Friday, January 30, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

Never Ever Quit

Whether or not you saw the NFC Championship game on January 18th, you've definitely heard about it. It's being called one of the best NFL play-off games in history.  Both photos courtesy of the Public Domain. 

That's not technically true. For most of the game, it was the worst performance by the Seahawks I've ever seen...and I've been a Seahawk fan my entire adult life. However, it was the best comeback in a play-off game I've ever seen.

Why does that matter to me as a writer? Because time and time again I learn life lessons from sports teams. As mentioned in the Wilson quote above, characteristics of perseverance, perspective, and purpose can be seen in a well-disciplined and well-coached team.

We often hear these remarks from coaches: Play to the whistle and it's a sixty minute game. But how does an athlete - or anyone for that matter - continue to go on when he's dug himself into a deep hole?

After the play-off game I heard commentators say things like: "That's why you never give never might still win."

I think it was more than that for Russell Wilson, and for anyone that has the consistent ability to continue when the chips are down.
It's about dignity, integrity, and heart. There is no guarantee you'll pull off a miracle like the Seahawks did in their win over the Green Bay Packers. However, why lose the game, and your integrity along with it? A true professional, in any vocation, continues to give their very best effort not for the possibility of glory, but for the satisfaction of knowing they didn't give up. At least then, they know they gave it their best effort, and no matter what the outcome there are no regrets.

Here are a few inspirational quotes about perseverance:

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."
                                                                             ~ Albert Einstein

"Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"When the world says, 'give up,' hope whispers, 'try one more time.'" 
~ Unknown

"Never underestimate the heart of a champion." ~ Rudy Tomjanovich

So, while I'm hoping my Seahawks can beat the mighty New England Patriot machine in the Super Bowl this Sunday, it will be a tough task. But whether they win or lose, I know they'll play to the last whistle.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Fusty (adj.) -

smelling stale, damp, or stuffy.

Example: The princess was finally discovered, and then rescued, from the fusty smelling dungeon.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

The Wollstonecraft
Detective Agency
The Case of the Missing Moonstone
by Jordan Stratford

Partial Amazon Description:
(This is a made-up story about two very real girls: Ada Byron, who has been called the world’s first computer programmer, and Mary Shelley, the world’s first science-fiction author. Ada and Mary didn't really know one another, nor did they have a detective agency together.)

Flap Copy Description:
Lady Ada Byron, age eleven, is a genius. She's also isolated, awkward, and a bit rude. But a genius.

Mary Godwin, age fourteen, is a romantic. She's also adventurous and kind, and has a talent for noticing things. And she is soon to become Ada's first true friend.

Together, they form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. It's a secret constabulary because they suspect clients would not trust their problems to two young girls. (And because it would be better if their parents didn't find out...)

They may look innocent, but in order to solve the case of a stolen heirloom, these two girls will break into (and then out of) Newgate Prison, dodge suspicious men wearing fezzes, tell a few smallish lies, and pursue the thief by both carriage and hot-air balloon.

Clever criminals of London, beware!

My Thoughts:
Bravo to Mr. Stratford for creating a delightful mystery series for girls! By using Ada Byron (Ada Lovelace) and Mary Godwin Shelley as the two main characters, he has also introduced young female readers to two historic English women from the Victorian Era. The character development, complex plot, and surprise ending, all make this well-written middle grade novel a winner in my book. I highly recommend The Case of the Missing Moonstone to readers from the ages of eight to fourteen, and look forward to Book Two in the Wollstonecraft Detective series: The Case of the Girl in Gray.

Click here to learn more about the author, Jordan Stratford.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

Columbia River Maritime Museum Puzzle
 A Heart for History

Last weekend my husband and I visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum. If you're ever in Astoria, Oregon, be sure to take the time to visit the extraordinary museum.

I've lived near the Columbia River since I was a toddler, so the history presented inside the museum - and the artifacts displayed - touched me deeply. (I'm not sure why we've never taken the time to visit the wonderful venue before.)

As we departed the museum and continued on our trip toward home, it dawned on me that nearly every story I've ever written has included at least a bit of Pacific Northwest history. (Even The Scandinavian Santa was inspired by my great-grandfather who immigrated to Washington State.) That epiphany really shouldn't have surprised me since history was always my favorite subject in school. As a reader I also love historical fiction. When I pondered on that personal truth, I wondered how I could have missed that tidbit about myself as a writer. As writers we're constantly told: "Write what you know." Well, I guess I have been doing that...I just didn't realize it. Although I was not aware I was consistently including history in my writing, my mind had subconsciously prompted me to do just that.

