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Food isn’t necessarily the first thing that you think of when you think of fantasy... or the second thing... or the third or fourth thing. In fact, superseded by monsters and magic, warriors and weapons, it may be ignored altogether in the typical fantasy novel.
Understandably, food isn’t likely to play an integral role in the usual fantasy plot, which is why there is little focus placed on what and how things are eaten in many fantasy stories. But considering world-building is the cornerstone of fantasy fiction, and food is often a factor of ceremony, culture and social interactions, it makes sense that the concept of who tends to eat what and when be addressed as part of the backdrop of the tale. Fantasy writers often describe religions, political systems, architecture and flora and fauna. Food is just another way of flavouring the fiction.
This can be an especially useful tool if the fantasy in question is based on existing myths or cultures, as a means of highlighting this connection. For example, if the fantasy touches on the Middle East, one might expect to see figs, goat cheese and falafel, or if it is a northern tale, the writer might have characters feasting on seal or caribou meat (or the fantasy equivalent.) In my novel Magic University, which finds its basis in medieval Europe as is common to many fantasy novels, the typical fare is ale, bread, smoked meats and cheese, and fruits or vegetables one could expect to see growing in the average European garden.
Researching this component of a story is not that difficult in today’s day and age. You can even find books that specifically discuss what might be eaten in a fantasy setting, such as What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank by Krista D. Ball. There are also cookbooks available that are based on existing fantasy series, such as Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home (Otik’s spicy fried potatoes is a favourite of mine) based on the Dragonlance series or Nanny Ogg’s Cookbookbased on the Discworld series, just to give you a few ideas.
It also makes sense to include examples of food and drink as part of both plot and character development, giving the writer another means to an end. For example, in the opening scene of Magic University (the first book in my Masters and Renegades fantasy series), there is a small skirmish between Reid Blake’s imp, Stiggle and the dwarven competitor, Shetland, which is instigated by food. The function of the scene is two-fold. It creates a tension between Stiggle and Shetland that persists throughout the novel, allowing for later scenes of discord that exist mostly for comic relief. It also introduces Shetland’s obsession with food and drink, part of his character development which shows itself again several times in the story.
Food can be used to distinguish one setting from another, as well. A grubby pub for commoners will have very different items on the menu than an upscale tavern intended for higher-class patrons. Along with a description of decor and existing customers, a description of the food and drink being offered and served can help set the tone of the establishment. In Magic University, each competition Way Station is being hosted by a different wizard, who provides refreshments that match their personality. The variety of food and drink found at each Way Station not only tells readers something about the Way Station attendant, but also adds to the particular ambiance of the Way Station.
Along with general plot and character development, food can also provide an opportunity to flush out the more unusual plot elements and distinct characters. A fantasy novel may contain characters with very particular feeding needs, something that adds to the novelty and fantastical nature of that character. One of my characters in Magic University, Ebon, is a person who exists trapped between two dimensions due to an accident that occurred when he was apprenticed to a Renegade wizard. Rather than feeding the way most people do, he draws his sustenance from magical energies, draining power from magical spells or items in the process. As he puts it: “I still appreciate a good meal, on a purely aesthetical level. It is just something that is unnecessary. I draw my energy from other sources.” I even include one scene where his feeding needs interfere with his goals.
As you can see, there are many reasons a fantasy writer would want to incorporate food into a story. If you’ve never really contemplated the role food can and does play in well-written fantasy, you may want to give it a go. Consider it food for thought.
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Chantal!
Chantal Boudreau is an accountant/author/illustrator who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband and two children. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she writes and illustrates horror, dark fantasy and fantasy and has had several of her stories published in a variety of horror anthologies and magazines.Fervor, her debut dystopian novel, was released in March of 2011 by May December Publications, followed by Elevation, Transcendence, and Providence.MagicUniversity, the first in her fantasy series, Masters & Renegades, made its appearance in September 2011 followed byCasualties of War and Prisoners of Fate.
As part of my Southern Appalachian Book Tour for A BIRD ON WATER STREET, today I hop over to Tamara Smith's blog, Kissing the Earth, to answer questions about the landscape and what a tremendous impact it played in A BIRD ON WATER STREET. Here's a peek:
"The landscape is most definitely a character in A BIRD ON WATER STREET! Just as Jack touches a tree and relates it to a holy experience (imagine having no trees in your life), I think the land has a voice as well."
After the B&N event, I had lunch with Ginger Knowlton at a nearby café. So great to catch up! I was supposed to get together with Ginger back in February, but I cancelled my trip because of the Judy Blume illustration project.
When I arrived at Simon & Schuster for the meet-and-greet, there were NAKED! and I'M BORED signs and books on display in the front lobby of the 4th floor, yay!
Dani Young came out to greet me, and took me to Justin Chanda's office to dump my coat and bags. Justin was still in a meeting. It's always fun hanging out in Justin's office when he's not there; not only do I get chance to check out his book collection but I also have such interesting conversations. And Justin, if you're reading this, don't worry -- we never talk about you, really. Or snoop through your stuff.
This time, Laurent Linn came by to chat!
And then while we were catching up, Jeff arrived. He had dropped off some of his luggage at a friend's place but had trouble finding a cab in the rain, so ended up walking all the way to S&S. :-(
Happily, though, we were early enough that Laurent could take Jeff on a quickie tour of the offices. I trailed along, of course. And I got Jeff to take this photo of us in the lobby:
And LOOK! I was excited to come across this display of the revamped Judy Blume books with my illustrations on the cover (designed by Lauren Rille):
And OH MY GOSH, I spotted hardcover versions of the chapter books I illustrated!!! It was the first time I had seen the final version.
Laurent showed Jeff his office. I love Laurent's office. Look, he has hanging art! Not just mine, but I also spotted art by my friends Kevin Sylvester and Eliza Wheeler:
And look! Laurent (who used to work for Sesame Street) won a Daytime Emmy award in 1994 for Outstanding Achievement In Costume Design for Sesame Street. And check out his signed Sesame Street poster:
But then it was time for the Meet & Greet. Check out this example of the cool Naked!-themed cups they had at the event:
Justin and Laurent talked about how much fun it was to work on NAKED!:
After Michael said a few words (including nice stuff about me *blush*), it was my turn. Because I was nervous, I had some notes written down:
I started by saying how I wish I could take a snapshot of this moment to send to my younger self and (this wasn't planned) Jeff jumped up and took this photo, heh:
Aw, so many friendly faces!
I mentioned I was nervous so had to use notes, right? Well, turns out I accidentally skipped one of the lines in my notes and FORGOT TO THANK LAURENT LINN FOR BEING SUCH AN AMAZING ART DIRECTOR ON THE PROJECT AAAAAAAAUUUGGGH. I apologized to Laurent afterward.
So.... I presented Justin with a labelled Fairy Godmother wand and then gave him a big hug. Apparently Justin has taken the Wand to several meetings at S&S since. :-)
After the speeches, Michael and I were ready to sign some books:
Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming, and I loved meeting so many of these behind-the-scenes S&S types who help create such fantastic books.
It was also so great to meet people in person I was mostly familiar with on Twitter, like Rachel Stark (@syntactics on Twitter):
One of the people I had been hoping to meet was Christian Trimmer, who is @MisterTrimmer on Twitter. However, it didn't sink in until later that I DID meet him, but just hadn't connected his face/first name with his Twitter id. Gah! I emailed him after the event to apologize for not recognizing him.
With Veda (digital marketing coordinator), Isa Caban (marketing assistant) and Teresa Ronquillo (marketing coordinator):
And thanks to Angela Zurlo of Simon & Schuster's Production department for this copy of the UK version of NAKED!, which comes out TODAY. According to my British friends, "pants" means "underwear" in the UK.
When we finished the signing the last of the books (thanks to those who waited in line until the end), we closed up the room and headed out:
Because Jeff had had so much trouble trying to flag a cab in the rain, we decided to take the subway to Penn station instead. Jeff wasn't coming with me for the rest of the book tour, but he wanted to help me get to the train. I'm so grateful for his help, because lugging stuff through on the NYC subway during rush hour was not fun, especially in my somewhat zombie-ish state...It had been a wonderful day, but I was dead tired. Then I thought of Michael, who was doing a literary-themed comedy event with Parker Posey later that night!
Jeff bought me this Naked granola at Penn station. :-)
At Penn Station, we had some challenge trying to figure out where I was supposed to get on the train (again, rush hour crowds didn't make this easier). Then we discovered that my train was late. :-( We said our good-byes when the train finally arrived, and Jeff wished me luck.
I ended up not getting to my hotel in Cambridge, MA until after midnight. I was soooo braindead at that point; I am so not a night person, and it had been a crazy (crazy WONDERFUL) day. Happily, though, my Royal Sonesta Boston room was super-comfy:
As tired as I was, I needed to reorganize my stuff so that I'd be ready for the next day's presentation. By the time I felt prepped, I had less than six hours until I had to get up again.
The bed was soooo comfortable that I fell asleep almost immediately.
Next up: Talking to kindergarten and grade one classes at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA!
I enjoy doing the weekly comic, I really do, but something about it also creates a time warp. Week to week to week, and time is FLYING by! Two-hundred strips is almost fours years of making comics. GAAA! I've really been doing this for years already? AMAZING...
Anyway, as I said to start, I like it. Its quick-turn storytelling practice. Its keeps me drawing consistent characters. It presents a creative challenge for format and subject matter, etc. All great :)
Still, time is flying. No doubt about it. Thanks for reading!
With the last of my Kickstarter rewards finally in the mail, I've been taking steps to make the book available to a larger audience. As noted earlier this week, I did a small release party Trail's End Bookstore, and copies are also available at:
A Book For All Seasons (Leavenworth, WA)
Village Books (Bellingham, WA)
Winthrop Gallery (Winthrop, WA)
The Confluence Gallery (Twisp, WA)
The Mazama Store (Mazama, WA)
I will update this list as additional locations are added to the mix, but thanks in advance for supporting your local bookstores and gallery spaces!
I'm working on a broader placement with help from book distributor Partners West, and I will make that information available to any potential booksellers when I get final approval.
Books can also be ordered RIGHT HERE, so follow the PayPal link below if you'd like a book mailed straight from the source. Fill in a name to the "autograph" field and I am happy to personalize!
Personalized autograph to:
Thanks so much, and remember to stay up on the weekly comics at www.hartspass.com. GRRR!
For every $10 donated, RIF is able to distribute four books to a child in need.
So last month I made my way down to RIF Headquarters in D.C. I toured their offices and talked with RIF staff about the important work they’re doing.
One staff member had just returned from a county in Appalachia, where 28% of the schoolchildren were officially homeless, and where even more lived in crowded trailers with multiple families apiece.
The school Principal told RIF that amazingly, their test scores rose from 9th percentile to the 22nd percentile in just one year. To what did they attribute that growth? RIF! Now that these children have books of their own, they’re able to continue learning at home and over the summer break instead of being left behind. Books are AMAZING. But you already knew that, right?
