Thursday, November 29, 2012

Here We Go Again

Probably used that title before, but, well...here we go again. LOL It's winter here in the northern hemi. I don't care much for winter. I like sunshine, although I'm also not a fan of extreme heat. Nice and moderate, 72-75 with sunny skies and a nice gentle breeze off the ocean. Do I hear Hawaiian music? Anyway, I digress. This winter is being especially trying on me. Not actually because of the weather either. It's been wierdly nice here up until a few weeks ago. Now we have our usual winter weather - gloom, gray, rain, more gloom. Day after unrelenting day. I live for those moments that the sun manages to pierce the darkness and let in a little natural Vitamin D. I strain to catch a glimpse of blue sky - anywhere. It really does lift my spirits. Add to all of this gray dreaydom, the holidays, and well, there you go - or here we go again. Seems to me that people should be a little nicer come the holidays, a little more thankful for whatever they do have, a little more courteous. But...well...doesn't seem that way. Watching news shows about the fighting during Black Friday is bad enough, but actually getting out in the mayhem that is the holidays is not for the faint of heart. Traffic whizzes past me on the freeway, completely ignoring the speed limit signs and the cops scattered here or there. After all, they can't stop us all, now can they? seems to be the prevailing thought process. Fighting over parking spots at the mall. Chewing out the cashier because he or she isn't moving fast enough. Complaining when an item is out of stock. (My goodness, will you die if you have to wait? I mean, actually die?) Everyone is in a huge hurry, tailgating, passing, cutting each other off. I had a city bus almost take me out today because he was in such a hurry that he only saw the person waiting at the bus stop at the last moment, and so swerved in front of me to make the stop. It's frightening out there. The only thing that seems to quiet the chaos, to calm the roar, is good snowfall. No one here knows how to drive in the snow. All of the hills are littered with cars, while people hoof it. But, at least, it's quiet. But then, the snow melts, and, well, you know what that means - here we go again. (Pictures would have been included but my computer decided to simply die on me, with no warning. Just dead. I am using a borrowed computer to do this blog. So, no nice pictures of Hawaii.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another NaNoWriMo Conquered

Another November draws to a close and I can proudly say I am one of the NaNoWriMo winners who has written 50,000 words in a month.

I do it for the motivation and the challenge.

I also did it this year as a way to bang out the first draft of the third book in the Reality Ali series.

This is the fourth time I've reached my goal. One year I did not. That was partly due to getting the flu right at the beginning of the month, which threw off my momentum, and having a story idea I wasn't thrilled with.

So now what. I've written 50,000 words. I have a book, right?

Kind of right.

I haven't reached the end of the story yet - so I'm not really done. Which is fine.

But even when I reach the spot where I feel like I can say "The End" I won't be done. I'll be done with the first draft, which is like being done with the outline in a picture or the skeleton.

The next step is to put it aside and work on another project for awhile. That way when I come back to the manuscript it will be with fresh eyes. At that point I'll see what works and what doesn't work and I'll flesh out the story and the description and pretty much everything that makes a book something interesting to read.

So, it's not done yet.

But I still feel accomplished.

Also a bit humbled, because my fifteen-year-old daughter reached 50,000 words a couple of days before I did.

Reached any goals lately? Doesn't it feel great?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cybils Love

I'm excited to be a part of the Cybils-Children & Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards-again this year.

The Cybils have been mentioned in School Library Journal: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6536666.html

A little FAQ:

What's a Cybil?
The Cybils awards are given each year by bloggers for the year's best children's and young adult titles. Nominations open to the public on October 1st.
Can anyone nominate?
Yes, anyone may nominate one book per genre during the public nomination period. New this year, we are asking authors, publishers and publicists to wait until after the public nomination period ends to submit their own books.
How do I nominate?
We post an online form for public nominations from Oct. 1-15 every year. The form will be live at www.cybils.com at 12:00 a.m. on October 1. This year, we’ve tried to make the form mobile-friendly, so you can use your phone to nominate if you prefer. Authors and publishers may use the public form to nominate books other than their own, but should contact sruth@wandsandworlds.com for information on submitting their own books.
Which books are eligible?
Any English or bilingual books published in the U.S. or Canada between the end of one contest and start of another. For 2012, that means books released between Oct. 16, 2011 and Oct. 15, 2012. Books must be specifically published for the children’s or young adult market.
PLEASE NOTE: Born-digital ebooks are ONLY accepted in Poetry,YA SFF, and YA Fiction.
More contest info:
Cybils penFinalists are posted January 1st. Winners are announced February 14th. Winners receive a fountain pen in an engraved wooden box. 



This year I'm on the first panel and get to read/review YA fantasy/Sci-Fi books.

I thought I'd share a taste of what I've been reading so far so everyone can see how the 2012 YAs are filled with awesomeness!

This is a retelling of the story THE LITTLE MERMAID told in a haunting, chilling way.















This is one emotion-packed zombie tale that kept me on the edge of my seat.
















A fresh retake on Edgar Allan Poe's MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH only this is in a futuristic world.
















Loved the voice of this story where a teen finds out she's part of the family Grim Reapers.




Not all books we judge are tradition ones.  This one BECOME is about a girl who's half human/half daughter of Lucifer.  She's set to Earth on a mission.  So far loving the voice of this one!














Intriguing premise set on Mars. Action packed writing with one strong female protagonist.
















A great read for teen boys:




Dystopia where it's illegal to make movies with footage from the net. Lots of computer backdrop and a futuristic Charles Dickson's feel.
















Also there's time travel ones:



















Ones with a ROSWELL feel:




















Really enjoyed this YA dystopia meets THE BACHELOR. Engaging storyline with a protagonist you can cheer for. 

















Friday, November 23, 2012

Angry Birds - The Star Wars Edition

Oh yeah, you heard right...Angry Bird Star Wars!

Not a combo I ever expected, but it's actually quite fun. Here's a few pics to show you what I'm talking about.

1st opening screen. You can see the Angry Birds version of all our favorite Star Wars Heroes. Hee! 


A sligthly wacky but ever so recognizable theme song starts here. Wish I could take a zoomed pic of this as the tie fighters have snouts and piggy ears. Heh heh.


Tattoine is the first puzzle world. Also, you can see the Deathstar from here. Love the creativity of making everything look pig like. Too cute!


These are all the Tatooine levels. You can see a Sand People Pig on the right. On the left are quick movies. The levels/planets are playing in actual sequence to Episode 4. 


One of the Tatooine puzzles. Click the link to enlarge the pic to get a real nice look at the Pig Storm Troopers. Hee! As their armor takes damage, you can see the real pig beneath. 


The baddies get lasers on some of the screens. Which is only fair as the characters get powers!

Luke starts out as just a plain Angry Bird (Like the Red bird in the original games). Later on though, he gets a lightsaber!!!!  A big sweep attack you can activate during his arc. 

Obi Wan has a Force push, time slow thing. That one is tricky to use.

Han Solo, when triggered, will shoot 3 laser blasts. They introduce metal walls around that time so you can actually do bank shots!

I've seen R2-D2 and 3-CPO in a bonus screen. R2 shoots lightning and 3-CPO blows up into shrapnel. 

On the space puzzles you get gravity thrown into the mix, so the thrown birds will curve or go straight depending on the celestial bodies. 

Needless to say the game is totally cute! And Chewbacca really IS a fuzzball! lol 

Here's the dramatic trailer for the game - recreation of Obi Wan and Luke at the Bar. Heh heh heh.



Hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkey Writing

Wow, I get to do an entry the day before Thanksgiving! And I can smell that turkey cooking now...

The reason I bring up the scent of roasting turkey--and I do love that smell, even though turkey is not always one of my favorite meals--is that I have one very specific writing memory entwined with it.

When I was a freshman at the University of Illinois-Chicago (Circle) campus, the school was on the quarter system: ten weeks of instruction, one week for finals, break, and repeat. Thanksgiving fell toward the end of the fall quarter so that was also the time all those pesky papers and projects were coming due. Being the queen of procrastination, the quarter system was very good for me because it didn't allow me to fall that far behind in my work. There just wasn't enough time to let things slide.

Fall quarter, freshman year, I was enrolled in an honors English class that basically had us studying Important Writers that probably none of us would ever read on our own. My reading list included Thomas Paine, Thomas Carlyle, and John Stewart Mill, among other deep-thinking heavyweights. There were times, that quarter, that I sat outside on a concrete bench in thirty-degree weather just to sty awake while I was reading these works. Rough quarter!

I devoted my final paper about Carlyle because the man wrote a book about heroes and their importance to the fabric of society. When he published, he was hardly thinking about Spiderman, Mark Spitz, or Bruce Lee, but that was the direction I took when I sat down to write. And here's where the turkey comes in.

My mother had a second oven in our basement, and that is where she would roast our turkey so that she could use the kitchen oven upstairs for other equally tasty items. The basement is where we had the stereo, so when I wanted to write, I would head downstairs, crank up the tunes, and uncap my pen.If I needed to write a paper that had a page requirement, my modus operandi at the time was to take one of those huge newsprint pads of art paper and write enough to fill the entire front side and half of the back. My penmanship is small, so when I had covered all of that white space, I knew I would meet my page requirement when I typed up my work afterward.

That particular holiday, while I was in the process of doing this, the wonderful brown-butter scent of roasting turkey filled the basement and wafted into both my consciousness and sub-conciousness. This day, the heady smell of Thanksgiving in the making always conjures up images of my basement, Thomas Carlyle, and the sounds of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" Concerto.

I have never used the November holiday in any fiction I have ever written. I've used Christmas, Easter, Halloween (of course) but I don't believe I have ever written anything about Thanksgiving. So tomorrow I'm going to take a few deep breaths of that warm, buttery turkey smell and see where I can go with it. I"m working on a book now involving college students. Maybe one of them will write a paper under the same fragrant circumstances.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dealing with a very old manuscript #amwriting


Months ago I wrote about finding the carbon copy of a manuscript, and looking at it for plot. The plot though had a few holes seemed solid and the characters interesting. This was a story that was nearly published years ago except for a matter of the timing of the submission. Put aside and forgotten until clearing out a file cabinet. I decided I would re-write it. The story was YA or one of those kind of science fiction/fantasy stories to be read by anyone. The major characters were in the 18 to 20 year age range. So I have begun to reconctruct the story and it's been an interesting study in what flies and what doesn't these days.

There were stylistic problems that weren't back there. Using dialogue tags has changed. Used to read "said John." Now reads "John said." Another was back story. The book began with an entire chapter giving the back story of the main character of the story. Actually, this seemed boring to me today. So I had to deconstruct the first chapter bringing the action to the fore and removing a lot, lot of the back story. Another problem was in that this was a carbon copy and occasionally there was a slipage problem where the letters of a word were written over each other. Some of these words will never be recovered. That's no real problem since finding words is what writers do.

The final problem was of a different nature. My head is in a different place than it was when I first wrote the book. Won't go into what really happened to my head. We all grow and mature. 40 plus years ago, I was a mother of three and had just adopted a biracial child. Was living in a small Western Pa town where tolerance was an interesting view of people and their predjudices or what they viewed as being liberal. So some of these things had entered into the writing. Will I take them all out. Probably not. Since this book has some interesting minor characters most will stay but they will be tempered by maturity. Now I must get back to work on what was once The World Has Come Of Age and is now The Goddesses of Er. As for the last word in the title, I hope I haven't borrowed it from another writer. That word can be changed but I needed a title so I could write the book.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New Silt Library – photo gallery

Silt Branch Library -- Silt, Colorado
Our tiny town in western Colorado has a new library. The Silt Branch Library opened its doors at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 6. This new library is over three times as spacious as the old library and features a large meeting room, two study rooms, unique children's and teen spaces, a cozy reading area with a fireplace, and a plaza for outdoor reading and events. The library also has two designated computer areas with a total of ten computers for public use. 

Join me on a photo tour of our new library –
Bright and spacious
Kids reading cubby

Teens reading nook
Cozy fireplace reading cove
Community meeting room
Garage-style door can be opened to library
Courtyard between library and Silt Town Hall
Features book titles etched in concrete
Outdoor plaza -- old Silt Library in the background
Peggy Tibbetts

Now available at Amazon
PFC Liberty Stryker
Letters to Juniper2012 Colorado Book Award Finalist

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Diversity in YA

This past Saturday I moderated a panel at World Fantasy Convention (held this year in Toronto) entitled "Diversity and Difference in YA Fantasy." The other panelists were Cinda Williams Chima, Megan Crewe, E.C. Myers and Cheryl Rainfield. The panel's description focused on strong female characters, but the panelists (YA authors all and as rebellious as YA authors can be) went with the title.

We discussed the importance of having diversity not only among the secondary characters in YA but with the main characters as well. More and more readers are interested in seeing their 'face' in the story. The idea that the default for a main character should be 'boy' (as the books I grew up reading seemed to be) is losing strength at last. The popularity of The Hunger Games demonstrated that boys would read stories with girls as the main character. The idea that the default for a main character has to be white and straight should be the next to go.

Megan Crewe related how she was told by agents how her manuscript, set in Japan, would be difficult to sell. Esther Friesner's Spirit Princess and Gloria Oliver's In the Service of Samurai are both set in Japan with Japanese main characters, so perhaps that is changing.

People of color as main characters have begun appearing in YA, but there have been reports bookcovers were changed to depict a white character. Justine Larbalestier's Liar, Cindy Pons' Silver Phoenix and others have been affected this way. This might be due to a marketing decision, but more people need to speak out against it.

LGBT characters have begun to appear as secondary characters, but there needs to be main characters as well. Cheryl Rainfield's Scars has such a character. Her recent blog is about the World Fantasy panel and (as she promised at the panel) she has provided a link to books with LGBT characters.

Religion has also been addressed in recent years. YA and middle grade books such as the Percy Jackson series, the Goddess Girls series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams, Darkness Rising Book One of the Catmage Chronicles by Meryl Yourish, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch, and Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst have main characters from nonChristian religions.

There were many excellent questions from the audience. Some were from readers trying to find books with diverse characters while others were from writers interested in creating diverse characters.

For the readers, finding these books are not always as easy as going to a bookstore. Some bookstores still have YA as a general catchall, with YA paranormal shelved with YA sports. Big bookstores like Barnes and Noble have subcategorized YA, which may benefit browsers, but not those looking by author's last name. Books with people of color sometimes are misshelved in cultural studies. The advantages of ebooks are that many are searchable by tags, but often readers have to rely on lists on the web (such as provided by Cheryl Rainfield above) to find titles.

The writers in the audience wanted to know how to write about different cultures respectfully. The example was brought up of books where the only person of color was the villain. Points the panelists brought up were that stereotypes are still not the way to go. The more diversity you have in your book, the better. But having diverse characters in your book doesn't mean that your story has to be about discrimination or prejudice. You're just creating a more realistic world.

If you're worried about being accused of cultural appropriation, as long as you have researched the culture, talked with people of that culture, treated it respectfully, and, if possible, found a beta reader to make sure you haven't made any missteps, you've tried your best.

You don't want to have your story be a checklist of some kind, or a message or mission book as that will turn readers of any age off. No one likes to be preached to. There will be times when, due to your story's location or time period, that your characters may need to be from one race or culture. But if they don't, do all your characters - even the walk-ons - have to be white and male?

The panel also brought up the benefits of small press for those having problems finding a market for books with diverse characters. Small press and ebook publishers are willing to take chances on stories with new and diverse voices.

Megan Crewe and Cheryl Rainfield also blogged about the panel.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

60 Links to Writer's Resources


I found this amazing list at Galleycat, one of my favorite writing sites and just had to pass it along. Even if you’re NOT do Nanowrimo, the links here are terrifically useful and fun.



30 National Novel Writing Month Tips from 2012


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 http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

BIRTHDAYS AND CHANGES

Recently, I celebrated my … mmm … birthday. Oh, well, I’ll tell you my age. Planet earth has been my home for three-quarters of a century. Wow! I never thought I’d say that. Anyhow, I was a teen in the swinging 50s. The word teenager was coined in the 1950s. The 50s were a time of change. As with any period, good things happened and also bad.

Music: We had Elvis and rock and roll, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka, Buddy Holly, Fabian, The Platters, and Brenda Lee.

On TV, when we finally got one, we watched Dick Clark and American Bandstand, I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, and The Mickey Mouse Club for younger kids.

Movies: (before we had DVDs we went to the “picture show.”) My favorite movie was Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean and Natalie Woods. I also loved Doris Day and her musicals.


We walked to school or rode our bicycles, (without helmets) until I had a boyfriend with his own car, which was fantastic. We went to Sock Hops in the gym after football games and met kids from the other schools.

How we dressed: Girls wore poodle skirts, as well as other skirts and also scarves and pedal pushers (similar to the Capris or whatever they’re called today). I remember going to the lumber yard and buying screen wire for my mom to make a petticoat for a dance I was attending. I didn’t sit down a lot there. This reminds me of the crinolines and hoop skirts women wore in the 1800s like in my novel Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines. Bobby socks and saddle shoes and ballet shoes, I think they were called adorned our feet.

Some boys wore jeans and leather jackets. (Like the Fonz). Others wore slacks with their shirts tucked in. School rules were strict. Boys either wore their hair in a crew cut, flattop, or ducktail. If a boy’s hair touched his ears he was sent home, or if his jeans fell too low on his hips or his shirttail hung out he was dismissed until the unacceptable behavior was corrected. Girls were not allowed to wear pants to school, and I thought it was great when we girls started wearing boy’s Levis at home. (No one made jeans for girls.) Girls wore their hair short and curled or pulled back in pony tails, French braids and also a style called the poodle cut, like Lucille Ball wore.

Good things in the 50s: Jonas Salk invented a polio vaccine. Paper Mate made its first leak free ball point pen. (Yeah, no more messy ink.) The Russians launched Sputnik I. Burma Shave signs kept you occupied on the way to visit Grandma and Grandpa. One I especially remember is “A man who passes on hills and curves is not a man of iron nerves. He’s crazy.” A gallon of gasoline cost .25 cents. A stamp was .03 cents.

Bad things in the 50s: James Dean was killed in his new sports car. We feared war with Russia and there was the Cuban Missile Crisis. People built bomb shelters to prepare for a nuclear war. We didn’t know about cholesterol and that the fatty foods we ate clogged our arteries. No one told us the sun caused skin cancer so we took “sunbaths” to look healthy.

Yes, times have changed. Sure gasoline was cheap in the 50s. You could buy three pounds of hamburger meat for $1.00. At my job I also earned $42.50 a week.

Now, instead of washing dishes at the sink, drying them, and putting them away, I stick them in the dishwasher, turn it on, and go read a good book. Instead of hanging the clothes on the line to dry, I stuff them in the dryer.

Instead of typing my stories on a manual typewriter, using carbon paper to make copies and White Out to correct spelling and punctuation errors, my computer does most everything for me. Even books are changing. Now, they can be read on eReaders where you can change the print size and even listen to the story if you want to. I really like this, because they help relieve the strain on my tired eyes from all the books I read. Hearing the story read also reminds me of the radio I once listened to every Saturday morning. I still like to hold a paper copy in my hands though. Guess some things never change.

Clothing, transportation, hairstyles, and school has changed. Good things still happen. Bad things still happen.

I wonder what our world will be like in the next seventy-five years.

Thanks for allowing me this nostalgic post. See what happens when you get older: you think about the past. Remember the saying, young folks live in the future, middle age folks live in the present, old folks live in the past. Well, that's partly true, but I also live in the present and the future, waiting for my books to be published. Okay. I did recently buy a baton. I wanted to see if I could still twirl it like I did as a majorette in high school.

Happy Reading
.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Shoot!

Arghh!

It's Monday night. And this is my day to blog. And I started this blog...and....I forgot. I got the reminder, I really did. But with the hurricane last week, and subsequent re-re-rescheduling of my life, and finishing the last remaining bits of Grad School (yay!), my brain is a messy mush.

I promise, next month I'll have something really great. In the meantime, here's a new review of the last book in the Library of Athena series, The Sword of Danu.  Enjoy!!

http://www.thegeekgirlproject.com/2012/11/02/book-review-the-sword-of-danu-by-christine-norris/