Friday, December 13, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

   Season's Greetings!

This year has been a big year for our family with the wedding of our son David, to Jessica Price, in October (we were thrilled to welcome Jessica into our crazy clan!); the launching of a part-time career as a comedian, by our middle son, Kevin; and the move of our youngest son, Brian, to New York City (NYU) in August. Earlier in the year there was my husband's first solo art show. I am so proud of all of them!

As for my own adventures, I found myself spending most of my time in my "creative cave" writing or reading, or else puttering outside in my garden. Being a bit of an introvert, those activities suited me just fine.

Since our sons will be visiting soon, I plan on taking a blog break to spend some time with them during the days leading up to Christmas. The week between Christmas and New Year's Day I hope to catch up on my word counts. I'll be back in January.

   Wishing you all the happiest of holiday seasons!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Hoarfrost -
also called "white frost." A deposit of needle-like ice crystals formed on the ground by direct condensation at temperatures below freezing.
Example: although the village had received no snow, its grounds appeared white due to the hoarfrost.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

Flora & Ulysses
by Kate DiCamillo

Amazon Description:
Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by Kate DiCamillo. It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry - and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.

My Thoughts:
Master storyteller Kate DiCamillo has written a delightful new middle grade novel that is definitely not an unanticipated occurrence. With creative and colorful characters, and a wild and whimsical plot, Flora & Ulysses is a middle grade novel reminiscent of Roald Dahl's Matilda. This semi-graphic book has already produced quite a buzz in the world of children's literature. Bravo, Kate DiCamillo, you've done it again. I would highly recommend Flora & Ulysses to readers from the ages of eight to twelve, and to aspiring storytellers of all ages.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

The Scandinavian Santa - by Victoria Lindstrom
Tandem Creativity

Working in tandem with your spouse to create a children's book is both challenging and exhilarating. Since Michael and I completed our Christmas story The Scandinavian Santa, a while back, I have done some research on the holiday children's books that have been written and illustrated by married couples. Here are just three inspirational examples:

H.A. Rey and Margret Rey

Since some of you have followed my storyteller's journey for some time, I thought I would give you an update on The Scandinavian Santa. Michael and I are still attempting to get our labor of love traditionally published before we pursue other options. We are anxiously waiting to hear back from a publisher at this time. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Epeolatry -

the worship of words.

Example: the writer's love of words had nearly reached the level of epeolatry.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Year of Billy Miller
by Kevin Henkes
Amazon Description:
When Billy Miller has a mishap at the Jolly Green Giant at the end of summer vacation, he ends up with a big lump on his head. What a way to start second grade, with a lump on your head. As the year goes by, though, Billy figures out how to navigate elementary school, how to appreciate his little sister, and how to be a more grown up and responsible member of the family and a help to his busy working mom and stay-at-home dad.

My Thoughts:
Last week I reviewed my first picture book on this blog; today I am reviewing my first chapter book, and what a wonderful read to feature. Kevin Henkes - a past winner of the Caldecott Medal and a Newbery Honor award - has written and illustrated the perfect book for every young elementary student to enjoy. Lots of humor and shenanigans, sibling rivalry and classmate competition, and the stress of an end-of-year poetry night, make The Year of Billy Miller a hit for readers from the ages of six to eight.

To learn more about the award-winning author Kevin Henkes, click here:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Champions of Creativity

Public Domain Photo

   Louisa May Alcott

Like so many young girls, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, was one of the very first substantive novels I ever read. Since the literary icon's life was so inspiring and extraordinary - and since today is the anniversary of her birth - I have chosen Louisa May Alcott for the subject of this week's blog posting of Champions of Creativity.

Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pennsylvania and was the second of her parents' four daughters. Amos Bronson Alcott was a teacher and transcendentalist, while Louisa's mother, Abigail May, was a social worker. The Alcott family moved to Boston in 1938 where Amos Alcott established an experimental school. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne were not only some of Louisa's educators, they were also friends of the Alcott family. The family suffered through constant poverty and multiple changes in residence which pushed Louisa to go to work at an early age. She worked as a seamstress, governess, teacher, and writer. Writing became a method for the young girl to cope with the emotional stress in her life, and at the age of seventeen she wrote her first book, Flower Fables.

