Monday, December 30, 2013

Resolute...for 2014



Once again it's the time of year to make the Dreaded Resolutions. Lose weight, go somewhere, unplug, you know the drill. Most people use the start of a new year to make a list of things they wish they could do but won't.

Of course, I am too. But these aren't resolutions. These are goals. I give you my list of goals for 2014





1. Be healthy.
I don't mean just lose weight. I mean really strive to eat better, to move, to make it to the gym or if not to walk the dog on a regular basis. I've slipped since the summer, and this year my job has me going crazy so it's not been easy. Most of the people in my building say the same, so it's not just me.

2. WRITE
Last year I finished Grad School, and then I sat around in January, basking in the glow of the fact I didn't have any papers to write. No projects to turn in. I think I thought I had all this time. And so I filled it up with stuff. I half-heartedly did NANO but didn't get far. So this year I need to re-focus and get back to business. Especially since this year will be SO VERY BUSY. So 500 words per day it will be. I have two books to finish!

3. De-clutter.
And I don't just mean my house, though that's a never-ending battle. I mean my life. Like I said, I filled it up with stuff when I didn't have Grad School anymore, and now there's Just Too Much. I need to find priorities and pay attention to them. My Etsy store has been doing kind of well, especially the last few months, so I'm keeping that. The money allows me to do extra things for book promotion. But there are other things that will need to go. I will need to start staying NO to some things and YES to other things.

5. Be an author, not just a writer.
Meaning do more on my blog, and this blog, and the other blog I write for. Focus on what will bring readers to my site, my blogs, and ultimately my work. This is a big one, because I've kind of been blowing it off. Needs to become a priority. Soon.

6. Read more books.
My job is with young children, so I don't find myself as ingrained with YA and tween lit as I should be. I need to read more books this year, get back into the groove of 'what's in'. 

Have a happy New Year, and I hope 2014 will be a great one for you!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Book Thief

I have a confession:

I never finished reading THE BOOK THIEF.

Why?

I couldn't get pass death being the narrator. It felt a little too impersonal.

Then I heard tons of positive reviews on the movie and decided I'd check it out.


Verdict?

OMG, it's amazing.


Sure, at the beginning, death narrates about his 'job' and how he's not like the 'stereotypical' version but rather average looking. He's fascinated with mortals and introduces us to a young girl named Liesel. She's on a train with her mother and brother, who ends up dying. After her brother is buried, the grave digger 'drops' a book. Liesel quickly takes it and holds tight to it as it reminds her of her brother.

We're in Germany during WW2 and later meet Liesel's foster parents. We find that Liesel can't read and is teased at her new school. Her foster father helps her to learn. **The dictionary he makes for Liesel in their basement is awesome. We see the night of broken glass and the bonfire where all books were burned. At this point, Liesel longs to read and even rushes out after most are gone, to grab one of the books.

The emotions, situations pulled me right into Liesel's story.


Here's a little clip of the movie:






One warning: If you do decide to see, take some tissues. At the near end, I sobbed.

Emotional, heart-wrenching tale of courage in face of evil.

One great thing about a movie like this? Now I want to revisit the book and read it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas is Coming! And to Help Get us in the Mood - Why, Simon's Cat Of course!

Christmas is almost upon us.
And as we all furiously try to get ready for it or reign in our our bristling eagerness for what's under that tree, there's no better way to relax than to watch some fun Simon's Cat antics. Oh yeah!






Christmas Presence Part 2 - that poor Santa doll will never be the same. Heh heh.

Now we just need to convince Simon to do an episode of his cat in the Manger. Hee hee!

I adore his videos. Do you?


Hoping you and yours have a fabulous holiday!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fictional Holidays

 

Back when I was a kid, reading voraciously and taking a stab at writing my own stories, I was always enamored with books that featured a chapter or adventure or even just a scene built around Christmas. Little Women has a Christmas chapter. So does The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright, one of my all-time favorite children's writers. And if I want to go back to when I was an even younger reader, even Mary Poppins included a magical story about Christmas shopping with the Banks children.

Christmas was always my favorite holiday, and not for the obvious reason. Of course I loved presents! What kid doesn't? But I loved the season in its entirety, from the ever-present carols to the smell of the Christmas tree. From my mother's special once-a-year cookies, to the gift-laden, gold-brocade feel of honest-to-God goodwill in the air.

Much more cynical as a grown-up, and I'm sorry that I am, I look back on that wide-eyed joy with a bit of wistfulness. Christmas spirit didn't become more elusive because I learned that Santa Claus isn't real (I was one of those kids that was never brought up to believe in him in the first place, actually). No, for me the Christmas spirit started waning during grown-up life, when holidays worked around family-shattering issues or the recent loss of a loved one became more labor than labor-of-love. In the face of some of our experiences, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come didn't just knock on our door, he blew it open and made himself at home.

As a writer, I included a Christmas chapter in one of my first novels, written during my high school years. As an adult writing a series, I recently ended one book shortly before Thanksgiving and have found that my next book picks up well into the New Year, leaving Christmas out of the mix entirely. And I'm beginning to rethink that.

This year for Christmas, I have a new granddaughter, which brings our grand-kid count up to three. Yes, our family had a big loss last spring and that means this year's Christmas will be held somewhere new and in a new way. But our grandchildren will be just as gleeful over the presents they receive, and the food, using all those treasured recipes, should be just as delicious.

Maybe it's time to show Christmas Yet to Come the way out and welcome Tiny Tim back into our home. I've missed the blessed little tyke.

Merry Christmas to all of us and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Finding Books

Where do you find out about upcoming and newly released books? According to a survey done by RJ Scott (found here), the top method by readers responding was to sign up to an author's newletter. Second was following an author on Facebook and continuing down through several levels, most of which can be summed up as "following either a particular author or publisher".