I brought a souvenir home from the museum - a book! If I'm destined to have a "heart for history" then I had better brush up on the legends and lore of the beautiful region where we live. Below is a photo of The Columbia River ~ Gateway to the West, by Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes.

Is there a subject that seems to always end up in your writing?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Anagnorisis (n.) -

is a moment in a play or other work when a character makes a critical discovery.
Example: The protagonist in the novel didn't have a real anagnorisis until the last chapter.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

The Snow Merchant
by Sam Gayton

Amazon Description:
Lettie Peppercorn lives in a house on stilts near the wind-swept coast of Albion, with no one to talk to but Periwinkle the pigeon. Her days are filled with floor-sweeping, bed-making and soup-stirring. Her dreams are filled with memories of her mother, who vanished long ago. Nothing incredible has ever happened to Lettie, until one winter’s night.

The night the Snow Merchant comes.

He claims to be an alchemist—the greatest that ever lived—and in a mahogany suitcase, he carries his newest invention.

It is an invention that will change Lettie’s life—and the world—forever.

The Snow Merchant is a fantasy filled with family secrets, magical transformations and wild adventure.

My Thoughts:
If you're a fan of novels by Neil Gaiman or Catherynne M. Valente, then you'll love Sam Gayton's The Snow Merchant. Whimsical, imaginative, and laced with life lessons, this middle grade novel is truly magical. The protagonist, Lettie, finds courage and determination when she embarks on an extraordinary journey to locate not only her mother, but the mysterious secret of snow. Along the way, she meets a fascinating friend in the character of Noah, and discovers that one's imagination is to be more treasured than riches. I highly recommend The Snow Merchant to readers from the ages of eight to fourteen.

Click here to learn more about the author, Sam Gayton.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

Public Domain Photo by George Hodan
Clearing Cobwebs

This week I've finally started writing a new, and hopefully exciting, story. But clearing the cobwebs in my mind after the holidays was not easy. That got me thinking of ways to do just that.

Here's a list of ways I came up with to clear the cobwebs of my mind:

1- Allow yourself time to fully recover from an intense season of your life. Whether it's the holidays, a summer vacation, or the birth of a baby, you need time to get back to your normal routine.

2- Once you've allowed yourself the appropriate time to get back to normal, make sure you don't procrastinate. Make a detailed list of goals (with deadlines) that you want to accomplish in the coming months and follow through with steps to make them happen.

3- If it seems difficult to grasp hold of creative or imaginative ideas then mix it up. Most libraries and community centers offer free classes or meetings. A great way to clear the cobwebs of your mind is to engage in an activity you've not previously participated in. While it might seem counter-productive to spend time on a new activity or hobby, I've found just the opposite to be true.

4- Be a member of a critique group. Hearing about other writers' stories and accomplishments might be just the kick in the pants you need. (My critique group took a winter break; I  can't wait to meet with my writer friends in a few weeks!)

5- Read a book on the craft of writing, and then follow up by working on one of the techniques mentioned in the book. It might be just the thing to jumpstart your writing.

6- Another point to remember is that if you have responsibilities you've not taken care of, by all means fulfill your responsibilities. There is no way I can write if there is a chore or project constantly on my mind. (That's why I write in the afternoon: the household chores, errands, and appointments have been completed for the day.)

7- Lastly, if all else fails...get away! Sometimes the hubbub of our lives is just too much. Whether it's spending the day writing at the library, at a friend's house, or even at a quiet cabin, getting away might be just what you need.

I'm spending this long weekend in Cannon Beach, Oregon with my husband Michael. One of the things we'll be doing is putting our heads together in an attempt to come up with a rough draft for another children's book. Below is a photo (from my archives) of the coastal area we'll be visiting:

Wishing each one of you luck clearing any cobwebs in your mind!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Pismire - (n.)

an ant.

Example: After calling his classmate a puny pismire, the big bully was sent to the principal's office.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

Absolutely Truly
by Heather Vogel Frederick

Amazon Description:
An unsent letter in a first edition copy of Charlotte’s Web leads to a hunt for treasure in this heartwarming middle grade mystery from the author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club.

Now that Truly Lovejoy’s father has been injured by an IED in Afghanistan and is having trouble finding work back home, the family moves from Texas to tiny Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire, to take over Lovejoy’s Books, a struggling bookstore that’s been in the family for one hundred years.

With two older brothers and two younger sisters clamoring for attention, her mother back in school, and everyone up to their eyebrows trying to keep Lovejoy’s Books afloat, Truly feels more overlooked than usual. So she pours herself into uncovering the mystery of an undelivered letter she finds stuck in a valuable autographed first edition of Charlotte’s Web, which subsequently goes missing from the bookshop. What’s inside the envelope leads Truly and her new Pumpkin Falls friends on a madcap treasure hunt around town, chasing clues that could spell danger.

