Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fact checking in the real world--why authors can't ever really leave work behind

I've been vacationing in Oregon and Utah, both of which have way better weather than Arizona has right now. I didn't mean to work at all, but the problem (or benefit, depending on how you look at it) is that you can't turn off the writer's brain. For example, when we went white water rafting, we took a 15 passenger van to the river head. The whole ride up I was thinking about the fifteen passenger van I have my characters riding around in during Slayers. (That may or may not be the actual title of the book.)

Actual example of the conversation in the van:

Youngest daughter (code name, Melody, because she has recently informed me that I should have named her Melody.) "Mom, look at how tall those trees are!"
Me: silently thinking, "My characters need a bigger van. There's not enough room for surveillance equipment in this thing."

Here are some pictures from our water adventure. Although I look like I'm standing up in the back of the raft, I'm not. The water is simply higher where I am.

In this next picture you will notice I have disappeared. Coincidence, or a plot by our evil raft guide? My question is this: Who in the world first saw a churning river with rapids quaintly named things like "Bone Crusher" and thought, "Hey, I have a good idea! Let's get a flimsy, air-filled boat, and go down this baby."

Who? Men, that's who.

In Slayers, my main character rides a black gelding named Bane. That's what the stables gave me. Unlike my main character, I had no mystic connection with my black horse. However, he did want to eat non-stop, so maybe there were similarities in our personalities. That's pretty much what I did on vacation.

Next stop, The Princess Festival in Lindon,Utah. Think Prom for little girls. Here is Melody riding a sea serpent. Hmmm, that would make an interesting plot point . . .

Here I am posing in a fountain with Melody. This picture actually has nothing to do with the rest of the blog. I'm just including it because I'm vain. I think most authors are. Why else would we ever think that anybody cared, let alone would pay for, all the stories that go swirling around in our minds? (Discuss amongst yourselves.)

Here is Melody with Beauty. All of the famous princesses were at the festival. (Which incidentally is a volunteer run fundraiser to help girls in Kenya.)The princesses had to have generic names though, so Disney won't sue them.

Here is the best princess of all: The Snow Queen, played by none other than big sister, code name Serena. Hey Serena, I knew that pale skin I gave you would pay off someday!

And lastly, here is Melody learning early on that to find your prince, you've got to kiss a lot of frogs.

I love princesses. I totally want to write that retelling of Cinderella that I've been thinking about since I wrote My Fair Godmother. Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be doing revisions. Cinderella will have to wait.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

And the winner is . . .

First off, I feel compelled to tell you the show I would have snuck onto. Battlestar Gallactica. Captain Apollo . . . long heavy sigh . . . and Dirk Benedict . . . more sighing. True, the show had that stupid robot dog and sometimes the dialogue was cheesy, but hot guys make up for a lot.

Anyway, now that I have traveled down memory lane, you can read about the winner., in all its random glory has chosen Karen Adair. So Karen, send me your regular address at jrallisonfans at yahoo dot com and I'll send your nuclear summer version book off to you.

Anyone else who wants another chance to win, will be giving away a copy of Just One Wish from June 25-July 25. In fact, I think they've also got a copy of My Double Life they're giving away too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just One Wish give-away (The nuclear summer version)

I have bemoaned before the utter lack of influence I have over my covers. In fact, it seems like the fastest way for a cover to get scrapped is if I say, "I love it!" Apparently my publishers think I have no taste (my children think the same thing) so if I approve of something it is a sure sign to them that it needs to be changed.

Alas, I loved the Just One Wish cover. And in my defense, I was not alone. It won the best YA cover award on one blog.

But my publisher has changed it despite my protests. They have pink-ified it. Yep, the beautiful blue background is gone and now it looks like that sunny day has been turned into some bizarre nuclear holocaust.

Still, in order to celebrate the paperback edition, I'm doing a give-away. In the book, Annika goes to Hollywood in order to find and bring back a famous TV star to meet her six-year-old brother, before he has dangerous surgery. During the course of her quest, she pretends to be an extra on the TV star's show and is actually recruited into a scene.

If you could sneak onto any TV show--still running or already cancelled--which one would it be? Leave your answer in the comment box and if you're a follower, mention it since followers get double chances.

Cheers! (That was a salutation and not my TV series of choice. Oh, oh, triple chances if you can guess which TV series I would choose.)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Morals and values in YA lit, or Janette should really get more sleep before she opens her mouth

A couple of weeks ago, my friend (and super author) Shannon Hale asked for my opinion on a blog she was doing on morals and values in young adult books. Shannon, like a lot of authors, says she doesn’t think about morals or values as she writes. She just tells the story and lets people draw their own conclusions about it.

I typed out my opinion and sent it to her--although I wrote the email during a long stint of not-getting-much-sleep, and on that particular night I was up for 28 hours straight. The result is that my answer came off much harsher than I intended and it sort of sounded like I’m telling a lot of authors that they’re going straight to h*ll. With no stops along the way.

Yeah. Sorry about that to all of you authors I may have offended and will subsequently end up sitting next to at upcoming book conferences.

You can see the whole discussion over at:

But basically my quote was something along the lines of: It’s irresponsible for YA authors to write about teen characters having sex when they make it seem like no bad consequences will happen. It’s tantamount to encouraging fourteen-year-olds to throw their lives away, and you’re all going to h*ll!!

Okay, maybe that wasn’t the exact quote, because I went on for several paragraphs, however you get the idea.

But here’s why it’s such an issue for me. About nine years ago while I was doing research for my book, What the Doctor Ordered, I had a scene where my doctor character counseled a pregnant teen. He told her she needed to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, so I wanted him to throw out some statistics about STDs. I went on the internet to research STDs but I couldn’t believe the numbers. They were too high. Fifty percent of people have the HPV virus that causes genital warts and several kinds of cancer? One in six people have herpes? Surely not. More people would be talking about STDs if they were that big of a problem.

I called two STD hotlines and both times was told that 80% of sexually active people older than 14 years-old have some kind of STD. I still didn’t believe it so I called my gynecologist and asked him. He confirmed the numbers.

I was completely shocked. I still am. It’s a huge elephant in the room that nobody is mentioning.

Here’s another cheery statistic for you. I have a friend who works for a drug company and he’s traveled to Africa several times to work with doctors on their HIV medicine. According to him, in more than one country, one out of every five people are infected with HIV. One out of five! Think of the people who live on your street or the kids in your children’s school. Can you imagine if one out of every five of them had an incurable deadly disease?

Are we here in the USA smarter? Are we safer? Not according to one website I saw that said 50% of teens who have sex don’t use condoms.

And here are a few more facts kids should know before they make life changing decisions: Several STDs are incurable, many are painful, some aren’t prevented by using condoms, and more than one can kill you.

According to The Center for Disease Control approximately 19 million new STDs occur each year— almost half of them among young people 15 to 24 years of age.

The most reported diseases in the country every year are Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Women/girls are particularly at risk because women don’t get symptoms from these diseases but both can result in infertility if left untreated.

As an added bonus, Gonorrhea—which has the highest reported rates of infection among teenagers and young adults—can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. About one million women in the United States develop PID each year. Look forward to abdominal pain, fever, and internal pus-filled “pockets” that are hard to cure and long-lasting.

Not fun enough? If you get syphilis, which can also go for years without detection, it can damage your internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. Signs and symptoms of the late stage of syphilis include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, dementia, and death.

Well that’s certainly worth contracting if the guy is dreamy enough.

I could go on, but I won’t. If you’re interested in more fun facts, you can go to the CDC website at:

In truth, I don’t think my fellow authors realize what a serious and devastating problem all of this is. I think they would be more hesitant to put sex scenes in their YA books if they did. Of course, I’ve done my part to solve the problem. I told all of the authors that read Shannon Hale’s blog that they’re going to h*ll.

I’m just really caring and tactful that way.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

My Unfair Godmother--weigh in on the cover

As my entripid followers know, one of the books I've been working on recently is the sequel to My Fair Godmother. I thought I'd unveil the cover. (Release date: JanuFebuaryish 2011)

Cool, huh? It was so considerate of to shoot three different pictures of the same girl as a fairy so I could have some consistancy on my covers. (Sort of makes me feel like I have to write a third one, just so I can use that third picture.) I'm just hoping that the covers aren't so similar that people think it's the same book. (As in, oh, I already read that one. No need to buy it.)

The odd thing is that they sent me the cover on the 13th and I just signed the contract for the book today. When I saw the golden apple on the cover I thought, "Hmmm, People will wonder why that's there." So I had to go write a golden apple into the story. Hey, whatever works.

And the winner is . . .

Today the random number generator has chosen Kayla. So send me your address at jrallisonans at yahoo dot com and I'll send your book.

And for the rest of you, never fear. I'm sure I'll be giving away more books soon. What would a week be without a trip to the post office, where the postman all think I'm a little bit odd? (They're right.)