Thursday, April 28, 2011

Letter X ~ eXtreme monsters & demons

I'd like to welcome and thank Author Rebecca Russell to Writers' Ally, who's offering her thoughts about the infamous letter X. **I won't be posting, tomorrow, because my daugther and I are in a show this weekend. Wish us luck. I'll share goodies next week!!**

Today’s letter is ‘X’. One might assume that to be a difficult letter to blog about. But if you’re the author of a book full of eXtreme monsters and even more eXtreme demons who shape shift into humans in order to confuse the residents of the planet into committing eXtreme evil, then it’s no problem. And thank goodness there’s an eXtremely talented group of teens called Vigorios to fight off those demons and help save the worlds.

In case you don’t know yet, I’m talking about Odessa of the Seraphym Wars Series for Young Adults. At 17, Myrna must confront fears of being ripped from family and home while adjusting to a reality she never knew eXisted. She discovers she is the focal point of a Prophecy and its success hinges on her survival and that of the other kids she has to locate and protect.

But if it was that easy, anyone could do it, right? That’s because it’s not that easy. Every step of the journey is fraught with eXciting dangers from carnivorous swamp plants, to sea monsters; from scaly, fire-breathing dragons to tiny elves carrying poison-tipped spears. And to top it all off, Myrna has to fend off a gorgeous, sexy Scientist who pops up along her trip; a sweet, sensitive Mentor who joins her quest; and a dark-skinned demon-hunter who wears only a loincloth and insists he was commanded to help protect her.

If those aren’t enough eXtreme characters, how about the black-scaled tyrant and Ruler of Tartarus, Narciss, who so loves himself he lays encircling a gazing pool in the middle of his den, admiring himself all day every day. But you don’t want to cross him because his witch Murrdred sees and knows everything. Or how about the tenacious and evil Nefars—Narciss’s three power-hungry demons who shape-shift between attractive men and colorful dragons. Narciss has no idea what’s in store for his future with these three, and another interloper who joins the party late, on his planning committee.

Sound eXciting, eXhilerating, eXhausting enough? Just reading it will wear you out. Try living it, like Myrna is forced to do in order to get back home to her family and life on Earth.

            Odessa of the Seraphym Wars Series is available wherever eBooks are sold.

Here’s a bit to whet your appetite. It comes from the middle of the book when Myrna first sees Conall, the demon-hunter.

I was no longer tired or sore. The four of us moved as one, holding and helping each other over the rough terrain. Still screaming, we scrambled madly across the swamp, looking back to check our progress but always finding that ugly gray muzzle full of sharp teeth right behind us, snapping at our heels. The closeness of the trees restrained his use of the gigantic wings folded at his side, but his long, strong legs had no trouble crossing and crushing the masses of tangled roots.

With my long hair pulled into a ponytail, I was sure I could feel his hot breath on the back of my neck as I scrambled across the swamp floor. Newly strengthened muscles in arms and legs served me well as I climbed over the rough terrain. We froze at the outer edge of the tangled roots, where the swamp gave way to muck again before giving way to the other river. We’d made it!

I screamed as a tall, muscular man the color of coal charged, screaming, from the shadows of the swamp, swinging a massive curved sword. He lunged at the dragon, slicing at one of the huge legs but barely opening a gash through the tough gray scales. The dragon turned his head and sneered at this new threat, then flicked at the man with his barbed tail. The man ducked as the tail swung around and shifted his sword to come up under the tail. The tip of the sword caught the tail between scales and black, acidic blood gushed from the wound.

The dragon roared. The water vibrated. The trees trembled and swayed. The black man dove and rolled, sliced and diced like a living shadow. He flicked the sword first at one gray leg, then the other. He was on one of the dragon’s sides, then instantly on the other. He was like a ghost.

Our attention was suddenly drawn away from the battle as we realized what had happened, because in front of Brigid and surrounding us on all sides were the tallest and ugliest plants I’d ever seen.

“Succulorps!” Brigid screamed. Worry lines etched her mud-streaked face. Her normally clean spiky blonde hair stood in muddy clumps. “Shrite! They’re meat-eating plants. Don’t let them grab you.”

We bunched back to back, realizing we had been herded into a trap like cows. And just like cows we were about to become a meal. The circle of Succulorps closed in.

The black man continued to engage the dragon in battle. I could hear the sword scraping scales and the roars of pain when it found its mark. I also heard the grunts of pain and exertion from the man and wondered how long he could keep at this.

“You trying to communicate?” I asked Tien, recognizing her stare.

“I can’t get through. Dram brains are too small if they have them at all. All they know is hunger. Although I understood from one of them they had been told to wait here and expect food. The dram flying monster had told them.”

 Tien ducked quickly as one of the plants lunged at her, toothy mouth open wide. With growing horror we saw tiny arms with hands emerging from the thick stems. The plants, if that’s what they truly were, could now grasp and hold their prey.

“What now? They’re too close to use the swords. I can’t even get to mine. Shit! I wish I’d thought of using it earlier on the dragon,” I yelled while bending backward to avoid grasping hands. “I forgot all about it. Why didn’t you remind me, Michael?”

“You have to do this quest on your own terms. I can’t interfere that much. They’re so strong and tall,” Michael yelled back.

“Well, someone is helping. Who is that black guy?” I yelled.

Rebecca Ryals Russell writes MG and YA Dark Fantasy and Horror while living with her family in a Victorian house on five acres of North Florida countryside. She also runs a Vacation Rental Log House on the property: Florida Black Bear Cabin. ( )

She is a fourth generation Floridian. She was born in Gainesville, grew up in Sunrise, lived in Orlando and Jacksonville before moving outside Lake City to care for ailing parents. The family now wishes to return to Jacksonville, which is why the house is for sale. ( )

The daughter of an Elementary-school principal and secretary, for fourteen years she taught Middle Grades, preferring English and Creative Writing. She had several students’ works published in anthologies as well as her own poetry, photography and stories. Her main interests are her four children ages 22, 19, 16, 11 and Irish hubby of 35 years. She enjoys spending her time writing, drawing, going to movies, reading, discussing philosophy with her 16-year-old son.
Over the course of the next few years she has several books being published.

April 2011-Odessa, Seraphym Wars YA Series-available at Amazon
July 2011-Zarena, Stardust Warriors MG Series
September 2011-Guardian, Seraphym Wars
October 2011-Don’t Make Marty Mad (adult Horror story)

November 2011-Jeremiah, Stardust Warriors
January 2012-Harpies, Seraphym Wars
February 2012-Laman, Stardust Warriors
April 2012-Mercy, Stardust Warriors
June 2012-Magaelbash, Stardust Warriors

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Letter V ~ Book Spotlight: ABANDON

"Anything can happen in the blink of an eye. Anything at all. One. Two. Three. Blink." Those were the first words I encountered at the onset of reading my next book for review.

I'm totally cheating, today, using the letter 'V' for a YA book review, but I must get this review in before the book release which is today!! :) Also, I need to announce the WINNERS of Author C.Lee McKenzie's book/1st five page critique as well as my Easter Hop Book WINNERS!! *Don't peek until the end. :)* AND, with today Tuesday, I'm supposed to do my ROW80 progress report with Susan, Margo, and now C. Lee!! (Click on the links to see their progress.)

So quickly, I'll report on goal #1, seeing how that's what I've been working on: Just took a turn into the heart of Act II in my rewrites of Marked Beauty. Weaving in my added plot twist with caution, and it's enhancing the inner depth of my two leads so nicely. Loving it!! Received a great crit back which will help me tighten the first chapter even more. :)

Let's move to my A-Z post and go with V for Vendettas. I can think of a few characters who've had vendettas. One in particular and quite appropriate for today's letter: Voldemort. Yeah, we all know him. But what about Death. What character could have more of an ax to grind than Death himself?

Title: Abandon
Author: Meg Cabot
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Pages: 304

I'd like to thank Scholastic Point for supplying me with an ARC of this book to review.

Favorite Line/Passage: He looked down at my pajamas and frowned a little. "Wear that dress you had on last night, the ones with all the buttons." *But there were so any passages I loved.*


The Myth of Persephone, Darkly Reimagined
— Book One: Abandon —

She didn't fall into his world. She was taken.
Seventeen-year-old Pierce knows what happens to us when we die.
That's how she met John Hayden, the mysterious stranger who's made returning to normal life—or at least life as Pierce knew it before the accident—next to impossible.
Though she thought she escaped him—starting a new school in a whole new place—it turns out she was wrong. He finds her.
What does John want from her? Pierce thinks she knows... just like she knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven. But she can't stay away from him, either, especially since he's always there when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she might find herself back in the place she fears the most.
And when Pierce discovers the shocking truth, that’s exactly where John sweeps her:
The Underworld.


My Splats: ~ A timeless Greek myth brought to modern times with a unique slant that titillates the heart. Cabot has masterfully cast Death as one of many (thought of) death deities, who's been hardened by his circumstances. The reader slowly watches his heart open wide as he, like Hades, finds what he's lacking in a human girl. And in this case, she's just a little tweaked-side of normal. ~

On the outside, the story itself has typical teen nuances as well as struggles: the girl who doesn't quite fit it, a family that is all but normal, a move of location, and a secret--the girl has a near-death experience only she's not just near Death; she chats with Him. What's even more unique is that Death is a main character--and he's hot. Eventually, the reader even discovers that he's sensitive and has a conscious.  

There's a bit of a historical twist threaded within the plot, giving it depth and a natural verve. The story simply isn't a modern remake of Hades (the reigning king of the underworld) and Persephone (his love interest). It's so much more.

Cabot does a wonderful job of taking that story from Greek mythology and implanting it in today's teen society. The MC, Pierce, is authentic, as she's not only trying to normal--with a death deity longing for your loins, that's not all that easy--but fit into a new school with the typical high school cliques and head games.

The initial element I always notices about a book is its cover. The first words are so important in a story, but in reality the initial impression is in the dressing--the cover. Abandon's artwork is beautiful, simple, and elegant. I usually make a mental note of the cover while I'm reading, trying to find the relation between the coating of the book and the story itself. And within this lies a message.

After I'd finished reading, I realized that the title does have a more symbolic meaning them anything else. Many people have felt Abandoned in some for or another and at some point in their life. Many of Cabot's characters in ABANDON have experienced the lost of being abandoned or at least the feeling of such emotion.

I would recommend this book to any paranormal and/or romance enthusiast, as well as those interested in Greek mythology. 

What is your favorite book/story based on Greek mythology? What about a character with a sweet Vendetta??

Author C.Lee McKenzie's Book, PRINCESS of Las PULGAS ~ Shannon O'Donnell!! 
1st Five Page Critique ~ Talei!!

Easter Hop Book-of-Choice Books go to...
#2 ~ Ronyka7 

CONGRATS!! I'll be in touch!
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Letter U ~ UNUSUAL Words

Vocabulary is important in writing. Word choice--Diction--can be all the difference between a successful sentence and one that makes the reader go Huh? The way we choose to communicate our message through sentence, chapter, and ultimately story structure is also vital.

There's plenty of familiar 'U' words found in an average writing day: unlike, understood, use, universe, unite, unwilling, up, and underline. Of course, we could go on for quite a while creating this list. But we don't have to. If you're interested, you can go HERE for a rather concise list of average 'U' words.

What about the not-so-ordinary 'U' words, or words of other letters? How do we weave them into our writing without becoming overbearing?

~ as with all good things use in moderation.
~ as with all things in life: balance is necessary.

But by all means, use words that aren't seen everyday. Sometimes what a sentence is looking for is that added spice and the not-so-ordinary word to give it the punch it needs.

Here's a few of those not-so-ordinary 'U' words I find interesting.

Ultracrepedate ~ to criticize beyond sphere of one's knowledge.

Uliginous ~ slimy; oozy; swampy; growing in swampy places.

Umber ~ brownish red.

Upas ~ poisonous or harmful institution or influence.

Ustion ~ action of burning or searing.

Uxorious ~ excessively fond of one's wife.

Any interesting 'U' words you can think of? What about excessive use of not-so-ordinary word? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q ~ QUOTING Book Giveaway with a Hop!

My theme for the letter Q is easy ~ a QUOTE

If you look aways down on my right sidebar, you'll see a section of quotes. I change them, every-so-often, but some I keep there. Inspiration, really...for you and for me.

Here's a few of my other favorite Quotes.

~ The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath 
~ The achievement of your goal is reached the moment you commit to it. ~M.D.
~ Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined. ~ Thoreau

There are hundreds more. We could chat forever about them. Here's one a bit more appropriate for this post.

A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.  ~Author Unknown

And in honor of such a true Q word & Quote--to which all you readers and writers can relate, I'm sure--I'm participating in the Happy Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop!

I'm GIVING BOOKS AWAY, YET AGAIN!! And so are many other bloggers!!

At last check, there were 260 blogs participating. Yup. That's right, and they're all GIVING away something. Could be books, gift certificates, maybe even critiques. Please, visit the OTHERS, too. And ooh...even my Blogging Sisters over on Oasis for YA are partaking!! Head over there NOW! I'll wait. sign up for my giveaway. Want to know what I'm offering?

'K: 2 WINNERS, ONE Book of your choice each to anywhere BookDepository ships. That's it!! (Yup, I'm offering it internationally!!) 

Criteria: I'm fairly easy. Busy mom of 4 humanoids and writer. All you have to do is leave me a comment below with your email addy and a favorite quote or for why you love books and/or writing. Not in the mood for a quote? That's cool. Just leave me a comment and your addy. :)

Contest runs from today until Monday, April 25!! WINNERS announced on Tuesday the 26th during my ROW80 check-in post!

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**I'll be taking the remainder of the week off from blogging. The 4 humanoids who call me Mom are off on vacation. Spending valuable time with them as well as devoting a bit more concentrated time on my writing is need, right now. Enjoy the rest of your week!!**

HEARTS 2 U, All!! And a big Alleyway WELCOME to all New Followers!! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Despite having two topics to intrigue you with today, I Promise to keep it brief.

PROGRESS ~ "a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage." *according to*

While highlighting the letter J, I intro-d ROW80, which I'm using to help me juggle my writing life. But it also a vehicle, fueling my Progress. So here's my Tuesday check-in.

Goal #1 ~ Finally wrote my breakthrough chapter introducing my main male MC. The dude is way complex, which lead to a week or so of struggles trying to weave in his back story. The reader needs this knowledge now in order to understand his position, desire of goals, and conflict in finding the girl, Ana--main female MC. Now, I'm ready to move forward, continuing to rewrite from past to present tense and threading a new plot twist to the end. :)

Goal #2 ~ Yeah, working on the 3rd draft of my picture book SWITCHING DAYZZZ.... just didn't happen. *See goal #1*

Goal #3 ~ Didn't do much with actual outlining of my MG series or my next YA novel, but my brain was on fire with plotting. So there's a bit of progress there. YAY!

I've been keeping in touch with my wonderful new crit partner, Susan from Ink Spells. Check out her PROGRESS, too. She's a gem. And then there's Margo, over on Writing at High Altitude, who's helping us keep on task.

One final thought about Goal #2 ~ PICTURE BOOKS. I write in three areas: young adult, middle grade, and picture books. For me, writing picture books is just natural. I have four children and for years have created stories off the cuff to get them to sleep or to keep them quiet in the car. It never occured to me that I should actually write them down until I participated in Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo 2010. It was fantastic and totally revved me up to write PBs.

I'm making progress with a few stories and if you're interested you can take a peek at two of them HERE.

No matter where you are on your writing journey, never forget each new day brings new PROGRESS. I believe in you. 

What progress have you had recently??

Teeny splat: My kids are on spring break so I might not be able to blog all that much. Will miss you, but make sure to come back tomorrow. I'm hosting a giveaway of your choice!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

O ~ Exercising OPENING LINES

I take my initial impression of a book from its front cover. I absolutely LOVE cover art! We know that the first page and chapter are vital, as well. After all, it's the story a reader is after. And as much as I adore a vibrant image painting a book jacket, I also covet the first sentence.

Man, can that set a tone and impression. So I've come up with a little exercise, creating ten opening lines. I didn't stress over it, just had fun, jotting down the first ideas that came to my mind.

This is a good exercise to do when you're stumped in your current WIP or anytime, really. It can get those creative juices flowing and charge ideas you didn't even know you had.

~ My ice cream cone fell next to the dead body.
~ I couldn't hear him, on account of the chainsaw.
~ The moment he saw her fall, he knew there was no turning back.
~ It was that way in a small town: private business is everyone's business.
~ The woman gave me a haughty grin as she passed me the lead pipe.
~ Peering over the seat, I saw him.
~ I held the metal tool above my head, ready to strike.
~ His heartbeat played a lullaby against my spine.
~ I had no idea what was coming, and if I had I wouldn't have stepped into the booth.
~ The makeup went on clean, covering up last night.

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Your turn. Give it a try and see what inspires some optimism in an opening line for you. Do you have a favorite line from a book? What about one you've written?

This is from my current YA novel: The first time it happens I am six years old and sitting next to a severed Barbie doll head.

Friday, April 15, 2011

M = MIDDLE Grade for ME!

The first inkling I had that I wanted to write seriously was after rereading some classic English lit novels, most of which I'm sure you'd be familiar with. Then I moved on to YA books possessing a paranormal edge with a romantic flare. So it was natural I started out writing paranormal romances.

But while writing and editing my YA work, I was reading MIDDLE Grade books with my children (those who were age appropriate). I discovered a love for MG lit and a desire to write it as well. There's something about taking a character of said age (11-14ish) and watching them balance life, parents, and friendships--not to mention puberty. And yes it does help that two of my four children are of MIDDLE grade age--one boy and one girl.

My brain became an overactive playground of MG ideas. I wrote half an MG story and realized that writing MG needs a different approach then writing YA. Firstly, the manuscript must be dramatically shorter, ranging somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 words. Most MG characters seem to be written on the lighter side--meaning the issues of life (such as death) are handled with a bit more delicately then in YA. Language (cursing) and mannerisms are also elements to be cautious when using. And humor, at one point or another, is really important in MG literature. It's engaging to kids of that age.

Link to other participants
Writing MIDDLE  Grade Literature affords me the opportunity to be a bit zany on my own all while teaching lessons to kids who are in the midst of their life-lessons learning process. As a writer, that is a humbling place to be.

What do you write and why do you write it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J ~ JUGGLING the Writer's Life

There's this wonderful new opportunity to help you get a leg up on your current WIP or start a new one, all while learning the balance of writing and living. Because you do know that living is one of the most important parts of becoming a multi-leveled, juggling writer.

Whether we're aware of it our not, we write what we know. Everyone's heard that, but most of us do it subconsciously. We hear about doing research for a novel. I've done research. Adding spices of what I'm unfamiliar with does add to the overall scope within my stories. But mostly, I find what sparks a story somewhere within me. Then I go looking elsewhere.

My amazing author friend (and one of my first official reviews and interviews on the Graffiti Wall), Susan Kay Quinn, gave me the heads up about A Round of Words in 80 Days. This is a challenge about setting attainable goals that will encourage and inspire us, moving us forward on our writing journey.

I missed the first of two weekly check-ins, so I'm starting today. Here are my attainable goals for the next 80 days, minus the 8ish days I've missed.

#1 ~ to completely rewrite my YA novel, adding a new plot line and axing my cast of characters. (I've started on this and basically have to feed the new info throughout.)

#2 ~ complete 3rd draft of my picture book SWITCHING DAYZZZ... (which is almost finished, anyway.)

#3 ~ simply keep my mind open to thoughts for continuing to outline GYPSY DOLLS: Carnival of Souls as well as my MG Fantasy, MOTLEY EDUCATION.

The deadline is JUNE 14TH. Susan and I have decided to track each other's progress, sharing and brainstorming together. I'm pretty excited about it. I think we can do it, and with Susan and I cheering each other on, I'm sure it will be a great success.

So stay tuned and come back to see our progress every other Tuesday. Feel free to join us in the CHALLENGE. You're writing anyway, right??

Let me ask you: how do you JUGGLE your writing life? 
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Monday, April 11, 2011

The A-Z Challenge is ICY

I'm going for simply today. When thinking about the letter I, Ideas and Inspirations first came to mind. I've written many posts about what inspires our writing. I'm kind of a sap like that. I've also explored where ideas come from and how to formulate them. (Gosh, love it when I sound smart. Trust me; it's all a facade.)

But there's one 'I' word that melts my heart above all others. Ice. I.C.E.

Son #2, Jake, helping out our youngest, CJ.
I am an Ice hockey mom. It's one of those labels that describes who I am as a person. Other moms out there know we wear many hats. We are tagged with many titles. This is one I am proud to wear.

My dad was a youth hockey coach back in the days when most rinks were outside. When a local rink was built, hockey practices were usually before the crack of dawn and games where at the same ungodly hours. My younger brother played. So basically I was a rink rat.

Nothing changed as I moved into Motherhood.

It was only natural for me to introduce my children to the game of ice hockey. And yes, they all love it. Devotion to my kids and ultimately the game has helped mold the person I am today. I've sacrificed much--and yes, have been frozen on many occasions. For me, it's all been a part of growing-up-Sheri.

And if you take a gander over to Adventures That Score, you'll find Kris Yankee--another hockey mom!

Links to other participants
Do you have an activity or family tradition so ingrained within your psyche that it's influenced who you are as a person? How can we as writers achieve this kind of depth with our characters?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The FOLLIES of Writerhood

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Over on Oasis for YA--the other place where I chew on words--Thursday is the day we celebrate our Thankful Meme. I'm posting today, instead of tomorrow so that I can participate. Feel free to snatch our badge, link to us, and play along, too. We'd love to have you.
So what to be thankful for? I'm grateful for what sets us writers apart--from relatives, closest friends, the butcher at the meat market... (Visuals are  great thing, eh?)

While sometimes misunderstood, we are a special group that holds strong convictions about who we are and our writing skills. Or when all else fails, we poke fun at ourselves.
For the sake of being thankful and the letter F, I'm creating a Folly-ship of Writerhood--become a member whenever in need of a laugh. Membership is easy. Think of some of the silly things you do as a writer.  

Folly: craziness, madness, vice, irrationality, lunacy. (Must I go on, really?) Every feel any of these while writing?

A few FOLLIES of Writerhood

1. You play Zumba music to give your fingers a workout.

2. You heat the same cup of coffee five times.

3. You still drink that cup of coffee despite the thin film that has formed on top. 
(yeah, just spoon it off.)

4. You chew on more words than food, forgetting to eat...often.......or feed the kids.

5. You begin speaking in hashtags. (...and your family looks at you like you need a straight jacket.)

6. Your kids aren't bothered that you're having a private conversation with your make believe friends.

7. Notebooks are strategically stashed all over your house, car, and office.

8. You're at a wedding ceremony and some lady with the ugliest hat sitting in front of you inspires a new character; you rush off to the bathroom with said secret notebook on your person.

9. You return from your bathroom tete-tete, and your spouse doesn't have to ask; just knows.

10. You tell your laptop that your sorry and beg forgiveness...and a bit of mercy.

BONUS: You find a story in this: 

Any follies you can think of?

Heck, we all could use a good laugh or cry after the submission process. It's as nerve-racking as dating--not that I really remember. (That process ended ages ago for me.)

SPLATTAGE: Don't forget to ENTER my giveaway to win the YA novel PRINCESS of Las PULGAS and/or a 1st Five Page Critique both offered by the fabulous C.Lee McKenzie!!

Happy Weekend, A-Z Challengers!! 
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

An Ode to the Letter D

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Those who've been Alleywalkers for some time probably expected me to write about my past life with Dance or my love of Dogs. Maybe even Dodging snowballs or the Deer population in Maine. Instead, I decided to go out on a limb and write about a subject that will surprise you but really shouldn't. I'm a writer of all that is otherworldly, ominous, and frightful. Like the chainsaw splattering raw in a hallway...(I'm joking. I don't write gore, although I do enjoy a good horror flick.) 

The titter of music streams the air,
ribboning with sweet and familiar flare.
Hearts stop. Smiles widen. Elation roars.
Feet patter the earth in eager’s galore.

Baseball mitts drop, puffing clouds of nature’s dust.
Tree limbs bounce and bleachers empty, too.
Swing sets are ghost towns, silent and eerie.
All except for the last kid yelling, “Wait up! What’s the Hoo?”

An icon for decades, the ice cream truck nears,
Sending hands into pockets, finding change bringing cheers.
Different flavors are discussed, and if they’ll be enough.
Each pallet is quenched, hydrating a definite must.

But the picture I’ve painted is yet a façade,
As tires screech round a corner, turning every chin up hard.
See, I knew it was coming; it’s what I do best,
So the meek may want to turn as I finish the rest.

Most see the obvious, entangled with the false miasma,
To examine life closely does take more charisma.
I’ve been there the whole time, watching and waiting,
For the moment of truth, never takes too much baiting.

Eyes widen. Shrills lurk. Tension encapsulates the crowd.
Pleas nip at the heels of the one who’s now found.
Awe-filled reactions expose the find and
reel in motion as I swoop down, taking what’s mine.   

I am not what most expect.

Dingy and dirty, selfish I could not be.
No price is ever set, or collection fee.
Pure in thoughts and, yes, in deeds.
The nurturer of the teeniest of weeds.

I am the cleanest among mankind.
Not fake nor a gossip feign.
I am the end and the beginning, in all their wealth,
in every dream and laugh and sweet-smelling breath.

…and I am pleased…
…to take you away with me.

Monday, April 4, 2011


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Caring, Creative, & Committed all begin with the letter C. And so does my next guest who's gracing the GRAFFITI WALL with her publishing splatters, today.

Welcome, all you A-Z Challengers, to the Alleyway and a post spotlighting a fabulous lady and writer. Normally, I keep my posts shorter. But today I think you'll appreciate the length and the fountain of knowledge shared with you. Also, you can ENTER for a chance to win a 1st Five Page critique and a brand-spanking new book!! Read on...

The written word is her second nature, having been writing for as long as she can remember. Being an experienced traveler has given her a respective view of the world, cultures, and people. She's a woman with an endearing heart of gold.
C.Lee McKenzie, Author of PRINCESS of Las PULGAS (YA, Fall 2010) & SLIDING on the EDGE (YA, 2009)

I first met C.Lee when I joined my online writing community of YAlitchat. She was so dear to review some of my work. Her kid-glove yet honest approach gave me courage to finally hammer out a useful query letter, gaining me some requests of material. We're even closer now, being two of eighteen who run the operations of YAlitchat. I'm thrilled she's here today.

Where you an avid reader as a child?

Yes. I always loved to read. I spent a lot of time in the library because I usually lived with my grandparents and their book selection had real page turners like The Life of Boswell--you know, the guy who wrote diaries and bios for famous people in the 1700's. A few paragraphs of old Boswell and I was nose down in the book. I did use it to teach myself how to type though. That saved me a semester of Typing1. Thanks, Boswell.

What first made you want to write?

I've always written something. When I was in grade school I wrote plays and conscripted the kids in my neighborhood to play the parts. We would put on plays in my grandfather's garage and charge a nickel. No overhead. No capital investment. All profit. Maybe all that early financial success is what kept me engaged in writing. Probably not. I just like doing it.

When I started writing Sliding on the Edge I really wanted to express my concern and confusion over the issue of young people's self-abuse. That was the motivation; then I got hooked on the process and kept going. I don't think I planned to be a novelist; it just happened.

What was your favorite book during the middle grade years? High school years? Why did these appeal to you and how are they different from said age literature today?

Alice in Wonderland was my favorite early book. I never got tired of following Alice down the rabbit hole. In high school, The Last of the Mohicans then Catcher in the Rye then To Kill a Mockingbird . . . so many that I can't list them. Alice appealed to me because of the magical possibilities in the story. Later, it appealed because of the social comments, but that's after I became somewhat "sophisticated."  I think I liked Alice better before my sophistication set in. Adventure was what made me love Mohicans, the total boy-jerk-lost and pathetic aspect of Catcher got to me--It's kind of dated now, but it was a break though novel that made a lot of writers aware of the young readers. With Catcher you had an MC you could identify with. In Mockingbird, the message about prejudice and hate and love and right versus wrong--all of that made the book appealing.

I don't think there's a difference between good literature of the past and the present in terms of the voice and the compelling stories (language excepted). I do think that many of today's books try to satisfy the need for immediacy that our TV media brains demand. And I think that because we're used to the thirty minutes, everything-resolved-at-the-end kind of story, some books do just that. However, some don't, and I think those will be the "new" classics in the future. IMHO That's why I like to read Rostoff and Hinton and Cormier. They stir the pot, don't give you a lovely ending and leave you thinking.

I have to say, I love your second answer. It's so true about concise TV episodes and how as a society of watchers/readers we've grown the need for instant gratification. 

Favorite book on writing.

Sol Stein's Stein on Writing. He taught me sooooo much about writing fiction. I've recommended him to my writer friends whenever they ask for a t.

I know you've been speaking at some schools. What are the most popular questions the kids ask?

It doesn't matter where I speak. The first question is usually, "What does the C stand for in your name?" appropriate for this A-Z Challenge!!

How much do you think a writer's life experiences and upbringing impacts their writing?

Oh, a lot. Our life experiences are the "grist for the mill." We draw on all that we've done, all that we've known, the people, the places in our lives. Of course, we filter all of this, so when it comes to the page it's seldom as we experienced it. That's what's interesting. My mom reads what I write and she'll say things like, "That's not the way that place looked."  Or, "That didn't happen when we lived there."
"No, Mom, that's the way it looks or happens after my adult brain gets through with it."

Three most important lessons you've learned from building a writing career.

It's not a nine to five job.
It's important to be kind and be fair and expect the same. If you don't get that from people, move on.
Maybe consider coal mining instead?

Like chocolate? If so, dark or milk chocolate?

I like dark with nuts. Without crunch, chocolate doesn't interest me.

You have a wonderful website you have, particularly the section for teachers and parents. I think it's fantastic. 

Thanks for the compliment. I do love my website, even after these three years of looking at it. It was important to have the teachers and parents section when I wrote Sliding on the Edge because I was passionate about the seriousness of self-abuse and suicide. I wanted to contribute something to help and this was my way--increase awareness. 

How long did it take you to write Princess of Las Pulgas, and where did the idea come from?

The truth is I'd sold Sliding on the Edge a week before I was scheduled to go to New York for a special pre-conference session at an SCBWI conference. This pre-conference was giving writers an opportunity to have editors discuss their first pages. After selling the book I intended to ask for help on, I had nothing to take, so I sat down and wrote: "What if a girl who has everything suddenly has nothing?" That was the beginning of Princess. Ironically, a year after I started, the economy tanked, so I thought either my editor was going to hate this because it's right on, or she was going to love it because it's right on. Guess it was the latter. I finished Princess in about a year.

The Princess of Las Pulgas is a story about a girl who has everything, and then suddenly almost nothing. Book trailer. 

Share with us your other writing experiences.

Some things about writing Sliding on the Edge: I researched until I was buried in notes about self-abuse and suicide. I learned a lot that I hadn't expected to learn, and since learning new stuff is always exciting, this experience whetted my appetite to continue doing something that required research and organizing that research within a story so it was "enjoyable."  (Whew! Long sentence.) Another interesting thing: I was surprised when readers asked me about my own self-abuse. That was really a surprise to discover that people thought I'd written from personal experience.

I love to write Middle Grade adventure stories and I've written three. Two are still on my C Drive and haven't seen the light of day outside my crit groups. And I really love to write MG short stories. I've had a couple of those published. Then, sometimes to kind of floss my brain, I write non-fiction. In fact, one of my non-fiction pieces will be out in Stories for Children in May. I heart that ezine.

Tell us a bit about your MG work. And any works ready for submission...

I'm subbing one right now, but with little success. It's a story I wrote a few years ago and have edited fiercely because over the years I've learned a lot about how to write. The early versions were pretty terrible--so much so that blush to think I actually sent it out. No wonder it came back like a rocket. Agents and editors should have flamed it.  I like to have things wrapped up and having that  MG novel out there would make me feel I'd accomplished what I set out to do.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and wisdom with us all!

ALLEYWALKERS, In need of a 1st FIVE PAGE Critique?? ENTER by leaving a comment, tweeting, facebooking. *Those are required.* If you choose to link the contest via your sidebar or even do a blog post, those will count for extra entries. Please leave your links with your comment. TY!!

For the PRINCESS of Las PULGAS BOOK GIVEAWAY, just leave a comment. Easy-peasy!!

Following me and/or C.Lee is not necessary to enter, but we'd love to have you. The contest will run until April 17th. WINNERS, chosen by, will be announced on the 18th. 
Want more C.LEE? Visit her Website, Blog, or Facebook. Better yet - purchase her books! 

Friday, April 1, 2011

A-Z Blog-O-Rama!! APRIL FOOLS...

Link 2 other particiants
And so it begins...the A-Z Blogging experience. I'm psyched to be a part of such a cyberspace presence. And yes, I will not avoid the avoidable: using too many 'A's and/or 'A' least for today.

I'd like to welcome any new visitors participating in the A-Z Challenge to the Alleyway! Here, I explore the art of writing and journey of writers. I'm a children's author, writing young adult, middle grade, and picture books. There's also the characteristics of me being a hair-raising mom of 4 humanoids and the dog, but we'll save that for later. I blog on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, so I will observe those letters during those days.

Celebrating the letter A could not have come on a better day: APRIL FOOL'S DAY!!

~ Did you know that April Fool's Day is also known as All Fools Day? AND no, no one seems to know why.

~ Did you know that April Fool's Day has no official day in history that can pinpoint its start? And no, I'm not making this up.

~ Did you know that some believe April Fool's Day was begun in humor, taunting the goodbyes of winter? AND no, no one is really sure of that, either.

Do we know anything about April Fool's Day?? Well, yes, a few facts as they might be known.

There is some correlation between several cultures celebrating the first day of Spring and April Fool's Day. Apparently, the need to breakthrough the doldrums of winter gave many the 'crazies'. Not paranormal speaking, just ants-in-your-pants kind of feeling.

Before Charles IX, the New Year was celebrated on April 1st. Prior to this and somewhere around the year 1582, New Year's Day celebrations started on March 25th, ending with major festivities guessed it, April 1st. But after the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, the start of each new year was moved to January 1st, leaving April 1st lonely and longing for some attention.

Attention she got.

Back then, messages traveled by foot so many didn't receive the announcement until years later--yes, we are all bowing to technology and cyberspace right now. To top off the lack of communication, once people did hear of the change, some shunned it, refusing to conform. They chose to celebrate the New Year on April 1st anyway. This lead so-called leaders and yuppies of the day to label these folks as 'quacks' or better known to us all--Fools.

It was commonplace to single these people out, sending them on 'fool's errands' or simply poking fun at them. (Apparently bullying has existed since the beginning of time.) By sometime within the eighteenth century, exchanging pranks between family, friends, and of course strangers was becoming customary.

Over the years, peoples of all cultures have joined in the fun, coming up with some humorous practical jokes.

In France, French children tape a picture of a fish on their classmates backs. Once the kid figures out they're carrying around a fish on their back, others yell, "Poisson d'Avril!" (April Fish)

Scotland has a great prank which focuses on the 'butt end' of the prankee. Believe it or not, the 'Kick-Me' sign we all went through junior high fearing, the one sometimes taped to the back of a friend originated from Scotland's April Fool's gags.

There are literally hundreds of pranks out there under the guidance of amazing pranksters. Calendars have been changed in someone's Daytimer, and alarm clocks reset to stir and frazzle the recipient--usually some poor college roommate. (I never did that.) Hot sauce and all sorts of food pranks are known all over the world.

FAMILY FUN has a great batch of recipes if you're looking to fool someone special. *wink* They also have crafts and activities you can do with the kids, harmlessly involving them in the day's events.

Let me leave you with a few quotes specifically geared to this most tomfoolery of days.

~ However big the fool, there is always a bigger fool to admire him. Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux
~ Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed. Mark Twain
~ He who lives without folly, isn't so wise as he thinks. Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

And my favorite: It is better to be a fool than to be dead. Stevenson

Do you know a fact about APRIL FOOL'S DAY I've yet to mention? Please tell us. Shout it A-loud!!


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