Monday, December 22, 2008


So they say there's no such thing as bad PR. Is that true?

My publisher once said that I wasn't controversial enough, that I was too laid back and easy going for my own good (career.) That's always stuck with me. Yet I find that I despise drama and headaches, that it detracts, rather than aids, my ability to move forward in any area of my life.

Looking at what has worked for other authors, and what hasn't, leaves me confused.

Frey lied about his book "A Million Little Pieces" to Oprah, and destroyed his career/sales.

The movie version of Anne Rice's "Interview with a Vampire" disgusted Oprah, and became the Queen of horror. Becoming a born again Christian, however, seems to have reduced her popularity.

How big would Stephen King's career be if the reading public hadn't decided he had a "twisted" mind? What if they just accepted his brand of horror as par for the course?

And what about contrversial figures outside of the publishinge world?

Who knew who Paris Hilton was until she started partying it up and recording her sex life? How many heiresses aren't household names?

What about Britney Spears? There are some that think her public displays of mental instability were merely ploys to keep her career alive.

Does the child-star-gone-bad seem to be a way for adult actors to work their way back into the business?

How did Brooke Shield's battle with Tom Cruise over post-partum depression effect her career?

Even if I chose to follow my publisher's suggestion--what are the odds that I might hinder, rather than fuel, my progress? Is that worth the risk?

Or, is the more tried and true method of working hard and keeping my nose to the grindstone, the one I feel most comfortable with, the better option?

Do nice girls and boys truly finish last?

What do you think?


Sunday, December 21, 2008

How to Get Published

Mostly, getting published is a no-brainer:

Create a quality product the market(s) want to purchase.

Easy, right?

Well, yeah, not so much.

What does quality really mean, especially when it comes to writing?

First--you have to know what you see as quality. I know many new writers get sucked into the life of an aspiring author. They read the works of other aspiring authors in an attempt to exchange critiques and hone their craft. This is a great way to learn to self-edit as well--what you can point out needs work in another person's writing might help you see similar errors in your own.

Aspiring authors usually go through a reading drought--because they are so focused on learning the craft, their critical eye gets in the way of their enjoyment. They see sentences that wouldn't make it through round one of the critique group, or past their creative writing teacher or mentor. Or, they find themselves taking notes on how an author managed to accomplish something they're struggling with.

(The above passes, by the way, so if you're trapped in reader limbo and feeling agitated about missing something you enjoyed immensely, know that this is merely a phase that you're moving through, not staying in.)

So what does the above have to do with judging the quality of a written work?


If your bookshelves are filled with decades old novels, or worse, empty, then you're subjecting yourself to an uphill battle in a career that is already bloody and brutal.

Make it habit to seek out newer releases that are highly popular in the field you write in. Don't worry about it informing your writing. Of course it will, as does everything you do and live. You'll not accidentally begin writing like Dean Koontz or James Patterson--that's not possible. Your voice will always shine through.

In these tough economic times, the library is always an excellent resource. Often they'll have new releases to "rent" in hardcover before the paperback even comes out. Find a way, but get those novels read!

Nothing can replace the first-hand experience of reading a book the market is devouring currently. Once you get about six or seven of these under your belt, you'll begin to see the difference between what you write, what your aspiring friends write, and what is getting published.

Of course learning the craft is an ongoing process. I'm still learning, and will still be learning for the rest of my life. I tend not to take on new projects unless there's a challenge for me in the work--that's what drives my passion--wanting to make every story bigger and better than the one that came before.

Once you begin to discover what your challenges are by reading how the experts handle them (how does Anne Rice write such descriptions? How did Stephanie Meyer work her magic? How does James Patterson or Dean Koontz make science so entertaining? What makes Cussler's Dirk Pitt someone you always want to read about?) you'll be on the right track to creating your own brand of quality product for the market.

If you want to get published, then you need to be an avid reader.

Then of course comes self-discipline and learning to be prolific, but in those glorious developing years where you're free to write what you want, linger where you need to, and explore to your heart's content, take the time to find out what type of quality you're interested in creating--and then practice and practice some more.

Once you have that quality product, you'll need a quality advertising pitch to the publishing house or agent of your dreams. This includes a query letter that'll knock their socks off, and a synopsis that shares just how exciting the plot, characters and writing is in your novel. Making industry friends through attending conferences and such is another great way to get your completed quality product in front of the right people.

I hope this helps and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the blog and I'll answer as best as I can!


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hypercriticism and Spongebob Wisdom

My little one is home sick today with a stomach flu that is going around. Cartoons have replaced my normal musical morning writing time. What's funny, is that I actually got sucked in to this morning's episode of Spongebob.

In this episode, "Artist Unknown" Squidward is determined to teach Spongebob how to be a great artist. In class, Spongebob tries to impress Squidward with what he thinks is art: draing a perfect circle freehand, intricate oragami, and creating a perfect likeness of Michaelangelo's statue, David--using a seashell to cover his privates:)

Squidward refuses to see the expertise in Spongebob's creations. He berates them, and Spongebob, for not creating art along the same lines as Squidward has, namely depicting Squidward's likeness in multiple forms and mediums.

Spongebob, destroyed by this unnecessary and harsh criticism from his hypercritical neighbor, runs away to Bikini Bottom dump and puts a box over his head. Meanwhile, the wealthiest art collector of all time shows up at Squidward's art school looking for a masterpiece and promising fame and fortune to the artist--of the look alike David with the seashell.

Squidward claims the work as his own, but on transport, decapitates the sculpture. The art collector suggests that recreating the sculpture should be no problem for an artist of his caliber and promises to come back the next day.

Squidward then hunts down Spongebob and tries to get him to make another sculpture, only to discover though, that the mental and emotional beatdown he gave Spongebob earlier has destroyed his confidence and made it impossible for him to recreate the masterpiece.

What a wonderful message, I think, for a kid's cartoon! It's something I've seen happen to too many young or new authors. Their talent and inherent voices are so hyper-criticized that they abandon what made them unique and wonderful in favor of following the advice of those with more ego than taste. It's almost criminal, if you ask my opinion, to destroy someone's dreams like that.

Of course there's always the opposite point that a new author is responsible for who they choose to listen to and take advice from. That of course is true, but in the legal world, they have what is called an "eggshell tort." It works this way:

If a perfectly healthy person slips and falls due to the negligence of a business and incures only $500.00 in damages, the business cannot use this as a baseline for all those who are injured. So, if a person with brittle bones (like an eggshell) falls and incurs $500,000.00 in damages, the business liable for those *actual* damages.

In other words, simply because some folks have had the opportunity to develop thicker skin and may withstand hyper-criticism at a vulnerable stage, does not absolve the hyper-critical of respnsibility if they direct that hyper-criticism at a person with more brittle skin.

Personal responsibility doesn't begin and end with the effect our actions have on others--but with the actions we take ourselves. We might get lucky in that when driving intoxicated we don't mow down a crosswalk full of school children--but that doesn't mean the law hasn't been broken. Lack of consequence for bad behaviors is not an indication one should continue those bad behaviors.

So, in my opinion, Spongebob got it right: we lose future masterpieces when we fail to be objective and honest enough to recognize and nurture potential in others. We take on the responsibility to be objective and honest when we fashion ourselves an authority or an expert.

I'll end with this fun quote from Spongebob:

"Squidward, I used your clarinet to unclog my toilet!"


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Strong Leading Ladies

Funny thing happened this morning. I was thinking about my published books, books I’m currently writing, and books I plan to write, and realized they all have very strong leading ladies. These girls are not damsels in distress, they are dames who distress others. In fact, my first book (unpublished) featured such a strong heroine, that I had to create a whole alternate lifestyle in order for her views to make sense in the context of the time period.

From there, I was unstoppable:

Bulletproof Bride: Mina, an out of work waitress who uses a gun to ‘steal’ her life back.

My Biker Bodyguard: Biker and tattoo artist Jesse fights to survive the hit ordered on her.

Stark Knight, Silent Knight, and Good Knight: Sara, orphaned young, brought up in the system, becomes a kick-butt, high action, fighting machine in her quest for justice.

DFF: Dead Friends Forever: Kaylee may only be fourteen, but she’s already one tough cookie, and will only get stronger with every book.

From there, the books I have in progress and in the idea bank for future works include:

The rewrite of Racing the Moon: Amanda is a science geek, but she’ll do what it takes to cure the Alaskan Inupiat of the Lycan Virus.

My Twins Book: Lucy is a twin, with a strong psychic connection to her sister. When she’s released early from prison, she learns there are strings attached—namely hunting down her sister who has a highly important government secret coursing through her veins. (I’m really excited about this one.)

My Post Zombie Apocalypse Book: A cross between Mad Max and 28 Weeks Later (though more like 28 years later) starring Morgan, a female soldier who learns too much, becomes a threat to the political machine controlling the remaining population, and gets fed to the walking dead as punishment. Only…she doesn’t die.

And currently, I’m halfway through Extreme Hauntings Book 2: High Spirits, where Kaylee starts serving her time at Barclay Hall, a fancy boarding school for wayward girls—and one overflowing the spirits of dead children.

As you can see, each of my heroine’s has one thing in common—they are not the sort to sit back and hope someone else saves the day. This got me to thinking about what I’m trying to tell the world about women, what my message might be, because obvious there’s something I want to say if I keep finding my literary passion ignited by the strong female lead.

I’m not some uber-feminazi that hates men and never shaves my legs (do they even really exist?) So it doesn’t have anything to do with some odd distaste for the male gender. Actually, I’m a big fan of men in general. I have a long list of “hotties” (all of whom I respect as professional actors or models!) that I greatly admire. My husband topping that list, of course! 

I’m also not attempting to overcome some great idea that I’m a victim of some sort, where I need to live vicariously through my characters to seek some strange revenge of imaginary people. Some of which happen to be women, in fact, in the Knight Inc. series, the biggest baddie in the bunch is a woman.

So why in the world am I so compelled to keep writing these leading ladies as strongly as I do?

I think it’s because I didn’t realize my own power (as many people don’t) until I was much older, maybe in the last ten years or so. It would have been nice if I could have lived strongly all my life, but I won’t lie and say I have. I’ve known cowardice and weakness—but through those experiences, I learned how much I lose when I give in to those very human emotions.

Only through courage, strength, fortitude, and heart have I gained all that’s most precious to me, and had far fewer regrets than before. I think in my books, I want to show people, my female readers in particular, that it’s okay to take a stand, to demand better from yourself and others, to assert ourselves and make sure we are not those good women who stand by idly while evil happens.

Or worse, depend on others to battle that evil.

It’s worse because there is no ownership of our lives, of our communities, of how we are responsible for more than our own happiness and wellbeing, but also for our impact on our environment. We hear a lot these days about leaving as small a footprint as possible on the earth, that we should recycle and live green. Yet rarely do we have conversations about how we impact our social environments and the choices we can make to ensure we are a positive influence.

In the end, maybe that’s my underlying PSA to the world: Be part of your community, know your own power, and never expect others to do what you are fully capable of yourself.

Or something like that. Maybe I’m just overanalyzing things this morning. Maybe it’s only because I love excitement and blowing things up, beating up bad guys and fighting off supernatural entities is a pretty cool way to spend the day :)

Jenny :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pre-Order DFF at Today!

Hey everyone! :)
You can preorder your paperback of DFF: Dead Friends Forever, the first book in the Extremen Hauntings series today! :)

DFF at

Visit my official website to read an excerpt!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I want to Interview You!

Would you like to appear in an upcoming book in the Extreme Hauntings series? Asia, Kaylee, and T.J. appeared in the first book, DFF: Dead Friends Forever. Fill out the interview below and your name could be given to the next new character!

First Name:


Favorite Movie:

Favorite Music:

Favorite Book:

Favorite Horror Movie/Game/Book:

What Scares You:

What Annoys You:

What Angers You:

What do you love:

Would you like to be notified if you’re name is included in an upcoming book?
If so, please send the interview and an email address where you can be contacted to

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Night of the Drama Queen

Took a moment to have some fun with my daughter the other day :) She's a hoot!

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Scene of Chapter Two

Hey everyone :) This is my first bonafide horror scene and it starts with Kaylee standing on the threshold of the haunted house.

(The first chapter is earlier in my blog, if anyone's interested :) )


No sound. Not even a whisper of wind, which should have been gusting through the empty window frames. On the threshold, Kaylee cleared her throat, the noise distant, muffled. Flashlight shoved under one arm, she plugged her ears and swallowed as if trapped in a pressurized room. Nothing.
Any control over her pulse disappeared.

Freaky, too freaky…oh God…

Shaking, she pushed the button on the flashlight, wishing for a major flood light that would frighten off everything from creepy crawlies to grizzly bears.

Because there is no such thing as ghosts…

The jittering light picked up a great room with a massive fireplace along the east wall. A bit of trash fluttered in a wind she didn’t hear. The paper moved, yet emitted not even a crinkling whisper. Every particle of her being wanted to run, to turn tail and never skateboard again if it meant leaving untouched by the thing she could feel watching her.

Just the guys watching outside. No one in here but me.

It had to be that mass hysteria thing. Her dad once said completely normal and sane, some highly intelligent people could succumb to mass hysteria. The mentally challenged, however, were less likely to get sucked in. Go figure. At the time, she thought herself too pragmatic, too realistic to fall into such an absurd trap. Yet here she was, imagining there was no sound, no wind, and garbage could move without making any noise.

Kaylee inhaled deeply, closed her eyes and stepped forward. An incredible whoosh filled her ears, all the night sounds rushing in around her. The dank, moldering aroma of lumber moldering deep within the ground swam over her.

“Hurry up!” Jimmy hollered a few yards from the porch.

Startled, she shone the flashlight in his face. “All right, I‘m going!”

She spun back and strode with purpose toward the rickety staircase. The rail lay in pieces on the floor and she found herself hugging the wall again.

The cold pit of her stomach, the shaky light in her trembling hand, shamed her. If she truly believed there was no such thing as spooks, then what was her problem? This should be a cakewalk. She hastened her pace, ready to get this over with.
On the second floor landing, she raced the flashlight across the ceiling, searching for the attic’s drop ladder. Nothing but cracked plaster and a fractured light fixture hanging by one rotted-cloth covered wire. Three doors on her right, two on her left. Which one?

A sound, very faint, came from the wall on her left. Scratching.

Rats? Mice?

Backing away from the too-regular noise…fingers opening, retracting, opening…she opted for the far door on her right. The knob spun loosely, refusing to disengage at first, then did and she pushed through into an empty room. Wallpaper, the rose pattern yellowed and faded, curled at every seam.

The window still had glass, probably the only one in the house. It leant the air a stale, nesting odor that tickled her nose. Eager to be out of this room, she opened the only other door and found a shallow closet with hooks and no rod. A moth-eaten dull gray shirt hung dejectedly from the center hook. No stairs to the attic.

She went back into the hall and hurried to the furthest room on the left. The window beside the door let in a more brisk breeze at this height and offered a glittering view of her neighborhood. All those lights. What she wouldn’t give to be back home, away from this strange place.

Below, Danny must have caught the glow from her flashlight because he hollered, “Dude! Hurry up!”

Dude? Yeah, like she wanted to linger in a haunted house. Reason reminded her she didn’t believe in ghosts and she pushed into the next room.

Unlike the last, this bedroom had furniture and a collection of ancient dolls and books shoved onto shelves and into hutches. Wind tossed the tattered remains of lacy curtains into the air. A warped and weathered bed held the remnants of a canopy, the rug on the floor faded from the sun. Two doors in this room. She passed the rotting mattress covered with ragged blankets on her way to the first door.

I did not just see the bed move.

Heart knocking hard on her ribs, hair standing on the back of her neck, she shone the light on the center of the mattress. Motes swirled in the air, but nothing moved. She took another step toward the door. Still nothing.

I had to have imagined it.

Her mouth dry, palms sweaty, she grasped the doorknob. Damp had swollen the wood and she yanked hard to get it open. Cobwebs came with it, a slew of dirt and leaves followed, layering the thick dust on the narrow, steep stairs. The attic.

Thank God! In a rush, she ran up the stairs, leaned over and grabbed the first thing her hand landed on—an old silver mirror, the glass long gone, the metal tarnished.

There. Finally.

Three steps down, she remembered to shine the light out the window. She shoved the mirror in the front pocket of her hoodie and turned back, tripping up the stairs in her haste. Boxes, racks of old seventies-style clothes and furniture spilled out of the corners across the floor. She pivoted, aimed the flashlight at the empty window frame, and froze.

A girl stood in the way. Her pasty skin so white it looked blue, dark hair dripping down the sides of her sunken face, eyes of black tar staring at her. Bluish hands rose, seeming disembodied until the flashlight picked out the girl’s black dress in the gloom.

Kaylee screamed and the girl opened her mouth, a gaping hole that stretched impossibly far. A gorge of bubbling, thick fluid erupted out of a bulging throat, coating Kaylee in scum that showed bright red in the flashlight. Screeching again and again, she backpedaled toward the stairs and fell.

The girl came forward in a jerky, shambling gait. Kaylee rolled to her knees, crawling, afraid to take the time to regain her feet.

Get out! Get out! Get out!

A boom, so loud she covered her ears and curled her knees to her chest.

Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!

The house shook, dirt spilling out of the rafters and over her, sticking to the blood spray. Another boom, so powerful she bounced on the floorboards. A hurricane blew into the room. The blue girl flew apart like ashes in the wind. Pressure forced the air out of Kaylee’s lungs. She couldn’t scream, she couldn’t move, she couldn’t see what this new thing was, didn’t want to see because she could feel it all around her, pressing on her back, forcing her prone on the floor.