Now, yes, I follow several authors on Facebook and their blogs and I do find out about their upcoming books from them. But those aren't the only places I use to check out about new books. Because, after all, my favorite authors can only write so fast and there are other authors out there to be discovered. And I do read very fast.

I guess I'm old-fashioned (and a former librarian). I'm used to finding out about new books via journals like Locus. I gave up on Analog and Asimov's because, while they have book review sections, somehow the reviewers either never reviewed books I was interested in or, if they did, it was always long after the book was out and I had already purchased it. Newsletters from bookstores I frequent, like the independent bookstore in my town (The Book Shelf) or Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis are also useful. Locus and Uncle Hugo’s paper newsletter always arrive about the same time each month, so that’s a good time for me to look for interesting titles to order.

Ebooks are usually more convoluted to find out about. Yes, I still use my previously mentioned sources and decide whether I want to order the paper version or go to Amazon and order the ebook version for my Kindle. But as an author who still has one book only available in paper at Amazon (complicated story: Talking to Trees is available electronically, and has been since 2006, but Amazon still hasn't listed the Kindle version, so I have to have a link on my webpage sending people to my publisher’s website for the mobi version for Kindle users. Nook users have no problem.), I’m aware that there might be some glitches here and there. Also, as a member of EPIC, an organization of electronically published authors, I know several authors who only have their books available in electronic format, which are often ignored by the usual methods of book announcements. Fortunately, I can get news of new releases through EPIC’s newsgroups, but I do wonder how others find out about new releases.

I will occasionally go to the Amazon Kindle store and look up favorite authors that I know only publish electronically, but that's only when I remember to or when I notice my Kindle is low on new things to read. I miss Fictionwise and the alerts I had set up there.

I do attend several conventions as an author and get to meet new authors. And there are several bookdealers I can count on to carry titles that will interest me (and they will carry my books on consignment at the convention, so it's win-win for both of us).

So, where do you find out about upcoming and newly released books?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

IS BLOGGING WORTH THE TIME AND EFFORT?

I thought this was such an interesting article I decided to share it with you.



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You may reprint this article from "The Writing World" on your blog or in your own print or electronic
newsletter. But, please include the following paragraph with a clickable link:


Article by Karen Cioffi and reprinted from The Writing World newsletter. Subscribe today at http://thewritingworld.com and get How to Create an Optimized Website. 3 Essential Author/Writer Website Elements and 9 Must-Have Pages, along with writing and marketing tips, plus updates on free webinars.
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The writer and marketer must do lots and lots of things to keep their head above the marketing waters. And, those marketing waters are constantly moving. How do you keep up? And, what are the most effective marketing strategies to use?



Since the game is always changing, it's important to keep up with marketing trends. One useful tool for this is Technorati's 2013 Digital Influence Report.



According to their new report, which is based on "over 6,000 influencers, 1,200 consumers, and 150 top brand marketers," blogs are now heavy hitters with consumers. Blogs are regarded as trustworthy, they are popular, and they wield influence over consumer buying decision making.



So, to answer the title question, yes it is.



To further validate the importance of blogs, the report shows that blogs have more motivational buying power than Facebook. That's pretty amazing since FB is the top social network brands use to create visibility and develop relationships with consumers. In other words, brands use FB more than other social networks and they put more budget dollars into it than other social networks.



Reviewing the Technorati Report, Social Media Examiner explained that the reason blogs are so influential is because "bloggers tend to be very honest and sincere in their reviews of products and services. They talk about both negative and positive aspects of a brand, and in doing so become a trusted source of information. Trust drives action, and thus consumers look to bloggers before they buy."



The study also shows that FB cornered 91 percent of brand presence, while Twitter cornered 85 percent.



Another important finding of this study is that over 50 percent of consumers feel that smaller communities offer more influence. Even new sites were trusted over social networks.



From this study it would seem that people like connecting with other people, not crowds. They like the personal relationship, the kind of one-on-one relationship that social networks don't necessarily offer.



While the study focused on brand marketers, the results are applicable to your author or freelance writing site. Knowing that people in general trust blogs and look to them for information along with help and guidance to make purchasing decisions is powerful.



It's understandable that this information may not be interesting to most. You may not care about knowing which social network is more popular with the heavy hitters or the percentage of marketing budget dollars brands spend on social networking. But, having proof that you're not blogging in vein should put a smile on your face.



Keep blogging.


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See you on the blogs.




Monday, December 2, 2013

2014 Will Be Epic


Where did it go? I feel like it was just January a few days ago. The new laptop I'm working on I got in January, and now it's almost a year old. My car accident was in January, so my new car is almost a year old too. Wow. Unbelievable. Thanksgiving is over, and the holiday season is upon us. Three weeks until Christmas *yikes!* and then a month until 2013 is over. 


I'm kind of sad to see 2013 go, because even though it didn't start off great -- Hubby having surgery, car accident, computer dying, the passing of so many people we loved -- it had some nice times too. Great vacation with the family. New car. New computer. Great conferences, time with friends, new friends, new conferences. It was pretty good, overall.

However, I am SUPER EXCITED for 2014 to start because there are so many BIG THINGS coming next year.

First of all, I have a story in a Steampunk anthology that comes out next year. The anthology is called Gaslight and Grimm and will be published by Dark Quest Books. It's all Steampunk fairy tales. I wrote a version of The Three Little Pigs, which contains no pigs whatsoever. There are some other authors whose Names You Might Know who will also have stories included. Not sure of the release date yet, but I will make a big announcement when it comes out.

I SHOULD also finish the final Library of Athena book next year. Should. It's coming along and I really like where it's going. It will be a fitting end to the series, with a couple of twists I didn't even know about until I wrote them down.

The other bit of news is a BIG HUGE SEKRIT. I cannot tell you. Or, I could, but then I'd have to kill you. Or give you kittens, or something. This is the Most Exciting piece of news of all the news that I have to share. Hopefully it will be able to be shared in the next two weeks. I am BURSTING.

I'd love to tell you. But I can't. Just know that 2014 Will. Be. Epic.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Off and Running?

I used to have a blog. I used to go to all sorts of writers forums and groups and gatherings. I used to go to writers conferences. I used to interact with a lot of different writers and readers. Used to. So, what happened?

Even I'm not sure. The internet moves quickly - with lightning speed. Things change rapidly. Places to go cease to exist. New places pop up, fade away. It seemed I could no longer keep up. I faded away. My energies were shifted, diverted, to other things to occupy my creative needs - editing, making jewelry, craft shows, etc.

But I think it's time to come back. I have been going through my Guardians of Glede series books - making up a family tree for the publisher, getting new covers, checking for errors. And it got me thinking about the books again. Ok, I'll just say it - I like reading my own books. The characters are like family to me after all of this time. And it has been a very long time.

I started writing the series when my second child was just a wee one. He is now 27. That's a long time. I didn't actually publish anything until the late 1990's though. That was when epublishing was in its infancy, just getting started. And all I heard was that no one wanted to read books on the computer. No one. Everyone wanted print. Now?

Well, no one seems to want print anymore. I have stacks of printed books in my closet that I can't give away. Now, everything is electronic.

I was also a little disillusioned by my own expectations. Of course, all artists have them - the expectations. We'll be famous. People will want to read our stuff. People will rave about it. We'll be in a warm, happy glow for years and years. And the money wouldn't hurt either.

But it soon became apparent that what I envisioned didn't happen. Sure, I had really nice reviews, I won a few awards for small press, I sold some books, my name is in a lot of places on the internet. But it didn't seem like I had envisioned it at all. I wanted more. But I didn't know what more I wanted.

Then came the piracy of my books. Lots of it. I was told I should be happy - people were reading my books, after all, and shouldn't that be enough? But, strangely, it wasn't really. I felt almost as if I was being mocked - yeah, we like your books - but only if they don't cost us anything. I became jaded. And sad.

I let that sadness eat at me. I quit.

I quit trying. I quit promoting. I quit writing. I haven't written anything new in over a year. It's not that I don't have creative juices still within me. I do. But every time I try to write, I think "why bother"? There are so many books out there, so many new authors, so much to read. How on earth will my little stories ever compete? Ever make it anywhere besides on my computer and in my dreams?

But now I'm back. I think it's time. Time to do something, time to move forward, time to start writing again. I hope so. Will anyone even read this?

I hope so. If anyone does, let me know.

And here's a picture just to end on a happy note:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Being Thankful

I suppose it's a little bit cliched to write about being thankful the day before Thanksgiving. But, too bad, I'm going to do it anyway.

So, here are a few things I am thankful for (and lets just assume that the top of the list is my family and my friends and my health, etc and go from there, shall we?)

1) Writing buddies. There's nothing like having someone you trust read your work and give feedback. It's a vital part of my writing process.

2) NaNoWriMo. This month long push to write 50,000 words has gotten me through a few first drafts of stories, when I might have stopped part way through, frustrated that the story was not going where I wanted. By forcing myself to push through, I found the story again.

3) Libraries. I could never afford to buy as many books as I would like to read (as much as I'd like to own them all).

4) The Internet and the way it helps me stay connected with far-flung friends and family.

5) Nice travel days (and it looks like we won't have one today as we head off to family in another state) - so I'll be thankful my car is in decent shape - and I'll be really thankful if we arrive there in a timely fashion.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Free Birds

I do movie reviews at my regular blog on Fridays. And since this one is an animated film, I thought I'd share it here first. :)

Free Birds


Starring: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, George Takei, Colm Meany, Keith David, Dan Fogler, Jimmy Hayward, Kaitlyn Maher, Carlos Alazraqui, Jeff Biancalana, Danny Carey, Carlos Ponce, and more.

Directed by: Jimmy Hayward Screenplay by: Jimmy Hayward and Scott Mosier Story by: David I. Stern and John J. Strauss Art Direction by: Kevin R. Adams Music by: Dominic Lewis

Premise: Reggie had found the perfect life after being chosen by the President's daughter as that years pardoned turkey and got taken to Camp David . That is until a fated evening when he's kidnapped by one of his own, a muscle bound turkey named Jake. And according to Jake, it's Reggie's destiny to come with him and help him use a top secret time machine to go back in time and stop turkey from becoming a holiday meal tradition. The Great Turkey told him so. (Rated PG)

Review:

1) Voice Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson are a lot of fun as Jake and Reggie. But 'hands down', it is George Takei who steals the spotlight as S.T.E.V.E. He was a total riot! Amy Poehler was cute as the chief's daughter Jenny. Kaitlyn Maher as the President's hyperactive daughter was utterly adorable.

2) Artwork/Animation - Total Thumbs Up: Reel FX Creative Studios did a great job with the animation. They brought in a lot of little touches to the film that made some of the visuals unique. I especially enjoyed the inventiveness with how the tukey use their wings. The time machine take off and travel scenes were quite spectacular and also very funny.

I thought it a neat touch, too, that the turkey from the past showed a lot of the same visual qualities as their indian neighbors. The animated jokes for Jake and Jenny's brother testing each other's manliness were both hilarious and disturbing.

3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: Reel FX did the 'most fun thing ever' just as the film began. First they freely admit to taking some liberties with the historical facts in the making of the film. Then they reassure us that talking turkey, however, are real! This seemingly small bit does wonders in setting the whole tone for the audience right from the start. And the fun only grows from there.

Several themes are explored and are interwoven through the film and characters - belonging, perceived happiness, loyalty, faith, guilt, acceptance. They do touch a few times on rather sobering items, but they don't linger on them and they actually add depth to the tale being told.

Kudos for how they decided to do the character of Jenny. Her lazy eye problem, while originally something which would be off putting, becomes a rather endearing trait by the end of the film. It also shows that one need not be perfect on the outside to be loved or appreciated by those around them.

No unexpected or innovative plot surprises, but plenty of time travel foolery - which made for a lot of fun. S.T.E.V.E. was the best idea ever. Though I have to say he seemed to quickly evolve into more than was originally intended. He even appeared to have a universal translator - a nice SF in-joke.) Plenty of SF and regular jokes, visual and not, for the parents and the kids.

Conclusion: "Free Birds" was quite enjoyable, especially with all the usual hijinks one can expect from a time travel movie. George Takei was a blast. Make sure to sit through at least part of the credits as there is an extra scene.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Kind of Town



Savannah, GA : Bonaventure cemetery - Embodies the South...
(I originally wrote this for my other blog, but since the whole experience is still so vivid for me, I thought I'd share it here, too.)

Savannah, GA : Madison Square - Poetter Hall SCAD Admissions
Normally, the next word in the line "My kind of town" is "Chicago," and normally, that would apply to me. I grew up in Chicago and have called it, and the area around it, my home for my entire life. But last week, my husband and I were treated to another town that is definitely one of my kind, as they say.
 
Welcome to Savannah, Georgia, the most haunted city in America. When I first read that claim, I was somewhat skeptical. I know, me skeptical? What's up with that? But I was thinking, how could Savannah possibly be more haunted than New Orleans? Or Washington, DC? Or St. Augustine? San Francisco? Even my own stomping grounds, Chicago? We've had so many disasters here it's not even funny. But when we took a ghost tour of the historic district, well, I guess I found out.
 
For one thing, Savannah is a massive burial ground. Literally. The city is built on a burial ground and even if you haven't seen the movie "Poltergeist," I'm willing to bet you know that such a site choice does not have the makings for a peaceful, placid kind of place. Secondly, there is all kinds of history in Savannah, from the first encounter with the indigenous people, through the Revolutionary War, piracy, slavery, and the Civil War. There is more history there than you can shake a stick at, and why would you want to? You might accidentally invite something, if you shake a stick at it.
 
No kidding. The ghost tour Jim and I booked stopped off at some of the more disturbed locations in the city. The Pirate house, where people were literally shanghaid into service on the seas. Or simply murdered, if that's what suited the folks behind these goings-on. The Sorrel-Weed house, that was featured on one of my favorite TV shows, Ghost Hunters. It was the site of the show's first live Halloween broadcast and some of what occurred that night was enough to drive away at least one of the site's employees, we were told. The house on Abercorn that is owned but not lived in. No one is allowed to live in it. Women are even cautioned against approaching the place, it is so malevolent. I'm not an idiot- I kept my distance from the place. Dave, our tour guide, told story after story as we drove through and around the historic district, and encouraged picture taking just to see what would wind up on the photos. (And for the second time in our ghost-tour taking history, Jim captured something in a picture that we can't quite explain. LOVE IT!!!)
 
But the one, true reason Savannah is my kind of town? People talk about ghosts there the same way they talk about the weather. I have a belief that everyone has a ghost story. The folks there seem to have several apiece, some more than that, and they aren't shy about sharing their tales. There's no hesitation before they launch into their narratives. There is no embarrassment or quick peeks to see if you are looking at them with skeptical eyes or disdainful expressions. No, they just tell you what they saw, when, where, and then go right on with the conversation about restaurants or sweet tea or what have you. And I REALLY LOVE THAT.
 
We were only there for a couple of nights and we both agree we'd go back in a heartbeat. We both want to know more of the history. I know Jim wants to explore the river and maybe eat more of their amazing seafood. And me? I want as many ghost stories as I can handle. Absolutely my kind of town. 
 
 (Pictures from the Savannah, Georgia Photo Album website. Top: Bonaventure Cemetery. Below that: Madison Square-Poetter Hall)

Friday, November 8, 2013

How Awards Matter

This month's blog post is slightly related to my blog post in September about a possible YA Hugo Award. I'm back from attending the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, UK, where, among the various discussion and book launch parties and award presentations there was a panel entitled "Do Awards Really Matter?" Panelists included Elizabeth Bear, Pat Cadigan, Ellen Datlow, Tricia Sullivan and Melanie Tem. (Neil Gaiman was also supposed to be on the panel, but he had to present a Life Achievement Award elsewhere at that time. Huh.)

The panel summary was "It seems that these days everybody and their dog are giving out awards on the basis of general popularity, being a member of a group, or decided by a panel of judges. But just how important is any award to a writer's career, and is it ever ethical to actively campaign for your own work?"

It was interesting to have a discussion of this topic at this convention, being that the convention had the meetings of two societies - The British Fantasy Society and the World Fantasy Board - and both societies' annual award ceremonies. What was odd, though, is that the panelists all mentioned that the awards they had won had not benefited them in any way that they had noticed (except for those awards that had money as part of the award). Awards to them were a matter of recognition of their work, that "someone is reading" as one panelist mentioned.

As someone who won awards as well (and granted, an EPPIE for Best Fantasy and a Dream Realm Award for Best Anthology is not in the same league as a Hugo or a Campbell or a Locus Award), I agree that the recognition is nice. But I do think the panel might have benefited from having either a small press author or a librarian to join in on the conversation. It struck me that someone from a traditional publishing house might be noticing only the short term and totally overlooking what those from small press have been encouraged to see as "Long Tail". One of the panelists did mention that there had been an small increase in sales of the book that had won the award, but it hadn't affected the sales of her other books. There was also a polling of the audience to see who among the audience paid attention to awards in regard to their book purchases (the answer, oddly enough at a convention where several awards were being given out, was very few. But this could be because people attending purchased books when they came out and not a year later when awards were announced).

As a librarian, one thing I've noticed over the years is that award winning books tend to stay in print. Of course, it depends on the award. Caldecott and Newbery Award winners and nominees are carried by public libraries, school libraries, and academic libraries (if the university in question has an education department and classes in children's literature). When I tried to replace books that had been damaged or stolen, I had problems replacing books that had been published more than a year ago. I never had any problems replacing Caldecott and Newbery award winners and nominees, however. Books published even fifty years ago are still in print, both because they were award winners and because people still wish to study them. When the English Department at my university developed a science fiction class (finally!), I found that Hugo Award winners are often still available, though the older ones are not republished as often as those which won awards for children's books. I have no information on how fantasy or horror award winners have done.

So, though some of these award winners are not noticing any benefits now, in the long run, they may. I only hope that some convention will re-examine that topic when they do. I've already noticed that some conventions ask in their participant questionnaires if the person has won any awards. But perhaps that's more for the benefit of the convention and their advertising.

What do you think about awards? Do you pay attention when purchasing a book? Do you nominate books for awards and root for particular authors?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

KILLING YOUR CHARACTERS

What do you think about killing the characters in your stories? Should an author do so? Are there certain times it's best? Or is that a no-no, most times?

Recently, in my WIP, I killed one of my characters. He wasn't the main character, but he was one of the major characters and important to the story. One of my critique partners, however, was not thrilled with what I had done. In fact, she hated the story after that. Whoa! Had I made a bad mistake?

Not long after that, a book in a series that I was reading did the same thing. The author did away with one of the major characters, and I felt the same way my crit partner had. I thought he should have survived. His death really disturbed me. So the ending of the series was ruined, in my opinion.

After these startling revelations,I revised my story and brought the character back to life. And you know what? The ending is much better, I believe. The reason for his survival is stronger than his death was. Recently I read a neat article entitled "Don't Kill the Dog." I loved it. The author says that in her book, the dog dies. She thought it would help her character grow and change when mourning the loss of her dog. The author's beta readers questioned if the dog had to die, as did her agent, and one editor told her a pet peeve of the editor was reading a story where the dog died. Yikes! Finally, the loss of her own dog recently made the author wonder about her story. To read the whole article go Query Tracker. It's great.

So how about you? Have you ever killed one of you main characters? If so, how did you feel about it?

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Other news: My short story "Music in My Heart" is included in the anthology CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL, MIRACULOUS MESSAGES FROM HEAVEN.

 
HAPPY READING!
 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The New Edition...of my first book...is HERE!!

As I was typing the title I had an 80's flashback, sorry.

But this week I am celebrating the release of a brand new edition of my first book. The original title was Talisman of Zandria,  but we've added The to the new one. It's got a brand-new cover, which is SUPER cute (I personally love the dragon silhouette), and a new trim size (I think, I don't yet have hard copies in my hands), and a ton of new material.

When I wrote this book the first time, I really had pretty much no idea what I was doing. Looking back it's fairly impressive that it was published at all, even though I had put a ton of work into it, going to online critique sites and sending it out -- IN hardcopy, because back then hardly anyone was taking e-subs. I printed and mailed I don't know how many query letters and samples, only to get the form rejection letters. Good times, good times. But a tiny little publisher in Pittsburgh picked it up, and the rest is...you know.

So when the rights to the Zandria books were returned to me, I had to decide what to do. I was still selling copies at events, everywhere I went. I still had kids tell me how they loved it. Could I let it go? I still love this story, and so decided that I would apply my ten years of writing knowledge to this old manuscript.

I think it's better than before. It's certainly longer, with a whole lot more interesting things to see and smell and read. I added a lot of dialogue, and I am pretty sure it's a MUCH better book. Those who read the first edition will see the change right away, and those who never did, I hope enjoy it.

It's available now on Amazon in Kindle , Nook and Dead Tree formats, and look for it soon at the Publisher's Website.

In other news, for the first time in probably I don't know how many years, I am attempting NaNoWriMo. I will be racing to get the first edition of the LAST Library of Athena book completed, so that next year at this time I'm talking about its release!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

It's that special time of the year. That time we all look forward to. It's time to write a novel in a month. Yes. National Novel Writing Month (November), or familiarly known as NaNo is upon us once again.

NaNoWriMo is for everyone who thinks they have a book in them trying to get out. It doesn't matter if you write every day and have multiple series published, or are just thinking this is something you might like to try.

The main website give you a way to track your progress, to connect with other participants and it even has pep talks from other writers.

I like participating in NaNo because writing can so often be solitary, and when you check in every day with your word count and to see what others are up to, it feels like you are all in this together. And you are.

So, give it a try. Write that novel you've always wanted to write.

And if you sign up. Look me up. I'm there as ChristineKM.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Read Between the Lynes
BETWEEN THE LYNES BOOKSTORE, WOODSTOCK, IL
 
A very great friend of mine has talked a bookstore owner she knows into letting me have a book signing. (Thank you, Eileen Millard!)
This is phenomenal for many reasons: 1) No one knows me from Adam. 2) I am not a NY Times best seller. 3) Because of the first two reasons, I am not necessarily going to draw a huge crowd or boost store sales.
On the other hand, because of my subject matter, having a book signing the weekend before Halloween probably makes sense. There is always the off chance that someone will buy a book, even if it's not one of mine. Also, the signing is dove-tailing with the town's Haunted House in the middle of the square, so people may come in looking for a scary story. That would be lovely.
I am excited about this because for the first time, I actually have more than one book to put on display. I actually have three, not even including the one that's out of print, so at least people have a choice. I'm also excited because both the book store owner and Eileen-who-facilitated-this are going to market this event! This is something amazing, because I am *clueless* when it comes to marketing. I don't think like marketing people do, which is unfortunate, since that is a good way to drive book sales. But it's a hard thing to learn.I saw the results of a personality inventory once that put "writer" and "marketer" at exact opposites of a spectrum of personality traits, and I believe it.
Have you ever been to an author fest? The kind where they have about twenty authors you probably have never heard of all together in one place for a mass book sale/signing? (Or in my case, mass hope/depression. If I sell one book at one of these events, it pretty much makes my day.) If you've ever gone to one of these things, you will see there are some authors who are very comfortable meeting and greeting passers-by. And there are other authors who will either have the heads stuck in books or will be writing something, basically ignoring anyone in the immediate vicinity. Obviously, the latter model is not the way to sell anything, but I assure you, it is also the comfort zone of the average writer. Think about it. We are people who like to hang out alone in a room and write. I mean, what normal person does that?
But I have been trying to get better about marketing, and about meeting and greeting the public, whether they want me to or not. To that end, I smile, engage in small talk, frequently put out a bowl of chocolate candy to entice people to drop by, AND, if someone buys a book, I do a freebie-quickie palm reading.This may not be the most efficient or successful way to close a sale, but hey, shy, reserved, writer/hermit me can live with it.
If you're in the vicinity, Read Between The Lynes book store in  Woodstock, Illinois, owned by Arlene Lynes, is hosting me for the signing on Friday, October 25, starting at 7 pm. Drop by! And I'll remember to bring the picture of Michael Penfield...

Friday, October 11, 2013

What If?

Writers often say that they use ‘What If’ to trigger a story. It can be used over several genres, starting with children’s books. What if animals could talk? What if a snowman came alive? What if the Vikings had continued settling North America? What if the dinosaurs hadn’t died out? The possibilities are limited only by a writer’s imagination. The triggers for the 'what if' can be in news stories, science papers, or even events that happen in everyday life.

I’ve done it myself. What if an alien decides to attend college on Earth? What if a wizard ended up in a garage sale? (that one went in a different direction than I had planned) What if a meteor shower hid something else? (Hmm, I tend to use that one a lot).

Science fiction tends to rely on a number of ‘what if’s as basic. What if faster than light travel existed? (And FTL communication is possible). What if psi powers do exist? (That ‘what if’ started off in science fiction when I first started reading it, but now it seems to have migrated into fantasy.) What if there are other lifeforms in the universe?

Not only is ‘what if’ a good way to start the idea behind a story, it’s also a good way to continue or add threats or twists. Lois McMaster Bujold, for example, has her "worst-possible-thing guideline" (Sidelines: Talks and Essays, 2013) - i.e., "what is the worst possible thing I could do to this character?" For some YA and children's stories, this could be rephrased as "what is the most embarrassing thing I could do to this character?"

What are some 'What if?' triggers that you have used as a writer or enjoyed as a reader?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A PIRATE, A BLOCKADE RUNNER, AND A CAT VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR

Hi, Everyone. The Virtual Book Tour for my Tween Paranormal novel A PIRATE, A BLOCKADE RUNNER, AND A CAT started on Monday. If you have a chance, please stop by some of the awesome blogs that are hosting me and join in the fun. I enjoy reading your comments and will answer as best I can. The schedule is below. Thanks. See you there.



A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat VBT Schedule
October 7th
 
 
 
October 8th
 
 
Author interview at Blogcritics
 
 
 
October 9th
 
 
Author interview at As the Pages Turn
 
 
 
October 10th
 
 
Author interview at Between the Covers
 
 
 
October 11th
 
 
Author interview at The Dark Phantom Review
 
 
 
October 14th
 
 
Guest post at Authors and Appetizers
 
 
 
October 15th
 
 
Author interview at Broowaha
 
 
 
October 16th
 
 
 
 
 
October 17th
 
 
Author interview at Examiner
 
 
 
October 18th
 
 
Guest post at Literarily Speaking
 
 
 
October 21st
 
 
 
 
 
October 22nd
 
 
Book spotlight at The Writer’s Life
 
 
 
October 23rd
 
 
Guest post at Penny’s Tales
 
 
 
October 24th
 
 
Book spotlight at Cheryl’s Book Nook
 
 
 
October 25th
 
 
Book spotlight at Review from Here
 
 
 
 
October 28th
 
 
 
Book review at This Kid Reviews Books 
 
 
 
October 29th
 
 
Book review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
 
 
 
October 31st
 
 
Book tour highlights at The Book Rack
 
 
Thanks for your visit.
Happy Reading


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October and Haunted Houses

It's October and that means at my daughter's high school thoughts in the choir room turn to Haunted Houses. That's because the big fundraiser for the choirs is the Haunted House they stage annually.

And what does this have to do with writing?

The kids team up in groups of about six and have to come up with the "story" for their room in the haunted house. Last year the overall them
e was Circus - so within that they needed to create and decorate and figure out a way to scare the customers.

This year the theme is "expect the unexpected". So each team is going to have to come up with something for their room based on that parameter.

But isn't that simply great story telling. Expect the unexpected.

What is going to happen next? What does the reader expect is going to happen next? Do something different. Keep them guessing, keep them wanting more, don't let the story telling become complacent.

Expect the Unexpected. And maybe throw in some creepy clowns to really get things going.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pictures of Texas

Howdy all!

Life has been chaos. It's weird, but seems to occur more often than expected. lol. My plate runeth over - It's amazing how often I feel that way. Probably because I do have too much to do. But so do most of us.

Anyway, a nice way to relax from the ever present stress of life, work, marketing, and yes, having fun, is to look at beautiful things. And nature is so awesome as to present them to us on a regular basis - all we have to do is stop long enough to take a look.


As fall approaches, the sunrises have been so very colorful lately!


So many lovely hues. 



Gopher playing a guitar?



I keep having to remind myself to look before I step inside work or I'll forget to drink in the sunrise. 




Can you see the metal cranes?



This ship was an accidental and totally awesome find! Wish I could have spent more time looking and photographing it, but it was in a working side of the restaurant. So cool!

Hope you have an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Write What You Know!"

I think nearly every writing class I've ever taken always included, somewhere, the admonishment to "write what I know." When I was a junior in college, I was somewhat confused by this because I kept thinking, well, what do I know? I'd never experienced war or famine. I had a pretty normal childhood with an intact family (no divorce, no abuse, no drama) and I had pretty normal friends as well. So did that mean I needed to write about boring? And did that mean that all the murder mystery writers I read knew about killing someone???

Since college, I have had the chance to experience all manner of things, some good, and some not very, but I suppose in the right hands, a lot of those experiences could contribute to fine stories. The problem, if it is a problem, is that I'm still writing about things that aren't necessarily what I know.  I've never set a story around a crisis hotline, even though I answered phones for one for nearly two years. I've had martial arts instruction for quite a few years, but nothing of the sort has ever entered into one of my books. I finished a program in sign language interpreting and have yet to include anything about interpreting or Deaf culture in a story. And I wonder, why is that?

Maybe writing about things I know meant things a little closer to home: emotional truths, fears, anxieties, personal little joys? I look back on some of my work and think that I may not have included martial arts, but I sure covered disappointing my parents. I have never used anything from my years of answering phone calls from runaways, potential suicides, and troubled souls addicted to all manner of substances, but I sure as heck wrote quite a lot about self-acceptance. And while I may never include Deaf culture in my work -leaving that particular topic in the hands of experts- I have certainly not shied away from writing about life in a haunted house.

I guess I am writing what I know, just not everything I know. Maybe if I keep writing, eventually I will get around to the other things I understand, just from having walked around this planet for all these years. And then again, maybe there will always be the things I know but choose not to share, even in something as intimate and soul-baring as a work of fiction.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Discussions on a possible YA Hugo Award

I attended WorldCon this year and specifically went to the business meeting of the WSFS ("World Science Fiction Society") as I heard that discussion of a YA Hugo was on the schedule. This has come up at least three years in a row, now, and I wanted to hear why it kept being dismissed. Yet at the preliminary meeting on Friday, the topic of the YA Hugo award was dismissed with an "Object To Consideration". Which meant it wasn't even going to be discussed. Just dropped.

I was so irritated that I simply left the meeting at that point. I've since learned that later in the meeting, someone more canny with Roberts Rules of Order managed to get a committee formed to discuss the notion of a YA Hugo. I hope this means that something will come of it (though my experience in a university usually translates "there will be a committee to discuss" something as "we'll talk it to death until people give up and go away"). Maybe the Roberts Rules sticklers will format the wording in a way more acceptable to the WSFS. One can only hope.

Since this is at least the third year in a row that the topic has come up, there's already been a good deal of discussion on it. Some claim that having a YA Hugo Award will bring more young adults to WorldCon. I'm not hopeful of that, but since there are many *adult* readers of YA, maybe more of those will show up in support of YA authors in attendance. LoneStarCon 3 had at least two YA panels ("Giving Science a Boost with YA SF" and "YA Fantasy - We'll Always be 13 at Heart") that were packed, so YA is popular with WorldCon attendees.

I don't really have a horse in this race. Although I'm a YA author, I'm with a small press, and it seems that only the bigger, traditional publishing houses have the distribution to bring their YA books and authors to the notice of those who will nominate and vote on the award.

That's a major factor in this discussion.

This isn't the Mythopoeic Award, the Newbery Award or the Printz. It's not the EPIC eBook Award or the Nebulas. All of these are juried awards, all looking for particular criteria which signifies the "best" for those awards. No, instead, the Hugo Award is what is considered to be a "popular" award. For the Hugo award, works are nominated and voted on by those attending and/or supporting the WorldCon for a particular year. Those people voting for the awards are readers, watchers, authors, editors - *anyone* attending or supporting that WorldCon. Yet the arguments I've heard against a YA Hugo suggests that any book nominated would supposedly (by some objectors) have to be held to a higher standard, something that would be on reading lists for schools for years to come. I would think that would have to be left to those librarians and teachers who compose the reading lists, not voters for the Hugos.

There are those who complain that a YA Award was "tried" years ago. According to the WSFS notes, it was "tried" back in 1989 and the "nominating response was too low" to make it to the final ballot. However, this was before the rise in popularity in YA, back before the first Harry Potter book was published. (The WSFS note is from 2000, when one Harry Potter book had been nominated). The image of YA by both the publishing industry and the reading public has changed since then.

Another argument has been that it's much more prestigious for a YA book to be judged as a "Best Novel" in competition with adult novels. Indeed, one of the Harry Potter books (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) won the Hugo for Best Novel in 2001, after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban made it into the nominations in 2000. In 2009, there were three books considered YA among the five nominations (The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, and Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi) and one of them(The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman) won. John Scalzi blogged about the uproar and grumbling back then.

So, if on one hand it's okay for YA books to be in competition with adult books, but on the other hand, people have a problem with a YA book being considered the "Best of" a particular year, why can't there be a YA/Middle Grade category? This is more an age division then, rather than a "subgenre" as some claim. Jane Yolen was interviewed back in 2012 about a YA Hugo and mentioned that YA authors would welcome another award category.

Here's what bears repeating. The Andre Norton awards (part of the Nebulas) are decided upon by SFWA members and a jury. The Golden Duck Awards (for Best Children and YA Science Fiction) are decided upon by a jury and the categories only cover through twelfth grade. The Hugo Awards, as a popular award, is one chance for YA readers (adult and younger) to vote on what they consider "The Best".

Peta Freestone posted similar points on her site, along with the points that the 2009 nominations weren't exactly considered "YA". Gaiman's book also won the Newbery Award, the Carnegie Award and the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel, so those three groups considered it YA/Children.

So, how will YA books be identified? One person who was working on the proposal suggested that what is listed on the copyright page, what division of the publisher would be a determining point. That would work for the traditional publishers, who are big enough to have a separate division for each category of publication. It wouldn't work for small press (if it ever happened that a small press would get enough exposure to be nominated). At that point, the publisher's page should be considered - what category on the publisher's page is the book listed under. Cheryl Morgan back in 2010 recommended letting those making the nomination decide, which also sounds like a good idea, but probably not to those wanting solid rules.

For more details on this year's attempt at the YA Hugo and some more arguments, here is a link.

Yet another complaint about a YA Hugo is that it would make the awards ceremony much longer than it already is. Sorry, but as someone who has attended both the Hugos and the EPIC eBook Awards (EPIC is an organization of *ebook* publishers and authors, so practically every category is included), the Hugo Awards ceremony was short. The biggest thing taking up time at the Hugos was all the picture taking and waiting for the nominees to come in from dinner. Has anyone considered having the formal dinner start earlier?

The Hugo Rules allow for a trial year for a category. Those categories that aren't renewed within three years get dropped. Perhaps the time has come for a trial year for the YA Hugo.

As a YA reader, there are many YA authors (small press and traditional) I would love to see recognized in the SF community.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

CLIFFHANGERS: LOVE 'EM OR HATE 'EM

Writers talk a lot about beginnings. The beginning of a story. The beginning of a scene. Yes, the beginning is very important. A good beginning draws the reader in, makes the reader want to know more about the characters and their problems. The reader wants to feel like they’re right there with the character(s) feeling their emotions and trying to figure out what to do about their troubles.

Then comes the ending, of a story, a scene, or a chapter. The ending is what I love, especially a cliffhanger ending. According to Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, a cliffhanger is: “… a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction. A cliffhanger is hoped to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma. The two main ways for cliffhangers to keep readers coming back is to either involve characters in a suspenseful, possibly life-threatening situation, or to feature a sudden shocking revelation.”



I love to read a book with cliffhanger endings for the chapters. When I’m dying to see what happens next, I’ll read one more chapter, even though it’s way past midnight and I can barely keep my eyes open. This is the way I hope readers will feel about my stories. They just want to read one more chapter, then the next, and the next. Here are some of my favorite cliffhanger chapter endings from my novels.


From SECRETS I HAVE KEPT, ya mystery:


“In here,” Casey whispered, and nudged Jen into the coat closet. He squeezed in beside her. The dog scampered between her legs.

Casey hauled the closet door shut at the exact instant she heard the outer door open.

From JUST BREEZE, tween contemporary:


I crossed my heart. I’d never squeal on my sister. The car would speak for itself, however. Noah was good, but it would take a lot of hammering to hide those dents.

From CAVES, CANNONS, AND CRINOLINES, ya historical


The iron gate at the end of the sidewalk squeaked as Nat pushed through it. My greeting never passed my lips, for he laid his head on my lap. He said only one word: “Lizzie.”

Do you have favorite cliffhangers? If so, tell us about them.

Happy Reading. And remember, keep the reader guessing what happens next.

 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sometimes You Just Have to Wait

                          

The last year, writing-wise, has been a long one for me. I had an agent, and then I didn't. I don't want to get into all the whys of what happened, but part of it was that I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with my work. Did I want to continue big-time publication, which you can pretty much only do with an agent, or focus on good small publishers. My job takes up a lot of time now, and writing wasn't as much of a focus for me last spring. I felt kind of out of control, and I had this book that I've had over three years that I just wanted to be published already. I was stagnating (which I think I talked about last spring). I was stressed out and freaking out and feeling completely overwhelmed.



I thought I had an idea of what was going to happen eventually, but I was letting it ride over the summer. I submitted to a few small publishers, mostly because of requests I got during a pitch contest that I entered on a whim. One publisher I really was interested in rejected, but said I could revise and resubmit...if I pretty much changed the entire ending of the book and ripped out its heart. Uh, thanks, but no thanks.

But at some point, a friend pointed me in the direction of Jordy Albert, of the Booker Albert Literary Agency. I read her bio, and it was like someone was screaming to send me the manuscript. We like all the same things, she wants the kind of thing I have written.

And after some waiting, and getting some offers on the manuscript, which I turned over to Jordy, she offered me representation. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am. She is working with me now on revising the manuscript (with some excellent suggestions), and I really think she has what it takes to get the book in the hands of the publisher who will do the best by it. It's a really good feeling.

                               
I stumbled, I fell, and I got back up. I've stepped back and looked at the big picture. And I'm ready to move forward.

It can still happen.