Friday, March 29, 2013


I’ve always been interested in exploring places. When I was young, I knew every inch of the areas I was allowed to wander on my own. I grew up in the 60s, so where I was allowed to wander included several blocks in the neighborhood, the way to school, several ways to the public library and quite a far distance that I could reach on my bike. My friends and I knew the best places to play running and ball games and the best spots for imaginative games like secret agents (which needs lots of things to hide behind). I also found great places to think (needed when you’re a member of a large family) and places to write.

I find helpful when creating the locale for a story to walk about the town in your story and see it through your character's eyes. Where are the character's favorite stores? Are there parks or wooded areas? What are landmarks the character might use for knowing how far away the bus is from school or a parent's usual route to the mall? Are there any historical buildings that the character might know or wonder about? Any place the school might use for a field trip?

When walking, would your characters know the best shortcuts (missing the heavily trafficked main streets)? Or, in school, the best escape routes to avoid a bully or the popular crowd? How long does it take the character to go from one place to another?

Have they come across anything of interest? Did he or she observe the squirrel leaf nest overhead? Would they be able to recognize the tracks of rabbits or squirrels?

Fantasy books often have maps, and my books included them as well. I was able to modify the map I used with The Crystal Tree to indicate the changed terrain (from a desert to a flooded plain) in Talking To Trees. Having the map helped me find the best place to put ruins, although it was important for the story that they be able to move.

If you write nonhumans or animals, how would location be noted through their senses? For my wizard Elin, it was through a mixture of vision, scent and taste.

"The Gate should be right here." Elin trotted back and forth, then began a widening circle, studying the landmarks. The stream curled just so, the taste of the long grass was right, but where was the small hill? The scent that he had always associated with the Gate, the mixture of old magic and the overlapping layers of the seal was here, but it was faint, only a trace here and there.

Nowadays when I travel it’s mainly to science fiction and fantasy conventions and I only have time to explore the hotel and where the nice quiet corners are as well as where the panel rooms are located and the vending machines (and do they have Pepsi?). If I have time when I travel I try to sign up for tours. That way I was able to see a bit of Wellington during Au Contraire in New Zealand and some of Melbourne during Aussiecon 4 (Worldcon) in Australia. The picture, however, is from when I was wandering around on my own in Wellington and found the interesting hanging design near the public library. The advantage of tours is that you know what you are seeing. The disadvantage, though, is often you are limited to what others think is important for you to see. Anyone remembering school field trips will understand how frustrating that can often be.

How important is exploration to you? Do you enjoy finding some otherwise small details in stories you read or write?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Here it is another week, another month. Spring break for the students in our area is over. It's back to school and countdown until the next holiday. How well I remember my teaching days and looking forward to the breaks. Now I'm on break all the time and never get caught up. Sometimes I wonder how I managed to work, write, and do the household chores. You writers with children at home have my admiration. You must be very well organized to find time for everything.

Today I'd like to share a bit about my forthcoming book for MG readers. It's a long story with a happy ending. Way back in 2006 I sent the manuscript to a wonderful publisher and they wanted to publish my story. Great! I was excited. Unfortunately, the publisher went out of business. Not that I wish the former publisher bad thoughts, they are really nice, nice people, but I think life works in mysterious ways, for I now have a super publisher helping me get the story in tip-top shape. It has undergone edits, been changed from readers ages 7-10 to the 8-12 age group, many corrections, including the title, made, and is a much better story now. The manuscript is now awaiting copy edits and a cover. Crossing my fingers it's good to go.

Watch for STAR OF THE TEAM coming out hopefully this summer. A huge thank you to Vivian Zabel and Harry Gilleland at 4 RV Publishing for your faith in my story. And for Aidana WillowRaven who will see that it has the perfect cover. 4 RV Publishing rocks. Hope to have a cover to show you soon.

Happy Reading.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Clearing out the clutter

It's that time of year. Even though the weather keeps insisting it's winter, the calendar says Spring. I always feel the need to clear out, clean, brighten, and re-do things. One year, I spent a week cleaning out my attic. Twenty bags of clothes later, I could walk in the attic (don't ask what it looks like now). Basically a winter full of lethargy makes me itchy to clear the slate for a new year. All winter we're like bears in our cave, piling and saving and sleeping. I get sick of looking at it and go through a period when I totally hate my tiny little house, then I decide it will be great when I redo a room. This year it will be the dining room. We're also talking about enclosing the porch and knocking out the front wall to make a bigger living room. With a fireplace (but that won't be for awhile).

Kind of like writing and my brain. For a few months, since I finished grad school in December, I've had a hard time jumping back in to writing. I haven't wanted to do anything and anything that I did do came out flat and feeling...yucky. But with this burst of inspiration to clear out the clutter and make everything shiny comes the energy to finally start writing. I have found what my female main character ticks, and what she needs to accomplish. I'm reading instead of playing games on Facebook (well...we're working on that, anyway). I'm working on book promo, which has taken a big hit in the last few months. I even spent an hour going through my promo stuff and books on hand to see what I need for the FIVE events I am booked to this Spring. Making progress!

By the way, if you're interested in joining my Street Team and helping me get the word out about my book, ask to join the FB group and I'll add you. It's really easy stuff, and I pay in free stuff, exclusive Street Team swag, and first-looks at new book covers and material.

I've even opened a new binder on Scrivener with the title of the final Library of Athena book on it. I have hopes of finishing it by summer's end. I finally feel like I'm not spinning my wheels.

Spring Break is right around the corner. Time to clean out the clutter and get moving!

Friday, March 22, 2013


Observing things is the way of a writer. Seeing things others might discount or just miss. For instance, the other day I saw a man walking. No big deal, right? But it was raining. And cold. He was wearing a jacket, beach length pants, flip flops and was carrying a half gallon of ice cream. Not coming from a store, not waiting for a bus, just walking. I wondered why.

Coming down the hill to my house, I saw three men pushing an upright grand piano, on a dolly, across the street. Only they were trying to get to the next street, which was up the hill. The piano was in the middle of the lane, and they were not really in control. I wondered what would have happened has the four wheels of the dolly decided to line up in a downhill position. Would the three men have been able to stop an upright grand piano from taking an unauthorized trip?

I saw a man in a parking lot, looking mystified and a little upset. He was whistling and calling for his dog. Both doors on his car were open, and the dog was nowhere in sight. He finally grabbed his cell phone and started towards the store. The door opened, and there was his dog, being ushered outside by the store's employees. Had they called the man on his phone to let him know his dog was shopping without him? Whose credit card was "Buster" using and what did he want at that store?

My little dog, weighing in at less than 8 lbs, and standing only about 8 inches at the shoulder, suddenly disappeared from my yard. I had just looked at him, told him to get off the wood pile. I finished drying the other dog, and Jax was gone. I called and whistled, and yelled and panicked. I ran out into the street, looking and calling. I heard him bark. For some reason, he had climbed the wood pile and jumped a 6 foot fence. Why? What was he thinking? Did he contemplate the 6 foot drop on the other side? Why did he even want to get over there? Enough to do it again, necessitating a long day moving the wood away from the fence.

I also notice little things, like frost on moss. Or a frozen rose. Noticing little things helps with all sorts of artistic endeavors. It may never show up exactly like this in a novel, but the more you notice, the more depth anything you create will have.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ripping out Stitches and Rewriting Chapters

I've got two projects going right now. One is my current WIP that I'm polishing up, the other is a quilt I am in the process of hand quilting.

Last week I started on one of the corners of the quilt. Now, I know you have to quilt from the center out, so that you don't end up with wrinkles and puckering, and I am doing that. This section of the quilt was the next thing out from the center to work on and I didn't think it mattered where in the triangle I started, so I started from one end.

After a couple of hours of quilting I realized I had a bit of puckering going on. I looked at what I'd already quilted and decided I didn't want to rip it out, so I would just make a few adjustments and all would be fine.

I continued in that vein as I quilted on and off for the rest of the week. On Saturday I got to the other side of the triangle and realized that the amount of puckering had become so great that I couldn't do anything other than rip it all out and try again. So that's what I did.

It's difficult to see hard work ripped out but sometimes it's necessary to make a project work out.

Which brings me to my WIP.

I joke that I have had so many iterations of the first chapter for this story that I could make a book just on first chapters. And just when I thought I had it right, feedback from trusted sources told me there was still something amiss.

So I opened up a new document and started chapter one again.

Because, as hard as it is to see hard work deleted, sometimes that is what is necessary to make a story work.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


I was really excited to get this one email the other day from Liz, my publisher at Zumaya. Let's just say Jordan would be happy too! My YA fantasy NO GODDESSES ALLOWED should be coming out real soon. Blurb: NO GODDESSES ALLOWED When fifteen-year-old Jordan Lake discovers an ancient bracelet in her grandmother's house, she uncovers a family mystery that links her favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn, a romantic movie, and an aunt she never knew. Jordan hopes the bracelet will bring her love. Instead, it becomes a nightmare, unleashing the curse of Hathor, the Egyptian love goddess, who decides it's fun to mess with the McKnight High School social scene. Only Jordan holds the key to vanquish Hathor, but will she figure it out in time to save her school and get a date to the dance? My vision of Jordan: Art by YA author Jackie Dolamore She loves Audrey Hepburn and anything that reeks of romance. So now my news: I just signed a contract for the second book in the GODDESSES series. And it'll be set in the city of romance: Paris! But it can't be one of my GODDESSES books without a uh, goddess, right?

Friday, March 15, 2013

AllCon 2013 - Costumes Galore!

This past weekend I went to AllCon!
A new venue for me to hock books and my daughter her chain mail jewelry (ChibiChains)
So of course I had to take pics. :)

I LOVED this! Multi-generation Star Trek. 

Sebastian from Black Butler.

This guy made a great Colonel from the SF TV show who's name I've yet to be able to recall. Loved that he had an led light in the tube to the Molotov cocktail to make it appear lit. 

Amazon Athena? She was all glittery! Mean looking spear too.

Loved this one too! Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians. Even to the frost on his hoodie. 

Cruella De Vil - she looked Fabulous!

Sand People!

Bucky! So cute..!

Sam and Dean Winchester! From the episode where they got sucked into the TV shows by the Trickster. These two did like 3 costume changes through the day (Couldn't get pics! Wah!) In the Medical Show, regular civies, and in their CSI costumes with the sunglasses from the same episode. I thought I saw Bobby Singer join them later in the day. Heh heh.

Sith Cheerleaders! The 501st was in attendance doing all sorts of panels, games for the kids, and more!

Bjoran Hogh Priestess outfit. Photo does not do it justice. Wah!

Iron Man was also in the house! He had working lights on the hand gauntlets too. Several incarnations of Tony Stark running around.

Though Pan Am only lasted 1 season, it obviously made an impression on some peeps out there. She looked great!

Louis from the Vampire Lestat.

A little vampire action too!

Incredible detail on this costume! Photo does not do it justice.

Look at those wings!

Is this not the cutest outfit ever? There were a lot of dolls. I heard there was even a costume contest for the dolls. I saw several wiz by that were utterly amazing! One had multicolored feathers wings and another 3 foot span dragon wings. Wish I'd been able to get pics!

My Little Pony was also heavily represented. 

Ack, wish it had focused better. I couldn't help but think of this as Star Wars ala The Wizard of OZ since the costume set up is in the same vein as the lion and the scarecrow. 

Yeah, I forgot to bring the good camera. It's amazing how the phone camera can do awesome one minute and not so much the next. :P

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Tale of Two Cons

Last month, I had an unusual opportunity: to attend two conferences, each devoted to a subject of my passion, within weeks of each other.

The first was the Love Is Murder Mystery Writers and Readers Conference. This particular con is held the first weekend in February every year, and while I am no longer on the board or the planning committee, I still make the time to attend at least the Saturday of this weekend-long event. This year, I got to hear incredible presentations by Bob Mayer, a best-selling author both traditionally and in e-books. I also got to hang around with e-book phenomenon Terri Reid (The Mary O'Reilly Paranormal Mystery Series), with amazing author and e-book formatter Donnie Light, and with a bunch of my cronies from past years. There is something to be said about spending quality time with fellow writers and renewing my faith in the written word. I had been needing a boost and Love Is Murder provided it. (If you're curious about the conference, check them out at loveismurderdotnet.

Two weeks later, I found myself at the Dead of Winter ghost hunter conference in an amazing place called Okawville, Illinois. The conference took place at the haunted Springs Hotel in Okawville, and featured presentations by four different writers/ghost hunters, a tarot card reader, a vendor that offered ghost hunting equipment such as EMF (electromagnetic force) meters, a $15 dollar fried chicken dinner, and an actual ghost hunt on the premises when dinner was done. And the event was free!

Now, most of us know what it's like to hang around with other writers. It's funny and informative, enlightening and rejuvenating (at least most of the time). It's also a great deal of fun.

On the other hand, I have never hung around with a bunch of ghost hunters before, and I must admit I would file this experience under "different." (I'd go for "other-worldly" but that's too obvious.) I have a passion for the supernatural, but these people made my passion look like a passing interest. They live, breathe, and eat this stuff. They are familiar with the best sites to cut one's teeth on when getting started in the field. And they discuss paranormal entities, supernatural attacks, exorcisms, and other mind-boggling experiences with the ease and comfort of doctors at the CDC discussing pertussis or strep. And I do mean mind-boggling.

I learned a lot from both conferences: writing tips, marketing ideas, contracts to avoid, at one conference; and I also learned about EVP's (electronic voice phenomena) -if you've never heard one of these in person, let me just say they can make your hair stand on end- photographic anomalies, and self-defense against hostile entities, at the other.

I also learned a lot about myself. I am fascinated by the topic of ghosts: always have been and probably always will be. But when it comes to finding a peer group? I think I'll stick with the writers, thanks.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tone and voice by Janet Lane Walters

I'm in the process of preparing for a presentation about World Building and was side-tracked or not. Thinking about the Voice and Tone led me to wonder if they were two different things. Often I hear that they are the same thing. I've come to the conclusion they're not.

Voice belongs to the author and is influenced by many things. Where was the author born? Each region of the country has certain words, phrases that creep into vocabulary and find their way into the words the writer puts on paper. So does the way the author was raised. Rich, poor or in between the experiences of the author help define what they write. Their life-experiences can bring another flavor into a writer's voice. How can a person who has never experienced the death of a close person write about death with the deep emotion of one who has. There are other emotions that may or may not be experienced. Then there is education that influences the writer and career choice. So the writer's life goes into his or her writing.

Tone belongs to the story. Each variety of fiction has a specific tone. There are many kinds of YA stories and they span all genres. The writer needs to read many stories in the sub-genre they want to write. Stories with mysteries have a specific flavor and so does fantasy, coming of age, historical, suspense. If the writer doesn't nail the tone and let the reader know this is whatever story they want to read in the first few pages, the reader may put the book aside and not care to read on.

So when writing a story the writer has to look at the kind of story they're writing and discover the tone they wish to evoke. The voice is there since it is part of the writer. The tone is to be discovered.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Writers who have gone to the dogs

Lord Byron & Boatswain
When it comes to wearing their hearts on their sleeves, writers have gone to the dogs. Lord Byron was enormously fond of his Newfoundland named Boatswain, whom he nursed until his death after he was infected with rabies. The poet inscribed Boatswain's headstone with one of his best-known texts, “Epitaph to a Dog.” Like Byron before him, American playwright Eugene O'Neill wrote a touching eulogy to his Dalmatian, Blemie. Sword and sorcery fiction writer Robert E. Howard’s dog Patches was named after the famous jester who disappointed the king and was sent outside to sleep with the dogs.

Reclusive poet Emily Dickinson had a Newfoundland named Carlo. Together they roamed the meadows and woods surrounding her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Dickinson remarked that dogs are better than people because “they know – but do not tell.” New England novelist Edith Wharton’s husband suffered from acute depression so she found companionship in her six lapdogs, including Chihuahuas, Pekingese, and Poodles. Emily Brontë kept a ferocious canine brute named Keeper. It was she who tamed him of his aggression and it is widely believed he changed her life.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning & Flush
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Cocker Spaniel, Flush was her devoted friend while she was confined to her sickbed in London. Browning wrote about Flush’s adventures in letters to her friends. Her beloved dog was dognapped twice and ransomed. She eulogized Flush in a slushy poem, “To Flush, My Dog.” Virginia Woolf’s first published essay was an obituary of her dog. Years later, her tribute to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her famous canine companion, Flush: A Biography was published. Though largely ignored in her bibliography Flush remains Woolf’s bestselling book to date.

Dog lover and psychologist Maureen Adams wrote about these wonderful women writers and their dogs in Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, and Emily Brontë.

In the 21st century you will find the likes of Jon Katz, Ted Kerasote, Dean Koontz, Julie Klam, Merrill Markoe, Mark Doty, W. Bruce Cameron, Cynthia Rylant, Ann Martin, and Alexandra Day (to name a few) writing about dogs. One of my favorite books, The Quotable Dog Lover (edited by Patricia M. Sherwood) contains memorable dog quotes from dozens of writers.

For your enjoyment here are photos of writers and their dogs:

Jill Krementz Photo Journal -- Top Dogs

Adorable Pictures of Famous Writers and Their Pets


Love dog stories?

"Crazy Bitch tells the story of the deep love that can exist between humans and dogs, as well as the intense - and sometimes very complicated - love that can exist between two dogs."

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, March 1, 2013

On Libraries and Nests

There are two topics I want to discuss this time. First is the topic that-never-seems-to-die. Libraries. It’s been discussed before in YA Authors You’ve Never Heard Of (see the topics in the left frame for earlier installments). But it seems as if every year some personality decides that there is no need for libraries. This year Terry Deary said that libraries have had their day and that they are “damaging the book industry”. This despite the fact that, as a UK author, Mr. Deary is paid every time his books are checked out from UK libraries under the Public Lending Right.

The “libraries are no longer needed” refrain isn’t new – I heard it from a university president in the 90s when the campus was trying to get a new library building built and his argument then was that all information would be online. (the campus finally did get a new building very laptop compatible which ended up being named after him. *sigh*). That refrain usually identifies the speaker as someone who thinks of a library as just a warehouse of books. But libraries don't contain only books. They also have DVDs, CDs, computers, and databases. Libraries are often centers of the community - they offer classes, story hours, homework help, and access to job and testing resources.

The “damaging the book industry” refrain has been popping up more and more lately in regard to ebooks. First the complainers were publishers who were unhappy that ebooks lasted longer than print books and wanted to limit how many times an ebook could be circulated before the libraries had to buy a new copy (did they not know that libraries have mending departments that repair damaged print books, thus upsetting publishers’ estimates of how many times a print book could be circulated before falling apart?). Then there are those authors who see every checkout of an ebook as a lost sale, both now and in the far future. Some have gone to the extreme of comparing libraries to ebook pirates (which is when I give up trying to reason with them, as they have passed the point of listening to any other side).

However, Mr. Deary didn't single out ebooks. Yet, as more than one blogger has pointed out, libraries and bookstores have coexisted for some time now. Indeed, in my town, the libraries (public, school and academic) buy books from (and thus support) the town's one independent bookstore.

It has been encouraging to see authors rally to the support of libraries. Julia Donaldson and other British authors responded to the article in Guardian, while Rita Meade listed ways to help local libraries.John Scalzi remembered how libraries contributed to his love of reading. The comments on his blog are also heartening. So many people responded with their own recollections of using their public or school libraries or their observations of how the usage of libraries have increased in this economy. Foz Meadows focused on disproving the economic side of Deary's argument as well as pointing out that libraries help create new readers.

This past January, the Pew Research Center released the results of a new survey on Americans' attitudes toward and expectations of public libraries. The summary can be found here. It appears that people feel that print books are still important but also want more digital services from their libraries (including more ebooks).

Where do you stand on the subject of libraries?

On to my second topic. Activity has started up once again at the various nest cams I watch. The eagles in Colorado have three eggs so far, as do the owls (also in Colorado), the falcons in San Jose have four eggs, the eagles in Decorah, IA, have laid one in a new nest (without a cam), while the eagles in MN are rearranging their nest. (see the video for tips on how to tell the two apart). Usually nesting among these groups would begin around March, but the seasons have been starting earlier every year. This can be difficult for some locations, as there are still snowstorms this time of year (both Colorado nests and mothers were covered with snow February 21st) and last year the eagle nest in Colorado lost all its chicks in one storm.

There is now a Facebook page for the Raptor Resource Project, which covers several nests. There is also the Raptor Resource Project website with various links to nest cams.