Thursday, January 31, 2013

Are Earth Changes Natural or Helped Along by Man's Indifference?

Watching this video of masses of seafoam covering the beaches of an Australian town got to me wondering just how polluted our oceans have become. The foam was caused by the churning of the waters in the Pacific by a cyclone.  Although it seems funny and people were walking through the foam laughing at its uniqueness, I have to think it’s a bad sign and that possibly those people shouldn’t be playing in what could be a toxic substance. Combine this event with the odd weather patterns seen world-wide, the destruction Sandy caused, the many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes of the past year or two and it’s so obvious this world is going through massive changes (which are apparently cyclic according to studies of climate change). The only question is this: are we exacerbating those changes through pollution, fracking, draining natural resources?

Rebecca Ryals Russell
Mind the Signs
MG/YA Dark Fantasy Author

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile now and haven‘t yet decided what is best. My story is about real people: my mother and her journey to Texas as an orphan. It’s not a biography, but a fiction story based on her life. As it is now, I use her real name, her sibling’s names, the real town, and the family that raised her. There are many fictional characters too and a lot of “made up” events because I know so little about her real life.

The manuscript has been under contract since 2009, and I’m now having the contract cancelled so I can move forward with the story. I know, I should have done something earlier, but I kept busy with my other work so wasn’t too concerned. I am now, however. But I may go through and change names. I tried doing that before, but it just did not seem like my mother’s story using a fictional name. I’ve been reading articles online about the pros and cons of using real people. Also a couple of books I have mention the legality of doing so. I still haven’t decided what is best.

Since all of the characters involved are no longer living, one article said they can’t sue you. Mmm, that makes sense. Of course, there are the descendants. I’ve kept in touch with a few of the foster family members, the younger generation, of course. None of the real people in the story are bad or evil. The troublemakers are fictional. The characters are just children learning to adjust to new families and lives.

Have any of you dealt with a similar situation? What did you do about it? Thanks for any advice you might offer.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Life is much stranger than fiction

January has been a real...challenge.

My husband, who has had various digestive problems for nearly two years, finally had surgery. Which actually turned out fine (thank goodness). But he was in the hospital for five days, which required a bit of juggling on my part.

About three days after he came home, I had a car accident. It was raining and dark and I had taken another route to work in order to avoid traffic and flooding. I just didn't see the guy. I was fine, mostly, but sore. I took my own visit to the hospital to be safe. The car was...not fine. The insurance company totaled it. I loved that car.

Meanwhile, three days later, my laptop died. Just died. Not the battery, not the power cord. Dead. I was planning on replacing it this year. Later this year.

I mean, overall it's come out okay. Hubby is getting better, I got a new car (along with new car payments, thanks), and I will be getting a retroactive paycheck that should cover most of the new laptop. I had wanted to buy us a new grill, but, c'est la vie. I need the laptop.

This month has been such a comedy of errors that if I wrote it in a book, the editor would laugh me out of the room. I was starting to feel like ol' Will up there in the poster, listening for my narration. Why is it that when we read something that could actually happen but is such a string of terrible luck or coincidence (the accident was just waiting to happen, I swear. I made deliberate choices about the route I took that morning) that we don't believe it? It sounds so outrageous, so implausible on paper, but yet, here I am, living it out.

Just goes to prove. Life is mush stranger than fiction. You really can't make this stuff up.

I hope February is better.

Friday, January 25, 2013

There and Back Again

Yeah, I know that's been used as a title. Indulge me. I'm not using it as a title of anything other than this blog, but I am trying to use the concept. There and back again.

I was "there" once. I was in the zone - creating, publishing, promoting, conferencing, etc. I was excited to be where I was. But something happened along the way. I can't put my finger on what exactly, but somewhere along the way I became disillusioned. Frustrated. Apathetic.

I gave up.

So, now I'm trying to get "back" into the zone "again". Life intrudes sometimes, but I know that isn't really an excuse. Life is always going to be there. There is always going to be something distracting from work, something more enticing, more necessary to be done. So, how to get my mojo back?

I don't know yet.

But I'm trying.

