Tuesday, July 30, 2019

End of July 2019 Update

These posts started with reading updates for "fun" then I decided to add in my viewing updates, then my writing and pursuit of publication updates. These are all areas which intertwine in my pursuit of story-writing craft, publication, and the art of story. 


Non-fiction always takes me ages to read. I linger over several non-fiction books at a time, and sometimes a non-fiction book will take me years to read. However, these are some current notables: 

Language in the Schools: Integrating Linguistic Knowledge into K-12 Teaching edited by Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck has an accurately descriptive title. The book is a collaborative look at "how basic linguistic knowledge can inform teachers' approaches to issues in the multicultural, linguistically diverse classroom." (Quote from the blurb). The two professors who edited this book were two of my top ten teachers at Western Washington University (and they still teach there). I didn't finish this book so it will just be something I dip into over the next several months. (purchased book)

GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth is a non-fiction book I picked up at Costco after reading an article in the Costco magazine (yes, someone reads those articles). In short, I thought I might need to read this book, then I buried it on my desk, re-earthed my desk, re-found this book, and so far it has hit the right spot.

Some quotes from GRIT:

"Even if some of the things they had to do were boring, or frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn't dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring" (page 8).

"... as much as talent counts, effort counts twice" (page 34).

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel is a library book and, thankfully, it has an easy-to-enjoy narrative style and explains the technical jargon en route through the story so I am reading through it a little faster than the average non-fiction book. It's a fascinating look at the history of the women and men who discovered and cataloged the nature of the stars between the late 1800s and the 1950s with some notes up to 2005. So far, I would give it a 5/5.


Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Wow. Beautiful, haunting - a grim fairy tale come to life on the page. This book was recommended to me by a student and it reminded me of the work of Roald Dahl and the Grimm Fairy Tales intermixed. (library book, plan to purchase)
Highly Recommended! 5/5.


This section is both for enjoyment and research, as I intend to write a graphic novel script soon.

Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas, and Tamra Bonvillain. I liked the premise, but for some reason I didn't love this comic book/graphic novel by Margaret Atwood - I really wanted to, but just didn't. (From the library.) 3.5/5

Nova: Burn Out written by Sean Ryan is a Marvel comic. I came into the story series partway through, but I enjoyed it. (I got this from the library.) 4/5

Foiled written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro. This urban fantasy graphic novel for MG/YA readers had a fun mix of fencing terminology, first crush romance, and fantasy. (library) 4.5/5

Curses! Foiled Again by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro. For some reason, I enjoyed this second book in the Foiled series far more than the first. I really enjoyed seeing Aliera and Avery grow as characters and understanding more about how the fairy and human world are mixed up together. (library) 5/5

Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles by Frank Cammuso is a MG graphic novel that I just loved! Maybe I'm mentally a MG reader of graphic novels, who knows? I felt like the clever dialogue and story-line were just awesome!
(Also from the library, but I'm thinking about purchasing my own copy because I liked it so much!)
Highly Recommended to any reader with a sense of humor!
5/5 Dodgeballs! (My favorite graphic novel of the month!)


Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep is a beautifully written, action-packed, intense epic fantasy. The world-building is embedded so flawlessly that I slowed down, went back, and re-read chapter one just because I thought "I want to write like this!" Lady Everleigh aka Evie is from a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition but she's never been to the games, never had to fight anyone outside of training, until one of her cousins betrays their kingdom and attempts to assassinate everyone in the royal family to get the throne. Evie, with her secret immunity to magic, barely survives long enough to fall in with a gladiator troupe, which is in part a circus act and in part a deadly force to be reckoned with. Evie doesn't know what to do, but she knows she'll never let anyone put her in a corner again.
(I got this book from the library, but I want to purchase it.) 5/5 Highly recommended.

Hidden by Donna Jo Napoli is an action-packed historical fiction novel based on the legend of Alfhild, the first Norse woman pirate. Starting with a story of survival after escaping from slavers, 8-year-old Brigid is renamed Alf by her new family - a family that seems to despise her at times. I loved how this novel combined Alfhild's love for her family, her loyalty, her anger, and her compassion. (library) 5/5.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kirstoff is an action-packed science fiction novel with satisfying character arcs and development for each of the crew members, as they each deal with an unexpected catalyst - a girl rescued from inter-dimensional space who has been drifting there for hundreds of years and claims to be from a colony that never existed. I really appreciated how the writers captured each character's individual voice in point of view chapters. 5/5 Recommended.


Poisoned by the Pier by Ellen Jacobson is the third in a series of cozy mysteries following the adventures of reluctant sailor Mollie McGhie and her cat Mrs. Moto. 
I really enjoyed the two previous cozy mysteries in the Mollie McGhie series, but I loved Poisoned by the Pier! 
With quirky characters, twisty turns, and a bit of redemption for some of the characters, Poisoned by the Pier has everything needed for a clean, cozy mystery read! 
Highly Recommended to readers with a sense of humor and readers with a love of cats (and dogs). (E-book purchase) 5/5 Chocolate Cupcakes!


This is not the whole list, just the notables.

Spiderman: Far From Home - This is an action-packed fun with a chance for Peter Parker to make mistakes, sorrow over the loss of Iron Man but still give us plenty of chances to laugh, develop his friendships, and have a few awkward moments with a girl he loves. It's a great mid-trilogy film! 5/5 Favorite film of the month!

Stranger Things Season 3 - Continuing the adventures of Eleven and all of the original cast, this show is a family favorite (I have young adult children). I loved the way this season brought everyone together, brought new faces to the show, and deepened the relationships. I also hope there's a Season 4! 5/5 Favorite Series of the Month!


Oy. It's been sporadic. One awesome day, two missing days, a few mediocre days, and so forth. I haven't kept my goal for Camp NaNoWriMo. I'm far behind. But yet, I'm glad I tried it.

Words Written as of the 30th: 23,000 for the month, this includes a non-fiction article, an idea for a short story, some work on a novel, and a bit of journal writing.


0 for 0. I didn't send anything new out. I did receive a few rejections. Currently, I have one short story out there on submission, and then ... I need to start sending novel queries again. Maybe August will be a more productive month.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Why Writers Need a Story Bible by guest author Ellen Jacobson

Series Bible

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with a nagging thought? I often do. Sometimes, it’s something innocuous like, “Did I remember to buy more cookies at the store?” Other times, it ends up making me panic—“What details did I get wrong in my latest book? Did that character have brown eyes or blue? How old are those kids supposed to be?” And when I panic, I eat cookies. That is if I remembered to buy them at the store.

I recently published the third book in my cozy mystery series. To be honest, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast (probably cookies), let alone remember what I wrote in the first two books. This is a real worry for me when it comes to ensuring consistency throughout the series.

Fortunately, I have a “series bible” of sorts which tracks things such as:

  • Characters—Names, physical appearance, age, likes/dislikes, mannerisms, habits, family relationships etc. This includes not only humans but also animals. After all, one of the stars of my series is a Japanese bobtail cat. It’s pretty important to remember what her favorite brand of cat food is.
  • Setting—Place names, descriptions, locations etc. I also have a special sub-category under setting for boats. Because my series takes place at a marina, I keep track of their names, types, and what they look like.
  • Timeline—Time of the year / season does the book take place in.
  • Subplots—Details of story lines that continue across the series.
  • Backstories—It wasn’t until I started writing my third book, that I realized how important documenting each character’s backstory was. I ended up not having enough detail in my “series bible” and had to go back and read through the first two books to refresh myself on certain key backstory points. Hopefully, I got it right!

My system isn’t high tech. It’s just a Word document separated into categories where I enter the relevant information and note which book it came from. I share this document with my editor and he adds to it during the editing process which is really helpful.

If you’re new to series bibles or thinking about creating one of your own, here are a couple of resources that you might find helpful.

Elizabeth Spann Craig – Tracking Trivia by Using a Series Bible

Lorna Faith – How to Create a Series Bible

Poisoned by the Pier Now Available!

Poisoned by the Pier, the third book in the Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series, is now available in ebook, paperback, and large print.

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play

When Mollie's husband signs the two of them up for an extreme diet, she's not amused. When someone ends up poisoned by a cake, things get even worse.

While she tries to identify the killer, Coconut Cove’s annual boating festival is in full swing. In between getting ready for her first sailing race and cheating on her diet, Mollie and her cat, Mrs. Moto, uncover clues, interview suspects, and do their best to avoid rutabagas.

Can Mollie nab the killer before someone else is poisoned?

If you like quirky characters, adorable cats, and plenty of chocolate, you'll love this cozy mystery. Pick up a copy of Poisoned by the Pier and laugh out loud from the first page to the last.

New to the Series?

If you're new to the series, you might want to start with Murder at the Marina. Now is the perfect opportunity as the ebook is on sale for 99c/99p for a limited time.

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play

About the Author

Ellen Jacobson lives on a sailboat with her husband and an imaginary cat named Simon. When she isn't working on boat projects or seeking out deserted islands, she writes cozy mysteries and sci-fi/fantasy stories.

Connect with Ellen on her Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub | Blog

You can also sign up for her newsletter for updates about new releases, current projects, sales and promotions, and other fun stuff.

Review of Poisoned by the Pier by Tyrean:
I really enjoyed the two previous cozy mysteries in the Mollie McGhie series, but I loved Poisoned by the Pier! I feel like it takes the cake and the costume prize! (Note: although there are cake and costume contests in the book - no spoilers here, really.)

As Mollie continues to investigate the mysteries of life in Coconut Grove, work her way around a terrible diet plan her husband is sure they need in their lives, and keep Mrs. Moto on a leash, she stumbles across another death, another murder, and only with the help of Mrs. Moto will she overcome the high stakes stacked against her ... or stumble again. You'll have to read it and see.

With quirky characters, twisty turns, and a bit of redemption for some of the characters, Poisoned by the Pier has everything needed for a clean, cozy mystery read!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Adventures in Hiking and Fiction with Guest Author Tara Tyler

Thanks for letting me hang out with you, Tyrean! I love seeing her family adventure pics on the social sites--they go big!

Thanks, Tara! Adventures are the best!

Hiking is the most adventurous I've gotten, and usually just river trails and waterfalls. I used to love getting out into nature with my first puppy. We roamed and roved through the woods -- without a cell phone! Georgia was our stomping ground, the Appalachian trail and the Chattahoochee River made for great sights.

I miss it! And when my pup passed, I scattered his ashes into the Chattahoochee along one of our trails.

I've taken my boys, but they didn't get into it like I did--they're video games and sports parks kids.

I'm hoping I'll be able to go back with some grandkids some day. Get them to disconnect!
And nature can be very inspirational. Here are a few hiker sayings...

"If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. 
Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk." -- Raymond Inmon

"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." -- John Muir

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." -- Beverly Sills

"Fresh air and muddy boots make everything better." -- anonymous

Thanks again, Tyrean. Hope we can go out on a trail someday!

That would be awesome, Tara! I hope we can, too.

Do you hike or get out into nature? How do you disconnect? 
How did we ever get along without cell phones?! Ha!

In Beast World, the kids have technology, but they have to get back to nature and do some hiking and exploring on their adventures.

Beast World MG Fantasy Series, book #3
by Tara Tyler
Available NOW!

This summer, Gabe and his friends fly over the Great Sea for the wedding of the century: a dragon prince and a beautiful harpy. But Gabe can't relax on this vacation. Besides competing in rigorous wedding events, he overhears the nearby human village WINDY HOLLOW is in danger from an evil human scientist and a vengeful were-ogre experimenting on beasts. Gabe and his friends risk crossing the mountains to help, despite several warnings. 

Maybe he's going too far this time, but he's in too deep to quit. It's do or die, hopefully not die!

Tara Tyler has had a hand in everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After moving all over the US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her husband and one boy left in the nest. She has two series, Pop Travel (sci-fi detective thrillers) and Beast World (fantasy adventures), plus her UnPrincess novella series where the maidens save themselves. She's a commended blogger, contributed to several anthologies, and to fit in all these projects, she economizes her time, aka the Lazy Housewife—someday she might write a book on that... Make every day an adventure!

twitter: @taratylertalks
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