Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween. Hope yours is filled with plenty of treats.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Critique Groups In Person and Online!

I am very familiar with critique groups. When I was first starting as a new writer I wrote an MG fantasy and feeling really good about the story I joined a writing group, Children's Writers on yahoo groups. We were a message board, but while I was part of this group I found a few people who were interested in fantasy and we decided to meet and critique each other's work. It didn't work for me. I'm not really interested in reading much fantasy though I had written one. So I read each of the pieces and found I was very bored with this genre. Plus no one liked my story. They ripped it apart in a gentle way, but for me, a fledgeling writer it was difficult. So I quit the group vowing not to become part of a critique group again.

Then I started writing the YA novel I just published, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor and found a group perfect for my writing, YA-authors. So we formed the group and started reading each other's work. Suddenly, one of the group got a publishing contract and one after the other members received publishing contracts for their work. I had read all of their work and critiqued it, so I felt we were tied somehow. My own chapters came back to me with multiple changes and comments and though at first I was disturbed by these comments I later came to realize they were very helpful to me. I sent the chapters through the group and they came back to me as if they had been put through a wringer. I kept all the comments and when I was ready to revise my chapters I went back to the comments. We never met in person, though I did meet a couple of the members at different writing conferences and we went out to dinner occasionally.

After this group I was able to find a semi-retired teacher who was happy to read my novel. She had a few short stories she wanted me to read and comment on so it was a great swap. This person was able to find places where I needed to revise even more. She was my beta reader. I was thrilled by the end of the summer and thought my book was ready to sub. But when I sent it to several publishers all I got was rejection. So it was back to the critique group again. By this time my second try at getting it into publication form, I was willing to look at it in a more detailed way and found a new critique group online, MuseKids, which was the brain child of my now publisher, Lea Schizas. We were an online message board and we all wrote either YA or children's. I spent a few years with this wonderful group and when my book kept getting rejected at least I had a supportive group for virtual hugs and TLC.

I started a new novel at NaNoWriMo and suddenly I had an idea, a few chapters and the beginnings of a great YA book! To be safe I started sending out chapters to MuseKids and the reaction was really good! Did they really like the work or were they just being polite? So once again when my book was finished I had the same friend read it and give me comments. All comments were given online and by the time I got them, read them and implemented them it was days. What happened to this novel? I still have it and with great trepidation I am going to send it to my publisher after I have finished rereading it and bringing it into publication form.

Then an invitation from a local critique group came into my in box and fortunately, I was in need of another critique group. I had been part of a couple of NaNo's and I had a couple of novels ready to be revised and get ready for publishing. So I took the YA novel I had written about a boy and went to meet my group. The difference between an in person group and an online group is obvious. The members didn't know me, but they were very interested in my writing. When I got back their printed critiques I saw the big difference in the groups. There was much more attention to detail with my in person group. What was fun, though, was to see the expressions of everyone and hear how they felt about the writing in their voices. You don't get those nuances from online groups. Within a few group sessions I realized the fundamental problem with my novel and when I sat down to rewrite the same three chapters I had sent to them before, I was able to rewrite with a different slant. I took their suggestions and rewrote much of it. I was also able to read their work and listening to everyone else's comments was very helpful for my own writing. When the group got around to my chapters a few thought that it was much better changed, but I still had the same problem. This time, though with discussion of this problem with the group I could see how to change it. Also, since the book is in male POV I was able to get a male's opinion of places where I had to think like a boy. After all, never having been a boy it was hard to understand a boy's reactions. This part was extremely helpful and very difficult to get to this point with an online critique group.  

So in conclusion I have to admit that I love the interaction of an in person group and that it allows for more discussion and somehow the feedback gives you more time for reflection on your own writing. The immediacy of the reactions of each of the group members helps you as a writer to see how your readers will react when they read your words. But I wouldn't give up on the online groups. I am again in one and though it is for a genre in which I am not comfortable, I think the group will help me revise this novel.

Please leave me a comment about how you feel about critique groups. Which do you like and why?

Next weekend I will be in Montreal on Saturday being part of a very large book signing in Zeller's. This is part of the MuseItUp Publishing Retreat and I am proud to be participating in this fun event. You can learn more about it on the Muse website:   

Also, MuseItUp Publishing has published an anthology in which I have a story called "Cancer Didn't Get Him". It is only one of ten stories both fiction and non-fiction in a memorial to friends and relatives we have known who have battled this deadly disease. We, the authors, are donating all royalties from the sale of this anthology to organizations who are searching for a cure for cancer. Lavender Dreams is a wonderful gift for the holidays. I am very proud to be a part of this beautiful book:

NaNoWriMo Survival Tools

The 1st of November is tooting it’s horn and coming up the driveway.  I’m dressed and ready to party.  Here is my list of survival tools I thought I’d have handy for this month long event.
1. Chocolate.   But not too much, I want to finish NaNo big time, and I don’t want to be bigger at the end of the month than when I started.  If you know what I mean. 
2.  Drinks.  No, not the hard kind!  Green tea, herbal tea, green smoothies, protein smoothies and lots of water.  Did I tell you I’m a health nut.
3.  Fruit.  Preferable three apples or three of something. When I’m taking a break, I didn’t say stalled,  I can juggle the fruit.  By the way, it helps to take your mind away from the pressure especially if you can’t juggle because you’ll be on the floor picking up the fruit.  Plus, it will give you a little exercise. 
4.  Speaking of exercise,  must remember to do a couple of jumping jacks to get the blood circulating and getting oxygen to the brain cells.
5.  Time management.  I did this to figure out how much time I needed to set aside a day.  Approximately.   “Figure out how many words in an hour you can write.  For example, if you can write 900 words in an hour, you would want to set aside at least two hours writing time.  Sure that’s over the daily amount needed to finish in 30 days, but you want to have a little extra.  Why?  Because your word counter may not agree with NaNo’s word counter.” 
6.  Back-up system.  Figure out how or what I will use to back-up my work. 
7.  Music.  Music that cheers me on or music that fits my story is essential.  And headphones to mask out the world!
8. My synopsis, outline, list of scenes and storyboard handy to know where I’m going.
9.  Do Not Disturb Sign.  For when I want to take a nap.  LOL
10. My support team.  No one succeeds without help from family and friends.
11.  Last but not least, the reason why I’m doing the great write in November.  Knowing this will keep me focused and motivated.
What’s your list like?  Good luck and stay the course! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Look I Want to See

Tuesday night was parent-teacher night at my daughter's high school. I have to say it was awesome to hear teachers saying such great things about my daughter, and to hear how well she's doing this year. She's struggled the past few years, and she's really turning things around now. I'm very proud of her.

