Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sentimental Serendipity

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a blessed and happy holiday!

Victoria Lindstrom

Friday, December 14, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

The Scandinavian Santa
by Victoria Lindstrom

These are a few of the illustrations from the "dummy book" of my picture book/storybook. My husband - Michael Lindstrom - created the paintings. I thought that this was a great time to give you an update.
Since the word count is too high for today's publishing market, I know that this story is more of a personal project. However, I have received encouragement from both a literary agent and a publishing editor.

Currently, I am hoping to hear from another editor who was willing to receive unsolicited manuscripts from attendees of his workshop at the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles, California, last summer.

The word count for this Christmas story is approximately 3,000 words. (Similar to The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams.) Many writer friends have encouraged me to shorten this story. However, the current version has particular significance for me; this tale was inspired by my great-grandfather who immigrated to the U.S. from Norway. The paintings illustrate the story in its present format. Knowing the recommended word count for picture books, I really consider this work to be a storybook. Today, unfortunately, they are rarely published. (At least not by debut authors!) My husband and I created this book in the sixteen page PB format hoping that maybe we could find our project a home. However, unless we receive a request for the full manuscript from the editor I mentioned, we are planning to self-publish this book in time for the holidays next year. Here is the  synopsis (in flap copy-style) of our storybook:

                                The Scandinavian Santa
   Written by Victoria Lindstrom ~ Paintings by Michael Lindstrom

          Journey to the enchanted land of Scandinavia, where nestled in the Nordic Forest lives Santa Swanson. Each winter, this nephew of St. Nicholas has his own Christmas Eve delivery to make, but what that is and to whom has long been hidden. With the help of two mischievous flying polar bears, Olaf and Sven; a rescued golden eagle, Lars; and a host of other whimsical creatures; Santa Swanson prepares for his annual sleigh ride down Viking Valley! Delight in this yuletide adventure complete with a fanciful ice skating party, a rustic holiday feast, and an unexpected reunion with Santa Swanson's famous uncle. In the midst of all this wonder, the forest friends learn a heartwarming secret from a Christmas angel revealing the magic of generosity.
Copyright - 2012 by Victoria Lindstrom ~ Copyright - 2012 by Michael Lindstrom

Wish me luck with publication of this project - whether it's traditionally published, or self-published!

I will be taking a bit of a blog break to catch up on my writing - and to enjoy the Christmas holiday with my family while our sons are in town.

I hope you and your family have a blessed and happy holiday season!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Phantasmagoria -

a series or group of strange or bizarre images seen as if in a dream or as created by the imagination.

Example: The scenes from the fantasy novel unfolded in a phatasmagoric fashion.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

The Peculiar
by Stefan Bachmann

Flap Copy Description:
Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings - Peculiars - and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley - Bartholomew forget the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he's noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish...and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

My Thoughts:
The Peculiar is a recently-released upper middle grade novel that has created quite a buzz! A gothic fantasy adventure full of magic, mystery, and even murder; it is set on the narrow cobblestone streets of steampunk England. The story features a host of faeries, goblins, automatons, and changeling children and is written in stellar style. The debut author - Stefan Bachmann - is a story himself. He began writing this novel when he was sixteen...two years ago! He is a musician, and lives with his family in Zurich, Switzerland, where he attends the Zurich Conservatory. This is an author to keep your eye on. I would recommend his novel - The Peculiar - to readers from the age of ten and up.

To learn more about the extraordinary author - Stefan Bachmann - click here: http://www.stefanbachmann.com/home.php

Friday, December 7, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

Yuletide Tales

Christmas and children's books go together like a a partridge in a pear tree! Earlier this week I  visited a bookstore and purchased my annual holiday children's book.

Who can't remember a teacher or relative reciting Clement Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" each December? A more recent classic is "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg.

Purchasing a children's holiday book with an accompanying toy of the main character is a wonderful way to encourage a child to read. "Madeline's Christmas" by Ludwig Bemelmans, is a great example.

Paddington was a favorite for my sons when they were young. Here, Michael Bond's bear is dressed for a Christmas Surprise. (Can you tell I enjoy using children's books to decorate for the holidays?)

The children's book I purchased this year is a special one."Nutcracker" by E.T.A. Hoffmann was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. This year we lost that legendary author/illustrator. I thought this gem was perfect.

Do you have a favorite children's book for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Kickshaw -

a trinket or bauble; a culinary delicacy.

