The Brothers Grimm


Every now and again, I like to dip into history and non-fiction. I find the change of pace welcoming and what I learn always intriguing. My most recent read was The Brothers Grimm: Two Lives, One Legacy by Donald R. Hettinga.

Jacob and Wilhem Grimm are most popular for combing the German countryside for fables and legends and publishing them. Disney has made a mint on several of their stories such as Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. But the story behind their lives was a true and interesting tale woven with kings, queens, and even revolution. The brothers Grimm preserved these ancient tales and also the German language with their books on linguistics.

My favorite part was when a critic of their first published book of stories complained that they were too graphic and disturbing for children. Jacob (the elder brother) responded that grew him up with his mother telling him the tale of How Some Children Played at Slaughtering, to show him the dangers of playing, and it worked for him. The story is about children who pretended to play slaughtering pigs and ended up killing their playmates. Fantastically morbid, I know, but part of me is still intrigued enough to read it. Wilhem Grimm’s take in response to the critics was also noteworthy: “You can fool yourself into thinking that what can be removed from a book can also be removed from real life.”

The Grimm brothers survived many political regimes and Napoleon’s conquests that sent soldiers into the streets outside their house. They dealt with poverty and death. By the end of their lives, their work and contributions were celebrated and revered. They spent their last days together, as a family.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book: “In a grain of sand we may see the sense and significance of large globes of which our world is one of the smallest.” Jacob Grimm

Ten Commandments of Reading

The other day while my son was reading book four of the Michael Vay series, skipping book two and three since we’re waiting for them from our library, I decided he needed to learn some very basic rules of reading. So in my horrific English accent, I proceeded to the commandments of reading.

  The Ten Commandments of Reading

  1. Never tell the end of a good book to a friend.
  2. Read the book before the movie, except if the movie is Princess Bride.
  3. If you’re in a used bookstore, you must buy a book. Unless you’re dead broke, then go to the library.
  4. You should always have a library card.
  5. Always read a series in order, unless there are too many to keep count. Then go crazy.
  6. If a friend lends you a book and you accidentally damage it, replace it.
  7. Don’t break the binding of a book or damage a book, no matter how you detest it. Get a bookmark people, even a sock will do.
  8. If you interrupt someone during a good part of a book you must recite the alphabet backwards, while standing on your head. (Parents are the only exception for underage children, and a fire because the safety of a book comes first.)
  9. No skipping to the end of a book. Yes, you know who you are.
  10. When reciting the commandments, please use your best snooty English accent.

library card

When my daughter broke rule one as my son was reading Harry Potter, I thought she’d catch on fire with that blasphemy. And I recommend two library cards, in case of emergencies.

What is your pet peeve when reading?  Let me know. While these may be etched in stone, like every writer knows, the edits never stop.

Undiscovered Gems

A while back, I discovered a book at the library. Published twenty years ago, this novel had a title that caught my attention: The Parable of the Sower.  I started it on a sunny afternoon, but Octavia E. Butler soon had a tight grip on me, and I kept reading late into the night.parable of the sower

This post apocalyptic novel follows a sixteen year old girl through California in 2025, amid rampant war, drugs, gangs, unemployment, and an unlawfulness that staggers the mind. The realism was nothing I’d experienced in today’s young adult commercial fiction.

This older, under appreciated book struck true and left me thinking about it for days, months, and even years later. There is joy in finding a new book or new author that speaks to you in a language that can’t be contained on paper.

I can’t wait to find my next undiscovered gem. Do you have an undiscovered or under appreciated novel hidden away in your book shelf?


2016 Writing Conferences

Spring is upon us with new anticipated books hitting the shelves (cough, cough Anne Bishop). Also, it means writing conferences starting. From April to September writers congregate to hone their craft and pitch their stories. I’ve shifted through the various conferences, and thought I’d share some reputable conferences to attend. I’d love to hear from you, if you have a favorite, and I can add it to the list.


Desert Dreams, April 7-10, 2016, Scottsdale, AZ

The Scottsdale Romance Writers’ organization puts on a fabulous four day conference full of workshops, and pitches to agents. I know several who have attended and it comes highly recommended, especially for the price.


Las Vegas Writers’ Conference, April 28-30, 2016

I would love to hear the keynote speaker, Larry Brooks.


National Romance Writers Association Conference, July 13-16 2016, San Diego, CA

Great conference and great location. Who doesn’t love San Diego in July?


Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference, April 15-17, 2016, Colorado Springs, CO


And if you really feel like going all out, you can even go on a writing cruise

Out of Excuses Writing Conference, September 14-17, 2016, Caribbean

Cruising around the Caribbean with Brandon Sanderson and a host of very accomplished writers sounds epic.






By guest blogger, author, editor, and extraordinaire Jami Gray

You survived Nanowrimo, the hellish month of November, where you churned out words by the bucketful. You even made it to the final two—THE END, so now what? Do you drag battered fingers to the keyboard to carve out a synopsis and query letter, then attach both to your story and send the entire package winging off to a publisher or agent?

No! (Slapping at your sore, beleaguered digits) Step away from the keyboard, dear writer friend, exhaustion is playing tricks on your poor brain. You can’t forgo an important part of your creative process—the honing of your story.

You wouldn’t present a semi-cooked egg for consumption just because your caffeine fix hasn’t kicked in, right? Then don’t serve the same to a prospective agent or publisher.

The point of presenting your pretty package of story, query, and synopsis to the alters of publishers or agents, is to share your polished gem of beautiful craftsmanship when it’s at its best. This will elicit “ohhs” and “awws” of stunned amazement from said alter deities, and, if the fates are kind, culminate with a blessing of a contract.

This is not to say your story treasure isn’t beautiful, but if you set it aside during the merry month of wintery celebration, revisit it during the dawning of the new year, and then humbly offer it to your support group of choice (critique, beta readers, editors), you may discover that what appeared beautifully concocted in November, could bypass “beautiful” and rocket to “brilliant” with a little polishing here and there.

Take the time to let your story mature, let others sample it, and gauge the reactions. Did your plot twist sneak up on your test readers, or were they faced with it straight out of the gate? Was the emotional journey of your main character fraught with realistic peril, or were the challenges faced not cruel enough to bring them to their knees before raising them higher than before? Did you add an extra arm in that fight scene? Did a character change hair color or personality without explanation?

When we spend a month snuggled up to our story, it’s hard to see the little things, like the fact it prefers to stay in PJs all day long and eat chocolate bonbons, while expecting you to clean the house for impending company.  Taking a step back and a deep breath will ensure your darlings won’t need your constant support to shine. In fact, giving them space is necessary for them to find their inner core of brilliance and shine their creative light upon unsuspecting agents and publishers, luring them into a long-lasting relationship.

Nanowrimo isn’t the end, my writer friends, it’s simply the beginning of an exciting new journey, so like all good adventurers, be sure you’ve prepared accordingly.

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Gift Ideas for Young Readers

Most of my friends know of my obsession with books, so I’m often asked for book recommendations. I’ve already bought many books for my family this year, and even worked on some theme related shirts.  But if you’re stuck on ideas, here are a few. I tried to list a few popular ones you can’t go wrong with, and others if your kids are looking the next book after finishing a great series. If I’ve missed your favorite, please add it below.

Middle Grade Books

Rick Rordian is still huge.


One shirt on my son’s list

If your kids have already devoured his books you can try his special compilations Percy Jackson’s Greek God and Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes.

Still want more mythology? Try out the Goddess Girls or Heroes in Training by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams. There are geared for a younger audience but my kids love them.

Illustrated_Harry_Potter_book_coverPotter fans? You have a new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone that is very popular right now.

Or try the Iron Trials by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Two great authors that give their own spin to the wizarding world, with action and adventure that will keep you or your kids flipping the pages.

harry potter bracelet

HP bracelet on Amazon

My kids also love the Spirit Animals, which showcase a variety of NY Times bestselling authors.

Young Adult

There are so many great young adult books right now this list could go on forever. I’ll start with some new releases that are climbing the charts on

For the sci-fi fan, you can never go wrong with Brandon Sanderson who had the second installment in his Reckoners series, Firefight, out this year.

The-5th-Wave_612x612For fans of Hunger Games, try the 5th Wave. It is a captivating about an alien invasion written  by New York Times best seller Rick Yancey, and will soon be on the big screen.

One on my list for Santa (hint, hint) is  An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir . It’s inspired by ancient Rome, and has the action, loyalty and love which draws me in.

Here are some of my favorites that I can pick up more than once:

*Sci-Fi: Scott Westerfield’s Uglies Series or Airborn by Kenneth Opal for a steam punk twist.

*Fantasy: Melissa Marr has a great fairy series, Wicked Lovely. Shannon Hale has so many clean, fun almost fairy tale like fantasy for any age, especially The Books of Bayern. I also love Grace Mercy by Robin LeFever which intertwines intertwines the history of medieval France with a coven of young assassins.

*Historical Fiction: Blood Red Horse by KM Grant is an exciting adventure as it goes through the Crusades with multiple points of view.

*Fiction: John Green captures the heart and soul of teenage years so well. You can’t go wrong with The Fault in our Stars, or Paper Towns.

This list could go on and on-I haven’t even touched adult fiction- but I have some Christmas shopping to get to. If all else fails, a gift card to a book store is always a treat for any bibliophile. I want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season and hope it is filled with love and peace.

Creating a Community

Writing is a solitary sport—or it was. It was often believed socially creative people navigated towards standup comedy, TV or film, or even dancing. There are a variety of avenues to express creativity. I choose sitting alone at my desk, letting my fingers fly over the keys and creating something new.

Yet, more and more I find myself being pushed outside my comfort zone. As a day time content writer, I am heavily encouraged to start a Facebook page and create an online community if I want to grow in the industry. As a fantasy writer, publishers advise us need to establish an online following over a year before you publish your first book. It is overwhelming at times.

But then, I text a member of my writing group ( and within a few minutes I get a flood of information and support. After years of writing groups and conferences, I find myself enjoying the social aspect of this supposed solitary profession. Authors do not have push someone down to make it to the top. There is more than enough room for everyone to encourage and support each other in our writing goals.

So as I am finally taking another step and joining this online community, I am excited to branch out and meet others on this world wide web. I’m hoping to find out just how big this world really is.