Monday, January 30, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O'Dell

Flap Copy description:
Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as San Nicolas Island. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kelp beds, cormorants roost on its crags, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches.
Here, in the 1800's, according to history, an Indian girl lived alone for eighteen years, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure, filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply, even when it meant battling an octopus.
More than this, it is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana's quiet courage, her self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been an ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come the strength and serenity that are the goal of modern mankind and that are symbolized by the island itself, rising alone and majestic from the wide waters of the Pacific.

My thoughts:
It is difficult to give what would be considered an objective book review when a book touches you as deeply as Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins touched me. This poignant middle grade novel not only won the Newbery Award in 1961; but was also recognized in 1976 by the Children's Literature Association as one of the ten best American children's books of the past two hundred years.
Written in first person - past tense, we are drawn into a saga of spiritual survival, through the point of view of the tenacious - Karana.
The descriptions of the Native American culture, the beauty of nature, and the wonderful wildlife that helped sustain the lonely woman were written in a very poetic style.
This classic is one of those rare literary masterpieces that is not only suitable for all ages - but I believe should be read by everyone sometime in their lifetime!

Note: You can learn more about The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island by clicking on this link:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Incredible Inspiration

Every crag and gnarled tree and lonely valley has its own strange and graceful legend attached to it.

Douglas Hyde

Friday, January 27, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

         Stories from the Heart

As writers we are constantly challenged to infuse our stories with emotion, tension, and depth in our characters - but where does one find such things? In my life I have experienced a plethora of poignant events - both painful and pleasant - if you're human, you have too!
In the midst of changing trends and fads in fiction, I would challenge all of us to draw from the well of our own heart that story that only we can tell. There are hungry and hurting readers out there wanting to know that someone has walked the road they're having to walk. When we include components in our novels that originate from a real place, they will inspire, encourage, and entertain as well. (They're also more believable.)
Presently I'm polishing a MG manuscript with a protagonist who is misunderstood, and in some cases, not believed by her family and friends. I have drawn upon my own similar experiences to find some depth of character - we'll see if I've succeeded!
The challenge to write a fresh, new story, that is inspired by one's own experience, takes a lot of courage. Maybe that's one difference between being just a writer, or being one who goes against the tide and becomes... a real storyteller.

As you can tell, I'm feeling a bit introspective - any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Shibboleth -

Catchword or slogan: a word or phrase frequently used by members of a group that is usually regarded by outsiders as meaningless, unimportant, or misguided.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

The Red Pyramid - The Kane Chronicles
by Rick Riordan

Flap Copy description:
     Since his mother's death six years ago, Carter Kane has been living out of a suitcase, traveling the globe with his father, the brilliant Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane. But while Carter's been homeschooled, his younger sister, Sadie, has been living with their grandparents in London. Sadie has just what Carter wants - school friends and a chance at a "normal" life. But Carter has just what Sadie longs for - time with their father. After six years of living apart, the siblings have almost nothing in common. Until now.
     On Christmas Eve, Sadie and Carter are reunited when their father brings them to the British Museum, with a promise that he's going to "make things right." But all does not go according to plan: Carter and Sadie watch as Julius summons a mysterious figure, who quickly banishes their father and causes a fiery explosion.
     Soon Carter and Sadie discover that the gods of Ancient Egypt are waking, and the worst of them - Set - has a frightening scheme. To save their father, they must embark on a dangerous journey - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and its links to the House of Life, a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

My thoughts:
The Red Pyramid is the first book in Rick Riordan's series - The Kane Chronicles. This prolific and successful author has written a novel with great pace, delightful dialogue, and an amazing amount of humor as well! In 2011, Mr. Riordan received the Children's Choice Book Award for Author of the Year - this #1 New York Times bestselling author seems to have the formula for what today's youth fancy. I would recommend The Red Pyramid to readers from the ages of eight - eighteen.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Incredible Inspiration

Lake Quinault - Washington State

Advice is like snow - the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Friday, January 20, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

               The Hostile House

Yesterday the snowstorm that hit the Pacific Northwest earlier in the week transitioned  to a driving deluge. This occurrence is a common one - we're used to it. However, our eighty-three-year-old home decided to allow our sump pump to go on the blink. By the time I discovered our dilemma half of our basement studio floor was covered in water! Thankfully my husband always keeps his oil paintings off the floor. Still, repairing the pump, and mopping up the mess fell to me - my husband was thirty miles away at his evil day job. After several attempts to fix the pump - Voila! Success! However, the phrase about, "celebrating too soon," comes to mind. Again the darn thing malfunctioned! Consequently, my husband had to come home like the knight in shining armor. As it turned out, there was an electrical problem with our fuse box - thankfully he was able to make the necessary repairs.
The reason I bring this up is that life doesn't stop just because we want to write - so how do we stay on track? Clearly, this episode was unavoidable - but so are any number of other situations. It painfully reminded me of the importance of making the best use of my time - all of the time.
In my mind I thought I had an extra day to stay on schedule -
however, my hostile house had another agenda!

Do you have any unusual or silly stories of getting
"thrown off the track" with your writing?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

Flap Copy description:
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy.

He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.
There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy - an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the sleer.
But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack - who has already killed Bod's family...

My thoughts:
Master storyteller, Neil Gaiman, received the 2009 Newbery Medal Award for his creative, sometimes creepy novel - The Graveyard Book. I actually put off reading this book - the subject matter just didn't appeal to me. Boy, was I wrong! This character driven adventure story is packed full of twists and turns; the reader is truly left hanging onto the nearest headstone until the last scary sequence. The bittersweet ending packs a punch as we see the protagonist, Bod, come into his own as a young man amidst his friends of ghosts and ghouls. If you have not yet read this instant classic, I would highly recommend The Graveyard Book be your next read. This fantasy novel is suitable for readers eight to eighty!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Incredible Inspiration

Clouds on clouds, volumes driven,

Curtain round the vault of heaven.

Thomas Love Peacock

Friday, January 13, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

 Writers' World of Wordlandia

Leaving the world of health care and entering the world of writing is a bit like being transported into an alternate dimension in a YA novel!
After years of working as a dental hygienist I realized there were only a finite number of ways one could administer an intraoral injection, root plane maxillary molars, or explain to a dental patient (for the umpteenth time) that rinsing with an oral antimicrobial would not remove all of the plaque in their mouth - even if it was easier than flossing!
Following a career-ending injury I was left for dead professionally until I found a portal to the magical world of writing - Wordlandia! In this creative cosmos the inhabitants dress differently, act differently, and speak a different language from those residents in my previous place of existence. The writers in Wordlandia are the lucky ones. They are not concerned with staying inside the lines - on the contrary; they desire to conquer the boundaries of creativity to discover inspiring new tales that will delight and dumbfound the reader!
I am busily learning the rules and regulations of Wordlandia; knowing that passion is not enough to reach the throne of publication.
The next time you get discouraged or downtrodden remember:
You exist in a magical world of writers - Wordlandia!

I know...this post is a bit quirky! Any thoughts on life in Wordlandia?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

Legacy of the Empress
by Rebecca Knight

Back Cover description:
Evil is Coming
Darkness is spreading throughout the land of Taleria, feeding off its people. The queen is corrupted, seduced by its evil promise.
Princess Astrid, held prisoner in the castle by her mother for years, discovers a book of magic and uses its power to escape. The only way to save Taleria is to free the Empress of legend who banished the same dark magic centuries before.
Astrid doesn't know the first thing about being a hero, much less journeying to the Crystal Fortress where the old woman is imprisoned. She's never been out of her mother's grasp, and now, the Queen's spies are hot on her heels.
Beautiful creatures twisted into monsters, uncertain allies, and the deadly mystery of the book she possesses are the least of Astrid's concerns. As she faces the darkness, she learns that saving the land she loves may ultimately mean watching it burn...

My thoughts:
Debut author, Rebecca Knight, has written a YA fantasy with a captivating story; weaving a tale with the wonderful heroine - Princess Astrid. If you enjoyed Robin McKinley's book, The Hero and the Crown, you will be treated to a similar mythical and magical fantasy by Ms. Knight. However, this novel contains some violence not appropriate for the middle-grade reader. I would recommend Legacy of the Empress to readers from the age of twelve and up.
Congratulations, Rebecca Knight!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Incredible Inspiration

Burnt Bridge Creek - Washington State

Like dreams, small creeks grow into mighty rivers.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

           What is Perfect Pace?

As writers we all know that the pace of our story must propel the plot forward - scene by scene. But at what speed?
Recently I exchanged books with a good writer friend of mine - it was an eye-opening experience. She felt the book I shared was written at too slow a pace - she didn't enjoy it. The book I received from her felt like reading words thrown on the page from a shotgun! This brought to mind the topic: what is perfect pace? Clearly it can be a matter of personal taste; I have always enjoyed stories written in an almost poetic style - with lots of whimsical word choices. One thing is for sure: the text must be tight, and each scene should lead to the next scene like a domino falling into its neighbor - causing a chain reaction in the telling of the story. This tends to bring about a consistent, constantly moving pace. I have found a story with too slow a pace usually has a lot of unnecessary rambling - something I have fallen victim to many times!

What are your thoughts on pace? Do you have any helpful tips on this topic?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

From the Mixed-Up Files
of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E.L. Konigsburg

Flap Copy description:
When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long enough to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation. And she would go in comfort - she would live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She saved her money, and she invited her brother Jamie to go, mostly because he was a miser and would have money.

Claudia was a good organizer and Jamie had some ideas, too; so the two took up residence at the museum right on schedule. But once the fun of settling in was over, Claudia had two unexpected problems: She felt just the same, and she wanted to feel different; and she could not go home until she found a statue at the Museum so beautiful she could not go home until she had discovered its maker, a question that baffled the experts, too.

The former owner of the statue was Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Without her - well, without her, Claudia might never have found her way home.

My thoughts:
Ms. Konigsburg's middle grade novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, was written over forty years ago; I found it just as entertaining today, as it was in 1968, when this classic was the Newbery Medal Award winner.
The daring adventure of Claudia, and her brother Jamie, is a delightful and insightful portrayal of an adolescent longing for the grown-up world. The far-fetched plot of the two youngsters living in the Museum is made quite believable by the author's knowledge of the world famous building, and of New York City itself.
As with all great MG novels, life lessons are subtly woven into the text - Ms. Konigsburg is a master storyteller. I would highly recommend this book to young readers 7-12 years of age.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Incredible Inspiration

Mt. Hood - Oregon
Happy New Year!
We will open the book.
Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is
New Year's Day.

Edith Lovejoy Pierce