Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy from my POV in my living room at about 3:30PM today. I'm scared.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Peek versus peak and pique--how to recognize which one to use visually

I'm a good speller, but even I get some words confused. When is it "peek," rather than "peak," and vice versa?

I ran into this problem while editing Why My Love Life Sucks: The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer (book one). It's lucky that I noticed it, because it's not the kind of thing spell check picks up.

As a visual learner, I realized the best way to remember which one to use is with a drawing.

Peek has two Es, which are like two eyes peeking. If you can see the eyes peeking, you've spelled it right.

Peak, when spelled with a capital A, has a peak in the middle, like a mountain peak. Remember that the A in peak is a mountain peak, and you'll get that one right too.

Pique has a Q in it, and a lowercase q looks like a monocle. Think of someone wearing a monocle whose curiosity has been piqued. If it helps, think of the i in pique as an upside down question mark asking, "What is that? It piques my curiosity."

peek, peAk and pique: now you can tell which one to use when.

 I hope this helps you too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

5 Reasons Why a Writer Needs a Blog

There are so many reasons why writers don't blog on a daily or even weekly basis. 

I often feel that if I have time to write and edit something, I should spend it writing and editing my next novel. Even as I'm writing this, I can hear Why My Love Life Sucks: The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer (book one) laying a heavy guilt trip on me, and it's not because I kill the main character off in the first few pages. It's because I really, really need to finish editing it, so people can finally read it. "So why," the story asks, "are you working on this blog post instead?"

But guilt trips aren't the only things keeping me from blogging. Sometimes I wonder if I have anything to say in a blog post, if anyone wants to hear it, and if blogging is really worth the time and effort. I know some bloggers have huge egos and think people will be fascinated by everything they do and think. I'm not one of those bloggers.

Perhaps you have similar issues.

Then I met Roxanne Porter, who told me every writer should have a blog. I asked her my favorite question: "Why?" 

Below you'll find her response. Thanks, Roxanne, for giving me a little food for thought. 

* * *

I started reading blogs long before I ever started writing my own. Despite being a writer, I was a little shy of putting my own personal thoughts and feelings out on the internet for anyone and everyone to read, and I had strong doubts that anyone would actually have any interest in what I had to say. When I finally caved and started my own blog I had no idea the impact that it would have on my life, and as my blogging has progressed I've been pleasantly surprised with the benefits that have come with blogging.

5 Reasons Why Every Writer Needs a Blog

1.       It allows you to network within the writing/blogging community. Blogging exposes you to a plethora of people, both with the same interests as your own and with differing ones, and it allows you to form friendships with people you would have never met otherwise. Some of my closest friends are people ’ve met through blogging, and being avid readers of other blogs and active with my own blog has allowed me to not only meet new people but also to find freelance jobs and to use my blog as a platform to publish freelance work. 

2.       It gives you a chance to write what YOU want to write daily. So often, as writers, we are confined to write a certain way of writing due to assignments or to the niche that we have found a career in. Writing your own blog gives you a chance to deviate from your normal writing routine and write solely for you. It allows you to stay in touch with the reason you began writing in the first place, and offers you a place where you can continually experiment with your writing. 

3.       It can serve as a portfolio for interested employers. Whenever I’ve applied for writing jobs I've included a link to my blog at the end of my signature, allowing prospective employers to read my work and get a feel for my writing skills and expertise. Your blog can function perfectly as a pseudo-portfolio when you’re trying to secure writing positions, and mine has helped me land several different writing jobs throughout the years. 

4.       It lets you fine tune your writing skills. The best way to sharpen your writing skills is through practice, and when you blog on a daily or weekly basis you are doing just that. You are constantly brainstorming ideas, writing posts, proof-reading and editing them, and publishing your work, which is a small scale version of any writing assignment you may have, whether it’s writing a freelance article or completing a book.

5.       It gives you the opportunity for constructive criticism. You can learn a lot about the way you write and where you can improve through the comments’ section of your blog, and being open to comments from readers around the blogosphere can give you some constructive criticism in how you can improve your writing. We all need critiquing from time to time and this is a great way to get some unbiased assessments of your writing.
Blogging has opened up a whole new world for me and helped me to become a much stronger writer. Whether I’m writing a daily quip for myself or polishing up a submission for an employer, I’m much more confident in my own skills because of all of the time I've spent blogging. It doesn't matter if you write technical pieces, fictional literature, or freelance articles for a living; no matter what type of writing you do blogging can help you enhance your writing style and further your career.


So what do you think? Is blogging worth the time, and if so, why? I hope you'll post your thoughts in the comments below.

Author Bio:
Roxanne Porter is a nanny, freelance blogger, and regular contributor to She writes about nanny services and the experience of being a nanny. You can email her at r.poter08 at

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Your Bully Doesn't Know You. Only You Can Define How You See Yourself.

When a viewer sent her an email calling her a poor role model because of her weight, TV news anchor Jennifer Livingston at first wanted to ignore it. After discussing it with her husband, however, she decided to go on the air to explain why the man who sent that email was wrong, and why this kind of behavior is never okay. 

She did it because she realized it was this man who was being a bad role model. What if a kid overheard him making fun of the "fat news lady" and then went to school and told the kids there that they weren't worthy because of their weight? How would it make those kids feel? 

Kids need to know that it's wrong to judge people based on physical appearance. Each person is so much more than he or she appears on the outside. And more importantly, we can't let the opinions of bullies--who don't really know us--determine how we feel about ourselves. 

This is the same message I hope to get across to kids with Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey, particularly with the lesson plan for that book. Kids need to understand that bullies don't really know who they are and can't define how they see themselves. Every person is special. We each have unique talents, and the world is a better place when we're free to express those talents and be ourselves. Bullies try to take that away from other kids, and it makes the world a sadder place. It's wrong, and we have to let kids know that it's wrong.

Bravo to Jennifer Livingston! For the record, I think you're smart, talented, beautiful and very brave for taking a stand. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Humor: How Can You Tell If It's Windy Outside?

The wind was blowing hard yesterday, so I asked my husband and daughter this question. The replies were so funny, they said I should post them. So here they are.

How can you tell if it’s windy outside?
    You see a gnome outside your window.
          It’s a second story window.
               It’s the Travelocity gnome.

     You hear the wind whistling the theme music of the Wicked Witch
          in the Wizard of Oz...
               …quickly followed my Munchkins singing,
                    “Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead.”

     You see a cow outside your window.
          It’s a second story window.
               The nearest farm is ten miles away.

     You see Al Roker outside your second story window…
          …quickly followed by Sam Champion.

Got any funny ways to tell if it’s really windy outside? Post your ideas in the comments below.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Mug for Writers: Stories Are Magic...

"Stories are magic...and you're a wizard!" I bought a mug at the local dollar store and used Sharpie brush markers to write and draw on it.

Do you like it?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

An Author Visit Program to Help Promote Self-Esteem and Combat Bullying

I need feedback on a possible author visit program that addresses bullying, and I hope you'll help. 

I'm going to be sending out flyers for my funny, middle-grade novel, Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey to schools, and at the bottom of the flyer, I want to offer an option of Skype or local in-person classroom visits. Dan Quixote deals with the power of friendship and self-esteem to overcome peer pressure and bullying, so I want to offer a program focused on that. 

This is the idea I have for the class. Each student will be given two pieces of paper. 

I will start by talking about being a geek and what it means to me. I think geeks are people who are passionate about something to the point where they don't care what other people think. I'm a geek about books, Doctor Who, The Princess Bride, technology, Eureka, Mythbusters, and lots of other things. I just love them all so much. I love books so much that I have a huge library in my apartment with probably around a thousand books. I love The Princess Bride so much that I can quote about half the movie. Some people are geeks about the TV show Glee, which makes them Gleeks. Some people are geeks about Star Trek, which makes them Trekkers. There are also theater geeks, band geeks, rock-climbing geeks, and people who are geeky about pretty much anything you can imagine. 

At the top of the first piece of paper, each student should write down something they're geeky about. I would point out that I think being a geek is a good thing, and I feel sorry for anyone who either hasn't found something they love that much or is too afraid to admit what they're geeky about. When they're done writing, I would explain that, in the book, the class queen bee bullies Dan for being a geek. On the same piece of paper, I want them to write three things a bully like the class queen bee might say to make you feel bad about the one thing you're most passionate about. 
Illustration from Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey--
Sandy discovers Dan's beloved notebook after queen bee Jade trashes it

When the kids are done with that, all of those pieces of paper will be folded and put into a box. The students would then randomly pick out one of those pieces of paper. 

I'll then say, "In my novel, Dan realizes that being a geek is a good thing, and Sandy steps in to show her support. She stands up for him. On the second piece of paper, I want you to pretend you're either Dan or Sandy, and I want you to write five things in response to the bully, focusing only on why it's good to be geeky about that one thing, not about the bully or the bullying. Just keep it positive. Pretend you're standing up for something you or your friend loves."  

I would then ask each of the students to read out their five responses. 

In the end, I would ask students how it feels to read the things they wrote and how it feels to hear these things. I would ask them to carry that feeling with them. Each one of them can be Dan or Sandy. They just have to believe in their own passions and support their friends' right to love the things they're passionate about. We're all geeks in some way, and that's a great thing, because passionate people make a difference in the world. 

So what do you think? Does it sound like a good author visit and could it help combat bullying by building self-esteem?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Cons for Writers

Today is the first day of ComicCon in San Diego, and many of my writing and illustrating, online friends will be there, including Lisa Yee, Heather Brewer and Dan Santat. If you're there, and you love books for kids and teens, make sure you attend the "What's Hot in Young Adult Fiction" panel on Sunday, July 15 at noon and the "Heroes for the Middle-Grade Reader (And You, Too!): Middle Grade Books That Will Rock Your Socks Off" panel on the same day at 2:45PM. You will not regret it.

ComicCon is the big one: the biggest of of the various conventions for fans of much more than comic books. You'll find everything to make the geek inside of you happy--from blockbuster movies and awesome video games to, yes, awesome books for kids and teens.

It's been a dream of mine for quite some time to attend ComicCon in San Diego, and I've always been interested in what goes on behind the scenes. How are the panelists chosen? What goes into setting up a stall to sell your books at one? How much does it cost, and is it worth it?

Recently, I got to know Robert Collins, who has attended many smaller cons in various capacities as a science-fiction writer and indie publisher, and he agreed to answer my questions. Here is his guest post.



If you write science fiction, fantasy, or horror, you probably know about “Science Fiction Conventions,” or “Cons.”

Throughout the 1980s I went to cons, as a fan. I met people, I bought stuff, and occasionally I got things signed by famous actors. I aspired to be a writer, and dreamed about the day I’d be a con guest.

About five years ago I went to my first con as a guest. I was a published author, looking to promote my shiny new SF novel. For my first con as a guest, I ended up on several panels, and was designated the moderator of all of them. Somehow I survived.

I’ve been to several more since then. Cons offer opportunities for authors to promote their books, and they're a great way to meet fellow fans and authors. What I’ve learned is that, when it comes to plugging your books, you have two choices. You can be a program participant or a vendor. For the first, you’d be one of the guests and attend panels. For the other, you’d buy a table and sell your books.

Being a program participant means you’ll ask to take part in panels and readings. Start by going to the con website and contact the programming person. Contact them well in advance of the con, and include a link to a website where they can see what you write. Mention topics that might interest you, like the sub-genres you write in, related genre interests (gaming, TV shows, etc.), and aspects of publishing that you know fairly well.

Taking part in panels is fun. But you might not sell very many books that way. Panels don’t always attract the most con-goers. I’ve done at least one panel where the only ones in the room were me and the other panelist. Sometimes attendees are going from panel to panel, and don’t have time to buy your book, much less hear your sales pitch.

On the other hand, you’ll get opportunities to meet other authors, as well as editors and publishers. Being on a panel allows you to share information and experience. If you do enough panels at enough cons you stand a chance of making friends with your fellows.

If you want to sell books, you need to be a vendor. Every con has a “dealers’ room” where con-goers can buy everything from books to collectables. Being a vendor requires you to buy at least one dealer room table. A few cons have tables for as low as $50; $75-$100 is more common; but at some cons prices will be higher.

You can take part in programming and be a vendor. You need to let the programming person know that you’ve bought a table. If you feel that you can’t take part in everything you’re asked, just say so; they’ll understand.

There are two significant downsides to choosing to be a vendor: time and money. As a vendor you’re expected to set up before the con officially starts. Most cons open to the public sometime on a Friday afternoon, with any opening ceremony set for Friday night. You’re also expected to remain until the dealer’s room closes, usually Sunday afternoon.

You will also have to spend the money. That doesn’t just mean money for your table. Cons are in hotels, so unless you’re a local you’ll have to get a room for Friday and Saturday. Travel considerations may force you to get a room for Sunday, too. Your table commitment means you can’t leave the con to get lunch; hotel restaurants can be pricey. (That said, most cons will have a “con suite” with snacks; some will have more substantial food, too.)

Not every con will be right for you. There are many media cons, which are devoted to movies and TV shows in general, to specific shows, or to anime. Not all media fans are book readers. If the con is local, though, contact them and ask about taking part.

There are cons devoted to specifically to either science fiction, fantasy, or horror. They’re more likely to occur in the largest cities. If you don’t live within driving distance of one, you’ll have to consider if what you’ll spend on travel will be a wise investment.

Most cons are more general in nature. There might be media guests, author guests, and artist guests. Programming will cover all sub-genres and a variety of media. Aside from literary cons, these are the best for an author.

Is going to any cons worth the effort and expense? Yes! You go not to make money, but to make connections with readers. You go to network with other authors. You go to have a good time with people who share your interests. It’s those things that make going to cons worth your time and money.

~Robert Collins

Bio: I've had three SF novels published: Monitor, Lisa's Way, and Expert Assistance. I've also had a coming of age novel published called True Friends. I've had stories and articles appear in periodicals such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine; Tales of the Talisman; Space Westerns; Sorcerous Signals; Wild West; and Model Railroader. I've had two biographies published, one of "Bleeding Kansas" leader Jim Lane, and the other of a Kansas Civil War general, and I've had six Kansas railroad books published by South Platte Press.


FB Author page:


Amazon Author Page:

Smashwords Author Page:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Post by W. Jack Savage

A while ago I sent out a request for guest posts. I asked that they be either inspirational or informative, and I wanted them to be personal, because I didn't want something I could have written.

The guest post below is one of my favorites. It's raw and honest, and it shows how it you can learn something in the most surprising places if you just pay attention. It also shows how one person can have a long-lasting impact in a teenager's life.


The Crown of the Road
By W. Jack Savage

            I’ll never forget Mrs. Johnson, my art teacher in high school.  I liked her at a variety of levels.  She had a good sense of humor, she didn’t take any crap, and she would make observations about you through your artwork that went beyond the usual critique.  “You’re my dreamer,” she would say.  “Your work has a dream quality to it.”  I found her comments useful because in high school my whole life had a dream quality to it.  But her observation, using the vehicle of a drawing I was working on, gave substance to what I was feeling without judgment.  “Don’t be such a dreamer,” other teachers might say.  As if to dream was the enemy of one’s education.  Indeed, it may have been.  It was in my case.  But, at times, to dream was all that allowed me to survive.  When she said it though, it was just another word used to describe something—in this case a drawing.
            One spring day she came in and began our day with this sentence: “No matter who you are, you have to be pretty comatose not to have noticed the budding of the trees and bushes today on your way to school.”  I hadn’t.  It wasn’t the first time the winters of my youth had instilled in me a paralysis of observation that lingered through late spring.  But, again, her giving words to my affliction made me notice it.  Her speech preceded our first outdoor sketching assignment of the spring.  I remember thinking a lot that day about why I hadn’t noticed these obvious signs of spring.  As time went by, I began to realize that whereas a nuance or an inflection of speech, a side-ways glance, or even a conspicuous silence could never escape my notice; the terrain or background against which these little dramas played out was less significant to me.  Therefore, now in my fifties, it came as somewhat of a surprise to me when I became aware of the crown of the road.
            Mind you, I don’t know if engineers or the people who work on roads even call it that.  But, to me, where the curve of a road from curb to curb meets its highest point is what I consider the crown of the road.  If it had ever occurred to me in the past, and it never had, I would have assumed that the crown of the road for the most part was always in the middle of the road.  I would have frankly doubted any idea that the crown of the road could be as near to one side as five or six feet in some cases.  But it is.  As an avid runner, I became aware of this one day.  I recently brought this observation up to someone in passing, who, having given it some thought, wondered out loud who could possibly give a damn about such a thing.  I then pointed out that it was my opinion that observing such a thing was no less poetic in nature than noticing the budding of the trees in spring.
            “Who says budding trees are poetic?” he asked.  “This is California for Christ’s sake.  We don’t have a ‘budding’ spring as such anyway.  I can’t remember noticing a budding tree since I left the Midwest, and now this…this crown in the road business.  What the hell are you talking about?”
            “I’m a runner,” I said.  “You know that.  I run everywhere: streets, trails, up in the mountains, in your neighborhood, too.  I’ve never been known as the most observant guy around when it comes to outdoors anyway.  I’m just telling you that I noticed something about the streets.  They’re a part of our world that we take for granted and drive on every day.  The crown of the road, or at least its high point, is different.  Sometimes it drifts from side to side depending on how they want the water to drain off.”
            “What water?” he asked.  “I’ve lived out here for sixteen years.  It didn’t rain at all for the first four.  If it did, I never noticed it.”
            “Yes,” I said, “but when it does, and real hard I mean, like the flood years, that’s what the crown in the road is for.  If you live on a north hill that slopes to the south, and the street in front of your house goes east and west, the crown of the road is almost certainly nearer to your house and your side of the street than the other side.  You see it impedes the water flow a little and drains it east and west to a natural flow point on either side.  There they put storm sewers or something to catch the majority of the run-off.”
            He just looked at me.  “I don’t live on a hill,” he said quietly.
            This man clearly had no sense of wonder.  Or if he had, it was long gone.  I tried for a little longer but it was no use.
            Not long after that, I began again with a woman I had known for some time.  Perhaps, unconsciously, I chose her because I wanted a woman’s opinion to begin with.  Secondly, being a woman, I reasoned that even if my observation held no particular interest for her, she would at least assess what I had to say with less antagonism.  The possibility that it might even be of interest seemed increased by the fact that she had once been a runner like me.
            “When you used to run,” I began, “did you ever notice the crown of the road?”
            “I’m not sure what you mean.”
            “Well,” I explained.  “You know how most roads have a sort of arc, a slight rounding to them in the middle from curb to curb.”
            “Yes, that is, I suppose so,” she said.  “That makes sense for the drainage, I’d guess.”
            “Okay,” I said.  “As you get up in the hills, the crown of the road varies a great deal.  Sometimes the crown or high point is as close to the curb as six feet.  As the street continues, sometimes the crown will change completely to the other side.  If it winds up a hill or something, it will change from side to side.  It’s not always in the middle is what I mean.”
            She looked at me.
            “Did you ever notice that when you were running?” I asked.
            “No, I was too busy noticing suspicious cars or vans that might follow me and want to force me in if I wasn’t paying attention.  In other words, I was trying not to get raped while I took my morning exercise.  Now that you mention it, I didn’t notice anything about the roads or my neighborhood either.”
            “You weren’t by any chance listening to music, were you?” I asked.
            “Not then,” she said.  “I power walk now.  It’s easier on the knees.  I have a headset that I listen to now and then.”
            “I see. Ever notice the budding of the trees in spring?”
            She shook her head. “Not the budding exactly, but the purple Jacaranda trees bloom in the spring.  I always notice them.  What did you call it?”
            “I’m sorry?”
            “The crown,” she said.  “Was that it?”
            “Yes,” I said.  “I don’t know what road engineers call it.  I mean, I don’t know if that’s what it’s called.  That’s just what I call it.”
            “Was there something else you wanted to ask me?”
            “Well, no not really,” I said.
            “Are you sure? You know if you change your mind, you can call me at home.”
            “Oh,” I said.  “Okay.”
            I next called my son who listened to my observation and said, “Is there a point to this Dad?” 
            My daughter wondered if I might be getting high again after all these years and said, “That’s the kind of thing someone who’s high would notice.”
            A part of me wanted to argue with both of them.  But since the lion’s share of their up-bringing was done by their mother, while my contribution could be measured more in canceled checks, I was not unaware of the futility of attempting communication with those for whom their own luminescence provides a shield against official and, in my case, semi-official points of view.  Much the same as ours did in our youth.
            Finally, I attempted to call Mrs. Johnson.  From time to time, actually once after I got home from the service and again fifteen years after that, I looked up Mrs. Johnson just to say hello.  In so doing, I hoped this would indicate my affection for her.  Her somewhat sarcastic nature made telling her of my affection more difficult than any “three times in thirty years” phone call should be.  If she couldn’t figure out that I still thought of her fondly enough to call, she wasn’t as sharp as I’d always imagined.
            I called long-distance information expecting to get her number as I had done in the past.  But I was unsuccessful this time. She had always been listed under her first two initials, but it seemed this was no longer true.  I sat there, trying to remember her first name (if ever I’d known it) and theorized that, because she had long since retired from teaching, it was possible that she had gone back to using her first name.  I tried again and again but had no luck.
            This might well have been the end of my effort to get someone—anyone—to appreciate the fact that the crown of the road varies with the terrain and the various undulations it passes through, but my daughter’s observation kicked off something in my memory.
            “The crown of the road,” she rationalized, “might be something that someone who was high might take notice of.”
            Naturally, being an avid runner, I am no stranger to the endorphin high.  It is a heady state that can be achieved by prolonged exercise, usually by runners.  Indeed, I have felt it often.  Not consistently but often nonetheless.  I tried for a moment to remember exactly when it was that I first noticed the crown in the road.  I could not, at least not exactly.  Therefore, it’s at least possible that I was in the state known as “the runner's high” when it first came to me.  But although the crown of the road itself may be a somewhat offbeat observation, the way I presented it was not.
            I first chose a friend over drinks.  The fact that we were drinking alone should have at least paved a surface conducive for such an observation.  The nonsense I have listened to over drinks down through the years could fill volumes with observations less astute than mine.
            “Ever notice how people who drive yellow cars are all assholes?  If they’ve never seen Pluto, how do they know it’s there?” These two were just off the top of my head.
            After that I choose a fellow runner: a woman fellow runner, but a runner anyway.  She should have registered something approaching an affirmation of my observation; instead, I came away with the feeling she thought I was hitting on her.  And, upon further thought, had I been hitting on her, I might have done so successfully.  I could still call her.
            That my children were unresponsive was a surprise something akin to the sun coming up each day.
            And yet, perhaps my observation was the kind that never quite lands when you bring it up, but one that you never forget either.  I was riding a bus down University Avenue once, going to a job that I hated.  Actually, it was a bus ride with a transfer, and University was the final leg, making the fact that I hated the job worse because the commute was tedious as well.  Anyway, I’d get on the bus that was always full, and there were a number of retarded riders from some group home; each morning they took this bus to where they all worked.  I enjoyed this leg of the ride because, since the bus was usually full, the retarded riders couldn’t sit together.  They were scattered around the bus.  Being that I was in my twenties, during the seventies, and less than enamored of my employment status quo or prospects, I got high on marijuana every day before going to work.  And while I’ve grown tired of the debate over what, if any, benefit may be gained by staying in such a state, being that I no longer use it; it seemed at the time to provide great theater now and then, and this bus ride was an example.
            First, with no obvious signs of mental retardation, it was fun trying to decide who in fact was retarded and who wasn’t.  Everyone sat quietly on the bus and unless someone had their hat on sideways or slept so that one side of their hair stood straight up, given my own state of impaired reality, it was hard to tell.  Under these circumstances, a man I may otherwise have pegged as a shop foreman or even small business owner of some kind might just get up and shuffle off at their stop with the other mentally challenged riders.  Then, who’s to say they were all a part of the same group just because they got off at the same stop?  You get my drift.  Over time, of course, you could kind of tell.  After a while, my daydreams concerned themselves with other things.
            One day, as happened occasionally, I was lucky enough to get a window seat for this last leg of my commute.  Another guy, who had been standing as well, took the seat next to me as I got in.  In moments, I was in that reverie aided by a window view I knew I had been lucky to get.  As we approached Fairview and the stoplight there, the fellow on my left leaned forward a bit.
            As we stopped, he suddenly blurted out “A gas station!”
            I immediately knew he was one of our challenged group and I, challenged in my own way but part of the larger whole nevertheless, responded with good-natured stoned affirmation, “Yeah...a gas station.”
            “I’ll bet they have road maps in there,” he said.
            “Yeah,” I bet they do.”
            But it was more than that.  Over the years I believe it was far more.  To begin with, given both my state of general dissatisfaction and marijuana impairment, this young guy’s progressive observation has stayed with me for thirty years. 
          At the time it was just something funny that happened on the bus.  But, after a while, it seemed like an answer to a prayer somehow.  A road map could get you anywhere, and they were available at the nearest gas station.  Too simplistic to be profound you say?  Nonsense!  It’s as simple as this: if you don’t like your situation--job, relationship, prospects, whatever--and the process of change seems too complex, leave!  Maps are available.  They chart a path of both escape and renewal.  Moreover, they are proof positive that wherever it is, you can get there from here.  I have used this metaphor countless times to kick-start my life whenever I felt trapped.
            I’m not saying that the “crown of the road” will one day compete with “road maps available at your nearest gas station,” but, over time, it may find meaning for someone.  Consider that a path—any path—leads somewhere and can therefore lead you back if necessary.  But taking your eyes off the path to a point too far ahead can lead you off the path in a hurry; looking back can as well.  Therefore, staying to the rounded apex of the path and following that apex or crown as it moves from side to side can not only provide security against leaving it but also allows you to go faster.  That is, should you desire to.

            Well, I’m not saying that it will keep anyone up nights.  But the first of many springs in my life, where I failed to notice the budding of the trees, spawned in me enough of a sense of wonder to notice the variances in what I have now dubbed “the crown of the road.”  And if the “rounded apex of the path” thing seems too contrived, then consider that the crown of the road is only my observation.  What you do with it is your business.  I’m staying with “road maps available at the nearest gas station.”

W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and associate professor in Film Studies who now writes full time. The Children Shall Be Blameless is Jack's third novel and fifth book. He and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California. You can find out more about him by clicking here.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Read first 50 pages of Ride of Your Life for free!

There's a new BookBuzzr widget on my blog at the top of the column on the right. If you click on it, you can read the first 50 pages of Ride of Your Life for free! Check it out, and if you like what you see, click on a link to buy a copy today.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

I made my own Ride of Your Life sneakers!

 Happy Independence Day to all my American friends celebrating the holiday!
Hand-drawn sneakers with a romantic-theme park design

What do you think of my new sneakers? I bought a cheap pair from Kmart and a bunch of Stained by Sharpie markers. I didn't know what I'd draw at first, but some friends suggested something from one of my books, so I went with a romantic amusement-park theme for Ride of Your Life.

Put them together, and they spell "Ride of Your Life."

I like the way they turned out.

A roller coaster on one side and a Ferris wheel on the other. 

Someone suggested I run a contest where the winner will get a hand-drawn pair of sneakers like these, but in the winner's size of course. What do you think? Would you like to win a pair?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

For The Love of Film And Novels: (Guest Blog & Review) Ride Of Your Life By: Shevi ...

Check it out, another great review for Ride of Your Life: "...With reading this whole story, it definitely gave me the urge to want to go to an Amusement Park with friends, and it will do the same for you, and oh eat some delicious food :) I don't know what else to say, but I left this story with a good feeling, and I think you will to, so do read this novel; it's a perfect Summer Read! "

Read my guest post and the rest of the review here: For The Love of Film And Novels: (Guest Blog & Review) Ride Of Your Life by Shevi Arnold

Monday, July 02, 2012

Download the first chapters of RIDE OF YOUR LIFE for free!

You can now download the first chapters of Ride of Your Life for free!

Yes, Ride of Your Life is a part of an exciting new teen fiction sampler put together by the amazing, super-creative Alicia Kat Dillman: Beautiful Dangerous Love.   

Cover of Dangerous Beautiful Love Teen Fiction Sampler

Here's the blurb:

"Do you crave the dangerously beautiful worlds of paranormal suspense, ghostly romances, and otherworldly adventures? The you’ll be swept up in this sampling of six fantastic indie reads including Daemons in the Mist by Alicia Kat Dillman, Destined by Jessie Harrell, The Pack -Retribution- LM Preston, The Magic Crystal by Lorna Suzuki, Ride of Your Life by Shevi Arnold, Whisper by Chelsea M. Cameron."

So what are you waiting for? Start the summer off right by downloading this wonderful mix of teen fantasy, science fiction, paranormal and romance from Smashwords today.  

Ride of Your Life blog tour starts today!

I'm so excited: I'm doing a Bewitching Book Tour with Roxanne Rhoads for Ride of Your Life, and it starts today!

 I hope you'll follow along. This is my second Bewitching Blog Tour, so you can tell I was happy with the first.

Here's the schedule:

July 2 Guest blog
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

July 2 Interview
Mary’s Garden 

July 3 review and guest blog
For The Love Of Film And Novels

July 3 Promo

July 3 Review and Guest blog
My Guilty Obsession

July 3 Promo
Read 2 Review 

July 4 Promo and review
Waiting on Sunday to Drown

July 5 Promo
Sapphyria's Book Reviews  

July 5 Interview
Books, Books The Magical Fruit

July 6 Interview
Simply Infatuated

July 7 Promo
A Dream Within A Dream

July 8 Guest blog
A Bibliophile's Thoughts on Books

Thanks, Roxanne!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Fine Art of Talking to People Who Aren’t There: Drawing Fictional Characters to Life

 I’m delighted to have a wonderful, multi-talented writer as a guest on my blog today, Jeff Davis. Jeff is the author of a new YA fantasy novel, The Seeds.  

I was surprised to discover that, like me, Jeff likes to draw his characters and put them somewhere he can see them when he writes.

For at least 20 years, I’ve had a drawing of Toren taped under the hutch that goes over my desk. The look on her face tells me that she has a story that needs to be told. More recently I’ve had a drawing of Gilbert Garfinkle taped there too. Unlike Toren, the look on his face says, “Oh, no. What are you going to do to me this time?” Sorry, Gilbert, but I have to follow what I call Murphy’s Law for fiction writers: namely, if anything can go wrong for your main character, it should.

Jeff shared with me his thoughts about drawing characters and how this helps in the writing process. Even if you can’t draw, just having a visual representation of your character—perhaps an illustration or a photo you found online—can help you in the same way. I know some writers who collect photos on Pinterest that they use for inspiration.

So what exactly can a drawing of your character do for you?

Here’s Jeff with the answer to that question:


There’s a demon on my screen giving me attitude.

Matra from The Seeds by Jeff Davis

As a kid, I was always drawing. Usually heroes and dragons. Facing them, riding them, conjuring them, my characters were always captured within an action. Something was going on. I would sit and stare at them, waiting to find out how their stories played out in my mind’s eye. The stories were always so much more intriguing than my meager talents could portray. It was as if each drawing was seen through a window into whatever world I was dreaming up.

Fast forward to the present.

 Writing blog posts, web copy and promotional materials doesn’t leave much room for fantastic characters or muscle-bound heroes, even though that kind of writing does weave a narrative that’s suppose to whisk you off to a more utopian world. But fantasy fiction? Ah! 

That’s the thing.

When I started writing my first fantasy novel, “The Seeds”, it was written in my head far longer than it has existed in print. I would watch the characters move through scenarios in my mind’s eye, just like when I was a kid.  But, where a budding artist can draw a sword in a hand if the situation calls for it, a writer must make having that sword consistent, it must make sense.

 As an exercise in continuity, I decided to create a more complex set of designs for my first major effort. Each of the main characters was created in full color that I could pull up when necessary. Does he carry a sword? I might want to mention that fact somewhere before he whips it out. Physical descriptions? To avoid the characters from becoming perfect in every way, some boundaries are needed.

But, the most surprising and most frequent use of these visual references came when writing dialogue.

Witty banter is fun to write, and usually rolls right across my keyboard. For Varia and Dartura of “The Seeds”, being twins makes their conversations appear pointed and clipped. They know what the other is going to say almost before it's said, so only what is needed is expressed. It’s almost like the lossy compression of video for the web; only the pixels that change from the last keyframe are rendered. (If that makes sense to you, Yay! You’re a geek like me!)

But, it was the shadowy antagonist that vexed me.

How many times can one rely on writing “Bah!” to express contempt? I had to really convey a personality that I didn’t have in me--that of a conniving trickster old enough to be bored with her world, yet sinister enough to care little for the damage she does. So, I created Matra in graphic form.

Her eyes would stare malevolently at me as I posed questions to her. I would form dialogue, out loud, and actually ask if that was what she would say in that scenario. She didn’t really answer. (Thankfully, or I might be writing this from a padded cell.) But the disdain in her expression was enough for me to interpret when something worked (I hope), or when it didn’t.

I usually write whenever I get the chance, but most frequently at night, when the house is quiet. Often, my wife would open the door to my office, only to quietly close it again as I sat arguing with Matra. (“But, you hate this guy! Why would you be cordial?”) More than once my wife searched my eyes for some physical sign of the madness that was surely creeping over me. When I announced that “The Seeds” was complete, I was unsure which of us was more relieved.

Still, not only sketching but fully realizing my characters is a practice that I will continue to use as my writing improves. The illustrations take on a new life when complete, and for me at least, really form the basis of the inner workings of a character. The downside for the reader may be that they interpret the character differently, but that’s okay. I would like nothing more than for a reader to tell me, “I saw this character like this…”

If you are reading my work enough to form such opinions, it can only help me become a better writer.

Jeff Davis


Author bio:

Jeff Davis has worked with some of the finest high technology teams in the business and has delivered to some of the world's most recognizable companies the high quality graphics, multimedia and print materials they demand, all over the world. He majored in art and design, and he continues to regard himself as a student of the history and reinvention of popular culture. As an author, Jeff hopes to bring his unique ideas to life in this medium. A visitor to his studio office will be treated to the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Sheryl Crow, Kate Bush and traditional Celtic music. Jeff resides an hour north of Manhattan, N.Y. with his wife and two children.


This is not your grandmother's fairy tale. A fantasy novel that turns the genre on its head, "The Seeds" follows Trooper Angus Mayweather as he is thrust into the conflict faced by twin sisters Dartura & Varia, Generals of the Tarol Nation. As the sisters uncover a new threat from an old enemy, Angus must do what he can to help as the Tarol Nation faces all-out war.

Click here to check out drawings of Characters from“The Seeds”.
Order "The Seeds" from Smashwords
Find Jeff Davis on Google+Facebookor Twitter @JDSavageTV


Do you find drawing from other mediums helps you with writing?  If so, what medium, and how does it help? Do you have a picture of your main character or a place in your story? Does listening to a certain kind of music put you in the right mood? If you haven't thought of using pictures this way before, how do you think they might help  you? What would you ask your main character, and how do you think your main character would respond? 

Please leave your answers in the comments below. Thanks!