Category Archives: Genre

Drowning Out the Siren’s Call

music-note-clip-art-musical-notes-clipart-cropped1Out on a lonely island sits a group of women. Their song is so heartbreakingly beautiful that the mere sound of it is enough to override basic survival instincts. The moment that song reaches mortal ears, the listener throws away all restraint and flings himself into the sea in a mad desire to reach the singers. Only too late do they who are stricken realize that the island cliff’s are unassailable. All who swim for the Sirens drown, accompanied by the beautiful music of their own seductive funeral dirge.

Odysseusand-thesirensbywaterhouseHow did one resist these singers? Well, Odysseus strapped himself to the mast and plugged all of his sailor’s’ ears with beeswax. Even still, he nearly tore the mast down in a desire to reach the strange birdlike women. The Argonauts? Jason recruited Orpheus. The skillful musician was able to drown out the Siren’s song with music equally beautiful from his lyre. Butes, however, heard the song and leapt into the sea. Only the divine intervention of Aphrodite kept him from becoming another victim.

The Sirens and their song have long been used as a teaching tool. Usually, we apply it internally. We ask ourselves “What is my Sirens’ song?” “What calls me away from productivity and forward momentum?” “What keeps me from moving forward and realizing my full potential?”

Those are all excellent questions, and it can take a lifetime to find the answers. However, that is a discussion for another day. Instead of thinking about our own Siren’s song, I would invite you to ponder the Siren’s call to others. In lieu of taking the Odysseus route and tempting fate by immersing ourselves in the seductive sound, let us consider Jason’s solution.

NES_controllerIf we are Jason and our readers are the Argonauts, what are the Siren’s songs? Video Games? Electronics? Toys? Sports? Social Media? Yep, I’d have to say that those are definitely things that I compete with to win and keep readers. Are there more? Of course. Those are simply the songs that hit closest to home.

lyreSo, now I ask, What can be my Orpheus? Well, to be frank, I haven’t found a permanent solution yet. In competing with video game/social media/one-click downloadable app market, I am losing horrendously. Honestly, since those Siren’s also sing to me, I can’t really blame the readers. More than ever before, we are flooded with cheap (and not so cheap) entertainment. It is easy to be enticed by the song of a quick game of Clash of Clans, a dip over to Netflix for a binge movie watching session, or a late night game-a-thon.

As parents and teachers, we can help influence young potential readers. If we want to make our own songs heard above the cacophony of sound, we have to start with those we can influence. I know that I am preaching to the choir here. It is because of people like you that pleasure reading has not already been completely drown out with the more mind-numbing Siren songs. I can still remember reading days and read-a-thons in schools.

Perhaps they are still happening, but kids don’t seem to rave about them the way they did in the past. Maybe if we encourage and support similar events in the schools and even our own homes, it will increase the chances of seeing a teenager flip open a book during ten minutes of downtime instead of plugging away on a phone to check Facebook, Text Messages, or the latest app. Who knows, maybe one of those books will even have been written by an Emblazoner.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read!
J.R. Simmons (Author of the Ragesong Saga)

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Woof vs. Meow: The Battle of the Book

In the world of real things, cats win—at least by the numbers. According to the Humane Society, the US has 86 million purrfect domestic kitties but only 78 million tail waggin‘ doggies. But in the world of fictional characters (books, cartoons, movies, etc.) the situation isn’t just reversed, it’s tipped over onto its adorable, swivel-eared head. Sure, you can find examples of beloved dog and cat characters aplenty, but keep trying to name them, and you’ll run out of cat characters long before you run out of the Fido’s of fictiondom, the Cujo’s of crime, or the Lassie’s of late night.

unnamed-2On Wikipedia’s pages about fictional animal characters, the cat and dog lists are broken down into literature, comics, film, and television. The cat list offers twenty-six, including such dew-clawed notables as Garfield, the Cheshire Cat, the Cat in the Hat, Puss in Boots, Sylvester the Cat, Tom & Jerry, The Aristocats, and the cats in Stuart Little and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. They are huggable, cantankerous, acrobatic, crafty, conceited and aloof, reflecting all of the complicated feelings we have about our feline companions.

 

unnamed-1But hold onto your leashes, folks, because the dog list has two hundred and eight-five, including such well-bred personalities as Snowy from Tintin, 101 Dalmations, Bolt, Old Yeller, Snoopy, Marmaduke, Toto, the Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Scooby Doo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Martha from Martha Speaks, Hank the Cowdog, Underdog, Einstein, Timbuktu, and on and on and on and (Down, boy!) on!  They are loyal, courageous, and food obsessed, mirroring the simpler feelings we have toward dogs.

 

But if there are so many cat lovers on this planet (and as evidence I present to you: The Internet, which is actually made of cats), why aren’t cats at least equally reflected in our most beloved forms of entertainment?  I suspect there are two main reasons:

  1. WTFPortability. Dogs love cars and walks and travel. They are at their happiest when they are on an adventure with their humans. Cats not so much. If you are featuring a cat in your book or movie, for the most part it will need to take place inside a house or within a relatively small geographical area. That’s limiting for a storyteller.
  1. Expressiveness. While cats experience emotions just as intensely as dogs, they don’t express them as clearly. A cat’s emotional signs are subtle – an ear twitch, lowered eyelids, a tail snap, sitting down with their backside guilty-dogtoward you, or planting themselves in the center of whatever is currently occupying your attention (instead of them!).  Meanwhile, dogs broadcast their feelings on hi-def with every furry inch of their being—eyes, mouth, feet, tails, head tilts, sounds—they have a visual language of emotion so expressive that we humans are known to adopt their communication methods in order to better express our own mood states. Dogs are SO expressive it feels as if they are talking to us, a fact that probably explains the plethora of talking dog characters in books and movies.

Talking dogs is something I’m a bit of an expert on because, wKT front cover 2014 with gold awardhile I am technically (full disclosure) a cat person, my award winning humorous fiction series, Kibble Talk, features a talking dog. Readers also get to hear what a cat has to say, but the main focus is on Dinky, an enormous and cantankerous Great Dane.  That earned the book a 1-star review from an avid cat-lover, but on the bright side, fans tell me they will never be able to look at their dog quite the same way again.  That’s music to my swively ears.

Where do you fall on the cat–dog continuum?  Got any fave cats or dogs of literature that I’ve missed?

 

A Cauldron of Herbs

Scary halloween laboratory
A Cauldron Of Herbs by Christina Mercer

In honor of this Harvest/Autumn/Halloween time of year, I decided to stir up some magic for you. Plant magic, that is! Nature is quite amazing, and humankind has utilized its wondrous magic since our beginnings.  I became a Certified Herbalist many years ago, and when writing my first Tween/Teen books, I enjoyed weaving herb lore throughout them. In addition to herb lore, I had fun with Celtic tree lore to show the marvelous magic of trees. I used the (totally fun!) folk names for herbs and trees, and had my main character use plant remedies for wounds and ailments that she and her loved-ones endured.

A little trivia about remedies found in nature . . .

The Doctrine of Signatures dates back to ancient times, and was studied in depth in Western Europe. The idea was that certain plants resembled the body parts they healed. Also, the names given to certain plants correlated to their healing properties. Some examples:

Walnuts—resembles a brain and helps memory

Ginger Root—resembles a stomach and helps nausea

Kidney Bean—resembles a kidney and helps kidney function

Eyebright—helps with “pink eye” and other eye irritation

Bloodroot—has red sap and helps purify the blood

In addition, herbalists found that certain “cures” grew near “causes.” An example is Jewelweed, an herb used to heal skin conditions, which is often found growing near Stinging Nettles and Poison Ivy.

