About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


This time of the year naturally lends itself to the assessment of all that has happened over the past twelve months. Many of us look back and think about whether the year has been good or bad. Some of us see the passing of the old as a relief and look to the new with hope for better times to come.

Reflecting on this season of reflection made me wonder about where the term hindsight came from and if we use the term correctly. It's fun sometimes to look up common phrases and see where they originated in our language. Some aren't even used properly.

The word hind can actually be defined as either a noun or an adjective. If you use it as a noun you are using it to describe a deer, specifically a red, female deer. The word is used as a noun in the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 5:19) in quite a suggestive manner. ;)

If you use hind as an adjective you are referring the the backside of an animal or the posterior.

The origins of the word hindsight originally referred the back sight of a firearm. It's wasn't until later in the 19th century that it began to be referred to in a way meaning that our understanding or recognition of the realities or possibilities of a situation were improved after its occurrence. Thus the phrases hindsight is 20/20, or everyone's a genius in hindsight, came into being.

This does seem to be the case as we reflect on our year as it gets ready to pass into the annuls of memory. But don't let your hindsight bog you down in regrets. Instead, make a point of learning from what could or might have been then move on. The new year is still full of possibilities. If you go into it with a positive attitude and a determination to be proactive, things will at least start off on the right note or foot or whatever phrase you want to use.

I wish all of you a happy holiday season and a very healthy and prosperous new year. See you in 2015!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Focus Under Derailed Conditions

Today it's been really hard to focus on a topic to blog about. My mind is whirling with thoughts and ideas, none of which seem to connect to each other in any way.

We all have days like this where we've planned for our day to go one way when something else happens and not a single one of those plans seems feasible any more. How does that saying go? "Man plans while the gods laugh," or something to that effect.

Despite my efforts to live in the moment doing so brings its own set of frustrations and limitations. For me living in the moment right this minute is adding more stress than it is helping.

This might be because I know that today I must go to the grocery because we are getting low on essentials, one of them being toilet paper. However, I also have a sick kid at home who might have a strep infection again. Apparently, the strep bug is really bad this year. My daughter who I suspect might be sick with it again hasn't had any problems with this since kindergarten when she had her tonsils out. The fact that she might be sick with it twice in three months is a bit worrisome. Added to that concern is the insistent need I have to go to the store at some point today to buy toilet paper, chicken noodle soup, bread, and milk and you can see why my mind is having trouble focusing. You see even living in the moment doesn't help when you face sudden derailment and planning ahead seems laughable. So what do you do when you're stuck? You do what you know you can accomplish moment by moment and trust that somehow things will slowly work out the way you need them to.

My first order of business today was to get an appointment for my daughter to see the doctor. Once that was accomplished I ate breakfast and worked on my next order of business, getting some much needed reading done and out of the way while I let my sick kid sleep. She got some much needed rest to help her feel stronger when I have to take her out of the house to see the doctor and I got a task accomplished that I'm working under a deadline on for later this week. Why you may wonder does a writer need time to read when writing is their job? Reading is often a big part of writing. In the case of today it is instructional for two reasons, first it will help in the research I'm going to need to focus more on in the coming months for a novel sequel I'm going to be starting soon. Second this particular book I'm reading also happens to be the work of a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, and reading work by masters of that caliber can't help but give me ideas on ways to improve my own writing craft. But I digress. After I got some reading done it was time to wake up my girl child and that was quickly followed by the need to feed her. One hopeful sign that she might not have strep (because I'm still hoping she doesn't despite obvious blistering in the back of her throat) is that she isn't feverish and she hasn't lost her appetite. I guess technically those are two hopeful signs, but hey I'll take both, thanks.

After I got her fed and set to work on finishing her homework I got my own lunch, took a rapid assessment on what I absolutely must get at the store sometime today, and then let the dogs out. While playing a short game of fetch with one of my dogs, who demands that as part of our lunchtime routine, I gathered my thoughts on what to write about for this very blog post, which I am now working on. And that is a rundown on how I've managed to focus under unexpected circumstances beyond my control. Do I regret that my blogging may have to count as my writing for the day? Yes. But I knew that December would be a hard month to accomplish a lot of writing in, any way. I factored that in to my goals for the month from the get go. Despite my efforts to live in the moment each day, I still can't help but set goals for the week and the beginning of each month on what I'd like to accomplish. Doing so helps me on days like this. It helps keep this temporary derailment in perspective as a small bump in the road. Tomorrow my daughter will hopefully be feeling better and be able to go back to school. And perhaps we won't run out of toilet paper if I'm lucky until then. If not I guess I'll be gathering my thoughts while pushing my shopping buggy around the store later tonight hoping to find inspiration in the everyday adventures I face as a novel mom.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Are My Smart Devices Smarter Than Me?

First selfie with my new phone

My son recently observed that we seem to be slowly upgrading our lives. After over a year of saving we managed to buy a newer minivan this spring. Then we got a smart TV with plans to get a better DVR with our dish provider eventually. And finally after over 10 years of faithful service our cell phone's microphone went out on it so our old Nokia phone had to be replaced with a newer model. We got a smarter phone.

My mom refuses to replace her cell with a sleeker, smarter model. She's afraid a smart phone might be smarter than her. I have to say I'm a little concerned about this myself.

As I navigate through the menu on my smart TV I realize that the booklet that came with it only tells me what the buttons on my remote do. I actually have to do an online search to figure out how to actually use some of those buttons. And as for all the apps. I have no idea what most of them are or why I even need them. So my husband and I deleted some of them.

On my new phone, the best features so far are the easier texting, the camera, (which I've had fun playing with) and the fact I can play clumsy ninja on it. But just the other day my husband had to turn on the voice activated search engine figure out how to do something with it, I've already forgotten what.

1st pic with new phone of my hubby

We normally keep that voice activated stuff turned off on my phone because the idea my phone might be listening to me creeps me out.

Anyway, I can't help wondering if all this newer technology is really upgrading my life or just making me into a drone. I don't want to become one of those people who isn't engaged with others when I go out and about. I wait in restaurants to be seated sometimes and look around to find most everybody is looking at their phones and none of the people around me are talking to each other. But I'm fairly confident that I haven't fallen into that trap yet. Last night when my family and I all went to run an errand my husband asked me if he thought we needed to bring our cell phone. I told him nope. We'd both forgotten to pick it up before heading out the door.

My children are more in danger I think of becoming tech addicts than I am. Which is why neither of them have TVs in their rooms or their own cell phones yet. The phones can wait until they're in high school.

