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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ferguson: What's Race Got to Do with It?

     In regards to Ferguson I get how some people are still left wondering what all the fuss is about and this is partly why the Ferguson commissions will change nothing.  The protests are not simply about just what happened to Michael Brown.  For me personally every time I hear or read something about the Michael Brown incident it stirs up echoes of what happened to Trayvon Martin and how justice was soooo not served.  As an African-American woman who has nephews that are just a few years older than Trayvon or are quickly nearing the age he was at the time of his death it does cause feelings of anger and frustration to re-emerge within me.  You see, how does one teach those they love most about a perceived threat that is them? 
     When I was a kid I was bit on the ankle by a dog and so now I carry this perception that all dogs pose a threat to me.  I have told my daughter about the time a dog bit me and she has heard me tell the story to others.  For our family it is okay to be friendly to them, to live near them and even get close enough -to those that appear docile- and pet them.  Because despite what I know about what dogs are capable of I do not hold any biases against dogs.  Yet when I see a dog, for me and now my daughter, there is this perceived threat.  If a dog tries to jump on me I feel as if my life is in danger.  Why?  Their growl, their appearance and animated gestures reminds me that this animal poses the threat of harm to me, which brings me back to Ferguson. 
     This problem that is so plainly evident to those that look like me but harder for those who do not will never fully go away.  Trayvon Martin was walking back from a convenience store in the rain, wearing a hoodie and his very appearance was received as a threat by George Zimmerman.  Michael Dunn fired into a vehicle full of black, unarmed teenagers killing one of them (Jordan Davis) after their loud music added to his perception of them as a threat.  Until we find a way to quell this perceived threat in the minds of many about minority males nothing will ever truly change.         
-Tanya Yvonne     


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Google+ and Other Stuff

A big thank you to those who have given 
some Google+ love.
Welcome aboard new Twitter followers.
I write for YOU.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Burn (a short story)

