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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blog Migration...

Just a quick post to let y'all know that my blog is migrating to my website. I've had this blogger site up for a loooong time as my official blog, and it's served me well, but I've also been operating my website for several years, and it's silly to continue to manage both. I will keep this site up and active, so all posts will remain archived and available, but all new posts from this point forward will be on my main website. Thanks for reading! I hope you continue to do so!

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

An Abundance of Thyme

Tonight as I was cooking dinner for my family, I opened my spice cabinet and, while rummaging through in search of something, knocked over a container. As I set the container right-side-up, I looked at the label and started laughing like a crazy person, because it's one of those herbs I have way too much of. I rarely cook with it, you see. It was thyme, and the first thing that ran through my head was, "I certainly have an abundance of thyme!" I laughed myself silly because if there is one thing in this life I don't have an abundance of, it is time - real time, of course - and I rather think few people can say they actually do. But this struck me as so funny at the end of this week because it's been a particularly time-less week - or, a week during which I've wanted nothing so much as a little time in which to write, and have been unable to find any at all.

Exactly one week ago, I was so sick, I couldn't get out of bed all day. It was the sort of sick that makes you wish you could erase your existence and get a do-over, but, alas, life doesn't work that way. On Monday I felt better, but I had a long day of work ahead of me, followed by a three-hour-long senior thesis disputatio to attend for half of my senior students. It is the culmination of their classical education and not something to be missed (and quite enjoyable), but it does make for a long night at the end of a long day, especially when one is already under the weather. Tuesday was a repeat of Monday - work all day, three hour disputatio at night. Wednesday after a full day of work, my husband and I had a bit of a drive to a work Christmas party that lasted late, so another night gone. Thursday I had another long day of work followed by a long faculty meeting at school. And Friday another day at work followed by another long drive to another Christmas party. Now, all of these evening events, I should point out, are things I enjoy! All in one week while recovering from illness and trying to write a book... a bit much to handle. Especially given that three of my four boys have been fighting the same ailment as I, and my sleep was interrupted a lot all week by crying and coughing. Then yesterday, my three-year-old regressed into the coughing part of the illness quite badly, and yesterday night, instead of either of us sleeping, I spent most of the night on the couch holding him in my lap while he coughed, cried, and burned up with fever.

So when I knocked over the thyme in the cabinet at dinner tonight, yes... it struck me as funny. Because this is life, and time waits for no man - or woman, or writer. As Gollum taunts Bilbo in The Hobbit:

"This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down."

Am I being a little maudlin? Perhaps. But it's been a difficult, sleepless week, and I'm staring at a desk full of notes and a manuscript that hasn't yet reached 10,000 words. And time keeps passing remarkably fast. I would love to say that I have release date news on Criminal for you all, too, but I don't; not yet. All I can say is that it is obviously not coming out by the end of 2015 here, and I apologize for that, but I have been in communication with my publishing house, and I hope to have news soon. In the meanthyme, I'm going to keep plugging along, even if I can only get a handful of words written per day. This week promises to be less hectic than last, so we'll see what I can get done!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Writers Write.

Writers write. I know this is a revolutionary concept, so let me run it by you again. Writers... write.

I often get asked, "But how do you have the time?" Usually this question is asked by someone who has always wanted to write a book, but who has never figured out how to sit down and make it happen. Also not uncommon is for this sort of person to say that they've wanted to write a book for years. Years. Not months or weeks, but years. "Sure, I'm a writer," these people say. "I just haven't finished my book yet. I don't have the time." "How much of it do you have done?" I might ask. "Oh, you know... bits and pieces..." Quick change of subject.

If you do not actually write, you are not a writer. I'm not trying to be a condescending jerk; I'm trying to motivate you. There are a number of things that keep wannabe writers from becoming actual writers, and some of these things are legitimate reasons. I don't want to discount anybody's personal experience or struggles, but if what's holding you back is just a general lack of time, then I'm here to tell you that you will never have the time to write a book. You must make the time. Do you really want another five or ten years to pass without your dream of becoming a novelist becoming a reality? If so, read no further. Go back to Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram. Social media is calling. But if there is a story burning inside of you longing to get out, then today is your day. Not tomorrow - today.

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote that the act of writing stories takes, "Labor, discipline, and special skill." Many people have the special skill part down, but lack in the labor and discipline. If you are lacking in any of those three areas, you will never be successful as a writer. How did I write eight novels while teaching full-time and giving birth to (and raising) four little boys? I have always made time to sit down and write. Not every day, but when it really matters, I do. So the question really becomes: How badly do you want it?

In honor of this subject and November being National Novel Writing Month, I thought I'd post a link to a fantastic article I found on this subject from NY Times bestselling author Hugh Howey. If you want a serious kick in the pants, this is where you can find it. Then go forth and write!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What's in a Book Festival?

