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Delaware, United States
Deborah Hawkins, penned Debra Renée Byrd, began writing after a blank book project in elementary school and never stopped, fashioning stories based on her favorite TV shows and movies before creating more original works. She studied at the University of the Arts and Florida State University before settling down and graduating from Temple University. She now resides in her hometown of Dover, DE, where she spends most of her time at work or at church. She loves fantasies, superheroes, is a trekkie and a brown coat. She loves television and lives for Final Fantasy video games, having collected most of them. She has read a myriad of authors, and her favorite authors change whenever she finds a new book that changes her life... "When you can't run, you crawl. When you can't crawl...well, you know the rest." -Tracey, Firefly, "The Message"

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Monday, August 31, 2015



Another Monday post? What?

This is the other of the two things that I mentioned in my last post that is happening today. I was tagged for the 7x7x7x7 blog post by Adriana Arrington. The basics are that you post 7 lines from your manuscript beginning with the 7th line from your 7th page. Here are more details on her page.

My 7th line starts in the middle of a sentence, soooo...but there's another sentence there, too...bah.

Their rustling was all that carried on the air. Cyan clenched his teeth and sighed.
“I don’t hear her anymore.”
Laris joined him and listened. “She may have wandered off.”
“She was supposed to stay on the road.”
“You know the Princess, my brother.”
“All too well.”
Cyan walked into the forest, leaving the road for the western trees.  

So there you go! :)  See you Wednesday for IWSG.

Big Five, Sign On!


What? Isn't it Monday? Why, yes, yes it is!

There are two things going on today. One is the Twitter push for the Big Five Publishers to be open about their diversity statistics via the Diversity Baseline Survey.

For the original tweet and petition from Lee&Low, click here.
Click here for more information about it from my writing pal SC.

So far, only Macmillan has signed the petition. If you've followed the #WriteInclusively or #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtags, you'll understand the importance of having a diverse staff controlling what gets published.

As a child, there are only two stories I can remember reading that featured a young black girl. One was a book called Corduroy, about a teddy bear who wants to be sold, but the mother of the little girl who wants him says no because he's missing a button. The little girl is black, and I used to pretend that she was me.

The other book was an American Girl book for Addy, a slave girl in 1864. There have been many American Girls since Addy, but only one other that was a little black girl from 1850*, who wasn't a standalone character and was archived. The majority of the currently active dolls are not only white (6 of the 9), but little blonde girls (4 of the 6). Not only that, they archived Felicity, Kirsten, and Molly! (These were my three favorite girls.) No offense to the other little girls whom I haven't read as I aged out of interest in the stories, but these three were extremely diverse on the surface level alone. Felicity was a redhead who dared to put on pants in the 1770s; Kirsten was a Swedish immigrant; and Molly was the girl-next-door tomboy.

*Reading more on Cécile Rey, the other black American Girl, while I'm sure her character was whimsical, she seemed to be a pretty stereotypical black character. Paraphrase: Confident, curious, and loving the limelight, her lessons bored her, and she wanted to become an actress and loved to party. Hm...

And after 1864, where are the black American Girls? After 1824 where are the other American Girls of Color? Skimming through, I see Julie has a Chinese-American friend whose collection was archived in 2014. Can you imagine the interest the company could generate if they gave us, say, a black American Doll from 1958? Is that too hard a period to write about from that perspective? I know there is a glamorization of the time period because of the fashion and classiness, so maybe they just...I don't know.

And this is why it's important for people to mean what they say when they say they need diverse books. That also means you need to not only have people who advocate for diversity, but people who ARE diverse. They'll see those gems that the majority just might not feel are "right for them." They have a fresh take, a different eye. So I'm hoping the other 4 of the Big 5 will take a stand and follow suit.

Oh, by the way, this is a blog hop, so if you want to join in, scroll back up and click on SC's post to find the LinkyLink. :)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Hops! The Interweb & Year-End Goal

Happy Friday, friends. :)

The countdown is ON! The Mentor/Mentee reveal for Pitch Wars is in 6 days, and I'm so anxious! The Twitter feed has been the solace for both sides of the fence since before the submission window opened, and the hints and non-hints have been killing at least me! Pray for me!

This week, the ladies at Cover Girls would like to know the 5 Websites/Blogs we visit the most!

1. Google
2. Twitter
3. Facebook
4. Blogger

The same ladies host Express Yourself Weekly, and they would like
to know what ONE thing we would like to do before the year is up!

