Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Talent Tuesday: John Sandford

Welcome to Talent Tuesday!

One of my favorite "good reads" author is John Sandford. His book, Wicked Prey, is his latest release in the "Prey" series and came out on May 12th this year. As much as I would love to say that I've read the near twenty books in the Prey series, my to-be-read pile is stacked so high I bought it a shelf ;) However, I have read many of them and I recommend the series to everyone.

This is an excerpt from the opening of Wicked Prey:

Randy Whitcomb was a human stinkpot, a red-haired cripple with a permanent cloud over his head; a gap-toothed, pock-faced, paraplegic crank freak, six weeks out of the Lino Lakes medium-security prison. He hurtled past the luggage carousels at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, pumping the wheels of his cheap non-motorized state-bought wheelchair, his coarse red hair a wild halo around his head.

"Get out of the way, you little motherfucker," he snarled at a blond child of three or four years. He zipped past the gawking mother and tired travelers and nearly across the elegant cordovan shoe-tips of a tall bearded man. "Out of the way, fuckhead," and he was through the door, the anger streaming behind him like coal smoke from a power plant.

• • •

The bearded man with the elegant cordovan shoes, which came from a shop in Jermyn Street in London, leaned close to his companion, a dark-haired woman who wore blue jeans and a black blouse, running shoes and cheap oversized sunglasses with unfashionable plastic rims. He said, quietly, in a cool Alabama accent, "If we see yon bugger again, remind me to crack his skinny handicapped neck."

The woman smiled and said, "Yon bugger? You were in England way too long."

Brutus Cohn, traveling under the passport name of John Lamb, tracked the wheelchair down the sidewalk. There was no humor in his cold blue eyes. "Aye, I was that," he said. "But now I'm back."

• • •

Cohn and the woman, who called herself Rosie Cruz, walked underground to the short-term parking structure, trailing Cohn's single piece of wheeled luggage. As they went out the door, the heat hit them like a hand in the face. Not as bad as Alabama heat, but dense, and sticky, smelling of burned transmission fluid, spoiled fruit and bubble gum. Cruz pushed the trunk button on the remote key and the taillights blinked on a beige Toyota Camry.

"Ugly car," he said, as he lifted the suitcase into the trunk. Cohn disliked ugly cars, ugly clothes, ugly houses.

"The best-selling car in America, in the least attention-getting color," Cruz said. She was a good-looking woman of no particularly identifiable age, who'd taken care to make herself mousy. She wore no makeup, had done nothing with her hair.

Cohn had once seen her in Dallas, where women dressed up, and she'd astonished him with her authentic Texas vibe: moderately big hair, modestly big lipstick, two-inch heels, stockings with seams down the back; her twice-great-grand-uncle might have died at the Alamo. Cruz, when working, dressed for invisibility. She fit in Dallas, she fit in Minnesota, she fit wherever they worked – she was wallpaper, she was background. She took the driver's side, and he sat on the passenger side, fiddling with the seat controls to push it all the way back. At six-foot-six, he needed the leg room.

"Give me your passport and documents," Cruz said, when the air conditioning was going.

He took a wallet out of his breast pocket and handed it over. Inside were a hundred pounds, fifty euros, fifty dollars, an American passport, a New York state driver's license, two credit cards, a building security card with a magnetic strip, and a variety of wallet-detritus.

The whole lot, except for the passport and currency, had been taken from the home of the real John Lamb by his building superintendent, who was a crook. Since the credit cards would never be used, no one would be the wiser. The passport had been more complicated, but not too – a stand-in had applied by mail, submitting a photograph of Cohn, and when it came to Lamb's apartment, it had been stolen from the mailbox. As long as the real Lamb didn't apply for another one, they were good.

Cruz took out the currency and handed it back to Cohn, tucked the wallet under the car seat and handed over another one, thick with cash. "William Joseph Wakefield – Billy Joe. Everything's real, except the picture on the driver's license. Don't use the credit cards unless it's an emergency."

"Billy Joe." Cohn thumbed through the cash. "Two thousand dollars. Three nights at a decent hotel."

"We're not staying at a decent hotel," Cruz said. She reached into the back seat, picked up a baseball cap with a Minnesota Twins logo, and said, "Put this on and pull it down over your eyes."

He did, and with his careful British suit, it made him look a bit foolish. She wouldn't have given it to him without a reason, so he put it on, and asked, "Where're we set up?"

She backed carefully out of the parking space and turned for the exit. "At the HomTel in Hudson, Wisconsin, just across the state line from here. Thirty miles. Two hundred and twenty dollars a night, for two rooms for you, adjoining, which is twice as much as they're worth, but with the convention in town, you get what you can. I'm upstairs and on the other side of the motel."

"Where're the boys?"

"Jesse's across the street at the Windmill, Tate is at the Cross Motel, Jack is at a mom-and-pop called Wakefield Inn, all in Hudson. All within easy walking distance from the HomTel." Multiple nearby rooms in different hotels made it easier to get together, and also easier to find an emergency hideout if the cops made one or another of them. They could be off the street in minutes, in a motel where they'd never been seen by the management.

Standard operating procedure, worked out and talked-over in prisons across the country. Cohn nodded and said, "Okay."

• • •


And we haven't even gotten to the good part yet! :) Lucas Davenport is the real sustaining character in the series. He reminds me of a cross between the deceptive down-home intelligence of James Garner in The Rockford Files, the elegance and wit of Dirk Pitt from Cussler's novels, and the wearily amused, gung-ho fortitude of Bruce Willis's character John McClane from Die Hard. In other words, Lucas Davenport is a character so well-rounded and three-dimensional, you believe he's real while reading the book.

When we read the works of authors like Sandford, there is a sense of confidence in the writing that always appeals to me. This is an author I can trust. This is an author who has something to tell me. This is a story I need to discover. Those are the thoughts that I have when I read a truly accomplished writer. Take a moment to visit his website and see all the other books and articles he has available: John Sandford.com

I hope you enjoyed this Talent Tuesday and if you get a chance to read his books or are already a fan, please let us know in the comments!


