Giving Back + Links That I Forgot to Mention

My mother's always taught me that service is a commendable thing. I've found through the years that whenever I become egocentric (me! me! me!), the cure is simply this: to take down the mirrors and look around me. These past few days we've had Hurricane Irene ran its destructive course through the East Coast, claiming lives in its wake. And what did I do? I bemoaned my writing funk.

Not cool.

While I am deeply grateful for all of your support, I also want to smack my head for being such a whiner. So to cure myself, and to show my appreciation, I am going to offer you this:

UPDATE: The First Chapter Crit slots are NOW FILLED!


FIRST PAGE CRITS TO THE NEXT 5. <-- And this one is CLOSED to new requests!

THANK YOU for participating!

That's it. Easy peasy.

After you scramble to open your emails and send me your lovely requests (I'm a fairly competent reader/editor, I think. At any rate, I'm a useful second pair of eyes.), come back here and check out the following links:

The Clothing NOT Optional contest  hosted by J. Lea Lopez of Jello World is still looking for votes. One of the "steamy" short stories is mine, but I can't tell you which one it is. So go read the four entries and blush and then vote for your favorite. Hopefully, you end up voting for my story, even if you didn't know it. Voting is also anonymous. There's a poll on the left sidebar. Please and thank you!

Chapter 13 of the Skeleton Key blogvel is up! Over at Chelsea Rose's blog. This chica is also a very talented artist. Check out her artwork while you're there.

And last, but not least, I want to do a BIG SHOUT-OUT to my wonderful and generous friend JENNY PHRESH of The Party Pony for bringing a smile to my face. She'd heard of my library dilemma (it is closed for a whole month due to renovations *gasp!*) and decided to mail me books so I won't have reading withdrawals (my right eye was starting to twitch).

So please, please, please, go pay her blog a visit and show her some LOVE because she is just way too nice. And FUNNY. And awesomely talented. And did I mention, FUNNY? I must warn you though...do NOT drink anything while reading her blog posts. I don't want to be responsible for ruined suits or clothes, and I will certainly not accept your dry cleaning bill if you send it to me.

Have a great day, everyone!!


I'm overwhelmed by the support and love you guys have shown me.


You guys are the BEST!

I'm going to write now--a horror short story that I hope will haunt my dreams tonight. Because of your kind words and comments and cheerleading poms poms, this will be my reality soon:

By Debbie Ridpath Ohi

I wish you all a FABULOUS week! Happy writing! And if Mr. Doubt comes slinking around your corner, I'll be there to help you ward him off. <3 you all!

Wherein My Mind Wandered and I Had To Rope It Back Into the Old Noggin

I've been such a scattterbrain lately. I really thought life would resume normality once my little kiddo goes to school, but while this week has been a success for her (she LOVES her teacher, she's gotten a NEW BESTFRIEND on the very first day, and the school lunch menu has 3 meal choices now--and "Mommy, there is cake on Thursday!"), I've been lost in the wanderings of my own mind.

So. I haven't done any real writing, haven't been reading a lot of your wonderful blogs, and I've just been in a general sort of funk. Not the sad kind, more like the "What am I going to do and Where am I going next?" kind of a thing. Sounds like a midlife crisis, but no, it's not. Besides, I'm not THAT old. :D

I guess I'm just going to ramble now. Feel free to stop reading whenever you want--I promise I won't get offended. ;) Sometimes I feel like I have to do things--for instance, I've been thinking about how I haven't even blogged about writing tips, or anything remotely helpful or thought-provoking. Then I see all the other blogs in my RSS Feed and they've pretty much covered everything else I wanted to say or write about. I stare at my WIP and the old doubts rise up to attack me: You call yourself a writer? Do you even know what you're doing? And then the ever annoying chuckle, followed by: You dish out writing advice and you can't even follow your own advice?

Sigh. Get out of my head, you miserable Mr. Doubt! And take Ms. Self-Pity with you on your way out!  

If only it were that easy, right?

To pass the time (who knew I had time to pass?), I've been doing some digital art work. It's my therapy. The interesting thing I've come to realize is that when I'm creating visual art, my writing gets stoppered with a cork, and vice versa. It's like I'm only allowed one creative outlet at one time. What's up with that? Maybe this is one of those conundrums: You draw, you can't write, OR you can't write, so you draw, OR you write, and you can't do anything else at all. HAHA!

Writing this post seems to help me rope my brain back into my noggin. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get some writing done today. Crossing my fingers now.

I wish you all a fabulous, productive weekend! May the MUSE be with you. :)


Because I'm a scatterbrain, I forgot to give you the link for this week's Skeleton Key blogvel Chapter 12 by the ever prolific writer, Michelle Simkins

Also, J. Lea Lopez of Jello World hosted a sexy short story contest called Clothing NOT Optional. J. Lea writes romance and erotica, and her challenge was to come up with a sexy story where the characters steam up the page while keeping their clothes on. No nudity. I normally don't write sexy stories but peer pressure, and the challenge to write out of my comfort zone, made me cave in. There are four entries up on her blog, and the voting is now OPEN for readers to choose their favorite story. I won't tell you which one is my story so it will be a fair contest, as all entries are anonymous. So head over there to read and choose your favorite (hopefully, you'll like mine). You are allowed to blush, btw. It's ok, I won't tell anyone.


I picked up Matched by Ally Condie at the library based on a stranger's review--this guy (yes, he was MALE!) was a junior high teacher and he was really impressed with the book. So, out of curiosity (and this was back in the days when I was still living under a rock), I pulled out Matched from the bookshelf and took it home with me. I finished the book in one day.

So when Jenny Phresh of The Party Pony hosted a contest with YA ARCs, and among them Crossed, the sequel to Matched, I knew I had to go crazy and try to win it. By the miracles of the universe and possibly good karma, I won the book, along with The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (see my review here). You can't believe how much squealing and happy dancing took place in my humble abode. I believe the neighbors got together to plot my eviction...oh wait, they can't evict me, I own my house. Mwahaha!

Moving on...

Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher turned bestselling author. She lives just outside Salt Lake City, Utah with her family. (Yay, a fellow Utahn!) Her website can be found at http://www.allysoncondie.com/.

Here are the blurbs for her books, courtesy of Goodreads:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Crossed (Matched (Hardcover - Trilogy))In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.


Why I Recommend:

Though it's a typical dystopian, disguised as a utopia at first, I still enjoyed the elements of this dystopian society--a world where everything is controlled, from the amount of food one eats to what they dream at night. Think Big Brother of George Orwell's 1984. Anytime we have a government, fictional or not, that tries to suppress their people's right to choose and think for themselves, you know you want them to fail so bad you're willing to root for any sign of rebellion, however small. Needless to say, the novel's setting definitely set the tone for the entire book and made me immediately sympathize with the protagonists (I love me a rebel, you see.)

Cassia's excited to discover her match, as all the other girls are. Having lived within the Society's grip all her life, she didn't know any better...until an error in her Match card shows her an alternative life. A possible match with Ky, an Aberration, instead of the upstanding citizen and best friend, Xander, whom Society had intended for her all along. This "glitch" made Cassia take a better look at herself, her life, her family, and why did her Grandfather, who was dying, left her with a forbidden poem?

As Cassia tries to unravel the Society's secrets, as well as get to know Ky and his dreadful past, the Society keeps a closer watch on her and her family. Soon she begins to feel smothered, as her feelings for both Ky and Xander become complicated.

The writing is pretty solid, and the pace nicely done. I also liked the poem references in the book. There are so many dystopian novels out there right now, so as far as settings and politics go, this wasn't exceptionally original. Neither was the love triangle angle, which almost every YA book has anyway, BUT I still enjoyed this story. I liked Cassia and her determination. She isn't afraid to search for truth even when it meant risking her life and the people she loves. She's not afraid to pursue her heart either, which is always commendable. In a world that is tightly controlled, it takes courage to rise above the norm and stick out like a nail, even when Society tries to hammer it down. The romance angle is also sweet and not overly done. Plus Ky is an intriguing character.

Book 2 follows with Cassia looking for Ky, when Ky gets sent out to the Outer Provinces. So we get alternate POVs between Cassia and Ky with each chapter. There may or may not be a rebellion, but nevertheless, the idea of one gives Cassia hope that someday the world will be right once again. I won't say anything else to avoid dishing out spoilers by accident. But I just want to say that book 2 follows in the same vein with book 1 (pacing, writing, etc.), and the focus on Cassia's personal life is stretched out to include the bigger picture of the world around her. All in all an enjoyable read, and already, I am waiting for book 3. =)

If you want to check out other books I've read and reviewed, go here. As I've mentioned last week, I'm planning a future book giveaway so stay tuned for details.    

You Like Book Giveaways, Right?

So I'm NOT giving out books YET. But there are a lot of generous bloggers who are hosting wonderful book giveaways.

So, let's get on to business.

1) My Twitter friend Mandie Baxter, she-who-rocks-the-glasses and gives me wonderful medical advice every now and then (no, she's not a doctor, though I call her Doc Mandie), is having her FIRST EVER BOOK GIVEAWAY! You have the opportunity to win a paperback copy of Love Story by Jennifer Echols (with a really pretty bookmark, so she says), OR two e-books by Amanda Hocking: Hollows, the first book in the Hollows series, and Switched, the first book in the Trylle Trilogy. So go check out the deets for a chance to win!

2) You can win a SIGNED copy of Maggie Stiefvater's FOREVER (the third book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy) at Pots & Pens. All you need to do is follow their blog and tweet about the contest. Easy peasy.

3) Do you like mermaid stories? Then this book might be your thing. Win EVERBLUE by Brenda Pandos at Confessions of a Bookaholic.

4) The ever generous and lovely Jenny Phresh is having a party, er, I mean a GIVEAWAY at her blog. People, you MUST follow this awesome lady. I love her to death. You can win A Million Suns by Beth Revis, Getting Somewhere by Beth Neff, Dragonwood by Janet Lee Carey, Truth by Julia Karr, and Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey. See? See what I mean? GO NOW!

Ryan the Zombunny's Reign of Terror and Love

If you've been following my blog for sometime now, you would know that I'd won Michelle Simkins' contest with my short story entry "Beware the Bunny". The lovely prize was Ryan the Zombunny, who arrived on my doorstep one stormy night.

This is a story of how our first three days went....

Warning: There may or may not be truth in this story, but all I know is that it's NOT for the faint of heart.


Lightning whipped across the darkening sky, a silver lasso cackling with electricity. Black clouds had gathered unexpectedly this summer evening, and somewhere across the state, some unfortunate weatherman was getting fired for missing the signs of the impending storm. Thunder bellowed its presence and announced the onslaught of rain, which came hard and fast. Like tiny furious daggers going for the kill.

The doorbell rang. I wiped my hands on a dishtowel before pressing the start button on the dishwasher. Before I could get to the door, I heard the sound of tires screeching on the slick pavement, as if someone couldn't get out of here fast enough.

"Yes?" I said, opening the door a crack. There was no one. A chill shot up my spine, but I ignored the feeling and flung the door wide. This was what I saw:

It was Ryan the Zombunny! Yes, I saw the suspiciously lone shoe on the welcome mat, but Ryan was here, and I'd been waiting for his arrival.

"Hey there, little guy. You're an absolute cutie! I can't believe the Postal worker opened your box. I'll have to remember to report this to the Post Office tomorrow." I picked him up. "After all, it IS a crime to open other people's mail."

Ryan looked at me with eyes full of understanding. Well, with ONE eye since the other one was hanging off its socket and was gazing at the floor.

"Are you hungry?" I carried him to the kitchen. On the counter were the vegetables we had scored at the Farmer's Market the day before. "Oh crap!" I slapped my forehead. "I forgot to get you some cauliflower. Oh well, we have plenty of other things. What do you think? Would you like to try a tomato?"
Ryan turned his nose at my food offering. I sighed. "Guess what, first thing on Monday, I'll take you to the grocery store and we'll get you some cauliflower, okay?" He merely hopped off the table in reply. I should have known then that he wasn't hungry and the shoe still lying on my doormat was a clue.

But I wasn't playing detective. I was glad to welcome him into our family. Still, it was obvious we weren't off to a good start, and I wanted desperately to amend this.

So I showed him his bedroom.

And I intoduced him to some friends.

Strangely enough, no one has seen Mr. Octopus since then. 
I taught him how to operate the TV remote so he could watch his favorite shows.

Needless to say, he quickly changed the show I was watching (TLC's What Not to Wear) to The Walking Dead.

"Okay," I said. "You can watch that but only when the kids are not home." He didn't answer.

The storm was finally dying down. Rain softly pitter-pattered on the rooftop. The children came home from visiting their Grampa and Nana, and there were ecstatic cries of joys at the sight of our newest "family member". Ryan had to endure cuddly hugs and tea parties with Tinkerbell, Buzz Lightyear, and the Elephant family. But he didn't complain. Not a word.

Later, I found out why.

May the Force be with you, Obi Wan...NOT!
Alas, the Force was not strong enough to save Obi Wan.

That night, I tossed and turned in my bed and dreamt of being chased by zombies.

Six a.m. came fast enough, and I staggered down the stairs with bleary eyes and hair to rival my friend Bethany's afro. A little bird chirped happily just outside the window, singing Gisele's Happy Working Song (from the movie Enchanted), when suddenly there was a whoosh followed by complete silence.

"Get that...that dead thing out of my house," I cried, but Ryan just stood there. I hurriedly swept the thing away before the children could see it. "Okay, buddy, let's have a new rule. No bringing dead animals inside."

His eye widened. Goosebumps prickled my arms. I had the strangest feeling that somehow he didn't break the rule at all.

Shaking off the chill, I ran back upstairs to get showered. Ryan followed behind me. "No, buddy, I have to get ready. Why don't you go and play?"

He stared at me from the bottom of the stairs.
After I was done getting ready, I went to the basement to look for Ryan and spied him taking a girl bunny for a ride. Imagine the smile on my face to see him finally having fun.

Unfortunately, fiive minutes later, girl bunny unwisely stopped to chat with a friend.
R.I.P. Mr. Gorilla. Rest in Pieces.

Unnerved, I took Ryan outside to enjoy the summer's lovely (and rather scorching) sun.
The Boy was helping me water the flowers in the backyard, and Ryan got up to get a closer look. Sweet bonding moment...or was he only gearing up for the pounce?
Luckily, no ghastly incidents occurred.

Evening came and we had survived with hardly any injuries or more beheadings. (Mr. Gorilla underwent extensive sewing surgeries and though he'd have to live the rest of his life as a vegetable--he chose a rutabaga--he is thankful to have his head still attached to his body. Headless toys don't get second chances. *coughtrashbincough*)

The tension in the house had considerably lightened, and Ryan even conceded to try a tomato. After I read him and the children a bedtime story, Ryan asked to borrow my sparkly tiara.

When he gave it back to me, he pressed his soft face to my cheek. I grimaced, expecting pain. But what I got was a kiss.

Yikes! My lips are NOT that red in real life. Silly iPhone camera app.
Welcome home, Ryan.

"The Future of Us" by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

I won an ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy) of The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler when my wonderful writer friend Jenny Phresh aka The Party Pony decided to clean out her BEA haul from her shelves and give away some prized titles. (People, this is one of the many reasons why you should follow her blog. Aside from randomly hilarious posts on galloping shopping carts and squirelly activities, this woman is GENEROUS! Plus when she's feeling sentimental, she writes beautiful, inspiring prose that'll make you want to wander around the subway sans contacts/half-blind.)

I finished reading this while on vacation--it is an easy, fast read. Here is the blurb for the book:

The Future of UsIt is 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long--at least, up until last November, when everything changed. Things have been awkward between  them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, Josh and Emma learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right--and wrong--in the present.

About the Authors:

Jay Asher is the author of the NYT Bestseller Thirteen Reasons Why. Visit his blog for more info.

Carolyn Mackler is the author of the popular teen novels, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things (A Michael L. Printz Honor Book), Tangled, Guyaholic, Vegan Virgin Valentine, and Love and Other Four-Letter Words.

Why I Recommend:

The book comes with two POVs--the chapters alternate between Josh and Emma. As I've mentioned, this is a fast, easy read. The writing is pretty straightforward (no lyrical or poetic prose here, but that is fine with me. I just like to point out pretty writing when I see it. Totally subjective, people.)

I enjoyed going back to 1996 and the cultural references, like AOL (so funny because AOL was the BIG thing back then. I still remember those free CD-ROMs they gave out in the mail.), Seinfeld, Windows 95, and those cheesy brick wall screensavers, among others. It's like a trip down memory lane. Only in the book, it's the opposite, for when they found a strange website called FACEBOOK on Emma's computer, they were suddenly privy to their future selves.

Soon Emma and Josh realize that their actions or even their thoughts in the present (1996) have the capability to change their future circumstances (15 years later). For instance, Emma deduces that she's unhappy in her marriage, and when she decides to never marry that person, the next time she logs in she's married to someone else. It was fascinating to see how their choices now affected their lives later.

The only thing that didn't sit well with me is the fact that their seemingly meaningless acts--those tiny, itty-bitty trivial things they did--somehow created huge ripples enough to drastically change their future in a heartbeat. I'm not a philosopher, and I certainly can not tell you that by deciding to sit down and read this blogpost as opposed to say, deciding to play on Twitter is somehow going to change your future so that instead of becoming a bestselling novelist (because you read my post), you went bankrupt and lost your  mortgage. Confused? What I'm saying is that in the novel, it's implied that every little thing we do in the present time can have huge repercussions in the future. Maybe it's just me, but I believe that huge repercussions only happen when we're faced with important decisions. Spilling vase water on the carpet (which Emma did) is not enough to make the circumstances of her future marriage change.

But as I am no Einstein, maybe it does. All I can say is that this reader was raising eyebrows at one point.

Putting such things aside (it's the same case as with Time Travel, messing with the time and space continuum and whatnot, only different...), the book was still an engaging read and I was really intrigued to see how it would turn out for both Emma and Josh. I kinda knew where it was going (no spoilers from me, but as you can see, it was a bit predictable). I liked Josh's character better than Emma's, but again, totally subjective. The supporting cast were good and well-sketched. I liked how normal teenage issues (such as the relationship with their parental units, the "sex" talk, etc.) are portrayed realistically in the story.

All in all, a good read, and one that makes you think: Are the choices I make TODAY making a difference TOMORROW?

To find out more, you can visit the book's facebook page. The Future of Us is slated to come out by November 2011. If you want a copy now, stay tuned because I'm planning a giveaway where you can win an ARC of The Future of Us for your own reading pleasure. 


Book Giveaway at Claire Legrand's blog!

This lady is amazingly generous. Claire Legrand is doing a Suitcase Seven Giveaway, and we are currently on book 5, which happens to be an ARC of  Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone! I love Laini Taylor! So of course I had to blog about this and do some tweeting to win it.

*crossing fingers* Oh please, please, please, let me win!

And while you're checking out her giveaway, follow her blog too. She's an up and coming author about to debut her novel THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Fall 2012 (Simon and Shuster).

So, what are you still doing here? Go. Now.


And The Winner Is...

I'm so glad to be home again. Vacations are fun, but there is no place like home (right, Dorothy of Kansas?) There's a lot of catching up to do and I'm sorry I haven't been able to read blogs. I'm excited to visit you guys and see what you've all been up to.

BUT before I wander around the blogosphere, the winner of the BOOK GIVEAWAY and soon-to-be proud owner of an autographed copy of THE FIFTH SPECTER by T.S. Welti is... (drumroll, please)


Congrats, Jemi! Please email Ms. Welti so she'd know where to send you your prize at:
tswelti dot writer at gmail dot com. Thanks to all who participated and showed support to our lovely friend and writer, T.S.



If you've been following the Skeleton Key blogvel (blog novel) my writer friends are doing, Chapter 11 is up at Ms. Cate Woods' blog Words from the Woods. To find the other chapters, see the Table of Contents for the list of chapter links.

And last but not the least... head over to A Still and Quiet Madness to read Anita Howard's EXCITING NEWS! I love this lady and I'm so happy for her. <3

See ya soon!

Monday is Blog Award Time!!!

Hello Monday!

This is going to be quick and easy. I have recently gotten to know these bloggers and I thought they need acknowledgement for the work they put on making their blogs shiny and sparkly. And you know me, I like sparkly things! ;)

So I hereby award the BLOG ON FIRE award to the following ladies:

1. Jessie Humphries
2. Krista
3. Lisa Ann
4. Tracy Jorgensen
5. Rachel Brooks
6. Julie Fedderson
7. Jeana Watts
8. Christine Tyler
9. Madeline Bartos
10. Charissa Weaks


Tune in tomorrow for the winner of the BOOK GIVEAWAY: THE FIFTH SPECTER by T.S. Welti. You can still join! Contest ends at midnight, Mountain time.

Have a good day, everyone!

Author Spotlight: T.S. Welti (On "The Fifth Specter", Going the Indie Pub Way, and Cookies!)

Book Giveaway: The Fifth Specter! Contest details here.

As promised, I'm very excited to present you to the amazing and talented T.S. Welti who has graciously accepted my request to poke around her brain (non-invasive, I promise) and tell us more about herself and her journey alongside Parker Chance, her protagonist for The Fifth Specter.
Barbara Walters? Um, no. More
like Rita Skeeter. ;)

Time to don the specs, adjust the suit (with the shoulder pads), and test the microphone.
Testing, 1,2,3.
Ahem. Here we go, Barbara Walters-style (in purple, 'cause I lurves purple).

How did you come up with the concept for The Fifth Specter? What was your inspiration and was there a specific one in mind?
 The idea for The Fifth Specter came to me gradually. Parker's story and that of his parents came to me on August, 2, 2005. (Yes, I'm a nerd. I remember the exact date.) Within two weeks of the initial idea, I had already decided this would be a five-book series that would center around the Law of Fives. It grew exponentially and in all directions from there. Unfortunately, being a single working mom, the plot for the series was too intricate to weave in my off time. When I was laid off in November of last year, I had an Oprah "Aha!" moment and realized this would probably be my only opportunity to finish The Fifth Specter. That's when the concept of the Law of Fives and Parker's story finally gained lift-off.
You remembered the exact date? Sheesh. I can't even remember what today is. :) 

Why MG? Most MG books have a certain tone and voice to them. It's not always easy to portray the voice of a young MC. How did you prepare yourself to write Middle Grade?
 I didn't consciously choose middle-grade. In the beginning (2005/2006), I just wrote without any real plan. I was a true newbie. In 2008, as the story developed and got a little darker, I questioned whether it should be classified as young adult. I even switched point of view three times as I toyed with Parker's voice. But, even though Parker is thirteen and he's gone through some tough experiences, the sheltered life he lived with the Rooney's gives him a very innocent and, at times, naive voice. I sometimes wish I had written a young adult series, just because they're so popular. But I didn't write the book (and continue writing it after five years) because of what was popular. I love the characters too much to give up on them. <--That's always a good thing! ;D

Are there certain books or movies that helped influence the world of Stonyford Hollow and Knobhouse Academy?
 There are many books and movies that have influenced The Fifth Specter. When I began writing the book in August 2005, the original story was more like the TV show Heroes. Unfortunately, the TV show came out a few months after I began writing the book and it was so spectacular I knew I had to take The Fifth Specter down a slightly different route. After that, the story was influenced by many movies and books, particularly X-Men, Harry Potter, The Giver, Illusions, and Chronicles of Narnia. Of course, my writing is influenced by just about every book I've read and every experience I've had. For instance, I wanted Parker to play a sport, but the only sport I had ever played was soccer. When I began writing the book, my daughter had been playing goalkeeper for three years. From those experiences spent playing and watching soccer games, Cosmic Ball was born. You'll also notice the "flashes of color" inspired by The Giver. Though I'm not religious, I am fascinated by biblical tales. There are many nods to those stories in The Fifth Specter as well as a nod to Macbeth and another favorite of mine, Jane Eyre.
I have not read the Giver but I am going to now.  

I know you went the route of indie publishing. How did you come to this decision? And why not traditional publishing?
When The Fifth Specter was finished, I sent out only two query letters; and that was after my mind was 95% made up about going indie. I read a lot about the indie publishing industry as I wrote The Fifth Specter (six years is a long time). When it came time to decide whether I would go indie or traditional, I didn't wanted to wait another 18-24 months to find an agent, go through revisions, submit to publishers, go through contract negotiations, and then probably end up with a book and artwork I was not entirely pleased with. Not to mention that, as a new author, I would not have had enough clout to negotiate my ebook rights. The process just didn't seem appealing to me. I wanted to get my book out quickly and retain all my publishing rights. Now, the problem with indie publishing is, of course, reach. There are still more people without ereaders than there are with. A traditional publisher is great for reaching that audience. If I were to ever go traditional, I would want to make sure I had enough power to retain ebook rights. The fact of the matter is, indie publishing has been around for more than a century, but the publishing industry has placed a stigma on it. I think we are starting to see that stigma being lifted. Indie entertainment (books, music, film), is the way of the future and I'd rather be running with the pack than trying to catch up.

Since Parker starts out at 13, does this mean it's going to eventually cross over as a YA book as he gets older in the series?
As the series plays out, it will definitely get more intense and it will feature more difficult scientific concepts, but I think it will still be suitable for tweens and up.

Are you worried about it being compared to, say, Harry Potter? There are a few similarities after all (i.e. Parker is an orphan who didn't know he had powers until he discovered the super world), which is understandable as you have mentioned being influenced by Harry Potter.
I don't really worry about the Harry Potter similarities since there are so many books with that "ordinary hero discovers he's extraordinary" storyline (namely Star Wars, X-Men, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, etc.). Of course, there will always be people who don't like a book because of it's similarities to another book and there are some who will love it for just the same reason. I try not to think about that and just write the series as I envisioned it. As far as Parker being an orphan, you may be in for a surprise. *evil laugh*
Oh boy. A twist! Me loves twisty-twists! 

What has been your experience with your indie publishing journey? Care to enlighten us clueless ones a bit?
My experience (which is really only five weeks) has been great. It's definitely hard work (just ask my Circadian Rhythms), but I had no idea there was a world of authors and readers who are so willing to help authors succeed. I've had fourteen book bloggers agree to review The Fifth Specter. Fourteen! I've also gotten amazing feedback from readers and authors who've read the book; and who doesn't like a good ego stroking. If I hadn't gone the indie route, I wouldn't have all this feedback to buoy me as I write the second book. But I try to remain objective and I'm constantly trying to be a better writer. I still read books on writing and publishing and I follow a ton of great blogs (including yours). It's hard work, but there are so many resources available to indie authors. I'm definitely enjoying the process.

Have you been building your audience through social media before the book's publication? Has it helped at all with getting your name and your work out there?
I probably should have gotten serious about trying to build my platform a long time ago. Now that I am a bit more active in the social media universe, I find that it is somewhat helpful (in terms of book sales), though not as helpful as one would think. I suspect about 80% of my book sales have come from readers stumbling upon my book. That's probably not a very encouraging number because, as an indie author, how do you get readers to stumble upon your book? Well, I suspect word-of-mouth is still probably the best way to get your book recognized. And everyone knows word-of-mouth in the publishing industry comes from writing something that resonates with the reader. Above all, when it comes to social media, I try to remember Nathan Bransford's famous words, "Social media is social." I don't mind tooting my own horn if I accomplish something, but I'm not on Twitter or Facebook to sell books. I get a genuine rush from the social interactions.
I agree. I first met you through Twitter and we've been friends since! Hooray for Twitter! 

Anything you regret doing, in terms of publishing? Or has it been a wild ride for you?

The Fifth Specter: Book One of the Parker Chance Series (Volume 1)
ME: This is the finished cover. Isn't it cool?
I think you did a helluva job despite the
time constraints, T.S.! 

I regret not starting on the cover art for The Fifth Specter much earlier. My illustrator and I began working on it just a few weeks before it was published and we ended up having to scrap the first design and start over. The original cover had Parker, Lucas, and Norah with Rochester sitting on Parker's shoulder. It looked pretentious. Putting the cover together was such a nerve-wracking process because I had promised the book would be published by a certain date and I had people asking me, "Is it done yet?".... "Where can I buy it?" I wanted to deliver the book on time and, unfortunately, the book cover wasn't exactly what we had envisioned due to time constraints. Other than that, no, I have no regrets. I had nearly six years to wash away those regrets with many bottles of wine. ;)

Any writing quirks or routines you follow?
I recently posted a blog post about my writing process. I have been diagnosed with ADD once as a child and once as an adult, so I deal with that when I'm organizing my writing. You don't want to see my desk! I try to keep my writing process organized, but my writing routine varies depending on my schedule. I usually wake up and sit down at my computer for four to five hours. I check email, write, and engage in a little social media. Then I take a break and sit back down about 9PM and write for another three to four hours. It allows me to spend time with my daughter and get things done outside of my home during daylight hours.

What do you do when you're stumped?
I get up and do something or I write through it. The odd thing about keeping your mind and body moving is that your brain subconsciously continues to work on previous problems. Most of the time, though, I write through the block. I've realized that not every single word I write has to be inspired by something or perfectly figured out. If I'm writing a scene and I can't figure out how I'm going to get my character from point A to point B, the path usually reveals itself as I write. Some people call this being inspired by the muse, some call it the characters guiding the writer; I think it's just doing the work.

 What's your writing muse like?
My writing muse is a dark and fickle mistress. She's been known to abandon me for long periods of time... or so I thought. I recently realized that when the writing got tough (mainly in 2007-2008 for me), it was I who had been fleeing from my muse. She was always there waiting to share a glass of a wine and good tale. I just had to sit my butt down and listen to what she had to say.
 That is great advice! I've never really even thought of it that way--me fleeing the muse instead of the other way around. Will have to try this out--minus the wine--with chocolate and a good writing pad. Thanks, TS!

Do you have a favorite author or book that you go back to time and again? Just one, as in your ultimate love, and if the apocalypse was here and you could only take one book, this would be it? ;)
Oh, gosh, this is tough. I absolutely love The Giver and The Book Thief, but it would be so hard to choose between them. Can I bring the first half of The Giver and the second half of The Book Thief? I have a thing for dystopian (or utopian gone awry, as it is in The Giver), but I cried for nearly an hour at the end of The Book Thief. I'm such a sap.
I cried through The Book Thief too, so you're not the only sap around here. *grin*

I love your answers. You just confirmed how much of a superwoman you are. Speaking of which, if you were a super in Parker Chance's world, what superpower would you like to possess?
This is going to sound evil, but I would really want to be a Writer. As you know, Writers are superhumans with the ability to "write" counterfeit thoughts in another person's mind. The idea of placing thoughts of peace and kindness in everyone's mind is irresistible to me. See... I only have the purest of intentions.
We are the opposite! I wanted to be a Reader. :) So I can figure out what my kids want and avoid temperamental fits. 

When can we expect book 2 of the series?
Book 2 is scheduled for release December 2011. I can't reveal the name of the book yet, but I can say that the name of book 2 is mentioned in book 1.

And lastly, what secret talent (other than writing) have you been keeping from us?
My not-so-secret talent is baking. As Lucas's father reminds us in The Fifth Specter, all good baking is good chemistry. I have always had a knack for the science of baking. I bake at least twice a week and I even keep my own sourdough starter. I post recipes on the blog once in a while, as well.

Yes, T.S. made this! And it look sooo YUM! Click on the pic for a link to the recipe.

Thank you, Ms. Welti, for visiting us today! We wish you success on your publishing journey.

For more on T.S. Welti, check out her blog where she hangs out to talk about writing, books, and her love for the perfect cookies.
Bleeding the Blind (A Short Story from the Parker Chance Series)

She also has a short story "Bleeding the Blind", featuring Sparky from the Parker Chance series. Visit her Amazon Author Page for more details.

Book Review: "The Fifth Specter" by T.S. Welti

Book Giveaway for The Fifth Specter is still open! Click here for details on how to win.

The Fifth Specter (Book 1)
Thirteen-year-old Parker Chance has endured years of ridicule at the hands of his adoptive family on account of his frequent “hallucinations”—until he finally decides to run away. His escape through the forest doesn’t quite go as planned when Parker’s life is saved by a stranger who claims to have the power to control electricity. The man uses this power to zap Parker into a tiny village buried in the mountains of Northern California.
The village of Stonyford Hollow is home to a species of humans who have evolved superhuman traits. Pieces of Parker’s trouble past begin to click into place when he discovers he is one of them.
Parker begins attending Knobhouse Academy where he learns he is one of five Specters in the universe with the power to travel by portal. As usual, Parker flouts the rules with a little harmless portal-hopping, but it all goes awry when he discovers someone wants to use his power to break a notorious scientist out of prison—the same crackpot responsible for his birth mother’s disappearance. Though Parker has been warned to put the mysterious circumstances of his mother’s disappearance behind him, he and his new friends are too curious for their own good.

T.S. Welti is a dear writer friend of mine. But before you cry “Biased!”, I’ve promised her that I would do an honest review of her debut novel “The Fifth Specter”, which is book one of the Parker Chance series. And honest is what you are going to get. =)
The book starts off with a glimpse at Parker’s life with his adoptive family, the Rooneys. Needless to say, the Rooneys—Clarence (dad), Victoria (mom), Jacob and Jacqueline (twins; biological kids of the Rooneys)—hate Parker Chance. The only one in the household who cares for Parker is Sophie, their old housekeeper who seems to know a lot about Parker’s past. These characters have interesting personalities so it was fun to see their interactions with Parker. There are also funny moments which kept with the light MG (Middle Grade) tone of the book. I didn't, however, figure out how the Rooneys adopted Parker in the first place. I'm hoping that more of this will unravel in the next books of the series.
While the writing is fairly solid and clean, there were a few repetitive ideas and even fewer typos that could have been done away with it. Still, this is better than most and the editing mishaps (very minimal) did not detract from the story.
When Parker arrives in Stonyford Hollow, the village where the supers live, it brought me back to a Harry Potter scene with Harry coming to Diagon Alley for the first time. The awe and wonder, the realization that there was another world he could possibly belong to, and the similarity goes even farther when the people in the super world recognize Parker Chance for the white streak on his hair and for the fact that his mother was a celebrated super, thereby making Parker Chance famous by association. Ms. Welti's super world is also as richly detailed, which made for an exciting read. We learn about electrotransporters, RoboChefs (I want one in my house!), and micrographs, among other things. Every super has their own powers, some of them having more than one. I thought it was fun exploring the different kinds of powers they could have. Ms. Welti's worldbuilding is admirable and well thought-out.  
Knobhouse Academy also reminded me a little bit about Hogwarts. There are five different halls (dorms): Epicurus, Caesar, Newton, Galileo, and Da Vinci. Each hall is represented by an animal mascot. Epicurus Hall, for instance, has eagles, and this is where Parker is placed by Professor Adler, his mentor. The Academy also has a sport that is similar to the human's soccer game, which is called Cosmic Ball. The difference? They get to play using their super powers. Very cool!
So imagine a place teeming with high schoolers who have powers to play around with. Yeaahhh, there's bound to be some troublemaking, right? Just as Harry had Draco to deal with, Parker has Blakely, whose family was rumored to be connected to spinnows (spinnows = BAD). But thankfully, Parker finds friends to help him in his (mis)adventures: Lucas, his roommate, and Norah, a smart girl with a secret super power. Together they poke their noses around to find the truth about Parker's mother's mysterious disappearance, her connection to the evil mad scientist Asteroth, and also to play detective with the suspicious thefts going on around the school. This is your typical MG adventure book with mysteries, action, villains, cool powers, and characters that you can be friends with.
I mentioned how I saw similarities to Harry Potter (book one). Let me say that the similarities end halfway through the book. (And, by the way, I LOVE Harry Potter so I didn't have a problem with this.) A few other (minor) nitpicks I have: (1) I had a bit of a hard time trying to keep up with secondary and tertiary characters--it is a school setting after all, so there are going to be teachers and students. A lot of them. (2) Transitioning. There were certain places where the transition was brief and as a reader I wasn't ready to move on to a different concept.
Overall, The Fifth Specter is an enjoyable book, and if I were a tween myself, I would have been totally engrossed in Parker Chance's world and would secretly wish for superpowers of my own. I love the friendship between Parker and his friends, how they support each other. This book has a lot of good potential. It is an engaging read, and kudos to Ms. Welti for bringing Stonyford Hollow and Knobhouse Academy to life. I am looking forward to the next installment of the series so I can follow Parker Chance in his journey to explore his powers, his past, and to discover his own identity.

Just a little side note...and a big THANK YOU!

I won Michelle Simkins' Give Me Your Cute Evil Longing to Eat Brains with my illustrated short story entry "Beware the Bunny", so THANK YOU to all of you who voted for me! I really, really appreciate your support. My family is excited to welcome Ryan the Yarn Zombunny into our home. <3

Also, I am guest posting at A.M. Supinger's blog Inner Owlet with my MGish short story called "The Magic Pebble". It has a dragon, possibly. And a humongous fish. ;)

Okay, now back to our regular programming...don't forget to join the BOOK GIVEAWAY contest. The prize: T.S. Welti's debut MG novel "The Fifth Specter", book one of the Parker Chance series.

Monday News, Book Giveaway, and Author Feature! Woot!

Hello Monday!

We are going to have a very exciting week! My friend and writer extraordinaire, T.S. Welti, is being featured here for the whole entire week. She is an amazingly talented woman and I'm very proud to present her awesomeness to you. Her debut novel, The Fifth Specter: Book One of the Parker Chance series is OUT and ready for your reading pleasure! I had the good fortune of snagging a signed copy from Ms. Welti herself, so I'll be sharing my review soon.

So! Let's get this started.

To start off, we have a BOOK GIVEAWAY, courtesy of Ms. Welti. All you need to do is answer this simple question:

If you could have a SUPERPOWER, what would it be?

Leave your answer in the comment section below. The contest runs for a week and will end on Monday, August 15th. After the contest ends, the winner will be randomly selected and announced on Tuesday, August 16th.

The prize? A COPY OF THE FIFTH SPECTER BY T.S. WELTI! So go wrack your brain for superpower ideas!

On Wednesday, I'll be posting my review of The Fifth Specter.

On Friday, Ms. Welti answers my prodding questions in an interview (ala Barbara Walters, or...possibly Rita Skeeter-style.)

So stay tuned and show some love!


 T.S. Welti is a single mother living in Southern California. She writes books for kids and teens and bakes in her spare time. In 2005, she began writing  the Parker Chance series while sitting in the shade of a weeping willow on a sweltering summer day. Five years later, she lost her job and book one was still not finished. After many sleepless nights spent slaving away at her keyboard, she was finally able to finish The Fifth Specter and has never looked back. You can find out more about T.S. Welti and the Parker Chance series on her website at http://tswelti.com/.

Check out her blog The Smoking Quill. You can also follow her on Twitter: @TS_Welti.

Not a Twitterer? Check out her FB Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/tswelti.author

Also, her FB Book Page: http://www.facebook.com/TheFifthSpecter


Chapter 10 of the Skeleton Key Round Robin Blogvel is now up by Laura of Laura's Universe.

Have a great day, everyone!

How "Pretty in Pink" Made Me Cry

Disclaimer: This may or may not be writing-related. We'll see.

Vintage Pretty in Pink Movie (Group) Poster PrintYes, you may have noticed my John Hughes obsession this week. Two days ago I talked about The Breakfast Club and now I'm going to tackle the film "Pretty in Pink". So bear with me because I absolutely LOVE this movie and it's probably my favorite out of all the John Hughes' films.

High School senior Andie Walsh lives on the "wrong side of the tracks" with her unemployed father who is still devastated by his broken marriage. Phil "Duckie" Dale is Andie's bestfriend, who happens to be in love with her but plays this off as a joke in front of Andie because he doesn't know how to tell her of his feelings. But Andie falls in love with Blane Donough, who is one of the rich, preppy kids in her school, and in turn, Blane falls for Andie. The "richie" kids (Blane's friends) discourage Blane from dating Andie, and Duckie gets mad with Andie for dating Blane. Classic West Side Story front, though no one dies in this one.

When Blane starts believing his friends and begins avoiding Andie, even going as far as breaking off their prom date, Andie grieves for awhile, knowing full well that the reason for Blane's distance was due to her economic circumstance. Nevertheless, she goes to the prom with a dress she made herself to show them "that they can't break me". Duckie escorts her in, and Blane realizes what a fool he'd been all along. He tells her that he'd always love her, that he believed in her but didn't believe in himself, and then he walks away. Andie finds him in the parking lot and they kiss. 


Wai-i-i-t... you thought I cried over the part where Blane broke up with Andie? Uh, no. See, I'm the kind of person who roots for the underdogs. The brokenhearted. The downtrodden. If I could wield a hammer (ala Thor style), I could totally be their champion. So, I cried for DUCKIE.

Yep, you read that right. When Duckie was in Andie's room talking to himself, about how much he loved "this woman" and then he started singing, I mean...gosh darn it. The poor kid had always been devoted to Andie. I mean, sure he's cheesy, and a tad bit annoying, and though I knew...I KNEW...that it wasn't was NEVER going to turn into an Andie-Duckie love story, I still felt for the boy. Ahhhh...so much for unrequited love.

I also cried at the scene between Andie and her father, when Andie realized that her dad never got the job and yet there he was, giving her this pink dress so she could make something out of it to wear to the prom. When Andie confronted her dad, it came out how he was still mourning his marriage. How he loved Andie's mom who didn't love him enough to stay with them. And how this was affecting his life--part of the reason why he wouldn't go and get a job. He'd been hoping that life would somehow go back to the way it was before, only it wasn't going to. Ever. Sigh, sigh. So much for betrayed love.

And then there's Blane. I really DISLIKED him when he listened to his rich friend what's-his-name and began to ignore Andie's phone calls. Good thing I didn't have Thor's hammer or I probably would have accidentally thrown it at him. Or more precisely, at the TV. Which wouldn't have been good at all.  (Um, honey, yeah...I'm really sorry for breaking your HD Plasma Widescreen 60" TV...) He was a guy who , at first glance, seemed to have nothing to lose. He could've been a jerk and walked away from the relationship and it wouldn't have been as devastating for him as it would have been for Andie. So yeah, boo! But he redeemed himself, and he really did love Andie, so it's ok. :)

The best thing about the movie (and I think I can relate this to writing *high five!*) is Andie's character. She is a strong but sympathetic protagonist. She knows what she wants, she has morals, and she values the important things. I loved her relationship with her father, how she took care of him and loved him unconditionally. Andie was a girl who could think for herself. No pansy-schmancy here.

And this makes her a well-developed character. I'm not saying that protagonists have to be all butt-kicking, warrior-like Xenas to prove that they are made of tough stuff. It's the inner growth that counts. When Andie, despite her heartbreak, went to the prom to show them that the richie kids haven't broken down her spirit, I was applauding for her.

As you can tell, I really got emotionally invested in the film. If your book or characters can do that to me too, then you're doing something right. ;)

Let your characters grow, give them depth, and make them relatable. Give them spirit, give them life. And yes, they don't have to wield a hammer, they can be pretty in pink.


The Breakfast Club: YA in a Nutshell

I know most of you have seen The Breakfast Club, an 80's film by the late John Hughes (apparently, according to rookieriter, I'm the only person who hadn't seen any of John Hughes movies. If that assumption is correct, then you'd all should be able to follow this post with no deer-in-the-headlights moment.)

The Breakfast Club: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Five teens found themselves serving detention together on a Saturday for doing stupid things: Claire Standish "The Princess" for skipping school to go shopping; Andrew Clark "The Athlete" for playing a prank on one of his teammates; Brian Johnson "The Brain" for keeping a flare gun in his locker; John Bender "The Criminal" for setting off a false fire alarm; and Allison Reynolds "The Basketcase" who actually didn't do anything to be sent to detention--she came because she had nothing better to do. They are all separated by their stereotypes, their cliques, but by the show's end, they come to realize they're not all that different after all.

This is YA in a nutshell. I know it seems cliché when we talk about stereotyping in high school, but even though this movie is more than two decades old there is some truth to this story, a truth that still exists in our society today.

Labels. We're all fond of putting labels on each other.

I've read a lot of YA books--not as extensive as I would like, but enough to know that writers often box their characters into cliched labels. We have the girl who is beautiful but clueless, and is the quintessential damsel in distress albeit in modern surroundings. The brooding, unapproachable hero who has magical powers. The sidekick who buoys the hero's or heroine's self-esteem--a sort of comic relief at times, or possibly a foil for the main character. A villain who exists for the purpose of creating conflict. And many, many more....

In The Breakfast Club, these labels were clearly printed on these teens' foreheads, at least that's how they were seen by the principal who gave them detention. The kids themselves lived by these labels because it was what expected of them. When Brian asked the question (me paraphrasing it), After today, what happens next? Will you say hi to me if we see each other in the hallway? And the heartbreaking truth was that, neither one of them would. Claire aka the popular, rich girl responded: You don't understand. It's not that easy.

And why not? Why is it so hard to break the social barrier?

It's because real life is the way it is. We are simply too fond of labeling each other.

So you read a YA book and you see the peppy blond cheerleader giving the heroine a hard time...yes, it does happen. You see the good-looking quarterback going for the flat-chested nerdy sophomore...yes, it can happen.

The thing is, if we're going to write cliche characters, it's okay AS LONG AS THERE'S A REASON FOR IT. Why is peppy blond cheerleader mean to the heroine? What's in her background, her life story that accounts for the meanness?

Why is John Bender aka The Criminal so hateful? Because he's been physically abused by his father.

Why is Allison Reynolds a basketcase? Because her family ignores her.

How come nerdy Brian Johnson had a flare gun in his locker in the first place? Because he had contemplated suicide.

And so on, and so forth.

Give your characters depth because cliché or not, no one is one-dimensional. Do not put cheerleader in the path of your heroine just because. There has to be a reason for everything.

At the end of the movie, they all left Mr. Vernon, the principal, a letter or an essay, and it says:

Brian Johnson: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong...but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who (sic) we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...
Andrew Clarke: ...and an athlete...
Allison Reynolds: ...and a basket case...
Claire Standish: ...a princess...
John Bender: ...and a criminal...
Brian Johnson: Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Don't be a Mr. Vernon.

Precy Larkins's books on Goodreads
Winter's Regret: What Might Have Been Winter's Regret: What Might Have Been
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Precy's bookshelf: read

Whispering Minds
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Night of Cake & Puppets
The Fault in Our Stars
The Return of the King
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Last Olympian
The Hundred: Fall of the Wents
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Hunger Games
The Founders' Code
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Two Towers
The Book Thief
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Lost Hero
The Battle of the Labyrinth

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