Friday, December 20, 2019

End of the Decade


I hadn't thought about it much until this last month of the year, but it's the end of a decade. 
Beware, I am about to wax maudlin for quite some time. 
Abandon all hope of a quick read, all who enter here:

As decades go, it's been a wild ride.

There have been ups. There have been downs. There have been some loops where my world was turned upside down, and some terrifying drops during which I wasn't sure if I was going to hit the ground with a hard splat, or get lifted up into another up-rolling corkscrew before coasting to the end of the decade.

On the UP side in life:
1. Both of my daughters finished homeschooling, finished course work at a community college, and matriculated to state universities where they are each studying types of engineering: Chemical (with a side of bio) and Civil.

2. My husband and I celebrated our 23rd Anniversary and our 52nd and 48th birthdays, respectively. We know that we can disagree (sometimes extremely stubbornly) and still love each other fiercely and faithfully.

3. My daughters both competed at the National and International levels for Flatwater Sprint Canoe and Kayak. Because of their accomplishments, my husband and I drove trailers full of boats from one end of the country to the other (literally - Washington to Georgia, then Florida and back). When my daughters both competed in Hungary in 2016, I went to cheer them down the course due to the gracious help of friends who helped me navigate (and financially afford) an international trip that year. When my youngest competed in the Czech Republic aka Czechia in 2017 and Poland in 2018, I went to cheer her there, too, and loved visiting those amazing places with the parent-cheer squad.

3.5 (I kind of forgot this one) - I got to see my daughters both dance and perform on stage, as well as having lines in an Indie film. We went to NY for the International Modeling and Talent Association Competition. My oldest had an "extra" part in Gray's Anatomy. My youngest had an interview for an training camp for kayaking that took place in OKC and did a good job of speaking about her sport.

4. We traveled a lot of amazing places as a family - it amazes me as I look back. We skied in Whistler, B.C. several times courtesy of my in-laws. We celebrated the 4th of July, 2010 with friends who hosted us for a trip to Washington DC. We went snorkeling with sharks, turtles, and manta rays in Hawaii in 2011. We visited the Grand Canyon in 2012 and went to Disneyland for one day. We went to NYC and NY state in 2013. We visited places with our daughters' sport - Georgia, Florida (second time for us), San Diego, and Oklahoma. We saw some cools sights along the way, including the Badlands, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and more. Too much to actually recount here. But it was good and we learned what we do well and don't do well on car trips.

5. My husband reached his 20th year work-anniversary at Tacoma City Light as an Professional Engineer (now supervisor) and it's been a really good work environment so it's a double blessing.

6. I taught classes for nine years at Harbor Christian Homeschool Cooperative and loved my students. I taught classes on Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, British Literature, Creative Writing for 9-12 year-old children, and Creative Writing for 14+. I taught classes in Dynamic Language Arts and Dynamic Writing, and created my own curriculum since I had previously come up with about a hundred pages in handouts to supplement a different writing curriculum. I tutored some amazing students, too. All of these students encouraged me to become closer to God and to grow my teaching skills.

7. I helped found One Hope Church, back when we didn't even have a name for ourselves. For a short time, I served as the Worship Coordinator by finding musicians, guest pastors and speakers, prayer leaders, and communion leaders. I helped write the founding documents of the church with a team of leaders and prayed for hours over every decision I made and our team of leaders made. When I stepped back, I was exhausted and may have stepped too far back, but I am glad to have seen the Church Elders take the foundation and build it into something even better than I could have imagined at the beginning, when we met first at an outdoor camp and then in a high school library - we moved a lot of chairs in those days.

8. I co-taught a lot of Sunday School. Teaching young people, whether they are 3 or 17, has taught me how much wisdom can come from people who have fresh eyes and a deep faith. Wisdom does not necessarily come from experience, but it can come from a direct application of God's Word in our lives. And that's ageless.

9. I wrote a lot. Hundreds of thousands of words. I don't really know how many between journals, short stories, poems, non-fiction articles, handouts for classes, social media posts, novels, and non-fiction books. I have written several novels that haven't seen the light of day (publication) and some that have.

10. I took a chance on self-publishing. I am proud of the work I have done, even if I can see many, many places that I could do better. I have self-published three novels, three writing curriculum books, three chapbooks of short stories and/or poetry, an experimental hint fiction series (which may become a graphic novel someday), writing prompt books, and a series of stand-alone short story e-books.

