Friday, June 16, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

A Summertime Break!

Each summer I take a break from blogging, so this is my last post until autumn. I'll be busy with writer & book events, a few adventures, and then there is writing, of course!

Click here if you'd like to participate in the contest/giveaway for my upcoming "Wintertime Tale" Journey to Snowdonia. The winners will be announced in September - right after the book's release!

Click here if you'd like to view my Summertime Reading List.

Click here if you'd like to read my recent quarterly newsletter.

Have a sensational summer! I'll be back in September!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Duende (n.)
1- the mysterious power of art to deeply move a person.
2- a magical spirit.
The impressionist's hope was that his paintings would arouse a bit of duende in those who viewed them.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Deep in the Woods
by Christopher Corr

Amazon Description:
In this retelling of the classic Russian folk tale Teremok, a little house in the woods is chosen as the perfect place to live by a little mouse. One day, there is a knock on the door. It’s a rabbit, and the mouse invites him to come and live in the little house. The next day, there is another knock, and an owl comes to live in the little house, too. Many more animals join until eventually, a bear knocks on the door. Trying to fit inside the little house, a bear climbs on to the roof and it crashes to the ground. Can he put everything right?

My Thoughts:
This seemingly simple picture book contains a little secret that all children could learn from. Its whimsical illustrations, and witty text, tell the tale of a large group of forest friends that decide to live together in a wooden house. Deep in the Woods reminds the reader that despite the differences in those around us, we can, and should, all learn to live together. I recommend this delightful picture book to all young readers!

Click here to learn more about the author/illustrator Christopher Corr.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

2017 Summer Reading List!

It's time once again for my annual Summer Reading List! Click on each MG title for my review as posted on Bibliophile's Corner.

These awesome middle grade novels are listed in random order:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon - by Kelly Barnhill

Thornghost - by Tone Almjhell

The Secret Keepers - by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Gallery - by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

The Inquisitor's Tale - by Adam Gidwitz

Where the Sea Turned to Silver - by Grace Lin

Wolf Hollow - by Lauren Wolk

Grayling's Song - Karen Cushman

The Poet's Dog - Patricia MacLachlan

Furthermore - Tahereh Mafi

Happy reading! Have a fantastic summer!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Lacuna (n.)
a blank space; a missing part.
Example: After the couple's break-up, the young man was left with a lacuna in his heart.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

That Neighbor Kid
by Daniel Miyares

Amazon Description:
There’s a new boy in the neighborhood, and he’s up to something very curious. His next door neighbor, a girl his age with two long braids, peeps around corners and watches as he scavenges wood from the fence between their houses, drags around a hammer and a bucket of nails, and reads a book about living in trees. When she finally works up the courage to say “hi,” she finds herself invited to help build the private getaway every child has dreamed of: a tree house. She also finds herself with a new best friend.

My Thoughts:
The beautiful illustrations by author/artist Mr. Miyares magically reveal the message of this heartfelt story. That Neighbor Kid needs but two words to convey a powerful tale of curiosity & friendship! While this is the first book I've encountered by Mr. Miyares, it is not his first creation. I look forward to perusing through his other children's books as well. I highly recommend That Neighbor Kid to readers aged four to seven.

Click here to learn more about author/illustrator Daniel Miyares.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

It's A Rafflecopter Giveaway!
Journey to Snowdonia is set to release in September. To get a "buzz" going for my book, I'm hosting a great Rafflecopter Giveaway: several of my books, plus Amazon gift cards!

(Click on the small arrows to view the other awesome prizes!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The winners will be announced on Friday, September 8, 2017!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Metanoia (n.)
the journey of changing one's mind, heart, self, or way of life.
Example: After the mother's children had all left home she embarked on a difficult metanoia.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

by Claire Legrand

Flap Copy Description:
Orphan. Thief. Witch.

Twelve-year-old Quicksilver dreams of becoming the greatest thief in the Star Lands. With her faithful dog and partner-in-crime Fox, she’s well on her way—even if that constantly lands them both in trouble. It’s a lonesome life, sleeping on rooftops and stealing food for dinner, but Quicksilver doesn’t mind. When you’re alone, no one can hurt you. Or abandon you.

But the seemingly peaceful Star Lands are full of danger. Witches still exist—although the powerful Wolf King and his seven wolves have been hunting them for years. Thankfully, his bloody work is almost complete. Soon the Star Lands will be safe, free of the witches and their dark magic.

