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


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.


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.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Day of School

Freshly sharpened pencils.

Notebooks that aren't ragged and torn.

The excitement of finding out who your teachers are and who is going to be in your class.

Seeing friends again after a summer apart.

As adults there is a lot of nostalgia associated with the first day of school. As students, the excitement is certainly tempered with a bit more of "here we go again" and "can't vacation last just a little bit longer?"

This year I have two students heading off to high school today. One a Junior and the other a Freshman. They both had multiple summer assignments due the first day of school. The freshman finished his yesterday. This summer wasn't really the nostalgic break from school that I remember.

When I dropped my son off at the school yesterday evening for band practice, the place was hopping. School doesn't start until today, but the cheerleaders were out practicing, as was the football team and the soccer team -- and that's just what I could see.

For a lot of students there isn't a clear line drawn between the school year and summer break. They more or less blend together.

It seems that in books, if it's summer, the students aren't busy with school work. Maybe there's some mention of some required reading being put off until later, but generally speaking summer adventures and romances seem to happen without any interference from the real world of school.

High school is a huge part of a teen's life, even when school is not officially in session. Teens may try to wish it away, and books (when they have the free time to read them) may give them that escape, but they also might find themselves wondering, as my daughter did. "How come no one in books ever spends their summer doing summer assignments?"

Happy Back to School everyone.

Monday, September 2, 2013

10 Top Reasons Why I'm A Writer

Originally posted at

10 Top Reasons
Why I’m A Writer

10. It’s in my blood. Literally. There are other writers in my family and I’m distinctly related to Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of TARZAN.
9. I’ve always loved writing in journals. There’s just something intriguing and addictive about journals. In my latest book NO MORE GODDESSES, Jordan is fascinated with the journal entries of the mysterious Alice.
8. I’m able to communicate my feelings better when I write them down. There’s just something cathartic with writing. When I was a teen, I wasn’t able to share my pain with others. Being able to write down my feelings did help.
7. I love to read. Ever since I can remember I’ve always loved reading. I think writing and reading go hand in hand.

6. I love playing with words in not only English but Spanish too. Yes, Scrabble is one of my favorite games!
5. I love being able to create new worlds, characters, and situations. Each book is my own ‘baby’ and special to me.
4. I actually love to research. In NO MORE GODDESSES, I did research on film icon Audrey Hepburn and Egyptian mythology. My next book will take place in Paris!

3. Its fun to be able to hear teens and others tell me how much they loved my story and then ask for more! I still remember this adorable teen at one Skype visit who told me this.
2. I love the writing communities. I belong to RWA-Romance Writers Association, YARWA, and also YALITCHAT. I’ve learned a lot about the craft through other authors. Plus, I love the encouragement and support these organizations have for fellow authors.
And the number one reason why I’m a writer:

**I have to write! I can’t get away from it. Even as a bilingual teacher my main emphasis was writer’s workshop where my first graders wrote and created their own books. It was a huge hit! If I get frustrated with the whole writing process and say that’s it? Well, my dreams bug me and let me know I have a story to tell. Yes, it seems a number of writers do have very vivid dreams!