But this post isn't about bragging about my daughter (even though that's fun to do). Tuesday night, like I've done every year on parent-teacher night, I went in to visit with the school librarian. She was one of the first "real life" people to encourage my young adult stuff, and was instrumental in persuading the English department to make my novel Connection required reading for the entire student body in summer 2010. On a more personal connection, she and I got married on the same day, April 17, 2010.

When I went to see her this year, I was talking to her a little about trying to arrange a school-day visit for me to speak to English classes or something, and I was also talking to her about the books that I have under contract. One of them is Cluing In, my first YA contemporary novel, which will be out soon from Featherweight Press. In Cluing In, Jamey Mandel, the main character, deals with a tragedy involving his ex-girlfriend.

I was describing the plot to the librarian, and she was nodding and "uh huh"ing as I talked. Then I got to the part about the tragedy. Her jaw dropped. "Oh, my god! That's awful! I wasn't expecting that!"

That's exactly the reaction I hope to get from readers. If I wrote the book as well as I described it to the librarian, hopefully that's the reaction I'll get.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo! It's Almost Here!

Blog of October 26, 2011

Greetings All,

As many of you know, NaNoWriMo is thirty days of literary abandon beginning on November 1st where the entire world---or so it seems---is writing 1,667 words per day to get to the 50,000 word count by the end of November. Once you hit the 50K word count you are a *WINNER*. What do you win---you may ask---well, a sense of accomplishment and a winners badge you can add to your social media sites. You can order a shirt/hoodie/mug in the Office of Lights and Letters shop but they are a bit pricey. Still, I got one for last year because I AM A WINNER OF NANOWRIMO, 2010!!!
I blogged about the qualities you need to succeed on this blog:

The social aspect of NaNo---as we native NaNo’s like to call it---is also a big part of the competition. There is usually a kick-off party in your region followed by several “write-in’s” where you bring your laptop/notebook/crayons whatever to a designated spot and write your little fingers to the bone surrounded by other NaNoers. It’s fun to see the word count for your region go up as members add to the count daily. It’s fun to have a celebration party at the end even if you didn’t “win” to celebrate your achievement, no matter how small. I made some friends at the last NaNo I still communicate with. Being surrounded by other writers is a kick in the pants, too. All of us are in the same boat---so to speak---writing and writing and writing to get to the finish line.

I am looking forward to NaNo this year, I have plotted out my chapter headings and my basic premise. I did the basic premise last year but it changed once I started writing. I hope to keep the same premise this year because I am doing a paranormal novel with VAMPIRES. hee hee. It takes place in 19th Century England in a creepy manor house. My working title is MANOR HOUSE. If you are doing NaNo and need a writing buddy my NaNo name is kathleea. The NaNo site doesn’t have the writing buddies up yet but it should be ready to go by the time November 1st rolls around. If you want to register for NaNo go to their website at:

The other cool thing they do is send you pep talks via email by well-known authors! They also have the you-know-you-can-do-this video’s on their home page that are humourous and motivational to watch. Another NaNo event I’d love to go to, but never have the money is The Night of Writing Dangerously. It’s always held in San Francisco at a hotel ballroom with dancing and writing---but not at the same time!!! Hundreds, if not thousands get together in ‘Frisco to write in a huge write-in.

So, what are you waiting for? Go on the NaNoWriMo website and register! November 1st is A WEEK AWAY---OMG, really???? I’m not ready, I think I want to change my premise, vampires are out, aren’t they? Wait, maybe I should do something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT. Or, no. Take a deep breath. There. Better? I can do this. You can do this. Come on, it’s only 1,667 words a day. Piece of cake. Which reminds me, make sure you have lots of snack-type goodies to sustain you. I prefer a trail mix I get at Trader Joe’s called Omega Trex Mix. It has dried cranberries, raisins, almonds, walnuts, pepitas, pecans, and pistachios. Very tasty and gives you loads of energy. Oh, and don’t forget your fave way to do caffeine. Mine is tea, right now I prefer Irish Breakfast Tea but I also like Earl Grey Tea. I’ll do coffee at Starbucks—cappuccinos are what I drink there.  

So, there you have it. Let the housework go, tell your kids/significant other they’ll have to cope as you huddle into your writing mode and write your way into history!!!!

Take Care,

Until Next Time,


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Newest Novel in the Relics of Nanthara Trilogy

Hey all,
My apologies for not posting last week. I was in the final stages of editing my second novel which released last Friday. Sacrifice of Heroes is book 2 in the Relics of Nanthara trilogy. I am not going to give too much away, but the title of this book is quite fitting for what our heroes go through.
When I initially finished this novel, I figured it was ready as it was; a great book ready to be printed. Not! My editor thought otherwise. This was the most work I think I've put into a story as far as reworking it. There were many little inconsistencies and parts that just didn't jive with my story. After reading it through with corrections, I understood. See, this is why editors, skilled ones, are good at what they do. Although my editor "suggested changes", applying her thoughts before corrections were made allowed the truth to manifest. The result was a story worthy of reading. Below is my blurb and a sample for you to read. You can snoop on my website to see more of what Nanthara has to offer.

Snatching Nanthara’s freedom from the grasp of evil may cost the alliance more than they are willing to pay.

