Friday, December 16, 2016

Season's Greetings!

Snow Day ~ 12 X 16 Oil on Panel ~ by Michael Lindstrom

It will be a special Christmas this year in our house; two of my three sons will be home for the holidays! As usual, I'll be taking a break from blogging for the next two weeks; I'll be back on Writ of Whimsy in 2017.

If you'd like to read my recent quarterly newsletter, click here.

Wishing you and yours the joy, peace, and love of the season.

                            Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Myrrh - (n.)
a fragrant gum resin obtained from certain trees and used, especially in the Near East, in perfumery, medicines, and incense. Example: The third member of the Magi presented myrrh to the Christ child. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Christmas Eve Tree
Written by Delia Huddy
Illustrated by Emily Sutton

Flap Copy Description:
When the ugly little fir tree is taken to the city, no one wants to buy him; they prefer the big tall trees. But a homeless boy asks the shopkeeper if he can take the tree, and down by the river in a cardboard box, decorated with a few candles, the tree finds itself at the center of a magical Christmas Eve it will never forget. A Christmas tale with a classic feel but a modern theme at its heart.

My Thoughts:
This little picture book - The Christmas Eve Tree - is packed full of holiday cheer. While the whimsical illustrations are exquisite, it is the story of the forgotten Christmas tree that will touch your heart. Ms Huddy's tale reminds us that just because a tree - or a person - might have problems, they still have great value & deserve a real chance. I highly recommend The Christmas Eve Tree to children of all ages!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

 
Photo Credit: Public Domain
 A Holiday Update!

Since it has been a while since I last mentioned any specifics regarding my current projects, I thought it was time to post an update. (I'll also post my quarterly newsletter next week.)

The whimsical illustration below is just one of the lovely paintings my husband - Michael Lindstrom - has created for our next holiday picture book for children:

                   
              
                                  
                                     Journey to Snowdonia

Victorian Singers, by Michael Lindstrom
10X8 oil on canvas - Copyright 2016
While it won't be released until September 2017, I was anxious to give you a "sneak peek" at the book projects we've been collaborating on!

                                   *     *     *     *     *     *     *
Note:
For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you may recall me mentioning, some time ago, that our debut book - The Scandinavian Santa - was slated to be brought to life on the small stage in a multi-media production. Those production plans have been cancelled.
    
                                 *     *     *     *     *     *     *
I also recently completed the first draft (text only) for a third children's holiday picture book we'll be collaborating on: The Whim of Winter.

Synopsis: (Protagonist's name XXXXXX not yet determined.)

In a century long ago, in a stone,
croft cottage, lives a ten-year-old girl
named XXXXXX. She and her father dwell
on the island of Unst where the North Sea
crashes into the Atlantic Ocean. They used 
to survive by selling their salted mackerel
to the merchants who came from far and
wide for the seafood delicacy. But ever
since the stingy English Parliament
placed a heavy, and unfair, tax on the fish
trade, XXXXXX and her father barely get by.

 
In desperation, the peasant girl whispers
a plea to the darkened sky over Scotland.

 
A fortnight before Christmas, a snowy owl
appears outside the loft where XXXXXX sleeps
and persistently pecks at the wooden shutter.
The young girl opens the shutter and receives
a message from the mysterious owl. In so doing
she and her Shetland pony, Duffy – along with
the snowy owl - embark on an extraordinary
journey that takes them far from the croft
cottage, to an ancient castle high above the
craggy cliffs of the angry North Sea. The secret
XXXXXX ultimately uncovers there will change
her life, and the life of her father, forever.

                         *     *     *     *     *     *     *

As you can see, I have an affinity for books that occur in winter! The Whim of Winter is one I'm really excited about. It's set in the northernmost reaches of Scotland where the population is a blend of residents with Scottish & Norse heritage - Shetlanders. (We will again feature our Scandinavian background in a book!)

Note: All three of the "picture books" mentioned above are really illustrated short stories. (If you're a writer you know the difference!) We've referred to our "Wintertime Tales" as picture books since the dimensions of our books, and the number of pages in each, are so similar to a typical picture book format.

