Thursday, February 28, 2013

4 YA Books Worth Your Notice

A few months back I started a new blog site called Spellbindings. I use this site to promote others’ books. Some of them I review and add my opinion and many have rafflecopter giveaways included. Here are just a few of the better books I’ve read lately and thought you might enjoy.

A Cast of Stones
By Patrick W. Carr

An Epic Medieval Saga Fantasy Readers Will Love

In the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone's search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who arrives with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he's joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.
Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom's dynasty is near an end and a new king must be selected. As tension and danger mount, Errol must leave behind his drunkenness and grief, learn to fight, and come to know his God in order to survive a journey to discover his destiny.

My Opinion, for what it's worth:
This is the best book I've read in a year of reading excellent and not-so-much fiction. The tension begins in the first paragraph and continues nonstop as you sit on the edge of your seat, anxiously turning pages to see what will happen next to little Errol. And the writing is exquisite. I'm a real stickler for proper grammar, well-worded sentences and paragraphs and "show don't tell". This book lives up to ALL of those expectations in spades. Reading it on my Kindle Fire, I highlighted descriptions or battles or scenes I found particularly well done. Often I found myself highlighting several pages at a time!!

Jack Templar: Monster Hunter
by Jeff Gunhus

Orphan Jack Templar has no memory of his parents and only the smallest details from his Aunt Sophie about how they died. The day before Jack's fourteenth birthday, things start to change for him. At first it's great: A sudden new strength helps him defend his nose-picking friend "T-Rex" from the school bully, and even his crush, Cindy Adams, takes notice. But then a mysterious girl named Eva arrives and tells him two facts that will change his life forever. First, that he's the descendent of a long line of monster hunters and he's destined to be in the family business. Second, that there's a truce between man and monster that children are off-limits...until their fourteenth birthday! Jack has only one day before hundreds of monsters will descend on his little town of Sunnyvale and try to kill him.

As if that weren't enough, things get even more complicated when Jack discovers that the Lord of the Creach (as the monsters are collectively known) holds a personal grudge against him and will do anything to see that Jack has a slow and painful death. To stay alive and save his friends, Jack will have to battle werewolves, vampires, harpies, trolls, zombies and more. But perhaps the most dangerous thing he must face is the truth about his past. Why do the other hunters call him the last Templar? Why do they whisper that he may be the "One?" Why do the monsters want him dead so badly? Even as these questions plague him, he quickly discovers survival is his new full-time job and that in the world of monster hunters, nothing is really what it seems.

Review of Jack Templar: Monster Hunter

What a fun book this was to read! I tore right through the pages as the tension built with monster battle after battle and one surprise twist after another. This would be a terrific book for Middle Grade boys but even girls will enjoy the adventure.

Jack Templar, the last in his famous lineage of Monster Hunters, has a few surprises in store as he prepares to turn fourteen. But the monsters he’s due to hunt have even more surprises in store than he could imagine.

One word of caution about reading this book, however. Once read, you are a target for all of the monsters in the world—so be prepared or don’t read the book.

Elanraigh: The Vow
By S.A. Hunter

Only Thera of Allenholme hears the voice of forest-mind…and heeds its warning . Thera doesn’t know why the Elanraigh forest-mind chose her, of all the Allenholme folk, to hear its voice and to awaken her gifts of mind and spirit. The Elanraigh sends a warning dream; black sails swooping toward Allenholme from across the western sea—the Memteth, an ancient enemy, armed with blue fire that hungers to consume life. As Thera awakens to her gifts of bonding with raptor birds and reading hearts, the knowing; she also awakens to love. Will she choose Chamakin the young Ttamarini warrior who is a kindred in spirit to her, or the polished young nobleman who covets her beauty even more than her estate? Forest-mind is aware she is yet too young for such power and responsibility. It has no choice—the lives of all Thera’s people and the existence of the Elanraigh Forest itself, depend on Thera fulfilling her destiny. Can she learn what she must of gift, and heart, to survive what comes their way? 

My Review:

Wow! By the time I was twenty percent into this
story I knew I would love it.

And I did.

I have to say this is one of the best-written books I’ve
read lately. The writing is so descriptive and poetic it had me in tears at
several points. Read on my Kindle Fire, I highlighted huge passages I want to
go back and review to see how S. A. Hunter came up with such exquisite wording.
Look at this example:

“Here, far from the pearly mists of Bridal Veil
Falls, the sunlight slanted through the evergreens like sheets of molten
copper, illuminating the mossy trunks of the largest trees Thera had ever seen…She
approached the nearest forest giant. Its base was so wide that all of the
troop, finger-tip to finger-tip, could not have spanned its width. The sitka’s
huge base spread to grip the earth like the paw of some mythical beast.”

The story was cool, too.

I really enjoyed the mixture of Native cultural concepts
with Mythology and Wicca and Druidism and Fantasy. S. A. Hunter obviously did
her share of research in order to design such plausible cultures and rituals. I
felt every bit of the love Thera felt for the forest and the elementals, the
animals and plants.

But it wasn’t sappy. Thera is a genuine bad-ass
teenaged character with a lot of charm and … character. I wouldn’t mind knowing
her … or being her mother. She held her own in some pretty nasty battles and
the antagonists were truly disgusting.

Overall I flew through this book in a matter of
hours because I couldn’t stop turning the page to see what would happen next.

To get your copy of Elanraigh: The Vow please check out the following Amazon links:

by Debbie Brown

Fleeing their homes in the city, three teens find themselves on the run with little kids in tow. As people vanish and buildings crumble, they seek shelter in the nearby mountains. Survival depends on their ability to adapt with nothing more than the items pilfered from a crumbling store. Hovering in the background is the constant threat of being discovered by the aliens, adding to the pressure the teens feel having no shelter, a limited supply of food and the well-being of three children to ensure. They must come up with some creative solutions before the inevitable onset of winter, while attempting to remain “invisible” to avoid capture. Being mature and responsible is no longer optional as they deal with their individual personalities, traumas, and learn to raise a baby. Unaware of the extent of the alien destruction, they can’t help but wonder if all their efforts are in vain.

Rebecca’s Opinion:
The book, Rebirth, kept me turning pages one after another as I wondered how this group of children would fare on their own. Their city destroyed, families gone, they find one another and form a tight bond while surviving the Montana winter in the mountains and figuring out what happened to turn their lives upside down.
I enjoyed the characters very much and thought they reacted realistically in such a dire situation. It was fun having an infant included in the plotline, which was very unusual. I think my favorite character was six-year-old Ally. She’s one tough and smart cookie.
I also enjoyed the survival knowledge included throughout the story. I thought the character of Aleksei, the oldest kid and the one with all of the survival knowledge, was a good combination of smarts and confusion.
My biggest problem came in the second third of the book when things started coming together and the reasons for everything were revealed. It felt too preachy and forced. I think the message the author was trying to get across could have been said once or twice instead of the thick layering.
This book would be excellent for Middle Graders and I think they would enjoy the survival aspect as well as the adventure. I think readers of YA fiction would find it too slow and preachy.

To get your copy of Rebirth please check out the following Amazon links:
UK: Rebirth
USA: Rebirth

Rebecca Ryals Russell
MG/YA Fantasy Author

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Goody, goody! A royalty check arrives in the mail or is deposited in my Paypal account. Time to go shopping. Let me see. What can I buy for a buck fifty? A candy bar? A birthday card? A couple of cans of cat food? Now I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’m thankful for every penny my books earn and I exaggerated a little. When my royalties from all my books add up it’s somewhat better. Oh, I can’t go purchase a new car, but there are ways to add to my writing income without spending a couple of years on a novel. I can write magazine articles or short stories for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Chicken Soup stories are usually less than 500 words and pay $100 to $200 plus 10 copies of the book. Pretty nice income for a few words and the subject matter covers many topics. I was fortunate to have my story “Traveler” published in What I Learned from the Dog. They’ve also rejected three other stories I sent them. But you know the old saying, never give up, so I’m working on a story for a future book.

Traveler is a little stray blue healer that showed up one day and mooched off of every household around. He finally chose us, or rather our son that lives on the road behind us. Traveler still comes around for a handout, and he made a great subject for my story.

They have a call out for two subjects due in March: "Devotional Stories for Wives" and "Miraculous Messages from Heaven 101 Stories of Eternal Love, Powerful Connections, and Divine Signs from Beyond." See more at Select the Submit Your Story link on the left tool bar and follow the directions. It will show topics they’re interested in and how to submit.

This is a nice way to pick up extra cash. I’m crossing my fingers this time. They receive hundreds of submissions so it’s tough. But that’s a challenge, like with submitting a novel manuscript, and writers enjoy a challenge, right?

So try something different every now and then. It's fun and you might earn extra money.

Good luck.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Being a Storyteller using Tarot Cards

I read Tarot Cards. There, I said it. I don't do it all the time, and I do it for fun and not as something I use to run my life. When I read for other people I am always careful to make sure they understand it's for entertainment purposes and that I am not telling them to skip town and start a new life under an assumed name in Bora Bora. 

Unless, of course, they're actually into that. But then that's their decision, not mine. Whatever. The point is, that when I read the cards, I tell a story. I had this discussion with a fairly famous agent at the last NJSCBWI conference over dinner, and he, surprisingly, was fascinated by the way I described it. I don't read just one card, but try to see how they all connect together. 

I tell you this because there are writers who use cards to plot a story. Not me. But I find that reading cards and telling a complete story is really great for flexing my storytelling muscles, finding the one aspect of this card and seeing how it fits into the others that have come up, like fitting puzzled pieces together. Sort of the way that really good stories seem to come together. 

I have several decks, but my favorite is the Steampunk Deck. I have a Fairy Tale deck that I also like, but that is harder for me to work with. Who knows why. My favorite thing about the Fairy Tale deck is for me to know the story behind the image (and some are pretty obscure) in order to see why the artist chose it, what part of the story connects to the meaning of that card. Little Match Girl, for example, is the Three of Swords. It's a card of heartache, three swords through a heart. The Little Match Girl is a perfect story to depict heartache (and always makes me cry). 

 Anyway, if you want to learn to read Tarot to help with your writing, I recommend it. You don't even have to learn the meanings of the cards, if you don't want to. Get a deck with pretty pictures (I recommend ones with actual humans, not Cat People or Dragon or anything) and study the pictures and try to come up with a story that goes along with them. Soon you'll be piecing together all kinds of stuff, and maybe story construction will become easier for you.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Oh wow

I have a bad case of the "forgot"s.

I forgot to take my usual meds yesterday morning.

I forgot my son's dentist appointment.

I forgot my own physical therapy appointment.

I forgot to post in this blog on my day.

I forgot how to get to this blog so I could post on this blog on my day.

I have, on occasion, forgotten to eat.

I have forgotten what I was going to type next.

Early Alzheimer's? Probably not.

More like life. I've posted before about how life seems to be moving so fast. I'm not so sure it really is fast. More like diversion filled.

Lots of diversions - going off in every which away.

New puppy to train.

Elderly mother to look after.

Hospital visits - doctor visits.

Disabled son to look after and drive around.

Craft fair items to make.

Craft fair booth to design - again.

The usual cleaning, shopping, errands, bill-paying, etc.

And then there are the millions, okay thousands, of little decisions to make all day, everyday. I live at the mercy of my calendar - and puppy bladders.

Sometimes, I think we are too hard on ourselves when we forget. We immediately think that there is something wrong, that we have an incurable illness, that we are going to slip into a dark abyss and never see the light of day again. Instead, I think maybe there are just a lot of things going on in this world of instant messaging, instant news, instant contact.

I was listening to one of my favorite songs the other day and finally looked up the meaning. He mentioned that his mother lived in a remote area and had no telephone, no email, no post stop. Complete isolation - unless, she received real time visitors. You remember those? They used to come over and sit for a spell, have coffee or tea, maybe a snack or two. Now, everything is electronic and we don't know what to do with ourselves should the power fail.

I was on the bus the other day, and I glanced up from my cell phone to see that almost everyone around me was also on their phones - reading, listening to music, texting. In the old days, you would occasionally start up a conversation with the person seated next to you. No more. I've seen teens texting each other while seated next to each other.

So, I guess in this hurried, electronic world, it's not surprising that we forget stuff on occasion. And heaven help us if our internal, or external, calendar get out of sync as often happens with holidays - or when someone stays home sick and you think it's a Sunday and not a Monday and you start missing appointments, because well, since Monday was Sunday, then Tuesday was Monday, and Wednesday...and, well, you forget to post on your day on the blog.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Creating Characters

One thing a story needs is believable characters.

They don't always have to be lovable, or someone you would want to hang out with, but you have to believe that the character would behave exactly the way the character is behaving or the character loses credibility.

To achieve this you have to know your characters.

The first step is in knowing what your character looks like. I love for this. I found this picture which I used as my inspiration for my character Ali.
I was lucky that the cover artist was able to use this same picture on the cover, therefore everyone knows just what Ali is supposed to look like. 

But even if you have a picture you should know more than just the character's eye color and hair color. You need to delve a little deeper. One way that I do this is by having my character write an essay entitled "Who Am I". It's a cheesy writing assignment apparently given by every teacher my characters have. 

This allows me to get into the head of my characters and find out what makes them tick, and not just in relation to the story at hand.

Lately I've been revisiting a historical fiction piece I've been working on now and then. I found pictures for all my main players and am now busy trying to find out a little more about them. Of course this is complicated by the fact that my story is set in 1775 and these characters would naturally have different concerns than teens today, or even teens back in the day when I was a teen.

I'm hoping that by getting a good grip on each of the main characters I'll get a firmer idea of exactly where the story is going and how to get it there. As each character becomes more real to me and reveals more of their hidden depth, the story also grows in depth.

It's a win-win.

What do you do to help create believable characters?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crazy Bitch -- now in ebook!

Most of you know me as a children's book writer. This time around I stretched my writing muscle and wrote a dogoir -- a dog memoir -- Crazy Bitch: Living with Canine Compulsive Disorder which was just released in Kindle edition by Sisterhood Publications. I'm always looking for reviewers. If you would like a review copy send an email to:

Meet Venus, a beautiful white mixed breed. Part Akbash, part Lab, part lady, part tramp, part clown, part escape artist, part guard dog, part wild dog, part grizzly bear … she had more personalities than Sybil, the most famous psychiatric patient in the world. Meet Zeus, the kind and gentle Alaskan Malamute who was the love of her life. Venus and Zeus loved hiking and skijoring in the mountains. They enjoyed swimming and boating together. They shared a life most dogs dream of – until everything changed.

With a diagnosis of canine compulsive disorder as her singular clue, Peggy Tibbetts embarked on an investigation into every detail of Venus’s life as it unraveled. What began as a case study of her dog’s mental disease led to a hard lesson in the golden rule of dog behaviorists. There are no bad dogs, only bad people. Crazy Bitch is a complex love story between two big dogs. Venus and Zeus will make you laugh while they break your heart.

Now available in ebook at

Peggy Tibbetts

Crazy Bitch ~
a dogoir
Letters to Juniper ~
2012 Colorado Book Award Finalist
PFC Liberty Stryker ~
“a wild ride like no other”
Become a Facebook fan
Love dogs? Like Zeus and Pepé -- the odd couple

Friday, February 15, 2013

Scifi Expo 2013

This past weekend I was at Scifi Expo.
There were lots of awesome costumes so I figured I'd share. :)

What do you think?

Queen Amidala

She really did an awesome job!

Kitty Pride from the X-Men. Too cute!

Sir Balin of Chaos.


Awesome Steampunk!

The dark elf was fantastic. The pics don't do her justice.

Star Trek with BITE!

Don't mess with this guy!

Joe Dalek. (A guy was inside it following people with his sensors. Awesome!)

Mad Moxcie from Borderlands 2 - her costume was AWESOME! She even has the tip jar. 

Green Arrow

Ororo (Storm) from the X-Men. Isn't it fab?

Double trouble!

And this upcoming weekend is ConDFW! Whee!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Accidental Romance Writer - or- What Reading My Reviews has Taught Me About Myself

Man and Woman Embracing clipart

My last post here was titled "The Accidental Series" because it turns out I am writing one. That was a surprise. But here's a bigger one: apparently, I am also writing romance.

This is more than a big surprise. It's both jaw-dropping and hilarious at the same time. For one thing, I am nearly allergic to romance novels. Now, I don't knock romance novels or their writers. Clearly, there is a huge market for romances and I doff my proverbial cap to anyone who can create delicious works to ease the cravings of so many readers. I know I couldn't. So bless the writers who provide that enormous service.

The hilarity is for anyone who really knows me. While my friends were discovering Gone With the Wind, I was head over heels for The Three Musketeers. While most of the gal-pals I had in seventh and eighth grade were checking out Seventeenth Summer by Betty Cavanaugh (remember her???) at the library, I was checking out The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Count of Monte Cristo. And it's not that there was no romance in the works of Dumas or Howard Pyle, it's just that romance was incidental and not the point of the story. Which is the way I like romance in a book. So anyone who really knows me would find it funny thatI have been tagged as a romance writer.

And it gets funnier. Someone said my book had "too much historical romance" in it. Historical romance? Really? I'm not even sure what that means, but images of bodice-ripper cover art, as Stephen King refers to it, keep popping into mind when I think about it. Me? Writing historical romance? I have no idea where that came from, seeing as how my book is set squarely in the 21st century and revolves around two college-age kids who investigate a haunting and a thirty-year old murder case. Ah, maybe that's the history? A thirty-year old murder?

At any event, I am currently working on book two so that I can put it out there and find out if I am now writing paranormal historical romance mysteries with metaphysical overtones. Can't wait to see what I learn about myself next! As all writers ultimately work in solitude, feedback is a wonderful thing, I admit. But sometimes, when I read the feedback directed at me, I find myself wondering if the reader is accidentally posting about a different novel altogether. Or maybe I'm just too close to see, and I really am producing history and romance?

Huh. Who knew?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Together again #amfantasy

Not people but my YA series - Once The Henge Betrayed but now called Affinities. I will give a nice thank you to my former publisher.The contract for the third book had ended the first of the year. The first and fourth books were at Books We Love with the changed titles. The third book would have been left alone and to me it made no sense to keep it with the first publisher. But , here is the big thing I would have waited out the three years remaining in the contract until it ended. So I will thank them and allow the problems of the past to go away slowly.

In this age of rapidly changing events like the way publishing has both imploded and exploded there can be problems, especially when sending a mss via the internet. They can be lost, not to mention borrowed or even sold, letting the writer sit in limbo. This is especially true when ebooks have no physical presence someone can put on a shelf. There have been some fights won and some lost but we keep fighting.

I have teenage grandchildren and last summer, I spent time telling them they couldn't just download things their friends sent them. I'm talking about books, movies and the like. Hopefully I got across the point that soon they would be earning money. How would they feel if someone came by and took their car, just because they wanted to keep it and maybe even pass it along to another friend. "That's stealing," they said. "And is so when you buy a copied version of a movie, or a friend gives you one." "Oh!"

I'll end this sort of rambling and get back to work on creating a story they might want to read.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Anni's Attic is the American version of Downton Abbey

Over the holidays I caught up on the first two seasons of Downton Abbey. I’m now watching the third season on PBS. I am totally hooked. I adore historical fiction. What I love most about Downton is its depiction of the cultural shift caused by war. Out of something so horrific comes a miraculous evolution in the human condition.

I got to thinking there should be an American version of Downton Abbey. After all, the Civil War drastically altered American culture and society. Lo and behold, the book was in my Kindle the whole time awaiting my attention. I just finished reading and reviewing Anni’s Attic by Anne McGee. I have a feeling there are some Downton Abbey fans reading this and I have just the book for you.
Anni’s Attic
By Anne Loader McGee
Vendera Publishing
November 2012
326 pages

The last thing 11-year old Jennine Nicòle Parkington wanted to do was live on an old cotton plantation in Georgia, and share a bedroom with Annise Loréal Bouvoir, la cousine terrible. But that was exactly what happened. After her mother died, Jenn was perfectly happy living with Grandmère and Grandpère in their New Orleans mansion while her father Phillip Parkington, a businessman from England, went about his international affairs. But the Civil War had changed everything. Southerners were choosing sides and Mr. Parkington had chosen to fight in President Lincoln’s Army. He told Jenn, “Believe me, living with someone your own age will be the best thing for you, especially now I’m going –”

Be that as it may, the two cousins had nothing in common. Jenn spoke French and took pride in her impeccable manners. Anni made friends with the Negro slaves and didn’t know the meaning of the word “etiquette.” In spite of their animosity, friendship sprouted and bloomed through four brutal years of the Civil War. Together Jenn and Anni shared secrets and adventures like all young girls. Then, as the war dragged on and closed in around them, the secrets and adventures became much more terrifying and dangerous.

Through the friendship of Jenn and Anni, the intertwining of the Parkington and Bouvoir families, and the politics of war, Anne McGee skillfully weaves Confederate and Yankee sympathies into this epic tale. McGee’s intricate details of Southern life during the Civil War Era transport the reader to another time and place. Anni’s Attic is the American version of Downton Abbey. Fans of the series will absolutely love this book.~ Copyright (c) 2013 by Peggy Tibbetts

Peggy Tibbetts
Coming soon!
Crazy Bitch – a dogoir

Now available at Amazon
PFC Liberty Stryker -- "a wild ride like no other"
Letters to Juniper 2012 Colorado Book Award Finalist

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fact Checking

In 1979 there was a British science fiction and fantasy show called Sapphire & Steel. These otherworldly operatives worked in between the cracks in time, and one of their first missions concerned the nursery rhyme “Ring a Ring o’ Roses”. The assumption of the story was that the nursery rhyme referred to the Great Plague in England. Being an American, I had never heard that theory before. It made for an interesting story, but checking the fact behind that assumption was a bit difficult back in 1979 unless you could track down books on nursery rhymes and folklore.

Nowadays it’s much easier to check what is actual fact and what is only urban legend. There are online encyclopedias, Wikipedia and articles. The Wikipedia link for “Ring a Ring o’ Roses” mentions the link to the Great Plague. That’s when it’s also best to check urban legends sites like Snopes. Snopes points out that “Ring Around The Rosie” didn’t appear until 1881, long after the Great Plague, and that this nursery rhyme, like so many others, is just a rhyme.

So, if you are basing a story on an urban legend or if you include an urban legend as part of your story, should you take the time to check on the truth of that legend? Should you include that in your notes on the story? After all, your readers are going to check. If your story is based on the coincidences between Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, you’ll want to make sure your readers won't dismiss your book as poorly researched. On the other hand, if you have a character who believes in conspiracies, Snopes would be a treasure trove.

Even for everyday life on the Internet, it helps to know where to check the facts behind stories. There are fact checking sites for politics, like and there are ones to check any of the stories you see on Facebook, such as Snopes and Sophos.

What other fact checking sites do you use?