Book festivals are exhausting. So much to pack up - and I have a Prius, so packing that little sucker is like playing a high-stakes game of Tetris - so much to not forget, so many details to iron out, so few opportunities to eat or use the bathroom (who needs to use the bathroom, anyhow?), so much talking and smiling and talking and smiling and talking and smiling..., so much worry over selling enough books to make the venture profitable, so much hoping the person you're assuring will like your book will actually like your book, so much work. But I never question if going to book festivals is worth it, because my readership is what makes my writing possible.

Authors are a rather anchoritic bunch by nature. That is to say, we like to be alone, and we can tend to treat our art as a sort of religious practice. It's spiritually fulfilling, in a way, to close oneself off from the real world and sub-create a new world in the form of a story. I think most of us would prefer to write our stories in seclusion, submit them for editing and publishing, and then set them loose (for sale) in the magical world of the internet and let the readers come to us. No direct selling, please. No self-promotion, thank you very much. The Art should speak for itself.

The problem with this is, even in a perfect world, I don't believe this is ever the way it should be. Art always has a personal source. We, the authors, are part of our written works, and our readers deserve a chance to get to know us, and us them. To set a story loose on the world is to enter into a relationship with the people consuming the story. Hopefully that relationship will be a good one, but as with most relationships, it will not thrive without communication and effort on both parts.

One way devoted readers who have entered into a relationship with authors through their books can help that relationship thrive is by writing reviews on places such as Amazon and Goodreads, telling their friends about the author's books, and generally spreading the word! But how can the author foster a good relationship with his or her readers?

I think one way (besides the obvious way of continuing to write books) is to remain engaged and active in book festivals, and that is why I attend as many as I am able to attend. I can blog, I can Facebook and Tweet every day, I can post to Pinterest, but it's not the same as getting on the ground in the real world and meeting new (and old) readers. Meeting people in person - shaking hands and signing books, and placing my stories directly into their possession - is something that will never go out of style. It keeps me grounded and puts names and faces to my readers. It encourages me, too. I hope that, no matter where my books take me in the future, I will always have opportunities to attend book festivals and greet my readers in person. The moment you lose that personal connection to your readers is the moment you fail in your half of the author/reader relationship.

My next book festival, if you live anywhere in the vicinity and would care to join me, is the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN on Oct. 9-11. Come, grab a couple copies of The Gateway Chronicles or BREEDER, and build a relationship with me!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Questions From a New Reader

Every now and then I hear from a new reader so enthusiastic with either The Gateway Chronicles or BREEDER (or both!) that they come to me with a plethora of questions, and sometimes those questions are blog-worthy because I feel there might be more people out there interested in the same information. This is one of those situations! The following questions came in last month from a new reader of The Gateway Chronicles... 

1) Okay, I can't stand it anymore. I must know. What addictive substance did you hide between the lines of your books?? 

Fairy dust. That addictive substance is fairy dust. 


Actually, in all seriousness, I've worked quite hard over the years to make sure my books follow established literary patterns without being cliched. I believe the human brain looks for patterns subconsciously,  and because of this, there are certain storytelling techniques that will always feel more fulfilling in the end than others (or than a story written with no plan at all). This is one reason why I also beat on the "plan ahead!" drum when I give seminars on creative writing.

2) Ever since my first read-through, I've been trying to figure out how much of yourself you put into a character, if not more than 1. So, obviously Darcy is from your town and went to your camp. I tend to think you put some other parts of you in her, too. When at camp, did you have those magical feelings about the camp? Did you feel that perhaps you were meant for a different world, not fitting in? Or have you so aptly captured those aspects from other things you've read and from hearing it from others? Or are you more like Lewis, always carrying around a backpack full of journals? Did you have a friend - or were you the friend - like Sam, who was always by your side, never giving up on you even when you were mean-ish to her? 

Darcy is definitely the character into which I poured the most of myself. I did use my hometown (from my teen years) as Darcy's hometown, and the camp they attend in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the real camp I attended every summer of my life from birth until college (with the names changed). There was absolutely something magical and different about that camp, and not in a mystical, creepy, I-can't-seperate-fantasy-from-reality, delusional sort of way, but in a total separation from the rest of the world, from the rest of civilization, sort of way. The real camp, which I'll just call Cedar, was a constant for me in an otherwise changing world. Every summer when we went there, it was virtually unchanged. Obviously the flowers and trees and sun and water and rocks and sky didn't change, nor did the smells or sounds or sensations of being there, but even the camp itself went through very little change. For 18 years, I don't even remember the quilts on the camp beds being replaced with new ones, or the carpet being torn up and replaced. The furniture and artwork was always the same. There were small changes made here and there, but nothing big was done until I was an adult. I know the forest trails out there like the back of my hand, and it's so achingly remote and beautiful. When the sun comes through the trees, or glimmers in off the water, at just the right times of the day, it really is a magical place. It was an escape from reality, and it did make me feel like I was meant for another world. I really didn't fit in well in my "real world" life, at least I didn't feel like I did much of the time, so going to Cedar was like an escape into a fantasy world for me. It revived my spirit. In writing The Gateway Chronicles, then, I wanted to cause the reader to have this same sort of revived sensation by "visiting" the camp - and Alitheia - through the pages of my books.

I was (still am) a bit like Lewis, too. I don't carry a backpack around full of journals, but I'm rarely without one! I keep a small journal in my purse, and I probably have ten to twelves scattered around my house that are full of story ideas, notes, sketches, names, sample chapters... you name it! I put that aspect of my personality into Lewis's character. 

I definitely was not the loyal Sam-friend, although I wish I could have been! I've always been a bit too self-centered to be a Sam. But I had a Sam-friend, who is still one of my closest friends today. Even when I grew exasperated with her and did mean-ish things to her so I could go off and have "me time," she never gave up on me. And she always saw (sees) the good in everyone. That combination of loyalty, optimism, and overall goodness is so rare. I knew I had to write in a character like Sam who had those same traits. A Darcy needs a Sam. (And the parallel in names to Sam in The Lord of the Rings is not entirely unintentional! :) ).

3) Did you make up narks, or are those an across-the-board fantasy creature? 

I made up narks! They are entirely unique, although I tied them loosely to Tolkiensian elves to give people a frame of reference (I believe I say in the first book that they are in the elf family, or something like that). Every successful fantasy series, in my opinion, has to have a unique fantasy creature that has been created just for that particular universe. Lewis has his marshwiggles and dufflepuds, Tolkien his hobbits, and Rowling her house elves. I went with narks, which was a word I pulled from a form letter at Cedar (apparently a "night nark" is actually just a counselor who enforces night curfew). I came up with the concept of having night narks and day narks sharing one body, and the physical and social characteristics fell into place from there. I was super nervous about it before the publication of the first book, though, because I felt that of all the things in the story, the narks were what could flop the worst. Either people would love them, or people would think they were terribly cheesy and hate them. Thankfully, some of the first feedback I got on The Six was that people loved the narks - specifically Yahto Veli. I was relieved!

4) You mentioned teenagers as your target audience. Do you hear from male teenagers about the books? Are they drawn to the battles and strategy?

Yes! Surprisingly, I hear from lots of male teenagers - actually, I hear from lots of males, period! I wasn't sure how The Gateway Chronicles would be received by boys since it's written around a primary female protagonist, but the boys who have read it have responded overwhelmingly positively. Some of my biggest fans are boys, especially boys between the ages of 11 and 14. After the publication of book 4 (I think), I had 8th-grade boys (who were my students at the time), coming up to me the next day, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived and red-nosed, saying things like, "Thanks a lot, Mrs. B. You made me cry!" or "This is your fault, you know. Your fault!" It was great. I've also recently had a lot of grown men reading them and giving me positive feedback. That's blown me away. I think part of it is that they like the battles and strategy, but I really think that's only a small part of it at the end of the day. Some themes are just universal. If you write a story that speaks to the human condition, you're going to have a crossover story on your hands. 

5) Any tips on where I can look up the names/places?

Baby name books or generators online, lol. But it's the truth! I have a big book of baby names that includes names from all around the world with country of origin, meaning, variations, etc., and I've relied heavily on that for choosing names with specific meanings I wanted for The Gateway Chronicles (and all my writing). A Greek translator online would help with many of the Alitheian names, too, but not all of them! Some of the nark names incorporate Finnish and Hebrew and Native American languages. If you ever really are desperate to know what a particular name means, though, and can't find it online, just shoot me an e-mail at and ask me, and I'll spill the beans. :) 

6) Is it tough to switch gears to your teacher-hat?

Yes and no. At this stage in my career, it's really more about the time crunch. My writing and teaching career have coincided for about eight years now, so I know more or less how to balance things. There are times of the year when, as a teacher, I just have to focus on getting teacher stuff done, but then there are other times where I have more energy and it's easier to come home and write for a couple of hours at night. But because I teach history at a classical school, which means I'm not bound by a textbook or a curriculum some government suit put together, I basically get to stand in front of my students and tell stories - true stories, but stories - all day long. I get to dramatize historical stories for a bunch of teenagers every day. And I get to read to them from primary source material that is hundreds of years old, and I get to talk it out with them, and gnaw through the tough bits, and study them and their reactions to things... It's kind of fantastic! As an author of Young Adult material, it feels like the other side of the writing coin, if that makes sense. I do wish, however, that I just had more time. But I think we all wish for that! And as Gandalf says, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Criminally Difficult

Hello, dear readers, loyal followers, and those of you who stumbled randomly onto this blog in the wide inter-verse.

This past year has been a difficult year.

I've (now) written eight novels. I know how it's done. I have a system for writing novels and piecing stories together - one that involves a collision of plenty of pluck and pretty careful planning. I have never written a book that has not been marinating in my brain and in my writing journals for at least two years. I am deliberate and intentional, and I have a knack for knowing what works and what doesn't in a story. Writing is, for me, both a gift and a discipline. And that is why this year was so, so frustrating, because no matter how much all of my above-stated "ducks" were in a row, I simply could not make the time to get the sequel to BREEDER written when and how I wanted it to be written. Even though I felt like it shouldn't have been, CRIMINAL was criminally difficult to write.

It started with burn out. In March of last year, I wrapped writing on the first draft of BREEDER right on the heels of having finished the first draft of The Bone Whistle. So, from October 2013-March 2014, I wrote two novels in two different series in two entirely different styles and totaling about 290,000 words (That's more than the length of the first three Harry Potter novels combined). I only took about two weeks off in those six months, and while I was finishing writing BREEDER, I was also starting edits on The Bone Whistle, which was set for publication in September 2014. When I turned in BREEDER at the end of March, I sat back and took a break from writing while I continued to work with my editing team on The Bone Whistle, but I fully intended on picking myself up after a couple week break and beginning to write CRIMINAL so as to have it complete before my baby came in October - because, oh yes, I was also pregnant with my fourth baby.

And... It just didn't happen.

I was so tired. I look back on last summer and wonder why I couldn't make myself write, and I can only guess that I was just beyond burned out. The story was in my head, all my planning was done, but my creative juices were gone. I think the toll of basically completing six NaNoWriMo challenge equivalents in a row had caught up to me, along with the mental strain of those books - the last in a long series that had to tie up every loose thread, and the first in a series that was untested and unknown. Every week that passed last summer, I told myself I would get to work on CRIMINAL, and every week I didn't. And then school started, and I went back to teaching full time, and my time and energy diminished even more. And then I had the release of The Bone Whistle to manage, and then one week later, my fourth little baby boy decided to make his entrance to the world three weeks early. I'm sure everybody knows, or at least has heard, how exhausting the first few months with a newborn are, and so after Edmund's birth, all possibilities of writing productivity dwindled even more. November arrived, and with it, the Time of Much Sickness. Between Thanksgiving and Easter of this past year, between myself, my husband, and my four boys, we did not have more than a single week where everyone was well. We experienced the flu, RSV, bronchitis, pink eye, croup, ear infections, strep, asthma attacks, migraine headaches, and more. It was bizarre and awful and dispiriting, and... I couldn't find the time or the energy to write. I was nursing my baby, too, which takes hours of every day, and between that, working full time, cooking, taking care of sickies, being sick myself, being wife and mother, and all the other general things in life, I despaired at finding any time to get down to writing CRIMINAL. There were even a few dark moments where I wondered if my writing career was over because I simply couldn't balance everything in my life anymore.

I am the sort of writer who needs time to write. Perhaps that sounds like a "duh" thing to say, but let me explain. If I can't carve out a couple hours to devote to it at a time, it's hard for me to even bother. A half hour here and there is not enough time for me to get my head in the game. At least, that's what I'd always thought, because that's how I'd always written. I'd always started a book and knocked it out in 6-12 weeks, working several hours each day to get it done. This year taught me that if I was going to practice was I preach about the discipline of writing, then I would have to change the way I write books in order to fit into my new schedule with four little ones instead of three (that fourth one really does make a difference!). I would have to write in the stolen half hours - fifteen minutes - five minutes - in between diaper changes and staggered naps. I would not be able to stay up half of each night for a month to get a book written, because I just don't have the energy for that anymore, and it's not fair to my family! I would have to adapt to my new life, or my writing career would be over. So I did.

Sometime this past year - I think it was February - I opened my document (that I'd created last summer) and began to pick at CRIMINAL. There were days where I only got a hundred words on the page, but at least I got those hundred words on the page. But I lost track of things far too easily. The benefit of writing novels the way I usually write them is that because it happens so fast, I don't forget much of what I've already written as I go. But with CRIMINAL, sometimes it would be weeks in between scenes, and I couldn't remember which story elements I'd already included. This made for a lot of rewriting as I went along, and for a painfully, criminally slow writing of the first draft, but I got it done. I got it done! And then I did a complete revision, and that took a few weeks, too, because there were a lot more rough edges than I usually have, but that is now also done. It took me six months, and I think it was an important six months. I don't know if I'll ever again be able to write novels like I used to, but now I know I can write novels like this - with baby steps rather than marathon strides. I got to the finish line, beta reader feedback is already starting to come in (it's positive!), and I hope to have publication info soon. It still has a long official editing process to go through, so I don't know if it will squeak in before the end of 2015, but if it does, it will be a Christmas miracle! All I can promise at this time is, it's coming...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Girl and Her Dinosaurs

Let me tell you a story about a girl and her dinosaurs...

In 1993, I was ten years old, shy, gawky, and a huge fan of everything dinosaurs. Because I was still rather young, my parents, being good parents, had no intention of letting me go and see the PG-13, probable (within reason) bloodbath, adventure flick that was Jurassic Park, no matter how much I begged and pleaded. Dinosaurs eating people on an island? Oh no. I do not think so. I lamented my fate and glued myself to the TV whenever the trailer for the movie played, but the theater run came and went, and no Jurassic Park for me.

Kids these days have no idea how to wait for anything, and yes, I do intend to sound like a curmudgeon when I say that, so (kids, if you're reading this), let me tell you how it used to be. We used to have to wait almost an entire year for a movie to make it from theater to film - yes, that long. And then we had the agony of being on the waiting list at Blockbuster for any popular films, since they were usually in high demand. Not that this gave me any real hope of seeing Jurassic Park, as the advent of a new year did not advance me to the magical age of 13, and I still did not expect my parents to allow me to see the film. If they wouldn't take me to see it on the big screen, why on earth would they bring it into our house? Oh, agony upon agonies.

And then, about a year after Jurassic Park left the theaters, I spent the night at a friend's house.

She had this amazing basement bedroom all to herself. I distinctly remember it because it had a pass-through fireplace from the main family room in the basement to her bedroom. It was, truth be told, rather creepy, but it was also private. And not only was it private, but she had her own TV and VCR down there, with access to the family's stash of VHS tapes.

Now, I was a good girl. I really was. I wouldn't have watched anything truly terrible. No R-rated forays for me, thank you very much! But... they had THE MOVIE. The movie I had wanted to see for a whole year. Jurassic Park. It was before me like a gleaming prize. We could watch it, and nobody would ever know. Her parents were fast asleep. She was game for it (and assured me it wasn't "that" scary), and we swore neither of us would ever breathe a word of it. So I said okay. I outright disobeyed my parents, and I watched Jurassic Park with my friend.

As naughty as I was, my first experience with that film is emblazoned on my memory - and probably in no small part because I watched it in the thrill (and horror) of disobedience, hovered around an old TV in a dark creepy basement in the middle of the night. I had never been so awed by a movie as I was in experiencing the brontosauruses for the first time alongside the characters, or as horrified as I was when the T-Rex escaped and when the velociraptors ate their handler ("clever girl!"). The movie scared me to death, but it also took a hold of me as a good movie experience does, and little did I know at that time I had experienced what could rightly be called, I think, a 90s-kid quintessential rite of passage. All I knew was I was so happy to finally have seen it.

I was also terribly guilty, especially when my dad surprised me by bringing it home not a month later.

We were going to have a family movie night, and my dad had gone off to Blockbuster to get the movie. I fully expected another Disney animated flick, as per the usual, and I was having a bad attitude about the whole thing, so much so that when Dad arrived home with the movie, I huffily pronounced (in good, preteen fashion) that I was just going to hang out in my room instead. "Stay, stay!" Dad said. I remember folding my arms and sulking while he put the tape in. As I waited for the Disney music to begin, instead an image of the globe appeared on the screen and the words "UNIVERSAL" began floating around them. (I remember this like it was yesterday). I dropped my arms, and my jaw, and shouted, "Is this Jurassic Park?" "I thought you'd like to see it," my dad said. He never asked how I knew it was Jurassic Park just from the opening production credits, and I never told him. Until now. (Sorry, Dad! Mea culpa.) I watched it through for the second time, pretending like it was my first time seeing it, and thoroughly enjoying it all over again.

Now that my parents had invited it into the house, however, I was free to indulge the obsession. My school library had every Michael Crighton book on the shelves, and I read every. single. one... multiple times. In hindsight, 6th grade was probably not the most appropriate age for Michael Crighton books, but I survived. And, to bring this around to writing (which is really what my blog should be about, after all), I mark Michael Crighton's works as being formative for me. He mastered creepiness that didn't feel like horror to me, and I liked that and wanted to emulate it as a writer. Anyhow, I also delved much further into all things dinosaur. (We'd just moved and I had NO friends in my new school - shocking, I know. Who doesn't want to be friends with the girl obsessed with dinosaurs?) When my 6th grade science teacher assigned a project where we had to pick a dinosaur to do a report on, I chose procompsognathids. Yes. That's right. Procompsognathids. "Whatsits?" my teacher asked. "Oh, they're also called compys," I said. *sigh* I was such a winner. He let me do the project, and gave me an A on it.

As time passed and I made some (human) friends, my obsession with dinosaurs cooled. I grew up and out of infatuation with the wonderment of the prehistoric unknown, and I came to recognize Jurassic Park for what it was - fantasy. Great, gripping fantasy, but just that, all the same. Of course I saw each of the successive Jurassic Park movies as they came out, but when I heard about Jurassic World, I honestly kind of rolled my eyes. Hasn't this been done already? Isn't it tired out? Welll... there was still a curious corner of my brain and a nostalgic corner of my heart that wanted to go and see it, but I had no concrete plans to do so.

But then my parents came in town for the 4th of July holiday and my dad volunteered to take me to a movie. It just seemed fitting for my dad, who rented Jurassic Park for his poor, desperate, dorky 11-year-old daughter to take his poor, not-as-desperate, still-dorky 32-year-old daughter to see Jurassic World. And I'm so glad he did! Jurassic World was so ridiculously awesome, and I take my hat off to the film makers who managed to recreate the wonderment this 90s-era kid felt at seeing dinosaurs on the big screen for the first time all over again. The music, the choice of dinosaurs, the sounds, the fights, the action, the island, the throwback vehicles and buildings, it was all perfection. Oh, don't get me wrong - it was totally stupid, too. I mean, ridiculously stupid (training velociraptors for use in combat? Puh-leaze), and so predictable (called the ending - called it!), but it was stupid and predictable in all the right ways for the sort of movie it was. And I loved it. I ate up every moment. I pulled my knees up to my chest and tucked my feet onto the seat like a little kid, grinned from ear to ear, and covered my eyes at the most jumpy moments. Perfect movie going experience. Nostalgia for the win.

So what's the moral of the story? The moral of the story is, good stories have the power to be life experiences. Here I am, 21 years after I saw Jurassic Park for the first time, blogging about dinosaurs.

Another moral of the story is that procrastination produces amazingly long blog posts about dinosaur movies when you're supposed to be revising your manuscript, so... yeah. I'm going to go get back to work on CRIMINAL. Dystopian novels don't produce themselves! Maybe I should try my hand at screenwriting next...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

May the Fourth be With You!

This May, TWCS is paying tribute to the SciFy genre in honour of the EPIC Star Wars series and LEGENDARY The Hitchhikers Guide to the Gal-axy, amongst others...


LEGACY OF A DREAMER, Allie Jean, Paranormal

Chantal Breelan is plagued by horrible nightmares too realistic to ignore. Her past has been a mystery, and the foster system isn’t providing any answers. Starting a new life alone at eighteen is a challenge, espe-cially when things that go bump in the night appear out of the shadows, and her dreams begin to breach reality. Darkness surrounds her from all sides, but is it only evil that hides in the shadows, or are the answers to her past lingering just be-yond?

ZOMBIFIED, Maggie LaCroix, Paranormal Fantasy

Monsters know their place: vampires are sexy; zombies just decompose.  But Maggie La Croix’s Zombified con-jures up an entirely different kind of undead raised by good old-fashioned Voodoo. Take Henri—still gorgeous, over one hundred years after his death. And now a hurricane has set him free from a curse.

Enter Josie, a reporter with her eyes on Henri. But falling for a man without a heartbeat could get her more than a broken heart. It could get her zombified.

 THE SIX, K.B. Hoyle, Fantasy

Darcy Pennington feels like she is an insufferably average thirteen-year-old, but when a change in her dad’s job forces her to attend Cedar Cove Camp, she unwittingly stumbles upon a magical gateway. Along with five other teenagers, she will travel to a world called Alitheia. The “arrival of the Six” was prophesied long ago, but will she have what it takes to save Alitheia?

MORE, T.M. Franklin, Paranormal

Haunted by terrifying nightmares and certain she’s being watched, college student Ava Michaels finds an unlikely ally in Phys-ics tutor Caleb Foster. But Caleb isn’t quite what he seems. In fact, he's not entirely hu-man, and he's not the only one.

Together, the duo faces a threat from an ancient race bent on Ava’s capture, and possible extinction. As Ava fights to survive, she learns the world’s not what she thought.

It's a little bit more.

THE SILVER CRESCENT, Debby Grahl, Paranormal

An ancestor’s tale of betrayal, murder and a stolen fortune in silver leads Elise Baxter to Max Holt’s Victorian inn.

She is reluctantly, though irresistibly, attracted to Max. Leery of loving again, Max lets passion overrule caution, tumbling them into an erotic encounter.

Guided by ghosts and opposed by an evil presence, the couple searches for the treasure. But there are others who will stop at nothing to unlock the mystery of the Silver Crescent.

 THE MEMORY HEALER, Julie Filarski, Paranormal

When Beth Montgomery reluctantly agrees to carry out a psychic assessment of Carrington House, she is transported to another era, where she sees a date on a calendar that fills her with dread.

Back in the present time and sensing an eternal bond with the irresistible Dr Matthew Jamieson, she wonders whether he was once the darkly handsome but unfaithful Samuel Methven. Beth must regress to the tragic events of 1895 to learn the truth.

HUNTED, Lorenz Font, Paranormal

Disease is ravaging the vampire com-munity in New York City’s underworld. Harrow Gates is sick, alone, and hunted. When Pritchard Tack offers him a new beginning, he is in no position to refuse.

Jordan is a young vampire whose only focus is revenge. In her search for her family’s killer, she meets a man who threatens to pull her heart away from her sworn mission. Is love strong enough to override her thirst for vengeance?

MOUNTAIN CHARM, Sydney Logan, Paranormal

“True love and sweet whispers, till death do us part;

Send someone to love my Appalachian heart.”

At the age of thirteen, Angelina Clark followed in the footsteps of her ancestors by casting an Appalachian love spell, which promised she would blossom into a beautiful and gifted woman who would find her true love. A young Angelina had been thrilled to participate in the sacred ritual, but through the years, her father’s untimely death and her mother’s failing health have shaken Angelina’s magical faith to its core. As her twenty-first birthday approaches, she refuses to practice her supernatural gifts and no longer believes in the love charm.

REDEMPTION, Lindsey Gray, Paranormal

Life is for living. Afterlife is a chance at redemption. As the only remaining female vampire in existence, Lily attempts to make her way towards her ever after. But with best friend Becca, new beau Ian, human hus-band Ryan, Archangel Peter, and a host of demons all standing in the way of Lily's chance at a peaceful eternity, how can she possibly survive?

CONVERGENCE, J.D. Watts, Paranormal

Daniella Rossi is a nineteen-year-old college student who sees the world quite differently than those around her. From infan-cy, she was aware of the beings that walked among her kind who were not like them, as well as her own personal Guardian who watched over her. Dani always knew she was different, but she never dreamed the full scope of her importance. When a new male Guardian comes to replace her lifelong friend and companion, will Dani be able to ac-cept him as she deals with a world full of the other Children of Creation, Angels, both good and evil?

OBVIOUS CHILD, Warren Cantrell, SciFy

In 2015, Sam Grant is chosen to take part in a contest that will choose the world’s first time traveler. There’s just one prob-lem—Sam doesn’t want anything to do with the contest. Yet his deliberately profane public appearances and sabotaged interviews only boost ratings. Now stuck, Sam must plot how he’ll get out of the contest, or if he should embrace it all and become the most famous person in history.

GHOSTWRITER, Lissa Bryan, Paranormal

Unemployed, with her savings dwin-dling, Sara Howell thinks things are looking up when she lands a ghostwriting job and rents the affordable island home of her favorite author, Seth Fortner, who mysteriously disappeared in 1925.

Strange things happen, making Sara wonder if Seth ever left. When she finds an old trunk of Seth’s letters, she delves into a world she never imagined, filled with love and a family curse it seems only she can break.

THE STARS ARE FALLING, Michelle Birbeck, Paranormal

Jenny’s life revolves around surviving university, watching the stars, and staring at her housemate, Dale. But as the night sky glows with the light of falling stars, Jenny’s classes and crush seem unimportant. The Stars are retaking Earth, saving mother nature by eliminating the problem. Together, Jenny and Dale can save the world and the human race, but surviving long enough to convince the Stars of that is perilous and may kill them both.

Phil G. Glenn, Paranormal

When the ordinary life of Virgil Blaine crosses the path of the even more ordinary Doug Coulthard, it sets off a series of extra-ordinary events. Doug Coulthard is a Filing Clerk and the President of the Unpublished People’s Poet’s Party –Political Unit (UPPPPU) where a catastrophe has just happened; two of his long time members have been published. The UPPPPU goes on a recruiting drive by distributing leaflets, one of which finds its way into Virgil Blaine’s pocket. Virgil Blaine, who is a slight poet himself, attends one of the meetings where he meets For-ward Slash who offers Virgil Blaine a job. The offer comes with two things Virgil Blaine has never had; a job and a car and on a whim he accepts. The problem is, through no effort of his own, his position is suddenly elevated. Virgil Blaine says the job is ‘messing with his DNA – Deliberate Non-Achiever’ and he misses his old life and so hatches a plan to get it back…

SEBASTIAN AND THE AFTERLIFE, William j. Barry, Paranormal

Sebastian, an average seventeen-year-old boy, has just paid this debt. He awakes in a surreal world somewhere between mor-tal life and the afterlife, where the Grim Reaper rules and his loyal agents maintain the law. But not all is peaceful in this mystical realm. Axis Red and his soul pirates threaten the future of all who dwell there.

Sebastian soon finds himself at Sa-pentia, a high school for the departed. There he makes new friends but longs for his lost love, Sarah, who is still alive in the mortal world. Some things are forbidden; some lines cannot be crossed. What will Sebastian risk to be close to Sarah again?
Continue the adventure with Sebastian and the Afterlife Book II - Agents of the Reaper

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Blind Date With a Book!


Four weeks of GiveAways!!!

Enter this week to win one of the following titles in eBook.

Week 2

Breeder,  K.B. Hoyle, Dystopian

Everything about Seventeen’s life is perfect, from her genetics, to her home in Sanctuary, to her status as a Breeder in the Unified World Order. But all that changes when an Enforcer named Pax infiltrates Sanctuary and targets her for extraction from the Controlled Repopulation Program, a program he claims is hiding a dark secret. Mired in confusion and doubt, Seventeen takes the name Pria, the identity of her childhood, and embarks on a quest to discover the truth before it’s too late.

The Six, K.B. Hoyle, YA

Darcy Pennington feels like she is an insufferably average thirteen-year-old, but when a change in her dad’s job forces her to attend Cedar Cove Camp, she unwittingly stumbles upon a magical gateway. Along with five other teenagers, she will travel to a world called Alitheia. The “arrival of the Six” was prophesied long ago, but will she have what it takes to save Alitheia?

The End of All Things, Lissa Bryan, Dystopian

After a terrible virus ravages the planet, Carly, one of the few survivors, hides in her apartment in Juneau, trying to survive the best she can with only occasional forays to gather food.  She is discovered by Justin, an ex-soldier intent on making his way to Florida before winter sets in. This is the story of their journey to find a place to begin a new life and a home in each other.

