October 30, 2011

Author Interview: Makaya Vista, Peak-n-Boo Children's Books

Today I would like to introduce everyone to a phenomenal person and author, Makaya Vista. She is truly an inspiration to not only me, but everyone she comes in contact with. She will be your biggest fan, your toughest coach, and your truest conscience. Her books are making waves with readers young and old and I wish her the brightest future.

What drew you to writing?
Basically, I guess I began 'writing' as soon as I learned to print letters. I love words, putting them together and seeing my thoughts on paper, playing with word combinations, word play, describing things as I saw them, or how things made me feel. Maybe writing things down was my effort to try to explain further even though I rarely shared what I wrote back then. Writing is fun, relaxing, exciting, interesting, healthy and enlightening. 
Writing is also a way to interpret or express something including frustrations, elations, injustices, or sorrows; the writer directs the twists and turns, adds satire, humor, mystery, suspense, or gives credence to an idea or story. I love writing poetry and relate it to black and white photography. Some see it as black OR white, when in actuality it offers more depth than a color photo in many ways with its shades of gray and contrast; it has more feeling. 
Speedwriting is a way of unloading, clean up my internal hard drive, so to speak, to make room for more. Writing children’s books, for me, was more of a challenge to keep with the age, not be boring, be funny, make the reader think, offer something to learn and promote discussion and interaction. Peak-n-Boo helped to make this easier for me as they were the perfect subjects with a story to share.

You have done all the editing and illustrations for the Peak N Boo series. Was that your plan from the beginning?
I actually sent out test copies of my Peak-n-Boo stories to several friends and invited a couple groups of children to read the stories aloud to each other. This feedback was most helpful to me - what flowed well, or stumbled, and where there were questions and humor. It was great to hear children explaining parts of the stories to each other. 
I liked to watch the children work to get all correct on the reader quizzes at the end of each story. If a question came up, they’d search the book to share the correct answer. The smaller children, though not reading yet, stayed involved commenting on the illustrations and the expressions on the dogs’ faces. All of this was very valuable feedback.

What inspired you to write about Peak N Boo and were they always meant to be children's books?
The Peak-n-Boo books began as experimental educational tools or aids for the children I was tutoring at the time. As my leukemia was demanding more medical attention, my immune system would require me to be more cautious around crowds and children I wanted to continue to help in some way. 
The Peak-n-Boo stories were initially mean to help the children with reading and memory skills, while offering insights into some dog behaviors. Some of the younger children expressed fear of dogs and didn’t understand why the dogs approached them, and sniffed at them as they arrived. Peak was newly rescued, and with Boo a natural mentor, they offered natural educational experiences for the children. 
The first story, Dreams Can Come True, shows Boo, the natural mentor helping the puppy, Peak, gain confidence, trust and learn that differences were positive, as was patience and love. The Treadmill Rules, the second Peak-n-Boo book continues the lessons of patience, as well as learning from one’s mistakes and not giving up when mistakes are made. Special Delivery shows Peak grown into a beautiful confidant dog. Though her body has grown up, Peak was still young and impetuous and lacked experience. Would she put herself in danger without thinking? Would she continue to listen and learn from Boo?

Peak and Boo are rescue pups that have found a warm, loving home with you. Can you tell us more about them and their personalities? 
Boo had a very rough start. When she was first rescued they had very little hope for her. She came into my life when she was 8 months old a few days after she’d been rescued. For some unknown reason, the people who had her kept her in a wooden box “dog house”. It was too small for her growing body. As she had not been able to fully stand up in the box her bones did not develop correctly. 
When rescued she was also malnourished and weak. I was asked to meet her and to offer some comfort care such as massage, Reiki and T-Touch. Boo’s eyes showed life even if somewhat dim at that time. I let her know that I would shower her with love and care. She was very shy and frightened of her own shadow. Every sound or the slightest move of hand sent her cowering behind furniture, or struggling to get behind the toilet or under a bed. 
Before Boo was able to eat by herself, I sat on the floor with her offering her food from my hand. No matter the type of bowl or where I put it, initially Boo was afraid of it. She was unstable and easily fell over. She slowly began to gain some strength and within a couple months another veterinarian did X-rays to find a prognosis for Boo. She told me Boo would require several corrective surgeries to allow her better mobility and ability. I was fortunate that the veterinarian was remodeling her clinic. She offered me a deal - a trade for the Boo’s surgeries - my artwork for her clinic walls. 
Following her surgeries Boo would require strengthening exercise to build muscle. One way was to swim; the other was walking on an incline. At the time we lived near the ocean. With life-vest on Boo loved to swim. When we moved to the desert Boo took to the treadmill immediately. She seemed to instinctively know it was good for her. When she wants to walk, she will stand on the treadmill and wait for someone to turn it on for her. She also uses the treadmill to walk off anxiety as needed during a thunderstorm. 
Boo later went on to pass with flying colors, her classes in ‘good citizenship’, training as a service dog and has been registered with Therapy Dog International for going on 8 years. She has made hundreds of visits to nursing homes, hospitals, to visit shut-ins, children and families that have lost a pet, veterans and soldier dog handlers, and has consistently shown great empathy toward other beings.
Peak was much younger than Boo when she first came into our lives. She’d been found on the outskirts of our desert town. She was alone, hungry, had injuries, was parasite ridden, and her fur was blotchy, dry and dull. Like Boo, Peak had no socialization skills; she suffered from fear-aggression that could be a very dangerous situation for a dog and those who might encounter her. 
Boo seemed to understand that Peak was in great need; she showed a natural empathy toward Peak. They really bonded well from the beginning. Both had been considered either un-adoptable or at the low end of adoptable. 
As with Boo, I could see life and a great desire to thrive in Peak’s eyes. Peak is amazingly smart and has a great desire to please. She has also grown into quite the jock, and is very the athletic. She loves to run; she will pump out another mile or so on the treadmill almost daily even after a long day of play outside. 
As Boo has gotten older, she has slowed down. It is very heartwarming to see Peak lie by her side and lick her face to console her loving mentor. She let’s Boo know that she loves her. Peak has also become protective of her home and family, and both dogs show tremendous gratitude.

Each of the books has an activity section at the end. How important is it to you to include educational material with your writing for children? Do you witness the benefits from such writing? 
The quizzes at the back of the books were always a part of the books. When tutoring the children I'd always finish up the sessions with a few questions about what we'd covered to check their retention. I loved how the children like answering the questions, and how thrilled they were with each correct answer. The children were also working with homonyms and other word forms. 
I like to incorporate various areas in learning sessions; I like to encourage the children to think, and to figure out things. I noticed the children responded well to the quizzes and would try to out-guess each other, as well as explaining various words to the younger children. That is also why I added the bonus comic strip in the back of the second and third books with another quiz. I like word play and the Peak-n-Boo books offer many variations. Hint, I've noticed that children do better on the quizzes than adults.

There is no question that you are a strong advocate for "giving back" to multiple causes. Tell us how the Peak N Boo series falls into this. 
As mentioned above, the Peak-n-Boo books help children with reading skills and memory but also, it is important that I get the message out. Teaching young children how to safely and gently interact with pets and animals is necessary for the safety of the child and the animal. I think when children understand the behaviors of animals, specifically dogs in the case of Peak-n-Boo; harm to or from animals is less likely. 
My goal with the Animal Protector Patrol is to teach children safe, positive interaction with pets. As animal abuse by younger and younger children is at a critical stage in our country and children that get bit by animals continues to happen, this is a problem that needs continued attention. 
A parent may not think it is necessary as they do not have pets in the home, but children will encounter animals. Their friends may have a pet or grandma may have a small dog or cat. Children need to know different animals act differently, and pets of different ages and varying situations may bring about differing reactions from the animals. An animal that is afraid or injured gives signals that a child needs to learn at an early age. Children need to know that harming a pet is not acceptable; that pets feel pain and they too have good days and they have times when they want to be left alone. Children need to learn there are appropriate ways to meet an animal and that animals have their own ways to greet people, children, babies, and other animals. 
They need to learn what not to do when around pets, especially dogs. A dog may run after a child that is running and screaming not knowing that the child is not trying to instigate play. Also it is important not to bother a dog when it is eating, or startle an animal when it is sleeping.