Then one day a strange old woman and her scruffy dog arrive in Quicksilver’s town and perform extraordinary magic. Real magic—forbidden and dangerous. Magic Quicksilver is desperate to learn. With magic like that, she could steal anything her heart desires. She could even find her parents.

But the old woman is not what she seems, and soon Quicksilver has to decide—will she stay at home and remain a thief? Or will she embark upon the adventure of a lifetime and become a legend?

My Thoughts:
Over the past several years I've become a fan of the books by Claire Legrand. First I read Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, and I followed that novel up with The Year of Shadows. Both were brilliant! Now, in her recent middle grade fantasy novel, Foxheart, she treats the reader to the same excellent storytelling as in her former books. In fact, I would say this novel is even more complex and entertaining. (A good sign that an author is continuing to develop her craft!) I highly recommend Foxheart to readers from the ages of eight and up!

Click here to learn more about the author Claire Legrand.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Make It Matter

As writers of fiction, we spend much, if not most, of our time considering such things as plot, setting, dialogue,  & strength of scenes - not to mention the issue of character development!

There are other elements to crafting a quality story, but one that is not stressed enough is the importance of a strong & meaningful theme.

Does my story matter? Is there an underlying message in my story that matters to me personally? Would it matter to my potential readers?

Writing "what we know" can also mean writing "what matters to us." What has deeply touched us in our lives? What has wounded us?

There is an endless list of experiences that may have touched us.
Here is a short list of examples:

Loss of a job, a dream, a friend, etc.
Raising a child with challenges
Dealing with a chronic medical condition
Lack of finances

Then there are the numerous stories we all see everyday in the news. War, famine, sickness, political strife, etc. There are also accounts of inspirational heroism and sacrifice. Stories that touch our hearts.

A great example of a story that was created by an author who was moved with compassion is the middle grade novel Wonder.

Ms. Palacio was moved to write her novel by this experience:

"Palacio wrote Wonder after an incident where she and her three-year-old son were waiting in line to buy ice cream. Her son noticed a girl with facial birth defects. Fearing he would react badly, Palacio attempted to remove her son from the situation so as not to upset the girl or her family but ended up worsening the situation. Natalie Merchant's song "Wonder" made her realize that the incident could teach society a valuable lesson. Palacio was inspired by Merchant's lyrics and she began writing." (Wikipedia)

As you can see the experience Ms. Palacio had with her son grabbed hold of her heart and wouldn't let go. Thankfully she was moved to write her inspirational novel that has touched so many in our society.

The important thing to remember as writers is to connect with our hearts and create a story from there. It is not enough to evaluate possible themes without being personally affected by them. Each of us is touched by a wide array of meaningful subjects everyday.

We all need to have the courage to create the story only we can write.

Make It Matter.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Coddiwomple (v.)
to travel purposefully towards a vague destination.
Example: The hiker slowly realized that he was lost as he coddiwompled around the woods.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

The Crows of Pearblossom
by Aldous Huxley
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Flap Copy Description:
Written in 1944 by Aldous Huxley as a Christmas gift for his niece, The Crows of Pearblossom tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Crow, who live in a cottonwood tree. The hungry Rattlesnake that lives at the bottom of the tree has a nasty habit of stealing Mrs. Crow's eggs before they can hatch, so Mr. Crow and his wise friend, Old Man Owl, devise a sneaky plan to trick him. 

My Thoughts:
When I learned that Aldous Huxley had written a children's book, I immediately ordered it. What a delightful discovery! While the story is a bit dark - not unlike some fairy tales of that era - the plot does not suffer unduly, and I found this beautiful book to be a rare find. The whimsical illustrations by Sophie Blackall perfectly illuminate the tale of the two anthropomorphic crows, as well as their friend, Old Man Owl. I highly recommend The Crows of Pearblossom to all young readers!

Click here to read the biography of Aldous Huxley.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Marketing Your Book
Part III
Last Friday I discussed the different ways I've marketed my books after their publication. This week I'll share other fun and creative ways to market your books. (Some of these ideas involve a bit of financial investment, so I consider them optional.)

Bookmark for my soon-to-be released children's book!
Bookmarks are a great item to include when a person purchases your book. You can also use them as swag for people who attend your book event, even if they do not choose to purchase one of your books.

Hand-made slate "amulets" make great swag.

Use your imagination to create an item that relates to your book. In Journey to Snowdonia the two children featured in my tale receive magical slate amulets from a mysterious woman in the woods. Some ideas to create or buy include: fairy wands, pencils, buttons, etc. An item that relates to your story is best!

                          Book trailer for my upcoming book: Journey to Snowdonia

Whether or not book trailers sell more books is something I cannot say. What I do know is that they create a fun and entertaining medium for young readers. I've received comments from parents & kids, stating how much they enjoy them - but they're definitely an optional item.

This is the third and final post regarding marketing. The points I've made during the past few weeks have been ideas that have worked for me. However, marketing is something that can be tailor made for each author. Your book, your personality, and your location, all contribute to the marketing style that will work for you. But whether you're published traditionally or independently, get ready to do a lot of work!

Good Luck!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Ignominious - (adj.)
deserving or causing public disgrace or shame.
Example: The Independent politician experienced an ignominious defeat.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Monet Paints a Day
Written by Julie Danneberg - Illustrated by Caitlin Heimerl

Flap Copy Description:
In November 1885, impressionist painter Claude Monet vacationed in √Čtretat, France, where he spent his days outside, painting scenes of the seaside village. One morning he rose early and carried all of his supplies and half-finished paintings out to the cliffs and rocky beach, finally stopping to paint the arch called Manneporte. Eager to capture the scene before him, and aware that he must work quickly to catch the light, Monet became so engrossed in his work that he forgot to watch the incoming tide. Based on a true incident, MONET PAINTS A DAY introduces readers to the life and nature of this illustrious impressionist.

My Thoughts;
Since I love impressionist paintings - and admire those of Claude Monet in particular - Monet Paints a Day was a winner for me! Additionally, I've outlined a middle grade novel that includes the iconic French artist as a secondary character, so this little book served as a reference as well. Its text and paintings are meant to introduce children to Impressionism, and to Claude Monet - it succeeds on both counts. Beautiful water colors - done in Monet's color palette - transport the reader back to Normandy France where the "Father of Impressionism" lived, painted scenes, and spent most of his time. I highly recommend Monet Paints a Day to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Julie Danneberg.
Click here to learn more about the artist, Caitlin Heimerl.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Marketing Your Book
Part II
Last Friday I posted an introduction to "Marketing Your Book" prior to the release of your novel. Today I'll share different ways you can promote your book once it's been published. These techniques are those I've found to be valuable in marketing my own books.

After the release of your book make sure to continue to employ your online sites to promote your novel as was mentioned last week.

In addition to those online techniques, a number of other book events can be held, since you now have your books in hand:

*Book Launch Events - Can be held at a bookstores, libraries, etc.
*Readings of your book - At a local library, elementary school, etc.
*Book Events - Can be scheduled at all sorts of shops, galleries, etc.
*Festivals & Fairs - Many festivals & fairs can be possible venues for your book. (My biggest sales for The Scandinavian Santa have come from ScanFair in Portland, Oregon!)

Make sure to continue to network with your writer/author friends. Some of them might make great resources for book promotion opportunities.
Remember to return the favor when you can. While my friends are faithful to attend my book events, I always try to do the same for them.

Next Friday: Other fun and creative ways to promote your book!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Plaudits - (n.)
Example: The production company received plaudits for its groundbreaking cinematography.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Princess Cora and the Crocodile
Written by Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated by Brian Floca

Flap Copy Description:
A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Medalist join forces to give an over scheduled princess a day off and a wicked crocodile a day "on."

Princess Cora is sick of boring lessons. She's sick of running in circles around the dungeon gym. She's sick, sick, sick of taking three baths a day. And her parents won't let her have a dog. But when she writes to her fairy godmother for help, she doesn't expect help to come in the form of a crocodile, a crocodile who does not behave properly.

My Thoughts:
The beautiful writing of Ms. Schlitz is brilliantly brought to life by Mr. Floca's whimsical illustrations, making Princess Cora and the Crocodile a must-read for children! I loved how the princess executed her mischievous plan to change the hearts of her parents (and nanny) with a bit of help from a clever crocodile. I highly recommend this illustrated chapter book to readers from the ages of six to twelve!

Click here to learn more about author Laura Amy Schlitz.
Click here to learn more about illustrator Brian Floca.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Marketing Your Book
Part I
As I've mentioned here on Writ of Whimsy before, my next children's book, Journey to Snowdonia, will be released in September. Since I'm in the early stages of marketing that book, I thought I'd blog about how I do the marketing for all of my books.

In this post I'll address the steps every author should be taking to promote her book(s). On the following two Fridays I'll post additional - and creative - techniques that I have employed to market my books.

As writers, we are each aware of the importance of creating our author platform. Facebook, Twitter, a blog, a website, are the most common ways to create an online presence, but there are other ways as well.

Hopefully your platform is in place before your debut book releases!

Beginning to tweet, post, or share only when your debut book releases is not a good idea. Having an online presence prior to your book's release allows your followers to become familiar with you & what you're interests are. Otherwise, your platform is really only a way to advertise your work. It sends a message that you're only interested in pushing your publication. Become acquainted with your friends/followers.

Prior to the release of your book there are a number of online techniques you can employ. Here are just a few effective possibilities:

*Cover Reveal - On your Facebook page(s), Twitter, Instagram, etc.

*Blog Tours - These are particularly successful if your books are YA.

*Contests/Giveaways - A great way to generate interest in your book.

If you're unsure on how to begin organizing these online events, there are numerous Book Promotion services you can employ. Be careful! Make sure to receive several recommendations before hiring a service.

Next Friday: Marketing your book once it's been released!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Oblate - (adj.)
(of a spheroid) flattened at the poles.
Example: The planet is not truly a sphere; it's has more of an oblate shape.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

We're All Wonders
Written & Illustrated by
R.J. Palacio

Flap Copy Description:
Auggie Knows He's Not An Ordinary Kid.
He does plenty of ordinary things. He feels ordinary. He just doesn't look ordinary.

Growing up as an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face isn't easy, but Auggie is a wonder. He and his trusty sidekick, Daisy, play ball, eat ice cream, and use their imaginations to soar through their days together. They know it's not just Auggie who's different. Everyone is different, and everyone is a wonder - if only they could see it.
Featuring the beloved hero from the worldwide bestselling sensation Wonder, this original adventure taps into every child's longing to be seen for who they truly are.

My Thoughts:
As with Ms. Palacio's other Wonder books, We're All Wonders is fantastic! This picture book brilliantly conveys to younger children the same message of kindness and tolerance as the previous books that inspired the "choose kind" movement across the county. Written with truth & compassion, and exquisitely illustrated, We're All Wonders is a keepsake in my house. (A great title to read to young guests.) I highly recommend this powerful little book to readers aged four to seven!

Click here to learn more about author R.J. Palacio.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
Precocious Female Protagonists

Some of my favorite characters in children's books are precocious female protagonists. Here is a reminder of that word's definition:
Precocious (adj.)
(of a child) having developed certain abilities or proclivities at an earlier age than usual.

As a child, I always enjoyed spunky young girls in books because I could vicariously live their type of lives while reading. (My upbringing was extremely strict.) When I began to write my own MG novel I hoped to create a precocious female protagonist of my own. Here are a few iconic female characters that have offered me inspiration:

When I created my main character, Livvi Biddle, I imagined her as a quirky, precocious protagonist. However, as time has gone by I've realized (like so many writers) that the image I have of my protagonist has not been fully created upon the pages of my novel.

So, what can I do to more fully reveal my protagonist's personality?

As I revise my manuscript I'm attempting to improve these elements:

Dialogue - Does her vocabulary reflect a precocious young girl?
Humor - Do her words & behavior elicit a smile or a laugh?
Appearance - Does her appearance reflect a quirky girl?
Influence - Do the secondary characters notice her unusual behavior?
Effect - Does her behavior affect the plot?

The young Hermione Granger has also offered me inspiration.

Have you fully created your main character within your manuscript?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Tonsured - (v.)
shave the hair on the crown of the head.
Example: The head of the rotund priest had been tonsured prior to his entrance into the religious order.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Are You An Echo?
by Misuzu Kaneko

Flap Copy Description:
In early-1900s Japan, Misuzu Kaneko grows from precocious bookworm to instantly-beloved children’s poet. But her life ends prematurely, and Misuzu’s work is forgotten. Decades later her poems are rediscovered—just in time to touch a new generation devastated by the tsunami of 2011. This picture book features Misuzu’s life story plus a trove of her poetry in English and the original Japanese.

