with the early bird?

In the film, Brad Pitt plays a father of two young boys who he is trying to train to be tough to survive life's  challenges. Though he can be affectionate at times with them is he mostly a heartless and often cruel SOB. His wife, on the other hand, teaches her boys that when you get down to it, love and only love, is what gives life purpose. Love transcends matter. Maybe even time. Without getting into the plot points of the film, we see how these two diverse world-views affect one child, Jack, from his kid-hood through adult hood (played by Sean Penn) and, seemingly, beyond that.

Malik uses beautiful imagery of the Cosmos and the evolution and formation of life. He takes us back to the time of the dinosaurs. The graphics were reminiscent of 2001 and this was actually intentional as many of the same methods (not CGI) were used to create them. He lets us see infinity in moments. He takes us back to life emerging and stars exploding. The two images that in sublime ways illustrate the opposing world views are a. ) a mysterious cosmic flame. and b.) a dying dinosaur on a riverbed.

So we can relish infinity in the tiny moments of life or we can, like a dying dinosaur in a river bed, be casually sniffed and forgotten. Left to rot like a fallen leaf. Or we can peer into the rainbow of a dead leaf and see the Cosmos.

I do need to watch this film again since I still feel like I am trying to assemble and extrapolate more of its meaning. That, to me, is the sign of great filmmaking.

Mike Dicerto is the writer/director of the feature film Triptosane. He is also the author of the kidlit series The Adventures of Rupert Starbright. The Door to Far-Myst is book 1 and book 2, The Secret of My-Myst will be available later this month.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Saving Jake will haunt you

Fellow YAAYNHO Ophelia Julien and I recently did a book review exchange. I had the privilege of reading and reviewing her novel, Saving Jake. Ophelia is a remarkably talented author with a gift for writing paranormal suspense. I loved this book. Find out more about Ophelia at her website.

Saving Jake

By Ophelia Julien
New Leaf Books
192 pages

Jake suddenly reappears after a three-year absence with a shocking request that could cost Corts his life.

Ever since he was a kid, Corts (Philip Corts) has had an unusual ability to find lost things – keys, driver’s license, wallets – with his mind. His family thinks that’s all there is to it. But Jake, his best friend since seventh grade, knows better. Corts can hold onto an object, or person, and read its energy, see where it came from. Jake thinks it’s a gift. He calls it tracking. But Corts isn’t so sure. There are also terrifying nightmares and visions that make his ability unbearable at times until he learns to block it. As a first semester college freshman with his whole life and the chance at a journalism scholarship ahead of him, Corts thought he could leave all that peculiarity behind and chalk it up to his reckless childhood. Until Jake showed up.

Saving Jake is a spellbinding journey into the mysteries of the human mind. Ophelia Julien expertly weaves an intriguing tale of suspense that will haunt you far beyond the final page. ~ Copyright (c) 2012 by Peggy Tibbetts

Click here for Ophelia Julien’s review of my novel, PFC Liberty Stryker.

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Peggy Tibbetts

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Friday, March 2, 2012


The hardest part of writing sometimes is learning to avoid distractions. Some household distractions (pets/children insisting you play with them, phone calls, snow shoveling/leaf raking/lawn mowing, etc.) can be avoided by writing very early in the morning or very late at night. But that was in the days before the internet.

Email, Facebook, Google+, Twitter - you think you'll just check in "just for a moment", but then, when next you surface, hours have passed. At least with research you have an excuse.

One way of managing distractions is set them as part of a routine. First thing in the morning I'll check the Astronomy Picture of the Day for inspiration, a few of my favorite webcomics and two online newspapers for the news while I'm eating breakfast. Then there's a break to uncover the cockatoo's cage and feed her (she's not a morning bird). Email and Facebook checking is done while she decides if she wants to play. And then it's time to work.

Other distractions can be set up as rewards - so many words, or pages, or marketing/promotion time done and then you can check that blog or Facebook or emails.

Since it's March once again, my major distractions are the nest cams. I first blogged about my addiction to watching nest cams last year here (where you can find more details and links to various cams). For those keeping track, the Decorah eagles are currently sitting on three eggs, the Valmont, Colorado owls Dan and Snowflake have three as well, the San Francisco peregrines Dan and Lil have four eggs, and the San Jose peregrines Clara and EC have two (but at least two more are expected). There are also new cams installed in Minnesota and Wisconsin, such as one with sound on Great Spirit Bluff.

Fortunately, there are enough people reporting on nest activities either in the forums or via email and putting up Youtube videos of significant/important/funny events that I can check those in order to catch up rather than having screens open for hours on the various nests. Until the fuzzballs start wandering, that is.

What are some of your distractions and how do you manage them?

Or do they manage you? Ooo, shiny!

Done yet? Now can we play catch?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Favorite Books Are Hard to Select

I was recently asked to list my all-time favorite book. After a lot of thinking I realized I couldn’t do that. I have so many that have touched my life and my writing it would be impossible to choose one. The Lord of the Ring series has influenced me through my love of dragons and mythical creatures, world and language creation as well as how people treat one another. My current WIP series is heavily influenced by JRR Tolkien’s vision.

Then there’s The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck which I read as a teen. Scenes from that book have haunted me since. I learned so much about Chinese culture and history from that book. I’ve even adopted a Vietnamese child.

1984 by George Orwell is one I’ve read several times over the decades. It is timeless and meaningful in any society at any given moment. I love its dark nature and the struggle for freedoms that we take for granted; the right to love whomever we choose, the right to READ.

Along those same lines I love The Giver by Lois Lowry. Again it is dark with spears of light and warmth. The reader grows along with the main character and you find yourself crying, rejoicing or mourning whenever he does. Few stories have moved me the way that one did.

And of course I adore ALL of the Harry Potter books. The characters are lovable, quirky, fun to read about and the darkness of the story is heavily punctuated with light-hearted moments. I only wish my own writing could be as universally read and my characters as universally loved.

Thirty years ago I picked up a new novel by an author new to me at the time. The novel was the first of The Sword of Shannara trilogy. Those books blew my socks off. It was while reading Terry Brooks’ stuff as well as David Eddings’s Belgariad series I conceived my own series. And then there was the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander—awesome MG Fantasy. These lead me to Susan Coopers’s series of The Dark is Rising series and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. While writing I kept all of these wonderful books in my head to draw from.

So, do you think you could choose ONE book that has inspired you? If so, what would it be? It not, what are the top few books you would list and why?

Rebecca Ryals Russell
MG/YA Dark Fantasy Author
aka Yellow Hat Writer

Harpies, Book 2 in the Seraphym Wars Series, follows fifteen-year-old Griffen as he discovers why he has been transported from his home on the Outer Banks of South Carolina on Earth to a desolate beach somewhere on a foreign planet. Accompanied by a talking bird, Griffen begins a quest to fulfill his role in a prophecy and find his way home. Joined by twelve-year-old Seth, a strange fire-bug, and fourteen-year-old Mercy, a runaway with Empathic skills, Griffen learns to control his new ability to pull lightning from the sky at will—especially while battling demon-dragons and sea monsters who want them all dead. Following mere intuition, the three, accompanied by an oddball Burrowing Elf, transport downriver toward an island Griffen keeps seeing in visions. Narciss has other plans for the three intrepid Vigorios, however, and Griffen discovers a brave side he never suspected he had—unless he was playing video games. But this turns out to be no game.

Under the Hat
Tween Word Quest
Teen Word Factory
Flyte Publishing
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Vigorios of the Seraphym Wars and Stardust Warriors