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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's Official!

It's frightening, in a very good way. The journey to this point was long, difficult, and sometimes very painful, but I made it. I'm an official published author!

I'm on Barnes & Noble!

And Amazon!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Insight into Autism

I’m writing this from my couch where I’ve been draped for the last week. Gotta love the flu. Here’s an interesting view into living with autistic people.

I have eight kids, six of them affected to some degree with autism. My youngest, a sweet completely normal girl, has given me the most interesting insight into children’s development. She is the only one to have normal social and verbal development. (I have another daughter who had hearing loss as a baby and ended up in speech therapy to learn how to hear most consonants.) I never realized how odd my children were until my youngest came along.

One Saturday, my youngest found me, throwing herself across my lap. “No one will play with me,” she complained, like a little drama queen.

“Your brothers *are* playing with you,” I answered. “Legos and computer games. They even said they’d play cards with you.”

“No, mom,” she explained. “They aren’t playing *with* me, they’re playing *next* to me.”

I laughed as I realized she was correct. My sons are still very much into parallel play - playing next to each other, even the same activity, but not much interaction and definitely no eye contact, only the occasional comment that may or may not have anything to do with the context of the activity.

Leave it to a 5yo to see clearly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Twilight Phenomenon

Money totals are rolling in for “New Moon”. The Twilight series is a blockbuster mega-hit. So how did Stephanie Meyers do it? I’ve been watching the phenomenon trying to figure it out. I did the same with the Harry Potter craze. Neither series is particularly well-written. I can list dozens of similar books that are much better plotted and crafted, but none of them were mega-hits. (No, this is not a ‘rip on Harry Potter and Twilight” post.)

Why even care, unless I’m just jealous of their success? I admit I am jealous, I’d love my books to hit that level of sale—which is the main reason I’m trying to understand how they did it. Neither woman had published anything previously. Neither woman had what the pros consider necessary to success. Yet they managed to do something very few SF/F/Horror authors ever have. Even Stephen King took years to build his empire.

As far as I can tell, J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers have two things going for them: really good marketing people and characters that resonate. Teen angst is a universal theme, wanting to fit in and belong is also universal. Harry Potter reaches both male and female audiences, drawing them into the teen drama of Hogwarts University where boyfriend/girlfriend issues take center stage just as often as saving the world from evil. Twilight pulls girls into a world of teen heartache. Edward is the epitome of forbidden love.

Neither series caught my interest for long. But I’m not the target market. I’m not a tween to teen looking for stories that resonate with my own inner anxieties and insecurities. As a writer, though, understanding how they became so successful can’t be anything but helpful in my own career. Perhaps more authors should care about their characters and stories and less about making a statement. I don’t think J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers set out to make political or religious statements. They were telling stories.

And doing it very successfully.

Friday, November 20, 2009

To Series or Not to Series? That is a Question

I’ve come across several discussions lately about writing series versus stand-alone novels. Both sides have valid complaints. With a series, the trend now is to write a cliffhanger and leave the poor reader dangling for two or three years, or even forever, before they get the next installment of the story which ends with another cliffhanger. I’ve heard some readers say they wait until the entire series is published before they buy or read any of the books. Other readers say they love series because the story is so long and convoluted that it keeps them hooked for a long time. They love the characters and worlds so much, they want to keep reading the saga.

Stand-alone books don’t keep you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the next book. They have a definite beginning, middle, and end; something that series books don’t always have. But what if you fall in love with the characters? If enough fans demand a sequel loudly enough, the author may write one. Sequels usually fall far short of the mark, though, especially if they weren’t planned in the beginning.

I read both stand-alone and series. The ones that are most satisfying to me are the series where *each book* in the series has a definite ending. Each book is a complete story, but with the added bonus of familiar characters that I enjoy. The one exception? Tad Williams Otherland series. I waited until I could get all four books, though. It’s a series because the story wouldn’t fit in one volume.

My book, Nexus Point, is the first in a series. Yes, I said series. No, no giant cliffhangers. Each book is a complete story. The only plot point not completely resolved by the end of the book is the relationship between the main characters. You can read all but books 10 and 11 without reading the others first and they will still be good stories. They just have more depth if you know what happened in the other books.

My publisher, Cyberwizard Productions , has bought all 11 books. Their philosophy is to commit to the whole series. It’s unfair to a reader and the author to drop a series halfway through. Even if sales are lousy, which I sincerely hope won’t be true, they will publish the whole series. They have faith in my writing.

And for those of you hesitant to start a series, I have written all 11 books. They just need a good editing. Writing book one implies a promise to the reader that the author will finish the series. I make this promise in good faith. I hope you enjoy the series and the characters because I sure did.

So check out the first three chapters of Nexus Point. Email me if you have questions. Most of all, enjoy the story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stories are published!

I've got two publications this week! How often does that happen?

Check out "Glutton's Purgatory" for free at
Carl had a normal life, until his food began talking to him.

"Minor Details" is in the Halloween issue of Darwin's Evolutions at
Two teen "witches" sell their souls. Guess who comes to collect.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Defining Extraordinary

Extraordinary People

An acquaintance commented the other day that I was an extraordinary person. The comment took me aback. I don’t consider myself extraordinary. I’m just a normal person coping with life. It got me thinking, though. What makes an extraordinary person?

Many people idolize sports figures or celebrities. It’s easy to say they are extraordinary because you aren’t close enough to see the flaws. It’s easy to overlook warts from a distance. To me, the most extraordinary people are those in my neighborhood, those who cross my path in life. No, they are not perfect, but they have their moments where they shine brilliantly. The neighbor who friends the teenager struggling to define their place in life, lifting them to a higher purpose. The couple who stay together through tough times and still love and cherish each other into old age, never straying. The employee at the store who strives to treat each customer with courtesy and respect, meeting impatience and anger with an unwavering friendliness. These are my heroes.

So what makes a person extraordinary? The courage and conviction to live a moral life, no matter what others may say. The passion to reach higher, to keep trying. I have a quote in my office that I hope I live up to in my life. “People are like stained glass windows–they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in their true beauty is only revealed if there is a light within.” ~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. May we all live with a light shining brightly. May we reach to become extraordinary through small daily acts of service, love, and kindness.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Through the eyes of a child

Several years ago, a heartburn medicine company had an ad campaign that featured a man sleeping. He suddenly sits up. His wife asks, very concerned, "What's wrong, honey?" He opens his mouth and...

Breathes fire. She pats his arm. "Heartburn, again?"

My then 2yo son, looked at me, eyes wide, and said, "Mommy, I want heartburn!"

I love the innocence and wonder of children.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Religion and SF tv shows

“Defying Gravity” was an interesting tv show. I’ve watched the nine episodes available online. But the story arc bothers me. Why do the creators of SF shows think they have to have a mystical, quasi-religious story arc? Star Trek (the original) only did it in a few episodes, usually because they had to deal with aliens with god-complexes. StarGate SG-1 dealt with it a bit, for the same reason. But Defying Gravity, with its near-future realism, wasn’t content to build a story around exploration or even a strange artifact. No, they had to find “God” in the object.

Not that I object to religion. I’m very religious myself. I’m just wondering why SF shows have to explore the idea that God can be found as a tangible thing just waiting for us to reach a certain point in our technological evolution. Is it because we are searching for meaning or is it the same reason that ancient people built the tower of Babel? We have a deep-seated need to find God, to classify Him, to fit him into the framework of understanding we’ve built to explain our existence. So we create tv shows where God is a glowing, amorphous blob that wants us to retrieve the other bits left lying around on other planets. Maybe the writers didn’t mean to take the story that direction but since the show was cancelled, we’ll never find out.

On the other hand, you have tv shows where God does not exist and never has, where relationships are always doomed to fail, where true happiness does not exist. Firefly, much as I love the show and the characters, falls into this trap. Joss Whedon must not believe in marriage or happiness, none of his characters ever find it and if they do, the universe punishes them by ripping away whatever they had.

So where is the balance between religion and science? I personally believe science and religion are not contradictory but complementary. Science answers questions religion isn’t equipped to handle and vice versa. God is not quantifiable, but his creations are. By understanding his creations, we can understand something about deity. And through religion, we can build a relationship with God that can help us understand science and find meaning in our existence.

I wonder if Hollywood will ever find that balance.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why Attend Conventions?

Answer: They're fun! And you can have fangeek moments and no one gives you strange looks. And you can network with other people who have similar interests.

I spent last weekend in Phoenix AZ at the First North American Discworld Convention. Sir Terry Pratchett is amazingly funny, friendly, and a true gentleman. The con was well-run and very enjoyable.

And I agree with Sir Terry's comment: "I've never seen so many corsets in one place at one time in my life!"

Thanks to the committee and the guest of honor and the others who attended for making it a great experience.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Teenagers Need Instruction Manuals

I have a 17yo daughter.

According to her, I'm a blend of the Wicked Witch of the West and the Evil Stepmother. Catch 22. No matter what I do, I'm evil. If I let her go to a party, I'm evil for not caring about her safety. If I forbid her from going, then I'm determined to destroy her social life. If she sneaks out and goes anyway, then I'm evil for not stopping her. I lose.

Sons are much easier to deal with.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Miss Spelling Comments

It amazes me how many people promoting themselves as authors and writers post blogs and messages littered with misspelled words. The occasional grammar slipup can be excused, as long as it is rather obscure and not glaring. But using the wrong word or leaving misspelled words seriously damages your credibility as a professional.

It only takes a few moments to proofread and spellcheck a document. Take the time.

Spend a few moments learning commonly misused words. They're, there, and their; insure and ensure; and others. With online dictionaries, it's a snap to check the meaning of the word you are using. Do it.

Please, for the sake of communication, learn to do it right; especially if you call yourself a professional.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Censorship in the Library - Burn that Book!

A friend's Twitter post triggered a chain of thought on censorship in public libraries. I was on our community library board for four years. I've worked closely with the grade school librarian where my children attend school. I have a whole bunch of my own kids. It's interesting how the whole censorship thing works.

At the public library level, I found the choice of books people objected to very intriguing. They weren't objecting to the romance novels that bordered on outright porn. Nope. The books filled with profanity didn't make the list, either. They objected to books that portrayed Mormons in an unflattering way (I live in a predominantly Mormon community). The librarian explained her dilemma. The library is funded with public money, therefore, it should reflect the community's interests and values. But, libraries are also places that value freedom of thought and expression and are forbidden to practice censorship. Her solution? Pull the offending book for a month or two with a promise to the patron to review it for objectionable material, then after a few weeks, quietly slip the book back onto the shelf for circulation again.

At the school library, it was similar situation but a lot more volatile. We're talking about people's offspring and their tender little minds. One year, the librarian had a whole mob of very vocal parents objecting to Harry Potter, anything Star Wars, Animorphs, and a whole string of other popular children's books. The main complaint was that the books promoted witchcraft and a belief in "magic". I found it interesting that the books they wanted pulled were all science fiction and fantasy titles. Goosebumps were fine. The librarian knew how popular the books were and didn't want to create a scandal. If she refused, which was completely within her rights and job description, the parents would create a massive media scandal. If she complied, she could lose her job. She opted to create a waiver for parents to sign before their children were allowed to check out the unsavory books. Guess who was first in line to sign? Me.

I strongly believe in freedom. What I value may not be what my neighbor values. My right to read what I choose is just as valid as theirs. Public libraries, school or community, do not have the right to censor my choices. It ultimately is up to me to censor what I read. I do practice censorship with my kids, as is my right as their parent. There are books that I don't want them to read for a variety of reasons. Once they are out of my house, they can choose to read them if they want.

That is the beauty of our country. No one can dictate what we are allowed to read. Everyone has a right to their opinion and the option to air it. But no one has the right to force their opinions and values on me, just as I have no right to force you to read MY book list.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nexus Point is getting closer to release

My novel is getting closer to release. I'm waiting on the final word from the publisher that everything is set. I'm hoping for Labor Day weekend, but it looks like it might be later into September. Meanwhile, just to whet your appetite, here's a teaser for it:

Dace’s wants are simple–a trading ship and the freedom to fly where she chooses. But on her first trip, her crew betrays her, her ship explodes, and she finds herself stranded on Dadilan, a planet locked in a feudal age.
Survival is hard enough when you have no technology or resources. It’s even harder when you have drug smugglers hunting you. Dadilan is the source of shara, a drug that enhances psychic abilities, a commodity so rare and precious people will kill for it.
Trapped between rival smugglers and the Patrol undercover investigation, Dace has one hope of rescue–convincing Tayvis, the undercover agent, she’s an innocent bystander. But those don’t exist on Dadilan. No one lands without authorization, unless they are smuggling.
Her ignorance may cost her life.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Losing a Battle but Winning the War

Good customer service will win the war.

I don't know about you, but I'm fed up with lousy customer service. You know what I'm talking about: clerks who chat with their friends and completely ignore you, sales reps who bypass you for someone who looks like a better prospect, phone service people who have no idea how to actually help you, grouchy employees who are downright rude that you would have the nerve to interrupt their day with a simple request.

There are stores that I no longer patronize because every time I step foot in the store, I'm treated with contempt. Wake up, people! I'm your customer, I'm the reason you stay in business. Yes, I'm just one, but I have friends and family and neighbors who hear about the lousy service I received at your establishment. When they ask me for recommendations, your business won't be anywhere near my list, in fact it will be on my list of places to avoid. The ones with polite employees who actually seem happy to help will be the ones who get mentioned, even if the prices are a little higher.

So how do you get good employees? You create them. Treat them well and they will treat your customers well. Show them decency, courtesy, and respect. Then train them to show those same qualities to your customers.

True, a rude, impatient customer can be hard to deal with but that is no excuse for a lack of professionalism from the employee or manager. There are a few that can't be satisfied no matter what you do, but most people just want their complaint addressed. Listen politely and then offer what you can. It will go a long way to mending customer opinion.

Before I leave my soapbox, I want to make a plea for a return of common courtesy. Treat others the way you want treated and even if they don't respond in kind, you'll come out the winner.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Importance of Storytelling

"Fiction is just as vital. What do we humans do on weekends? We go to movies, we read, we watch television, we play video games—all of which require WRITERS. Humans require entertainment to remain sane. Stories instruct, inspire, and fuel our hope and imagination. Without that we die, or go crazy, or go crazy then die. We risk losing our humanity. The writer’s contribution is more than valuable, it preserves and grows the human condition. Tyrants burn the books first for a reason." (quoted from July 23 entry)

I love the thought expressed in this paragraph. I've been frustrated over this very issue for the last several years. It seems Hollywood has forgotten that movies are more than special effects and beautiful people, movies are, at their heart, STORIES. The last few movies I've seen were major disappointments, not because they lacked visual appeal or acting abilities, but because they left the story behind. If they have a coherent story at all, it is usually so riddled with plot holes it becomes ridiculously unbelievable. And yet, they make millions. Have we become so inured to lame stories on TV and at the theater that we no longer demand decent storytelling? Have we forgotten what real stories are?

Novels fare a bit better, but most of the bestsellers have mediocre writing and poorly constructed plots. But even a poorly written story is better than none at all, right? Maybe not. Good books exist, but it requires a lot of digging to find one. The end result is worth it. When storytelling happens, magic follows. Good storytelling captivates the imagination and frees it to soar. Poor storytelling is a thin shadow in comparison.

I work at a center that runs high-tech starship simulators ( What we do is essentially interactive storytelling. Most of our staff are teens. Most of them have only a rudimentary grasp of storytelling. Few of them are even aware that they are storytellers. The potential they hold in their hands as they create the stories is awe-inspiring. Few of them ever reach that potential, but when they do, they unleash a storm of creativity in themselves and the crew of their ship that is beautiful beyond words.

Storytelling is an art, one that can be learned. Back to the quote at the beginning, bad storytelling is better than none at all. Good storytelling is transcendent. The keenest disappointment is felt for the story that could have been superlative but because of lack of skill or laziness, falls far short, landing somewhere south of mediocrity.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Just when you think you've seen everything... have children. They do the strangest things. When you ask them, "Why did you do that?", the answer is usually, "I don't know," spoken in very bewildered tone of voice.

My kids have pulled some doozies over the years, so many I've lost count. Most of them blur together in a haze of years of sleep deprivation.

I had one child, maybe six or seven at the time, who sat in one of the tall lego canisters. And got stuck. He was hunched over, waddling through the house with a big plastic bucket stuck to his rear, howling for help. His siblings were laughing so hard they couldn't stand. It took us half an hour to finally remove it. When asked why he sat in the bucket, his answer? "I don't know."

Life's lesson? Don't ask. They don't know either.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Power of Courtesy

I've been working as a customer support tech for the last five months. I've learned quite a few "life lessons", but the most powerful one has been the power of being polite.

I answer emails for an iPhone app company. It's me, at home, by myself, working when I have time. It adds up to a handful of hours per month and a little extra income. I suspect many app companies have even less. I try my best to make sure all emails are answered within no more than 72 hours, usually less than 24. So imagine my surprise when a customer sends me twelve emails within two hours and is absolutely livid that they were not answered immediately. It was after eleven at night when he sent them. I'd answered his first email, finished the rest of the queue, and gone to bed. (I'm a mom and I work several jobs, I'm tired that late at night.) The next day I log on and am faced with increasingly angry emails. I respond as politely as possible, trying to resolve his issue. He sends a message back complaining that we are a terrible company because we do not have someone sitting a the computer 24/7 just waiting for emails to answer.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to be paid $10/hour 14/7 just to wait for emails to answer, but I don't have that kind of life and the company I work for doesn't have that kind of money.

The customer ended with an abusive rant that left me upset and angry. Guess how much service he's going to get from me if he ever needs more? He will still get basic assistance because I can be professional, but I won't go out of my way to help him.

That's just one example. I've had quite a few others.

The basic lesson? If you want good customer service, try being polite and reasonable. Even if you believe anger and outrage get you more, you'll still leave the impression that you are an insufferable, arrogant jerk. Karma or not, the reputation you earn will catch up sooner or later.

More on customer support lessons later.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Musings on figments

So each blog post should be some snippet of existential wisdom, right?

Here's one for today:

I'm painting my bathroom. And I'm reviewing a publishing contract. And listening to my kids watch TV. And doing customer service emails for a company. And wondering what we're going to do for health insurance. And trying to decide what's for lunch.

Who are we? It depends on which hat we're wearing at the time. I'm a mom, a novelist, a customer support tech, a maid, a cook, a chaffeur, a nurse, a financial consultant, a whatever-I-need-to-be-at-the-time. So, at this second? Confused.

My novel, Nexus Point, is almost ready to hit the shelves. A few minor details to mop up, a date to set, and I'm published. It's frightening at the same time it's exhilirating. Like the line from a song, it's like I'm naked in front of the crowd because these words come from me, my soul on paper. Sort of.

Writing a first person novel is intriguing. I'm so deep in my character's head I don't know where she stops and I start anymore. I dream her life. And I wonder if she's dreams mine, except she lives in my head in a universe that exists only in my imagination.

Now I have a chorus of very unhappy characters letting me know they don't appreciate being figments of my imagination. Maybe I've reached the stage in my writing where they need to come live in your head for a while. In a few weeks, they can start doing just that.

From my head to yours. Enjoy.

How's that for existential?