Thursday, November 29, 2007

Continuing my guest blogging at Novelspot's Behind the Scenes II.

Today's entry is "Trying to Catch That Plot Bunny."

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

Get ready for a contest that will leave you feeling Merry and just a bit tingley all over. Details coming soon. Contest begins December 8th.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I've been given the joy of being featured on NovelSpot's Behind the Scenes blog this week. The site focuses on writers and writing and the Behind the Scenes blog gives insights from a different author each week as to the writing, publishing and the general journey of writing their latest release.

Tuesday's entry can be seen at and is entitled "If You Tell Them, They'll Lock You Up." It is about my writing process. I hope it at least manages to make you feel a bit normal by comparison.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Land of Plenty?

I was reading the blog of a friend today, Anny Cook, and found my hands shaking as I did. Anny wrote about the way so few in our world have so much and so many have so little. And in the face of Thanksgiving, she wrote how it was a shame that so much was wasted while so many went without. It was a bit painful to read. Not because it held anything I didn't already know, but because it made me remember things I'd rather forget.

When I was growing up my family was one of those standing in line at the food pantry. I remember well "Reagan cheese", those big blocks of processed cheesefood the government handed out. They sometimes made the difference (along with all the pennies cleaned out of the couch and car to buy bread) between eating and goin without. We were one of those who waited in line at the Salvation Army hoping there would be something for us when we got to the front. We weren't homeless. We had a roof over our heads that often we had to share with unwanted multi-legged squatters.

We were also often filled to the brim with strays my mother collected. For all the problems she and I have in our relationship, my mother has an enormous heart. She never passed by someone in need. To this day she continues, taking in foster children that are often rejected by others because of emotional or learning problems.

What we often didn't have was enough. Enough food, enough money, enough, enough, enough.

I grew up as the child standing in the doorway, watching bright eyed as the local firefighters and police, or the local Jaycees, brought in a box of food for the holidays. A box that would last us a couple of days even after allowing us a real holiday dinner. I was the child who woke up on Christmas morning knowing that the toys under the tree hadn't come from Santa, but from the Salvation Army.

There were times when we didn't have running water, either because the pipes froze and there was no money to call a plumber or because we couldn't afford the water bill and it had been shut off. I remember carrying 5 gallon buckets of water from the laundrymat across the street to use. There were times when we had no heat because the electricity had been shut off because my mother chose to feed her children, or buy that bottle of cough syrup, over paying the bill.

My grandparents tried to help, but there was only so much they could do.

One holiday I remember the most occured when I was in college. I was living on $800 a month, my grad assistant's stipend and a few dollars made working in one of the dorm food services. I wasn't supposed to be allowed to have two campus jobs, but my food service boss and my grad advisor petitioned for me and earned me a waiver. With that income, I could cover my share of the rent, but very little else.

The woman who was my food service boss was wonderful, as were most the people working for her. Joe, the dishroom boss would sneak plates back to two of us who worked in his domain, but who lived off campus so we weren't technically allowed to eat. We were grateful. Liz, the main boss, did more than turn a bind eye when Joe and some of the others slipped us a plate or gathered up the leftovers and let us take them home instead of disposing of them as they were supposed to do.

One night, near Thanksgiving, she must have over heard us talking --or her son Greg who was a friend of mine ratted me out. At that point I'd been living on spaghetti noodles and anything I could find to put on them including packets of dried, Campbell's cheese soup given to me when my grandmother cleaned out her pantry. Rice was another good one. A bit of butter and sugar and you had enough carbs to fill you up for while.

I was sitting in the apartment. I didn't have the money to go home that holiday. A knock sounded on my door and it was Greg. He was carrying bags of groceries. He proceeded to ignore my protests as he carried in food his mother had sent.

I was only one person. Just one student out of so many who were struggling. I don't know if she did the same for some of the others who were working for her. I have a feeling from the pile of grocery bags I saw in the back of the family stationwagon that night, that she did.

I try each year to make sure I do something to pay back Liz, those firefighters and police officers, the Jaycees, the Salvation Army people and the countless others who made the difference again and again when I was growing up. A difference between nothing and something. Not for them and not for me, but for someone else. Whether it's donating money to The United Way, taking names from the Angel trees, giving to Toys for Tots, or just making sure the children in my own family have something under the tree and on the Thanksgiving table every year, it's important to me to try repay a debt that I know I never can.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Twisting Secret Santa

I love this time of year. Really, I do. Starting in October there is a feeling of excitement that begins to build. The bright colors, the smiling pumpkins, the ghosts and ghouls; all make me smile. Turkeys and scarecrows with harvest corn and colorful gourds take their turn in November. Then in December the twinkle lights and the red ribbons, the evergreen boughs and mistletoe, the snowmen, candy canes, Santas and nativities take the sense of beauty and wonder to the next level. (Unfortunately it also takes tacky along with it, but hey, it’s Christmas –we’ll over look it.) People will go out of their way to put a little extra fun in their daily lives, and in the lives of others. Those displays aren’t just for the people who live in that house, they are also for others; like a little gift to the neighborhood.

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is gift giving. I bring this up now not to remind you that you have only 6 shopping weekends til Christmas, but because it is time for the Crones Secret Santa.

I belong to a writer’s group called the Circle of Crones. The core of our group met years ago when we were writers or staff at a fanfiction website. The site was unique in that it was started to use Harry Potter to encourage children to write. Fanfiction is a technique that works wonders to motivate reluctant writers; I’ve seen it in my own classroom. But I digress…

Because we were adults and wanted to have adult conversations and start working on more original material, we started The Circle of Crones. The archives are closed to members only, but we do welcome new members. I’ve workshopped all my pieces there and continue to do so. —I’ll bet you think I’m digressing again. Nope.

Each year for the past several years we’ve done a secret Santa exchange. Now how do people who, with rare exceptions, have never met face to face do a secret Santa exchange? Do we all run out and buy token gifts to mail across the world? (We have members spread across the world.) What does one buy a computer guru from D.C.? Or a civil servant from London? Or a rowdy, fun-loving nurse from Texas? A mom, writer and teacher from Washington state? And most importantly, what does one send a self described mad Welsh witch?

The answer is something you made. We exchange our talents. We paint a picture or write a story. The exchange is organized and everyone puts up their wish list. One person might ask for a “romantic story set in the Regency period.” Another might want a fanfiction story about Neville Longbottom or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Others might ask for art depicting dragons, faeries, ocean landscapes or a favorite character.

So far no one has ever been disappointed.

So I look over my Secret Santa list of options with eagerness. What wish will I fulfill this year? One year I combined them all into one. Maybe I’ll play in the world of fanfiction again, just for a hoot. Maybe I’ll draw a picture. Whatever I choose, I know it will have to be good, because I’m bound to get something great when my turn comes.


For more information, book excerpts and reviews visit

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


The children of the 60’s have grown up. They are now the parents (and in some scary cases the grandparents) of the 00 generation. The harvest we are reaping isn’t exactly what I think the peace and love generation intended.

Now I fully admit being born in the mid 60’s I barely qualify as a child of the sixties, however, I was raised by a mother who was very much devoted to the ideas of sexual liberation, feminism and the questioning of authority. I was taught that life was not fair, that there was a fight to be fought and you could either sit down and let the world run over you or you could stand up, question the powers that be and make things the way you wanted them to be. Not all these lessons were intentionally taught or even taught in positive or proactive manner, but I learned them nonetheless.

We question the government and our leaders. I very much agree with the line Michael J. Fox spoke in the movie American President. In America isn’t just our right to question our leaders, it’s our responsibility. Why are we doing what we are doing? Why is our society inequitable? What are we going to do to change it? We demanded explanations. We demanded accountings. We demanded change. We demanded equality.

The problem I see is that the questioning and the demanding are no longer followed by the stepping forward to take accountability and responsibility. The harvest of the 60’s and 70’s has become more than we bargained. We got the good things. We got Civil Rights (at least in the letter of the law). We got increased equality for women and awareness of women’s issues. We got funding increases for social programs to care for those who couldn’t care for themselves. But we also got self centeredness, ME-ness, a lack of responsibility and a martyrdom that no one wanted.

I look around at the 13 year olds in my classroom every day. I see the people at the grocery store, the library, the movie theater and on the city streets. And every day I wonder more and more what happened to the children of the people who said we can not turn a blind eye, we must stand up and be heard and counted, we must make things better.

“Why did you give me an F on this quiz?” I didn’t give you an F on the quiz. You earned an F on the quiz. Did you study? Did you prepare for the exam? Did you do the daily activities to help you learn the material? No? Then you earned the F on the quiz.

“Why did you give me a demerit?” First of all a demerit, for those who don’t know is a conduct cut or a “strike”. Three strikes in my school equals a detention. So why did I give you a demerit? I didn’t give you a demerit. You earned a demerit. Were you shouting across the room while I was talking? Were you out of your seat trying to grab someone else’s pencil because you didn’t bring your own? Were you late for class? Yes? Then you earned a demerit.

“I wasn’t talking!” Really? Was your mouth moving? Was sound coming out? That’s called talking.

“It’s not fair!” No? Did you do the thing that got you the consequences? Are the rules the same for everyone? Yes? Then it is fair. There is a difference between not fair and not what you want.

But these are kids, right? This is part of their immaturity and something they will grow out of? Well it doesn’t look good considering the reactions and conversations with many parents. “Why did you give my child an F on the assignment?” “Why did you give my child a demerit?” “You’re picking on my child. It’s not fair.”

We are raising a group of children who are not the getting the message that it’s okay to question authority. They are getting the message that it’s okay to ignore authority, that anyone who is doing or saying something they don’t like is somehow “wronging” them.

I’m not sure there is an answer. I’m certain that the adults in the 50’s and 60’s felt the same way. But I can’t help but think that young people questioning authority that said it was okay to discriminate against someone because of their race or sex is different than the young people I see who seem to believe that rules of any sort do not apply to them, only to everyone else.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

First reviews for Access Denied and a new book review

4 Cups for Access Denied!

“This is a wonderful story of love, friendship, and the pitfalls of Big Brother. Leah is a pragmatist. She knows how she looks, but that does not stop her from being the best friend that anyone could ever want. James is a beaten man, and just wants to be left alone. Leah shows him that he can love again and that everyone needs a friend to lean on once in a while. Their characters are fantastic and absolutely believable. You really get a true sense of their pains and triumphs as they fight to hold onto a love that will set them both free.”

Thank you Coffee Time Romance! This was my first review for Access Denied and my first review as a professional writer. I fully admit I squealed with delight and hopped up and down like a much younger woman. Check out the entire review at

More Reader Reactions:

Anny Cook, one of my favorite writers, took the time to review Access Denied. I was truly thrilled and humbled.

Two more Cerridwen Press and Ellora's Cave authors took time to give Access Denied a bit of attention. Please check out their blogs.

Book Review: The God Eaters.

The God Eaters
Jesse Hajicek
Buy it here

Their world is a dangerous place for anyone who doesn’t blindly spout the theocratic dogma of Dalan. Ashleigh Trine learns this lesson the hard way when he’s convicted of heresy and sent to prison. But things are even worse yet if you don’t happen to be Eskaran and Kieran Trevarde’s entire life has been the hard way. Convicted of multiple murders for which he shows no remorse, he finds himself on the same transport as the tiny, frail and scholarly Trine. Becoming the boy’s protector serves two purposes. It gives him an outlet for his rage as he pounds his way through anyone in the cell block that insults Trine and brings him closer to the young man he desires though he’s sworn he will not act upon those desires.

The God Eaters is a wonderful novel. The characters are incredibly drawn and developed. True Ashleigh is highly annoying at first with his weakness that would have earned Hajicek angry letters from feminists had he been a female character, but the growth of the character is believable and satisfying. Kieran is the quintessential dark, brooding, dangerous romantic hero. And that’s really what this book is. A delightful romance wrapped in a creative and inventive fantasy plot filled with magic, gods, evil, politics, social injustice and –at the end especially– some good old-fashioned action.

Self published books are often more expensive but this book is well worth it.