11. I started my blog in 2009, but I really didn't get going until 2010 or later when I joined the IWSG and really started to do more. Thank you, online writers!!!

12. I joined a really cool Write-In group a few years ago. We are still going strong on most Tuesday nights. A critique group has spun-off and is going well. I went to an open mic night a month ago. I joined the SCBWI. Basically, I started to find my writing tribe in the RL (finally).

On the Down Side of Life:
 I'm going to sum the rotten stuff together into three items:
1. Health from 2010-2019: It's gone from okay to I-thought-I-might-die kind of bad. I'm beginning to improve in a baby step kind of fashion. Some of this has been my fault - obesity really can't be blamed on anyone else and I'm pretty sure that's why I have reflux and GERD. Some has not been my fault - several surgeries (not related to my weight) and a few autoimmune diseases (Menieres and Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism).
I have a neurological para-thesis, which doesn't have an current explained origin, but which is not so bad that I need medical care for it. I just track my symptoms and try to pay attention to what seems to help and what doesn't. It could be or could not be a pre-cursor to CMT (an inherited genetic neurological disorder my dad has). I don't know yet and may never know.

2. Deaths in our extended family and among friends. This is just hard. As my Pastor says, "we weren't mean to die, death is the consequence from when humanity chose sin. So, it makes sense that death just feels so wrong. It is wrong. It wasn't a part of the original plan. We are meant for eternity." (Note: I am quoting from memory so I may not have his exact words right.)

3.  We don't have world peace yet. Human trafficking still exists. Suffering still happens daily, 24/7. We've lost the ability to have civil discourse. I blame the sin disease - not one person or one group, but a constant desire we each have for selfishness. I have it. Everyone I know has it.

Looking UP for the Next Decade:
1. I look forward to seeing where and what my daughters do next. I'm glad they still like talking to me most of the time (except when I ask about grades, study habits, etc).

2. I look forward for many more years of wonderful hugs, sassy humor, and adventures with my husband.

3. I look forward to traveling even more.

4. I look forward to taking my baby steps into greater strides towards good health.

5. I look forward to singing many more years on One Hope Church's Praise Team and going to more great Bible studies. Maybe even teaching a little more Sunday School.

6. I look forward to writing a million+ more words.

7. I look forward to getting published traditionally, as well as continuing to self-publish.

8. I look forward to gaining more skills in writing, publishing, marketing, and more.

9. I look forward to finding more edges of God's greatness and beauty in this world, to seeing the blessings, and hearing the stories of God's goodness and grace in people's lives.

10. I look forward to more community connections in writing - both online and in the real world.

11. I look forward to teaching more writing and spoken word classes, to encourage others to speak life and hope into the world around us.

12. I look forward to volunteering and working in a way that suits God's purposes and my passions.

What are you looking forward to in 2020 and the next decade?

My next post will be on January 8th, 2020. Until then, I hope you all enjoy these last few weeks of the decade! Be merry, be kind, love and laugh!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Write Edit Publish December 2019 Footprints #WEP

 I love WEP, but I haven't participated in a bit. I hit a fizzle moment with Captain Wrath, so I won't be returning to that story cycle at the moment, but this prompt just kept speaking to me. I tried a few different things for it and wasn't really satisfied.

I'm still not satisfied, but here is an attempt at a poetic retelling of King Wenceslas (who was actually a very young king murdered by his brother in his twenties - despite all the depictions of him as an old, St. Nicholas figure).
At 449 words:

Footprints in the Snow

In a land far away and long ago,
a man followed footprints in the snow:

By his cozy hearth window, he had seen
A family laboring in the harsh cold
Bringing wood in stacks tall and clean
To Noble house hearths and stoves.

As the day waned and darkness fell,
The wood-cutter family walked home.
Their arms were empty, but they rang a bell,
Singing Christmas carols to praise the Son.

The King marveled at their joy so replete.
In his wondering he gazed at his empty luxury,
And with a sudden shout, he leapt to his feet.
With a hurried dash, he called out to me.

And together, we packed a full leftover feast,
including candles, dishware, presents, and all
For a celebration fit for Wise Kings from the East.
Then I followed him out into the cold snow fall.

We followed the family into the night.
Following deep footprints in the snow.
My young king laughed with joy and might
He hardly seemed to feel the freezing cold.

His purpose clear as he knocked on their door.
They answered but bowed exceedingly low.
But instead, he knelt down on their dirt floor,
Presenting himself as their servant now.

My king served them every morsel sweet,
He even cleaned every spoon and dish.
No one, not even I, could stop his feet.
As he danced about, as was his wish.

His song and laughter rang through the dark
and in the early morning, as the family slept,
My king and I, we woke with the morning lark
To leave the presents on the hearth he'd swept.

Back in his castle and his royal-filled life,
Nothing seemed to sate the Nobles greed.
My King had to deal with much Noble strife.
But they caught him looking to his servants' need.

Time passed, plots made, the passing of a year.
As winter's chill grew in the castle yard,
My king went out to pray with his brother dear.
But his brother's heart had become tarred.

The deed was done, my king was brought low
In bloody, muddy footprints in the snow.

The nobles wanted a puppet on the throne,
But the truth pierces the darkest of hearts,
So the light has ever, ever shone,
and the king's brother fell to love's darts.

He repented his sin, his murderous deed.
From that day forward, he ruled as his brother,
And now, with my help he has decreed,
On Christmas, we give to one another.

No one is to live in greed,
but all are to give to those in need.

For once, on a chill winter's night long ago,
My King followed footsteps in the snow.

And I, I follow my King.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

IWSG December

Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for starting and managing this awesome and encouraging blog hop for writers! The hop has grown and become so much more due to the efforts of Alex and the whole administration team. To find out more, go here: IWSG Website.
Co-hosts for December: 
Beverly Stowe McClure  
and me

Optional Question: Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream?  Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

I decided to tackle this with a letter containing what I hope things will be like:

Dear Future Writer Self,
I imagine you are in a cozy space with a cup of hot tea by your side, books lovingly placed on book shelves throughout your house, a journal and a laptop on a desk in front of you. On your walls, you have family pictures and photographs you've taken of your travels and adventures. I also imagine you've managed to tackle all of your projects - from poetry chapbooks and short story collections to novels who have reached readers all over the world, with a handful of graphic novels and some music lyrics written, too. You could retire, but you won't, because writing is your passion. Ideas are everywhere. You also take time to teach writing classes in a Story Arts Studio, a business of your own creation. If you are, like I imagine, close to that retirement age, you're considering who you could mentor to take over that Story Arts Studio, but you aren't ready yet. Or, maybe you already have a business partner who will take over when you're ready to step away. But again, you aren't ready yet. There's so much to do, so many adventures to still have - both in real life and on the page. And, you love encouraging other writers almost as much as writing itself.
I know the journey to where you are is a long road. I know there are many small steps ahead to get there and some mountains to climb, one small step at a time. But I know you're beckoning me onward, and so I will take those steps and climb those mountains, one word and one adventure at a time.
See you soon,
Current Writer Self

That's the kind of life I hope for as a writer - a life of confident creativity and adventure with some dreams fulfilled and some yet to be written. Right now, I feel like I'm still on the first bit of foothills before the real climb.

And now, I just want TO CONGRATULATE all of the 
The Third Ghost – Yvonne Ventresca
A World of Trouble – Rebecca M. Douglass
Winter Days - Katharina Gerlach
Feathered Fire – Roland Clarke
The Ghosts of Pompeii – Sherry Ellis
The Blind Ship – Bish Denham
Return to Cahokia – L.T. Ward
Dare Double Dare – Louise M. Barbour
Simon Grey and the Yamamba - Charles Kowalski
The Orchard - Beth Anderson Schuck

These writers wrote an submitted Middle Grade (ages 9-12) stories for the IWSG MG Anthology Contest and won a spot in the anthology!

If you wrote but didn't win, I hope you submit your stories to another contest, anthology, or magazine. You can find a place for your work!
As someone who has received rejections on my stories, poems, and novels, I know it's hard, but you can keep going. You can find publication.
Keep writing! 
Keep sending out your work!

IWSG Updates:
In January, we will post on the second Wednesday because the first Wednesday is New Year's Day.

For the Goodreads IWSG Reading Group, the book for December/January is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. 

On Instagram, we mainly have today's post celebration, a note on the WEP contest, and per usual, some writing tips from the website, and some encouraging quotes to keep you writing!

For WEP in December:

A few brief updates from me:
1. The last few months have included some unexpected life stress which will not be named (it felt that dark), but I kept on writing. I attended a comic con, and I read my work out loud at an open mic night. I went to a critique group, went to several write-ins with an ongoing write-in group, and I won NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words of a jumbled, partial novel which will take much revision to be the novel it's meant to be.

2. I decided to participate in Dressember to help fight human trafficking with awareness and fundraising. To know more about Dressember, go HERE. If you want to help me fund raise, go to A Dress with Comfortable Shoes.
Dressember's vision: A World Without Slavery.

3. I had the honor of having two previously published poems republished in this new anthology by Z Publishing: Washington's Best Emerging Poets

How are all of you doing, IWSG? Any news? 
What does your future writer self look like?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

#TheIWSG and #NaNoWriMo: Here Be Dragon Slayers

Sorry for posting late, I had this partially prepped and then forgot to schedule it. 

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome founder of this hop is Alex J. Cavanaugh and his co-hosts today are Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie!

OPTIONAL QUESTION FOR NOVEMBER: What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story? 
I ended up not using it (yet) but I researched the haka, a Maori dance, for my superhero-novel-series-project-that-may-never-get-finished. My main character is part-Maori, part-Scottish-American with some alien DNA. I've also researched habitable planets in the Milky Way for that project (there are none what we know of, but I can still "dream" right?).

For my current WIP, one odd thing I have researched: maps which feature the notation "Here Be Dragons." It turns out, there's only one and it's a small globe. The rest of the ancient maps just have drawings of dragons, mermaids, and rhinos (?!).

NaNoWriMo: Here Be Dragon Slayers
I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo 2019, the 20th year edition of NaNoWriMo. I really appreciate the end of the year, kick in the pants I get from NaNoWriMo. Whether I win or lose, I learn from the process of writing and plotting, and thinking about noveling in an intense way all month long.

I am writing about a traditional fantasy trope: dragon slayers.
Unlike the traditional dragon slayers, I decided to hang out with my favorite dragon slayer whose name is Mel aka Melisan Winter, an orphaned young woman who kills dragons with a variety of weapons but never with a sword, and her business partner and sidekick, Gavin Summer, also an orphan. If you think they are in a romantic relationship, think again. They are best friends, business partners, and they both have their eyes out for others ... (so, romance will happen, but not with each other).

Mel and Gavin will probably meet up with another dragon slayer by the name of Mad Maud, a character from a previous short story "Of Words and Swords" which can be found in the 2017 IWSG Fantasy Anthology: Mysteries of Death and Life. However, this is not Maud's main story. I haven't quite decided where he's going to land yet, other than as a reluctant mentor to these two.

A few fantasy tropes will be used, twisted, and re-imagined. There is a "chosen one" but it's not who you think. Dragon slaying will occur, but not quite on purpose every time, and well, it gets more complicated when a particular character comes on the stage. Not every dragon looks like a dragon and not every dragon is a dragon ...

I am actually plotting and pants-ing as I go. I have plot points. I am following them like guidelines and sign posts. I am following Save the Cat Writes a Novel ... mostly.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Rich Palate for the Traveling Writer and the Not Guilty Book Tour!

I’m delighted today to welcome author C. Lee McKenzie to my site to talk about her latest release, NOT GUILTY, as part of her MC Book Tour Blog adventure. 

After you find out more about C. Lee and this tantalizing new story, be sure to enter Lee’s giveaway featured below. 

A Rich Palate for the Traveling Writer
By Guest C. Lee McKenzie, the YA author of Not Guilty

Hi Tyrean. It’s great to be at your place today, and thanks for the question you asked me:
How Do Travels Influence Your Writing?

This question couldn't have come at a more perfect time because I’m on a trip, and I have a chance to answer it while I make my way around Morocco.

On this journey, I’ve moved from large cities like Fes and Marrakech to the vast Sahara desert and passed through small villages, so I’ve interacted with a lot of different Moroccans--those who speak English, French, and Spanish as well as their native language, and those who speak only their native tongue and have never left their birthplace.

When I arrived, two things immediately struck me. First, the people’s speaking distance between themselves and strangers is closer than for the North American. I found myself stepping back at first to keep my comfort zone, but of course they only stepped forward to keep theirs.

Also they touch frequently,. Even if they don’t know you, they like to take your arm or rest their hand on your shoulder. With friends they might hold hands. Men will easily walk hand in hand while they chat.

These aren’t earthshaking differences, but if you’re thinking of crafting a scene between Moroccan and North American characters, you can use them. Here’s a scene I wrote as an example:

Heat shimmered up from the mosaic floor tiles. The ceiling had long ago collapsed and the sun blazed overhead like a slightly off center chandelier.

