Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Here there be Dragon Naturally Speaking and Nano...No

Sorry for the long absence. Things that have changed:

1. My most recent book came out from Lerner/Darby Creek in January.

2. I've been contending with serious arm pain over the last year, and have been trying to get it under control. And that has led to the reason for this post.

To work around bad arm days, I installed Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 (dictation software) on my computers and the accompanying app on my phone. I've dictated one picture book manuscript with it, so I thought I'd give a quick run-down of my opinions of this software.

Hands-free writing!
Once trained, it does a decent job of  following you.
No typing!
Can be used on other programs like Internet Explorer, although I have not tried this yet.
Text can be cut and pasted easily into Scrivener.
No keyboarding!

It has a long-ish learning curve to use it for editing.  You need to spend some quality time with it to remember how to tell it what to do.
You still need to use the mouse for some things.
What if you get laryngitis?
Dictating a novel that you are brainstorming as you go feels weird.

The Mac and the PC version are not on par - the PC version gets better reviews. A work around on the Mac is to buy the PC version and install and run Windows on your machine (requires that you have a copy of Windows OS) under VMWare Fusion (my choice) or Parallels Desktop.  I did this and have it working on both my PC and Macbook Pro.  I save my voice profile on a remote server in the cloud and access it on all my machines.  Handy!

I was hoping the software would be great for doing NaNoWriMo, where editing does not really matter, but my schedule has not complied, so I am hoping to give a longer review when I feel I have really given it a workout.  Also, going back to dictating as you brainstorm - it just feels weird.  Maybe I'll get used to it the more I use it.

Happy Holidays and have a good time writing!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Long Time No Post

A funny thing happens when I get a book contract. I obsess and focus and it takes up most of my writing juju.  When I am getting short deadline commercial writing pieces, they are usually easy to finish, and do not intefere with my ability to write the blog. A whole book is a whole other thing.

Book contracts are also distracting, as in I forget to verify that the posts I've written and set for auto-post are actually being posted.

My bad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Snow is HOT!

For a few years, a little girl named Alice (or Alyss, or Alyce, depending on what you read or watch) dominated the revisionist fairytale trend in movies, books and TV.

Now, it's about to be all about the Snow. 

If you haven't heard already, there are THREE Snow White reimaginings coming soon in movie form  - Disney's The Order of the SevenSnow White and the Huntsman from Universal, and an as of yet untitled film from Relativity that includes Lily Collins and Julia Roberts in it's cast.

Add to that the trend of fairytales on major network TV in the form of  some new shows such as Grimm on NBC, and Once Upon a Time on ABC.  I'll be watching for sure.

But if you read kids and YA books, you already saw it coming, didn't you?  Re-done fairytales have ruled the kid market for a while now, and clearly the books had it first.  Fairytales are the subject of my favorite graphic novel series, eleven-Eisner-Award-winning The Fables by Bill Willingham (insert fan girl squeal here), where Snow is the deputy mayor of fairy tale characters living in modern times.  Once Upon a Time looks like it will hit a similar vein - different story, but Snow appears to be a central character. 

I'm also a fan of The Sisters Grimm middle grade series by Michael Buckley, featuring two Grimm sisters as descendants of the Grimm brothers who, it turns out in these stories, were fairytale detectives, and Snow is now a school teacher.  Grimm on ABC has a similar premise -- Grimms are fairytale detectives -- albeit a far more graphic adult version. 

And the forecast for the future? More Snow.  A recent sale mentioned in Publisher Weekly's Children's Bookshelf lists a new middle-grade series called Whatever After by author Sarah Mlynowski where siblings are tossed into fairytales to help characters find their happy endings, and guess who the first book focuses on?  Yup, Snow again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

New (old?) trends in children's market

Trend spotted: crime noir and con artists for kids. My last NaNo novel is about a teenage con artist, and it appears I missed the boat. I just now noticed these books, which means it was actually a trend in manuscripts purchased a few years back. Now I just gotta figure out what makes mine different.

