December 13, 2009

Need Your Book Edited in 2010?

Starting January 1, 2010, the number of edits I do a month will change indefinitely. One or two edits will be done per month (and no books over 100,000 words). I will not be doing edits in May, September, or December 2010. If you are interested in my services and wish to reserve a spot for 2010, spaces are available; however, they do go quickly because I have many repeat clients, and new clients crop up weekly.

You will need to reserve a space at least a month in advance. When you reserve a spot, you will be required to put down a $50.00 deposit on editorial services (paid through PayPal ~ will be applied to overall editorial fee); the remainder balance will be paid according to a fee schedule you and I set up.

I will contact all scheduled clients at least two weeks before an edit to insure you are still interested in the services. If for any reason you wish to cancel or postpone editorial services, the deposit will not be refunded.

Vacant spots not filled within two weeks before an upcoming month will be deleted from the editing queue.

Be sure to check out the Editorial Services page at CLG Entertainment and contact me at the e-mail address provided on there. The page also contains the type of information you should send in the e-mail, such as project name, genre, and word count.

Thanks ~ looking forward to hearing from you!

Writing Your Synopsis ~ Latest The Write Life for You Article

One of the biggest things writers moan about, at least to me they do, is the synopsis.

They absolutely hate to write it. How am I supposed to take my 90,000-word manuscript and condense it to a few mere pages?

With a lot of rewriting and revising, that’s how.

To read my latest The Write Life for You article on writing synopsis, head to APOOO Books [link].

Leave comments!

November 30, 2009

The Inspiration to Write: Author Djuanna Brockington

The Writer

Djuanna Brockington has been writing fiction and creative non-fiction for four years. These days she's either writing, thinking about writing, reading books and blogs about writing, or beating herself up for not writing.

Her short fiction can be found on her website Diva Fiction Bytes. She has also written an e-book entitled "Home Alone: When Your Office Doubles as Your Guest Room," and she is working on a series of novellas for e-publishing in the very near future.

You can learn more about Djuanna by checking her out on Twitter and Facebook.


What inspires you to write?
Initially, it was hard for me to pin down what inspires me to write. I turned the concept over in my mind for days and came up with nothing. That was because I was looking for the pat answer-the thing that would sound all lofty and scholarly. And since that is so not me, I hit a mental wall. When I got real with myself, I realized that I’m inspired by the desire to create funny stories with smart characters that lead interesting lives, and yet are highly relatable. Like my unnamed main character in The Date-my very first short story. She’s self-employed, a catch in her own right, exhausted from finishing up a three week project, and yet she goes on a blind date at the insistence of her best friend. Bad date ensues. Just like millions of women around the world.

Where do you find inspiration to create your stories?
I most frequently get inspired by the antics of my family and friends. Things that happen to other people always seem way more interesting than the stuff happening in my life. I’m always asking myself the question: “What if things had gone this way or that, instead of the way they’ve actually played out?” I’m sort of never satisfied with what is. I’ve got to make it into something else. Which is good, because by the time I’m done with a story, the original subject can’t recognize him/herself. You keep your friends that way.

When I’m not pilfering from the life happenings of folks I know, I’m wondering about the “back story” of famous folks. You know, the road they traveled to their particular version of success, some of their trials and tribulations, and of course, triumphs. Not in a paparazzi/stalkerish kind of way, but more like an objective observer. Who is probably going to use an obscure incident and create an entire story around it.

Probably the biggest inspiration for me is emotion. When I’m happy, I start thinking about happy storylines that I can write. When I’m in pain, I wondering how I can use that as well. Besides telling a good story, I’ve always believed that part of a writer’s job is to evoke emotion (whether it’s for a character’s circumstance or because of a character’s behavior). The challenge is to write in a way that genuine and not a trivialization of emotion. Sometimes it can be hard to do, but damn awesome when I pull it off. My flash fiction A Little Help From My Friends was all about the emotion.

Most of all, though, I am inspired to write because leaving my stories untold just feels wrong.

A Taste of Fiction

Brockington's A Little Help from My Friends...

Friends often swear that they will always be there for one another, that the bonds of friendship will last through thick and through thin. In Jenna’s case, it was actually sick and sin. She was about to put her friendships to the ultimate test. She was sick, and she needed them to help her commit a sin.

“I want you both to help me commit suicide.” She slowly looked up from her penne pasta and Italian sausage. What she saw was shock on the faces of the two women who meant the most to her in the world.

Alice put her fork down and absorbed the silence while Rita audibly gasped.

“My cancer is back. And it’s spreading like a motherfucka. I can’t do the chemo and the radiation again. It was horrible. Besides, the cancer’s so bad, it would probably be of little use. I’ve decided it’s time for me to call it quits. I want you guys to help me. Correction. I NEED you guys to help me. I’m afraid I’ll back out at the last minute. And this is truly what I want.”

Seconds stretched into minutes. Rita finally found her voice, and though she spoke in a quiet tone, the anger was unmistakable. “You bring us to this posh restaurant to tell us that you want us to help you kill yourself. Did you think we would behave ourselves? No scenes, right? Because Jenna The Control Freak can’t stand scenes. I can’t believe this. You did not just ask me to help you die!”

“Rita, please. I didn’t know how else to tell you. I found out last week at my annual check up. Remission was nice while it lasted, but it’s over for me. The results are pretty clear.”

Alice remained silent, yet tears streamed down her face. She twisted the napkin in her hands, which caused her knuckles to whiten.

Rita’s eyes were dry, but her face was contorted. The pain was evident. “What does your husband have to say about this? Why didn’t you ask him to kill you?” Her voice catches in her throat as reality sunk in on a physical level.

“Alex doesn’t know. And he would never agree to it anyway. He’s not strong enough to let me go on his own. I’m all he has left. We don’t have children. His parents are gone. He has no sisters or brothers to see him through this. There is no way in hell he will agree to help me. You guys are it. And I need you now, more than ever. Besides, we talked about this the first time I got sick, and you both agreed that you would do whatever it takes to see me through this. Well, it’s going to take you helping me commit suicide.”

Jenna’s facade of strength started to slip away. She looked like she was about to collapse in on herself. It was then that her friends can see her frailty. She was sick, and had been for some time.

“I’ll help you.” Alice’s voice was small but determined. She repeated herself. “I’ll help you, Jenna. And so will Rita.” She reached across the table and grabbed a hand from each friend. Time slowed enough for them to absorb one another’s strength and determination, and to start to say “goodbye” in silence.

November 23, 2009

The Inspiration to Write: Author L. J. Sellers

The Writer

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist, editor, novelist, and occasional standup comic based in Eugene, Oregon. She writes the Detective Wade Jackson mystery series. Two are in print, The Sex Club and Secrets to Die For, and two more are in the works. Thrilled to Death will be released next August, and a standalone thriller, The Baby Thief, will be released in 2010. When not plotting murders, L.J. enjoys cycling, gardening, social networking, attending conferences, hanging out with her family, and editing fiction manuscripts.

Come learn more about Sellers at the following cyber-outlets:

The Book

A social worker visits the home of a young boy she has been assigned to and is brutally murdered shortly after. To Detective Jackson, it looks like an open-and-shut case against the ex-con father of the young boy. Complications develop when new evidence points to a serial rapist whose violence is escalating. Meanwhile, the murder victim’s lover knows something about the rape victims but has secrets of her own that she’s afraid to reveal. Soon she is kidnapped and held captive, and Jackson must uncover the truth in time to save her.

Click on cover to purchase your copy of Secrets to Die For today!

Check out the trailer to Seller's debut novel in the Detective Wade Jackson series: The Sex Club!


What inspires you to write?
Even as a young student, I was one of those nerds who liked to write reports. Pouring through encyclopedias and library books was a pleasure. Then pulling the information together in my own words was an enjoyable task. So it made sense when I started college to enroll in the journalism school. Why not get paid to do something I enjoyed? I loved reading fiction even more than encyclopedias. The occasional short story assignment in high school and college was fun too, but it was harder for me than nonfiction. I struggled to come up with short creative narratives. I never thought I could write a novel until I was almost thirty. One day I was reading a book that was so bad, I threw it down in disgust and thought, I could write a better story than that. Then I decided to see if I really could craft a whole novel. I’d certainly read my share and thought I understood story structure well enough to give it a try.