Big Catch:

At sunrise, glorious sunrise
it’s a big catch!
A big catch of sardines!

On the beach, it’s like a festival
but in the sea, they will hold funerals
for the tens of thousands dead.

My Thoughts:
This beautiful book was translated from Japanese and features the poetry of Japan's most celebrated children's poet - it is exquisite. The collaboration of David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi took years to complete. The colorful illustrations lovingly depict places where Kaneko lived as a child, and where her life ended all too soon. I highly recommend Are You An Echo to readers aged eight to eighty. (The subject of suicide is briefly hinted at in the poet's biography.)

Click here to learn more about the poet, Misuzu Kaneko.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

The Olympic National Forest
Nature's Wisdom & Strength

There are numerous blog posts, articles, and even books devoted to the subject of a writer's muse: Whether there is validity to a muse or not, and if so, where and how to find it. I've always known who my muse is, and where my inspiration primarily comes from: NATURE. However, I not only find inspiration to write from the great outdoors, I find wisdom and strength, to deal with all of life's challenges, there, too.

I first learned this personal truth while attending a camp for Campfire Girls in the Columbia River Gorge when I was about ten-years-old. The swimming lessons, artsy crafts, and songs around the campfire were all great, but it was my own personal walks in the woods that touched me in a way I'd never known. The gentle breeze through the tall evergreen branches, the enchanting call of a colorful loon from the lake, or even a rascally raccoon racing across my path, were all gifts from Mother Nature. They reminded me that I was not really alone in the dense, coniferous forest. They were all my friends, each one.

To this day, when I need to clear my mind, or search for wisdom, it is to the forest that I go. Thankfully, I leave near a wooded area that is home to many little critters below its broad cathedral-like canopy. I've always felt small, even protected below the giant guardians, so it's no wonder that I feel closest to God in the woods as well. Time seems to stop while I meditate on my blessings, my life, and also my problems.

It is because of my bond to trees, and the critters that live near them, that every tale I've ever written includes the hidden hinterlands we call forests & the community of creatures that mystically reside in them.

I've yet to meet a human being who is as wise as a towering evergreen or as loving as a mother bear.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Plangent - (adj.)
(of a sound) loud, reverberating, and often melancholy.
Example: The plangent prayers emanating from the ancient mosque drifted over the Holy City.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

by Tahereh Mafi

Flap Copy Description:
There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

My Thoughts:
It was a thrill to meet author Tahereh Mafi at the SCBWI Conference in New York City - and to have her sign my copy of Furthermore! There are numerous aspects of this middle grade novel that I admire, not the least of which is the beautiful writing of Ms. Mafi. However, it is her quirky protagonist that hooked me right away. The character arc of Alice Alexis Queensmeadow is exquisite. If you love whimsical tales of magic, don't miss out on Furthermore. I highly recommend this middle grade fantasy novel to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Tahereh Mafi.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
New Life Always Returns

One of the most important lessons I've ever learned is that there are spiritual cycles in life - much like the seasons. If things don't go my way it's important that I persevere...because new life always returns.

When I look back on my adult life I'm amazed at all the changes that have occurred. My relationships, my career, and some of my beliefs.

Most, if not all, of those changes occurred after a traumatic challenge in my life. There were times I truly wanted to give up. I'll leave it at that. However, I am so glad that I had the fortitude (stubbornness!) to continue on. Had I not, I would not have lived to see myself as an author, met my present husband, or learned so many valuable lessons.

If you're down, or struggling in any way right now,  remember:

New life always returns. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Cabal - (n.)
a secret political clique or faction.
Example: The conservative cabal had frequent clandestine meetings.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

I, Galileo
Written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

Flap Copy Description:
Galileo's contributions were so numerous—the telescope! the microscope!—and his ideas so world-changing—the sun-centric solar system!—that Albert Einstein called him "the father of modern science." But in his own time he was branded a heretic and imprisoned in his home. He was a man who insisted on his right to pursue the truth, no matter what the cost—making his life as interesting and instructive as his ideas.

My Thoughts:
In I, Galileo, we meet the astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician through his own words. Author Bonnie Christensen also adds pertinent facts on every other page. The jewel-toned illustrations are exquisite, and seem to bring Galileo's medieval world alive. This beautiful book includes lists of the scientist's experiments, inventions, and discoveries in the end pages - as well as a glossary and chronology of Galileo's life. I highly recommend I, Galileo to young readers of all ages!

Click here to learn about the author/illustrator, Bonnie Christensen.
(Sadly, Bonnie Christensen passed away in January 2015.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
How My Family Tree Inspired My Middle Grade Fiction

Inspiration to write can come from all sorts of places. A photo, a memory, a sunny spring day - and on and on. However, I never imagined that my own multi-faceted ancestry would be the source for so many of my stories!

What is so surprising is that while I only recently received my DNA results ( the stories that have kindled in my mind have all come from those regions of the world where my ancestors originated.

My results: Scandinavian: 57%; British: 23%; French/Italian: 20%
(While the countries mentioned are no surprise, the percentages are!)

Why is this important?

As writers we are constantly encouraged to "write what we know." While I cannot claim to know an exhaustive amount about the countries of my origin, I am extremely interested in learning more. In fact, I spent six months researching the countries of Scandinavia before writing The Scandinavian Santa. Not only was it an informative task, it was extremely satisfying and fun. It even reconnected me to a long lost cousin on the Scandinavian side of our family.

My upcoming book, Journey to Snowdonia, is set in England & Wales. After visiting Great Britain in 2014, I returned inspired to learn more about my background. In the process, old family photos from the British side of my mother's family - the Tusons - were unearthed. Seeing my English ancestors in their nineteenth century clothing was fascinating. It didn't take long for Journey to Snowdonia to come into focus in my mind. (It is set in the mid-nineteenth century.)

If you're having a tough time getting inspired with a new story, you have to look no further than your own family background. You'll be surprised by all the ideas that begin to tumble into your mind!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Demesne - (n.)
land attached to a manor and retained for the owner's own use.
Example: The dark forest was the demesne of the devious lord.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

The Journey
by Francesca Sanna

Amazon Description:
With haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

From the author: The Journey is actually a story about many journeys, and it began with the story of two girls I met in a refugee center in Italy. After meeting them I realized that behind their journey lay something very powerful. So I began collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries. A few months later, in September 2014, when I started studying a Master of Arts in Illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, I knew I wanted to create a book about these true stories. Almost every day on the news we hear the terms "migrants" and "refugees" but we rarely ever speak to or hear the personal journeys that they have had to take. This book is a collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them.

My Thoughts:
During these turbulent times we're all living in, Francesca Sanna's, The Journey, is a very important read for children. The beautiful book opens a window to the world of refugees, allowing young readers to better understand what people from challenged places of our planet must endure - and why they deserve our compassion and assistance.
I highly recommend The Journey to young readers of all ages.

Click here to learn more about author-illustrator Francesca Sanna.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Cover Image by Michael Lindstrom - Copyright 2017

It's always exciting to reveal a cover for a new book, but especially when it's your own! My husband, Michael Lindstrom, delivered big time with the cover art for our upcoming book, Journey to Snowdonia.

This is the second book in our series of Lindstrom Wintertime Tales.

Here is the flap copy description for Journey to Snowdonia:
Henry and Harriet are proper children, who live in a proper house, on a proper street, in Victorian London. But when their father, Mr. Charles W. Smithwaite, decides to take the family on a winter holiday in Wales, the siblings go on an outing that is anything but proper. Whilst their father & mother are busy with their society friends, Henry & Harriet venture away from the country manor, into the ancient Gwydir Forest, deep in the land of Snowdonia. Then, when a mishap occurs in the mysterious woods, they discover the magical powers of the amazing creatures that live amidst the misty mountains of Wales. But most importantly, they learn about trust, and about kindness, and about the necessity for courage when confronted with an adversary. A magical tale of whimsy & wonder, sure to delight readers this holiday season!

We'll be promoting our children's book later in the year, so stay tuned!

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

This is my last post until April - it's time for a spring break. I'm anticipating spending quality time in my soggy garden!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Haimish - adj.
possessing the warmth, comfort, and informality associated with somebody's own home.
Example: The antique furniture added a haimish feeling to the otherwise formal room.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

The Inquisitor's Tale
by Adam Gidwitz

1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children. Their adventures take them on a chase through France: they are taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. On the run to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned, their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, where all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

Join William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne's loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. Told in multiple voices, in a style reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, our narrator collects their stories and the saga of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

My Thoughts:
The Inquisitor's Tale was recently recognized as a Newbery Honor Book - not a surprise! This upper middle grade novel is well-researched and well-written - a thoroughly imaginative adventure of history, friendship, and diversity. A unique and entertaining story of mystery and magic - one not to miss! I highly recommend The Inquisitor's Tale to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author, Adam Gidwitz.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Bringing Your Beloved Story to Life
                        Part III
This post is my third and final post dealing with the subject of publishing your book independently. Today's discussion will deal with the actual process of bringing your book to life.

If you'd like to read Part I - an introduction - click here.
If you'd like to read Part II - choosing a printing service - click here.

1- Allow plenty of time! Once you choose an approximate release date you'd like for your book make sure to allow enough time to complete all the steps necessary to bring your book to publication. A good rule of thumb is to allow 3-6+ months. (I began working with my book formatter in January for my upcoming book, Journey to Snowdonia. It's set to be released in September of this year.)

2- Obtain a Book Formatter/Interior Designer - I strongly recommend that you choose someone that you can actually meet, since you'll want to work with her - side by side - when it's time to bring your book to life. Make sure you see several samples of her work.
If you've written a picture book or illustrated short story you'll need a formatter who is skilled with the Adobe InDesign program.

3- Final Check List - Before you ever meet with your interior designer/book formatter, make sure you've done the following:
**Read your entire book out loud...again!
**Use text to voice conversion to listen to your entire book.
**Complete final edit.

4- Obtain Cover Designer - Again, make sure you see several samples of her work. Once you've obtained this professional, work with her for your cover design. Plan ahead: This could take months!

5- Complete a flap copy description and back cover blurb - (or other text). Your cover designer will need those as soon as possible.

6- Purchase a barcode and ISBN number(s). Bowker is a great place to purchase both - click here to visit their website. Your cover designer will need the barcode, your book formatter the ISBN #'s.

7- Choose your preferred fonts for the chapter headings, cover, and possibly, the text of your book.

8- Contact your chosen printing company. (See last Friday's post.) Make sure to contact the company several months prior to your release date. I won't quote timelines for CreateSpace, Ingram Sparks, or Bang Printing, but suffice it to say, printing and shipping take quite a bit of time. (You'll want to allow time in case your proof isn't correct!)

Prior to meeting with your book formatter, make sure you're familiar with market standards when it comes to publishing. For instance, if your book is a YA novel, make sure its style and format, look very similar to other YA novels. Check such items as: cover design, title page, copyright page, table of contents, chapter headings, and fonts.

Once you've contacted your source for printing; obtained a cover designer, purchased barcodes and ISBN #'s, and completed all steps under "preparation," it's time to sit down with your book formatter.
Yes! I do mean "sit down" with her. Your book is too important not to be there while the formatter makes choices for your book. I can't begin to tell you how many details have been altered on my books as I've sat next to my book formatter. It took both of us to bring my books to life.

When your book is published it should look  - and read - like books from big publishing houses. You shouldn't place your name on a book that is anything less. The book will remain long after you're gone.

Once your book formatter has completed her work, it's time to order a proof. If you receive the proof and it needs changes, make the changes before you send to print. Once you have a great proof in hand, you and your book formatter - and possibly your cover designer - are ready to send in all your material to the printer. (Some cover designs are embedded by book formatters, while some are sent in separately by the cover designer.) Remember: CreateSpace, Ingram Sparks, and Bang Printing all have different requirements as to costs, timetables, formats, etc. It's important to work closely with your printer.

You'll need to decide what formats you'd like your e-book published in: Amazon Kindle; Apple iBooks; Barnes & Noble Nook; & Smashwords. If you're not familiar with those sites, click here. Most book formatters can also do the formatting for your e-book. If not, the three printing companies I mentioned under PREPARATION - #8 - can assist you.

Addition: Click here for an excellent article on publishing an ebook by the renowned speaker, professor, and literary guru, Jane Friedman.

NOTE: This three-part blog post (2/24, 3/3,3/10) is an overview of the material I've personally learned by independently publishing my own books. It is not meant as an exhaustive resource for self-publishing.
All the best as you tread your path to publication!

I'll be sharing a series of blog posts in a few weeks that will deal with "Marketing Your Book." That timing is great for me too, since my next children's book, Journey to Snowdonia, releases in September.

Look for the cover reveal of our "Wintertime Tale" next week!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Whimsical Word of the Week

Ugsome - adj.
frightful; horrid; loathsome.
Example: The ugsome manners of the cave-dwelling trolls were disgusting.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Bibliophile's Corner

Pen Pals
by Alexandra Pichard

Amazon Description:
An octopus and an ant are paired up to write letters for a school project in this charming picture book in the tradition of Dear Mr. Blueberry.

For an entire school year, Oscar the ant and Bill the octopus send letters to each other as part of a school project.

Oscar loves table tennis, and Bill loves modelling clay.

Oscar does judo, while Bill has a garden.

Despite their differences, the two new friends find shared interests…all leading up to one final surprise!

My Thoughts:
On of the things I love most about children's picture books is the way they usually present serious subjects wrapped in humor, silly stories, and delightful art. Pen Pals delivers big time on all counts! Topics dealing with differences in race, body type, and even culture, are subtly woven into this smart story by the author, Alexandra Pichard. I highly recommend Pen Pals to readers from the ages of four to seven!

Click here to learn more about the French author, Alexandra Pichard.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Bringing Your Beloved Story to Life
                           Part II
Last Friday I discussed the reasons - the why - a writer decides to publish independently. In this post I hope to answer the questions of who is your target audience and how that influences the format(s) -  or the what & where- you choose to publish.

(If you missed last Friday's post and would like to read it, click here.)

While I presume most writers are aware of who their target audience is, I've met more than a few who are not. So, here is a brief overview:

1- Who is your target audience?

Young Adult: 12 - 18 years of age. (I prefer 14-18, but that's just me.) As we are all well aware of, YA readers come in all ages!
Middle Grade: 8 - 12 years of age. (I like to write for readers aged 10-12+ - "Upper Middle Grade.")
Picture Books: Within this category there are baby books, toddler books: 2-4 years of age, and picture books: 4-8 years of age.

If you're still not sure where your book fits in, click here for more info.

Once you're clear on what category your book fits into, then knowing the book market is a must...

2- What format best suits the book you've written?

Young Adult - thrives in the e-book, paperback, and hardback formats.
Middle Grade - books in this category are primarily printed as hardback books. (Readers in this bracket are too young to purchase books on their own devices, and so, consequently e-books have not yet taken off in this category.
Picture Books - primarily hardback and e-book. (Parents do purchase these books digitally for their own devices and then read them to their young children.)

3- Where do you find the appropriate publisher/printer?

Paperbacks and E-books: CreateSpace. While I've not used CreateSpace, I have a close friend who has. She chose to obtain a professional cover designer, who did a fantastic job on her YA novels!

Awakened, by Kriston Johnson
Cover Design by Mae I Design

Interior Book Design: Tattered Page Ink

Click here to purchase this novel.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Hardbacks (portrait only), Paperbacks, & E-books: Ingram Sparks
I went through Ingram Sparks when I published my debut middle grade novel, The Tale of Willaby Creek, as a hardback and e-book.

The Tale of Willaby Creek
by Victoria Lindstrom
Cover Art by Michael Lindstrom

Cover Design: Mae I Design
Interior Book Design: Tattered Page Ink

My book formatter actually did multiple e-book versions for my novel. (I'll discuss that more next week.)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Hardbacks (landscape & portrait), Paperbacks, E-books, etc:
Bang Printing I employed Deeds Publishing when I released The Scandinavian Santa. However, they used Bang Printing, who did a fantastic job with my illustrated short story. It was released as a hardback (landscape format) and e-book in 2014.

The Scandinavian Santa
by Victoria Lindstrom
Paintings by Michael Lindstrom

Cover Art by Michael Lindstrom
Cover Design by Mark Babcock

As you can see, the three publishers/printers I've featured begin with the basic printing services: CreateSpace, & end up with Bang Printing, which, thankfully, can print whatever you desire. That being said, each format, & thus each publisher/printer, is more expensive to use. (My next book, Journey to Snowdonia, will be printed by Bang Printing.)

Once you make your printing decisions, cover design & interior book design will have to be created. I'll discuss those options next week!