After thwarting a traitorous member’s plan to steal the crown, an overwhelming number of enemy forces surround the alliance, forcing them to flee into the bowels of Cragspeak. Their route of escape forces an encounter with a vicious band of Vorghans, towering canine bipeds dripping a most foul disposition.

Despite enduring relentless hardships and heartbreaking losses bent on crushing the alliance’s resolve, a series of unexpected clues coaxes them to continue their treacherous journey eastward into the dark realm of Rhöengard.

Their dangerous journey takes them to the ancient ruins of Griffon’s Peak whereupon they discover its malevolent guardians, a frightful Dymwren and his minions. When several of their disciples are murdered by the enemy, the Bloodfist Monks, religious outcasts known for their disciplined teachings and unrivaled battle prowess, willingly join the alliance in accomplishing their dreadful task.

As Rhöengard collapses under dark rule, the alliance evades numerous enemy encounters in time to warn the gathered allies in Mhoren of a massive foulskin black tide to the north. With steely determination, Nanthara prepares for its most epic battle.


Vindicar peered through the gap. “This breach descends down close to one hundred feet to a waterway. It looks to serve as the Itunns’ water source.”

Sir Angelo inspected the skull and rope, running his hand along the tatty threads and dipping his fingers into the small puddle of water in the thick cranium. “This skull might be our only avenue of escape. If not, we can use the rope to lower ourselves down.”

“You intend for us to escape down there?” E’Umae asked with a fearful glance through the gap and into the blackness.

“If there are any other avenues of escape, I, for one, would be all for it,” Sir Angelo said. “Let’s go.”

Vindicar grabbed the bulky rope and threw it over the edge to the bottom of the drop.

Boren checked the strength of the knot around the giant bear skull and threw Azin an irritated stare. “Will you quit yer selfish grabbin’ and nabbin’. I don’t mind leavin’ you here.”

“My apologies, Boren. There is such a plethora of interesting objects here, my mind is in a tizzy.”

“Tizzy?” The irritated Dwergen ran a thick hand down his face, over his beard, and off the bottom tip in disgust. “Yer flip-floppin’ personalities are confusin’ me, Alkanien. Make up yer mind as to who yer goin’ to be.”

“Your admirable request is not so easily filled, my fellow adventurer. Unfortunately, it is simpler to speak than to do.”

Before Azin could finish stuffing his pockets with silver and gold coins, Courtar noticed Vindicar standing motionless as he leaned toward the tunnel.

Dreg listened. “Heavy footsteps come this way.”

Courtar felt the unmistakable vibration, pointing a shaky finger toward the entrance. “I told you the lying comes back.”

“Hurry,” Sir Angelo said, motioning to the others to start shimmying down the rope.

The tremors grew heavier as Sir Angelo glanced at the entrance, waiting for the Itunns to appear. Vindicar’s voice broke his concentration.

“Go,” he said.

Sir Angelo shook head. “No. I’ll stand. You go first.”

“You are the alliance’s leader. You must stay with the group,” Vindicar said.

Azin stepped between the two disagreeing paladins. “You two cackling hens can stay. I’m getting out of here.”

Sir Angelo and Vindicar both grabbed the assassin by the collar and yanked him backward.

“Watch it!” Azin said, scowling.

As Sir Angelo went to reprimand the assassin, a low, drawn out guttural growl rumbled the knight’s belly. Everyone eased their heads toward the entry where they stared at a hunched Itunn, both heads snarling in a primeval rage, each fist clutching their wicked clubs.

“Oops,” Azin said under breath.

Sir Angelo’s steady breathing was unable to slow his rapid heartbeat. “Everyone spread

out. We’ll only have a moment to retaliate if it charges.”

Infuriated, the Itunn roared and stepped into the lair as the second beast entered the opening, growling with a similar hatred at the intruders.

“Any other bright ideas, Mr. Leader?” Azin asked in a sardonic tone.

Sir Angelo gave a slight head shake. “Uhm, no. Not at the moment.”

Until next time, take care.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Young Adult
What exactly is young adult?
By non-publishing terminology young adult is a person in the early years of adulthood. This is the definition I write by. I believe a young adult is exactly that, a youthful adult. But I digress.
More importantly to writers and readers, what is a publisher's definition of a young adult?
Most publishers consider age twelve-eighteen young adults.
Pretty wide range, hey? A twelve year old's interest varies widely from an eighteen year old's.
Because of the wide disparity in the age group YA , like romance, is broken down--for lack of a better term--into sub genres.
In romance, you can find: sweet, erotica, paranormal, fantasy, time travel and the list goes in.
Under the YA header you have:
YA Crossover
YA Dark Fiction
YA Historical
YA Mystery
YA Fantasy
and emerging on the writing scene:
New Adult
Most of these definitions are self explanatory.
Tweens is actually a throw in since this is the eight to twelve year age group.
YA crossover is writing that has a foot in both worlds of young adult and adult.(This is the genre I enjoy writing in.)
YA Dark Fiction is the sinister side of human nature or horror with young adult protagonist.
YA Historical is a historical novel with young adult protagonist.
YA Mystery ia a mystery novel with young adult protagonist.
YA Fantasy is a fantasy novel with young adult protagonist.
New Adults are on the opposite end of the spectrum from tweens and written for the eighteen to twenty-five age group. (Another favorite of mine)
But no matter what end of the YA spectrum a writer's work is aimed at, one thing remains constant regardless if the reader is twelve or eighteen. Young adult novels are geared to be both compassionate and empathic. And here's hoping that carries over into life for all of us.
So what sub genres do you read or write? Which ones have I left out?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's Almost NaNo Time!

A little over a week to go for the big write.  Are you ready?  To tell you the truth, I’m a little nervous.  Excited, but nervous.  It’s like standing in the wings of the theater waiting for my cue to go on stage.  Afraid I’ll forget my lines.  Well, I’ll have to trust that the muse will arrive and if she doesn’t I’ll have to start without her. 
If you need some last minute, guidance here is a link you might find useful:
Larry Brook’s site has posts on building your story for NaNo.
Also, here is a spreadsheet you can download that will help you do the following during the great write:
Daily word count
Monthly word count
Number of scenes written
Number of writing sessions per day
Words per hour
Words left until goal
Average words per day
Tomorrow’s goal
And some other stuff.
And last but not least an empowering commencement speech by Steve Jobs to inspire you.
 Here are a few gems from his speech that hit home with me.
“….you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
The following also struck a chord for me:
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
So my friends let’s go for it!  What do you think?


Saturday, October 22, 2011

From Brain to Fingers: Writing on Impulse

The other day  it was gloriously sunny and the perfect day for a walk by the water. So I grabbed my husband and though he still must walk slow we started out for a leisurely stroll by the shoreline. Right away I noticed that the egret, a bird I love to see, was not in its usual place. The last time I had been to this spot the water had dried up and even the big rock in the middle of the bay was exposed, like Mt. Sainte Michele at low tide. Today, though, the water filled it all in and ducks swam back and forth seeming to glide though I knew their little webbed feet were paddling under those sleek duck bodies. Yes, it was a perfect day for everyone. Yet I was not inspired to write anything. All I wanted to do was stand and stare at the scene going on around me. The ducks swam in various groups and didn't seem to have a purpose except to swim around and around. Maybe they were looking for food. On the far side of the dock the seagulls raised a commotion. Wondering what could have caused it I saw a lone man feeding bread to them. They were all vying for the few pieces he had dropped into the water. As we rounded the curve away from the dock there is a little cove where the ducks and swans usually hang out. Until this point I was just a sightseer out for a walk in the sunshine.

Then I saw it. The egret stood on a rock with its feet partially in the water. ( I didn't take a photo then, but this one, though it is not on a rock is closest to the position I saw.) regal demeanor a contrast to the movement on the other side of the bay. It stood there so patiently and still. I watched it for a time and then something happened. The egret moved its position and suddenly I had to write about it. It was an urge so strong I would have written on anything. Lucky for me I had my phone and I have a Notes section on it. I started jotting down words relating to the egret. Short phrases, my poem about the grandeur of this creature. The urge to write had found me at last.

                                       The Egret
                                                     by Barbara Ehrentreu
                                   The egret stands
                                   Feet planted on its rock
                                   Long thin neck ending
                                   In a curve containing eyes
                                   That survey all surroundings
                                   Remains still as a statue
                                   Until it curls to catch its prey
                                   Dips its sharp beak
                                   Into the murky water
                                   Senses unseen danger
                                   I blink and it rises into the air
                               copywrite 2011 by Barbara Ehrentreu 

I never know when the urge to write will strike. So I am prepared with tiny notebook and/or phone available to jot down my thoughts. In this case it turned out to be a fully formed poem about the egret, which I posted to a poetry site I just joined on Facebook and which you see here. What caused me to write at that moment I will never know. One minute I was sitting perfectly fine and observing and next I was frantically writing. I can't understand people who don't have this urge, but maybe if I were an artist I might have wanted to draw at this moment. Being inspired by nature creates in me an urge to write.

It has always been the case and I have lots of poems and even a story to document this urge. That is why having a notebook or any piece of paper and a pen or a phone is very important. Once I even wrote a poem about the Fall while driving, because the scenery created that same urge to write. There was even the time when an event created the stimulus to write and I was in a dark car. When I looked at the writing in the light it was undecipherable. It didn't matter. My Muse had been satiated.

Many of you will be taking part in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writers Month. I have done this several times and in the last few years I haven't participated due to several reasons. When I did NaNo, though, I was faced with a blank screen and the need to write over 2500 words each day. How did I do it? I guess I called to my Muse and thought of the first sentence. Seeing the sentence pushed me to write more about it and suddenly when I looked up I had the amount of words for the day. I didn't think about anything, just as when the urge hit me outside, I trusted to my Muse to bring the words to my fingers. Not everyone can do this. They need to make outlines and then they can write. For me it's one sentence and an idea and I can go for several thousand words. I have three finished novels from NaNo.

This is how I wrote my first novel, grinding out thousands of words after teaching school because my Muse refused to let them stay in my head. I got lost in the writing and basically transcribed what the characters said to me. Only writers would understand this and not want to put me in a mental institution.:) Being a writer does mean that your mind controls your fingers and when you have to write, you have to write! Writers go into a world where nothing can penetrate, when they are involved in a project. I am happy to be one of the undeclared crazies - a writer!!!

Enjoy the weekend and I hope that you will go and check out my just published book, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, now moving up in sales rank on Amazon from MuseItUp Publishing.

In honor of celebrating their first anniversary, MuseItUp Publishing is having a Retreat in Montreal, Canada where we will all be participating in a mass book signing at Zeller's bookstore, and where I will be signing my first print books! If you live in the area come down and say hi. There will be door prizes and you can meet me. It will be held on November 5th at the Pointe Claire store.

Friday, October 21, 2011


My name is Jo Ramsey, and I write issues.

I don't mean to. I sit down to write a story for teenagers, and the issues just find their way in there. Even when the story is supposed to be happy.

Last spring, I was trying to think of a plot for a novel I wanted to write for Featherweight Press, a small children's and YA publisher that had already accepted one of my novels. I was kind of thinking that my novels for them would be contemporary, since Jupiter Gardens Press has a lock on my two urban fantasy series. Unable to think of a plot, I asked my daughters for help.

My 13-year-old said, "Something with dolphins." My 16-year-old texted all of her friends, one of whom replied, "A story about two boys who meet in a random circumstance and fall in love." (Yes, those were his exact words.) So I decided to write about two boys who meet when a pod of dolphins strand themselves in a cove near the boys' homes. It was supposed to be a romance, at least in part.

