Friday, November 29, 2013

Wizard World’s Austin TX Comic Con

Jordan Dane

I am no longer a Comic Con virgin. There, I said it. I joined the Writing Ninjas of TX at their large impressive exhibit where we chatted with readers about YA books and signed our featured novels. Our amazing book seller was The Book Spot of Round Rock, TX. The store will have our signed books on sale and on display if you didn’t make the Comic Con in Austin. Here is a link for their YA signed featured books.


Here are photos from Comic Con:

Grp shot at Austin Comic Con 2013
Bottom (L to R): Madeline Smoot, P J Hoover, Mari Mancusi
Standing (L to R): Jessica Anderson, Jo Whittemire, Danny Woodfill (Book Spot)

Kari Holt
Kari Holt as a Zombie - Scary
Me as Duck Dynasty
Me in my Duck Dynasty gear - even scarier


HarlequinTeen made sure my latest YA Crystal Fire was “in the wild” when Comic Con was on – a special exclusive for the event. The Hunted series is complete with both books now being available.

My Books
Crystal Fire & Indigo Awakening - The Hunted Series at Comic Con


I took some miscellaneous shots of some crazies I saw, but there were many more photos taken by the Austin Chronicle and I’ve included a link to their images below.

Hee Man
Hercules and his goddess? Don't know, but they were smiling.


Here is a link to the Austin Chronicle posting of many more fun photos taken that day by their photographers. If you ever get a chance to go to a Comic Con, join in the fun and dress up. Tap into your inner child with a flourish. You won’t regret it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dating a Book

It’s been a very long time, maybe a millennium, since I went on a first date. That’s the way it is with married folks. But I can remember that time in my life. The getting to know you questions, listening with your whole body, really paying attention, noticing the details. And friends always had commentary. They had strong opinions about who was and was not worthy and why. Sometimes it was really smart to listen to friends, other times I wondered. Get a group of friends together and see how a strong opinion, whether based in fact or not, can influence the whole group. Soon everyone is agreeing each other because we like to belong, to be part of something. We like people to agree with us. 

I was thinking about dating when I was looking at some book recommendations from friends on a well known reader site. And I began to wonder if the same group think phenomenon was true for books too. And then I came across a post by Laura Fredericks on the site Writer Unboxed.
“…authors can pay for reviews, readers can gang up on an author, and it’s been shown that up to a third of reviews are fake. Like also tends to beget like in the book review space. If there a lot of five star reviews, then the five star reviews keep rolling in. Insert a few one star reviews, and the ball rolls in the other direction. Mob mentality is no way to choose a book.”

Our thinking appeared to be in sync. I have a few trusted friends I listen to when selecting a new book to read. We have the same tastes much of the time, but not always. There are tried and true authors I go back to again and again, like a soft well-worn shirt. But many of my favorite books have been discovered quite by accident when browsing in a bookstore or even on line when I’ve been able to take the time to listen to the voice. As a reader, I can’t always articulate what magic draws me into a story. It’s not just genre, some fantasy I love and some, well not so much. I can’t look for a character type.  I’m not always wooed by the same kind of voice.In fact, one of the most gratifying reads is when I am captivated by a book I never suspected I might fall for. And as for that pretty cover, it may catch my eye, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be taking it home.

A great example for me was the book, I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. The cover wasn’t appealing to me. I hadn’t heard any gossip about it, hadn’t read the reviews, didn't even recognize the author. Then I read a page and found Cassandra Mortman sitting in the kitchen sink.

And when the magic is right....I like to think that there is a dialog that happens between reader and book. At a particular time a book is speaking just to me. I am its intended audience in this place and time. And time stands still.

As a reader, how do you choose your books?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Is Poetry SO Difficult?

The poetry unit of the school year has officially begun and I am dragging me feet just like my friends.  I read poetry like its a drug, but I cannot write it to save my life; as in my teacher has been giving me participation grades so I do not fail... So, I am seeking assistance, like usual, in finding a little inspiration. Let's look to the great poets who have been long deceased.

John Keats- From Ode to a Nightingale

"Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou amongst the leaves hast never known
The weariness, the fever, and the fret"

Keats was from the Romantic Era, leaving him love drunk, and overly wordy and emotional. He had inspiration everywhere, which I am vastly envious of, and I cannot help but wonder how he found just the right words to convey his feelings in such short works? I feel like it would take a novel and all it's entirety to explain my thoughts; not just a mere poem.

e.e. cummings- From 9. 

"there are so many tictoc
clocks everywhere telling people
what toctic time it is for
tictic instance five toc minutes toc
past six tic"

What even is this? I have read enough from him that I realized that there is no method to his madness. He seems like that kid that had to always out weird everyone; I feel that we would have had many things in common. Aside from our similarities, I have yet to grasp the idea of rhyming and repetition. And, am I cool enough to forget about capitalization yet?

Robert Frost- From The Road Not Taken

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

This is one of my favorite poems from my second favorite poet; it leaves you thinking about the choices you have made. That makes a good poem in my book; one that evokes thought rather than emotions or inspirations. Some of us are not wise yet, so that might cause issues when trying to get peoples' minds rolling.

These poets, and many others, have fed the public with words of love, of loss, and all I have learned from them is that the only way to be a successful poet is to be deeply depressed, an alcoholic, or a highly functioning sociopath. Poetry may not be my forte yet, but I will give it some time; eventually I will have thoughts worth hearing and opinions worth voicing but for now I will stick to writing about colors and the weather like a good student should.

Monday, November 25, 2013

I'm a NaNoWriMo Loser (And That's Okay).

By Dan Haring

November is the month many exciting things happen. My wedding anniversary, birthdays for two of my kids, Thanksgiving, Movember, and more. But as a writer, one of the coolest things about November is NaNoWriMo, or for the acronym-averse among us, National Novel Writing Month. The idea is simple. Write 50,000 words during the month of November.

Notice I said the idea is simple.

The reality is much harder. Which is why of the three times I've attempted to "win" NaNoWriMo, I've never even gotten close. November is also, without fail, a month that piles up with busyness very easily. (Those things I listed above play a big part, except for Movember. That one pretty much takes care of itself.) So not only is it hard to find time to write with the normal full-time job and full-time family life, but all the extra stuff makes it near-impossible.

But still, each late October, in the midst of my Halloween happiness, I get the itch, the idea that THIS will be the year that I dominate NaNoWriMo. And that indomitable spirit usually carries me though a good week or two of November. And then I realize I've only written 2000 words total instead of the daily goal of ~1600. But it's okay, I tell myself, I'll just double up my word count for a few of the days and I'll be right back on track!

And it's usually just about this time that real life comes clomping over and reminds me of all the silly realities and details that I'm supposed to be dealing with, and inevitably my NaNo book falls by the wayside. 

But in the end, I'm really okay with the way things work out, for several reasons.

One is that it's a goal of mine, albeit one that I fail at all the time, to take advantage of the opportunities each day offers. Some days that means having a few uninterrupted hours to write at night. Other days it means that with time spent with kids and my wife, my writing time is minimal to nothing at all. But I'd rather my kids have memories of me spending time with them than of me hunched over the computer, grumbling to myself.

The other main reason is the goal of NaNoWriMo is to get you to write. Write a novel, sure, but write. That's the key. Right now I've averaged just under 500 words per day for the month. I wish it were more. I wish I'd been able to get closer to my goal. But I'm okay with it because I'm a lot closer to finishing this book than if I hadn't tried to do NaNo again.

And I think most people who tried and failed, like me, probably wrote way more than they would have without it. So wear your loser badge proudly. Because you're not a loser in the traditional sense. You're on your way to winning. you're on your way to finishing that book, even if it takes a little longer than 30 days.

PS Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Art and Science of Bad Movies


Not long ago I saw Pacific Rim and loved it. A long time ago I saw Armageddon and hated it. It left me wondering: why? The answer wasn’t clear to me at first, but it did remind me of an important lesson about writing and storytelling.

Pacific Rim and Armageddon are both jumbo-sized eye candy served up with extra heaps of action and spectacle. Anyone who knows me won’t be one bit surprised that I loved Guillermo Del Torro’s heavy metal creature-feature because I’m a lifelong fan of giant monster flicks—heck, I can recite the blow-by-blow of every rubber-suited rumble Godzilla has ever thrown down during his 60-year reign as King of Monsters. But what’s not to like about Armageddon, Michael Bay’s 1998 disaster-stravaganza about a bunch of rough-necks who fly into space to blow up earth-bound meteors? It’s got explosions and destruction on a grand scale, so how come I didn’t dig it?

Armageddon Disney Studios Paris
I used to take the high-ground and claim that it was about Armageddon’s shameless disregard for the laws of physics. After all, this movie is actually used as a NASA training film… to see which trainees can spot the most scientific errors (the official count is 168 impossibilities and countless improbabilities). But, come on, all giant monsters/robots would be subject to the square-cube law meaning that any creature or machine of that size would collapse under its own weight. The square-cube law may be my LEAST favorite ramification of our 3-dimensional universe EVER, yet it is powerless to stop my willing suspension of disbelief.

It’s certainly not that either movie takes itself too seriously. Both deliver their thrills with a smirk, most memorably with Ron Pearlman’s performance as a swaggering profiteer in Pacific Rim and the hulking Michael Clarke Duncan crying like a baby during high-gee stress tests in Armageddon. Most action movies do well to keep things light, whether they’re blockbusters like the massively entertaining Thor 2 or low-grade, goofball flicks like Sharknado. A little bit of laughter is endearing, and it helps the audience swallow impossible premises.

After giving this question far more thought than it probably deserved, I reached the conclusion that my preferences were pretty much arbitrary. I wish I had some kind of high-falutin’, intellectually justifiable reason to prefer Pacific Rim, but the truth is that it’s no more logical than why I prefer broccoli over cauliflower. I like giant monsters, but I don’t especially care for blue collar astronauts. Simple as that.

The lesson for a writer is this: know your audience. It’s not good enough to write a genre for genre fans, because you have to know that not all the readers in your genre go for the same thing. Your audience might accept vampires but not zombies, or they might hunger for family drama but not courtroom drama. You’ve just got to know.

It’s like Tom Stoppard wrote in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: “The audience knows what they expect and that is all they are prepared to believe.” The corollary is that a writer needs to know one in order to provide the other.

Be good, and dream crazy dreams

Sechin Tower is a teacher, a table-top game designer, and the author of Mad Science Institute. You can read more about him and his books on and his games on

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Writing Ninjas Attack Austin Comic Con!

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday November 22-24, 2013, two members of the ADR3NALIN3 blog, P. J. Hoover and Jordan Dane, will be part of the Writing Ninjas. We'll be performing a stealthy but deadly assault on the Austin Comic Con.  We will be at booths #428/430 where we will be signing copies of our books.

Our postcards!

Come by our booth for candy, free books, and the chance to get your favorite Writing Ninja books signed.


Solstice Border Crossing The Sweet Dead Life The Veil Brains For Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! Scorched Dear Teen Me

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fatal Flaw Part Deux

Previously on this channel I introduced my experience with the concept of "fatal flaw" --that special thing writer's do (or don't do) that puts a wall between them and publishing success.  I stated that I would reveal my fatal flaw and hang it out there in the digital wind for the world to see.  But before I go any further, let me set the stage. I met with a highly successful YA author in a one-week intensive novel writing workshop.  It was there, under his discerning editorial eye, that everything changed for me.  Since I prefer writing in the first person present POV, that's how this tale begins:

I'm sitting in a small windowless room. It's just the two of us.  He has my 80,000 word manuscript on the table in front of him.  I know he's read it because it is dog-eared , stained, and marked with copious amounts of editorial ink.  He leans forward, looks me hard in the eyes and says, "Stephen, what you've written here is very good."

 He pauses.  I hold my breath.  He says, "But you have a fatal flaw."  My heart thunders against my chest.  I can't swallow.  Then I think back to 1978.  Saint Albans, Vermont.  My grandmother's kitchen.  She was short, Italian, square as a bedpost but she cooked a mean lasagna bolognaise.  She used to say to me, "Be strong, work hard, and the good will come!"

 So I tell him, "Give it to me straight.  Can I be cured?"

 While the above passage is loaded with clichés and hackneyed phrases, they are easily fixed and therefore non-fatal.  My affliction was more subtle, nuanced, easily missed.  The term for my fatal flaw is "Psychic Distance", meaning the distance the reader feels between himself and the story.  In the passage I wrote, the first-person narrator (and the reader, presumably) are in the room, at the table.  Then, just as the tension really starts to crank, the author (me) yanks the reader out of the room and into the past.  Tension bleeds away and, if it happens enough and at the wrong times, the reader will lose interest and look elsewhere to be entertained.

 John Gardner explains Psychic Distance with this example from his book, The Art of Fiction:
1.  It was winter of the year 1853.  A large man stepped out of a doorway.
2.  Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.
3.  Henry hated snowstorms.
4.  (Man) how he hated these (blasted) snowstorms.
5.  Snow.  Under your collar, down inside your shoes, freezing and plugging up your miserable soul...

 In each case the author moves us progressively closer, from a Gods-eye view, down to the snow in the man's shoes.  The analogy Gardner uses is to write like a skilled cinematographer.  Zoom in or out depending on where the action is and where you want your reader to be:  knee-deep in it, somewhere close-by, or up in the clouds looking down on it all.   When done with care, the effect is seamless and the reader feels and stays emotionally vested.   In my case,  the author assigned to me had taken the liberty of highlighting all my instances of psychic distance.  My manuscript looked like one of those CSI episodes where they use a chemical to make all the blood glow under a black light.  What I had written looked like a mafia crime scene. 

 So now I am constantly on the lookout for psychic distance.  I recognize the warning signs and for the most part resist the urge to ignore them.  But that doesn't mean I am home-free.  I recently attended an excellent workshop on voice by Matt de la Pena.  Now I'm disturbingly certain that he exposed another symptom that, if untreated, will morph into another fatal flaw:  excessive narration.  So bust out the syringe and shoot me up with anti venom.  Here we go again.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gateway Drugs and Pheonix Flames




Notebooks are piling steadily by the foot of my bed, on and around my desk. Pens are scattered through out the house trailing inky stains of things I have imagined. I am inspired by a word, the word buried itself into my head and over time has bloomed into several words, a scene filled with roaring thunder, or perhaps a silent night filled with horrors of the dark. The idea has bloomed inside of my head and it grows like a weed, twisting and weaving it's way throughout my brain. I fall asleep to conversations of my characters and my dreams are filled with them racing across the pages I am trying to write as they embrace their destiny, their adventure filled fate.

Writing a new story is like wading through a storm at sea. It is so beautiful, entrancing and magical and yet you know that once you cross the line and swim towards the eye, once you write the very first line, the very first word you are lost. It is a dangerous thing falling in love with the story you write, it hurts you when you see everything they must go through to reach the end of the tale. Starting a book is the hardest part for me because I know I am going to fall, I am going to become ensnared by the conversations the characters have in the bleak midnight hours. I am going to become entrapped by the landscape and the haunting memories that are glaring at the horizon. But I don't care I swim towards the first page anyways. I know the risks, the dangers of having a love for something that is so consuming it feels raw and bright.

I think someone once called it passion. I am passionate about writing, it makes me feel good. It transforms me from a seventeen year old girl into a elvish warrior, or a robot. I can become a Greek God, or a witch. I have lived a thousand lives through reading and with writing I plan to live a thousand more. But it isn't just about escapism, writing to me is about the power of creating something. Creating something so incredible that you can feel every single word resonate within you.

As I begin to embark upon the new journey awaiting me I try to take a pause. I try to just live in the regular world doing regular things, but to be honest I am so much happier with my nose touching the notebook as I scribble out words that stream from my head to the paper. My eyes get crossed as I try to keep up with the way my pen is forming each letter. I love fictional things, I love the art of storytelling, the caress of each syllable of beauty and mystery against your eyes.

I love little things in every day life inspiring me. I love the leak in the bathroom sink by my room and the way it echoes into my head as I fall asleep creating the rhythmic beat against the ceramic. In my head instead of rational thoughts I can hear the heartbeat of Theo steady and clear. I can hear his youth, his vitality inside my head. Through the leaky faucet I can hear his unsteady laugh as he tries to diffuse a situation, I can hear his voice hoarse with anger and sleep when he awakens to news that rips through him.

I am inspired by the way the little boy down the street learns to ride his bike, never failing to climb back on once he has fallen. He ignores the scrapes and bruises that are forming on his knobbly knees with a goal in front of his eyes. I am inspired by that determination as I see flashes of a warrior ready to fight until not only the battle is over but the war has been won.

I love the world of possibilities that is resting at the turn of a page or the scribble of a pen. The hope that fills the chest of a child as they fall in love with a character for the first time, the giddiness that comes with happy endings and the heartache that is incredibly consuming when you reach the end of a book and there is no more.

Writing is like a gateway drug(1) to the impossible , it shows you things you didn't expect and makes you feel alive in ways you didn't know were possible. Like a Phoenix the passion of a story burns through you, turning you to ashes as you say goodbye to one tale but then bursting forth with a new flame as you see the beginnings of a new friend.

I write and write and write because a voyage filled with uncertainty and undiscovered territories are awaiting me to join them. I write because Theo needs to speak and because Simon is cranky in the mornings.

Hopefully soon I will get to share some of these adventures with you, but for now my muses are demanding my attention. I am off to embark upon a frightening, exciting time with characters that will surely steal bits and pieces of my heart.

Lexi Brady

1- Hugs not drugs. Or books not drugs. Just no drugs. :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Taking Chances, Pushing the Envelope with WHITE SPACE

Last week, I mentioned that I’d be on Goodreads answering all things Bick. I got some terrific questions, too, covering everything from MONSTERS to the things I love and hate about being a writer. In all that, there were a fair number of questions about the first book in my upcoming, two-volume Dark Passages series, WHITE SPACE. By now, word’s gotten out that the book is . . . pretty different. A couple aspects that seem to intrigue people revolve around the book’s structure, including multiple POVs. As with all questions, I give my answers a fair amount of thought, and so I figured, okay, since this is on people’s minds, why not simply share one very excellent question about the book and my answer here?

Oh, and before I forget: a heartfelt thank you to the David Estes Fan Page and YA Book Lovers Unite Discussion Group for letting me barge in for a week and speak my peace. If you want to see what follows in context (and get a gander at the entire week-long discussion), drop by here.

* * * (Jeann)I'm excited about your upcoming book White Spaces(sic). I hear there's many POVs within it, could you tell us about how this is weaved into the story? How do you think readers will find your new release?

Thanks! But I'm not sure how to answer your question. I mean, there are many POVs in the ASHES trilogy, too, if you think about it. So the challenge is in creating compelling characters, each with a distinctive voice, to help people keep things straight. For this particular book, because I'm not building on characters you've heard about in the first book (e.g., in SHADOWS, you already knew who the main players were), I help people a little bit by heading each chapter with the POV's name (Lizzie, Emma, Eric, etc.).

Are there are a lot of people to keep track of (in WHITE SPACE)? Sure, but there are tons of characters in books by Dickens and Stephen King and Dan Simmons and . . .

I trust that a) my readers have brains and b) they come to my books--and this one, in particular--understanding that it's not the same-o, same-o. To be honest, I think that part of the predictability problem with a lot of YA is that writers limit their POVs because they think it'll be "easier" on their readers. In a sense, they're right; it's not like I've NEVER written a book from first-person POV. I write whatever POV the story demands. That means I won't shy away from bigger, broader novels with multiple POVs because that limits your options as a writer and may act to the detriment of your story. (I can think of MANY very popular trilogies that falter because of this problem. MANY. OTOH, they're ridiculously popular . . . so don't pay any attention to me.) And, frankly, every time you write, you ought to try something you've never done before. Otherwise, you get stale, and so does your writing.

White Space Cover
WHITE SPACE really hinges on readers "getting" the conceit: what the different POVs are about; why they're playing out the way they are. That means I do weird things in the narrative, but because it's also partially horror, weird fits in naturally in terms of genre.

And I honestly think about things like that with every book. One of the lovely things about YA is you can get away with genre mash-ups. YA readers are, in some ways, much more flexible that way. So, you can stretch genre limits and expectations--but you must also really understand the conceits and structures of (and to) the genres you're playing with.

So, in WHITE SPACE, I do things you wouldn't expect, like end chapters in mid-sentence or with ellipses or dashes. I'm not trying to be cute, although--yeah--I'm shaking up expectations. (If you think about it, I did that at the end of the first ASHES book. Boy, were people mad and my editor was nervous because of it. But you weren't indifferent. I also ended it that way for a very specific, fairly artsy-fartsy reason: at the end of that book, Alex has discovered that all the niceties, everything she's ever taken for granted, are gone, stripped away. Civilization as she's known it has collapsed. So I wanted to give my readers that same kind of gut-punch shock. Nothing is nice and predictable for her anymore . . . so why should they be for you?)

In WHITE SPACE, I play with form to cue your mind about what's going on in the only ways available to me as a writer without sitting you down for a very boring, fairly condescending "you-know-Bob" moment. I know you guys are smarter than that. (But if you want a hint--or a movie that I mention in the book and which I think plays with the same concepts I do--then check out IDENTITY. Really interesting flick, and in some ways, much more inventive than INCEPTION, though that was also a great film.) As for how they'll find it . . . I'm going to presume you mean . . . "like" it? Or do you mean, figure out I've written it? The latter's easy ;-) As for the former, I don't know if people will like it; I hope they do. I think it's a book and concept that has the virtue of never having been tried in quite this way. (I'd like to think I'm a bit like Kirk this way.)

But . . . WHITE SPACE is a very different read. I know that going into this. It's not your standard kind of book, and I also understand that not everyone will "get" it. But you take that risk with every book. (I was going to go all artsy-fartsy and say something about how boring any art would be if all we did was churn out identical narratives or paintings or songs . . . but that's way too serious for me. Is writing an art? Sure . . . but above all else, I'm an entertainer. That's my job. You pick up a book to be entertained, not because you need your daily dose of art.)

So, changing things up, taking chances, trying something new . . . all that keeps things fresh. It's part of the terror of writing, and--for me--most of the fun.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Newly Discovered Love Of Nonfiction

I, myself, am a lover of the classics: Hemingway, Joyce Carol Oates, Charles Dickens, etc. BUT I was introduced to something new--new to me anyway. Being close to finishing Capote's In Cold Blood, I had revelation; Nonfiction can be good. Really good. Now, this seems to be just a little different than most nonfiction stories. It builds up the characters, makes you relate to them like any fiction novel requires. Then it shocks you, when you step away from the pages, that these events took place in reality. I do not know about anyone else, but that seems way more scary then baby dolls being possessed by serial killers or sticks standing up by themselves in the middle of the woods as a result of some witch named Blaire.

So, I took it upon myself to see if I could find any other books like this mash-up of creative writing and almost journalism, (Which is what I think my double major should be...) and I found just a few.

1) Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
Being disgusting fascination with serial killers, this seems like something that I could get into. The Zodiac Killer claimed 37 victims, by means that are better left unsaid, during the 60s and 70s in Northern California. Sounds like a pretty nasty dude, right? He has yet to be convicted... Scary stuff...

2) Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry
The novel covers the murders of the followers of Charles Manson that occurred in 1969; with Bugliosi being the prosecuting attorney in the trial, I feel like this is the best way to educate yourself on the subject. I hope it's as good as I want it to be...

3) The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Bundy. Bundy. Bundy. This is about Ted's life before and after his homicidal acts. He had at lest 36 victims; they could not prove that he, intact, killed the others... He was sentenced to death in 1989. I HAVE to read this; which means HalfPriceBooks will be receiving a call soon. Very soon. 

All these novels are descriptions of true events. Real terror. Real people lost their lives. Real people had to investigate the real crimes that these real people committed. Now that's something. I love horror and suspenseful books; books with bloodshed and revenge and creatures that go bump in the night. But they're just not the same. Nothing is scarier than the truth.

Friday, November 15, 2013

2013 Houston Book Rave Photos - FUN Texas Reader Event!

Jordan Dane
HBR Young Readers The first Houston Book Rave (HBR) happened on November 2, 2013 and featured over 60+ authors. Young adult authors were most represented, but many New Adult authors came and quite a number of self-published indie authors were also in attendance. Our official bookstore was Barnes & Noble, arranged by the HBR staff.

The advance publicity on this event brought quite a bit of traffic to my website from all over the country. Thanks to the organizers and to all the fabulous bloggers who helped make this event successful. The event was free for those who attended. To track attendance, organizers had participants download a free ticket and I’d heard nearly 800 were downloaded. HBR was sponsored by a number of publishers, including my house, HarlequinTeen.

The YA authors had the morning session where we decorated our tables and met with readers for two hours, not signing books until later. Instead we signed shirts, bags, book marks, etc. I wasn’t sure how I would like that format (no panel discussions), but I had a blast. We had great traffic through the rooms and got to meet some fun people. Lots of young readers and reviewers were there. After we had our social time, our next assignment was to sign books in a larger room with all the authors and the bookstore on the floor (the size of a gym).
HBR Scarlett 

I shared my table with YA author extraordinaire Jennifer Archer (Through Her Eyes, Shadow Girl-HarperTeen). Jenny and I have known each other for awhile so we had tons of fun catching up. She’s a little shy and I AM NOT. I had noise makers and had her laughing at my antics. (Thankfully she has a great sense of humor.) We had Halloween candy and signed Milk Dud boxes – pretty much anything. We had more people coming over to our table to have a good time.

There were many young readers who came looking for us. Scarlett (in the neck scarf) was with her dad (smart man) and is a review blogger who had purchased my book - On a Dark Wing. I had all my released HarlequinTeen books there.

Here are some personal stories:

Here’s our decorated table. We went with the Halloween theme since we had leftover candy. Duh! As you can see, Jenny and I signed ANYTHING, including the Milk Duds. Hot commodity.

HBR table HBR milk duds 

One fan brought baked goods. Doesn’t this look yummy. So good!!!

HBR baked goods 

This is a photo of me with Emily (a young author who I met at the Texas Library Association annual conference two years ago). I had seen Emily at two TLA events and talked to her about a book she was writing. I never forgot her. Well, her mom came to the HBR and brought this photo memory of when Emily and I last met. She had asked her mom to get me to sign it. (Emily couldn’t make HBR, but through her mom, she was there in spirit.) Emily has aspirations to become an editor in the publishing industry. With her love of writing and reading, she will be a hit.

 HBR Emily I love Emily...and her mom. xxoo

Savannah (on the right) is an amazing  book blogger who has read/reviewed my YAs. She introduced me to one of her reviewers, Chayse (left). The purple shirts were the attire of HBR staff, so you can see both of these two enthusiastic readers were there to help. I LOVED hanging out with them, including sharing a table at our Friday night BBQ as we decorated our spots. I can’t say enough about Savannah and Chayse. <3 (They are both adorable.)

HBR Chayse Savannah

Another GO TO person I found there was Misty Baker of the Kindle Obsessed Blog. Man, she is organized and knows her stuff. She was a great help to all the authors and to the HBR organizers. Wish I had a photo of her. She is a lovely lovely person. xxoo Misty!

I wanted to share my photos. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen some of these. I had fun tweeting ANYTHING from HBR. This event is definitely on my radar for next year. Anytime an author can spend quality time with readers, reviewers, and bloggers, it is a good thing. 

My next promo event will be the Austin Texas Comic Con on the weekend of Nov 22. OMG! I’m a Comic Con virgin, but I am looking forward to it. I will be joining the Writing Ninjas of Texas who have two tables in prime corner position. I will definitely post photos from this traveling circus.

Jordan Dane’s Crystal Fire (HarlequinTeen-The Hunted Series) now available for pre-order. Release is Nov 26, 2013.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Neural Coupling: Our Brains on Stories

In my latest, and still being shopped SciFi novel, I play with the idea of a cognitive link between my two protagonists. It starts out with randomly transmitted thoughts, proceeds to visual images, emotions and even smells that slip into each other’s brains. As it turns out, a type of a mind connection happens more than we realize and it’s called neural coupling. Think Spock and the Vulcan mind meld. Think of every story you’ve ever read involving telepathy and now transfer that idea to writer and reader.

Reading and writing are two different activities, but there are times the writer and reader are on the same wavelength. Why? Because something peculiar happens in the brain when a reader is engaged in a compelling story. The reader’s brain registers the same emotions that the writer is creating with words on the page. This connection can be observed using MRI technology, which is exactly what neuroscientist Uri Hasson from Princeton did. “The brains of the person telling a story and listening to it can synchronize.” And this connection doesn’t stop with emotions. When reading about taste or smell, think of those feasts in Game of Thrones, the part of the brain that engages with taste and smell lights up. The same response occurs when we are immersed in a movie. Have you ever noticed how many people move their lips when watching a scene that involves a kiss?

And here’s an interesting tidbit for writers. Cliché phrases don’t activate the brain in the same way. They don’t activate the frontal cortex. This means that not all stories are equally effective at creating neural coupling. Because I’m a writer, I can’t help asking what stories create the most powerful c. Because that’s the kind of story I want to write. I’m guessing they are the stories that explore universal human emotions. No matter how intricate the plot, how beautiful the prose, how high the concept, if the story isn’t one the reader can relate to on an emotional level the coupling isn’t as strong. And as writer’s we want the strongest connection we can forge with our readers. But there’s still a bit of a mystery here. Why do I connect more strongly with one person than with another or with one particular author?  There must be something similar in our mental make-up or existing experiences that makes us resonate.

We think in narratives. We remember in narratives. We use stories to connect with other people, to explain events in our lives, and to explain our own behavior to ourselves. Stories are the cosmic glue that connects us all.