Friday, January 29, 2021

Storyteller's Journey

The Rouen Cathedral - June 2014
  A Normandy State of Mind

Last week I mentioned that I was dithering over which of my projects to focus on this year; well, I've decided: my middle grade historical fiction novel entitled: The Rabbit of Rouen - my 2020 NaNoWriMo manuscript.

When we visited Rouen, France, in 2014, it was with the purpose of allowing my husband, fine artist Michael Lindstrom, the opportunity to paint the iconic cathedral that Claude Monet so beautifully captured many times. Michael was thrilled to stand right where Monet stood. 

However, I found the quaint, cobble stone streets of the historic city (the place where Joan of Arc was martyred) to be inspiring as well. I had intended Rouen to be the setting for Book II of a middle grade series entitled, Livvi Biddle, but somehow it ended up being perfect for The Rabbit of Rouen - set in WWII France. Here's a brief description:

While eleven-year-old Gigi had been born in Paris, after the Nazis occupied the City of Light in 1940, her parents had sent her to live in the Normandy region of France on her grandparents' apple farm outside of Rouen. But in April of 1944 - after Grandp√®re and Grandm√®re had been killed in the bombing of the Rouen Cathedral - Gigi was on her own. So she set out for Paris, to once again live with her parents. But the eighty-mile journey was fraught with danger and death, and when she finally arrived in Paris she discovered her parents were not the people she remembered - they're resistance fighters. Learn how Gigi finds the courage, amidst France's darkest days of World War II, to become one of the youngest resistance fightersThe Rabbit of Rouen. Then in August 1944, despite the power and prevalence of the Third Reich, she helped the Allies liberate Paris.

Revising this will keep me busy for much of 2021 - I'll keep you posted.

By the way, here is Michael painting the cathedral in Rouen in 2014: 

Here is his finished plein air painting of the Rouen Cathedral:

The Rouen Cathedral - 16X12 - not for sale

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Whimsical Word of the Week

Autogolpe - (n.)

a coup organized by the government itself to take extra powers.
Example: The people who participated in the autogolpe were being arrested and brought to justice.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Bibliophile's Corner

by Joseph Bruchac

Flap Copy Description:
Twelve-year-old Okwaho's life has suddenly changed. While he and his best friend are out hunting, his friend is kidnapped by men from a neighboring tribal nation, and Okwaho barely escapes. Everyone in his village fears more raids and killings: The Five Nations of the Iroquois have been at war with one another for far too long, and no one can remember what it was like to live in peace.
Okwaho is so angry that he wants to seek revenge for his friend, but before he can retaliate, a visitor with a message of peace comes to him in the woods. The Peacemaker shares his lesson tales - stories that make Okwaho believe that this man can convince the leaders of the five fighting nations to set down their weapons. So many others agree with him. Can all of them come together to form the Iroquois Great League of Peace?

My Thoughts:
Joseph Bruchac's recently released Peacemaker is a compelling story for middle grade readers. It's a coming-of-age tale with themes of friendship and family, but also a more universal theme of humanity. I thoroughly enjoyed Peacemaker, and recommend it to readers aged eight to twelve!

Click here to learn about the award-winning author, Joseph Bruchac.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Storyteller's Journey

Rewrite, Revise, Repeat

Since I began writing full time over a decade ago, I've slowly but surely found the process that works best for me. You might say, "isn't there one best way to write?" For me, the answer is "no." Beyond the question to outline or not (which I do), there's also the question of how many drafts it takes to complete your novel. I've completed four middle grade manuscripts, but only one is published. Two are completed first drafts, and the fourth has been rewritten six times since I began working on it nearly a decade ago.

The question of how many rewrites and revisions is necessary to complete a finished novel varies from author to author. My middle grade manuscript with six rewrites is a story that has had a metamorphosis as I've matured as a writer over the years.

The one thing I do know is that no one completes a novel in one draft.
After the initial draft is complete it's a matter of rewrite, revise, repeat.
(This is the method that works best for me, as well as many others.)

