Friday, January 31, 2014


(Guest Blog by my friend Dax Varley, who also has a new YA book out.)

Long before my favorite new show, “Sleepy Hollow” aired—-long before it was even pitched—-I came up with an idea for my own Sleepy Hollow. Something I thought was fresh and unique. A retelling from Katrina Van Tassel’s point of view.

But with great ideas come great problems. Like…uh…what now? Ideas don’t usually come with built-in plots. That’s up to us. I wrestled with it a while, then…

The hard part. Actually writing it.

        Historicals = lots of research x limited word choices.


    Great idea conceived. Check.
    Plot plotted. Check.
    1793 historical voice. Check.

Retelling classic literature is a slippery slope. I knew there would be purists who’d look at my creative license like it was a fake I.D. But thankfully those were few and far between. Here are a few ways I twisted Washington Irving’s tale:

*(These are comparisons of characters NOT prose. I’m not that stupid!)

Irving’s Ichabod:

He was tall and exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, and feet that might have served for shovels. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weathercock perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.

My Ichabod:

Then I saw him, ambling toward us. My heart danced like never before. This young man was eons from the warty old toad we’d imagined. He couldn’t have been more than three years older than us. And with his waistcoat unfastened and shirt rolled at the cuffs, he hardly seemed the teacher sort. Though he did carry what looked like a small journal and a lead pencil in his hand.

Up close proved even better. His dark hair fell in wisps, framing his angelic face. His smiling lips accentuated a dimple on his cheek. And his eyes—Those eyes!—as green as our meadow, shimmering with morning dew.

Irving’s Katrina:

She was a blooming lass of fresh eighteen, plump as a partridge, ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her father's peaches, and universally famed, not merely for her beauty, but her vast expectations. She was withal a little of a coquette, as might be perceived in her dress. She wore ornaments of pure yellow gold to set off her charms, and a provokingly short petticoat to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round.

My Katrina:

(Upon endeavoring to dig up the Horseman’s bones)

Near four in the morning I dressed, wearing no stays or petticoats to hinder my work. I slipped into a shift, then a simple woolen dress. Both could easily be knotted at the hem. I put on two pairs of wool stockings for warmth, and tied my hair back with twine instead of ribbon. My slippers would get me as far as the stables, where I’d placed a pair of Father’s sturdy boots. To fit, I’d tucked rolled linen into the toes. My cloaks kept me sufficiently warm, but their hems caught easily on my heels. So I took one of Father’s overcoats too.

Irving’s Brom:

He was always ready for either a fight or a frolic; but had more mischief than ill-will in his composition; and with all his overbearing roughness, there was a strong dash of waggish good humor at bottom. He had three or four boon companions, who regarded him as their model, and at the head of whom he scoured the country, attending every scene of feud or merriment for miles round.

Sometimes his crew would be heard dashing along past the farmhouses at midnight, with whoop and halloo, like a troop of Don Cossacks; and the old dames, startled out of their sleep, would listen for a moment till the hurry-scurry had clattered by, and then exclaim, "Ay, there goes Brom Bones and his gang!"

My Brom:

“Brom, I don’t have those feelings for you.” Even if I did, I could never put up with his endless brawling and half-witted stunts. He, along with Marten and Garritt, were always up to some foolishness—especially after an evening at the River Song tavern. Where there was mischief, Brom was involved—-be it cockfights, racing, or ridiculous pranks like upending an outhouse or stringing wire to knock a rider from his horse. I would be marrying a child.

Irving’s Horseman:

Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame.

My Horseman:

Within moments, I saw him—a headless outline of black within a gray cloud. As though sensing my eyes upon him, he slowed his phantom steed, circling once. The horse reared, pawing the haze. The Horseman quickly drew his sword and sliced the air.

His hand reached out—beckoning…inviting …bewitching me. A gray breath of evil played upon my neck, and my name wafted through the mist.

Irving’s setting:

It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory-nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the neighboring stubble field.

My setting:

We finally came to a halt at my favorite part of our property—-a lush knoll that overlooked the Hudson.

The autumn leaves had scattered like pirate’s gold. Ships and scows drowsed along the river. Gulls circled the winking whitecaps. The smell of pine nuts and the sighs of lapping water were an elixir for the soul. Because of its serenity, I had secretly named it Bliss.

Irving’s twist:

The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was not to be discovered.

Brom Bones, too, who, shortly after his rival's disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell.

My twist: ???

    Spoiler Free. Check.

Amazon link to Severed:

Dax Varley is the author of Severed, Spellbound and Determined, and the Oracles novelettes. She lives in Richmond, Texas with her husband and a half-dozen imaginary friends. Real or imaginary, you can find her at:


Wednesday, January 29, 2014



How are your marketing skills? Mine are pathetic. I try and try to promote my work, but nothing seems to work. Yet, I see others doing very well with their books. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in an Online Marketing Symposium titled “What Works, What Doesn’t,” hosted by


Arlee Bird Tossing it Out

Alex J. Cavanaugh (self-titled blog)



Jeremy Hawkins Jeremy Hawkins Being Retro


Over 50 blogs were involved in the symposium. I haven’t visited all of them yet, but hope to before they do away with their tips. Here are some things I learned that I hope will help me. Maybe they’ll help you, too. Check out each of their blogs for details as I only give a little here.




From Yolanda Renee:


She likes reviews and says they have increased her sales, especially if they’re posted on a blog.

Alex Cavanaugh:


He thinks blog tours are very effective and gives a few tips.

Have one tour stop a day.

All guest posts and interviews should be different for each blog.

Try to send each blogger that’s announcing the release of your book something different.

Find stops that have a lot of followers.

Announce your tour each day on twitter and other places.

Giveaways are good too. Most everyone likes free stuff.



She had a virtual book party for her book bundle for kids on the site where the books were sold. She sent invitations. Not everyone replied, but the few that attended made it fun. They played games, had virtual food and drinks, a guest book, and other things. She says that timing is the key and also deciding where to host the party, such as Face Book, Google Plus, or other places.


She says another way to promote your work is with eBook trailers or a video. You can read part of your work. (I’d like to try this.) Marketing is about taking risks, she says.


C Lee McKenzie:


C Lee creates and presents writing workshops. Many of the students she works with keep in touch after the workshop, asking when her next book comes out. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) She’s looking for more fifth-grade teachers who want to read stories to their classes.


She also thinks contributing to anthologies helps. They lead to bookstore appearances with other authors and to meeting booksellers, important for all authors. Good reviews help with sales as well.



L Diane believes that early reviews are important. She gives a time schedule of when to request reviews for magazines, book clubs, pre-publication reviewers, and other places. Get the word out as early as possible.



Crystal has a lot of good information about running a powerful book blog tour, from getting the word out to following up and everything in between, way too much to post here. Check out her site, along with the others.


There’s so much more, but I need to stop here. Check out the rest of the blogs. I hope to visit more of them because I know there is great advice waiting to be read from talented authors and bloggers. I’ve tried to provide links to the ones mentioned, if I had them.


Happy Reading and Good Luck Marketing.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

No More Goddesses Book Tour

This week I'm on a virtual book tour! For today's posting I thought I'd share one of my guest posts that was originally posted at:

10. Keep your day job

Some still have the mistaken belief that once you sign a book contract, that the money will start rolling in. Sure, some authors get big advances and are able to survive on that. But most successful authors I know? They’re the 10 year + overnight success. I was lucky enough that I had the option of being able to quit my full-time job and concentrate on taking care of my son and my writing. Otherwise I would have kept my full-time teaching job because working outside of the writing biz opens you up to so many other experiences that you can use later in your writing. Being a bilingual teacher helped me when writing Earrings of Ixtumea. Even my graduate level counseling classes helped me numerous times with understanding why a character might act the way they do.

9. Don’t talk about just your book on social media sites

I admit I’m excited about my book and want EVERYONE TO KNOW ABOUT IT!

But I know that if that’s all I talk about? It’ll get boring real fast.

Because I admit, I hate those Twitters, FB posts from other authors that just advertise their books and nothing else. Once I even was included in a virtual book blog tour that I knew nothing about. **Don’t ever do that! Yes, use social media. I do but don’t go overboard to the point that it’s all about you and nothing else. No one likes that.

8. Don’t burn any bridges

A huge thing I’ve learned is to be careful on what you post online. If you’re upset over something or someone, don’t post it online.

Fact: Whatever you post on the Internet stays there. Forever. You never know if later on that one post will come back and haunt you.

7. Sometimes you don’t have a final say on the cover

This one I kind of knew about. I’ve been lucky so far. Most authors do get to have some feedback in the cover and a lucky few actually get final say. I’ve had some input on my covers but in the end you will almost NEVER have final say on a cover and if you DO you are extremely lucky.

6. You made how much?

I still get people asking me how much money I’ve made off my books. I think this is a professional no-no. Unless of course you want to share that info. Otherwise, I don’t and I won’t ask fellow authors either.

5. You really should be writing something else in between books

When a book comes out the best thing to do is start another project. I found this helps me not to dwell on not so great reviews(most every author I know gets these). Plus, you have something that you can query and/or give to your publisher/agent later.

4. Writing is a biz

I think the big thing here is to treat writing as your business. Continue writing, querying, and going to conferences. Don’t make excuses on why you can’t write. Just do it!

3. Read

It blows me away when I hear authors saying that they refuse to read as they’re afraid it will influence their own writing. What I do is I don’t read anything that I feel is too close to a project I’m currently working on. But not read? Ohmigod, that’s like telling me not to breathe. To me? Writing and reading go hand in hand.

2. Yes, the hard part is after the book is published

When I first was published I thought the hardest part was over. Wrong! Now comes the hard part. You need to get out there and let others know about your books. You can’t expect your publisher to do all this for you. Sure, you can hire a publicist but they can be costly. Be part of Twitter, FB, Pinterest (I have boards for all my books), and join professional organizations like RWA and SCBWI.

1. This biz isn’t for the weak of heart!

The biggest thing I’ve learned? This biz isn’t for the weak of heart. Yes, you’ll get rejections and not all 5 star ratings. Yes, not everyone will love your book. You have to realize this is a business and not to take this personally. And eat chocolate. Lots of it. Dark chocolate is my favorite.

Check me out on twitter at @ixtumea and FB at @kbaccellia to follow my tour and have a chance at winning a fun swag book bag set!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reaching Those Goals

New Year's resolutions have been made. Maybe they've been kept, maybe not. Perhaps they've become a new habit for the new year, perhaps they've been forgotten.

It's easy to always make resolutions and set goals for ourselves. It's not always easy to stick to it. This is not ground-breaking stuff - most people would agree (I would say everyone would agree, but I'm sure there's someone out there who finds sticking to their resolutions and achieving their goals easy, though I never met the person).

One of the places where I set goals for myself is in my writing. That's one of the reasons why I like NaNoWriMo so much. The website provides a place to publicly track how much I've written. Because I like to feel like an achiever, I find it inspiring to have to keep track like that. Consequently I am able to meet the word count goal for November.

Then December comes with Christmas preparations.

Then January and family birthdays.

And suddenly I'm trying to remember what it was like to stick to a regular writing schedule.

But the other day a friend pointed me toward a new website. MyWriteClub. It has just what I liked best about NaNoWriMo a place to set goals and keep track of them. You can also see your friends' goals and cheer them on with comments.

It's new and still in Beta so I'm sure more features will be coming soon. But for now, I've found a way to help me keep track of my writing goals in the New Year (though snow days this week seem to be messing with me). If you want to join and be my friend I'm Christine_Marciniak.

Happy Writing.

Monday, January 20, 2014

We interrupt your regular blog for this MAJOR announcment

Yes, normally this is Kim Baccellia's day to blog. She has graciously offered to switch days with me so that I can make my HUGE announcement.

I can hardly believe it's true myself, actually, but I've known about it for two months, I just haven't been able to say ANYTHING about it until today. I've been squeeing about since Thanksgiving, and NOW I can FINALLY tell everyone!!

I sold a manuscript. Well, not ME, but my AWESOME agent, Jordy Albert. SHE sold it to....

Strange Chemistry Books!!!

This is AMAZING to me. This is by far the biggest deal of my whole career. First of all, this is an advance paying, agent-only (except during open door periods) publisher. Second, they are putting the book out in ebook, print, and audio. I'm SUPER excited about the audio book. Third, they are based in the UK, so the book will be out in the US, UK, and Australia (I believe) ALL at the same time.

They are distributed in the US by Random House, so this is my VERY best chance at having bookstore placement!!!

I cannot even begin to tell you how very excited I am about this. Oh, wait, I guess you want to know about the book, huh? This is the Steampunk Fairy-Tale Retelling/Historical Fantasy that I've been trying to sell for YEARS, I think. It's had a LONG journey. It used to be called Smoke & Mirrors, but for some very good reasons we had to find a new title. And I think I like the new one even better.


Isn't it awesome?? So NOW, I can announce that A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON will be released by Strange Chemistry Books in JULY 2014.

Maybe I might turn into a YA Author You've Heard Of after all :)


Friday, January 17, 2014

We Live in Such Marvelous Times!

Truly, even when life is hard, we have so much to be thankful for. Friends, family, and the glorious connected world we currently live in.

Since way, way, way back, I've been a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I've read all the originals stories and novels. I've watched lots of the different movies and the older series based on the characters. I've even read fictional works by others who love these characters and are as fascinated by them even more.  (Fred Saberhagen or Carole Nelson Douglas anyone?)

Because of the times we live in, I'm getting to love TWO contemporary and different takes on this old love at the same time.

Guys, say hello to Sherlock and Elementary.

Bennedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu

If you've not heard of one or the other of these awesome series, make sure you go looking. Sherlock is presented by the BBC through the Masterpiece Theater series (so only 3 movies/episodes a year!), while Elementary is on regular American TV brought to us by CBS. 

These two shows are a wonderful example of characters that resonate with multiple generations. We writers know there's nothing new under the sun, but that it has everything to do with how you tell the story, how you make it unique and yours. 

Watching the different interpretations by the actors and the episode writers for these modern Sherlock Holmes is too much fun. Even more fun is seeing how all those skills which seemed miraculous back at the turn of the century when Arthur Conan Doyle first presented the characters, can be just as fascinating today.

And despite the fact these two shows hail from different countries, this marvelous age we live in makes them readily available to all, no matter where you live. 


P.S. As I found out while doing a panel on Sherlock Holmes at Fencon last year - Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (two Sherlocks in two different countries) worked together on a stage version of Frankenstein done as a character study of the monster as well as the doctor. In this rendition, the two actors would switch roles each night taking turns at playing the monster and the doctor. What are the odds of that? 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Excavating a Scene

I take it as an amazing compliment when someone tells me that a sad scene in one of my books made her cry. (I have never had a male reader admit to that and don't expect I ever will.) I am equally delighted when a reader tells me that a scene I had written to be scary actually managed to scare her. Stephen King once said that nothing gave him more pleasure than scaring the socks off his readers, or something to that effect. I know what he means.

To that end, when I run across a particularly satisfying, well-written scene, whether it be scary, sad, funny, or poignant, I come back to it over and over to take it apart and see if I can figure out the magic. Particularly if the author is dealing with something that requires the reader to suspend any possibility of disbelief. Most of the books I love have story lines that would look preposterous written down on paper in plain sentences. A boy wizard whose destiny is to destroy the most powerful and evil wizard in collective memory? A ring powerful enough to enslave a world? A trio of outcasts in a boys' boarding school in England who manage to pull off retaliation after clever retaliation without ever leaving a shred of evidence -all at the ages of 15 and 16? Or a king with a magical sword whose kingdom has fallen through corruption but who sleeps until the time that his country should need him again? How is it that the writers of these tales are able to invite me into a world that is not geographically located but is easily as real as long as I am there?

I read to learn.

For sheer fright, I look to Mr. King, of course, whose books could make me so tense I would jump on the bus when someone hit the "stop" buzzer for their particular exit. I took note of how he paced the scene, the particular phrasing he used, and the situational elements that are universally unsettling: the chills up the spine, the approaching footsteps in an unoccupied house, the creak of a door or a sigh that may or may not be the wind. His word choices also left me in awe. I think one of the scariest tidbits he ever wrote was the phrase carved into a tombstone in the book Salem's Lot: God Grant He Lie Still. That still freaks me out, the implications are so deep.

For funny, I love Gordon Korman. No More Dead Dogs had me laughing out loud. Mr. Korman is an expert at capturing situational humor. The fun in his books arises from the behaviors his characters exhibit, and those behaviors are right on target, given the age group (eighth grade) and the gender (boys) the work focuses on. Of course, there is an equally funny parallel girl's thread running through it, but I don't want to go into that in case someone out there has missed this amazing work.

But for crying? I have wept over classics like Little Women and A Christmas Carol, but there is one particular work, the third book in an obscure series (about the O'Nolan Family and published in the 60's) by an equally obscure writer (Mary Wallace) that I cannot for the life of me figure out. She begins book three with a scene that is so spectacularly heart-wrenching that I can pick up the book, read those first 20 pages, and have tears running down my face by the end of that chapter. No matter how many times I read it, and no matter how hard I try to figure out how she worked that magic, I cannot deconstruct the scene to the point where I can say Aha! It's the narrative! Or, it's the dialogue!. But it still works on me every time I read it and I wish I knew how she constructed that spell. Sigh.

Currently I've been trying to get my hands on a copy of Cloud Atlas because the movie is having the same effect on me. Every time I watch the movie -and I've watched it a LOT- I come away with one more example of amazing symbolism, one more motif, one more detail that I missed before. And again I find myself scratching my head and asking, how'd they do that?

And can I?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Conversations With Horses

Introducing a guest post by my friend Trisha Wooldridge, who has a great new Middle Grade book out.

Conversations with Horses and other Adventures
By Trisha J. Wooldridge

I'm not sure which of my many equine-related injuries prompted my mom to send me a scan of this old photo with an email saying how I was always "horse crazy."

In any case, it's not terribly surprising to most who know me that my first published novel included a lot of equine content. Nor that it was entitled after a faerie horse known for eating children and being destructive. I mean, even my chiropractors consider the weird horse-related adjustments as norm, now.

Before I even started writing The Kelpie, I was a volunteer for the Bay State Equine Rescue, a non-profit that helps abused, neglected, and abandoned horses through education and direct intervention.

While the title character in the novel can "talk," the non-magickal horses who populate the world of my heroine, Heather MacArthur, also get their points across, too. Because horses do communicate. They're always communicating...they understand each other very well, and most of them do their best to learn ways to communicate with the humans who populate their world.

My experience with the rescue helped me craft the "conversations" with the equines in my stories. When I was regularly volunteering and doing barn chores, part of the responsibility was to work and handle the horses. That included all grooming and exercising. I couldn't ride the horses for a number of reasons, but I could do "ground work" with them. I hadn't even realized "ground work" was a thing. And it was awesome! Whether I was teaching them basic manners ("No, you do not walk OVER the human on the other end of the rope!"), exercising them to help build lost muscle, or even learning a few tricks from them ("Silly human, this is how you play tag!"), we were learning to communicate.

I also turned to a lot of research (a writer researching? Never!) from books, clinics, and online videos and lessons. One particular bit of research, from Monty Roberts's book, From My Hands to Yours, I learned about the unusual--and very creepy!--posture that stallions take when they threaten each other.

All of that experience funneled into my writing, right from page one, when the horse Heather and her best friend, Joe, are riding starts acting up. And the two get caught in the middle of a fight with their horse and the kelpie.

So, while my goal in working with Bay State Equine Rescue was to help horses and satisfy my own need to be around the amazing animals, they ended up helping me beyond measure. But that's the nature of a good relationship. Especially horses. Both humans and horses give, and both human and horse receives exponentially more from the relationship. Whether it was a horse I only knew for a few weeks or the wonderful horse I decided to adopt and care for the rest of her years, we teach each other well and forever change each others' lives.

While I'm spending more time with my own Calico Silver in her barn than out at the BSER barn, I want to continue supporting the rescue through my writing, so a percentage of every sale of The Kelpie will be donated to the Bay State Equine Rescue.


The Kelpie is available through all online and brick & mortar bookstores, big box or your favorite independent store.

About the Book:

The Kelpie on Amazon
The Kelpie at Barnes & Noble
ISBN: 978-1-937053-78-9
ISBN (ebook): 978-1-937053-79-6

Appropriate for ages 11 and up
Price: $7.95

About the Author:

T. J. Wooldridge is a professional writing geek who adores research into myth, folklore, legend, and the English language. Before delving full-time into wordsmithing, she has been a tutor, a teacher, an educational course designer, a video game proofreader, a financial customer service representative, a wine salesperson, a food reviewer, an editing consultant, a retail sales manager, and a nanny. While infrequent, there are times she does occasionally not research, write, or help others write. During those rare moments, she enjoys the following activities: spending time with her Husband-of-Awesome, a silly tabby cat, and two Giant Baby Bunnies in their Massachusetts home hidden in a pocket of woods in the middle of suburbia, reading, riding her horse in the nearby country stables and trails (not very well), reading Tarot (very well), drawing (also not very well), making jewelry (pretty well), making lists, and adding parenthetical commentary during random conversations. She also enjoys dressing up as fey creatures, zombies, or other such nonsense at science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


HAPPY NEW YEAR, dear friends and followers.  May 2014 bring you happiness, good health, and dreams come true. I'm thankful 2013 is over. It was not a good year for me. January 2014 looks promising with the release of my MG Novel STAR OF THE TEAM sometime this month. I'd like to share a little of it with you.

Artwork by Aidana WillowRaven

Short summary:
A girl.
A dream.
An accident.
A dream shattered.

Ten-year-old Kate Taylor wants to be the star of her basketball team, Angels, but when her tooth is knocked out at one of the games, her goal is in jeopardy. Even though the dentist replants the tooth, her mother, who is also her coach, refuses to let Kate play unless she can come up with a way to protect the tooth.

With the encouragement of her friends and teammates, Kate tries everything. She asks her sister, Zoe, how her boyfriend, Ray, protects his teeth when playing football. Zoe is clueless. Kate wears her friend Simon’s catcher’s mask to practice, but it’s too big and blocks her view of the goal. Kate stuffs cotton balls in her mouth and thinks she’s swallowed one. Nothing works.

To add to Kate’s problems, Emily, the new girl at River Bend Elementary, is great at basketball. Kate worries Emily will be the star of the team. On top of that, Simon, the school brain, as well as klutz, says he plans to join the Angels, even though boys are not allowed.

In the final game of the season, Kate faces a decision that will not only decide which team wins the game, but whether she’s star of the team or not.


The book is not out yet and I have no purchasing links. Will post them when available. Until then, check out my other sites.

4RV Publishing
Good Reads
Face Book
Library Thing

Happy Reading.