My Thoughts:
I absolutely loved this novel by Heather Vogel Frederick! It took a few chapters to really hook me, but once it did I couldn't put it down. Absolutely Truly features stellar characters, scrumptious settings, and a puzzling plot that ultimately leads to a fantastic finale. Great themes of family, friendship, and perseverance are all wrapped up in this fun-filled middle grade mystery. I highly recommend this novel to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

Click here to learn more about the author, Heather Vogel Frederick.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Storyteller's Journey

   Searching for Magic in 2015

What makes a story seem so real that it tricks the reader into feeling like she's been transported to another place, time, or situation?

It comes from a writer who can create magic with her words.

But how? I've thought a lot about this question - especially while reading a story that has cast its spell upon me! I've scrutinized numerous novels and have come to the conclusion that there are several elements that must all come together if the writer is to compose a story that can magically "transport" the reader.

Here is a list of things I'm working on to become a wizard of words:

1- Know your story. What I mean by that statement is that it's not enough to have done research: I must know my protagonist, plot, setting, antagonist, etc. so well that when I weave my web on the page it sounds like I'm telling a story straight from my heart. That takes time.

2- Be a wordsmith. While most of you know that I love unusual words, I'm also prone to including a unique word in a story when a more ordinary word might be a better choice. (It's one of my weaknesses as a writer that I'm working on this year!) That being said, it's also not good to become lazy in our choice of words when writing what we hope will be a special story. Selecting just the right word can make all the difference in our story's ability to whisk the reader away.

3- Look for the unique. Whether it's choosing our protagonist's name, occupation, or fatal flaw, it's important to make unique choices. Certainly an imaginative plot is something all readers expect. No one wants to read a rehash of something that's been written before. Quirky, whimsical, and/or extraordinary should be the writer's new normal.

4- Plant "story seeds." It's always a treat when an author plants a small idea (story seed) at the beginning of her novel and then allows the story seed to come to fruition at the culmination of the book. When a writer can do that, it adds complexity and believability to her story. It's an important technique in helping the reader to leave his or her world of reality behind. (J.K. Rowling is a master at this.)

5- Use first person &/or internal dialogue. While I've not yet written a manuscript in first person, I do use internal dialogue quite a bit in my writing. Using one, or both, of these techniques allows the reader to get inside the head of the protagonist; it's a way of feeling closer to the main character. (Much like getting closer to a friend when she bares her soul.)

6- Find your funny bone. Including humor in my writing is something I've decided will always be a challenge for me, but I'm constantly working at it. Who doesn't enjoy a good laugh while reading a book? It's not only a way to invite readers into your story, it's an excellent way for them to leave their seemingly humdrum life (and possibly their problems) behind.

7- Use a storyteller voice. This doesn't necessarily mean you break the fourth wall, but it does mean that you compose your story like you're writing a letter to a friend. One of the first pieces of writing advice I ever received still stands as one of the best: Do you want people to notice what a talented writer you are? Or, do you want readers to love your story? (Author, Carolyn J. Rose) As writers we all probably hope peers and readers like our stories. However, if we're too concerned about what our peers think, we'll probably let our readers down. After all, isn't a great writer one who makes you forget that her story didn't always exist somewhere in time?

These are just a few ways we can magically "transport" our readers.

   ~ Hope you all find the magic in your writing this year! ~

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Whimsical Word of the Week

Jokul - (n.)

an Icelandic mountain covered with snow and ice.

Example: The clan of magical nisse lived hidden high on a steep jokul.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bibliophile's Corner

Hook's Revenge
by Heidi Schulz

Amazon Description:
Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she's sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb's Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn's hopes of following in her father's fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn't hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she'd bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland's most fearsome beast isn't enough to deal with, she's tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?

My Thoughts:
Hook's Revenge is the recently released debut novel by Heidi Schulz - it's sure to delight all young pirates! This well-written middle grade fantasy novel includes entertaining escapades, a feisty female protagonist, and a host of mischievous and colorful supporting characters. I especially enjoyed the character development of the young protagonist, Jocelyn. If you have a reluctant reader or a young girl who is somewhat of a tomboy, Hook's Revenge might be just the novel you need. I would recommend this book to readers from the ages of eight to twelve.

Click here to learn more about the author, Heidi Schulz.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~ T. S. Eliot

A simple poem for the new year:

New Days in Time

New thoughts to think,
new truths to learn.
New prayers to God,
new leaves to turn.

New paths to tread,
new sod to seed.
New words to write,
new tomes to read.

New dreams to dream,
new peaks to climb.
New seas to span -
new days in time.
                ~ V. Lindstrom