Do you currently do any book signings and where can folks find your wonderfully heartwarming books? Do you Facebook or Twitter? 
Saturday October 29, 2011, I will be speaking at our local library as part of the Hassayampa Writer's Club's annual Celebration of Books presentation. 
Next month, November 12, 2011, I will again be at our local library as part of an author presentation series. I plan to speak about my Peak-n-Boo books though the bulk of my presentation will be interactive and will address animal protection. It will be geared toward small children and their parents. I will offer several of my coloring/activity educational aid illustrations to hand out to the children. The question and answer portion will be a group activity to encourage the children to share their thoughts and express any questions or experiences they may have had with pets and animals.
My author website is http://animalprotectorpatrol.com/ and my Facebook fan page is located here.

What is next for Peak N Boo? Will there be more adventures for this duo? Do you have any other projects in the works? 
I do have other Peak-n-Boo stories in the works, but honestly have put most of my efforts in the Animal Protector Patrol educational aids. This is an area I am very passionate about. Stopping animal abuse and educating children on appropriate interaction with pets is of the utmost importance to me right now. 
I currently have dozens of coloring/activity illustrations to encourage discussion and interaction. Hopefully these will get put together in booklet forms to assist as teaching aids for educators. My work encourages the children to share what they know, and to interact with each other, parents and educators. 
As ASU professor of social work has shared with me personally, animal abuse is on the increase, and is being committed by younger and younger children, even little girls, previously rare.

What advice would you offer aspiring children's book authors or writers just starting out? 
Write about something you know, something you are passionate about. Most children's writers do not illustrate their own books. In my case, the illustrations and facial expressions of Peak and Boo are key to the stories. I had not planned to be an illustrator, or a writer of children's books for that matter. It really snuck up on me. 
I was trying to figure out a way I could continue to work with the children I'd been tutoring while I would need to deal with cancer and treatments. The books also became a tremendous healing tool for me personally as they kept my mind off what I was going through and gave me a sense of purpose. I needed to heal, get well and continue – I have work to do.

October 27, 2011

Do you like scary stories...

We have finally reached my favorite time of year…FALL!!! And with fall comes my favoritest of all favorite holidays…Halloween. I usually totally geek it out with Halloween and have been known to go a little overboard. I just love to dress up! Which is odd since I am ubber casual in any other instance. Not exactly the fashionista type, but boy oh boy do I looooooove to dress for Halloween!

When I say dress up I really mean it. Make-up and all! I don’t cheat and get a mask or some silly hat leaving my face easily recognizable. Two of my fave costumes are the Hobo and Psycho Chick. The Hobo is your run-of-the-mill hobo clown (of the male persuasion since it’s more fun) and I had a blast putting it together. Salvation Army Goodwill shops ROCK for this purpose. Just find the most hideous out of style clothing someone ‘donated’ and there ya go! Top that puppy off with some make-up and it is a fab crowd pleaser. Many people I work with didn’t know it was me. Not only do I sport the hobo 5 o’clock shadow but my long curly hair gets pulled up into a ratty hat. 

My other fave, the Psycho Chick, has fallen into different sub-categories; ‘ex-girlfriend,’ ‘disgruntled employee,’ and the best one ‘crazy for Joey Mac’ that was worn the day after a NKOTB concert. Yes I went there, shush it! Years ago I found a “State Mental Hospital” gown and I dress it up a bit with fake blood and such. I also wash out my face with make-up and add some rather unattractive dark circles under the eyes with crazy ratted out curly hair. It’s awesome. 

Another part of Halloween that I loooooove are the scary stories. WOOT! In honor of October 31st I will share one with you…

The following are actual events. If you scare easily you may want to stop reading now, if not, feel free to enjoy. 

Those of us that read and write YA generally have characters that do not make the best decisions of their lives which end up causing havoc on all around them. Well, the following is a perfect example of typical teen I-should-have-thought-this-through-more behavior.

One Halloween when my friends and I were all about 17 we thought it would be a great idea to take a Ouija board to a cemetery. I know! Stupid right? Hold on, it gets better. It was me, Val, Megan, Tony, and Derrick. We all piled into a car and drove out to the-middle-of-nowhere-northern-California and found a small, ancient cemetery on the side of the 2 lane road. Eerily enough there was a single house next door and then an elementary school behind that. 

Leaving the Ouija board in the car we walked around the cemetery checking out the dates and such trying to scare ourselves. It was late and not many cars sped by, but when they did we would hit the deck behind the erect gravestones like someone had a sniper rifle zeroed in on us. 

When our scavenger hunt was unfruitful in the small cemetery someone said, “Hey let’s grab the Ouija board!” At this point some small speck of rationality clicked in, and I did say small, and we chickened out. Not one of us wanted to sit on a grave and attempt to commune with the dead through a Hasbro “toy.”
So what did we do? We took it over to the elementary school instead, the one next door to the cemetery. I told you the rationality was small. 

After much discussion it was decided that Megan and I would use the thing first. We spread out a blanket under a tree next to a portable building triggering the motion light. Well at least we can see now when the spirits come out of the “toy” to kill us, is kind of what we were thinking. So Megan and I sit cross-legged with the Ouija balanced over our knees. We place the indicator and begin.

I don’t know how many of you have used a Ouija board, but generally these things take time. It starts out slow and then maybe picks up a bit, if you’re doing it right. Well, not so much this Halloween night. The indicator took off between our fingers like we lit it on fire informing us that ‘someone’ was in fact there.  
Val, Tony, and Derrick, our bystanders, begin to get anxious with my and Megan’s startled expressions. Derrick is cursing and saying we are messing with evil, Val is stunned to silence (quite a feat for her), and Tony wants to know if “it” can prove that “it” is there. Niiiice… So the board responded to Tony even though he was not currently chatting. “It” told us ‘yes.’

At this moment the motion light on the building we were sitting next to went off, scaring the bejezzus out of all of us. There were murmurs of “it’s a motion light and we weren’t moving so of course it’s gonna go off.” Megan asks if “it” had turned the light off. “Yes” was the reply.

Tony and Derrick are now jumping around the motion light to get it to turn on again with no success. We sat in darkness. Megan asks “Can you do it again?”


The light, the motion sensor light, started flashing on and off. Megan and I sat on the ground a good 15 feet away from the sensor while Val, Tony and Derrick remained motionless. This was too much for us so we quickly packed up the Ouija board and blanket, threw ourselves into Derricks 1980something Chrysler, and got the hell out of there. 

I looked out the back window as we pealed out of the small parking lot and watched as the motion light bid us adieu with its constant flashing. It continued until the cemetery and school faded away into the dark Halloween night.

Do you have a scary story you would like to share? Please do! I would LOOOOOVE to hear them.

Scare me.

October 26, 2011

Twi-hard anyone?

Do I have an addictive personality? Hmmm… Good question. 

When I was in kindergarten my teacher thought I was hard of hearing because I would zone out in class quite a bit. She would call on me and there I was just off in my own world. After a series of hearing tests, and a near frantic with worry mother, it was discovered that I was simply ignoring my teacher. My ears were primo; I just didn’t care for what the teacher had to say. Awesome right? 

So my little head switch was discovered. The little switch I can flip that turns everything off around me. Because of this wondrous device I was born with I found I was able to focus on things I wanted to. I just tuned things out around me. It infuriated my mother, and later in life, my roommate. Did I care? Not really. Everyone I knew just learned that if they needed my undivided attention they needed to GET my attention first. I am very “guy-like” in this aspect it’s freaky. And making eye contact was not enough, you had to physically get a response from me first and then tell me what is was I just had to know.

Now you can see why this infuriated people around me. HA!

But it was because of this ‘switch’ that I escaped a lot of the hype of being a teenager. I was not in the drinking crowd, the smoking crowd, the rocker crowd, the academic crowd, or even the preppy crowd. I had my own world all to myself.

And then Twilight happened….

All of the angst and crazy giddiness that comes with being a typical teen bubbled to the surface and exploded like someone took a flame to a semi loaded to the brim with fireworks and gun powder. I am not sure what it is about this series, but my inner teenager cannot get the switch to flip. Now I am a die-hard…daresay Twi-hard…fan. The books I have read multiple times and I own each of the movies so far. Granted Twilight was not the greatest movie, but they have been getting better with each installment.
I am an official Twilight addict. If there were addict meetings for Twilight obsessed folk I would be the poster child. Well maybe not yet. I have heard of worse people than me. I do, however, have the Twilight stickers on my car warning bystanders that I do drive like a Cullen. *grin* My little 4-banger is a soldier. I am also guilty of performing the “California lane change” quite a bit. Those of you from Cali prolly know what I am talking about. *Looks around making sure Mr. Policeman is not paying me mind*

So here we are… Twenty two days until Breaking Dawn Part 1. I am so freakin excited I am bouncing in my chair. Fandango was kind enough to allow me to purchase tickets for opening day. With my little man at home I cannot stay up for midnight showings else I would be there. Hell, I was even considering the marathon run the day before AND the midnight show. But alas, that I cannot do. Besides, DH would probably disown me…silly boys and their eye rolling. 

So will any of you join me in the BDP1 festivities? Will you be there to see Bella and Edward finally tie the knot? Will you be there when they finally…er…ehem…do some other stuff? SWOON!!! Broken bedposts and bitten pillows are in my future and I cannot wait! I say we make 11/18/11 a holiday and take the day off so we can all consummate…I mean CELEBRATE this occasion. *blush*

October 18, 2011

Feeling a bit....Fever-ish!

MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman.
Or so she thinks... until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae...

When I picked up Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning I was not sure what I was expecting, but I think I got something else. I do not mean that in a bad way at all so please don’t take me wrong. I had seen a few of the Fever Series books at Costco and was intrigued. I hunted down Darkfever (since Coscto did not have Book #1) and started reading. I think I was under the impression it was your typical YA fantasy goodie…well it’s not. It was definitely a little more…er…*blush*…mature.

Miss K.M. opens Darkfever with a huge bomb that rocks the world, and planet for that matter, for our main chick MacKayla (Mac). Her older sister, and BFF, is brutally killed while studying abroad in Ireland. After some mourning Mac get’s it in her head to go to the Emerald Isle to bring justice to her sister, Alina. The local investigation was cut off way too quick for Mac’s satisfaction and she wants to avenger her beloved sister by finding her killer and bringing him down in the most satisfying way possible.

This would have been a great plan, but when do things ever work out like you plan? Same deal for little Barbie-doll Mac. She quickly finds herself plunged to her pink lacy bra in a world that is upside-down and inside out from the norm of Southern USA. The world of Fae is quite real and quite deadly, Mac has firsthand experience in this now. Mac's pretty world of sparkly nail polish and lip gloss in suddenly consumed with the hideous Grey Man, the many-mouth-thing, shades that thankfully stick to the darkest shadows, the beautifully deadly V’lane (death-by-sex Fae), and guess what….she is one of the rare few who can see them all! That’s’ right, Mac finds out she is from a long line of folk who are impervious to the glamour’s set by the Fae.

Mac ends up joining forces with the darkly mysterious Jericho Barrons, but she is not sure she can trust him with anything other than maybe helping her to stay alive. He wants the Sinsar Dubh (aka evil dark magic book everyone and their mama is willing to kill for) more than he wants Mac around, but as she is the only one who can sense the tome, he keeps her around. On the side Barrons even starts to teach Ms. Lane how to possibly protect herself from the darker Fae.

I thought this book was really great! It was fairly well paced and I was quickly lost in the world of Fae Miss K.M. spilled out for me. The darker elements of the Faery world have always fascinated me so I found the world of Darkfever easy to escape into.

Mac is your typical pampered little princess type, which actually kinda pissed me off to be honest. Through most of the book she was a permanent resident of Denial Way and it began to get old. Toward the end she started coming around and grew some figurative juevos. I am really interested to see how she evolves in future books. 

Jericho Barrons is hiding something…okay so he is hiding a LOT. I am dying to find out what. He is dark, mysterious, and really bad-ass. Three of my favorite ingredients for a hot guy by the way. There is more to him than what Miss K.M. has let on so far and will keep me reading.

The overall content was not too adult, but there were a few scenes with the aforementioned “death-by-sex” Fae, V’lane, that took me off guard. Made me blush fuchsia to my hairline it did! Anyway, you will just have to read to find out what I mean…*wink*.

Did Darkfever rock my world? A really good tremble with hopes of “the big one”…7.5 on Richter scale.

October 14, 2011

Steampunk-a-rific..Let the ID journey begin!

Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own. 

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's 
length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Okay, first I have to admit that I am so very late in the Cassandra Clare world. A friend gave me TMI (The Mortal Instruments for those as clueless as I once was) to read saying that she enjoyed the books. They were not the super hot romance stuff she is really into, but had some good love dodecahedron stuff going on. That’s right, not your typical love triangle jazz. I was intrigued. Since then I am a HUGE fan of Miss Cassie!

Clockwork Angel is the first of the ID (Infernal Devices) prequel series to TMI. Miss Cassie transports us back to Victorian England (to say I am a huge fan of Victorian England would be too mild so needless to say I totally geeked out on this alone). We follow Tessa as she makes the big move to London in search of her wayward older brother Nate. Tess is then set on an impossible journey of finding the truth about herself, her family, and this craziness that is Downworld. A lot to take in for your typical 19th century teen. 

Once again we learn about the Shadowhunters and Downworlders, but this time through new eyes, which was really great. The Victorian world is so vastly different than current day NYC so it was nice to begin the journey through Tessa. She is a great character, Tessa. She is all that a 19th century lady should be, but she has an inner strength that slips out from time to time. In a word…awesome. Nineteenth century ladies were not meant to be bold, so when Tessa is it makes that much more of an impact. 

Tessa meets the Shadowhunters and takes refuge at the London Institute. There she meets Jessamine, with her moody denial of what she is. This girl has issues and a half! She desperately wants a ‘normal’ life as a lady. Jem, the epitome of an English gentleman, will truly melt your heart. Charlotte, the head honcho of the Institute, reminds me of an older Clary with her spunk and deeeeeeep desire to prove herself. There is quirky Henry and then the staff, Sophie, Agatha, and Thomas, that you truly want to befriend. 

You may be thinking….what about Will? Well, I saved him for last (bwaaa haaa haaa). What to say about William Herondale… if you were a fan of Jace from the TMI series, you will fall HARD for Will. Where Jace was the broken bad-boy who was repeatedly beat down by situation after situation that tore at his very soul… *sigh* I have to say Jace falling victim got redundant after a while and I really wanted him to just fight back. Will, on the other hand, I do believe is broken beyond repair. There is so much darkness in him and is much more caustic than Jace. He is downright mean sometimes. His wit will make you laugh, his smile and eyes will make you swoon, but in the end you will not know whether to hate him or feel really sorry for him.

As for the world of 19th Century England that Miss Cassie created, it was wonderful. You really felt you were there. Between the narrative that kept in character and the dialogue, it was all a complete package. This was also the first time I have read anything Steampunk and I was pleased with Clockwork Angel's take on this genre. True to Miss Cassie’s form there are plot twists that will keep you guessing even after you reach the final typed page. You will be itching for more; a deep need to find out what happens will fill you and will immediately go out and buy the next installment….much like me. =^)

If you are not privy to the Shawdowhunter world of Miss Cassandra Clare then you are quite literally living under a rock. Get out and get yourself a copy. Don’t think about it, just do it.

Did Clockwork Angel rock my world? Fo-SHO people…9 on the Richter scale!

October 11, 2011

The fine art of pretend play

For anyone who does not know me, which is likely to be the vast majority of anyone reading this, I have a small son. He turned two this summer and he is the light of my life. I know what you're thinking...mom's always say that. You very well may be correct, but I also meant it. Ten years ago I was not even sure I could have a child so Boog is like my little miracle baby.

Yikes! Before I start the boo-hooing let me get to the point of this post: pretend play.

Boog has finally entered the stage of his young life where he interacts with pretend play. You know, the stage in a young man's (or lass') life where they pretend to make a cake or pretend to drive their matchbox car on the "superhighway" in the living room or even pretend to "fly." It is an amazing stage of development.

The power of human imagination never ceases to amaze me. Now I see it happening with my son and I am so thrilled! This is where the fun begins... We will get to build forts out of chairs and blankets and defend our turf from the nasty, snarling pirates who threaten our booty! YAAARRRGGGGGG! We may even get to rescue a damsel in distress from an evil tyrant who set a ginormous, scaly, fire-breathing dragon to guard her door! Egads!! The times we will have...

See I am a huge kid at heart and I suppose that is why I like fiction so much. I never grew out of my pretend play phase of development. I would like to think that is true of most, if not all, writers. We unlock the part of our brain that houses the pretend play and set it free into the world for all to pretend play with us. Not everyone has this ability and I think it is a fantastic one. It might even classify as a superpower! Do I dare hope...?

My DH has lost his pretend play ability, which I suppose is normal for some folk. He had it at one time I am certain, but then the left side of his brain claimed dibs and locked his over-active imagination away. There is nothing wrong with this so please do not get the wrong idea here. DH is fantastic with the logic stuff, which seems to elude me at times, so we make an equal balanced pair. Some people just 'grow up' while others, those like me (and quit kidding yourself, you're in this group too), just.....don't.

Fiction, especially the speculative fiction genres, allows us writers to keep a firm grasp on that inner child who still lives for pretend play. We need pretend play to survive in this crazy world of ours! We need that place, even if it's just in our heads, where happy endings are a must, where the heroes win, where the villains lose, where magic is fully alive and well, where our deepest desires all come true and where we get to....well, pretend.

Am I looking forward to sharing the wonders of the imagination with my son? Abso-freakin-lutely! One day he will get big (I dare not say 'grow up') and he will make the decision to either sway toward the world of logic, reality, non-fiction or hold on to his inner child and continue the pretend play. Which do I prefer, you ask? It doesn't matter. Because for now I have my little prince who will join me while we slay dragons, save the princess, rob the rich and give to the poor, leap tall buildings in a single bound, and every other bit that makes pretend play so much darned fun.

October 09, 2011

Grouping up with critique folk...oi

I understand having a reliable critique group is a necessary evil for anyone who wants to be a writer. There is immeasurable value in that. The question that has bouncing around in my head is, how do you know if you've found a good one?

The stakes are higher for the newbie writer. It is harder to get noticed these days with the electronic crush on the industry. Top publishing billing will continue to handed to the literary giants (Nora Roberts, Stephen King, James Paterson, etc etc) like a golden baton dipped in crushed diamonds. The angels sing, the skies clear, and babies coo for these folks, and reasonably so, they are Gods among writers. So the only way to really get noticed these days, if you don't go the solo pub route, is to really stand out. The best way to do this, from what I have learned thus far, is to have a great crit group.
These groupies are the sounding board that can make or break your MS. Sure, in the end it is up to you, the writer, but your crit group plants the seeds of doubt that can change the story in your head. These folks, after reading your piece of work will like it, love it, hate it, 'meh...it's OK' it, and will likely offer tid-bits that might be better. 

This is HUGE for a writer. I get it. But it also scares the bejezzus out of me. How do I know the kindly older gentleman with the fuzzy brows and charming, yet jowlly, grin is not sabotaging my work? How do I know the crit group is trying to help me be a better writer? How do I know the people in the group are not severely blocked writers looking for an out of their psychotically driven The Shining-esque slump?
If I have not lost you yet, and are still reading this, you may be thinking...woah, she's falling off the deep end of the paranoid pool. You may be right. This is what happens when you read too much on the internet about copyrights and protecting yourself from crazy folk. 

Sharing your work is, well for me, terrifying. Especially when it's rough. As a new writer I know there is a long road ahead of me in fine-tuning my craft, and I will gladly walk it. Trusting strangers with giving me a solid critique is equally terrifying. I suppose one just needs to go with their gut on finding the right crit group. I need to just step out on that ledge and realize us writers are all in the same boat. We need each other's help to wade through the ocean of BS to get to the proverbial 'other side.' The side where we can make our dreams become reality.

October 08, 2011

Silence has rendered me...speachless

The noise between Patch and Nora is gone. They’ve overcome the secrets riddled in Patch’s dark past...bridged two irreconcilable worlds...faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty, and trust...and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in each other, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they’ve worked for—and their love—forever.

Okay, so let me recap on how I came to be so incredibly and irreversibly obsessed with Patch Cipriano. I bought Hush Hush at Wal-Mart about a year ago after the cover caught my eye from the 'discount' bin. It was just after Crescendo was released and they were snuggled up together. I had never read a fallen angel story so was intrigued. The rest, as they say, is history. I was totally team Patch, hook, line, and sinker! 

Becca Fitzpatrick left Crescendo with a major cliff-hanger so my fellow Hush Hush fans and I were all left on the edge of seats with a barely concealed scream of frustration...What happened?!?!!? A year later and Silence comes to the rescue.

Silence opens with a prologue that I read during my 'lunch hour' at the day job that was so awesome I was watching the clock for the rest of the day so I could read on in the privacy of my home. When I finally got down and dirty with some reading I could not put it down. Well, not entirely true since I did have to go to work the next day. As much as I would like, reading does not pay the bills.

The story immediately pulls you in by the nose and you are horror-struck with the sickening realization...Nora does not remember Patch! WTH! Her memory of the past five months is gone! Kaput! Nada! Zilch! Nothing! 

Nora, being the endearingly yet infuriating trouble magnet, begins her mission to find out what happened the last several weeks of her life and what she was forced to forget. Was it due to trauma or something more sinister? And why is it whenever she is around the mysteriously irresistible Jev does the blackness seem to caress her? Oi! 

Silence is a roller coaster of powerful emotion and non-stop tooth gnashing trying to follow Nora on her quest of info. Becca's use of words was phenomenal and the way she brings you into Nora's head is wonderful. Nora is terribly conflicted yet driven. Patch is still dangerously seductive, and believe me ladies, you will not be able to keep from fanning yourself. He is such a volatile character you cannot help but go to puddy when he slinks near.

The stakes are getting high in Silence and Nora has a huge job in front of her. Thankfully, Patch is there for her every step of the way. Of course, Miss Becca leaves us chopping at the bit yet again, but I would gladly endure another year of rereading the delish words from Miss Becca. 

So do yourself a favor, READ IT NOW! If you have not picked up the Hush Hush saga I daresay you have been doing yourself a terrible disservice. There is a reason this series has hit the coveted NYT Best Sellers list, it is a fantastic read of mystery, suspense, romance, and steamy, sauna-like one liners from the one and only Patch Cipriano.

Did Silence rock my world? Beyond YES! 9.8 on the Richter scale y'all!

October 02, 2011

It just keeps getting better...

Aura’s life is anything but easy. Her boyfriend, Logan, died, and his slides between ghost and shade have left her reeling. Aura knows he needs her now more than ever. She loves Logan, but she can’t deny her connection with the totally supportive, totally gorgeous Zachary. And she’s not sure that she wants to. Logan and Zachary will fight to be the one by her side, but Aura needs them both to uncover the mystery of her past—the mystery of the Shift. As Aura’s search uncovers new truths, she must decide whom to trust with her secrets…and her heart. 

I just love Jeri to pieces! The Shade series is really shaping up to be one of my faves.

Aura is really stuck between a rock and a hard place. The 'Hottie Scottie' Zach being the rock and punk crooner Logan being the hard place. Both are super delish in their own way and again you will find yourself torn between who you adore the most.

Shift picks up where Shade left off and we start to learn a little more about the mystery between pre-shift and post-shift kids and how it relates to the mystical structure of Newgrange. We get a few unexpected answers, but of course Miss Jeri still leaves us salivating for more.

The mystery of Zachary's parents comes to light and the even more baffling mystery of Logan's...um....semi-corporeal form really heats things up. Like really heats up. 'Scuse me whilst I fan myself.

The relationships that Aura has with each equally swoonable guy becomes more complicated and you cannot help but melt. The conflict they both endure with Aura is really sweet in a break-your-heart sort of way.

Jeri packs in some action with some ever so memorable river scenes (wooo...must fan myself again) that will keep you flipping pages. I must warn you though, the book does end and will leave you tapping your foot and pulling out hair waiting for Shine next year. I know because I am already there!

Did Shift rock my world? Let me take a moment to gather myself... YES! An 8.9 y'all on the Richter scale! Download it! Buy it! Read it! 

Took me by surprise!

Love ties them together. Death can't tear them apart. Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last. Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone. Well, sort of. Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost. It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit. As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift.

Shade was an impulse buy at one of my frequent stops by Borders while they sold off their store stock. The cover intrigued me and the jacket blurb even more so. When I finally picked up Shade I could not put the blasted thing down.

Jeri Smith-Ready slaps you upside the head right off the bat and in less than a quarter of the way through you are already bawling like a little girl who lost her favorite teddy in an oil slick. Totally ambushed by snot and tears sort of cry.

The premise of Shade was not something I had ever read before and I was completely drawn in by it's uniqueness. I was not sure if I would dig it, but I was drawn in by the nose. The plot was believable and the twist and turn were thrilling.

Then we have Logan and Zach... Let me just savor these boys for a moment. Okay, I'm back. Both of these Shade boys are totally hot in different ways so you will have trouble picking a side. Aura, not surprisingly, is torn between the two. Logan represents her lifetime of friendship and trust, but Zachary brings an element of a possible future that is all too tempting. The triangle here is beyond heartbreaking and I loved every minute of it.

After reading Shade I was not at all surprised by the HUGE TeamKilt uprising on Twitter. It is a phenomena all in its own accord and I highly recommend anyone to try and resist Shade's pull.

Did Shade rock my world? Yes (I say rather breathlessly)! An 8.9 on the Richter scale baby!