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It’s official! The book launch for Guardian Cats print edition is set for July 18th, 2011–just days away.

For current news and updates. Join me on my active writer’s blog, Mystic Coffee.

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In the wrong hands, some books can be dangerous—and some libraries can be positively deadly. Up until now, Marco has been perfectly happy as a small town library cat and newly appointed Guardian of an ancient mystical book. But when otherworldly creatures begin roaming the stacks after hours, and his mentor, the elder Guardian, is killed, Marco’s innocent world is shattered.

The young tabby cat is on his own, ill-prepared for the daunting task of safekeeping the magical book of power—as well as the very heart and soul of the library. Time and space are no barriers for Marco’s shape shifting friends and enemies as he learns that the library is the most dangerous place worth saving.

Available now for Kindle and Nook.

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Some of my writing friends listen to music for inspiration, mostly notably Lia Keyes who is working on her steampunk novel and listens to Phantom of the Opera. Seems like the perfect choice for what promises to be a deliciously, dark mystery.

Normally I don’t listen to music while I write, but I’m intrigued by the idea of using my auditory senses to help ‘set the mood’. 

Here’s my dilemma though. What in the world would make good background music for a book with cats as the main characters, an evil professor and his Whisperer, a magical book of power and a host of mythological characters ranging from the dark to the light side, and settings that range from the ancient Library of Iskandriyah to a small public library in the foothills of California.

See what I mean? Suggestions welcome.

In the meantime, I’m going to check out Five great ways to find music that suits your mood,  a Mashable article that reviews several websites that let you pick out music according to your moods and emotions, rather than artist, genre or title.

What do you listen to, if anything, while writing?

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Does anyone else find this terribly disturbing? I’ve been reading about the trend for libraries to digitize themselves but this is unbelievable!

 “The headmaster of a central Massachusetts school that eliminated most of the books in its library says the move has worked well, turning the the library into a magnet for students and faculty. The school whittled the library’s stacks from 20,000 to 8,000 books, Tracy said in an interview today. Only about 1,000 books will remain after the two-year transition is completed by the end of this summer. The bookshelves that were exchanged for learning areas have created “exciting” social learning spaces for a generation that is “very much about networking,” Tracy added. Stanford University is also moving toward the creation of its first “bookless library.”   
Why throw ALL of the books out? Why can’t we blend what they are calling old and outdate (that would be the books!) with the new digital technology? It makes no sense that libraries are doing this without thinking of the consequences. If the power goes out or the Kindle breaks down, you can still read a book. You can drop a book and still read it. You can spill coffee on it and still read through the stain.

Digitizing the entire library makes books completely inaccessible for those who do not own computers or … perish the thought… simply want to check out a book to take home.

I’m not a Luddite. I love a lot of things about new technology, but I think there’s room for a different vision than this barren wasteland that has none of the smell or feel of a library.  This is truly the sad sheep of a tragedy dressed in digital wolves clothing.

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Should I let Algernon die, or let him suffer at the whims of his evil brother?

Even cats have trouble with the blank page.

Here’s what I’ve learned about writing in the last three years. When everyone else is:

  1. watching TV, I am probably writing.
  2. sleeping, I am usually writing and editing.
  3. on FaceBook, I’m…ooops…gotta get back to writing.
  4. blogging, I am writing, wishing I had more time to blog.
  5. shopping, I am revising a chapter.
  6. texting and tweeting, I am talking to my MC.
  7. eating, I am eating but it’s at my computer so I can catch up on email, blogs and news.
  8. reading, well,  I might be reading.
  9. showering, I am showering, but usually in writing mode with no way to write down the brilliant idea that came to me.
  10. working out, I am exercising my brain wishing it would burn 300 calories an hour.
  11. cutting the grass, I am letting the grass grow to revise another chapter, or paragraph, or sentence.
  12. cooking, I am throwing something in the crockpot to go revise another chapter, or paragraph, or sentence.

You gotta love writing to be this crazy!

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Writing has made me a more critical reader. My latest library book lost me as a reader because of technical issues. Besides some rather drab characters and a meandering plot, the POV shifted so often I was starting to feel the main action of the story was my ability to leap about between character’s heads. I won’t tell you what the book  is because I don’t want to bash another writer. I can tell you that the main reason I picked it up was author recognition.

Besides being irritating, it raised all kinds of questions.  How is a well known published writer allowed to commit these major editorial sins? Where is her editor? Does this bother anybody besides me?

Point of view is challenging. It was a difficult concept for me to grasp and flipping between character’s heads is easier than channel surfing. It’s so easy to do without being aware of it, but my handy dandy desktop Self-Editing for Fiction Writers helps guide me through these muddy waters.

I also find it useful to read books, like the annoying one mentioned, which ignore this important element because it makes me aware of how much I don’t want to inflict these mental gymnastics on my readers.

As a writer, it took me a while to understand which point of view I was even writing in, but once I did, it raised my POV consciousness. For me, writing a fantasy seen through the eyes of a cat, means I must ‘become the cat’.

As a reader, I don’t have the patience to stay with a book that forces me to guess who’s thinking what. I returned the book to the library. Now I need something good to read!

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When do you let the cat out of the bag?

In the beginning I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book.  I thought it sounded rather pompous, and of course, I didn’t know if I had the guts to sustain it, but I kept hacking away, in the dead of night for going on 3 years. Whatever else happens, I am pretty happy about not giving up and not starting six different other projects to keep me from finishing one, which is more the norm for me.

I didn’t tell  anyone hardly anyone what I was up to until the 5th revision and my book had a finished sort of feel to it. Before admitting my nocturnal activities, writing was a clandestine affair. I might be wrong, but I doubt if quilters and knitters have this same kind of guilty pleasure. Gradually I started answering the question, “what have you been up to?” honestly, because at some point, without even knowing when, I started to feel like a writer.

I knew it was a serious affair when I wanted to write instead of watch TV and I talked to my characters in the shower.

But can I call myself a writer if I haven’t published? My rational self says ‘of course!” but doubts set in as I wonder, what if I have only one story? What if I can’t publish this one.  What if I tell people I’m writing a book, nothing comes of it and I fall flat on my face.

So be it. It doesn’t matter any more.  

The hurdle is one of confidance. I’m thinking that Confidance waxes and wanes like the moon. Some days, I feel great about the book I’m working on. I’m excited, even after umpteen rewrites. I think it’s a good story, yada yaha.  But when I spend two hours eeking out the details of three paragraphs, I think..geez, what am I doing? How can it take so long to get it right? Maybe I’m not a ‘real’ writer, whatever that means.

I wonder if Kate DeCamillo or (insert your favorite author) spends hours agonizing over the right POV, voice, exposition, and/or dialogue. If I was a real writer, wouldn’t this get easier? Should I just quit and take up knitting?

Problem is, much as I appreciate a good sweater, I have no passion for knitting.

Am I writer? or is this just a cheap form of therapy?

But writing draws me like a magnet and I can’t stop now. I’m working it for all its worth because it keeps me sane. As I write that, I know it’s true, even though it sounds crazy. Writing is a form of contemplation that allows me to process life. It helps me slow down and examine the raw data that surrounds me in visible and invisible forms.

I’ve come to think of writing as taste testing the stew of oddments, profane, divine, related and seemingly unrelated, that come hurtling towards me at quark speed.  When I write, I sort it out, spice it up, stir it and add ingredients from other pots.

But enough of  food metaphors. On my own terms, in my own time, writing simply lets me breathe.

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What about you? Are you tongue-tied about calling yourself a writer?

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I haven’t read Tom Sawyer since, well…a really long time ago, but I’m reading it again now. The impetus for dusting off my copy is a community-wide reading affair based on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Our twin cities of Yuba City and Marysville are participating in the national Big Read project, which provides grants to communities to help inspire people to pick up a book, to fall in love with reading.

Our local arts council chose Mark Twain’s classic ‘bad boy’ book, in which Twain reminds adults that children are not angels, but fellow human beings, and perhaps all the more lovable for their imperfections and bad grooming. To get people familiar with the story, The Yuba Sutter Arts Council is having a Kick Off this Sunday (Jan. 31st) with ongoing readings of some of the more famous episodes.

There will be Aunt Polly’s Pie-Eating Contest, banjo playing with songs of the Tom Sawyer era. Free copies of the book, including a young reader’s version will be available, as well as the Teacher’s and Reader’s Guide for educators. There’s crafts, a pirate’s cove and a treasure chest for kids. Then folks can pose with our life-size cutout of Mark Twain, play hopscotch and marbles.

A truly old-fashioned community affair!

And that’s just the Kick Off! For six weeks, schools, libraries and book clubs will be reading and discussing the book. The will be storytimes, scrapbooking projects and a women’s history tea where the women in Mark Twain’s life have agreed to make a reappearance.

It’s a unique project, trying to get a whole community all focused on the same book and using elements within the story for such a wide variety of activities.  Since I love reading and would love to see it’s revival, I have become even more passionate about this project  in a town where the only two bookstores are going out of business. B. Dalton in the Mall and the lovely used bookstore, Amicus Books are both closing their doors.

According to the NEA report (2008), reading is on the rise again reversing two decades of downward trends. This is good news, but I’m not sure how we will revive reading without bookstores and with libraries strained with budget cuts.

But I’m forever an optimist. One of America’s greatest treasures is our ability to be innovate.  There must be more ways to strengthen the connection between kids and reading.

I’m hoping our Big Read project will be the start for our community.

What are your thoughts? What can we do to help revive the love of reading?

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