Monday, April 30, 2012

2012 Colorado Book Award Finalists Readings

The 2012 Colorado Book Award Finalists Readings were held on April 19, at the Residence Inn Marriott in downtown Denver. Thank you to Colorado Humanities and their sponsors for hosting, and a special thank to Christine Goff for organizing this awesome event. Imagine me among such amazing talent on display. What an honor!

The evening was an adventure into the imaginations of twenty-two of the 39 finalists. Authors read to a packed Aspen Room of more than 75 people. We were treated to readings from three beautiful and engaging picture books. We heard drama and humor from three novels for young readers. I was third in line and read the scene in Letters to Juniper when the FBI shows up for the first time.

Nancy Oswald
followed with a funny scene about Maude the donkey from Rescue in Poverty Gulch, another finalist in the Juvenile Fiction category.

We also glimpsed hunting guide Allison Coil in her element on the Roan, and were introduced to traveling beekeeper John Miller. Poet Tony Moffeit even sang the blues. All of which made for an entertaining Act I.

In Act II we sampled art journaling, geography, history, and outer space. We traveled to the Serengeti to view the lions and visited a renovated stone cabin in Greece. We hiked a trail near Moab and ran past a bighorn sheep in Colorado National Monument. On our journey to the past we met Colorado’s first woman senator, a cowboy businessman, and a jar maker who pioneered aerospace in Colorado. We also peeked inside the bedrooms of 19th Century Russian aristocracy and a brutal Nazi couple who ran Buchenwald. I want to buy all the authors' fabulous books!
Click here for the list of the authors who read and their books.

A meet and greet with a book sale and book signing followed the author readings. Nancy Oswald and I signed our books for each other.

Even though our books are competing in the Juvenile Fiction category, Nancy and I shared the limelight. Nancy came all the way from Cotopaxi and I came over from Silt. We both agreed we would not have missed this for anything. What a thrill for two women writers from up the country.

Meet the Finalists and Winners at the Colorado Book Awards in Aspen, Colorado, on Friday, June 22, 1:00 p.m. at the Doerr-Hosier Center at the Aspen Meadows. For more information go to Colorado Humanities Colorado Book Awards.

Friday, April 27, 2012

World Book Night 2012

Monday this week was the second World Book Night. World Book Night began in 2011 in the UK as a celebration of reading. April 23 was chosen because that day is the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and death, as well as the anniversary of Cervantes' death. This year, the US joined the UK and Ireland in giving out free books. The plan was for half a million books to be given out by volunteers.

The 2012 World Book Night focused more on adults, with the thought being that adults need to be reminded of the joy of reading for pleasure. All books were donated - the paper used by the printers, the publishers providing the books, the authors donating their royalties, UPS donating deliveries, the bookstores and libraries providing pickup points and the volunteers giving the books out at various places. The places were not the usual locations one might expect to find a book, but places where people might want to read, such as bus and train stations, nursing homes, shelters, hospitals and even parks.

I found out about World Book Night thanks to my local bookstore, The Book Shelf in Winona, MN, and signed up to be a giver this year. As a giver I had the choice of one of 30 possible titles (the list can be found here). I also had submit a explanation of why I chose the title and where I planned to distribute the 20 copies of the book. As a YA author, I was more familiar with the YA titles, and my three choices were among those.

I got my first choice, The Hunger Games, and my plan was to give the books out at the Winona Senior High School. Although the celebration is World Book Night, the organizers knew that not all places would be open at night, so in my case, it's World Book Day.
Monday morning I stopped by the Winona Senior High School with my box of twenty copies of The Hunger Games. I had been in contact with Martha Langowski, Media Secretary at the Senior High's Media Center, and she had a list of students (and teachers) who would best benefit from a copy. Only ten copies were needed at the Senior High, so from there I headed to the Winona Area Learning Center. The Learning Center was delighted to receive ten copies.

Winona had 14 designated givers and the places chosen to distribute the books ranged from the food shelf to student groups at two of the universities to the bike path around Winona's two lakes. The local newspaper reported that 300 books were given out.

