Friday, February 28, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you've no doubt heard me mention the possibility of independently publishing my picture book. Although I've shared very little about my decision-making process in regards to that option, I assure you that my writer's brain has thought of little else.

The old adage "When a door closes, a window opens" is the best way to describe how I finally made my decision...even if that is an idiom! After sending out query letters for over two years - and receiving only rejection letters in return - I have finally decided to accept the challenge and attempt to independently publish The Scandinavian Santa. The reason I say attempt, is because with the picture book being in a landscape format and the illustrations being full-page paintings (courtesy of my hubby!), finding an appropriate press to publish my book is only made that much more challenging.

I should mention that my story has been rewritten numerous times, edited a few times, and received favorable reviews from agents and publishers alike. However (don't you hate that word? I think all of my rejection letters contain the word - however!), they all agree: The word count is WAY too high. I was well aware of the recommended word count for picture books when I wrote the story. The yuletide tale was inspired by one of my great-grandfathers and was a creative collaboration with my husband...and is really in the format of picture books from a bygone era. (Examples: The Velveteen Rabbit or Curious George.) It was never intended to fit into one of the publishing industry's "pigeonholes." But (here comes another idiom), "You can't have your cake and eat it too." I was not willing to slice my story apart, so I shouldn't be surprised that no one wanted to push or publish it.

A couple of weeks ago I received my latest rejection letter from a small regional press. That press represented my best chance at getting traditionally published since they like Scandinavian themes, among others. The strange thing was that my response to the rejection was truly not disappointment, but delight. The reason I was delighted was due to the fact I had already decided that if they rejected my story I would independently publish. It felt like a weight had fallen from my shoulders and I was free to follow a, now clear, publishing path.

I'll keep you posted as I deal with all the details involved with independently publishing. I'm hoping for a release date this fall!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Boffin -

a scientist or technical expert.

Example: The cause of the chemical reaction baffled the eccentric boffin.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

One Came Home
by Amy Timberlake

Amazon Description:
In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.

But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn't, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of "pigeoners" trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body - wearing Agatha's blue-green ball gown - everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to accept the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

My Thoughts:
Amy Timberlake's marvelous middle grade book, One Came Home, recently received a Newbery Honor Award. The author went to great lengths to research this historical fiction novel, and her extra efforts made this story seem to come alive. Rich with adventure and mystery, the story's main character, Georgie, will make you laugh, cry, and at times, even become angry. The plot's twists and turns are worthy of an adult novel, and you won't learn the answer to the mystery until the very end. The rich setting descriptions and authentic jargon of the time will transport you back to the Midwest just after the close of the Civil War. I would highly recommend One Came Home to readers from the ages of eight to fourteen.

To learn more about the author Amy Timberlake, click here:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Extra Sets of Eyes

No, I'm not creating a new creepy character! The extra sets of eyes I'm referring to are those found in the new critique group I recently joined.

Photo courtesy of the Public Domain.

We hear it all the time as writers: "The more eyes that review your work, the better." I have never found that statement more true in all the years I've been writing than at the first meeting of my new group. I should say that all the other writers in this critique group are extremely experienced writers...I hope I can hold up my end of the bargain!

The feedback that each member gave to my middle grade manuscript was nothing short of spectacular. I was so inspired by their critiques that the next day I worked for several hours on revisions...and that is after my novel has been rewritten three times, revised countless times, and been edited! It would be grand enough if this group was just comprised of great writers, but these ladies are as nice as they come. An added bonus is that we rotate our meetings in each of our homes. This really helps me out since Michael and I already host a monthly art group of oil painters at our house. I am so thankful to have found a new critique group to call home.

Do you belong to a critique group? How has it benefited your writing?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Scintilla -

a tiny, brilliant flash or spark; a small thing; a barely-visible trace.

Example: Only a single scintilla was visible after the flight of the fairy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing
by Sheila Turnage

Flap Copy Description:
Miss Mo LoBeau - one half of the (probably) world-famous Desperado Detective Agency - is back! She and her fellow Desperado, Dale, went famous for about a week over the summer when they solved a murder in their hometown of Tupelo Landing - population 148 minus one (murder). Now sixth grade has started and it's back to being regular.
     But regular doesn't come easy to a girl like Mo.
     So when her beloved Miss Lana makes an Accidental Bid at the Tupelo auction and winds up the mortified owner of an old inn with an identified ghost in the fine print, Mo's itching to take the case. Plus, a historical ghost might make for some much needed Extra Credit in history. Who's haunting the old inn? And why? The Desperado Detectives set out to solve their second big case - only to find the inn might not be the only thing in Tupelo Landing haunted by the past.
     With some unexpected help from the slick new kid in town - Crenshaw, Harm Crenshaw (as in Bond, James Bond) - Mo and Dale discover the truth about a lot of things. Even themselves.

My Thoughts:
It comes as no surprise that Sheila Turnage's recently-released middle grade novel is spectacular. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is the sequel to Ms. Turnage's Three Times Lucky - winner of a Newbery Honor. In this hilarious companion book, we are treated once again to the antics of Mo and her sidekick, Dale, as they seek to solve another mystery. It was a delight to see the author expand on the characters we were introduced to in the first novel. I can only hope to be entertained by many more escapades from the Desperado Detective Agency! I would highly recommend The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

To learn more about the author Sheila Turnage, click here:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

            The Heart of A Story

Although Valentine's Day is today, the heart on the left also illustrates the importance of the core elements of a novel - the heart of a story. I recently attended a writers' meeting where this topic was discussed and found the subject so fascinating that I thought I'd pursue it further on my blog.

I will start by mentioning that the idea of the core elements of a story - or its core - was brought up at the meeting I mentioned, after a fellow writer shared about an article she'd read by author Maggie Stiefvater. You should definitely take the time to read the post - it's great stuff!

I have been pondering the idea of what the core of my own story is for the last two weeks. What parts of it are "sacred" to me? What story elements might possibly be non-negotiable when working with an editor? In short, what is the heart of my story?

At first I thought the answer to my questions would be found within the story's theme, and that is definitely part of it. However, I finally realized that the true heart of my story was found within the personality of my protagonist. When I write, I slip into the persona of my main character much like an actor prepares for a role. I believe I know my "leading lady" better than anyone else. If faced with the option of significantly changing who she is, I'm not sure if I could accept that. Chalk that up to my roots as a  poet...I put my heart into everything that I write.

What would your novel's core be? What is the heart of your story?

                       Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Carriwitchet -

a pun or a paradox; a riddling question.

Example: The professor enjoyed challenging his students by using carriwitchets within his lectures.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

by Vince Vawter

Amazon Description:
An eleven-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest baseball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend's paper route for the month of July, he knows he'll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything.

The paper route poses challenges, but it's a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and a thief, that stirs up real trouble - and puts the boy's life, as well as that of his family's devoted housekeeper, in danger.

My Thoughts:
Vince Vawter's debut middle grade novel, Paperboy, is simply remarkable. The author was richly rewarded for this profound story by winning a Newbery Honor just two weeks ago. Although Paperboy is a novel, in some ways it is a memoir, since it is loosely based on Mr. Vawter's own childhood in the late fifties. I found this story, set in Memphis, to be a somewhat painful reminder of life in the South prior to the Civil Rights Movement. What makes this novel so special is the amazing voice of the stuttering protagonist. Not just his struggles with speech, but the wisdom he's gained - beyond his years - due to the challenges brought on by his speech impediment. This middle grade novel is one of those rare children's books that would truly resonate with readers of all ages. Congratulations to Mr. Vawter for this extraordinary piece of literature!

To learn more about the author, Vince Vawter, click here:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Drawing
My Third Blog Anniversary!

When I started out blogging, I, like probably most bloggers, had no idea where this adventure would take me. I had hoped it would be a platform for my writing aspirations - which it has been - but the biggest benefit to blogging has definitely been meeting such awesome authors and writers. From those, a few folks have even become online friends - you know who you are!

To celebrate my first two blog anniversaries, I gave out gifts to a few well-deserving bloggers; this year I decided to make a donation to a charity to commemorate my blogging milestone. I immediately knew where I wanted the money to go: a charity benefiting the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I discovered the perfect destination for my donation: the University of Connecticut. I have attached the link if you are interested in joining me in aiding the siblings and children of the victims of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. This wonderful charity aids the victims' family members in their pursuit of higher education: Sandy Hook School Memorial Scholarship Fund.

As time goes by, you realize over and over again that your goals are great, but the most important things in life are your family and friends. Thanks to all of you who have supported me on my blogging journey.

     Here's to many more years of blissful blogging for all of us!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Whimsical Word of the Week

Orgulous -

proud; haughty; disdainful.

Example: The Olympic gold medalist strutted off the podium with an orgulous wave.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bibliophile's Corner

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters
by Lesley M.M. Blume

Amazon Description:
Eleven-year-old Cornelia is the daughter of two world-famous pianists - a legacy that should feel fabulous, but instead feels just plain lonely. She surrounds herself with dictionaries and other books to isolate herself from the outside world. But when a glamorous neighbor named Virginia Somerset moves next door with her servant Patel and a French bulldog named Mister Kinyatta, Cornelia discovers that the world is a much more exciting place than she originally thought.

My Thoughts: To be honest, when I began reading this book I was not sure whether or not I would like it. The young protagonist, Cornelia, was delightful enough, but the first story told by Virginia Somerset seemed to be merely entertainment. How would the storytelling grande dame's adventures propel this middle grade novel? The answer to that is that Ms. Blume skillfully intertwined the lonely life of Cornelia with the intriguing life of her extraordinary neighbor, so that by the end of this novel we have seen Cornelia's life dramatically transformed. I am so glad I completed reading Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters!! In fact, it is now probably one of my favorite children's books. Complete with references to world cities and an in depth look at the world of music, art, and literature, this book is a wonderful novel for the young female bookworm, artist, musician, or budding writer. In fact, it would be a wonderful way to introduce the world of fine arts to a young girl. I would highly recommend Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters to female readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

To learn more about the extraordinary life of Lesley M. M. Blume, the author, click here: