Monday, November 5, 2018

Psssst, Want A Peek?

If you know me, you know I'm a fan and follower of #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I've written most of my novels during November, adhering to the sometimes arduous practice of at least 1,667 words a day. I give presentations and hand out worksheets to help people in the quest to write their novel.

This November is no different. Although I have drafts I should be revising & polishing to send out on submission, I'm dedicating this November to keeping a promise; Sirenz 3, A New Trend. Fans of Meg and Sharisse, or maybe more of luscious Hades, asked for a third novel.

This one will be different; as I am writing this solo, the character of Meg is lost in backstory and only Hades, Sharisse, and those nosy, interfering Greek gods will entertain you. To whet your appetite, here's a snippet: (I posted a short story about Hades and Sharisse last year, which unfortunately, Blogger doesn't keep open access to. Luckily, I have copies....) This novel is based on that story. Remember, this is only the first draft...

            Two good looking guys, heavy gold chains around their necks, caps on sideways, and wearing sneakers more expensive than mine, slowly approached, palms up like they didn’t want to frighten me.
            “Hola, senorita!. What a fine-looking dog!” They kept a respectful distance which was very smart of them. They must be dog savvy- never approach a strange dog too fast. I didn’t feel afraid because I had Cerberus. Even in his diminished form, he was still intimidating.
            “Hello.” I stopped and Cerb sat next to me, his eyes watchful. He leaned against my leg.
            “Cerberus, stop leaning on me, you’re too heavy!” I didn’t even have to nudge him, he sat up, all the while keeping his focused attention on the two men.
            “It’s like he understands you,” said one with several gold teeth.
            I nodded. “Oh, he does. I can give him any command and he’ll do it,” I boasted.
            They both raised their eyebrows, like they doubted me.
            Oh ye of little faith....
            “Cerberus, go up to the man with the gold teeth and let him shake your paw.”
            Cerberus trotted over exactly as I commanded and held up his paw. The guy leaned down, gently shook it, and whispered, “Oh, Dios, I would love a dog like this!” The two looked at each other and grinned.
            The other one asked, “How much do you want for him?” He pulled out a wad of bills- all hundreds as far as I could see, and unfolded them. “Name your price.”
            I shook my head. “I’m sorry, but he’s not mine, and he wouldn’t go with you anyway. He’s very particular about people.”
            Gold teeth said, “But look, he likes me!”
            Cerb returned to my side.
            “That’s only because I told him to be a good boy and not eat anyone.” It was time to move on. Cerb still hadn’t peed.

Just a taste. After #NaNoWriMo is over, I will let one devoted fan read the story before it gets published and they can offer suggestions and criticisms. 

So, back to writing I go. You know Greek gods are not known for their patience with humans and Hades is demanding I hurry it up, the next chapter is his.

Wish me luck, stay tuned, and here's a pic of Hades to make you feel warm all over....  ;)

Hades, Lord of the Underworld...

Now back to the story!


Monday, October 29, 2018

Did it Scare You? My Halloween Favorites

Most of us looooove Halloween. Costume parties, candy, spooky decorations and just fun. And,  think a lot of people like a little scare. We watch creepy movies and read frightening books.  Here are 13 of my favorite Halloween things:

Photo by from Pexels

1. Candy: While I love most candy (but NOT candy corn! yech), my abso fave is Butterfingers. A close second is Snickers. (And yet, I don't like peanut butter ice cream...)

2. Favorite scary movie (as in it scares me. every. single. time) Paranormal (And the sequels, too!). I don't do gore- and most of them look fake.

3.  Favorite tag line from a movie: "In space, no one can hear you scream...."

4.  Best scary book: anything by Dean Koontz. Those books are so scary, I can't even finish them.

5.  Scariest villain/monster: Alien. Geez, I had nightmares for years with that creature, even before the sequel where they came to Earth.

6.  My best Halloween costume: Darth Vader. I took cereal and other food boxes, painted them black, glued on pics of dials and electronics and attached them to my father's quilted insulated pants/jacket. I borrowed a mask created by an art teacher friend, and made a light saber from a flashlight with a golf club tube attached with black electrical tape. The costume was so good I won first place in a contest, and no one knew I was a girl until I took off the mask. (Had to to claim the prize- they all thought they knew who I was. They didn't.)

7.  Favorite decoration: my ceramic, lighted haunted house. It's just so cute! (There's a witch who circles overhead, cackling!)

8.  Best Halloween memory: Trick or Treating with my brother. We lived on Long Island and we would go out as soon as we could, come home to eat dinner, then go back out for more. We collected a LOT of candy.

9.  What I HATE MOST about Halloween: people who do stupid sh*t like hurt/kill black cats, destroy property, or start preaching about how this holiday is the devil's handiwork. Just STOP.

10. Best song/music: Some would argue Michael Jackson's Thriller, but for me it's either the theme song from Halloween, which has me checking in dark rooms for Michael Meyers, or the song Tubular Bells from The Exorcist. Makes me say my prayers!

11. Movie I HAVE TO WATCH every year: Hocus Pocus AND Dracula  with Frank Langella.

12. Cartoon I love the most: While a lot of you will say The Nightmare Before Christmas, I prefer It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

13. Best place to see before Halloween: Blaze in NY's Sleepy Hollow. Thousands of carved pumpkins in the best display you will ever see. Check it out here.

Photo by from Pexels
Happy Halloween!

Wishing you fun tricks and tasty treats!


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Say it Again and Again...

The time is ripe for more cliches. Thanks again to James Rogers, author of The Dictionary of Cliches (Ballantine Books). The research for this book is exhaustive. Rogers lays out the meaning, etymology, and then where it was first used (it's usually in a piece of literature).

Photo courtesy of Pexels

"Grasp at straws. Act in desperation (probably from the image of a drowning person clutching at anything that floats, even something so insubstantial as straws). [also catch at straws]. Rogers traces it back to 1748 in the novel Clarissa: "A drowning man will catch at a straw...."

Bury the hatchet. Rogers claims there is a dispute between a 14th century English usage of 'hang up the hatchet' which means to stop fighting, but 'bury' the hatchet appears to derive from Native Americans whose ceremony of burying two hatchets was a more binding peace agreement than any papers presented by the government.

Bag of bones. This saying seems to come from Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist as poor Oliver, practically starved, is told, "There, get down stairs, little bag o' bones."

A-OK. Americans can claim the creation of this phrase, which was first used by NASA spokesman James A. Powers in 1961 during the great space race. It meant the mission was going well and became a popular saying.

A no-win situation. In 1962, against the backdrop of the Cold War, this American saying is attributed to "war game activity... "there are plenty of 'no-win situations'" in war games and in real wars."

There are so many wonderful cliches! I encourage you to check out this book. (You might want to review your manuscript to see if you've used a few...)

Till next week!


Monday, October 8, 2018

Just a Nice Day...

On Saturday, I sold/signed books at the Collingswood Book Festival. 

I love this festival. After attending for a number of years, in my opinion, it's the BEST.

Oh, there are other festivals like the Hudson Children's Book Festival and the Warwick Book Festival and the Princeton Book Festival, which may be bigger, but they aren't as good. Here are 5 reasons why Collingswood is better:

1- They never cancel- if it rains, the entire venue moves indoors to the middle and high schools. Unfortunately, I've been at book events that are outside- even if it rains. Even with a tent, your books get damp, you have to lug your stuff around in the rain and you get wet. Plus, foot traffic is dramatically decreased (not that I blame people for not wanting to get soaked). Most times, you might as well stay home from a festival if it rains. Collingswood still manages to bring people in.

2- They invite ALL authors. This is a rarity. Hudson, Warwick, Princeton and a number of others are by invite only. Absolutely no Indie authors are allowed, and even a lot of traditionally pubbed ones can't get in. No one seems to know what the guidelines are because if they don't want to invite you, there is no reply as to why you're not welcome. At Collingswood, people are free to choose from a huge variety of authors. If attendees don't want to buy your book, Indie or traditional, they walk on by. No one 'culls the herd' for them.

3- Organizers provide authors with concise directions, parking and general info, and are always ready to answer questions. There are volunteers who, when an author does a panel, sit at your table to prevent theft of your books and belongings. Long time organizer Sidra has put together an amazing event, and her successors are stepping right in.

4- There are more things than just books. There are kids' activities, food vendors, author panels, music and more. It's like a giant party. While not everyone is a reader, I've discovered that people who get a pretzel and stroll down Haddon Avenue sometimes stop and buy a book. Maybe it's a holiday present for a grandchild, or they're just browsing but an author did a great sales pitch and snagged a sale. Events which are strictly books don't always produce good sales for some authors because of the competition. 

5- The little guy gets a chance. Sometimes, when super famous authors breeze in to a book event, all the attention is on them. I've checked out events only to find that less well-known authors have to pay a table fee, but that famous authors (who make more money) not only don't have to pay a fee, but are sometimes paid to appear. You know who's really paying for them, right? The authors who make less. Collingswood is more egalitarian. So kudos to them! 

Here at Collingswood with the fabulous Darlene Beck Jacobson

So next year, plan to come visit. Even if you don't want to buy a book, meander down Haddon Ave and take in the sights, talk to the friendliest people. But bring your wallet, just in case you see a book you can't resist...


Monday, October 1, 2018

Excessively Excessive

Our culture has a thing for excess. Whether it's super sizing our burgers, or getting a venti coffee, or spending $75 on stuff you don't really need to get free shipping. Too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Here's another illustration. I have to take medication for excess stomach acid. In order to save money, I buy the multi-pack.

Ok, good, smart move. Inside are three bottles:

In each bottle, is 14 (yes, FOURTEEN) pills:

Which means each bottle is less than one fourth filled. That's a lot of empty space (and plastic) to hold so few pills.

So, 42 pills fills my hand this much:

All 42 could fit into one bottle.

So two plastic bottles and a cardboard box were excess.

I've read some books that were as loaded with excess words- verbose dialogue, lengthy backstory, copious details. I won't reveal those books, but you've read them, or have your own list. You roll your eyes, and sigh, and either plow through (I admire you for that), or like me, you toss the book aside because you have better things to do with your time, like read a better book or write your own. And if you write, maybe... you need to look at your own word usage. A cool writer's trick is to either read your story aloud, or have someone else do it. You can also change the font, because this tricks the eye and brain into thinking they don't remember the words coming next, so it's like a new story. Repetitive words will pop out, or you can do a global search. There are programs designed to help check your work, like Online Editor, Text Analyzer, or Sentence Checker. Long sentences (if you run out of breath before you can finish the sentence, then the sentence is excessively long) should pop up too. While Pulitzer Prize winners and mega bestsellers can get away with excessiveness, we, the average writer, can't.

And since writing novels doesn't pay by the word, there's no need to be excessive.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Books You Didn't Know Were Banned

It's banned books week. Every year authors, librarians, bookseller, educators, readers, and so many others who love books and reading will discuss and debate about the unfairness and danger of banning books. They will point to Nazi and other repressive regimes as a stern warning not to go down that deceptive path.

And that's a good thing.

But let's talk about a genre of banned books that gets no notice; Indie books. As a hybrid author (both traditionally pubbed and indie publisher), I see this happening All. The. Time. No, our indie books don't make the lists- because we're ignored. Here's how we're banned:

Bookstores, both indie and Barnes & Noble, curl their lips when you mention your book is indie pubbed. Maybe read the book before you judge? There are plenty of indie books that are way better than some traditionally pubbed books. Even when I could promise that on my book launch I could sell 50+ copies (I had relatives and friends showing up), I still wasn't welcomed to hold my launch at a bookstore.

So many organizers of book festivals say that indie authors aren't welcome. I understand you don't want to be overrun with poorly written books (everyone thinks they're an author, but I've seen some celeb books that are horrendous yet some traditional publisher published them!). Why not check the books out? Ask us to submit a copy for review. Anyone should be able to tell within a few chapters if the book is acceptable. Or ask for proof of reviews from such trusted sources as Publishers Weekly, et al. Instead, indie authors are mostly banned from a majority of the book festivals, especially the big ones, which would greatly help indie author sales and publicity. (More than one indie book has sold well and been picked up by traditional publishers. Right, Amanda Hocking?)

Reviewers follow in step too. Only in the last few years has Publishers Weekly opened a section to review indie books called Booklife. Surprise! some of them got good or great reviews! Now if VOYA, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the other major reviewers would do this, we indie authors might have a modicum chance of success.

Even Amazon, once the beacon of hope for indie publishers has recently thrown us under the bus by proposing allowing third parties selling copies of our books to place their 'Buy' button before us as the publisher. While Amazon still makes money, authors are cheated out of royalties. Amazon is doing it to traditional publishers too, so maybe they will fight back and form their own distributor, bypassing Amazon or at least making the selling field level. Indie authors have no David to fight the Amazon Goliath.

Without recognizing that we exist and allowing us a small crumb of attention, all these participants are effectively banning indie authors. It doesn't matter the reason they give, it's banning, plain and simple.
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

I'm taking a break (a cliche) from cliches - and sharing this review by kids of my book Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. Sometimes you have to do what makes you feel good. And kids loving my book and getting it makes me happy. Here's the review from kids at

Give it a listen. And if you're a teacher looking for STEM/STEAM books for middle graders with a fresh approach, (with resource guides for free!) let's talk!