Friday, May 30, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
      "Curiouser and Curiouser"
Recently I realized that the idea of falling down a hole is a concept that's come up at least a couple of times in my writing. In my W.I.P. my protagonist goes back in time and describes the extraordinary experience as, "falling down a hole, or passing through a tight tunnel." (Alice in Wonderland is also mentioned in the first book of my proposed middle grade series.)

I've also used a photo of a book tunnel here on Writ of Whimsy to represent my feelings in progressing through the process of my first book being published. At times it's felt like being in the eye of a storm, or, once again, falling down a hole. The feeling of leaving a stable, familiar environment and leaping into a mysterious, new world, is how my subconscious is feeling: Both apprehensive and exhilarated.

Why is that? I have a few theories, but the main one is that to experience a new adventure there is almost always a bit of risk involved. These Lewis Carroll quotes from The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland seem to be appropriate for my life as a writer right now:

"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, because I'm not myself, you see."

"Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle."

"I can't go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then."

One thing's for sure: things are getting "curiouser and curiouser!"

Today, a production crew will be at our home shooting an interview/book trailer. In my wildest imaginations I never thought I'd see a day like today. Consequently, I'm turning my comments off. (The video will appear on my website when it's launched later this summer.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Matutinal -

(adj.) occurring in, or during the early dawn hours.
Example: The fairies were difficult to discover since they were, by nature, matutinal creatures.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

The Thickety:
A Path Begins
by J.A. White

Flap Copy Description:
Hand in Hand, the witch's children walked down the empty road.

When Kara Westfall was six years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. Years later, Kara and her little brother, Taff, are still shunned by the people of their village, who believe that nothing is more evil than magic...except, perhaps, the mysterious forest that covers nearly the entire island. It has many names, this place. Sometimes it is called the Dark Wood, or Sordyr's Realm. But mostly it's called the Thickety.

The black-leaved trees swayed toward Kara and then away, as though beckoning her.

The villagers live in fear of the Thickety and the terrible creatures that live there. But when an unusual bird lures Kara into the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book with unspeakable powers. A book that might have belonged to her mother.
     And that is just the beginning of the story.

My Thoughts:
The recently-released debut novel by J.A. White is a dark and spellbinding tale about the power of magic. The Thickety: A Path Begins is the first fantasy book in Mr. White's upper middle grade series - I thoroughly enjoyed it. The author has masterfully created a somewhat dystopian world that includes the island village of De'Noran; the mainland - the World; and the Dark Wood, known as the Thickety. The protagonist, Kara, is the perfectly imperfect main character. Her fatal flaws make her all the more, a heroine to cheer for. This tale of twists and turns reads like a young adult novel, even though the protagonist is twelve years old. It is recommended for readers from the ages of ten and up; I strongly agree. The Thickety: A Path Begins is definitely a book that would intrigue young adults, as well as adults.

To learn more about the author, J. A. White, click here:  http://jawhitebooks.com/

Friday, May 23, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Book Tunnel - Photo Credit: Public Domain
Publishing Update

One of the things I've learned since embarking on my path to publication is to "expect the unexpected." There are a plethora of possible details to be dealt with that one would never have imagined.

I must be one of the few people on the planet who has not seen the blockbuster film: Frozen. If I had, I would have known that the names for my two main secondary characters - Olaf and Sven - just happen to be the same as the two co-stars in the Disney movie. It's not like I copied the film; I wrote my soon to be released children's book -
The Scandinavian Santa - years ago. And, I took those names from two ancestors of mine. Still, business is business. My critique partner warned me about this problem, and recently my publisher did as well. So...my two magical polar bears have since been re-named Gunnar and Ludvig. This kink in the works has actually been a great turn of events, since the new names seem to better represent the strength and dignity of the bears. (I'll be seeing Frozen this weekend!)

The most recent unexpected situation happened a couple of days ago. My gifted creative director sent me the image of my storybook. What you need to know is that my publishing house is awesome; they have welcomed me into a collaborative approach to the process of creating my book. So, I already knew approximately what my book would look like since we've made numerous dummy books. However, when I saw the image of my book cover with the perfect fonts, layout, and color, I wept. I don't mean I got teary-eyed, I mean I boo-hooed...for hours.
(I'll reveal the cover as soon as it's finalized.)

It wasn't just seeing the exquisite cover that brought me to tears. The book represents the culmination of the last several years; the period of time when I rebuilt my professional life after leaving the dental field. So, when I saw the image of my book's cover, I felt a healing and validation that I must have sorely needed.

If you're a published author you already know that it's not just finally seeing your book that brings on such emotion. It's the fact that you endured to the point of seeing your goal met. All the lonely hours of writing and self doubt are suddenly meaningless. They were worth it.

As a writer, have you had this kind of emotional experience?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Halcyon -

(n.) a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.
Example: When the widow recalled the halcyon days of her marriage, she didn't feel so lonely.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

Fly Away
by Patricia MacLachlan

Flap Copy Description:
Family means --
offering help when it's not asked for, accepting help when you think you don't need it,
sharing joys,
keeping secrets,
and singing your song.

Unless you're Lucy and you can't carry a tune. Lucy thinks she has no voice.

But family means --
even if you're sure you can't sing, you'll be heard.

My Thoughts:
Only the gifted storyteller, Patricia MacLachlan, could create a wonderful novel about opera, poetry...and cows! This small, but heartwarming book, delivers big with lovely settings and distinctive character development. The award-winning author's writing style is effortless and exquisite; her skill is something any writer would envy. Ms. MacLachlan's signature subject of "family" is at its best in this middle grade novel. I would highly recommend Fly Away to readers from the ages of seven and up.

Click here to learn more about the Newbery Medal winning author,
Patricia MacLachlan.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Kriston Johnson
   Taking a Literary Train

My critique partner and friend, Kriston Johnson, and I were first inspired to take a train to Seattle for the purpose of writing when we heard about the Amtrak Residency program for writers. While neither one of us applied for the program, we wondered: Why not take a train on our own? So last week we hopped aboard an Amtrak train with tickets and tech bags in hand.


I must admit that, like so many people, I find travelling by rail a blend of the romantic and the nostalgic. Images from movies like: Murder on the Orient Express, Harry Potter (all of them), Miss Potter, and even The Polar Express ran through my mind as we chugged away from our community's historic station en route for the Emerald City.

One additional reason I was so excited for the trip was the fact that I have a story outlined (scheduled later in the proposed middle grade series I'm working on) that includes a lengthy train ride for my protagonist. I was hoping to be inspired by rumbling down the rails as we headed north. As I tapped away on my laptop, I began to revise a portion of my story's plot that had previously stumped me. Much to my surprise, as we neared the central part of our state, the answer to my plot problem seemed to magically come into focus.

By the time we arrived at King Street Station, my W.I.P. woes had been remedied. It never ceases to amaze me, how writing in a different environment than my own creative cave, has the ability to enhance my writing.

My last several trips to Seattle were unseasonably warm and sunny; I wasn't so lucky this trip. Kriston and I grabbed a cab in the driving rain and headed straight for our destination: Elliott Bay Book Company.

The independent and family-owned bookstore has been operating in Seattle for over forty years. A trip to Elliott Bay Book Company is something truly special. Not only is it housed in a space with wooden beams and floors, the Elliott Bay CafĂ© serves sensational sandwiches, desserts, wines, and a variety of coffees. We enjoyed a delightful lunch after perusing the multitudes of rare titles, as well as books in the shop's whimsical children's section.

The real adventure in our day began when we departed the bookstore. The driving rain had transformed to a gusty rainstorm. By this time in the trip I was carrying my tech bag, my purse, and a bag of new books. To make matters worse, we couldn't snag a cab! Consequently, we walked three miles in the williwaw - from Capitol Hill back to King Street Station (near the Seahawks' Quest Field). In this photo I'm leaning on a bench, back at the station, so I won't fall over!

However, by the time I returned home around 9:30 that night, I realized I'd had the time of my life. Besides all that, I had four wonderful new novels to read; and of course, the bag had been a must.

As I proceed on my Storyteller's Journey, I'm finding that it's not the word counts or writers' events that are making me so happy. It's the little experiences all along the way. We need to remember to embrace what each new day offers. And when it's a tumultuous storm, find a way (with the help of a friend) to make it through to calmer skies.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Whelve -

(v.) to bury something deep; to hide.
Example: The dryad was quick to whelve the magical ring deep in the forest.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

Tilly's Moonlight Garden
by Julia Green

Amazon Description:
Tilly just moved into a drafty old mansion, away from all her friends. She spends her afternoons wandering around her new backyard in order to escape the cold, dusty rooms of the house. But one night, Tilly follows a fox she has seen from her bedroom window and he leads her deep into a hidden garden that is nothing short of mesmerizing in the moonlight. This mysterious garden and the special friend she meets there help her rediscover the magic in her own life.

My Thoughts:
Ms. Green's book, frankly, took me by surprise. What begins as a simple, sweet story becomes a deep and thoughtful novel; one that would entertain and intrigue any young girl. Filled with a magical and imaginative plot, lovely settings, a well-developed protagonist, and the inclusion of the natural world, this book was a winner for me. Julia Green is a veteran author and is the Course Director for the MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University in England. I would highly recommend Tilly's Moonlight Garden to female readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

To learn more about the author, Julia Green, click here:
http://www.julia-green.co.uk/

Friday, May 9, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Zebroid - Cross between a zebra and a horse. 
       An Upheaval of Hybrids!

Within our wild and crazy world we have hybrid animals, hybrid vehicles, hybrid flowers, and on and on. I guess we shouldn't be surprised as writers that now there are hybrid authors! (Photo credit: the Public Domain.)


The old adage, "the only thing that is constant is change," seems to now apply to the different ways an author can publish her book(s). If you publish a book independently, and it later is traditionally published, that process is known as "hybrid publishing." However, if you publish a book traditionally, and then later publish another book independently (or vise versa), you're known as a "hybrid author."

The reason this subject is of interest to me is that my soon to be released children's book, The Scandinavian Santa, is being published by a small press with my collaboration. However, I've also written another story called, The Tale of Willaby Creek; plus I'm working on a proposed middle grade fantasy series. While these stories are all near and dear to me, they are quite different when viewed against the current literary landscape. There might be a different path to publication needed for each story I write; so I might well fall under the category of "hybrid author" someday.

As the book publishing industry continues to evolve, we as writers need to evolve as well. That includes the way we approach bringing our books to life. While it is enticing to dream of being traditionally published, watching years go by while a quality manuscript sits in a dusty desk drawer makes no sense at all. As writers of stories geared toward the generation of tomorrow, we owe it to our youth to place our literary works within their grasp - in whatever possible format available.

What are your thoughts on the changing book publishing industry?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Sciamachy -
(n.) the activity of fighting or arguing against imaginary opponents; fighting your shadow.
Example: The swordsmen spent hours engaged in sciamachy in preparation for the impending duel.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

Destiny Rewritten
by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Amazon Description:
Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has been told for her entire life that her destiny is to become a poet, just like her famous namesake, Emily Dickinson. But Emily doesn't even really like poetry, and she has a secret career ambition that she suspects her English-professor mother will frown on. Then, just after discovering that is contains an important family secret, she loses the special volume of Emily Dickinson's poetry that was given to her at birth. As Emily and her friends search for the lost book in used bookstores and thrift shops all across town, Emily's understanding of destiny begins to unravel and then rewrite itself in a marvelous new way.

My Thoughts:

Destiny Rewritten is one of those books that seems to have a slow, but steady burn. By the conclusion of this well-written middle grade novel I was in tears. Ms. Fitzmaurice has skillfully woven truths about life, trust, and of course, destiny, into a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening story. The character and plot development are exquisite. I would highly recommend Destiny Rewritten to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

To learn more about the author, Kathryn Fitzmaurice, click here: http://kathrynfitzmaurice.com/

Friday, May 2, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

This Writer's Thoughts on Websites
                     (Part II)

Last Friday I listed some of my thoughts on the subject of websites for writers.Today I'll add a few more personal preferences about that topic.

*When and how to create a website is definitely a personal choice. The choices I'm making for my website may be just the opposite from the choices you might make. One of the most important things I've learned about websites is that they're a great way to show the world who you are, not only as a professional, but as a person. Are you disciplined and businesslike? Are you funny and spontaneous? Do you have a thing for the color blue? (That would be me!) Whatever sets you apart, make sure that your website reflects at least a bit of your unique personality.

*Determine the website's purpose. That may seem quite obvious, but some authors have written one standalone novel; others have multiple standalone novels; and still others are writers of a book series. The design you choose should reflect your site's purpose. Since I've written a standalone book you might think I'd feature a web banner ablaze with the book's title and design. However, I know I have several other books churning in my creative cauldron, so I thought about the similarities all my story ideas share. For me it wasn't quite a feeling of fantasy, but more a sense of magic and mystery. My web design will reflect those general themes to allow me to use my website for a long time. (Also, my publisher is setting up a web page for my storybook. The site will be at www.thescandinaviansanta.com - I'll let you know when it is launched sometime this summer.)

* First impressions are powerful things. (When I first began blogging I really wanted a unique blog design. However, the templates available at that time were pretty lame. I decided that I'd create a design myself and have an artist friend bring it to life. Needless to say, that while our family friend is a gifted artist, I am not! For over a year I kept the blog design, and in hindsight, I really think that it was doing me a disservice. I don't want to repeat my mistake, and so I have a pretty strong opinion about designs for online sites.)

In the course of visiting numerous author websites I've seen varying degrees of: style, quality, artistry, organization, and even accuracy. Some writers have poor or outdated sites. It's a shame. In a few of those weak sites I visited, I could tell that the author was a skilled writer, but her online presence was shooting her in the foot. Then there were the authors that had no website at all...not even a blog! It was very frustrating wandering around the web searching for information to include on my blog's book review of their novel. Speaking of blogs, a few writers - including an accomplished YA author - were still using their blogs as a website. In a couple of cases that seemed to work (including the author alluded to above), but in most cases I felt that, once again, those authors without an effective website were doing themselves a disservice. For writers of middle grade books, it seems to me that a colorful and creative web design is essential. What kid would enjoy looking at a site that could double for a dental office's website? That may seem unfair, but it's the truth. Why make it less likely for a reader to buy our books?

On the flip side, I have also visited many wonderful websites! The strange thing that I discovered was that some of my favorite authors are the ones with the most awesome websites. I've been pondering for days why that might be, and I'm still not quite sure. Here are a few of my favorite authors, with the links to their websites:

Stefan Bachmann - author of The Peculiar and The Whatnot http://www.stefanbachmann.com/home.php
Colin Meloy - author of the Wildwood Chronicles http://www.wildwoodchronicles.com/
Tone Almjhell - author of The Twistrose Key http://www.thetwistrosekey.com/
Kit Grindstaff - author of  The Flame in the Mist http://www.kitgrindstaff.com/ 

Lastly, I'd say that if you're hoping to be traditionally published - without the possibility of taking another path to publication - then you could probably wait until you gain agent representation to launch a site. But, if you're even remotely considering independent or hybrid publishing, I would recommend setting up your website when your manuscript is written, revised, and edited. Don't make the same mistakes I did. Obtain a professional website before your life gets super crazy.

I'd love to hear any advice you might have on this subject.