                           *      *      *      *      *      *      *
Lastly, my MG manuscript, Livvi Biddle, will soon be with my amazing beta readers. The plan is to attend the SCBWI Winter Conference in February; hopefully I might meet an agent that would like to champion my fantasy novel. As you can see, I've got plenty to keep me busy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Plexicated - (adj.)
complicated or difficult to do or  make.
Example: The adolescent gave his parents a plexicated excuse for his behavior.
(From The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

Maple & Willow's Christmas Tree
by Lori Nichols

Flap Copy Description:
Maple and Willow love trees—and now they are getting their first real Christmas tree. It is going to be the best Christmas ever! After a snowy expedition to pick out the perfect tree, it’s time to decorate. But whenever Maple gets near the tree, she starts sniffling and sneezing. Could she really be allergic to the perfect Christmas tree? And if so, how will the girls find a way to make this the best Christmas after all?

My Thoughts:
This lovely little picture book addresses a problem that many families experience during the holidays: An allergy to Christmas trees! (My own son, David, has an allergy to them, and while he can be around the sweet scent for a while, too much time is dangerous.) The delightful remedy that Willow discovers to deal with her sister Maple's allergy is both fun and whimsical, and could, in fact, be a real option to families struggling with this problem. Maple & Willow's Christmas Tree is a good reminder to all children that some people have real health issues when it comes to the holidays. I highly recommend this picture book to children aged 3-5 years. (It will be part of my holiday d├ęcor this year!)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Champions of Creativity

Walt Disney

Since next Monday marks the 115th birthday of Walt Disney, I've chosen that amazing man as the focus of Champions of Creativity today. He was an iconic pioneer in animation, the founder of one of the largest and best-known entertainment companies, and the creator of the Disneyland amusement parks. Walt Disney's imaginative films have entertained children and adults for decades. 

Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up loving to draw and took art classes as a boy. By the time he was eighteen he was already a commercial illustrator. Soon thereafter, he moved to Hollywood and began the Disney Studios with his brother Roy. In 1928 Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse - his most beloved creation - and was also the voice of the iconic cartoon.

Disney went on to create ground-breaking technical developments in cameras. That ultimately allowed him to produce such memorable movies as: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; Fantasia; Pinocchio; Dumbo; Bambi; and later, in 1964, Mary Poppins, which won five Academy Awards.

By the time Walt Disney died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966 his Disney Studios had won 26 Academy Awards; two Golden Globe Awards; and an Emmy Award. Several of his films are included in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Walt Disney left behind numerous informative and inspiring quotes. Here are just a few of my favorites:

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."

"That's the trouble with the world. Too many people grow up."

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."

"If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing started with a mouse."

"That's what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again."

Pictured with my husband, son, & daughter-in-law.

I had a wonderful time in the Magic Kingdom last summer!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Plussy - (adj.)
Someone who is plussy is full of life and energy.
Example: The puppy was plussy and playful in the morning, but exhausted in the afternoon.
(From the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Poet's Dog
by Patrician MacLachlan

Amazon Description:
Teddy is a gifted dog. Raised in a cabin by a poet named Sylvan, he grew up listening to sonnets read aloud and the comforting clicking of a keyboard. Although Teddy understands words, Sylvan always told him there are only two kinds of people in the world who can hear Teddy speak: poets and children.

Then one day Teddy learns that Sylvan was right. When Teddy finds Nickel and Flora trapped in a snowstorm, he tells them that he will bring them home—and they understand him. The children are afraid of the howling wind, but not of Teddy’s words. They follow him to a cabin in the woods, where the dog used to live with Sylvan . . . only now his owner is gone.

As they hole up in the cabin for shelter, Teddy is flooded with memories of Sylvan. What will Teddy do when his new friends go home? Can they help one another find what they have lost?

My Thoughts:
The Poet's Dog is one of my favorite children's books of the season! Written from Teddy's (the dog's) point of view, we see and feel the thread of love that binds all of us together. The simple, poignant text took me by surprise with the depth of its emotion. Grab a cup of hot cocoa (and a tissue) and enjoy the magic spun by award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan. This small, yet mighty book is truly special. I highly recommend The Poet's Dog to readers of all ages!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Living a Life of Gratitude

While families around America are celebrating this Thanksgiving weekend, my family is in a more somber mood. On the eve of the U.S. Presidential Election my younger sister, Karla, unexpectedly passed away. She had entered a Montana hospital with pneumonia, and due to a pre-existing health condition, her body could not withstand the attack to her system. She was only 59.

