The Updated Penguicon Schedule of Awesomeness

My latest appearance schedule. Of course, it is subject to change. There’s always a possibility that I’ll be pulled onto a panel at the last minute.

Once again, the names of the panels have been shortened/no room names given – because I’m kind of lazy. But you’ll get the drift once you’re there.

4/24/15 – Free! Well, not really. I have friends coming out to visit. But if you see me, say hi!

4/25/15 – 4:00pm – Traditional vs Self Publishing (Small Press, too!)
5:00pm – Rejection (how we crazy people cope with it)
9:00pm – You Can’t Kill the Undead (see, I knew this one!)

4/26/15 – 9:00am – Ebooks (how did I get on this one? As a reader, I prefer real books. As a writer? I’m totally cool with them.)
11:00am – Scriptwriting (a Film Track panel!)

This year, I’ll have ribbons to give out – but only 8 available. Want one? The code phrase is: ARRR, MATEY!

See you at Penguicon!

Penguicon Schedule of Awesomeness

At the end of April, I will return to my homeland – the Mitten State (Michigan) for Penguicon, a weekend of fun stuff to do and learn. I’m going to sit on several panels, mostly for the Literary Track. I was also asked to speak on one in the Film Track, since I used to be an actress and heavily involved in the Michigan film community.

The names of the panels have been shortened (because I can’t remember the full names off the top of my head):

April 24th: OPEN! I have no programming scheduled. A good time to find me, talk to me, and otherwise be social. Last year, I ran around like a crazy person the whole weekend. This will be nice.

April 25th:  2pm – Editing, 4pm – Traditional vs Self Publishing, 5pm – Rejection (where I may read a couple of my recent rejection letters!), 9pm – Undead (where we talk about vampires, ghouls, etc)

April 26th: 9am – Scriptwriting  (I’ll be leaving shortly after this one ends, as I have a loooong drive back down to Kentucky)

Times are subject to change, of course. Dates might as well. Penguicon takes place at the Westin Hotel in Southfield, Michigan. Check out the website at for more information.

Clean Reader – An Author’s POV (Okay…Rant)

I’ve been pretty quiet about the whole Clean Reader thing while trying to tactfully present my thoughts. Know what? Fuck that.

Changing an author’s work because it offends your delicate sensibilities is a really shitty thing to do. Every word is carefully chosen by the author to convey EXACTLY what they want to convey. If it makes you squirm, the book is doing its JOB. Write your own story. Read something else. Don’t change an author’s work to suit YOUR views. What makes this thing worse is that the author is not consulted, nor permission to change the text given.  The creators of this app just decided to do it because, as they said, their daughter came home one day and was sad because a book had swearing in it, and she had to put it down.

Maybe she shouldn’t have been reading the book.

In high school, for AP English, I read a book called Germinal. In it, there was a shopkeeper who liked to have his way with the town’s daughters. One day, the women rose up, killed him, and paraded his penis on a stick through town. It was shocking. And I read it in high school. Guess what? I’m still alive. Disturbed? Yes. But that I remember this scene OVER TWENTY YEARS LATER means something. It means the book did its job. It formed a lasting picture. A picture with words.

Not only does this app remove/change swear words, it does so for body parts. “Vagina” and “penis” are not dirty words. They’re normal. Nothing to be ashamed of. We need to stop thinking of our bodies as something disgusting. If your child doesn’t know what these parts are, you’ve got problems. A child who is comfortable with his/her body is more likely to protect and respect that body. If you make it seem like there’s something wrong with it…yeah…enjoy the therapy bills.

Back to the author point of view. In general, how we craft a novel isn’t very well known, so let me school you. First, we have a first draft. It’s crap, but we get it down. Sometimes, we stay awake all night, hacking away until our fingers and hands are exhausted. If we don’t, the book inside us claws at us in a desperate bid to be free. It’s maddening. Eventually (as this step could take YEARS…can you imagine? YEARS, people), we have to do something called “editing.” That means, we rip apart our babies – those manuscripts we worked so hard on. Every word has to be accounted for. EVERY WORD. We agonize. We research. We have our critique partners and editors rip it apart for us. It’s a brutal, brutal thing. But eventually, we finish so we can send it off to be criticized again by agents and publishers. Every word, accounted for. Everything put exactly where it is for a reason.

Editors and such SUGGEST edits. “Maybe this word would work better than this one,” they suggest. Not demand. Back to the agonizing.

Catching on now? I call writing my blessing and my curse. It’s a maddening yet wonderful process. Every word is mine. So, you can see how much it would upset me to have someone change or omit these words that I poured my heart and soul into – and without permission, to boot.

Hey! Where Did March Go?

It seems like the month just started, and now it’s almost over. To be fair, I’ve been pretty busy. I’m about 70% done with the current WIP (*YA, F), and I’ve started a major overhaul of the manuscript I’ve been trying to find an agent for (*A, UF). I also had to work my “mundane” job, and I had a baby shower cake to make for a co-worker’s shower.

For those who don’t know, I’m a former cake decorating teacher who used to own her own business before I moved from Michigan. I was asked by the shower hostess to make the cake. I’ve made a bunch of cakes in the past. Taught it for a year. Nothing to be nervous about, right? HA! I made myself crazy. Nothing went right. Everything went wrong. I felt like such a failure, even though it looked cute, the mom-to-be loved it, and everyone else enjoyed it.

It’s funny how we perceive what we create compared to what others see. Looking at it now, I guess it’s not so bad. Deep in the throes of confectionary anguish? It was horrible. Maybe, if we take a breath and step back, we can see through clearer eyes. This can go not just for the things we create, but how we are in general. Maybe we’re not *that* bad. Maybe life isn’t that bad.

I have another cake to do this weekend, but I’ve been able to pace myself with this one. Less stress. More time to work. No one in the house to distract me. I’ll tell you how it goes.

In the meantime, the shower cake in question.

Wow. I look terrible in that shot. 😉


Exercising the Muse

It’s March 1st. Many New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned by now. Exercise equipment, clothing racks. Gym memberships, forgotten. Fitness goals left by the wayside.

Hopefully, the writers out there have been good to keep up their word goals. So far, I have…but it hasn’t been easy. My minimum word goal per day is 500. That’s not a lot, but that’s the minimum. Thankfully, I’ve passed it at every turn. How? By exercising my muse.

I imagine my personal muse as a handsome man who looks quite a bit like a certain character (hint: Moose!) on a popular television show. The link came about a while back, after I’d had a couple of dreams with him in them. I wrote better on those days. Hence, my muse.  —insert cough here— Of course, a muse doesn’t get buff overnight. Gotta exercise him/her in a creative way. It sets up your word goal success.

One of the biggest things I do, is stop my writing day at a place where I know what I want to happen next. If I don’t know, I can use the time between writing to figure it out. Problems and blocks usually work themselves out when I do it this way, and I can go in fresh. For example, I want my character to go into a mausoleum for “x” reason. I write up until she goes in. Then what? I wait until the next writing day to figure that out. She has to find “x” and get out. That’s fodder for story continuation…and the words can flow. It’s kind of like a hybrid of pantsing and plotting. At the beginning, I may have a general idea of where to go, but no real plan to get there. Day by day, scene by scene, I make my plan.

Does this make any sense? I hope so!

Another thing I do when I get stuck, is work on the story “bible.” Each of my stories has a definitive book that contains character information (biographies, fears, likes, motives, what they look like, etc.), settings,notes, quotes from the characters…you name it. Even the most random observations. For “Cake or Death,” I  noticed that Home Depot sells yard stakes and commented to my husband, “Wouldn’t that be a good idea for a busy, vampire slaying single mom?” Into the Cake or Death bible that went. By getting to know your characters and their world in a deeper way, you can come up with new and better ways to move the story along.

There are a ton of different writing exercises you can do, and it’s pretty easy to find them on the internet. If you have suggestions of your own, put them in the comments! You never know who you might help in the process. Keep exercising those muses!


Yeah…I’m not that excited about it, but the kids have this week off. The Snowpocalypse hit our little part of the world, and everything’s at a standstill. No school, closed businesses…not even Starbucks! My chickens (I have six ladies) refuse to come out of their coop. I don’t blame them. I don’t want to walk on that evil, white crap, either. Yesterday, I had to let them out and feed them, and ended up falling on the garage floor. I have a lovely bruise on my wrist now.

It could be worse. I don’t have anywhere to go, and the house is warm. Plus, we thought far enough ahead to get groceries. We had to go anyway, so we didn’t need to hoard milk or bread. The best part is that I can snuggle up on the couch, under the covers, with my pups…and write.

It’s an awesome job to have.

Speaking of writing, I’ve broken the 30,000 word mark on my work-in-progress! It’ll be harder to get good numbers this week with the kids home and providing distractions, but it’ll be a good test of the “Don’t Bother Mom When She’s Writing” rule. I’ll have to report back next week with the new total.

Anyone else dealing with snow days? What do you do to keep your kids busy while you’re working at home? Older kids, younger kids…even furkids!

The neighbor’s house from my bedroom window

Crafty Monday: Food Edition

I love baking. Cooking, somewhat. But baking? I LOVE it. I used to own a home-based bakery in Michigan, and taught cake decorating for a year once I got down to Kentucky. It’s kind of funny that, for my first Crafty Monday: Food Edition entry, I’m posting about something that isn’t baked.

Like many people, I’ve discovered the addictive joy of Pinterest (I’m “Mary Lynne Gibbs” there…creative, I know). I’ve spent many hours adding things to my boards (called “pinning”). Last night, I decided to try one of my pins. My first attempt: The Peanut Butter Energy Bites from Anna over at Crunchy Creamy Sweet. Taking simple ingredients and putting them together in ball form, these energy bites give us something amazingly easy, delicious, and healthy. My pre-teen daughter is hooked. I daresay, I am too.

At work (I’m a very part-time sales associate at a local craft store), I help people find what they need to do the crafts they love. More often than not, people come in who’ve decided to try something for the first time. One older couple decided to try a sun catcher made from melted pony beads…that they found on Pinterest. They looked so excited to try something new! I hope they come back. They promised they’d bring pictures to show me.

This year, I want to try to do something new, and hopefully healthy, every week. It’s been a month so far, and I’m having fun with it. “Healthy” doesn’t have to just be for the body. It could be for the brain. Heck, it could be a craft or hobby, too. In writing, I decided to take part in my first Twitter contest (see last week’s “Sun VS Snow” entry). Doing things like this keeps me on my toes. I find that I’m more engaged, excited, and adaptable by spicing up what could be a dull winter period. I’ve found it’s great for my writing, too.

What, if anything, are you trying for the first time this year? Have you tried anything from Pinterest?  Go ahead and list it here! If it’s not on Pinterest, that’s cool, too.

Sun VS Snow Recap

This one’s primarily for the writers out there, but others can learn from it, too.

On Twitter, I’ve recently discovered the joy of something called “pitch parties.” Follow a hashtag, post your (completed) novel’s “pitch.” It’s a way to increase readership, make friends, and possibly catch the attention of an agent or editor. There are also contests that are similar. Winners can receive query critiques (among other things). There are several out there: #PitchMad, #AdPitch, #PitchMas, just to name a few. The most recent one I had the pleasure of participating in was #snowvssun.

In #snowvssun, you email your query, first twenty-five of your manuscript, and what your main character would prefer: sun…or snow. For my personal choice, my main character (Lex Jensen of “Cake or Death” – still trying to find a home!) chose “sun.” Hunting vampires in the snow isn’t fun. I made it into the contest, but no further. I’m good with it, though. I got to meet some great people. They’ve been incredibly  helpful, offering great ideas and valuable advice. It’s my understanding that the next step is the mentor round. Then, the coveted agent round. This isn’t the only way to get an agent or publisher to look at your work. This is, though, awesome for improvement and connections. That’s where the real prize is.

I’ve since updated my query, based on ideas I’ve seen from successful queries. I’ve got new people to use as a sounding board. I’ve got more followers on Twitter. I think I’ve won.

And Now…A Giveaway!

Here it is, folks. Five lucky people (first come, first serve) will be able to read The Maiden’s Courage for FREE! One catch: We’re asking you to write a review and post it on your choice of website (Goodreads, Amazon,

Please send inquiries to:

Cover designed by Natalie Berger
Cover designed by Natalie Berger

About “The Maiden’s Courage”

The best man on the pirate ship is a girl named Alex.

Alexandra “Alex” Gardner is the reluctant cabin boy on The Bloody Maiden, a ruthless pirate ship run by the charmingly evil Captain Montgomery. The crew is convinced she’s a boy, and she hopes it stays that way until she has the chance to avenge the deaths of her mother and brother at the hands of the crew. All goes well until the ship takes a handsome captive. Could her feelings for him ruin her charade?

Sebastian Whitley is a young man in love. He sails on his father’s ship, trying to find the beautiful girl he’s lost. When he’s captured by The Bloody Maiden, the annoying cabin boy saves his life – and makes it more difficult at the same time. His savior is actually a girl, and if Sebastian doesn’t keep quiet, it could mean both their deaths.

Together, they have to thwart a mutiny, get revenge, and get off the ship before Alex’s secret is revealed. If not, it’s the plank for both of them.