I pulled up my current WIP and started looking at it again. I joined some Meet Up groups to see if that would help jump start me, get me excited about the whole prospect again. I am writing here. Tiny steps, but moving forward.

Sometimes I feel that I'm not "current" with my writing. I just saw a bit on the daily shows about a local author who made good with his first book. It's being made into a movie already. Why? Well, besides good writing (I am supposing, as I haven't read it) it's current. It's about zombies. That's all the rage now. Everything is zombies. I am still back when everything was elves, vampires and magic. That appeals to me. The walking dead does not. No matter how hard I make myself try. Just not going to happen.

Or, if it did, it would have to be a comedy,with zombies trying to keep their skin on with glue, and having parties to discuss which glue compound seems to work the best with the least side effects.

So,then - do writers need to adjust and write to the current trend merely to sell? Or do they try to write what they love and let the dust fall where it may? Keeping in mind that the dust may never settle anywhere. Do I keep trotting out my stories of elves and magic and fun, in a time of walking dead and chaos and angst? Or do I sit back and wait to see what will come "back again"? That seems a sure road to oblivion.

So, for readers - are you tired of the old trends of elves and vampires and magic and romance?

For writers - do you forsake what you truly love, and write to trend?

JennaKay Francis

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Winter has gripped the northeast and it's cold outside. The kind of cold that makes you want to stay inside with a blanket and a hot cup of tea and a fireplace if you have one (we have a fake one, it's something at least) and a nice story to revise.

What? Revising a story isn't on your list of preferred winter activities?

I love having a story to revise. The first draft for me is getting to know the story (some people might do that in outline phase, for me it happens in draft form).

But when I revise I get to make sure the story makes sense (always important) and I get to add the levels of detail that I sometimes skip as I rush to get the first draft on paper.

Plus there's the excitement of knowing that soon I can share the story with Beta readers, and sharing a story is even more fun than writing it.

So as the temperatures outside hover in the teens and they predict snow for the coming weekend I'm going to crank up my fake fireplace, have a cup of tea, and dive into this revision.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

RWA Workshops

Even though I've had two books published with another one soon to be released, I love going to writing conferences to learn more of the craft.

Back in 2002, I discovered my future writing mentor, Louella Nelson, while taking one of her novel writing classes at UCI extension.  It's because of Lou that I was able to write and complete two books.

This is the first book I wrote and finished while attending Lou's classes.

EARRINGS was followed by CROSSED OUT

This last year I decided to join RWA since Nationals were held in Anaheim. My current project has more romance and might even end up New Adult--or crossover.  So I figured it was time to branch out from SCBWI and take more workshops that deal with this.

 Plus Lou rejoined and is very active in our charter.

On Saturday I attended one of Lou's plotting workshops.

Here's an over view of her course:

Learn how to —
  • craft the novel’s major storyline
  • develop subplots
  • determine key elements in world-buildingselect a story goal

Breathe life into your story as you learn to craft the tension-filled
opening hook;the conflict-deepening scenes of inciting incident, pinches,
and disaster; the high-stakes decisions that thrill readers; the darkness-into-
light arcing of character in the crisis;the physical and emotional battles that
force characters to dig deep for courage; andthe critical pay-off scene that
satisfies even the most well-read reader.  You’ll learn how
to find your character’s wound and identify the crazy thinking that keeps
them from attaining their goals.  When you’ve taken away everything of
meaning and they have nowhere else to turn, you’ll know exactly how to
complete the internal arc of change.

I use Lou's writing paradigm for my own writing.  Lou will be publishing one
of her books on
plotting this summer!

I also love to listen to my favorite authors.

In March the YA author of SHATTER ME will be speaking on the YA market!

Loved her book!

Can't wait to learn more and apply this to my own writing!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fun With Software

Sorry this is late! January has been a very odd month. (This will be a quick one too!)

I like to tinker. It's a thing. And though software sometimes drives me crazy, I also love to muck about with it, especially if it's something new.

I bought one on special and decided to try out different things. (I'll hopefully remember the name before I'm done!) With it, you can do moving gifs. So added some extra bling to my covers. :P

(If you don't see anything, just refresh the page. I only have them cycling a few times so I wouldn't drive people crazy :P)

What do you all think? Kind of cool, no?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Accidental Series

Last summer, I decided to try my hand at writing a series. The decision had been a long time coming. Editors and publishers frequently asked me "Is this the first book in a series?" when they would read (and usually reject) my submitted manuscript. I always had the feeling that if I had said, "Why, yes, this does just happen to be the first book in a seven-book story arc," that I would have gotten accepted sooner. And I would have been lying through my teeth, too.

I write stand-alones. Characters introduce themselves to me --when I'm lucky, that is; frequently getting my characters to talk to me is like trying to pull a hippo out of a river with a rope-- and tell me their story. Then they go away and I am on to the next group who shows up and rings my doorbell. Ah, but that old "Is this a series?" demon has caught up to me at last.

In October, I released a self-published e-book called Haunted, the first book in my new YA series. I am happy with how sales are going, but the feedback I get more than anything else is: "Can't wait to see what happens next!" and "The book ends with a cliffhanger so I want to know what happens next!" and "This was a fun read and I can't wait for the next one!" 

Yikes! When I started my series, and I think I even bored you all, er, talked about it here, the series was based on a geographic location, Bridgeton Park Cemetery, and not on specific characters. Certainly not the ones in Haunted. And I truly never thought of my ending as a "cliffhanger." But after hearing more than a few times that readers are expecting a continuation of the story I just finished, well...I guess I'm going to go that route. Now, this is really, really tough for me, since I don't think that way. I think of my books as one-and-done. The idea of going back to the same well repeatedly is, to put it mildly, causing me to freak out.

So, if any of you out there are currently writing a series, I'd sure love to know what makes you and your stories tick. At the moment, I'm pretending I'm fan-fic'ing someone else. I have no clue how else to do this!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Giving your hero or heroine trouble #amwriting

Many times our heroes and heroines give us trouble. Sometimes they don't want to go where we want them to go. Sometimes they decide the goals we have set for them aren't the ones they want, Then there are the times they tell us that;s not why I did that. This is all part of a writer's game and yes, our characters do take life.

But to be real characters they have to have problems and they have to solve them. One trick here is to set a goal for them, one that takes small steps to obtain. One that comes complete with problems. But the trick of giving them trouble is to have the one problem solved lead to the next one that needs to be solved.

When writing the Affinities series, the first problem was the initial escape and when they accomplished that they were faced with the results of an earthquake and some magical things to overcome. This solved, they run into the next problem and the next. Their goal is to reach a certain place where they are to find those who will teach them to use their affinities for the elements. But when they reach here they encounter another problem to solve. There are also their internal problems to face for they are young teens and have growing up to do. These growing up elements are carried over the four books of the series.

So to lead your characters to the goal you've chosen, set them small problems to solve and have these problems lead to the next one to be solved.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

So You Wanna Write a Novel? PART ONE

I often have discussions with people who will say to me "Wow- that is so cool you actually have published novels. I wish I could be disciplined enough to write one. I have this great idea..."

Well, I will say...why not?

It is an ambitious task, no doubt, writing and finishing a novel. It takes weeks, or months of writing on a daily schedule. Even a few sentences a day. BUT- before you attempt it ask yourself these questions:

* Have I thought out the plot enough to be able to sustain a compelling story for 200-300 pages?
* Are the characters fleshed out to create a cast of interesting and unique individuals?
* Do you know your world well enough to describe it and make it a character in itself?
* Maybe you idea would make a better short story? Or a screenplay?

Lets assume the answer to the first three questions are a resounding YES. Now what? Well, that depends on your personality and style. If you are a detail oriented and obsessed with planning than use that strength. Write a chapter by chapter outline. This could be as simple as chapter names or as complex as detailed descriptions.

If you are more impetuous and like the freedom of spontaneous creation that go that route...(BUT if your are penning a complex thriller than I suggest a detailed outline noting all the twists and turns and red herrings. There is no such thing as a meandering page-turner. )

No matter what genre you are writing I would suggest one rule of thumb regarding planning: Know WHY your story ends. Not so much WHERE or WHEN but WHY are you writing it? You sent your hero (or anti hero) off on an advnture. Why? What is he or she to acomplish or learn? Every word you write pushes the main character towards that end. If you have your destination set firmly then you can stop at a few roadside attractions on the way as long as they offer a worthwhile view. The little tangents and character surprises (where the characters begin acting "on their own" is one of the greatest joys of writing.

You will find the first few chapters flow easily. You're excited and motivated. Then you hit a few speed bumps and this is where the champs are separated from the wannabes. Keep writing. Set a daily goal. Make it easy–one paragraph. That's it! If you promise yourself ten pages a day I will tell you exactly what will happen. The first two days you will meet your goal. YES! Then day three you'll stop at 5 pages. OH OH. Then 6 you'll write two. UGH. Then one. I SUCK. You will be discouraged and you'll stop and that stack of thirty or so pages will remain just that–an unfinished novel.

Trust me. If you write something per day, a page, a paragraph, a sentence BUT keep it going every day I promise that by the end of the year, max, you'll have your first draft.


Well ask yourself this: did you have a completed manuscript at the end of last year? If not, just think how nice it will be to have one at the end of next year.

Sart with the questions above. Answer them honestly. Then start your novel. One word at a time and watch the stack grow.

To be continued...

Michael DiCerto is the author of Milky Way Marmalade and recently his first middle grade novel Book One of The Adventures of Rupert Starbright: The Door to Far-Myst and Book Two: The Adventures of Rupert Starbright: The Secret of My-Myst.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Scarletta Press expands children's book titles in 2013

The new year brings a new market for children's book writers. Minneapolis publisher Scarletta Press is branching out with two new imprints. Scarletta Junior features fiction and nonfiction for middle grade readers, and Scarletta Kids publishes picture books and storybooks for children up to age eight.

Scarletta started publishing children’s books in 2011, with Lost in Lexicon, a novel by Pendred Noyce. A second children’s title, The Ice Castle, also by Noyce, followed a year later.

According to Scarletta’s publicity director Desiree Bussiere, “We rethought our structure: how to acquire books and what the future face of the company would be. We realized we really enjoyed producing and marketing children’s books. It prompted us to look for more children’s titles, and thus create our imprints.”

Of the 12 titles Scarletta will publish in 2013, six are Scarletta Kids titles, four are Scarletta Junior titles, and two are adult titles.

Be advised, their reading period is November 1 to March 1. Their Junior Readers and Kids imprints focus on literature and picture books with educational twists, exciting illustrations, and engaging plots.

Please query first with cover letter, synopsis, and one or two chapters (30 pages or less). Agented and unagented manuscripts are welcome. Send your query by mail or email to:

Scarletta Press
10 South 5th Street, Suite 1105
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Or email an attachment to:

For more information please read Scarletta Press Submission Guidelines

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Friday, January 4, 2013


I don't remember exactly when my parents introduced my younger sister and me to the concept of chores. There were daily chores - make your bed, put away your toys, feed the pets (a parakeet and a turtle), hang up your clothes, set the table at meals, help wash and dry the dishes. And then there were the weekly chores we 'helped' our older sisters with - dusting, vaccuuming, sweeping and mopping and washing floors, straightening up stacks of magazines after whoever was dusting had whipped by, cleaning the parakeet's cage, straightening up the basement playroom, cleaning the bathrooms. The older we grew, the more chores we took on - mowing the yards, helping shovel the walks during winter, raking leaves, doing the laundry, weeding the flower garden, picking up fallen apples.

Sometimes my sister and I complained while we worked, other times we just did our chores without thinking too much about it. But I was aware that we were fairly lucky - we didn't have even half the chores characters in the books I read did. We lived in the suburbs in the twentieth century, so we didn't have to feed chickens and collect their eggs, chop wood to heat our house or cook our food, sew our clothes, plant, weed and harvest gardens, milk cows, or take care of livestock. Cleaning the bathrooms was fairly easy compared to cleaning out a stable. The children's and YA books set in near present day had characters doing almost the same chores I had, so it was nice to be able to do the comparison. It made the dusting and vaccuuming easier when I knew that Trixie Belden had to do it in her home as well.

And then at some point an allowance began to be applied to the weekly chores, and that made doing them a lot easier. My sister and I approached the idea of money quite differently.My sister would make a great deal of spreading out all of her allowance on the bed and counting it all several times before putting it carefully into her piggybank. I would put my money in my piggybank, too, up until the time when my cousin introduced me to comic books, and I found another use for my allowance.

What do you remember about your chores as a child? Have the books you read mention similar ones? Did you have to do chores to get an allowance?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

7 Weird Things to Start Your New Year

After looking through my several hundred ideas for blog postings and not finding anything to strike my fancy, I thought, "Why not post something really fun and weird as a way of introducing a new year?"

So here it is.

Seven photos I recently came across and found so endearing, gross or just plain weird I had to share them. 


No explanation necessary! lol

"I love you, cuz."
"But will you in a year from now, when you'll make a luscious appetizer?"

Short-beaked echidna puggles born at Perth Zoo in August, marking a breeding milestone for the Australian zoo.

Environment Minister Bill Marmion said, "Only 24 echidnas have been bred in captivity in Australia." Eight of these were reportedly born at Perth Zoo.

The San Diego Zoo describes echidnas (also known as spiny anteaters) as an "almost illogical mammal" that has remained "unchanged since prehistoric times."

Other than their adorably bizarre appearance, echidnas are special for another reason. Like the duck-billed platypus, echidnas -- native to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea -- are monotremes. The platypus, along with the four species of echidna, are thought to be the only extant mammals that lay eggs.

According to a press release, the two new additions to Perth Zoo's echidna family have been named Nyingarn and Babbin. The names, in the Noongar language of an indigenous Australian group, mean "echidna" and "friend" respectively.

The sexes of the baby echidnas have yet to be determined.

Jyoti Amge, 19, from Mumbaie, India, is the world's smallest woman. She looks like a porcelain doll.

Mexican Vampire Woman, Maria Jose Cristerna blames a stand against domestic violence for her physical transformation. No way I'd tangle with her.

Swiss Shepherd dog Talli adopted and nursed three orphaned tiger cubs who were abandoned by their birth mother in southern Russia.

Kazuhiro Watanabe holds the record for the tallest mohawk, standing at 3 foot 8.6 inches. It took three cans of hairspray and one large bottle of gel after 15 years of growing to accomplish this feat.

So, I don't know about you, but I feel inspired after seeing all of this. There are some great stories hidden within each picture, written in invisible ink. All they need is a talented interpreter. 

Rebecca Ryals Russell
MG/YA Fantasy Raconteur
Fantastical Worlds Revealed

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Well, here it is, a new year. I don't make resolutions because I never keep them. But I welcome 2013 with a new book, so that's good news. Yes, my mg/tween paranormal eBook, A PIRATE, A BLOCKADE RUNNER, AND A CAT, is scheduled for a January 4th release as an eBook.

The talented artist that did this great cover is Nika Dixon.


Thirteen-year-old Erik Burks’ life is falling apart. When he discovers a lace bra in the glove compartment of his dad’s car, his mom leaves his father and drags Erik from being king of the hill in Texas to the bottom of the pits in South Carolina. No Dad, no baseball, no friends, just Starry Knight (a girl who reads minds) and her equally weird brother, Stormy, the twins that live down the block.

Just when Erik thinks life can’t get any worse, while hanging out at the beach one evening, he and the twins notice lights radiating from the lighthouse. The only problem is the lighthouse was deactivated years ago. Stranger still, a ship materializes in the moonlit harbor. Curious, the twins and a reluctant Erik investigate and discover the ghost of a blockade runner, a phantom cat, and a pirate who prowls Charleston Harbor, all searching for rest.

A former nonbeliever in the existence of ghosts, Erik cannot deny the proof before him. And he has a revelation: The ghosts may be the answer to his desire to return home. Erik soon makes a deal with the ghosts. He’ll help them find what they’re looking for so their spirits can rest in peace. In return, the ghosts will scare Erik’s mother so she’ll be on the next flight back to Texas. Star thinks his plan stinks, but Erik wants his life back, even at the cost of his mother’s sanity.

You can read an excerpt at the publishers and even pre-order if you enjoy ghost stories, MuseItUp Publishing. It's available for all different kinds of eReaders.