Welcome Text

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.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March short story contest-first place

Muffins -by Colby Cox

The thing about being a teenage boy is that you fall in a teenage-boy-version of love approximately every four minutes. Hot girl leaning against the wall of the school smoking, not worried at all about whether or not she would get caught? Love. Girl who sits down beside you to help you with your trig homework? Love. And, yeah, when my parents got me my own pet dragon for my sixteenth birthday, regardless of the fact that it was entirely deranged and would only answer to the name Muffins, that was another version of love.
           Trying to surprise someone with a pet dragon, my parents found out, is next to impossible. First of all, dragons are noisy creatures. They stomp if they walk, and if they fly there’s a WHOOSH sound as they flap their wings up and down. Second, dragons are HUGE. Basically, if I were to look out any window of the back side of my house, I would have seen the beast.
            This led to my walking out the back door of my house that day and saying, “Um, why is there a dragon back here?” and then my parents saying, “Uh, surprise?”
            “What’s this?” I ask, cautiously approaching them and the dragon.
            “This is your own pet dragon,” my father says. “It answers to Muffins.”
            “Muffins?” I say, hiding the fact that this is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me.
            “Yeah, we didn’t name it,” my mom says. “Happy birthday!”
            “Well, thanks, guys.”
            When my parents go inside, I step closer to the dragon, remembering the advice my dad had given me before going in: introduce yourself to her. Make a good first impression. She needs to know that you won’t hurt her. She looks at me, lowering her head, curious. “Hi there, Muffins,” I say. She lowers her head more, allowing me to reach out and touch her salmon-colored nose. Breathing in quickly, she shies away from my touch before moving closer and lowering her belly to the ground. That’s when I understand what she wants: she wants me to mount her back.
            “Uh, hold on there, Muffins,” I say. The creature nudges me with her nose. “Okay. Okay.” I walk over to the stake and grasp one of the huge chain links that is connected to her metal collar. “Stay still now, girl.” I put my foot in the bottom chain link and begin to climb as if it is a ladder. It takes a moment, and I almost fall as the chain twists to the side once, but I make it to the top and sit on the upper part of her back, just at the bottom of her neck. The flapping of wings is something that it will take time to get used to. There’s a moment where it just feels like everything’s shaking, and then we rise up off the ground and are in the air. But when we get a good twenty feet up, a sudden jolt knocks me back. Even though I was holding on to the metal collar to hold on to Muffins, I hadn’t remembered to unlatch her chain. I catch myself on her tail, narrowly escaping death by falling to the ground, but Muffins just keeps flying in frantic circles, tail whipping back and forth, threatening to throw me off. She must think that something has her caught.
            “Muffins!” I yell. “Calm down!”
            I try frantically to pull myself up as I slide further down her tail. As luck would have it, her tail whips around just the right way, and I take my chance. I jump. Fall in what seems like slow motion. And—
My arms feel as if they are going to be ripped out of their sockets, but I catch onto the collar at just the right time. “Yes!” I yell, but I’m still just hanging over the side of Muffins, trying to hold on. I decide that the best thing to do now is to try and stop my dragon’s panicking, so I hold on for dear life with my right hand while reaching around the side of the collar with my left, grabbing the latch. Suddenly, we’re flying higher than before and the chain is falling to the ground with a thud. I use all of my remaining strength to pull myself up onto her back. Once atop her, I don’t have to do much except hold on as she does a lap around the city.
            Seeing a dragon with a rider atop it is not an uncommon thing since the Return of the Dragons, which happened when I was eight years old and a man who had been breeding dragons in the mountains in Colorado was killed when he was struck by lightning as he opened the gate of the massive cage he had built to feed his dragons and at least two-hundred dragons were set free, but it seems odd to be the one on the dragon. For my first time riding, I feel as if I’m doing a great job. But all of my built up confidence dies whenever I see another rider flying even higher than me. I recognize him instantly. He goes to my school and always ties his dragon in the field that used to be used for some popular sport before the Return, where all the dragons are tied during school hours. His name is Vincent, and he is, for lack of better words, the school’s resident douchebag. Which is why it freaks me out whenever he starts flying over here, his dragon’s nostrils spitting out short streams of fire. “Magnus! Halt!” he commands his dragon, which lands in flies over to a nearby park, startling a few children.
            “Muffins, halt!” I command mine, a bit quieter so as not to be heard by Vincent calling my dragon Muffins, and we land near Vincent and Magnus in the park.
            “Fagboy got a dragon?” he asks me, snorting. I want to ask him if his vocabulary is simply limited to insults such as fagboy, or if he really just thinks that being gay would be such a huge insult, but I hold my tongue because I remember how stupid my dragon is and how his is still spewing flames out of its nose.
            “No, Connor got a dragon,” I correct him.
            “What’s its name, fagboy?” he asks me, ignoring my previous statement.
            “Um,” I say, trying to think of a name I could give it that might sound at least a little intimidating. “Viper? Right, Viper?” Muffins sits on its back legs, swiping at a bird she found flying around with her front legs.
            “That’s not really its name, is it?” Vincent says, smiling. I feel so small, like I’ve been caught in a lie. “C’mon, fagboy. What’s your dragon’s real name?” 
            “Muffins,” I say under my breath.
            “What’s that?”
            “Muffins,” I say a little louder, still ashamed.
            “I shouldn’t be surprised, really. Muffins sounds like a gay name, which is really fitting for you.”
            “God, do you seriously have no other insults than to call me gay? You know that being gay isn’t a bad thing, right?”
            “That sounds like exactly the response a gay guy would give.”
            “I’m just going to ignore that, because I know that I am straight, and also that your lonesome brain cell is simply lashing out at me out of jealousy for my many brain cells.”
            “You know what, fagboy? I’ve listened to about enough of this.”
            “What do you mean?” I ask.
            “You. Me. On our dragons. Now. May the best man win.”
            Within moments our dragons are flapping their wings and rushing into the sky, preparing to face off against each other. Muffins takes an oval-shaped curve around the park as Magnus holds his place in the air by flapping its wings up and down. Muffins flies a little bit too near Magnus, who sends a stream of fire out of his nose. My dragon squeals and flies down a nearby street. Magnus follows, Vincent now standing on his dragon’s back. Magnus surprises both me and a family in a minivan by picking up the van with his back legs. The dark blue dragon twirls in the air to throw the vehicle at us, but Muffins heroically catches the van right in her mouth. She sets it down, having taken the entire roof off, and chews the bit of metal before gulping it down. As Magnus flies in front of us, the roof of the minivan hits Muffin’s stomach and she belches. A stream of fire flies from her nostrils, surprising her a bit. The family in the minivan gasps as the fire hits Magnus and Vincent. As the smoke clears, I see that Vincent is nothing but ash, while Magnus is burnt, but not badly. Magnus takes off flying again, forgetting about her rider just like that.
            Thus, my teenage-boy-sort-of-love for my stupid dragon was affirmed.

Colby writes an awesome  BLOG -check it out!


Find information about my next writing contest, interviews, book news and more on my website.

In bookstores 6-5-2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kindle give-away!

For those of you who don't know, my Facebook page is closing in on 4,000 followers.

So, in honor of the wonderful people who continue to support me through my book publishing journey, I am going to give away the following prize:

Yes, the kindle!

This is the new kindle...you know, lighter, smaller yet same screen size.

See, it can fit in this tiny girl's back pocket!

Anyway, here is how it will work:

Once we reach 4000 followers, I will post a question on my wall.  All you have to do is be the first to comment with the correct answer.

That's it!

So, do us all a favor and tell your friends to like my page so we can hurry up and give this thing away!

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

In bookstores 6-5-2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life Changing books part 3: The Hobbit

Yes, The Hobbit!

Tolkien's first masterpiece can hardly go unrecognized by anyone of my (or virtually any) generation.

Bilbo Baggins' adventures stem from the coaxing of the great Gandalf the Grey to accompany a group of dwarves on a quest for treasure.

The visuals in this book still cause my imagination to salivate every time I think of their journey through Mirkwood, their escape from the wood elves by way of wine barrels and their eventual arrival at the Lonely Mountain, home of Smaug the dragon.

Is it obvious I've read the book a few times? I have.  I've listen to the audio book with my daughter one summer on our 12-hour drive up to Maine. She enjoyed it just as much as I.

The first time I read The Hobbit was far too young to appreciate the world Tolkien had created.  The richness. The depth.  The lineage of characters, the histories of cities, the languages -all of it amazing.  All of it, all the detail and back-story would have been wasted without a good story in which to intertwine Tolkien's creations.  We all know, the story alone is nothing short of spectacular. 

Pure escape into another world from the very first sentence.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

and on it goes and the reader goes right along with it.  Far and few between are the stories that truly allow you to completely immerse yourself into a world and ignore the goings on of reality.  Every time I pick up this book that is exactly what happens. For taking me away again and again and again, The Hobbit is a life-changing tale.

And for your enjoyment, I've attached the trailer to the upcoming movie! It should be a great one -dare I say, the best of the year? 

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

In bookstores 6-5-2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Speaking, books, writing and Zombies...

On Monday I spoke for my public speaking group (yep, if you didn't know, I am a member of Toastmasters International...you know, constant self-improvement)

Anyway, my topic was 'How to survive the zombie apocalypse'

I was excited about the topic but I think I got too consumed by being visually entertaining that I lost sight of what was important...the actual speech.

Admittedly, I didn't rehearse very much because I was planning on using the slides (I made a power point show) to guide me through.  Because I relied on the slides so much, I ended up reading from them far too often, which is a big no-no when presenting in public.  When you read from a slide, you turn your back and your attention away from the audience.

I did find the content quite entertaining (if I do say so myself) and could have hit it out of the park had I either gone with pictures only or just the topics rather than spelling out each bullet point on the slides.  I was too tempted to read each point -too bent on making sure I got everything just right and that became my undoing. So, lesson learned.  The feedback from the group reflected my own assessment of my presentation -look at the audience, the visual aids are there for THEM, not me!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The walking dead -Jumped the shark?


That was my first reaction to Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead.

 Why, you ask?

SPOILER ALERT -if you haven't seen Sunday 3/11's episode, read no further!

Okay, stay with me.  In general, you don't want to kill off the most provocative character in a series unless you're close to ending the entire series, right? The guy you love to hate, the most conflicted character, the one that puts everyone else on edge...would you kill him off?

Regardless of whatever revelation will come of his death, I don't think killing him off as a way to reveal whatever it is -a way of spreading the zombie infection viewers and characters were yet unaware, will be worth the death of the most compelling actor on the show.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The face behind the shelves; a librarian's perspective

Karen Smith has been working at the Downingtown Library for over twenty years. Recently she was kind enough to allow me to invade her teen group and discuss my upcoming novel (among other things).

Many book lovers aspire to work among the shelves of a library -to have access to countless pages of literature -to inspire others to find the magic in books.  By tapping Karen's extensive experience in the field, I hope to open the window for those enticed by the lure of literature and allow them a peek inside.

What is your official position/title at the library?
 I am Program coordinator and circulation desk clerk.

How did you find the position? 
 I had returned to the States after teaching school overseas for 12 years and my sister told me the library was looking for volunteers. I applied and was hired instead of being a volunteer. At the beginning I only worked every other Saturday.

What is your favorite part of the job?

 I love talking to people about books and suggesting new authors. I read a wide range of genres and can usually suggest an author to just about anyone.

How are you handling the digitization of books? Does the library offer or plan to offer e-lending or something similar? 
Each of the Chester County libraries has seven Nooks that can be checked out just as you would check out a book. Each Nook has seven books loaded onto it. You can have the Nook for three weeks. The Nooks have a designated genre: science fiction, historical fiction, thriller, romance, biography, fiction and nonfiction. They have been very popular and are constantly circulating. Patrons can also download eBooks and audio books from the CCLS website.

Your library is heavily involved in community offerings and events. What are some of the more enjoyable/successful events run at your location?
  A very popular adult program has been the Introduction to Tai Chi with 24 participants. Our Ghost Hunting program is also a crowd pleaser.
Can  you tell me more about the ghost hunting?

We have had several paranormal groups come through the building and "look for ghosts". After they have assembled their findings they come and speak. Each group seems to find something different but they all have found evidence of friendly spirits. The house was built in 1800 and was part of the Underground Railroad. It was also a school and a boarding school and a doctor's office. Many people have passed through the building.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Presenting A Professional Image – Part 2

Guest Post by Carlie M A Cullen, one of my regular (and most revered) guest posters.

In Part One, I wrote about attitude and how some writers don’t present themselves to beta readers and editors in a professional manner. I also mentioned in passing how we need to market ourselves and network. In this post, I wanted to share something I learned from a good friend of mine, Beth Hautala.

I follow Beth’s blog and some months ago she posed a question about whether or not writers should have business cards. This simple question really got the grey matter in gear and I gave it serious consideration.
I procrastinated a little on this point, swaying first one way then another until I decided to go to FantasyCon UK last September. When I looked at the website and saw the sort of people who would be attending, the proverbial light bulb illuminated in my brain.

If I wanted to network with industry professionals and make a favourable impression, I needed something for them to remember me by. So I decided to get some business cards printed.

Around the same time, I was looking for an avatar that was memorable (for all the right reasons), eye-catching and something I could relate to that would also signify my genre of writing. I wanted something I could build my brand around. I began searching free images on the internet and found the beautiful lady that now adorns my blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts. I also had the same image printed onto the business cards.

At FantasyCon, I met agents, publishers and other writers and began handing out my cards. Without exception, everyone favourably commented on the amazing image on my cards; it stood out! Most of the cards I received were bland and uninteresting – there was nothing in them to connect to, nothing memorable – so it begs the thought, is that person as unmemorable as their card suggests?

Something as simple as a business card can make such a huge difference as to how you, as a person and a writer are perceived. Do you want your card to fade into the background amongst a pile of other non-descript cards, or do you want to make a statement? Do you want to be remembered? You can still present a professional image with a card that pops.

I was so glad I made the decision to get cards printed and to go for a design that singled me out from the crowd. A few publishers and agents actually commented on how few authors actually took the trouble to get cards printed, let alone ones that made such an impact. They told me it was a professional way of approaching my ‘writing business’ and wished more writers would adopt that kind of attitude.

You never know when an opportunity to give out your cards will present itself. Book fairs, local book shops (especially if they have a book signing), writing groups, and conventions are all fertile ground for networking and getting your name known. Recently, at a restaurant I was talking to my companions about my novel and a complete stranger came over and started talking to us about it. Apparently, they love books in the genre I’ve written my novel and asked if I had any information on it. I handed her my card and she asked for a couple extra to pass to friends.

Hopefully, this chance meeting will result in a few fans for my novel – who knows?

 So, from something as simple as reading Beth’s question, I have now created a brand for myself, one that, even now, attracts comments on Twitter and Facebook, but above all, a professional persona as a writer. For less than £10.00 (US $16), I had 250 cards printed, full colour, printed one side, with a layout designed by me exactly as I wanted it. A small price to pay considering the impact – wouldn’t you agree?

Footnote: Since having the cards printed, I’ve had 100 postcards printed as well. One the front is my lovely lady, the title of my novel, name and contact number (all in full colour) and on the back (black on white printing) is a synopsis of my book along with further contact details. Something else with my brand on that I can hand out – and the real good part . . . they were free when I placed a new order for business cards!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Lost Journal Volume 29

After a long hiatus...

You can find the entire collection, along with another excellent serial story, The Searcher and The Sentinel at my website, www.TheNeverChronicles.com

To navigate right to the journals, click HERE

Releasing 6-5-2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mockingjay -a review

I'm not exactly thrilled to be writing this review. Books 1 and 2 were so good...and then there was book 3. Mockingjay.

Mockingjay is the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Once again, as I set out to read it (just as I did when I set out to read Catching Fire), I had expectations of what could not be accomplished with the story.  That's what happens to me when I've read a good book in a series.  I think, there is no way the author will top that.  Sometimes, to my delight, I'm proven wrong.  Sometimes, to my dismay, I'm proven right.  Unfortunately, in this case, the latter came to pass.

I was starting to get irritated in book 2 when it seemed as though during several high-drama moments, Katness would lose consciousness and wake up somewhere else.  I understand it happens in stories as it does in real life, but when it becomes a recurring way to transition from one scene to the next, it becomes nothing more than an irritant.  I know Suzanne Collins is gifted enough to keep he conscious and write through until the end of the scene.  It felt almost like a cop-out.  Like she rushed to end the scene and begin another.

Then there was the whole Gale Peeta debacle.  While reading book #2 I was afraid she'd go down the same road as Stephanie Meyer did with Jacob and Edward and in a way, she did.  And I suppose a girl of seventeen isn't going to make the most rational decisions when it comes to her love life and perhaps most teenage girls have experienced liking more than one boy at a time -I cannot speak with any authority, for I have never been a teenage girl.  When Peeta was taken by the Capitol, I thought things would turn for the better as far as the love triangle was concerned -I was wrong.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On my first pre-release speaking engagement

Yesterday I completed my first pre-release speaking engagement with the Downingtown Library Teens group.  Of course I was nervous, who wouldn't be on their first go-around?

When everyone from the group came in, I immediately relaxed. Unlike adults, you can tell quite a bit about a teen simply from their body language.  They don't try to hide who they are behind a prim and proper mannerism like us adults. They are who they are, which I love.

I found it easy to build a rapport with them. (Some would argue because my mind still resides in that age group.)  I believe that may be part of it -all of us long to be able to return to those care-free days.  Part of it is because unlike the drones of adults I come across on a day to day basis, each and every one of them was unique -it was obvious from the second they walked through the door.  I could tell by the way they walked, the way they sat, who they sat next to, where they looked and who they interacted with.  I believe at that age, they strive for individuality as much as people in their 20's and beyond strive for conformity and consistency.

I found it easy to immediately enjoy each of their personalities -to find humor in their jokes and to appreciate their one-of-a-kind methods of interacting with me and others in the group.

I realize this isn't some societal epiphany -I'm sure teachers go through this all the time, but as someone who hasn't interacted with this age group (my oldest just turned 13) often, I found the joy and excitement and energy in it.  There was passion in every one of them -again something usually washed away by the flow of time, and it was empowering.

I spoke for about an hour, discussed my book, writing, publishing, popular titles. We played a game, I gave out some prizes including copies of The Maze Runner, Divergent and the least known but most coveted, Hunted.

Some stuck around to chat after it was over -the excitement was still there. I felt, for the first time that my cause, my passion -to help change the lives of tweens, teens, and young adults through writing and reading is in motion.

It was an exciting and energizing experience.  I can't wait to do it again!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Finally, a book cover!

Yes, after many drafts (scrapping the first four proposals entirely) I have a cover.  I suppose I am pickier than the typical first time author. Perhaps I have a vision and needed it reflected on the cover.  I know that determination to convey what I believe needs to be conveyed on the cover can be interpreted as being a pain in the butt or come across as well, fill in the adjective -but regardless, in the end, I am more than happy with the final product. I am elated!

My cover designer, Brian, did a phenomenal job.

So, without further delay, here is the final cover for Exiled!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why Big publishing companies should be HAPPY about ebooks and self publishing

All over the place I see articles predicting doom and gloom for the traditional publishing companies.
  • The publishing revolution will bring about the end of the big seven publishers. 
  • Soon, nobody will be using publishers -they'll just do it themselves.  
  • Indie publishing will take over the publishing market.

I don't think so.  Things are changing, of that I am sure but often times changes such as these are good for larger corporations if they're able to roll with the technology.

Think about it.  Anyone can publish an ebook. ANYONE. It could be the biggest, most uninteresting, spelling error riddled piece of crap on the planet and they could self-publish.

Is this a bad thing for the big name publishers?

No way!


Because the market (the reader) will do the vetting for them. This saves the publishing company time and money.  If they're smart, they will hire people to scour the internet for candidates.  Authors who
  • 1. are selling (pick an arbitrary number) 
  • 2. know how to market themselves and 
  • 3. have a following.
Yes, I said hire.  So how will they make money?  Easy, who needs a literary agent when you can work out an agreement with the author directly.  Win for the author, win for the publisher, loss for the agent (sorry agents).

If you're an agent and want to stay in business, it is you who should be scouring cyberspace looking for the same three points.

Some authors self publish because they just want their work out there and don't want to go through the rigors of whoring it to an agent. Some authors self publish because they're control freaks and don't want to lose the rights to their works. Some, because they've tried the traditional method and have been unsuccessful.  Does this mean their product sucks?  Perhaps BUT, the beauty of self publishing is that it doesn't matter!

Why?  Because the market will decide it is a piece of crap and not buy it OR they'll love it and buy it and tell their friends to buy it and it will sell!