Right now, my dilemma is which manuscript to work on. I had thought I'd be rewriting my NaNoWriMo project from last November. However, other projects are calling out to me. If I'm lucky enough to have extra motivation for a particular story (which is not always the case), I tend to enjoy writing more - and am more productive - than when I'm working on a project like it's a job. I need to select from these four stories:

The Rabbit of Rouen - An historical fiction novel for middle grade readers. It's set in WWII France. (Only one draft is completed; it's my recent NaNoWriMo project.)

Cloud Mountain - A magical realism middle grade novel. It's set in the Guatemalan Highlands and was inspired by our trip there in 2018 - as well as the amazing young girl, Catarina, that we sponsor. (Only one draft is completed; it's my 2019 NaNoWriMo project.)

Livvi Biddle - A middle grade fantasy novel that has been my main focus for the last decade. After six rewrites, numerous revisions, multiple critiques, and a number of rejections by agents, for some reason I still have hope it might become an actual book. At some point I need to get it published (traditionally or independently), or shove it in a drawer and lock the key! The thing is, it's the only project I've completed that is even remotely ready for the eyes of an agent, and I still hope to gain agent representation someday. We'll see.

The Winter Wayfarer - A collaborative project I'm working on with my husband; it's the upcoming fourth story in our series of Lindstrom Wintertime Tales. This fantasy short story is set in the Shetland Islands of Scotland and has been rewritten three times, but still requires editing. The project also needs most of the paintings to be completed by Michael. We're both a bit weary from our last project together, although we're very pleased with the result of The Night of the North. (See the sidebar to check out the cover.) We are committed to publishing these stories independently to retain control of the artwork.

As you can see, while I've had four books independently published, I also have four manuscripts still sitting on my shelf! Then too, there are several more ideas rattling around in my brain. While it's tempting to begin a new story, I feel I must complete one of the above projects.

I'll make my decision very soon, and when I do, I'll blog about it.
No matter what, I'm in for a rewrite, a revision, and possibly, a repeat!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Whimsical Word of the Week

Inauguration (n.)
-the formal admission of someone to office.
-a ceremony to mark the beginning of something.
Example: The inauguration of Joseph Biden as the 46th President was a welcome event for the U.S. citizens.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Bibliophile's Corner

Cinders & Sparrows
by Stefan Bachmann

Flap Copy Description:
In a witch's house, nothing is as it seems.
When a scarecrow climbs over the garden wall, delivering twelve-year-old orphan Zita Brydgeborn a letter saying she has inherited a distant castle, she jumps at the chance of adventure. But little does she know that she is about to be thrust into a centuries-old battle between good and evil. Blackbird Castle was once home to a powerful dynasty of witches, all of them now dead under mysterious circumstances. All but Zita. And Zita, unfortunately, doesn't know the first thing about being a witch.

As she begins her lessons in charms and spells with her guardian, Mrs. Cantanker, Zita makes new allies - a crow, a talking marble head, two castle servants just her age named Bram and Minnifer, and the silent ghost of a green-eyed girl. But who is friend and who is foe? Zita must race to untangle her past and find the magic to save the home she's always hoped for. Because whatever claimed the souls of her family is now after her.

My Thoughts:
This middle grade novel by the talented author, Stefan Bachmann, is a magical tale told in the same stunning literary style that has made the 27-year-old a sensation in the world of children's books. (I had the pleasure of meeting him several years ago in Portland, OR.) Needless to say, I loved Cinders & Sparrows; it's a spellbinding story that you just can't put down. I highly recommend this recently released fantasy to readers of all ages!

Click here to learn more about the author, Stefan Bachmann.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Storyteller's Journey

Words Matter; Words are Seeds

In the last four years we've all heard the phrase, "words matter," from news anchors, political leaders, and others, many times. Another related phrase is, "you reap what you sow."

Since the tragic events on January 6th, I've pondered the power our President's words have had on the minds of many of our fellow citizens. It's sad; it's frightening, it's dangerous; and it should be a wake-up call to everyone on how and why the words we utter matter.

As a gardener, when I plant a tomato seed, I'm hoping to have a tomato plant grow from that seed. I don't expect a pumpkin to grow from a tomato seed, or a sunflower to grow from a tomato seed. 

The fir tree pictured at the center of this photo, is a volunteer. (If you're not familiar with what a volunteer tree is, it's a tree that grew from a seed that took root on its own.) As you see, the tree is now quite large. Since we built the fence to accommodate it twenty-four years ago, we've enjoyed it.

My point is, even though we didn't know the sapling had taken root, it had. Seeds have a life of their own, just like words have a life of their own. Words can take root in a heart, even without our knowledge. Understand that the words that you speak have power - for good or for evil.

Finally, I would say that as children's book authors we have a particular responsibility to not only be honest, inspirational, and entertaining, but most of all (in my opinion), to provide some hope to our young readers. Choosing our words thoughtfully, and wisely, is always essential.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Whimsical Word of the Week

Chatelaine (n.)
1- a woman in charge of a large house.
2- a set of short chains attached to a woman's belt, used for carrying keys.
Example: The Speaker of the House was a champion chatelaine, indeed. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Bibliophile's Corner

by J.K. Rowling

Flap Copy Description:
Once upon a time there was a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, as rich in happiness as it was in gold, and famous for its food. From the delicate cream cheeses of Kurdsburg to the Hopes-of-Heaven pastries of Chouxville, each was so delicious that people wept with joy as they ate them.
But even in this happy kingdom, a monster lurks, Legend tells of a fearsome creature living far to the north in the Marshlands...the Ickabog. Some say it breathes fire, spits poison, and roars through the mist as it carries off wayward sheep and children alike. Some say it's just a myth...
And when that myth takes on a life of its own, casting a shadow over the kingdom. Two children - best friends Bert and Daisy - embark on a great adventure to untangle the truth and find out where the real monster lies, bringing hope and happiness to Cornucopia once more.

My Thoughts:
During the lockdown of 2020, Ickabog was first published online for children to enjoy. While J.K. Rowling has dealt with professional issues due to her political views, that's not what this review is about; it's about this fantastic book, that was illustrated by the winners of the Ickabog artwork competition. The artwork from children in both the United States and Canada, is nothing less than spectacular, and the talent of the iconic British author, jumps off every page of this original fairy tale. I highly recommend Ickabog to readers of all ages!

Friday, January 8, 2021

Storyteller's Journey

My Children's Book Collection

My collection of old children's books grew significantly this Christmas, thanks to my generous family and friends. Vintage books have become an obsession, but I only seldom allow myself a purchase. I figured out that the allure, at least for me, is not only due to the wonderful children's stories within the spines of these old books, or even the beautiful illustrations that grace their pages. It's that these little tomes reflect a bygone era that makes each acquisition a treasure.

I've found that these rare editions not only bring me joy, they inspire me too. While children's books and the stories within them have changed much over time (as has our world), the idea that a child can learn and grow while enjoying a book is still just as true today as it was decades ago. During these difficult days, children need stories that provide hope and inspiration - with characters of integrity - now more than ever. That's enough motivation for me to keep writing in 2021.

Wishing each of you a wonderful year of writing!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Whimsical Word of the Week

Epiphany - (n.)

1- a moment of sudden revelation
2 - a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.
3 - the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.

 Happy Day of Epiphany!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Bibliophile's Corner

by Philip Pullman

Flap Copy Description:
The world-changing events of The Amber Spyglass are behind them, and Lyra Silvertongue and her daemon, Pantalaimon, find themselves utterly changed as well. In Serpentine, they journey to the far North once more, hoping to ask the consul of witches a most urgent question.
This brand-new story, a beguiling must-read for Pullman fans old and new, is a wonderful companion to His Dark Materials and a fascinating bridge to The Book of Dust.

My Thoughts:
The magic of Philip Pullman's pen is just as present in this seventy-four-page book as it is in all of his other wonderful books. I found myself savoring a word, a phrase, a sentence, as though - all by themselves -  they were works of art. Additionally, the illustrations by Tom Duxbury seem to perfectly illuminate this new, whimsical little tale featuring the much-loved characters of Lyra and Pan. If you're a fan of the books by Philip Pullman, Serpentine is a must-read!

Click here to learn about the iconic author, Philip Pullman.