Example: The holiday party featured an array of delicious kickshaws.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

Starry River of the Sky
by Grace Lin

Flap Copy Description:
The moon is missing in the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to have noticed! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can't help but notice the village's peculiar inhabitants and their problems - where has the innkeeper's son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know whether his pet is a toad or a rabbit?

One day, a mysterious lady arrives at the inn with the gift of storytelling, and she slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass by in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.

My Thoughts:
Newbery Honor winner Grace Lin is one of our country's most gifted author/illustrators. Her most recent novel - Starry River of the Sky - is a treasure trove of wonderful writing, beautiful illustrations, and marvelous Chinese folklore. The protagonist in the story - Rendi - learns a multitude of life lessons as he moves from being an angry, rebellious boy, to a kind and caring young man. I would highly recommend this middle grade novel to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!
To learn more about the author, Grace Lin, click here: http://gracelin.com/

Friday, November 30, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

        A Time to Celebrate

Cel-e-brate - (verb)
1 - show happiness that something good or special has happened by doing such things as eating and drinking together, or playing music.
2 - to mark a special occasion or day by ceremonies or festivities.
3 - to perform a religious ceremony according to the prescribed forms.

It seems to me that the month of November is marked as a time to be thankful; while the month of December is a time to celebrate. As I pondered this idea in my mind I realized that I couldn't give a great definition for the word celebrate, so I checked on its meaning. As you can see from the definition for celebrate listed above, it is a verb - a way to show happiness when something good or special has happened. We are all aware of the wondrous events we celebrate during the holidays. But what about the things that are more common...the ones that we take for granted? And, are there other ways of celebrating that don't include food and drink?!

My mind took an imaginary bunny trail (as it so often does) as I mused about the things worthy of celebrating. As you can imagine, the list is endless. Here are a few everyday gifts that are near and dear to me that I'm hoping to celebrate this holiday season:

Family - In the midst of all the fun festivities I'm hoping to truly savor the time with my loved ones...and laugh a lot!
Friends - There are friends that have moved, or I've just lost track of, that I'm planning to reach out to at the holidays. And of course, have fun with our friends who live nearby!
Nature - I'm hoping to spend some quality time in the out of doors enjoying the beauty of nature. (Even if it does rain here in the Pacific Northwest!)
The Arts - Attending a Christmas concert, and then an art show (featuring the oil paintings of one of my girlfriends) will definitely be a way to celebrate the arts. One of our family holiday traditions is to visit The Grotto in Portland, Oregon for its Festival of Lights. The lights, music, food, farm animals, and puppet shows make it a yuletide favorite in our neck of the woods. Then, of course, I couldn't celebrate literature without reading another great book this season. (And continuing to work on my WIP!)
Faith - Last, but most importantly, is the time we spend remembering the reason for the season. Reaching out to folks in need is a tangible way for us to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

There are a multitude of gifts to celebrate this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Psithurism -

a low whispering sound, such as the rustle of leaves.

Example: The poplars' psithurism added to the peaceful feeling in the forest.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

The Great Unexpected
by Sharon Creech

Flap Copy Description:
I had big thoughts to match the big wind. I wondered if we find the people we need when we need them. I wondered if we attract our future by some sort of invisible force, or if we are drawn to it by a similar force. I felt I was turning a corner and that change was afoot.

In the little town of Blackbird Tree live two orphan girls: one Naomi Deane, brimming with curiosity, and her best friend, Lizzie Scatterding, who could talk the ears off a cornfield. Naomi has a knack for being around when trouble happens. For she knows all the peculiar people in town - like Crazy Cora and Witch Wiggins and Mr. Farley. But then, one day, a boy drops out of a tree. The strangely charming Finn boy. Then the Dingle Dangle man appears, asking all kinds of questions. Curious surprises are revealed - three locked trunks, a pair of rooks, a crooked bridge, and that boy. Soon Naomi and Lizzie find themselves zooming toward a future neither could ever have imagined. Meanwhile, on a grand estate across the ocean, an old lady whose heart has been deceived concocts a plan...

