Thursday, January 9, 2014

COVER REVEAL: The Queen of Arethane

It has been a long time since I last blogged, but that empty space has been filled with writing and finishing up the fourth and final book of my Elves of Arethane series, The Queen of Arethane.  And today, I'm so excited to share with you all the cover.  It's another beautiful design by Najla Qamber and I couldn't be more pleased.  Above the cover I have included the book description as well and below is a link to Najla's website.  Go check it out and browse her awesome covers and beautiful original art.

And finally, I'm really hoping to publish The Queen of Arethane by the end of this monthy, but who knows, maybe I'll get it out sooner.  Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it, please let me know in the comments if you do!


It all ends here. 
War has come to Arèthane. The land is divided. Jabari's armies are on the move. The Royal Family is tortured by long-hidden secrets. And with Jarrad gone, Emily must learn how to cope on her own. 
Can Queen Karawyn keep her country and her people from falling into the clutches of the evil wizard? Will Dafne solve the mystery of her birth?  As Emily faces new struggles and old foes, once again the fate of Arèthane rests in her small hands.
And just like it began…
It all ends with a Door.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

SOOO Worth the Read

Nuts and Bolts: "Thought" Verbs by Chuck Palahniuk

I pulled this essay from another site, link is below.  Read it and be reborn in your writing.  It affected me as much as reading "On Writing" by Stephen King did.

In six seconds, you’ll hate me.
But in six months, you’ll be a better writer.
From this point forward – at least for the next half year – you may not use “thought” verbs.  These include:  Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use. 
The list should also include:  Loves and Hates.
And it should include:  Is and Has, but we’ll get to those, later.
Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write:  Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”
Thinking is abstract.  Knowing and believing are intangible.  Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing.  And loving and hating.
Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like:  “The mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave.  Never his.”
Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them.  Instead of a characterwanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.
Instead of saying:  “Adam knew Gwen liked him.”
You’ll have to say:  “Between classes, Gwen was always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it.  She’d roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume.  The combination lock would still be warm from her ass.  And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”
In short, no more short-cuts.  Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.
Typically, writers use these “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph  (In this form, you can call them “Thesis Statements” and I’ll rail against those, later)  In a way, they state the intention of the paragraph.  And what follows, illustrates them.
For example:
“Brenda knew she’d never make the deadline.  Traffic was backed up from the bridge, past the first eight or nine exits.  Her cell phone battery was dead.  At home, the dogs would need to go out, or there would be a mess to clean up.  Plus, she’d promised to water the plants for her neighbor…”
Do you see how the opening “thesis statement” steals the thunder of what follows?  Don’t do it.
If nothing else, cut the opening sentence and place it after all the others.  Better yet, transplant it and change it to:  Brenda would never make the deadline.
Thinking is abstract.  Knowing and believing are intangible.  Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing.  And loving and hating.
Don’t tell your reader:  “Lisa hated Tom.”
Instead, make your case like a lawyer in court, detail by detail.  Present each piece of evidence.  For example:
“During role call, in the breath after the teacher said Tom’s name, in that moment before he could answer, right then, Lisa would whisper-shout: ‘Butt Wipe,” just as Tom was saying, ‘Here’.”
One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone.  Writing, you may be alone.  Reading, your audience may be alone.  But your character should spend very, very little time alone.  Because a solitary character starts thinking or worrying or wondering.  
For example:  Waiting for the bus, Mark started to worry about how long the trip would take..”
A better break-down might be:  “The schedule said the bus would come by at noon, but Mark’s watch said it was already 11:57.  You could see all the way down the road, as far as the Mall, and not see a bus.  No doubt, the driver was parked at the turn-around, the far end of the line, taking a nap.  The driver was kicked back, asleep, and Mark was going to be late.  Or worse, the driver was drinking, and he’d pull up drunk and charge Mark seventy-five cents for death in a fiery traffic accident…”
A character alone must lapse into fantasy or memory, but even then you can’t use “thought” verbs or any of their abstract relatives. 
Oh, and you can just forget about using the verbs forget and remember
No more transitions such as:  “Wanda remember how Nelson used to brush her hair.”
Instead:  “Back in their sophomore year, Nelson used to brush her hair with smooth, long strokes of his hand.”
Again, Un-pack.  Don’t take short-cuts.
Better yet, get your character with another character, fast.  Get them together and get the action started.  Let their actions and words show their thoughts.  You -- stay out of  their heads.
And while you’re avoiding “thought” verbs, be very wary about using the bland verbs “is” and “have.”
One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone.
For example:
“Ann’s eyes are blue.”
“Ann has blue eyes.”
“Ann coughed and waved one hand past her face, clearing the cigarette smoke from her eyes, blue eyes, before she smiled…”
Instead of bland “is” and “has” statements, try burying your details of what a character has or is, in actions or gestures.  At its most basic, this is showing your story instead of telling it. 
And forever after, once you’ve learned to Un-pack your characters, you’ll hate the lazy writer who settles for:  “Jim sat beside the telephone, wondering why Amanda didn’t call.”
Please.  For now, hate me all you want, but don’t use “thought” verbs.  After Christmas, go crazy, but I’d bet money you won’t. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why Disney Still Works

I had an interesting childhood.  Instead of being a child of the early 80s, it seemed as though I grew up in some sort of Pleasantville, Leave It to Beaver throwback time with a rather traditional Italian Catholic father who lorded over what affected and influenced his daughter like the all-encompassing eye of Big Brother.  That included what was and was not allowed on our old cabinet-embedded tube T.V.  Cartoons and musicals were allowed; everything else was not.

But then as I entered my third and fourth year of life, mastering the human language way too early according to my mother, my parents realized that some of the musicals I watched, might not be appropriate.  I would sing "Sodomy" from HAIR not knowing at all what the words meant, but thinking that pretty blonde boy had a nice voice.

What's Pederasty?

But it was after I walked around in my little pigtails, perfectly annunciating, "Keep your filthy paws off my silky draw's" that my parents had to then censor the musicals.  All that was left was Disney.

The chicks will what??

This engrained in my heart a special place for all things Disney.  I watched The Dumbo Show and Disney music videos while I tearily swallowed down my Cream of Wheat before school every morning.  Disney's movies ran on repeat.  I grew up thinking one day I would be like one of those Disney princesses, singing through a magical forest of friendly little woodland creatures and flittering blue birds.  

I confess all of this because us Hands were discussing writing about movies we love that everyone hates and that made me think of T.V.'s shows of the same.  Yes, I am a thirty-six year old woman who loves to watch Disney's Austin & Ally, but here's why.  This is why Disney has always worked for me.  I love that each episode wraps up so easily at the end.  There's no Lost-esque mystery and wonder at the end.  It's wholesome and, yes, cheesy, but ultimately it's a break from the realities that replace our castles and Prince Charmings.  It's an escape from the dreary world in the most extreme way possible with fun music and dance numbers, outrageous escapades and zany misadventures, complete with requisite Canadian comedian actor (just ignore them after they grow up and leave the Magical Kingdom to "twerk" all over You Tube.) 

No songs about Sodomy here!

 There's not much depth and that's great.  That's what T.V. is sometimes supposed to be--entertainment; good old-fashion, unapologetic entertainment with a poppy song and a happily ever after.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Girl's Proposal for the Hands

(This is a repost from

Last night Sharif and I watched the first half of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA with Gary Oldham, Keanu Reeves, and Winona Ryder.  I had never seen the movie before and also admitted to not having read the book.  It’s on my Kindle, as are a number of many other books I still need to get to.  Sharif was surprised by my admission and asked if I’ve read Frakenstein either.  I haven’t, but I do know the story behind its creation, being the Byron fan I’ve been for so long.  I know that it began on a rainy day in Italy, where the poets and philosophers – Byron, Mary and Percy Shelley – met with friends and babies’ mamas and out of boredom, decided to all write a monster story.  Byron’s Vampyre was tossed in the trash to be later resurrected and published by his physician friend and Mary Shelley’s was turned into FRANKENSTEIN: or The Modern Prometheus.

