It’s a Homemade Word Search Puzzle!

Happy Saturday, everyone! Today, I thought I’d do something I’ve always wanted to try – creating my own word search puzzle.  They’re not as easy as they look.  The one I created is pretty easy because this is my first one, but hey…I had fun which is what it’s all about. Today’s word search puzzle:  Grammar terms.  I hope you have fun finding the words.  There are some words that are backwards and diagonal so look every direction.  🙂   Click on the puzzle to get a bigger image.

grammar word search

Passive voice

YA Genre 101: Historical Fiction

I was talking to someone at work recently about historical fiction and she wanted to know if that meant the story was about an event that happened in history.  I tried to explain it was a yes and no answer.

Historical fiction is a novel set among actual historical events or one that is written to display a certain period of time.  The story itself doesn’t have to be specifically about that one particular event, let’s say, what made the Titanic sink, but more about the people affected by its sinking.

The setting is the most important part of historical fiction since the story takes place surrounding an actual event in history.  The information about the time period and place must be accurate, authentic, or both. Tons of research is involved so the author has a working knowledge of how people lived, what ate and wore, what sort of homes they lived in, etc.

Characters may be real or fictional or a combination of both.  No matter what, they must remain true to the time frame.

The plot must document historical events.  Even though your story is fictional, it needs to make sense and it must have a solution to a problem in the end.  If the plot is fictional, then it must remain true to the historical time and place.   In other words, you could write about a fictional couple who fall in love in 1830’s London.  While the couple is fictional, the surroundings need to be authentic down to the hair pins the women wore.

The dialogue must be authentic to the time period.  Reading books and articles from the time you’re writing about will assist in making sure your character’s speech is perfected.

Descriptions in historical fiction tend to be very vivid.  The author must convey a sense of time so readers who are unfamiliar with the historical events can experience as if they were in the midst of it.

Some of my favorite YA historical novels include:




What a beautiful way to start the week

This week, I’ve been nominated for four blog awards by Naphtali.   I am so honored.  She is one of several Christian bloggers I follow and I’m so glad I found her.

The four awards she nominated me for are:

blog of 2012 award


one lovely blog award

shine on blog award

I’m supposed to answer a bunch of questions about me, but I’m going to change it up a bit and ask you to respond to the following questions because I’d much rather learn about you.  I won’t make it too difficult.  Please feel free to answer any and/or all questions and elaborate as much as you want.

1.  Have you ever eaten a bug?

2.  Have you ever been bitten by a horse?

3.  Have you ever ridden an elephant/camel?

4.  Have you ever made a wish upon a star and it came true?

5.  Shoes or barefeet?

6.  How old were you when you got/gave your first kiss?

7.  Your favorite sound in the world?

8.  Your favorite smell?

9.  paper books or e-books?

10.  Happiest moment of your life?

I am passing on the awards to the following people:

WordPress Family Award:

Be Not Afeard


Blog of 2012 Award:



One Lovely Blog Award:

Dianne Gray

Dibbler Dabbler

Jamie Ayres

Shine on Blog Award:

C.B. Wentworth

Fabulous Realms

Kourtney Heinz

The Six Train to Wisconsin

kourtney heinzToday I have a wonderful guest blogger, author Kourtney Heintz.  Kourtney has written a novel that is getting all kinds of fantastic reviews and I’m so lucky and honored to be able to participate in her promotional tour of THE SIX TRAIN TO WISCONSIN.  This novel is not YA, but Kourtney was recently picked up by Agent Lyndsay Hemphill of ICM Partners and they are working together to get Kourtney’s YA novel she wrote some time ago in the public arena.  You can read about that surprise phone call  here.

Today, Kourtney is visiting my blog to talk about world-building, so without further ado, please give it up for Ms. Kourtney Heintz!


World building as You Go

When I’m drafting a story, I don’t have everything figured out before I start writing. I have a 2-5 page outline. I have certainty around the first 50 pages. Anything beyond that is mutable. Even if I think it isn’t at the time.

I still get surprised by the discovery of my story world rules as I go. Sometimes a rule doesn’t work throughout the novel and I need to rethink it. Other times, there aren’t enough rules and I need to go back and constrain powers more.

Or a power doesn’t trump another one the way I need it to. Oh the joy of writing fantasy/speculative fiction!

In The Six Train to Wisconsin, Kai’s a telepath whose mind is inundated with others’ thoughts and feelings. I had to decide on how far her powers stretched. At first, I set the parameter at several miles. But it didn’t work for the severity of her situation. I needed a small area to be causing her terrible trouble. I needed her being in New York to pile on the problems. So I cut the radius down to half a mile.

This set up Oliver’s reason for leaving the city. A half-mile radius in the country wouldn’t be a problem. It gave him a solution to work toward.

I had just read a story about how readers were disappointed with a recent YA book because the author allowed the character’s super powers to save the day. The article espoused how the character’s own inner traits should be what helps them solve the problem.

I found a way to put Kai’s powers on the fritz. To make it about her courage and her bravery. To not make it about her telepathy, but about who she is: a brave and loving woman who puts others before herself.

I had no clue how Caleb’s abilities worked until I had to have Kai explain them to Oliver.  Then I realized, Caleb was too powerful as a dreamwalker. If he could go into anyone’s dreams, there was no limit. So I imposed a limit. He had to have an actual bond with the person. Otherwise, he’d be able to go into anyone’s head.

I struggled with the rules and the hierarchy of powers. Things shifted from draft to draft. Feedback from others poked at worldbuilding that needed fleshing out or tightening up. Plot holes were filled in and paved over. All necessary steps to get to my final novel.

Now, it’s impossible to imagine the worldbuilding any way besides how it is.

SixTraintoWisconsin1600The Six Train to Wisconsin Back Cover:

Sometimes saving the person you love can cost you everything.

There is one person that ties Oliver Richter to this world: his wife Kai. For Kai, Oliver is the keeper of her secrets.

When her telepathy spirals out of control and inundates her mind with the thoughts and emotions of everyone within a half-mile radius, the life they built together in Manhattan is threatened.

To save her, Oliver brings her to the hometown he abandoned—Butternut, Wisconsin—where the secrets of his past remain buried. But the past has a way of refusing to stay dead. Can Kai save Oliver before his secrets claim their future?

An emotionally powerful debut, The Six Train to Wisconsin pushes the bounds of love as it explores devotion, forgiveness and acceptance.

Author Bio:

Kourtney Heintz writes emotionally evocative speculative fiction that captures the deepest truths of being human. For her characters, love is a journey never a destination.

She resides in Connecticut with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, her supportive parents and three quirky golden retrievers. Years of working on Wall Street provided the perfect backdrop for her imagination to run amuck at night, imagining a world where out-of-control telepathy and buried secrets collide.

Her debut novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin, was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist.

Connecting with Kourtney



Facebook Page:



Amazon Author Central Page:


Buy Links

Paperback available from:


Barnes and Noble

Ebook available from:


Barnes and Noble




Goodreads giveaways going on until July 1:

 5 free signed copies of my book (US only):

For Canadians, 1 signed copy:

Several other countries, 1 signed copy:


YA 101: Gothic/Southern Gothic Genre –

What makes Gothic fiction goth?

Let’s start with the obvious.  There must be elements of horror, the supernatural, fear, encompassing darkness.  Throw in some dastardly villains like vampires and demons and a few heroes and heroines to come save the day and you have Gothic fiction.  To make it more fun, toss in a little romance, lust, mystery, especially between human and beast (think Twilight,  Heh, Bella’s in love with a werewolf AND a vamp.  Shameless hussy.  :-))  Anyway, the Gothic genre is a forerunner to your modern horror genre.  And here’s  a little trivia:  Gothic literature is quite old.  It originated in England in 1764 with the Horace Walpole’s The Castle  of Otranto and is considered to be an extension of Romantic literature that populated the late 18th Century.  Other works of fiction that fall into the Gothic genre are Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne (four of my fave writers, btw). The name Gothic refers to the (pseudo)medieval buildings in which many of these stories take place.  That’s why you’ll see so many of the settings take place in these architectural settings.

Gothic novels are heavy in atmosphere, using setting and speech to build suspense.  They attempt to leave you hanging on the edge of your seat with a hand over your eyes, one eye peeking through split fingers.  Common subjects you’ll find in Gothic literature are family curses, the supernatural, ghosts, mystery and mental madness.

Strangely enough, Southern Gothic is on the rise.  That’s where the author takes all the elements of the Gothic genre and takes it to the southern part of the US, usually around the Antebellum period (Civil War). Think the movie Lincoln the Vampire Slayer.  Southern Gothic literature, however, tends to focus more on the deranged psychopathic characteristics of its villain than on settings.  Southern Gothic literature usually deals with the plight of the oppressed by traditional southern culture.  Take William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”.  (one of my favorite, most bizarre stories I’ve ever read) which brings the Gothic theme of unrequited love leading to madness to a Southern town in which the disapproving residents narrate in a single voice.  Other authors who wrote Southern Gothic would be Flannery O’connor, and Eudora Welty.

What are some modern-day YA Gothic and Southern gothic novels?



Southern Gothic:



Sintel – Animated Fantasy Short

Hi all:

I must apologize for not being around yesterday and today.  I’m not feeling all that well and just haven’t been able to get my posts together.  I just wanted to let you know I’ll be back tomorrow with the continuation of my YA Genre posts.  Tomorrow I’ll talk a little about the Gothic/Southern Gothic genre.  For today, I’m presenting a short animated fantasy film I ran across.  It had a very important meaning to me.  The film is just over 12 minutes.  Enjoy.


YA Genre 101: Fantasy/Science Fiction

Happy Monday, all!  Hope your weekend was a good one.