Terrified, she inhaled sharply, gathering herself, pulling her spirit together, a thing she didn’t even know she could do. In her mind, she screamed.


The invisible weight lifted abruptly and she rolled, gasping. Still there, she thought, sensing its puzzlement, its surprise. Pulse pumping with adrenalin, she scurried toward the stairs. The flashlight flew out of her fingers and spun crazily until it landed beside the pool of blood.

The thing came back, he came back, pressing her into the rotted, dry floor. Stunned, she dug deep, searching for that inner energy, to pull it from every corner of her being and fight him off again. His strength immense, her fear even larger, the power within her diminished. He smothered the oxygen from her lungs. Weakly, she cried, “Help me…”

No air left.

Please…someone…help me…

A scream ripped through the air and the pressure vanished.

In front of her, the blue girl reappeared, her ghastly face contorted with hate-filled rage. Kaylee sensed the presence, sensed him, centering his focus on the ghost girl. A horrible roaring sound beat against her eardrums. The jet-engine noise whined higher and higher, the metal fillings in the back of her mouth shaking with the vibrations. Her throat ached from the high-pitched, frightened screak straining out of her.


Crying, she stood on wobbly legs. Dodging the blood, she finally made it to the stairs. One foot on the first riser, a final boom hit so loud and hard, it felt like thunder clapped in the confines of the staircase. Thrown forward, she raised her hands to stop a head-long plunge down the steps. A bright, white light filled the space. Hands out in front of her, she blinked until the glare became a hazy aura and her eyes adjusted.

She ran.

At top speed, she shoved out the door, into the hall, down the railless staircase and jumped the last four steps. Halfway to the door, barely aware of the shrieks coming out of her, she made out the guys standing frozen, mouths agape as they stared at the attic window. A wave of ice ripped through her, parting her ponytail and sending the hair whipping against her face.

In an instant, intimate knowledge about the other spread through her mind, her very core. The girl. Too scared, too out of her head with fear, she couldn’t process it all. Her flight instinct in full force, she raced for the porch, barely having the presence of mind to grab her board, and flew off the steps. The boys stepped backward and when they saw her, they looked beyond her, to something happening inside the house. She didn’t look back.

“Jesus,” Jimmy whispered, turning away. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him grab Danny’s sleeve and drag him along.

They ran, crashing through the woods, hurrying to get as far from the house as they could. Kaylee pumped her legs, not daring to look back, her heart in her throat, breathing raggedly. The boys were all around her, shoving between trees, leaping over fallen trunks and brush in their path. In seconds flat, they were back on the street again.

Sneakers slapped pavement in an ever decreasing rhythm. Boards thunked to the road, wheels spun in the slushing-slush noise so familiar and comforting. Wind and distance did more for her nerves than anything. Breathing deep, the world sparkling under streetlights and her heightened senses, she pushed along with the boys for three blocks before her pounding blood subsided.

Kaylee stopped, looking over her shoulder. Panting, she stepped off the board as the others halted around her. Nothing followed, no sound of pursuit. She bent at the waist, hands on her knees, and tried to regain her breath.

“What the hell happened in there?” Danny asked. “What was that big light? You set off a bomb or something?”

“Don’t be stupid,” Will said.

All three boys appeared shaken, their hair and eyes wild. It occurred to her then, what she must look like, covered in blood…

She wasn’t.

No blood on her clothes, or anywhere on her at all. Dust and dirt for sure, but not blood. Mass hysteria? She patted her hoodie, relieved to feel the lump of the wrecked mirror. She pulled it out and tossed it to Jimmy. “Head’s up.”

Jimmy caught the mirror, hands huge on the slim offering. “What am I gonna do with this junk?”

He tossed it back to her. Absently, she stuffed it into her backpack, wanting to get home where she could think through what happened, apply some reason with a capital ‘R’ to the situation and get rid of the slick, strange metallic taste in the back of her throat. Erase the sensation that something, someone, else had shared her skin. “We good? I passed your little initiation, right?”

“Yeah, you can have your skate-off.”

She rolled her eyes. Screw latent hostility, I’m flat-out hostile. “You can’t be serious? After all that?”

“All what?” Jimmy asked, strength returning to his voice. “You went in some dumb old attic and brought out a mirror. That ain’t much of an initiation.”

“What?” She fairly squeaked, noticing Danny’s surprised look, but he kept his mouth closed. “I know you saw that light and stuff. Did you hear that thing in there?”

Careful, Kaylee, don’t say it out loud, don’t make it real.

“Yeah, I saw your flashlight, but that was it,” Jimmy said, turning to encompass both Will and Danny. “Ain’t that right, guys?”

They took their time nodding, but they did. Kaylee wanted to slap every one of them silly, even as she told herself they were right. She had to have imagined it all.

I didn’t though. I know I didn’t.

“Where’s my flashlight?” Will asked.

She hopped on her board and resisted the urge to whip the bird at him. “Back at the house. Shouldn’t be a problem for you to go get it. It’s just a dumb old house after all. Have fun.”

Kaylee pushed off, leaving them behind, leaving the whole night behind. She didn’t feel wild and free anymore, didn’t find anything exciting about being all by herself on the street at night. No, she felt exposed and exhausted. She wanted her bed, and the blankets pulled over her head.
* * *

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Very Cool New Cover!

Hey everyone!!

I'm excited to share my cover here!!

What do you think??

Jenny :)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

DFF: Dead Friends Forever

Hi everyone! ;)

Figured since I've been talking about this book for so long now, I'd offer up the first three chapters as I polish them up before sending them to the editor. This is chapter one, but be warned, this is what it looks like BEFORE my editor reads it! :)




The frigid concrete froze Kaylee right through her jeans. Not yet cold enough for snow, but with Halloween and the Harvest Dance just a week away, autumn was brisk with the promise of winter. She couldn't see her breath yet and her thick Hurley hoodie kept her warm enough. Hands tucked into the kangaroo pockets, she ignored the open math book and the spiral notebook balanced on her knees. Beyond Spalding Park's merry-go-round and past the monkey bars, the brand spanking new skate park glittered under a dying fall sun.

With longing, she imagined grinding the rail down the middle of the pyramid and wondered how much air her semi-new Zero deck could grab on the half pipe, especially now that she'd replaced her old trucks. Aside from street skating, the only chance to expand her tricktionary was in Appleton at the indoor skate park. An hour and a half away, they only went three or four times a year when they visited Aunt Milli, her father's sister. She sighed heavily.

She had two problems. The first and least troubling: the promise to herself and her mom to finish the math assignment due in the morning. She glanced at her book, then at the dripping white skull down the bottom of her black skateboard. Why did it have to be math? Why not English or Science? Her worst subject, math totally sucked. Why couldn't they download the data to her head, like in the movies?

A whoop echoed off the field house behind her and she looked up in time to see Jimmy the Giant land hard off one end of the curved rail.

Problem number two.

Twice she had watched Jimmy and his minions chase off would-be skaters. A pair of boys had ridden up mongo-style (pushing with their front foot instead of their back) which probably meant they wouldn't escape the park without major physical damage. They were run off on a wave of wedgie threats and worse. The second time, the kid had been about ten or so. All Jimmy and his crew did was stop talking, cross their arms and glare at the boy. He took off down the sidewalk, showing skill on his board.

Kaylee ran a hand along the length of curly brown hair dangling from her ponytail, smoothing the stubborn locks that gave her perpetual bed head. Three boys didn't make it past them. And I'm a girl. She heaved another breath. Six math questions left to go, and all of them the absolute worst kind; word problems. They might as well have been written in some weird spy code. Facing the guys was less torture than trying to decipher algebra.

Sorry, Mom.

She closed the books, stuffed both in her backpack and zipped it closed. Standing, she shouldered the pack and studied the skaters across the park. Would they leave soon? Could she just wait them out and skate her fill of the ramps and flybox once they were gone?

The darkening sky and a glance at her watch said otherwise. Only an hour left before dinner. A school night, they ate by six-thirty so they could spend quality time together. Which usually meant some goofy game like charades or Operation—a game she had outgrown four years ago at the age of ten.

No time to wait for the park to empty. Gathering all her courage, she popped up her skateboard, skipped down the last three steps and dropped the board. She glided easily around the merry-go-round and avoided woodchips that had escaped the jungle gym. As she got close enough to hear them, and for them to notice her, she slowed to a stop.

Jimmy laughed. "Dude, you're gonna make hamburger outta your face you try that."

"You try it, then," Danny, his seventh-grade sidekick said. "Bet you can't."

"What'd I tell you about that?" Jimmy slapped him on the back of his head. "You still owe me ten bucks from the last time. I don't bet with welshers, douche bag."

Ernie, almost as tall, but twice as big around as Jimmy spotted her. "Hey, Jimmy—looks like you've got a groupie."