The Fourth Stall (Feb 2011) by Chris Rylander.
White Cat (May 2010) and Red Glove (April 2011) by Holly Black.
Heist Society (Feb 2010) and Uncommon Criminals (June 2011) by Ally Carter

Friday, April 15, 2011

Agents and Editors: Marietta Zacker

SCBWI WWA Spring Conference time! As always, I'm posting the links I've gathered to free interviews and information on the agents and editorial faculty that will appear at our conference this year. Sorry the links are homely, but at least you'll know where you are going! Today: Marietta Zacker.

Marietta Zacker

no author advance profile






Thursday, April 14, 2011

Agents and Editors: Joe Monti and Tina Wexler

SCBWI WWA Spring Conference time! As always, I'm posting the links I've gathered to free interviews and information on the agents and editorial faculty that will appear at our conference this year. Sorry the links are homely, but at least you'll know where you are going! Today: Joe Monti and Tina Wexler. Tomorrow: Marietta Zacker.

Joe Monti

A blank blog:

Blogger profile

no agent query profile




Tina Wexler










Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Agents and Editors: Liz Waniewski and Sarah Davies

SCBWI WWA Spring Conference time! As always, I'm posting the links I've gathered to free interviews and information on the agents and editorial faculty that will appear at our conference this year. Sorry the links are homely, but at least you'll know where you are going! Today: Liz Waniewski and Sarah Davies. Tomorrow: Joe Monti and Tina Wexler.

Liz Waniewski!/profile.php?id=100000076142460





Sarah Davies







Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Agents and Editors: Martha Mihalick and Tim Travaglini

SCBWI WWA Spring Conference time! As always, I'm posting the links I've gathered to free interviews and information on the agents and editorial faculty that will appear at our conference this year. Sorry the links are homely, but at least you'll know where you are going! Today: Martha Mihalick and Tim Travaglini. Tomorrow: Liz Waniewski and Sarah Davies.

Martha Mihalick

Current blog:

Blog to 2009



Tim Travaglini






Monday, April 11, 2011

Agents and Editors: Lionel Bender, Justin Chanda

Ah, SCBWI WWA Spring Conference time! As always, I'm posting the links I've gathered to free interviews and information on the agents and editorial faculty that will appear at our conference this year. Sorry the links are homely, but at least you'll know where you are going! Today: Lionel Bender and Justin Chanda. Tomorrow: Martha Mihalick and Tim Travaglini.

Lionel Bender


Justin Chanda!/profile.php?id=100001466441331




7/30/2010 htttp://

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Writer's Rooms - Where You Work #2

A while back, I did a post with links to some places where you can gawk at other creative people's work spaces. Here's another one, hot off the web, of sci-fi writers in their writing spaces


Friday, February 25, 2011

Two for Four: Character Names

Recently spotted: characters known as "Four" in current YA sci-fi. Obviously, the title character in I Am Number Four is, and now Divergent which will be out in May 2011, has a love interest named Four. Who knew that seemingly unique character names could be so common? A few years ago, there was a little trend blip with "Kat" in Graceling and The Hunger Games. Other examples abound, I am sure, but the only other one I could think of was that I've seen "Pol" twice, but published very far apart, in Graceling and in the Dragon Prince and Dragon Star fantasy series by Melanie Rawn.

How important is a name? I recently changed a name I had very carefully chosen to be symbolic and part of a puzzle about who the character really is, but I changed it because while it was not exactly the same, it sounded perilously close to a character in a very popular, soon-to-be-a-movie urban fantasy YA series. I'm still pondering changing it back because it makes the most sense for the character, and it is actually different.

Sometimes the name is worth hanging on to, but don't get too attached if it isn't really that important. I changed a side character name in a picture book manuscript because it was pointed-out to me that another picture book was about to be released with the same kind of character (a robot) and exact same name, but as the protagonist and part of the title. I brainstormed a list of alternatives, and had so many that I liked so much more that I will re-name all the characters in the manuscript with names from my new list.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Catch a Title By the Tail

Having a hard time picking a title? Seems like there has been an abundance of book titles including the word "tiger" in the last month or two, only one of which is actually about a tiger.

Tiger's Curse
The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Tiger, Tiger
The Tiger
The Tiger's Wife

Why the trend? Who knows - I'm going with a Chinese New Year theory. Up until a few weeks ago, it was year of the tiger (rowr!). This year's animal is the hare or rabbit. Now hop to it and get titling.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love (whack) You (pow) Valentine (Augh!)!

We talk about messages in kid lit, and I could not resist sharing this. Check out these DC character kids paper valentines from the 80's. Ha!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cool Business Cards at, and Something for Trek Fans

I've ordered from this awesome printer based in the U.K., weird name, cool stuff.

They allow you to customize EVERY card in your stack of business cards, so if you are an illustrator, you can order a stack of cards where each one has a different image you've created on the front, like a mini portfolio you can carry with you at all times. Pull out your stack of cards showing different artwork on each piece, and let that art editor pick the card they want.

And they just did a little feature on their blog about cards for writers! How cool is that? I LOVE these!

Oh, and I wanted to share this hysterical site- Tweet in Klingon, for you die hard Star Trek fans.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Comics and Graphic Novels Up and Downs

Comicworld is going through a lot this week.

Good news: San Diego Comic Con 2011 sold out in seven hours. Someone out there likes comics, or at least comic con.

Interesting news: Publisher's Weekly spoke to five college-level comics art programs. Enrollment has increased, as has the number of females entering the programs. So there are more people who want to make comics and therefore more possible competition for creators. Not necessarily a bad thing if quality goes up as competition increases, because it can lead to more opportunity. Remember the path in the last decade or so of young adult literature (YA lit): increased interest by consumers- increase in sales of YA lit - increase in publishing houses creating YA imprints or bulking up their acquisitions lists - increase in writers and manuscripts- increase in competition and quality of manuscripts - back to increase in interest by consumers as YA lit becomes better and more accessible. Get it?

Bad news: Borders possibly filing chapter 11 this week. There are fewer and fewer outlets for book sales in general, and the loss of this one is a biggie. Diamond Books Distributors (the kingpin of comics and graphic novel distribution) has already stopped shipments to Borders.

Bad news: Canada's largest book distributor H.B. Fenn filing for bankruptcy. Why? Because there are not that many distributors, either. This one moved material for 90 publishers, including comics and graphic novel groups like Marvel, Yen Books, Tor, Macmillan and Disney. According to Publisher's Weekly, publishers are scrambling to route sales channels in Canada through other distributors.

So, there are more people who want comics and graphic novels, there are more people serious about penning them, but there are fewer physical outlets to sell them, and fewer distributors to get those hard copy books to those retailers. Milton Griepp, CEO of ICv2 (Internal Correspondence Version 2, an information outlet that provides trending information to pop culture retailers. This grew out of Capital City Distribution, Inc. - one of the largest distributors of pop culture products in the 80s through the mid-90s that was sold to Diamond Comic Distributors in 1996) projected a ten time increase in digital comics sales in 2010 over the previous year in a white paper presented shortly before NY Comic Con last fall.

Change is coming. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 4, 2011

How Wired Are Teens, Really?

My critique group occasionally ponders how to deal with technology in our manuscripts. If you don't cite it in a contemporary work are you dooming your manuscript to the bottom of the slush pile, or alienating readers if it does get published? If you do make references to technology (cell phones, the web, computers, video games) in a manuscript, will it be outdated by the time the manuscript makes it to market? What to do?

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project research shows that:

- 75% of teens have cell phones.
-The age at which kids get cell phones is around 12 or 13.
-Ownership and cell phones are not necessarily on a one-to-one basis, and teens from lower income families were more likely to have more than one cell phone (!).
- Teens text an average of 50 texts per day.
- 90% of parents have a cell phone, much higher than adults with no kids in the home.
- 90% of younger adults (ages 18 to 29) sleep with or next to their cell phone (!!).
-80% of teens have a game console.
-79% have an I-pod or MP3 player.
-69% have a computer.
-51% have portable gaming devices.

Kind of hard to avoid, huh?

And now add another layer of possibility- what country are your characters in?

Nielsen (that company that tracks consumer behavior) has info. on that in the report Mobile Youth Around the World. Check out some interesting parts of it on their blog here.

Who leads the teen world in mobile internet use? Surprise! It is not the U.S or Japan - it's China.

And although girls lead in the U.S. in SMS and MMS messaging, a teen character texting a lot in India is more likely to be male, since they FAR outstrip their female counterparts in those areas if usage, as in 70% male versus 30% female in texts, and 82% males versus 18% females in picture messaging. China and Saudi Arabia are the same way, with more males using mobile messaging, but not as drastically.

What does all this mean for a writer of content for kids? Only you can decide.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is This the Face of Jace? And of Any YA SCi-Fi or Fantasy Adapted for Screen in the Near Future?

Meet the new king of young adult sci-fi fantasy movies. If you read Cassandra Clare's YA Mortal Instruments series, be prepared to see it on screen, with Alex Pettyfer as the hot headed male lead character Jace as announced here on Rowr! Physically, at least, he totally fits that role.

And he's nabbed the male leads in not just this urban fantasy, but in the movie adaptation of I am Number Four, a YA sci-fi novel, and Now, another sci-fi movie (no book) with youthful characters. Oh, and rumored to be attached to The Last Apprentice, an upper middle grade fantasy book.

All this after playing the lead in Beastly, a modern YA re-tell of Beauty and the Beast (out in early March), and did I mention he was offered the lead role in Eragon, yet another fantasy movie based on a kid book?

I see a pattern. Robert Pattinson move over.

And hey, what's with the British guys in sci-fi fantasy movies?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Upgrade Your Kindle- Trade It For a Zine?

File this one under I-don't-know-what-the-&*@#-to-think-of-this.

Microcosm publishing in Oregon is offering to accept your used Kindle in exchange for it's worth in new and used books from their store. Check here for details. It appears that the big catch is that they are a publishing collective focusing on zines, so you have to be down with their works to make this deal worth it, but it's an interesting idea.

What are they going to do with the Kindles?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Check Out Old Stuff for a New Year's Worth of Inspiration for Weird and Unusual Stuff, Stories and Characters- Don't Kill Your TV!!

When it comes to sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, etc., (or any story type, I suppose) sometimes you can see it, sometimes you can't. You know the protagonist, the issues she or he faces and where you want to go with a scene, but what does the stuff around him or her look like? The chair your main character inherited from her lost pirate grandfather? Or the bathtub that the illiterate floor refinisher died in while holding a copy of Of Mice and Men? Could be the chest where the murderer hid the birthday present ribbon she used to strangle the oppressive sister. Maybe you are an illustrator and it's a whole room, where the artsy-fartsy boho vibe should ooze from the surroundings like smoke from a caterpillar's hookah. Whatever it is that eludes you visually about the stuff surrounding the scene, check out my latest finds for inspiration.

One is a show on the Discovery Channel called Auction Kings. It follows the daily business of an auction house, it's owner, the pickers, etc. But the coolest thing is the STUFF. I'm sure many a vampire enthusiast luuurved the episode recently that included an antique vampire hunting kit that pre-dates the release of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Oddities, another Discovery Channel show (swear to the powers that be that I am not on their payroll), "dives into the weird world of strange and extraordinary science artifacts through the eyes of the proprietors of Manhattan's Obscura Antiques & Oddities. Think odd taxidermy (tree sloth, or two-bodied single-headed duck, anyone?) creepy antique medical stuff, etc.

And professional decorator dealers websites and catalogs. One I like to lurk is Coup D'Etat Gallery in San Francisco. They have an on-line showing of all of their unique antique pieces that scream that same enigmatic mad scientist/man of the world/odd character sort of feel.

Of course, these sources are also awesome for story-line and character inspiration. Duh. Come to think of it, I have new inspiration for a picture book right now. Gotta go!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fake Sci-Fi Picture Books- More Seuss Style, More Star Wars, and...More

Merry Christmas: check 'em out here on