It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

February 2017

It's a Mystery, Pig Face!

New Site Launched

Hey everyone, the new website is LIVE!

Many thanks to Ben Duncan at BEN.D Graphics for doing all the heavy lifting to give me a website I am so proud of!  I would definitely recommend Ben!

wendymcleodmacknight.com

Book Review: Dig Too Deep by Amy Allgeyer

dig too deep

I recently had the pleasure of reading Amy Allgeyer’s debut Young Adult Novel Dig Too Deep and I loved it so much I wanted to share it with you all!

First things first – this book is so timely. With its unflinching approach to how sound environmental practises are often tossed aside in the name of profits and local employment, Dig Too Deep does a masterful job of discussing mountaintop removal in coal mining, something I’d heard of but was not too familiar with.

mountaintop
The book tells the story of high school student Liberty (love the name), who is forced to move to Kentucky to live with her Granny when her mother is jailed for suspected environmental terrorism. But Granny’s world has changed – the mountains are being destroyed, the well water is bright orange, and people in the area are getting sick, including Granny. And Liberty, who until now has been a gifted student in a private school in Washington, finds herself in a strange new world where everyone seems to know that something bad is happening, but are too afraid or powerless to stop it. And while Liberty may think her public school classmates are hayseeds and chickens for not confronting the issue, she comes to realize the complexity of the issue for all involved.

Allgeyer is a world builder. You feel you know this world and even the potential love triangle has its own surprising twists and turns along the way. Can Liberty help her neighbours? Can she cope with her increasingly sick Granny? Can she forgive her mother? (un-affectionately called MFM – my former mother – by Liberty.

I loved this book and I think it is going to spark a lot of wonderful conversations and debates amongst its readers! A real page turner!

You can pre-order the book here.  I think this book would be really useful for the jobs versus the environment debate in the classroom. For the rest of us, it is just a marvelous read.

If you want to learn more about Amy, visit her website.

 

Happy New Year and Welcome to the Year of the Sweet 16s!

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you, but January 1st is always my tabula rasa, my opportunity to start anew. Of course that always involves reading and writing.

I expect my debut novel to be published later this year, although I still do not have a firm date. No matter – I am already working on its sequel, as well as the second draft of the book I began before the holidays. I am excited about both projects, as well as my debut novel!

I am also excited about all the good things I will read this year!  And there are so many!!!!  I am absolutely obsessed with Goodreads – I use it to track what I’ve read and what I want to read. As with all things in my life, my “want to read” list is the reading equivalent of my eyes being too big for my stomach, but a person has to dream, mustn’t they?

While I am excited about some of my favourite authors coming out with new books this year, I also want to support fellow debuts. I belong to a wonderful group of middle grade and young adult writers called The Sweet Sixteens. To date, there are over 170 of us with debut novels this year. We live all over the world and we have become a real support system for one another, which is grand, because trust me when I tell you: the whole publishing process is VERY confusing. Luckily, I am later in the process than many and I am learning by watching them!

Over the coming year, I will share some reviews of their books as well as just a heads up that they are out there in the world. To date, I have had the pleasure of reading 7 of the authors’ works and I can tell you they are writing great stuff. But debuts need your support, so I hope you will consider showing them a little love when you are at the bookstore or the library!

The first five were launched yesterday and include:

thisis where it ends paper wishes firsts curio bounders

 

I’ve read two of these books already and cannot wait to read the others!

Feel free to follow along on our journey on the Sweet Sixteens blog, or on twitter @TheSweet16s.

And by all means, follow me on Goodreads and let me know what you’re reading as well! It will give me more to add to my “want to read” list!

Have a great week!

 

 

Merry Christmas!

“Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”
Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

I wish you and yours the merriest of holiday seasons!  Here’s to a wonderful and peaceful 2016, full of amazing children’s and young adult literature!

 

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Blessings to you and yours.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I’ll be back next week with a review of an amazing Young Adult book set to be published in early January!

My favourite books of 2015!

 

Well I can’t resist! I’ve been reading so many wonderful year-end book lists that I thought I would add my two cents!

In no particular order, what I loved this year in Children’s and YA books:

  1. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy – Karen Foxlee
ophelia

This was such a good book – so creative and so suspenseful. I loved every moment of it!

2) Tabula Rasa – Kristen Lippert-Martin

tabula

Described as the Bourne Identity meets Divergent, this book had me from the first sentence and never let go. I bow down to Kristen and can’t wait for her next book!

3) The Alchemyst Series – Michael Scott

alch

This series has been out for awhile, but I just discovered it and when I did I devoured all six books in a two week period. For fantasy/adventure lovers who also love history, this is for you!

4) Circus Mirandus – Cassie Beasley

circus m

I loved this book. So much that I hated to see it end. A sweet and sour mystical adventure, you are going to want to run away and join the circus after reading this!

5) Fenway and Hattie – Victoria J. Coe

Fenway and Hattie Cover - Lo Res

Okay – technically this book isn’t out until February, but I’m giving you a head start now so you can pre-order it. The most delightful story, all written from the perspective of a jack Russell terrier Fenway, this one made me laugh out loud!

6) The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society – Janet Sumner Johnson

PB&J

Another one that’s not out until March, but which you are going to want to buy for the middle grader in your life, this book soars with its portrayal of two friends doing anything they can to avoid being split up. I loved it!

7) The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

graveyard book

Oh, I know – what took me so long?  I loved every minute of this dark fantastical book and have vowed to share it with every child in my life. Neil Gaiman at his best, but then, you knew that…

8) The Night Gardener – Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener

This is a sort of companion to the book above, a creepy fairy tale that had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen.

9) The Penderwicks in Spring – Jeanne Birdsall

penderwicks in spring

I waited happily for this one and wasn’t disappointed. Jeanne Birdsall writes family, with all its joys and foibles, like nobody’s business. These are classics and for good reason.

10) Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl

Oh my gosh – what a joy. I plan to read this book once a year for the rest of my life, if only to enjoy the language and the masterful way Woodson evokes a time and place that you can taste and touch. Poignant and funny and brutal, this book continues to stay with me.

So that’s my top ten kidlit picks for 2015. Would love to know yours!

 

Books with wonderful Christmas Scenes in them and one very poignant Chanukah scene…

 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about gratitude, in which I mentioned how the Christmas scene in Little Women was such a powerful scene to me, because the girls give up their Christmas breakfast for those in need.

What I didn’t mention then, but which I thought of afterwards, was how homely and cozy that scene was because I love it when fictional characters celebrate Christmas or Chanukah, or any other holiday.

And that got me to thinking about other children’s books that celebrate Christmas or Chanukah well.  This is my short list below. I am counting on you to add others!

  1. Little House in the Prairie

The scene where Mr. Edwards delivers Christmas to Laura and Mary Ingalls on behalf of Santa Claus always makes me kind of weepy.

“oh thank you, Mr. Edwards! Thank you!” they said, and they meant it with all their hearts. Pa shook Mr. Edwards’ hand, too, and shook it again. Pa and Ma and Mr. Edwards acted as if they were almost crying. Laura didn’t know why. So she gazed again at her beautiful presents.

little house

2) Anne of Green Gables

anne of gg

The Christmas Matthew gives Anne her dress with the puffed sleeves (I insisted on something similar after reading about it) is still one of my favourites:

Isn’t it a lovely Christmas? I’m so glad it’s white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn’t seem right, does it? I don’t like green Christmases. They’re not green – they’re just nasty faded browns and grays. What makes people call them green? Why-why-Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!

3) The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas – Madeleine L’Engle

twenty four days

This is a bit of a cheat given the title, but when I read this the first time I loved celebrating Christmas with the Austins, one of my all-time favourite fictional families. Full of the excitement that builds before Christmas, along with the warm embrace of a close family, this book is like slipping into a warm tub of hot chocolate with marshmallows.

The sky was dark and clear and crusted with stars. I watched and watched. There was one star that was brighter and more sparkling than any of the others. The Christmas star. Mother was home. Daddy was home, Our baby brother was home. We were all together. I whispered, “Thank you.” And the light shone right into my heart.

4) Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown – Maud Hart Lovelace

betsy tacy

I loved Betsy and Tacy doing their Christmas shopping, something that happens again and again as the series progresses. It reminds me of the time I went shopping in Calais, Maine with my best friend Barbie and we went to Newberry’s Department Store with probably $3 to our names and thought we were queens of the world!

“They gave themselves then with abandon to the sweet delight of choosing. It was almost pain to choose. Each fragile bauble was gayer, more enchanting than the last. What each one chose she would take home; she would see it on the Christmas tree; she would see it year after year; if she were lucky and it did not break. They walked around and around the table, touching softly with mittened hands. Betsy at last chose a large red ball. Tacy chose an angel. Tib chose a rosy Santa Claus. Winona chose a silver trumpet. …They walked to Ray’s Shoe Store, smiling, holding Christmas in their hands.”

5) Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl

anne-frank

When I first read this book at age twelve, I was changed forever. Her persecution seared my soul and has never left me after all these years. When the family celebrates Chanukah in the book, I was reminded that even when faced with persecution and potential death, love conquers all. And throughout it all, Anne is the optimist, the beautiful flower trapped in  concrete, growing up towards the light.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Given that this week is the Festival of Lights, and that we would all do well to remember Anne Frank and honour her shining memory, it seems apropos to end this list with Anne.

How about you? I’d love to hear your favourite Christmas/Chanukah scenes in books!

Until next time – keep reading!

 

Review – Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe

 

Fenway and Hattie Cover - Lo Res

Happy Wednesday!

Today I have the great treat of giving you an advanced sneak peek of a wonderful new middle grade book, Fenway and Hattie, which will be published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons on February 9th, 2016.

There is so much to love about this book, but I’m not going to lie: you are going to love Fenway most of all.

Fenway is the exuberant Jack Russell Terrier whose joie de vivre and love of all things, especially his short human Hattie, makes you want to run right out and get yourself a dog! Unless, like me, you already have a dog, in which case you will find yourself following him or her around the house trying to imagine what they are thinking about!  (In the case of my dog Indy: bones, sleep, and marshmallows!)

This is a book that is going to appeal to both boys and girls in elementary school, who are going to love the adventures and the sweet optimism of this dog. Like them, Fenway faces his own challenges – the wicked floor, a move to the burbs – but with the help of his personality and his loving family, all can be conquered.  If you want to read more of my thoughts as well as others’ thoughts on this wonderful book, visit goodreads here.

This is Victoria’s first book and she really does a wonderful job of capturing a dog’s view of their world.  You can visit her and Fenway at her website here. Except squirrels. Squirrels are NOT welcome! Fenway even has a sign on the website to make this explicitly clear!

Squirrel

Definitely on my list for the children in my life, this book is going to be a series and I for one cannot wait for Fenway’s next adventure!

I’m giving this two paws up!

You can pre-order your copy at amazon here or Chapters here.

Until next time, keep reading and writing and most of all, keep having fun!

Wendy

Gratitude

give_thanks_with_a_grateful_heart

Given that tomorrow is American Thanksgiving, and that I forgot to write a special post for Canadian Thanksgiving, this seems as good a day as any to post on this topic.

While I have almost always felt grateful for the many blessings in my life, I admit that there are times I forget to find the silver lining, or if I cannot go that far, remember that the sun will rise tomorrow.

When I first read Little Women, the scene where the March sisters give up their Christmas breakfast had such a profound impact on me.

Merry Christmas, little daughters! I’m glad you began at once, and hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little newborn baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there, and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfasts a Christmas present?

They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an hour, and for a minute no one spoke, only a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously, I’m so glad you came before we began!

May I go and help carry the things to the poor little children? asked Beth eagerly.

I shall take the cream and the muffins, added Amy, heroically giving up the article she most liked.

Meg was already covering the buckwheat’s, and piling the bread into one big plate.

I thought you’d do it, said Mrs. March, smiling as if satisfied. You shall all go and help me, and when we come back we will have bread and milk for breakfast, and make it up at dinnertime.

I’ve never forgotten that passage, nor the willingness of the sisters to step up. It is a wonderful reminder of the sentiment of Thanksgiving and of the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons ahead.