At the end of the day, I don't know if my smart devices are smarter than me. I hope they aren't. But if they are, I hope we figure that out before they do...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Turkey Talk

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Last week was a whirlwind. My son came down with strep throat right before the Thanksgiving holiday and my one and only female dog came into heat. I spent all day Tuesday de-germing my house before company arrived and I didn't have time to search for a single new recipe to help contribute to the family Thanksgiving meal. Despite all of this we had another amazing feast and my sister came through for me by finding a new and delicious way for me to fix and cook brussel sprouts. My little dog got over her silliness just in time for us to travel for the long weekend and I think all of us enjoyed being together at my parents' house.

None of us went out on what I guess people are calling brown Thursday now. One of my sisters is boycotting the practice of stores being open on Thanksgiving day. Something I did vehemently opposed last season when this was starting to take a foothold. I've been listening to reports this week about whether this practice is helping retailers or not, but I'm not really hearing anything conclusive about it. If you have an opinion or information about this please share it, I'd been interested to hear whether this trend is likely to continue. I will say that it has made black Friday a much less crazy shopping experience. Those of us who ventured out Friday morning (not in the wee hours,but at a much more reasonable 6:30 am) didn't have to wait in line to check out or be jostled for space in the store aisles. The parking lots were busy, but not full and all the people both shopping and helping to check people out were pleasant and calm. I don't know if this is because all the craziness happened the evening before, or if people are relying more on online deals and shopping and staying in with their families over the holiday weekend. Either way, between the little bit of shopping I did Friday and this week with cyber deals all week long, I've got a good start of finishing my Christmas shopping. That's a good feeling. While I do hope that retailers would stay closed on Thursday, I think they're really getting smart about spreading out their bargain pricing over the whole week of Thanksgiving instead of just one morning or day on Friday. Something which makes it easier on the consumer and makes everyone much calmer and saner.

Overall, November was a pretty good month. I did stick with it on my NaNoWriMo challenge and....

Banner courtesy of NaNoWriMo
Well let's just say that novel dragon was vanquished. Does that mean it is ready to go out into the world to be seen by others? Absolutely not! It is a mess. But the one good thing about NaNoWriMo is the discipline you develop over that month long period to write everyday or very close to it. That is something that gives a writer confidence and that my friends is a priceless commodity in this line of work. So hats off to anyone else out there who participated whether they reached 50K words or not.

As for December, well... I've been thinking about that the last few days. I still have a couple of resolutions to keep before the year ends and a new one begins. The first and most important that I plan to stick with this holiday season is the live in the present resolution. I'm going to try very hard this month not to get caught up in the stress and hyper-anxiety traps that lots of us succumb to this time of the year. I'm going to take this month to reward myself on my discipline from last month by reading a lot more and writing a little less. I want to take time with my stories this month and not worry so much about how much I accomplish but more on what I achieve quality wise. I also need to try and fulfill my other resolution and read Persuasion by Jane Austen. Though, if I don't get that done this year, there is always the first of next year during the long cold month of January. I'm looking forward to binging on Hallmark movies, one being Mr. Miracle which is based on Debbie Macomber's book that I'm reading right now. The other thing I really love about December is that it's the happiest mail month of the year. Well it is if you aren't a mail carrier, for them I suppose it isn't as happy because of all the extra packages. But not only do you get presents in the mail, you get cards! This is the only time of the year (besides my birthday) when I really get excited about the mail because you actually get cards in it and not just bills or junk. My son gets excited about this with me. So bring on the Christmas and holiday cards. I'm going out today to get my Rudolph stamps to help spread that holiday cheer into the world, as I drink my hot chocolate and watch Hallmark movies of course. :) Happy December everybody! May this month be filled with joy, good food, and happy mail.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tactics of Play

Today is our first snow day of the 2014-2015 school year. Unfortunately, while there might be enough snow on the ground to make the roads slick, it isn't enough to sled in. It's also very cold outside. The only alternative for a mom at home with two bored kids is to join ranks. Otherwise, I might be whined to death or blown over by excessive and heavy sighs.

To offset this I proclaimed today a PJ day and took on my kids in open nerf warfare. Maybe this isn't the most psychologically sound maneuver, but it kept them from fighting for a little while. It also gave my daughter an outlet for her bossiness, because I asked her to take pictures of the event. This took time. Apparently, my pose above wasn't enough, she had to set up a scene herself. Which resulted in this other picture below.

She felt letting people see my enemy's empty gun with bullets scattered around my crazy fuzzy socks looked more intense.

I was surprised it took my son so long to join in the battle. He was too preoccupied with the games on his tablet. But we shot at him enough that he eventually succumbed to our game.

I admit that all of this goofing around with my kids isn't productive. It's after lunchtime already and this is the first writing I've gotten done all day. But while it's important for me to get some work accomplished it's more important to teach my kids that there is more fun to be had with imaginative play than there is in watching TV or playing with their favorite electronic device.

As I gather up ideas for the holiday season and what they want this year, I'm happy to see that the list is still topped with toys. Of course, both of them decided today that they needed to add fuzzy socks to their wish lists. I guess mine generated sock envy. Anyhow, I hope that this trend of wanting to play and have fun continues a little longer. No matter how much fun I have with them now, playing as an adult isn't the same as doing it when you're a kid. But the most important thing I can teach them on days like this, is that interacting with people, especially people they love, is time that is irreplaceable. If they can carry that idea with them into adulthood maybe they will leave this world and the people they touched along the way a little happier. Nothing can take the place of giving other's our time. Not all the toys in the world.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veteran's Day!

Today's blog post is going to be short and sweet. Not because this one day of the year isn't important, but because I'd rather we spend today honoring our veteran's by giving them our time and attention face-to-face or by talking to them over the phone and personally thanking them for their sacrifice. I would also say it is equally as important to thank the families of all the veterans past and present. Without their sacrifice and unconditional loyalty to our service men and women we wouldn't have the heroes we do who are willing to sacrifice everything for their country.

I will say that I am very proud to be the daughter and granddaughter of two brave veterans, who like many of our service men and women are and were unassuming and uncomfortable being labeled heroes. My Grandad served in the navy during WWII in underwater demolitions, which was the precursor to today's navy seals. He then went on to fight again as a soldier in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. My dad served in Operation Desert Storm the first time around and was with a supply unit that supported the 1st Infantry when they went into Iraq and drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. So, I know first hand how difficult it is to be the family member of deployed service people. Today I thank all the men and women who continue to serve our country and my thanks and prayers go out to the families who are waiting or are learning to live without a loved one because they didn't make it back home. I also admire you all for your strength and perseverance in learning how to go on with life when you face a new normal because you or your loved one have come home injured or disabled while serving. I have cousins who serve today and I pray all the time for their safety as they fulfill their promise to serve and protect.

So, take some time today to pray for those who've gone before and who fight today for our freedom. Let them know how proud you are to call them your fellow countrymen. And pray for them and their families.