My Thoughts:
 The Great Unexpected is really not unexpected when you're speaking of a novel written by Newbery Medal winner, Sharon Creech. This middle grade story is magnificent! Although I've read a number of novels written by Ms. Creech, this is by far my favorite. While reading The Great Unexpected, I couldn't help thinking of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and I even thought of Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens, at times. The deep character development in this richly entertaining story leads to a profound plot with the kinds of twists and turns every avid reader enjoys. I will say that the only thing that didn't grab me was the book's cover; for me it doesn't portray the mystery and magic the author captured so well. I would highly recommend this middle grade novel to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

To learn more about the author - Sharon Creech - click here: http://sharoncreech.com/meet-sharon-creech

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Peregrination -

a journey or voyage.

Example: The pilgrims set sail on a peregrination to the New World in 1607.


I'll be back on Monday, November 26th. Have a safe & happy holiday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

Malcolm at Midnight
by W. H. Beck

Flap Copy Description:
When Malcolm (a smaller than average rat) arrives as the fifth grade pet at McKenna School, he revels in the attention, the Pop-Tart crumbs, and his new Comf-E-Cube. He also meets the Midnight Academy, a secret society of classroom pets that keeps  the nutters (kids) out of trouble. After all, everybody knows "a lot happens in a school when the teachers aren't looking."

There's just one problem. Have you heard? Rats have a terrible reputation! So when the Academy assumes that Malcolm is a mouse, he doesn't exactly speak up. Then the Academy's leader, a glasses-wearing iguana named Aggy, disappears and the Academy smells a rat...a dirty rat fink, to be specific. Now Malcolm must use all of his ratty persistence to prove his innocence, get Aggy back under her heat lamp - and find out if it's possible to be a critter of valor and merit even if you're a rat.

My Thoughts:
Ms. Beck's debut novel - Malcolm at Midnight - is a delightful adventure story with anthropomorphic animals. The little main character, Malcolm, must stand up for himself and in the process learns the importance of being true to who he really is. This whimsical tale is full of twists and turns with loads of laughs; the wonderful character development really shines in this middle grade story. I would highly recommend Malcolm at Midnight to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

To learn more about the author - W.H. Beck - click here: http://www.whbeck.com/

Friday, November 16, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

     Transformed by Twilight!

Several weeks ago my husband and I took a little trip to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State; visiting Forks and La Push were part of our weekend. It was amazing to see how much these two little communities have been transformed by Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books and movies. (Notice Bella Swan's truck on the left?)

As you enter the town of Forks, the effects from Twilight are everywhere. Here the merchant is attempting to appeal to both werewolves and vampires. The books of author Stephenie Meyer have infused this struggling town with new life.

If you're a fan of all things Edward, Bella, and Jacob - this is the place to be in Forks, Washington. Books, tee-shirts, posters, movies, trinkets, and much more for the Twilight Twi-hards!
There were shoppers from all over the world when we were there a few summers ago.

As you leave Forks and approach the Quileute Reservation, and the town of La Push, this is the sign that greets you. Make no bones about it - once you pass this sign you're in werewolf territory. Team Jacob signs are everywhere!

As you enter the community of La Push, this is one of the first signs that greets you. The Quileute Nation just wants you to know for sure where their sentiments lie when it comes to Bella Swan!

When we visited the area a few weeks ago, it was much quieter than our trip to the region a couple of years ago. However, this Jacob Black Vacation Rental is still popular - complete with the motorcycle to prove it! (I'm not sure if this model was used in the movie.)

Whether or not you're a fan of the Twilight books, there is no doubt that the author Stephenie Meyer has made a huge impact on these two small communities. Among the locals there is a mixed review; however, no one can deny the financial impact that the Twilight phenomenon has had on this hard-hit corner of our state.

In honor of today's release of Breaking Dawn - Part II, I have attached a link to the trailer: http://www.contactmusic.com/video/the-twilight-saga-breaking-dawn-part-2-trailer

Have you experienced visiting a town where a book has had an impact?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

roman -

a novel dealing with the protagonist's character development from childhood to maturity.

Really? Why have I not heard this word?! ^_^

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
by Catherynne M. Valente

Flap Copy Description:
All is not well in fairyland...

September has longed to return to Fairlyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows - and their magic - to the world of Fairlyland-Below. This world has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September's shadow. And Halloween has no intentions of giving Fairyland's shadows back.

My Thoughts:
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is the sequel to Ms. Valente's award-winning novel, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making - both middle grade books are marvelous! In this second book of the Fairyland series we see the protagonist - September - take on a life labyrinth and come out victorious once again. The whimsical language, imaginative characters, and phenomenal plot all make this novel one not to miss! Due to the advanced vocabulary I would recommend this magnificent middle grade novel to readers from the ages of ten and up.

To learn more about the author - Catherynne M. Valente - click here: http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/about/

Friday, November 9, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

Royalty Free - Public Domain
The Next Big Thing Blog Hop!

I was tagged by Tanya Reimer to join The Next Big Thing Blog Hop - thanks, Tanya!!
If you'd like to play along add the working title for your WIP under comments. Join the fun!

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop:

Interview Questions:

1- What is the working title of your WIP?
Livvi Biddle ~ A Most Extraordinary Girl.

2- Where did the idea come from?
I actually had a similar experience to my MC when my beloved maternal grandmother passed away. Of course, as a writer, I let my imagination go well beyond that.

3- What genre does it fall under?
Middle grade fantasy. (Sorry YA writers! ^_^)

4- Which actor(s) would you choose to play your character(s) in a movie rendition?
That's a tough one since my protagonist is an eleven-year-old! Probably someone similar to Emma Watson when she played Hermione Granger in the early Harry Potter movies.

5- What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
While Livvi grieves the loss of her mum odd occurrences begin to happen in the old mansion; her quest to find the answers to the mystery brings about magical consequences!

6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agent? HaHa! I love the optimism here! I would definitely prefer to have my work represented by an agent, but self-publishing is not out of the question.

7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A little over three weeks. I wrote it a year ago... while participating in NaNoWriMo!

8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Wow, another tough question that I have frequently pondered. The only current book that comes to mind is Storybound, by Marissa Burt.(Her MG novel is also a fantasy and features a female MC.)However, the classic book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has the magic and mystery I am going for. (Wouldn't that be nice! ^_^)

9- Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Wow, no one has ever asked me that question. It probably came from having three boys and no girls; a latent desire to enter the world of a little girl again!

10- What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? Probably the fact that there is a magic locket in the story, a bit of time travel, and that my book could be the first in a series.

Tag 5 writers to celebrate with - go check out their worlds!
Ruth Schiffmann
Kriston Johnson
S.P. Bowers
Loree Huebner
Linda Jackson

*Use this format for your post.
*Answer the ten questions about your WIP.
*Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

I'd love to hear about the whimsical world you're writing about!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Gaudiloquent -

speaking with joy or happiness.

Example: The politician gushed gaudiloquently after winning the election.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

A Hero For WondLa
by Tony DiTerlizzi

Flap Copy Description:
"Don't be afraid. I'm  here to bring you back home."
     The boy pilot of a battered airship flies twelve-year-old Eva Nine to the human city, New Attica. Eva is certain that this will be the perfect start to a new life with her good friend, The Caerulean alien named Rovender Kitt - especially after the loss of her robotic caretaker, Muthr. However, like many things on planet Orbana, appearances can be deceiving.
     Eva encounters many new people in New Attica, including a long-lost relative she was unaware of. And she uncovers the secrets of the Sanctuaries, the HRP, and the history of her planet's past. But then new questions arise, and the delicate spirit of life is threatened once again. Was coming to New Attica the right decision?

My Thoughts:
Tony DiTerlizzi's, A Hero For WondLa, is the sequel to his highly-acclaimed novel, The Search For WondLa. In this second book of the trilogy, the protagonist, Eva, continues to transform from a lonely, insecure girl to a confident, young woman. The imaginative science fiction plot in the futuristic world of Orbana, is full of twists and turns and has complex and compassionate characters. I can't wait for the release of the third book in this super series! I would highly recommend this upper middle grade novel to readers from the ages of ten and up.

To check out Mr. DiTerlizzi's wonderful website, click here: http://diterlizzi.com/home/

Friday, November 2, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

The Domino Effect

I spend much more time than I should contemplating story structure. Like most aspiring authors, I have read numerous books on the craft of writing. However, even though my brain is full of "how-to" tips on writing a successful novel, I still have those ah-ha moments.

After finishing another revision for my W.I.P. I was painfully aware that I had not taken my story across the finish line. "What is it?" I thought. I realized that my story felt disjointed and lacked continuity, so I took a closer look at my scenes. I decided to use 3X5 cards and record every scene in my story. I asked myself the following questions:

What is the mission of the scene?
What is the desire of the protagonist in the scene?
What information is learned in the scene that is important to the main plot?
What is the scene's climax?
(Plus several more pertinent questions gleaned from various sources.)

The last question I asked myself was the clincher:
What change occurs at the end of the scene to propel the story to the next scene? Although I am very aware of the need to end each scene with momentum; on several scenes I had failed. Then I had a picture in my mind of dominoes. An ah-ha moment: If just one domino fails to fall, the chain reaction (that is so enticing to watch) will be broken. The Domino Effect applied to my story! I realized that with a number of my scenes losing momentum, the flow of my story, and its pace, had faltered.

           (Shown below are my fifty-eight "domino" note cards with information on both sides.)


As frustrating as this revelation was, it came at a great time: Tomorrow I'll be attending Getting It Right! - Revision Intensive Workshop taught by the accomplished author, Suzanne Morgan Williams.

As I put more muscle on my manuscript it's requiring that my own writing muscles be flexed in the process!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Dybbuk -

a malevolent spirit of a dead person, believed able to take over a living person's body. (From Jewish folklore.)
Example: The dybbuk attempted to inhabit the host of the Halloween party.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

The Power of Poppy Pendle
by Natasha Lowe

Flap Copy Description:
"Kibet fallow da or 'Follow your passion and strive for excellence.'" Lavinia Roach, Headmistress of the exclusive Ruthersfield Academy

Poppy Pendle was born on the floor of the Patisserie Marie Claire bakery in the little town of Potts Bottom. When, as an infant, Poppy unexpectedly performs her first bit of magic, her parents, Edith and Roger, know their daughter has inherited the family gift.
But as Poppy grows up she isn't as thrilled about her magical talents. Even though she was born into a long line of witches, has inherited the extraordinary gifts of famed Great-Grandmother Mabel, and is enrolled at the exclusive Ruthersfield Academy, a school for witchcraft, she wants to be a baker instead. Making yummy lemon cakes, buttery almond cookies, chocolate melt-aways, and caramel crunch cookies is Poppy's passion - and it makes her happy. Poppy Pendle has no choice but to take matters into her own hands. Whose life is it anyway? she asks.

Natasha Lowe's debut middle grade novel, The Power of Poppy Pendle, is unique, delightful, and charming. The author turns the tables on the magical plot and has her protagonist long for the normal life of a baker. But for Poppy that life is where the magic really happens. She finds her joy and passion in creating exquisite and extraordinary desserts. This is a wonderful book for the young girl who enjoys magic and fantasy... it also reveals the importance of following your own heart. There is a bonus at the back of the book: ten of the wonderful recipes from Ms. Lowe's story! I would highly recommend The Power of Poppy Pendle to readers from the ages of eight - twelve.

To learn more about the author, Natasha Lowe, click here: http://www.natashalowe.com/about-natasha.html

Friday, October 26, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

A Literary Ghost from the Past

My very first manuscript was an adventure fantasy entitled: The Tale of Willaby Creek. Like many first attempts at writing the result was weak at best. However, I still love the premise of the story since it was inspired by one of my favorite places: Willaby Creek in the Olympic National Forest of Washington State. The story's cast is made up of anthropomorphic animals, a dryad, two humans, and a Spirit-Bear.

From time to time I have thought about that first manuscript: like a ghost that keeps visiting me from the past. But is my musing based on a good story, or just sentimental memories of a favorite place?
Over a year ago, I received a critique for The Tale of Willaby Creek from a person in the publishing world that I respect very much. She recognized some talent in my writing, but felt my story may not interest children and would be difficult to market. Since that time I have had a number of ideas float through my mind on how I might give my story a major makeover. But would it be the best use of my time?

Have you ever successfully rewritten one of your old manuscripts?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Tenebrous -

dark; gloomy; obscure.

Example: The towering castle was very tenebrous sitting amidst the ancient forest.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

The Cavendish Home
For Boys and Girls
by Claire Legrand

Flap Copy Description:
Victoria Likes Things Neat and Tidy.

Her hair gleams, her grades shine, and her room is as immaculate as the manicured lawns in her hometown of Belleville. Her life is perfect.
Until her best friend, Lawrence, goes missing.
Without Lawrence, Victoria has no one to walk to school with, no one to reprimand for not doing his homework, no one's life to run but her own. Naturally, Victoria launches an investigation. But Lawrence isn't the only missing kid in town. Beneath Belleville's perfection are dark, deadly, creepy secrets, and Victoria soon realizes Mrs. Cavendish's children's home down the street is behind it all. Kids who go there come out better - or they don't come out at all.
The grown-ups Victoria talks to only feel her lies. But Victoria is not top of the class for nothing. She will have to use her smarts to save her only friend and her beloved hometown from Mrs. Cavendish's evil clutches...even if it means getting a little messy.

My Thoughts:
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is the extraordinary debut novel for author Claire Legrand. The protagonist, Victoria, endures a heartwarming transformation on her quest to save her friend, her family, and her small community. The story is dark and creepy, but also delightful. The characters are well-developed and the settings are inventive and imaginative. I would recommend this upper middle grade novel to readers from the ages of ten and up.

To learn more about the author, Claire Legrand, click here:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

     When Do the Words Work?

As I proceed through the edits for my WIP I am encountering a common question for myself: When do the words work, and when do they get in the way? Due to my love of whimsical and quirky words I tend to use a lot of them in my writing. However, if I am noticing the words alone, and not the story, that's a problem! As a writer, making great word choices is essential; it is no less important than the colors of paint an artist chooses to cover her canvas. That being said, I want to draw readers in, not keep them out by putting up walls with my choice of words. I remember my mentor (Carolyn Rose) saying, in one of my creative writing courses, "Do you want the reader to love your story, or do you want them to notice the wonderful way you write?" I could reply they should be the same. However, we've all read books where we marvel at the author's word choices - but did we love the story too? I know that I have read many books where the words were like stumbling blocks to me - even in a children's book! In the end, I am trying to use quirky and challenging words judiciously, like a good seasoning. (A little salt is great, but too much and the dish is ruined!)

The other part of this dilemma is that as a writer for middle grade readers, I am constantly reminded that the vocabulary cannot be too adult. I must confess that if I challenge the reader a bit, I see this as a good thing. I love learning new words, and I'm betting that young avid readers do too! (However, agents & editors may not agree. ^_^) I am drawn to books such as: The Mysterious Benedict Society - by Trent Lee Stewart, The Miraculous Mechanisms - by Lissa Evans, and Wildwood - by Colin Meloy. All of these middle grade books use a multitude if whimsical and challenging words. Wish me luck!

Have you ever read a book and felt like the words got in the way?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Epistolary -

In the form of a letter or letters: taking the form of a letter or a series of letters.

Example: The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, is an example of an epistolary novel.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

by Lois Lowry

Amazon Description:
They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn't exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.

My Thoughts:
The long-awaited epic finale to Lois Lowry's The Giver series does not disappoint. The master storyteller skillfully weaves the main characters from the previous books - The Giver, Gathering Blue, and The Messenger - into her latest dystopian novel. Son just might be the best in the series, and that's saying something... since The Giver was awarded the Newbery Medal! At the back of this amazing book is a guide for discussion and classroom use that is extremely thought-provoking. I would highly recommend Son to readers, students, teachers, and writers from the ages of eight to eighty!
I have attached a link to a recent interview with Lois Lowry - click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/04/lois-lowry-the-giver-son_n_1940969.html

Friday, October 12, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

      My Library Is On Fire!

Although I purchased my Kindle Fire several months ago, it was only a few weeks ago that I really began to utilize it. (The cost of digital books has skyrocketed so much, that in some cases they are only a few dollars cheaper than a hardback copy!) When I discovered my local library carries digital books to check out for tablets & e-readers I was ecstatic. (My library is on fire...my Kindle Fire.  ^_^)

Evidently 75% of U.S. libraries now feature this option for their patrons. However, with all of the drastic changes in the publishing world, the American Library Association is still dickering with some of the big-time publishing houses over discriminatory policies toward libraries.

Here  is a link to a recent article that discusses that very subject: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/ala-president-challenges-discriminatory-ebook-policies_b57978

Do you check out electronic books from your local library?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Squiffed -


Example: The friar of the ancient abbey was constantly squiffed.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

Horten's Incredible Illusions
by Lissa Evans

Flap Copy Description:
Trapped in the Beeton Museum inside the Pharaoh's Pyramid, Stuart slotted the star into place. The effect was instantaneous. All four sides of the pyramid fell open. Stuart was in the middle of a desert.

Just when height-challenged Stuart Horten thinks his big adventure is over, he discovers that Great Uncle Tony has left behind yet another mystery: he's hidden his will, and his magic tricks are the clues to its location. As Stuart tries to find the long-lost document and outwit a nefarious newcomer who's also after it, the tricks suddenly transport him (with the triplets April, May, and June in tow) far away from Beeton. The foursome must use their smarts to solve even trickier puzzles to get home - or risk losing everything - in this action-packed, laugh-out-loud sequel to Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms.

My Thoughts:
Author Lissa Evans has penned another brain-tickling middle grade tale - Horten's Incredible Illusions - the sequel to Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms. Magic, mystery, and mayhem abound in this well-written whimsical story. A puzzling plot, colorful characters, and lots of laughs make this book a fantastic find for the readers who enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society or the books by Lemony Snicket. I highly recommend this middle grade novel to readers from the ages of 8 -12.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

Being Your Own Cheerleader

Autumn is here and that means football season is in full swing. This time of year I always muse about my high school days as a varsity cheerleader. (I could write a YA novel and call it: The Unlikely Cheerleader!)

We had an awesome football team my senior year; our quarterback went on to play for Stanford University, and then the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL. However, we did not go to the state playoffs - we placed second in the league standings. One of the experiences I remember the most happened while we were at an "away game." Listening to the home crowd's thunderous cacophony of cheers made our tiny tribe of traveling fans sound like a bunch of wimpy kids. I learned first hand about standing tall while the opponent's cheerleaders led their crowd:
"We've got spirit, yes we do!
 We've got spirit, how 'bout you?!"
When we responded, our weak rebuttal brought on raucous laughing.
(However, we got the last laugh: With two minutes left in the game we scored and beat Olympia High School 7-6.)

As I've  proceeded on my storyteller's journey I've discovered it's essential that I be my own cheerleader. I can't expect family, friends, critique partners, or anybody else to prop up my confidence. When they do, I love it; but, day in and day out I must be my own cheerleader. I try to fill my mind with thoughts such as:
Just keep writing!
Don't give up!
This is your passion!
So and so had one million rejections before getting an agent! (HaHa!)

I am usually quite critical when I evaluate my own writing; but really, I should encourage myself at least as much as I do my writer friends.

How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling intimidated?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Nyctalopia -

Night blindness; moon blindness.

Example: The pirate's poor diet chronically  lacked vegetables, it thus caused nyctalopia.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

Under Wildwood
by Colin Meloy

Flap Copy Description:
Ever since Prue McKeel returned home from the Impassable Wilderness after rescuing her brother from the malevolent Dowager Governess, life has been pretty dull. School holds no interest for her, and her new science teacher keeps getting on her case about her dismal test scores and daydreaming in class. Her mind is constantly returning to the verdant groves and sky-tall trees of Wildwood, where her friend Curtis still remains as a bandit-in-training.
But all is not well in that world. A hard winter has come and discord reigns in the wake of the so-called Bicycle Coup. Dark assassins with mysterious motives conspire to settle the scores of an unknown client A titan of industry employs inmates from his orphanage to work in his machine shop, all the while obsessing over the exploitation of the Impassable Wilderness. Under a growing threat, Prue is drawn back into Wildwood, where she and Curtis will face their greatest challenge yet: to save themselves and the lives of their friends, and to bring unity to a divided country. But in order to do that, they must go under Wildwood.

My Thoughts:
Under Wildwood is the recently-released sequel to Colin Meloy's critically acclaimed Wildwood - both epic upper middle grade novels. The fantasy world that Mr. Meloy has created for his Wildwood Chronicles was inspired by Forest Park, in Portland, Oregon - the city where the author resides. Anthropomorphic animals, ancient magic and mystics, and a colorful cast of characters make Under Wildwood a book not to miss! In addition to that, the fantasy adventure novel has been beautifully illustrated by the author's wife - Carson Ellis. (Illustrator of The Mysterious Benedict Society, and Lemony Snicket's The Composer Is Dead, and Dillweed's Revenge.) I would highly recommend this book to readers from the age of nine and up.
To view the Wildwood Chronicles website, click here: http://www.wildwoodchronicles.com/

Friday, September 28, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

In Pursuit of Two Paths

Several weeks ago, while I was at a writers' conference, my husband - Michael, received some great news. His gallery director invited him to have a solo show of his oil paintings at the Art on the Boulevard where Michael is represented. As great as this news is, it requires us to do a bit of traveling in our neck of the woods, since the title of Michael's show is: "Moods of the Pacific Northwest."  (Scheduled - February 2013.)
Every once in a while the two of us must go different directions as we pursue our two separate paths. However, sometimes things come together in a wonderful way. In Michael's attempt to include me on his "artist's journey," he has reserved a cabin for us at a wonderful retreat center next week, where he can paint - and I can read, hike, and write! But, the thing is...there is no T.V. reception, no cell phone reception, and no WiFi! The nearest place to get on the Internet is the town's General Store - I'm not kidding! So, I will continue blogging next week, but I may be slow to get back to you if you leave a comment.

If you're curious about the bucolic setting where we'll be staying,
here is the link to the Mt. Adams Lodge: http://www.mt-adams.com/

Do you ever incorporate your writing into your family's activities?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Chthonic -

dwelling in the underworld; under the earth.

Example: The chthonic creatures made their way to the surface of the planet after living thousands of years underground.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

School of Fear
Class Is Not Dismissed!
by Gitty Daneshvari

Flap Copy Description:
After discovering that each of her former students has secretly regressed, eccentric headmistress Mrs. Wellington demands requests the presence of Madeleine, Theo, Lulu, and Garrison for a mandatory summer of retraining. Facing their fears was terrifying enough, but when the foursome learns they'll be joined by a fifth student, things start to get even scarier.
To make matters worse, the students quickly find themselves tasked with saving the school. And because failing means spending the rest of their lives with unresolved phobias, this is one test they all plan to ace.

My Thoughts:
Class Is Not Dismissed is the second delightful book in Ms. Daneshvari's series: School of Fear. This middle grade novel contains awesome dialogue, amazing character development, and a huge amount of humor. The author commences each chapter with the definition of a peculiar phobia - a great way for the reader to stay grounded in the book's theme. Don't be afraid to pick up this well-written novel for your child or student! I would recommend Class Is Not Dismissed to readers from the ages of 8 - 12. (The third book in the School of Fear series is entitled: The Final Exam.)
To view Ms. Daneshvari's wonderful website, click here:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sentimental Serendipity

For those blogging buddies who enjoy my Sunday posts under the title of "Incredible Inspiration," there has been a change in my format. The make-over of my blog has been an attempt to streamline and update things - and to focus on only literary topics. So, I have started a new blog that will carry my nature photos. I will primarily post on Sundays - merely taking the type of photos from my old format, and posting them on the new site. The title of that blog is -
The Shy Shutterbug. If you would like to visit me at my auxillary blog, I'd love for you to be my guest!
Here is the link : http://theshyshutterbug.blogspot.com/

Friday, September 21, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

         The Road Uncertain

Earlier this week I drove my eldest son up to Seattle to return to university for his Master's degree. As we proceeded up the I -5 corridor David read a book, while my mind wandered to the winding path my own life has taken.

Being a writer is a multi-faceted vocation; to be successful one must be accomplished at navigating a number of skills:
Writing; editing; marketing; organizing; networking; management; being disciplined; able to persevere - and on and on. I have met a few writers who seem to have found a way to balance these tasks, but for most of us, it's a whole different kind of work in progress!

There is no road map for the storyteller's journey. Sure, there are some guidelines - but every one's road is a bit different. A few principles I have discovered pertain not only to my writing journey - but to life in general:

1- Asking for directions is a great way to chart a course; especially from someone more experienced than ourselves. (However, this is no guarantee of making the correct choices for one's career.)
2- Turning around when you realize you've gone down an incorrect road is something nobody wants to do - but it's part of the progress. (Lots of learning can be gained by going down bunny trails!)
3- Being able to find your way when you're truly lost takes perseverance - a lot of it. (I believe writers are some of the most persevering people I've ever met!)

As we neared the Seattle Metro area, I realized that the tough part of the trip was ahead - driving in a major city is not high on my list of favorite things to do! The last leg of any journey is usually the most difficult. I thought about how I wouldn't take my son back to our hometown if I couldn't reach our destination immediately - I would figure it out. The same holds true for my own journey as a writer - turning around and giving up is not an option. It seems that no matter how uncertain our road is, the commitment to reach our goal (no matter what) ultimately is what will bring us success.

(I did deliver my son successfully to his new residence for the next three years, without a problem - and I don't even have a GPS system!)

How do you navigate your writing career when your road is uncertain?