Artificial Intelligence in YA

Robots have long been a favorite of fans all across Asia. Pacific Rim directed by Guillermo del Toro was not considered successful at the box office in the United States, yet it became de Toro’s most commercially successful film to date earning a worldwide total of more than $411 million—$114 million in China alone. In the young adult genre we have been seeing an increase of all sorts of artificial intelligence in the sci-fi sub-genre.

What is the allure? As we plunge into the future robotics technology is becoming more and more integrated into our society, from self-driving cars to robotic pets. This is a fascinating way to explore our humanity and what it means to have compassion, feel love and experience sacrifice. By the same turn we can juxtaposition what it means to have unlimited power, intelligence and authority. This is a gold mine for stories and we’ve had some really great examples…

Cyborgs – Cinder by Marissa Meyer

noun. 1. a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.

Cinder is 36.28% augments of mechanical means from an accident when she was young. Her brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. When her stepmother sells Cinder for plague research she learns a mother load of secrets about herself plus meets Prince Kai who doesn’t look at her the same way as most 100% humans.

Applicable now… Can you imagine if we can fix failing hearts, augment brains or other wise repair organic parts of our body with synthetic? This is the holy grail of modern medicine, a lot of research is done every year to try to make advances.

Androids – Partials by Dan Wells

noun. 1. (in science fiction) a robot with a human appearance.

A war with engineered organic beings, called Partials, identical to humans except for the weaponized virus they carry, has almost extinguished humanity. Now the last tens of thousands of immune humans fight a losing battle to lift population levels as their newborns are not born with the immunity. Kira is on a deadline to save her friend’s child and sets out to find a Partial to study. She finds Samm, but will she find her answers?

Applicable now… There is a faction of scientists who feel there are many applications for robots with the organic appearance of a human. And the Japanese economy is in desperate need of viable workforce, but are androids the answer?

 

 

Robots – The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

noun. 1. a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer.

In this middle grade story, Roz opens her eyes to find herself tied into a box with the shattered remains of other robots. She is the only survivor on an island in the sea. While not built for the outdoors she learns the language of the forest animals, but is rebuffed harshly. When she accidentally orphans a gosling, together they become valuable members of the forest. Then when Roz has to face her mysterious past her gosling and new friends come to her aid.

Applicable now… Almost all military organizations use the help of military robots to carry out many risky jobs that cannot be handled manually by soldier, liked dealing with bombs and handling aircraft carrier fires.

 

 

Drones – Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

noun. 3. a pilotless code-controlled robot, aircraft or missile.

Essie fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines in sub-zero temperatures. A mysterious man, Dane, crashes near her home and she offers to repair his ship. Unknown to her he will pull her back into a war that she gave everything to avoid as Princess Snow… with her drones to back her up she’s wade back into the fight!

Applicable now… Amazon is testing drones that could deliver packages in as little as half an hour after an online purchase. They can also be used in hurricane hunting, charging into the heart of a storm without risking human life and limb. Precision application of pesticides, water, or fertilizers in agriculture can be identified and delivered by drones in hard to reach locations.

 

 

Supercomputer AI – Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

noun. 1. the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Kady and Ezra live at the edge of the known world (which is more advanced and is no longer limited to our galaxy) in 2575 on a secret mining planet. They broke up that morning not realizing that a few hours later two rival megacorporations would go to war in the space above their heads. The fleet that helped the miners and their families to escape is evacuating, their ship’s AI supercomputer mind, AIDEN, is damaged with the after effects of a biological weapon to deal with and an enemy warship chasing them down.

Applicable now… Supercomputers today are capable of performing incredible feats, from accurately predicting the weather to uncovering insights into climate change, as well as other pattern recognition and sensory processing tasks.

Artificial Intelligence is not going away anytime soon. More and more applications are being sought out and applied. And robots, androids, cyborgs, drones and AI supercomputers are all fun and thoughtful additions to sci-fi and dystopian world building in the young adult genre!

Is there a book that has you favorite artificial intelligence that I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!

Author Event at Lansdowne Woods

Curiosity Quills is excited to announce that Courtney Sloan, Keith Fentonmiller, and Adriana Arrington will be at Lansdowne Woods, VA on Wednesday July 19, speaking about the inspiration for their stories, the publishing process, and forthcoming subscription box service CQ are soon to launch, followed by short readings of their novels, and questions from those attending.
There will be wine provided for after dinner by the management.

About The Authors

A New Orleans native, Courtney Sloan relocated to the hills of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina. There she lives with her husband and fellow author, J.P. Sloan, their son and their crazy German Shepherd pup. Adding to her writing life, Courtney is also a professor at the local college and enjoys learning a world of new ideas from her students as she teaches them about writing and communicating.

Courtney’s New Orleans upbringing has left her with a love for the macabre and a flare for the next to normal. She writes speculative fiction with a variety of horror and sass mixed in for flavor.

She loves taking the world of politics that haunts us now, and adding the supernatural to create a gumbo of thrills to keep you up at night.
A self-proclaimed lover of way too many fandoms, Courtney also loves crafting. From blankets to jams to stories, it’s always better homemade.

Books by Courtney:Of Scions and Men

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Keith Fentonmiller is a consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. Before graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, he toured with a professional comedy troupe, writing and performing sketch comedy at colleges in the Mid-Atlantic States. His Pushcart-nominated short story was recently published in The Stonecoast Review.

Books by Keith:Kasper Mützenmacher’s Cursed Hat

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Born to an Air Force JAG father and an artist mother, Adriana Arrington learned from an early age there are at least two sides to every story, and each deserves to be told. After a nomadic upbringing, she married a southern charmer and settled down permanently in his home state of Virginia. To satisfy her enduring wanderlust, she transports herself to the sometimes scary, sometimes beautiful, but always interesting worlds of beautifully crafted novels. Formerly an IT consultant to the DoD, she now writes the stories banging around in her head.

Books by Adriana:Bleed Through

About Lansdowne Woods

Retired, semi-retired, or still employed? Friends and family near or far? Ready to see the world or kick back and relax at home? For wherever you are in life, Lansdowne Woods offers spacious condominium residences, resort-style amenities, a vast array of activities and a rich social life, all in a truly beautiful setting overlooking the Potomac River and surrounded by the Golf Club at Lansdowne. Choose from what we have to offer to create the lifestyle you always wanted.

Reviews: the Good, the Bad, and the Necessary

When my first book, ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, came out in 2014, I talked about it constantly.  Family, friends, and coworkers were happy (I assume they were happy!) to buy a copy.  Whenever I sold one to them, I asked that when they were done, they leave a review.

They would lift their eyebrows at me. “Like, tell you what I thought of it?”

“Well, yes,” I would say, “but could you also please leave an honest review on a website?  It helps with sales.”

They would stare at me suspiciously, as if suddenly the book I’d handed them might bite.  “Um, sure.  A review.”

Reviews are important to a book’s success, although they aren’t the only thing that makes a book thrive.  Many people, however, aren’t familiar with reviews or reviewing.

The Good

People read reviews.  They care what others have said and it helps them to decide if this book is for them.  Take ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW for example.  The novel involves three separate perspectives.  People have raved about that and people have ranted.  It all depends on personal taste.  Now let’s say that Eileen loves novels with multiple perspectives.  She reads the reviews, sees the book has that, and she buys it.  Laura, on the other hand, hates multiple perspectives.  She reads the reviews and decides this isn’t the book for her.  Rather than buying it and hating it, she moves on to another book that does match her taste.

I can’t forget to mention that reviewing is fun!  I wish we’d gotten to “review” books in high school instead of writing ten page essays on them.  It would have made those mandatory, often depressing, reads all the more enjoyable.

The Bad

I feel as if there should be reviewing etiquette so everyone plays fair.  There are some things I’ve seen that just send me into a tizzy.

People leave one star to mark the book as “to be read.”  That isn’t fair because it brings down the overall rating and if someone is browsing reviews, they might think the person genuinely didn’t enjoy the story.

People leave a poor rating if something was wrong with the product.  Say it never arrived in the mail or a page fell out.  With books, the reviews reflect how you enjoyed the story, not the product. Leaving one star because “it fell apart” works with a lawn mower, but not so much with a novel (especially because people don’t know if you bought the ebook or paperback).

I hate to say it, but sometimes reviewers lie.  Now I’m not saying they do it on purpose, but you have to be careful how you word things.  I’ve seen comments like “The author did no research before writing this.”  Do you KNOW the author didn’t research anything?  It might feel like that, but your research might just not match the author’s research.  A comment like that can turn readers away.

I’ve also seen “the author should have used an editor” and “this is an example of a badly self-published book.”  In both cases, the statements weren’t true.  The book was edited and it was published by a small press.  I wouldn’t mind if the reviewer said, “This could have used a better editor” or “it felt like it wasn’t edited,” but statements that aren’t true can have a negative effect on potential readers who take them as facts.

I can’t forget anger rating.  I’ve known authors to get into petty wars with each other, and rate books just to bring down ratings.  I’ve also seen perspective authors become jealous when a critique partner is published and they aren’t.

Sort of in the same vein, I hate it when a reviewer makes a comment on one of my books like, “I don’t get why the author chose to _____.”  I didn’t – the editor told me to do it!  I always want to leave a comment saying that, but I refrain.  I don’t want to start any drama.

The Necessary

Many people will look up a book before purchasing it.  They look to see how many ratings it has.  If it only has a few, they pass, thinking it isn’t any good.

Amazon will only pitch your book to its customers if you have over 30 reviews.

Many advertising sites will only accept your book if you have so many Amazon reviews, and oftentimes those reviews have to have a certain rating (more than ten ratings and over 4 stars is the most common that I’ve seen).

You need reviews with five stars and one stars.  Authors might cringe at a one star rating, but it makes your book look genuine.  Ten five star ratings looks suspicious.  Did the author coerce people into rating it like that?  Did the author cheat somehow?

8 Tips on How to Write Credible Family Characters

Most characters in a story will have a family member featuring at least in a minor role in the plot. But how should you write them to make them credible?

All characters need to be credible

A character in a script, a novel or novella needs to have a personality, inner conflicts, outer conflicts, nuance and complexity, flaws and strengths. The list of attributes can go on and on. What we know is that a great character in a story needs to be credible. In short, he or she has to be a person (or thing if you’re into science fiction) who the audience can relate to.

Family characters are different

How is a family character any different from an ‘ordinary’ character? Well, let’s look at ‘real life’. How is your mother different from any other older woman walking along the street? How differently do you relate to your sister or brother (or cousin) compared to – say– your friends? They are more important, more loved, more hated even, than other people in your life.

Below I’ve listed eight ways to highlight this difference when writing family characters.

1. Blood is thicker than water

When writing family characters try to think about the bond that the narrator has with the family member. Forgetting your friend’s birthday might be embarrassing, but forgetting your mother’s Special Day will get you the silent treatment for months (or, if she’s anything like my mother, a particularly generous gift for my next birthday – she’s a master of passive-aggressive behaviour). These strong bonds may often be invisible to outsiders, but the family members know they exist. When writing family members, these kind of deep emotions are a great way to give characters added intensity.

2. Physical likeness

It’s useful when writing family members as characters to remember that families often look alike. Even if they don’t have the same colour of hair, or eyes, there’s is often something visible to show a shared DNA. They can be the same height, build, or just have the same mannerisms. All this physical likeness makes it easy for the writer to differentiate the family members from the other characters, or to describe the relationship without having to constantly point it out.

3. Love and hate

Love and hate are two sides of the same coin. They are both deep emotions that occur in the same area of the brain and in family members it’s more common to love and hate a person at the same time. Just read Freud, or look at family rifts. Often members of the same family don’t speak to each other for years – the hate is far deeper than in other relationships. For an author, however, these love-hate relationships are rich pickings. It may explain why there are so many best-selling books written about families (Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, The Tea Planter’s Wife) and hit TV series about families who love and support – and fight – each other at the same time (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Simpsons).

4. Name them

Don’t forget to give family members names and use them in the text. It may seem strange to describe a character’s mother as, ‘Mary’ for example, because the character would never use it. But it becomes very repetitive to constantly use the possessive form, ‘John’s mother’, so inserting the first name occasionally is a better way to make sentences flow. Here’s an example, ‘John’s mother liked to think she was always right, but John knew on many occasions Mary had been very much in the wrong – most painfully when she said his acute appendicitis was just wind.’

5. Same use of language

Family members usually have exactly the same accent and use of language. They also often possess a certain kind of short-hand of expression when discussing past events, especially shared past events. In a story you can make up an expression, or a way of pronouncing a word, to subtly indicate a family connection.

6. A secret society

If you’ve ever been the only outsider at a family dinner, you’ll know what I mean about a family being like a secret society. At a family supper you (the stranger) feel like treading on eggshells because the rules are unnamed but you know they mustn’t be broken. ‘Dad always sits there,’ you’re told just the moment you’ve parked you rear end on a chair. There may also be tragic events known by all but never mentioned; funny incidents told and retold at each meeting of the clan. In a story, these kinds of unspoken rules and shared experiences are an excellent way to describe many people at the same time. You can attribute various reactions to different members of the family, and in so doing not only differentiate them from the other characters, but also give them each their own unique personality.

7. It’s a gang thing

As well being a secret society, families are like gangs. All for one and one for all. Just think of your partner; does she or he go on about their mum or dad, and how awfully bad they’ve behaved, or what terrible characters they are? If you, however, dare to level one small criticism against any members of your partner’s family, he will begin to defend them straight away. Even after a fight (families often fight a lot more than others), if you as an outsider start to take sides, you often find yourself in the wrong. Use this gang-like mentality to create complicated relationships in your text between family members and you’ll find you have some great characters.

8. Think different but same

Finally, when writing family members, it’s useful to list the attributes that are the same, and the ones that are different, with each character, making sure there are enough similarities for you to refer to in the story. Think of a family you know well, and try to list all the similarities the members of that family possess. You’ll be surprised how complex those people (characters) suddenly become! In your story you can use the complexities, perhaps changing the different pieces of your family character puzzle a little. And hey presto, you have a cast of characters for your next novel!

Helena Halme has written several novels where family relationships feature heavily. Her latest novel, THE GOOD OFFICER, is the 4th novel in The Englishman series of Nordic contemporary romances and is now available to buy on Amazon.com.

Teaching Grit

Recently I read an article* about the characteristics of grit and how important it is for success. In the article it says: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit in the context of behavior is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Strength is a much touted personality trait that is a part of nearly every protagonist you read about these days. Sadly, grit seems to be a dying quality, but it can be taught… Seeing as we have Father’s Day this month I thought I’d examine some of the fathers who teach the essential characteristics found in grit…

*Forbes online leadership article: 5 Characteristics Of Grit — How Many Do You Have? By Margaret M. Perlis.

Creativity taught by Mr. Vulpin in Hundred Ghost Soup by Robert Chansky

When Jimo is adopted by two fox spirits he finds himself at the center of some plot that includes a construction site full of ghosts. As he works through the challenges Mr. Vulpin lays for him he’s forced to call on every bit of imagination until he concludes the Vulpins were the most unique of parents…

When Jimo is adopted by two fox spirits he finds himself at the center of some plot that includes a construction site full of ghosts. As he works through the challenges Mr. Vulpin lays for him he’s forced to call on every bit of imagination until he concludes the Vulpins were the most unique of parents…

Optimism taught by Mr. Song in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Laura Jean’s widowed father attempts to guide his girls through the traumas of being a teenager. With a positive air, he makes sure they gather for family time and bond together sharing the joys and the hardships.

Courage taught by Hans Hubermann in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Liesel’s foster-father teaches her to read, and defy the Nazi regime in his own quiet way. Despite her fears and everything she has to lose with such an example she can’t help but take action herself…

Follow Through taught by Ove in A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The father figure himself is the protagonist and he has staunch principles, a strict routine, and a short fuse. When he finds himself in situations where he has to extend himself he takes that step regardless of his reluctance.

Resilience taught by Arthur Weasley in Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

This dad gets into all sorts of trouble working for the Ministry of Magic and as a member of the Order of the Phoenix who loves Muggles. Nothing keeps this man down though and he bounces back in the epitome of toughness.

Dependableness taught by Pete Zinker in Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes

The father in this middle grade story is the dependable acceptance that Beatrice needs for her upside down ways. Learning of her tough day he sweeps in with a treat to end the day right.

Conscientiousness taught by Issac in Bleed Through by Adriana Arrington

This stepfather isn’t sure that he wants his wife’s 25 year old son, Liam, around until his schizophrenia is under control. Yet he stays true to his convictions about how Liam should be treated even though it threatens his career and his marriage.

Endurance taught by Colonel de Luce in Flavia de Luce mystery series by Alan Bradley

We learn Flavia’s father has gone through the terrible trials of war and losing one’s spouse yet he soldiers on for his girls. A stiff upper lip is a requirement for an English gentleman after all.

Confidence taught by Daniel LeBlanc in All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure’s father spends long hours crafting elaborate models of Saint-Malo to teach her how to walk through the city without her eyesight. That nurtured the confidence she needed to survive once he was gone.

Excellence taught by Father in Prophet of the Badlands by Matthew S. Cox

Althea is chased across a desolate landscape certain that her sanctity for life is the oddity not the norm. Its only after a loving father and daughter takes her in and fights for her that she can accept such distinction as a good thing.

Courage, conscientiousness, dependableness, endurance, follow through, resilience, optimism, confidence, creativity, excellence these are the building blocks of grit. A father is the right man for the job of teaching these essential traits. May we find these and other positive characteristics in the dads and fathers populating our fictional worlds.

What did you learn from your own dad?

 

The Culture of Now – A Writer Mom’s Teaching Moment

Has anyone else noticed that we’re living in a culture of “now?”  My daughter will often say something at home to the effect of: “Mommy, I’d like to learn to knit.”  Typically, my response would be, “that sounds like a fun idea.”  She will then reply with, “I want to learn now.”  And when she says now, she means that instant.  She actually expected that I would go find my knitting needles wherever they lurked in our storage closet (I once knitted in college with a roommate) and start showing her ‘the ropes.’

This isn’t a one-time expectation either.  I often find myself trying to untangle a web my daughter has woven around me.  She asks to do something, and it’s not a statement for later.  She expects me to get up that instant and “make it so.”  I’ll be the first to admit that some days I can be a little slow to start.  However, typically she’s trying to get me to do something “now” when I’m already in the middle of something… like book editing or writing or reading (three of my favorite things!).

My daughter is 11 years old.  She does not have a Facebook page account, but she does play on the internet.  She also just got a phone!  And let’s be honest, searching for answers on the web gives them instant answers.  No more index cards.  No more book glossaries to find the page number where the topic I want is located and then slowly flipping over to page 65, oops flipped to page 67, couple more licks of the finger and flip and there!  My answer!  That is not the case anymore.  It’s now an easy search-engine answer.  Find: Knitting. *Click*  Multiple links appear like magic.

So I can understand why my daughter is constantly asking to do something “now.”  She’s being trained that if she wants something, she can click a website and find out the answer.  This too easily translates into home life.  If she wants to learn something from me, she expects it to be done now.  Why wouldn’t she think like this?

My response, usually eliciting groans of frustration, is: “I’m sorry, darling, but a skill like knitting is going to take time.” *Insert pre-teen groan of eternal suffering*  But the reality is that it’s not a quick “here’s what you do, here are the needles, have fun!”  It takes work, dedication, and perseverance.  Does reality have a homepage on the internet?  Pretty sure it doesn’t.

When I was working on my first novel, there were times I felt frustrated when stuck in writer’s block or when there was a plot point I had difficulties resolving.  Sometimes I just wanted to call it quits for a few months.  However, there was a VeggieTales skit that kept running through my head about perseverance.  The skit was a silent film about a piano delivery man trying to hike a piano up a ginormous flight of stairs.  And when I began to get frustrated, I replayed that skit in my head.  It helped me keep moving.  Even if I could not solve something right away, I made a point to at least work on something – whether it be another scene, research, or reviewing publishing options.  I kept my eyes on the prize.  And it worked!

Working through the problem is hard.  It’s a skill we all need to teach our children, nieces, nephews, siblings, etc.  Both my kids suffer from a lack of motivation when it comes to school work.  I have talked with my son about the satisfaction one feels when they finish a long book.  He can totally relate to the feeling regarding books.  Now if we could translate that feeling into school work.

It’s an uphill battle that they will not want to undertake.  Just like our parents talked about the uphill journey to and from school – both ways uphill, by the way – parents of today face this challenge with getting our kids to work at finding an answer.  Not everything can be answered simply and quickly.  Many answers come by thoughtful musings and personal discoveries.

Can we solve this culture of now?  Nope.  But we can share with the next generation a world outside of the screen.  Our love of books, how to interact face-to-face with others (for example, at a book signing or meet-and-greet event), and how to react to negative feedback you read on the web.  If one of my books gets a bad review, I do not respond to that reviewer with all the ways I believe they’re wrong.  It’s their opinion, and that’s fine.  Showing them how we respond to events either on the internet or off teaches them to respect other opinions.

Let’s face it, online chatter has no accountability.  You can rip a book or movie to shreds without fear of consequence.  Would the reviewer say those mean things to an author’s or director’s face?  No.  But online, all bets are off and all opinions are shared.  What do you share?  What can our youth learn to share?

As my kids continue to grow, I want to model behavior for them that will illustrate respect.  Sure, I’ll tell them of my frustration when writing and how hard it can be, especially if you receive a scathing review.  In the end, I hope to open a pathway for them to work past the “now,” past the Google-quick answers, and past the simplicity of life.  Maybe I sound a bit preachy, but perseverance takes practice.  It’s a skill that’s endangered in this screen-centric culture.

Since publishing my own books, my daughter has expressed interest in writing one herself.  She’s definitely improved in her skills with each story she brings to life on the computer, particularly when it comes to writing dialogue.  When she’s writing, her focus is tight.  I can see the gears of imagination turning in her eyes.  She also exudes a positive energy after she’s completed a chapter, self-confidence building with each page of her book.

Perhaps we should all start teaching our kids to write a book?  If they’re really, truly interested in the subject, I bet they’d very much enjoy the journey – even if it takes opening a book instead of a laptop to find your answer!  Though a word of caution: the one drawback is that I have to fight her for computer time. *exasperated mom sigh* “Is it my turn yet?”

Perhaps being a writer can save the world!  Okay, maybe not, but books are pretty amazing.

What perseverance tricks do you have?  How do you deal with writer’s block?  Please share in the comments below.  Or follow up with me using hastag: #cultureofnow

Interview with Spring Farm Cares: Animal and Nature Sanctuary

CQ author Jordan Elizabeth recently came to us about donating July’s royalties from her book Cogling to local animal and nature sanctuary Spring Farm Cares, in Clinton NY. It’s where she adopted her own cat, Dora, and a recent visit lead Jordan to discovering the sanctuary is desperately under-funded. As CQ are a team of animal lovers too, we not only admired Jordan’s offer to donate July’s Cogling royalties, but we’ve offered to match it too and donate an equal amount to Spring Farm Cares. And to sweeten the deal, we’re reducing the price of Cogling to $2.99 for July. Additionally, as an added bonus, anyone who adopts an animal from Spring Farm Cares can contact us to receive a free ebook of their choice. Those who donate $300 + a month to the sanctuary can contact us, and we’ll send them a CQ paperback of their choice.

To really understand the importance of what Spring Farm Cares does, Jordan sent them a series of interview questions.

1) When did you start?
Spring Farm CARES started in 1991 by co-founders Bonnie Jones Reynolds and Dawn Hayman. We got our start primarily as a horse retirement/rehabilitation facility. Over the years, we grew into being a sanctuary for on average about 250 animals.  We also have developed a 260 acre nature sanctuary as well.
2) Where do you get your funds from?
Our funding comes totally from donations and bequests from our supporters. We do not get any government funding.
3) What kind of animals do you offer sanctuary for? and 4) Are all of your animals up for adoption? (They aren’t; they keep many there for life if they have a reason they can’t be adopted rather than put them to sleep)
We offer sanctuary for about 250 animals. These range from horses, donkeys, and ponies to cats, dogs, rabbits and some exotic birds. Every animal who comes in our care is guaranteed a place to stay for life. We do adopt out cats and rabbits. Our horses and farm animals are not available for adoption. Most of our animals are either elderly and/or have special needs. Most of the special needs animals stay with us for life. We do not euthanize animals to make room for new ones. Animals are given the space and provided whatever they need to live out their life span. We do euthanize when an animal is ready to die and needs/wants our help. But animals are not euthanized until they are ready. We provide hospice and end of life care for them for however long they need.
5) Who are your most recent rescues?
We most recently had some major rescues come in our facility. Specifically in March we took in 6 horses from two animal cruelty cases. One of the horses sadly could not pull through and died in a vet clinic. We all tried all we could to save her but she was just to emaciated and weak to recover. The other 5 are in our care at the farm and currently being rehabilitated. We hope that they will be able to live out the rest of their lives with us when their criminal court cases are settled. They have been through enough trauma and its time for them to know that they will be safe, loved, and provided for. We also took in 5 special needs cats that same month – all of whom had been dumped on the side of the road and were in desperate need of medical care. This was a huge task for us to meet all of these needs in such a short span of time. But with the help of our supporters, we were proud to be able to step up and help when asked.
6) Why do you encourage owners not to de-claw? (It was in Jordan’s contract when she adopted Dora.)
We stipulate in our adoption contracts for kittens that cats must never be declawed. Declawing a cat is a very painful process. In fact, most other countries outlaw this practice. It is not simply removing a toenail. The process actually involves the amputation of the last joint on each toe. It is incredibly painful and many cats develop horrible behavioral problems afterwards. Many declawed cats take to biting as their natural line of defense (their nails) has been taken away from them. It is not only physically hard on the cats, but also psychologically hard.  Again and again we see declawed cats with significant behavioral problems.
Spring Farm CARES is a nonprofit 501c3 charitable organization, located on about 275 acres, in central New York.  An Animal and Nature Sanctuary with a deep spiritual and philosophical belief that animals, like humans, have souls and thoughts and feelings that can be heard and understood.  Center for Animal Communication, home to world renowned Animal Communicator, Dawn Hayman, we also offer other programs such as: Animal Sanctuary, Animal Adoption, Nature Sanctuary, Happy Hearth Spay/Neuter Assistance, and Purrfect Readers.
Visit our website for more information:
www.springfarmcares.org

 

 

 

 

About Cogling

$2.99 for July, with all royalties going to Spring Farm Cares: Animal and Nature Sanctuary and CQ matching the amount!

When fifteen-year-old Edna Mather tears an expensive and unfamiliar pocket watch off her little brother’s neck, he crumbles into a pile of cogs right before her eyes. Horrified, Edna flees for help, but encounters Ike, a thief who attempts to steal the watch before he realizes what it is: a device to power Coglings—clockwork changelings left in place of stolen children who have been forced to work in factories.

Desperate to rescue her brother, Edna sets off across the kingdom to the hags’ swamp, with Ike in tow. There, they learn Coglings are also replacing nobility so the hags can stage a rebellion and rule over humanity. Edna and Ike must stop the revolt, but the populace believes hags are helpful godmothers and healers. No one wants to believe a lowly servant and a thief, especially when Ike has secrets that label them both as traitors.

Together, Edna and Ike must make the kingdom trust them or stop the hags themselves, even if Ike is forced to embrace his dark heritage and Edna must surrender her family.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

Obscure Mythological Creatures

We’ve all heard of unicorns and dragons, vampire and werewolves, but some of the most interesting stories told are centered around creatures we’ve rarely heard of. Katherine Arden’s “The Bear and the Nightingale” is rich with Russian folklore. House spirits, Domovoi, and other demons who have co-existed with humans are being driven out of existence by the invasion of Christianity. No longer are villagers allowed to leave offerings to the creatures who have protected their hearths and stables.

So distraught are they, that even the demons of the forest are being driven out, allowing Karachun – the winter demon “death” to freeze over the world and kill all the humans.

In my own stories, I have gone deep into Maori mythology, basing my book, Walking Sticks on the legend Patupaiarehe, fair skinned fairies who lived in the mist and feared fire and sunlight. In my story, a Maori chief captures one of the fairy-like creatures and keeps her captive, hoping she will produce a son for him, with his strength and her magic. But three times she gives him daughters, all of which he kills – one by fire, one by drowning and one by suffocation.

So distraught by this, the mother murders the chief and escapes. She gathers her daughter’s skulls and fashions them atop of walking sticks, preserving their spirits inside so that someday the girls could have a chance at life by inhabiting the bodies of other girls – and of course, that is where the story really starts, when a teenage girl receives the sticks as a gift.

Obscure creatures are a way to add freshness to stories. So next time you pick up a book, or sit down to write one, think about find something that not only entertains you, but teaches you about something new and exciting.

Loving Mothers in Fiction

Mothers have been on my mind this month… it didn’t start with Mother’s day though. As a book blogger I participate in a popular meme where predetermined prompts gather the thoughts of the (mainly YA genre) book community every week. This month we were asked what we wanted to see more of in the books we read. A very popular answer was more present and aware parents with positive roles in their children’s lives. My mother was #1 in my life growing up and we are very close still today. She didn’t keep me from making mistakes but she was bedrock to my making wise decisions even after I mess up. Recently she helped me with a list of the best mystery detective series and you can check the list here.

I started to wonder about mothers and how media like books, movies, and television are portraying them. Do we really have a deficient number of mothers doing their best and succeeding? Being more aware of mothers this month I performed a little experiment. I didn’t search out lists to find these but looked at the media I was consuming or had recently consumed and not thought about the mother’s effect on the protagonists’ life. I found many books where a mother’s loss was front and center to motivations but I was truly surprised by how many mothers out there go about living quietly and without fanfare.

Animation Movie… Ponyo

Brunhilde (Ponyo) and Sōsuke’s mothers make a deal so their children can be happy. This was actually an incredible view of motherhood from two different perspectives. One mother is sacrificing her relationship with her daughter for another. And the other is agreeing to become the mother of that girl.

Chinese Television… Bromance

Du Zi Feng and his mother lost the most important person to them… his father. The worst was that he didn’t die but was lost and didn’t return. As Zi Feng and Ya Nuo fall in love his mother is greatly worried about who this man/woman is and will he/she be the center of her son’s world like his father was for her. I’d say more but too many spoilers!

Middle Grade Book… The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Xan and Luna’s story is an homage to mothers everywhere, both to those women who adopt children, those who give up their children and those who fight to defend the future of their own children. The crazy woman in the tower so inspiring – its never to late to be a good mother.

Japanese Manga… Oresama Teacher series

Mafuyu is a delinquent and so her mother sends her away to a school in the country to mend her ways. Mafuyu does her best to follow her mother’s desires for her but is a little too much her mother’s daughter… we don’t see Mafuyu’s mother often but when you do you know right away why Mafuyu is a force to be reckoned with!

Adult Movie… Terminator

Sarah Conner didn’t actually know she was a mother before she became what is now the common stereotype of a strong woman. We see her having to make major judgment calls before she even totally understands the consequences. What a testament to how John felt about his mother.

Korean Television… Secret Garden

Moon Boon-hong is a chaebol mother to her son and heir Kim Joo-won; she’s a cold woman who opposes her son’s choice of wife. Sometimes mothers aren’t supporting us so much as being the force that propels us to make good decisions… even though the end leaves her acceptance up to us to decide it left me with the hope that one day she’d soften due to her grandsons.

Adult Book… My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

Elsa’s best friend and grandmother dies when she’s 8 years old. Granny and her mum disagreed on a range of subjects and Elsa and her mum aren’t much different. As she mourns her Granny through the series of letters she delivers we see that mothers and daughters will always have common ground.

I love the different media types out there from books of all genres to movies and television. They do a decent job covering mothers… but did you notice one sub-genre I wasn’t able to find a significant alive mother? Seeing as how I read mainly YA books I should have been able to write this post about mothers in the young adult genre, but such was not the case…

Publishers and authors, we do need more books with positive mother role models! They don’t have to be perfect women but loving ones that do the best they can without fanfare and succeed in having an effect on their children… and through them on the reader.

The Big Ol’ Book Convention

Oftentimes, readers or other authors will ask me why I don’t frequent a lot of “big” book conventions. I have done some in the past and I plan to do more in the future, but I’m going to be honest here – I sell more books at intimate gatherings, like libraries and craft fairs.

“That’s impossible,” I’ve been told. “Go to the big conventions and be a national bestseller.” Well, here’s a few truths as I see them about those big ol’ book conventions.

  1. There can be hundreds, if not more, books for readers to choose from. It is overwhelming! At a smaller event, I might be the only author present selling books. While you might have a truly eye-catching cover, an awesome title, and a breath-taking blurb, so do most of the other authors at a convention.
  2. Conventions are held in big cities. This means you have to pay for travel and accommodations unless you’re lucky enough to live in or near that city. When you’re traveling, you can’t bring all of your swag and all of your books. Traveling on planes and trains limits the amount of luggage you can have. You also have to get everything to the convention. When I went to one in New York City, I brought along two extra suitcases. Luckily I had my parents with me to help me lug it all through the crowded streets. (On the plus side, being at a convention in a big city means you get to have an awesome time in a big city!)
  3. Most people who go to book conventions want free books. Someone would approach my table. I would smile and before I could start in on my spiel, he or she would hand me a business card for their blog, and ask for a free paperback in exchange for an honest review. While I am happy to work with bloggers, most of them don’t seem selective. They would ask for a free copy before even reading the back cover, and on a few business cards, I noted the blogger preferred genres in which I don’t write. Other authors wanted to exchange books. They were a tad more selective than the bloggers and actually wanted to engage in brief conversations. Regarding the bloggers, when I let them know I couldn’t afford to give out paperbacks but would be happy to provide an ebook once I got home, most of them moved on to the next table without even a goodbye.
  4. People love free stuff in general. I didn’t realize that at conventions, authors give away a lot of freebies. Pens, USB drives, bracelets… I had regular bookmarks to give away, but I also bought fancy keychains and fancy bookmarks to go with each purchase as a bit of an incentive. People would go from table to table grabbing everything in sight to throw into their bags. If you try to call out, “Wait, that comes with a purchase,” they don’t hear you because they’re already moving on to the next table. I was out of my fancy items before I had sold a single book. Now I save those special items for more intimate signings.
  5. Conventions are noisy. When someone wanted to engage me in a discussion about my books, oftentimes I would be yelling to be heard. One convention had a DJ. It heightened the excitement in the room, but it also made it difficult to think, let alone talk.
  6. Most of the time you have to share a table with a stranger. While I love meeting people, sometimes it is difficult to make it work seamlessly. I once shared a table with an erotica author. She had some interesting items and a male model posing in just his tidy-whities. I had a young adult fantasy. The customers who approached her weren’t interested in mine, and vice versa. Many of them would ask what I had, and when I explained, they would say, “I don’t read young adult.” Some parents ushered their children past the table quickly after seeing her swag and model.

“So you’re saying you hate conventions,” I’ve been told.

Not at all. I love any opportunity to get out into the world and share my novels. I’ve made some great new author friends at conventions. I’ve discovered new ways to display my merchandise and new ideas for swag.