That being said, I've had a bit of time to reflect on this tragedy and have found comfort in the warm memories I have of my dear sister.

I'm reminded that even in times of trouble it is important to stay in a posture of gratitude. It's a choice. That's not always an easy thing to do. If it was easy to maintain a life of gratitude, everyone would do so.

So, I'm choosing to be grateful for the last time I saw my sister - it was at a 2015 family reunion. My husband took this special photograph.


We sat side by side chatting, laughing, and just catching up, in general. I am grateful that she was such a sweet sister. I already miss her so.

Karla is survived by three wonderful sons. I'm pictured here with two of them - Isaac (L) and Samuel (R) the morning of my sister's memorial service in Missoula, Montana. We vowed to stay in closer contact.


Be sure to give your family and/or friends a hug this weekend.


                               *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Note: The winner of the signed copy of The Scandinavian Santa is Lee Blaylock. Congratulations, Lee!

                        Have a blessed Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Kern - (v.)
adjust the spacing between letters or characters in a piece of text to be printed.
Example: The author requested that her cover designer kern the title of her book in a different fashion.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

Grayling's Song
by Karen Cushman

Flap Copy Description:
Like all Karen Cushman's gorgeous novels, "Grayling's Song" delves into the past to let us know what we must ask of our future. It's time for Grayling to be a hero. Her mother, a wise woman a sort of witch, has been turned into a tree by evil forces. Tangles and toadstools! Lacking confidence after years of being called Feeble Wits by her mother, Grayling heads off dubiously into the wilds in search of help, where she finds a weather witch, an aromatic enchantress, a cheese soothsayer, a slyly foolish apprentice, and a shape-shifting mouse named Pook! A fast-paced and funny coming-of-age odyssey from a Newbery medalist."

My Thoughts:
Like all of Karen Cushman's novels, Grayling's Song is set in medieval times. However, this middle grade tale marks the first time that the Newbery medalist has written an adventure fantasy - I loved it! The Old World setting is the perfect place to combine a magical plot with a malevolent adversary. The author's dialogue, character development, and setting descriptions are all spot on...as usual. I highly recommend Grayling's Song to readers aged eight to twelve!

Click here to learn more about award-winning author, Karen Cushman.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Celebrate Universal Children's Day!

This Sunday, November 20th, is Universal Children's Day. The United Nations' (UN) Universal Children's Day is an occasion to promote the welfare of children and an understanding between children all over the world.
Click here to learn more about this important day for children.

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Last week I discussed the need for all writers to be motivated by a sacred cause. Only with such a passion can each of us create meaningful, inspirational, and entertaining fiction for young readers.

Children are, and have always been, my passion. As a teen I was a certified babysitter, as a dental hygienist I worked with children for years, and as a mother my three young sons were my entire life.

As a writer, my passion is to pen meaningful stories for children.

In light of the results of the U.S. Presidential election, it is now more imperative than ever that writers of books for young readers realize the importance of their calling and the immense difference we can make.

I've attached the link below to A Declaration in Support of Children posted by the Brown Bookshelf. Click on the link to read the post; I hope you choose to add your name to the already long list of names.
https://thebrownbookshelf.com/2016/11/14/a-declaration-in-support-of-children/

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Filthsome - (adj.)
revolting or disgusting.
Example: The lost little girl found the boil-covered troll filthsome.
(From the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

When the Sea Turned to Silver
by Grace Lin

Flap Copy Description:
Pinmei's gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller.

Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei's grandmother--before it's too late.

My Thoughts:
Grace Lin's most recent Chinese folklore fantasy, When the Sea Turned to Silver, just may be her best middle grade novel yet! And that's saying something, since her debut novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was awarded a Newbery Honor. When the Sea Turned to Silver is a beautifully written, lovingly illustrated, adventure tale that will touch the hearts of readers from all backgrounds, and I believe, all ages. I highly recommend When the Sea Turned to Silver!

Click here to visit the website of author/illustrator, Grace Lin.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
          More than Just Words

Since setting out on my "storyteller's journey" a decade ago, I've met all sorts of writers. (Meeting these scribes has had a deep impact on my life.) They come in a wide variety of ages and personalities and they pen in a diverse collection of genres. There is one difference that I find fascinating:


The varying motivations for being a writer.

While many writers adhere to the belief that to be a "real writer" you must have had a lifelong desire to be one; I don't fit into that category.

Then there are those who believe that you must have had a formal education that equips you to pursue a life as a writer. I don't fit into that category either. (My degree is in Dental Hygiene.)

The very basic passion for reading and writing stories is one that most serious writers of fiction all have in common. I do fit into that category.

In the end, I don't believe there is one "right reason" for being a writer. However, I do strongly believe that there is one important trait all writers must possess: Their writing must be more than just words. They must have a burning passion for something in life that causes them to pick up their pen and write. We each must have a "fire in our soul" for a cause or a belief that compels us to write. If a writer pens a story without a cause, passion, or belief, their words will be empty.

Writing without a "fire in the soul" is no different than a doctor treating patients without compassion, an athlete training for a track meet with no desire for competition, or a mother raising a child without love.

While our passions may not obviously show up in our writing, we must have an almost sacred reason for writing. We owe that to our readers.

After the results of the presidential election, there is plenty of fuel to light the fire of most writers. I saw this image online following the election results and realized it stated what we all need to remember:


Note: Next week I'll discuss what else motivates me to write!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Some Girls Are Born to Lead
Written by Michelle Markel
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Flap Copy Description:
In the 1950s, it was a man’s world. Girls weren’t supposed to act smart, tough, or ambitious. Even though, deep inside, they may have felt that way. And then along came Hillary. Brave, brilliant, and unstoppable, she was out to change the world.

They said a woman couldn’t be a mother and a lawyer. Hillary was both. They said a woman shouldn’t be too strong or too smart. Hillary was fearlessly herself.

It didn’t matter what people said—she was born to lead.

My Thoughts:
Whether you're voting Democratic, Republican, or Independent in this year's presidential election, it's most important that we all remember to VOTE! That being said, I felt a review for this delightful picture book by Michelle Markel & LeUyen Pham was timely. I loved it! It not only documents the amazing life of Hillary Rodham Clinton, but reminds young readers that indeed, "some girls are born to lead!" A group of prominent women is featured in an illustration toward the end of the book; females of all political persuasions, faiths, & races are included, making this book a perfect choice for any young reader in your life.

Click here to learn more about the author, Michelle Markel.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Harry Belafonte - Photo Credit: Public Domain
Artists as Gatekeepers

Like so many Americans during this election season, I've listened to more news about the presidential candidates than I probably needed to. However, a few weeks ago I heard a short and inspiring interview with legendary singer/civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte. Rather than bash either candidate this amazing man reminded creative types (of all  sorts) of something so important: "Artists are the gatekeepers of truth."

He reminded those of us in the arts that it is our duty to lead the way for the cause of civil rights, as well as all human rights.

I would add that not only are we the gatekeepers of truth, but the torchbearers of peaceSince the two major political parties have vastly different candidates - and vastly different ideologies - the presidential campaigns in this election have been nasty, on both sides. That makes it a challenge to maintain peace with those who believe differently than we do. Like many Americans I have friends - and family - who are supporting a different candidate than I am. So what's a person to do?

I believe we can confidently support a candidate without becoming confrontational. If, however, a friend or family member makes their political views confrontational, then it is our responsibility to disengage at that point. That is one way we can be firm in our political views, and also, be a torchbearer of peace. This brings to mind the now familiar words of First Lady Michelle Obama, "When they go low, we go high."
                                                  VOTE!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Inky-booky (adj.)
the taste you get from chewing a piece of paper with writing on it.
Example: The young boy felt his comic books had the best inky-booky taste he'd ever experienced.
(From the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Thickety
Well of Witches
by J. A. White

Amazon Description:
The third novel in the Thickety series, Well of Witches, is an epic quest on the edge of a magic crusade, into an enchanted kingdom with new kinds of magic, old enemies, and only one way out.