They all spun on her, including Frank at the top of the half pipe, legs dangling as he drank from a can of pop. Baseball cap turned backward, dog tags hanging from a chain around his neck, he spat sideways and glared at her.

Eight inches taller, Jimmy had to crane his head to look down at her. "What do you want?"

She cleared her throat and dropped her bag on the ground. "Are you guys almost done?"

Jimmy jerked his head to triple-X Ernie and a shaggy blonde, hard-knuckled boy named Will. They nodded and pushed off--Will ollied onto the wavy rail and Ernie dove down the half pipe. "What does it look like?"

"I'm just asking." Kaylee winced inwardly. Not good to come off defensive with these guys. Like blood for sharks, sensing weakness, they'd swarm in for the kill. She raised her chin and in a more forceful tone asked, "How much longer you gonna be?"

A dangerous gleam entered Jimmy's brown gaze. Beneath long-layered dark hair, his tanned skin creased at the corners of his up-tilted eyes, giving him the look of a laughing wolf, all happy malice. "For the rest of your life."

"Yeah." Danny snickered in unison with Frank. "For the rest of your life."

She wanted to roll her eyes, but her father had taught her this was a physical manifestation of a desire for confrontation. In shrink-speak, that meant they would think she wanted to pick a fight. Instead, she wedged a teasing smile on her uncooperative mouth. "Why? You afraid a girl could out-skate you?"

Jimmy broke out in great big fake guffaws, the others immediately joined in and erased all her hard work to smile. "Girls ain't got the guts. Go home before you break a nail."

Oh, he just wanted to make her mad now. Everyone at Marsden knew she was the most athletic girl in the whole school. As a fullback on the soccer team and captain of the swim team, she didn't have any nails to break. Go take a flying leap, Jimmy. "If I beat Danny, then I get to skate here."

Danny paled. The least experienced, every sick stunt he attempted turned into a wipe out. Half the time he couldn't skate because of a brace or a cast. "Beat Ernie first. I won't waste my time on a girl."

Jimmy rolled his eyes. Latent hostility anyone? "Dude, she can't beat me, she can't beat you, she can't beat Ernie, not even Willy-Nilly over there. She's a girl!"

"Hey!" Will shouted. Though he didn't try stupid stunts like Danny, he spent more time on his bike than a board and paid for the lack of practice, often wobbling-out during a trick. "Shut up about the nilly thing, already."

"Dude," Jimmy tossed back, "stop bein' a bobble-head and I will."

Danny said, "Doesn't matter. He'd out-skate a girl any day.

"I got a better idea," Ernie skated to them. "She's gotta go through an initiation."

Kaylee frowned, wary now. Even if she went through any initiation they might dream up, it was no guarantee that they would let her skate in the end. "No. I want a challenge."

Jimmy jerked his thumb at his chest. "We make the rules. We're doing the initiation thing." He pointed a finger at her. "You wanna skate here, you do what we say."

She screwed up, should have got him to think a skate-off was his idea. Cracking her neck, she unclenched her teeth and asked, "What do you want me to do?"

Ernie grinned. "You ever hear of the Larson House?"

Oh, God, she had. "Yeah, it's supposed to be haunted, right?"

Frank belched loudly and crushed his can. "Haunted to the extreme, dude!"

"By an axe murderer who chopped his whole family into little pieces and buried them in the cellar." Danny chimed in. "You go in there after dark, you come out with white hair and they ship you off to the loony bin up at Chester."

Frank called, "Her dad works up there. Probably got a bed all picked out for her."

That's it. Kaylee scowled at him. "Yeah, and I remember your brother Paul spent some time up there. Does psycho run in the family?"

Frank hopped down, throwing the can sideways, letting it clunk along the concrete. "You say something about my bro? You gotta beef with me?"

Oh, crap. She stood her ground, but barely. "What's your problem?"

Jimmy stepped between them. "Chill, bro, what're you gonna do? Beat up a chick?" He turned to Kaylee. "Up to you. You gonna go through the initiation? You gotta go after dark and it has to be tonight. You got the guts?"

She looked at her watch. Not enough time before she had to be home. That meant sneaking out and while she'd done it once or twice to hang out with her best friend Davey next door, she never went far or stayed out long. "Fine. I'll do it. Meet you back here at nine'o'clock."

Before they could argue, she shouldered her backpack once again and sped away on her board, cursing herself. This was so stupid. If she got busted, if her dad found out she took off to meet a bunch of boys that late at night, she'd have to go through another talk about the dangers of puberty. He would chalk it up to some yucky sexual blossoming no matter how much she protested that Jimmy the Giant and his goons were the grossest, bottom-of-the-barrel boys and no girl in her right mind would do anything so disgusting with them.

She shivered just thinking about it.

* * *

Kaylee banged through the front door and dropped her gear in the hall. "Mom! I'm home."

"We're in here, honey," her mother called from the back of the house.

She thumped begrudgingly away from the television in the living room and past the snack counter in the kitchen to the back office where, just as she thought, both her parents waited with those smiles on their faces. The sort of smiles that were meant to make her think everything was okay and they didn't actually plan on forcing her to endure a serious discussion. How she hated those smiles. Oh, they loved her all right, they loved her to death sometimes.

"What'd I do now?" She slumped in the chair beside her father's desk and looked up at her mother, perched near the worn out rolodex. Neat and trim, Diane Hensler wore a baby blue sweater that matched her eyes, a color Kaylee wished she had inherited instead of the pale hazel hue from her grandma. She had gotten her mother's curly hair, but her mom wore hers almost like a boy and Kaylee would have endured endless ribbing, being so active in sports, if she attempted a style that short.

"Darling," Max Hensler said, sitting forward, his glasses perched on the end of his nose. "As you know, you had another bad dream last night, but did you know that makes the fourth one in a week?"

"We're worried about you, sweetie." Her mother settled gracefully in the chair beside Kaylee and took her hand. "We think there might be an underlying problem you're uncomfortable sharing with us. Perhaps something you would rather talk about with just one of us?"

Don't roll your eyes…don't roll your eyes… "God, Mom, no. I truly don't remember the dreams. When you wake me up, I don't even know why you're waking me up."

"Hmmm…." Max took his glasses off and stuck one arm in his mouth, leaning back in the chair.

"Dad, c'mon, I'm not one of your patients, okay?"

"No," he said, "you aren't. But you are my daughter. If I was a medical doctor and you got sick, wouldn't I be just as interested in using my knowledge to relieve your suffering?"

"But I'm not suffering!" Kaylee stood up. She hated the way they looked at her, made her feel all weirded out inside. "Can't we just be normal? Why does everything I do have to have some sort of freaky label attached to it? Last time you thought I was all anti-social because I refused to hang out with Charlotte Dambrea."

Diane said, "That's not fair, honey. How were we supposed to know that girl was a pathological liar?"

"Now, we don't know that for sure," Max said. "We can't diagnose without direct interaction."

"I know," she smiled softly at her husband, "but it's a good descriptor." She turned back to Kaylee. "We're your parents. It's our job to worry."

"Duh! But that doesn't mean you've got to get all paranoid about it."

"Paranoia is a very severe accusation; it implies your mother and I are irrational, delusional. I'm not sure you understand the full concept of what you've just stated."

Don't roll your eyes… Don't roll your eyes…

That tiny voice her father liked to call Reason yammered at her to stifle her wildly emotional reaction, to calm down. If she didn't, they'd keep harping about what amounted to nothing…are you sure? Are you sure it's nothing? "Okay, I'm sorry for using that word. But seriously, I know you're concerned, and if I had any idea what I was dreaming about, I'd tell you. I promise."

They fell silent, exchanging a glance that Kaylee couldn't read. Then her mother stood and smiled. "All right, honey. We'll hold you to that promise."

"Good." Her father stood and held out his hand. "I expect a shake on that."

Kaylee shook his hand firmly, as he'd taught her. She really didn't have a problem telling him what the dreams were about—once she recalled what they were. Running, always running, a looming darkness, unstoppable, incredibly huge, a thunder cloud presence, reaching… reaching…So vague, barely enough to articulate, the sensation nonetheless left her a bit breathless. Acutely aware that both her parents were staring at her, she worked up a grin and asked, "What's for dinner?"

* * *

"You done it now, Kaylee," Davey said, sitting at his window where she could see him across the expanse between their houses. "Why'd you mess with Jimmy the Giant anyway? Are you trying to get killed?"

"He's not killing anyone, the coward." Her sneakers, propped on her desk, tapped in rhythm with the pulsing, neon kaleidoscope screen saver on her computer. "Jerk. If he had any guts he would have gone for the skate-off."

"Aren't you scared? I mean it is the Larson house. You know what happened there, right?" He sniffled then sneezed.

"Bless you," she said absently, thinking as she listened to him blow his nose. "Y'know, my dad says that people during the Salem witch trials were caught up in this mass hysteria thing. It's where gossip sort of becomes a fact and everyone believes in it. In this case, they thought evil was coming into their village or whatever. I think the Larson house is like that. It's just a case of mass hysteria. People heard the gossip so long they just started thinking it was true."

"But what if it is true? I mean, what if they could think something like that into reality? You remember that movie we watched New Year's Eve? The one where that kid just had to think about something and then it would happen?"

"Yeah, but this isn't a movie, Davey. It's just a house. An old, ugly house and no one really knows if anyone was even killed there or not. It could be just something the previous owner thought up to keep kids out of his yard. It is behind the school, a short cut right to our neighborhood." One that they didn't take any more since Davey got his wheelchair.

"Yeah, that could be true." He turned to his computer and she heard the clacking of the keys as he typed.

"What're you looking up?"

"While you're out, I'll check the online archives of the newspaper and the library database for any facts we can dig up about the house."

"Why?" She sat, dropping her elbows on the table and glancing at the clock. Ten minutes to go before she left to meet them. "I'll be back before you find out anything and even if something bad happened there, it's not happening now so it won't make any difference."

"Well, just an FYI, Kaylee, but I'm not the type that likes to wonder about stuff. If the whole town thinks something bad happened there, I don't want to guess, I want to know. It's just like I keep saying about parents and teachers, always dishing out the same old garbage without stopping to think for one minute if it's actually true. Like you can catch a virus just because you don't wear a hat or zip your coat! How ridiculous is that? A virus doesn't care if you're hot or cold."

She didn't want him to go off on one of his rants again and quickly cut him off. "I know, I get it. Tell me what you find out when I get back, just for kicks. I'll tell you how stupid the whole thing was. I've gotta go now. Are the office lights still on?"

He paused at the computer and pushed his wheelchair to the farthest edge of the window to check the side of her house. "Yeah, you're good to go."

"Thanks. See ya in a bit." She disconnected and stuck the cordless back on its recharging cradle. Plucking her jean jacket off the hook on the back of her door, she crept into the hallway. The light and sound behind her parent's door told Kaylee her mother was safely tucked in bed, enjoying her evening shows. Her father wouldn't come out of the office until much later, maybe even as late as midnight.

Quietly, she slid her arms inside her coat and snuck down the stairs, hugging the wall to avoid the louder center of each tread. She crossed the tiled foyer, pulling her ponytail free of her jacket. Board in hand, she held her breath, listened. No noise, no one knew she wasn't in her room. As silent as possible, she opened the front door, backed out, and carefully closed it behind her.

Her heartbeat slowed its frantic pace as she took off down the street, tic-tacking the nose of the board back and forth to gain speed. The night air was chillier than that afternoon, but she didn't mind, in fact, the thrill of being out in the night, where anything could happen, excited her. The wind blew across her face as she took Delaney street's steep hill down toward the skate park.

Lights illuminated the deserted streets. Off in the distance a dog barked and an engine revved a few blocks over, but otherwise, the only sound came from the spinning Speed Demon wheels. She couldn't help herself, the conditions were too perfect and the trucks and wheels too good not to trick. Bending, she popped up the board, spun it around with her front foot, and stomped it back down. It slammed hard, slammed wonderfully and she straightened, grinning alone and wild on the street.

All too soon the skate park emerged at the end of the street and she slowed, searching the shadows for Jimmy and his gang.

I'm out of my freaking mind.

Better to get this done and over with so tomorrow after school she could use the park. That is, if she didn't caught sneaking back in and get grounded for the rest of her life.

Jimmy skated forward, as tall as a grown man. Will and Danny flanked him. Apparently, Frank of the dog tags and psycho brother, and Ernie of the oh-so-great-initiation idea couldn't be bothered to show up. She stopped four feet from the boys.

Jimmy said, "I didn't think you'd show up, it being past your bedtime and all."

"Must be past Ernie and Frank's bedtime. Or were they too scared to show up?"

Danny snorted, "Ain't no one scared of you, dork."

"Not of her, you moron," Will said, his blonde shaggy curls glinting in the streetlight around the collar of his green army jacket. "Of the haunted house."

Jimmy scowled at Will, but before he spoke, Kaylee said, "Let's go."

She turned, hiding her smile and led them down the four blocks to the wooded lot behind the school. Eager to show the boys she wasn't a poser chick trying to be cool, she pushed hard.

Will matched her pace, Jimmy and Danny slowing as they tried to out-ollie each other before they had gotten enough speed. Her face cold, eyes watering a bit from the wind, she glanced at Will and caught him looking at her with a strange, curious wariness.


She did the same trick she had earlier, pop-shoving the board around and down with a bang, landing perfectly. Will copied her with ease. Pretty good for him. He shrugged and smiled.

"Cute trick, for a chick," Jimmy said as he sped past, smacking into her back so hard she almost dove nose first off her board.

"Yeah," Danny said, following his master, "for a chick!"

Will surprised her by hanging with her instead of his buddies, and even stranger, he looked upset that Jimmy hit her so hard. It still stung.

Then they the woods and had to carry their boards through the barely-there uphill trail toward the house. She hugged the board close as she followed behind Danny, Jimmy in front of him and Will behind her. The crunch of leaves and rustle of night animals enveloped their little group. The darkness, alleviated only by dappled moon glow, made Kaylee acutely aware of every tiny sound; the swish of Danny's pants, the jingle of chain from Will's wallet to his belt loop, their labored breaths.

Jimmy paused, his eyes flashing in the light and she wondered again what she had been thinking. Alone, in the dark, in the woods with three guys she only knew by their reputation for bullying younger kids and being royal pains whenever they wanted to be. Yep, I'm totally out of my mind. Who's the psycho now?

They reached where the front yard should have been. The moon lit a patch of weeds and an overgrown tree with the remains of an old swing, one of the ropes rotted through and the splintered board dangling oddly from the one still intact.

The front porch sagged sadly in the middle, the pillars on each side of the stairs bearing the weight of the roof and looking utterly exhausted by the task. No lights shown in any of the broken windows and bricks littered the shingles where the chimney had begun to fall.

"Well, there it is," Will said in a hushed tone, as if it would be disrespectful to speak louder. He held out a small flashlight, offering it to her without a word.

She took it, surprised by his thoughtfulness. "Thanks."

"Okay," Jimmy said. "The deal is, you have to bring us something back from the attic and then you can do a skate-off."

"What?" Kaylee turned on him. "That wasn't the deal. You said I do this, and then I get to use the skate park just like you do."

"You wanted the skate-off, remember?" Jimmy shrugged. "You chicken? Think we'll beat you?"

"No," Kaylee said. "That's not the point."

"It is now."

Oh, he's such a jerk!

Danny asked, "How will we know she got it from the attic?"

"That's what I told Will to bring the flashlight for," Jimmy said. "She can shine it out the window at us so we know she got up there."

Disappointed, Kaylee glanced at Will. She didn't like him or anything, but it had been nice thinking he liked her enough to treat her decently.

"What ya waitin' for?" Danny said, nudging her forward. "We don't got all night."

Kaylee paused, remembering what Jimmy had said earlier. "I'm holding you to this Jimmy Walker. You back out, you'll be a no-good welsher."

He stiffened, his eyes squinting up again. "I ain't no welsher."

"You remember that," she said, walking backward, "when I bring back your creepy little souvenir."

She spun then, and stalked the few feet to the front door, clutching Will's flashlight tightly in her fist, wishing she had enough courage to bash Jimmy over the head with it. Her foot landed on the first, rotted step and it bowed under her weight, creaking in a way that sent a chill up her spine. She stopped abruptly, suddenly overcome with cold… freezing even. Her breath escaped her mouth in heated, misty clouds.

Her heart immediately went into overtime, pounding loud and hard in her head. A sense of something very large, looming in the dark beyond the front door took her breath away. Something watched her, something incalculably huge and…knowing.

Mass hysteria…mass hysteria…mass hysteria…

Kaylee calmed herself by degrees. She didn't believe in ghosts, didn't believe in anything paranormal. Everything had an explanation. Worked up over nothing, she told herself the only mice and cobwebs lay beyond the door. Nothing but a rotting old house. Nothing she couldn't handle.

Mass hysteria, mice, cobwebs… Mass hysteria, mice, cobwebs…nothing I can't handle.

She leaned the skateboard against the doorframe and stepped inside.

* * *

More coming soon!! ;)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I Did It! And the Official Title! :)

I just finished the first draft of my new book! Yay me! :) It gives me plenty of time to edit the book before the first, so I'm a happy camper. This was an exciting write for me because I've been wanting to try my hand at horror for a while now. It's pretty gritty, but I'm hopeful that the humor and such will make it okay and my publisher won't ask me to delete scenes or whatnot. Nothing "R" rated, but I do skate the edge ;)

Oh! And I had some fun news to share too :)

The title of the book, per my publisher's enthusiastic thumbs up is:

Extreme Haunting 1
DFF: Dead Friends Forever

(Suggested by Gayle Carline:) Gotta give her credit!)

Okay, I'm gonna start celebrating with food! I'm starving ;)

*who's going for a chocolate brownie! :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Show vs. Tell

A number of folks are asking on writing forums about show vs. tell, so I thought I'd share my response to them here:

It’s actually very simple--though true understanding and practicing it with agility can take a while :)

When we talk about show vs. tell, we mean implying what is happening by showing through the 5/6 senses of the character ’on stage’ rather than telling (worse--the author telling.)

I recently wrote this elsewhere as an example of show vs. tell:

Tell: He opened the door and stepped outside.

Show: The cool brass knob turned easily in his hand. Hinges squeaked loud in the afternoon quiet. Warm air and sunshine washed over him as the porch bowed beneath his boots.

In the show--I imply he opened the door and that he stepped outside by showing what happened when he did.

Of course, there are times when simply stating a character opened a door and walked outside is the better choice. It all depends on the atmosphere you want to create and what else you have to show. In the end, the key word to remember is "imply." Can you rewrite without once using the ’tell’ words? Like "he opened’ or "the door" or "stepped" or "outside"?

Any questions? :)


Saturday, August 09, 2008

R: Ebay can Protect you From Evil!

Now, whether you think it can or can't doesn't really matter for the sake of my writing research :) That's the cool thing about fiction. I get to decide if it works or doesn't. So, while my character is waiting for her ebay order to arrive, I've got some thinking to do :)

One of the more interesting items I found on there was a woman who claims she found a bunch of lost spells that her great-grandmother--a witch--left to her in an old trunk. She's using these spells to creat "mojo" type bags and other sorts of pendents. Very interesting! So interesting, in fact, I had to dig a little deeper and I found her (and her husband) on the 'net:

Lady Isabel's Lost Spells at

But, if you'd like, you can shop around at eBay for other forms of protection:

Protect yourself from Evil

Okay, I'm back to writing now ;) Let me know if you order something and how it works out for you!


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Help! I need a title...

I've been playing with this for a while now, and I'm truly stuck. I don't know what would be a good title for the first book in my Extreme Haunting series. So, let me tell you a little about the story and see if you can help me out:

Kaylee Hensler is a 14 yr.old athletic skater girl living in the fictional town of Marsden, WI. She's on the swim and soccer teams at her school--but she's also discovered that the spooky house the kids are all afraid of is really haunted.

Not only is the Larson house haunted, but this dead girl has started stalking her! She shows up at Kaylee's school, bedroom, and even bathroom. Now there's a second spirit--one much more freaky and frightening coming after them both! Davey, Kaylee's best friend, helps her solve the mystery about this girl's death and why her spirit hasn't moved on.

Not to mention, Kaylee has a swim meet coming up, and then there's the Harvest Dance at school and the worry she won't have a date, let alone what she'll actually look like wearing a dress.

So--here are a few titles I've rejected:
(All of them will include this subtitle: Extreme Haunting #1)

Skate or Die!
Haunting Kaylee
Death House
One Freaky False
Something Wicked in Marsden
The Ghost and the Ghoul
Phantom House

Okay, so now I'm wide open for suggestions! If I choose yours, I will include your name in the acknowledgements of the book :)

Thanks bunches for all your help!


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Naysayers, NayBobs and Negativity

Okay, here we go, I'm irked ;) Doesn't happen often, but I am. First, though, let me explain how blessed I've been in this writing business:

1) I had a wonderful group of ladies in a group called Artistic License (Faye*, Marilyn, June, Julie, Sharon, Connie) that met at Writer's Village University who helped me immensely on my journey.
2) My mother was instrumental in helping me along the way--editing my first novel, reading just about everything I write to offer me her wisdom and advice, I owe her a lot ;)
3) I had wonderful help from a man named Paul who has now passed away. While he was a bit cutthroat and his criticisms were harsh, he hung in there with me and answered all my questions--most importantly though, he did it respectfully.
4) I've been the recipient of so much "free" help from terrific authors and industry professionals (from editors to agents) that I consider myself one lucky puppy!

There's so much more--but this is a blog, not a biography, so I'll cut it short:)What I gained from SO very many people teaching me was a well grounded understanding of the craft that not only helped me get published, but also afforded me the experience to open my own critique service, of which I've had nothing but satisfied customers.

So...when I see new authors, just beginning this process, told that their work is unworthy of success and that the odds of them getting published are so abysmal they might as well just give up and go home--I get irked. :(

Had all those great people above done that to me, I'm positive I wouldn't be where I am today. I don't truly understand the reason for treating new authors like their five years old and clueless. I prefer to treat them like adults beginning a wonderful adventure.

Sure, there are those who most likely won't reach the level of Nora Roberts or Stephen King--but that's pretty much true of everyone, including most authors already published today. So what's the big hairy deal here? Why can't we writers offer a little more respect and kindness to those just starting out?

It would be like Michael Jordan refusing to play with a group of kids in love with basketball because he didn't think they could reach his level of fame. Even worse though, is that most writers who are being such negative naybobs haven't reached the literary equivelant of Michael Jordan.

Maybe that whole "pay it forward" thing is sentimental and trite--but I happen to believe there's real value in doing just that. So, I say, forget those naysayers and follow your dreams! Most of the time, those dreams are pretty awesome! :)

*My dearest friend Faye has two adorable daughters, Sydney and Georgia--who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. The link I gave above is to help little Georgia's family pay for the medical attention she needs.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Transverse Myelitis?

Bet y'all are looking at the title of this blog post and going, "What in the world is that?"

Yeah, I never heard of this before either, but that's the wonderful thing about being a writer--I have a legitimate reason to research all sorts of things that in another profession I would likely never even think about, let alone have a reason to investigate. I think it's one of the things I love best about writing ;)

So, okay, what is Transverse Myelitis? It's the condition Davey Harris suffers from in my new young adult supernatural thriller. He's my tenacious herione, Kaylee's best friend--and he's wheelchair bound. Transverse myelitis is a syndrome caused by inflamation of the spinal cord. For our undaunted hero, Davey, this came after a bout with chicken pox the year before. We'll see how he progresses through the course of the series. Hopefully, as the plot thickens, his health will be restored. One never knows!

What's really cool, though, is that while Kaylee is a skateboard fanatic and goes everywhere on four wheels, so does Davey! She often hangs on to the back of his motorized wheelchair and zooms along with him. They've been friends since kindergarden after all. ;)

I'm still trying to think of a title for this first book. Maybe soon I'll ask for help ;)


Why did I want a character that was confined in some way?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

2 Links 4 U 2Day!

Okay, y'all are getting a quicky post this morning ;) One link is ultra cool and fun, the other is ultra cool and serious:

1) Pandora Radio: I listen to this while I'm writing. It's the neatest radio on the internet that I've found. When Radio Blog went belly up, I had to find somewhere else to hang my headphones. What's cool about it:

*You get to choose what sort of music you want to listen to by picking a band or a song. Pandora than matches that musical quality (harmonies, melodies, instruments, etc.) to other songs by other artists and plays them for you.
*If you absolutely hate a song, you can give it a thumbs-down and it won't play again.
*If you absolutely love a song, you can give it a thumbs-up and they'll play it again.
*If you just don't 'feel' like listening to a song (maybe it's the wrong tempo for your mood) but you don't want to send it to the abyss, you can click a 'pass' button and it'll move onto the next song.

Pandora creates "stations" for you this way. Some of my stations are: Lynard Skynard, Rolling Stones, Kid Rock, Sublime and Green Day. I'm enjoying all of them! ;)

2) This is a serious link that I think needs to be read at least once, if not twice. I'm a BIG fan of Tim Wise and really love his essays on race relations in the U.S. I think it's important that his careful research and well-sourced documentation within his essays be shared as widely as possible. So, thanks Tim Wise, for another great essay, this one on the discrepancies between flood victims:

Adding Insult to Injury:
Race, Disaster and the Calculus of Comparative Suffering
By Tim Wise

You'll be glad you read it!

Okay, my goal today is to finish chapter seven today and begin chapter eight--which will put me at the halfway mark to completing this novel. I'm still playing with a title...


Friday, August 01, 2008

R:Junior High swim team places third

For those of y'all who aren't sure what the R is in front of the title of this post, or why in the world I'm posting swim stats from 2007 for a team I have no affiliation with, I'll tell you why :)

The "R" stands for "Research" and yes, the article is necessary for my research!

Where else can I get some relatively good information on what an 8th grade swimmer might accomplish on a team other than the real-world stats of other 8th grade swimmers?

Kaylee is a darned good swimmer and I've got to do her justice! :)

Here are the stats from the article:

200 Medley Relay
3. Maggie West, Paige Herzig, Tamera Stouffer, Grace Thorstad 2:15.94 (place not available) Taylor Phillips, Ashley Hasbargen, Aleena Wilson, Monica Hasbargen 2:31.88 (place not available) Marina Fonseca, Laura Rognerud, Logan Amundsen, Hailee Polard 2:46.43 (place not available) Jacelyn Hawrylak, Hailey Fentem, Breanna Shofner, Katie West 2:57.97
200 Free Style
7th grade 1. Rachel Adams 2:37.35 4. Abby Oveson 2:43.32 9. West 2:50.43
8th grade 12. Kerry Arnold 3:07.97 13 Chelsea Lavigne 3:14.02
9th grade 4. M. Hasbargen 2:29.23
100 Intermediate
7th grade 4. L. Rognerud 1:20.54 5. Fonseca 1:22.16 6. Bruess 1:23.13
8th grade 6. Stouffer 1:18.36 9 Herzig 1:20.29
50 Free Style
7th grade 9. Taylor Nelson 34.18 10 West 34.70 14. Fentem 36.37 18 Amundsen 37.09 22 Hailee Bates 38.39
8th grade 9. Polard 34.05 10 Laura Glover 34.25 13 Sara Manka 36.80 22. Hannah Lehman 43.89 23 Taylor Ruport 46.17 24 Toni Rancourt 53.18
9th grade 4. G. Thorstad 29.32 12 Shelena Ysen 32.26 22 Zeandra Vohler 51.94
7th grade 9. A. Hasbargen 85.95
8th grade 1. A. Rognerud 143.85
9th grade 1. Phillips 140.35
5o Fly
7th grade 3. Wilson 41.31 10 Stouffer 45.25 16 Amundsen 51.55
8th grade 4. Stouffer 34.57 A. Rognerud 39.87
100 Free
7th grade 2. Morgan Bruess 1:10.08 5. Oveson 1:13.27 12 Nelson 1:20.15 23 Hawrylak 1:30.05
8th grade 12 Manka 1:23.92 19 Shoffner 1:31.05 21 Bates 1:35.16 22 Rancourt 2:06.02
9th grade 15 Lavigne 1:48.43 16. Ruport 1:53.75
300 Free
7th grade 1. Adams 4:03.33
8th grade 1. M. West 3:31.51
500 Free
4. M. Hasbargen 6:57.70
200 Free Relay
3. L. Rognerud , Herzig, Bruess, G. Thorstad 2:01.99 (place not available) Fonseca, Phillips, Ysen, Adams 2:10.57 (place not available) Nelson, Fentem, Manka, Lavigne 2:39.91 (place not available) K. West, Kerry Arnold, Oveson, Polard 2:27.10 (place not available) Vohler, Ruport, Lehman, Rancourt 3:51.53
100 Back Stroke
7th grade 2. Fonseca 1:20.20 22 Hawrylak !:54.89 23 Lehman 2:33.53
8th grade 2. M. West 1:14.54 9. Glover 1:32.73
9th grade Phillips 1:24.33
100 Breast Stroke
7th grade 5. A. Hasbargen 1:31.47 9. L.Rognerud 1:32.97 22 Fentem 1:57.22 23 Vohler 2:10.29
8th grade 2. Herzig 1:23.85
9th grade 11. Ysen 1:44.81
400 Free Style Relay
3. G. Thorstad, M. Hasbargen, Stouffer, M. West 4:26.74 (place not available) Adams, Wilson, Ysen, Bruess 5:07.16 (place not available) Polard, Nelson, Glover, Oveson 5:29.29 (place not available) Hawrylak, Amundsen, Bates, Arnold 6:14.07

(This way, if the page fails sometime in the future, I'll have what I need :) )


It's the Money Honey...

Okay, so I just found out about the Hogans (supposedly) divorcing today. *Gasp* Not a huge fan of the show, I've seen it often enough because my husband loves the program. My husband says it's all the wife's fault. He explained that she's been sleeping around with a kid her son's age, filed a false resraining order against hubby and is trying to leave him a pauper while she and her boytoy live high off Hulk's life's labors.

I have no clue if all he said is true or not, but I know dealing with my own marriage is enough! While we've been blessed to have already enjoyed 16 years (our "silverware" anniversary! lol!) of marriage, it's not the easiest relationship in the world to sustain. I'm sure he would agree :)

So where is this blog post going?

It's been my experience that we make conscious choices to believe what we do. I may look at my career as an author and compare it Nora Roberts or Stephen King and think that the world will never get to know my name. Or I could look at the millions of people who fail to complete even one book. Or I could choose to look at both and see that I have a ways to go, but I've already journey so very far.

Millions behind me...two ahead...a whole lot in between...

That's pretty much how I see it :) I can be proud of what I've done and still eager to do more. I think that's a pretty positive place, don't you?

I carry this little strip of paper that some machine stuffed into a fortune cookie half a world away, a little message that landed on the restaurant table in front of me at the perfect time in my life. It reads:

Don't be pushed by your problems, be led by your dreams.

Pretty awesome, ain't it? Sometimes great things come in small packages, hey?

Okay, that's my musings this afternoon. I'm off to complete another chapter on the first book in my Extreme Hauntings series.

Kaylee's kicking ghostly butt and solving mysteries--when she's not totally freaked!


Thursday, July 31, 2008

R: Dealing With a Problem Ghost

This is a great website if you want to learn how to handle a "problem ghost." It's a page from a larger, highly intriguing site called Hollow Hill. You can find all sorts of information there, from Ghost Hunting to real photographs of ghosts.

Now, I don't know if I believe in ghosts, but I know that I believe in the possibility of ghosts. I've met (and loved) to many sane, intelligent people who have related contact with departed loved ones and/or seen the unexplainable to call it all hogwash.

Either way, this is a wonderful site for helping me with my Extreme Haunting series and I hope that you'll find it as interesting as I did!


Thanks Mom, for the Research Tip!

My dear mother, who doesn't hear from me too often these days, has offered me a wonderful idea! Every day I research, but I often lose links to places I need for my writing. As organized as I try to be, sometimes, I'm just not careful enough. Especially when I'm not sure if it's something that will work, or if it's only the best I can find.

So, I thought I'd solve all those issues using my lovely mother's advice and share my research here. If you have any information about what I'm posting, or if you have a better, more up-to-date site to offer, I'd be extremely thrilled to know it ;)

Okay, so, in order to keep my research easily accessible, I'm going to make sure my headings are specific enough to help me find the information when I need it. That means, creating a new post right now!

Three posts in one day! Guess I'm making up for lost time, hey? :)

P.S. Visit my mom at Facebook: Audrey Yoeckel

Time Flies when you're Unpacking...

Okay, so I had all the best intentions in the world to keep my blog updated and going with a lot more information and posting and such. Ha! That didn't happen, did it ;) Sort of like when I tried to cut back on chocolate. I was fine with a mouthful of my favorite Mounds bar, but couldn't just let the second half sit there, waiting, calling my name...

And that was how it was with the boxes! I swear, if I never see cardboard again it'll be too soon. I've decided that anything that I store (camping gear, holiday decorations, etc.) is only going to be in plastic tubs. That way, if I ever have to move again (I hope not!) they'll be already packed.

Our big move is over now, though, and my wonderful in-laws have returned to Texas (which made me blubber like a little kid!) and we're starting to settle into our new life and home. I also made a friend ;) She's a neighbor and about as cool as cool can get. I'm hoping that our friendship will continue to grow and look forward to hanging out with her for the next thirty years of so ;)

I'm in the middle of working on the first novel in my YA Extreme Hauntings Series. Kaylee is so different than the other characters I've created because I had to go back to when I was fourteen, remember what that felt like, while observing the teens around me today (like my son.) The horror aspects of this book are making it exciting to write for me, luring me back to my computer day in and day out. I don't think I could have returned so easily to writing if this book wasn't so compelling. I'm hoping readers will think so too!

As to those who are concerned about me refraining from writing adult novels--never fear! I'm planning on doing one of each every year for the next six years. Since I had the big move this year, I'm revamping an older manuscript of mine for publication. Where and when that might happen is still up in the air, but I have a feeling those who have enjoyed my action, adventure and romance books up until this point won't be disappointed ;)

Okay, with all this going on, I better get back to work. Maybe now that things are settled down, I'll be able to blog more often! Lol :D


Monday, April 07, 2008

Less of 12 Takes Silent Knight to New Highs!

Hi everyone ;)

I really want to share this. It's the reason why I fell quiet again. With music as awesome as what Less of 12provided, I had to take the time to do these trailers the right way ;) It would have been a shame to waste such a terrific soundtrack!

Here's the new YouTube trailer for Silent Knight:

Aren't they just awesome?? :)


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Less of 12 Rocks Good Knight trailer!!

I met Less of 12 the other night and they were just as cool in person as their music is!
I can’t wait for everyone to see the new trailer I made for Good Knight featuring their very awesome track, "New Flesh." It totally rocks out and I’m so excited!!

Check it out on YouTube!

Or play it here, right now! :)

Let me know what you think! I’m so stoked about this ;)
You can get your copy of Good Knight here :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Good Knight is Here!

Yay! It's finally been released!! ;) After struggling to make this book a knock-your-socks-off read, I finally finished this puppy and now it's available to my waiting readers everywhere! ;)

When the past comes back to life...

When a mission in Montreal goes tragically wrong, Sara Stark vows to take down the group responsible. The Trifecta is a shadow organization headed by the one woman she wished had stayed dead... From Houston to Brazil, nothing will stop Sara, not even an unexpected side effect from the experimental drug the Trifecta injected her with. For her Knight Inc. partner and new husband, Drake Knight, the more dangerous threat could prove to be the battle raging within Sara between might and right. But with the welfare of the world at stake, they may not have the option of disarming their most lethal weapon--Sara herself.

...can anyone survive?

Check it out at :)

I think what I most enjoyed about this was Sara's addiction. Already one tough cookie, getting into her skin when she's addicted to adrenaline was a totally wild ride for me. I also got to pick one of my dream vacation spots: Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. One of these days, I'm going to see that wonderful festival up and close and personal :)

Oh! And I got to give Sara the most fabulous piece of equipment ever! This tank-cycle is totally awesome. I first read about the Hyanide in my favorite magazine, Popular Science and couldn't wait to work it into one of my stories. Who better than Sara Stark?

I'm totally excited about this and can't wait to hear back from readers what they think about my book. If you want to start the series from the beginning, you can read Stark Knight first, which is a thrill all by itself (a gunfight on a glass catwalk, Sara battling bad guys in nothing but a towel...) and then Silent Knight which has some of my favorite scenes in the series, including the escape from a terrorist's lab on a deserted island and cold-water diving to retrieve a case from a crashed plane in Lake Superior.

All of them were a great deal of fun to write, each of them offers a full and complete story of its own. I'm sooo looking forward to hearing what readers think!!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Writer, J.R. :)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Typos, Errors and Why :)

Y'all may have noticed that some of my blog posts aren't quite as clean as they should be--at least some of the more recent ones. I thought about just going in and fixing them, then I figured I would use this as a great topic for this morning's blog post ;)

I tend to blog first thing in the morning before I begin my work for the day. It's a neat way to sort of get the creative juices flowing and help my mind wake up--unfortunately, I'm still sort of half-asleep when I get here. I'm still working on the first cup of coffee and getting my daily bearings. So, the typos and errors are much more excessive than they would be later in my morning. Yet, that's not all of it.

Mostly, I wanted to show other writers that even us published authors have crappy first drafts ;)

I know that many aspiring authors look at their rough drafts and try to compare them to the works they're reading by their favorite authors. Of course, they aren't reading their favorite author's rough drafts though! And that seems to escape so many--and not just the perfectionists. I've worked with writers who just can't seem to get past the first chapter or so, always wanting to rewrite that beginning because it's not as perfect as they think it should be--either in the writing, or in the story choices. They think it needs more description (or less,) more dialogue (or less,) or it doesn't open soon enough (or too soon.)

If I were to wait until I had the perfect epiphany to say something deep and historically quotable before I blogged, I don't believe I'd ever post here (or to any of my blogs) ever again. Waiting for that sort of 'genius' to hit before one can move forward is to not understand that the 'genius' only reveals itself after reams of crappy writing ;) Like a recent commentator (Beth!) on my MySpace blog said recently--you have to mine for the gems :)

So, having said all that, I do realize the importance of having a polished and well written (or at least error free) thought when sharing with the public in any written form. While I may not be altering my previous posts, I will be making the effort to edit and make the following ones much easier for human consumption :)

If I didn't take the time to edit, what sort of writer would I be? :) Of course, all of this would be easier if I could just get my fabulous editor (Shout Out to Kat!) to follow me around and fix my messes--but unfortunately, I think she's a bit busy with full-length novels ;)

Let me know what you think. How important is editing for blogs, emails, etc.?


Monday, February 11, 2008

What I find hard about Writing

All sorts of problems present themselves to us authors over the course of a book. Research, knowing the craft, time management, and getting from page one to the very end--at least three times before it's worthy of sharing with anyone else.

For me, the hardest part seems to be the editing. No, I'm not talking about that first polish--I actually enjoy that step. I love taking my raw and rough story and playing with the word choices, the character's inner thoughts, inserting humor or angst where necessary and really just breathing life into the characters and plot. I'm talking about reading it three, maybe four times in a row looking for typos and/or grammar issues. That's the part where I get bleary eyed ;) I think this is why I strive so very hard to perfect as much as humanly possible on that first draft following the rough draft. I know that my last books have taken less time for my editor and I to get through than the earlier books--which is a blessing becuase by the time the book is ready to go to print, I'm almost sick of it.

Of course, there are those moments that I look forward to reading again (no matter how many times I've gone through them before) so that takes the sting out just a little.

For you non-writers who read my blog, imagine it this way:

You find you're favorite restaurant. You love one particular dish on the meal. You dine there once a week to begin with. Then, by the end of the first month, you're forced to eat that fabulous meal--for every single meal for an entire week.

Even though it's your favorite dish, by the end of that week, you might be ready to switch it up some and try a few other meals in there. It doesn't mean you don't like your "most favoritist meal" ever--it just means you need variety.

That's what happens to me. By the time the editing is done and over with, I'm sooooo ready to move on to the next project and start devoting all my time to that book.

Right now, since the Knight Inc. series has been completed, I'm preparing to write my YA series "Extreme Hauntings: The Kaylee Adventure Series" (working title) and dust off my infamous werewolf novel and see if I can't garner some more attention for it after I'm done with the rewrite.

Let me know what you find particularly difficult about writing, or what gripes you about reading :)


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Query Letter Template

Hi everyone! ;)

Query letters are notoriously difficult to write if you've never done one before. This is a simple template that I've used with great success. (The first query I ever wrote garnered requests for partials and fulls 80% of the time. Very exciting back when I was still an aspiring author.)

Here's the template:

1) Greeting: Always include the *real* name of the person you're targeting. No "dear editor" or "to whom it may concern." Call and get the name of the person if you can't find it or are unsure if that person is still with the agency or publisher you're querying.

2) Introductory paragraph: Include the title of your book, the word count, the genre and the possible market. "My 100,000 word novel "Bringing Sexy Back" will appeal to pop culture fans who enjoy reading about Paris Hilton in the tabloids."

3) Summary paragraph: This should be one paragraph, very much like a back cover blurb or the summary you would find on a jacket flap. Write as if you were creating an advertising slogan--punchy prose and exciting verbiage. Be sure it's clear and compelling.

4) Personal paragraph: Describe yourself and the reason you're the best author to write this book. Include any noteworthy writing credentials you have. (Sharing that you've been published by isn't noteworthy--but having a short story in an anthology or magazine is.) Any awards you've won, any past working experience you've had related to the book, these can showcase what you bring to the book to make it all the more appealing. (For instance, "Aside from three years working with the paparazzi, I am the moderator of the largest fan blog for Britney Spears and for three years, have guest blogged at many related sites, including the fan blogs of Lindsey Lohan and Nicole Ritchie.")

5)Closing paragraph: Mention what you have included with the query--always making sure it suits their guidelines. For instance, if they say it's acceptable to send the first three chapters straight away, then include that. Otherwise, simply state: "The full manuscript "Bringing Sexy Back" is complete and available on request. I've included an SASE for your convience and look forward to your response. Thank you for your consideration."

When you've gotten this all down, edited, read alound, corrected, and as perfect as humanly possible, sign your name and begin submitting! ;)

If you decide to use this template, share your query here in the comments and let us know how it went for you ;)


Monday, February 04, 2008

Shamed into Blogging Again ;)

I could give a litany of excuses and reasons why I have neglected my blog for so long--all of them would be familiar to any number of my readers--but alas, none would truly be good enough.

Illness, a son with a broken knee, missed deadlines, an extremely difficult project, the holidays, etc. You name it, it's probably on the list.

But, while attending Love is Murder this weekend in Chicago, I joined a panel about internet marketing. Of course, the first (and only) direct question I was asked turned out to be: "How often do you blog?"

This was supposed to be my shining moment where I get to set a wonderful example and explain how I blog every other day, keep my information up to date, and have built a following.


Needless to say, I had to respond with, "I'm probably not the best person to answer that question..." Which of course made me look like a dufus.

So, in the end, I had to ask myself--what advice would I give someone in my same predicament?

It's never too late to start blogging--again, in my case ;)

I'm back--and I'm determined to never again have to struggle with that question again :)

I've also got some wonderful plans to make it impossible for me to leave my blog(s) alone for any length of time whatsoever. It's time that I started giving back to the literary community that has offered me so much over the course of the last eight years. I'll be offering contests, free critiques, and reader bonanza's you won't want to miss!!

It's good to be home again!