lisha cauthen

Tech Yourself: 5 iPhone Apps That Will Get Any Kid in Trouble

Said | Jun 23 2014

The iPhone apps we’re talking about today are real. They are free. And they can get your main character–and also, your real-life self or kids–in trouble.



snapchat icon Oh, Snapchat. You are the post-Facebook way to ruin a teenaged life. The messages and pictures supposedly disappear after they’re read, but THIS IS THE WEBTUBES, PEOPLE. NOTHING EVER COMPLETELY DISAPPEARS FROM THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY.

The recipient can take a screenshot of that topless selfie you sent, and then forward it to everybody you know. And so on. And so on.



2. KIK

kik iconSet up a username and text your friends, or when you meet someone you’re not too sure about, give them your Kik name instead of your phone number. Sounds nifty-safe, right? It is, unless Feckless Teenager texts a creep. And unlike the native iPhone text app, there will be no record of the texts on your provider account, in case you suddenly disappear. And no way to see who you’re actually talking to in the first place.



3. ASK.FM iconShould be renamed the Bully At Will app, by Anonymous. Kids have committed suicide over it. Supposedly, the app team has put safety checks in place. But anyone can sign up, use any name, and “ask” anyone a “question”. Like, “Do you never take a shower?”






tinder app iconSo. Post a flattering picture of yourself and away we go. Tinder finds people geographically close to you and offers them for your perusal–you can say yay or nay. Then chatting happens. And who knows what else. As you can imagine, you got no idea who the heck you’re REALLY talking to. And when you meet ‘em somewhere–well, it’s too late. Tinder really and truly is not meant to be used by teens, but hey. How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm?



yik yak app icon Post something, anonymously, of course, and the 500 users geographically closest to you can see it. This is one of the   big apps being banned by schools.  For bullying and terrorist threats. Oh. And it’s an excellent way for sexual predators to find teens close to them.




This is by no means every app that is dangerous in the hands of naive users. There are apps that resemble chatroulette, encourage users to post their deepest secrets, hook users up for–whatever, and give people a place to let loose their basest instincts.






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lisha cauthen

Tech Yourself: 4 Writer’s-Block-Busting iPhone Apps

Said | Jun 10 2014

C2PqHbC - Imgur

Out of good ideas?

Well, my little dumpling, you know where to turn:









CREATIVE WRITER-INSPIRATION TOOL FOR WRITING-Write a story, take notes, capture ideas, compose poems, rap, lyrics, love letters, messages or prompts

Fun app that helps you build sentences to jangle your mind. As you type, word clouds pop up to choose your next word from. Really different.




Sometimes, other’s words inspire our own. This app from the Poetry Foundation is chock-full of old and contemporary poems, new ones are added each month. Browse by poet, subject or mood. Very handy.









A friend of mine, Barb Stuber, takes her writerly inspiration from art. She works at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art as a docent, which is a pretty smart thing to do. If you can’t work in a museum, the next best thing is an app. WikiArt has over 110,000 pieces of art from all over the world to inspire you. Searchable.









But don’t stop at art museums, natural history museums hold lots of interesting tidbits and secrets to springboard your stories off of. This app has photos and information from some of the most popular and interesting items in the Field Museum.


There are lots of art, word and museum apps available in the app store–many are free. Give yourself time to dream up something new.



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Pamela K Witte

Getting Personal! Gate Crashers’ Author Interviews

Said | May 28 2014

If isn’t personal what the heck is it?

Author Interviews That Rock

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Click the pics for awesome links!

and her thrilling young adult romantic-suspense series





Interview time!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a children’s-YA author, a writing teacher, a treadmill-desk writer, a mid-to-southwesterner, an Austinite, an urbanite, a Whedonite, a classic “Star Wars” fan, a person owned by cats, a mild germophobe, a lover of Craftsman architecture, a recovering journalist and legal scholar, a dancer and a klutz.

Tell us about your new book. What is the blurb on your book cover or your quick synopsis? 

As for my latest novel: The second installment of New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith’s thrilling Feral series delivers danger, romance, and suspense in an all new action-packed adventure.

The adopted daughter of two respectable human parents, Kayla is a werecat in the closet. All she knows is the human world. When she comes out to her boyfriend, tragedy ensues, and her determination to know and embrace her heritage grows. Help appears in the lithe form of sexy male werecat Yoshi, backed up by Aimee and Clyde, as the four set out to solve the mystery of a possessed antique carousel while fielding miscast magic, obsessive strangers, and mounting species intolerance. Fans will go wild for this rousing second Feral adventure.

Just to get us started, how long have you been writing?

Writing at all? Early elementary school essays led to poetry, which led to junior high and high school journalism and then, in college, short fiction and professional news reporting. Writing for book publication? Since my late twenties—I had a two-and-a-half year children’s writing apprenticeship before my first sale, which was to HarperCollins. That picture book, Jingle Dancer, was released in 2000. Since then, I’ve sold 13 books as well as several short stories and a couple of essays. My apprenticeship was short because I’d long been an avid reader, had previously focused on writing, albeit not for young readers, and because I’d studied with living legend Kathi Appelt.

What inspired you to write FERAL CURSE?

FERAL CURSE is book 2 in the FERAL trilogy, which begins with FERAL NIGHTS (Candlewick/Walker/Brilliance), but the two novels can stand alone. The FERAL books are adventure fantasies and a spin-off from my previous TANTALIZE series (also Candlewick/Walker/Brilliance). One of the central mythology elements of FERAL CURSE is a haunted carousel. I’d written a previous, alternate-dimension fantasy manuscript using this element years ago and decided to shelve that draft in favor of TANTALIZE. However, the idea lingered in my mind. Meanwhile, I was horrified by the destruction left by recent wildfires in central Texas. I didn’t want to tell a story about the fires per se—it was far too soon and would’ve felt exploitive, but I did want to signal that teen heroes could (and do) come from communities that have suffered such devastation. I also was interested in featuring a small-town protagonist in the TANTALIZE-FERAL universe. The previously introduced heroes had been city teens or suburbanites or sent from heaven above. These influences came together to birth Kayla Morgan, a cheetah-like werecat from fictional small-town Pine Ridge, Texas, and her conflict with a haunted carousel at her small-town park.

Do you have a special affinity for the supernatural?

I live in a haunted house. Does that count?

What attracted you to the idea of shape shifting?

Shifters are a natural metaphor for adolescence. Think about it: a teen’s body, social construct and emotional range are all—sometimes wildly—in flux.  

Of all the characters you’ve written, which is the most terrifying?

Lucifer, the fallen angel/hell king in DIABOLICAL (Book 4 of the TANTALIZE series). He has the ability to possess the innocent, and that total invasion—body and mind, leaving the soul in peril—is as scary as my writing gets. 


Do you find yourself in any of your characters?

Like Yoshi, I was largely raised in Kansas and drove a classic car. Like Kayla, I was studious and overly preoccupied with being the good girl. Like Clyde and Aimee, I was (and still am) geeky and fond of pop culture. I also was a teenager who worked a lot—popping corn at a movie theater, waiting tables in a Mexican restaurant, as the cashier of a Phillips 66 gas station Most of my characters have jobs.

If you could be any character from a book or movie, who would it be?

Wonder Woman. (Me too! So I gift to you a virtual pair of my, feel-totally-awesome-I-can-do-anything-Amazonian-wonder shoes…) :) Wonder Woman Shoes



If you had one question to ask Bram Stoker, what would it be?

Why do you associate evil in men with ugliness and evil in women with seductiveness?

Does living in Texas affect your writing? You know, everything is bigger in Texas… ;)

I’m a sense-of-place writer. All of my stories have been set in places where I’ve lived or spent a substantial amount of time. So yes, the TANTALIZE-FERAL series’ home base is Sanguini’s, a fictional cos play “vampire” restaurant on South Congress in Austin. But the southwest also greatly influenced, say, my picture book, HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton/IntoPrint).

What made you want to write in the first place?

It’s one of my three skills. I can read. I can write. I can talk. That’s it. I can’t cook. I’ve started three kitchen fires. I hate to drive. I’ll never be called a mathematician. But I play to my strengths, which not coincidentally, are what make me happy. 

What is the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?

Compete only with yourself.

How do you discipline yourself to keep at the writing?

For me, the challenge is not writing. It’s difficult for me to step away, to rest. I’m predisposed to hard work, and the industry is always demanding more, more, more.

What is the most important thing for a writer to remember?

You are the hero of the story of your own life, too.

As a writing mentor what wisdom do you find most helpful.

Finish. For the most part, writers don’t improve our craft by toiling on the same manuscript for years. We get better by finishing one imperfect story and then moving to the next and so on and so on. You can always return to the story that’s so captured your heart once your writing skills are better. In fact, that may be exactly what you need to do.

Just for kicks… What are some of your favorite TV shows, movies?

TV shows: “Once Upon a Time,” “Bones,” “Castle,” “Glee,” “Supernatural,” “Agents of SHIELD,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Grimm,” “Sherlock.”

Movies: “Captain America,” “Cabin in the Woods,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the “Fright Night” remake, “Galaxy Quest,” “Stand by Me,” “The Blues Brothers,” “The Empire Strikes Back.”

As a kid what was your favorite book?

The Witch from Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Witch of Blackbird Pond



What is your favorite board game?


What is most special about your protagonist? 

Kayla: her dignity, intelligence, and loving relationship with her family.

Yoshi: his open heart, charm, and ability to reinvent himself. 

If your protagonist could give one piece of advice to your readers, what would it be?

Kayla: “Plan your journey, but don’t be afraid to change directions.”

Yoshi: “Don’t be limited by anyone else’s expectations.” 

If your villain could do the same, what would it be?

Boreal: “Purchase products from MCC Enterprises!”

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what gets you motivated?

I listened to a lot of Frank Sinatra and Eartha Kitt while writing the TANTALIZE series. With the FERAL books, it’s been more random—CNN and The Animal Planet TV stations on low volume in the background.


Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun? Hobbies?

I adore long one-on-one talks—over a great meal or iced tea (or both)—with my close friends. I enjoy summer blockbuster movies and visiting natural history museums and exploring old bookstores. I like long, sleepy weekends at quaint, country bed-and-breakfasts and visiting nearby shops and eateries. I enjoy lifting dumbbells while watching re-runs of “What Not to Wear” and running on my treadmill while listening to YouTube performances from “Glee.” I would like to play more. I feel like I’m reclaiming and reinventing myself right now. The future feels less certain than it’s been in a long time yet bursting with possibilities.

Any closing words of wisdom for author-wannabes out there?

Craft over career. Story over vanity. Courage over fear.

And there you have it! Personal and Real with Cynthia Leitich Smith! Thanks for the super-cool, insightful interview, Cynthia

Like I always say, You Rock!


Wonder Woman

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lisha cauthen

Tech Yourself: Four Note-Taking Apps for Writers and Others

Said | Apr 24 2014

Writers live and die by the ability to record a fleeting bit of genius. Used to be, we’d scribble three paragraphs on the back of a checkbook with a golf pencil, then accidentally throw it away. (Golf pencil? Checkbook? What century is this woman from?)


But with the dawn of The Age of the SmartPhone, our note-taking problems are solved. Right? RIGHT??



Evernote is the grandpappy of ‘em all, but if you find it overwhelming or simply want to try something new, give these apps a look-see:


Moleskine Journal

INK1Choose a notebook: plain, ruled, squared, text/image or storyboard. Type, write, draw, store images. A different notebook for every project, in a journal format. Fun, but not easy to organize.





Write for iPhone – A Beautiful Note Taking and Writing App



Fleksy Keyboard integration–heck, that oughta sell ya right there. But this app shares to a ton of places, including Evernote, Google Drive, DropBox, etc. Name your files, sort by date or title. Add links, search file by keyword, it even has full markdown capabilities. Elegant, probably best for sitting-down research and blogging.


Inkflow Visual Notebook: Write Notes, Sketch, Type, and Layout Photos for Students, Graphic Designers, and Visual Thinkers


INK2I’d say the folks at Inkflow subscribe to the Everything in the Title School of App-Naming. But heckfire, it’s pretty accurate. Each file is a “book”, where you can write, add photos, draw, or even type. This app doesn’t have the pretty design that Moleskine Journal does, but it feels more sketchable. Has a cool feature where you can encircle a portion of your page–say, a piece of text or an arrow–and move it around. Nice for on-the-go. Upgrade for unlimited book pages, more fonts, writing and drawing tools, colors, and lots of other amenities.




inkySave notes, photos, audio, geographic location. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. If you are intimidated by the sight of a blank  book, Springpad has a plethora of notebook types to choose from, already set up for specific tasks.  AND. You can share your notebooks with collaborators, the entire world, or keep your thoughts to yourself. Syncs to other devices. Bookmark, search. All for the low, low price of FREE.


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First draft to final

Said | Apr 08 2014

It’s so easy, as a reader, to almost believe that what you hold in your hands is roughly what came out of the author’s mind when they first sat down at the computer. If you think about it at all, possibly the extent of the polishing you envision is a couple passes to tidy up language and typos. (At least, that’s about how I used to view it.)

Those of you reading this who are writers will of course laugh at this naivety. (I laugh at past-me’s naivety regularly.) Most books go through many drafts, and the final product may, in some cases, bear only a passing resemblance to the original. I’m thinking here of Marissa Meyer, in particular; in her summary of stats on her most recent book, Cress, she states that only 13.6% of the words in her second draft were actually carried over from the first draft (her third draft managed to keep an improved 62% of the second).

The amount of overhaul involved in the revision stage depends on the author’s writing style and the particular story, of course. Marissa drafts fast and puts her energy into the revision stages. I’m the opposite; I draft slowly and try to make sure I’m building reasonably strong arcs from the first so I don’t have to spend as much time in revisions. Depending on my story, I’d estimate 80% of my first draft gets carried into my second, and 90% of my second makes it into my third.

There’s no right or wrong way, of course; it’s a personal style choice. For writers starting out, though, it can be a little daunting. Even in my earliest books I took my time drafting, and when I got to the revision stage I felt like I wasn’t making enough changes. I remember wishing I had some idea what the finished copies of published authors’ books had looked like in a first draft, so I’d know if what I was doing was right.

A couple years ago, Maggie Stiefvater posted just such an exercise on her blog, comparing her first draft to her final for her excellent book The Scorpio Races. Some of it hardly changed at all. Some of it changed a lot.

After Maggie posted hers, twelve other authors joined in, sharing their before-and-afters. The many different entries show just how different each writer’s process is. Maggie listed all the contributors in two posts, here and here. Authors such as Kiersten White, Brenna Yovanoff, Melissa Marr, and Gayle Forman share their processes.

If you’re a reader, these posts are enlightening, offering a new appreciation for what goes into producing the story you’re reading (and possibly a fascinating insight into how your favorite stories may have changed). As a writer, I hope they’ll be not only interesting, but also helpfully instructive. This was the sort of thing I would have loved to have when I was starting out with writing, to see why authors make the changes they do during revisions and just how extensive (or not) they may be.

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