Kara and Taff know that only Grace Stone has the power to reverse her terrible Last Spell on their father and in order to save him, they have to rescue their foe from the Well of Witches first. Forgiving Grace should be the hardest part of their journey…but soon the children are confronted by creatures called the Faceless, mysteries as old as magic, and an ancient secret that threatens their very lives.

Back in the World, a war against magic is brewing that endangers everyone they care about. Can Kara and Taff find Grace, find their way out of the Well, and make it back to their father in time?

My Thoughts:
J. A. White has penned another well-written and entertaining novel in The Thickety Series. Well of Witches includes compelling characters, an Old World setting, & a quintessential fantasy plot, making this upper middle grade novel a must read for lovers of enchanting, magical tales. I highly recommend Well of Witches to readers aged eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, J. A. White.

                       Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
         Why I Believe in Ghosts

Ghosts have fascinated me for a long time. The intrigue has nothing to do with Halloween, it has to do with my own paranormal encounter. Really!




Many years ago, right after my maternal grandmother passed away, I purchased her small home. (I was extremely close to my grandmother and had lived with her in that house while attending Clark College.)

One autumn afternoon, not long after I'd moved into the quaint house, I found myself in the throes of a personal crisis. I'll not go into it here, but suffice it to say, it was a monumental time in my life. I was lying on the very bed that had been my grandmother's, in the bedroom that a few months prior to that day had been hers, when I saw her - my dear grandmother! Her spirit was standing in the corner of the room. Her appearance filled my soul with love and peace. Somehow, I knew I would get through the difficult situation I was experiencing - which I did.

Since that day, decades ago, she's appeared to me one more time - in the house where I now live. Again, it was an emotional time, and again, her presence encouraged me with peace and love. I truly miss her.

Psychology was a course I enjoyed while in college. I know a bit about what psychologists say regarding these sorts of experiences. Stress, mental illness, etcetera can contribute to a person seeing an illusion of a lost loved one. What I saw was no illusion - it was my grandmother.

My belief in ghosts has only added to my already fertile imagination, and helped immensely when I sit down to create a story. It's no coincidence that the protagonist in my middle grade novel, Livvi Biddle, has supernatural powers and also sees ghosts and angels.

It is often said to aspiring authors, "write what you know." As you can see, writing about ghosts is something I feel I know a little bit about.

Men and women have long pondered over the possibility of an afterlife, time travel, and even ghosts and angels. On this Halloween weekend I've chosen to share my personal paranormal encounters with you!

                            Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Bugwhiffle - (n.)
a silly or unimportant idea.
Example: It mattered not how creative the apprentice's ideas were, his master considered them all bugwhiffles.
(From the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill

Flap copy Description:
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule--but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her--even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.


My Thoughts:
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an incredibly intricate tapestry of character, plot, and setting. However, the heart, or theme, of the story takes center stage on every page: Love. Ms. Barnhill has created a timeless tale for children that is not only captivatingly fantastical, but heartwarming and inspirational. I highly recommend this upper middle grade novel to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

NOTE! In January 2017 this enchanting novel won the Newbery Medal!

Click here to learn more about the author Kelly Barnhill.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
     Consistency as a Scribe

As I mentioned in last Friday's post, I was scheduled for arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday of this week - all went well. However, I do have to take it easy for several days, which means staying off my feet for as much as possible. It would have been a great excuse to take a break from writing, but I felt if I went down that path I might lose the momentum I've worked so hard to maintain.



I believe it's important to write every day. But there are a variety of ways to do that. Here's my list to maintain consistency as a scribe:

Write/Pen:

*A blog post

*A magazine article

*A poem

*A journal entry

*A short story

*A chapter for a new project

*A letter to a friend

*A to-do list

*A comment on your favorite blog

*A new bio

*A synopsis

*A query letter (Which is one of the items I worked on this week!)

The possibilities for the scribe to maintain a daily writing regime are endless. But, why is it important to write in a variety of ways?

Because sometimes location, commitments, or physical predicament require us to pursue our writing in a different fashion. Then too, it's good to just mix up our routine occasionally - it can rejuvenate creativity. (In my case, my routine got mixed up for me!) It can also ensure a scribe's passion for writing remains fresh, not humdrum.


Woody & Stick have been my constant companions this week. I was doing so well that, unfortunately, I overdid my post-op exercises and strained my left leg. Must adhere to my surgeon's instructions better!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Biffsquiggled - (adj.)
feeling puzzled, or confused.
Example: The schoolmaster left the young boys biffsquiggled with his rambling lessons.
(From the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary)


Reminder! Click here for the link to my current giveaway. One lucky person will win a signed copy of my book: The Scandinavian Santa!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Gallery
by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Flap copy Description:
It's 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. But in a house filled with secrets, nothing is quite what it seems, and no one is who they say. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell?

My Thoughts:
When I discovered that the award-winning author of Under the Egg had penned another children's novel I purchased my copy that day! And while an author's previous publishing record doesn't always assure a reader of another tantalizing tale, The Gallery delivered big time. This scrumptious blend of genres includes one part historical fiction, one part art history, and one part mystery, with plenty of pure entertainment throughout its 300+ pages. Laura Marx Fitzgerald's middle grade novel is written with all the expertise of a master storyteller and is one not to miss. I highly recommend The Gallery to readers - and art lovers - from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Laura Marx Fitzgerald.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
  Is It a Setback...or a Surprise?

As I've padded down the path of my storyteller's journey there have been numerous bumps along the way. Like all writers, the challenge has been to pick myself up and keep going. One way I've been able to do that is to try my best to view unexpected obstacles as surprises, not setbacks.

Like most of us, over the years I've heard my share of motivational messages. However, like so many things in life, those inspirational ideas must be diligently worked at...even when we don't feel like it.

For a writer it is imperative to view the bumps along the path to publication as surprises, not setbacks. If she doesn't, she runs the risk of being knocked off the path and never proceeding any further.

I've lived long enough to have a great perspective from my life's "rear-view mirror." What I now see, is that the most difficult times in my life have taught me the most, made me the strongest, and created in me a passion for life. I'll admit that it's now easier to view obstacles as surprises because I've seen how even the most painful life experiences have become part of my story; they've made me a more interesting and compassionate person. (Due to a career-ending  injury nearly ten years ago, I found the courage to finally become a writer!)

Life can set us back, or surprise us. It's our choice. 

Note: My current "surprise" is that I'll be going in for arthroscopic knee surgery next week. (Several months ago I injured the meniscus ligament of my left knee and have been hobbling around ever since!) My sweet  husband has offered to stay home with me for a few days until I am literally back on my feet. We'll also be collaborating on the illustrations for our current picture book: Journey to Snowdonia. 

"It will be messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you."  ~ Nora Ephron

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Werifesteria - (v.)
to wander longingly through the forest in search of mystery.
Example: Since the writer felt the forest was her muse, she spent much of her time in the act of werifesteria.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Skeleth
by Matthew Jobin

Flap Copy Description:
In a vast kingdom divided by power-hungry lords, land equals power. With the Nethergrim now awake, her limitless wellspring of evil means opportunity for those willing to do her bidding. One ambitious Lord, eager to overthrow his counterparts and rule the north, succumbs to temptation, helping to let loose the Skeleth, forces of energy that absorb whole anyone who attempts to kill them. In this way the slain end up as slayers, a vicious cycle that never ends.

Yet that will not stop young Edmund--an apprentice wizard--and his friends Katherine and Tom, from trying to stop the evil threatening to overtake their kingdom. Together, they team up with the legendary Tristan in a battle of courage, brains, determination, and sacrifice to stop the Skeleth and save the Barony of Elverain from being conquered.


My Thoughts:
The Skeleth is the much anticipated sequel to Matthew Jobin's The Nethergrim - I found it to be fantastic! The author has penned another captivating medieval tale, one with vivid settings, multiple points of view, and a plot that keeps you guessing right up until the last page. One of the attributes I most admire about this companion book is its complexity. The characters have matured since the debut book, and the author has revealed their growth with a more textured and poignant prose. While the first book was upper middle grade, The Skeleth is a true young adult novel. I highly recommend The Skeleth to readers aged twelve & up. (Mature readers aged ten or eleven will love it too!)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Champions of Creativity

Photo Credit: Public Domain
R. L. Stine

It seems appropriate to feature the author who has been called "the Stephen King of Children's Literature" during this Halloween month. R. L. Stine is a true Champion of Creativity, in part since he has worn so many creative hats: American novelist, children's book author, short story writer, T.V. producer, screenwriter, executive editor, & actor, to name just of few!

His Twitter bio probably describes him best: My job: to terrify kids!
(You can follow Mr. Stine on Twitter at: @RL_Stine.)

Robert Lawrence Stine was born on October 8, 1943 in Columbus, Ohio to Jewish parents. When he was nine-years-old, he began writing after discovering a typewriter in his family's attic. Following his graduation from Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in writing.

I'd say it worked out pretty well for Mr. Stine - he has sold over 400 million books. (Any author who gets that many children to read books is a champion!) He has also been honored with numerous awards in his long career as a best-selling author. One of his most familiar and successful children's book series - Goosebumps - went on to become a popular television series, and in 2015 a feature film starring Jack Black, with a cameo appearance by R. L. himself. Mr. Stine's freaky & frightening books have made a profound impact on American culture.

Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas Story is his most recently released book for children, and it's just in time for the holidays!

Click here to visit the spooky website of R. L. Stine.

Happy birthday, Mr. Stine!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Petrichor - (n.)
the scent of the earth after rain.
Example: The naturalist loved to wander through the woods in autumn, enjoying the petrichor.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Storyteller
by Evan Turk

Flap Copy Description:
Long, long ago, like a pearl around a grain of sand, the Kingdom of Morocco formed at the edge of the great, dry Sahara. It had fountains of cool, refreshing water to quench the thirst of the desert, and storytellers to bring the people together.

But as the kingdom grew, the people forgot the dangers of the desert, and they forgot about the storytellers, too. All but one young boy, who came to the Great Square for a drink and found something that quenched his thirst even better: wonderful stories. As he listened to the last storyteller recount the Endless Drought, and the Glorious Blue Water Bird, he discovered the power of a tale well told.

My Thoughts:
There is so much to savor in the picture book, The Storyteller by Evan Turk! His imaginative illustrations vividly bring the country of Morocco and the Sahara Desert to life in a time long ago. That setting is wondrously woven together with a tale of magical generosity - a much needed message for all of us. Mr. Turk is quite a master storyteller himself; this exquisite tale reads like lyrical poetry. I highly recommend this beautiful book - The Storyteller - to readers of all ages!

Click here to learn more about author/illustrator, Evan Turk.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

How My Protagonist Picked Me Up

When I crafted the first draft of my middle grade novel in the autumn of 2011, I had no idea I'd still be working on it five years later! In that time I've had two other children's books published. However, I always believed that Livvi Biddle was something special - something that just might be Livvi Biddle art by Victoria Lindstrom            worthy of traditional publication.

What I didn't know, and would never have believed, was that my protagonist, eleven-year-old Livvi Biddle, would pick me up as a writer.

Character-driven novels have always been my favorites to read. Give me a complex and compelling protagonist and I'll follow the author to the end of the book - no matter what the main character is doing. While working diligently on my own middle grade novel, I always knew my protagonist could be stronger, more interesting, hopefully, even extraordinary. However, that would take a ton of work! So while the months slipped slowly by, and then turned into years, I continued to change and challenge Livvi Biddle. Whether or not my novel is ever represented by a literary agent and published traditionally, I'm so very proud of her. She is a main character with spunk and courage.

The surprising thing is that when I look back on my own development as a writer (and in some ways as a person) it seems to mirror my protagonist's development. It took a stronger and wiser writer to create a stronger and wiser main character. My protagonist - Livvi Biddle - helped me as much as I've helped her. She truly picked me up, dusted me off, and said, "Are you about ready to believe in yourself?"

If you are a writer and feeling discouraged, don't give up. It just might be that your own protagonist is patiently waiting to pick you up, too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Obfuscate - (verb)
render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.
Example: The sorcerer's spell was able to obfuscate the prisoner's memory.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Bronze Key
Magisterium Series - Book 3
by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Amazon Description:
Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.
  

My Thoughts:
The Bronze Key, by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare, is fast-moving and filled with magic - a marvelous upper middle grade novel! Complex and believable characters, coupled with a plot full of twists and turns, make this book a must read for any reader who loves tales of fantasy.
I highly recommend The Bronze Key to readers from the ages of eight to eighty, and anxiously look forward to Book 4 - The Golden Boy!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Photo credit: Public Domain
  This Author's Humpty Dumpty Rewrite

          *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
  Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
  All the King's horses,
  And all the King's men,
  Couldn't put Humpty together again!

    ~ An English Nursery Rhyme ~
       

When I received my editorial notes last winter, there was good news and bad news. The good news was that I do have skills as a writer; the bad news was that my light fantasy novel needed to be restructured, etc. While that might sound simple enough, nothing could have been further from the truth! And while Humpty Dumpty fell off a wall and could not be put back together, my middle grade manuscript has been torn apart, and indeed been put back together. It's been restructured, strengthened, tightened, and given a much needed dose of magic. It's taken me eight months to complete - and it still needs revisions & edits!

Tackling a major rewrite is not for the faint of heart.

Here is a list of traits required to achieve a Humpty Dumpty rewrite:

*Perseverance - being a stubborn soul helps!

*Conviction - that your story is worth the time and effort.

*Knowledge - you must clearly know what is wrong with your story.

*Organization - to  improve your manuscript you must have a plan.

*Love - you must love your protagonist & your story to see it through.

*Belief - you must believe that once completed, the novel will sell.

*Drive - you must be driven, single-minded, not easily distracted.

The above list is clearly not for the casual writer. So why bother?

As I mentioned above, I did just complete my rewrite, but it still needs revisions, beta reading, and possible edits. Then there's the crafting of the dreaded query letter. Submitting to an agent is still months away. However, I'm already reaping rewards from the painstaking process.

Over the last eight months I've developed more writing muscle!

It's not difficult to sit down with a cup of coffee & jot down a few action scenes with your favorite character. However, a major rewrite is like tearing down a house, picking up the pieces, then reassembling the house into a better version of itself. Being a nerd/student-type helps.


Note: I recently purchased THE MAGIC WORDS by Cheryl B. Klein; the timing of that book's arrival could not have been better! While I have completed my reading of the informative resource book, I have not yet completed the exercises included in its pages. I plan to slowly reread the book and then complete most of the exercises. I strongly recommend that every writer of MG, & YA fiction, read the book - it's that good. Ms. Klein even includes the key elements in a manuscript that she always looks for when considering an author's submission.

We'll see if my Humpty Dumpty rewrite gains me agent representation. If not, I'm still a much better writer for having gone through the process.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Concord - (n.)
agreement or harmony between people or groups.
Example: The politician worked for a pact of peace and concord between her country and the United States.
Happy International Day of Peace! 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

Wolf Hollow
by Lauren Wolk

Flap Copy Description:
Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

My Thoughts:
Lauren Wolk has written a true middle grade masterpiece; Wolf Hollow is an example of children's literature at its finest. The reason I feel so strongly about this book is because the author didn't just pen a well-written novel for children, she wrote a novel with an exceptional protagonist living in an adult world - with all its complexities. Respecting her readers, Wolk includes lies, secrets, pain, death, and sorrow in this poignant, yet inspirational story. A must read!
I highly recommend Wolf Hollow to readers aged eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author Lauren Wolk.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

My Writing Life

As summer transitions into autumn, I realize that my life as a writer is also transitioning. When I began seriously writing ten years ago, my goals were to write a book and get published.

While I've achieved both those goals, what I've learned along the way is that there are other goals much more intriguing and satisfying to me. My life as a writer is what makes me most happy. The writing, the researching, the blogging, the networking, the retreats, and on and on. Since my school days, just being a student has always been what offered me the most satisfaction. For me, being a writer means being a student. So, while I have new goals, new stories, & new opportunities, I also realize I have a new stability and a new routine in my life as a writer. Completing a new story, finding the right agent, or publishing a new middle grade novel, cannot make me any happier than I am right now. (Well, gaining agent representation might make me a bit giddy!)
    
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        Wishing all you scribes a wonderful season of writing!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Trogglehumper - (n.)
the very worst nightmare you can have.
Example: The troll was troubled by a trogglehumper as he tossed and turned in his sleep. 
(From the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary)