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Welcome! Books, movies, music, original stories, interviews, writing, libraries, literacy, humor –all with the YA reader in mind, are just a few of the topics you’ll find here. New to the blog? Say hi! Like it? Follow away! Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Life Changing books part 2

"They prowled on but found no mysterious midnight spheres of evil gas tied by mysterious Oriental knots to daggers plunged in dark earth, no maniac ticket takers bent on terrible revenges. The calliope by the ticket booth neither screamed deaths nor hummed idiot songs to itself."

This book was written by one of, if not the greatest living American author. Ray Bradbury.

The book is Something Wicked This Way Comes

This is the first book I ever read as a child that resulted in problems falling asleep.  When I closed my eyes I could hear the calliope playing outside my window and I knew what had rolled into town and was waiting -lurking, just outside, just for me.

What a great and horrifying visualization.   Fall in a small town, a carnival arrives by train in the dead of night.  The entire thing feels wrong...and yet, it's a carnival, they're fun!  Get the kids! Lets go!  If only you knew what really lurked in the shadows of the booths, tents and rides. If only.

This book was the catalyst to my interest in the horror genre.  Stephen King soon followed and my love for the genre has never waned. Without the violence and the gore of a King novel, Ray Bradbury stitched together something just as terrifying -and the subtlety of it all made it even more so. 

“For these beings, fall is ever the normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth....Such are the autumn people.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review -Cacthing Fire, Suzanne Collins

(The Hunger Games #2)

I had doubts about this book before I ever picked it up.

There was a list of things in my head that it could never do.

  • It could never be as amazing as the first one.
  • They would NEVER go back into the arena and therefore, it just wouldn't live up to book #1.
  • The arena was it for me -that's where Katniss's character developed into a person I cared about and without that, there was no possible way Suzanne Collins could make the second as interesting as the first.
I was wrong.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why we need to be rejected

Stephen King, you may have heard that name, received dozens of rejections for his first novel, Carrie; he kept them tidily nailed to a spike under a timber in his bedroom.

One of the publishers sent Mr. King's rejection with these words:

 We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.

J. K. Rowling's  (you may have heard that name as well)Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (later Sorceror’s) Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers, including biggies like Penguin and HarperCollins. Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, only took it on at the behest of the CEO’s eight-year old daughter, who begged her father to print the book. I wonder if Jo sent her advanced copies of all her books -regardless, thank God daughters tend to have inexplicable influence over their fathers (yes, from personal experience)

William Golding's (you may not recognize the name until you hear the title), Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishers. One denounced the future classic with these words:

An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Life changing books part 1

Books change lives, we've all heard it.  YA saves -a variation.  I thought it was time to pony up and get specific. So, I dug deep into my memory well and pulled this one up from the depths.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Come see me! Local speaking event!

Well, it's official.  You can come see me at my first pre-release speaking engagement on March 7th. Details below.  

I contacted the director of my local library's teen readers group (via their facebook page) a few months ago and Karen Smith, the program coordinator invited me to speak to her group. I dropped by to meet Karen (she is incredibly nice!)  and introduce myself. Since then, the director of marketing for the library has contacted me for information to accompany a press release about my speaking engagement, which she will send to the local papers. Upon hearing this, I was surprised and delighted that they seemed to be as excited as I am about the event. And are even going so far as to promote the event, which is amazing!

The library is located inside this beautiful historic building right in the heart of Downingtown.  They run loads of great programs all year round for readers of all ages.  Don't be fooled by its commonplace appearance, they're really on the ball when it comes to community offerings. 

So, if you're interested, here is a short list of topics I may discuss (depending on time and interest -I can empathize with the attention span of the typical teen because it is quite similar to my own)

Since the group is teens, I plan on discussing a bit about my book, the how-to's of publishing, publishing in the digital market (peripherally depending on interest), current popular titles (The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner etc.), maybe a bit about blogging and social media depending on responsiveness, teen literacy and what can be done to help others who struggle with reading and writing, maybe a bit on peer critiquing, websites for Teen writers and readers. I'll have a power-point presentation to keep it visual and some games and prizes as well.

If anyone has any suggestions or topics they'd like to hear, comment away! I always appreciate input.

Here are the details:

When: Wednesday, March 7th from 6:30 to 7:30 
Where: The Downingtown Library. 330 East Lancaster Avenue, Downingtown, PA

Register:(610) 269-2741 -Due to space limitations you MUST call and register
so they can make sure there is sure there is enough room for everyone.

If you're local, come on by! (but don't forget to register!)

Just in case you were wondering, the Downingtown library is part of the

Chester County Library system, which boasts eighteen locations in the


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thinking of quitting?

Feeling run down?

You've been chasing your dream for  quite some time now, aren't you entitled a break? Are your wheels spinning but you're not getting anywhere?

When I was in high school, I was really struggling with my grades and was completely unmotivated when it came to learning.  My dad pulled me aside one day and told me something I'll never forget.  At the time, I was a HUGE Rocky fan. I loved the story of a nothing boxer who got a shot at the title, busted his butt training and gave the heavyweight champion of the world a run for his money.

Anyway, Dad knew this and, being the cunning man that he was, used it against me.  He said,
Josh, there are two kinds of people in this life.  The kind who get up early, visualize their goals for the day and then go out and work hard to get them.  That is the kind of person Rocky was.  He saw his dream, he trained every day and he saw it fulfilled.  The second type of people are the ones singing around the fire. (video to follow) They get up late because they've partied the night before, they don't do much but hang out with friends.  The don't even work. They encourage Rocky as he runs past, but deep down inside, they want him to fail and become one of them.  Perhaps they took their shot and failed.  The difference is, when Rocky got knocked down -no matter how many times, he got back up.

Now, you have a choice.  If you continue on your current path, unmotivated, stuck in a lull and indifferent about it all, you will be one of those guys standing around the fire.  That is one choice.  The second choice is to get up and see yourself as something more. Let your desire to be that person motivate you to do whatever it is you need to do in order to become that person.  Failure is a part of life, do not be afraid of failure.  If I were you, I would be more afraid of not trying at all.  Those that don't try live hollow lives and end up singing around the fire watching the champ run by.

I cannot make this choice for you.  It is yours and yours alone.  What I can do is tell you that if you decide to take the easy path -the path where no effort or risk is required to reach your goals, then you will be a shadow of the person you could be had you chosen the other path.  Everyone has potential.  Everyone.  It is those who push through the seemingly endless days of hard work, rejection and failure -who keep going despite being knocked down -those are the ones who succeed. Don't be one of those guys by the fire.  Be a fighter.  Be Rocky.

 So, whenever I feel unmotivated to get up early, to do something -anything that will get me closer to that goal, that dream, I think of what my Dad said and I think of Rocky.  Corny? Yes. But hey, everyone has their Rocky.  Find yours, get out there and do it!

Sorry, I could only find the song the guys sang around the trash can fire on the corner.

I'll see ya out there!

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my re-vamped website.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Delving into the public speaking world...insanity?

I'll be the first to admit, I have a thing for pushing myself out of my comfort range...way out of my comfort range.  I've done adventure races that last over 48 hours and go non-stop the entire time.  One I'm particularly fond of recollecting was in North Georgia in January. The temperature at the start was below 10.  All of our water was frozen solid at the start line. The lake we were supposed to paddle across was frozen solid.  We raced anyway.  Probably because we're all nuts.  The second night -maybe it was early morning -it was dark regardless, my teammate and I began to hallucinate from sleep deprivation. Now that was an interesting experience!

So how do I segue from adventure racing to public speaking? Comfort zones! I think pushing myself until hallucinations set in probably counts as pushing beyond ones comfort zone.  Similarly, signing up for a public speaking group and, of course speaking in front of that group is, for me anyway, once again jumping into an endeavor with which I am not the least bit comfortable.

Part of it is need based (you know, the whole book publishing thing will require some public speaking comfort) the other is challenge based.  I like seeing how far I can push myself.

So last night, I presented my first speech (called The Ice Breaker) The topic: me.  Easy, right? Who can't talk about themselves for four to six minutes?  Hell, I dated a girl that talked about herself for four to six hours non-stop!

I had a plan.  I had the structure laid out.  Tell something about my history, something about my family and something about my passion.  So far, so good, right? For my history I would share a funny story about my father so the audience would get a feel for my upbringing.  I talked about my family -my daughters, my wife.  I had several visual aids to keep the audience engaged as well as give me helpful notes.  What my evaluator missed (sorry Tony) was, on the back of virtually all of my props were written notes (a trick I learned in college of all places).  The audience is none the wiser and you don't spend your time as the speaker flipping note cards.  Needless to say, the prop notes worked well.

The final piece of my speech was about my passion -writing.  Always looking for a comedic edge, I decided to briefly discuss marketing then over-play it by literally taking off my clothes...well, sort of.

I spoke about how, if I truly wanted to pursue my dream as a writer, I would have to thrust myself into the marketing aspect of publishing.  With that, I un-zipped my sweatshirt revealing this gem...

I wasn't done...not even close. I dug into my cache of props and removed a huge copy of my logo (also plastered with notes) and threw it up on my easel.

By this time I saw the yellow WARNING, you're about to run out of time card go up.  I knew I should have wrapped up but I thought, it's my first speech, I prepared all these props so I might was well use them and take the time penalty.  So out they came.

I talked about my store and how the proceeds go to the Books for Teens charity that gets books in the hands of under-privileged teens.

I was seriously considering having 'models' stroll in at this point wearing shirts from my store but, at the last minute, decided that my daughter's giant bear was much easier to work with, I could fit it in my duffel bag, I didn't have to deal with his agent (my daughter didn't know I 'borrowed' him) and I didn't have to buy anyone dinner.  Everybody wins!

So somewhere between the bear and the baby alive (yes the one that will crap out the special food you feed her) the red sign goes up and I know I'm over time.  I quickly displayed my magnets, bookmarks and stickers, then handed out my cards (a very cost effective marketing tool BTW vistaprint.com), which, of course are marked with my website and release date (this could have waited until after the speech, saving time) and concluded my speech.  I actually said 'thank you', which I'd just finished hearing was a no-no for speakers because it is the audience's privilege to listen to you speak, but I got flustered and rushed when I ran over on time so my conclusion wasn't as crisp as it should have been.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Searcher and The Sentinel chapter 13

J. R. Greer -The Sentinel
J. R Wagner -The Searcher

For more information about The Searcher and the Sentinel, The Never Chronicles, videos, writing contests and so much more, visit my website.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Presenting a Professional image- Part One

Guest Post by Carlie M A Cullen

These days, authors have to work much harder to get their work in the public eye. We have to have an understanding of how to market ourselves and our books (especially those who indie or self publish); we have to network, maintain blogs and keep up a social media presence.

A great deal of this work is done behind the scenes so it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at your computer in scruffy jeans and a sweatshirt that could double as a wash rag for your car. BUT what does matter is your attitude. Let me explain . . .

A very good friend of mine is Senior Editor for a publishing company and obviously has a large number of manuscripts to read through and give feedback on. She confided in me recently that a proportion of writers go ballistic when given constructive criticism on how to improve their work in readiness for possible publication. How professional is that?

I was pretty gobsmacked by this. If you ask someone to beta read your work or you submit it to an agent or publisher, you should be prepared and ready to accept their opinion. Let’s face it – are any of us so perfect that we can submit a flawless manuscript first time every time? No, of course we’re not. We edit and revise over and over until we think it’s the best it can be, but there’s always room for another perspective, another opinion and improvement.

My writing is precious to me; I’ve nurtured it and watched it grow from a weak seedling to a strong forest. I’ve edited and revised several times before placing it in the hands of a beta reader. Yet, am I so arrogant about my work that their views don’t count?


I know my work isn’t as perfect as I’d like it to be and I know I’m too close to it to see the flaws. That’s why I welcome critique from industry professionals.

Now don’t go thinking I’m some kind of masochist and that I get a kick out of my blood, sweat and tears being trampled on with hobnail boots. What I do get a kick out of, is receiving good, honest, constructive criticism before I take that final step and submit my work for publication. I don’t want to embarrass myself or waste an agent’s or publisher’s time by sending a pile of crap – I want my work to have a strong voice not a whimper!

So before you ask someone to beta read your work, ask yourself if you are ready to receive feedback that you may not like. If the answer is ‘no’ then don’t send it! If you can’t take constructive criticism without spitting the dummy then how professional are you being? Is your beta reader likely to want to help you in the future? Remember, publishing is a business (and a damn hard one at that) and if you can’t be professional in your business dealings then you won’t get very far.

As for me – I say, bring on the hobnail boots! I’ll listen, I’ll learn, I’ll improve, I’ll be professional and I WILL go far!

Carlie M A Cullen:

Carlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing. She has been an administrator and marketer all her working life and is also a professional teacher of Ballroom and Latin American dancing. Carlie has always written in some form or another, but Heart Search: Lost is her first novel.Carlie currently lives in an Essex village with her daughter.

Check out Carlie's blog HERE


As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my re-vamped website.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Searcher and The Sentinel Chapter 12

J. R. Greer -The Sentinel
J. R Wagner -The Searcher

For more information about The Searcher and the Sentinel, The Never Chronicles, videos, writing contests and so much more, visit my website.

Writing vs Filming...just me or I'm not crazy?

So, I'm in the process of re-vamping my book trailer (original is below).  and I find it curious how different the creative process is when compared to writing a novel.

When I write, I sit down and the story takes me where it wants to.  The characters develop themselves as the story progresses.  I feel rather out of control of the plot progression.  It just flows from my brain to my finger tips.

When I am working on a film project, things are quite different.  The initial writing phase isn't nearly as easy because I've got to cram a vision into a pre-determined slot of time.  In writing, I can say what I want to say in however many words I want to say it (more or less) in film, I've got one sentence or sometimes one word in which to convey the message.

I NEVER work with an outline when I write.  I ALWAYS work with an outline when I'm putting together something on film.  There are simply to many moving pieces and parts in film for my small brain to keep track of.

I've written screenplays and enjoy the process but ever since I started writing novels, I find it difficult to be so concise, so brief with a screenplay.  If I'm shooting it, I need a storyboard.  Drawings (and if I've done them they look like a six-year-old's work of art) detailing a shot-by-shot schedule of how the project will be filmed.

Even a short book trailer requires storyboarding, which is sometimes ignored for a multitude of reasons but is always the guiding force during the shooting process. After something is on camera, the editing process is insanely detailed, laborious and sometimes frustrating.  Oftentimes I realize I missed a shot that is needed for story progression and have to re-shoot (meaning drag the actor from wherever he/she may be hiding, throw them back in costume, hope the weather cooperates and try again). Sometimes I have to re-record audio and when I finally have all the raw data I need, I've got to string it together into something I'm happy with...which takes HOURS.

Now that I review what I've just written, the process of writing a book and creating a film really aren't that different.  My approach may differ, but the post-production work is the same.  The total amount of hours I've put into my novel AFTER finishing the preliminary writing, and re-writing at least three times will FAR exceed the hours it took to write and edit initially.  Marketing (major, major, major time consumer, cover design, working with the illustrator, copyediting and on and on and on...AND the big pre-release push is just getting geared up.

So, I have managed to talk myself into believing these processes are actually quite similar.  For me, the fun -that is, the truly creative part, is on the front end. The business end of a book or film is far more time consuming than I had led myself to believe but has its own enjoyments.  Meeting and working with great people. Collaborating with other creative people.  Learning.  Over the past five months I've learned so much about taking a book from manuscript to print -and I'm sure it is just beginning.

Final lesson:  Well, as boring as this may sound.  Sometimes it is good to write something down to gain a bit of clarity.  I went into writing this post with one perception and finished with another.

Here is my original teaser trailer and extended trailer.  Enjoy!

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my re-vamped website.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Guest Post: Character interview by Terri Morgan

Character Interview by Terri Morgan
with Ayla-Ava Swarthout/Caitlin Kane
the fictional author of Playing the Genetic Lottery

TM: Your story of growing up with two schizophrenic parents is a very personal tale of an unconventional childhood. In addition, many people are ashamed to admit there is anyone in their family who is mentally ill. Why did you decide to tell your story?

Caitlin: I did for a couple of reasons. First off, I was trying to come to terms with my life. Obviously, my childhood was pretty traumatic. Even without the house fire and the car crash, there was a lot of drama and dysfunction in my childhood. As a mother raising two children of my own, I wanted to process my life so I could put a lot of the baggage behind me and become the best mother possible.
Secondly, I think it's time for mental illness to come out of the closet, so to speak. My parents didn't ask for the disease. They didn't want to get sick, and it's not fair that they are. Life is a struggle for them. Despite their illnesses and challenges, they're my parents and I love them. It makes me angry when I see people ignore them, or worse, make fun of them. I wanted people to know that mentally ill people deserve to be respected, like anyone else.

TM: Speaking of angry, you were an angry kid.

Caitlin: You're darn right I was. Moving constantly, always switching schools, having parents who acted weirdly, being afraid to make friends because they might want to come to my house. Not to mention the turmoil of never knowing what kind of mood my folks would be in. You'd be angry too.

TM: How did you stop being so angry?

Caitlin: Who says I did? (Laughs). I eventually came to terms with it. I had a lot of good people in my life who helped me recognize the roots of my anger and understand what was really upsetting me. Therapy helped too. So did the love and support of my husband Jason and my extended family. As I grew older I realized my grandparents, aunts and uncles were upset too, that their son, daughter, brother or sister was mentally ill. I saw how they coped and adapted and learned from their examples.

TM:You've come a long way since your childhood and learned a lot about schizophrenia, which as you point out, tends to run in families. Even though you know that the chances of developing the disease yourself is very slim because you're in your 30s, you are still afraid. Why?

Caitlin: I think there are just some fears you can't recover from, or at least I can't. From my support group I've learned that a lot of other people who have schizophrenic parents share my fear. I think it's because children learn so much about the world and how to behave from their parents. When one or both of your parents is mentally ill, that's what you see at home. Even though I know that I'm past the age when schizophrenia tends to develop, it's a fear I just can't shake. Especially since I have children. I would hate for them to have to grow up with a schizophrenic mother. And I'm worried, since the disease has a hereditary component, that one or both of my kids may end up with it. That worry, I think, helps reinforce my own fears about getting sick myself.

TM: Now that your story is out, what's next for you? Are you going to be a spokeswoman for families of schizophrenics.

Caitlin: I don't know. I'm not comfortable being in the limelight, but I'm not going to turn my back on anyone who needs my help. I'm glad to share my story with people who are in the same situation. I hope my story helps validate their experiences. I also hope they take advantage of the help that is out there, like support groups and organizations like the National Alliance on Mentally Illness, which is also known as NAMI, that can assist them. There are local NAMI chapters all across the country. People can find one near them, and learn a lot about the resources available for families by going to www.nami.org.

Terri Morgan is a freelance journalist from Soquel, California. She is the author or co-author of eight books, including many for young adults. Playing the Genetic Lottery is her first novel. When not working, she enjoys surfing, romping with her dog, and shooting the bb gun her husband bought her for her 50th birthday. She can be found on the web at http://terrimorgan.net. (Where you can also read excerpts from her novel.)

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my website.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Searcher and The Sentinel Chapter 11

J. R. Greer -The Sentinel
J. R Wagner -The Searcher

For more information about The Searcher and the Sentinel, The Never Chronicles, videos, writing contests and so much more, visit my website.

The worst episode of Lost...ever

I need to preface this by saying I'm a HUGE lost fan.  I have a lost tattoo -that's how big of a Lost fan I am....big.

I was watching the last season over the past week or so (much to my wife's chagrin) and stumbled upon an episode I must have buried somewhere deep inside my brain in order to protect what I believe was the greatest show on television. It was buried so deep because it was, without a doubt, the worst episode written, produced and filmed for the show. (Sorry Tucker Gates -director, Carton Cuse and Damon Lindelof -writers)

Which episode was it?

Season Six,  Across the Sea #118

This is the one where the creepy mom steals the
twin babies from their biological mother, kills her (bludgeoning via rock) and raises them as her own. One kid always wears black, the other a light color -shocking, right?

 Eventually, creepy mom shows the boys "the heart of the island" which was the most ridiculous display of special effects I've seen from the show. The shot below looks like they carved a cave entrance out of cheddar cheese and hung some plants around the opening. Irritatingly pathetic.

The boys grow up and become Jacob -the good guy and the man in black -bad guy. Eventually, the boy in black runs away (shocking!) Where it becomes most irritating is when they try to explain so many things in this one poorly acted, poorly edited monstrosity of an episode.  The image to the right is the wheel Ben uses in a previous season to move the island. Is it necessary to the progression of the plot to divulge the origins of this wheel?   Similarly, explaining how the man in black became the black smoke -totally unnecessary.  This is Lost, not the Smurfs.  The viewers don't expect to have all the answers by the time the show is wrapped up and frankly, I don't want them if they're going to be as hokey as this.

Not everything needs to be answered. This is true in any piece of creative writing or film.  Yes, you must satiate the viewers/readers desire on some level -but not on every level.  Some things are mysterious. Some things never get answered.  I'm okay with that -most people are.  So don't cram a purely explanatory episode that includes none of the original cast in the final season when the main plot is reaching its denouement and there is so much that could have been told but wasn't.

They managed to turn it around in the last episode, which I thought was brilliant (aside from the whole 'protecting the light' nonsense). I loved how the characters came together in the alternate universe sequence.

So will I watch Lost again? Absolutely -but I'll be sure to skip this chapter that is so riddled with tie-ins to the main plot that my eyes hurt from rolling them at every one I saw. It reminds me of when George Lucas decided to have Anakin be the maker of C3P0 (did I intentionally reference Star Wars as Hurley did so often in Lost?...you'll never know!) in Episode I.  Like the kid who played Anakin wasn't annoying enough, now he had to build C3P0 as well?! Totally unnecessary for plot progression and a slap in the face to the original fans of the series.

Anyway, I continue to digress. So, on that note, whatever you do, DO NOT watch episode 118 and be satisfied that you aren't going to know everything -that's life...get over it!

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my website.


Monday, February 6, 2012

The power of synergized enthusiasm

I recently joined Toastmasters International, which is a speaking and leadership development group.  My intent was to polish my speaking skills as my book publication date draws closer so I'm comfortable speaking in front of groups of people.  Good idea, right?  Trust me, I need all the help I can get.
Anyway, last monday there was a special meeting called a speech-a-thon where the entire meeting is nothing but speeches and evaluations (unlike the regular meetings, which consist of other exercises and interaction opportunities). 

I'd gotten up at 4:15 that morning, did 9 hours at work and was drained by the time I got home.  I was seriously considering bagging the meeting and vegging on the couch with my copy of Maze Runner and my dog.  Something (of course) deep within the recesses of my brain was telling me to go so, I went. 

As soon as the meeting got going, there was a palpable energy in the room.  Each speaker was on their 'A' game and as an observer, you could feel their energy. It got me excited.  I wanted to get up and speak -to share my energy with the group.  I needed an outlet for this energy so I started writing my next (and first official) speech.  My mind was racing -drawing energy and ideas off the other speakers and I wondered if this is what collaborative writing feels like.

One speech that completely blew me away mentioned a Rube Goldberg machine in the same breath as Wile E. Coyote and had me literally fighting myself to keep from laughing hysterically.  I found the Rube Goldberg mention so obscure yet funny in its context that it was nothing less than masterful placement.  

For those unfamiliar with the Rube Goldberg Machine, here is an amazing video.

Other speeches touched on other topics -all of them interesting -all of them informative,  and each feeding to my energy.  By the end of the meeting, I was pumped. I was full of ideas -not only for my future speeches but for book stuff, work stuff, home stuff.  The fires of creativity had been stoked and I was powerless to do anything about it.

Another member mentioned the same feeling during her closing statements. As we packed up, it was clear that everyone in the room was energized.  People were lingering just to talk about their favorite parts, to congratulate the speakers and, I imagine, to burn off some of their creative energy before heading home.

Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit to burn away that much energy in my case so I sat staring at the ceiling in bed (having somehow deluded myself into believing I could fall asleep at my normal time) until finally I got up and worked on some creative projects.  

I don't think a six-pack of Monster could have gotten me that energized.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Free Stuff

Yes, I'm being serious.

Click HERE to view some give-aways on my website.  Stickers, Magnets, Bookmarks oh-my!

There is also my new shop with loads of cool stuff!

All of the proceeds go to Books for Teens, a charity dedicated to getting books into the hands of at-risk teens. For more about Books for Teens, click HERE.

Visit my shop here: http://www.cafepress.com/theneverchronicles

 Just a few samples

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Searcher and The Sentinel chapter 10

Due to some unforeseen technical issues, I'm posting J. R. Greer's chapter today.  Enjoy!

J. R. Greer -The Sentinel
J. R Wagner -The Searcher

For more information about The Searcher and the Sentinel, The Never Chronicles, videos, writing contests and so much more, visit my website.

Guest post: Tyra Heinrichs: Why my teens read and your's don't.

Why my teens read and yours don’t.

By Tyra Heinrichs

I have two teenage boys (17 & 16). Yes, they read. They read fiction for the same reasons almost everyone else does. To be entertained. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

I’m about to offend the literary types out there, but us masses tend to read for the fun of it. We’re not into the sound of the words, their underlying meanings or even elegant prose. We want thrills, chills and to connect with characters who live and breathe in our mind’s eye. We’re escaping our day-to-day lives. This is no different with teens.

When we connect to a character in a great story, they become part of us and their story becomes our adventure. I believe that well crafted stories teach us about the human condition and what we’re capable of. What teen do you know (or anybody else for that matter) who isn’t looking to understand the world around them?

We all read to experience something outside our everyday lives. Both my sons loved, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. That’s a story and a half. It’s adventure and discovery. How would you survive months on the ocean, in a lifeboat, your only companion a tiger?

Fiction is like music. Sometimes you need a piece that will lift your spirits and sometimes you just want to dance or sing along. Jazz is to literary, just like rock is to popular fiction. Ballads, classical and pop fiction can all be covered by genre fiction, especially fantasy and science fiction. Don’t believe me? Listen to the scores for any of the Lord of the Rings movies.

If you’re over thirty and you don’t think science fiction is not real literature, then think of it as social commentary. The first interracial kiss on television happened on a science fiction show (Star Trek). The concept of the end of economic growth was first explored in science fiction. The real consequences of nuclear war were first understood through science fiction stories. Look around you, do you use a computer, cell phone, have you ever driven in a car? Thank science fiction for that.

The thing to remember is that reading for fun isn’t about being safe. It’s about danger. So forget books that only move your thoughts in one direction. Forget safe. Your heart should race or at the very least ache for the characters on the page. You want Romance? Why not add an element of nightmare and read a Romantic Thriller? You want a coming of age story? Why not add wolves, a quest or a lost map to untold riches?

Oh, and forget most of the stories you read as a kid. The majority of it was written for the culture of the time. You didn’t grow up with cell phones or cyber bullying. Let your kids escape their lives, just like you do, with characters dealing with today’s issues. It’s a bit scary, but the average teen I’ve met is intelligent, aware of the dangers in the world around them and quite honestly, a lot more willing to take chances then those of us tied down by mortgages.

A current fantasy favourite of both my boys is Grunts, by Mary Gentle, about Orcs with P-90s (the guns used on Stargate) and US Marine training. Why should anyone read this book? Answer: Orc Marines! 

Of course, what real home doesn’t have some sci-fi? My youngest picked up a Star Wars book called Death Troopers, by Joe Schreiber. We’re talking Star Wars and Zombies...this will keep you up at night—reading or not! 

My oldest has finished the Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin (there’s at least one more book coming). I’m still on the first book, but my husband has also finished, A Dance with Dragons. There’s not as much sex as on the TV version on HBO. Its plots and characters are more subtle, a lot of intrigue and yes, dragons! Battles! Danger! And characters you love actually die!