Jeffrey Dahmer was in the news then and I was raising three little boys, so I wrote about what I feared most: pedophile killers. Crafting the story was therapeutic…and addictive. I loved plotting and creating characters and writing from the POV of the antagonist. As soon as I finished the first story, I started brainstorming the next. And it’s been like that since. What inspires me to write is the joy I experience in telling stories, crime stories in particular. But I’ve also written five screenplays, three of which are comedies based on amusing things in my life (quitting smoking, obsessing about shoes, and traveling with adolescent boys).

I’m a storyteller now, and I’m not truly happy unless I have a work in progress. I also believe writing novels is about control and having the ability to make things turn out the way I want them to, at least on paper for awhile. Writing is also a great way to work through my fears and to process the unpleasant things that happen in life.

Where do you find inspiration to create your stories?
The inspiration for my crime novels comes mostly from news stories that surprise or confuse me or stick in my brain for some other reason. I’m fascinated with people who on the surface seem normal to their friends and neighbors, but then they commit some heinous crime, often for some minor reason. I start thinking about how they got to that point, and from that, a story will develop.

I’m also inspired by passion. People who are fired up and committed to their causes—even the misguided ones—fascinate me. They make great characters. For example, my first novel, The Sex Club, was inspired by the Bush administration’s decisions about access to birth control and abstinence-only sex education. (And yes, I consider the Bush era to be an unpleasant thing that happened in my life.) I worried about the consequences for young people. A news story about a group of promiscuous middle school kids was also on my mind. Throw in a passionate, but misguided anti-abortionist, and it all came together in a complex, action-packed story.
The novel I’m working on now is inspired by the economic downturn and how devastating it is for many families. I’m usually writing, on some level, about whatever social issue weighs most heavily on my mind.


From novel, Secrets to Die For...

Chapter 1

Wednesday, February 13

Raina shut off the motor and glanced up at the puke-green doublewide with a chunk of plywood over the front window. The near dusk couldn’t hide the broken dreams of the trailer’s occupants, Bruce and Cindy Gorman. Raina wasn’t here to see them. She was here for Josh, their eight-year-old son.

As a children’s support advocate, Raina had been assigned to monitor Josh six months ago, when the state of Oregon had taken temporary custody and placed the boy in foster care. Her primary responsibility was to stay in touch with Josh and to ensure the system did not fail him. During that time, the Gormans had danced all the right steps–anger management for him, parenting classes for her, and a rehab program for both. So now Josh was back in their care, and this was Raina’s last official contact…for now.

Her heart was flip-flopping, just like it did on her last day of high school. She was happy for Josh, but she despised Bruce and would be glad to never see him again, even though she knew it was petty to feel that way. Raina wished she were more mature, more objective, like the other CSA volunteers. At twenty, she and Jamie were the youngest in the group. Raina had become quite fond of Josh and would miss him terribly. She loved their long walk-and-talks along the river path, with Josh pointing out every bug he saw. It had been like having a little brother. Her counselor had been right when she’d advised Raina to do some volunteer work. Giving was the best way of receiving.

Raina stepped out of the Volvo and pulled in a quick breath of frigid February air. The smell of dog shit assaulted her senses. So much for her lofty ideals. She hurried to the door, hoping the dog, a Boxer named Brat, was either locked in the bathroom or deep in the woods behind the trailer. Raina shivered in the cold foul silence. The house was at least a half mile from the nearest neighbor.

Bruce pulled the door open a few inches before she could knock. “Josh is in bed, so come back tomorrow.” His voice was raspy from a lifetime of cigarettes, and his hairline had gone north on both sides. Bruce should have been a big man, but years of slouching took inches off his height and an old meth habit left him scrawny in a way that rehab couldn’t fix.

“I just need a few minutes with him, so I can make some final notes.”

“I told you, he’s not feeling well,” Bruce said through clenched teeth.

“Then all the more reason I should see him.”

“Not now.” Bruce started to close the door.

Raina stood her ground. “The custody order isn’t final yet. They’re waiting for my report. And it’s not convenient for me to come back tomorrow. I have classes.” She sounded braver than she felt.

“Don’t threaten me, you snot-nosed little–”

Cindy’s voice boomed from the kitchen. “Let her in, Bruce. Might as well get it over with.”

Raina wasn’t sure she still wanted to enter the trailer. She needed to know that Josh was okay, that the boy hadn’t changed his mind about going home to his parents. He had been quite excited on Sunday when she and Josh’s caseworker had picked him up to bring him here. The image of him standing on the ramshackle porch with his faded duffle bag, looking uncertain, haunted her. Raina had not slept well since.

“Josh, come out here for a minute!” Cindy yelled down the hallway. Raina cringed. Her mother had been a screamer too.

Bruce kept the door blocked. He turned his head and hollered, “Stay in bed!” Then to Cindy, he yelled, “Goddammit, woman. Don’t contradict me. That little bitch is not coming in, and Josh is not coming out.” Bruce turned back to Raina and growled through the partially open door. “You better forget you came out here tonight. And this conversation better not end up in the file.”

Then it hit Raina. The paranoia, the anger, the need to dominate. She knew all the signs. She had witnessed them plenty as a child. Bruce was using again. He was high on meth right now. Oh dear God.

Raina took a step back. Every muscle in her body wanted to run for the car. It had always been her instinct as a child too. It was a mistake. Meth dopers often had predatory responses. If you ran, they attacked. Raina still had the scars. Her mother had been quite quick on her feet.

Raina coached herself to stay calm. Just nod and move away slowly. Don’t make eye contact. Get to the car and lock the doors.

She took a step back. What about Josh? Was he okay? Panic pushed out of her stomach and into her throat. Had they already abused him? Is that why Bruce didn’t want her to see the boy?

Without thinking, she called out, “Josh, are you okay?”

Oh shit. Why had she done that?

“Fuck you.” Bruce leaned out the door, no longer caring that she could see his hugely dilated pupils. “You don’t know a fucking thing. Get the fuck out of here and keep your fucking mouth shut.” Spit flew from his mouth with every f. “If we lose Josh again, I’ll fucking kill you.”

Raina inched back, a half step at a time, feeling for the edge of the porch with her toes.

“Move, you little bitch.” Bruce lunged through the door.

Raina turned and ran.

It was only thirty feet to her car, but every step on the dirt path felt sticky and treacherous in the near dark. Heart pounding, she reached the Volvo, yanked open the door, and jumped in. Her knee slammed into the steering wheel, but she didn’t have time to process the pain. Eyes watering, Raina hit the automatic door lock and started the engine. Only then did she look up. Bruce was barreling toward her, about ten feet from the car. Raina shoved the gearshift into reverse and hit the gas. As she cranked the wheel left, aiming for the gravel turnaround tucked into the trees, Bruce slipped and went down hard. Raina let out her breath, jammed the transmission into drive, and sped down the gravel road, bouncing through every pothole instead of taking the time to go around. For a fleeting second, she wished she had run over Bruce while he was down.

Raina cursed herself for coming out here. She had been advised to see Josh only in neutral settings. She cursed herself for handling the situation so badly. Drug addicts! Disease or not, sometimes she hated all of them. Dead mother included.

Raina checked her rear view mirror for headlights but didn’t see anyone coming behind her. Maybe Bruce had hurt himself when he fell. Or perhaps he’d decided to take out his anger on Cindy because she was closer and easier. Raina desperately hoped he would leave Josh alone.

She decided to go straight to the police. She couldn’t prove that Josh was in immediate danger, but Bruce had threatened to kill her. That had to be against the law. The bastard. He’d better not hurt Josh. As soon as she was on the main road, she would call Mariah Martin, Josh’s caseworker at Child Welfare Services. Mariah would get a court order and get Josh out of that hellhole by tomorrow.

Distracted by her scattered thoughts, Raina almost missed the single curve in the quarter-mile driveway. She braked and pulled hard on the steering wheel, barely keeping the car from smacking into a giant Douglas fir. It was dark now, and she was anxious to get back into the bright lights and safety of Eugene city streets. She didn’t want to die in one of those mysterious single-car accidents, so she kept her speed reasonable. Raina checked the rearview mirror again. No car lights behind directly her. With Pine Grove Road only a hundred yards ahead, she started to relax.

Out of nowhere came a loud popping sound. Not quite like a gunshot, but loud enough to jumpstart her heart into frantic mode. Instinctively, Raina pressed the gas pedal, but the car didn’t respond well. It pulled to the left and made a grinding sound. Oh no. She’d blown a tire and was riding on the rim. She had probably run over something sharp. Shit, shit, shit! Of all times.

Raina tried to keep driving, thinking it would be better to reach the road, but the grinding was unbearable, so she coasted to a stop. Now what? She knew how to change a flat tire; her grandmother had made sure of that. Yet the sliver of moonlight wasn’t enough, and crazy Bruce was still back there somewhere. Be smart, she told herself. Call for help.

Raina reached into her purse for her cell phone, thinking she would call Jamie first. Jamie would bring her dad. Mr. Conner would have a spotlight in the back of his truck and make short work of changing the tire.

The call wouldn’t go through. Damn! Seven miles out of town, and she couldn’t pick up a tower. She tried again. Dead air. Raina decided to step out of the Volvo just long enough to try the call again. After a quick glance back down the road, she unlocked the door and pressed speed-dial #2. As she reached for the handle, the door flew open and a powerful force yanked her from the car.

Raina started to cry out, but her head smacked against the hard metal at the top of the door opening. Searing pain paralyzed her voice, and all that came out was a pathetic mewing sound. A calloused hand with an odd metal smell clamped over her mouth. Raina struggled, but a big arm squeezed her like a python holding its next meal. Fingers plunged into her hair, then slammed her head against the side of the car.

More searing pain. Oh God, he was going to kill her.

Bam! Her head smashed into the car again. As she passed out, Raina’s last thought was, I love you, Jamie.

Chapter Two
Thursday, February 14

Kera was talking, but Jackson wasn’t listening. He couldn’t stop thinking about sex. After two years of near celibacy at the end of an angry marriage, he had met this incredible woman and now he was obsessed. He was sharing Valentine’s Day and a plate of tasty beef tournedos with a gorgeous intelligent woman–and all he could think about was getting to her house and getting naked.

“I’m sorry, this isn’t interesting to you.” Kera looked concerned for a moment, then laughed. “But you really should try to hide it better.” Her green eyes twinkled with amusement. In the short time he’d known her, Jackson had been surprised again and again by how resilient this woman was.

November 16, 2009

The Inspiration to Write: Author Anjuelle Floyd, Part One

The Writer

Anjuelle Floyd is the author of Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident, a collection of interconnected short stories, and a novel, The House, due for publication in Fall 2009.

A wife of twenty-seven years, mother of three, she is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in mother-daughter relations and dream work. Anjuelle graduated Duke University, and earned a MA in Counseling Psychology from The California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, and a MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, Port Townsend, Washington.

She has also attended the Dominican Institute of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, California. Anjuelle has received certificates of participation from The Hurston-Wright Writers’ Week and The Voices of Our Nations Writing Workshops.

Anjuelle is a writing instructor at Perelandra College.

A student of Process Painting for the last decade, Anjuelle has participated in The Art of Living Black Exhibitions 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 held at the Richmond Art Center, Richmond, California.

Anjuelle facilitates writing groups and provides individual consultation of fiction projects.

She also hosts the weekly blog talk radio show, Book Talk, Creativity and Family Matters.

Read Anjuelle’s blog @!

The Books

One truth begets
another as a tale of passionate
confrontation in a restaurant travels from
eyewitnesses to others present.

Memories of the Hindu icon of dancing Siva compel wife and mother, Raven Clarke, to intervene in the attack of one restaurant patron on another.

Watching from a distant table, Lahni Irete finds herself driven back to the violence of her childhood and adolescence. She shares her account of the happening with psychiatrist, Reynard Williams, who embraces the tale in efforts to confront the pain that has left him sexually and spiritually impotent.

Williams seeks consultation from Sahel Denning, an injured psychologist no longer practicing psychotherapy.

The restaurant incident offers engineer, Michael Banks, a map to recalling the events of the morning before he fell from scaffolding on the Richmond Bridge.

Rumor and innuendo cloud Ariane Gadsen's acquaintance with the story that propels her towards reconciling her childhood loss.

The restaurant scene stirred regret and despair within Trey Williamson, a widower on his first date since the death of his wife.

Newly discharged Captain Darryl Sharpton receives safety and redemption from his most dark and intimate truth in the restaurant where the incident took place.

What would you do if you learned the person you were divorcing is dying?

On receiving the very thing she wants, a divorce and the power to sell their house, Anna Manning learns that Edward, her soon-to-be ex-husband, is dying. A faithful wife for over three decades, Anna endured Edward's constant absences while traveling on business for his international real estate firm, and his extra-marital affairs.

Anna takes Edward to live out his last six, possibly three, months in the house she fought so vigorously to sell. But letting go of someone who has caused so much pain does not come easily.

Edward has changed.

As their children return home, and say their farewells Anna confronts the challenges that Edward's impending death delivers each of them. Then there is Inman who loves Anna, and provides the one thing Edward denied their marriage—passion and intimacy.

Anna must also face the hopes and dreams she abandoned as an art history major turned wife, and mother out of college. In requesting the divorce she had planned to use her proceeds from the sale of the house to move to France. She would study the great art works of Europe, perhaps work as a docent in a Paris museum.

News of Edward’s terminal illness provokes Anna to understand the present rooted in the wellspring of the past, and pouring into a future without him. The House shows what happens when we adopt the belief that, All hold regret, and are seeking forgiveness. Our salvation rests in the hands of others—most particularly the ones whom we love most, and who have treated us wrongly.

Click on the covers above to learn more about each work!


What inspires you to write?

Conflict that results from life's dilemmas and problems, both mine, and the ones with which I witness others struggle.

On a deeper level I seek to answer the perennial question, "Why?"

"Why did she do this? Why did he do that?"

These questions usually center on why an individual acted in a manner that left another person or persons feeling hurt. Why would person A say that to Person B when Person B is crying, doubling over with pain, their eyes full of tears, their hands shaking. And these are not instances where Person B has acted in a way to deserve the response they are getting.

In short, my stories seek to answer the question Why does Person A hurt Person B, whom other characters in story and you the reader can see is, while not a person, has done nothing for Person A to treat them this way.

Since my stories involve families and center on family conflicts, they see to answer the question, why did she treat her family member that way?

I'm particularly taken with why parents treat their children as they do.

Yet the focus of my stories usually begins with a conflict affecting and/or separating spouses.

Interestingly, and quite different from what pop psychology teaches, I have found in the experience of my work as a psychotherapist that our same-sex parent and the relationship with that parent heavily influences our intimate relationships with spouses and significant others.

How a father treats his son sets the stage for the nature in which that son will or will not relate to women and/or his adult partners. The same goes for women and their significant others and spouses.

The relationship we have with our same-sex parent is what we call twinning. By the nature that we share the same gender, the activities and things we do with our mothers, if we are daughters, and with our fathers if we are sons, directly shapes how we view ourselves. How we view ourselves shapes the way we perceive and interact with the world.

While parents are our first teachers, our spouses and significant others serve as our last teachers. Those to whom we bid farewell when leaving this life. And in various cases, hope to encounter during the next.

Whether we are agnostic, atheist or a believer, the psychological essence of our marriage contracts in the West that are based on Christian teachings that emphasize the act of leaving our parents who have raised us and cleaving to our spouse and partner. Yet, what we achieve psychologically, spiritually and materially rests upon what has or has not taken place during the first 15-18 years of life with or without our parents.

Orphans and children of foster care have difficulty trusting. Children of the wealthy often struggle with separating material ownership and achievement from love. Those whose parents have given them what some consider a charmed life, and in that no life contains perfection, often find it a challenge to develop patience with those persons who see their life as charmed.

"All I have to offer is my difference."---an existentialist quote.

And yet we live in a culture bound ironing out differences and creating homogeneity.

But is those who are so vastly different from us that provide the backdrop, if not the very fuel that boosts us into awareness of the far reaching aspects of our own personalities, the galaxies that lie within us. Astrology teaches that we can certain dimensions of our character are accessible to us only through interaction with another.
The psychology of Christianity teaches that our spouse is ideally that person who brings us into contact with these other aspects of our personality, that wife is to husband and husband is to wife, that special Other who brings us into relationship with The Other that lives within us.

The union of that which we know of ourselves, and our Other is termed the inner marriage. Thus the external marriage in which we live as husband wife, mirrors the internal married of heart and mind, soul and body.

Theses various dimensions of interaction with self and spouse create the stepping-stones and foundation for encountering God.

Hinduism states, "Blessed is the householder."

Our interactions with various members of our family mother, father, wife, husband, brother, sister, grandmother and grandfather bring us into consciousness of who we are and what we are becoming as deemed by our the desires of our hearts working in tandem with universal divinings.

I am. You are. And thus, We become.

My stories depict who we are, you and I, and show when working together, who we can truly become.

Part Two of Anjuelle's feature is LIVE at ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING!


"Dancing Siva" - from Keeper of Secrets...Translations of an Incident

Raven stifled a yawn as she stared at the wooden icon of Siva. Another night had passed with her being awakened by the wails of her four-month-old daughter, Kaarin. Raven had gone to Kaarin’s bed, taken her from the crib, and cradling the infant, lay down in the bed of the guest room. It had been this way nearly every night since Kaarin’s birth. Kaarin never cried during the day.

Raven contemplated the mahogany carving of Siva dancing within the ring of fire. Its eyes, mere slits, appeared to widen. The icon’s four arms seemed to reach out, beckoning her. Raven’s soul was thirsty, parched from Kaarin’s nightly screams.

Absylom’s father had carved the statue now standing on the bookcase by Raven’s bed.

Absylom had given it to her. Two months after marrying Drew, Raven aborted Absylom’s child. The fetus had been four months. Now after sixteen years as Drew’s wife, and mother to their three daughters, Raven stood searching Siva’s face, wondering, as on every night when Kaarin cried, about the life she aborted. Drew exited the bathroom while buttoning his shirt, and approached Raven. “It’s last minute, but I’m meeting a client for dinner tonight. His wife is coming.” Drew began arranging his tie. “I’d like you there.”

“Why?” Raven turned from the bookcase. “It’ll make him feel safer.”

“That’s your job.” Catching one last glimpse of the wooden deity, Raven began making her side of the bed. “Besides, my braids need to be redone. I don’t know if I can get Nilini to sit.” Raven resented the way Drew sought to make comfortable and defended the guilty. He inserted the second cuff link into the holes of his French cuffs, and walked to her, lifted her chin. “You look fine.”

“My presence won’t wipe out your client’s sins.” “But it can help his wife.” “And, why should I help her?” “Because I’m your husband.” Drew let go of Raven’s chin, then in the low, attorney-like tone used when addressing clients in public places, “We can’t keep going like this. Kaarin’s crying, this lack of sleep—it’s making you cranky.”

“I’m fine.” Raven turned back to the bed and bolstered her pillow.

“You’re not. How could you be? You haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep since she was born.”

Raven went around Drew and began straightening the covers on his side of the bed. “She’ll be fine.”

Drew followed her. “Let Kaarin sleep with us.” “She needs to learn to sleep in her bed.” “Like that’s happening now? That’s not what you said about Anisha or Emily. They slept with us for at least a year.”

“Kaarin’s different.” Raven patted Drew’s pillow.

“How is that? She looks just like you.” Drew captured Raven’s hand. She snatched it back, threw down his pillow.

As if knowing what lay hallowed and untouched between them for sixteen years, Drew slapped Raven with a stare of his own. His neck, the color of Georgia clay against his white collar, called to her. Raven searched Drew’s brown eyes, inhaled the scent of his cologne, a mixture of eucalyptus and herbs. She imagined burying her lips in his neck above the mauve tie, and resting her head on his chest. She sighed heavily. “I don’t want to go with you tonight.”

Raven wondered if her eyes were flickering green, as Drew said they did when she was angry. Absylom had said the same. She lowered her head.

“I miss you,” Drew sighed. “I want you beside me at night.” He leaned forward, kissed her forehead and caressed her shoulders. “The reservation’s at eight.”
Raven exhaled. Drew then whispered, “I’ll be home at six-thirty to shower and change.” He pulled away as he added, “--if you care to come.”

November 9, 2009

The Inspiration to Write: Author Christin Haws

The Writer

Christin Haws is a writer without a day job currently living in a small town in the middle of a cornfield. Her short story "Such a Pretty Face" won 10th place in the genre category of Writer Digest's 77th Annual Story Contest. Two more of her short stories are currently available. "My Winter with Stanley" can be found on and "Hillibilly Hunt" is featured in the Pill Hill Press anthology Middle of Nowhere: Horror in Rural America. Her short story "Customer Service" will be available in an upcoming issue of Ruthless Peoples Magazine. She's currently working on several more short stories, is in the process of writing her fifth novel, and looks forward to the day she finally gets her first one published. Christin is easily stalkable via Livejournal [link] and Twitter [link].


What inspires you to write?

I've never really thought about what inspires me to write because I've just always done it. I wrote my first word at three and my first story at six and have yet to stop. It's just what I do. Growing up, I wrote dozens of plays, notebooks full of stories that were never finished, and pages of poetry. Writing has always been my preferred outlet and method of communication. I've always liked putting pen to paper. Even if I hadn't recently decided to try to make a career of writing, even if my life had taken a completely different path, I know I'd still be writing. I guess I'm not so much inspired to write as I'm wired to write.

Where do you find inspiration to create your stories?

You always hear about people getting their brilliant ideas in the shower. Mine come to me while I'm doing laundry. Our washer is in the basement and we don't have a dryer, so that means the clothes are either hung on the outside line if it's nice or, in the winter, slung over the line that's strung up downstairs. I've gotten several story ideas while pulling wet clothes out of a washer that was made sometime before I was born. I not only got the original idea for "Such a Pretty Face" while doing laundry, but it was also while I was doing that chore that I got the idea that saved the story from the trash can after more than a year of revisions and rewrites on it. I don't know what about doing laundry in that chilly, concrete room that inspires my creative process. Maybe it's because my short stories are all horror stories and my basement looks like it could easily be a set in a horror film.

I'm not only inspired by domestic tasks, but also by life in general. "Customer Service" started out as a retail revenge fantasy, an inevitability as far as I was concerned after spending several years in the business dealing with every kind of rudeness available (don't get me wrong, there were good ones, too, but it's the rude ones that still haunt me); an inevitability that best occurred fictionally. However, as it sometimes goes with revising and rewriting, it turned into something with a little more body and heart and a little less vengeance, but still very satisfying to a former retailer with a few rude ghosts lingering around.

"Hillbilly Hunt" was the product of several different little sparks of inspiration being put together to create a whole story. That happens to me quite a bit. I keep a little notebook just for those little sparks. Scenes, snippets of conversation, a line of dialogue, a comeback, an insult, odd thoughts, striking details, random facts. Sometimes these little sparks are enough to start and sustain a whole story. Sometimes, like with "Hillbilly Hunt", it takes two or three. "Hillbilly Hunt" started as my desire to do a different take on a common horror trope. The opening scene of the story and the twist I needed both came from my notebook.

Any little thing can be the catalyst for the creative process so I try to keep my eyes open. I don't want to miss an opportunity, even if I don't know how I'm going to use it or when I'm going to use it. Inspiration really is everywhere, I think.

Even in the laundry.


From My Winter with Stanley

My name is Maisie Day and people will tell me anything.

My mother calls it "the gift of openness". Anyone, whether I know them or not, will tell me any truth about themselves, whether I ask them or not. And I rarely ask. This sort of thing is fine with family and close friends, awkward and uncomfortable with acquaintances and coworkers, and down right terrifying and boggling with strangers. It’s a bus, not a confessional.

My mother calls it a gift; I call it a pain in the ass. Mom has repeatedly lectured me on using my power for good. I think she meant that I should become a therapist or a journalist or an interrogator. Expose the truth, catch bad guys, help people.

I don’t think she meant for me to become a writer and use what people freely tell me as fodder for stories. I think she’d call that exploitation. I call it my fee, the price someone pays for assaulting me with their life against my will. It’s not like I’m getting rich off of it; just making a living.

