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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, May 30, 2012

Laugh out Loud moments in reading

We've all had them -times when we are reading something quietly and all the sudden we start cracking up.  The person next to us (if there is one) usually looks over with a completely mystified expression.  Fortunately, my wife was fast asleep during my last laughing fit.
I'll be the first to admit that most recently, the source of my amusement was nothing more than potty humor found in Stephen King's 11/22/63. Does that make me immature, childish and crude?  Probably.  Still, it was funny.

In 11/22/63, King's main character, Jake Epping, finds a porthole that brings him back in time to the 50's.  Bent on changing a terrible event of the past, Jake learns that the past doesn't want to be changed and will fight against you if you dare attempt to do so.  In this scene, Jake has gone to a pharmacy to find something to calm his insides because. "By then, both of my ejection-ports were producing nothing but watery gruel."

"Kaopectate," I said in a hoarse voice that didn't sound like my own. "Do you have it?" Wondering if it had been invented yet.
"Are we suffering a little touch of the bug?" The overhead light caught in the lenses of his small rimless spectacles and skated around when he moved his head.  Like butter across a skillet, I thought, and at that my stomach gave another lunge.
"It's been going around town.  You're in for a nasty twenty-four hours, I'm afraid.  Probably a germ, but you may have used a public convenience  and forgotten to wash your hands.  So many people are lazy about th--"
"Do you have the Kaopectate or not?"
"Of course.  Second aisle."
"Continence pants--what about those?"
     The thin-lipped grin spread out.  Continence pants are funny, of course they are.  Unless, of course, you're the one who needs them.  "Fifth aisle.  Although if you stay close to home, you won't neeed them. Based on your pallor, sir ... and the way you're sweating ... it might be wiser to do that."
"Thanks," I said, and imagined socking him square in the mouth and knocking his dentures down his throat.  Suck on a little Polident, pal.
    I shopped slowly, not wanting to joggle my liquified guts any more than necessary. Got the Kaopectate (Large Economy Size? check), then the continence pants (Adult Large? check). The pants were in the Ostomy Supplies, between the enema bags and brooding yellow coils of plastic hose whose function I didn't want to know about.  There were also adult diapers, but at those I balked.  If necessary, I would stuff the continence pads with dish towels.  This struck me as funny, and despite my misery I had to struggle not to laugh. Laughing in my current delicate state might bring on disaster.

Come on! What's not funny about someone with an intestinal bug?  My wife says I write for teenagers because I act like one most of the time (and she may be right), but I believe everyone can find humor in someone else's bowel disorder.  Especially when well crafted in the context of a serious story.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Virtual Tour -updated

Well, it's underway.

Super pre-launch giveaway! Kindle, signed book and more

We've done it!! 

5000 likes on  MY FACEBOOK PAGE  

Thank you so much for all those who participated.  

Give away details:

On Wednesday 5/30 (Tomorrow) and Thursday 5/31, I will post 3 questions at 3 different times.
Be the first to answer all three correctly and you'll win the kindle as well as the signed Exiled package. (everything below!)
The times are: 
  • 14:00 EST (that's 2pm for you non-millitary folk)
  • 20:00 EST (8pm) 
  • 02:00 EST (2am) on (5/30)

Pay attention and good luck!
Winning prizes:

A signed copy of Exiled...

 A signed Exiled poster

 $30 to spend at The Never Chronicles store

 AND... a kindle loaded with the Exiled eBook. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Author interview with Debbie Brown

For as long as she can remember, Debbie Brown has been creating stories in her head. She hated to go anywhere without a pen and paper, just in case. As a graduate of the Institute of Children's literature, while pursuing yet another writing course, she finds herself doing what she loves . . . learning and writing. The course gives her an excuse to just sit down and write. Over the years she has worked as a nurse, a teacher, a martial arts instructor and a CIC officer in the Canadian Forces. Her hobbies have varied from woodworking, to auto-mechanics, with music, painting, karate, holistic medicine, gardening and camping thrown into the mix. Let's not forget reading. Debbie's perfect cure for a long winter's night is curling up in front of a fire with a good book while snowflakes drift slowly past the window. Never having been much of a city girl, she lives with two of her four children, her husband Jean-Pierre and their pets in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. She couldn't imagine life without the beauty found in the trees, mountains and lakes that surround her.

Could you tell us a little bit about Amethyst Eyes?

Amethyst Eyes is about 15-year-old Tommy, who after losing his mother in a car accident ends up living with his estranged father. The catch here is that Tommy, in the blink of an eye, finds himself on a space ship orbiting Earth. He had no idea his father was an alien and the ships commander. As soon as Tommy meets his father he realizes where his amethyst eyes come from. He learns the hard way about the legend of Amethyst Eyes and the danger that comes from being born with them. There’s never a dull moment as he struggles to fit in to a world where nothing is the same, and not just the technology, but the whole structure of the society and even family. The characters are quite varied, fun and very much alive.

How did Amethyst Eyes come to be?

Years ago I had submitted a short story as an assignment for the writing course I had been taking. This bit of homework eventually became the starting point for Amethyst Eyes. I couldn’t get the story out of my head and ended up carrying it around for ten years before finally sitting down to write the book. Two years ago a personal tragedy, the loss of my daughter, had me take refuge from the world, and I turned to writing to keep sane. In some ways, I believe I created a world where people really do care, and it was something I needed for my own personal healing.

Tell us about the world you’ve created. Where did some of your ideas come from?

The strange thing about Amethyst Eyes was that I didn’t feel as though I was creating a world or even a story. I was an observer, documenting what was playing out in my mind. I remember thinking “Wow, that’s cool,” at one point or “I can’t write that” at another. It was quite an experience. After one scene I felt as though I had run through the experience with my character, leaving me exhausted. I have always been a sci-fi fan and growing up with Star Trek books I discovered an amazing place that taught so much about human interaction, but in the end, life has been my inspiration.

When I write, I try to be as accurate as possible. (Inaccuracy in the books I read is a big turn-off for me, and with internet there’s no excuse for it.) Granted, when I’m inventing a piece of technology that does not exist, my resources are limited to my imagination, but I do try to find something to base it on or some way to explain it. I have of pages and pages of notes from hours of research for Amethyst Eyes.

Are you working on any writing at the minute?

I have submitted another Sci-Fi, YA novel to Strange Chemistry, so now the wait begins. I also have two more books on the way. The first one is the story of Tommy’s parents, so a Women’s Lit, Sci-fi Adventure book and I have started the sequel to Amethyst Eyes. I am also completing an advanced writing course offered to graduates of the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Any special routines you have to do before you can sit down and write?

The first thing would be to find something to keep my 4 year old busy, then I usually reread the last few pages of what I had written to get into my mindset. Once that is done, I become an observer. I let myself be carried away by the story as it unfolds and document what’s going on. I only wish I could write fast enough to keep up.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do to keep busy when you're not writing?

Aside from my 4-year-old I also have 3 grown children who can take up a lot of time (and worry). I am a CIC Officer (Captain) with the Canadian Forces and work with cadets. I have taught martial arts, namely Kyokushin Karate and Tai Chi for over 20 years, in fact most of my jobs have been teaching related from baseball to gymnastics, elementary and high school as well as training new officers on various bases. I used to be a nurse, and have since turned to holistic healing, so I spend a lot of time reading and researching this topic.

I love woodworking, painting, music, reading, cooking, gardening…you name it.  Through it all there were highs and lows, adding color to the pages of my life. All of these things have come together in my writing, in the sights and sounds, people and situations. I deeply believe that knowledge is never lost or a waste of time, and that somehow, somewhere it will be useful.

What do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy anything and everything with the exception of gore and sex. I love to learn and enjoy reading to increase my knowledge, so I have anything from flight manuals to medical reference books on the go at any given time. However, I also enjoy reading for the sheer pleasure of discovering new characters and worlds. There are books I have read dozen’s of times and although I own 2 e-readers with over 1000 books so far, my library holds even more books, covering 3 of the 4 walls within.

Do you have a favourite place to read?

Curled up by the fire during the winter or in the veranda during the summer, where all you see are trees. I read everywhere though, day and night, even in the car while my husband drives (when I’m driving I have my Kindle read to me through the car radio). I posted a picture on fb from an FTX (field training exercise) where you see my combat uniform and my kindle on my lap…I had brought it with me. This worked out well since I was hiding in a swamp, waiting to be found by cadets learning to use a compasses and coordinates, giving me LOTS of time to read LOL.

Is there anything else you would like to say to your readers?

There is much more going on in the book than just a teenager trying to fit in. It touches on family and the ties that bind. Jayden adds spice and there is an element of danger.
You can read some 50 pages on Google books, much more than what the “look inside” options offer. http://books.google.ca/books?id=nQ5nCvwbQLEC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Where can people find you and your book?

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amethyst-Eyes/169207996492385
Goodreads author page under my name,
Blog: http://amethysteyesauthor.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @amethysteyes01

Feel free to message me, you can be sure I will answer.

As for my book, it can be found in over 100 online bookstores worldwide, from Amazon to Barnes&Noble, Powell’s, Chapters Indigo, Fishpond, and the list goes on…
It is available in both paperback and ebook format.

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

In bookstores 6-5-2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Learning From Your Mistakes

Another wonderful Guest post by Carlie M. A. Cullen

I recently had this quirky idea for my blog for my followers to ask me anything they wanted so they could get to know me better. The post, “Interview the Writer. Who Me? Yes You!”, brought out some great questions. One of them was: “What are some grammatical errors you still find yourself using/doing even though you know you shouldn’t?” and this really got me thinking.
As writers, we all have our little weak spots and I’ve identified some of my worst ones from first drafts:
- Exclamation marks – I use way too many when trying to emphasize a point and don’t realize until my wonderful editor raps my knuckles. What I’m actually doing is slowing down the dialogue instead of keeping it flowing.

- The word ‘that’ – this is probably my biggest sin of all. Put it this way, if I had a pound or dollar for each ‘that’ removed from my first draft, I’d probably have enough money for some retail therapy!

- Using too many similes beginning with ‘like’ – I’ve learnt the hard way about this. On the up side, I’ve found ways of expressing these in terms that make the story much stronger, and I’m still experimenting with it. Some similes work extremely well, especially if you can be really inventive, but too many weakens the writing.

- Starting a new paragraph for dialogue when it should be a continuation of the previous line – this is another sin my editor nags me about.

- Using hard line returns to start a new page at the end of a chapter – it doesn’t always work and using page breaks is a much cleaner way of doing it. This I learned from my beta reader. On my copy of the manuscript it all looked fine, but when I sent it to her she pointed out that several chapters ran into each other (oops). I’m glad I found out before an agent or publisher requested my full manuscript!

I know there are others, but they are minor compared with those listed above. The important thing is that I know what to look for and as I write the second book in my trilogy (I’m now well into chapter 4), I’m correcting myself as I write. I do try to switch off my inner editor particularly when the writing is flowing well, but I’m finding I’m automatically correcting myself.
This, I think, is a good thing. It means I’m learning from my mistakes which, I hope, will make me a better writer in the long run. It also means less nagging from my editor (a real plus) and a stronger base for the finished product.
I will continue to learn from my mistakes; I want my writing to be the very best it can be for my readers, they deserve nothing less!


To visit Carlie's AMAZING blog, click HERE

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

In bookstores 6-5-2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Public speaking when everything possible goes wrong


I recently had this exact experience. 

Am I exaggerating? Perhaps.  You be the judge.

My speaking engagement was on Tuesday. I developed a cough on Sunday.

 I left work early so I could run home, get changed and pick up my presentation materials. When I got home, I realized my daughter had locked me out of the house. (This was after trying every entrance in the pouring rain.) The only person with a key (my wife) was at work over an hour away.  To be on time for the appointment, I had to leave in twenty minutes.

I got in my car and made a decision...despite my soaked clothes, no presentation materials and feeling under the weather, I would drive to the library and do my best with what I had. Rarely do things go according to plan and I wasn't going to let a little something like no presentation materials, wet clothes and a cold keep me from sticking to my commitment.

I drove the hour-long trip to the library managing to get dried off on the way as well as putting myself in a better mood. I arrived early, saw the strangest thing...two horses tethered to a pole in the middle of a row of cars in a crowded parking lot.  By the time parked, got out of my car and made my way to where I saw the horses, they were gone...only a pile of...well, you get the idea, left in their place.  Having fully intended on snapping a photo of this anomaly, I was slightly disheartened but wasn't going to let the loss of a funny photo dampen my spirit.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

One of the greatest YA novels of the last 25 years

I've been wanting to write this ever since I finished the book well over a month ago but simply haven't had the time to do it the justice it required.

The book is The Knife of Never Letting Go 
by Patrick Ness

What a strange title, I thought, when the book was recommended to me.  I almost didn't read it because of the oddity of the title.  Once you read the book, you'll see how fitting the title truly is.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is written in the first person from the perspective of a twelve-year-old boy.  Now, in my opinion, it is incredibly hard to write the first person perspective of a twelve-year-old as an adult.  Adults just don't get how kids this age think.

For example, in the book Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (I just so happened to read this immediately preceding The Knife of Never Letting Go), which is a great story that also happens to be written from the first person perspective of a teenager, there is a substantial difference in the voice of the main character

Here is a quote from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs:

The gleam led me around a corner and into a small room with part of the ceiling caved in.  Daylight streamed through the hole onto the coils of silty dust, pieces of torn carpet plastered here and there like scraps of desiccated meat. Beneath the debris I could hear the scrabble of tiny feat, some rodentine dark-dweller that had survived the implosion of its world.  In the midst of it all lay the demolished trunk, photographs scattered around it like confetti. 

Now, despite being a great story, I had a hard time believing this was the voice of a teenager.  It was too... literary.  That isn't how teenagers think and I believe this voice took away from the overall tone of the story.

In contrast, here is a quote from The Knife of Never Letting Go

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say.  About anything.
     "Need a poo, Todd."
     "Shut up, Manchee."
     "Poo.  Poo, Todd."
     "I said shut it."
We're walking across the wild fields southeast of town, those ones that slope down to the river and head on toward the swamp.  Ben's sent me to pick him some swamp apples and he's made me take Manchee with me, even tho we all know Cillian only bought him to stay on Mayor Prentis's good side and so suddenly here's this brand-new dog as a present for my birthday last year when I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn't have to walk every forsaken place in this stupid town, but oh, no, happy birthday, Todd here's a brand-new puppy, Todd, and even tho you don't want him, even tho you never asked for him, guess who has to feed him and train him and wash him and take him for walks and listen to him jabber now he's got old enough for the talking germ to set his mouth moving? Guess who?

Big difference?  You bet.  Ness is a master at writing the teenage mind which only adds to the wonderful story in which the main character is immersed. And that is what great storytelling is all about -writing compelling character.  The Main Character, Todd Hewitt's ignorance of the events surrounding his situation add mystery to the story -not the kind of mystery that the writer purposefully omits to include in order to keep his or her readers guessing but mystery because the main character simply doesn't know and really wants to find out -the best kind of mystery because you, along with Todd, want to figure out what the heck is going on.

There -that's the kicker. You aren't reading along as Todd goes on his journey, you're with Todd, standing beside him, wanting what he wants, feeling what he feels -that's how well this books is written.  There is no more compelling argument than that to read a great story.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Speaking Engagement

 I'll be speaking at the Oxford Public Library tonight! 

Details are below.

Teens &Tweens - Book Talk with author Josh (J.R.) Wagner
When: Tue, May 8, 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Where: 48 S. Second St. (map)
Description: Author Josh (J.R.) Wagner will be here to discuss his new book Exiled. All tweens and teens are welcome. No reservations required.
Stop in and say hello! I may have a giveaway or two!

Hope to see you there!

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

In bookstores 6-5-2012

Friday, May 4, 2012

July writing contest announced!

-Here are the details for the July, 2012 writing contest. The March writing contest was a big success with the first place winner receiving a $50.00 amazon gift card. Other cool prizes were awarded as well! March results can be found on my website.