Friday, April 28, 2023

Storyteller's Journey

Structuring a Book Series
There are a number of resource books on the subject of structuring a book series; I've read a few. However, today I'd like to share my insights, gained primarily from reading lots of book series.

After creating your cast of characters, developing your plot, & building your world you'll need to ask yourself what kind of a series do I want?

There are a few approaches an author can use to craft a book series:

1- Would you like a group of independent stories with the same main character and world? (Think The Nancy Drew Books.) In this type of book series, there is no need for an overarching plot since each story has its own components; the books are connected to one another merely by the main character and her individual adventures. (It's imperative that you create a unique protagonist.) This is an Anthology Series.

2- If you're a fan of the Marvel Comic Books, you might want to create a super strong world, where each book has a new and unique protagonist. However, the world must be extraordinary, since you'll be introducing a new main character in each book. Another example would be if you've designed a magical forest or a fanciful farm as your world you could use a different animal in each of your books. Think the Beatrix Potter Books.  These would also be considered Anthology Series.

3- If you've spent a lot of time world building and have a large cast of characters, you might want to explore your world with a different character from your original cast in each book. In this approach, the story works best when there is an overarching plot throughout the series since the cast of characters are connected to one another - and the world is also a character. (Think The Chronicles of Narnia.)

4- Lastly, if you want an imaginative world, a unique protagonist with a colorful cast of characters (including their interpersonal dynamics), and an epic saga over multiple books, then you'll need to plot and plan before writing your first novel! (Think The Harry Potter Books or The Lord of the Rings Books.) This type of series requires in-depth character development, in-depth world building, and in-depth plot development.

The upper middle grade book series I've crafted most closely resembles the fourth approach. While I do have the same extraordinary protagonist in each book I've outlined, the world building is not nearly as complex as The Harry Potter Books or The Lord of the Rings Books. However, each book in my fantasy series takes place in a different country, so a lot of research was needed, as well as some traveling. 

Here are a few tips I've found important in a complex book series:
Create a strong antagonist and/or hierarchy of antagonists.
Your protagonist is only as compelling as the challenges she overcomes. By having a network of antagonists, she can conquer one at the conclusion of each book without reaching the final victory. However, the antagonists need just as much character development as your primary and secondary characters. (Several blog posts could be written about antagonists!)

Create a series outline at the outset of your storyteller's journey. 
That way you can "plant plot seeds" that you can have come into fruition later in the series. Also, this is the time to create a finale for each book, while making it just one piece of the larger plot puzzle and finale of the entire series.

Create a three-act story structure not only for each book, but also for the entire series.
One way to think about your book series is to embrace it as a super novel. The entire series needs everything each individual novel needs; each novel will serve a different purpose in the structure of the series. Your final novel should be a culmination of everything the protagonist has learned and overcome. It should be the most exciting and the most satisfying for the reader. 

Each book should have a finale; it should be able to be read as a standalone novel.
I don't know about you, but one thing I despise is when an author uses a cliffhanger, rather than a finale, to finish a novel in her series. This is not the way to hook a reader into reading the next book! However, after your finale there should also be a seed of the next book planted.

Be patient.
This might be the most important tip of all. Writing a book series is a marathon, not a sprint. I began outlining my Livvi Biddle Books back in 2011. In the years that have followed, my protagonist has changed, the plot has changed, her world has changed, and most remarkably of all...I've changed. Only this year do I finally believe the first book is ready for publication. (Even though I queried agents for years!) Giving yourself time is like allowing good wine to age; it becomes better with time. So too, do you, if you keep writing. So, be patient!

All the best of luck with structuring your book series!

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Whimsical Word of the Week

Zephyr - (n.)
a warm, calm breeze.
Example: The summer zephyr floated over the Pacific Ocean as the gray whales zigzagged across the sea.


Monday, April 24, 2023

Bibliophile's Corner

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
by Charlie Mackesy

A journey, in search of home...
"I made a film with some friends about a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse - their journey together and the boy's search for home. I hope this book gives you courage and makes you feel loved." Love Charlie x

My Thoughts:
Charlie Mackesy, a British author, artist, and illustrator, wrote a lovely book by the same name that was adapted into an Academy Award winning animated short film. This extraordinarily beautiful book offers hope and inspiration amidst these troubled times. I highly recommend it, and its film, to readers of all ages!

Click here to learn about the author/illustrator, Charlie Mackesy.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Storyteller's Journey

Earth Day 2023
Fifty-three years ago, a young Washingtonian launched the very first Earth Day. Denis Hayes attended Clark College for his undergrad studies; the same institution where years later I received my Dental Hygiene Degree. He also grew up near the Columbia River, as did I.

He still lives in Washington State, Seattle, to be more specific. Click here to learn about this Clark College alumnus and PNW legend.

*     *     *     *     *

In 1962, the non-fiction book, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was published. It was one of the most-influential books in the environmental movement. Now, presidential historian and environmentalist, Douglas Brinkley, has authored Silent Spring Revolution. It chronicles the environmental movement during the "Long Sixties," the years between 1960-1973. Mr. Brinkley's storytelling skills are masterful as he shares the history of the courageous activists who saved the natural world during that pivotal period of our nation's history. Woven into the narrative is the impact that Rachel Carson, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon, had on the evolution of the environmental movement. I highly recommend Silent Spring Revolution!

 Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Whimsical Word of the Week

Apotheosis - (n.)
the highest point in the development of something; culmination or climax.
Example: Performing the national anthem at the inauguration of the U.S. President was the apotheosis of the singer's career.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Bibliophile's Corner

It's Up to Us
Building a Brighter Future for Nature, People, & Planet
by Christopher Lloyd

It's Up to Us and the story it tells come at a very important moment for Nature, People, and Planet. Our climate is changing, our forests and animal habitat are under threat, and our oceans are being polluted. Time is quickly running out to protect our planet's precious well-being - but, as this wonderful book shows us, it's not too late!

My Thoughts:
This beautiful picture book was inspired by the Terra Carta, issued by HRH The Prince of Wales - now, King Charles III. It's an inspirational narrative for children, illuminating some of the challenges our planet faces and how they can be a part of the solution. Illustrated by thirty-three talented artists from around the world, it's one of the loveliest picture books I've read in some time. With the arrival of Earth Day on Saturday, this new release would be the perfect book for you and your child to read together. I highly recommend It's Up to Us for young readers aged four and up!

Click here to learn about the Terra Carta.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Storyteller's Journey

Text to Speech for Writers

Whether you're a writer querying a literary agent, or one preparing to publish independently, using some speech to text site or app is essential.

While having beta readers - and a copy editor - is always a good idea for a writer, they're not enough. I can't tell you how many times I've read one of my manuscripts, had my critique partners read it, and even had it edited, only to still discover an error upon listening to my story via a text to speech site. It's also a great way to hear the rhythm of your novel, as well as the dialogue of your characters. Is there too much attribution? Not enough? I've also realized I'd like to change a word, for whatever reason, upon hearing my story read to me.

It's also not enough for you or a partner to read your story out loud. I usually become so familiar with my text, that I can sometimes read it as I think it's written, which sometimes, is not how it really was written!

Here are a few sites that offer text to speech (TTS) capabilities:

If you use Word software to compose your manuscripts, there is a built-in feature called, Speak. (It may not automatically be on your toolbar, but you can add it.) Click here to learn more.

If you own a Kindle Fire, you can also listen to your manuscript. Click here to learn more.

I have utilized the text to speech feature on both Word and Kindle; as a writer I prefer the feature on Word. With Kindle, you must download your entire manuscript as a book to listen to it. On Word, you basically highlight how much of your text/document you want to hear, press the speak icon, and listen. This option allows you to make edits as you go. (I know MAC has a speech to text feature, but I'm unfamiliar with it.)

Hope this helps, and good luck with listening to your manuscript!

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Whimsical Word of the Week

Thaumaturgy - (n.)
the working of wonders; magic.
Example: The woodland fairy worked her magic with the gift of thaumaturgy.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Bibliophile's Corner

by Kobi Yamada and
illustrated by Gabriella Barouch

Flap Copy Description:
You are the only you there ever has been or ever will be. You are unique. Just the odds of you being here at this exact place and this exact time are so great and so rare that they will never happen again.
This is a story for everything you will do and everything you could be. It's for who you are right now, and it's for the magical, unbounded potential you hold inside.

My Thoughts:
I discovered this extraordinary book in one of my favorite ways: strolling the aisles of a bookshop! The enchanting artwork, by debut illustrator, Gabriella Barouch, caught my eye right away. To be more accurate, Ms. Barouch is a fine artist and has been recognized as such for over twenty years. The award-winning author, Kobi Yamada, has written this picture book for children, but like all great children's literature, its powerful message is just as much for adults as kids. I highly recommend the award-winning picture book Maybe for readers of all ages!

Click here to learn about the author, Kobi Yamada.
Click here to learn about the artist, Gabriella Barouch.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Storyteller's Journey

A Spring Holiday Message

While I'm a writer of stories for children, I'm also a mother and a U.S. citizen concerned about the safety of our children.
After the shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday, March 27th, I was sick to my stomach and was emotional for much of the day. The murder of any human being is horrendous; the murder of little children rips apart the very fabric of our country's future. 

I had the same reaction after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut; Parkland, Florida; Uvalde, Texas; and too many more. After the shooting on Monday at the private school in Nashville, I found myself thinking, I'm glad my sons aren't school age anymore. But I quickly remembered these mass shootings are not only in schools; they're in movie theaters, bars, churches, and neighborhoods across America.

The cyclical nature of the gun reform dialogue amongst political leaders is ludicrous. As long as both sides stay firmly encamped on their side of the issue, no one is addressing the problem of our children dying every day. 

During these religious holidays, whatever your faith, or lack thereof, may we all commit to better loving our fellow man. May we commit to work together, to find a path forward, to end this epidemic of death.

The Nashville Covenant School Shooting Victims:

Top - L to R: Evelyn Dieckhaus; William Kinney; Hallie Scruggs
Bottom - L to R: Mike Hill; Cynthia Peak; Katherine Koonce

"Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and truth."
 I John 3:18

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Whimsical Word of the Week

Patinated (adj.)
(of a metal) having a green or brown film produced by oxidation.
Example: The copper sculpture had been patinated over time.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Bibliophile's Corner

The Easter Egg
by Jan Brett

Flap Copy Description:
Time for the rabbits to decorate eggs for the Easter Rabbit.
This year Hoppi is old enough to join in, and if he can just make the winning egg, he will be the one to help the Easter Rabbit on Easter morning.
But Hoppi hasn't decided what kind of egg to make. And as he hops along and sees one fantastic egg after another, he begins to wonder how he can compete.
Hoppi goes into the woods to think about his egg, and just when he figures out that he only has to make the best egg he can, his plans take a most unexpected turn.

My Thoughts:
The beautiful artwork of Jan Brett never disappoints! This lovely picture book is the perfect gift for a child that celebrates Easter. Hoppi's unexpected entry from the heart reveals how being yourself is always the best way to go. I highly recommend The Easter Egg to children aged three to seven!

Click here to learn more about author/illustrator Jan Brett.