Some people may argue that it’s not very creative, that it’s lazy writing. Believe me, it takes a lot of creativity and work to make reality believable enough for fiction.

There’s a place I go when the idea pit is running dry or I’m in need of some stimulation. It’s an out of the way, yet busy café buried in LA, not too far from my apartment. I take a notebook, get a tea, grab a table, and just soak myself in the human experience.

One particularly busy day, I found myself setting my tea down on the last available table, one outside with a green and white umbrella to shield me from the winter glare. I doodled and scribbled, catching bits of conversation, interesting fashion choices, appalling social rituals.

I was just finishing an amazingly childish drawing of an ice cream cone when someone cleared their throat to my left. I looked up at the most eye piercing Hawaiian shirt I’d ever seen, bright green with big red parrots everywhere. I looked up to the owner of the monstrosity and found a stick figure with a vulture’s nose, Buddy Holly glasses, and black straw that was supposed to be hair.

"Can I help you?" I asked, knowing he was really beyond my help.

A plastic surgeon and a fashion guru couldn’t fix that mess.

"Would you mind if I sat with you?" the stickman asked. "There’s no tables left. I promise, I won’t bother you."

He held up a book and an iced coffee.

I shrugged. "Sure."

Stickman sat down across from me, setting his drink on the glorified patio table.

"My name’s Stanley," he said. "Stanley Ivanov. There, I’ve identified myself. No worries that I’ll be attacking you later."

I snorted. "Thanks for that.

Read the rest of "My Winter with Stanley" at

November 4, 2009

The Inspiration to Write: Author, Poet Chamsil

The Writer

CHAMSIL (pronounced "shahm-sill") is a Kalamazoo, Michigan-bred/Orlando, Florida-based writer, poet, spoken word artist, spoken word radio show host and author of five books/stories that have been released via the web which include Of This Analverse (An Erotiq Comedy), The Exploitation of Innocence (A Story), The Khaos of Kai, eThugs R Us, and Ten Thirty-Eight. He can be reached directly at

Chamsil is all over the internet; check him out at...

MySpace: (Main Writer Page)
MySpace: (Entertainment Page)
MySpace: (Spoken Word Show Page)

The Books

Cincinnati, Ohio. 21st Century.

Kommandhoe and Boogieman claim to be the hardest, toughest, and most hardcore thugs wreaking complete havoc and sheer intimidation in their urban wasteland...which happens to

be the information superhighway.

However, when their threats befall the 'wrong' individual, the anty is upped, the stakes are raised and they become the targets...literally.

Time is not on their side...

They just don't know it yet...

Detroit, Michigan. 21st Century.

Jacorri Isaacs is a young man simply trying to make it. By sixteen, he had seen his parents split up and endured the struggle of coming up in a single-parent household, but he's remained resilient through it all.

When faced with a proposition that could catapult him into manhood, he is forced to decide whether or not to succumb to forces that not only will test him from an emotional perspective, but primarily from a physical one.

This is the simply...The crazy life & times of Jacorri Isaacs.

Both eThugs R Us and Ten Thirty-Eight are downloadable for FREE via Chamsil's MySpace page.


What inspires you to write?

My greatest inspiration to write comes from just having a creative soul. I experience great excitement by being able to come up with a captivating book, story, poem, and/or characters that resonate with readers so profoundly, that they can totally see themselves in the things that I write. I am greatly inspired by the things that I see around me, as well. It is also people who give me inspiration to write. In 2008, I wrote a novel, that was solely intended to be distributed via the internet, titled "Of This Analverse" (An Erotiq Comedy). The book was well-received by the hundred-plus people who downloaded and read it and I was very happy with both the results and responses. One of my friends, that I network with, was so captivated by one of the characters in the book, that she insisted that I should write something with that same character being the focal point in a proposed new book idea. The end result: "The Khaos of Kai" was another hit on the web. I was also, very pleased with the reception and feedback. Also, my keen visual sense, enables triggers in my brain to expand something, initially small, into something so powerful and poignant that sometimes my finished product sends chills up my own spine. It's kind of scary. I just love creating. I'll keep creating for as long as God gives me life and the ability to do so.

Where do you find inspiration to create your stories?

I get inspired by a wide variety of things. I'm always online, so it could be something that I read or see that may motivate me to write. It could be people that I talk to, that are going through the motions of life, that may prompt me to craft something. It could be something that I'm going through, in my own personal life, that could prompt a story to be written. Then also, it could just be my crazy mind that goes into overdrive and begin crafting with that trigger. A perfect example of that is a literary piece that I wrote titled, "Cleodis" (The Bedroom Gangsta). This character is no way, shape or form, a reflection of who I am, but I went crazy when I wrote this character and how he handles himself in an "intimate" encounter with the fairer sex. I really enjoyed writing that. The bad thing about it is, my mind seems to always be thinking of new things to write, even when I really would prefer to relax. I think this is a clear indication that I need to be writing full-time. I strongly believe that writing is my calling. I have so many ideas and concepts that are sitting on my mental shelf, that NEED to be taken off and read. They need to be displayed for the whole world to see. I'm on my way. It is just going to take a little time, that's all. But, I am patient.


From eThugs R Us

DATE: 03/26/2009
TIME: 03:37 AM EST

(Kerry Hicks)

I wake up
Drenching from fucked up dream
Definition of a nightmare
Oh such a stream
Open my refrigerator
Almost empty
Because I ain't got paid yet
Rubbing my stomach
Like I'm a starvation patient
It is what it is
Got saltines up top
A Two-Liter Sprite within
I got a full day tomorrow
So it won't be wise
To spike with Gin
I stride within
The confines of my pad
But there's no way I'll return to slumber
My computer is calling me
She definitely has learned my number
I answer
Sit down and get comfortable
Totally glued to the news
That she has just begun to show
An innocent woman left dead
Off top
Somebody really blew her mind
Punch keys
Electrodes magnetize
I have great balance on my board
Ride the wave
Like I'm the raddest guy
I inadvertently notice the banner
For a networking site
Called Crew Flame
Never seen this before
So to me
This is a new name
I enter it
Look around
Observe the members
Plenty fine women
About nine gremlins
I'm all in them
But definitely not the men
What's this?
A Chat button
Entry denied
Signed up
As Chad Butler
Walked in the room
And there was mad cussing
Everything fathomable
I observed
The perfect avenue
To strike a nerve
Spark beef
Like hamburger
On a charcoal grill
I can already picture
How many fuckers
That I'm gonna kill
I've suffered enough
Now I'm in charge
Get at my buddy Alvin
See what he thinks
We'll chop it up tomorrow
At Hooters
Order about three drinks
Or more...

From Ten Thirty-Eight

Hello there. My name is Jacorri Isaacs. I am a sixteen year old, who hails from the Motor City of Detroit, Michigan. East Side, baby! Or more specifically, the land of East Side Hoes And Money, as the legendary rapper, Esham, so eloquently put it many, many years ago, after the release of his debut album, Boomin’ Words from Hell. Ever heard it before? Probably not. That album was very, very underground and came out in the year nineteen hundred and eighty-nine, which was four years before I even came into existence on this fucking planet.

I’m a young dude, but my older cousins, Marcus and Nitto, got me hip to all the old-school music, which makes me feel as if I grew up in the exact same period in which the music actually was pumping out of the various whips that navigated down Jefferson, Woodward, Gratiot or any other popular Detroit throughway. I got much love for my city, regardless of what any newspaper, news station, local or national, has to say about it. What do I say in response to the hate? Simply...“FUCK THEM!” But, it’s not about them. It’s all about me and what I want to share with you, at this moment.

I am an only child, who lives with my father, Walter Lee, a construction worker who has struggled most of my life to keep a roof over both of our damn heads. But, my father has done everything within his power to keep us maintained. Even if that meant that he wasn’t able to spend as much time with me. But, I totally understood. No matter what the situation was or how strenuous things became, I’ve always known that my father loved me. I, in return, loved and still love him with all of my heart.

We’re all we got...

Both eThugs R Us and Ten Thirty-Eight are downloadable for FREE via Chamsil's MySpace page.

October 3, 2009

Formatting Rules in Latest The Write Life for You Article

Becoming a Lifelong Learner of the Craft of Writing

By author, editor, educator Shon Bacon aka ChickLitGurrl™

The Write Life for You is a series of articles on the writing craft. Past articles have focused on building character, developing a solid plot, and harnessing a writing style.
In October's article, I look at some FORMATTING rules that are important to know to get that manuscript ready to send out to agents and editors.

Head to APOOOBOOKS.COM to read my latest article in The Write Life for You series!

September 30, 2009

Author John Green, YA Fiction, and Weltschmerz

The Writer

John Green is the Michael L. Printz Award-winning author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns. He is also one half of the vlogbrothers on YouTube, where he makes videos with his brother Hank. When he was little, he wanted to be an earthworm scientist. (There is a word for such a person: oligochaetologist.) But he killed off his entire earthworm farm due to his general inability to care for pets. Later, he made a list of things he was good at. The list included "telling lies" and "sitting." So he became a writer.Green currently lives in Indianapolis, IN, where he is working on the screenplay of his third book, Paper Towns, which is the recipient of the 2009 Edgar Award by the Association for Mystery Writers of America.

You can follow John through Cyberspace by checking out his website, Nerdfighters, and Twitter.

The Book

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life--dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge--he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues--and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Click the cover above to pre-order your copy of Paper Towns today!

On Young Adult Fiction

Why write teen fiction?
Well, I like teenagers both as characters and as an audience. I like them because they're in the process of forming their values, and because they're willing to grapple unironically with the big questions of our species: Why is the suffering in our world distributed so arbitrarily and unfairly? What are our responsibilities to ourselves, to those we love, to those we don't love? What does it even mean to be human? That's the kind of stuff I like to think about, and so it's the kind of stuff I like to write about, and I find that teenagers are just a great audience.

Like, this does not directly relate to my books, but once a week or so, I do a live show online. People (mostly teens) watch online while I answer their questions and read from old poems and stuff. It's amazingly fulfilling to read Whitman and Dickinson and Keats with these kids; I feel like my writing is just another path to that same experience, the chance to have a conversation with people who are really engaged and curious and conscious of the connection between their values and their lives.

How much research do you do to get into the mindset, the culture of teenagers?
Very little. The research I do is stuff I'd be doing anyway: reading blogs, watching YouTube videos, talking to people online. I mean, I didn't know anything about teen culture when I *was* a teenager, and I don't know much about it now. I am always blown away with the ways that teenagers are constantly inventing the language (giving us, just in the last few years, such words as "pwn" and "nerdfighter"), but there's no way I'm going to sound hip by trying to ape them. Personally, I think the key is to invent a world that is consistent and believable in and of itself; that world will never perfectly match the teen culture of the moment, but it also won't sound dated so quickly.

What are some of the themes you tackle most often in your works?
I'm interested in firsts: first love, first loss, first intellectual engagements. And I'm really interested in the way teenagers (and the rest of us) misapprehend other people and the world around them. There's this word I just learned when I was in Germany: weltschmerz. It means the sadness one feels when considering the difference between the world as it should be with the world as it is. If I had known about this word from the beginning, I wonder if I would have ever needed to write books. It turns out that everything inside all of my books is right there in a single word. Weltschmerz! Weltschmerz! Weltschmerz!

So, yeah. Weltschmerz. And I try to be funny, because the whole sad affair is kind of hilarious.

I notice there are a lot of YA book series in the market; do you think this is a trend with longevity? What do you think it takes to have a strong YA book series?
I don't really know. There have been series for a long time (I read all of the Babysitters' Club books), and even though I've never attempted a series, I really admire good series and enjoy reading them. I have no idea what it takes to write a good YA series, but from observing my friends who've written good series (Cassandra Clare, Lauren Myracle, Libba Bray, and the like), it requires a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth over how to resolve everything satisfactorily.

What are three sources VITAL to writers interested in writing YA fiction?
Well, the only sources I'm going to list are YA novels because I think the best apprenticeship we have is reading. There are all kinds of helpful resources for publishing YA, like SCBWI and the book Literary Marketplace. But as far as writing goes, I would read:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, because it shows all of us what can be done.

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, because it shows that a book can be ceaselessly gripping while still being deeply interesting. (I recommend the sequel, too, but I'm positive you'll read it once you've read the first one).

3. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, because it is such a perfectly structured character study that can teach us all a lot about how to make characters readers will love and remember.

To read the first pages of Paper Towns, head HERE!

September 23, 2009

Talking YA Fic Series with Author Shelia Goss

The Writer

Shelia M. Goss is the best-selling author of the young adult novel series: The Lip Gloss Chronicles: The Ultimate Test, Splitsville and Paper Thin and author of five women's fiction novels. Besides writing fiction, she is a freelance writer. She's the recipient of three Shades of Romance Magazine Readers Choice Multi-Cultural Awards and honored as a Literary Diva: The Top 100 Most Admired African American Women in Literature. Learn more about Shelia at the official Lip Gloss Chronicles website and at Shelia's official website.

The Book

In Stores September 29, 2009

The divas are back. Jasmine, Britney and Sierra’s world is filled with drama at Plano High.

DJ Johnson has been spreading nasty rumors that threaten to ruin Jasmine’s reputation. Jasmine’s home life is in turmoil too. Her parents are in the midst of a divorce, and she’s taking it hard. As if all that weren’t bad enough, Jasmine soon finds herself involved in drama that makes the situations with DJ and her parents seem like child’s play.

Click the cover above to pre-order your copy of Splitsville: The Lip Gloss Chronicles, Vol. 2 today!

On Young Adult Fiction

Why write teen fiction?
I've actually wanted to write a teen fiction book since being a teenager and reading Nancy Drew. My friends’ teens love books like Gossip Girl, The Clique, Private, etc., so I decided that I would write a series where the main characters were minorities but grew up in middle to upper class households. The stories are reality based and although entertaining, each book in The Lip Gloss Chronicles series deals with issues that some teens face.

How much research do you do to get into the mindset, the culture of teenagers?
I sit and observe a lot. I talk with and listen to my pre-teen and teenage cousins and friends.

What are some of the themes you tackle most often in your works?
The Lip Gloss Chronicles series tackle current issues affecting teens. Each book in the series is told from one of the main character's point of view.

Britney's story is The Ultimate Test - The Lip Gloss Chronicles Vol. 1. This book deals with the importance of friendship and also deals with the issue of an only child having to share their parents with a newborn after years of being the only child.

Splitsville - The Lip Gloss Chronicles Vol. 2 is Jasmine's story. Jasmine must deal with her parents divorcing and one of the friends learn about the dangers of giving out personal information to strangers on the internet.

Paper Thin - The Lip Gloss Chronicles Vol. 3 tackles an important issue of teens and their weight. Sierra is the lead character in this book. I decided to tackle this issue because many teenage girls are struggling trying to look like unrealistic images they see in various forms of the media.

I notice there are a lot of YA book series in the market; do you think this is a trend with longevity?
I don't think it's a trend. There's always been a lot of YA book series, but only recently a lot of AA YA book series. I think that as long as we write YA series, there will be an audience (both with teens and adults).

What do you think it takes to have a strong YA book series?
There have to be realistic characters and storylines.

What are three sources VITAL to writers interested in writing YA fiction?
1. The internet--great tool to use to learn about the YA market.
2. Research--read other YA books, talk with teens, and recruit a few teen readers for your unpublished work for feedback.
3. Network with other YA authors and professionals.

Any closing comments you'd like to make regarding teens and writing?
I am real excited about the Lip Gloss Chronicles series. I would love to see the series expanded from the current three books and follow the three friends until high school graduation. Besides the Lip Gloss Chronicles, I am busy working on another YA series.

Writing YA books gives me the opportunity to talk to teens about the importance of reading and writing and how it relates to their everyday life now and in the future.


From Splitsville: The Lip Gloss Chronicles, Vol. 2
Chapter One

“Jasmine McNeil, you are our new Miss Teen USA?” R & B singer Usher announced to me and the world.

Teary-eyed, dressed in a violet floor length evening gown, I accepted the tiara and huge bouquet of roses and walked down the runway waving at the audience and the cameras. I wasn’t at a loss for words. “I would like to thank my mom and dad for believing in me. If it wasn’t for there genes I wouldn’t be as beautiful as I am. I would like to thank my best friends back in Dallas, Britney Franklin and Sierra Sanchez. Oh and one other thing, I wanted to thank all the haters—look at me now.” Someone was beating some drums trying to ruin my moment. I looked around but couldn’t see who because of the blinding light.

“Jasmine Charlotte, get your butt ready for school,” my mom’s voice rang from over my bed, waking me up from my dream.

I attempted to pull the covers back over my head, but she wasn’t having it. Once I realized she wasn’t going away, I slowly rose up out of the bed. My mom didn’t let her five foot stature stop her from laying down the law in our house. My sister and I would call her Lil’ Kim behind her back when she made us mad. Her full name was Kimberly Ann McNeil and she wore the name like a badge of honor. She was proud to be the wife of the ex-NFL superstar Dion McNeil. With folded arms, she stood and watched as I got my stuff together. “Mom, I’m not a little kid. I can get dressed by myself.”

She tapped her foot a few times before responding, “If you stayed off that computer, you could get up. I’m really thinking about having it taken out.”

“Mom, please,” I begged. “I promise I won’t stay up late anymore.” I avoided eye contact and made a beeline for my closet, ignoring my mom’s rants.

“I’ll think about it. Hurry up, because Brenda has to register for her classes today and she’s dropping you off at school first.”

“Mom, I thought you were dropping me off.”

“Jasmine I don’t have time for your attitude. Just get ready and don’t make your sister late.”

I heard the door slam. I looked out my closet door and my mom was nowhere in sight. Lately it didn’t take much to set her on a verbal rampage. She and my dad fought the entire two weeks we were out on winter break. For the first time, in a long time, I actually looked forward to going to school.

An hour later, I found myself rushing because Brenda wanted to annoy me by honking her horn instead of telling me she was ready to leave. She was my older sister and in college but sometimes she could act so immature. With my backpack in one hand and my favorite lip gloss, Grape Delight, in another, I rushed by my mom at the end of the stairway as she gave me the evil eye.

“What took you so long?” Brenda asked. She pulled off before I could get my seatbelt on.

“You better not let mom or dad see you pulling off like that.”

“Please. Mom and dad got too many other problems so I know they’re not concerned about my driving.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t know if I should tell you with that type of attitude.” She honked her horn at the car in front of us.

“Bren, come on. If you know something, tell me.”

“Mom and dad are thinking about getting a divorce.”

“A di…” I couldn’t say the word.

“Yes, a divorce. I know you’ve heard them. Everybody on the block probably did…as loud as they are.” By now, we were stuck at the light on the corner of Legacy Drive and Plano Boulevard.

“They can’t get a di…” Brenda’s news shocked me. I couldn’t even say the “d” word. My parents argued, but didn’t everybody’s? I didn’t realize it had gotten so bad they were talking about splitting up for good. Why was this happening to me? Why? Why? Why?

September 19, 2009

Are you inCharacter? You SHOULD be!


inCHARACTER is the creation of author Samara King in a quest to quench her hunger of creating characters. (Clause: Her preference for heroes has nothing to do with it!)

Starting in September 21, 2009, characters will have their day at! inCHARACTER seeks to provide a creative outlet for like-minded authors who also enjoy the depths of character development, character/scene features of all genres, as well as thought-provoking articles on the subjects of creativity, writing, and character creation.

** inCHARACTER will also be in search of bi-monthly contributors for literary articles and candid prospectives into the literary life.

As inCHARACTER continues to grow, affordable advertising spaces will be available for purchase as well as book spotlights.

If you are interested in an inCHARACTER Character Feature, you may submit the following material:

1. Book Cover
2. Short Author Bio and Author Link
3. 250 – 750 word scene featuring selected character of author’s choice.

The Catch: Once Samara King has read your selected character scene, five questions will be sent to the author, geared toward your character….Interested? Good! Please submit your character feature for consideration to!

September 9, 2009

On Y.A. Fiction with Author E. M. Crane

The Writer

Photography by Gordon W. Perkins

E. M. Crane is the author of Skin Deep, published by Random House in 2008. Skin Deep won the Delacorte Press Prize for First Young Adult fiction, and it has been nominated for the 2009 Charlotte Award by the NY State Reading Association. Crane lives in rural northern New York near the Canadian border, where she is a full-time writer. She is represented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

You can learn more about E.M. at her website.

The Book

If all the world’s a stage, Andrea Anderson is sitting in the audience. High school has its predictable heroes, heroines, villains, and plotlines, and Andrea has no problem guessing how each drama will turn out. She is, after all, a professional spectator. In the social hierarchy she is a Nothing, and at home her mother runs the show. All Andrea has to do is show up every day and life basically plays out as scripted. Then one day Andrea accepts a job. Honora Menapace—a reclusive neighbor—is sick. As in every other aspect of her life, Andrea’s role is clear: Honora’s garden must be taken care of and her pottery finished, and someone needs to feed her dog, Zena. But what starts out as a simple job yanks Andrea’s back-row seat out from under her. Life is no longer predictable, and nothing is what it seems. Light is dark, villains are heroes, and what she once saw as ugly is too beautiful for words. Andrea must face the fact that life at first glance doesn’t even crack the surface.

Click the cover above to order your copy of Skin Deep today!

On Young Adult Fiction

Why write teen fiction?
Because many teens love raw truth in stories. So do I. But the truth is, I don't write for teens. I write for everyone. I do love coming-of-age stories and using teen characters, so I guess that's how I've ended up in the genre, but I definitely don't sit down and say, "This piece is going to be teen fiction." I just write it.

How much research do you do to get into the mindset, the culture of teenagers?
None at all. I believe that while some of the props of being a teen change from generation to generation, one thing remains the same -- emotion. You can be 15 or 39, anger is still anger. Shame is still shame. And no matter our age, we all love to laugh. I guess I don't worry about what's hot or whether the mall is still the place to hang out - I'm aiming for the timeless characteristics of humanity that unite all ages, not the detail activities that separate us. And to me, humanity is unified by emotion. Plus, is there truly one mindset, one culture of teenagers? If there is, what a boring lot! lol. All joking aside, a story needs to be true to one character at a time, not an entire population all the time. As long as my character is truthful to his or her experience, it's all good.

What are some of the themes you tackle most often in your works?
Loneliness. Beauty. Isolation. Gender inequality. Hope. Tolerance.

I notice there are a lot of YA book series in the market; do you think this is a trend with longevity?
I'm not a series writer, but I see that trend, too. I think it does have longevity; historically speaking, good series often build a strong following. Readers become invested in characters and want to travel with them over the space of more than one book. And that's what I think it takes to have a strong YA series -- a fabulous cast of characters.

What are three sources VITAL to writers interested in writing YA fiction?
To me the VITAL sources are all internal: unbridled imagination, the fearlessness to tell the story, and lots of practice.

Any closing comments you'd like to make regarding teens and writing?
Teens get such a bad rap in society, it's almost cliche from one generation to the next. But for me, writing for people who are right in the middle of shaping who they are -- it's an honor. I have tremendous respect for both this audience and for other YA writers. Stories bond us; age is nothing. If a reader can take a piece of a story and find it meaningful in a personal way, it's a beautiful thing for both the reader and the writer. That's the kind of writing to which I aspire, and the kind of reading I love most.

September 2, 2009

Talkin' YA with Author Matt de la Peña

The Writer

Matt de la Peña’s debut novel, Ball Don’t Lie, was an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick and is soon to be released as a motion picture starring Ludacris, Nick Cannon, Emelie de Ravin, Grayson Boucher, and Rosanna Arquette (based on the screenplay he co-wrote with director Brin Hill). de la Peña’s second novel, Mexican WhiteBoy, was an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adult (Top Ten Pick), a 2009 Notable Book for a Global Society, a Junior Library Guild Selection and made the 2008 Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Literature Blue Ribbon List. His third novel, We Were Here, will be published by Delacorte in October, 2009. His short fiction has appeared in various literary journals, including: Pacific Review, The Vincent Brothers Review, Chiricú, Two Girl’s Review, George Mason Review, and Allegheny Literary Review. de la Peña received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, where he teaches creative writing.

You can learn more about Matt by visiting his website and his Facebook page.

The Book

The story of one boy and his journey to find himself.

When it happened, Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home—said he had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. The judge had no idea that he actually did Miguel a favor. Ever since it happened, his mom can’t even look at him in the face. Any home besides his would be a better place to live.

But Miguel didn’t bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting to the border to where he could start over. Forget his mom. Forget his brother. Forget himself.

Life usually doesn’t work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you’re running from.

Click the cover above to order your copy of We Were Here today!

On Young Adult Fiction

Why write teen fiction?
My first novel, Ball Don’t Lie, was pitched to both adult and YA editors, and when my agent came back to me and said, “Hey, Matt, congratulations, your novel sold to a YA publisher at Random House,” I pumped my fist and sprinted around my neighborhood – really. It wasn’t until a week later that I asked him what YA stood for. I had no idea. When he told me YA stood for “young adult” I said, “Dude, you’re gonna have to be a little specific.” He said the book would be marketed to teens and that I might have to take out some of the swearing (there was a lot) and maybe tame the most graphic of the sex scenes (it was pretty graphic). But that’s how ignorant I was about the genre I had entered.

Now I understand YA a little better. I suppose I’m really drawn to the “coming of age” story. Everything is new, exciting, alive, dramatic. It’s such a big part of our lives. Personally, I think we experience about a dozen “coming of age” stages over the course of our lives. But around high school age we go through that first one, and the first of anything usually leaves a pretty big impression. I love following teen characters, watching them make sense of their lives.

How much research do you do to get into the mindset, the culture of teenagers?
It’s strange, in some ways I have the absolute worst memory imaginable. Recently an ex-girlfriend found me on Facebook and we got to talking and she wrote, “Hey, remember that time you got in a fight with Rene Muñoz in front of the library because he said my new haircut made me look dyke-y?” I wrote, “Oh, yeah. Man, that was crazy.” But really I had no idea what she was talking about. Sometimes I totally forget big things that have happened to me. But I’m much better at remembering the tone of my teenage years. I remember what made me sad and what got me hyped. I remember what it felt like when I discovered the power of a pretty girl. I remember being alone – even when I was with other kids. I pull a lot from that. I also played basketball all through high school and college, and that experience informs everything I do. Hoop brought us together, from all over the country, and I learned everything from that context.

Ninety percent of my research is about plot stuff. I still play ball at the local YMCA in Brooklyn. I’m always listening to the kids who pas through those games. I’m always looking to steal.

What are some of the themes you tackle most often in your works?
Race is important in all three of my books. In Ball Don’t Lie, main character Sticky is a scrubby white kid existing in a gym populated only by African-Americans. Mexican WhiteBoy is about a kid trying to make sense of both his Mexican side and his white boy side. In my newest novel, We Were Here, coming out October 13th, main character Miguel is also bi-racial – half Mexican, half white again (like me!). When he’s sentenced to a year in a group home (for a horrific crime he didn’t mean to commit) the guys quickly give him the nickname “Mexico” because of his brown skin. The irony is he doesn’t speak Spanish and has never even been to Mexico. In all three books teen characters are trying to make sense of racial identity issues. But what ends up being just as important as race, in my estimation, is class.

A lot of teen fiction takes place in an upper-middle-class context. The characters are cool financially so they stress on other stuff like popularity and social clicks and who’s taking who to the prom. Some of that stuff is great, by the way. But I’ve always wanted to write about the other side of the tracks, the have-nots – maybe because that’s who I was. I’ll never forget this epiphany I had when I lived in LA. I saw this kid sitting alone on a bus stop bench, hood up, headphones on, holding a basketball. People pulling up to the stoplight were oblivious to his existence. Folks in nice cars like BMWs and Mercedes and Jags. They didn’t see him. I tried to figure out what that meant to me. And then I said to myself, “Man, I’m wanna write about kids like him. I wanna show how his life is just as beautiful as the lives of the rich folks sitting in those nice cars. I’m wanna make people ‘see’ him for three hundred pages.” And I guess that’s what I’m still shooting for.

Oh, and I also like when one of these kids falls for a super pretty girl, and it shakes them of their cool for a sec.

I notice there are a lot of YA book series in the market; do you think this is a trend with longevity?
There are so many great books out there, so many amazing authors. It’s hard to sift through everything. I think teens respond to series because if they discover something they really respond to, they wanna keep going down that seam. I’m the same way with authors. If I find one I love, I read everything that person has ever published. Maybe teens focus more on characters. If they come across a character that pops they wanna read everything in which that character appears. I think series will continue to be popular.

Man, I wish I could think up a cool series. As a writer that must be kind of fun, too. I bet the books go quick. You don’t have to spend all that time figuring out who the heck your character is. You just tell the story.

What are three sources VITAL to writers interested in writing YA fiction?
- SCBWI is an invaluable resource for prospective teen authors. I just went to their annual conference in LA, and it was great. Check out:

- Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. A great resource!

- Gotham Writers Online. Any class or writing group really. It’s pivotal to get feedback from peers and colleagues. [link]

Any closing comments you'd like to make regarding teens and writing?
I think the single greatest mistake you can make as a teen author is to “write down” to your audience. There didn’t used to be such a big delineation between teen and adult. Many great adult books of the past (Catcher in the Rye) would be categorized as teen novels today. Now that more people set out to write teen novels I think there’s a belief that the writing has to be more simple and more explicit. Not true. You can be just as ambitious and artistic. When I read a book where an author is writing down to teens I immediately smell a rat – and I think teens do, too.

I’m lucky. I’m fully aware that I’m not smart enough to write down to anybody.


From forthcoming novel, We Were Here

May 13

Here’s the thing: I was probably gonna write a book when I got older anyways. About what it’s like growing up on the levee in Stockton, where every other person you meet has missing teeth or is leaning against a liquor store wall begging for change to buy beer. Or maybe it’d be about my dad dying in the stupid war and how at the funeral they gave my mom some cheap medal and a folded flag and shot a bunch of rifles at the clouds. Or maybe the book would just be something about me and my brother, Diego. How we hang mostly by ourselves, pulling corroded-looking fish out of the murky levee water and throwing them back. How sometimes when Moms falls asleep in front of the TV we’ll sneak out of the apartment and walk around the neighborhood, looking into other people’s windows, watching them sleep.

That’s the weirdest thing, by the way. That every person you come across lays down in a bed, under the covers, and closes their eyes at night. Cops, teachers, parents, hot girls, pro ballers, everybody. For some reason it makes people seem so much less real when I look at them.

Anyways, at first I was worried standing there next to the hunchback old man they gave me for a lawyer, both of us waiting for the judge to make his verdict. I thought maybe they’d put me away for a grip of years because of what I did. But then I thought real hard about it. I squinted my eyes and concentrated with my whole mind. That’s something you don’t know about me. I can sometimes make stuff happen just by thinking about it. I try not to do it too much because my head mostly gets stuck on bad stuff, but this time something good actually happened: the judge only gave me a year in a group home. Said I had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how I think. Dude didn’t know I was probably gonna write a book anyways. Or that it’s hard as hell bein’ at home these days, after what happened. So when he gave out my sentence it was almost like he didn’t give me a sentence at all.

I told my moms the same thing when we were walking out of the courtroom together. I said, “Yo, Ma, this isn’t so bad, right? I thought those people would lock me up and throw away the key.”

She didn’t say anything back, though. Didn’t look at me either. Matter of fact, she didn’t look at me all the way up till the day she had to drive me to Juvenile Hall, drop me off at the gate, where two big beefy white guards were waiting to escort me into the building. And even then she just barely glanced at me for a split second. And we didn’t hug or anything. Her face seemed plain, like it would on any other day. I tried to look at her real good as we stood there. I knew I wasn’t gonna see her for a while. Her skin was so much whiter than mine and her eyes were big and blue. And she was wearing the fake diamond earrings she always wears that sparkle when the sun hits ’em at a certain angle. Her blond hair all pulled back in a ponytail.

For some reason it hit me hard right then—as one of the guards took me by the arm and started leading me away—how mad pretty my mom is. For real, man, it’s like someone’s picture you’d see in one of them magazines laying around the dentist’s office. Or on a TV show. And she’s actually my moms.

I looked over my shoulder as they walked me through the gate, but she still wasn’t looking at me. It’s okay, though. I understood why.

It’s ’cause of what I did.