How To Get Ainsley Bishop To Fall In Love With You, T.M. Franklin, Romance/YA

Oliver Holmes likes making lists—meticulous procedures for achieving his goals, step-by-step. So when he decides it’s time to declare his feelings for Ainsley Bishop, it’s only natural for him to approach the challenge with a logical and methodical plan.

He decides a perfect birthday gift is the key to success, but finding that gift proves to be a challenge. Oliver will need to watch her carefully for clues to pinpoint exactly what he should give her. And along the way, he might just learn that what Ainsley really needs is not quite what he expected.

More, T.M. Franklin, YA

Haunted by terrifying nightmares and certain she’s being watched, college student Ava Michaels finds an unlikely ally in Physics tutor Caleb Foster. But Caleb isn’t quite what he seems. In fact, he's not entirely human, and he's not the only one.

Together, the duo faces a threat from an ancient race bent on Ava’s capture, and possible extinction. As Ava fights to survive, she learns the world’s not what she thought.

It's a little bit more.

Sebastian and the Afterlife, William J. Barry, YA

Sebastian is an average 17 year-old boy, there is one catch ... he has just died.  Sebastian awakes in a surreal world somewhere between mortal life and the afterlife.  The Grim Reaper and his loyal agents maintain the law of this mystical realm.  Sebastian soon finds himself at Sapentia, a high school for the departed.  He longs for his lost love, Sarah, who is still alive in the mortal world.  Some things are forbidden; some lines cannot be crossed.  What will Sebastian risk to be close to her again?

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Netflix: Consuming TV like Literature

Netflix is one of the greatest things to ever happen on the face of the earth.
Hyperbole? Sure. But I do feel my enthusiasm is warranted. It struck me the other day as I finished yet another series that Netflix has made it possible for people to consume television shows like literature. When you're reading a good book, you are under no obligation to put the book down after every chapter and wait a week to read the next chapter. I'm sure there are people out there who read books like that, but goodness knows that's never been me! When I get engrossed in a good story, I have to read until I finish. If there's any waiting to be done, it will be done only if I am waiting on the publication of the next book in a series. Similar, I think, is waiting on the next series of a TV show to come to Netflix.

TV shows these days - at least the ones I watch - are great at having detailed story arcs. There is often one long story to be told, broken down into several episodes, each one of which leads artfully to the next, just like chapters in a book. A skilled screenwriter will write each episode so the viewer can't wait to find out what happens next, and in my opinion, that is also how a skilled novelist writes each chapter in a book. I've read lots of articles online about how binge-watching TV shows on Netflix is ruining TV consumption and making us unwilling to wait for delayed gratification. I think there is some validity to this argument, but then I look at my own experiences and kind of laugh about it. Why should binge-watching a show on Netflix be considered any different from binge-reading a book from your favorite author the night it comes out? In both cases, you're receiving immediate satisfaction for your entertainment desires, and probably making the wait for the next TV series or book that much longer, actually allowing you still to experience delayed gratification.

Ultimately, I'm probably over thinking this, but that's okay. I tend to wax philosophical late at night and when I realize little epiphanies. Epiphanies like how Netflix is allowing me to consume TV shows like my favorite books - in binges and sprints and agonizingly-long waits - and that is a small thing for me to be thankful for. :)

*As an aside, my husband and I do not have cable, and I wouldn't have time to binge watch anything on Netflix right now if I wasn't a nursing mother. But having that time - where I can't do much more than sit on my bum - has allowed me to discover and enjoy many shows that are truly great stories. A few of my favorites are:
-Marvel's Agents of Shield
-Parks and Recreation
-Doctor Who

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Cover that Almost Was

Sometimes things don't turn out exactly as you intend them to, and that ended up being the case with the cover of The Bone Whistle. Months before publication, I had chosen the image of this girl to go on the cover of book six, and my excellent cover designer, Megan Dooley, did such a spectacular job of putting her over just the right background and coloring her just so. In fact, she sent me several drafts of this cover, and we spent many weeks tweaking this and that to make it perfect. And in the end, I loved it. I loved everything about it, and I still do. This image informed my description of Darcy when she is being taken from Limina at the end of the book, and I thought it was so beautiful and fitting for what the story is all about. But I also thought I should definitely test it on friends, family, and colleagues to see what they thought. 

It did not test well. People took issue with the fact that none of the other books have people on the front, that it looks too "girly" (so it might not appeal to my male readership), that it doesn't look like a YA cover, and that it looks more like paranormal romance than fantasy. So, with a heavy heart, I had to go back to Megan and tell her that I thought we should change it. We were about one week away from the deadline for the finalized cover, and I had to come up with a new image to go on the front, and Megan had to do all the digital artwork and design around the image. To her very great credit, she was understanding and didn't complain one bit. She rallied and got it done once I found the picture of the tree (which I dug up in one night). That's how the tree on the final cover came to be (which, by the way, Megan had to completely re-color. In the original image, the tree's leaves are green). I was hesitant to use a tree because I already knew I wanted a tree on the cover of BREEDER, but I think the final cover for The Bone Whistle turned out beautifully. There will always be, however, that little part of me that wishes I could have seen the original cover in print.