Today we pick up with YA Genre 101.  The topic today:  Fantasy and Sci Fi. (not SyFy as the Sci Fi channel would like to spell it).

Fantasy is not all knights and gnomes and dragons, but you will find elements of magic and paranormal activity.  The story tends to take place in other worlds with magical creatures but it doesn’t have to.  Many times the story takes place in both the real world and a mysterious magical world accessed by portals of some sort.  Fantasy stories tend to steer clear of technological/scientific themes.  They usually contain elements of folklore, and mythology.

Fantasy relies heavily on world-building.  Characters and the environment have rules (as magic has rules).  Word count for fantasy YA tends to be a bit higher because of the extra need for world building.

Science Fiction is fantasy in a technological sense.  It often takes place in outer space/other planets, but it doesn’t have to – as long as the theme is scientific/technology related. Many times the plot will involve aliens, paranormal activity, space travel and parallel universes.  It is not uncommon to see the story take place in the future, though it can happen in the ‘now’ if the ‘now’ is an advanced technological race.  You’ll tend to find items like ray guns, humanoid androids and mutants.

It is not unusual to see this genre overlap with others – urban fantasy being a huge offspring of fantasy.

Samples of YA Fantasy:


Samples of YA Science Fiction:



Related articles


Free Tchotchkes for Everyone!

Yes, yes, it’s true!  I have free tchotchkes for everyone.  What the heck is a tchotchke you ask?  It’s a trinket, a souvenir, an ornament, and J. Taylor Publishing has released their tchotchkes for their new anthology, ONE MORE DAY, coming out December 2, 2013.  I’m super excited because my short story, “Dragon Flight” will grace the pages.  (And yes, there will be real pages, not just virtual ones.  This makes me very, very happy.)

Until the book comes out, please feel free to download any of these you like for free.  Under no circumstances are they to be sold as they belong to J. Taylor Publishing.  Enjoy!!




 OneMoreDay-Bookmark-Front-printable        bookmarks        OneMoreDay-Bookmark-Back-printable




YA 101: The ever popular “Dystopian”

I must confess I have used this word to describe books that are not dystopian.  While dystopian stories are very similar to apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, they are truly two different beasts all together.

“Dystopian” seems to be the catch-all phrase for novels that take place in the future after some disaster, survivors fighting against some horrible event.  It’s easy to confuse the two because a dystopian society can rise from a post-apocalyptic event; however, that doesn’t make it a dystopian story.  Here is how I would like to define the differences.

A dystopian society is one where  “social perfection” is obtained at the expense of something else, such as enslavement, loss of personal freedoms, or the surrender of some aspect of human nature.  The plot tends to focus on the slow process of societal change, or an abrupt change to a cataclysmic event.  The society that is in place is stable, strong.  That doesn’t make it a good place to be.  In fact, what’s in place is usually sickening and appalling.  There are usually two warring factions:  those in control and those who are oppressed.  It’s utopia turned upside down.  There also doesn’t appear to be an explanation as to why the current society grew the way it did; it is simply a story of the character’s struggle against an oppressor, whether it’s a government, enslavement or both.

In an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic story, the plot focuses on the instability of a society during/after a cataclysmic event shatters society.  The small society that is left is usually isolated and threatened.  There is usually very little hope, the future is bleak.  Humanity and existence is endangered.  These stories explore man’s struggle to battle Earth’s shattering events.  They take the reader on the characters’ quest for survival.  These types of stories explore the hows and whys of the apocalyptic event, they show the rebuilding of the society, who is put in charge and why.  There is nothing utopian about it.   It’s nitty, gritty and intense.  The world is in shambles and folks are trying desperately to survive and rebuild.

Examples of YA Dystopian novels:


Samples of Apocalyptic/Post Apocalyptic


YA 101: Welcome to “Cyberpunk”

HA ha, what a name.  Cyberpunk.  I can’t help it.  When I read this word I picture stereotypical, bad-A, rapping, thugish teenage robots.  Wall-E gone punk.  Tank tops, pants around the butt.  Tattoos engraved on metal arms.

Then I shake my head and think, ‘You’re such a moron, Jen.”  Everyone knows that cyberpunk is a post-modern science fiction genre that focuses on high-tech and a breakdown in society.  Characters often have alienation issues, they’ve been compromised somehow in their lives.  They live on the edge of dystopian societies where technology advances rapidly.  Many times the technology is invasive, taking over human form.

Protagonists are often highly intelligent misfits, anti-social and outside the law and/or government in some way.  Rebels.  They feel misunderstood and often manipulated.  There are usually forced-manipulations:  events that happen to the protagonist that were out of his or her control.   Think Katnis in the Hunger Games – forced to fight and possibly die to keep society in control.  Advanced technology against the scourge of the earth, kept in their place by those in power with technology.

The theme is anti-utopian, the world dystopic, but the setting goes beyond that.  It makes the reader ask questions and search for answers.

Samples of some really good YA Cyberpunk include: