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Saturday, February 27, 2010

How Jennifer Got Her Talisman by Steven Philip Jones




There was a girl

who did not like her name.



“It is too long,” she pleaded to her father.

“And it is dull.”

She wanted a new name,

something short and beautiful.



Her father told her,

“Your name is just right for you.”

He thought her name was just fine.

Perfectly fine.



This girl and her father

lived in a cottage.



Hills and plains surrounded the cottage.

It was a lonely place,

But the girl and her father liked it.

It made them happy.



One day a tall man rode over the east hills.

“I am trying to find a house,”

he told the father.

“Requin’s house.”



The father said,

“No one lives in Requin’s house.”



But the tall man pleaded,

“Somebody is waiting for me there.

A fine lady

with the name White.”



The father nodded.

“My daughter can show you the way.”

So the girl led the tall man

over the west hills.



The two traveled together

for a long time.



They waded across an angry river.

They crept through scowling woods.

They climbed a stern mountain.

At the top the girl said, “There is Requin’s house.”



The old house was big.

It had many rooms and looked empty.

Only the wind seemed to live there.

But, suddenly, a lady stepped out!



The lady was all white

except her eyes, both grass green.



The lady asked for the tall man’s name.

He said, “I am only a guide.”

The lady asked for the girl’s name.

She said, “It is just Jennifer.”



The lady smiled. “It is beautiful.”

The girl said, “It is long and dull.”

The lady shook her head. She asked,

“Do you know your name means `White’?”



The lady started to shine.

First like a ghost,

then like a star.

Jennifer was amazed and afraid.

Then the glow faded. She was alone.



But Jennifer turned and saw a staff

stuck in the ground.

She grabbed it and smiled.

The tall man’s face was carved on its grip.



Jennifer brought the staff home.



Her father asked, “Where did you find that?”

Jennifer told him.

She told him everything.

Then, “Did you know my name means `White’?”



Her father nodded.

“Just like I know a name does not matter,

only the person.”

Jennifer nodded. And smiled.


Bio: Steven Philip Jones has been writing professionally since 1987. His novel credits include Talismen: The Knightmare Knife, King of Harlem, Bushwhackers and Wizard Academies: The House With the Witch’s Hat. Steven also has over 60 comic book and graphic novel credits including adaptations of Dracula, several H.P. Lovecraft stories and the 1953 film Invaders From Mars, as well as the original series Nightlinger, Tatters and Wolverstone and Davis (formerly Street Heroes 2005). Steven was also the editor for Malibu Graphic's anthology of H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West—Reanimator serial. He is also the author of several nonfiction articles and an original Sherlock Holmes radio drama, “The Case of the Petty Curses,” which was syndicated nationally by Imagination Theater. Steven’s Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Religion from the University of Iowa prompts many people to ask him why he majored in two such dissimilar subjects. (He won't say). Steven was also accepted into Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop M.F.A. program in 1990. He makes his home in eastern Iowa with his daughter.

Visit his website at
http://fuziondigital.com/SPJhome.htm

Monday, February 22, 2010

INTERVIEW: CHRISTY TRUJILLO

Aurora is pleased to welcome Christy Trujillo, whose second book in her Maldito series, Emmy's Heart, has recently been released by Devine Destinies. Her first published novel, Emmy's Song is the one she is most proud of, because not many people believed she could actually write something that was good enough to be published. Even though she always wanted to write, she had trouble believing, herself, that she was a good enough writer to become published.

I asked her to tell us about Emmy's Song and Emmy's Heart.

"Emmy’s Song is a YA Paranormal Romance about a girl named Emmy who really has it together; she knows just what she wants and where she’s going. And then Cale Cruz comes to town. He really throws her whole life out of whack and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Did I mention he’s Maldito (half-human, half-vampire)? Oh yeah, good times. Emmy’s Song is the first of three books in the Maldito series. Emmy’s Heart has just been released on 2/15/2010 and Sarah’s Fate will be scheduled for a fall 2010 release."

Christy had befriended an author with Devine Destinies who had suggested that Christy query them with Emmy's Song.

"The rest," she said, "as they say, is history."

She loves writing books for kids and teens, especially, because she wants to be able to reach out and have people read her words and think, "Wow, how did she know that? How did she know that's how that felt."

Her response to that would be, "Because I’ve been there, baby girl. That’s how I know."

"I tried to commit suicide my senior year of high school. My true love broke my heart and I was a mess," she shared with me. "No one understood; not my friends, family or favorite teachers. I felt utterly alone. I often feel if I would’ve had someone to talk to, someone who had been there or at least gave me credit that I was actually in love, then it would have been easier to cope with the feelings. My books are always centered on young love and while, yes it is young, it is still love."

She wants her readers to know that no matter what they are going through, no matter how dark the times seem—the sun will rise again.

Along with working as a sales coordinator for a staffing firm, Christy is also working on the final book in the Maldito series, Sarah's Fate, as well as a shape-sifter novel called True North and a ghost story called Fireflies.

Her husband is supportive of her writing. He set up a corner of their den for her writing area and bought her a pink Dell laptop. They've been married for eight years and she said, "He is happy when I’m happy. He doesn’t really consider my writing a career, though."

The laptop was a great present, though, since Christy does all her writing on the computer—mostly because it has spell check and she's a horrible speller.

She has always loved books about the paranormal. The first paranormal she read was Wait till Helen Comes.

"It scared me to death," she admitted. "I loved it!"

As a young adult, her favorite series was The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith. The Twilight series have now taken over the top spot, but The Vampire Diaries are still a very close second. She credits both L.J. Smith and Stephanie Meyer as influencing her own writing.

The Maldito series is highly autobiographical and based, in part, on her own high school experiences. She even named the chorus teacher in the book the same as her own teacher.

"Emmy’s Song is unique as it takes the reader on an emotional journey, not only through the written word but also through the music that is constantly playing in Emmy’s head," Christy said. "These songs make up the soundtrack. The list can be found on my website."

This soundtrack is the first playlist on Christy's iPod.

Christy also told me that she's addicted to Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/Blogger. "I love to be online and meet new people," she said. "I get something different at each site and therefore could never give any of them up."

Finally, I asked Christy what advice she had for young writers.

"Don't stop!" she said. "Just write. Worry about what comes out later, but for now, just write. Then, put your manuscript away for at least a week before your proof it. Your eyes see what they want to see when you remember exactly what it's supposed to say."

Christy Trujillo was born and raised in a small town in Northeast Florida near Jacksonville and the Florida-Georgia line. As a child she loved books on vampires and the paranormal and has been heavily influenced by the writings of L.J. Smith. Christy currently works for a major staffing company, and dreams of becoming a full-time author. She resides in Jacksonville, FL with her husband, son, and two black cats that turned out to be anything but unlucky.

www.christytrujillo.com

Monday, February 15, 2010

INTERVIEW: Susan Beth Pfeffer

I can hardly remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer. I knew by first grade I was determined to be one. I always loved making up characters and stories, and I loved knowing people enjoyed my storytelling abilities. In sixth grade, I wrote most of a mystery (I lost interest as soon as I solved it, and stopped writing), and I discovered even kids who didn't like me were waiting to read each chapter as I finished it.

I also read enormous amounts as a kid, far more than I read nowadays. I had very little respect for most of what I read, and by seventh grade I felt I could do better. There were only a few writers I really respected. One was Mary Stolz, whose books were far superior to the drek I devoured. Many years later, she permitted me to dedicate a book to her, and I'm delighted that I was able to tell someone I looked up to so much how influential she had been to me.

When I was a junior in high school, I wrote a humorous autobiographical essay for the school paper, and it met with great success. Fool that I was, I asked my 11th grade English teacher (who didn't like me) what she thought.

She said, "It's like everything else you do- it's I,I,I."

While that was kind of nasty of her, it was also excellent advice (even if she didn't intend it to be). She taught me to make sure I don't start every paragraph with the word "I." When you write in first person (and I frequently do), that's a good thing to watch out for.

And while I'm on the subject of advice, the other best piece I was ever given, was from one of the many excellent editors I've had the good fortune to work with. I'm a sucker for backstories, which can really clutter the start of a book. My editor spotted this weakness (well, it was hard not to notice), and said, "A book should start as close to the center of the story as possible."

Oh, there's one other piece of advice that has been enormously helpful to me. It's professional, rather than writing advice, but it's essential for anyone who's self-employed. It came from an agent who was telling me about a possible big deal. She said, "Don't buy the mink coat until after you've cashed the check." So many possible big deals fall through, it's good to remember that.

My mother was a secretary and she taught my brother and me to type when we were in high school. As a result, I've always written by keyboard, first with a typewriter, and then on a computer. I write very fast, and I can't imagine how I would have managed if I'd written by hand (then again, I can't imagine writing poems any way other than longhand, but I can't write poems, so I'm just guessing on that).

Now that I think about it, there's another piece of advice that's had a huge positive effect on my career. Another agent said it to me, and it took a while before I understood what she meant. She said, "Think before you write."

Before then, I would just start to write without having given much thought at all to how the story was going to turn out. That's a good system for some people, but not for me. So now I'll come up with a question (what would it be like to be a teenager living through a worldwide catastrophe), and then I'll spend as much time as needed coming up with the questions and answers. Who is the teenager? What is the catastrophe?

Writers have themes they turn to again and again. My theme is families living through unusual circumstances. To me, the best way of exploring families is through children and teenagers .I love writing problem novels, and I saw Life As We Knew It as a problem novel about a very very big problem.

I loved writing Life As We Knew It and wanted to write a sequel, but my publisher was uncertain that was the way to go. So I convinced them to let me write a second book about the same world wide catastrophe, but with a completely different set of characters. I called that book the dead & the gone. Then my publisher decided a sequel was a good idea after all, so my newest book, This World We Live In (scheduled for March 2010), is about the characters in both books, as their lives intertwine. Writing a book that's a sequel to two different books is a lot trickier than you might think, and I take a lot of pride in how I figured out what details of the first two books to include in the third and what details to leave out.

Most of the outlining I do is in my mind, and I do it pretty much non-stop if I'm working through a story. It's that continuing process of asking and answering questions. When I'm confident of the beginning, have a strong sense of where I want the book to end, and know enough of the middle to be sure there is one (that reminds me of another great trick I was taught, by another excellent editor- If you're writing a book with chapters, write down each chapter number and a one sentence description of what happens in that chapter. If you see numbers without action, you know where you need to strengthen your story), I start the actual writing.

With all the pre-writing, the writing itself doesn't take that long, which is a good thing for me because I'm an impatient person and I can lose interest pretty easily. But it's a good system for me, and it prevents lots of headaches like writer's block. Other writers prefer to solve the problems as they go along. There's no one right or wrong method.

I have two goals with my writing and when things work out best, they go together quite nicely. One goal is to earn money. Writing books has been my fulltime job since college. I'm incredibly fortunate to have lived my dream. Some years I've earned lots of money and some years not nearly enough, but they've averaged out fairly well.

The second goal is to entertain myself. I am my own best audience. That's a good thing since I'm the one doing the writing and the rewriting. It's a not such a good thing when it comes to being objective. I have to write something pretty awful for me to acknowledge it's less than fabulous. Which is why I'm very dependent on my editors, and why I've been so fortunate to have worked with so many excellent ones.

I lead a quiet comfortable life (considerably more comfortable in the years when I earn enough money). I love movies and watching figure skating (I go to the occasional competition). This past spring, I adopted a kitten, who I named Scooter. As you can tell from the photograph, he's a very intelligent cat!

Susan Beth Pfeffer wrote her first book, Just Morgan, when she was a senior at NYU.

Since then, she has written 76 books for children and young adults. Her award winning titles include Kid Power, About David, and The Year Without Michael.

In 2006, her New York Times best selling novel Life As We Knew It was published. The winner of several statewide young reader awards, it was followed by the dead & the gone. In April 2010, the third volume in the trilogy, This World We Live In, will be published. The books follow the story of Miranda, a teen girl in small town Pennsylvania and Alex, a teen boy in New York City, after a worldwide devastation.

Ms. Pfeffer lives in the Town of Wallkill, New York, with her kitten Scooter.

http://susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com/

Monday, February 8, 2010

INTERVIEW: JANET LANE WALTERS

Aurora is pleased to have Janet Lane Walters visiting with us this week. Janet is an eclectic writer whose focus lately has been in fantasy. She has been an EPPIE finalist twice and the winner of one for non-fiction in 2003. Her YA fantasies are published by Mundania and Diskus. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband. Her four children have given her five grandchildren and they are the focus of The Henge Betrayed – Flight, published by Mundania.

She told me that her grandchildren, in different personas, are the main characters in the book.

"The thing that makes me proud," she said, "is that the older four (ages ten to twenty) have read and enjoyed the book. They're awaiting the sequel. One of my grandsons is so into the book that he's trying to develop a video game based on the chapters."

Janet is a planner, but she doesn't always stick to the original plan, because she found that once her characters take life, sometimes that plan changes.

"When writing The Henge Betrayed --Flight, I remember writing 'In order to escape you have to die.' The threat of death of one of the characters wasn't in my plans," she told me. "In the second book this is explained."

She's recently finished the third book of The Henge Betrayed Series -- Quests and will soon be working on the fourth and final book of the quartet Confrontations.

I asked her to tell us about her latest books.

"My latest YA book is The Secret of the Jewels published by DiskUs and is the third of a fantasy trilogy. In the book the eight Jewel Holders and their companions finish the battle against the mages and learn the origin and the danger in the Jewels. Up to this point the Jewels have helped them develop their powers. When they learn what the Jewels really mean they must find a way to destroy their influence without destroying themselves.

"Soon to be released is the second of the Henge books Refuge. Once again the four are on the run seeking a refuge from the evil Dom Senet. They also fear for their friends they have left behind. Two with talents have remained in the garden in Cedris. The son of the ruler of Wesren has remained in the palace and has learned he must die in order to escape. Trouble escalates and though the four are safe, their friends aren't and they must find ways to rescue them. Others with affinities for the four elements-- Earth, Fire, Water and Air-- join them and aid in the escapes."

One of the reasons she enjoys writing books for young adults is it keeps her young. It also gives her a way to use heavy subjects in a different way than she would deal with them in her writing from adults.

When she was growing up, she read everything.

"I do mean everything," she stressed. "I gave a book report on Anna Karenina in third grade though I wrote a different ending. I know I didn't understand everything happening in the book until I became an adult."

She enjoyed mysteries, fantasy, and as she became a teen, some light romance. She had access to the classics at her home and read most of them, even though she had to labor through the writing since it was much more ponderous than writing today.

Janet didn't always want to be a writer, even though she's always written. "Until I married and had my first child anything I wrote was kept in notebooks and not shared," she told me.

She still writes in long hand and then transfers her work to a computer. She might rewrite a chapter, scene, or even a paragraph by hand and then type that in as well. "I think better with pen in hand than a computer, but that is how I learned to write many years ago," she explained.

I asked her to share with us what her writing space was like.

"I have a study off the living room that was once a sun porch to the house. There are two windows but they're too high for me to see outside so I'm not distracted. On the shelf above the computer is my collection of dragons, twenty or so as well as a few other oddities. The walls have bookshelves and sometimes there are stacks of books on the floor when I'm heavy into research. No pictures since this writer is often disorganized except I know where everything is hiding."

She finds researching fun—using books she's collected over the years, the library, and the internet.

"You can find out just about anything if you look hard enough. One of the problems is to stop researching. In The Henge Betrayed – Quests, I needed to do a thatching a roof scene. I read everything I could find on the subject, printed out a lot of pages from my internet searches and then put the information in my own words. I probably used ten facts out of the thousand or so that I found."

"Do you think the Internet will ultimately change the publishing industry?" I wondered.

"I definitely believe this will happen and has already happened. When one of my granddaughters was eight, she called me and asked me to buy her a real book. This child loves to read. I send her books every few months and reminded her of this. She said she meant a real book. At school they read books on the computer. According to her paper books aren't real since you could tear them up and throw them away."

Finally, I asked Janet if she had any advice for young writers.

"Read everything you can. Remember when you're writing you need to know your characters, what they want, what effect does where they live and the time period have on the characters. Give your characters a goal, reasons why what they want can and cannot be had and this will become your plan."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Taken by Bev Irwin 

The picture didn’t really look like him. But then that was a good thing. The computer-generated photo had some of his features, but not enough to cause somebody to take a closer look.

Luckily he looked more like his grandfather than either one of his parents. Maybe if his hair wasn’t dyed so dark… He tipped his head and examined the picture. Yeah, maybe if his hair was still blonde. Jeremy shrugged and walked away.

He could have ripped the poster off the wall but that would draw attention. Somebody might wonder why he’d want to take down a profile of missing children. They might take a closer look. They might see something familiar in the blonde boy in the right hand corner of the poster.

Jeremy forced himself to keep to an even pace despite the overwhelming urge to tear out of the school and never come back. But he had to. He’d promised his grandmother that he would finish the school year.

Will they never stop looking for us? It’s been ten years now. I’m not going to tell Mom. That’s the last thing she needs right now. As it is, she’s hanging on by a thread.

Jeremy looked at his watch.. He had to hurry. He had to get back to the apartment before Doc MacKay showed up. How long would it take him to clean up? He should have stayed home today but he couldn’t miss any more time. He couldn’t take a chance on the school sending anybody to check on him, or teachers calling his home.

That was if they could. Nobody had bothered yet. Otherwise they’d know the number he’d put on the forms wasn’t right. It had happened before. He’d gotten used to that. He’d just shrug and give them another number. By the time anybody got around to calling they’d usually moved. How many times had they moved? Too many to count.

Sliding the key into the lock, he prayed the damage was minimal. He didn’t have much time. The door whined open. Raised talk show voices blared from the television set. The heavy cotton curtains were drawn allowing minimal light into the room. The combination living room/kitchen smelled as dank and old as it looked.

Jeremy saw the prone form laid out on the worn plaid sofa. A multi-colored crocheted afghan partially covered his mother’s swollen form. Her long brown hair was tangled and in need of a wash. Tied in a loose, ineffective ponytail, thin oily strands spread across her forehead. He wanted to brush them off her face but he didn’t want to wake her yet.

If she woke in one of her melancholy moods he’d be too busy consoling her to clean. It wasn’t bad today. Almost the same as when he’d left for school this morning. An over flowing ashtray and a half-empty glass of coke sat on the scarred coffee table. A few magazines had slipped onto the floor. He glanced at the Arborite table, then the kitchen sink. Both were devoid of dishes. Either she hadn’t eaten or she’d cleaned up after herself. Shaking his head, Jeremy picked up the ashtray. He sighed so deeply gray flecks of ash floated in the air. He couldn’t worry now about the last time she’d eaten. He’d make them something filling after Doc left.

The ashtray emptied, Jeremy bent to pick up the magazines off the stained carpet. As he layered them in neat piles on the coffee table hiding the recent cigarette burns, he couldn’t help glancing at his mother. Her face was sallow and plump. Wrinkle free, it made her look younger, not reflecting the years of abuse she had suffered. Her mouth was open; drops of saliva lay in the v of her lips. Unconsciously, his shoulders sagged. At least she’d made it out of bed today. That was the first time this week.

He thought of the Polaroid picture he kept hidden in a box under his bed. The one he took out every night when he said his prayers. He didn’t know why he bothered. Nobody seemed to be answering them. Yet he couldn’t let go of the habit, couldn’t let go of hope. He thought of the picture. Somebody on the street had snapped the photo and handed it to him. Was it only two years ago? Only two years, but it seemed like another lifetime.

He knew it was her illness. And the treatment for it. Side effects of the drugs that kept her barely this side of sane, barely functional – and that was on a good day– and there weren’t many of them. Less and less all the time.

His eyes closed and he saw the photo of a petite, laughing woman, her gleaming brown hair styled like the pixie she resembled. No one would recognize her now. He shrugged again. Maybe that was a good thing.

“Mom,” he shook her shoulder. “You have to get up now. Doc will be here soon.”

Her eyes drifted open. “Hi, Jeremy. School over?”

“Yeah, Mom. It’s after four. You have to get up. Brush your hair, your teeth. Remember, Doc Mackay is coming to see you.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Her eyes were glazed over, the lids thick and too heavy to remain open. Her words slurred together. “Just let me sleep for a few more minutes.”

“No, Mom. You have to get up.”

Jeremy slid his arm under her shoulders, gently lifting her. Supporting her unsteady steps, he guided her to the bathroom. He leaned on the closed door until the toilet flushed. She had washed some of the sleep out of her eyes and the drool from her lips. Her hair was still unkempt and she had a water stain on the front of her sweat top. He led her back to the sofa hoping the stain would dry soon. He didn’t know if she had anything else clean to wear.

“Can I brush your hair, Mom?”

Her fingertips caressed his cheek. “That would be nice, dear.”

Jeremy drew a wide toothed brush through her brown stands. Not great, but it was an improvement. There was a knock at the door and he shoved the brush into his backpack. Crossing to the door, Jeremy let Doctor MacKay into the apartment.

“Hello, son. How is she today?”

“Much better.”

He lied.

About the Author: Bev writes in the romance and mystery genres, at times combining them into romantic suspense. With many years of being a registered nurse, she likes to add a medical edge to her writing. This year has been a good year for contests. Her mystery, MISSING CLAYTON, came second in the TARA, and third in Gateway to the Best contest. DANGEROUS WATERS, a historical romance, received Honorable Mention in the Fab Five contest . Bev has been published for her poetry and has done well in a cross-Canada contest for one of her children's stories. TAKEN is the first chapter of a YA novel. She lives in London, Ontario with two dogs, and two cats. The three children having flown the coop.

Monday, February 1, 2010

INTERVIEW: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Aurora is pleased to welcome Cynthia Leitich Smith, acclaimed author of Tantalize, Eternal, and the upcoming Blessed. Tantalize was honored at the 2007 National Book Festival as well as being a Borders Original Voices Selection. Eternal was a YALSA Teens Top Ten nominee.

Eternal, a YA Gothic fantasy love story as well as a political thriller, is the story of Miranda, a shy wannabe teen actress, who is "adopted" by the king of vampires, and Zachary, the guardian angel who initially fails to save her from him. It's set in a multi-creature-verse and is told in alternating points of view. It's also part of a larger series and building storyline.

"The cast of Eternal will crossover with the cast of my previous novel, Tantalize, in Blessed which I’m revising right now," Cynthia told me. "The books are a conversation of sorts with Bram Stoker and other classic authors, though you don’t need to have read those books to follow my series. Readers will find strong elements of romance, mystery, suspense, and some humor, but big picture, these are contemporary horror novels per se. They’re also influenced by Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer, especially with regard to its girl-empowerment subtext."

Cynthia is intrigued by young heroes, because everything they are going through is newer. And, because their experiences are fresher, the intensity involved is also much higher. "Consider a kiss," she said. "Then consider a first kiss. Then consider your first kiss ever."

When she's researching, she doesn't rely only on print and video media; she's very hands-on.

"Hands on and feet walking out the door," she explained. "If at all possible, I’m out in the middle of the setting and shootings photos of the landscape and interviewing folks with any sort of pertinent expertise. For Tantalize, I interviewed a chef and talked to living vampires. For Eternal, I walked Chicago’s Chinatown in -20 weather. Where my characters go, so do I."

"Did you always want to be a writer?" I asked.

"Yes. I started as a young poet and then quickly became a journalist. I was the editor of my junior high and high school newspapers, and I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Kansas before continuing on to The University of Michigan Law School. It wasn’t until I was a twenty-something professional in Chicago, though, that it occurred to me that I could write fiction for a living. But it came at me with blinding clarity, and I immediately quit my day job and plunged in. (Don’t try the quitting your day job thing. It worked out for me, but there were a fair number of sleepless nights in the meantime)."

I wondered what Cynthia's husband thought about her writing.

" I’m married to Greg Leitich Smith, author of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo. We have a new short story out together in Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd. So, let’s just say, he identifies."

Cynthia prefers to do her writing on her laptop. "I spent much of my teens and early twenties in newsrooms," she explained, "so I’m used to composing on a keyboard, both daily and on deadline."

She writes her entire first draft, two pages a day. Then when she's finished, she prints it, reads it, tosses it, and deletes the file. Then she starts over.

"That first draft is just an exercise," she said, "a way of getting to know the world, protagonist, and his or her story."

Cynthia shared with us a soundtrack she developed while she was writing Eternal. It includes a wide variety of songs: “Bad Moon Rising” by Clearance Clearwater Revival; “New Dark Ages” by Bad Religion; “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo; “My Kind of Town” by Frank Sinatra; “I Want to Be Evil” by Eartha Kitt; “Princess of the Night” by At Vance; “Fate or Faith” by Julie Cruise; “In the Arms of the Angels” by Kristin Richardson; “Forever Love” by Anna Nalick. You can listen to it on Cynthia's MySpace page.

Finally, I asked Cynthia what advice she had for her readers.

" You are the hero of your own story. Honor that about yourself, respect it. Think about how you can use your power over your life to build the best possible future. And watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. Repeatedly. Until you can quote it."