     “Play something.”  The command slid from the genie’s tongue as his penetrating gaze crept down from the teenage girl’s face and onto the ivory piano keys.  Seated on a couch next to the baby grand piano the girl, Lisette, kept her stare on the genie’s dark features.  Her hands, which were clasped on her lap, were untwined as the black pool of Azhar’s eyes shifted to a vibrant shade of violet.  With the genie’s eyes bathing the white colored piano keys in his violet glow Lisette felt the need to slide her caramel hued hands inside the front pockets of her skirt. 
     She ran her tongue over her parched lips.  “Sure Azhar, whatever.  I’ll play you a song but only if you tell me how you became attached to the bottle.”
     The genie’s violet tinged eyes stood out in stark contrast to the black onyx like appearance of the rest of him.  His glowing gaze shifted to where Lisette’s hands lay hidden under the sheer fabric of her clothing.  “Of course I will tell you Lisette, my master, and then you will understand why I need you to speak the words.”
     When the word ‘master’ landed on her eardrums, she flinched.  She detested her title and the genie knew this.  “Why in blazes do you insist on calling me that?”
     “It is what you are.  The torn skin of your fingers and trickles of your blood is the reason why I can at least drift for a time out from the pit of my prison.  Or as your kind fondly likes to refer to it my bottle.  Simply to serve you.” 
     She drew in a deep breath then exhaled.  “Oh my word Azhar, you act like you’re my slave or something and you’re not.  Let me remind you that I haven’t wish for a single thing.  Yet.”
     “You will.”
     “I might not.  There is nothing I want that I can’t get myself.”
     The words had just leapt from behind her lips when the appearance of the genie shifted.  No longer was he this large, dark looming presence because now he had taken on the appearance of a teenage boy.  Lisette’s eyes grew wide before she yanked her gaze off the mask Azhar had fashioned himself with. 
     “Stop it, you stop it right now.”
     The likeness of the boy slithered away as the dark, looming presence of the genie returned.  “It is not my intention to upset you Lisette.  I am happy to be of service to you.  Grateful for your touch.”
     She had discovered his bottle near the shore where she sat on the beach just outside the rear of her home.  Once her fingers had touched onto then encircled the bejeweled bottle it had latched onto her palm skin like thorns.  The torn flesh and droplets of blood sank into the genie’s bottle, allowing Azhar to drift beyond its rim. 
     Clutching onto the inside fabric of her skirt pockets Lisette rose up from the couch and went over and sat down on the dark, wood bench facing the piano keys.  Only then did she slide her hands out from within the safety of her pockets.  “I’m playing.  Now tell me.”
     “It was the early 1800’s.  During this time, we genies roamed freely upon this land.  Allowed to do so as long as we found a willing human master whom we could latch onto.  My kind could only step out of the hidden realm when a human granted us permission to do so and in return we would give them what they desired most.  My first master was Mr. Taffer a complex human who owned a slave plantation.  He was thin and short in stature.  Many of those he owned, including the children, were several inches taller than he.  When he spoke, his voice was low and he had trouble meeting one’s gaze.  Mr. Taffer did not have the stomach for what it took to run such a large plantation containing slaves that sent whispers of rebellion throughout the fields.”
     Azhar paused.  His sweet, smoky scent encircled her.  She pulled it deeper into her nostrils as her fingertips played toward the climax of the song.
     “He uttered a wish for me to act as the property’s overseer.  And for nearly a decade it was I who ensured that his slaves labored without any further hints of rebellion.”
     Lisette’s hands hovered above the keys for a moment.  “How did you do that?”  The fingers touched back onto the delicate keys.
     “When I first showed myself to these slaves I expected them to be afraid.  Though I loomed over them and spoke with a tongue thick with accent, they were not fearful.  Instead, they were intrigued.  Brought from West Africa some had skin that was darker than mine and they too had foreign tongues.  But my eyes, it was the violet hue of my eyes that unnerved them for a time, causing them to obey me. 
     Late one night my ear picked up the sound of hushed voices.  A large number of the men were speaking to one another.  They were using their native language, more alarming was the presence of a crude map on which one was making marks.  Both actions were forbidden by law.  I relayed what I had seen to Mr. Taffer.  He instructed me to handle the matter.”
     Lisette could feel the genie beside her now.  Heat radiated from him.  Beads of sweat broke out around her hairline.  “Did you?”
     “After nightfall I gathered the men and as the rest of Mr. Taffer’s slaves looked on I had them place their hands palm down atop a table.”
     The girl interrupted with, “Then you what?”
     “I did what comes naturally to me.  I set fire to their hands.  The flame started at the fingertips and made its way up towards the wrists.  The stench was great and it hung in the air for days after.”
     Lisette had to will her hands to keep playing a song she could no longer comprehend.  A bead of the sweat crept down falling onto her eyelashes.  She blinked not wanting to lift her hands from the piano keys fearful of drawing Azhar’s attention to them.
     “Were kids there also?”
     “Of course.”
     “It was important for them to see what would happen if they broke the laws.”
     Lisette nibbled on her bottom lip.
     Azhar said casually, “I restored the flesh to the male’s hands less than a week later.”
     “Oh, well then.”
     “This was how Mr. Taffer learned of my ability to put living flesh back onto bone.  A short time later, his wife fell ill.  She had a cough that shook her body.  A green slime of some sort secreted from her cracked lips after each coughing spasm.  A man, a doctor as you call him, came and assured Mr. Taffer that his wife would soon recover.  She did not.  Mere hours after he left, just before dawn, she rose up straight in her bed.  Gripping her throat as her breaths came in gasps.  I hovered in a dark corner watching this whole ordeal.  Fascinated by the scene before me. 
     Once it was over Mr. Taffer behaved in a way I had only seen female humans act.  He clung to his wife’s body, whose appearance was quickly turning revolting, and he cried.  At some point Abigail, one of the female slaves, whom worked in the home, entered the room.  She wanted to fetch the one called doctor.  Mr. Taffer’s crying ceased as swiftly as it had begun.  He ordered Abigail from the room threatening to cut her tongue out if she spoke to anyone about what she had seen.” 
     “‘Mrs. Taffer is not dead.  You hear me Abigail?”’
     “His tone was robust for once.  Then he remembered I was still in the room and beckoned for me to come closer.  The stench of death had already begun to set into his beloved.  He placed his red lips over her graying ones as he wished for me to pull her back from death.”
     “And did you?”
     “I did.  However, no genie can return a soul to a body once it has left.  The woman was Mrs. Taffer in appearance only.  She did not act as my master thought she should and this angered him.  Unable to look at her he had the lady locked away in the farthest region of the house.  He blamed his agony on me.  As the days went by and the crazed, animal like wailing of  Mrs. Taffer filled the halls his anger grew.  He felt that I and others like me should have to suffer a similar fate.  He turned to the very ones that he wished me to keep under his thumb. 
     The enslaved ones had grown fearful of me convincing themselves that I was a demon.  Late one evening I was summoned to the library by my master.  I entered and found him waiting for me with a male slave believed to have ‘healing hands’ and who clutched a thick book with pages trimmed in gold.  His cold stare and the way my master stood behind him unnerved me.  I waited for a break in the silence.  One came yet it was not the sound I expected.  Instead of Mr. Taffer’s voice, I heard a soft click sound.  It was the library door being closed behind me.”
     “This scared you?”
     “Troubled is more like it, you see when enclosed in a room I am rendered powerless.  This slave held the book up like a shield and a spew of foul words fell from his mouth.  Words cursing my kind, chaining us to bottles.  Invisible chains that only stretch as far from it as to grant the wishes of humans who may or may not uncurse us.”                                 
     Lisette did not want to stop playing fearful that once she did her lovely hands would soon become engulfed by Azhar’s vengeful flame.  Since she was his master it was the only thing he could do to her.  The thought of never feeling the smooth, coolness of the ivory piano keys beneath the precise stroke of her fingers saddened her.  She bit down hard onto her bottom lip, which helped to anchor her back in the moment.  Azhar’s violet glow was on her hands now.  It felt hot like when she placed them just above the flames of a campfire.   
     “I granted my former master’s wishes.  My kind has suffered greatly because of one human’s emotional response.  The words Lisette, when the time comes you will speak them, yes?”
     She slid her fingers from the piano keys and shoved her hands deep into the front pockets of her skirt clenching the fabric there.

Thank you for reading and sharing:-)

Monday, September 2, 2013

New News

I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Writers and Authors.  Click here: TY to read it.  Follow me on Twitter, #genie, #VioletEyes, to know when my new short story Burn (starring Azhar) is available.  
Happy reading, writing or whatever:-)  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hopping Across Genres with Jo Linsdell

Jo Linsdell, the woman behind the popular Promo Day event and the author of Italian for Tourists
and Fairy May, stopped by to discuss how writing across genres can actually benefit a brand.      

Tanya Yvonne: What is Promo Day? 
Jo Linsdell:  Promo Day is an annual online event that takes place at  It brings people in the writing industry who are dedicated to promoting, networking and learning together.  This free event takes place in May and this year we had 10 awesome presenters sharing loads of tips and advice on a variety of topics. There was also plenty of opportunities to promote and network both in the on site forums and via Twitter using the hashtag:  #PD13. 

TY:  Oh, cool.  What genres do you write in?
JL:  Currently, children's books and nonfiction in the "self help" category.

TY:  Do you feel you need to, at some point anyway, concentrate on a single genre? 
JL:  No. I don't like to limit myself. I like experimenting with my writing and when marketing and branding is done right it's not a problem to jump between genres. 

TY:  Do you ever think of yourself as a brand?  If so what is yours? 
JL:  Yes. I am a brand. I think more authors need to realize that in this business having an author brand is important, especially if you plan on writing more than one book.  Hopefully "Jo Linsdell" makes people think of children's books, Italy, and marketing (especially social media related) as these are my main areas of expertise. When you build a strong author brand people will automatically think of you when they see certain things.

TY:  Do you have a favorite genre? 
JL:  This is a hard question for me as I love all the genres I write. If I could only pick one it would probably be children's picture books though. Writing for kids is always fun and it means I can involve my sons in my work too which makes the whole project even more special.

TY:  What are your self-published titles currently available?  
JL:  Currently I have Italian for Tourists (an English-Italian phrasebook) and A Guide to Weddings in Italy, then my children's books: Out and About at the Zoo and Fairy May.

TY:  How have you profited from these projects both financially and emotionally? 
JL:  It's a roller-coaster ride but totally worth it. I've earned royalties every month since I started out back in 2006 and Out and About at the Zoo has been a best seller since it's release in June last year.  As a self-publisher you need to put in even more work in order to be successful but that just makes it mean all the more.

  What are you working on now? 
JL:  I'm working on a non-fiction book called Virtual Book Tours: Effective Online Book Promotion from the Comfort of Your Own Home.  Lots of step-by-step how-to, and loads of resources for finding stops and promoting the tour. It should be ready for release this summer.
Happy reading, writing or whatever:-)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

Prologue to Violet Eyes (#Genie)

     Well, here it is the prologue to my YA novel 'Violet Eyes.'

   Azhar is Violet Eyes
     I will not die here.  Lisette pulled her knees to her chest, encircling them with her long arms as her gaze moved slowly about the space.  The inside of Azhar’s bottle differed greatly from the lavish, close quarters depicted in popular stories about genies she had read as a child.  Instead of an area drenched with vivid colors and lavish furnishings the bottle’s pit was devoid of bright tones.   And where she imagined plush pillows and heavy drapery there was hardness saturated with gloomy grays.  So Azhar was being truthful when he stated the bottle was his prison and not his home.  She drew her bent legs closer against her curvy body as a conversation she once had with Azhar reentered her mind.  
     “Is it true what they say about genies?”
     He had turned his deep violet eyes on her; they glowed brightly as his gaze slid over her caramel tinged hands.  “Yes, unable to kill our masters we at times have resorted to burning their hands.”
     She pulled her gaze away from his and slid her hands into the front pockets of her skirt.  “That’s an awful thing to do to a person.”
     “The hands,” Azhar said thoughtfully.  “Are rarely burned to the point where they drop off.”    
     Lisette let out a grunt.  “That doesn’t make it any less awful.”
     “I understand why you would think that is true.  But do you see our side of it?  We only do this because it is the touch of human hands that beckon us genies from our cells or as your breed likes to call them bottles.  An act, which signals an opportunity for us to bargain with you.  Our new master.  I grant you three or four wishes and in return you only have to grant my one wish.”
     Azhar had held up his end of the bargain.  For he had granted her wish for a home, another wish for her to have someone to share that home with and her final wish for a child to complete her family.  Yet when it came time for her to grant his single wish, she had refused to utter the words he had urged her to say.   She had no choice but to deny him what he so desperately wanted, for the sake of her kind. 
     If only I knew what he desired before I wished for any of it.
     Lisette bit down hard onto her bottom lip a move that yanked her back in to the moment.  The dire reality of the situation was like canine teeth sinking deep into her flesh causing her body to quake with fear.  Azhar’s scent -sweet and smoky- was strong, overpowering.  She rubbed her arms hoping to keep his odor from seeping into her pores.  She did not want to carry any part of him with her.  As she rubbed, she noticed her hands.  She brought them up so that the little light that filtered in could act as a spotlight on them.  When she was seven her mother insisted she take up piano.  She detested having to devote so much time to learning the notes.  Yet now the thought of never feeling the smooth, ivory keys beneath her fingertips ever again forced tears to well up in her dark eyes. 
     As his master she knew Azhar could not kill her, just maim her.  But she also knew this rule did not extend to her loved ones.  Whenever her thoughts turned to her husband and child, she would steer them in another direction like seeking a way out of his bottle.  Unfolding her legs, she braced herself against the curve of the bottle as she pulled herself in to a standing position.  Squinting she looked directly at the beam of light filtering down.  Her gaze moved onto the surrounding walls, which contained crude shapes that jutted out.  Lifting her right foot onto one of the lower juts, she wrapped her fingers around two of the higher placed ones.  Just as she moved toward trying to climb out a searing, tugging pain crept across her face. 
     Her hands slipped from the juts as instinctively they moved to touch on the fiery skin of her cheeks.  She let out a moan as her body connected with the hard floor of the bottle.  The tugging sensation intensified.  Her fingers were pressed firmly against her face while the eyes blinked wildly as she tried to comprehend what was happening to her.  The skin under her hands cooled as the fiery feeling died down.  Slowly she let her fingers slip from covering her cheeks as the tugging, pulling sensation also edged away.  Her stare roamed the tight space as she sought out any reflective surface.  Spotting one her hands were quick to grasp it but slowed as they brought the rectangular object nearer to her face.  A lump rose in her throat.  She swallowed pushing it back down as she closed her eyes.  With the mirror directly in front of her she drew in a deep breath before raising the lids of her eyes.   Her full lips parted as the breath was released.  Nothing appeared wrong with her face.  No hideous burn marks as she had envisioned.  As relief washed over her, a piercing sound cut through the silence. 
     Her body jerked and the shattering sound of glass hitting the floor mingled momentarily with that of the offensive, rumbling noise.  She tried lifting her arms but could not.  Her body felt as if it were being crushed under the force of a great wave.  Just when she thought she could no longer bear it, the pressure was released.  She blinked and no longer was she down in the pit of Azhar’s bottle.  Instead, she found herself in a familiar place.  The dining room of her home.
     A near exact replica of herself was seated at the table next to her beloved husband.  Her infant child cradled in its arms.  She attempted a step and found that her body was frozen.  He had made her in to a living statue.  She could see her flesh was ashen in color like those angelic statuettes in the church graveyard.  The eyes of the replica were violet in color and she understood now why her face had felt hot and why it seemed as if it were being pulled off.  Azhar had concealed himself under a mask of her likeness and made her invisible to all eyes except for his piercing, violet ones.  An innocent family meal is what he used to draw all that she loved most to him.  Her gaze left his flaming eyes and went to where the entrance was.  Except for a single door leading to a hallway the formal dining room was closed off to the rest of the house.  She had to close that door.  Once confined to a small space Azhar would be powerless and his body would revert to smoke, which his bottle would beckon back.  Imprisoning him once again.       
     “Now will you speak the words Lisette?”  His voice was inside her head forcing her attention back on him. 
     A pool of tears formed in her eyes as her heart ached.  “No.”  The single word did not slide easily off her tongue.  Though barely a whisper it landed hard on the ears of Azhar angering him.  The mask of her likeness he wore fell away as his body reverted to fire.  Tears ran down from the face of Lisette.  Helplessly she watched as the flesh of her husband bubbled and fell from his bones.  Could do nothing as the pain stricken cries of her only child filled the space as its life was being consumed by Azhar’s angry blaze. 
     Once they were reduced to nothing more than ash swirling about her Azhar lifted his spell off her.  She knew he expected her to fall upon the floor weeping over her great loss.  Instead, she ignored the scent of charred flesh in her nostrils, the taste of her husband and child’s ashes in her mouth and focused on the image of them burning to death against the genie’s body.  Her aching heart knocked hard against her rib cage as she ran for the door. 
     She made it out of the room and had her hands on the door poised to push it shut when Azhar realized what was happening.  Within seconds, her hands began to burn.  The fire started at her fingertips and ran up toward her wrists.  She screamed but kept her flaming hands positioned on the door.  Using her whole body, she shoved the door.  It closed with a loud thud trapping Azhar inside.  The flames threatening to engulf her hands were quelled.  She heard screams but did not know if they were hers or Azhar’s as the bottle reclaimed him.
     When help arrived she insisted no one touch the beautifully, jeweled adorned bottle lying amongst the ashes of her family.  Later with her charred hands wrapped in gauze, she crudely handled a pair of tongs.  Using it to grip the bottle.  After dropping it a few times she managed to get the genie’s bottle inside a rectangular, wooden box.  With her elbow she slammed the lid shut then stepped aside to watch as her sister secured the lock.  That night they walked onto the end of a long pier. 
     As her sister threw the wooden box into the water the aching in Lisette’s heart eased a bit.  “For the sake of human kind I hope the sea never lets go of Azhar.”  

I am Tanya Yvonne and thanks so much for reading and sharing.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Newbie Writers: Take Two

Mediocre at Best’ is the title of one of aspiring poet Damien Boath’s poems but the work this tweet man and other half of produces on their weekly podcast is anything other than mediocre.  Below is his take on such things as sizzling genres, his fave interviewee and why the site is definitely worth checking out. 


Tanya Yvonne:  What’s different about
Damien Boath: The beauty about Newbie Writers is that it is portable. It has gone from a website that housed static articles on how to write and become published in magazines, to a popular blog and podcast. The podcast has really become the core of Newbie Writers and can be listened to on Itunes, Stitcher Radio, or via a pop out player on the site. That way you can fire up the latest podcast and keep browsing. You can hear us while you drive to work. Our aim is to provide constant content to motivate, to inform and to also keep it casual for people who are interested in writing. After all, talking about writing shouldn’t be boring! You don’t have to be a writer to listen to Newbie Writers. I am the newbie. I am not a published author and so I take on the roll of the audience. I am the ultimate Newbie and so I try to ask questions that I think us fellow newbies would ask. You shouldn’t need to invest the time in Newbie Writers, we are here to compliment the time YOU invest in your current writing project.

TY: I want names.  Favorite interviewee(s)?
DB: That’s a tough one because we have had so many guests it’s even hard to remember them all.  I would say Genese Davis (author of Holder’s Dominion) was a fantastic interview because I am a fellow gamer and the conversation was a really easy one. Dionne Lister (author of Shadows of the Realm) was another great guest and has been on a couple of times to fill in. Set the record for the first F-bomb on our show!

TY: Most recent read? 
DB:  Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I am a fan of fantasy and tend to roll through the series of books I have every so often.

TY: Genre category that is trending up/down?  
DB: Well that’s a matter of personal taste. Genres such as romance and erotica are always ‘hot’ or popular. For me personally I am not a fan whatsoever. When it comes to genres that don’t seem to be prevalent of late I feel it’s horror. I seem to be seeing a lot of fantasy (thanks to Game of Thrones and The Hobbit revival) and less horror novels/books in bookstores etc. Vampire Romance (aka Twilight genre) is slowly dying thankfully. At the end of the day though, one should write what they are passionate about, a book will do well regardless of genre if the author not only writes well (that’s a given) but if they throw their weight, passion and every waking moment behind it. Sometimes one book can turn an icy genre into one that’s on fire.

TY: A yay or a nay for self-publishing?  
DB: I would say yay to self-publishing for a first time author. From what I gather, self publishing allows you to experience the world of taking a typed piece of work and converting it into a product. You have the choice to just pump it out in an e-book without a second thought whilst sipping on a cup of coffee, or you can spend the time formatting it into a short print on demand run.
Con: Everyone self publishes, and everyone thinks they will become rich off it. It is unlikely that will happen.  A con for both traditional publishing and self publishing: Your work (novel, novella, book, poetry anthology) becomes a product. One needs to see it from a business point of view. Sure you’ve done the hard yards and typed for countless nights on end to nurture your baby, but we hear time and time again from new authors that the work truly begins once the book is out. If you are not prepared to work hard on promotion and throw your passion behind the book, then it will fade into the 99 cent bin on Amazon and never get read.  

Happy reading, writing or whatever:-)

Friday, April 19, 2013

You Oughta Know

Catharine Bramkamp whose motto is, “From newbie to known” is one-half of  The site which houses her nationally known podcast, Newbie Writers Podcast.  After the lackluster performance of her debut title, The Boy and the Lion Catharine licked her wounds and found a new creative outlet in Newbie Writers.  Since then she has reached an international audience through her podcast, penned several other books which include: Death Revokes the Offer, Woman on the Verge of Wyoming and Don’t Write Like You Talk.  She also helms the site, Your Book Starts Here.  So whether you’re new to writing or perhaps looking to be enlightened keep reading because you oughta know.       

Tanya Yvonne: why should writers invest the time?
Catharine Bramkamp:  Writers learn all they can about their business and their world.  So we listen to podcasts and classes in the car, we read in our genre, we read out of our genre, we collect writing books, we belong to book clubs, we take classes, and we join writing organizations.  So for a newbie writer, a good introduction to this world would be to listen to Newbie Writers Podcast and sign up for the Newbie Writers Guide blog feed, both the blog and the podcast focuses on making it easier to be a writer today.

TY:  Favorite interviewee?  

CB:  Our favorite interviews are with writers and publishers who are willing to engage in a conversation and are comfortable with going off their script to just talk.

TY:  What do you mean by, “going off their script?”
CB:  We want to deliver real people and real information to our listeners and so we are not interested in interviewees who insist on controlling the interview by sticking to a written script and pre-written questions.  We like spontaneity and yes, a little craziness! 

TY:  Which genre is boiling hot and which one is on ice?
CB:  One of the challenges in writing is to resist the latest trend.  Once you’ve reviewed a dozen vampire books, then another dozen business books promising four-hour workweeks, you think, that’s what I should write because it’s hot.  It’s not hot, by the time these books hit the books shelves or the top 100 on Amazon, the subject is over: cold and dead. Our job as creatives is to think of the NEXT hot item, and it’s not fifty shades of anything.  The best thing a writer can do is write what you love, write what you want to bring into the world, write what you want to make sure everyone knows.  And bring that originality to the table.  Certainly follow trends, but don’t try to follow them too closely, you want to be different and new.

TY:  Title of the last book you read? 
CB:  Walt Whitman, A Cultural Biography

TY:  Self-publishing, can I have a pro and a con?

CB:  Pro:  Self-publishing gets your book out quickly for a low cost.  Ebooks should always be self-published, it’s easy and the books will actually earn some money.  Self-publishers earn more money per book.  Amazon and Create Space, along with Smashwords makes the distribution of your books and ebooks fairly trouble free.

Con:  Self-published titles are not easily distributed into bookstores and it is lonely.  A hybrid, boutique or traditional publisher can help find good editors, book coaches and cover artists.  More traditionally minded publishers will feature your book in catalogues and place the book in bookstores.  Self-published books are not promoted by anyone but the writer. Which is the biggest challenge of self-publishing: All the promotion is up to the author -  and if there is one thing authors hate to do, is promotion, followed closely by sales, taxes and death.  Not necessarily in that order.

             Well, now you know.  Happy reading, writing or whatever:!)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mad About You ‘Mad Men’

     Someone once described a personal essay, a piece based on a childhood memory of one significant Fourth of July, I wrote as being “too safe.”  This criticism both baffled and angered me.  In the essay I had wrote how it was a miracle my father did not lose an eye or a limb as he chugged down a beer he held in one hand and lit firecrackers with the other.  The criticism upset me because I got the sense that the reader wanted to see something more shocking written there.  Like a passage about him chasing us around in a drunken rage threatening to set us on fire (for the record something like this never happened). 
    As time passed and I continued writing this early dig still gnawed at me.  It was not until after I became a mother and the length of my free time shrinking forced me to watch my favorite shows like ‘Mad Men’ in marathon weekend sessions did it finally click with me as to what that reader really wanted from my essay.  She wanted to know how I felt in that moment watching my father nursing a can of something that impaired his judgment while handling beautifully packaged explosives with his wife and children only inches away, cheering him on.  How my young mind went about processing what I saw was the true area of interest.  Take for instance the character Sally Draper portrayed by +Kiernan Shipka on ‘Mad Men.’
    This character fascinates me because I love seeing how a young girl is internalizing this very adult world around her.  For example this one scene during season five when she stumbles upon her step-grandmother performing a lewd act on her father’s business partner.  She deduces that New York is a dirty place.  I’ve learned that it is crucial for me to convey how key events in the lives of my characters are helping to mold them that the reader not only wants to see the world through their eyes for a time but to also slip under their skin, to know things about them they try so hard to keep hidden away.  Don Draper played by +Jon Hamm is a great example.  Once he has a dream in which he strangles a woman he had an affair with during his second marriage.  The scene expresses to the viewer that Don is struggling with being faithful to wife number three and that she is unaware of this inner conflict.  Those aforementioned episodes are why I, Tanya Yvonne, am mad about ‘Mad Men’.
  Happy reading, writing, or whatever:!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

“What? I Thought Every Writer Knew This” Said the Snarky Editor

The running theme of this year’s James River Writers Conference, in my opinion, was the significance of first pages.  Panelists which consisted of agents, editors and authors all stressed the importance of getting right what should be in those first pages of your manuscript as well as what should not be in there.  How what is at stake, where the story is taking place and whom the character is we should care about had all better be laid out concisely right out of the gate.  The annual JRW conference is an affordable wealth of knowledge.  Do not forget I am on Twitter.  Click here: TY 
Happy reading, writing or whatever:!)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tweet, Tweet Tanya Yvonne

I am currently gearing up for the annual James River Writers (JRW) conference:!)  Also, I have been Tweeting a lot lately click here: TY to follow me.  And my logo has gotten a makeover.  It will soon be unveiled:-)  Busy, yet fun summer for me.  I will be tweeting throughout the JRW conference, which will take place in October.    
 Happy reading, writing or whatever:!)

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Jolt of Scottimism

Illustration by RH Lazzell

Update: Scott & Lazzell's debut book will arrive in 2014 by Dial Books for Young Readers.  Yay:!)
Scott McCormick has a daughter who attends the same preschool as JaeLynn.  After dismissal a group of us sometimes head down to a nearby park.  It was here where I soon found out that Scott too was an aspiring author.  After pelting him with a few soft questions regarding his children's book, The Other Side of the Story I became intrigued enough to want to profile him here on my little blog.  But as the weeks mounted and more conversations ensued it became harder for me to pinpoint an angle.  It was not until I was laying around one Sunday gorging myself on, "Sex and the City" reruns, avoiding my latest manuscript, when something Ms. Bradshaw said struck a chord with me.  It was one of those episodes where cynicism towards love was nipping at Carrie impeding her writing while Charlotte, despite also having been unlucky in love, remained optimistic towards the subject which baffled Carrie.  As the episode ran I saw my dilemma with the Scott post mirrored there.  Scott is like that Charlotte character.  Even when I bombarded him with questions that brought to mind the possibility that he would never receive the phone call (you know that one where a dream agent is on the other end) Scott remained optimistic, always with a casual shrug of the shoulders offering up a plan B type of answer.  So for those of you out there feeling the spindly legs of cynicism crawling upon your shoulders keep reading to get your jolt of  Scottimism:-)
Scott McCormick is the author of, The Other Side of the Story a children’s book with illustrations by RH Lazzell  

Tanya Yvonne:  How did the concept for your book come about?
Scott McCormick:  The book is based on a cat I used to have named Mr Pants.  He was a very precocious animal who used to have all sorts of adventures in my old neighborhood in Philadelphia. He seemed like an obvious inspiration for a children's book; however, when I tried to write one based on his real-life adventures, he suddenly didn't seem very interesting. After all, in kid's books, animals do all sorts of wild and crazy things.  Snoopy gets into dogfights with the Red Baron... Mr Pants once got on a Septa bus. Not very interesting.  So I shelved it.
Years later I was reading a book to my daughter that had dinosaur colors on one side and then you flipped the book over and it had dinosaur numbers on the other side.  It occurred to me that, while this type of book format (which I now know is called TĂȘte-bĂȘche) was interesting, this particular book didn't take the concept all the way.  After all, they just stuck two books together.  So I had a flash of inspiration that you could use this format to tell one story from two different perspectives and I even came up with the title in the same breath.  It took me a few days to realize that this would be the perfect vehicle for Mr Pants, cast as a stand-in for my kids.
His antagonist, Foot Foot, was another cat of mine.

TY:  Have you considered a non-traditional route to publishing?
SM:  I have.  Still am.  My illustrator and I are trying the traditional route first, but if we fail we'll self-publish.  Self-publishing today is very different from what it was even just five years ago.  It's now very easy to get your book sold on Amazon, iTunes, etc.  Getting people to find your book and buy it is another matter, but that doesn't seem like a huge obstacle to me.  At least then you're in control.  Plus self-publishing is faster and the royalties are better.  Wait, why am I trying to get a publishing deal again?

TY:  Are those around you supportive, understand what you are trying to accomplish with your writing?
SM:  My family has been unbelievably supportive.  Especially my kids, who are my main editors.  If they don't laugh, then I know I've missed the mark.

TY:  Are you working on any other book ideas?
SM:  Well, I'm always writing new Mr Pants books.  I have ten or so written and ideas for more.  I'm also working on something totally different but that's not developed enough to discuss.

TY:  Have you attended any writers conferences?  How was this experience for you? 
SM:  I attended SCBWI (a conference specifically for children's book authors and illustrators) in NYC this past January.  I enjoyed the show very much and learned quite a lot.  I'm not the most outgoing person in the world so I probably didn't meet as many people as I could have but I did wind up making some good contacts, both other writers and people in the business.

TY:  What was the take away?
SM:  One take away for me is that I got in touch with an agent thanks to my having attended this show and this has been very productive so far.  I hear this from lots of people, btw.  Agents and editors who say they're not open to submissions will often make an exception for conference attendees.

TY:  Would you advise others to attend such conferences?
SM:  Well, it certainly couldn't hurt.

TY:  What has this whole process taught you about yourself?  And has it changed how you approach writing?
SM:  Not sure how to answer either question.  I've been trying to "make it" for years now.  By "make it" I mean get accepted by the establishment.  This started back when I was in a band and we tried to get signed.  Then I tried writing and selling screenplays.  And now it's children's books. This is the first time where I feel like I really have a hit on my hands.  We'll see, of course.  But in the past people would say "oh that's nice" but I could tell they were just being polite.  But people have gone out of their way to tell me how much they dig Mr Pants.  We've even had people steal copies of the book off the print shop floor, which I see as a great compliment.  After all, I couldn't give away copies of my CD.

TY:  Have you started thinking of your book as a product yet?  Do you get why it is important to do so?
SM:  Yes, and I think, if we ever get a publishing deal, it will be because of that.  In my query letters I've been focusing on what makes my book different, who it appeals to, how easily it can be scaled for other media, merchandising possibilities, etc.  I work in marketing, so this is right up my alley.  Perhaps that's why self-publishing doesn't seem that intimidating to me.

TY:  Do you belong to any writing groups?
SM:  No. Maybe I should?  That doesn't appeal to me but maybe it's because I've never done it.

TY:  Describe your book using only one sentence. 
SM:  THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY tells the tale of two cats’ struggle to play with the same toy: Read Mr Pants’ version of events then flip the book over to get his sister Foot Foot’s side of the story.

TY:  How hard was it for you to do that?
SM:  Very hard.  I cheated through use of a colon.

TY:  Knowing what you know now pass along what you feel is a key piece of advice.
SM:  Well seeing as I've sold a total of three copies of my book, I don't know that I can give advice to anyone.  But something I've learned from other people who have been successful is that you should write the book you're dying to read.

TY:  How do you deal with rejection? 
SM:  I don't know how I deal with it. So when I started sending out query letters at first all I got was a lot of nothing.  No response at all.  This was far worse than rejection.  After all, I didn't know if the people even got my query, or what, if anything they didn't like about it.  Nothing.  That was maddening.  So when I got my first rejection letter I was actually pretty psyched.  I've gotten a few since then and been much less psyched about it.  But not disheartened.  Mostly mystified.  Why can't these people see how awesome this thing is?  I'm only half joking when I say that.  I mean, the illustrations and the format alone are worth at least saying "close but no cigar. show me something else."  Finally an agent did say that to me and we're going back and forth a bit with some ideas.  Nothing's settled yet so it's too early to really say anything but we'll see.

TY:  Is there an up side to a rebuff?
SM:  So the upside to rejection is: At least it's a response!  Maybe it builds character, too.  I don't know.

TY:  Give me a fun or interesting tidbit about you.  Mine is that I am obsessed with reruns of,  “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” 
SM:  Love that show even though I normally hate comedy based on uncomfortable situations. Like Ben Stiller movies.  Not that I have a problem with him but "Meet the Parents" physically hurt me.  I couldn't watch it.
Interesting tidbit about me: I love bad horror movies.

TY:  If you had to start this process over again, how would you do it differently?
SM:  I don't know that I'd change anything.  Yet.  Check back with me in a few years when I'm old and bitter.

TY:  What is next for you?
SM:  World domination.

TY:  Is your work available for purchase anywhere?
SM:  Not yet.  But soon it'll be required reading.  You know, after I take over the world.  Kind of like Mao's little red book.  But it'll be Scott's Little Pants Book.

TY:  Do you have an end game?  How long before you come to the conclusion that this is just not going to happen and you stop querying your current manuscript(s)?
SM:  Well that won't happen because we'll just self-publish.  And then we'll publish the next one and the next one after that until we get tired of it.
Now that’s Scottimism:!)  
Happy reading, writing or whatever:)

Monday, October 10, 2011

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month

For many of you the arrival of October signals that the holidays are just around the corner.  Though for us writers it also signifies that NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) will soon be kicking off.  Ah it is that time when procrastinators near and far hunker down and pledge to stop putting off beginning or continuing work on that great novel and get serious about filling numerous blank pages with at least 50,000 words in 30 days.  Really serious about this ambitious effort?  Great, just go to the NaNoWriMo site and officially sign up to be a participant.  Do not forget 11/01/11 is the kick off date.  Good Luck:!)
Happy reading, writing or whatever:)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vanessa's View

In the past I had the pleasure of interviewing author Vanessa Van Petten.  A dialogue in which I posed questions from my view as an unpublished writer.  Well now Ms. Petten is back here at with juicy tidbits about her new parenting book, Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded? and this time we get her view:!) 

By Vanessa Van Petten, creator of a parenting website written from the teen perspective to help parents understand them.

When I was 16 I thought it was my Dad’s goal in life to make me miserable. I was convinced that he had a running list of all the ways he could embarrass me in front of my friends, trick me into doing more chores or make my curfew earlier.

Our relationship would have continued to devolve until one day I saw my Dad reading a parenting book. I flipped through it while my Dad was in the bathroom and realized a lot of the things he did that drove me crazy he was getting right out of this book! I looked at the other parenting books on our shelves and realized that they were all written by adults. I wondered—has anyone ever asked teens to write to their parents?

Video: Author Video: Vanessa Van Petten
I decided to build a website where teens could answer questions and write to parents called  I couldn’t believe how quickly it grew and how happy both teens were to get their voices out and parents were to have a new outlet for connecting with their kids! We now have over 120 teen writers who give advice.

Teenagers, when given a neutral space LOVE talking to parents and often offer some of the best insight because they are going through it themselves. We have also be so excited to help parents who feel like they cannot reach their kids and teens.

I think teens and parents can work together to overcome their differences and learn to work best together. We have just come out with our book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded and it is a radical approach to parenting because it is written from the kid’s perspective! We would love for you to check it out—if you are brave enough to see what kids have to say!

What is this book about?
So, you have to forget the old parenting book approach - this book gives parents a totally new way to reach their teenagers because it's the only book that tweens and teens helped write - so we are hearing first-hand advice that actually works! It gets right to the heart of the problems and offers straightforward prescriptive - and effective advice. This is a very different approach to parenting that tackles these modern problems.
What makes this book different?
Before now there has only been resources written from one side of the family equation....the adults. This is the first book that gets both sides talking. What's more, the book goes a step further by using techniques that human lie-dectectors use: What does a teenager's face look like when they are lying? What questions do parents need to ask to get the truth?

You are not a parent, what experience helps you write this book?
Actually me not being a parent is what makes teenagers feel comfortable opening up to me about what they really need from their parents. It allows me to be a translator for what parents need, what teens need and then bringing the two together so they can be on the same side.

You are not a doctor, what experience helps you write this book?
There are already amazing resources out there from doctors and psychologists, we take a very different approach to parenting. We believe that for most families there are really simple miscommunications happening that we just need to decode. With this book, I teach parents what kids really mean when they say, "I don't care" or "Can I have a later curfew." This is advice from teens in the trenches of family life.

Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say:

“Van Petten, founder of the popular Web site, offers parents a candid view of the contemporary teen’s world in this eye-opening text. Van Petten uses actual stories about teens and their often anxious, angry, or befuddled parents to introduce each chapter. Pointing out that she is neither a parent nor a teen (nor a doctor, therapist, or counselor), the college-grad author has nevertheless earnestly investigated her subject and includes current research on teens as well as hundreds of “real quotes, interviews, e-mails and advice from actual teens.” Van Petten explores a variety of timely subjects, including peer relationships, teen/parent communication, bullying, technology, and “risky business” (smoking, drinking, sex, and more). Her outlook on technology and “Internet savvy” is particularly incisive, emphasizing not only the hazards of “time-suck” activities (i.e., Facebook, chatting on IM, and texting) but also the many social and academic benefits of the digital universe. Like a crafty spy, Van Petten comfortably segues from parent to teen perspective, and while noting that each adolescent is unique, she skillfully opens doors to the collective teen psyche. “
–Publishers Weekly

Vanessa Van Petten is one of the nation's youngest experts, or 'youthologists' on parenting and adolescents. She now runs her popular parenting website,, which she writes with 120 other teenage writers to answer questions from parents and adults. Her approach has been featured by CNN, Fox News, and Wall Street Journal. She was also on the Real Housewives of Orange County helping the housewives with troubled teens. Her next book, "Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I'm Grounded?" is being released in September 2011 with Plume Books of Penguin USA.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What’s All the Buzz About?

Tina Wells Buzz Marketing Group Founder.  She is the It Girl of getting the word out about must have products and the author of the Mackenzie Blue series for tweens. 

Tanya Yvonne:  How did the concept for Mackenzie Blue come about?
Tina Wells:  I was doing research on tweens and their moms at the time. I found that moms felt material such as the Gossip Girl series was too controversial. While they loved that their girls were reading, there was a dilemma of how to keep their tweens entertained with content appropriate for their age group. As a marketer and a writer, I thought I could come up with a solution to the “mean girl” culture, hence Mackenzie Blue. During my Christmas holiday, I developed the story and wrote the proposal in two weeks and showed it to a few friends in the business. Fortunately, one of my clients is an editor at a publishing company. She referred me to an agent to sell the concept of Mackenzie Blue.

TY:  You had built this successful business prior to penning the Mackenzie Blue series and brand extension is what you do, so while composing the first book did you make sure to craft it in such a way that it would indeed be marketable?
TW:  I learned that if I focus more on creating something a customer will want, it would, by definition, be marketable. Often times, products are marketed to people that they neither want nor need. However, in the case of the Mackenzie Blue series, there is a definite want and need. I focused more on what girls were going through at the age of 12 and created a brand the customer would want.

TY:  What hurdles did you face during the writing and publishing process if any?  How did you deal with them?
TW:  I am fortunate to have a fantastic agent and publishing company that provided an amazing experience this first time around. The only challenge I had during the entire process was time management. I had to dedicate myself to developing a brand and running an entire company.

TY:  One teen understanding what it takes to successfully market products to other teens is understandable, even as a twentysomething but now as you delve in to your thirties do you ever worry about there being a perception of a disconnect between you and your core base of teens?
TW:  No, and that’s mainly because of the 9,000 buzzspotters around the world. It’s been my role to serve as a liaison between teens and companies that market and target them. At 31, I listen to thousands of teens about what they want so no, I do not see a difference.

TY:  There are many unpublished writers -like myself- whose blogs are growing in popularity are there any services that you offer which could create some buzz for a brand that is still in its infancy?
TW:  Yes, Buzz Marketing Group offers private consulting services for clients who do not have the budget for a larger marketing campaign.

TY:  How important was it for you to develop a charitable side to your business with ventures such as Project Friends and SisterHood, Inc?
TW:  I think cause marketing and social responsibility are very important to this generation as a whole. It’s not just about the projects but also about my role on board committees for The Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

TY:  Please pass along a piece of advice you wish you had received at the start of your endeavors.
TW:  I don’t have any. I am fortunate to get good advice from my parents. I would say that the best advice from my Dad was, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

TY:  Writers deal with a lot of rejection how have you handled any professional disappointments? 
TW:  I think it’s about brushing it off and constantly moving forward. The difference in starting a company at 16 is you don’t really register the disappointments. I just kept moving.

TY:  What is your favorite thing about your new book, Chasing Youth Culture and Getting it Right?
TW:  As a whole, I like it because it helps people understand a misunderstood generation.

TY:  What is next for you?
TW:  What’s next is growing the agency and creating more multimedia projects.