You know, I've been single since 2006...It would be really nice to meet someone this year...Preferably someone with red hair, but at this Not really getting any younger, although apparently the 30s are the new 20s, and I can get down with that.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Creating a Dynamic by Accident

(No Random Reading today. I'm still reading Cloud City. I blame Pitch Wars. Stalking is busy work.)

This is Cyan and Ghuli, my MC and her 1st Lt. Watchman from my current query and Pitch Wars entry The Crystal Bearer. When I started writing this story 12 years ago (sheesh), as a lover of Final Fantasy games, one dynamic I purposely wanted to maintain was that the action took precedent over whatever romance I had in mind (I had been writing fan fiction romance and YA romance in high school, so that was easier said than done). I stayed very true to that and made sure as my writing sharpened up, I made it make more sense.

No, these two aren't romantically linked, by the way. They're actually adopted brother and sister. Their dynamic was something totally out of left field for me. Draft after draft, their relationship grew into something plausible, something I feel people will actually be able to relate to. Especially adding my "bookends" to the story; it almost created a new story within the story, about how no matter what is going on, and how much fighting they actually do among themselves, their love for each other is so evident.

I wish I had a brother. lol

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pitch Wars Mentee Bio + Friday Hops

This is a special edition of Friday and unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess), not the last you'll be hearing about Pitch Wars from me.

First off, hello! Many (let's be real) Some of you may be here because I tweeted something on the lines of #PitchWars #menteebio and put a link there which led you here. If so, Hello again!

I'm Deborah, Deb for short, Debra Renée for longhand authorship, Write Mage for Magic Tavern and blogger purposes. I started writing as a child in a classroom where they handed us a blank book and said, "Go!", but really, I fell in love with writing because of a little animated series called X-Men, and I've been battling my inner screenwriter ever since.

A little about me: I'm the middle child of three girls, left-handed, born under the sign of Cancer, so I live a complicated and imaginative life. I love music and have nearly perfect pitch. I pretend to play piano, but I'm not all that great. I apparently sit on the cusp of the Type B and C personalities and am known to my friends as having no filter. I'm either very chill or ready to kill. (Sounds like a movie hook.)

So what do you write, No Chill Deb? Well, I have a huge love for YA contemporary stories. They held the trophy for me for several years of my adolescent writing journeys, and I still dabble with them. At the moment, though, I am trying to push a YA Fantasy novel that came to me in a dream and was inspired by my favorite gaming franchise Final Fantasy (when I woke up). I started writing it just before college, so it took about 6 years to write the first draft and another 5 or 6 when I learned all that there was about what happened after you feel your novel is ready. There may be more Fantasy works to come for me, but only time will tell. I have a short speculative story published by Cactus Heart Press under my old pen name Debra McKellan, the biggest thing to happen for me this year, and the link to the e-zine is up above this blog somewhere, where all the tabs are (there's also a sample of my short). To have been recommended to submit was such an honor, and I was even more elated to be picked!

I'm not sure what else to say here...So if you want to stick around for Express Yourself and Fast Five Friday, you can! ;D Every week, two ladies you may or may not know (Dani and Jackie, the Cover Girls) created these hops to get know those of us who follow them, and that they're able to come up with so many questions is magical.

This week for Express Yourself, they asked us what TV or book characters do we relate to?

I'm going to go with TV on this one, and I chose Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls. When the show came out, I believe Rory and I were both sophomores. She was a quiet bookworm with a dream of journalism; I was a quiet bookworm with a dream of being an author. We both have very animated mothers and estranged grandparents (though I think my grandmother is NOTHING compared to Emily). We both had a bit of a bad boy phase, with virtually the same scenario playing out (except Jess got his life together, and I still wish he and Rory will be together in the non-existent GG future). We both took a break, though I took one after high school, and Rory took one during college, dated a douchebag boyfriend, and then graduated successfully. What a ride!

Now, Fast Five Friday (which I always almost spell Fast Frive) is a little quicker (obvs), and the ladies asked us to name our Top 5 Apps. Here are mine in alphabetical order, so I don't lose my mind.

Shattered Pixel Dungeon

Thank you so much for stopping by! Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pitch Wars and Random Words from the Jack Taylor Cases

There I was, giving up on watching the one Pitch Wars interview I finally got to watch because my cousin was over, and I happened to be in my email inbox when a Brenda Drake e-mail came through basically saying, "SURPRISE! THE PITCH WARS WINDOW IS OPEN NOW! GO GO GO!"

So, I submitted, and now I wait and stalk and wonder if the mentors I picked were talking about me at any point over the weekend. So nervous! I---ack! Can't talk about it anymore.

Years ago, I read my best friend from high school's debut novel Holiday Hotel (Jack Taylor Cases #1), and after not paying attention to the sequel's release, I saw on Facebook he was coming back to town for a book signing, so I finally bought the second book, Cloud City. I'm 2 years behind; the third book comes out this year, but anyway, if you like MG/YA Mystery and holiday spirits brought to life, you'll love these books.

Using, I will share with you a line from the book. Not sure if this is a good idea when it comes to a mystery; the chances are I'll give something away for myself, but hey, that's what I do.

There are 317 pages with words on them, and Random has chosen page 188, so let me look through...Yep, giving something away possibly. Sigh.

     A little over a minute later he heard another whisper in his right ear wave in and out as if breaking through barriers to get to him.
     ...Toymaker said they were unrecognizable, behind masks...


Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Hops: Movies and Music

Speaking of hops, has anyone else had the Not Your Father's Rootbeer??? Oh. My. Goodness.

Happy Friday! Today, I bring you my Fast Five, created by the Cover Girls, Dani and Jackie, and Express Yourself Weekly, also created by the Cover Girls, kind of. lol

Fast Five Friday invites you to give 5 quick answers to whatever question that have for the week. This week they ask us to name 5 action packed movies. Easy for me! I love action movies.

1. Lethal Weapon
2. Die Hard
3. Star Trek: Into Darkness
4. The Fast and the Furious
5. The Matrix

Now, I'm not sure if we still sign up for this one, but they have the questions, so I'm gonna answer them! This week, they asked, "What song makes you want to dance as soon as you hear it?"

Hm...I'd have to say any song with a salsa beat. If I hear one, I typically go, "Eyyy!" and bust a move or two.

THREE DAYS left before Pitch Wars opens up. Are you excited?? What about those questions up there? Love a good action movie? Love to dance? :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Express Yourself, Pitch Wars, and a New Ending

Happy Tuesday!

I'm still reading Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, so pray for me. I've less than 100 pages left, and I might not pick up another Gaiman for a while. Anansi Boys was the best for me so far. I could've dealt without the rest. To supplement my Random-reading share, I'm bring you all last week's Express Yourself question!

This bloghop was created by the Cover Girls, Dani @ Entertaining Interests and Jackie at Bouquet of Books. Not unlike Fast Five but more in depth, the ladies ask us a question each week so we can all get to know each other better. And speaking of mentors, last week, the ladies asked us to:

Name 3 people you want to learn something from.

Stevie Wonder - a musical prodigy! I would love to be able to play more instruments.

Stephen King - I need to know why so dark? lol

Joss Whedon - Because Browncoat.

Pitch Wars is now less than a week away, and I culled the mentor list last week, whittled my list down to those who wanted YA-Fantasy, then those who I felt gelled well, and then basically nit-picked until I had 5 mentors I'm ready to introduce to my baby.

Speaking of Writing, an amazing thing happened after I added this new scene that became a whole new chapter for my manuscript...A new ending! I'll admit, I had a lackluster "And they all lived happily ever after" going and didn't like it but wasn't sure what to do with it. But when I added the new opener, it was like a chain reaction happened, and I knew exactly how to end my story! Totally crazy thing to do when I'm talking about submitting to a contest in a week, but the beginning and the end tie in and compliment each other perfectly. They're like bookends in their parallelism, and I'm more than glad they're there now.

What 3 people would you like to learn something from? Are you entering Pitch Wars? Let me know!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Happy Friday!

That moment when you've been on vacation for 2 months and forgot you needed to post today.

That other moment when you decided to change up your schedule and forgot what you're supposed to be posting about today.

Oh, yeah. Hey, y'all!

I'm 66% done culling through the mentors on the Pitch Wars Mentor Blog Hop. I read the first half in one day, and man, my eyes are still weak. There are a LOT of great mentors of all age groups and genres, so if you're interested, I'm sure there's someone out there for you. You can choose 5 mentors, and even that is hard! I mean, there are 100 mentors after all. I'm still claiming that this is my year, and I'm praying that this is the beginning of something great for my story.

Now, onto Fast Five!

This little bloghoplet was created by the Cover Girls, Dani and Jackie, who also bring us Express Yourself Weekly. This week, they would like us to rattle off our 5 favorite couples. If you participate, don't forget to let them know in their comments.

In no particular order, the first five that came to me, (because there are so many more):

1. Katsa and Po (Graceling by Kristin Cashore)
2. Oree and Shiny (The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin)
3. Desi and Edna (Mr. Spaceman by Robert Olen Butler)
4. Ben and Tien (A Deep Green Sea by Robert Olen Butler)
5. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen (A Song of Ice & Fire by George R.R. Martin)

"Wait, wait, wait," you should probably say, because #5 is more of a ship and a hope, but let's pretend, okay?

Let me know if you're participating, too, so I can visit your page!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IWSG: Changes

Happy...whoa, *ctrl+B* Happy August! lol Welcome back to the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by the blogfather himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

I went through a few changes for my blog and myself while on my 2-month blogosphere hiatus, and I think it will help refresh my writing energy and query trials.

Blog Schedule. While I was on my hiatus, I returned to express my desire to change my schedule, so I did. After 1st Wednesdays, I'll only be blogging twice a week. This will help me free up some more time for writing and revisions.

Pen Name. You may have noticed (maybe not lol) that my real name is sitting up in that little space by my face now, because I wanted to change my pen name. Partially because I feel like Debra McKellan no longer fits me, despite the awesome reason I chose it in the first place. Partially because I picked it for reasons of neutrality (just like when women writers choose initials because it comes off less female), but in the world of We Need Diverse Books (and all its various social media) and Write Inclusively, I decided I need to be me sans any inclination that I'm someone I'm not.

There's not much about my birth name I'm cool with, to be honest, but nothing else really fits. On Twitter, I expressed that I may just go with my first and middle name (Debra Renée) and went on a spiel from there. Even wrote out my signature to see if I like it (I love it). So, I believe that will be it. Of course, now when I list publications, I'll have to say "Origin" was published under Debra McKellan, but well, I believe other people have done that before. Blah. Still stoked that it was published.

An Opening that Hooks an Agent. I expressed just yesterday that I planned on adding a new scene to my opening. I basically added a whole new chapter from bits I mention later in the story and a short prequel that may or may not ever see daylight. I'm hoping this new opening will wow more than my previous opening so I can stop getting depressed when I check my inbox. Two agents I was pretty nervous about querying and finally did passed. That hurts.

It is now midnight, and I said I would be going to bed 2 hours ago. Fail. Have a happy IWSG Day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pitch Wars and Random Words from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere

(Futurama - Bender "I'm Back, Baby.")

(Smooth McGroove: Final Fantasy VII Victory Fanfare A Capella)

I hope everyone is having a good summer and had a great June and July. I enjoyed my break, but I was itching to get back to blogging (hence my random blog in the middle of my break). And [in my Bill Nighy Viktor voice:] we have much to discuss...Selene and I.

Pitch Wars is around the corner! I believe I participated last year, because it was a label in my list of labels. The blog-hop of all of the participating mentors went up yesterday over at Brenda Drake's blog. You can research all of them and ask questions on Twitter via the hashtag #askmentor (I just learned you can link Twitter searches). I hope to get picked so I can see if a mentor is thinking what I'm thinking about changing my opening. I'm almost sure I need to, but I want to make sure.

On that note, I think I do because the agents I've queried aren't wowed by my opening. In my first drafts, I began in the thick of the action and received critiques asking, "But who are these people?" So, I added an opening scene showing who the people were, but I guess the calm before the storm is failing at the moment. If I make it, I definitely know what scene will be the new opening.

So that's what I'm doing with my writing. Now...

What am I reading? First off, I reached my goal of 20 books read this year! Many of them were graphic novels, but if I keep going, I might reach 30!

That being said, I'm trudging my way through Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. I don't know why. It might not just interest me the way I thought it would, and it was a spur of the moment pick-up in the library. All of the books I bought at random waiting on my Kindle have a right to be mad.

Anyway, I'll still be using to show you all a line of my current read. There are 337 pages in Neverwhere, and Random has chosen page 126. I won't be randomly picking the line anymore. I'm returning myself the freedom to pick that myself. So here's a little bit from page 126.

There was a faraway screaming noise, thin and mindless, like an idiot child deprived of its toy. The smoke-tentacle let go of Richard's ankle and slid back over the edge of the platform, and it was gone.

Reading anything good right now? Are you thinking of entering Pitch Wars? Let us know if you're a mentor! See you tomorrow for IWSG!