Ben lifted one foot, then the other in an effort to cool his thin-soled sandals.

“Monsieur, WC is only there.” The guide motioned to his left, totally mis-reading his client’s discomfort.

Ben shook his head and pointed overhead. “Just hot.”

The guide pulled him into the slice of shade along one wall, and keeping a grip on his arm, leaned close. “Here is the hamam, you see. And--” now pulling him into another dark ruin of a room “--the cauldera. It is here.”

Ben tried to step away, but the wall was at his back so there was no putting any distance between him and his guide who always seemed about to embrace him.

This was his fourth hamam, so Ben had become bi-lingual when it came to discussing the bathrooms of a “typical” historical Moroccan riad. He’d like to free his arm, but that didn’t seem possible. The guide was on a mission to drag him from room to room until they’d visited this entire hotel that had seen its last guest sometime in the second century.

The contrasts between cultures offer a rich palate of opportunities for creating humor or drama in stories. The misunderstandings, the discomforts, the moments of enlightenment when different cultures come in contact are unlimited.

I’ve also discovered that when I’m traveling, these contrasts make me more keenly aware of my own culture. If you see a schematic of  any culture, it looks a lot like an iceberg--most of it out of sight and out of awareness, particularly the culture you exist in. By culture I don’t mean art or language or how we dress, I mean how we treat time, space and other silent forms of communication, like the ones I’ve mentioned above.

You don’t have to travel to other countries to find differences between people. In my books, I often include U.S. characters from different backgrounds, and one of the main themes I like to explore in all of my young adult books is our uniqueness as well as how much we’re alike. No matter how different we look, sound, behave in our communities we have underneath our veneer of culture, a common humanity--a need for safety, food, and shelter, a love of family and friends; a desire to succeed and be recognized--all in degrees, of course, but things that are basic to human existence.

Travel in the U.S. brings me together with people of all ages, education, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. In Not Guilty, I used some of those experiences to tackle the story of an anglo middle class kid who winds up in juvenile hall where he meets others with a different life experience--experience he lacks but desperately needs once he’s in trouble. His life-long friends abandon him, but he discovers his new ones will stand by him regardless of his short-comings.

Here’ s scene in juvie between Devon, the MC, and his new friends, Tats, Chewy, and Ice. He finally trusts them enough to tell them his plan for proving himself innocent.

“Hey.” Devon coughed. Nervous because he wasn’t sure his plan was good. “I’ve laid out some ways to find the guy I’m serving time for. Want to hear it?” 

“Lay it on us,” Tats said.

He did. And they listened without breaking in. When he finished, nobody said anything. “Well?”

Chewy finally broke the silence. “Grandma Marika says, ‘The proof’s in the pudding.’”

“What’s that mean?” Ice asked.

“It means you don’t know—”

Tats cut Chewy off. “—if something’s good until you start to eat it.”

“I still don’t get it.” 

“I do,” Devon said. “My plan might work, but I won’t know until I try it out.” 

“Ah! Okay. Now why don’t you two say it clear like English does?” 

“Go to sleep, Ice. Give your brain a rest.” Tats cut a big one, and they all laughed. 

Devon closed his eyes, thinking how much he was going to miss these guys. 

Thanks once again, Tyrean for letting me visit. I hope your readers found something useful in the post.

I'm sure they have, C. Lee!!! 

* Not Guilty
* by C. Lee McKenzie
* Publication Date: October 25, 2019
* Genre: Young Adult

          A blood-smeared knife. One young man’s word against another. A lifetime dream crushed.
          The evidence points to Devon Carlyle. He was there when it happened. Everyone knows he had it in for Renzo Costa. And Costa says Devon was the one. In the judge’s rap of a gavel, Devon’s found guilty of assault. The star of the Oceanside High’s basketball team loses his shot at the one thing he’s worked so hard for—the championship game where college scouts could see how good he is.
          Now he makes his great shots in Juvenile Hall with kids far different from those that have always been in his life.
          Angry? Hell, yes.
          He’s bent on finding who did the crime. He’s bent on making them pay because he’s Not Guilty.
          But can he prove it?

Devon is one of those guys. Everything in his life seems to be going right, and then it all goes devastatingly wrong. Even knowing Devon wasn't guilty, I wondered how he would prove himself innocent. All the evidence is against him. He's at the wrong place and the wrong time. He gets thrown in Juvie. He's angry. He's grieving. And, life on the inside isn't easy.
Devon was one of those characters who, once I stepped into his messy story, I started rooting for. His inner dialogue, his way of struggling through, really made him a "real" character and I felt drawn into his dilemma and his world right away. The writing in this book is excellent. The story-line is gripping, and I think anyone who picks it up is going to be hoping Devon manages to prove that he's Not Guilty.

For those who aren’t familiar with the author, here’s a bit of background on her.

C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. She has published five young adult novels: Sliding on the Edge, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative, and Sudden Secrets. Not Guilty is her most recent one. 

          Sometimes she likes to jump into the world of the fantastic and when she does, she writes for the middle-grade reader. Some Very Messy Medieval Magick is the third book in the time-travel adventures of Pete and Weasel, with Alligators Overhead and The Great Time Lock Disaster being the first two. Sign of the Green Dragon, a stand-alone, takes the reader into ancient Chinese dragon myths and a quest for treasure. 

          When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot of questions about things she still doesn’t understand. 

For more information on Lee and her writing, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and at her Website

NOT GUILTY can be found Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo

The author’s other young adult books include: Sliding on the Edge, Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative, Sudden Secrets


With Halloween celebrated this week, Lee’s giving away five digital copies of NOT GUILTY and a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate. This tour-wide giveaway will end at midnight on Tuesday, Nov. 5th.

To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. If the widget doesn’t show up, just click HERE and you’ll be directed to the widget.

Thanks for stopping by today during Lee’s visit. Do you enjoy stories where the underdog becomes the champion? Don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 14, 2019

Book Review Lowdown and Wielder's Prize by Elle Cardy

In addition to this post, I have a post at the Insecure Writer's Support Group website on How to Use Instagram as an Author today! Go there, and check it out if you're interested!

I love reading! However, I have a tough time writing reviews. I want to give fully honest reviews, but I'm afraid I'm going to hurt someone's feelings. I know how that feels.  I also know how much reviews mean to authors because I am one, so I write them.

Did you know that you have to have 50 reviews at Amazon to get featured in their newsletters? I don't think they all have to be superstar reviews, but there is some kind of algorithm to it.

Did you know Amazon doesn't always let writers review other books? This is crazy to me. Trolls get to review. Writers aren't supposed to review. This is why it's good to have two Amazon accounts. That's how my reviews get posted and stay posted. And no, I'm not a troll, or even a super-reviewer. I don't get paid to review. I review the books I like, that's it.

Speaking of which:

Wielder's Prize by Elle Cardy is out today!!! I was given a free copy to review, but please note this does not bias my opinion here.


Action - I love action in fantasy novels and this novel had action!

Mystery - I love not knowing everything right away and this novel delivered on all of its promised hints later on in the story! (Agh. The desire to throw in spoilers is really strong, but I'm holding it back.) The bread crumbs of intrigue led to a satisfying conclusion!

World-Building - The slow unveiling of world-building and the power structure of the magic users was awesome! I loved how we learned alongside the main character and discovered what her powers meant and how to use them, as well as why she doesn't seem to have a focus. 

Tension - This book had it. It was tough to put down, and I read it in two sittings.


Character-Building for the MC - I admit I struggled to like the main character in the first chapter or two. I wanted her to get out of her tough situation a lot faster, but then as the novel progressed, I found myself drawn more and more into her situation, how she was who she was, and how she began to understand who she could be. I realized the farther I got into the book, just how well the author had written this character. Jasmine is one of the most fully realized fantasy characters I've read in a long, long time.

This fantasy novel is excellent, but there is an abusive relationship shown in the beginning. It is handled well, but it was troubling when I first saw it. There is justice, but not the way the reader might expect. 

OVERALL: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS!!! This book was one of my favorite recent reads. I really enjoyed it and found it to be fun, as well as thought-provoking. I really liked how the author showed the main character growing into her strengths and finding her footing, even if I didn't like where she was at the beginning.

Do you write reviews? If you ever read one of my books, please feel free to give me a review - even if it's not that many stars. Really. I would like one of my books to get up to 50 reviews someday. Be honest. Give it to me straight. I'll be okay.

And, have you picked up Wielder's Prize yet? I recommend it!

Please check out my post at the IWSG site today!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Two Rejection Letters = A Win? Seeing Rejection as a Step Forward

Last Friday, I woke up late (still feeling ill), wandered around my house like a zombie, ate breakfast like someone not sure the food would stay down, and then found two rejection letters for two different manuscripts in my inbox.

I read them over, and then over again.

I wasn't surprised by the rejections.

I was surprised I had received any response from these two agents.
Both of these particular literary agents had stated explicitly on their websites:
 "If you haven't heard back in 90 days, please consider your manuscript rejected." 

From both agents, I had received no response for over 120 days.
So, I considered my manuscripts rejected.

However, they both e-mailed me. 

This felt like a win!

Rejections as a win?

Yep. If they took the time to actually read my work and send me a personalized rejection letter, it's a win. 

In fact, I see personalized rejection letters as a step forward.

They weren't form letters.
They show the agents actually read my work.
They responded when they had stated on their websites they might not.
They gave me specific feedback.
One sent me three links to databases of other literary agents so I could find the right agent for me.

Win, win, win. Step by step by step.

I am still writing.

I am still submitting my work.

Every day offers new possibilities.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

October #TheIWSG and Reading

Founded by Alex J. Cavnaugh

Optional Question: It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

First, I must say I'm biased. I love to read. If I could get paid for reading books all day, I would take that job! 
Second, I think what we watch in movies, shows, and even on the world news pours into our brains and becomes a part of our imaginary landscape, so I'm not sure if any of us is truly a clean slate of originality. I know my first fantasy trilogy was influenced by Star Wars (not intentionally, but it was definitely there and once I realized it, I started to pick and choose how much it influenced those books). I have had a strong desire to write strong female characters ever since Princess Leia stepped onto the screen with a blaster in her hand.

Normally, in this next bit, I would update you on my writing life. Um. I finished a short story that I'm proud of and I submitted it to an anthology just a few hours before the submission window closed. I felt pretty triumphant about it, even though I don't know if the story will be accepted or published.
There's more than's gone on in my writing life, but that's my highlight and I'm going to stick with that.

Otherwise, I've been sick for the last 36 hours with a horrible, terrible, wouldn't-wish-it-on-anyone, kind of stomach bug or food poisoning problem. I'm slightly better today, so I decided to post ... late.

Anyway, I hope all of you are well and happy, and healthy!

Write On!!!

This month’s Write…Edit…Publish challenge:

As you sow so shall you reap. What will your character sow - dragon's teeth, elven bones, gouged eyes from tormented souls? Most of our members go with horror or speculative for October. But that's not written in stone ... or blood.

January’s IWSG post day will be on January 8, the second Wednesday. The first Wednesday is New Year’s Day – do not post that day! Note it in your calendars now – January 8.
The next #IWSGPit - our Twitter pitch event – is January 15, the third Wednesday. This will be our fifth one and last year there were thousands of agents and publishers watching, ten thousand Tweets sent out, and #IWSGPit became a trending topic. Polish your pitches and check the site for full details.

Monday, September 23, 2019

September Notes and Short Reading Review

September has come and started to go rather quickly for me.

I've had wonderful days.

I've had challenging days.


We had a visit from Norwegian cousins while our oldest daughter visited the next generation of cousins in Norway (on the same exact days).

My youngest made the WSU Novice Women's Crew Team.

I took over a property management position for my parents. (Not my ideal job, but one I can do.)

I wrote.

I dreamed a big idea dream - one that I've had before. This time, I went out and told others about it and gained insights into how to actually make it happen. I am considering opening a Storytelling Studio (or Storytelling Studio classes) for children ages 10-13, teens, and adults. I have thought and thought about this idea. I would like to encourage a community of storytellers - written, oral, visual, audio, maybe film (that's looking like a 5 year castle-in-the-sky type goal) and I would like to encourage storytellers to speak life into the community. It's in the pen and paper state now, but I have had encouragement to make it a reality. So ... I'm making checklists and spreadsheets, creating lists and ideas.

Best of all, I submitted seven poems and three stories to various publishers.

I admit I forgot to do a reading review for August. So, now I am just doing reviews for significant books in August and September.

Hmm. How to describe this book cycle? I read some books I liked, I read some books that made me uncomfortable. Sometimes a book made me think. A few I didn't like as much and I won't mention them here. A few have actually ... well, purposefully been forgotten. I did read a few graphic novels, but didn't like them. I started reading some non-fiction, but I'm not ready to review those yet.

Most of these books are not suitable for younger readers! (I know they never comment, but I have had some of my former students and students read this blog. If that's you, and you are under 18, I'm only recommending the first book to you. Ignore the others.)

So, here are the notables:

The Miraculous by Jess Redman, a MG urban fantasy/magical realism. I didn't love, love this book, like over the top love it, but it stuck with me well after I finished it and I found myself recommending it to a young reader later. So, it is a 4.5 out of 5 for me.
(The only clean book in this grouping for young readers!)
Description from Amazon:
 In the tradition of heartwrenching and hopeful middle grade novels such as Bridge to Terabithia comes Jess Redman's stunning debut about a young boy who must regain his faith in miracles after a tragedy changes his world.
Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis collects miracles. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. And he believes every single one. But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles can't exist. So 
Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. He stops believing.
Then he meets Faye―a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. 

Eleanor Oliphaunt is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, women's fiction/chick lit/kind of romance? I heard of this book, checked it out from the library, then purchased it. It's not a comfortable read. The main character isn't always likeable - in fact, she's downright awful at the beginning. However, this story really stuck with me, sucked me in, and made me think about the power of human connections. Recommended. 5/5 (with a small caveat for uncomfortable, intense stuff - not for young readers)

Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep, a NA Fantasy (found in the YA section) with a steamy romance scene. I loved the first of this trilogy. This second book I mostly loved. I could have lived without the two page steamy sex scene with details I didn't need to know. "Dueling tongues" is not a phrase I like in books. The rest of the book - the action, the intrigue, the character development, the actual love-romance, I really liked. So ... 4/5, not for young readers. I would actually call this series NA, not YA, because the main character is 27.

One Day in December by Josie Silver, Romance and Women's Fiction with a few short steamy scenes. I really loved the way the character arcs worked throughout this story. I loved all three awesome friends in this book and I was impressed by Silver's writing. I read this in my quest to discover how to write romance, and I felt like I was sitting at the feet of a master of the craft while I was reading. The steam scenes make this book not for young readers, but it was a really good read for adult romance readers. 5/5 (not for young readers)
Short description from Amazon:
Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.
Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic...and then her bus drives away.

Friday, September 20, 2019

How One Book Became a Trilogy by Guest Alex J. Cavanaugh, best-selling author of the CassaSeries! #BookTour

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting Alex J. Cavanaugh the author of the Amazon best-selling CassaSeries, as well as the founder of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. I'm a big fan of Alex's books and if you like space opera, you'll love them as well!

How One Book Became a Trilogy b y Alex J. Cavanaugh

When I wrote CassaStar, I never envisioned sequels. It was one story, the one that had been with me for thirty years. Although I had other story ideas written involving the main character of Byron, I intended for CassaStar to be a stand-alone book.

However, when it was published and fans liked it, my publisher asked if there was a sequel. I contemplated ideas and decided I didn’t want to just continue from where the other book ended. (How many life-altering/galaxy-altering events just keep hitting people every year?) That’s when I hit upon the idea of jumping forward twenty years.

Both books experienced best-seller status on Amazon in science fiction for months, so of course I had to wrap it up as a trilogy. And once again, I jumped forward twenty years. Fortunately, Cassans live many years longer than humans, so Byron was still young enough for adventures. (Byron – The Geriatic Years wouldn’t be as exciting!)

CassaStar Series Prequel
By Alex J Cavanaugh
Genre: SciFi Adventure, Space Opera 

The prequel to the Amazon best-selling Cassa series!

A pilot in training...

Fighting the odds, Byron is determined to complete Cosbolt training and join the Cassan space fleet. Poised at the top of his class, only one situation holds him back–his inability to work with anyone in the cockpit. Byron’s excellent piloting skills won’t be enough without a good navigator…

**Get it FREE!! **

CassaStar Series Book 1 

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

Amazon * Apple * B&N * Kobo * BAM

CassaStar Series Book 2

From the Amazon best-selling author - CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities.

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

CassaStar Series Book 3

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

With a talent for worldbuilding and a compelling cast of characters, Alex J. Cavanaugh combines high powered space battles and the challenges of family dynamics to provide readers a space opera with heart.” - Elizabeth S. Craig, author of the Southern Quilting and Myrtle Clover mysteries

Get the CassaSeries Boxed Set Here! 

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the award-winning site, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive content and a giveaway!