As an adult, Ms. Alcott was an abolitionist, a feminist, and during the Civil War, she served as a nurse. Although Louisa May Alcott wrote numerous books and poems, it is Little Women that is most definitely her lasting legacy. The novel's protagonist, Jo - who is loosely based on the author, has touched and inspired generations of young girls and women. At a time that was known as The Gilded Age, Little Women gave young girls a reason to read, and even dream, of a different kind of life in a way that they never had before. Louisa May Alcott also became active in the women's suffrage movement, writing for "The Woman's Journal," where she encouraged women to register to vote.

The legendary American author lived this extraordinary life while battling bouts of depression and was never married. Louisa May Alcott died on March 8, 1888, in Boston, and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. She rests in peace on a hillside known as "Authors Ridge," near Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne.

To view the Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women, click here:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Abligurition -

spending an enormous amount of money on food.
Example: The wealthy socialite had a serious problem with abligurition during the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

Electrical Wizard
How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World
by Elizabeth Rusch
and illustrated by Oliver Dominguez

Flap Copy Description:
Move over, Thomas Edison! Serbian-American inventor Nikola tesla takes center stage in the first-ever picture-book biography of the man responsible for lighting our lives with electricity.

When Nikola Tesla was three years old, he noticed how his hand produced tiny sparks when he stroked his cat. He was enchanted by this thing called electricity, and by the time he was a teenager, he made a vow: one day, he would turn the rushing waters of Niagara Falls into electricity. In a flash of inspiration, Tesla realized that this, and so much more, would be possible by harnessing the mysterious power of alternating currents.

Tesla faced many obstacles along the way, including the great American inventor Thomas Edison, who was a staunch defender of the direct-current electrical system. But Tesla worked tirelessly to prove that AC, not DC, was the wave of the future. He proved it at the Chicago World's Fair and at Niagara Falls - and his proof lives on today in a world transformed by his inventions.

My Thoughts:
The reason I am reviewing a picture book (the first one) on Bibliophile's Corner today, is due to the powerful impact I believe this biography could have upon multitudes of children. Learning about the life of the amazing Tesla was not only enlightening, but extremely inspirational. Among the many attributes I could mention about this book, the one that stands out most to me is the book's ability to teach children the necessity of perseverance if they are to see their dreams come true. I would highly recommend this book to children of all ages!

To learn more about the award-winning author Elizabeth Rusch,
click here:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Pumpkin Patch of Color - 18X24 Oil on Canvas - Michael Lindstrom

The Road to Thankfulness

During this time of year, most people pause to be thankful for the blessings in their life as we approach Thanksgiving Day.

I have found, that in my extremely busy life - like most folks - it is easy to use my time and energy to just keep up with my responsibilities. If I have any free time I sometimes collapse! Remembering to consciously be thankful - all along the way - is something that must be cultivated. It is a virtue, much like discipline or forgiveness - it is a choice.

The above scene is a photo of one of my husband's oil paintings. I am featuring it on this post because I like the way the road winds through the fertile field. Also, because I was with Michael when he painted it, and it brings to mind a lovely memory. We were situated beneath a large oak tree just off to the left of the rural road, enjoying a simple picnic lunch as he painted. I had brought along a good book and my journal. The memory of that late summer day, shared with the man I love, will always be with me. When Michael first took me out with him painting he would say things like, "Isn't that violet color in the sky beautiful?" Not being an oil painter, I would not even see the subtle color. As time has past, my perception has improved. I can now see some of those colors he's referring to. I have to want to see them.

We hear the admonition all the time in our society: "Be thankful for the little things in life," but it's so true. We must see the small serendipities that grace each of our days. Looking back over the year of 2013, there have been many ups and downs in my life - both personally and professionally. It has been a choice, especially some days, to be thankful. The road to thankfulness is one that is a lifelong journey.

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues." Cicero

This year I feel especially thankful for the time I have to be creative.
What are you thankful for this year as we approach the holidays?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Dormiveglia -

the space that stretches between sleeping and waking.
Example: The teen-ager spent most mornings bed-bound in a state of dormiveglia until his mother demanded that he get ready for school.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

Mister Max
The Book of Lost Things
by Cynthia Voigt

Amazon Description:
Max Sterling's theatrical father likes to say that at twelve a boy is independent. He also likes to boast (about his acting skills, his wife's acting skills, a fortune only his family knows is metaphorical), but more than anything he likes to have adventures. Max Sterling's equally theatrical mother is not a boaster but she enjoys a good adventure as much as her husband. When these two disappear, what can sort-of-theatrical Max and his not-at-all-theatrical grandmother do? They have to wait to find out something, anything, and to worry, and, in Max's case, to figure out how to earn a living at the same time as he maintains his independence. This is the first of three books, all featuring the mysterious Mister Max.

My Thoughts:
Mister Max - The Book of Lost Things is a richly-textured upper middle grade novel - the first book in Cynthia Voigt's Mister Max Series. The scrumptious settings and colorful cast of characters may only be outdone by the novel's entertaining and puzzling plot. The ingenious Max, and his annoying friend, Pia, make this upper middle grade novel a great read for both boys and girls. I would highly recommend Mister Max - The Book of Lost Things to readers from the ages of eight to fourteen, and I look forward to the second book in the series:
Mister Max - The Book of Secrets.

To learn more about Cynthia Voigt - a Newbery Medal winning author - click here:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

My Creative Cave

When my husband mentioned that he would like to participate in a county-wide open studio art tour all I could do was freak out over the thought that strangers would see my "creative cave" in all its magnificent messiness. As it turned out, cleaning off my writer's table was an enlightening experience. As I perused through the piles of paper - tossing and filing as I proceeded - I was amazed at the amount of notes, hand-outs, and folders I had accumulated from the variety of retreats, classes, and conferences I've attended over the years. Not surprisingly, I discovered some "buried treasures" amongst the mess.

Here is a quote from the British author, Stephen Leather, that I thought should be read daily, so I taped it next to my work area as a reminder:

Percent is one word. What can I say...math is not my thing!

After all the preparation, the Clark County Open Studios tour turned out to not only be a great event for my husband and the rest of the fifty participants, it was encouraging to me. Unbeknownst to me, as I greeted visitors upstairs, a few folks downstairs in our shared basement studio asked Michael about my writing. Evidently, they saw the "one-sheets" I have hanging in my work area for each of my manuscripts. As many of the visitors departed our home they complimented me on my stories. What sweet people to show an interest in an aspect of the tour that was not even a focus. Thanks to everyone who attended the first Clark County Open Studios tour!

It was special to have several of my writer friends visit our studio and chat for a bit. A big "thank you" to Carolyn, Mike, Kriston, BJ, and Deb for stopping by the open studio last weekend - you guys are great!

Lastly, a very special thanks to our dear friends, Camila Morrison and Nila Baker. These two lovely and talented ladies volunteered to help during the tour in our home. We couldn't have welcomed the nearly 150 people we had visit our studio last weekend without them!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Tatterdemalion -

raggedly dressed person; looking disreputable or decayed.

Example: the English novel's cast of characters was a gang of tatterdemalions who lurked amidst the alleys of  nineteenth-century London.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Apprentice's Masterpiece:
A Story of Medieval Spain
by Melanie Little

Amazon Description:
Fifteenth-century Spain is a richly multicultural society in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians coexist. But under the zealous Christian Queen Isabella, the country abruptly becomes one of the most murderously intolerant places on Earth.

It is in this atmosphere that the Benvenistes, a family of scribes, attempt to eke out a living. The family has a secret - they are conversos: Jews who converted to Christianity. Now, with neighbors and friends turned into spies, fear hangs in the air.

One day a young man is delivered to their door. His name is Amir, and he wears the robe and red patch of a Muslim. Fifteen-year-old Ramon Benveniste broods over Amir's easy acceptance into the family.

Startling and dramatic events overtake the household, and the family is torn apart. One boy becomes enslaved; the other takes up service for the Inquisitors. Finally, their paths cross in a stunningly haunting scene.

My Thoughts:
After extensive research, Ms. Little created a beautifully-written novel in verse set amidst one of the most turbulent times in world history. It is upon the backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition that her story is set with its colorful and memorable characters. It is a poetic and poignant novel that will long linger in your mind. I would highly recommend The Apprentice's Masterpiece: A Story of Medieval Spain to readers who enjoy historical fiction, poetry, or who are advocates for tolerance.

To learn more about the award-winning author, Melanie Little,
click here:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Champions of Creativity

Public Domain Photo
        Tasha Tudor

In an attempt to keep my blog relevant (when I have nothing new to share), I've decided to periodically substitute "Champions of Creativity" for my normal Friday meme of Storyteller's Journey. Each post will include a short biography of a famous author, illustrator, poet, or other creative who has inspired me on my path as a writer.
For the first post in this new meme, I immediately thought of the legendary Tasha Tudor.

Ms. Tudor was an award-winning illustrator and author who was born on August 28, 1915, in Boston, Massachusetts to two talented New Englanders. Her father, W. Starling Burgess was a naval architect, while her mother, Rosamund Tudor, was a noted portrait painter. In social circles Natasha was usually introduced as, Rosamund Tudor's daughter. She liked the sound of Tasha Tudor so much, that later in her life she had her name legally changed.

I discovered Ms. Tudor's illustrative work many years ago in the books, The Secret Garden, and A Little Princess - both by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Her whimsical water color illustrations made those classic stories come to life for me as a young girl. However, Tasha Tudor is also known for her Caldecott Honors for the books: Mother Goose in 1945, and 1 is One in 1957. Two of my personal favorites, with text and illustrations by Ms. Tudor are: Corgiville Fair and Corgiville Christmas - they are both just delightful.

Although her impressive professional accomplishments are to be admired, it is Ms. Tudor's personal life that I find so fascinating. As an adult she lived on a storybook farm with goats, chickens, and Corgi dogs; and maintained a garden full of herbs, flowers, and vegetables. She used fruit that had been picked from the trees on her bucolic property to make pies on her wood stove. Tasha Tudor chose to dress in clothes styled for the 19th century that she handcrafted herself. She even carried a homemade willow basket when she went to the market - she must have been quite a gal!

By the time Tasha Tudor died on June 18, 2008 in Marlboro, Vermont, she had illustrated over 100 books and had received the Regina Medal for her contributions to children's literature. Her books, prints, calendars, and Christmas cards are now highly collectible items.

To view samples of  Tasha Tudor's amazing artwork, click here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Arrogate -

to take claim for oneself without right; appropriate.

Example: the senatorial candidate arrogated the responsibilities of the office before the election's recount had been completed.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
by Catherynne M. Valente

Flap Copy Description:
September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.

My Thoughts:
This richly written and densely detailed middle grade novel is Ms. Valente's third in her series in which we find the precocious protagonist - September, in Fairyland. This trilogy of books represents a remarkable body of work by the author. Reminiscent of the fairy tales of old, Ms. Valente adds a touch of modernism, and a twist of whimsy and what we are treated to is a delightfully delicious tale indeed. I would highly recommend The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two to readers from the ages of eight to eighty. Have your dictionaries ready...the author's vocabulary is extraordinary!

To learn more about the author, Catherynne M. Valente, click here:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Embrace or Evade Comparable Books?

A few years ago, while my critique partner, Kriston,
and I were visiting Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, she had an eerie experience. She discovered a YA novel that had a flap copy description that would not only fit her own WIP to a T, but worse than that - the protagonist had the same name! I assured her that if anyone accused her of plagiarism I would explain to them that I had been her classmate in the college creative writing class when the novel had been conceived. (She went on to publish her amazing YA fantasy novel, Awakened, and is working on the sequel.) Since that time we have come to realize that this is not an unusual experience. But, I was always confident that my middle grade novel had little chance of duplicating another book, even a bit...until recently!

The above books are all not only middle grade novels, but they also all contain female protagonists. They would all - to lesser or greater degrees - be considered comparable books to the middle grade novel that I am currently submitting. However, one of the books (which shall remain unidentified) contains a protagonist with the same name as my own heroine; has a major character that is a quirky grandmother - like my story; and features ghosts in its plot - also like my story. (Thankfully the plot, setting, and other elements of that novel are nothing like my book.) I discovered this similarity, surprisingly enough, after I had purchased the book, but before I had it signed by the author. I was so unraveled, that when I met the talented writer, I mentioned the similarity. She laughed and said, "Don't worry, my book will be a great comp book for you!" However, for some reason I was still just a bit uncomfortable with the similarity. (If you follow my blog close enough, you will be able to pick out the book I am referring to in the photo.)

Since that encounter, I have researched the concept of comparable books quite a bit. What I have discovered is that authors of young adult and adult novels seem to be asked to mention comparable books more than authors of middle grade novels when submitting. That brings up the big question: Should we embrace or evade comparable books? Writing a book that is similar to a well-known published book would of course make our own novel more marketable. But how similar is too similar? I am still battling with frustration from the fact that there is already a published book in bookstores with strange similarities to my novel. It is, of course, a moot issue unless my book gets published!

What are your thoughts on the subject of comparable books?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Orphic -

mysterious, magical, or entrancing; beyond ordinary understanding.
Example: The orphic movement of the antique furniture suggested paranormal activity.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Year of Shadows
by Claire Legrand

Flap Copy Description:
Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year. Her mother left, her neglectful father - the maestro of a failing orchestra - has moved her and her grandmother into the dark, broken-down music hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.
     Just when she thinks life couldn't get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia's help - if the hall is torn down, they'll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.
     Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living...and soon it's not just the concert hall that needs saving.

My Thoughts:
I read and reviewed Ms. Legrand's debut middle grade novel The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and loved it. So it is no surprise to me that The Year of Shadows is just as cool and creepy! I really love the character development, especially the protagonist - Olivia. Ms. Legrand has boldly created a twelve-year-old female who is outspoken, angry, quirky, and even a bit rebellious. But guess what? You'll love her! The reason I say that is because of the wonderful writing in this story; we not only see the pain of the protagonist, we feel it. And, as in any good character arc, we also cheer for the heroine when she turns the corner. I would highly recommend The Year of Shadows to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Jessica and David

A Friday to Remember

Today is one of those days that authors write romantic stories about. You know, the ones where the beautiful princess marries a handsome prince?
Tonight my son, David, will marry his fiancée, Jessica.

In honor of their special day (and because I'm just a wee bit nervous) this proud mother is turning off her comments. I'll be back next week!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Logolepsy -

a fascination or obsession with words.

Example: the blogger had a bad case of logolepsy.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Real Boy
by Anne Ursu

Flap Copy Description:
     On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city saved by the magic woven into its walls when a devastating plague swept through the world years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow, who spends his days in the dark cellar of his master's  shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.
     But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill; something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.

My Thoughts:
Anne Ursu - the author of Breadcrumbs, has created another spellbinding middle grade novel called The Real Boy. This well-written fantasy invites the reader into the magical, yet painful world of Oscar - an odd boy filled with fears, insecurities, and an inability to socialize. However, when evil events occur in the enchanted city of Asteri, Oscar's life is transformed by the power of friendship and the pull of compassion. Ms. Ursu has beautifully revealed deep elements within the human experience in this extraordinary novel. I would highly recommend The Real Boy to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

To learn more about the author - Anne Ursu - click here:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

A Sweet Surprise!

Earlier this week I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite online pals - Ruth Schiffmann - had nominated me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award.
Thanks so much, Ruth!

The rules for the Super Sweet Blogging Award are:
1- Answer the following five questions.
2- Nominate five sweet bloggers.

1. Cookies or Cake? Definitely cookies! I can honestly say I haven't met a cookie I didn't like; although peanut butter cookies are a favorite.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla? That depends. When it comes to ice cream I am definitely a vanilla fan; if we're talking candy, it's got to be chocolate!

3. Favorite Sweet Treat? For me that's a bit like asking me which molecule of oxygen I prefer! I guess my favorite would be apple pie a la mode - although it seems that the only time I allow myself that indulgence is during the holidays!

4. When Do You Crave Sweet Things the Most? It seems that every afternoon around 3 o'clock I get hungry for a surge of sweetness. I finally came up with the idea of placing little chocolates in an empty glass jar. That way I can eat one (maybe two!) and not go crazy with the calories before dinnertime.

5. Sweet Nick Name? Gosh, I call my hubby: sweetie, honey, and even sometimes, pumpkin. But, the nick names that my husband calls me, are derivatives of my actual name: Vic, or V. (Not really sweet-sounding, but heartfelt nonetheless!)

                    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

The five blogging friends I'd like to nominate for this award are:

Kriston Johnson - my critique partner. She's always sweet to me... even when she has to give constructive criticism!
Loree Huebner - She's one of those gals that just seems to embody sweetness.
Carol Riggs - A super writer and a sweet blogging friend.
Debbie Coope - Although she lives "across the pond," she's made me feel like we're close friends.
Elizabeth Varadan - I love her gentle seems to extend to the entire planet.

My candy jar!

     Hope all of my blogging buddies have a sweet weekend!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Word

Cosmogyral -

whirling around the universe.

Example: The weather satellite spun out of control in an unfortunate cosmogyral fashion.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

From Norvelt to Nowhere
by Jack Gantos

Flap Copy Description:
This rocket-paced follow-up to the acclaimed Dead End in Norvelt opens deep in the shadow of the Cuban missile crisis. But instead of Russian warheads, other kinds of trouble are raining down on young Jack Gantos and his utopian town of Norvelt in western Pennsylvania. After an explosion, a new crime by an old crook, and the sad passing of the town's founder, twelve-year-old Jack will soon find himself launched on a mission that takes him hundreds of miles away, escorting his slightly mental elderly mentor, Miss Volker, on her relentless pursuit of the oddest of outlaws. But as their trip turns south in more ways than one, it's increasingly clear that the farther from their off-beat home they travel, the more crazed Jack and Miss Volker's adventure becomes, in this raucous road novel about roots and revenge, a last chance at love, and the power of a remarkable friendship.

My Thoughts:
The last time I laughed out loud while reading a middle grade novel was when I read Dead End in Norvelt, the Newbery Medal winner by the same talented and zany author who wrote From Norvelt to Nowhere - Jack Gantos. He's done it again! As in Dead End in Norvelt, the author whips up a literary delight with the unlikely ingredients of humor and historical fiction creating an insightful, informative, and thoroughly entertaining middle grade novel. Gantos is a genius. I would highly recommend From Norvelt to Nowhere to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

To learn more about the author - Jack Gantos,
click here:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

  Inspired at Wordstock

Last Saturday I attended Wordstock in Portland, Oregon, and had an awesome time. If you live in the Pacific Northwest and have never attended the annual event, you really should check it out. (You might even see Star Wars characters like I did!)
Since it had been three years since I last attended the literary festival I noticed numerous changes. Due to the explosion of independent presses and digital publishing, there were many booths at the book fair offering information on those subjects.
However, what my critique partner and I hoped to do was to hear, and possibly meet, our favorite middle grade and young adult authors present at the four-day event. We were not disappointed!

This panel of authors is the big reason Kriston and I had such an awesome time at the event. Seated L-R: Emma Trevayne, Claire Legrand, and Stefan Bachmann. (We were told that the potted plant was there to represent the children's book author, Katherine Catmull who was unable to attend. I'm thinking they didn't want to admit that she's a shape-shifter!)

This talented company of children's book authors has also collaborated: Next year, Creepy Tales from the Cabinet of Curiosities will be released. It is a collection of dark short stories contributed by each of the four authors - whom you can tell are friends.

On a side note, my critique partner - Kriston, and I later had a chance to chat with the three authors and have them sign their books. Each of them was warm and friendly, and even asked about our own stories.
Thank you so much, Emma, Claire, and Stefan!

This quirky quartet (I say quirky because Katherine Catmull has a scarf wrapped around her pot, and is wearing a pair of sunglasses!) can be found at their website: Cabinet of Curiosities

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Croodle -

to cuddle or nestle together, as from fear or cold.

Example: The lost mountain climbers chose to croodle around the campfire in an attempt to stay warm.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Whatnot
by Stefan Bachmann

Flap Copy Description:
Oh, the Sly King, the Sly King, in his towers of ash and wind.

Pikey Thomas doesn't know how or why he can see the changeling girl. But there she is. Not in the cold, muddy London neighborhood where Pikey lives. Instead, she's walking through the trees and snow of the enchanted Old Country or, later, racing trough an opulent hall. She's pale and small, and she has branches growing out of her head. Her name is Henrietta Kettle.

Pikey's vision, it turns out, is worth something. Worth something to Hettie's brother - a brave adventurer named Bartholomew Kettle. Worth something to the nobleman who protects him. And Pikey is not above bartering - Pikey will do almost anything to escape his past; he'll do almost anything for a life worth living.

The faeries - save for a mysterious sylph and a mischievous cobble faery or two - have been chased out of London. They've all gone north. The army is heading north, too. So Pikey and Bartholomew follow, collecting information, piecing together clues, searching for the doorway that will lead them to Hettie.

My Thoughts:
The Whatnot is the recently-released companion book to Stefan Bachmann's, The Peculiar. The sequel not only matches the debut novel's appeal, it surpasses it. With highly-developed characters, awesome old world settings, and a writing style that could be the envy of most writers, the author sets a new standard for children's literature. Mr. Bachmann is a super-talented university student who has been compared to Charles Dickens, J.K. Rowling, and other exceptional authors. Bravo! I would highly recommend The Whatnot to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

In addition to Mr. Bachmann's literary talent, he is also an accomplished musician. To hear from his original score for the novel, The Peculiar, click here:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain

     Middle Grade Magic!

Amidst a children's book publishing industry that is bursting its bindings with young adult novels, I have found upper middle grade books to be what I prefer to write, and, even sometimes, read.
You might wonder why.

Aside from the fact that I've been told on numerous occasions that I live in "my own little world," I learned long ago that I am a quirky, creative soul...even in a room full of writers! So when I began to take my writing seriously, and even set goals to be published, it was to middle grade stories that my imagination wandered. Where else can you relive your own childhood, or write a book you wish had been written when  you were a kid? Where else is a unique imagination rewarded, rather than ridiculed? Where else can you create flying polar bears and magical dryads all while not worrying about romantic scenes?? (That's not to say that I don't enjoy lots of young adult books, because I do! It's just that my own creativity seems to be satisfied only while writing imaginative stories for middle grade readers.)

A huge reason that I read middle grade novels is the same reason all writers are advised to read: It injects my creative juices with awesome writing, while keeping me informed on the current literary trends.
But, I would not be honest if I didn't admit that it is a great upper middle grade novel that excites me most - both as a writer, and as a reader.

So, while I'm a wife, and a mother of three sons, the "secret self" inside me is a quirky writer of MG stories. After all...middle grade is magic!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Brume -

fog or mist.

Example: a wispy brume mysteriously hung over the English moor.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root
by Christopher Pennell

Flap Copy Description: Every night Carly stayed in her room, drinking hot tea and sitting in her chair by the little brick fireplace she felt so lucky to have. She read books, waiting for the sun to rise so that she could finally go to sleep and leave the lonely, wakeful hours behind.

Strange things abound in the town of Whistle Root: a little girl named Carly Bean Bitters has never been able to sleep at night, rats make music in the moonlight, and friends are found in the unlikeliest of places.
     When a wicked creature hatches deep in the woods, Carly must uncover a secret legacy of magic and music. Will she save herself and her new friends before it's too late?

My Thoughts:
Christopher Pennell's debut middle grade novel is delightfully creative and the illustrations by Rebecca Bond are just wonderful. The author included mysterious settings, awesome word choices, and imaginative characters. While I found the plot to be a bit confusing, overall I found The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root to be well worth recommending to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo
Delving Into the Dark Side

Since beginning the second story in my MG  series, I have realized the need to feature my antagonist much more in the sequel. While I introduced the villain in small snippets in the first novel, this next tale will include him as a primary character. Consequently, I have been developing a more detailed back story and character arc for my heroine's nemesis.

During this process I have found that "delving into the dark side" has made me feel quite creepy. One night I even had a nightmare in which I was my story's antagonist - it felt awful! Although this process has been unpleasant, it has given me a better understanding of my villain, which I'm hoping will enable me to write a more textured antagonist. After all, the strength of a story rests, in part, on the challenges placed upon the protagonist. Creating a well-developed antagonist is one way to attain the tension that so intrigues the reader.

Have you ever felt a "darkness" while developing your antagonist?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Pluviophile -

a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace during rainy days.
Example: Since the writer lived in the rainy Pacific Northwest, it helped that she was a pluviophile.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Lightning Dreamer
by Margarita Engle

Amazon Description:
"I find it so easy to forget / that I'm just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts." Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula.

In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen, and was ultimately courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes, excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute.

My Thoughts:
Margarita Engle educates the reader not only on the life of famed poet, Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, she also enlightens the reader to the travesty of slavery in Cuba during the nineteenth century. This well-written novel in verse is packed with poignant and passionate prose - another great example of the talent of Margarita Engle. I would highly recommend The Lightning Dreamer to female readers from the ages of ten and up, and to anyone who enjoys history or poetry.

To learn more about Margarita Engle, click here:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo

Fall's Fresh Start

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."
F. Scott Fitzgerald.

You might think that living in the cold and rainy Pacific Northwest that I would look forward to the warmer seasons of spring and summer. You'd be wrong. Maybe it's because I've lived here nearly all of my life that autumn is, without a doubt, the time of year when I feel nature mirrors back to me my own soul. Writing, reading, walking in the woods, and visiting the stormy Pacific Ocean, are just a few of the things I love to do in the fall, but there are many more.

In addition to that, being a student at heart, I always start a new project in the fall. There's just something about September that calls to me for a time of fresh learning and creating. This year is no exception. After completing a rewrite of The Tale of Willaby Creek, and sending out another query letter for Livvi Biddle ~ The Secret of Stonehenge, I have decided to proceed with Book II in the series: Livvi Biddle ~ A Garden in Giverny.  Learning more about France, Paris, and Claude Monet and his garden in Giverny, has kept me busy for the last three weeks. Although I've been a long-time fan of the art of Monet, it was essential that I learn the details of the master's life (like the name of his gardener; and when he had eye surgery) to create a believable tale.

For me, fall is truly the time when I return to "the cauldron of creativity."
So, while the school buses rumble up and down the nearby country road, and the Seattle Seahawks make their bid for a Super Bowl slot, I'll be lost in the whimsical world of Wordlandia inside my studio!

Have you started a new project recently? What's your favorite season?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Dibble -

a pointed gardening implement to make holes in soil, especially for planting bulbs or seedlings.
Example: The angry autumn sky brooded over the gardener as he wielded his dibble to plant the bulbs.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

Story's End
by Marissa Burt

Flap Copy Description:
Long ago, a King ruled the land of Story...
During the reign, Heroes, Villains, and characters of all  kinds lived out new Tales filled with daring quests and epic struggles.
     Then the King disappeared, and over the years, nearly everyone forgot that he had ever existed. Now an evil Enemy has emerged, determined to write a new future for Story that he will control. And a ordinary girl named Una Fairchild is inextricably tangled up in his deadly plan.
     Una and her friends Peter and Indy are desperate to find a way to defeat the Enemy. But Una soon discovers that the real key may lie in her own mysterious ties to Story's past - and to the long-forgotten King, who could be Story's only hope for survival.

My Thoughts:
Story's End is the sensational sequel to Marissa Burt's first fantasy book, Storybound. Again we follow the protagonist, Una Fairchild, on her quest to overthrow the evil forces that threaten the alternate world of Story. Weaving three points of view, Ms. Burt keeps the reader intrigued all the way to the end of Una's adventure. All the elements you expect in a well-written children's book are found in Story's End. However, it is the subtle heartfelt lessons that the author sprinkled into this delightful tale that I found so endearing. I would highly recommend Story's End to readers from the ages of eight to fourteen.

To learn more about the author, Marissa Burt, click here:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Why We Write
edited by Meredith Maran

Amazon Description:
Anyone who's ever sat down to write a novel or even a story knows how exhilarating and heartbreaking writing can be. So what makes writers stick with it? In Why We Write, twenty well-known authors candidly share what keeps them going and what they love the most - and least - about their vocation.

My Thoughts:
Although I usually post reviews for middle grade books, I do occasionally feature an adult book when it's had a major impact on me as a writer. Why We Write is awesome! Learning from successful writers about what makes them "tick," so to speak, was both informative and inspiring. The reasons these writers write are as different as the genres of their books. However, it was reading about their doubts, insecurities, and even frustrations that reminded me that every writer deals with these things...even after they're published. I highly recommend Why We Write to all writers...wherever they're at on their storyteller's journey!

If you'd like to purchase Why We Write, here's the Amazon link:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Necrology -

a list of people who have died during a specific period.
Example: A necrology of those persons who died in the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 is inscribed in bronze at Memorial Plaza in New York City.   Never Forget

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

America Is Under Attack
by Don Brown

Amazon Description:
The events of September 11, 2001 changed the world forever. Don Brown narrates the events of the day in a way that is both accessible and understandable for young readers. Straightforward and honest, this account moves chronologically through the morning from the plane hijackings to the crashes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania; from the rescue operations at the WTC site to the collapse of the buildings.

My Thoughts:
This award-winning non-fiction book is the best children's book I've seen chronicling the events of 9/11. Its water color paintings perfectly illustrate the powerful and poignant text. If you are a parent, or teacher of young readers, this book is a must. I would highly recommend America Is Under Attack to readers from the ages of eight to fourteen.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Summer of 2013

This blog post reminds me of the back-to-school assignment: "What I Did On My Summer Vacation!" Here I'm hamming it up with my critique partner, Kriston Johnson. (L-R: Victoria and Kriston.)
In early June my hubby and I found ourselves in Bend, Oregon tootling through bookstores and art galleries. We took a nature walk around Mirror Pond - a familiar landmark in the artsy community.
The last Sunday of June we hosted a small family reunion at our home. Pictured from L-R: our youngest son, Brian; our soon-to-be-daughter-in-law, Jessica; our eldest son, David; and our middle son, Kevin.
Since our son, Brian, had moved home for a couple of months before moving to NYC, we spent several weekends taking him to some special spots in our area. In July we visited the Portland Japanese Gardens.
Later in July I spent time on Mt. Hood with Kriston Johnson for our writers' retreat. Here I'm pictured at Wildwood Recreational Site; we spent a couple of hours there walking around the amazing trails.
A few days after I returned from the writers' retreat, my husband, Michael, and I went back to Wildwood for a picnic...with some oil painting and writing on the side. That is our favorite thing to do on a free summer weekend.
In the midst of all this summer fun, I was actually able to accomplish my goal of rewriting an old manuscript! I'm still trying to decide whether or not to pursue beta readers, editing, and sending out query letters.
(Original copy pictured.)

I hope you all had a sensational summer. It feels good to be back in blogosphere after a much needed break. Happy writing, dear friends!