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This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for When Darkness Ends by Alexandra Ivy
When Darkness Ends Guardians of Eternity # 12
By: Alexandra Ivy
Releasing May 26, 2015
The Guardians of Eternity are facing a final battle to save their world—but battles of the heart may be the most difficult to fight…
Cyn, the vampire clan chief of Ireland, is an unabashed hedonist whose beauty is surpassed only by his insatiable appetite for pleasure. It’s no wonder he’s furious when he’s transported from the magical land of the pureblooded feys to his desolate private lair—only to have his very existence thrown into a chaos that even he cannot charm his way out of…
Most women may be all but powerless against Cyn, but Fallon, a sharp-witted fairy princess, is less than beguiled by the silver-tongued vampire. She’s a serious soul with no time for the sort of games he plays—especially when they learn that someone is trying to close the veil that separates the dimensions. But seduction may prove the most powerful force of all, as attraction ignites between the unlikely pair even as worlds are colliding around them…
ALEXANDRA IVY graduated from Truman University with a degree in theatre before deciding she preferred to bring her characters to life on paper rather than stage. She currently lives in Missouri with her extraordinarily patient husband and teenage sons. To stay updated on Alexandra’s Guardian series or to chat with other readers, please visit her website at www.alexandraivy.com
The man woke with a blinding headache, stripped of his clothing as well as his memories.
With a groan, he sat up, shoving his tangled hair out of his face. It was immediately obvious he was in a damp cave. A strange place to wake. But not nearly as strange as the abrupt realization that something was terrifyingly wrong with him.
Despite the darkness he was able to see the limestone walls that had been chiseled by the water dripping from the low ceiling as clear as if it were day. And it was not only his sight that was unbearably acute.
He could smell the distant salt of the sea. And hear the faint scramble of a bug crossing the stone floor. He could even detect the warmth of two creatures that were rapidly approaching the cave.
What madness was this?
No man should have the senses of a god. Not unless he was a monster.
The dark thoughts barely had time to form before they were interrupted by a hunger that thundered through him. He groaned. It was as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Months. But it wasn’t the thought of food that made his stomach cramp, he realized with a flare of horror.
It was . . . blood.
His mouth watered, the pain of his fangs ripping through his gums startling him as the image of the red, intoxicatingly rich substance filled his mind.
He had to feed.
Aye. That was what he needed.
Disgusted with the knowledge, he slowly rose to his feet, a virile strength running through his massive body even as his head remained thick with confusion.
His instincts urged him to leave the cave, to hunt down his prey and bury his fangs deep in their throats, but the tantalizing scent of fresh strawberries kept him frozen in place.
It appeared that his prey was willingly coming to him.
And they smelled . . . delectable.
Like an animal, he warily shuffled to the deepest shadows. From his vantage point, he silently watched the two slender creatures enter the cave. His eyes widened at the sheer beauty of the strangers. The male had hair the color of rust with bold green eyes set in a lean face, while the female possessed long tawny hair with eyes the shade of spring grass.
They looked like angels.
His fangs ached, his muscles tensing as he prepared to strike.
Angels or not, they were about to become dinner.
But before he could charge, the male held up a slender hand, the scent of strawberries becoming overpowering.
“Hold, berserker,” he commanded, a tingle of magic in the air.
He frowned. “I am a berserker?”
The confusion only deepened. “Were?”
“Two nights ago you were attacked by a clan of vampires.”
He shook his head, his hand instinctively lifting to touch his neck.
The pretty female grimaced. “Not as a human. The local villagers left you in this cave to see if you would rise as a vampire. Even now they are on their way to either witness your corpse or slaughter you.” She held out a slender hand. “Come with us in peace and we will harbor you until you are able to care for yourself.”
Vampire . . .
He went to his knees in shock.
Rafflecopter Giveaway (three copies of WHEN DARKNESS ENDS )
In college I wrote a senior paper on the USS Indianapolis which became famously sunk and lost in WWII resulting in the largest recorded shark attack in history. I exchanged letters and phone calls with over 60 of the ship’s survivors (the 47 letters I received are on file with the Indianapolis Historical Society). There were many elements of the Indianapolis story that intrigued me, not the least of which was that it was relatively unknown at the time I was researching it. I couldn’t believe the US Navy lost a ship only to be found by sheer luck or that our history would so effectively lose such a compelling story. (Really – largest recorded shark attack in HISTORY. How do we forget that?) The survivors were, every single one, rather surprised that I would write about them for a college project. It turned out to be a turning point for me and revealed that more than anything, I love to research and write about what is lost.
My grandmother used to pray to St. Anthony when she (or anyone she knew) lost something. (The joke in our family was that she prayed to him so much she called him “Tony”; as they were on a first name basis.) I think a lot about lost houses and lost beaches; the lost places of my childhood. I can’t even drive past the house I grew up in without seeing myself running to my grandmother’s house around the corner through a vacant lot that is a 7-11 now. Everything I knew when I was 10 is changed so much it is as if it never existed at all.
The past few days I have been going over an article on missing aircraft in Alaska. It’s kind of weird, but even when pieces of an aircraft are found, it can still be listed as missing. A certain percentage of the aircraft must be recovered for it to be listed officially as an accident. So small pieces of debris are just evidence of something gone; but not proof that it ever existed at all.
There’s probably something poetic in there somewhere….I’m still not sure how to say it that way though. (I’ll be writing about these airplanes a lot more than just this article. There’s more to tell than fits in 1,000 words.)
In the past couple of years I have spent my time with newly found family photographs, uncovered unbelievable family stories (and the hits keeping coming in that front), made contact with someone with information on a long lost mountain climber and paged through the NTSB reports on aircraft gone missing from decades ago.
And I tried twice to drive past the house I grew up in. Chickened out both times. (And I’m not sorry about that.)
There is an unexpected pattern to my interests these days and I’m very mindful of that. Patterns should not be taken lightly; even when you aren’t consciously creating them.
[Post pic from 2012 – 75B was, once upon a time, one of the aircraft we flew at the Company.]
Trudy Ludwig is an award-winning author who specializes in writing children's books that explore the colorful and sometimes confusing world of children's social interactions. Today, we are honored to share Trudy's thoughts about the writing process.
We are thrilled to welcome to the blog today an author who has dared to push beyond the boundaries of prose. Todd Hasak-Lowy's newest release, Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You, is a novel told in lists. Lists. Perhaps he is very well suited to share with us his ideas on how to embrace your deformity to become a better writer! :-) Read on to discover his advice for breaking out of the "becoming a perfect writer" mentality.
Embrace Your Deformity: A WOW-Wednesday Post by Todd Hasak-Lowy
I think most of us, when we start off writing, have some idea in our head of the perfect writer. This writer is the writer who can do anything. We all want to be that writer, naturally. Someone who can create life-like characters, place them in a brilliantly crafted plot, and represent the whole thing through one magical sentence after another. Plus about twenty other daunting literary things.
But we tend not to start off like that. Usually, if we have any talent at all, it’s for just one or two things down along that long, long checklist of writerly skills. We have a finely tuned ear for dialogue, or an innate sense for pacing, or a boundless imagination for strange and wonderful details. Our instinct, as beginning writers regularly preoccupied with perfect writers, is to fudge the rest. This is understandable, because, to take just one example, what kind of novel or short story is made up of 90% dialogue?
We don’t trust that what we do well will be enough, because even if what we create is good on its own terms, it will seem incomplete and deformed in comparison to the perfect writer’s work. And no one wants to be incomplete, let alone deformed.
But here’s my advice, especially when starting out: embrace your deformity. No, celebrate it. For two reasons. First, there may be readers out there with similarly deformed tastes. Readers who, for instance, love nothing more than great dialogue that sounds to them like the actual voices of actual people, readers who are perfectly happy reading a story that is told through nothing more than a few people talking. After all, whatever ridiculous thing makes us writers believe there is something called a “perfect” writer out there probably also makes most readers believe there is something called a “perfect” book as well. But, it turns out, many wonderfully idiosyncratic readers are grateful for writing that might seem odd to everyone else.
Second, and more important, if that’s all you’re good at, don’t get hung up on the fact that what you’re writing right now is kind of weird. You don’t know how to end a scene, big deal. You can’t describe what someone looks like to save your life, you’re not alone. Figure out what you can do and lean on it with everything you’ve got. Because it’s not incomplete, it’s just different. Turn your talent, however small and inadequate it may seem to you, into a foundation you can rely on and build off of and call your own.
Let me give myself as an example. When I started writing, all I was interested in was playing around with words. I loved writing strange (and often very long) sentences. I was ignorant of such quaint matters as plot and character. Due to my ignorance of those things, most of the early pieces I wrote didn’t go anywhere. How could they, I had no idea what I was doing. But occasionally I would get lucky and stumble onto a viable plot or a character I somehow already knew. The results, though still kind of weird, now looked somewhat like actual fiction. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was forging a voice, which was all mine and rather unusual and, because of all my practice writing pieces that went nowhere, something I eventually could produce pretty much whenever I wanted. I actually published an entire book of short stories thanks more or less to this one conscious skill.
After a while, this one skill wasn’t as interesting to me as it once had been. Because this skill was no longer new, the writing I created through it no longer contained within itself the same vibrancy my prose had when every sentence felt like a great discovery. So, quite naturally, I found myself getting interested in other aspects of prose. Dialogue, in particular. Using the foundation I already had, I started writing (and, just as important, reading) with an eye on how characters speak in fiction. I wasn’t a master right away, but I got better and better until this was a genuine strength in my arsenal as well.
Moreover, I realized that this new strength had all along been connected to the first. If I liked to play around with language, then it only made sense—after getting my own voice down—that I’d find my way into other people’s voices. This is the case with whatever your talent may already include, because everything is connected. If you’re great at describing what things and people look like, then you’ll probably be able to figure out how to describe how their appearances change over time—which sounds to me awfully close to the beginnings of a plot.
There are hundreds of doors into the world of fiction, but probably only a few different rooms. The point is to find your way inside, patiently and confidently and not while pretending to be someone you’re not. After all, who wants to get invited to (or even just sneak into) the party of their dreams if they have to show up as a confused phony? If you can only (“only” should be in quotes here, because being able to do anything well ought to be enough) do things A and B, but then try, all at once, to take your best stab at things C through Z, you’ll wind up with a mess. Even worse, you’ll muddy up what you actually do well, because that precious thing will get lost in all the approximating and guessing and generalizing you’ll be forcing on yourself line after line.
So accept who you are right now and what you can write well right now. And know that if you serve your present ability as you should that it will serve you in return. Over time it will become a reliable home base from which you can wander in order to scrap together more skills. That’s how I write and try to grow as a writer. I’m always trying to take on some new aspect of writing that was once foreign to me. But always gradually and always in such a way as to import them into the stable set of skills I already have. My writing remains mine, even as it evolves. I’m still far from being that “perfect” writer, but I’m an ever-changing me, which as far as consolations go isn’t half bad.
About the Book:
Darren hasn’t had an easy year.
There was his parents’ divorce, which just so happened to come at the same time his older brother Nate left for college and his longtime best friend moved away. And of course there’s the whole not having a girlfriend thing.
Then one Thursday morning Darren’s dad shows up at his house at 6 a.m. with a glazed chocolate doughnut and a revelation that turns Darren’s world inside out. In full freakout mode, Darren, in a totally un-Darren move, ditches school to go visit Nate. Barely twenty-four hours at Nate’s school makes everything much better or much worse—Darren has no idea. It might somehow be both. All he knows for sure is that in addition to trying to figure out why none of his family members are who they used to be, he’s now obsessed with a strangely amazing girl who showed up out of nowhere but then totally disappeared.
Told entirely in lists, Todd Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone, including yourself, is:
Todd Hasak-Lowy’s first young adult novel, Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You, was recently published by Simon Pulse and is written entirely in lists. 33 Minutes, his first book for younger readers, came out in 2013. He will publish his second middle grade book, Somewhere There is Still a Sun, a memoir co-written with Holocaust survivor Michael Gruenbaum, later this year. Before writing for a younger audience, Todd published two works of fiction for adults, a short story collection (The Task of This Translator, 2005) and a novel (Captives, 2008). Todd lives in Evanston, IL with his wife and two daughters.
Last week, Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8 was published by NCTE. This book is a book I co-authored with Bill Bass. It has been a long process with a lot of great learning along the way. Our editor Cathy Fleischer really pushed us as learners and writers, so it was a great process. We were able to really dig in and think through our beliefs about reading and how it is changing in this digital age. It is fun to see the book finally be released into the world. We have lots of voices from classroom teachers in the book--people we learn from and with every day. We listed the contributors in our NCTE blog post -great people to follow if you are thinking about digital reading!
It has been fun chatting with others about the topic since the book's release. Earlier this month, NCTE asked us to host #nctechat around Reading in the Digital Age. It was a great chat. If you missed it, you can read the archives here.
It’s that time of year again where I start focusing my attention on my fall buy, and in categorizing the fiction selections into Middle Grade/Tween/YA. One rule of thumb that I’ve always used as a guide is the theory of reading up. If I work on the assumption that most kids like to read about characters who are at least a couple of years older, then the decision should be easy. Books with thirteen or fourteen-year-old characters are being read by kids who are ten through twelve and thus belong in my middle-grade section. By the same token, books with fifteen or sixteen-year-old characters belong in my young adult section.
When content becomes a factor (as it does for the schools I work with), then suddenly the age categorization and measure of appropriateness becomes more challenging. Recently, I finished reading the second book in a middle-grade fantasy series with thirteen or fourteen-year-old characters. I had already felt like the first book in the series was at the higher end of the middle-grade spectrum (definitely more appealing to ll-olds than 8-year-olds) which is fine, but in the second book, it felt like the author had completely lost track of how old these kids were, and their behaviour and conflicts felt more appropriate for teens than middle grade.
This leads me to the big question I wrestle with when I’m placing books. Does having child/teen characters automatically make a book appropriate for children/teens? At what point does content age-out the book, and it becomes too much for the intended audience?
Kids mature at different speeds, and in my time as a bookseller I’ve certainly met some extremely worldly and mature kids, but is there a such thing as too graphic? I’m all for fiction being a means of exploring and understanding difficult topics such as consent, mental illness, body image, etc… but where do we draw the line? In a literary YA horror, the descriptions of the abuse that the father inflicted on the boy’s mother was so graphic I was disturbed by it. The author certainly did his job in making the reader understand how evil the father is, but I found it more frightening than the most frightening adult book that I’ve ever read. Do ten-year-olds get the concept of displacing a friend for a boy? Should date rape and consent be addressed in a book aimed at 7th and 8th graders where the characters are only fourteen? (Which is totally different than addressing this issue in true YA books)
Kids today know more than we did when we were there age. The Internet and Social Media have certainly made information more readily available and easier to access, but does knowing more mean that they are also more mature- or more importantly, mature enough to get the message?
I cannot recommend this one enough. I hope you have time to read at least one version of this inspiring true story of a teenager who created electricity for his impoverished, starving village in Malawi with nothing more than garbage, an elementary education, an old borrowed Physics book (in a language that he did not speak or read!), and a will to make things better!
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (William Morrow, 2009)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Picture Book Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Dial, 2012)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Penguin, 2015)
Here are William Kamkwamba's two TED Talks. They're short and well worth a listen.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers -- one of the bigger summer books, with Cohen, after publishing with Twisted Spoon, Dalkey Archive Press, and Graywolf (among others) now coming out Random House-mainstream.
One of my favourite card companies Noi Publishing have launched a new range of small cards. These little blank cards will be suitable for any occasion with a mixture of quirky, cute and botanical designs. Look out for them in shops soon or if you are a retailer you can go online now to order.
The Invasion of the Tearling is not the book The Queen of the Tearling was for me. (This is to say that I was not excitedly texting everyone I knew at 4 a.m. telling them to GO READ THIS BOOK.) In part, this is because The Invasion of the Tearling is a much more ambitious, a much darker, and a much harder book to read than its predecessor. One of the criticisms I remember seeing quite a bit around the interwebz for The Queen of the Tearling was the lack of clarity around The Tearling’s backstory. “What is this crazy dystopian medieval fantasy land and why are we given very little information about how it came into being?” For those of you who had those feels, let me tell you that a good 50% of this book is dedicated to answering precisely those questions. The Invasion of the Tearling alternates... Read more »
In the Irish Times Martin Doyle has a Q & A with Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel, whose By Night the Mountain Burns (see the And Other Stories publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) is Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-shortlisted
I like that he doesn't go for the 'Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party ?' question -- answering: "Having their books is enough."
And nice to see him mention Francisco de Quevedo's El Buscón (twice).
Words by Annette LeBox, pictures by Stephanie Graegin
It seems more than ironic that I am writing this post of a picture book on peace, on the day after Memorial Day, originally termed Decoration Day.
Decoration Day, instituted following the Civil War by General John A. Logan, was begun on May 30,1868 to honor the war dead from both sides of the conflict. Flowers “decorated” the graves of those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”
On the first Decoration Day, May 25, 1868, more than 20,000 Union and Confederate graves were decorated at Arlington National Cemetery by over 5,000 participants. And if we’re really being precise, the decorating of graves of the Civil War dead even predates 1868, as it first began in the South where black communities in Charleston, South Carolina, around 1865, honored the Civil War soldiers that died, and their ultimate sacrifice.
Before reading Annette LeBox’s picture book, “Peace is An Offering”, I took a look at the number of soldiers who have died from all wars and military conflicts that the United States military has been engaged in, in some form or another. The numbers are pretty staggering.
And yet.. I feel even as we read books on peace to young readers, we need to impart to them, some other facts and values. And those are, that there are some values, such as family and freedom, that are very much worth protecting, and even defending.
Gala Truist, a medical anthropologist, and contributor to the Library of Congress History Project, talked with recent veterans in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And she has some pretty interesting observations:
“Today, out of a nation of 320 million
people, 1.3 million Americans are in
active duty military, and another 1 million
serve in the reserves, according to the
Department of Defense….That small fig-
ure influences the way the general pub-
lic thinks about the cost of conflict.
Now, less than 1% of our population has
served…So few have served, and that
it’s very easy for people to say now that
“I didn’t want these wars”, but that
doesn’t mean that we aren’t all part of
And, as we as a nation pray, teach and hope for peace, the reality is that only a very small percentage of Americans have, not to put too fine a point on it, “skin in the game,” because of an all volunteer military and the elimination of the draft.
I often wonder what the effect would be in this country if the draft were re-instituted and, as a result, the military draft cut across all lines.
Would families still allow sons and daughters that are drafted to defend and serve? Or would they consider the sacrifice too great? It’s a question worth pondering.
Annette Le Box, in her picture book, travels through a neighborhood of everyday children enjoying everyday things. It’s filled with pictures of sun filled days, and softly shaded nights; of young ones and their families and friends, sharing the day to day joys of childhood. And it touches gently on the sometimes subtle and unsettling conflicts that may sometimes arise. Stephanie Gregins’s pictures provide a wonderful complement to the picture book in their softness and simplicity.
The inference is that peace is something that may be sought and found in our every day interactions with the people that come our way. And that is a truly wonderful message to impart to young readers.
But, I also hope that as parents read “Peace is An Offering” to their young readers, they also remind them that peace, on a world wide scale, often does come at a price, and that it is preserved, as it has been in the past, by many that are very deserving of their thanks and prayers.
Maybe then Memorial Day may continue to mean, for their generation, so much more than beaches, barbecues and bargains.
भाग दौड भरी जिंदगी में अक्सर खुद को प्रोत्साहित करना बहुत जरुरी हो जाता है पर … कैसे करें खुद को प्रोत्साहित… यक्ष प्रश्न है. पर कुछ ही देर मे मुझे इसका उत्तर भी मिल गया . किसी काम से मेरी सहेली मणि के घर जाना हुआ तो वो किसी से बात कर रही थी ” कमाल है,तुम तो वाकई में बहुत समझदार हो. मतलब कि हर बात को कितनी सहजता से ले कर उसका समाधान निकाल लेती हो और कोई तनाव नही रखती हमेशा स्माईल ही रहती है चेहरे पर हमेशा ऐसे ही रहना शाबाश,कीप इट अप…
मैं सोच ही रही थी कि किससे बात कर रही होगी अंदर गई तो दूसरा कोई नजर नही आया. मेरे पूछ्ने पर बोली अरे तूने सुन लिया… और स्माईल करती हुई बोली कि शीशे के सामने खडी होकर खुद से बात कर रही थी. खुद को मोटिवेट करना भी बहुत जरुरी होता है इसलिए अक्सर वो यह काम करती रहती है.. मुझे यह बात बहुत पसंद आई. सही है जब तक हम खुद को शाबाशी नही देंगें उत्साहित नही करेंगें तो आगे कैसे बढेग़े…
वैसे नीचे Motivational Quotes भी दिए हैं ताकि आप भली प्रकार समझ सकें
14 Motivational Quotes to Keep You Powerful
I once despised motivational quotes, probably because my wrestling coach liked to say, “If you’re not puking or passing out, then you’re not trying hard enough.” Read more…
हमे हमेशा खुद प्रोत्साहित करने के साथ साथ मोटिवेशनल साहित्य भी पढते रहना चाहिए इससे हमे बहुत नई जानकारी मिलती है और साथ साथ हौंसला भी मिलता है.
मेरे विचार से अब तो नही सोच रहे होंगें कि कैसे करें खुद को प्रोत्साहित …. वैसे अब मुझे भी घर लौटने की जल्दी थी खुद को प्रोत्साहित जो करना है शीशे के सामने खडे होकर … और आप ?? आप तो करते ही होंगें अगर नही करते तो आज से ही करना शुरु कर दीजिए….
Keywords are what help search engines categorize and index your content. And, it’s what online searchers use to find what they’re looking for.
Yes, search engines go by lots of other things to rank your content, but when it comes to searchers, they use keywords. I know I use them personally and for my writing research all the time.
But, how do you come up with words or phrases that are what
I am not wanting to brag here, but when you live in New York you bump into amazing writers and artists all the time (and I am grateful for every day here), so to be honest I am not sure … Continue reading →
Also in the Irish Times Martin Doyle has a Q & A with Jenny Erpenbeck, whose The End of Days (see the publicity pages at New Directions and Portobello, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) is also Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-shortlisted.
A perhaps unexpected but nice choice:
Jeannie Mobley writes middle grade and YA fiction. Her debut novel, KATERINA’S WISH (Margaret K. McElderry Books), won the 2013 Colorado Book Award, is on the 2014-2015 William Allen White Award Master List, and represented Colorado at the 2013 National Book Festival.Her second novel, SEARCHING FOR SILVERHEELS, released September 2, 2014. When not writing or reading fiction, Jeannie is a mother, wife, lover of critters, and an anthropology professor at Front Range Community College, where she teaches a variety of classes on cultures past and present. You can visit her at www.jeanniemobley.com.
What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?
I tend to start with big ideas–themes or threads that I then build a story around. In Katerina’s Wish, I started with ideas about what constitutes “magic” and to what extent our own attitudes shape our luck in the world. In my newest book, Searching for Silverheels, I was interested in two varying views on a local legend, and how either way, the character could be seen as a “strong woman.” That got me thinking about what really constitutes strength and womanhood, and it went from there. My next step is matching the setting and historical time period to my idea.
What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?
The fact that I can find historical settings to focus the lens on topics, themes, or social issues. For example, in Searching for Silverheels, I chose World War I to explore the issues surrounding strong women, because women are called to do a wider range of things in wartime than at other times. And World War I had the unique additional feature of the clash between President Wilson and the Women’s Suffragist Movement. Of course, I could tell a story about all the ways women are strong in any place or time, but I like historical fiction because I can pick times and places to make the issues much more intense.
What kinds of sources do you use?
I use different sources at different points in my research. I have a background in history and historical research, so that eliminates much of the initial work I might otherwise have to do. But, in the early stages of formulating an idea or picking a time period, I rely heavily on informational websites and textbooks–the kind of sources that give broad overviews of a topic or time period.
My next step is to create ideas for world building–getting the local setting, the voice, and the details of ordinary life right. This involves reading sources from the era–newspapers, books, reports–anything that gives me a sense of how people wrote or talked. I also look at oral histories that give details of life. Since I write for kids, I especially like oral histories in which people are remembering back to their childhood, because those give me details about what life was like for kids, which is often lacking from history books.
I also love to look at historic photographs for background details, and especially ones that evoke other senses (like the smoke boiling from chimneys in turn-of-the-century coal camps. I try to think about how that must have smelled, how gritty the air must have felt, how the laundry drying on the line must have taken on that smoke.).
There are many good sources for all of these things, but since my work so far has been centered in Colorado, I’ve found the Western History Archives at the Denver Public Library to be a wonderful source of photographs, www.coloradonewspapers.org to be a great place to read for voice, and a variety of sources of oral history, the most extensive being the National Archive oral history project, which has many recordings online that let you hear the actual voice of the teller, as well as the details.
How long do you typically research before beginning to draft?
Not long, or even at all. If I’m working with a new place or era with which I’m not familiar, I might spend a few hours doing background research, and a few more listening or reading for voice. I may read a novel written in the era or watch a movie set in the area (not really research–more just a good excuse to read a book or watch a movie.) But mostly, the story is most important to me in the first draft, and it guides me as to what details I need to find. So I research as I write the first draft. For example, in my current WiP, I had a conversation going on between the front seat and back seat of a car in 1930. I had a character glance in the rearview mirror to see the people in the back,and realized that I don’t know for sure when the rear-view mirror became standard in vehicles. So, I made a note in the margin–“would the car have a rearview mirror?” and when I finished writing the scene, I stopped to look it up.
What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?
I tend to love (and get lost in) the quirky details, but also the strange connections. So, I lost a whole day one time on the history of toilets on trains. Fascinating, if you go in for that kind of thing. And I am often stunned by connections that sometimes make me feel like I’m channeling instead of creating. In my newest book, Searching for Silverheels, I needed a last name for a character. At the time, my son was in high school, so he was getting recruitment mail for colleges. There was an envelope sitting on the table from Stanford University. I looked at it, changed it from Stanford to Sanford, and made it the kid’s last name. Later, while doing some back-up research on the Silverheels legend, I learned that one of the “eye witness” stories that claims to know the truth about the legend is in a manuscript at the Colorado Historical Society, written by a man named Sanford. The Sanford in my story is searching out an eye witness, just as the real Sanford was. So, I adjusted the story so that my fictional Sanford hears the same story that the real Sanford heard. But the names, that was just a crazy coincidence that sent a chill up my spine when it happened.
Because life isn’t always clear cut, the motives behind our actions don’t always make sense. But stories need to follow a logical path. What sorts of decisions have you had to make about “muddy” historical figures or events in order for your book to work?
In Katerina’s Wish, I was deliberately vague and never named the coal camp in which the main characters live. I did this because I wanted to avoid the political implications of setting the story in the place where one of the major battles of labor union history took place. Many readers have made the connection, which is fine, but I didn’t want to imply that my characters were directly part of a movement.
On the other hand, in Searching for Silverheels, I did want to connect my suffragist to the real women’s suffrage movement, so I set the story in the exact month and year when the members of the National Women’s Party were arrested at the White House, and that arrest is a catalyst for setting up the climax of my story. I did, however, create some fictional responses to that event that I don’t think really happened. I am always careful to create an author’s note that clarifies the real from the fictional, but I also think that some of the fun for readers of historical fiction can be looking up the truth themselves, and seeing where the author has been honest and where she’s told lies.
Why is historical fiction important?
I think historical fiction has the opportunity to give kids a passion or curiosity about the past. I think a lot of people are turned off by the idea of “history” because they see it as the dull retelling of a bunch of boring dates about boring politicians. It took me years to figure out that people saw history that way, because for me, history was always about story. I grew up in the west where I could explore old cabins and travel roads that used to be railroads or wagon trails, and to me, that continuation of the past, as a compilation of extraordinary stories about ordinary people, is what history has always been about. Hopefully, historical fiction can make kids (or adults) see history that way too.
Friday I attended opening night for the 8th annual Children's Book Illustrators' Show hosted by Prescott Hill and SCBWI Southern Breeze. Prescott is now Illustrator Coordinator and he did a bang up job putting the show together with the help of the Georgia Center for the Book. The show was hosted at the Decatur Library in the main lobby, where folks can wander through and enjoy the framed artwork and their corresponding picture books for FOUR weeks!! Opening night is always a treat because most of the illustrators come to help set up, mill about, and head to a celebratory melt-down dinner afterwards. It's always been one of my favorite Southern Breeze events.
That's me on the left, and Stan is taking the photo. Otherwise, from the left is Danielle Glover (new friend), Mark Braught, Sara Lynn Cramb, Leighanne Schneider, her hubby Kent, Laura Freeman, and Prescott. Joe Davich showed up a little later too. And here are some more pictures from opening night:
What a great evening! Read about past shows and the inception of the gallery show here.
The foundations of my possible aesthetics -- like those of all aesthetics -- lie of course somewhere quite different from aesthetics itself.
They lie in human consciousnesses and language, with all the associated indefiniteness.
It is my belief that we do not live in reality, but in metareality.
The first virtual world, the simulated Pretend-land is inherent in us.
A helpful introduction to her always interesting work.
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Eloise Renouf’s Etsy shop features lovely prints of graphic leaves, trees and creatures. Her work quickly demonstrates her passion for nature. Her elegant use of texture and color make work that is instantly recognizable as her own voice. One of the unique strengths in Renouf’s pieces is her ability to create pattern-centric compositions that stand alone successfully as prints.
Not only does she sell work through her Etsy shop, but she has collaborated with companies like Cloud9 Fabrics, Land of Nod, Uppercase Magazine and Target. Some people have even gone so far as to use her work for tattoos!
We've got a piratically fun pitch up today. But first, a word from our sponsors...
For anyone who is interested (well, and I guess even if you're not interested... :)), Graduation Weekend was a success. Everyone from our family who was supposed to graduate did - quite impressively, I might add :) And some family members were in attendance in all necessary locations. We took "divide and conquer" to a new level. After all that planning, agonizing, traveling, etc, I can't believe it's over!
In other news, I'm heartbroken to report I found out yesterday that Punxsutawney Phyllis is going out of print :( After a ten year run, apparently her time is up :( I will have to horde as many copies as I can find!
I most definitely feel the need for Something Chocolate after such news, as I'm sure you all do too! And I have recently heard (much to my delight) that eating chocolate cake for breakfast can help you maintain (or regain) a healthy weight. I don't know who thought this plan up, but I'm all for it! I have long suspected this to be the case. So let's have cake!
I feel slimmer and healthier already, don't you? :)
Today's pitch comes to us from Jason who says, "My inspiration came in part from the many students with Autism I have taught during my 14 years as a special education teacher. I am a member of SCBWI along with a few critique groups out here in Western Massachusetts, where I live with my wife and 5 year old daughter. When it's not below freezing outside, I love to grill. (My new favorite is bacon wrapped pork tenderloin, which is as incredible as it sounds.)"
Here is his pitch:
Working Title: Barnabas The Noisy Ninja Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8) The Pitch: Barnabas has pirate fever. He loves to wear buccaneer boots, sing sea shanties, and shout avast at passing strangers. Unfortunately, he lives in Ninjaville, where silence is golden and pirates are most certainly not welcome. Exasperated by his piratical nature, his parents enroll him in Ninjagarten, hoping Sensei can tame his ruckus raising ways.Barnabas, however, has other plans.After enlisting his fellow ninjalings during recess, Barnabas leads them in a mutiny.But when the things get out of hand, Barnabas must reign in his ruckus crew.
So what do you think? Would You Read It? YES, MAYBE or NO?
If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest. If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Jason improve his pitch. Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome. (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful. I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)
Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks! For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read Itor on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above. There are openings in October so you've got a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Jason is looking forward to your thoughts on his pitch! I am looking forward to seeing how that chocolate cake eating plan works and figuring out how many copies of Phyllis I can grab before they're gone forever! For which I will no doubt need chocolate sustenance. It's the Circle of Chocolate. A lot like the Circle of Life, but yummier :)