 

louisa-may-alcott-little-women

Lessons learned in books, not in a heavy-handed way, but as part of a story, are some of the best ways for us to learn our lessons. The March girls aren’t noble, but they are good, and it wonderful to think of what we might share with others in our own lives.

I hope you have a wonderful day!  In gratitude, Wendy

 

The comfort of books

The recent events in Paris remind that, as much as we can take comfort in one another, we can often find comfort in our favourite books as well.

So often, these so-called ‘comfort books’ are the books of our childhood or a book we read at a particularly happy time in our life.

When my mother was dying, I read the last three books in the Betsy-Tacy series again. The Ray Family saw me through that difficult time, providing comfort in a way I am not sure I could have found as easily from talking with another person (since when I wasn’t with my mother I was blubbering in a bathroom stall!).

betsy tacy

 

Years later, on the last afternoon of his life, I read my father Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales. This book has a melancholia to it for sure, but its beautiful story was exactly what I needed, and what I thought he might benefit from, and honestly, I can’t think of a better person to read you out of this life than Thomas.

dyka thomas

My children still want to dig out their old Christmas books, despite having become technically adults, and the comfort they get from a William Joyce story or one of our favourites, An Apple Tree Christmas, cannot be overstated.

applesanta calls

This time of year, I crave Little Women. In the summer I will be thinking of Anne of Green Gables.  I feel a hankering to read the Harry Potter Series again.

harrpy potter

We can set aside the world for a few hours when we re-read one of our favourites, and when that favourite falls into the category of a comfort book, well, we are able to release a bit of the stress that pursues us.

I would love to know your comfort books! Do share!

 

A Post about Plunging Into Your Writing

I am currently in the process of “doing” NaNoWriMo, revising a Young Adult Novel, and thinking about starting revisions to a middle grade novel that needs a lot of work.

And then there is blogging, and tweeting, Facebook, and most important of all, reading!

It is enough to make my head spin.

Add in wonderful articles that if I would take the time to read them, could make me a MUCH better writer.

What I have discovered, in this year leading up to the publication of my debut novel, is that what I need to focus on is writing (and reading).  Especially now, before I begin promoting my book, visiting schools, and all of the rest of the things that accompany a book’s publication.

I had a revelation this past week, when I discovered how careful planning in advance and a really kick-ass idea  could make NaNoWriMo and revisions feel, well thrilling.

I marvelled at how much easier it was than the YA I am revising (and revising). How the words fairly tripped off my tongue and out through the tips of my fingertips. “Maybe,” I thought, “I am getting better at this.”

Perhaps. But I am also in the phase of revisions that feel like a slog, where I feel as if all the good parts (in my mind) that got jettisoned away have left me rewriting practically the whole second half of the novel and at times grimacing as I do so.

revision

 

The picture above is done by one of my favourite children’s book illustrators (and a Canadian to boot!) Debbie Ridpath Ohi. As soon as I saw it I knew I needed to include it because it is SOOOO true!

On the other hand, the new novel is shiny and fresh and fun.

It turns out I need a lot of drafts to get a good novel. I envy those people who turn something wonderful out in three or four drafts. I suspect this book will have 8 or 9 drafts before I dare send it to my agent.

But NaNoWriMo reminds me of the thrill I felt when I wrote the first draft of this book back in 2013 during that year’s NaNoWriMo. It had seemed shiny and fresh then, too.

The thing is to get it down and then work, work, work it until you have molded it into something that stays with you after you’re done.

At times I worry that this is the novel that gets packed away in a drawer forever. At other times, I know that with enough elbow grease and imagination, it can be something wonderful.

It has been an interesting experience, writing two projects at once, but it has also been rewarding, and it has reminded me that perhaps I ought always have a couple of projects on the go at once!

How’s your writing coming these days?

 

 

 

Are you NaNoWriMo’ing this year?

nanowrimocrest

 

National November Writing Month is my new favourite time of year.  For thirty days each November, writers from around the world come together to write a minimum of 50,000 words – the average length of a children’s novel and a good first crack at adult fiction.

I love NaNoWriMo because of the inherent motivation of the task.  While I am a dedicated writer, the accountability inherent in NaNoWriMo – the daily tracking of words counts, checking in with your buddies, the enthusiasm of the NaNoWriMo staff – make me more likely to hit my daily targets.

In preparation for NaNoWriMo this year, I have been building my outline with Kristen Kieffer’s The Pre-Write Project, which basically helps writers build their story bible in advance.  It has been an amazing resource to get me thinking!

Now that I have my bible complete, between now and Sunday and I will do a preliminary plot planner using the techniques I’ve learned from Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer.

For the first time, I will be entering NaNoWriMo without completely pantsing it. The book I am embarking on is complex and will require a tremendous amount of research, but getting the bones done during NaNoWriMo will make a huge difference!

For some reason, when I search my user handle on the NaNoWriMo page I come up empty, so if you’d like to become buddies, drop me a line here and I will find you!

 

Best New Web Site for Writers!

Hi everyone!

Sorry I have been missing in action. Took a trip and then returned to revisions, revisions, revisions, and am just now getting back on track!

me waiting for takoh

Me in Paris. Good excuse, huh?

 

I had planned on writing a completely different post this morning, but then I realized I had important information to share with you all, information that could make your life oh-so-much-easier!

http://onestopforwriters.com/

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I have been a huge fan of the talent behind this website – Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi – and a devoted follower of their wonderful blog Writers Helping Writers.

I’ve bought their wonderful Thesauruses (SO HELPFUL!) and pored over their advice, all of which has helped me more than I can truly articulate.

Now they’ve teamed up with Lee Powell to create an online reference library for writers. For a small subscription fee (annual or monthly) you have access to tremendous resources that continue to be updated regularly:

  • 11 (!) different kinds of thesauruses from emotion to symbolism to weather for heaven’s sake.  You want to know how a character might react under stress? It’s here! How would you describe frost to your reader, stagnation, coming of age, the list is endless!
  • An idea generator to get those creative juices flowing and help you look at your idea in a different way
  • tons of templates and worksheets that you can either print off or work with online and save right on the site.

The tagline for One Stop for Writers is “Elevate Your Storytelling” and it is certainly that, although I would add “Dig yourself out of that hole you’ve dug your characters and plot into”.

Honestly, I have only been working with this site for the past few days and I wonder how I survived without it. It is easy to use and best of all, the content will keep expanding!

God bless Angela, Becca, and Lee!

Keep Writing!

Wendy

 

How do you choose what you read?

I am always interested in why people are reading what they read.

Are you choosing because of buzz? The New York Times Book Review or Kirkus?

 

'Read any good book reviews lately?'

‘Read any good book reviews lately?’

 

A friend’s recommendation?

 

Dog writes a review: 'A sublime book, I devoured it in one sitting ...'

Dog writes a review: ‘A sublime book, I devoured it in one sitting …’

 

Bestsellers? Award winners?

All of the above?

I divide my reading into several categories:

  • I’ve read a review and am completely intrigued!
  • Making my writing better.  I’m working my way backwards through all of the Newbery and Caldecott Medal books – you might as well learn from the best!
  • A friend has told me the book is fantastic.
  • The librarian told me to give it a try! (never underestimate good booksellers and librarians!)

I usually have two or three books on the go at any one time: a non-fiction book, a children’s book and an adult book. I read at minimum 40 to 50 pages a day, unless the book is a page-turner and then I will do 100-200 a day!

What’s next on my to-read pile?

H is for Hawk

Helen-Macdonald-H-is-for-Hawk

 

A couple of children books: Artemis Fowl, Circus Mirandus.

And am holding my breath for Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert!

big-magic-liz-gilbert

 

How about you? What are you reading these days and what made you choose it?

Happy reading and writing!

 

Wendy

 

 

Are you the voracious reader?

One of the great joys I have now that I am a writer is that reading is part of my job. An absolute requirement in fact!  While I read across all genres, I am paying particular emphasis on middle grade, young adult and picture books, as those are the genres I’m writing in right now and reading really good work can only make mine better.

One thing I have discovered about myself is that as soon as I discover an other I like – Holly Black, Maureen Johnson, Neil Gaiman – I read everything I can get my hands on by them.  EVERYTHING.

I am like a kid in the candy store, until I have read it all and then look around hungrily for the next big thing.  My obsession right now is Patricia Wrede.  She is amazing, wonderful and brilliant.  Her voice is true and her character’s voices are spot on.

Patricia Wrede_B&W

After making my way through the Enchanted Forest series I am now into her Magic Barrier books. Sadly, I will soon be through them, too, and turning my attention to the next great wonderful thing.

I also tend to read more than one book at a time. I am reading David McCullough’s biography of Harry Truman as well as a book by the late Wayne Dyer. Next on my list is H is for Hawk.

Thank goodness for Goodreads, where I can organize it all, as well as create lists of books I want to read next. It is a never-ending list, that’s for sure. If you want to connect on Goodreads, you can find me at goodreads.com/wendymcleodmacknight – I’d love that.

So are you an author devourer like me or do you spread yourself all over the place? I’d love to know!

I expect to start working with my editor in the next few weeks – can’t wait to share what the process is like with you all!

Does everyone know everyone on twitter but me?

I’m new to the twitter game. I’m new to the writing game, if truth be told.

But now that I am on twitter, I have come to one conclusion: everyone knows everyone on twitter and they are all wittier than me!

It reminds me of Mindy Kaling’s book:

mindy

 

I don’t know about you, but life is a series of experiences where we are “the newbie”.  That is never truer than we start a new school, transition to a new career, move to a new city.

It feels like everyone knows everyone. They have their inside jokes.  They seem whip-smart, super-thin (how would I even KNOW that? All I see is 144 characters for heaven’s sake!).  Oh and they know how to attach things into their tweets. Witty things.

Oh I’ll get there. Perhaps someday I’ll be just like them. It is, after all, simply a matter of meeting people and getting to know them.

And Twitter does give you such amazing access.

There is something cool about being about to tweet my favourite author(s) and tell them how much I love their book(s).  Although I tried that with Virginia Woolf and she didn’t write back.

In the meantime, as a Sociologist, I cannot help but be fascinated by the world of twitter and how people use it (they use it a LOT!)

What about you – do you have your twitter tribe?

 

Revisions

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
William Faulkner

Some writers hate revisions. Some love them.

I think I am somewhere in between.

I recently got feedback from my beta readers. Not all of the comments were consistent, but they were consistent in that they helped me realize that a lot was not working with my Work in Progress.

Rather than being daunted, I felt recharged.

I have spent the last few days re-imagining the plot, coming up with ways to make things both simpler and more satisfying. I am excited again!

And there is rewriting in my future, considerable rewriting. But in the end, I want my book to be the best book it can be. I owe my readers nothing less.

But why is it that we writers so often need an independent person(s) to jog us into this serious revision phase? I don’t know about you, but I so often need that kick in the butt to take my book to the next level!

What makes a page-turner?

"And that's what I call a page turner."

“And that’s what I call a page turner.”

 

I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately, since my work-in-progress is not yet a page turner (well it is in places, but not all the places, sigh…).

I’m sure you are like me and you read incessantly. Certainly reading makes you a better writer, but so does thinking about the approach you will take with YOUR story.

Will you be cheeky? Will you be the anonymous tale-teller? Will you tell your tale in such a way that there is a sliver of the sinister? First person, third person? There is so much to think about.

The concept and the characters have to draw us in. You can have the best concept in the world, but if the characters don’t make us want to walk a mile in their shoes, don’t make us care what happens to them, well we may find ourselves completely uninterested.

If the characters are amazing and the plot is dull, we wish someone could just scoop them up and put them in another book!

It’s all about the balance, isn’t it? The elusive balance. When you read it, you feel it, even if you can’t quite articulate it what makes it work.

I was able to devour hundreds of pages of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, but her earlier book, The Secret History, left me cold.

Tartt_TheGoldfinch

I cared what happened to Theo in The Goldfinch, I wanted him to make it. If you ask me the names of the characters in The Secret History, I couldn’t tell you. It was an intriguing plot, but I didn’t love any of the characters enough to love the book.

For sure this is why Harry Potter has struck such a chord. Rowling has pulled off the near impossible: she makes us care about all of the characters, both within the arc of each book and within the arc of all seven books in the series. It is masterful and something we ought all aspire to.

HP1

And no, I am not going to torture my Work in Progress until I am convinced that it belongs in the pantheon of The Goldfinch or Harry Potter, but I am going to work at it until I am convinced I have done all I can to make my readers desperate to turn the next page!

How about  you? What makes a book a page-turner for you?

Feedback from your Beta Readers

snoopy

Early on in my writing process, I was scared to show anyone anything.

There is so much blood, sweat, and tears poured into those early drafts and our poor egos can feel quite battered when one of our early readers doesn’t love it as much as we do or has some suggestions that makes perfectly good sense but makes us cringe because we know how much work will be required to get it done.

I no longer feel like that.

I currently have six beta readers (early readers) who read my work. They come at the work from different perspectives and expertise and I benefit from that.

Part of the reason that I no longer feel as defensive is that I no longer share until I have gotten to a point where I feel that a) the book is well written (you don’t want to waste your beta readers’ time); and b) I need to know where the issues are before I do the last revision.

I recently sent my YA Fantasy out to my beta readers and am starting to get back feedback. I will wait for all of the feedback before I decide what does or does not need changing, but the feedback I’ve gotten to date has been helpful and positive, even if the reader didn’t love all of the book.  Since I am writing in a completely new genre, this feedback is especially helpful to me.

I want to write the best books I can. The whole point of beta readers is that they help us realize where we are failing to make our point, where our characters are not well drawn and where we are inconsistent or dull.

The fact that people are willing to take the time to read a book that is obviously a work in progress is a real gift and blessing, and I am grateful for my beta readers  and their patience.

In the end, my book will be all the better for the thoughtful critique . I want the final version of my books to have characters people love and plots that draw them in and keep them drawn in.

It is impossible to do that unless you get feedback from others.

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
– Benjamin Franklin

 

 

 

 

Writing is Just the Beginning OR (mis)Adventures in Technology

Okay, so a few weeks ago, I got my revamped website up and running. Wonderful. All is good.

Except.

Except there are extra goodies I want to offer here. Enter technology. I am in the middle of making my first video.

It is a humbling experience.  Who knew my curly hair could look that wacky? Have I always had the strange look in my eyes? (oh wait, that’s the look of fear…)

argh

The Horror!

 

Finally got the video done and now am in the throes of learning how to upload it to YouTube and to this website.

Here’s what I know for sure:

  • writing a book is hard work
  • getting your book published feels almost impossible at times
  • Learning everything else – videos, social media, tech stuff – that seems to be really kicking my butt.

Back to watch more of the Easy Author Marketing videos I recently purchased on writeforkids.org.

Oh, and then I might take a walk around the block.  I think I need a break!

How about you? How are you doing learning all the other stuff that a writer should know today?

World Building

I am in the middle of writing a Young Adult Fantasy. This is a stretch for me – well everything is a stretch for me when it comes to writing – but one I am working hard to master.

While most of my novel takes place in the contemporary world, there are a couple of forays elsewhere, in other worlds. And the sequel will mostly take place elsewhere. And those ‘elsewheres’ needed rules, geography, and history.  Not easy, but I am learning.

The Queen of World Building in my mind is J.K. Rowling, but Philip Pullman is a close second. Both created worlds that felt as real or more real than the one in which we live.

Let me add a third: S.E. Grove.

Golden Specific

I just finished reading the second book in The MapMakers Trilogy and it is stunning. The detail is amazing and you truly feel that this is another world that you’ve discovered.  S.E. Grove, a trained historian, deftly weaves mundane details with political, historical and geographical details that make the book come alive. This book, and the one before, The Glass Sentence, are must-reads, especially for writers who are interested in learning how to be master world-builders. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Of course, now I must go back to do ANOTHER revision because she has inspired me so much…. Of course, that’s what good writers do, don’t they?

 

Author of Children's Literature

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