What I ended up with was a novel about a boy who meets another boy beside the cove where the dolphins are stranded and starts a friendship/relationship with him, but then had to contend with his mother abandoning the family for another man. That leaves the boy having to take care of his autistic younger sister, since his father is kind of clueless. As if that wasn't enough, he also discovers that his new love interest has untreated bipolar disorder. My editor tells me it's "not a traditional romance." Um...yeah.

Even in my urban fantasy novels, there are issues. Shanna Bailey in the Reality Shift series is dealing with bullying and with being abused by her mother, until book four. (No spoilers here.) Topher James in The Dark Lines has pretty much raised his mentally ill mother from the time he was five. Blake Walker, also from The Dark Lines, was turned over to Child Protective at age five by his mother after she beat him for demonstrating his psychic abilities; nine years later, he's still dealing with the aftereffects of that, despite being adopted by a woman who genuinely cares for him.

The thing is, issues happen to everyone. And to teenagers, some of those issues can seem insurmountable. All you need to do to prove that point is check out the news; how many teens have taken their own lives because of bullying?

My characters do have issues to deal with, but they're strong and they get through. That's the message I hope readers will take from my books, that you can get through things.

Even if my issues make my editor run for LOLCats after he reads my manuscripts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Color Season

There are many times of year that could properly be called a color season, yet it is autumn that, in my opinion, deserves the title more than any other. With the myriad of colors provided by our deciduous tree leaves whirling around our faces as we walk through a forest, and a bright blue sky overhead, dotted with powder puff white clouds, how could it not be called the most colorful time of year?
All of this brings back memories of my childhood in the eastern Ozarks of Missouri. I was always filled with wonder at how those leaves went from brilliant shades of green to the oranges, reds, and browns of fall. It was my fourth grade year, though, that brought it home in an indelible way. Our school was a two story affair, with the upper story reserved for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, along with the principal's office and nurse's station. The lower floor was divided, a visitation office, first and second grade on the south side, with third, fourth, and fifth grades on the north.
Which meant, as a fourth grader I had a panoramic view of Pilot Knob out my classroom windows. As mountains go, those that surrounded Ironton, Missouri, were unimpressive. This hill, named somewhat inaccurately for the notion that at one time in the distant past, the peak of the hill had been illuminated at night to aid river boat captains operating on the Mississippi River to our east. A long way to our east, perhaps forty miles as the crow flies. Be that as it may, it was Pilot Knob that claimed my curiosity at the age of ten.
The very peak of the precipice was a mammoth outgrowth of granite. Actually rheolite, of volcanic origin and purplish in color. Below the craggy peak lay thousands of trees, oaks, maples, and other hardwoods, along with a fair assortment of pines and cedars. All in all, it was a horticulturalists garden of Eden. For a boy who loved to play with colorful watercolor paints and construction paper of all hews, it was an inspiration. One that lives to this day.
There's a part of me that is still ten years old, and that part helps me bring youthful stories into being. It's been a long time and that building no longer exists, but Pilot Knob is still there. May it continue to be an inspiration for all youngsters who grow up in Arcadia Valley. Cheers,
Pat Dale

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writing Prompts

Greetings All!

You know those annoying Facebook quizzes like what’s your elf name? Or what character are you in Indiana Jones? Okay, I made those up but I have a confession to make. I don’t think they’re boring, in fact I love doing them!  So, with that in mind I decided to answer random FB quizzes with a storyline. Feel free to chime in on it.

What Celtic animal Sign are you? Wolf.

What Magical Woman of Fantasy are you?  Moon Fairy.

Who Were You in a Past Life: “You were a female child during the 1920's in Northern Ireland. You passed away at the age of 9. Unfortunately in your short lifetime you saw much more than most grown ups. You were a victim of physical abuse by a male figure. You were a good child but sadly misunderstood. What you learned in your past life you carried with you into this lifetime and this is where you get your extreme compassion, good heart and positive qualities from.”

What is Your Forgotten Celtic Name? “Ashling”

Okay, we have a wolf, a moon fairy named Ashling, and a human girl in Northern Ireland.

Who: Ashling, girl, wolf

Setting: Northern Ireland in the 1920s

I have a setting and my characters, now I need a plot. Since this seems like a fantasy with the moon fairy, I will go with a fantasy.

Here’s the beginning:

          Ashling sat on an abandoned tree stump staring up at her mother. “But, why am I banished to earth?” she asked.

          “You are a selfish girl who needs to learn humility. Until you help one human you will not be allowed to come back home.” Her mother’s silver-grey eyes, usually so full of joy, were full of sorrow tonight.

          “I don’t like it here on earth, it smells funny,” Ashling said wrinkling her nose. “And the air makes my wings heavy.”

          “I will allow you to return to the Moon when you have fulfilled your mission. For solace I have asked Wolf to keep you company.”

          Ashling brightened watching the woods for the creature to appear. A white streak flew toward her and landed at her feet panting. “Hello, Wolf,” she said burying her hands in his soft fur. He grinned at her.

          “Wolf will take you to Lough Dir, there you will find a human child who needs your assistance.”

          “What is the name of this human girl?” Ashling asked watching Wolf as he sat staring at her mother, the Moon Goddess.

          “That is for you to discover, my child,” her mother said as she shimmered into nothingness.

          “I guess it’s you and me,” Ashling said. “Let’s go find this human so I can go home.”


And there you have the beginning of my story, albeit a first draft. The point I am trying to make---in case you haven’t figured it out yet---is that inspiration can come from anywhere, even Facebook! So, go ahead, add to my story or find your own writing prompt, it not only stretches your writing but it’s a quick way to keep your writing sharp.

Until Next Time,

Take Care,


Monday, October 17, 2011

Kudos to:

Nick Giannaras
Kathleen Allen
Pat Dale
Jo Ramsey
Barbara Ehrentreu
and last but not least
E.W. Gibson
Back in July, I opted to turn Downtown into a group blog of YAers. The creative writers listed above decided to give it a go. Thanks to this diverse group, in less than three short months, Downtown followers have doubled.
This group brings to the table a wide array of topics that deal with both dreams and reality.
Everyone comes together from divergent backgrounds: from on the cusp of publication, to first publication, to having been around for awhile. All bring to the table a love and passion for writing, especially in the YA arena.
YA isn't just for kids anymore:) We have writers whose books are geared for middle school and the problems young people deal with every day. We have writers for older teens who address both real life issues and the paranormal. And all write for the young at heart. In other words, this group has everything covered on the YA scene.
So once again thank you: Nick, Kathleen, Jo, Pat, Barbara and Elizabeth. You rock.
And thanks for the folks who stop by to read and follow. You put smiles on our faces.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Prepping for NaNo

Where am I in this task of preparing for NaNoWriMo?  Well, considering that I didn’t know what I was going to do on the 1st of the month, I have moved along slowly but with promise. 
Last week I mentioned I’m taking a class with Susan Merier, who by the way has written over 50 published books.  I figure she has a handle on getting those words down and into a story form.  So, the first week we had to come up with a story summary in the form of a paragraph or a sentence.  Well, at first I thought that was pretty lame since I didn’t have an idea of what I was going to write.  Then the rush of the assignment and the time element moved my brain to do amazing feats.  I started with the one sentence, the elevator pitch.  My thought was that it’s easier to write one sentence about something you don’t know squat about than a paragraph.  And it was and it wasn’t.  But, from that one sentence, I came up with a story idea and then went on to the paragraph.  Bit by bit the story started to emerge.  There were big holes in the story and they needed filling. 
This week in the class we did an assignment called a ‘list of 20.’  It’s an exercise where you ask a question related to your story and the more specific the better.  Then you let your creativity go wild to answer the question and there is no right or wrong answers.  The point of the exercise is that after twenty answers you will find two or three gems that will kick your story out of its stuck mode or in a completely unexpected direction.  Neat.
 I took it further, as Susan said I made the exercise my own, from the list other questions popped up in my mind and more answers came into the forefront. This continued until the list was gigantic.  The holes were filling up.  Mind you, I don’t have the exact inciting incident or the plot points or the realization yet.  That’s what I will be working on the next two weeks, as well as a list of scenes.  Tick-Tock! Tick-Tock!
What is your method of preparing for the great write in November?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Social Media Do's and Don'ts!

We all enjoy reading and participating on various message boards and on places like Facebook and Twitter. These are great ways to get the word out about your book or books and to find people who have similar interests as you. For writers these places provide a way to connect with people from all over the world who have a lot in common with you. It's a way to build your platform and create more readers. Many times you will become friendlier with some people than others. In the case of a publisher's message board you can connect with other authors of the same company in a very informal way. Think of them as talking bulletin boards where you can post your good times and bad times and know someone will be there for both times. On some of these boards people post very personal things, like needing prayers for sick relatives or for themselves. Also you share in the joys of authors being published and getting good reviews. My publisher has two different boards for us. One is purely for professional notices and information that authors might enjoy reading. We post our blog posts on this and discuss writing. There is a second board, though, that we use for play. This one is a no holds barred place where we can fool around and where people can have discussions that are not related to writing or reading. My publisher makes sure we adhere to this division.

However, I belong to another group that did not have this policy. We are all writers, but we are not connected except by the fact we are all writers who have started later. Until this week this group was going along very well. But then someone posted about a blog she had written about Occupy Wall Street and there was a long and heated discussion that went on between two members of this group. Others did post, but basically it was the two of them. I didn't post anything at all, since I have had experience in social groups like this. What happened was that of course feelings were hurt and it got very personal. The entire group felt the repercussions and a few members left the group. Some suggested we should have a second thread for such discussions, but as of now there is no real decision.

Here is what I will say about the Do's and Don'ts of social media:


1. Do promote your own work and the work of others in your posts.

2. Do discuss writing and other issues pertaining to writing.

3. Do share your good news both professional and personal.

4. Do behave in a civil manner in all discussions and give each other the benefit of the doubt if there is a question. It is always better to settle anything with the person with whom you have the problem. It's easier on the group and most times since it's not in person your intent could not be seen. Most times feelings will be soothed and things will go back to normal.

1. Don't spam the group with the same message over and over.

2. Don't bring up anything about politics or religion. I have had a lot of experience with both of these situations and in one group a person became extremely upset over a post I had made. This is when I took the time to communicate with her and now we are still friends. We have agreed to disagree. But the rest of the group did not have to go through our back and forth of rhetoric until we made that decision.

3. Don't say anything against a member of the group. Always give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Many people give opinions on these boards, but end with in my opinion. Or IMHO. No one likes to be dictated to and when you give your opinion without stating this many people feel you are being harsh.

4. Respect the wishes of the group and make sure you follow the rules set by the leader.

If you adhere to these basic ideas using social media will be fun and will help to promote you and your work. I'm not saying I have all the answers, but after almost ten years of being a member of several different message boards and critique groups I have had a lot of experiences both good and bad. This post is just cautionary, because of the incident that occurred this week. Too many people go into these groups and forget that people are on the other end and feelings though they can't be seen can be hurt easily by the wrong words.

We as writers have a responsibility to use our words with care and dignity. I like to conduct my online conversations in the same way I would an in person conversation.

I'll end this as I would any post. This is just my own opinion, but I had to say something. Please let me know your feelings about this topic in the comments.

Also, I wanted everyone to know that my YA novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, pictured here on the right sidebar, is going to be in print in November!!! It will still be on the same outlets, Amazon and Barnes and Noble and in several bookstores too.:) The e-book will still be offered as well for people who enjoy their Kindles and Nooks!

Lastly, I apologize for not posting last Saturday.  Real life got in the way. Hope you are all having a great weekend.

You can find me:
Twitter:   @Barbehr

Friday, October 14, 2011


I don't mean that I'm celebrating something. I'm talking about authors in general celebrating things like new contracts, book releases, even submitting a book. If you're an author, how do you celebrate these things?

I'm a really visual person. Just take a look at the wall above my desk (I would put a picture if I could, but I haven't yet worked out how to make my phone cooperate with my computer to upload pics) with its copies of book covers, calendar, lists, etc. taped to the wallpaper, much to my landlord's dismay. We've already promised him we'll redo the walls if we ever move out. I like to see my progress and accomplishments, so my means of celebrating is usually visible.

I mentioned book covers. I work with small presses, so the cover artists email me cover art to approve. Once I have the final copy of the cover art, I print it out and tape it to the wall above my desk. That way I can look at all the pretty pictures and think, "Wow, those are mine!"

When I get a new contract, I add to my acceptance chain. On the closet door beside my desk, I have a line of colored card stock pieces, about 1 x 3 inches, starting at the top of the door. Each time I get a contract, I write the title and publisher on a new piece of card stock and tape it into the line. My goal is to reach the bottom of the door.

Of course, I also jump for joy, call my family, and occasionally order pizza on release days and new contract days. I've wanted to be a published author since I was four or five years old, so celebrating all these things reminds me that I'm living my dream.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Diving for Dollars

Is that what we're all about? If our goal is to pay the rent, buy the food, keep ourselves in house and home, there are better ways to do it. I've got thousands of ideas that pay better, have better working conditions, and are much less like the lottery system of winners and losers in the writing game.
We're all searching for better (or is that easier) ways to promote our work. Sadly, (or not so sadly) the best way is the same as when scrolls and parchment were the only way to share our written thoughts with the world. Can you imagine what it was like to slave away over your manuscript for years, knowing you would probably not live to see it proclaimed as a genius work of art?
In this day of instant gratification, I think we're way too impatient. The very best promo agent we have is our words, themselves. We write brilliant novels, with plots worth their weight in gold, and characters that will live through the ages in peoples' hearts and minds. And we want to protest if we're not immediately acknowledged to be the greatest since (fill in the blank with your favorite all-time author). Give me a massive heart-rending break!
When I began writing, I had dozens of stories in my head. No problem, there. I'd been successful in my chosen profession for years, so I wasn't worried about achievement. But I was not privy to the ins and outs of publishing; I had no idea that my first masterpiece to leap from my fingertips would not be an instant best-seller.
Not only was it not a best-seller, it hasn't even been published. Will it be someday? Who knows. I still regard it as possibly my best dramatic mainstream work, but it has baggage. As any politician knows, baggage can and does keep the best candidate out of office. Ah, well...
I've got ten novels published now, and three more to see the light of day soon. More on the way, so I'm successful, as far as that goes. Do I moan and complain that my books haven't hit best-seller lists? I want to, but no. I do not complain. My work is out there, and if it is good enough, eventually people will read it, love it, share the word, and my work will live for posterity. If not, it will probably line the trash cans of society.
Am I the less one way or the other? I think not. I've written what my heart tells me to write, and it's up to my ultimate critics to say whether I'm an author for the ages or not. So be it.
Happy reading!
Pat Dale

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Blog of October 12, 2011

Greetings All!

I’ve been doing some thinking (uh oh) this week about writing, publishing and where I am going with my writing. Some of that has to do with NaNoWriMo coming up in November (I did my outline, ready? It’s: 19th Century woman falls in love with a man who may or may not be a vampire—the working title is MANOR HOUSE---if you are doing NaNo my name is kathleea, add me as a writing buddy!) and a lot of has to do with how creative we have to be in promoting ourselves.

There was an article in my local online newspaper about a woman who set up a website, emailed her friends, Facebooked and tweeted about a job she wanted and asked everyone to mention her name to the employer. She generated enough viral buzz that she got an interview!!! I thought to myself, wow, maybe I should do that to promote my writing. Uh, wait, I already do. The problem is I am still thinking too small. I need to do something BIG. Here are my thoughts: billboard ads, TV/radio ads or interviews, Google ads, hiring a PR firm/publicist . . .and those are just off the top of my head! The problem with all of them is that they cost money, sometimes in the thousands of dollars (I know, I checked). *sighs* I don’t have money to promote myself or my books.  So, what do I do?

My books are selling a little, here and there but not enough to generate income I can live on. I know, I know, isn’t this every writer’s dream to be able to write full time and make a living off it? I need to think of ways to promote my books that don’t cost money. The other day I pulled my keys out of my bag and a handful of my business cards flew out taken by a breeze. My daughter said, “Well, that’s one way to advertise.” We chased down most of them but a few got away from us. Maybe some unsuspecting person will pick one up, read it and buy one of my books!!!

I read that someone put their business cards/bookmarks into books at the library as a way to promote their books. I like that idea but I’m afraid if I did it I’d get caught and hauled off to library jail, my library card forever revoked. I’d be the one standing in the snow imploring the people going inside the library to “Please, sir, lend me your library card so I can read a book.” Pathetic, I know.

I’ve handed out business cards to strangers on the street, most of them glance at it then toss it. I’ve Tweeted, Facebooked, and Linked In. I have a website, I’ve given away swag with book covers on it, I’ve done book signings. I check my Klout score obsessively. I had a smartphone cover (gelskins) made with my latest release on it on the chance that when I pulled my phone out someone would ask, “What’s that?” and point to the cover. Only no one has, so far.

I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing and hope that it’s enough. And it is, for now. But in the immortal words of Daisy Clover---from the movie of Inside Daisy Clover with Natalie Wood, Christopher Plummer and Robert Redford---“You’re gonna hear from me!”

What ideas do you have for promoting your books/writings that are “outside the box?”

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Brainstorming Idea!!

Hey everyone!

I didn't really have an idea to post today. As I was preparing to review my final galleys before the release of my 2nd novel, something came to mind; a neat idea to help others! A day ago, I posted a TOTD (Thought of the Day) on my FB page. It talked about considering other people's problems and reaching out to them instead of me, me, me, I, I, I.

So, with that in mind, I wanted to reach out to those who are published and to those who are not that read this blog. Here's my idea. What about a brainstorming session? That is:
1)Have readers post ideas they think would be cool stories, but not interested in writing them
2)Help tweak ideas folks are having trouble with
3)Throw ideas out there and have others contribute to the idea, building on it
When someone posts, make sure to state if it is an idea you are planning to keep or not. That way, there will be less chance of angry writers fuming about their ideas stolen. I've stated this before, but some ideas I've had for stories became stuck at key points and had to be worked out before I continued writing. Turning to my trusty wife, we tossed around ideas, and ta-da!...idea fixed. And great ideas, too.
Don't be so hasty to trash an idea someone gives you if it sounds goofy at first. Utilize the concept like a well cooked meal...savor it, think about it, morph it into something you may be able to work with. If not, no problem. You will not be sent to the blocks and thrashed, I promise.
Well, for starters, I will throw out an idea. You readers can build on it or not, send in comments or not. I need to begin reviewing my final proofs.
Take care, Nick

(IDEA: Young thief framed for a planned assassination. Used as scapegoat to cover true plot to murder hierarchy. While in jail, plans escape and actually thwarts assassination against those who framed him, gains victory/honor for deeds)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bloodstone Heart

Back by popular demand....T. Lynn Tolles
Welcome back T. Lynn, tell us about your current project.
Presently, I’m not writing. I took the summer off to spend my time advertising and marketing the books I do have and to clean up some items that I’ve been putting off. I plan to start writing again this winter. I’ve got some ideas for a new series and have been jotting down notes for several months now.

Are you a blogger? If so do you blog every day?
Actually I have two blogs, one for just my books and upcoming events and the other is for another site I maintain. It’s a book list of Paranormal Romance Books broken out into topic with links to the books, the author’s Goodreads, Gacebook, and website accounts. That’s one of the clean up items I’ve been working on – trying to finish uploading the books I have on the list already. I think I’m up to the R’s right now. Lastly, no. I don’t blog everyday, however on the Paranormal Romance Everything blog I post a lot more than my personal site, with book reviews and interviews.
What do you do to promote your books?
I use Freado, Goodreads giveaways, my and Facebook account mostly. On occasion I will do a blog tour, I signed up for some advertising on Kindle Nation and I’ve got some video trailers being featured on ARe café as well as BookSync. It really is a learning experience.
Do you transform people you know into characters in your book?
Actually I transform actors into characters (looks-wise) and then use character traits from people I know for personalities.
If you were marooned on an island, what would you prefer to have with you: Your current wip, chocolate or your favorite pizza?
I think I would have to train monkeys to run on a banana leaf treadmill and create electricity for my laptop then I would be a happy camper. I can’t imagine life without it.
Where can we to buy your books?
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, All Romance, CreateSpace or Lulu and a few places in between (giggles).


Josh Brenner is a good looking guy with an extraordinary talent he thinks is a curse - He's telepathic and he can't find the mute button, so he lives in solitude only coming out at night. But Josh isn't the only supernatural out and about this cold March night, because when Josh returns from his midnight run to the store to avoid people, he runs smack into a hungry agitated vampire looking for something and Josh is in his way.

Horrified by what he's seen and barely escaping with his life, he confides in a woman he barely knows, but has an instant connection with. When another vampire shows up looking for the first, Josh and his friend Lanie find themselves running for their lives and head to Oljone, California where a friend of Lanie's from College has helped her with a supernatural problem in the past.

But when they get to California with the vampire hot on their trail, they find Darby, Lanie's college pal, has moved to Massachusetts in search of her vampire boyfriend Devon. Luckily Darby's sister Rowan and Devon's vampire brother, Blake, step in and help Josh and Lanie as best they can.

The four work together along with Dean (a werewolf) and his girlfriend Sally (a witch) to figure out this crazy mystery. What does this determined vampire want and why? And is he willing to kill for it? As this mystery unfolds, so do other darker mysteries. Will they figure things out in time before some is killed? You'll just have to read it to see!


The chill of March was in the air and the moon shone through a halo of misty fog. Even though the moon was but a sliver, it appeared ten times brighter than normal, due to the refraction of the halo. Josh often walked late at night, even if just to pick up items from a convenience store. He liked this time of night, when most people were home with their families. The streets were quiet without many people about.

He had a hoodie on under his black leather coat and his iPod turned up as loud as he could stand it. This was standard practice for any public outing. Since he had been a young child, Josh could read other people’s thoughts. Though to anyone else, that may seem a gift, he felt it more a curse - a curse that had no on/off, mute, or volume switch.

Imagine being able to hear the random thoughts of everyone in your vicinity. Goofy, dumb thoughts, rude thoughts, thoughts a person never intends for anyone to hear. Everyone thinks out loud at times, but like breathing, people don't think about it. Sometimes it's just to keep oneself company, like having a television on in the background. Other times, it helps in dealing with scary, stressful, or embarrassing situations, but in most cases, people would be horrified if someone heard these thoughts. It made Josh feel like an outsider, a freak, to know what a person would say before they said it or to know their true feelings on any given thing. To Josh, isolation was the key and he was good at isolating himself from others; after all, he had perfected it over the years.

Buy Links:

Amazon (Kindle Edition):

Amazon (Paperback):

B&N (Nook Book):

B&N (Paperback):


End of Tour Giveaway:

About the Author:

Born and raised in Silicon Valley, T. Lynne Tolles is a stay-at-home mom, part-time bookkeeper and writer. In the summer of 2009 she claims she got a 'wild hair' and sat down in front of her computer and wrote "Blood of a Werewolf'" in three weeks. She started "Blood Moon" and "Blood Lust" back to back, the following week.

"It was never my intention to become a writer, but the more I wrote, the more addicted I became."

The Blood Series includes five titles.

Contact Links: