Sunday, December 15, 2013

Changing Hands - more than a bookstore

Those with literary parents learn a few important lessons in childhood. For example, to share your favorite book is to share a piece of your soul. A good book is a great escape. Reading a book aloud together is a wonderful way to build lasting memories. Visiting the bookstore is an adventure. Literary people know -- discovering a new good book is as exciting as anything, and where better to discover new and exciting literature than at a local independent bookstore?

Unfortunately, due to a floundering economy, the advent of digital publishing, and the rise of Amazon, independent bookstores have become an endangered species. The economy, ebooks, and Amazon -- even large bookstore chains, like Borders, which closed the last of their brick and mortar locations by the end of 2011, are threatened by this triumvirate of terror. How can independent bookstores hope to survive?

At least one independent bookstore in Arizona seems to be thriving. Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, located on the Southwest corner of Guadalupe and McClintock, has been in business for over thirty years, and is still going strong. Its selling floor is thoughtfully organized, with greeting cards, a vast selection of gifts, and of course, new and used books beautifully displayed. The store is filled with custom signage, curios, employee recommendations, and cases full of interesting items to engage anyone's interest. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, the staff knowledgeable and friendly. From within the store, the comforting but distant bustle of a restaurant can be heard. Attached to the bookstore is the Wildflower Bread Company, a bakery/cafe serving fresh and outstanding food. The Tuscan Kale salad and the Salmon Caesar salad are highly recommended.

According to the Changing Hands website, the bookstore started in Downtown Tempe in 1974. Changing Hands eventually outgrew its humble 500 square foot beginnings and graduated to a two level location on popular Mill Avenue that soon required expansion. In 1998, a second location was opened (the current store). In 2000, the Mill Avenue location, a wonderful 5,000 square foot, three level space had to be closed.

Since then, the Changing Hands store still in operation has only shown signs of growth. One key to its popularity is an array of weekly events planned for the community. Poetry readings, writing workshops, special guest presentations, signings, and a teen book club are only a few of the things Changing Hands offers. In the past year, Changing Hands has hosted authors such as Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, Marie Osmond, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, and Timothy Zahn.

So in spite of all of the frightening changes happening in the publishing world, and the difficulties booksellers have had to overcome in order to stay viable, Changing Hands' philosophy of bringing the community together through literature has remained strong.

How could it be more optimistically stated than this? In spring 2014, Changing Hands is opening a new location in Phoenix, on 300 West Camelback Road.

Here's to the independent bookstore, long may it reign.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

November 2013 Book Reviews

Haven't been reading much. I read so few books this year. TOO MUCH ART.

Here's what I read last month.

 Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

On the front cover of this book, a review says, "Enchanting . . . Willy Wonka meets The Matrix." I resoundingly agree with that, if you throw in a gallon of 80's pop culture trivia and a cup of crazy post-apocalyptic-pseudo-dystopian world building and several shakes of some kind of MMORPG Starcraft, stir vigorously and inject it directly into your eyeballs. Because it felt like a movie. In my brain. Most books don't feel that way to me. This book was vivid and fearless and CRAZY. Who thinks like this? After I finished this book, I told everyone about it. My husband, my kids, my mom, the dude at the gym, random people in the grocery store. But none of them would really get it. I think only a certain generation, with certain geekery leanings will fully grasp its awesomeness. But it will be a fun romp for any YA reader.


Wool by Hugh Howey

I ran across this book in a things-you-might-like email from Amazon. I did some research on the author, and he's one of THOSE. Like Amanda Hocking. Independently published. Now independently wealthy. Wool sprang from a short story by the same name, which ended up being the first part of the book. It's based in a post-apocalyptic world. It has most of the standbys of the genre, but the mystery and the plot are just plain fun. I listened to most of it on audio and read the rest of it on my iPad. I liked it enough to buy the sequel/prequel. If you like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, I recommend it.

Warnings on: language.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

October 2013 Book Reviews

All YA this month:
 The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Lucy is a pianist. But she doesn't know if she wants to be. She quit. Sort of. But life is messy and beautiful. Does she want the music back?

A lovely and poignant book about families and their power over us, music, relationships, and following your heart.
 Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This book, written around a series of real antique photos featuring bizarre or unsettling images, is a tale of loss, mystery, time-travel, monsters, and evolutionary jumps. Strange, dark, and at times creepy, this book might be just the thing for a youth with an interest in the weird. As a writer, the story-building process is interesting, considering his photographic inspiration.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I admit, I'm a little late to this party. But that doesn't mean I appreciated it any less.

An unconventional romance blossoms between two teen cancer patients, and as they face illness, mortality, and the nature of love, we are exposed to two raw, vulnerable human beings who, thanks to John Green's considerable talents, let us see their gooey centers.

I cried a lot.

Warnings on: language, sexual situations.

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Based on his own experience, the author shows us a young man in crisis. He ends up in the mental hospital, surrounded by an interesting cast of characters. It's a rather quick read, and more of a study of depression than plot heavy. But for youth curious about psychiatric facilities and what it's like to suffer from mental illness, or for those with their own emotional burdens, Vizzini's narrative may offer something very valuable.

Warnings on: language, sexual situations, discussions of suicide.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Memorable Lines

So I started writing a new story today. The idea had been banging around in my skull for a couple weeks, then the story woke up roaring today. It starts out with a kicker of a first line, which made me want to jump up and say, "Hell yeah!"

But I was in the waiting room at Tyler's doctor. So I didn't.

There I was. Taking sips from my water bottle under the No Food Or Drink sign and listening to a dismal procession of top 40s on the office radio. I put my earbuds in and pulled out my writer's notebook.

I wrote a line as a gray, solid woman entered the room. She signed in at the front desk. Her loud tones were audible over my equally loud music, but I couldn't understand what she said. She proceeded to start a conversation with the gentleman to her left as another man came in to wait. He signed in and then sat down to join the conversation. The three of them then had a very loud and lively exchange about . . . something. I don't know what, because I couldn't hear the specifics. I could hear them though, which was surprising, not only because people are usually pretty reserved in waiting rooms, but my music was pretty loud.

I crossed off the first first line and wrote a second first line. And that was the good one. Overwhelmed with triumph, I looked around briefly to see who knew how awesome I was.

Nobody noticed. I wonder what they were talking about. Probably Obamacare. Or alligators. It was hard to tell based on their gestures. I wonder if these people were writers. Or even readers. I wonder if they like speculative fiction. I wonder if any of them watch The Walking Dead, or Firefly.

I wonder if any of them have read Ray Bradbury or Neil Gaiman. What would their favorite books be? At this point I feel like Bob Wiley in What About Bob? guessing Dr. Marvin's family names. "Oh wait, let me guess. I'm very good at this. That's Harriet. And then Ronny, Gretchen, and Rita. Err. . . wait, wait a second. Cecilia. Dorothy. And this is Kenneth and Bambi."

Oh wait, let me guess. I'm very good at this. Bridges of Madison County. Ben Hur. Slaughterhouse-Five and Eat. Pray. Love. Err . . . wait, wait a second. Twilight. the Attack of the Clones novelization. Yoga for Cats and Gone With The Wind. 

What was even the point of this post? Oh yeah, memorable lines. So I wrote the first line, and it was awesome. Then I wrote four lines after it. It was one of those moments when you say, "Wow, I'm pretty good at this." I wanted to stand up and read my first line to the waiting room. But their heated conversation about modern cinema (?) was too involved.

Call me Ishmael.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Happy families are all alike . . .
All this happened, more or less.
You better not never tell nobody but God.

I suppose I don't just mean first lines. I mean lines that stick out out. A line you remember years after reading it. Here's my favorite line ever. The first time I read it I was eight. And I knew Bradbury's wizardry was something I wanted to learn. It's from A Sound of Thunder:

"The meat settled, quivering."

Holy crap. That's an amazing line.

What have been your most memorable lines?

Monday, November 4, 2013


So my awesome books, fixed up and shiny, are available for FREE until Tuesday night.

That's a 100% off sale. Don't miss it! Tell all your friends.

They are available for Kindle OR for any major smartphone, tablet, iPod touch, laptop, or PC with the FREE Kindle app. Even if you don't intend to read them (but that would be dumb), download them and help me raise my numbers. Because you're nice like that. I can tell.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A new collection!

My new book is available on Amazon for Kindle OR any major smartphone, ipod, tablet or laptop with the FREE Kindle app. It's only $2.99. And it's awesome.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Inktober - Day 22

New Halloween Book

See this? This is a storybook app I wrote about a hungry zombie who gets into a lot of trouble because he just won't stop eating. And he's not very selective. Guess what? This is a perfect book for Halloween!

It's a parody. It's narrated by children. It's funny.

Go buy it for your iPad or iPhone and elicit some giggles from your little ones. Or from yourself.

Go buy it. Here's the link ---> RAD ZOMBIE BOOK FOR KIDS. Go.

Monday, October 21, 2013

BLOG TOUR and Inktober - Day 21

Here's the Inktober sketch for today. Can you guess what I've been watching?

And now for the blog tour. Carol asked me to participate and I was only to happy to help her out. I love Carol and adore her books. Plus I love that she asked me, because she's so legit and it makes me kinda legit too.

Mwah, Carol!

1. What are you working on right now?

Right now, I am working on several things. At first I was going to type, The Novel. But then I realized I have started working on a children's book in my head. Plus I'm finishing up illustrations on the second short story anthology, Quicksilver Breach, which will soon be available on Amazon. But The Novel is first. It's the biggest project, and the one I've been working on the longest.

2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?

The novel is in a contemporary style, but it has what some people would consider a paranormal twist. It's very dark, with elements of hope. It treats sexual abuse in a way I have not seen before, and other people have told me that, so it's not just me talking. ;)  And I think it's pretty cool that I dreamed up how to write about this topic in a new, unique way.

3. Why do you write what you do?

There are stories inside of everyone. Some of the stories sleep, others stir, and then others wake roaring. The ones that roar the loudest are the ones I write down. I jump all over the place, from stories featuring young children to robots to monsters. Sometimes all three at once. I am fascinated by the human condition and how to capture it on the page.

4. How does your writing process work?

I think. A lot. Sometimes I let an idea sit in my brain for months, or even years. Luckily, there are several ideas stewing at once, so I don't have to wait five months to start working on the next one. When one feels ready, I get my computer out. I actually write every day, it just depends on which story is roaring the loudest. I turn on music. Right now, it's The Vitamin String Quartet channel on Pandora. There's something awesome about hearing Smooth Criminal pounded out on cellos. If I'm working on a short story, I'll write until the story is finished. I can't stop writing in the middle of a short story. The novel is different. It's more like a marathon.  I usually have a page goal, so I'll write until I reach that number of pages. I eat things I like while I write, so that I will be happy about sitting there. The novel is difficult and emotionally draining, so it's taking a while, but it's interesting to watch the characters interact with each other.

Look for these authors next week:

Ann Cannon - I love Ann. She's so talented and sweet. And her book The Loser's Guide to Life and Love will make you laugh your head off.

Ginny Tilby - Ginny is kind of adorable. And her children's book debut, You Should, You Should! is important and GREAT.

Angel Leigh McCoy - I met Angel through her ezine, WilyWriters. She's a narrative designer on Guild Wars 2. She writes rad speculative fiction. One of her recent projects, the Deep Cuts horror anthology, is wonderfully terrifying. Read Beavers.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Inktober Day 2

So I decided to combined images with words for this challenge.
Day 2!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


So Jake Parker (this artist that I admire) does this thing called Inktober - 31 Days, 31 Drawings, and I didn't know about it until today. Maybe I heard about it, but I wasn't paying attention. I'm kind of distracted, or busy, just doing what I do. Lots of writing, lots of painting, lots of mothering.

I don't have a drawing for today. I was going to do my drawings on the iPad, but I don't know if that's legit. Would someone call me out for drawing on my iPad?  Anyway, here's a sketch about Halloween. I made it a couple of years ago. I'll start the challenge tomorrow!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sketchbook Friday!

Jelly family. I've been thinking a lot about sea creatures. When you read my 2nd book, you'll know why.
Finger painting. On the iPad. In Artrage.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Games That Inspire

As a child of the 80's, I have been privileged to see the rise of personal gaming platforms. Coming from a family who loves games of all kinds, my brother Jon and I were primed for video games. We spent countless hours together, trying to beat Super Mario Bros on NES. When I entered high school, I didn't have time for video games, and the friends I spent the most time with didn't play, so Jon became much more of a gamer than I.

Since I am a writer and an artist, I love things that combine the two to great effect. There are games that have inspired me with their artwork and captured my imagination with their narrative.

Here are my favorites:

Space Quest: How many of you have played this game? It was suspenseful, funny, and full of Easter egg images for geeks. Here's a screenshot from SQ3: Pirates of Pestulon.

I remember Jon and I literally screaming when Arnie the Annihilator would inevitably track down our Roger Wilco character and kill him in some gruesome way. 

Myst: This first person adventure puzzle game was cutting edge. Gorgeous graphics and an immersive experience that didn't explain anything, just dropped you in to figure it out. I could spend hours just exploring, trying to discover the secrets to the character's backstory.

Who here has made it to the end of Myst?

Typing of the Dead: Stewart introduced me to this game. This one isn't about writing or art, but I'm sticking it in here because it's rad. The story isn't particularly original, and neither are the graphics, but the gimmick is incredible! This game will require several screenshots.

It's a standard FPS zombie game, actually a mod of House of the Dead 2. The difference is that guns are replaced with keyboards. Literally.

In order to kill advancing enemies, you must type on your keyboard instead of shooting. Correctly typed letters act as bullets. Words and phrases increase in complexity as the game progresses.

Since I'm a fast typer, I really enjoyed this game. I had fun sharing it with others. Kenna and I sat together and played through, screaming at the encroaching zombie hordes.

Amnesia: First person horror/adventure. This game is terrifying and brilliant. Play it with earbuds in.

Super Meat Boy: Independent game designed by two guys. It's a 2D scroller platform game that follows, you guessed it, a boy made out of meat, as he attempts to rescue his girlfriend Bandage Girl from Dr. Fetus. The character designs are graphic stylized shapes. Super Meat Boy will have you giggling and pulling your hair out simultaneously

Braid: This indie platform puzzle game is fascinating. It was designed by Jonathan blow, with art by webcomic artist David Hellman. The main character is on a quest to rescue a princess, which is nothing new, but the narrative is complex and interesting, and the game's most alluring quality is this: you can manipulate time. It's also beautiful and weird.

The Binding of Isaac: This indie, top down, 2D roguelike game has been called the game for gamers. When Isaac's insane mother receives a message from God demanding she kill her son, he escapes into the basement. It just so happens the basement is a dungeon full of monsters. Isaac, nude and weeping (his attack is to toss TEARS) wanders through the basement fighting foes and gaining equipment, and hopefully more lives. You can't save this game. It's very difficult. I've never gotten past level one. But I've watched Tyler play through it to the end. It's stylized art is strangely mesmerizing. And the story is top-notch. 

And my top two favorite games:

Limbo: This indie puzzle platform game is brilliant. The black and white presentation, ambient sounds, and lighting effects create an atmosphere so eerie, it's difficult to forget.

A nameless boy searches the edge of Hell for his sister. There's no dialogue. There are monsters and dripping water and faceless child enemies. What's not to love?

I had to turn it off a couple of times because it was too frightening. Too eerie. But it's so lovely with its dark atmosphere and gorgeous imagery.

And the completion of the game is totally open-ended, which some people hate, but I adore. Play it. Go on. I dare you.


Bastion: Stewart told me about this one too. This top down action RPG is profound. It's indie and it's beautiful, but it's also thoughtful, with haunting music and an involved narrative. And a unique narrator.

I don't really want to give anything away. It's a fantastic story, the art is excellent, and the ending made me cry.

If you're looking for a new game to play, choose Bastion. Remember, if you create something that touches people, that changes them inside, they will sell it for you!

What are some of your favorite games?