Thursday, May 30, 2013

High School Graduations by Janet Lane Walters

Grandchildred graduating from high school leaves me heading for Florida. This time was to see a grandson who is my greatest fan take the walk. There have now been three of those who were the characters ised as inspiration for the Affinities series. Jaydren this time. When I watch this young man walk past, I feel a sense of pride. He represents the Earth affinity from the series. And his nature is that of the character in the story. Sensible, focused and waiting to decide where he wants to go in life. His oldest sister is Ashlea from the stories and she represents Air. She is the musical one and plays the flute, an Air instrument in real life and in the stories. Her graduation was a cast of while not thousands, of hundreds and hundreds. Brandien's graduation was the second and he is the Water affinity. Caring and feelings for others. The last one Kylandra has time to go and she is the Fire affinity. Moving forward with sword in hand.

What is interesting is that Jaydren's class was the smallest of the three and his graduation took nearly as long as Ashlea's/ As to the future he will be going to the air force after spending the summer and fall in community college. He has no idea what he wants to do for a career and wants to take time to learn who he is and where he wants to go.

So I'm wishing all these grandchildren who formed the base for the characters in a fantasy series good luck as they move forward with their lives.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Choosing a Title

How do you decide on a title for your book or short story? Do you come up with a title first and write a story to fit? Or does the right title come to you in the course of writing a story?

I’m one of those who can never come up with a title until I’ve finished a story. And even then I might dither between several choices. This probably comes to no surprise to anyone who read my post on choosing character names.

It’s an important decision. Authors and various writing guides will say that a title is an important part of your marketing. A title should be catchy, something that could either summarize the story or create an emotional response in a reader.

So how do you decide? One mystery series I follow by Donna Andrews features punny titles which includes a bird such as Murder with Puffins, Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon, and The Real Macaw. Jessica Day George has Tuesdays at the Castle and its sequel Wednesdays in the Tower. Robert Asprin and Jody Lynne Nye for the MYTH series have variations on 'mis' and 'myth' words, such as Myth-Taken Identity, Another Fine Myth, Myth-Told Tales, Myth Alliances, and Myth Conceptions.

Maybe you don't want to aim for humor, but you still need something to catch a reader's attention and interest.

In science fiction, the title might be a planet name, such as Janet Kagan’s Mirabile, or Lois McMaster Bujold’s Komarr, Barrayar and Cetaganda. CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series has descriptive words for a character: Foreigner, Invader, Intruder, Inheritor, Explorer, and others. The Galactic Gourmet by James White is another variation on describing a character.

Fantasy books may have names of magical objects or places or creatures in their titles. Character names are also popular in several genre. Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke is a recent example.

Short story titles, for me, seem to flow out of the story. I always have a lot more fun with them. But that could be because novel titles have the additional pressure of the marketing aspect.

The title of my first book, The Crystal Throne, went through several changes before it was published. In the first versions it was The Secret of the Haunted Tree. Then I thought it sounded too much like a mystery and it became The Door to Elsewhen. Several years and drafts later, it became The Crystal Throne, named for an object used to identify the main villain. Talking to Trees, on the other hand, was always named that, both because one of the main characters spent most of the book talking to tree beings and also because I had a particular song stuck in my head by the time I finished the final draft.

Titles can’t be copyrighted. Even so, I made sure, when choosing my titles, to look through Books in Print and, with the later books, WorldCat and Amazon, to make sure no one else had a book by that title. Not everyone else did the same research. Two years after The Crystal Throne came out from my first publisher (a different one than I am currently with) another book used that title. And five years after Talking to Trees was published, someone else decided to use that title.

Sometimes a title might trigger a different response than planned. When I gave out information about my short story collection, Agents and Adepts, I learned to sense when someone was focusing on the wrong word. “Agents, huh,” someone might say, “I’ve been looking for an agent…” And then I’d have to quickly interrupt that it was a book of short stories about galactic agents and wizards.

What titles or types of titles have caught your attention? How do you choose a title?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


The craft show and sale at our local library a couple of weeks ago was so much fun. I've never seen such beautiful work from such talented people. One of my favorites was the doll house furniture that I wanted to buy for myself. The lovely pictures made from broken pieces of glass were fantastic. When I break something, I throw it away. This artist formed flowers and other scenes. Lovely. There were so many unique items for visitors to purchase. I wish I had pictures of them to show you, but forgot my camera. Here I am with my books, photo taken by one of the library staff.

Here's what she wrote about me for our local paper.

Beverly McClure is a writer. She has nine published books for children, teens and young adults. One of the latest books is an e-book, ghost story named “A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat”. Beverly is a retired teacher, and used to teach 2nd and 5th grades here, in Iowa Park. She started writing magazine articles about 20 years ago, and her stories were based on what had happened in her class. Now she enjoys writing books ‘full time” and most of them are fiction. If you have read or heard of Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Beverly McClure has her story “Traveler” published in one of them, Chicken Soup for the Soul “What I Learned from the Dog”, 101 Stories about Life, Love and Lessons. Everybody who bought her books during the show also got a chance to have them autographed by the author.
Have a super week. Happy Reading


Monday, May 20, 2013

Change isn't always a Bad Thing

I think I've talked about feeling really stagnated with my writing lately. Despite trying various things, it hadn't been getting any better. The longer it went on, the more I felt trapped and frustrated. I have one last Library of Athena book to write, and it wasn't going anywhere at all, which just made me irritated.

I needed a change. And I made a few. I won't go into all of them, but since I've made these changes to my life, I feel better. It's not just been changing things or people, but changing attitude. Maybe thinking that instead of reaching for something that I might never get, to be satisfied with the way things are, to strive to make the very best of what I've already got. And to work within that to get more, maybe to expand rather than go up. 

It's working for me so far. Still not writing like fire, but I have a chapter done, and I'm feeling like actually working on it. Once summer hits, I will be working every day.

Meanwhile, I am going to Balticon next weekend.  If you are going to be there, here is my con schedule:

Steam-powered: Rage of the New Victorians Friday, 9:00 PM; Salon A
Moderator: Christine Norris (50 minutes)
Panelists: Jeff Young, Jean Marie Ward; 2 SEATS OPEN 
From werewolves of property to anti-zombie airship pilots, the Empire has struck back. Meet the 
writers of this Brave Old World and learn about their stories and novels and where they get the 
ideas for those crazy gadgets

The Portrayal of Female-Centric Faith Systems in Literature (50 minutes)
Moderator: Christine Norris  Saturday, 10:00 AM, Parlor 3041
Panelists: Gail Z Martin, T. J. Perkins, KT Pinto, Joy Ward; Vonnie Winslow Crist
How are female-centric faith systems portrayed in modern literature? How do historic femalecentric faith systems influence modern literature? Who were Lilith, Inana, Hecate, Astarte, 
Diana, Isis, Kali, Durga and Demeter to the ancients? How are they appearing in today's 

YA literature: What's hot, what's not? Saturday, 1:00 PM, Salon B 
Moderator: A. L. Davroe; (50 minutes) 
Panelists: Justin R. Macumber, Christine Norris, Jeri Smith-Ready 1 SEAT OPEN
Why is everybody reading it? And why should you care? 
YA literature is making a bigger mark than ever. Let's talk about what young adults are 
reading, why they are reading it, what about it appeals to adults, and what this upsurge in 
young readers might mean for the Science Fiction and Fantasy community.

Broad Universe RFR: Saturday, 4:00 PM, Salon B

 You Were Published WHERE? Saturday, 10:00 PM, Salon B (I may not make this one, it's way past my bedtime)
Moderator: Alex Shvartsman; (50 minutes)
Panelists: Christine Norris , Eric V. Hardenbrook 2 SEATS OPEN
A discussion about new magazines that have come and gone, new zines that seem to have 
staying power, and short-lived publishing houses. 

Standard Submission Guidelines Sunday, 10:00 AM, Salon B
Moderator: Christine Norris (50 minutes)
Panelists: Patrick Thomas, Elektra Hammond, Eric V. Hardenbrook, Brian Koscienski,
What are these anyway? Why are things done a certain way? How come they are different from
publisher to publisher?

From Slush to Sale Sunday, 1:00 PM, Salon B
Moderator: Sarah Pinsker; (50 minutes)
Panelists: Scott H. Andrews, Damien Walters Grintalis, Alex Shvartsman, Christine Norris,
Hildy Silverman
A detailed discussion on every aspect of the process of creating and publishing a professional and
semi-pro magazine. (No idea why I'm on this panel.)

The Dark Quest Books Mega-Launch Sunday, 7:00 PM, Frankie & Vinnies
Publisher: Neal Levin: (2 hours)
Dark Quest Books launches their Spring 2013 titles with guest editors and authors:
Danielle Ackley-McPhail ("The Eternal Cycle"), Danny Birt, Jack Campbell ("The Lost Fleet
series"), Myke Cole, Judi Fleming, Charles E. Gannon, Elektra Hammond, Eric V. Hardenbrook,
C.J. Henderson ("Teddy London"), Mike McPhail), Bernie Mojzes, Christine Norris, KT Pinto,
James Daniel Ross ("Radiation Angels"), Alex Shvartsman, Maria V. Snyder, Jim Stratton,
Patrick Thomas ("Murphy's Lore", Robert E. Waters, and John C. Wright ("Chronicles of Chaos"),
Jeff Young,

I may also be on another panel on Friday night, which was full but that I am supposed to be at anyway, for reasons I can't yet tell you. I am also on an editing and publishing panel, again, but I can't tell you why. The big announcement will come at the con, however, and then I can tell everyone everything.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Story Needs A Plot

That seems so straightforward, right? Of course you need a plot. How could you write a story without one? But do you actually have one.

That was the problem my daughter posed for me the other day. She had a great idea for a character, she had a detailed backstory for her character and an event that the character was instrumental in.

But she realized that when it came down to being able to say what her story was about, she couldn't sum it up simply.

The problem was that she had a great idea, but she didn't have a plot.

I've been there plenty of times myself. Great premise, great characters, but no real 'story' happening.

So we tried answering these questions: What does your main character really want? What is stopping him/her from getting it. And what will happen if he/she doesn't get it?

Not every story will have good answers to these questions, but good answers will mean you are on your way to a well-plotted story.

We managed to brainstorm answers for her story, while she practiced driving in an empty parking lot.

In the end she felt more comfortable both behind the wheel and in the direction her story was going.

Now, what's your plot?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

RWA Meeting and Reviews

This last Saturday I was able to attend my local OCCRWA meeting. I was so impressed with RWA Nationals last year that I had to join! Also my upcoming book NO MORE GODDESSES has a romance theme throughout plus another project I'm working on is more crossover/New Adult with romance.

At the meeting we had Sarah Wendell of the review site Smart Bitches speak. This online review site is hot!

Totally loved Sarah's comments on reviewing. Not only was she very knowledgeable on romances but she was hilarious! I wish I had half of her energy! I was lucky enough that she joined my group during lunch too so I got to overhear some of her comments on romances and what she's seeing.

So I thought I'd share some of my notes from the meeting:

Sarah Wendell – Smart Bitches
“Online Reviews: How to Seek, Receive, Use & Respond to Reviews”

Sarah said that reviews are very important as they help us find books to buy. Nowadays we interact with all of our entertainment. Consumer interacting is huge. Reviews are readers talking to each other.

She gave 2 rules for reviews:

1. Take them with a grain of salt. Remember it's just one out there. Also a huge one is don't lash out on a negative review.

**Chocolate works great during this time.

2. Don't post spoilers. No one likes this. It's like going to a movie and having someone in back of you tell the whole movie when you haven't seen it yet.

How to find reviews:

For those of you with small press publishers like me or who self-pub here was some of her suggestions:

Consider book you are pitching to reviewers

Look for similarities with other books out there
What settings are similar to your book?

**Research your genre to see which reviewers review what.

I review for YABC and you can check on the site for what I and the other fab YABC reviewers are looking for.

Also I totally agree with this one--When you sent a query to a reviewer, use the name of the reviewer.

Another one: Don't nag the reviewer. Yes, this can be annoying.

What to do if you get less than a 5 star review:

Get chocolate or whatever treat you love and eat with both hands while you stay away from typing back a response.

One great point she mentioned is that a bad review isn't your enemy. Your enemy is when no one is talking about your book.

If you don't like the review? Let it go.

Another thing she brought up was to not thank the reviewer on line but rather privately through email. I agree on this one. I once did 'thank' someone for hosting me and the responses from readers just died. No one else commented. You don't want to break the flow of communication out there. I love to read what readers think of my book and also have found it fascinating when others relate to something in a way I never thought of!

The big thing is to remember that everyone is entitled to their opinions.

You need to separate the two: Author and Review. They aren't the same.

Her book that I ordered--she ran out at the meeting:

Totally loving this RWA group!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Serenity - The Puppy of DOOM!

Our family adores pets. But for some reason or other, while I'd had dogs while growing up, in my adult married life, we'd stuck with cats.

But as has happened before (Ferrets! Kittens! Oh my!), my daughter talked us into letting her get a puppy.

She picked a runt from a litter of pups, assuming it wouldn't grow to be that large. Yeah...

Here she is - Serenity. Cute tiny little thing, wouldn't you say? (She was named after the ship in Firefly rather than the feeling. The cats will definitely attest that she is nothing like the feeling. :P) She's an American Bulldog. 

Here's Serenity after graduating from puppy training school. (My daughter used the graduation cap to hide. For shame!)

Here she is relaxing on the easy chair.

And then she kept growing, and growing and growing! 

Serenity is now close to 100 pounds! Heavier than my daughter! And Serenity's been known to kick my daughter off the bed!

Here's her mug shot. Photo evidence of her crack habbit - kitty litter crack that is. Heh heh. She likes to dive into the cat box. Cat's are not excited by this one bit. :P

My hubby can be heard grumbling about about hating the dog here and there, but he's the one spoiling her the most! It's dangerous to go by the dog aisle at the store... Dog treats, dog bones, dog toys! The paycheck only goes so far! lol.

Have an awesome weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ghosts + History = Magic

Some years ago, I was in a college class and the subject of THE BIG earthquake in Missouri came up. Most of the class had never heard about it and the instructor herself was not sure of the year, but I knew it. 1812. (Actually, it was December, 1811 through January, 1812 since it was a series of upheavals, but I was close enough.) And why did I know that date? Because of a ghost story I had read during childhood.

Recently, while doing my "research" and immersing myself in the paranormal reality shows on SyFy, Biography, A & E, TLC, and the History Channel, I started taking notes simply because I was learning not only history, but lots of little factoids that tend to stimulate the writer in me. For instance:

- Casket plates were metal plates that were attached the tops of caskets as identifiers during the winter when the ground was too frozen to dig graves. Since the caskets were stored in a community location, the plates were helpful in keeping the remains of loved ones organized. (Some people collect these things- would you???)

- In the 19th century, there was such a thing as a "baby farm", where illegitimate and otherwise unwanted babies and youngsters were placed. As is so often the tragic case with this sort of thing, the babies were sometimes killed and the poison of choice was arsenic, because its symptoms mimic cholera.

-  I now know of at least two man-made lakes, Norfork Lake in Arkansas, and Table Rock Lake in Missouri. Creating Norfork Lake entailed flooding 400 farms, numerous small towns, and also required moving 26 cemeteries. I have been to Table Rock Lake: when the water is still, you can see some of the buildings down at the bottom. Very eerie.

-  Phenobarbitol was used to treat epilepsy in the 1930's and '40's.

- James Thurber lived in a haunted house at one time and wrote about it in his book of short stories, My Life and Hard Times.

I could go on much longer, but I'm sure you all get the idea. It's amazing how much history you can pick up reading and watching ghost stories! When I was a kid, I loved tales of haunted locations, and learned smatterings of history along the way. As an adult, I've also learned to love history. When the two come together - for me, it's positively magic.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tag lines - Problems they can cause

This subject has interested me for a long time and when I read sometimes the tag lines get into the story and ruin my reading flow.

How a writer chooses to identify who is speaking can be problematic. In the heat of writing an exchange between two people some problems can occur. I know I've found this in my writing. The rapid exchange goes down with no bother to say who is speaking. Then going back and trying to discover who says what can suddenly seem not so bright. If the writer can't figure who is speaking, think of the reader. I've seen this in contest entries and even in published books and have to go back and try to decipher who is saying what. Sometimes I find speaker A has said something two times in a row. Calls for revision.

Another problem in writing a scene heavy with dialogue is the creative use of tags. The simple said, asked, answered are avoided for fancy words. Shouted, yelled. Suddenly a pattern evolves and the reader begins to wonder what tag the writer will use next. I've read books like this and I suddenly become more interested in seeing what the next tag will be. Not great for enjoying the story and maybe an excuse for the reader to put the story aside never to be seen again.

What about those lovely adverby. "She said quickly. He replied angrily. She asked softly. Here another pattern can arrive and the reader enters into the adverb alert. Another reason not to read on.

But just using said, though generally invisible to the reader can also become boring. There are ways to avoid this usage. Try a little action, using the speaker doing something. Mark's eyebrown arched. "What are you doing? "I don't care." A gruffness entered Ray's voice. Doing this becomes very important when writing scenes with a mutitude of cnaracters, making it easy for the reader to know who is saying what.

Making things easy for the reader to want to continue to be involved with the story is what it's about. Falling into patterns that turn the reader's attention to seeing what clever tag the writer will use, or having the conversation look like "follow the bouncing ball" can lose readers. So, whatch your tag lines and during the revision stage check to see what patterns if any you have put into your story.