Folk names were the early names given to herbs, and often eluded to their healing function. Some names, however, are perplexing or quite silly sounding. In fact, some of these silly-sounding herbs were used in healing remedies and not at all the literal meanings that their names may have suggested. Here are a handful of some fun “Halloween-ish” herb names:

Lion’s Tooth—Dandelion

Graveyard Dust—Mullein

Bloody Fingers—Foxglove

Little Dragon—Tarragon

Bat’s Wings—Holly

So, this year, while enjoying the festivities, if you happen to hear, “In the cauldron, Toe of Frog; watch it bubble with Tongue of Dog,” you might just find a neighborhood herbalist brewing up an herbal remedy.

ARROW OF THE MIST (currently 99 cents!) & ARMS OF ANU

both books-BeFunky

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Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband, sons, pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. For more about her and her writing, visit www.christinamercer.com

 

Why I Write for Tweens and Teens

 

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m Lisa Orchard the author of the bestselling “Super Spies Series” and I’m here today to share with you why I write for tweens and teens.

First of all, I love this age group. Some of my best memories in my life are from my own teen years. It’s a special time when everything is new and exciting. There are many “first times” during these years, first dances, first kisses, and first dates and I enjoy writing about these experiences.

I also like writing thrillers and mysteries. When I was a teen I loved a great mystery and I always had my nose in a book. So it wasn’t a big stretch when I started writing thrillers and combined strong friendships with solving crimes.

In my opinion, having a group of kids that are heroes is important for our young readers. It gives them someone to emulate. However, my characters don’t always make the right decisions. This is important too, because I want my readers to see the mistakes my characters make and learn the lessons right along with them. I also want my readers to see that we can survive our mistakes and not take them so hard. We learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes, wouldn’t you agree?

Since the teen years are filled with a lot of “firsts” it’s imperative that we give them positive role models. These are the years when they start testing their wings and make their own decisions. If we give them characters that have to suffer the consequences of their actions, they’ll realize that they too must deal with their own consequences and hopefully will make better choices.

The Super Spies series are stories with loveable characters that make mistakes, learn from them, and save the day. Below are the covers and blurbs along with the buy links. The stories are exciting and will keep your teen reading and away from social media and the TV. 🙂

Thanks for reading my post. I’d love to hear about your teen years! Were they filled with angst, or do you have funny memories that you wouldn’t trade for the world? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

 

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer 500x750In a small town in Michigan, fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie. The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman and what’s worse? One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death.

Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own investigation. The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the investigation. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free. Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer.

Or die trying…

Links:

Amazon                   Barnes and Noble

 

TheSuperSpiesandtheHighSchoolBomber 500x750This book opens in a small town in Michigan where Sarah Cole and her sister Lacey are now living with their Aunt and Uncle. Still reeling from the fact her parents have disappeared, Sarah starts the school year with her new friend Jackie Jenkins. When Sarah learns the school has been bombed, she’s filled with dread. Uncle Walt is a teacher, and he was in the school when the bomb exploded. Taking matters into her own hands, Sarah decides to search for him. The rest of the Super Spies are right behind her. When a fireman chases them away from the school, Sarah becomes suspicious. She decides to investigate. The FBI arrives on the scene. Sarah realizes this bombing could have even bigger implications. Searching for the bombers, Sarah is introduced to the world of terrorism. She fears that the bombing and her parents’ disappearance are connected and terrorists are involved. To make matters worse, the bombers are determined to finish the job. Can the Super Spies find the bombers before it’s too late?

Links:

Amazon         Barnes and Noble

 

TheSuperSpiesandthePiedPiper 500x750Sarah Cole and her sister Lacey are at it once again when they learn their missing parents’ cell phone has been traced to Alden, Michigan. When the FBI declines to continue the investigation, Sarah takes matters into her own hands. She calls upon the Super Spies and they delve into the situation. Suddenly, the teens find themselves immersed in small town intrigue and mystery involving a menacing stranger, who Sarah dubs “The Stalker.” But when Sarah learns he’s connected to her parents’ disappearance, she’s determined to find out what that connection is. The Super Spies embark on a journey that leads them into a web of corporate corruption at its highest level that leaves innocent victims in its wake. Can they find the proof they need to stop the greedy corporation before it’s too late?

Links:

Amazon      Barnes and Noble

 

20111210_ABS_1296[1]Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. She was hooked on books by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then. Her first published works are the “Super Spies Series.” These stories revolve around a group of friends who form their own detective squad and the cases they solve. “The Starlight Chronicles,” is the next series that Lisa created with musical misfit, Lark Singer as her main character.

Lisa resides in Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on the next book in the Starlight Chronicles Series along with a few new ideas that may turn into stand-alone novels. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.

You can find her at these social media sites:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Orchard/328536613877060?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisaorchard1?lang=en

Website:  http://www.lisaorchard.com/

Blurb Blinging 101…

blingBlurbs. Stop groaning. You know you need one to help promote and market your book. And if you do up a blurb correctly, have an eye-catching cover, and wrote a great story, then you’ve done your job. The blurb is one of the most important marketing tools in getting your book ready for publication. In fact, you’ve already got a version of your blurb done—the synopsis in your query letter is essentially the same thing as a blurb. Here again, though, there are some significant differences. With a query letter, you’re relating the entire plot. With a blurb, you want to entice the reader—to get them engaged with your story so they can come along as you unravel the plot for them. So here again—while the forms look very similar, their purpose is quite different.

Here’s a surefire method to develop a quick, cohesive blurb. THINK THREE PARAGRAPHS. In the FIRST paragraph, introduce your main character. Now in the SECOND paragraph, introduce your secondary character— a BFF, love interest or antagonist—and the conflict. Remember, the conflict is what drives your plot.

Then in the THIRD paragraph, you bring it all together. This is where you pose a question to the reader—maybe not a straight out QUESTION but a rhetorical one. You want to give the reader a sense of urgency regarding the plot—what will happen if the characters’ attempt to resolve the plot fails. In other words, what the stakes are.

The blurb in its entirety tells its own little story—and that’s what keeps people buying and reading this book. You want to set up the protagonist, the conflict, the obstacles to resolving that conflict and to give the reader a sense of the risks involved in failure. What you’ve done is to create a microcosm—a tiny example of what your book—the macrocosm—is.

Writing a successful blurb is a test of any writer’s skills. It’s darn hard to filter down sixty thousand words into five hundred. But this is a skill a successful writer must learn to do. Throughout your career, whether this is your lone book or the first of hundreds, whether you stay in independent publishing or whether you move on to the Big Six, you MUST LEARN to write effective taglines and blurbs that work. That sell. Your. Book.

Below is the blurb to the prequel of my time travel series, Legend of the Timekeepers, just re-released on August 1st through Mirror World Publishing. Although I didn’t use three paragraphs, I used all the information stated above. Let me know what you think:

Lilith was a young girl with dreams and a family before the final destruction of Atlantis shattered those dreams and tore her family apart. Now refugees, Lilith and her father make their home in the Black Land. This strange, new country has no place in Lilith’s heart until a beloved high priestess introduces Lilith to her life purpose—to be a Timekeeper and keep time safe.

Summoned through the seventh arch of Atlantis by the Children of the Law of One, Lilith and her newfound friends are sent into Atlantis’s past, and given a task that will ultimately test their courage and try their faith in each other. Can the Timekeepers stop the dark magus Belial before he changes the seers’ prophecy? If they fail, then their future and the earth’s fate will be altered forever.

Intriguing? I hope so! If you’re an author how do you go about creating blurbs? And if legendofthetimekeepers-200you’re a reader, what blurbs have caused you to make that book purchase? Love to hear your comments! Cheers!

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercise, and anything arcane. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, TUMBLR, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.