Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Temporarily Offline

There has been a death in my family and I will be flying back to Michigan for about a week.  I doubt I will have an opportunity to get on the Internet, much less have time to blog.  Just wanted to give a heads up.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Why I Need and Love my Critique Group (even when I'm slightly afraid of them)

I am always nervous about attending my writer's group meetings.  It's ridiculous, really.  They are the kindest, most understanding and supportive people, but I get butterflies in my stomach every time I think about sharing my work with other aspiring authors.

Yesterday, I felt particularly nervous.  I brought in the fifth chapter of my novel and I didn't feel good about it.  Something wasn't working and I was anxious to share anything that I wasn't at least partially proud of.

As a perfectionist and overachiever, I do not like feeling unprepared or inadequate, so I even considered not sharing.  In fact, I waited until everyone else had shared, silently hoping we'd run out of time to look at my work.  But, nope.  With encouraging nods and smiles on their faces, they persuaded me to hand out my writing.

And I was right.  Something wasn't working.

But here's the great thing.  Here's the thing that I forgot (and seem to continually forget).  That's why I go to these meetings:  to get advice, suggestions, and essentially, to learn.  It's not supposed to be perfect!  It's a work in progress and we are in the process together.

When I left that meeting, I felt lighter, more confident.  The problem that had been hanging up my writing was no longer mine alone to solve.  I had fresh ideas and wisdom to move me forward.

I can't wait to sit down and rework that chapter with their insights in mind.  I know I can come up with something great.  But I can't do it alone.  I need my group.

I am really lucky to have them.  Thanks, Wordworms!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Great advice for new writers

Excellent advice on writing that first chapter!  It gives me a lot to consider, especially when talking about POV.  Currently, my novel shifts from present to past throughout, but I've already been struggling with this.  The article makes me question my plot and how to make it flow more smoothly and still keep the important elements in the plot and conflict.  A complete revision of the novel might be necessary - daunting and frustrating, but necessary.

Check it out and see if you couldn't tighten your work.  Good luck! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Exciting Sailing Adventure for Middle Grade Readers

Unto the Breach by Sidney Gale
(A Review)
Don't let the word "lake" fool you.  The Great Lakes are immense and powerful!
This is me at Lake Michigan. The book takes place on Lake Ontario, but I wanted to
give the readers some perspective and a visual of one of these beautiful lakes.

What an exciting adventure for middle grade readers!  This book is fast-paced and interesting, even without the background knowledge of boats and sailing. 

Two best friends, thirteen-year-old Anthony and Eric, decide that they don’t want to go on the class field trip – mainly because Anthony is unathletic and has very little interest in the outdoors.  Having been sailing on Eric’s family’s boat in the past, he considers it to be an easy, relaxing alternative to the rigors involved in the school trip.  Together, they approach their favorite teacher to be a chaperone and then, approach their parents and principal for approval.  Although Anthony’s parents have some reservations, they finally give their consent once another experienced sailor – Eric’s rival, Rob – joins the crew. 

The teacher, Mr. Benson, knows next to nothing about sailing and will be relying solely on Eric and Rob’s expertise.  With the animosity between Eric and Rob (mostly stemming from Eric’s jealousy) and a smart, but somewhat lazy Anthony on board, the trip already has the makings of a disaster.  But add to this some faulty equipment and an unexpected gale storm and it makes for page-turning thrills.

The action of the book is set on Lake Ontario.  Having grown up in Michigan, I am very familiar with the size and power of the Great Lakes.  Most people, I have found, who haven’t been to one of these lakes has a hard time understanding the enormity of them and the unpredictability of the weather over them.  When I show pictures to people from out of state, they think they are looking at the ocean.  And that’s what these lakes seem to be and sometimes how they behave – like the sea.  So in understanding this book, it is necessary to understand the vastness of this lake.  You cannot see the other side.  Waves can reach incredible heights.  Storms can crop up from out of nowhere.  And yes, unfortunately, ships do go down. 

Each of the characters has a unique personality, which changes throughout the book as they are faced with life-or-death situations and decisions.  It’s always fascinating to see who people become in the face of adversity.  Anthony, often underestimated by Eric, at first seems whiny and lazy, but incredibly intelligent as he is obsessed with watching medical shows (this will come in handy later on in the story).  He becomes someone who is confident and decisive in the midst of others’ panic. 

While Eric loves Anthony as his best friend, he assumes the role of the decision-maker and leader.  He is self-assured and almost arrogant.  His anger towards Rob is actually envy and secret feelings of inadequacy as Rob is rich and a talented sailor.  Rob remains fairly constant throughout the book, but it is clear that each one of these boys grows up considerably by the end and the experience will connect them for life.

The author provided a diagram at the beginning of the book of the sailboat (a Shark) with important parts of the boat labeled.  While I definitely found it helpful, I could have used even more labeling.  The glossary at the back of the book was a nice addition, but it takes a very dedicated reader to go searching for words and in my experience, most middle schoolers are unlikely to use them unless it’s for a school assignment or perhaps if they are really interested in sailing.  The diagram is definitely easier to understand, it is just a bit too limited. 

However, without help from the diagram or the glossary, the book is still understandable and a fun, wild ride!  Once the boys start sailing, it is nonstop action.  I expected the boys to catch a break once in a while, but the hits kept on coming.  I couldn’t wait to get to the end. 

This is a survival story, but it’s also a coming-of-age story.  The characters get on the boat as boys, but they get off much older and wiser. 

I definitely recommend it for middle grade boys, but I think girls would enjoy it, too.  It’s a good read!

The author is actually a doctor, specializing in diabetes.  He has written numerous nonfiction books, but this is his first novel.  Check him out at:  http://www.ourdiabetes.com/biography.htm

A couple more pics of the Great Lakes (well, Lake Michigan, anyway!):
A beautiful day in Holland, Michigan!

My pup, Daphne, and I on Lake Michigan.

My husband and I in Saugatuck, Michigan.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Las Vegas Children's Book Writers' and Illustrators' Workshop: September 10th

Check out this upcoming event in Las Vegas!  This is a wonderful opportunity for children's book writers and illustrators to meet agents, an art director, and successful authors in the business.  Also, they are offering manuscript/portfolio reviews, but HURRY because manuscripts are due by July 27th!

Nevada SCBWI
Autumn Fire: Inspiring Your Muse
Las Vegas Workshop - September 10, 2011
Treading water? Ready to find inspiration for your dream of writing or illustrating for children and young adults? Join us for a one-day boot camp in fabulous Las Vegas - 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM -
Las Vegas Day School
3275 Red Rock Street
Las Vegas, NV 89146
Our faculty includes Michael Bourett, agent with Dystel Goderich Literary Agency; Kelly Sonnack, agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency; Patti Ann Harris, senior art director, Little, Brown Children's Books; author Susan Taylor Brown; author Kristin Clark Venuti; author Ellen Hopkins; and SCBWI Work-in-Progress Winner, Tracy Clark.

What are agents looking for? How to up the ante on your fiction? What makes a picture book work? Learn all this, and more, through our hands-on workshops and keynotes. Plus one-on-one manuscript critiques and portfolio reviews, designed to help you take your work to the next level.
SCBWI Members
Pre-registration (received by September 7)Registration at the door
Individual paid manuscript/portfolio critique

Manuscript/Portfolio Review
You may also have a manuscript or a portfolio review done by one of our faculty for a $40 fee. Authors may submit up to 10 typewritten, double-spaced pages for manuscript review. Manuscripts must be received by July 27th.
Artists need to register for a review by August 17th and should bring your portfolio materials with you to the workshop. Please indicate on your registration form if you want a review even if your manuscript will be mailed in later.

Go to http://www.nevadascbwi.org/LV-Sept-2011-Event.html to register and receive more information.  

You may fill-in the form online before printing or print it and then fill it in. The form, along with any payment needed, should be mailed to:
Nevada SCBWI
P.O. Box 19084
Reno, NV 89511

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thoroughly Enjoyable YA Fairytale by Heather Dixon

Entwined by Heather Dixon
(A Review)

As a lover of fairy tales, this book did not disappoint.  I absolutely loved it and was thoroughly engrossed throughout the entire book. 

Set in the fictional kingdom of Eathesbury, Azalea and her twelve sisters are forced into a year of mourning - cut off from the outside world after the death of their mother, the queen, during childbirth.  While their mother was a compassionate woman full of love and laughter, their father, the king, is a man of few words and even fewer displays of affection.  Feeling abandoned as he pushes them away in his own misery and leaves them alone as he fights in a war with an allied kingdom, they try to find some beauty and small enjoyment during their year of imprisonment with the castle. 

As the oldest and at the bequest of her mother before her death, it falls to Azalea to take care of the rest of the girls.  In an effort to keep them happy, she attempts to involve them in dance, which has been their favorite past-time and at which Azalea excels.  Unfortunately, during mourning, dancing is not allowed and the girls’ dancing slippers are taken from them.  Suffering from feelings of depression and rejection, the girls are delighted when they find a magical secret passage, which leads them into a world full of music and dancing. 

A handsome man, known only as the Keeper, has been trapped in this magical realm and every night, creates an enchanting place for them to dance to their hearts’ content.  Unfortunately, the Keeper may not be all that he seems.  As time goes on, Azalea begins to realize that there is maliciousness behind his good looks and she finds herself making promises that she may be unable to keep.  What started out as a beautiful escape from a bleak reality, turns into a dangerous game.

This novel contains all elements of a classic, captivating fairytale.  It has a beautiful heroine who must make a moral decision.  There is the presence of a chillingly evil villain who manipulates the girls’ feelings and encourages their disobedience to suit his own needs.  It is simultaneously haunting and beautiful.  It teaches a lesson in morality and emphasizes the importance of family, love, and compassion.  A girl of any age will find herself drawn into the story.  Oh, and as with any good fairytale, there is also some romance mixed in with the suspense. 

Definitely a good read!  I highly recommend it!

Author’s Website:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A YA Novel with Trendy, Modern Superheroes!

Solid by Shelley Workinger

This novel is a fast-paced, modern sci-fi novel with a quick-witted, sassy heroine.  It is definitely a fun read, especially for middle grade and young adult readers. 

Clio (Calliope) Kaid has just arrived at a summer camp for 17-year-olds who were found to have been part of a mad scientist’s government experiment.  The government has discovered that one of its scientists was experimenting on pregnant women by giving them what they thought were prenatal vitamins, but was really a drug to alter the baby’s DNA.  Clio is one of those babies, all grown up, and the camp is created to uncover the results of the scientist’s work.  And believe me, it’s pretty cool.  Think “comic book hero.”

Thanks to the drugs administered to their mothers as they were developing, these teenagers possess certain superhuman abilities.  Upon arrival, they are quickly divided into ability groups.  Everything from extraordinary athletic ability to invisibility. 

Clio is placed into one of these groups (and I won’t give away which one) where she creates friendships with some of the other campers and, of course, develops a crush on a cute fellow camper. 

While she has finally found a place where she fits in, Clio begins to notice that something is not right.  Someone in the camp is not as interested in helping the teenagers as they are in harnessing their power.  With the help of her new superhuman friends, Clio investigates and faces potential danger.

As a character, Clio is clever.  She’s a bit of a smart aleck, at least her thoughts are sharp and witty (as this novel is presented in first person narrative), and she keeps the book moving with her humor and reflections.  I only wish that she would say more of her incredibly funny insights out loud to her friends.  It almost seems as if this part of her personality is kept from her friends, because she is supposedly shy and somewhat clumsy and reserved – yet her thoughts are anything but. 

Besides this slight contradiction, the characters are enjoyable and each very unique.   I’m reminded of some of my favorite comic book heroes.  Clio and her group are the newest, trendiest group of superheroes. 

This novel is a fun mix of reality and science fiction.  It is presented in a way that makes the situation seem plausible, which is essential for good sci-fi, and the characters will appeal to every young person.  They are funny and relatable.  This book is a great way to introduce someone to science fiction.  It is light and enjoyable and not overly complex.  It also has drama, action, and a bit of romance. 

Solid is the first book in the series.  Settling has just been released at the beginning of this month on Amazon.com.  They are running a promotion for the month of July.  If you buy Settling, you can get the ebook of Solid for free!  Both books are available in print AND ebook version.   

Read and enjoy!

Author’s websites:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sorry for the Delay in Posts . . .

I have been sick for the past week and haven't been able to get on my computer or do any reading, but I'm feeling better and ready to write!  Thank you for your patience!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Some Websites with Great Summer Activity Ideas for Kids

1.     Kaboose – Disney’s online family magazine – full of great information and ideas:  http://holidays.kaboose.com/summer/

2.     Creative Kids at Home – This site has a page dedicated specifically to summer activities, but also has links to arts and crafts and other general activities:  http://www.creativekidsathome.com/summerkidsactivities.html

3.     Frugal Dad: Making Frugal Cool Again – Not only does this dad offer financial advice, he gives a list of two weeks worth of activities to keep those kids busy:  http://frugaldad.com/2009/05/25/fun-summer-activities-for-kids/

4.     MailJust4Me Playground – This site offers a variety of activities and links to other resources:  http://mailjust4me.com/play/summer1.htm

5.     Activity TV – This site shows video clips of various summer activities (you may have to sit through some advertising, but it’s fun to see the ideas in action):  http://www.activitytv.com/summer-activities-for-kids

These are just some resources, but there are so many more.  I just wanted to get some links down in one location for easier browsing.  So check ‘em out and enjoy.  Have a great summer!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

My hero.  Thanks for fighting for our country, baby!
And Happy Birthday to my awesome mama!

New Online YA Fiction Magazine is Accepting Submissions

Over the years, YA author Hannah Goodman has struggled to find a publisher for both her novels and short pieces of YA fiction.  Not one to sit back and accept rejection, she self-published two young adult novels and won the Writer’s DigestSelf-Publishing Award in 2004 for My Sister’s Wedding.  Her current move to create a market for her work and the work of other YA fiction writers was to develop and launch Sucker Literary Magazine.

Sucker is an online magazine for purely YA fiction.  Goodman’s dream of creating a place for YA authors, like herself, a venue to showcase their work began in May and she is accepting submissions for the publication and plans to begin with two publications per year, moving into one per month as the magazine gains momentum.

What a wonderful idea and opportunity for YA writers seeking an audience!

Here is the magazine’s website with information about the magazine and submission guidelines:

Here is an article about Ms. Goodman and the magazine from Publisher’s Weekly:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Movie News: Award-winning Actor buys right to classic YA novel

The Giver
This week Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges and producer Nikki Silver bought rights to produce the film adaptation of the classic dystopian novel, The Giver, by Lois Lowry. 

Lately, everything that Bridges seems to touch turns to gold – for example, his Western blockbuster True Grit (2010), award-winning performance in Crazy Heart (2009), and the smash hit Iron Man (2008), in which he played the villain.  Throughout his career, Bridges has been nominated for and received numerous awards for his acting, which makes the prospect of him starring in The Giver as the “Giver” so exciting. 

Movie adaptations often fall short of the original works and with a novel that has resonated with so many people in the last decade, it is crucial to honor that work and keep its integrity.  With the acting talents of Bridges and a well-written script by Vadim Perelman (who wrote, directed, and produced the screen adaptation of House of Sand and Fog), this film has the makings of a quality film and will hopefully be a credit to the original novel.  I am definitely looking forward to it!

For more information, check out the following article from Variety: