“Life is a complicated mess.”

Today, I have the lovely and talented Erika Beebe guest hosting my blog.  Erika is the author of Stage Fright, one of seven short stories in the ONE MORE DAY anthology.  She’s going to chat with you about the mind of a writer, character development and the great question, who are we, really?  Be sure to ask questions and don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for your chance to win a copy of ONE MORE DAY.

Please give it up for one of the loveliest ladies I’ve ever encountered.


The mind of a writer is a funny thing. I can invent the most twisted story, shake it off to make dinner, at least mostly, and then I catch my husband leaning over a printed copy of my latest and greatest chapter as the words escape his lips, “Wow, who are you, really?”

Growing up, I didn’t like creepy. I remember being eight-years-old and watching A Nightmare on Elm Street at a slumber party … further back at five when I’d caught Jaws on the television and was unable to walk across the basement floor without dreading the image of a great white beast living a hidden existence under the couch. I’d leap from furniture to furniture in the basement until I made it to the stairs. Now here I am. I write YA creepy. :o)

And then I dream how to tame it.

So how do we go to sleep at night with all of these creepy plots and words floating through our thoughts?

Writing is a profession. When you love it, you know when to turn it on, and sometimes, when you absolutely need to turn it off. Sure, I’ll have ideas slip into my head in the middle of the night, or while I’m going about my day, but that’s why I always carry a notebook. I can scratch down a really great thought, tuck it back in my purse and finish wherever I am in the moment. But just like a counselor, or an architect, or a doctor, you know you could work all the time, every minute of your life if you let it consume you. So you learn how to stop, make a few notes if they absolutely won’t let you move on, and you go back to what you were doing in the present moment.

How do we write about fictional characters and plots we don’t actually live?

Research. For me as a writer, solving a character is much like solving an algebra equation or creating a chemical reaction in a laboratory. I read everything. I look at pictures and study people. I document facts and details with pictures and words, journaling down what I feel and think in a moment. Recently I wrote a chapter where my two main characters were boogie boarding in the ocean. I’ve been to the ocean many times, but the past doesn’t always help an immediate physical moment. Especially if I need to feel, taste or sense a particular detail in a scene. So what did I do? Today, writers are lucky. We have YouTube, Google Maps, and the ability to type in and search for anything. I can watch a how-to video and be in someone’s moment on the beach. I can’t always smell what I need to smell, but that’s where memory helps. If I’m setting my book in a particular physical location, I go to that location.  I need to see the community, feel the ground, and smell the air. Last point to make, lots of what I’ve lived slips into my words. If you know a writer, there’s never a guarantee you won’t be somewhere in a plot or a character. My ideas come from my life. My creativity takes them in new and strange directions.

So who I am?

Am I the girl you see when you meet me? Am I character in my book? Am I a mother, a wife, a career woman, a yoga instructor? My answer is yes. Life is a complicated mess, and no matter what profession we choose, parts of us come out in everything we do.


OneMoreDay-cover-pb-spine If you have to have your copy of ONE MORE DAY right now, please click on any of the links below.



A Girl and Her Mom Share a Dark Rose Moment

OneMoreDay-cover-pb-spineHappy December 4 everyone!  Has everyone had their coffee or tea?  1st, 2nd or 3rd breakfast?  By the way, does anyone know what day it is other than Hump Day?  Why, it’s day 3 of the ONE MORE DAY blog tour, and today I have on my blog, Marissa Halvorson (she’ll be back in a few days for another post, so make sure you tune back in).

Marissa is one of the authors in ONE MORE DAY.  Her short story is titled, Dark Rose, and is really, really good.  I also believe Marissa is the youngest author featured in ONE MORE DAY, a sweet young lady still in her teens.

As with all the authors in the anthology, I asked Marissa one particular question:

If you could freeze one moment of your life and put it on display for all to see, what would that moment be?

Her response will warm your heart.  Take it away, Marissa.


That’s a pretty difficult question, because it calls for me to think about my whole life and choose only ONE moment. If we are talking the most personally important moment of my life, it would be the moment, at about 10:30 at night, when I got the email from J. Taylor Publishing offering me a contract for Dark Rose. It’s definitely the happiest moment, in recent years anyway, that I can remember.

I’m still eighteen and going to school, so I still live at home. My parents had already gone to bed and I was up reading or writing (I can’t actually remember what I was doing, but that seems about right) and my phone lit up with an email. I had been anxiously awaiting the response, so as soon as my phone lit up, I … well, in all honesty, I probably lunged for it.

I have never been so happy in my life (as far as I can remember). When you’ve been working towards something for the last eight years of your life with so many people telling you that it’s going to be a long shot, and that it’s going to be very difficult to get anyone to even take a second look at you, an acceptance even into an anthology is a huge victory.

Anyway, I’ve gotten off track. If I had to display any moment, it would honestly be the look on my mom’s face and the excitement in her voice when I woke her to tell her I’d received an acceptance. It really was one of the most exciting nights of my life.


Oh my gosh, how beautiful is that?  What a beautiful moment.  My mom passed away before she got to see my first work published so this really touched my heart.  How lucky for mother and daughter to share such a special time.

Here’s a little bit more about Marissa:

 Marissa’s dream of writing came about when she was ten, after reading a particularly inspiring story of dragons and elves. She instantly fell in love with the fantasy genre, and characters soon began to manifest to satisfy her adoration. It started with a forty page handwritten novel, which she dubbed “Dragon Girl” and continued on to more challenging (and better written) works.

Now, Marissa can often be found to be studying literature in English class, curled up at home with one book or another, or with her eyes glued to the computer screen as her newest set of characters manifest.

You can also catch up with Marissa at the follow web spots.  Make sure you stop in and say hello.

Website   Facebook     Twitter

Interested in trying your luck at winning a copy of ONE MORE DAY?  Click Rafflecopter Giveaway to enter, and good luck!

Can’t wait a month to see if you win?  Head on over to one of the links below and grab a copy.  Maybe two or three.  It’ll make a great gift for the holiday.  🙂



Thank you all so much for your support.  Please come back tomorrow to see what moment in time Kimberly Kay, author of Sleepless Beauty, would like to freeze forever.






YA author bloggers wanted for some crazy, mixed-up fun!

Hey all!

In case you didn’t know, I have a short story, Dragon Flight, releasing December 2, 2013 in J. Taylor Publishing’s ONE MORE DAY anthology, and I am unashamedly seeking fellow YA authors/bloggers to participate in blog tours between November 1 and the end of the year.  Of course I will be more than happy to host other YA authors either with interviews, guest blog posts, reviews (if you have short stories/novelettes), giveaways, etc., so if you’re interested, leave a comment below.

If you are a book reviewer or have 250 followers or more on your blog, you can participate through J. Taylor Publishing to get an ARC of ONE MORE DAY to review.  Trust me, all the reviews this book can get, the better.  It’s really a fantastic collection of short stories that I’m sure any fan of YA would love to have.  You can sign up with J. Taylor at


I hope to meet a lot of YA authors and bloggers on this tour.  What do you say?  Up for some fun?  I know I am, so let’s rock this thing!  Whoo Hoo!!

What if today never ends? 

What if everything about life—everything anyone hoped to be, to do, to experience—never happens? 

Whether sitting in a chair, driving down the road, in surgery, jumping off a cliff or flying … that’s where you’d be … forever.

Unless …

In One More Day, Erika Beebe, Marissa Halvorson, Kimberly Kay, J. Keller Ford, Danielle E. Shipley and Anna Simpson join L.S. Murphy to give us their twists, surprising us with answers to two big questions, all from the perspective of characters under the age of eighteen.

How do we restart time?

How do we make everything go back to normal?

The answers, in whatever the world—human, alien, medieval, fantasy or fairytale—could,maybe, happen today.

Right now.

What would you do if this happened … to you?



What if today never ends? 

What if everything about life—everything anyone hoped to be, to do, to experience—never happens? 

That’s the prompt J. Taylor Publishing threw out there a few months ago when they opened up their site to submissions for their December 2013 Young Adult anthology, ONE MORE DAY.  Six short stories were chosen from six different authors, and glory be, mine was one of them!  🙂

In celebration, I’m giving away 5 signed bookmarks to five people who do the following:

Add ONE MORE DAY to your Goodreads “To Read” list?  (leave your Goodreads name for verification)

Here’s what you’ll get if you add the book:


Isn’t it pretty?  Don’t you want one?

Leave your Goodreads info in the comment sections below.  Also be sure to check out the other author websites and blog for more good giveaways and shout-outs!

L.S. Murphy

Erika Beebee

Danielle Shipley

Anna Simpson

For the love of selkies

Happy Saturday, everyone!  I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season so far and your plans for the new year are falling into place.

Today, as part of the Make Believe blog tour, I’m skipping over to Susan Rocan’s blog to talk about a not so well-known creature…the selkie.  Why?  Well, because (1) they appear in The Amulet of Ormisez, my short story in the Make Believe anthology, and (2) not many people have ever heard of them, so I thought it would be kind of cool to introduce them.  So head on over to Susan’s.  I’ll see you there!


Wednesday reflections: review of THE SEARCH, a short story by Susan Leigh Noble

From Goodreads:  For over a thousand years, telepathic cats known as STACs have faithfully searched for those with power over the elements looking for the one foretold to save the Land. None have questioned their duty to fulfill this ancient task.

But when Tosh’s latest charge is murdered because of his Elemental powers, Tosh considers abandoning The Search. Will a glimpse of the future destruction be enough to change his mind?


A few days ago I had the extreme pleasure of reading the short story “The Search” by Susan Leigh Noble.  Susan approached me through the World Literary Café, and asked if I would be kind enough to do a review for her.  Seeing as her story was a YA fantasy, how could I turn her down?

Let me say I really, really enjoyed the story.  It is a perfect story to introduce young readers to fantasy.  It wasn’t difficult to read, and in no way insults the reader.

What I didn’t like about The Search

I felt it lacked a definitive ending.  I prefer short stories that follow a standard story line:  meet main character, discover his plight, experience the conflicts, and resolve the problems.  The Search fulfills all of them except for the last.  There isn’t a firm resolution.  The story isn’t ‘wrapped up’.  Rather it sets up the next short story in the trilogy.  While this is perfectly acceptable to do, I was expecting a stand alone. This isn’t bad; just not what I was expecting.

My second minor niggle is the story starts off at a breath-taking pace only to fall more into a quiet third person omniscient narrative.  I was expecting more action, but none came that matched the opening scene.  While this isn’t a bad thing, I felt slightly let down that the rest of the story didn’t keep up with the same pace as the opening.

What I loved about The Search.

The Search is an original story.  The main character, Tosh, is a cat, but not any type of cat.  He’s a STAC, a breed of telepathic cats determined to find the foretold Elemental – a human with extraordinary magical powers capable of saving The Land.  While the theme is common throughout fantasy stories, the fact that the lead character is a telepathic cat is unique.  Ms. Noble perfectly captures the essence of cat-dom and excels in portraying her protagonist with clarity, wisdom and humor.  The reader almost forgets the protagonist is a cat until he stretches or purrs or swishes his tail.  I am equally impressed with the other characters in The Search, from the wolves, to a sweet three-year old girl, to the wonderful Jonah Glade who rescues Tosh from a terrible, unfortunate incident.  They are well thought out, none are extraneous, and their appearances all help Tosh decide what he wants and move forward in his personal quest.

The setting, the world in which we travel, is well laid out and easy to imagine.  In most cases, the journeys take weeks, not days.  There are thick forests, poor villages, posh towns, rushing rivers, blight, and danger lurking around every turn.  We can smell the air, touch the earth.  Every sense is awakened.  Tosh’s trek is not an easy one and we feel every bruise, every sore paw and muscle as we tarry alongside him.

The plot is well thought out and carefully constructed.  We begin the story with Tosh and his charge, Nolan, an Elemental, fleeing from some men that Nolan angered.  Nolan is soon murdered, leaving Tosh alone.  Tosh must set out on another search for another Elemental with the powers to save The Land, but Tosh is torn between taking on another charge or settling down and living the easy life of a cat.  There is a lot of internal conflict as well as external and plenty of factors that could sway him to go either way.

Ms. Noble has a wonderful way with words that allows the reader to suspend belief.  Never for a moment did I think “We have a talking cat.  Cats can’t talk.’  Tosh’s journey, his internal conflict, his humor, his fears, all resonated deep within me.  I felt his agony, his torment, his sorrow, his joys.  I felt like I was right there with him the whole way.

I would highly recommend this short story for everyone, but especially for young readers who are not quite sure if they are interested in the fantasy genre.  For those already fond of the genre, you will find the story both heart-warming, entertaining and an easy, relaxing read.  If you like stories narrated in a fairy tale style, The Search is for you.  I definitely want to find out what happens to Tosh so I will also continue on with the next short story in the series, the Summoned.

I give this short story a solid 4 stars.  It would have been five had it had a solid resolution in the end instead of a set up for the next story in the trilogy.  Again, the ending wasn’t bad; I simply prefer closure in a short story.


susannoble.JPGSusan Leigh Noble has always loved to read. She has been writing since childhood – anything from poetry, short stories, news articles and finally full length fantasy novels. She has always loved dragons, magic and cats so it is no wonder she put them all together in her “The Elemental” trilogy.

When she isn’t writing, Susan is an active volunteer in her neighborhood and at her children’s’ schools. She lives with her husband and two children in Texas.

Connect with Susan:

Blog:  http://www.susanleighnoble.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @SusanLeighNoble



Be careful what you put your name on…once published, there are no do-overs

When growing up, my mom and dad always taught me to think about my actions before acting.  They taught me every move has a consequence.  They taught me the value of a reputation.  If you break the law, you’ll be remembered as a criminal.  If you habitually drink, you’ll be labeled an alcoholic.  If you smoke dope and pop pills, you’ll be a druggie.  If on the other hand you do good deeds, help people, are involved in the community, you’ll be thought of as a humanitarian, a philanthropist, a caring person.  If you drop everything you’re doing to be with someone in physical or emotional pain, you’re considered the truest of friends.

The same advice used to get through life should also be applied to writing.  If you can help it, try not to put your name on something you aren’t 100% proud of.

I did that once.  One of my favorite short stories appeared in an anthology I am not 100% proud of.  See, I took on a job as ‘editor’ for an aspiring authors writer’s group I was in. The founder and publisher decided to put together an anthology of the member’s works.  There was no set theme, no cohesion, and, it was a ‘pay for inclusion’ publication for members only.  I cringed inside when I realized too late into the project I had very little ‘editing’ control over the submitted pieces. By then, I’d made a commitment to see the project through.  My reputation was on the line.  The result featured snippets of novels, short stories, some complete short stories, and some errors that would make most editors and polished authors quiver.  While it was a morale booster to those who submitted, the finished work was not what I had envisioned.  My name was on something I wasn’t 100% proud of.  I didn’t get to perform my job the best I should have, the best I would have, if given control of the reins.

Was the experience a bad one?  No, nor do I regret it.  I learned a lot.  I met some really wonderful people.  I gained experience of working with over 20 authors for one project, which was way cool.  I worked on cover design, formatting text, placement of stories.  It wasn’t a complete wash, but I wish I hadn’t included one of my favorite short stories.  Because it was published in this anthology, no magazine or publisher will touch it, even though I gave up no rights.  I’m looking at publishing it as a stand-alone e-book short story, that’s how much I love this southern paranormal tale.

We hear all the time of actors and actresses who say they regret making some of their first films.  Susan Sarandon has stated several times she would like to forget her role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Ironically, that is one of her most remembered and beloved roles.  I’m not going to go so far to say I wish I hadn’t participated in the anthology but I did learn valuable lessons like the importance of determining where your work appears.  Remember, in the publishing world…there are no do-overs, so make sure you do your best to get it right the first time.

Summer Blogging Schedule

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to cut my blogging schedule back to two days a week – Monday and Thursday.

I have three novels in the works, one with a deadline of August 31, and another with a deadline of September 30 (might be pushing that one).  I’m also preparing for an exciting YA Author blog takeover happening here on July 22 – 30.  Mark your calendars; it’s going to be fantastic!  There is also marketing I need to do for MAKE BELIEVE, which includes my short story, THE AMULET OF ORMISEZ.

I do plan to read a lot over the summer, so there may be a few book reviews posted on off days.  Keep an eye out for my next review of Veronica Roth’s INSURGENT.

So, there you have it.  Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you on Monday.

I did it! I actually did it!

I won the readers’ choice award at Midlife Collage!  I’ve never won anything in my life for my writing.  I’m all tingles and smiles!  I can’t believe it!  I really can’t believe it.  *Squeal*  *jumping up and down*

Wow.  I would like to take a minute to thank everyone who voted for my non-fiction short story, Baby.  She was truly a special dog and she is still missed by our family.  I would also like to give a very warm ‘thank you’ to Donna Balon, Editor at Midlife Collage, for hosting these weekly contests and opening the door to many writers and authors.

In celebration of my first ever contest win, I would like to share some virtual goodies.  I hope you enjoy them.  I know I would if I really had them!!!!  🙂

If you are interested in reading my winning story about Baby, please head on over to my short stories tab.

Whoo hoo!!!!

and  and

The Latest on Word Count for Fiction

I have had several writers, authors, aspiring authors, etc. ask me what the industry word count is for fiction these days. My response has always been: it depends on the genre and the publishing world at the time; however, I must say, the industry standards have been pretty stable for the last few years. But, just to make sure, I checked in with several agents’ sites to see what they had to say and have come up with the following guidelines. Keep in mind that these are only suggested word counts; rules get broken all the time but usually by published authors, not newbies, and books that are e-published usually don’t have to conform as much to the rules. With that said, here is what I found:

An average novel length is between 80k and 100k, again, depending upon the genre but this can be broken down even further.

middle grade fiction = Anywhere from 25k to 40k, with the average at 35k

YA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 45k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but editors would prefer to see them stay below 100k.

paranormal romance = 85k to 100k

romance = 85k to 100k

category romance= 55k to 75k

cozy mysteries = 65k to 90k

horror = 80k to 100k

western = 80k to 100k (Keep in mind that almost no editors are buying Westerns these days.)

mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction = A newer category of light paranormal mysteries and hobby mysteries clock in at about 75k to 90k. Historical mysteries and noir can be a bit shorter, at 80k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime fiction falls right around the 90k to 100k mark.

mainstream/commercial fiction/thrillers = chick lit runs anywhere from 80k word to 100k words; literary fiction can run as high as 120k but lately there’s been a trend toward more spare and elegant literary novels as short as 65k.

science fiction & fantasy = 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts over 120k but it would have to be something extraordinary. And regardless of the size, an editor will expect the author to be able to pare it down even further before publication.

Agents and editors cannot stress enough that there are always exceptions to every rule, especially in SciFi and Fantasy. However, debut novelists who are trying to catch the eye of an agent or editor for the first time should probably err on the side of caution with your word count.