And Grandad, I hope you're having a blast up there today in heaven chewing the fat with the cronies, you served with, reminiscing about old times. I'm sure my grandmother is up there right now too beaming with pride.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Parallel Universes of Parenting and Writing

So far, I've been doing a good job of keeping up with my NaNo word count. I've also been working diligently at submitting one of my novels around to literary agents in the hopes of finding representation and eventually publication of my work.

As I've been doing both I've come to realize that my life as a writer and my life as a parent often run parallel to each other. The journey of creating a novel or story and finding someone to publish said work is very similar to becoming a parent and raising children.

At the beginning of either journey you are swept up by the adventure having a baby or creating a new world or new piece of writing entails. It is a moment that is often euphoric. You love this new creation. You eagerly await the moment it becomes a full fledged reality and the baby is born, or the first draft of your writing is complete. Often, the waiting time for both is exhausting, sometimes frustrating, and near the end you can become right down crabby thinking you will never get to the end of the gestation period. After the labor pains are over you are worn out, but jubilant. You've done it! You have the proof of it in your arms or in some cases typed out on your computer. In either case, you can show people that you've succeeded at giving birth! Hooray for you!

Then the real work sets in. Raising that baby or story up into adulthood. Like most parents come to realize the pregnancy and birth were the easier parts. The caring and raising of children is the most challenging and rewarding role a person can take on. It isn't for the faint of heart, either. As precious as those babies are, they eventually grow up and starting talking and thinking for themselves and that my friends is were the adventure truly lies. I've often heard it said that revising a story is were real writing begins, too. You suddenly realize that your written words you struggled so hard to get out onto the page aren't always as clean and wonderful as you thought. Like messy diapers some of them just stink, and in order for that story to grow up into the best story it can be you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and start cleaning it up. This process can be as much fun as potty training a toddler or wrestling an overtired youngster into the bath and their PJs so they can go to bed.

Finally, the day arrives when your child begins the process of making they way in the world. For your children this often starts with kindergarten. For the first time they will be in a setting without you where they will be judged and graded on their performance. It's a whole new world from daycare or preschool. Those were only a taste of what school is going to be like. You worry that they will make friends and be treated well by their peers. So too, do you worry about your writing when you have to start sending it out into the world to be critiqued and read by others. Will those other people who haven't known it since its birth like your work. Will they be kind with it. Will they be able to see its unique worth and merit. Or will it come home bruised and red because the other writers or the beta readers found it lacking in some way. Often, just like a child's experience at school there are good moments and there are bad ones. Some days you will go to parent teacher conferences and hear nothing but good things about how your child is doing. Other times you will wonder what you can do to help your child because they are struggling and unhappy in their classroom or school situation. Letting others critique your writing can make you question parts of your work and what to do about it in the same way. Sometimes you'll get your chapter or story back with mostly positive comments about it and sometimes you get it back and it has lines and lines of editorial comments written in the margins. Whole paragraphs might be crossed out that the critiquer/reader didn't like or understand.

But these times though difficult are only the elementary years. Things really get rocky when you enter the teen years. If you are part of a critique group or other writing community of people you know and trust, you also know that they want only the best for you and your work. You are part of a tribe, there to support each other. Then adolescence hits and it is every person for themselves and woe to the one who doesn't fit in or conform to what others expect. Like your teenage child, your story must navigate these murky waters in order to get to be a finished, publishable product. This is the hardest and most excruciating process for you and your writing. You must query strangers and hope they respond positively to that query and ask to see your work. When they do it is a happy dance worthy moment. Just like it is when your teen achieves a longed for spot on a sports team, or gets that solo they auditioned for, or helps their academic team win a meet against a rival school. You get the idea. They come home happy and ebullient and you are proud and happy for them. But this is the part of the parenting or writing journey where you have to develop a thick skin. Because despite how well you and your child have gotten along before, when the teen years come things can turn on a dime. One moment your child can be happy and willing to talk to you like a rational human being and five minutes later they can give you death looks and be completely unresponsive when you ask them a question. This can be the way it is when you start seeking publication for your writing. Some queries will meet with a favorable response while others will meet with no response at all, which if you've done your research into the places you've queried often means NOT INTERESTED. And like your adolescent child one week they may be getting along fine with all their peers and you breath a sigh of relief thinking their middle school and high school journey is going to be much smoother and less painful than yours was then WHAMMO! Suddenly, they've gotten into a fight with their best friend and all the other kids in their class now hate them and you're left picking up the pieces of your child's battered ego. Getting a positive response on a query and being asked to submit your manuscript for review can feel the same way. You think, maybe I'm finally good enough and truly on my way now. Then you get a polite email or letter back from the person who seemed interested saying that they're sorry but they just can't see this being something they could get publishers interested in or in the case of an editor it just wasn't strong enough for them to invest in for publication. In cases like this you are left picking up your own bruised and battered ego and bolstering it back up.

Nevertheless, if you keep at it long enough and work hard enough your child eventually will be grown up and independent. So, too, will your writing if you are tenacious enough. It is what all of us hope to achieve as both parents and as writers. That our children like our written words will at some point be able to have a life all their own and hopefully come to be loved and cherished for who they've grown to become.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's NaNo Time

As I think about it being NaNo time the MC Hammer song, Can't Touch This, starts running through my mind. Will this be the theme song for me this year as I participate. I don't know...maybe. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo starts in just a few days for the month of November. Worldwide millions of aspiring writers challenge themselves to write a novel in a month, or just 30 days.

It is crazy, it is fun, and it is free. The NaNoWriMo challenge is a great way to cast all those inner fears and editorial comments inside your head aside and actually write that novel you've always meant to write. And you have a community of other writers and many writers and illustrators to connect with while you do it.

Picture of my personal DVD

This will be my third year participating. My first year I wrote the novel I'm currently revising with my critique group, Dance of the Goblin. A young adult, contemporary fantasy about a girl who worries she may be losing her mind when haunting dreams and strange physical transformations begin plaguing her. But is she really going crazy? Once I finish the revisions and start sending it out for possible publication, maybe you'll get to read it and see.

This year I'm planning a murder mystery with the classic noir film Laura as my inspiration. I'm really looking forward to doing my research on this story. I've got the movie setting out waiting to be watched. :) This will be my first more adult story I've written that is novel length. Will I be a NaNo winner this year? Who knows. I was the first year, but I wasn't last year. I still have my Toad Girl middle grade fantasy on file ready to be worked on some more. I will finish it someday. But this year it is on to something new.

Did I mention that NaNoWriMo is free? It is. That is one of the best things about it. Though, I'll warn you that the NaNo shop has lots of fun items for purchase that are hard to resist. All the proceeds for the purchases go to support NaNoWriMo to help keep it free for all its participants. Are you up for the NaNo challenge? I can tell you with perfect honesty that it is fun and inspiring. If you are interested here is the link: http://nanowrimo.org/

If you do decide to take up the challenge or have NaNo stories you'd like to share leave me a comment. I'll cheer for you this November if you cheer for me!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Haunts, Haints, and Spirits

As the nights grow cooler and the days grow shorter it becomes easier to believe in spooks and the unexplained. My husband enjoys scary stuff including horror stories and movies. I don't. Generally, I prefer my scary to be based in fantasy and to have as much humor as spooky stuff. The NBC TV series Grimm is as scary as I like to go. Funnily enough, I've been told on more than one occasion that I write creepy scenes very well. I'm not sure how to take this sort of compliment. And it is meant as a compliment as readers of my work usually tell me with a smile, and a shiver they loved that about my story. I chalk this up to having a very vivid imagination that leads me to believe that some of the stuff in horror stories could be real when I awaken from a nightmare in the wee hours of the night and everyone else is sleeping peacefully. In the daytime I'm able to laugh off these things. So I suppose when I write a good eerie moment in a story I'm channeling things that lurk in my subconscious and scare me after the light begins to fade.

While I don't believe that werewolves, vampires, or goblins are real, I do believe spirits could be. If people have souls then it stands to reason that some of them don't want to leave their earthly plain or get stuck on it for some reason. Eventually, I plan to write a really good ghost story that has something to do with the Civil War. I'm just waiting to find the right inspiration for it. I'm hoping when I find it this will partially appease my face-to-face critique group who've all written stories based around the Civil War. In the mean time, I've run across a great guest post by C. Hope Clark about her experiences with ghosts or spirits. I've attached the link below. Enjoy it, and feel free to share any good ghost stories you've heard or ghostly encounters you've experienced. I'm always on the lookout for that inspiration I mentioned for the next spooky tale to weave.

The Haunts with Substance:A Guest Post by C. Hope Clark

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Photo provided by Carrigan Richards
When authors ask me to post reviews on books that are sequels I am sometimes a little leery about agreeing to do one.

Like movies, sometimes book sequels can be a bit of a letdown. A story that started out strong can wane in potency with each new book added to the series.

So far, Carrigan Richards has kept the momentum going in her Elemental Enchanters series with her second book Under the Burning Stars. In fact, I was pleased to find the conflict for the main character much less angsty than in the first book, making this sequel, in my opinion, stronger.

Ava Hannigan seems to finally be settling into her life as an Enchanter. Even better she has the boy she loves, Peter, by her side ready to join her world and become an Enchanter too. But troubling dreams are haunting Ava about her mother's death. Dreams where Ava can feel and understand what her mother's murderer was thinking at the moment they killed her. As Ava tries to piece together what happened the day her mother was killed, she makes an unsettling discovery about her mom's past. It seems there are some dark secrets hidden in her family's past that could make Ava vulnerable to becoming a dark Enchanter, intent on destroying humans or Ephemerals, instead of protecting them.

The plot of the story was very well done. The conflict and tension kept me turning the pages of this novel to figure out who the mysterious Havok is that the Cimmerians referred to at the end of the last book, Under a Blood Red Moon. I found the copy on this novel to be cleaner than it was with the last book. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys young adult fantasy set in a contemporary setting. This is the best time of year to read about such things as witches and enchanters. If I had a book rating system on my blog I would give Under the Burning Stars, 3.5 out of 5 stars. The only thing that keeps me from giving it 4 is the fact, that while the copy was much cleaner, there were a few places where awkward sentences or inconsistencies in character dialogue pulled me briefly out of the story. For story and plot structure I found little to fault. I also found the characters to be more likable this time around too. Though, I did get a little frustrated with Peter at times and began to almost hope Ava would lose interest in him in favor of Gabriel. I foresee a triangle possibly forming there. I won't say more, as I don't want to give too much away. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book, it is available in print and as an ebook on Amazon.

Photo provided courtesy of Carrigan Richards

Check out other books by Carrigan Richards which include the first in her Elemental Enchanters series, Under a Blood Red Moon, as well as her standalone novel, Pieces of Me. Also, newly released just today is her short story, When Darkness Fell, about Savina and Colden before the war between Enchanters began. For more about Carrigan Richards and her books you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and on her blog at www.carriganrichards.com.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Magic of Mysteries

Last October I concentrated my reading for the spookiest month of the year on the fantastic. Fantasies about ghosts, witches, wizards, etc. were the flavor of the holiday season. This year I've rediscovered the wonder of the mystery genre. Starting with the anthology here, Murder by Magic edited by Rosemary Edgehill. It is a terrific collection of 20 short mysteries. They are cleverly re-imagined twists on every category of mystery you can think of, from the modern, to the genteel manor house, to the futuristic sci-fi world, and even the mystery that is unclassifiable. I highly recommend this anthology. Best of all it still includes magic in each of the stories. Sorry, I just can't help but be drawn to the fantasy element of things. October is the best time of year to delve into the mystical and eerie of the unknown.

Of my reading fair though, I haven't limited myself to just fiction or mysterious fantasy. I've got on my reading list this month a nonfiction spy piece.

George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War

What could be better than reading about one of our founding fathers and his use and instigation of a successful spy ring to help us win our independence from Great Britain. I haven't managed to start reading it yet. But my husband, who isn't particularly a history buff or interested in nonfiction for the youthful reader, gave this book a try. He gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads. Pretty high praise from him, since he loves mainly fantasy fiction, or thriller fair such as the Gabriel Allon series by Dan Silva, or Brad Thor's popular series featuring Scott Harvath.

Other youthful reads I plan to delve into this month include: Exposure by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes, part of their Twisted Lit series, this one based on Shakespeare's Macbeth, A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron, a sequel to her Crystal Kite Awarded novel The Dark Unwinding. Another sequel to an excellent series by Maile Meloy is The Apprentices set in London post-WWII and involving magical science practiced by a very special apothecary. Other new authors I'll be reading are Jonathan Stroud with his bestseller, The Screaming Staircase a novel that has ghosts, Destiny Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice, and a novel by another Kathryn I haven't read before, a mystery involving food, Bliss Kathryn Littlewood.

For those who prefer adult mysteries here are six other books I hope to tackle this month and probably next. The final novel in Larry Correia's Grimnoir Chronicles, Warbound. The third books in two different mystery series, Unsympathetic Magic by Laura Resnick, featuring her struggling actress character Esther Diamond, and a Bibliophile Mystery, by Kate Carlisle, One Book in the Grave, which is a mystery that doesn't include magic just a love of old books. Other authors I haven't read before include: Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris and their Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novel, Phoenix Rising, as well as Shirley Daamsgaard's Witch Way to Murder, and Jasper Fforde's alternate history novel, The Eyre Affair. I'm also reading another Vintage Magic Mystery by Annette Blair, a series I'm terribly behind on, called, Skirting the Grave.

To purchase any of these books feel free to click on the titles which will take you directly to Amazon. Help me support my book addiction by ordering them through my Amazon Affiliate links. Or if you prefer to support a local independent bookseller in your area over a giant retail chain, I completely understand. One of my faves is Joseph-Beth booksellers.

Next week check back in for a book review of the latest novel in the Elemental Enchanters series, Under the Burning Stars by Carrigan Richards. Happy reading this October! Let me know what mysteries you love.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Readers Are Essential

It's a no brainer that to be a published author of anything, you have to have people who are willing to read your work. Readers drive the business of publishing. With the advent of the internet then ebooks, as well as the brick and mortar stores that have held on, there are more ways to get books into the hands of readers than ever before. There are also a wealth of ways these readers can offer up their opinions and reviews of the books they read for other readers to see, adding another element to the mix of what it takes to be published successfully. On top of that, with email submissions being so quick and convenient agents and editors can get submissions, easily within the thousands over the course of a year. All of these things combined mean the chances of being published in the traditional sense are steep for emerging authors. Not impossible, but very challenging.

That is why it is very important to have people you trust who can read your work while it is still rough. A critique group can be one way to accomplish this, but it isn't the only way. There are a plethora of reputable online sites that offer classes in creative writing. Organizations, like the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), offer workshops and revision camps throughout the year all across the country. Even a local book group you might be a part of can be a source of valuable feedback on your story and how well you've constructed it. And let me tell you, construct is how it feels when you are polishing up a piece of writing whether it is a short story, novel, or creative nonfiction work. Getting it all down in a first draft is only the beginning. Revising it, reading it, having others read it, then revising it again, and yet again, is a process in construction. Scenes you loved sometimes have to be cut, others added. Characters you might have loved might have to be killed off or just cut out of the story altogether. It is a building process of monumental proportions that happens in your mind and is translated from there onto the page. So, it helps when you have a group of people who read it in its infancy, love it despite all its growing pains, and cheer you and your book baby on all along the way.

Last year at the SCBWI Midsouth conference when they announced the winner of the 2013 Crystal Kite Award, the author acknowledged that she never would have published her book let alone won an award for it without a strong support system of other writers and critique partners to help her. She called up all of the people present who were a part of that journey with her, so they could hold the award in their hands too. I could understand her sentiment. Over the last few years I've developed a cheer squad of people of my own who continue to encourage, advise and support me. Like me, they are writers working to get their work into the hands of readers, hoping to change someone's perspective of the world. Because while readers drive the business, it is the writers who open their eyes to another view, another world, that they never knew existed until they opened a book and got swept up in a story.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Falling Back Into It

It has been a full and rich last couple of weeks. My son turned ten and officially entered the double digits.

My Little Dude

Right before that big event I went to a writing conference. That was almost as exciting on a professional level as the birthday celebrations. Almost. ;)

Before I get into that however, let just say thank you to everyone who contributed name suggestions for my villain. Here are a few of the names suggested on sites other than my blog:

1. Otto
2. Jasper
3. Mortimer
4. Vincente
5. Vladimir
6. Nigel
8. Alexander
9. Victor
10. Ivan

It was fun to see the enthusiasm from all of you who took time to offer up names. I'm really liking Jasper as a suggestion. I might run it by my critique group when I meet with them in a week.

This is my first official week to be back into my full time writing schedule. As I mentioned back in August, I did have a temporary, part-time job for the past six weeks. It made the transition of my kids and husband going back to school and work less lonely this year. It also made the back to school sticker shock far less painful for my checkbook, as we tackled the extra expenses having the kids back in school entails. So I appreciated having a job outside of my writing and mommy duties for those six weeks. It did curtail my writing time, though. I just didn't have much motivation to work on my writing at all, which troubled me and made me question my chosen path. Then despite my misgivings about the extra money it would cost, I attended the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Fall MidSouth Conference.

My folder for the conference

It was my second year attending and I wasn't really sure I would get much out of it. Boy, was I ever glad to be wrong. Not only was the faculty this year stellar, but I submitted a story I'd felt was my strongest yet for a paid face-to-face critique as well as the First Pages event offered. First Pages, is an opportunity for the participating writers to submit up to 200 words of the opening of their story anonymously in one of three genre categories, young adult, middle grade, or picture books. In the course of an hour's time a prearranged conference volunteer draws pages from the submission pile and reads them aloud before all the writers in the room and the editor or agent who agrees to listen and give feedback on each submission. There is a separate room for the writers of each category to gather in to listen to the submission readings and hear the impression of the faculty member for each First Page. I was fortunate to have two faculty members sit in on the middle grade category that I submitted a First Page for, Kelly Delaney, an Assistant Editor at Alfred A. Knopf books, and Lauren MacLeod a literary agent with The Strothman Agency. As I sat and listened to the readings the minutes ticked by. I began to feel that time would run out before my submission was drawn. I kept watching the pages, looking or the one with two corners folded. Finally, only a few minutes before time was up I saw my page. I watched the two faculty members' faces as it was read. My heart didn't pound quite so much this time as it did last year. I knew nobody else knew those 200 words were mine. Then wonder of wonders the reading was done and BOTH listeners looked at my page and said they'd definitely read more. I don't know if any of you realize how little 200 words actually is, but it isn't much more than a full sized paragraph in length. This was high praise for my story indeed. It made the ultimate 'but' that followed much less discouraging. Ms. Delaney said that she wasn't sure my story was starting in the right place. This was something I already suspected myself based on feedback from an online critique group I'd been working on the story with. I was euphoric. I followed that up with my face-to-face critique which I ended up having with the keynote speaker of this year's conference, bestselling author Gennifer Choldenko (author of books such as Notes from a Liar and Her Dog and Al Capone Does My Shirts). Ms. Choldenko loved my story and said my writing was very strong, my idea marketable, and my premise very interesting. She told me that I write creepy very well. Since, my story is a mystery and is supposed to be suspenseful this was a good compliment.

I'm so glad I attended this conference. Being a member of SCBWI has helped me along my career path as a writer already in so many ways. It helped me find my critique group I meet with once a month in person. The society provides wonderful information for writers and illustrators on everything you could want to know about the children's writing market and the professionals involved in the business. And with this regional conference I've attended the last couple of years I've been reinvigorated both times about my writing and where I want to go with it. This year was the best because it affirmed for me that I haven't been doing this all in vain and I am on the right path. Something that made it joyful and easier to fall back into it now that I'm back in my home office full time. Now if you'll excuse me I really must get back to work.

Conference Faculty left to right: Jennifer Rofe'(agent), Kelly Delaney (editor),
Lauren MacLeod (agent), Rosemary Stimola (agent), Lucy Cummins (art director
for Simon & Schuster), Stacey Barney (Sr. Editor for Penguin/Putnam Books),
Daniel Nayeri (author and director of children's publishing at Workman Publishing Co.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Calling All Readers...My Villain Needs A New Name

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

In my current round of revisions of my tween fantasy, I've been putting off the inevitable. It seems I really liked names starting with D when I came up with names for most of my male characters. There is Daniel one of the main characters and a giant of a boy/man, Dyfan the foolish and misguided prince, and Damien the villain. I tried renaming Dyfan. But it didn't work for me or my critique group. And it was too cool of a name to give up. But it doesn't suit my villain either. So, now I need to come up with a chilling and cool name for Damien.

This is a very hard thing to do. I've known him as Damien for so long now. Since I first began writing the novel he's always been Damien. But I know that if I could find a name that was equally dark that didn't start with a D or an M I could learn to adapt.

Unfortunately, lots of meditation and paging through baby name books hasn't helped. Like his conniving and deceptive nature in the book, Damien refuses to help me with this. He remains adamant that this is his name and be damned the other characters with D names. Pardon my language, but he is a villain after all.

So I am turning to those of you who love fantasies and fairy tales for help. I am taking suggestions on any cool names you can suggest, or any sites out there that would be good sources to plum for villainous names. Leave me a comment here, or on my Facebook page, or Tweet me, whatever works for you. I am grateful for any help or suggestions. Below is a description of the character in question if that helps. Thank you!

Damien-The younger brother of prince Dyfan and main adviser and counselor to the prince. Damien is smart, conniving, and wants the throne of Orthavia for himself. He has studied dark magic and become adept at stealing the powers of other magical beings. He enjoys the suffering of others and seems to derive strength from conflict and pain in others. He is of average height, slight in frame, loves to wear black robes, seems to be able to almost disappear in shadows, has dark eyes, a very handsome face with dark arched eyebrows, a straight narrow nose, a small mustache and goatee, and is bald. I don't think he is bald by necessity, I think it is by choice. I suspect it has something to do with his appearance and with the type of magic he practices. But I'm and not certain of this because he isn't forthcoming about such things. He is a secretive creature and he loves being bad.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Quiet Meditations in the Bathroom

My Kiddos the 1st Day of School

I apologize for not getting this posted sooner. But last night a storm knocked out my power for almost the entire evening so I didn't get this post up and running on Tuesday evening as planned. But here it is now...

Like most busy parents sometimes my quietest time to meditate can be found in the bathroom and even that isn't a guarantee. Recently, I found myself pondering the beginning and end of summer as the Labor Day holiday approached. In the US we often mark the beginning and ending of summer as being between Memorial Day and after Labor Day. I began to wonder why this was, when according to the astronomical calendar summer doesn't officially start until the summer solstice (around June 21) and doesn't end until the autumnal equinox (around Sept. 22). I decided it was a conundrum that needed solving.

Having limited time to actually research this and not really having a real idea of where to begin I turned to Google. According to the Farmer's Almanac the dates for the four seasons revolve around the solstices and equinoxes and are determined by the amount of sunlight we receive which is determined by the orbit of our planet on its axis around the sun. But, this didn't really tell me why the US calendar seems to revolve around the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays.

Looking up when the holidays began to be observed was interesting but didn't shed any light on my problem. Asking friends didn't really help much either. One, posited that it was because of our swimming pools. It was a conspiracy they created to maximize their summer time hours. This didn't sound right to me, since in some places in the US  it is warm enough for pools to stay open longer than Labor Day and in other areas it is cool enough that they could close sooner. Another person advised me that it was our school systems that began to dictate when our summer season started and began. While more plausible, not all states start and end around these holidays. Some states have year round school while others start earlier or end later than either holiday.

Finally, while watching the news the weatherman mentioned that summer had officially ended according to the meteorological calendar. This was the lead I'd been waiting for. Looking up the meteorological calendar led me to realize all the various factors that determine the beginning and ending of summer. The meteorological calendar bases the seasons on average temperature patterns and for the northern hemisphere encompasses the entire months of June, July, and August. The meteorological calendar starts and ends at the beginning and ending of a month. That made more sense with the US custom of marking the beginning and ending of summer around our annual festivals of Memorial Day at the end of May and Labor Day at the beginning of September. It turns out that our holidays jive well with the meteorologists, and the theory of summer being determined by the pool or school calendars didn't hold water. [Sorry couldn't resist] Thanks Mr. Weatherman! 

What about you? Are there any conundrums you've wondered about but had no idea how to solve? Where is your best place to meditate?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Viva the Revolution!

Colonial Williamsburg

This summer for our family vacation, we went on spy missions for the Colonial Army, experienced revolution in the streets, and even heard the Declaration of Independence read aloud shortly after it was signed by the first Continental Congress. We did all of this because this summer we went to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Or as my husband calls it the other Williamsburg.

Powhatan Indian Village in Jamestown Settlement
Okay, so this is several years before the actual American revolution. It's part of the living history recreations they've built at Jamestown settlement in Virginia. My son and I are exploring the Powhatan Indian village. He wasn't as enthusiastic about our family vacation this year since we visited a lot of sites that had to do with history.

We tried to see some of each of the main historic sites in the area, though you can't see everything in a week. Even though he complained about it on reflection my little guy did seem proud of the fact he'd gotten to see some of the places he'd studied the previous school year, like Jamestown and Yorktown. I was a little troubled to hear that Williamsburg, Virginia was never mentioned. But we've all seen it now. It's one of my favorite historic areas to visit.

The Govenor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg

My daughter enjoyed the spy mission that kids and youth are offered a chance to complete. The spies were able to identify each other by purple ribbons and kerchiefs. I will say I saw several older kids that seemed very psyched about this mission also. My son went along the first day but was more interested in the 'hands on' living history for kids in the colonial village of which there are many to choose from. My nephew liked them as well and also enjoyed learning a new song which he still likes to sing called Yankee Doodle. Some of you might have heard of it. ;)

It's Generale de LaFayette!

There were more re-enacters this visit than what I remembered from my last visit years ago. One of my personal faves to encounter was the Marquis de LaFayette.

Another new thing I don't remember from my last visit to this area was the Yorktown Victory Center. It is currently under renovation to be expanded even more. But they have a military encampment there and a colonial farm that you can visit and walk through. They also had an army surgeon there who relished telling visitors about medical treatment colonial style. I only made it through the part where he talked about drilling into a person's skull. After that I left to explore the encampment and take pictures.

Colonial Army encampment at Yorktown, VA

All in all it was a fun filled family vacation. I hope it helped get my kids interested in the history of our country's beginnings. Below for those of you who enjoy historical fiction (especially during the colonial period) or would like some suggestions for same for your kids I've compiled a couple of lists below. Some of the books I've read but many I haven't, though I've added many of them to my reading wishlist. Anyhooo, that is my post for today.

Colonial Army Surgeon in Yorkown, VA

This guy made me seriously rethink wanting to develop time travel and sample life in the good ole days. :)

What about you? Any time in the past you'd like to visit? Any vacation adventures you would like to share?

Children's and YA Historical Fiction
1. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes                             
2. Copper Sun by Sharon M Draper                             
3. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Spear    
4. Blood on the River by Elisa Lynn Carbone                
5. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson                               
6. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier    
7. Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares by Frank Murphy and Richard Walz                                  
8. The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy by Kitty Griffin                                                                         
9. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spear
10. Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski

Adult Historical Fiction

1. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
2. The Turning of Anne Merrick by Christine Blevins
3. Bone Rattler: A Mystery of Colonial America by Eliot Pattison
4. The Schoolmaster's Daughter by John Smolens
5. The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss
6. The Outlander series by Diane Gabaldon
7. Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane
8. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
9. The Widow's War by Sally Cabot Gunning
10. The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Future Blog Posts

I may have to limit posts to my blog over the next couple of months in order to spend more time working on other writing projects. I've recently begun working part-time at a new job that is temporary in nature. However, it will limit my available writing time down quite a bit. So that means less frequent blog posts so I can devote my available writing time to my novels and any contracted work I might have. I will stick to Tuesdays during the week when I am able to post new material to my blog. In the fall I hope to get back to a weekly schedule again once my part-time work is done. Happy writing to those of you out there who are fellow writers and I hope all of you who follow my little blog will continue to check in from time to time and leave me comments. Thanks!

Down the Rabbit Hole of Depression

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

In the last day or so I've been seeing posts on both Facebook and Twitter about the tragic loss of actor and comedian Robin Williams. Most have had nothing but good things to say and were genuinely saddened by the news. I was surprised, however, by some tweets that seemed a bit anger driven. Statements about loving yourself and understanding that YOU are important. One even mentioned something along the lines of getting a grip. While many of these fans mean well they are laboring under the same notion that many use to cope with a loss that stems in part from a mental illness like severe depression. I blame that on a lack of education on mental illness itself.

Many were aware of Robin Williams's struggles with substance abuse. Few of us knew of his battle against depression. It was something he did not discuss openly or even truly acknowledge.

As someone who has seen first hand the ravages that a mental health issue can have on a loved one I can understand why he may not have wanted to talk about it publicly. Some don't want to discuss these types of issues because of the stigmas that are attached to them. There are still people out there who do not acknowledge that mental disorders like depression are very real health problems. It is hard for us as human beings I guess to call a health issue that affects the mind a disease. Disorder seems a kinder and gentler word. Unfortunately, being politically correct or gentler in the terminology does not help those who suffer from depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorders. These illnesses are not kind or gentle things. They isolate the people who suffer from them and carry with them a high risk of substance abuse and suicide. The people who love an individual with a mental illness often feel helpless and are many times caught off guard when someone they love is diagnosed with one of these diseases. While there is research out to support that some if not all of these disorders could be genetic in nature, it is hard to know for sure because of the shame attached to mental illnesses that have dogged society and continue to do so. How can a person know that something like this is in their family tree if past relatives who have suffered similar problems were hidden away or became substance abusers to deal with their personal demons.

Mental illnesses are insidious in part because the scars they leave are internal and can be masked or overshadowed by other problems. Loved ones anguished to see their friend or family member so vulnerable don't often talk about what is going on in an effort to protect them. Many can't afford proper treatment and many are diagnosed too late for family or friends to get them into treatment decreasing the odds that they will ever stay in or seek out therapy. Even worse many of the more severe types of mental illness are treated with drugs that carry side effects that can adversely affect a person's physical health and require steroid treatment and other medications to help control blood pressure. Individuals on these medications can complain about feeling zoned out or mentally foggy all the time.

It hasn't been completely confirmed whether severe depression was in part the cause of Robin Williams's death. And I like so many others wish to celebrate his life. He was by all accounts a very kind and generous person. Few would argue that he was a unique and talented comedian who used his gift to spread joy and hope to many. If it does prove to be true that severe depression helped contribute to his death then perhaps we can learn something from this loss. Maybe this will motivate us to break down the barriers to illnesses like depression before they rob us of others before their time. Instead of drawing away in fear or awkward discomfort from those out there who suffer from a mental illness perhaps this will make us want to educate ourselves and society about these types of health problems to help those who suffer cope and maybe even seek out treatment. If we can acknowledge that mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, among others, are diseases we stand a better chance of improving research efforts into finding better treatments and maybe even cures for these health problems. No one should have to suffer in the shadows or be lost too soon because of them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Roaring into the Twenties

This past week I blissfully traveled back in time to the era of the Roaring Twenties. I hopped across the ocean to Melbourne, Australia where I followed the adventures of a daring lady detective as she investigated crimes of various kinds most involving acts of murder. Then I skipped back across the pond to Manhattan where I followed a young flapper by the name of Evie O'Neill on a series of adventures dealing with the mystical occult to help her stop a serial killer before he succeeded in bringing about the end of days.

It was a full week. I was mesmerized by the fashions of the time, the jazz music that made me want to hum and tap my feet, and the giddiness of the young people embracing a new modern era of wonders. How is this possible you might ask?

Well it all began with a mystery series I became engrossed in called Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. It is actually an Australian TV series that is based on books written by Kerry Greenwood about a certain Miss Phryne Fisher, lady detective. (First name is pronounced Fry-on-nee). Miss Fisher is thoroughly, what was referred to in the day as, a modern. In other words, she wears her dresses short, and considers herself the equal to any man and feels free to do as she likes as a single, independent, woman of means. After enduring a horrific war with the rest of her generation there is little Phryne won't do or try. She is determined to live her life to the fullest and so far in the series she has. As a lady detective she has proven adept at racing cars, flying planes, cracking open safes, and doing fan dances, all in the name of solving the case and catching a murderer. Netflix only has season one available to watch right now. But my mom loves this series so much she bought season 2 and let me borrow it. So all last week I got to continue my Miss Fisher fix. I also now own two of the books by Ms. Greenwood and plan to enjoy following Phryne's adventures in them.

As I was watching Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries by day, I started reading Libba Bray's latest trilogy, The Diviners. I'd read one of her earlier trilogies set in the turn of the last century and really liked it. So when she came out with The Diviners set in the 1920s I was very intrigued. Then I found a copy of the book on discount at my local bookstore and bought it. As I was already caught up in the thrill of the era on TV, I figured it was the perfect time to delve into this YA novel set in the same time period. I was not disappointed. The Diviners was a page turner from start to finish. It kept me up far later at night than I should have been reading because I simply couldn't put it down. Ms. Bray perfectly captures the enthusiasm and cynicism of the times. As you follow the characters, a group of seventeen-year-olds coming to terms with their supernatural powers, you are caught up in a whirl wind of parties, nightclubs serving bootleg gin, shows such as the Ziegfield Follies, and the outcroppings of cults and fanatics determined to pull society back from a new modern outlook on life. Evie O'Neill the main character has never felt she belonged anywhere. When she is shipped off to live with her uncle in New York City she decides this is her chance to create her own path, her own destiny. Despite her many mishaps she learns to embrace who she is and stop hiding her abilities. Along the way she meets other young people with secrets and powers of their own. Together this group of young and brave moderns must find a way to stop an unknown evil from bringing about the apocalypse. And while the end leaves you satisfied that they have stopped a crazed killer, you still feel that there is more to the story and another round of baddies still out there for the Diviners to fight. It was a terrific book and I'm only sorry the sequel won't be out until spring of next year.

All in all it was a most thrilling week. I might have to go back and revisit the past again before the next season of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries comes out on DVD or the next Diviners book comes out. But for now I will content myself with another series of books, The Twisted Lit. series, that are modern retellings of Shakespeare plays. Right now I'm reading Tempestuous by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes which is loosely based on The Tempest

We are such stuff, As dreams are made on...-William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Adventures in Summerland

My daughter in period dress for Jane Austen festival

Sadly, summer vacation is nearing its end. I think overall it has been a good summer break for me and the kids. We've gotten to see most of the summer movies we wanted to. Though my son would remind me we still haven't made it to see Transformers IV yet. There have been trips to two amusements parks, a couple of visits to the water park here in town, and many afternoons spent swimming in the college pool. We've made it to two block parties and still have hopes we will get in one free summer movie in the park before school begins. There has been a lot more traveling back and forth and visiting with family than I expected. Part of this was the result of my mother's health issue that cropped up unexpectedly before summer vacation started. But she is doing well in spite of it.

Photo courtesy of Derby Dinner Playhouse and Molly B photography

 My daughter did a musical theatre camp at Derby Dinner Playhouse this summer which she thoroughly enjoyed. She got to learn songs from the musicals Pippin and Newsies. It was only a week long camp this year. She didn't want to commit to anything longer because summer break started so late. But she is hoping to do one of the Kentucky Shakespeare camps next year. Especially after seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream in Louisville's Central Park.

The shows are all free and are professionally done and performed in a beautiful park setting. I highly recommend them. For those of you who don't know Kentucky Shakespeare is the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the United States. Just something to be proud of here in the commonwealth of Kentucky. Sorry had to brag about that. For more information here is a link:http://kyshakespeare.com/

Most of my winning loot from Silent Auction

This past weekend I also got to enjoy the 7th Annual Jane Austen festival at Locust Grove with my mom, sisters, and daughter. I won something in the silent auction for a very good price. It has re-inspired me to read Persuasion before the year is through. I might even do a weekly post of my impressions of it compared to some of Miss Austen's other works as I read it.

The 4 of us at King's Island

I'm going to be sad when all our fun adventures end for the season. But we've made lots of great memories and we still have a few weeks left to go before it is through. My little girl has a birthday the end of this week (she'll officially become a teenager. YIKES!) and there is a week in Williamsburg, VA to look forward to. All in all not too bad for a shorter than usual summer break. What about you? What have been some of the things you've done this summer that were fun and memorable?

Monday, July 14, 2014

All-Star Game and Break CONTEST and BOOK SALE

Busch Stadium by Phil www.flickr.com
It's the middle of July. Baseball fans everywhere know that means it's time for the All-Star Game and short break from regularly scheduled baseball games across the United States. For non-loving baseball peeps, you can just keep on enjoying your summer as you have been: curled up with your favorite book, sipping cold lemonade, and relaxing by the pool. However you want to celebrate this week, please also join in the fun with young adult author Margo L. Dill as she holds a contest and book sale! 

Why during All-Star Game Week?

Great question! Margo's young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses (Rocking Horse Publishing, March 2014), is the story of 17-year-old Julie Nigelson, who is cursed. So is her entire family. And it’s not just any-old-regular curse, either—it’s strangely connected to the famous “Curse of the Billy Goat” on the Chicago Cubs, hence the All-Star baseball week celebration.

Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time. Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family’s future, and her own love life—and time is running out! 

What have people been saying about Margo's book?

Here are a few lines from a couple reviews on Amazon.com:

"This book is one of the best I have read in a long time. Once I opened it up I could not stop until I was finished."  ~Janet Cannon

 "A baseball mystery and a contemporary, heartfelt romance, CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO CURSES is sure to score big with the young teen audience!" ~Cathy C. Hall

"I definitely recommend this to young adults, but really any adult because it's a story that keeps you interested and will stay with you long after you finish." ~Amie Merz

Okay, so what is the contest and the sale???

photo by DonkeyHotey flickr.com
Here's the part you've been waiting for.  First the sale: 

The Kindle ebook is...99 cents July 14/15, $1.99 July 16/17, $2.99 July 18/19, and back to $3.99 July 20.

The print copy is for sale ON MARGO'S WEBSITE (http://margodill.com/blog/books/) and is $5.00 off the cover price, so only $6.95 (+$3.00 for shipping and handling). She will autograph it and gift wrap if it's a gift, plus include a bookmark for free. More details at the link above. (The print version is also on sale for $10.76 (10 % savings) on Amazon.com.) 

 If you are an Amazon Prime Member, you can check out the e-BOOK for free at anytime!

The contest:
Go to the Rafflecopter form below this post--all you need to enter is your name and e-mail, which is how I contact you if you win one of the prizes. Do at least one of the tasks below and then click on the entry button to enter the contest. You can do as many tasks as you want! If you are confused or have any questions, please feel free to e-mail Margo at margo (at) margodill.com. Tasks range from leaving a review of Caught Between Two Curses to announcing the contest and sale on a social media page to uploading a photo of you in baseball gear. See below for more.

Margo L. Dill
The prizes:

One winner with a United States mailing address will win a $25 gift card to either Applebee's, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, Panera Bread, or Olive Garden (winner's choice). One runner-up winner will receive a free 3000-word critique from Margo (Editor 911)--this can be anywhere in the world as long as the document is in English. The contest goes from July 14 to July 20. Winners will be announced on July 21! 

What are you waiting for?
So, join in the fun and while you're entering the contest or buying a sale copy of Caught Between Two Curses, join in a rousing rendition of  "Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks. I don't care if I ever get back. . ." 

a Rafflecopter giveaway