Thursday, September 21, 2006

Conference and Question

Hi everyone! I'm getting ready to leave tomorrow for Janesville Wisconsin where I'll be speaking Saturday morning as one of the guests at the Wisconsin Regional Writer's Association Fall conference. Come on over and meet me if you're in the area. I'll be signing copies of both Stark Knight and Silent Knight Saturday from 4-6. I'd love to see you there!

I have a question for all my readers ;) Have y'all signed up for my newsletter yet? If you haven't, you might want to consider it. I always have a contest where you can win cool items and share chocolate recipes, as well as give information on book give-aways Echelon Press runs regularly.

Have y'all read Stark Knight? Are you interested in reading Silent Knight? Here's just one of those give aways that my publisher is offering:

Echelon Press Publishing wants to give you FREE books.

When you buy your copy of STARK KNIGHT from Echelon Press, we'll send you the FREE (PDF) download of the second book in the Knights Inc. series, SILENT KNIGHT (released 9/2/06).

Once you've read them and you love them, post a review online and send us the link. We'll send you another FREE (PDF) download of your choice.

It's just that easy! And don't forget to tell a friend.


Let me know what you think of my books, what you'd like to see happen in the final installment of the Knight Inc. triology, "Good Knight" and if I use your idea, I'll name a character after you! :)

Looking forward to reading everyone's comments when I return on Sunday!!


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Head Cold Anyone?

Ugh, I've been down almost all week long with this nasty head cold I can't seem to shake. My youngest brought it home last week and I dosed him up with children's cough syrup, made him stay in bed, and by the next day, he was running around fine. Me, I've been sick for FIVE straight days now. Figures!

My writing is at a standstill because it's hard to concentrate when you can't BREATHE and it's even harder to *like* what you write when you feel so crappy that everything seems to suck. So, rather than harshly criticize what I've been writing and unnecessarily condemn and destroy, I've been researching and plotting as I recuperate.

Today, though, I'm feeling soooo much better. No hacking cough all through the night. No huge pile of tissues on my nightstand. Nothing. I slept like a baby (on a double dose of NyQuil!) So, all I have to do now if find the energy to clean up a house made disasterous while the natives played when the chieftess was laid low, buy some groceries (funny how fast we run out of food when I'm sick!) and then I can get busy!

Flava-of-Love is on tonight. Can y'all believe they let New York back in the house?? Those poor, poor women. Oh, and did y'all see that poor Kayne got sent home on Project Runway this week? I don't care if they thought his work was tacky, or tasteless, I loved his stuff. Very cool guy too. Wouldn't mind having his advice on my wardrobe! Hey! Maybe he could do a guest stint on Queer Eye? That would be fabulous :)

Okay, so yeah, getting the flu does allow a person to catch up on all their favorite shows ;)


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Help with a Title??

Hey y'all ;) I'm back to writing again, having cleared away most of my 'editing' work for the time being.

Right now, I'm working on a longish short story for Amazon Shorts. I'm excited by the prospect of having the 'blank page' before me again. I knew what I wanted to do, but I wasn't sure about the subplot, the one that helps build suspense toward the final climatic ending. I finally figured it out and began working ;)

In The Knight Before, there were a lot of 'layers' to the story--the first being the relationship triangle between seventeen-year-old Sara Stark, Drake Knight and Bitsy--a debutante who's after landing the biggest catch in Harris County. Underlying this story is the very real flooding caused by Tropical Storm Allison in Houston, TX that occurred during the time the story takes place.

In this new short story I'm working on, I'm delving into the realm of "Not Guilty" (the working title) where an accused may be innocent (or may not be! you'll have to read to find out :) ) of the crime against him--that of raping the heroine Jilly's younger sister, Sara. The underlying problem? Unrelenting rain that eventually unleashes the evil dwelling inside the good citizens of Morris Falls.

This story falls in the horror genre and is filled with lots of supernatural happenings. However, I need a good title, one that isn't so cliched. "Not Guilty" really doesn't portray the story and it's genre well. I've been toying with plays on rain/reign:

Rain of Terror

Blood Rain

Rain of Madness

Also toying with 'storm' and 'evil':

Deluge of Evil

Storming Sin

The Sinners of Morris Falls

What do you think? Any other ideas? I'd love to have them!!


Saturday, September 09, 2006

ABC's "Path to 9/11"

I debated about writing this, merely because it's all over the place, especially on the internet and talk radio, but I have a beef and as I'm trying to be more elaborative on this blog about all things 'me'--I figured I'd address this here as well.

If you're not aware of the miniseries scheduled to air this Sunday and Monday on ABC, you'll find plenty of information through a quick google search. I'm going to get right to, what I see as, the heart of the matter.

There are two kinds of researchers in this world--those who care to uphold a fixed belief (an agenda)--and those who want to find out what that belief is based on the facts. (A Truth Seeker of sorts.)

I've rarely come by anything in the media these days that doesn't have it's own agenda. Whether it's to avoid scorn by a sitting administration and keep their connections, those lines of information open, or those who are actively seeking a way to showcase an administrations failings or triumphs--it makes no difference to me, neither one is journalism, neither one is fact-finding. Both ways are insincere and both ways betray the trust of the general public.

ABC has a higher standard to reach when depicting anything to do with 9/11. The dead bodies of American fathers, mothers, children, brothers and sisters demand it. To fictionalize any part of a 'docudrama' and excuse it for the sake of 'entertainment' is to spit on the graves of those who died. The American public is sick to death of being misled, lied to, and otherwise crapped on by those in charge of informing us.

This is not a political debacle, this is a MEDIA debacle.

As a writer, I'm forever terrified that I'll miss something in my research, that I'll make a glaring mistake or in other ways falsely portray that which I'm trying to share. From character's occupations, to settings and locations, I research, sometimes until my brain hurts. Therefore, I can SMELL when someone has done shoddy research.

The claims made by the author of "Path to 9/11" Cyrus Nowrasteh in this interview at Frontpage are based on an EMAIL circulated on the internet--one I myself received, and then discovered to be false at

To have another writer research so shallowly the material used in his work, and to also ignore the findings in a document written by researchers (The 9/11 Commission Report) in order to fulfill his own agenda--on the backs of dead Americans, makes me want to pull my (his) hair out.

In a day and age where the amount of information greatly outpaces the quality of that information--I hold writers of all stripes (journalists, fiction authors, columnists) to a higher standard than ever before.

If you want to create a fully fictional movie (such as "V for Vendetta") and depict events however you want to--be my guest, more power to you. Just don't tout the fictionalized story as a historically accurate portrayal--especially when scenes in the film never even happened. That's not distortion, but lies made from whole cloth.

Shame on ABC for not vetting what it will air more carefully. Shame on Cyrus Nowrasteh for not more carefully researching his work. And shame on those who are using politics to attack others for standing up for the truth and demanding our media not perpetuate lies.

But good on Scholastic for dropping their original "Path to 9/11" study guide and using this as an opportunity to educate children on the difference between fact and fiction. At least someone cares about the accuracy of what our children are taught.

And as Gump would say, "That's all I have to say about that."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The ABC's of Why School Vouchers Suck

As promised, I said I would begin sharing some of my more controversial viewpoints here. I occasionally will participate in online discussion forums where I can hammer out my own perspectives and get a clearer understanding of where I stand on any issue.

In this case, the topic was John Stossel's 20/20 report on "Stupid in America" and school vouchers.

This is my portion of the debate:

I watched the 20/20 episode with my husband and was *SNORTING* through it most of the time.

I understand the idea of vouchers and competition. I really do. My problem isn't with the children who can use them to go to a 'better' school--my problem is that you can't give them to EVERY student in the bad school.

There aren't enough seats in the 'good' schools to take every child in a 'bad' school.

So what do vouchers do? They select a few (first come, first serve) that can escape a 'bad' education, and then leave the rest 'behind' to rot in a bad situation.

I consider it the same thing as not reporting to the police that your child was molested because you don't want to 'deal with' the trauma of a trial, public scrutiny, any sort of stigma on your child. Because of your fear, your ego, your self-serving issues--you would ALLOW another child to be harmed? Another child to be sexually assaulted by this predator? To me, that makes the parent just as culpable in what happens to the next child. (And, it sends a VERY unhealthy message to the original victim.)

This is why I can't get behind school vouchers--but am instead for national standardization of our schools, modeled through high expectation and yearly stardardized testing (based on competition in the global market) for advancement--of both the teacher and the student.

If the ratio of students passing falls below a certain level, then the teacher doesn't advance. If the ratio continues to fall, then the teacher is replaced. Very simple and truly a common-sense approach to what ails our educational system.

But of course, there's no money to be made in that approach, so obviously, it won't work.


When asked to clarify, I wrote:

It would be the WORSE thing that could happen to our school system, and I'll tell you why.

A) Cronyism:

If you've ever been a part of any school system, you know for a fact that friends of those in 'high places' get picked first when it comes to 'lotteries'--and then everyone else gets put on waiting lists. Children shouldn't be sorted by the popularity of their parents and who's got the right connections. Vouchers--without correcting the corruption already in place--would only further this dispicable process of condeming children who are all ready at a deficit.

Working parents don't have the time, or the ability to do what stay-at-home mom's can do. Very few have the ability to be part of the PTA or 'volunteer' in order to make those connections. Last but not least--these 'lotteries' are often held during school hours--which, in most cases, are the very same hours that these parents have to work. In other words, the 'first come, first served' basis of the vouchers is really only practical to those who have the time to be first in line.

This punishes children for that which is not in their control. So, vouchers fail on this front all the way around.

B) Collective Conscience:

Once 'government' declares there is a 'fix' for a problem, the rest of the country goes to sleep, believing it's already been taken care of. The people hear bad and good and figure it's just sour grapes and nothing more. They forget that our school system is failing our students until the hue and cry raises to the original decible.

In other words, using vouchers as a 'fix' only prolongs the inevitable. Becuase without nationalized standardization, without creating higher expectations, these kids might be getting into a 'safer' school (and only maybe, you'd be surprised what the government is allowing as a 'school' these days) but that doesn't mean they are getting a better education. Sure, there may be less students without a police record--but is the curriculum any different?

So, create the voucher system and the American public will go to sleep on what is the real heart of the problem: NO public school in our country is graduating children who are prepared to compete in a global economy and world market. Private schools may do just a touch better, especially those who are geared toward preparing students for further (University, College) education. But in the end, it's really the state of our public education that's at question here.

Look what happened with welfare reform in the 90's. The vast majority of the public beleive that anyone who is in poverty today is just there because they want to be--not because they weren't given every advantage the richest country in the world can offer. (More on this below.)

C) Laying blame on Parents and Kids who are left Behind:

If you pass the voucher plan, without addressing the real problems in the school, then all those kids left behind will be labeled as self-fulfilling-losers. They, and their parents, will be seen as "not caring enough to use vouchers" despite the realities of the limited number of vouchers available, the length of the waiting lists, etc. They will be exposed to a stigma that goes far beyond just attending (and graduating) a 'bad' school, but to the stigma of 'apathy' and disregard for their own personal acheivement.

They will be relegated the corridors of 'soft bigotry' every single time they apply for a job and name their high school. Every single time they try to get into a 'good' college or university.

It's a set-up for bigotry. "Why didn't you use the voucher program? You must not care about succeeding."

The same way that "Why didn't you use the welfare programs to succeed? You must want to be poor" has worked in this country ever since, despite the realities on the ground.

D) Doesn't fix a damn thing:

Not to mention, the real problem isn't with money, or the 'where' as is illustrated by the 20/20 report. I believe there is plenty of money in the education system, which should not indicate the quality of education in ANY neighborhood. Does McDonalds have a different *basic* menu in the Bronx than it does in Beverly Hills? I would bet it doesn't. They all serve the Big Mac, fries and soda, right?

Why would we allow our education system to be any different?

It's the currriculum and lack of standardization that is the problem. THAT would be a fix. Which leads me to expound on my comment below:

E) Money shouldn't be the issue:

But it is. Good teachers see the only way that they can make the sort of income they expected when they entered school to train for the position, is to teach at good schools--private or public, makes no difference. That shouldn't be the case. There should be a guide, a structure, to pay raise and tenure, based on performance--which is to be measured by the amount of children who LEARN beneath their tutelage. In this way, we could easily weed out those who don't teach well, and those who do, and advance the ones who have earned their advancement.

If the curriculum were standardized and tested regularly, the results would be clear. Right now, it's a mish-mash of crap that doesn't serve the students.

I'm not talking about non-imaginative, passion-less teaching. Any teacher worth his or her salt can take a standard curriculum, the information the students MUST know for that grade level, and do ingenius and wonderful things to help the students learn. Within any curriculum, there is always room for excitement, one just has to be smart about it.

We don't need more money. We need people who are thinking less about more money, and more about advancing themselves and their students.

F) Bandaids only HIDE a problem, they never SOLVE a problem. Less money makes it WORSE on those left Behind:

Since I've already shared my evaluation about why vouchers are merely a bandaid, and the money issue, I'll close with this.

We're not just talking about a lucky few winning 'the lottery' of a decent education, we're talking about the millions more left behind to deal with a bankrupt school that, if the issues are clear here, was 'bad' to begin with. In other words, making a bad situation worse for the majority of our kids.

I believe it's something like 8 or 9K that we spend on every student in public school (FAR more than is really necessary) and if you multiply that by say, thirty students using the voucher program, you're looking at taking 240-260K away from an already 'disabled' school.

Basic math, economics and business sense says that's a BAD idea. So while those who have gotten into the better school are celebrating, those left behind will deal with not having enough paper, books, or maintenance in their schools, higher pupil-to-teacher ratios as the school can no longer afford to keep as many teachers as they did before, etc. etc. and on and on.

NO where in my book does that sound like a *good* idea. In fact, the idea of competing with the future of our country's children leaves me down-right nauseated.

It's not a 'monopoly' on paying customers who opt-in for a benefit they may want--it's about giving the citizens of our country the ability to have successful lives. You take that rug out from beneath them before they're even old enough to have a job or vote, and you can expect the future to look very grim for everyone.

Imagine a future where the worst-educated people on the planet are in charge of making policy decisions about Medicaid, taxes, and whether or not our country should go to war. Imagine that and then think about school vouchers and if it's really the best idea for saving our children's education, or if higher standards and strong curriculum are the best bet.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I'm Back!! With a Cover!!

Hey everyone!! I'm back, relaxed, tan, and with a HEAD full of ideas on what I'll be writing next. I'm SOO darned excited :) This is gonna be GREAT fall!!

I also came back to find my new book cover ready!! Woo Hoo, it's amazing. Check it out:

I've decided to, in the near future, begin posting my thoughts here on more than just writing and publishing. I'm gonna take the plunge and discuss politics, the state of our country, and what I've found to be some disturbing trends in our culture. Especially those dealing with fear. Which is exactly why I'm going to refuse to be afraid to divulge where I stand on some of our hottest issues.

In the meantime, let me know what you think of my new book cover ;)

As Arnie said, "I'll be back."