For more details and personal stories of other book givers, the WBN Facebook page is

The plans for next year are even bigger. Consider signing up to be a giver. The USA website is

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Basic Writing : From Pre-Writing to Editing

Basic Writing : From Pre-Writing to Editing

Concept/Idea (Brainstorm about chosen idea. Write everything that comes to mind.)

Conflict/Problem (Without a problem there is no story. Be sure the problem is solvable.)
            Possible Conflicts: man vs man, man vs nature, man vs self, man vs society, man vs circumstances

Characters (No more than 7 main; the story becomes unmanageable and readers lose track.
 Devise: Names, Personalities, Relationships, Appearances, What makes them special.)

Plot (Devise 3 attempts to solve the problem. Then figure out why they won't work?)

Solution/Climax (How does the main character solve the problem? Is it reasonable as you’ve written her/him?)

Conclusion (Wrap up loose ends with all of the characters.)

Also Pre-Writing
Opening-be sure your beginning snatches the reader’s attention (pull action from within the story then go back and begin at the beginning to catch the reader up)

1st Plot Point-main character discovers there is a problem

2nd Plot Point-main character feels threatened but unsure what to do

3rd Plot Point-problem is at its worst and seems hopeless THEN main character figures out what to do

Climax-problem or antagonist pulls out all the stops to ‘get’ main character

Denouement-main character about to give-in then finds courage and knowledge to solve the problem

Resolution-main character ends the problem for good then wraps up loose ends with other characters

There are two main types of writers, although many of us fall into combo categories:  Planners and Pantsers.

Planners don’t write until they have a basic outline of how the story will unravel. Some even outline each chapter. Planning doesn’t mean you can’t change something, or add more while writing a chapter. It simply helps you remember everything you wanted to include in the story. (This is how I write.)

            Pantsers (writing by the seat of your pants) begin writing and don’t stop until the story is told. This technique is very popular but requires extreme editing and revising. It also allows for free flow of imagination and creativity. (This is how Odessa came out and why it needed (and still needs) so much revising/editing.)

New paragraph for each new thought or idea or speaker.

Use quotation marks around the “words” spoken by the character. Instead of dialogue tags (he said, she remarked) use action. (His gaze flicked away from her face. Her voice dropped so low he could barely hear her.)
Each speaker requires a new paragraph.

Watch verb tenses: if you start in the past keep all of your verbs past tense; if you write in the present tense make sure they are all present tense verbs.

            Right-He ran down the road then stopped at the intersection.
            Wrong-He ran down the road then stops at the intersection.

Present tense is seldom used. I find present tense confusing and disarming. You are telling a story that occurred in the past, so use past tense verbs.
Watch out for point of view (POV).

            POV confuses a lot of beginning writers. It means knowing what a character is thinking or planning. Knowing their viewpoint.

            Many MG stories are generally told in third person while many YA books these days are in first person. HOWEVER, there is no rule about this. Write the story in whoever's point of view you wish--just keep it balanced.

 If writing in the first person (I, me, my , we, our) you CANNOT know what others are thinking or planning.  It takes a lot of dialogue to understand others’ thoughts or desires.

·        The only way to know what everyone is thinking is to use third person omniscient.
·        But be careful because even that gets tricky.
·        If you switch POV, be sure to designate it with a space or asterisks *****.
·        Never change POV inside the same paragraph (called mind hopping, it becomes very confusing).

Beware of ‘Purple Prose’. This is highly descriptive writing that may sound awesome but sometimes does nothing to promote the story. You should have some description so the reader can visualize what the character is sensing, just don’t go overboard.

Every word, action or dialogue should propel the story forward. If you have chapters or even paragraphs for character development alone, remove them. Chapters with too much description of surroundings or too much backstory/history get boring and readers will skip ahead anyway so edit down to only what is necessary to tell the story.

Don’t tell too much of the story up front. Let out the line slowly, keep most of the story as a mystery with clues until the climax when you can reveal more. Too much too soon and the reader loses interest in the story.

Don’t be afraid to revise, revise, revise. Get feedback from others and make changes to your story that YOU think will improve it. NO ONE writes the perfect story the first time.

My first book, Odessa, was revised about 8 times and even after publication I'm itching to revise it again because by five books later my writing has improved so much I'm no longer happy with Odessa.

Let your story sit on a shelf for several weeks or a month. Work on another project. Then reread the story and errors, misspellings, weak characters, weak plot lines, etc will jump out at you.

Once you have the story to a level you are happy with it is time to edit.
Remove as many adverbs as possible and replace them with stronger verbs. To locate adverbs easily, highlight them using the ‘replace’ box in the ‘editing’ box of MS Word. Highlight –ly and most adverbs will appear. Read through and eliminate as many as you can.

Highlight the following words in the entire manuscript then go through removing or replacing them with more powerful words/phrases:
SAID (or ANY speech tags-replace with action)
any word you see repeated often

Remove as many adjectives as you can. Do not use duplicate adjectives such as “very beautiful”. If something is beautiful that is enough. Very becomes redundant. Better yet, describe HOW it is beautiful without using the word. Beauty is subjective.

WEAK: The river was beautiful that morning.
BETTER: Sun rays leaking through the early morning mist, lent the river a mystic quality.

Use Spell Check and look-up words that are misspelled.
Pay attention to punctuation. If you’re not sure about its usage this website will help .

Probably MOST IMPORTANTLY--learn from your editor. My first book, Odessa, looked like a dying warrior after a lengthy battle with dragons--it was covered with red gashes. My latest book, ending edits now and soon to be released (Harpies Book Two of Seraphym Wars Series) looked as though it had taken a short walk through nice woods--a couple of little scratches! Even my editor was surprised and happy with my writing progress. So the bottom line is this--make notes of your mistakes then PRE-EDIT after your final revision. You'll save your editor a lot of time and frustration and yourself money and embarrassment. 

Here's a little blurb about Harpies. Watch my website for its release: Under the Hat of MG/YA Dark Fantasy Author Rebecca Ryals Russell

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. Narciss’s Harpy henchmen have other ideas, however.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PFC Liberty Stryker

Recently I had the pleasure of reading PFC Liberty Stryker, YA/Crossover Novel, by our own Peggy Tibbetts.

Paperback: 364 pages
Publisher: Lunatic Fringe Publishing (Jan. 21, 2012)
ISBN: 978-0967786841

Here is my review:

According to history, William Tecumseh Sherman stated “War is hell” during the American Civil War. Years have passed since then with many wars in our world. In the newspapers and on TV we hear about the men and women who fight and die in these battles. But do we really understand what they experience in foreign lands, away from family and home. Do we know the horrors they witness every day? I’ve always thought it’s sad that people cannot get along with one another, but never considered the gruesome reality of day to day life for our soldiers. Until I read Peggy Tibbetts’ novel PFC LIBERTY STRYKER, that is. Boy did the author open my eyes to the truth. I have to agree with Mr. Sherman.

After Libby Stryker’s father, who was career army, is killed at the Pentagon on 9/11, Libby joins the army and before long is in the desert of Iraq, seeing a side of war that only one who’s been there can believe. Death is everywhere and not just the soldiers but innocent men, women, and children as well. The author describes the scenes in such depth that the reader can almost hear the cries of pain, smell the stench of blood and bodies, and feel the terror in the air. Don’t be surprised if you cry a little. I did. I will warn you, also, that the language is raw and rough and not for the squeamish. Libby has a lot to learn about her fellow soldiers, and she soon discovers that sometimes those we trust the most are not what or who we believe them to be. The story is full of unexpected twists that show just how complicated war and people really are.

Author Peggy Tibbetts did her research. Her acknowledgment at the front of the book credits the many people who helped her get the details of PFC LIBERTY STRYKER just right. After reading this book, I think you’ll appreciate even more the sacrifices of our brave soldiers, to keep America, you and me, safe.


Who is Peggy Tibbetts?

Where have you heard that name before?

Think Writing World. She was managing editor, columnist, and picture book workshop instructor at

Or SCBWI. Or The Write List. She is at Goodreads and Jacketflap. Oh yes, LinkedIn, too. And still on MySpace. She’s here and there and everywhere around the interwebs.

Friend her on Facebook.

Follow her on Twitter.

Remember She was Inkspot’s Children’s Writing Resource Editor. She was an associate producer of educational videos for Upper Midwest Films, and contributing editor for Children’s Magic Window magazine.

She is also a fervent blogger at From the Styx, Advice from a Caterpillar, and YA Authors You’ve Never Heard Of.

Tibbetts is the author of two middle grade novels, Letters to Juniper and The Road to Weird, and a YA/crossover novel PFC Liberty Stryker.

In their spare time Peggy and her husband, Tod manage the West Elk Multi-Use Trails on the Flattop Mountains for the White River National Forest. She and Tod enjoy hiking, biking, skiing, and camping with their beloved Malamute, Zeus, and Chihuahua mix, Pepé in the mountains of western Colorado, where they live.

Peggy welcomes your questions & comments at:
Please refer all complaints to the Management

Peggy Tibbetts is the author of two middle grade novels, Letters to Juniper and The Road to Weird. She was managing editor and columnist at She has also worked as an associate producer of educational videos for Upper Midwest Films, contributing editor for Children’s Magic Window magazine, and Children’s Writing Resource Editor at

Happy Reading.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why does everything in publishing take so long?

Okay look. I know I'm cheaping out again by copying my personal blog to this one. But the last month has been completely insane, and I'm still getting over bronchitis. Now I have to get ready for the three appearances I have to make in five weeks (starting 3 weeks from now), and hopefully getting everything ready to launch The Sword of Danu at Balticon.

I didn't copy the whole blog, I'm just sticking in the video blog I made. I've been doing these for awhile, if you follow my Wordpress blog, but with everything going haywire at once, it's been awhile. This is just a little talk about the truth of publishing -- namely, it's S-L-O-W.


Friday, April 20, 2012

More Photography

Once again, I am unable to, type, because of my hand being in a cast. So, it's hunt and peck. More hunting than pecking, I'm afraid. So, since I need to fill some pages here, or at the very least, a few paragraphs, here are some shots I took out and about lately. And, no, I didn't drive. I have come to depend on the kindness of 'strangers'. LOL

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

First Drafts and Other Fun Things

I've been busy plowing through a first draft of book two in my Reality Ali series. (Book one comes out later this spring).

First drafts are very different than the finished product - at least in my case. For me, a first draft is almost an expanded outline. I might know how I want something to end up, but the draft will show me fun ways to get there. And sometimes it will go in a different direction all together.

And generally, first drafts are not something I want anyone else to see. They're messy and filled with mistakes. As I write a first draft I am always convinced it is horrible and can't wait to get through to the end so I can go back and revise and make it better.

So, I finished the first draft and started reading through it. Not revising yet, just kind of seeing what I have there. And here's the other fun thing about first drafts - they are seldom as horrible as I thought they were.

Oh, sure there are sentences that don't make any sense, like "She is trying to stay relative." Pretty sure I meant "relevant." There are grammar mistakes galore. There are subplots that got forgotten and new ones that got picked up. Over all though, the story makes me happy and I'll enjoy fixing it up.

And the 'other fun things' from the title? Allergies. The tree pollen is attacking. Oh, right. That's not a fun thing. So, really the only fun thing going on around here is a completed first draft.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Yes, I Purchased This

I admit, I collect dolls.  So when I heard the latest rumor that Barbie was making a Katniss doll from the movie Hunger Games?

Uh, yeah, I was one of the first to preorder her.

I love how realistic she looks.  Now I'm hoping they add Peeta and Gale dolls to this collection!

**You can still order her here:

Friday, April 13, 2012

New Experience - Vlogging!

As authors, it's part of our job to keep up with the latest and greatest new ways to do promotion and connect with readers. The time of the publishers doing that for us is long gone. But that's okay. I may not be the biggest extrovert out there, but I do love to play with gadgets and software.

The latest trend I've decided to dip my toes into is video blogs or vlogs for short.

I've owned a webcam for a while and it was just sitting there collecting dust, so I decided it was time to use it! Version 1 was done with the webcam and Microsoft's Movie Maker. It's pretty laughable, but I was experimenting. Realized after the fact that Movie Maker can't handle editing video, so that was a major fail. But what little I could do yielded the following:

As you can see, focusing your attention on the webcam and talking to the audience and putting stuff up takes a lot of coordination! Something I am sorely lacking in. lol.

So, dissatisfied with my first run, I went out in search of better editing software and ran across TrakAx. (This software is especially good for music peeps! And it was cheap!) Hours of tutorials later and I mutated my original offering.

I did run into trouble as one of my two original webcam files was messed up, so I ended up having to use vlog 1 instead and I mutated it. Biggest hassle was getting the final cover and final piece of the video to play nice. Had to use a slow fade to make them behave, but it wasn't as good as if they'd done it! Bad, bad segment - for shame. You'll note the issue at the end. Never did figure out why it was mean to me. But improvement is improvement. So here's version 1.1.

I even now have an idea for vlog #2. I've also chosen the novel I'll try to do short segments with. It also occurred to me that my camera and my phone will both do video. Think of the possibilities! No one will be safe!

Now I truly need a clone. :P

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Updates? Changes? Can I Stop Now???

I just heard from my editor that my one novel still in print, Saving Jake, is being turned into an e-book. My editor sent me an e-mail asking me to let her know about any changes I wanted to make for the new format. The question now is, should I?

Saving Jake was written over a 14-year stretch, and debuted nearly 10 years ago. During that time-span, technology has taken about 30 giant steps forward, and the book is rapidly becoming a period piece. This was before the explosion of kids owning Ipads, Ipods, and cell phones. So do I replace all references to CD's and CD players? Should my main character be writing all his papers on his own notebook instead of the family computer in the den? And at one point, our hero calls his ex-girlfriend on a land-line, hoping to reach the answering machine so he can communicate with her without actually talking to her. Should I instead have him time his call to her cell phone in hopes that he gets her voice mail?

If I make the changes, the book will be current, which is well and good. But if I make the changes will they show up in the print edition? I guess that's a question for my editor. I know nothing about any of this: tyrannosaurus tech, that's me. And then what about all the people who just bought the original print version of the book? I just sold a bunch of them at a school visit last week. Are they now stuck with Saving Jake, the antique edition? Perhaps that doesn't matter.

This all started with me wanting to correct a few typos that managed to slip past all of us before the book was released. Now I have wandered into an area that is posted with a sign that says "Danger! Control-Freak Minefield Ahead!" for someone like me. I know I need to make decisions about all of this. The story holds up fine, but the devil is in the details, as they say.

Change this? Tweak that?

You know, maybe I'll just go lie down...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Patterns in Writing

Lately I've been thinking a lot about Patterns in fiction and have come to several conclusions. There are many patterns in fiction and we are exposed to them at an early age. From the time we are read stories by those older people in out lives we become attuned to the pattern of Beginning, Middle and End. How often do we hear those words Once Upon A time. Sometimes while planning a story I use those words to get myself started on my current WIP. That is one of the patterns we use when we write. The success or failute of a story often depends on how well we use this pattern.

Another Pattern is the use of familiar types of characters. Stories, especially those for children have archtypical characters. I was thinking about "Little Red Riding Hood and realized these characters are archtypes. There is the girl who is the heroine, the grandmother who is the victim, the wolf who is the villain and the woodcutter who is the hero. All archtypes. We often carry these characters into our stories.

There are the Patterns of speech. No matter what age we are writing for we try to fit the way the characters speak to the age of our audience. One set of words is used for the youngest with perhaps one word they aren't familiar with. Sometimes the words are used more for the pattern of the sound than for the meaning. "Fee, fie, foe, fum." Nice rhythm to those words but they also set a pattern of power.

This is as far as I've reached in my study of Patterns and I'm sure I'll find others. What about you? Do you look for Patterns when you write?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

So a cow and an alien walk into a bar.

I have yet to miss a post for this blog but came close today. I have been so busy trying to get my galleys for Book 2 of The Adventures of Rupert Starbright: The Secret of My-Myst proofed as well as finishing the first draft of Book 3 that I almost blew it off. Last night- around 11pm- I racked my brain (which is an odd sensation) in attempt to come up with a topic. I couldn't.

So I will do a stream of consciousness entry. Lets see what happens. Hey- I am a writer, right?

The image above is a shameless plug. Great cover, isn't it? Brad Foster is an amazing artist.

So I did my first classroom appearances. It was Career Day at PS 107 in Queens, NY and I had the honor of discussing being an author to 2nd,  4th and 5th grade students. It was a wonderful experience and I was  impressed at the interest these kids showed in me and what I do. I have to admit I felt like a rock star walking into the classrooms and hear kids say things like "He looks like an artist!" Its funny how in many ways kids never change. There are your class clowns, your type A's, your shy kids, and your bored kids. I have said it before and I still feel it– times change but people really don't. We come is various colors, shapes, and personality types.

"Anyways" is not a word. Don't use it in conversation. It makes you sound like an ass.

I love living in Manhattan because  I love to walk. Its a walking town. I love going to the gym and I love yoga but nothing is better than strolling around Central Park or city streets on a warm spring day.

Agents. I do not have one. I want one. I have big aspirations and my future holds a best seller and I am not sure you can even get the big publishers to look at you without one (see recent blog entry)

It amazes me how easily people are manipulated by information. By urban legends. It takes me less than thirty seconds to debunk so many of the claims I see posted on Facebook or in mass emails. THINK.

Food is health. Food is medicine. Eat a variety and in moderation. Be bold. Try new things. If I could give Americans one piece of advice it is this: DO NOT EAT FAST FOODS. Once a year if you must.

Algae is so annoying and hard to control in aquariums.

I am torn between three or four projects for my next novel. I have to pick one.

I told the kids on Career Day to never write with dollars signs in their eyes. Write with stars in them. Write what you love. If you try to write a best seller or blockbuster screenplay (and trust me I have tried) you'll end up with some mediocre mishmash of fading trends.

Whats the deal with Zombies? The other day I went to a funeral and the corpse sat up and said "What's the deal with Zombies?" RIMSHOT!

Musical instruments are like pieces of art. Art that makes art. Music is the greatest achievement of the human race. The human race can take a lesson from bands. Folks of any race, religion, political affiliation can get together and speak the same language and do so in literal harmony.

I changed my mind about Starbucks. I was never a fan of their coffee but I am making an effort to support them as a company. All corps should follow their lead. Profits and social conscience can dance at the ball.

I truly believe the secret to our origins is encoded into our DNA. Junk DNA? I think not.

I must see the Great Pyramid in person. One day.

I have to practice guitar more. Been slacking lately.

So a cow and an alien walk into a bar. The bartender looks and them and says...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Life on Hold is full of surprises

In my personal quest to read and review a book by every author at YAAYNHO, I bring you Beverly Stowe McClure. Did you know? Beverly has written four novels for teen readers, Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines; Listen to the Ghost; Secrets I Have Kept; and Rebel in Blue Jeans. She also has a middle grade novel Just Breeze, a picture book, Frankie's Perfect Home, and an easy reader Tumbleweed Christmas. In her new book Life on Hold, Beverly shows off her talent for tackling the touchy issues that truly matter to teens.

Life on Hold
By Beverly Stowe McClure
4RV Publishing
February 2012
200 pages

Myra Gibson’s sixteenth summer begins with the discovery of a shocking family secret. The man she calls her father is not her birth father. Her world is shattered. She always thought her family was perfect. Her mother, the TV anchorwoman certainly acted like they were perfect. In fact, Mrs. Gibson forbids her to see Jeremy because he’s not perfect enough for her. After Myra discovers her mother’s secret she sheds her good girl persona and decides rules are meant to be broken. Myra’s search for her birth father leads to a summer of forbidden love and reckless adventures into the local county music scene.

Beverly McClure deals with complicated issues like adoption, teen pregnancy, and family secrets with realism and sensitivity. Teen readers can easily relate to Myra’s pain and rebellion. Part coming of age, part teen romance, Life on Hold is full of surprises. ~ Copyright (c) 2012 by Peggy Tibbetts

Visit Beverly Stowe McClure's website

Discover the awesome authors at YAAYNHO!

Peggy Tibbetts

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

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