As part of my trip to RIF, my publisher, the Aladdin imprint of Simon & Schuster, donated 100 copies of THE MONSTORE to the children at Bancroft Elementary in Washington, D.C. I was honored to appear at the school to talk to the children about writing and to personally sign every copy.
The best moment of the day? When I told the children they’d each be going home with a copy of my book. They cheered and hoorayed, and two besties in the front row hugged each other so tight they tumbled over in joy. Now that’s a great day for any author. Thank you, Aladdin and RIF!
“Come, Henry,” Colonel Birdwhistle called as he shouldered his cane pole. “We should be on our way. The day is ending and your mother will be spreading supper soon.”
“But we didn’t catch nuthin’” replied the glum boy.
“We didn’t catch ‘anything’, you mean. And catching fish is but a small portion of our purpose here. We are here primarily to enjoy each other and the beauty of creation. If a fish should happen to find our bait attractive, that, my boy, is simply a bonus.”
Unconvinced, Henry pulled at his pole hoping for a nibble that would keep them a little longer. Receiving nothing for his trouble, he reluctantly stood and followed the Colonel toward home.
The two had not gone far when they heard the sound of an approaching horse. Soon it came into view as it galloped their way. Noting its speed, they moved well off of the path. When horse and rider came alongside the pair, the man on top pulled back on the reigns bringing the chestnut to a stop in a cloud of dust.
“Hello there,” called the rider from atop his mount. “Is this the way to Warbler’s Ridge?”
“I believe it used to be…” began the Colonel.
“I’m in an awful hurry,” interrupted the man. “I have urgent business at the paper mill there. This must be the right way, it was given me by the sheriff. I believe Whitaker was his name.”
“Yes, Hub Whitaker is the local sheriff. But as I was saying, this road…”
“Big fella, your sheriff. I’d guess you don’t have to worry much about crime here with a huge man like that minding the wall.”
“That’s good, son. Real good,” cut in the stranger. “Well, I ain’t got time to sit around here talking. Like I said, I’ve got important business in Warbler’s Ridge. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.”
With a click of his tongue and flick of the reigns, he urged his horse forward while Henry held up an arm in protest.
“Mister, wait!” called Henry in futility, for the horse was gone. Turning to his companion, he asked, “Why wouldn’t he listen?”
“Henry, you have just learned an important lesson,” returned the Colonel. “Some people don’t understand that having a conversation means listening as well as talking. If he had taken a moment to close his mouth and open his ears, what would he have learned?”
“That the bridge he’s headed toward fell into the river a long time ago,” answered the boy slowly.
“I believe he should figure that out for himself any time now.”
As if on cue, a loud splash could be heard from the direction of the river. The old man and his young friend ambled quickly to the river and past the horse to help the fallen rider out of the water.
“You okay, mister?” asked Henry.
“Why didn’t you warn me, son?” inquired the dripping stranger.
“We tried, but couldn’t get a single word past all of yours,” returned the Colonel. “You missed a turn a ways back and need to follow the river a mile north to get to the nearest working bridge.”
Once more on his horse, the humbled rider continued on his way with every intent of listening for an answer the next time he asked a question. Henry and the Colonel headed home for supper, laughing the entire way. They may not have caught a fish, but they netted a good story to tell.
Photo credit: Ward, Lock, & Tyler of London [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I am so excited to introduce to you the very talented author, Laura Roach Dragon. She has written a fantastic MG Novel titled Hurricane Boy about a young boys devastating experience during Hurricane Katrina. I have personally read this book and must admit it's one of the few books I've read that kept me totally glued with every word. I truly didn't want to put it down until I was completely finished with it. Once I read the last word, I was left wanting more and hoping so very much that she writes a sequel. I want to see where else her imagination can take those wonderful characters she has created.
Laura Roach Dragon lives in the New Orleans area of Louisiana. She works with children at a local hospital and has just released her first book, a middle grade novel called Hurricane Boy about a family's ordeal after Hurricane Katrina. 2015 is the tenth anniversary of the hurricane and the city has come far with its recovery. It was a long difficult journey.
Here's what Laura says about going through Katrina herself and how her book came to be:
I experienced several hurricanes while living and working in Louisiana but nothing prepared me for Hurricane Katrina. I evacuated with my dog and two cats to Florida and then joined my hospital coworkers who were sheltering at a sister hospital in Memphis and what began as a three day evacuation turned into a three week banishment from my city. My condo was flooded and it took a year before I could move back in.
When we all returned from Tennessee, we found that the hospital where we worked suffered almost no damage, so I was fortunate to still have a job. But everywhere I turned, I was made aware of the power of Katrina. Family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, patients, all had been impacted. My parents and sister ultimately moved away, closer to my other sister in Pennsylvania. My father told me they were sick of the “hurricane roulette” we were all forced to endure year after year. They asked me to come, but I decided to remain in the New Orleans area.
So I went back to work and we all, friend, coworker, staff and patient had this huge, dramatic, ongoing stressor in our lives. I began to research different aspects of the Katrina event to better work with my patients and to deal with my own feelings of loss and pain. I met with people who stayed, people who evacuated, people in the Superdome, in the Convention Center, in the Astrodome, and people who were separated from their families. I researched everything I could get my hands on, especially the personal stories in the Times Picayune. (The Times Picayune has an excellent Katrina Archive online: http://www.nola.com/katrina/)
The idea to write a book, something I’d always wanted to do, tugged at me. I settled on the issue of the separated children because it seemed to be a neglected piece of the Katrina story.
My research continued and the book began to take shape. I wanted it to be for children because I worked so much with kids. I spent the next seven years writing and rewriting the story. I joined a critique group, Realms of Fiction. We met at Barnes and Noble on Veterans. They were enormously helpful. Then, Cheryl Mathis, a woman who joined Realms the same day I did, and also wanted to write for children, mentioned SCBWI and we both joined that group as well.
Pelican Publishing was the first place I submitted the story. They kept it for a year and rejected it. I rewrote it and submitted a few other places, working on it all the way. Despite the story taking on a greatly different shape than it was when I first submitted it to Pelican, it never occurred to me to resubmit to them.
And then a friend of mine, Mary Faucheux, went to a writer’s convention and met with a Pelican representative. Upon being told that her story wasn’t a fit for Pelican, Mary did something few people would think to do. She pitched a friend’s story. Mine. The representative mentioned an interest in a story about the separated children, Mary told me and I immediately contacted Pelican and brought up my book submission of several years before. She remembered the book. I asked permission to resubmit and she said I could. Approximately a year later, I was offered a contract.
The storm pulled them apart. Can they stay strong while far away? In this dramatic coming-of-age story, Hollis Williams matures in the traumatic events of Hurricane Katrina. Living with his siblings and his grandmother, Hollis's greatest wish has always been to reconnect with his absent father. Through the turmoil of the storm and the ensuing tests of his determination, Hollis keeps this dream alive. Their home destroyed, Hollis and his younger siblings are taken to a shelter in West Virginia, where he discovers what family means and finds his own inner strength
Laura's books can be found at the following locations:
Maple Street Bookstore, New Orleans, LA Amazon.com Barnes and Noble and can be ordered at any bookstore
I have some interesting programs scheduled in the weeks and months ahead.
Among other things, I'll be helping to kick off The Head and The Hand's fabulous 4th Floor Chapbook Series this coming Monday, with a reading from Going Over. On May 24th, I'll help celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Main Line's newest, thriving independent bookstore, Main Point Books, with a Going Over signing.
In September, meanwhile, I'll be joining Stephen Fried and Neal Bascomb at the Pennsylvania Library Association Convention, to talk nonfiction and Handling the Truth. Then, in mid-October, I'll be giving two keynote addresses on River Dreams, to celebrate the Schuylkill as the PA River of the Year. In November, I'll head down to Penn to sit on a Young Adult Fiction Panel during Homecoming Weekend.
Finally, next spring, I'll hop a train to Washington, DC, and meet with the students of St. Alban School, a boarding school situated on the campus of the National Cathedral. The 7th and 8th graders will have read Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River. Many have already read Dr. Radway's Sarsparilla Resolvent.
I'm looking forward to it all.
May 12, 2014Science Leadership Academy GOING OVER reading in conjunction with The Head and the Hand Press Philadelphia, PA
May 24, 2014, 3 -4 PM GOING OVER signing Main Point Books Bryn Mawr, PA September 29, 2014, 2:00 PMNonfiction Panel with Stephen Fried and Neal Bascomb PaLA Convention Lancaster County Convention Center Lancaster County, PA
October 14, 7 PM River of the Year Keynote Schuylkill River Heritage Area Montgomery County Community College West Campus Community Room
October 16, 7 PM River of the Year Keynote Schuylkill River Heritage Area Trinity Urban Life Center Philadelphia, PA
November 1, 2014, 4:00 PM University of Pennsylvania Homecoming Panel Young Adult Fiction Panel Kelly Writers House Philadelphia, PA
April 10, 2015 Talking about FLOW, the required 7th grade read St. Albans School Washington, DC
It’s Author Interview Thursday! Yeah! I was involved in a conversation with a friend who was having a few challenges pushing their business to the next level. My 2 cents to their dilemma was that they had to SEE themselves closing deals, winning clients and making bumper sales. I added that they also had to stay in their lane and believe that their daily positive actions would eventually bring the future they desired. I believe this laser-focussed mindset is embodied by our special guest in the hot seat today. She writes in the fantasy genre and aligns her marketing efforts to establish this. I was fascinated by the fact that she co-writes her books with her sister, Toni Burns. I was introduced to her by Sharon Ledwith who was our featured guests several moons ago. I’m so glad Sharon did as she’s an author who generously supports other authors. She has so much good stuff to share with us today. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Lisa Fender.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the first time someone complemented you on something you had written.
Thanks David for having me as a guest on your blog! I’m looking forward to meeting some of your followers!
Let’s see, I live in Golden Colorado and love it here. I’m married to Rick, and we’ve tied the knot twice, with each other that is, and he has 3 kids and I have 2. We both have grandchildren, but we were young grandparents. In fact, we are both “big kids”. We love hiking, camping, fishing, and the like, and our favourite relaxation is to go to the hot springs in the mountains and soak and enjoy the fresh air.
The first time someone complemented me on my writing was when I was still a teen. I had written some poetry and read it to a friend of my mothers’ who was an author herself. Her name is Autumn Stanley and she has a famous book in several of the university’s across the country. She was also an editor for Stanford University years ago. She’s a wonderful woman and when I finally published Fable, I sent her a copy, and of course, she sent it back with marks for me to fix. My sister and I had to laugh, we knew she couldn’t help herself, and we fixed most of her edits and republished.
What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by Lisa Fender?
You can expect not your usual story, for one. I didn’t want to write the same type of urban fantasy, or dystopian fantasy that everyone else was. Instead of the “A” typical vamp or werewolf, I decided to do a take-off of the Djinni, but not one in the bottle, but a race of beings in another dimension. These beings keep the balance of both our worlds and are threatened by a faction in their side of the portal, and are threatened by what we are doing to our planet on this side.
For two, we really pride ourselves of trying to make sure that the writing is as good as any traditional published work. We have two critique partners and after we think we have the chapter the way we want it, we send it to a friend of mine who is an author, and he goes over the chapter. Once the book is finished, Toni and I go through it once more before it goes to our professional editor.
We want to make sure it’s tight and an enjoyable read for whomever takes a chance and reads our books.
You co-write books with your sister Toni Burns. Can you tell us a unique challenge this situation presents and how you both overcome it?
Actually, the challenge is we are sisters and fight once in a while. But when it comes to writing we are spot on with each other. For some reason we really click and are in each other’s minds when we write. We have a system that works for us. I write the rough drafts, and then go through and clean them up a little. Then she and I go over each line and brainstorm together the way we want the story to go. It works great for us.
You write in the Fantasy genre which is very popular and competitive. What advice would you have for someone who wants to write in this genre?
Of course, make sure you put out a high quality book. You need to pay for a professional Editor. It’s the only way. I’ve read quite a lot of self-pub books and the mistakes and head-hopping stick out like a sore thumb, for me anyway. Next, try to come up with something unique. Sure there are going to be certain types of “guidelines” to your story. For example, if you’re writing epic fantasy, there will probably be a type of kingdom, and swords and bow and arrow will be the main source for weapons, but you can still come up with a new angle.
What have you found to be a successful way to market your books?
This is one of the toughest parts to being a writer these days. I have pounded my head against the desktop more than once and it can leave you with hurt feelings and misguided advice. I have been studying the social media concept here lately and I believe the best way is through email contacts, either newsletters, or some type of fun interaction with your readers. Facebook used to be a great place, but now they have changed their reach for your fans. These days you’re lucky if more than 40 people see your posts at any given time.
They want you to pay for Facebook advertising and even that doesn’t amount to much more of a reach. Twitter is tough too because you have thousands following you and you them. How many of your followers’ posts do you click on and read? Not too many usually, so probably not too many are reading yours.
This is such a tough business so my advice is to try and set up a way to personally reach your readers.
What were some of your favourite books as a child?
This is such a long list; I don’t know where to start. I was always a big reader. I loved all the Disney classics, Snow White, etcetera, but I also liked the Boxcar Children and the Hardy Boys. I think my favourite was Wild Things and Charlotte’s Web.
What three things should writers avoid when writing dialogue?
Dialogue should sound natural. Watch the way people talk with each other and try to bring that out in your writing. You don’t want it stiff.
Two, use more action tags than “he said, she said” tags. Especially if you like to use other words besides “said”. They can take the reader out of the book.
Three, don’t add too much character’s thoughts in between each dialogue speech. It’s annoying.
What is your definition of success as an author?
To me success in life is the people who surround you with love, and care about you. I think it’s the same with being an author. I think the more popular you get the more people love you. To have people tell you they love your story is so wonderful! If you can build from there and gain more and more fans, you are successful.
What book or film has the best dialogue that inspires you to be a better writer and why?
There are several. I think the Europeans are much better with great acting and writing than we are. Harry Potter had some great acting, as did Lord of The Rings, and even Game of Thrones. Their acting is powerful and believable. My writing couch was English and she taught me the way they are taught across the pond. She really instilled in me the creative writing skills you need to have a clear and tight book.
Toy Story or Shrek?
Another tough question…I guess I have to say Shrek. Love him!
What three things should a first time visitor to Colorado do?
Go to the mountains and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Enjoy a hot springs pool, and if you like skiing then this is a great place for it.
What can we expect from Lisa Fender in the next 12 months?
We are revising the second book in our Lorn Prophecy series, Lore. We hope to have it ready to publish by the end of the year…we’ll see. I am also plotting Lore ahead so that I can start writing the rough draft for the third book in the series. I have also written ten chapters in the next compendium for the Djenrye Chronicles, which are side books about our made-up world, Djenrye. It’s been a lot of work, but I love it! We do have one of the compendiums published – Fated. It’s the first in that series.
We are building our website as we speak and hope to have it up and running in the next couple of months. We will have an interactive blog to get people involved with the story and writing. I’m really looking forward to it! We will be sending out invites to join our email list by the end of the week.
Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry?
Just like wine, every good thing takes time. Give yourself a break and just be consistent in what you’re doing to gain fans. It might take a while, but being relentless is the answer.
Thanks again for having me as your guest David! You’re a great host and good luck with your books!
Thanks for spending some time with us today Lisa. You really have opened my eyes to a few things I wasn’t aware of. I love the fact that you’re in this for the long haul and are not putting any pressure on yourself to be an over-night success. As Lisa stated in the interview, the best way she considers to reach out to her readers is to have them on her mailing list. If you want to see how she structures her emails and interacts with her audience, click the link below to join her mailing list.
Wayne State University Press publishes a series titled Made in Michigan that has published many quite enjoyable story and poetry collections. This month sees the publishing of Strange Love, a collection by Lisa Lenzo (her second, the first won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award (University of Iowa Press).
I've had the pleasure of reading the first two stories and realizing that they're linked--a divorced, single mother, Annie, raising her daughter, Marly, (8 in story one, 12 in story two) in what seems to be in the SW Michigan area. So far both stories have delved into the idea of looking for love--the first, "Still Life," with Annie considering following up on personal ads to find somebody to date, while "Aliens" has Annie come to the realization that Marly has added sexual activity to her lifestyle.
Both are great stories--they're subtle, they sneak humor in when you're not expecting it, they don't have a BIG moment smacking the reader about the head three or four times--they don't need to.
I'm very much looking forward to seeing where Annie and Marly head in the other seven stories.
From Amazon: There are people in this world who are Nobody. No one sees them. No one notices them. They live their lives under the radar, forgotten as soon as you turn away.
That's why they make the perfect assassins.
The Institute finds these people when they're young and takes them away for training. But an untrained Nobody is a threat to their organization. And threats must be eliminated.
From Amazon: They needed the perfect assassin.
Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn't stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend's family to die-of "natural causes." Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.
I wonder if the coincidences are why they rebranded the paperback of Boy Nobody and renamed it I Am the Weapon. Some ideas just float around in the ether.
Thank you to everyone who came out for our final event in our 2014 Winter/Spring Evenings with Authors series! We had a great time with Lynn Cullen and can’t wait to see what she writes next. Check out our pictures from the event!
Don’t forget about our special event with international bestselling author, Steve Berry on Friday, May 30. Also known for being a historic preservation enthusiast, Berry writes thrillers with a historical twist and is best known for his Cotton Malone series. His newest novel in the series, The Lincoln Myth, comes to shelves on May 9. The following day, Berry will be teaching a Master Class on all aspects of fiction writing, including a session taught by his wife and literary manager on the business of writing. Visit our website and safe yourself a spot to take part in this unique opportunity!
It would not be an understatement to say that we are a family who loves books. For many generations it has been that way. My great-grandfather boasted of reading the complete Encyclopedia Britannica, 4 different editions throughout his life. My mother used the grocery money she saved by using coupons to buy leather bound editions of her favorite books. All 4 of my grandparents gave only books for gifts and do I need to mention our constant use of the public library?
When I had my own children, I just loved the daily connection we shared through our books. Stacked on shelves, and piled high on end tables, we were and are an active reading family. At around the age of 5 or 6, both our girls just took to letters, reading, and writing. We couldn’t keep them in enough books and writing paper. I noticed that though our son loved books, he wasn’t curious about them. He wasn’t intrigued by how momma and his family knew how to read those letters on the page. He wasn’t asking questions about letter sounds or asking what do these letters spell?
Slowly, at about 6 ½ years old , with our prompting, he started to read three-letter words but when asked to read them in a sentence or in his early reader, he would say, ”No thanks, that’s OK, it’s your turn to read”.
To say I wasn’t worried would be an understatement. I had everything tested and the conclusion was that he could see, hear, and think perfectly well. “He would evolve in his own time.” The tester said. “Not to worry.”
I took these words to heart but I couldn’t help feeling as though I had failed my sweet boy somehow. Later that day I called my dad. If there was ever someone who could solve a problem creatively, it would be my father.
“Well,” he said. “This isn’t an unusual problem. We’ve seen it quite a few times in our own family. Is what you need is a reading place.”
“A reading place?” I said.
“Yeah, there’s always one in every generation in our family who has a hard time reading. The only solution I can see is to build a reading place. A reading place calls the story forward and places it into the hands of the story reader. Afterwards you place it in the Book of Books as a testament to the time shared with a story. It works every time.”
“Ok dad, but first I want to know who was the one in your generation who couldn’t read?
“Me,” he said.
“And who is the one in my generation?”
“That would be the one I’m speaking with.” He said with much light-hearted sarcasm.
In utter disbelief I replied, “Me? As in me who has 4 books going at the same time?”
“Yes, that you! All of us are the youngest in our families. Why read, when one is completely surrounded by character and voice evoked storytellers? It’s time our little guy called up his own stories.”
Thinking back I remembered the barrel tunnel where I would sit and read out loud for hours. Next was the shelf my father put at the back of my closet. I always thought it was for my shoes. I read all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books on that shelf with my flashlight in hand. Another favorite place was to make a huge fabric nest made out of fabric scraps in my mother’s studio.
So I had to ask, “Dad, where was your reading place?”
“There was an old fishing boat pulled up in the yard and laid on its side. There, I would sit and read. If the weather turned bad I had a canvas flap that I would pull down so I wouldn’t have to leave. In the winter I sat under the stairs.”
So with that we were off to build a few reading places of our very own.
How to build a reading place:
To call a story forward is a special thing indeed. In your story place you will want a sense of coziness and a place to curl up with a book or two. Materials
A standing foundation such as a table, end table, chairs, bunk beds, closet spaces, unused boats or bathtubs, a tree house or other pre-built fort.
Blankets and/or sheets
Pillows big and small
Cardboard boxes if building a box structure. Home Depot has big refrigerator boxes for free.
Long sticks if you are building a stick fort.
Connecting materials such as: duct tape, clamps, clips, and string.
There aren’t any rules on how to build your reading place. It can be permanent or moveable or a little of both. The important thing is that the readers of the family feel it is their place to go and delve into the pages of a book.
Once the reading place is built it is now time for the Reading Place Ceremony. For earlier or new readers, it’s always best to have at least one reader with them. As they become better readers, more and more time will be spent on their own.
The Reading Place Ceremony:
A reading place ceremony happens in three stages.
1. Calling the Story Forward
It’s time to call the story forward. Make sure that you’ve placed a stack of books in your reading place. If not, grab them now and bring them with you. Take your shortest book and read it aloud. If you are a new reader, read what you can even if it’s only small words or even identifying letters. After you’ve finished, your reading place is now open.
2. Read to a Partner, Read Aloud Family Style, or D.E.A.R. Time
For our second stage there are a few possibilities.
~ Read to a partner: Now that your reading place is officially open, it’s time to read with your trusted partner. First the young reader starts by reading a line and then the partner reads the next line. Continue like this until the book is finished. If there are a few people and you can share different copies, read the book in harmony, like a choir.
~ Read A-loud Family Style: Read the book you’ve chosen aloud in paragraphs. Each family member is going to get a turn as you pass the book around the circle.
~ D.E.A.R. Time: Which stands for Drop Everything and Read. As your young reader becomes more confident with reading, it’s good to let them read to themselves silently or out loud. Once I saw that my son was gaining confidence, I would give him 15 minutes of alone time after our read a-loud session.
3. The Book of Books
~ The third and final stage is celebrate the progress you’ve made and the time you’ve spent together. The Book of Books is a journal where you list the titles and authors of the books you have just read. Each person in the family is represented by a stamp. Those who took part in that reading session will put their stamp under the book title. It’s a great way to remember the books you’ve read and shared. There are more ideas about the Book of Books over at Jump Into A Book.
There are unlimited possibilities of creating reading places and how they function in your family. For us this is just what we needed to get our young reader reading. Almost weekly there is a new reading place going up somewhere in my house or yard. I hope wherever or however you choose to create your reading place that you will have many happy moments ahead. Happy Reading.
add in a handful of kids and many visits to and fro,
a year on exchange,
a wedding for one girl,
and now a wedding for the other!
After returning from Spain in January, my mom called to tell me Ines, the daughter of her friend Rosalia (her host sister during a student exchange in the 60′s) was getting married. Ines and I have known each other our whole lives through. Mom wanted to know if I’d be her date to Ines’s March wedding. I was ready to go on the spot.
I hadn’t been to Spain in twenty-six years. Hadn’t seen Ines since my own wedding eighteen years ago.
Mom and I met in Dallas and flew to Bilbao. We took a bus to San Sebastian to see Paula, our exchange student when I was in fourth grade.
Paula joined us in Bilbao one day.
On another we went to the Guggenheim.
These two girls got some time together again.
There was that wedding (Ines and Christopher both sing opera. Aren’t they especially glam?).
My lovely date.
All the Olabarria kids.
Because of that friendship made so many years ago, three families are now forever intertwined. How lovely is that?
Goal setting for your characters determines the character emotional development plot, sets the dramatic action plot and points to the overall meaning of the story.
The goals you set for yourself determine your emotional development and they form an action plan for a meaningful life.
You meet an antagonist -- internal: you wonder why bother, your story sucks, even you're bored by your own story or external: the dog needs to be walked, the mother her medicine, the family demands dinner now, the computer shuts down, the fatigue creeping across your shoulders at the thought of facing your story again -- stop.
Remind yourself of your long-term goal (Finish your draft in 6 days)
Assess what you need to do right now to move toward that goal (A positive plan to clear your path of antagonists)
Quit blaming the antagonist (Hold tight to the vision of what you want: A complete draft written in 6 days)
Assume responsibility for that one thing you can do (Write)
Take positive action toward your goal (Write)
You have six days to finish this draft of your story. You can do this!
WRITER PATH PLOT and SCENE RETREATS in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. May 30 – June 1 Your story deserves to be told. Your writer’s soul needs to be nourished. Learn to identify and write the key scenes that build a page-turning story, master crucial scene types and go deeper into your plot by applying the three key layers that run through all great fiction: action, emotion and theme. Reserve your spot now for the 1st Annual Writer Path Retreat Spring 2014. WriterPath.com
This week's giveaway is my own! I'm tying it in with a blog-hop chain that's popular with my kidlit friends right now called "Meet My Main Character." Vicky Alvear Shecter tagged me and here are my answers to the questions:
1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or an historic person? Jack Hicks is thirteen-years-old in the beginning of A BIRD ON WATER STREET (fourteen by the end). He's fictional although he has come to feel very real to me! His name is a tribute to The Jack Tales which have been a huge part of my life.
2. When and where is the story set? A BIRD ON WATER STREET is set in 1986 during the closing of the copper mines in Copperhill, Tennessee (called Coppertown in the book). It is historical fiction and is based on events that actually took place over the course of a decade in the all-too-real denuded landscape (from a century of poor copper mining practices and resulting pollution) in the Copper Basin area (at the intersection of Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina). I compressed the time frame to relay the true impact of what was going on in the area.
3. What should we know about your main character? Jack's last name is a tribute to Ray Hicks, declared a National Treasure as keeper of the Jack Tales. I heard Ray tell Jack Tales at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee where he signed a sketch I did of him while he was telling stories. He signed it and it is now one of my dearest treasures. In fact, Jack's Dad's name is Ray Hicks. You can learn more about the significance of The Jack Tales in my life by following a research trip I did a few years ago.
4. What is the main conflict--what messes up Jack's life? Jack's dad wants him to follow in the family trade, to be a miner like the men in his family have been for generations. But Jack is in love with nature and wants to return trees and birds to the devastated land. When his uncle is killed in a mine collapse and the mine closes, the miners go on strike. Without the constant pollutantion, nature starts to creep back in. It would seem Jack's dream is coming true, but the cost may be everything he holds dear, as his one-industry town is dying. 5. What is Jack's personal goal? Jack wants to return the denuded landscape to the lush forest it once was, filled with life. Ultimately, it is a story of hope. Jack does make a difference - as we all can in our little ways.
6. What is the book's title and when will it come out? Well! That would be A BIRD ON WATER STREET and it is available NOW!!
Since this is indeed a tagging exercise, I'm going to tag author friends Janice Hardy and Kristin Tubb to see if they want to play...
GIVEAWAY! I am happy to give away a free, signed and dedicated copy to one of my followers. Must live in the US or Canada to win - enter below!
Seven-year-old Ben asked: "I was reading Dinotopia and I found the page where it showed the human vision and the dinosaur vision. Did dinosaurs really see that way?"
Hi, Ben, Good question. Of course we’ll never really know how the world looked to dinosaurs, or for that matter, what things looks like to a dog or cat or bird. In fact, if you think about it, you can’t even be completely sure exactly how another person sees, and whether that’s different from the way you see, because you can’t climb inside their head.
But scientists are able to study the structures in the eyes of modern animals and they’ve found out some interesting things.
Dogs, cats, deer, and other mammals do not have color receptors in their eyes that can sense the difference between green and red. So their view of the world may only distinguish light and dark, and maybe blue and yellow colors. Humans, apes, and monkeys have the addition of green / red color receptors, so we see those colors, too. Most birds seem to have as many color receptors as we do. But some birds, like hawks, may have sharper distance vision based on how their eyes are structured, and some other birds, like owls, surely see much better in the dark than we do.
When it comes to color, some insects can see into the ultraviolet range, a kind of light that’s invisible to us. These unique abilities probably help bees and butterflies to see fruit or flowers. The mantis shrimp has 16 kinds of light receptors in its eyes, which apparently allow it to see images in polarized light and ultraviolet light that we can't see without special instruments.
A good clue is that if animals have bright colors on them, then others of their kind can see those colors. That's why most animals aren't colored red, except for monkeys, which are unusual among mammals for having the same sort of color vision that humans have.
Returning to dinosaurs, if some dinosaurs were a lot like birds in other respects, they might well have had the added color sensing abilities of modern birds. Not only that, they might have been as colorful as birds. So the illustration of "dinosaur vision" in Dinotopia may not be too far off. ------- Read more about color perception in animals at Amasian Science or listen to the Radiolab episode on color.
My world is peopled with middle graders – my daughter, her friends, and the students I see when I volunteer or do school visits. Additionally, most of the fictional characters I’ve come to know and love are middle graders.
I met a lot of them in the books I read, and others have sprung into my head and then onto the pages of the books I write.
Middle graders are awesome! So I love creating middle grade characters.
When writing for middle graders, it’s important to think about who these young people are. All characters, no matter what their age, need distinguishing physical traits, goals, and backstories.
Of course middle grade characters should sound like kids and tweens in the dialogue. But on a deeper level, how are middle grade characters different from others?
First and foremost, no matter what attributes we give our middle grade characters, the child within them should remain visible.
I love this about Eoin Colfer’s character Artemis Fowl, a teenage criminal mastermind who is still young enough and child-like enough to believe in fairies. This makes him all the more dangerous!
Artemis’s genius intellect allows him to craft elaborate schemes which drive the plots in Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series (Hyperion). Yet he still has embraces the belief that he can achieve the impossible, and because he believes it, he often does!
Middle graders are becoming independent and solving problems on their own or with limited parental input.
In my latest novel, The Boy Problem: Notes and Predictions of Tabitha Reddy (Scholastic, 2014), Tabbi plans a cupcake-selling fundraiser to help buy new books for the library of her cousin’s hurricane- demolished school. The fundraiser is fraught with mathematical (and comical) problems that Tabbi and her friends must work though. Though her mother is present in the story, Tabbi’s emotional growth occurs because she solves the most significant problems alone.
Despite their growing independence, middle graders still require nurturing love.
Diggy, the main character in Rebecca Petruck’s debut novel, Steering Toward Normal (Abrams/Amulet, 2014), struggles with this throughout the novel when a half-brother he hadn’t known about moves in. Diggy, who was abandoned by his mother as a baby, needs his father, but he’s also mad at him, and jealous of Pop’s new relationship with the son he hadn’t known he had.
Although Diggy aspires to raise a prize winning steer, to win the heart of the girl of his dreams, and to pull the best April Fools prank ever, his story is grounded in the need for familial love.
An unfortunate truth about middle graders is that they deeply care about what their peers think of them.
This is often a motivating force in a middle grade novel. The entire plot of H. N. Kowitt’s The Loser List (Scholastic, 2011) revolves around this truth. Danny Shine, the protagonist, desperately attempts to get his name removed from the humiliating list of male losers written on the wall of the girls’ bathroom.
Kowitt employs peer-consciousness through subplots as well as Danny bends to the will of school bully Axl, must win back the faith of his best friend Jasper, and tries to impress his crush, Asia.
Who are middle graders?
They are children merging into adulthood who still need love, friends, goals, and independence.
They are learning to deal with the pains of rejection and to find humor in embarrassment.
They are fantastic, complicated, fun, people. Fiction couldn’t ask for better characters!
Tabitha "Tabbi" Reddy believes in signs. Like fortune cookies. Magic 8-Balls. Shooting stars. And this year, she hopes, looking for the right signs will lead her to the right boy!
Inspired by her BFF, Kara (star of The Boy Project), Tabbi starts her own "project" in the hopes of finding a cute crush. With the help of a math lesson on probability, Tabbi tries to predict who the right boy for her might be! Where is she most likely to meet him? What is he most likely to look like?
Full of fun illustrations, hilarious equations, and lessons in cupcake-baking, life, love, and friendship, this book has a 100% probability of awesomeness.
“For any spirited, entrepreneurial teen that’s ever had a crush, this sweet read is sprinkled with lessons on life, love and business.” – Kirkus Reviews