Anyway, we watched the oddity that was that movie for awhile until Master Chef had recorded long enough to watch without commercials and so we switched over.  It was too late and DRACULA too heavy of a movie for me to commit to on a school night.  But as I was getting ready for bed later that evening, a thought occurred to me.  Wouldn’t it be fun for us Hands to have a rainy day Lake Geneva moment?  If the four of us met in an imaginary lake house in the digital rainy Italian countryside of the Four Hands website and each offered up an original monster short story of our own.  We can set parameters – it must be SHORT, like maybe two pages or so and create a new sort of nightmare or night terror.  We each post on a different day.  We give ourselves time to write, what with writing and reading and life to attend to, and then we share our works with each other.  There would be no competition, just fun and creation and who knows, maybe the next Frankenstein will be raised on a silver lab table again.

Since this was posted on the Hands site, all three male hands agreed so expect some horror stories your way.  Now that I've made this agreement, I have to come up with a new "monster."  So far I've been writing random words and thoughts in a notebook.  This won't stop me from working on the fourth Arethane book, but will afford me a needed break, writing something else.  As Neil Gaiman said, even if you stop to work on something else, keep working, keep writing.  It all leads back.  So stay tuned.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Night With Neil

It took a while to fall asleep afterward, to stop the thoughts and cease the replaying of events in my mind.  The close of a memorable evening gave way to a following morning in which the night had not faded in any way.  Even if the Sharpie writing on my arm had, just a bit.

Friday night Sharif and I made the drive in 107 degree heat (Why the hell did we move to Northern California if it's gonna keep acting like Texas?) across the Bay Bridge where it dropped thirty degrees in a matter of a tunnel.  We arrived one hour before the doors of the Geary Theater opened and two hours before the show started.  There was already a proper line dotting the sidewalk, but it wasn't too bad and we weren't too far down.  It's difficult to be bored waiting while in San Francisco.  The city does not disappoint.  People of all varieties hurry or don't along its up and down sidewalks.  We were entertained by a homeless man who told us cow jokes.  "What is a cow abortion called?  De-calf-inated.  What do you call a cow with no legs?  Ground Beef.  And in honor of the end of DOMA, what do you call a gay cow?  A Dairy Queen, Baby!" complete with rounded over the head snap and all.

People are pretty laid-back in California and even more so in San Francisco.  They are tolerant to a fault.  My Southern ass grew more annoyed as the hippy woman ahead of us in line allowed more and more folks to join her spot, to the point where I finally complained, "What the hell? Did she invite her whole g-damn Ashram?!"  But I was soon saved from having to kick organic ass as the line began to move.

We found seats about seven rows up.  The theater, though grand and gilded, is small and compact.  Neil Gaiman arrived on stage to raucous applause.  As he spoke, you could tell the people there were truly there for him.  They laughed a bit too much at his jokes, awed WAY too much when he spoke of his wife and wore a perma-smile for the entire night.  But as soon as Neil began to read, his voice an accented, hypnotic purr, everyone sort of disappeared and it was just you and Neil.  The reading wasn't long, which was good because I've never much cared for being read to, no matter who does the reading. Then he answered questions and Sharif and I felt that was the best part--Neil sharing with us some of the behind the scenes experiences with the illustrations of SANDMAN and how he writes his stories.  He then read from a new children's book he will be publishing in September and after a bow, the crowd's applause, the stage was set up for the autographing.  And we waited.  And waited.

Going on ten hours of waiting and not eating, Sharif and I assessed that we weren't really cut out for this waiting stuff.  But nothing would have made me leave.

 Through hunger and migraine we pushed until the reward came when we were summoned to stand on stage in line.  People had brought armfuls of books, they brought presents, they brought homemade crafts all seeking Neil's signature on them.  We had the book that brought us to the event, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE and ourselves.  In my mind, I had been playing a scenario where I asked Neil to sign my tattoo of Delirium. I knew, from past experiences that if I played this out in my head, there was a good chance I wouldn't make it happen in reality.  But as soon as I stepped up in front of Neil, said "Hello" and he looked up, smiling and saying "Hello" back, I knew I had to go for it.

"Do you think you could write 'Tempus Frangit' on my Delirium tattoo?"  Without looking up from signing my book, he said, "Sure.  Come around."

It all got a little blurry after that.  I was still light-headed from the hunger and migraine.  I thought I would rest my arm on the table, but he had me squat beside him and rest it on his leg.  After saying, "I'm sorry, this is going to be awkward," he repositioned himself and began writing.

While waiting--too nervous to say anything--I remembered Kevin texting me before the event asking to tell him what Neil smelled like.  So I leaned in just a bit and took a deep breath, hoping he wouldn't look over his shoulder and ask, "Did you just smell me?"  He didn't.  And he smelled of Sharpie.

I walked away still shaking and waited while Sharif got his autograph.  I had noticed during my wait that everyone walked away from Neil with a smile on his or her face.  To everyone, it was a personal, magical moment.  I can't imagine it being that way with many authors--not the ones on Neil's level--or many heroes.  Neil stayed until everyone received their moment, until the wee hours of the night.  He said it would be his last book-signing tour ever.  We'll see.  He seemed to love being there as much as we loved having him there.  I imagine that love will nag at him, will draw him back.  And we'll be waiting, clutching our comics and AMERICAN GODS and readying a spot on our tattoos.

Monday, June 24, 2013

All Hands

I think it was a little over a year ago when something ended that, at the time, needed to end and those involved went their separate ways, though never really straying from another.  They continued to email, to Facebook and more frequently, most importantly they texted.  Texted about a movie they were going to see, a T.V. show they had fallen in love with, new songs they heard and sometimes just random "Halloo!" bits.

A little over a year and a half ago I was asked by three college friends who I became closer to once we left our shared campus to join them on a site called Three Hands in the Popcorn Bag where we reviewed movies together.  It has previously been an all-male cast, I added the XY perspective.

Well yesterday we returned, eager to once again share all of our talks on a greater platform than the inches by inches size screens of our phones.  That new site is below.  Check it out, we have interesting talks, we sometimes talk as though no one else is reading and sometimes we say funny things.

I sort of wish I had a photo of the four of us then and now, sort of all Stephen King IT-style, but as I said, we grew closer the further apart.  So I'll just leave you this link.  Enjoy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Halfway There

I passed the 50,000 words mark in book 4.  And yet I feel like I still have SO much more ground to cover.  A lot of that 50k is rewrites; a lot of it is going to get cut.  I have to read through it and see if there's anything I can keep, anything that still applies or just moments I like and want to use.  But I'm sure a lot of it is just going to go.  The story has changed too much.  But what's going into Word now, I think is better.  I hope the reader will feel that way too.

As I sit at my bar writing, Sharif is making dinner - I like this set up.

Just watched that new Miley Cyrus video - I prefer her backyard sessions, but I also don't see what all this fuss is about with this new thing.  I'm kinda indifferent - both the song and the video are just sort of blah.  But I don't think any young-girl-trying-to-be-hardcore display will ever top Fiona Apple's "Criminal" video for me.  That one made me feel like I was watching something I shouldn't be.

Anyway, I'm almost done reading CLOCKWORK PRINCESS by Cassandra Clare.  I'm not sure if this is supposed to be the last of this series; I never really know with Clare's works as she sort of tends to just keep going.  I like her writing a lot, the book is fast-paced even though you look back and realize not much has happened, but she always seems to have something infuriating about her characters that, while in the midst of, you have no idea how she's going to pull them out of it.  Like the whole brother-sister business in The Mortal Instruments and now this love-triangle hoopla in Internal Devices.  I know in writing, you let the story take you were it wants to go and you want to take the reader someplace they haven't already been, but sometimes as you are typing, at least for me, there's a moment of "Is this going too far?  Will I be able to pull this back or pull this off?"  I don't see how Clare can do that with the point in the book I'm at now.  I don't know how I can continue sympathy for the characters or certainly respect.  But we'll see.  She's a great writer and a great storyteller and her books, her characters continue to draw me to them, hang around in my head when I'm away from them and that's what I think all writers hope to achieve.

Okay, back to book 4 of my own.  Will keep you posted.