Monday, June 29, 2009

The Week Ahead!

Hey everyone ;)

Here's what we got coming up this week:

Talent Tuesday:

I was in touch with John Sandford's son and he gave me permission to share some of his father's new book Wicked Prey here for Talent Tuesday. I think it's going to be fun to look at the work of a prolific author with a lengthy career.

Writing Wednesday:

Suggestions? I was thinking of going with the storyteller theme, but not sure if y'all want to dig into some of the mechanics of writing. I strive to offer info that's hard to find in books and can only come from experience, but it's difficult to know what issues are pressing for you. Let me know in the comments ;)

Thrilling Thursday:

Myths, Freakshows and Urban Legends—Why? What is our fascination with anything abnormal? Some of it twisted, some of it romantic, but all throughout the history of mankind, we have always created for ourselves some kind of mythology to fear or yearn for.

Friday Fun:

Instead of the normal contest, where you have to do something in order to win, I'm going to make this one the easiest contest ever. Just follow my blog (if you already are, you're entered too!) Three winners will be drawn from those that signed up to follow and will get to choose a really fun gift from me! ;) So tell your friends and give them a chance to win too! :)

Saturday Serial: Episode #3

I am sooo looking forward to posting this one! Bella Vida has really done an awesome job with this one. I can't wait to see what everyone thinks! Click to read:

Episode#1-Fairy Flight North
Episode#2-The Rolling Trolls

See you on the blog!


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Serial: #2 The Rolling Trolls

Episode #2: The Rolling Trolls
By Bella Vida and J.R. Turner

When last we left Julie, she had opened a Northern portal to the 5th Direction for the fairies. As the portal closed, the icy wind began forcing her across…

My face grew numb and I tasted ice in my mouth. Arms shaking, weakening, I wanted to cry but the tears froze before they fell. My feet lifted off the ground.

What felt like a tree branch wrapped around my waist and yanked me hard. My ears rang with a loud pop as my head pulled free and the portal snapped shut. On my back, on the ground, my frozen hair thawed and blue water stained my shirt.

A rotten stench came from behind my line of sight. I tilted my head and even upside down, he was the grossest creature that ever lived.

Tattered as flags in a storm, a pair of boots oozed yellow goo from every hole. Tools, a pot and an animal horn hung from a belt. Above a gray shirt that might have once been white, a long nose stuck out further than his beach-ball belly.

This is my hero?

Ugh. Grandma taught me better than to be rude though. “Uh, thanks, I think? Who are you? Or what are you?”

“I Kahn. I troll. Hungry. I hungry. Hungry!” He burped and his orange hair wavered in a cloud that smelled like rotten garbage.

Hair dripped cold water down the back of my arms as I sat up. Something rustled in the brush and a raccoon peeked out between the leaves, sniffing the air.

In a swoop more graceful than a ballerina, Kahn captured, then shoved the raccoon into his mouth and swallowed it whole.

I leapt to my feet. “Why did you do that? That’s so gross! And…and mean!”

“I hungry.” He belched and green gas floated in the air between us. His eyes, shiny and beady in the deep folds of his warty face fastened on me, like he wondered if I would fit into his mouth.

“That raccoon didn’t do anything to you!” I yelled, more angry than scared. I didn’t want all this crazy stuff and turned to hurry back to the house. I just wanted Grandma back.

He grabbed my wrist and said again, “I hungry.”

“You just ate, you nasty thing!” I twisted out of his grip.

His belch this time came with a strange sound, like an angry, hoarse cough. I stopped as the troll heaved, bending forward, a battered bag shifting on the hump on his back. His chin slammed the ground with a crack. The raccoon forced his way out with an angry chitter. Covered in slime, it ran into the woods. I didn’t blame him and started home, too.

Kahn followed me. “Take me to hills now. Mercy said you know.”

“Go away. I don’t know what you mean.” Arms crossed, I stomped over weeds. I should never have read Grandma’s private pages. Tears pricked my eyes, the way they did all the time now. One minute I couldn’t cry if I wanted, then bam! When I least expected, they came back for no good reason.

He didn’t listen.

I turned, hands on hips and yelled, “Go away, now!”

His furry brows puckered. “Mercy said you know. I hungry!”

“Who is Mercy?”

“Mercy rules Caveworld.”

Okay, that totally didn’t help. An idea popped into my head and I pointed in a random direction away from the house. “That’s the way, then.”

He spun and walked away, pot thunking against the horn on his belt. I hid my smile as I crossed the lawn. A raccoon, fur sticking out like he’d been scared stiff, waited for me on the back porch. I stopped. Everyone knows rabies can make even a nice animal go nuts.

He looked up at me. “You did a bad thing.”

“You talk?” Great, just what I needed, a talking raccoon.

“It’s you who can talk now.” He looked down his nose at me.

“Do I sound like a raccoon?” No, I sounded like me, as always. Maybe not to him, but at this point I didn’t much care. My tummy growled for the sandwich Mom had made for my lunch. “Whatever.”

The screen door slammed loudly behind me and I went straight for the fridge. My dad came into the kitchen and smiled. “Glad to see you eat, honey. Your mom needs some stuff from the store and I have to pick up a few things in town. You want to come?”

“Nah.” I closed the fridge and took the bologna sandwich out of its plastic bag. “Just gonna hang out here.”

“Okay,” he said and kissed my forehead. “See you in a few hours then.”

I waved and ate my sandwich, trying really hard not to think of Kahn the Troll gobbling up the raccoon, and even worse, puking it back up. When I finished, all I wanted to do was box up the letters and put them back.

Wish you were here, Grandma, I need you so much.

Upstairs, I ignored the fairy mess, repacked the box, and on my way out, fell over my funeral shoes. The box clattered loudly across the hardwood floor. The clack continued even after it stopped moving. But it wasn’t upstairs, it was downstairs now.

Oh, no!

I leapt up and hurried to the kitchen where the noise came from. I swung the door open and propelled a rolling container of oatmeal across the tiles. A bag of flour exploded in a cloud of white against the wall by my head. Orange-haired trolls were everywhere.

Mom’s going to kill me!

Gooey egg yolk dripped from the ceiling. Cupboards hung open, their contents all over the floor and counters. Ripped boxes, bags and containers lay in piles next to every troll.

I grabbed the broom. “Get out! Get out!”

Swinging wildly, I flipped two trolls off the table and went after the ones on the counter. I slipped in a puddle of corn oil made by the troll guzzling down a big bottle of Crisco.

My crazy dance to stay on my feet failed and I fell with a thud on my tailbone. “Ow!”

They laughed until it became a chant as they gathered around me. Beady eyes glittered over huge noses and thick flapping lips.

“We hungry, go East
want Rolling Hills.
We eat huge feast,
we gets our fills

We hungry, go East,
want Rolling Hills.”

“Okay!” I shouted. “Stop!”

They backed off as I stood up, towering over them at five feet. I won’t grow much bigger either, as Grandma stood only five-foot-one.

Kahn came forward. “Food now! You tasty—we roast you!” The other’s nod and Kahn starts them on a new chant, stomping in unison. “Food! Food! Food!”

In a flash of dark fur and angry barking, the raccoon raced in, yanked the horn off Kahn’s belt, and rushed through the pack into the living room. Cornered, he backed toward the closed front door as the trolls roared and pounded for him.

He saved me. I couldn’t watch him get gobbled up again. I pushed to the front and got to the door first. We escaped together onto the front porch and I slammed the door closed. We ran across the lawn and into the trees.

“Stupid girl,” the raccoon said as we stopped. “I warned you. I said you did a bad thing.”

“How was I supposed to know? I never met a raccoon who talked.”

“That’s because you never met one who escaped a troll before. Happens all the time. Many of us speak two languages, some even more.”

“What two languages?”

He rolled his eyes. “Yours and Kisawi, the language of Racoons. Kisawi spoken through the universes more than human talk.”

“There’s more than one universe?”


“Jeez, sorry!” I scowled. “Why is all this happening? I came every summer and nothing like this ever happened.”

“Of course not. The queen never allowed such things and you had to go and open the 5th direction.”

“It’s not my fault!”

“Fault doesn’t matter. Your words are now your bond.”


“And you choose that one.” He put a black paw over his face and shook his head. “Great, we’re all doomed. Huh isn’t gonna cut it.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You have to be the most poorly trained…Never mind. Your words have power.” He glanced behind me. “We don’t have much time. You must mean what you say and say what you mean. Without the messages, you’ll be lost.”

“Messages?” I hated how dumb I sounded. “Grandma’s poems?”

His look made me feel two inches tall. “Do you even know where they are?”

“They’re in my room.” The ground vibrated from the trolls marching our way.

“I’ll distract them.” He held up the horn. “Meet you on the back porch.”


He ran fast, a flashing shadow on Grandma’s perfect lawn. The trolls saw the horn and changed direction.

I didn’t wait. I ran inside and dashed up the stairs. There wasn’t time to read all the letters. I had to take the box with me. My blue messenger bag hung on my chair. I slid it on and put the box inside. The pack slapped my hip as I ran to the porch. The trolls closed in and we raced to the woods.

“Take the horn.” He panted beside me. I did, thinking he needed the free paw to run faster, but he said, “They’ll follow you to the hills.”

“Where?” We slowed as the underbrush grew thick.

“Easterly Rolling Hills. East—hills—you know where. It’s Easter every day there.”

I do, but my heart sank. After the funeral I vowed never to return. The only hills to the east are the ones at the cemetery. We buried grandma on top of one.

The raccoon said, “You know what to do.” He broke away, leaving me alone. I wanted to cry. The trolls didn’t see I had the horn and continued after the raccoon. I couldn’t let them eat him again and I blew into the narrow end.

They halted at the nasal hooting noise, lined up and marched toward me. At the far end of the cemetery, a creek, high from the rains, burbled beneath a foot bridge built eons ago. We crossed and trudged up the steep incline. Hundreds of headstones dotted the hills in every direction.

The trolls stood at attention, their fuzzy orange hair bright in the afternoon sun. Orange. The poem wrapped with orange ribbon! I carefully dug out the right message.

In my best voice I read,

“When hunger strikes the beast,
rolling hills bring the feast,
and a dead sea will be found,
by the girl child blood-bound,
to release them into the East.”

The world wavered, the air thick, foggy. I squinted, the cemetery turned into hills that bobbed up and down like an ocean. The lawn turned to Swiss cheese, holes appearing where the headstones were.

The trolls rushed past me, grunting, belching and farting as they burst through the mist. Rabbits hopped from hole to hole. They had the ears, head and body of a normal bunny, but I’d never seen ones with long rat-like tails and talons instead of paws.

The trolls swallowed them whole, big bellies expanding after every one. There were so many, they could have fed for years and not run out.

The hill I stood on dipped sharply, throwing me backward and I fell like a boat capsized in high water. My heart pounded loud with every teeth-jarring thud.

I grabbed grass to stop my fall, but it came out in fistfuls. A ledge above the steep shoreline threw me airborne. The swiftly moving creek sparkled in the sun. I plummeted toward the water, holding my breath as I went under.

I sank like a rock and shoved off the bottom, kicking for the top. Instead of going up, I went sideways. The strong undercurrent trapped me in a whirlwind of bubbles and I lost which way was up. Afraid to scream and lose my air, I twisted, frantic to surface.

Tune in next week for the exciting continuation of Letters to the 5th Direction!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Week Wrap-Up

Due to my workload I have been unable to post to the blog much this week, but I figured I'd give a little bit for each day that I missed in one quick post to get caught up ;)

Writing Wednesday:

Quick tip—look at the first few words of your sentences. Are they necessary? Could they be strengthened? Now look at the last few words of your sentences and ask yourself if the most exciting information available at that moment is placed there to hook the reader into the next paragraph.

Once you've completed your novel, go back and make sure that each scene and chapter ends with a question—not in the literal sense as actually having a sentence that ends in a question mark—but an unknown that will make the reader eager to keep going with the story.

You don't have to wait until your done with your book though—I like to end a writing day at the end of a scene/chapter so when I return to my writing, I get to craft the answer at the beginning of the following scene/chapter.

Thrilling Thursday:

Dexter on Showtime

My father said this was a great series and I should check it out. We rented the first season and have been reluctant to go to bed at a decent hour because we're totally captivated. For those of you who don't know, Dexter is a serial killer.

Raised by a cop who recognized in him the potential to murder without remorse, Dexter was trained by his foster father to blend in by mimicking feelings he didn't feel, cover his tracks for a clean crime scene, and to murder only those who deserved murdering—mostly murderers released by the overcrowded prison system.

Dexter is a blood-spatter expert working forensics. His sister is a cop, following in her father's footsteps, who has always felt ostracized by her father's lack of attention—not understanding the secret training he needed to do with Dexter.

Anyway, great series if you like dark humor and blood ;)

What about you? Got a series you're hooked on because you rented the first season (or saw it straight up?)

Friday Fun:

Since there were no entries in last week's contest, instead of offering a free book thong for leaving a comment, I'm going to challenge everyone to leave me a fun joke to spread some much-needed joy! ;)

The rules are:

The joke can't be R-rated, keep it PG17 and below or I'll have to delete it because there are teens who read my blog and I don’t want emails from angry parents!

As we did with the quotes, put each joke into a separate comment and your name will be entered that many times.

The prize:
A free writing consultation for you, or a friend, if you aren't a writer but know one. This is more than a line-by-line, it will be an in depth review about your strengths, weaknesses, and potential marketability of your writing.

So go ahead, make me laugh! :D

And don't forget, we find out what happens to poor Julie tomorrow! I think you'll enjoy this next episode immensely. I know I have!;)


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Talent Tuesday: Writer's Who Can't Write?

For Talent Tuesday, I thought we’d take a different tack here, as we’ve been discussing great storytelling.

Most of the authors I’ve featured here I love primarily because they are both awesome writers and storytellers—but I do have a ton of favorites that aren’t considered writing geniuses, yet are known for telling a really great story.

Here are a few of my favorite, talented storytellers:

V.C. Andrews: Yes, I know she passed away, but breathing is not a requirement for this list. She definitely kept me spellbound, even if she wasn’t considered the greatest writer on the planet.

John Saul: Love, love his stories. I have so many of his books, I wonder if you can buy stock in an author? That would be something hey?

James Patterson: Okay, this probably a borderline choice, but he gets enough flack I think it’s fair to include him in this list of not-so-acclaimed writing, but great storytelling. His Maximum Ride series is awesome and I’ve enjoyed many of his books over the years.

What about you? Do you have a favorite talented storyteller that doesn’t get much credit for being a great writer? Who are some of your favorite authors?


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Serial: #1 Fairy Flight North

Episode #1: Fairy Flight North
By Bella Vida and J.R. Turner

The thick stench of decaying paper, fabric and paint made my nose run. The hot attic was stuffed with the supplies Grandma used to paint, sew and take pictures. I wanted it all, including every word of her poetry. She taught me so much, how could I get rid of her things just because Mom and Dad were selling her house?

They are so uncool.

I would take what was important to Grandma, no matter what they said. The dirt didn’t bother me, just as long as I didn’t run into any gross bugs or mice. I held my breath and shoved a big box of old curtains aside.

Slanted rays of sunlight, filled with floating motes, lit tarnished brass like gold in an Egyptian tomb and my heart flipped. I set aside a plant stand, a tattered quilt and a basket to reach an old trunk.

A special place for special things.

My long, curly hair, just like Grandma’s, fell forward as I bent. Mom wanted me to cut it, but I refused, though I had second thoughts when it caught on the corner of the chest. A good tug freed my hair, but also spooked something that scurried away. I screeched, hopping onto a busted up wicker chair. The things I’d piled swayed, but remained freakishly balanced like acrobats on a high wire.

I listened, but whatever made that noise was gone now. Heart beat returning to normal, I carefully returned to the trunk. The lid opened with a creak. Grandma’s best embroidery lay in neat rows across the top. Everything has its place. I could practically hear her. In a white box I found colorful jewelry. Definitely a keeper. I clumsily tried to close the lid and an earring fell out, thunking on something hard.

I hunted it down and found a reddish, carved wood box. The familiar pattern made me frown. Where had I seen it before? Just my luck, the box was locked. Something important had to be inside. I needed something small to work it open, like when I lost the key to my diary. In the white box, a glitzy dragonfly pin caught my eye.

Carefully I slid the pointed end of the pin into the keyhole and worked it up and down until it opened.

Yes! I rule!

“Julie, lunch is ready! Come eat!” Mom hollered from the stairs.

Ugh. Do all parents have bad timing, or just mine? “No thanks,” I yelled. “I’m not hungry.”

I took both boxes to the room I had stayed in every summer for as long as I remembered. We should live here. It’s a better house, even if it is smaller. I chose the floor between my bed and the window in case my nosy mom barged in. If she didn’t knock, I’d have a chance to hide my finds.

The fancy wooden box held pages covered in Grandma’s handwriting, each neatly bundled with a different colored ribbon. I started with green, my favorite, and untied the neat bow. The letter wasn’t a letter—but a poem. I read it out loud, the way Grandma and I did on long summer evenings when the sun took for ever to set.

“Once departed words are found
They will hear and come from afar,
Heading to the land northbound,
Guided by my love’s ringing star.”

An insect tickled the back of my arm and I squeaked. Gross! Get it off!

I brushed my arm and flung something with wings behind the box. I lifted a torn sneaker to kill it for good.

Dumb, gross ugly bugs!

Before the shoe pulverized the creepy thing, it flew up and landed on my nose. Cross-eyed, I stared at the doubled image of what was most definitely not a bug.

Bright green eyes in a pale slender face glared at me. Her tiny hands fisted on her hips, she blew short brown hair off her forehead. A dress made of pink petals stopped at her knees. More astonishing, she had double dragonfly wings.

“Are you for real?” I croaked and closed one eye to bring her into focus.

“Of course I’m real. That’s a silly question. You didn’t have to hit me. Not my fault you can’t take a joke.”

“Sorry, you scared me.” I might have imagined it, but I thought she grew bigger as I peered through one eye at her. “Could you get off my nose now?”

She flew to the dresser and sat on the back of my hairbrush, admiring herself in the mirror. “I’m Krista—spelled K-I…I mean, K-R-I-S-T-A, Krista.”

“That’s pretty. I’m Julie,” I said lamely. Now her backside barely fit on my hairbrush. “Are you getting bigger?”

Mom opened the door and my heart leapt into my throat. “Who are you talking to?”

“N-n-no one,” I stammered like an idiot, Krista and I both frozen. “Just—just,” my gaze fell on the green ribbon, “reading Grandma’s poems.”

“Well, if you get hungry, there’s a sandwich in the fridge.” She glanced at the fairy on my dresser and said, “If you bring Grandma’s figurines down, make sure you don’t break them, okay?”

I gulped. “Okay.”

She left and I flopped on my bed, exhaling in relief. “That was super close.”

A buzzing sound grew beneath me and I sat up in alarm. I rolled flat on my belly to look under the bed.

Oh no!

Dozens and dozens of fairies fluttered in a thick cloud. I jerked aside as they whooshed out and all around the room.

Krista, nearly three times their size, barely noticed. She giggled, turning this way and that to show her best angles. If mom came in now, she’d run for the bug spray and try to kill the swarm in my room.

“Uh, hello?” I tried, not sure what to say. Immediately every little fairy expanded in size. They were dressed in some kind of plant stuff that grew with them. The buzz got louder, too.



“How are ya?”

They got into everything—including the trashcan full of tissues from after the funeral. I didn’t want to think about that. “What are you doing here?”

They grew again, even Krista. Every time I spoke they got bigger. What would happen if I sang the Never-Ending song? Giant fairies that tickled girls to death?

“Hey, silly.” Krista barely spared her a glance. “Nona said you’d take us to the door.”

“You talked to my grandma?” I hopped off the bed as she reached a foot high, the rest of the fairies about half that. My room was too small for us now, but I had to know. “When did you talk to her?”

She grew another inch and finally faced me. “Nona said tell Julie,

Lay your head to sleep,
the answers aren’t that deep.
Seek in threads,
the means to your ends.

So now take us there, for Mercy's sake.”

“Huh?” She grew a mere fraction, but I covered my mouth anyway. Fairies pulled stuffing from pillows and threw it in the air, laughing. My black funeral shoes came alive, a fairy in each holding the laces like reins as they galloped across the floor.

Think, Julie, think!

I replayed the message in my head. What did it mean? Then it clicked. A pillow—with threads. Grandma’s embroidery!

Careful not to let them out, I slipped from my room and ran back up the stairs to the attic. At the trunk, I dug deep inside.


I pulled the pillow free. The stitched scene showed a girl with long curly hair in an old-fashioned nightgown. She held a golden bell in front of a large tree I knew well. Looking closer, the lights in the woods were really little fairies flying ahead of the bell-ringer.

Oh, please let there be a bell in here!

Beneath the pillow, nestled in a swatch of purple velvet, lay a candlestick bell. I rolled the bell in the velvet to hide any noise from my parents and ran back to my room.

Total chaos. For little creatures, they sure did a lot of damage in a short time! But now came the hard part. How to get them to follow without speaking? And how to get them out of the house without Mom or Dad seeing them?

The back stairs.

I was forbidden to use them. Narrow risers, a steep grade—Mom called it a neck-breaker. I had no choice. Maybe seeing the fairies would make them forget I had broken the rules.

The bell must be used like that piper guy who led all the rats out of town. The velvet polished the bell as I removed the cloth. The fairies rushed to me, sitting on my head, shoulders, flying around my face and near my ears.

“Ooo, pretty!” Krista said, gaze on the gold gleam.

“Pretty,” echoed all around me.

I opened the door and slipped into the hall. They followed and for once, Mom didn’t come jumping out of the shadows to catch me doing something I wasn’t supposed to. I managed to make it halfway down the back stairs before I slipped. The bell jingled once as I caught myself. The fairies dipped and covered their ears as they cried in pain.

“Oh, sorry,” I whispered, surprised at their reaction—and at my voice they grew again. This fairy herding thing was tricky!

“Hurts, hurts,” Krista told me. “Fairy ears are for secrets, not the rings of those things.”

I nodded, not daring a word.

Outside the distracted fairies zipped in every direction to investigate the lilacs and rose bushes.

“Pretty,” they said. “Pretty. Pretty.”

Desperate to get to the tree, the best one for climbing in the whole world, I rang the bell. Despite their pain, they followed once Krista led the way.

Gnarled branches spread from a massive, twisted trunk. I stared dumbly at the huge leaves.

“You gotta say the words.” Krista urged. At my confused look, she said, “The ones Nona taught you.”

Grandma had taught me a lot of words.

Looking really annoyed, she asked, “The ones about the North?”

I did know, I realized. But wouldn’t saying them out loud make all the fairies grow? I decided I didn’t have much of a choice and took a deep breath. “In days of old, when winds blew cold, North of North opened wide, where children did hide, from the cunning and the bold.”

A great tearing, roaring sound came from the base of the tree and I took a step back. The trunk untwisted, the branches turning overhead and raining leaves on us. Cold, brittle wind escaped from a narrow hole spreading wide at its center.

I squinted against the bright light and smelled snow as giggling and laughing fairies dove inside. Some flipped, others cannon-balled through, but all went. Krista waved, the last to enter.

My sigh barely ended when the wind changed. Instead of in my face, it pushed me from behind. Gooseflesh rose over my arms. The bark crackled as the tree started to re-twist back toward normal.

The wind strengthened and in a panic, I dug in my heels. Sucked toward the opening, my scream was lost in the gale. My hair whipped into the hole first and the curly ends stiffened with frost. I dropped the bell and braced my hands on either side of the portal.

Sharp, frozen air hurt my lungs. My head forced inside, wind whistled into my ears, making them ache. I caught a glimpse of the world beyond. The snowy landscape sparkled like diamond dust. Fairies made snow angels everywhere.

My face grew numb and I tasted ice in my mouth. Arms shaking, weakening, I wanted to cry but the tears froze before they fell. My feet lifted off the ground.

Tune in next week for the exciting continuation of Letters to the 5th Direction!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fun Friday Quickie

Hey everyone!

I’m heading out of town today and won’t be back until much later. So, for today’s contest we’re going to have a little fun ;)

Recommend one new person you know to come leave a comment on my blog today. Maybe it’s an aspiring author, an avid reader, a teen who loves horror, a friend who loves romantic suspense, or someone who just likes to read new blogs :) Or, if you're a lurker who has never posted before, say hello in the comments:)

Every newbie that leaves a comment today will be sent a free book thong of their choice. Check these out as just a sampling of the many colors and styles available:

So you or a your friend gets a free gift and maybe some helpful information and fun entertainment!

Don’t forget, either that tomorrow we launch our Saturday Serial—featuring the great imagination of Bella Vida and my first-ever illustrations for a fun fantasy story.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thrillng Thursday: The Thrill of Victory

I’m working on a 10K Day today over at Milli Thornton’s blog: http://millithornton.blogspot.com/2009/06/10k-day-live-while-its-happening.html so I’m counting this as part of my 10K ;) You can join in and count your morning blog too, if you’d like!

Yesterday I wrote about how we should stop writing like writers and start writing like storytellers. In the comments section, I sort of got off on a tangent about how to do that—mentioning that great storytelling isn’t about having an idea, it’s about having something to say.

If you read the greats, you’ll notice they all strike a chord within us. That’s because they tap into what humanity is passionate about: suffering, injustice, pain, theology, triumph, struggle, love…

For me, the thrill is seeing the underdog triumph, or the heroism of those considered weak, or justice found and villainy obliterated (usually with a very nice explosion of some sort ;))

Perhaps this is why I love high action—because it has so much of those elements included—and why dramas, like The Bridges of Madison County—don’t really appeal to me as much. Julie Garwood is one of my top romance authors because her books are almost always filled with some sort of adventurous challenge for our intrepid heroines.

What about you? What “gets you where you live” and what books or movies or stories thrill you to no end?

P.S. The Saturday Serial is starting to shape up into a really fabulous story!! Go Bella Vida!! :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stop Trying to Write Like a Writer

Here’s a good piece of advice I wish I would have gotten sooner in my career:

Stop trying to write like a writer.

I know it sounds silly, and many of you are probably scratching your head, but it’s the biggest hurdle many new writers have to overcome.

When you write like a writer, what you’re doing is focusing on the words, being crafty with the prose and thinking about vocabulary. You worry about word choice, grammar, punctuation, all those writerly type things most often expanded on in critique groups and writing forums across the cyberverse.

Of course knowing the basics is important. But if you want to be a fiction author, then you need to stop writing like a writer.

How should you write then?

If you want to write fiction, you need to write like a storyteller.

Now y’all are nodding your heads and going, “Ahhh, okay—I see where she’s going.” (I’m psychic, doncha know ;) )

If there’s anything that writing ten novels, dozens of short stories, essays and articles, does for a person, it’s discovering how to think like a storyteller. At times, I’ve mentioned training yourself to “think like a writer” but what I really meant was that you (and I) need to “think like a storyteller."

How many times have we seen not-so great writing have mega success and become franchised into film and merchandise? How many times have we picked up a best seller and wondered why our writing, which is on par with what we’re reading, is still being rejected?

Most often, once we’ve mastered the basics, it’s not lack of skill or know-how—it’s the neglect of our storytelling skills that keeps us from reaching our goals.

So how do you become a great storyteller?

Easy: You study great storytelling. What made M. Night Shyamalan such a huge success? Because he wrote a movie about a kid who could see ghosts? Or a farmer who sees aliens? No. He gained acclaim because he knew how to tell a great story.

Often I tell new authors to watch the movie Signs. I still say this is a wonderful illustration of great storytelling. Nothing in that movie—no matter how unimportant it might at first seem—is there gratuitously. Everything has a purpose. From the boy’s asthma, to the little girl being so picky about the water she drinks. Even the younger brother’s failed baseball career is important.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I’ll answer to the best of my abilities.


P.S. The totally awesome Alyssa Montgomery interviewed me on her blog here: http://amontgomery99.blogspot.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Talent Tuesday: Unsung Authors

Good morning everyone!

Today, I’d like to celebrate the “unsung” authors we love and admire, but can rarely find anyone else who has read their work. Those authors or books that make people go, "Huh?" when mentioned. Here are some of mine:

Jenny Siler aka Alex Carr: I know, I know, if you’ve read my blog at all, you know I love her :) I’m reading The Prince of Bagram Prison right now and here’s one of those reasons why I devour her books:

They beat us, Jamal had said once, talking about his childhood at the orphanage, and Kat had thought, Yes, they beat you. But the boy’s words came back to her as she followed Kurtz into the putrid maze of the courtyard shantytown. They beat him, she thought, and the beating themselves now seemed trivial in relation to the utter brutality of the actual place.

Third World slums can be dangerous for outsiders, especially those with obvious means, and Kat had prepared herself for a confrontation. Btu she could see now that there was no reason to be afraid. The inhabitants here were castoffs of the castoffs, the ancient and the sick and the mentally faltering, those from whom life had been drained like the juice from an orange, and whose deflated faces followed Kat and Kurtz with dispassionate interest.

Robert McCammon: Okay, so those who read broadly might have heard of him, but not often do I run into people who have read a lot of his books. The first book I read by him, Mystery Walk, led me to read his others, with Wolf’s Hour and Swan Song being my two favorites. Here’s a bit from Swan Song:

“I just touched it,” she answered. “I felt like it wasn’t dead, and I touched it because I wanted it to keep living.” She was embarrassed that the old man was down on his knees beside her, and she wished he’d get up and stop crying. His wife was looking at Swan with a mixture of revulsion and wonder, as one might regard a toadfrog with golden wings. All this attention was making Swan more nervous than when she’d frightened the old man and woman last night. “Please,” she said, tugging at his coat. “Please get up, mister.”

“It’s a miracle,” Carla murmured, watching the blossoms blow. Nearby, Killer ran through the snow trying to catch them between his teeth. “She’s made a miracle happen!” Two tears crept down her cheeks, freezing like diamonds before they reached her jawline.

Swan was jittery and cold, afraid that her misshapen head might tilt over too far to one side and break her neck. She could endure stinging wind no longer, and she pulled away from Sly Moody’s grip; she turned and walked toward the barn, probing in the snow before her with Crybaby as the old man and the others watched her go.

There are so many more. Milli Thornton, the author of Fear of Writing has saved so many authors from giving up, myself included, that I wish I could put her book in the hands of every aspiring author to get them through those tough first years. Douglas Clegg, who is an accomplished and awesome horror author. The list could go on and on, but I want to hear from everyone today.

Who are your favorite authors you wish were more widely read so you could discuss their books with others? Perhaps you have one of your own to share! :)

Jenny :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Trolls are Alive and Well

Update: A previous client of mine has agreed to share her critique and 10PT. Worksheet as samples of what I offer. If anyone is interested, please email me at jturner4@charter.net and I'll send you the files. Angelika is a true Angel! :) Thank you!

For the Record:

Some “people” have made false claims that I am preying on authors of Publish America and charging them thousands of dollars to book doctor their novels. Where this fantasy generated from is anyone’s guess because the “people” claiming this have never given the name(s) of these supposed victim(s) and when confronted and asked for the evidence, they turned tail, claiming they never made such accusations. Then less than a month later, posted the very same claims about me.

These “people” claim they are providing a service by warning others about me—but have failed to contact Victoria Strauss, Preditors and Editors or any other number of “writer beware” services available. If their intention was truly to warn others, one would think I would have been reported by now. Perhaps their lack of evidence and obvious ignorance about the industry is holding them back. So let’s correct some of the bad information being put out there today by these “people.”

For some “people” anyone who is paid to critique a work, or rewrite a work for that matter, is a “scammer”—which is about as accurate as saying that every time you take your car in for an oil change, you are being scammed because you could do that change yourself—simply by following the directions in the manual that came with your vehicle.

Yes, writer’s can read books to hone their craft. They can follow manuals published for their benefit. They can even get their friends and other writers to give them a critique for free.

None of that, however, makes a legitimate critique service a “scam” in the same way that your ability to change your own oil, or have a friend or family member do it for free, makes an oil-changing company a “scam.”

Writer’s Digest, Harlequin, and many other reputable places offer paid-for critiques at higher prices with less return than I provide. They are not scammers—they deliver on the services they offer for the prices they ask. That is a business.

I run the legitimate Rotowriter Critique Service. This is how I earn money between royalty checks and help aspiring writers learn the craft. Rarely have I taken on “ghost writing” or “rewriting” work because of the time involved. (I do have my own writing career to focus on.)

Just some of my qualifications to run this critique service are:

I am a multi-published and award-winning author.
I worked as a mentor through RWA’s CLUES program.
I have placed, won and judged RWA writing contests.
I designed and taught online writing courses and workshops through Writer’s Village University and for Milli Thornton, the author of Fear of Writing.
I have a quarterly column in the Wisconsin Regional Writer’s Journal titled Critique Corner.
I am chairwoman of the Jade Ring Contest, a writing contest that has been in operation for decades.
Manuscripts I’ve edited have gone on to be published, including novels by Jonathan Miller who writes legal thrillers and the upcoming Echelon Press release, Torn From Normal by Martin Bartloff.

To date, I have never had an unsatisfied client and in fact, much of my business is repeat, or through referral. In other words, I rarely ever solicit or advertise my service. This is the reason many of my readers and online friends never even knew it existed up until some “people” chose to air their misinformation.

Now, on to what I offer in my critique packages:

Each critique, no matter the length, is accompanied by a 10 point worksheet. This, I’ve been told by a previous client of mine, is worth the cost of my basic package by itself. A copy of the 10 Point Worksheet can be found here: http://www.jennifer-turner.com/worksheet.html
I also allow 3 initial questions so I can better understand the concerns of the author (perhaps they’ve been told they write passively and wish to have extra help with this) and then 3 follow up questions to ensure my suggestions are understood fully.

My prices are set (far) below industry standards because the entire reason for creating the service was to make available professional critiques to aspiring writers who couldn’t afford to take their work elsewhere.

I do not claim to be an “editorial service” because I, myself, need an editor. I do claim, however, to offer a line-by-line critique and explanations that amount to a one-on-one tutorial on the craft of storytelling and the mechanics of writing.

ANY writer wishing to purchase a larger package MUST first purchase the basic package: 3,000 words for $20.00 to ensure they want what I offer. Should they choose to purchase a larger package afterward, the $20.00 is deducted from that cost.

The packages I have are currently on special are as follows:

3,000 word critique: Normally $25.00--now $20.00

Submission package (First 3 chapters, Synopsis and Query): Normally $150.00--Now $100.00

Full Manuscript critique 50-75K: $500.00--Now: $400.00
(Just comments without critique: $200.00--Now: $150.00)

Full Manuscript critique 76-110K: $750.00--Now: $650.00
(Just comments without critique: $275.00--Now: $200.00)

Full Manuscript rewrite 50-75K: $1000.00--Now: $900.00

Full Manuscript rewrite 76K-110K: $1500--Now: $1300.00

As a comparison to industry standards, my basic package works out this way:

3,000 words at 250 words per page=12 pages

In industry standards, a critique as I do would be considered “Substantive Line Editing” and the rates are as follows:

1-6 ms pgs/hr = $40-65/hr
(Taken from the EFA: http://the-efa.org/res/rates.php )

Even at the highest number of pages per hour and the lowest rate, I’m still under-charging by $60.00 and that discrepancy only increases as the packages go higher.

In the end, I welcome any investigation by any “watchdog” group interested in the validity of these "people's" claims.

One last note: These “people” claim that being a member of an organization like the EFA is a measure of a person’s ethics—it isn’t. They have no vetting process other than making sure your dues are paid in full each year. So be careful—simply because someone might belong to an organization such as the EFA, it doesn’t mean they have scruples.

P.S. I am not accepting new clients at this time. Sorry!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

'Nother Saturday Morn...

Hey everyone :)

How is everyone doing?

I'm back from vacation and a wonderful visit with the Texas in-laws. I already miss them! :) We also did a bit of painting:



What do you think?

Bella Vida and I are putting together the Saturday Serial now. She's done much of the work so far as I'm hoping to honor her vision of the story and characters in a more supportive role, though with a 50/50 contribution of the work. I hope y'all will come back often to read the exciting stories every Saturday when they're ready to be posted.

I've finished a major bit of work and am off to complete another. If I get a chance, I'll post a new sneak peek of School's Out 4Ever for everyone to read ;) Kaylee, as usual, is getting into SO much trouble!

So what are you up to? What are you working on or reading? I'm in the middle of "The Prince of Bagram Prison" by Alex Carr--which I just don't seem to get the chance to read it like I want to (so many interruptions now that school is out!) I'm looking forward to the next in the James Patterson's Maximum Ride series too. (It was in hard cover the last I looked, so I'm hoping it's in paperback soon!)

Okay, off to work for me!


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Boring? Not So Thrilling Thursday

My apologies for the missing Writing Wednesday blog. My in-laws from Texas are due to arrive today and I’ve been in a whirlwind of preparation. So today, I thought we’d do something writing related—and for Thrilling Thursday! ;)

Suspense isn’t a natural process for many writers. The act of holding back, of not sharing how important something will be later on, or not giving away the intensity of the climatic moment soon to arrive can be frustrating. The terror of writing a boring novel is not uncommon ;)

Right now, I’m in the scenes that I call “between” in my book School’s Out 4Ever. They are the most difficult to write—because I fear boring the reader, even though I know, for a fact, that they are important scenes and they are what create the emotional connection so the reader might feel the intensity of the climatic moment.

Think of the movie Rocky. If Balboa didn’t have a life outside the ring, if he didn’t try and fail, or if nothing happened to his coach, or if there wasn’t the possibility of losing in the ring—would we really care if he won all that much?

Or imagine how interesting Scarlett O’Hara might have been if she didn’t grumble and complain—letting you know that there would come a time when that grumbling and complaining wouldn’t explode into a highly emotional conflict?

So while Kaylee is dealing with the “not undead” at the school, there’s a constant worry in the back of my head that this is or that is taking too long. The reader wants to get to the juicy (or decaying) stuff and doesn’t want to sit through pages of ‘life’ happening. Yet, that would be like removing Apollo Creed from Rocky or Ashley Wilkes from Gone with the Wind.

However there are some authors that I think can go overboard in these ‘between’ scenes. Anne Rice tends to go on for pages and pages describing something that could have been share in one. Jean Auel is another that I find myself skipping a page here and there—once I know what she’s sharing.

Do you all do this with certain authors or books? Do you skip ahead to the more climatic moments in the book—yet still find yourself a fan of that author? Am I just impatient? (Okay, so yeah, this is a little bit of a survey, as I don’t often get to discuss books with other folks;) )

I would really love to know what you think!!


Bella Vida and I are having a blast brainstorming the Saturday Serial and hammering out the details. We'll keep updatng everyone as we get closer to the debut! :)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Talent Tuesday: Suspended

Hello everyone :)

As many of you know, I recently left MySpace, and not all of my readers there have followed me here. It will take some time to build up the sort of readership that we enjoyed over there. For this reason, I don't believe it's fair to continue hosting other authors on Talent Tuesday--asking they spend a day out of their busy schedules.

I love all my loyal readers, so this will be a very short "suspension" of talent on Tuesdays as I'm working hard to make this a rewarding place for everyone--including the authors I have attending.

My hope is to resume in about three weeks, so don't go far for too long on Tuesdays, you won't want to miss out! :)

Today, however, I'd love to showcase some of the talent reading my blog and I encourage each and everyone here to share links, promos and anything that shares what you're working on now or already have published in the comments section. We can all get to know each other better this way as well!


A little news: Bella Vida and I have begun the process of creating the Saturday Serials and the first episode will air later this month.

Monday, June 01, 2009

And the Winner Is....

Entry #3! Letters to the 5th Direction submitted by BellaVida

Congratulations BellaVida!! I'm most definitely looking forward to working with you!! :) Please email me at jturner4@charter.net so that we might begin discussing the particulars.

I'm excited about the possibilities and can't wait to see what you've got imagined for each 'episode' of the serial!

For those of you who would like a refresher on which entry this was, here are the details:

Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror

Time Period: now

Main Character: Juliana
Juliana’s a 12 year old girl who has just inherited a trunk from her beloved grandmother’s abandoned attic. Among old photos and embroidery appears a box of letters her grandmother wrote to Juliana before passing. While reading the letters Juliana accidentally opens the 5th Direction, the super highway to other worlds.

Villain: Murcielaga
Created during the era of the first humans, Murcielaga, is one of the oldest banished creatures. She resides in the world where imaginary beings are kept so as not to harm humans.

What’s at stake: Murcielaga is angry she has been banished for so long. She is deploying her henchmen by the dozens through the 5th Direction into other worlds to create havoc. As revenge she is erasing and controlling people’s memories once she sneaks into their imagination. The history of the human race is about to be lost forever.
Each week we read another letter that leads our heroine into and out of peril. To further complicate the situation, her grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s causing clues to be out of order, have mixed up names and clues written in different languages.

I hope everyone is as excited to read the first one as I am! :)

Congratulations again, BellaVida! :)