Monday, September 29, 2014

Time for a Change...

I'm making a change to my blog; Fridays will become "Fiction Fridays" in which I will host a fiction writer. They may be brand new or established, but they will always be interesting. There may not be a new one every week, but I am happy for interested writers to message me (through my blog, FB, Twitter, email, or phone) if they would like to appear.

I've occasionally featured writers, but I'm very happy to have as my first in this new endeavor:

by my friend, Darlene Beck Jacobsen, fellow Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators member, and a hardworking writer.
Darlene loved writing since she was a girl. She wrote letters to everyone she knew and made up stories in her head.  Although she never wrote to a president, she sent many letters to pop stars of the day asking for photos and autographs.  She loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE, her debut novel.
            Darlene’s stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. When not writing, Darlene enjoys baking, sewing and tea parties.  She also likes hanging around forges watching the blacksmith work magic. She’s never ridden in a carriage like the one in the story, but hopes to one day. Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters.  Check out her website here:

I asked Darlene a few questions so that you could get to know her book better:
What was the most surprising thing you learned in your research?

The biggest surprise was discovering how Washington DC looked at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Even though it was the nation’s capital and center of government, it was very rural. With the exception of Pennsylvania Avenue and a few streets bordering 7th Street – the main street of commerce - there was only gas lighting and no electricity. Indoor plumbing was still a novelty. Many roads were unpaved or had cobblestones. There were farms and wooded areas surrounding the government buildings. Most people still rode in horse-drawn wagons, carriages, or buggies. Many goods were still made by hand. Those facts were instrumental in helping me set the scene and render an accurate time and place.
Did your research give you ideas for a sequel or other books?

I don’t envision a sequel to Emily’s story.  Her tale has been told.  It might be fun to find out what happens to Emily’s nemesis, Beatrice Peabody and her family.  How does Mrs. P survive the changes coming to her family as Beatrice discovers a different life at boarding school – a life away from her domineering mother.
What fascinated you about this subject/era most?

There was so much change that took place in such a short time.  From 1900 to WWI, people witnessed the birth of automobiles, airplanes, electricity, factory made goods, train travel across the continent, telephones, and modern conveniences such as canned foods, vacuum cleaners, washers and dryers and the like. Some of the changes were exciting as well as frightening. I tried to convey that ambivalence in the story.
Would you want to live in the era, or be your character?

Life was very difficult for girls and women 100 years ago. So much time and energy was spent in completing everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and childcare. Women kept households running, but had little or no say in how they spent their own lives. It took two world wars for women to test their own courage and break away from the strict confines of home and out into the working world. Thanks to our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, our choices are unlimited.

What sources did you use in your research?

Primary sources included an invitation my grandmother received to a reception held by Teddy Roosevelt, a letter from the National Archives confirming that she met the President. I read his personal letters, visited a working buggy museum and forge, read numerous books on American culture at the turn of the century, corresponded via e-mail to experts at the Smithsonian, Sagamore Hill, Historical Society of DC and others whenever I had questions. I also perused old cookbooks, maps, Sears Catalogs, and newspapers to get a feel for the era. 

Here's a link to her book trailer:            
Kirkus Reviews says: "The strength of the text lies in Jacobson’s ability to evoke a different era and to endear readers to the protagonist. The prose is straightforward and well-researched, heavily peppered with historical references and containing enough action to keep readers’ attention."
 So stop by and say hello to Darlene and check out her book.

And remember, if you're a fiction author and want to be featured her on a Friday, let me know! (Please keep in mind that I write for middle grade, young adult, and new adult. Romance okay, erotica no.)


Monday, September 22, 2014

F word in review...


Yeah, I use the F word occasionally. Like when you fall on your butt while hiking and break your tailbone. It's almost expected and anticipated that you're going to let loose the F bomb.

But in book reviews?

I'm not a fan.

I understand some people are very free with the word, that's their style. But if you're judging me on my writing and style, you need to show some. I mean, how can anyone take you seriously if your vocabulary is constrained by constant F bomb usage?

And if it's in your novel dialogue, I understand if that's part of the character, but constantly wading through a stream of them does not add substance to the writing, it detracts from it. I think of prison criminals or street thugs yakking it up when there are more than a few.

When my sons let loose the flying Fs, I always tell them that it shows lack of imagination, especially when they are using it in context with someone being, well, an asshole. It's so mundane. Boring. Trite. Unimpressive. All good insults are those which the person being insulted isn't aware they were until they think about it. Think of Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: "I don't know half of you as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." I still giggle over that one, and wish I had an opportunity to use it. Maybe at my own eleventy first birthday.

Then there are the tee shirts with that word or other obscenities printed on them. Okay, you made your point, "Look at me. Gasp. Be offended." Because sometimes, we are offended. Especially when my kids were younger, I didn't want to go to a theme park and see that or worse. I still don't like to see it. Wear it at home and annoy your family.

In the end, repetitious use is like what Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds..." which means if you can only do the same thing over and over (i.e. dropping the F bomb) you're not too bright.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Put It On The List

To Do

  • vacuum
  • put pool stuff away
  • paint shed window
  • caulk kitchen counter
  • clean all curtains/drapes
This is just part of one of many lists. I like lists. They help me keep order, taming the chaos of so many things that need to get done. With a list, I can see exactly what needs to be done, which task is more important, which one I can do in a certain time frame, and add on whenever something new needs to be done.

And it lets me see the satisfaction of accomplishment with every item I cross off. Sure, some days only one thing gets eliminated--but it's a big one, like 'finish manuscript edits.' And then there are days with lots of cross offs--like make a phone call, send a particular email, dust the living room furniture. They are easy-peasey things, but I still feel good when they are done. 

I have lists for everything: household chores, errands to run, signings to set up, writing tasks, yardwork, etc. It's a great matter of pride to crumple up a list that has nothing left undone. 

Do you use lists? If not, what works for you? Share it with us.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Namely, Cheating.

Not a very original title for a post about naming your characters. Plus, I've done posts where I've interviewed a number of YA authors (some VERY well known) about how they go about naming their characters. Some have complex rules about syllables in the first name than last, some mix and match sounds, some do research for cosmic significance, some go through the family tree, etc.

I'm too lazy. Plus, (shhh!  a secret here-) not everyone in the family deserves to be in one of my novels or the character with their name would tick them off because no one wants to be the bad guy/gal. Avoid using family names, it can only lead to trouble.

So I cheat. Rather, I like to call it Inspirational Smack. When I need a name for a main character, I watch a movie or TV show.

No, I don't steal famous names. I steal names from the credits. Really. Sometimes a name just jumps out at you and smacks me in virtual face, it's so perfect. I read the names that scroll after a show ends, and get an endless source of unusual, typical, ethnic, and cross cultural names. Watch the wide screen and let Hollywood do the work for you. It's like walking through Macy's and seeing the most perfect pair of shoes; out of all the others, one pair seems to shine, drawing your eye and you know it's the perfect choice. Plus, these are real people getting credit for working so you have a valid case when someone says "No one would name their child that!" Yes they do, and it's in black and white, out in cyberspace.

 And your character has been given an imaginary birth certificate with a legal name.

But don't stop there. Even if you have all your characters' names, you'll be writing more novels or stories, right? Start a list of names that just grab you. That's how I got the name for my main character in my sci fi, Lethal Dose. His name is Dalen. I saw the name in a book of baby names and knew that one day I'd need it for one of my works. It was on my list for several years and now has a body.

That's another great source: a baby name book. (I'm sure most of you know this.) I flip through the pages and when I see a moniker I like (other than the common ones like Sarah or Michael or Chris which I can just pull out of my head because we're surrounded by people with those names) I put it on the list. Then it's just a matter of picking a last name that fits. Sometimes zipping through the phone book can help, although I don't particularly like that method- it's too time consuming. You have to go through all the A's, B's, etc.

So, take the easy way out. Watch TV or a movie and solve one of the biggest problems of being an author: finding the perfect name for your character.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Resting From Your Labors

And I'll be doing just that- once I put up this post, make the bed, clean the cat box, get food for the college son, and work out what's for dinner.

Wishing you all a relaxing, labor-free day because when i return next Monday, it's Back to Work!


Monday, August 25, 2014


Strange title and post for a voracious reader and an author, isn't it?

We all have our favorite genres, and even some not-so-favorites that we occasionally read. However, there are some lines that I cannot cross. Maybe that makes me narrow-minded, but there is nothing you can say to convince me to read certain books:

- computer tech manuals, although I think I need the "Social Media For Dummies" one. (Does it even exist?) I can do basic Twitter, blogspot, Facebook, and now I'm adding Pinterest, but I'm still confused and juvenile on these sites. I have to get more desperate before I'll pick up a tech manual (that's what I have sons for).

-books where I know people will suffer and die. Sorry, I can't watch or read "The Fault In Our Stars" because I know it's heartbreaking. If I read a book and there's a sudden death, like Dumbledore near the end of the Harry Potter series, I can deal--I must so I can finish reading. But to pick up a book, no matter how beautifully written, knowing that is going to wrench my heart? (especially when the subject matter hits too close to home or is one of my biggest fears?) Nope, can't do it.

-any book that involves the abuse, torture, or killing of children. I'm a mother of three and after reading The Lovely Bones, although it was handled in an excellent manner--NO. It will give me nightmares and I don't read to be upset to that degree.

-anything political. No matter how good the journalist, everything is skewed. We can't help it, we're imperfect people and our own agendas come into play. Plus, I believe there is no more objectivity in reporting now. Just watch any news show. Everyone is biased.

-black magic, satanic, or similar stuff. Yes, I'm a Christian, but I read plenty of fiction that deals with these subjects and I can disassociate my beliefs from the story. But books about this stuff in real life? NO- it freaks the hell out of me. I believe in evil, and that it exists both in our world and in people. I don't want to invite it into my life.

-literary essays. I find the language pretentious, dull, and frankly, I had enough of it in college. Who cares if there's another viewpoint that says Shakespeare stole all his work from another? They're all dead, can't change that, and it's only opinion.

-management, corporate life, and such. I bailed out of the corporate world. For good.

-books that are an insult to someone else, to justice, to peace. No way will I read OJ Simpson's book because he was trying to make money off a horrendous event--at the expense of the Brown and Goldberg families. (Makes me even more convinced of his guilt if he could do that.) I won't read anything that denigrates women, my country, authors, religion, and anything else I hold close to my heart. Constructive criticism is one thing, pure malice is another.

-anything that is so boring I can't get past the first few chapters. I don't care if it's a huge bestseller and people tell me "it gets better." There are too many great books out there I want to read and wasting my time on a dense book is something I won't do.

I think that's a pretty extensive list of 'won't read.' There are other categories that I limit how much I read of them, like autobiographies. The person has to interest me (self-aggrandizing people are tedious), even if I find them abhorrent, like Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson. I'm curious about what makes them who they were, but I can only take so much. Another category is the legal thriller. After a while, they seem to blend, but I like a good one now and then.

Is there something YOU won't read? Not even if everyone else is reading it? Not even if someone dragged you over hot coals? Tell me about it.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Get Thee to a Bookshelf...

I read a post on Twitter about how many books students working toward an English degree have to read. The person counted about 150, but that also included books for the other subjects. I'm not going to bore you (and myself) counting all the books I read for my English degree (nor do I want to), but instead, I'm going to list some of my faves (not all of them were required reading, some were for fun and maybe shouldn't count, but I'm putting them in anyway):

English Romantic Poetry. Ah, how can anyone not love On the Grasshopper and the Cricket by John Keats. Or The Nightingale by William Taylor Coleridge. Lord Byron's, She Walks in Beauty is swoony romantic. There are lots more, but moving on...

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. One of my all-time absolute faves. You don't have to be a Christian to understand and appreciate the messages of charity, hospitality, fairness, generosity, and compassion that are required of all of us as human beings.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is science with scare and caution in an eloquent tale. I'm a big fan of Mr. Stevenson.

Oscar Wilde's The Strange Case of Dorian Gray has been made into several movies. It's kind of like the the artist's version of Jeckyll and Hyde.

While I could never be as composed as Jane Austen (I'm a Scorpio, we tend to run emotionally amuck at times), I love her passion. And it doesn't end like a Disney-princess story, which annoys me a bit about modern books. Humans have less perfect endings, yet so many books have the opposite. I'd write a book with a realistic, bad ending, but no one--agent, editor, reader--would probably want it.

I took a class in Arthurian literature and the bible of that class was Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. I loved the female perspective which gave it a deeper feel than the traditional male-let's sword fight-woo the damsel-save the kingdom feel. It really gave me my first connection to feminism.

My list could never be complete without J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings opus. It is the almost quintessential book for me. (The only holdback is that Tolkien, a man of his times, neglects to include both strong female characters and the female perspective.)

Although it doesn't shine as much as her beloved Interview With a Vampire or The Vampire Lestat, my favorite of Anne Rice's works is Rameses The Damned, Or, The Mummy. Anne makes me feel the dry heat of the desert seeping under archaeological tents, or a body freezing with fear as Rameses stalks his enemies. Love, love, love. I keep leaving comments on Facebook (cause, we're like, 'friends') for her to do a sequel. So far, I'm being ignored.

One last one: The Secret, by Julie Garwood. Yes, it's an historical romance but it's wonderfully written and reading Garwood's novels helped me learn how to write dialogue. (Some novels fail miserably at this.)

As you can see, I'm not pinned down by any one genre. And that's great because when I leave one for a while to try something new, I come back and rediscover why I liked that first genre. It becomes fresh again. So maybe you should re-visit some of those novels you read in high school or college (or soon after) that you liked or loved. (I don't waste my time re-reading novels I hated, hoping I'll like them again. I won't.)

There's nothing like revisiting an old friend.