Monday, January 15, 2018

You Heard it Here First: Jean Hall's Dream Comes True!

Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won The Pursuit of Italy from last week's blog. She definitely is my all time highest winner! 

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This week I am happy to share publishing news from a dear and long-time friend, Jean Hall. Take it away Jean!

Jean and I at a writing retreat.
April, 2011

AGENT QUESTIONS

CAROL: How did you meet your agent, Cyle Young? Was he one of many agents you subbed to? 


JEAN: Six or eight years ago I tried sending proposals to several agents for my picture books. I received no responses and I was crushed. It’s a difficult truth to learn about the publishing business that agents and editors are too busy to respond to every proposal or submission. They receive hundreds, thousands of submissions and most of the time only respond to the best of the best and to those which fit into their philosophies, mission statements and current needs.

After that I continued to write and pray about my writing but didn’t have peace from the Lord to seek representation from any agency. Then, in 2016 I was introduced to Cyle by another author who is also his client. I eventually met Cyle face-to-face at another writer’s conference.

What you’ve heard is true. The best ways to make contact with agents and editors is either at writer’s conferences, or through personal introduction.

I emailed Cyle and asked if I could send him a sample manuscript. He agreed. Afterwards we arranged a phone call during which he explained how their representation works, then we agreed to pray about the decision. Later we agreed it was the Lord’s will to work together. I signed with him in June, 2016.

CAROL: Why do you think he signed you on?

JEAN: I think he decided my writing had reached a marketable level and because I was ready to make a commitment to work hard to get my stories published and to do a lot of work toward marketing them myself. He also believed it was God’s will.

And from Cyle's point of view: "Jean is an amazing writer with a great voice. I am honored to represent her." 

CAROLWas this the project you originally subbed to him, or were there others? 

JEAN: The first book of this set (of four) was the first thing I sent him. Cyle suggested that I make that book part of a series, so I redid the proposal for a set of four and worked on the second book. He's an extremely involved and innovative agent. He pushes me to stretch myself and try new things.

CAROL: How long did it take before you received an offer?

JEAN: One year later, Cyle and Little Lambs Books started discussing the contract. I actually signed with them in September, 2017.

BOOK QUESTIONS


CAROL:  What process did you go through in writing these four books? How long did you work on them? 

JEAN: I enjoy the changing seasons, especially fall. About ten years ago I was working on a lot of poetry. I was trying to improve my skill with using poetic devices. One such poem was about fall. On the twentieth or so revision I saw it could become a picture book. I polished it and sent it to a contest with ICL (I think). I got positive feedback from the person who critiqued it. But she insisted to be a story it needed a main character. So, after weeks of struggle I developed a boy six or seven years old to walk through the story scenes.

That isn’t the best way to do it, however. It’s a bit backwards. Most of my story ideas start with a strong main character.

CAROL: What was the inspiration behind the Four Seasons stories? 

JEAN: My inspiration was the beauty of every season of the year. The pastels of spring, the vibrant colors and sights of summer, the rapidly changing palate of fall, and the stark contrasts of winter are all beautiful to me. I wanted to share that beauty and the One who created it all with children and the adults who read to them. I wanted to show the love of God to children through the everyday scenes and events of their lives.

CAROL: What input did you receive from critique buddies? 

JEAN: Nothing I write would be worth publishing without my critique partners. I’ve learn to trust their various skills and areas of expertise. I have about twelve children’s writers whose suggestions and questions I trust. I weigh what they say, try the things that might work, and use those that make the stories better for my audience—children in preschool, kindergarten and first or second grade.

I tip my hat here to the amazing writing friends God has brought into my life the past fifteen years. They encourage me, teach me, reel me in, make me think in new ways and consider new possibilities. Here’s an example.

The editor at Little Lamb Books who liked my first two manuscripts in the Four Seasons series sent Cyle a message to ask me how soon I could finish all four. I asked, “When do you want them?” She replied, “By this weekend.” That was on a Tuesday. I prayed a 911 prayer, took a big breath and said I would give it my best. They had been floating around in my head for months, but I had nothing on paper or screen.

I immediately emailed the writing friends who have helped me for years, and a few that I had recently connected with. I explained my situation and asked for their prayers. All replied that would be praying! I also asked if anyone could be “on call” to respond to emails from me for critique and input. Six or seven replied that they could.

And they did. I sat at my computer for ten hours a day Wednesday through Saturday. With every change I’d send an email to these terrific friends. And they responded. Without them I could never have completed those manuscripts at all, much less in a few days.

Late Saturday night the manuscripts reached a point where I felt they were the best WE could make them at that time. So, I hit SEND. The editor liked all four stories.

Of course there will be edits. Some major. Some minute. I’m confident that just as God used my team of fellow writers, just as He used my agent, He will use the staff of my publishing house to make these four books the best they can be so they will bless children and their parents and caregivers.


I’m grateful and humbled by this opportunity.


Jean celebrating her publishing deal--
twelve years after learning to write for publication.
Look for the Four Seasons series in 2019. I'll plan to review at least one book and give it away on my blog. Meanwhile, Jean is continuing to revise the books and is working on a book about deserts and a picture book about a child inventor. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples- An Audio Book Review and Giveaway. Part II


Please see last week’s blog for the first part of my review of the audio CD of The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions, and the People. What follows is only a sampling of what Gilmour covers in this comprehensive history of a country he obviously loves. You have to read (or listen) to the book to glean all that I’ve left out.



The glorious revolution of 1848 marked a new beginning for Italy. General Giuseppe Garibaldi, a self-declared freedom fighter who is considered to be Italy’s George Washington, was one of Italy’s “father of the fatherland.” Along with Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, Victor Emmanuel II and Giuseppe Mazzini, this generation of giants carried out the unification of the eleven states, kingdoms, and duchies. Although the revolution was lost and Italy continued to be divided with Austria dominating the north, the stage was set to build a nation. Under Garibaldi and Mazzini, attempts were made to improve the lives of the poor, provide secular education, and give freedom to the press. Interestingly, Garibaldi declined the invitation to fight for the Union when he realized he wouldn’t be made commander-in-chief and thus could not abolish slavery. 

Italian nationalism was not easily won and actually came about after the state was formed. In 1899 Giustino Fortunato declared that unification was “A sin against history and geography” because it ruined the south. “We are too long a country! The head and the tail will never touch each other. If made to do so, it would mean the head biting the tail.”

Verdi became a symbol of Italian aspirations. Although he was acclaimed as the great unifier, this was only a mystic fusion of his music with longed for unity of the nation. In fact, this was political revisionism: Verdi was not the great hoped-for unifier.

Gilmour is convinced that liberals, Catholics, and socialists underestimated fascist Mussolini. As prime minister, he ruled the country from 1922-1943 and didn’t need a revolution or coup to gain power. He took it constitutionally. No one seemed to take notice when he started taking over positions and squads began beating and killing political opponents. Fascism was like a religion which became equated with Mussolini. It was a technique to acquire power, and along the way, promote virility and maternity. Having just learned the word pastiche, I was interested in Gilmour’s description of Mussolini’s architecture as a pastiche of classism and fascism. 

No history of Italy is complete without the inclusion of the Mafioso. Begun in the mid-1800’s as a secret society in Sicily- an island that wanted autonomy for centuries--no one wanted to admit that the Mafia existed. Under Mussolini, he declared that the Mafiosi was destroyed. As a result, the press couldn’t report their rampant murders and robberies. Mussolini didn’t realize that the Mafia was a way of life, not just a sinister organization that could be extinguished through oppression.

During the latter part of the 20th century, the Mafioso grew stronger as their tentacles reached further into the government. Laws to criminalize the Mafioso were difficult to enforce. The Cammora rivaled the Mafia in its scale of violence. Between the two of them they were murdering on average over 500 people a year—lawmakers, journalists, and anyone who got in their way. “The Italian state had helped make its citizens prosperous, but it failed to provide security or to protect its officials. Politics, prosperity, and corruption seemed to mix very easily.”

Industrialization in the second part of the 20th century made Italy as prosperous as in the Middle Ages, exporting furniture, clothing, glass and ceramics. But it left scars of deforestation, cementing over olive and citrus groves, and damaging the landscape of the country which the author quite obviously deplored.

Silvio Berlusconi, who served as prime minister from 2008-2011, was a self-created politician. He did not help the economy as he promised, ignored Parliament, used his own television stations as his pulpit, and surrounded himself with a gaggle of young women. The Italian people forgave his sexual indiscretions because, after all, he was Italian. He advised women to marry someone as rich and seductive like him. He advised Italian men they could be like him if they tried. He routinely laughed off criticism and blamed everything that went wrong on the communists. He bowed to Rome although he was neither chaste or observant. Uneducated about Italian history or philosophy, he denied Mussolini’s terrorism. It was no surprise that the Mafia’s resurgence in the early 21st century coincided with Berlusconi’s ascendency as it became more invisible, but more invasive.

Gilmour often questions if Italy is truly a nation. As recently as 1994 the two main political parties- Communist and Christian Democracy--dissolved and in 1996 there was a short-lived attempt by northern Italy to secede. In recent years Spain’s GDP surpassed Italy. In 2010, China rivaled Italy in the production of spectacles, glass, shoes and clothing. Lethargy often predominates a country where, in 2008, only 16% of Italians trusted their politicians. In 2011, the 150st celebration of unification, the division between the poorer south and the rich north was still present. 

Despite bureaucracy and corruption, Gilmour admits that there is a distinct vibrancy to Italy. His last chapter, “Resilient Italy” discusses the ever-present importance of the family and the provincialism of small towns where Italians still enjoy their local piazzas and churches. 


Gilmour concludes that Italians have created some of the world’s greatest art, architecture, music, and one of its finest cuisines, but it has never been as good as the sum of all its parts.

The narrator, Napoleon Ryan, has an authentic British accent which fits the book, since David Gilmour was British and lived in Italy for many years. Ryan pronounced the Italian names perfectly which added authenticity to this audio book. Click here for an audio clip of the book.

Leave me a comment by January 12th (with your email address if you are new to my blog) to enter the giveaway. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples- An Audio Book Review and Giveaway. Part I

Thanks to so many of you who visited last week's blog on Joyce Hostetter's cover reveal of DRIVE. The post had  1067 opens--which makes it the third most viewed post on my blog!

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If you are a secret Italophile or dream of touring Venice, Florence, and Pompeii like I do, then this book is for you. Although the talented author, Sir David Gilmour, says that this is not an academic work and is suitable for tourists and amateur historians, the depth and breath of this work is stellar. Almost 20 hours of audio (480 pages) provide the listener with everything you ever wanted to know about "the peninsula." As mentioned before when I review audio books, most of this material is paraphrased.


Audio book provided by Tantor Media

The author opens with the geography of the peninsula providing insight into the role the mountain ranges and rivers (which are less navigable then France or England) to the country’s agriculture and economy. 

From there he delves into mythology as well as ancient Italy including Cicero, Anthony, and other political leaders in the years before Christ. Immigration from other countries brought a variety of peoples to the peninsula including Greeks and Celts.

The Roman Empire was brutal in conquest but granted privileges of Roman citizenship, protection, tax advantages, and the right to stand for office. Around 91 BC the army was the chief agent of the process of Romanization of Italia with the hopes of creating a peaceful, united country. In fact, Italy was a land of city states, not a federation with a national ethnic identity. Empire building was the priority resulting in slavery, corruption, crucifixions, and commonplace murders.

The barbarian and Byzantine period which stretched from 330-1453, was colored by the presence of foreign rule, the memory of the pagan past, and the overwhelming force of the Catholic tradition. This era was marked by wars over territories, vying emperors, the territorial dominion of popes, and struggles for power and control between popes and emperors. Secular rulers who disobeyed the pope were commonly excommunicated. One example was Emperor Henry 4th who dismissed Pope Gregory and called him a false monk. In retaliation, the pope excommunicated the emperor and encouraged subjects to rebel. Although Gilmore didn’t spend much space on origins of papacy, he did comment that the papacy “didn’t care about religion until the reformation.” 

In Gilmour's opinion, Italy's system of city states was predestined to fall. Although the town centers were well preserved, small towns that were close together led to suspicion, anxiety about spies, and large predatory neighborhoods. Fears led to alliances and endless progression of little wars and "endemic factionalism." 

Conflicts with the Hapsburg Empire during the Middle Ages was a history of wars, conquests, divided republics and states. Italy tried to be a great nation and made alliances with France, Prussia, and Austria in attempts to be great.  

At the end of the 18th century, Napoleon led several campaigns to conquer Italy. Although Napoleon successfully carried off many works of art, he was  unsuccessful in conquering the country. Instead, Italy became more unified because the people were disillusioned with his unmet promises. 

Gilmour discusses the origins of words and organizations. The word ghetto was used in Venice to put Jews and other races in separate parts of the city for their protection. Jew wore particular clothing, but were bankers and doctors in a city known to be tolerant of various ethnicities. Caesar led to the Russian word Czar. The International Red Cross was founded because Henry Dunant’s reaction to a bloody battle in Solferino, Italy in 1859.

Gilmore incorporates Italy’s long history of love for written, visual, and musical arts. Virgil’s poetry had impact on Dante and Milton. In fact, Virgil’s description of the Italian countryside has had an enduring visual impact. Over time, art was often a window into politics. 1848, Italian operatic tradition gained a reputation no one would have predicted. The re-emergence of Italian opera was accomplished almost single handedly by Rossini.  


It is difficult to review a book of this length all in one post. Leave a comment this week as well as next when I post Part II and I'll enter your name twice. I'll pick a winner on January 12th. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

You Heard it Here First: Cover Reveal for DRIVE by Joyce Hostetter

I am honored to share the cover reveal for DRIVE, Joyce Hostetter's newest middle grade book that will be released in September by Calkins Creek. In this interview she gives you a glimpse of the backstory behind the latest in the Bakers Mountain Stories as well as the nitty gritty research she did. Take it away, Joyce!
Photo credit: Wendy Hostetter Davis

Synopsis

Ida and Ellie Honeycutt are identical twins whose personalities and internal drives are quite different. Ellie likes action and loves going to the local stock car speedway with its thrilling competitions. Ida, who hates the noise, dirt, and danger of racing, prefers quiet evenings at home pursuing her love of art.
Ellie tends to lead and Ida is mostly content to let her do so. They find security in their expected roles but entering high school gives them more separate experiences and forces them to function independently of each other. However nothing can stop them from falling for the same charming boy and finding themselves at increasing odds with each other.
Then a car accident forces them into new roles, affirms their unique identities, and leads them back to their deep loyalties to each other.

Carol: How did you arrive at the concept for DRIVE? 

Joyce: After my publisher suggested a prequel to BLUE (which eventually became AIM), I decided to create a series which is now known as the Bakers Mountain Stories. Five books seemed like a satisfactory number of volumes and would give each of the neighborhood youngsters a chance to tell his or her story.  (Ann Fay Honeycutt narrates two books, BLUE and COMFORT since she unknowingly kicked off the series!)   
Next in line were the twins. Of course I could have given them each their own separate books to narrate but being lumped together was also a twin dilemma I could utilize.  Mostly I wanted to explore their individuality in the context of the same story line. So I decided to write DRIVE from both of their voices and let their differing viewpoints create the conflict.  My goal was to have the reader pull for both of them even when they were at odds with each other.

Carol: Why did you call the book DRIVE?

I’ve always thought that, if I wrote a sequel to COMFORT, I’d want to share a bit of North Carolina’s NASCAR history.  The Hickory Motor Speedway opened in 1952, the year my story takes place, and we’ve had a number of exceptional drivers emerge from our area. Ned Jarrett grew up in the community and ran his first race at our speedway on the night that it opened. Jarrett represented racing so well via his competitive drive, his deep integrity, and his trailblazing career in NASCAR broadcasting. Including him as a character in the story was a real honor for me.
The historical backdrop for DRIVE is The Cold War, The Korean Conflict, and the presidential race between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson. Ultimately, I see this book as being about competition, the drive to succeed, and what it means to win. 
In any competition, we tend to see winners and losers. But one person or party taking first place doesn’t have to mean loss for others. Winning is the result of facing challenges with integrity, admitting our mistakes, and learning more about ourselves and what makes us valuable—no matter what the outcome of the contest. In DRIVE Ida and Ellie discover what makes them each unique and a winner in her own right.

Carol: What challenges did you encounter while writing DRIVE?

Writing from two viewpoints is always more complicated than I imagine it will be. Each character’s story must be fully fleshed out while complementing the other’s.  There’s so much to cover— scenes they share, separate scenes, more characters to flesh out, and interior monologue and a story arc for each protagonist. My biggest challenge was getting it all in and making it work together without bogging the story down. Based on editor feedback I did some major rewriting which changed the story a lot. The heart of the story was unchanged but the narrative for reaching resolution was quite different.
Also regarding challenges—I have to say that securing a contract to write a novel before it’s actually fleshed out sounds like a writer’s dream. But this presents its own struggle.  Deadlines always arrive more quickly than I like!

Carol: What kind of research did you do?

I read about the twin experience, of course, but conversations with multiple sets of twins were the most helpful in understanding the complicated mix of deep love and intense competition that exists between many of them. I also interviewed local NASCAR legend, Ned Jarrett and spent lots of time at the library reading our local newspaper from 1952 & 1953.
YouTube was great for giving me glimpses of the 1952 presidential election and aspects of the Cold War. I also watched quite a few NASCAR documentaries and attended my first stock car race at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Hickory Motor Speedway

Carol: You mentioned five books in Bakers Mountain Stories.  So far you have AIM, BLUE, COMFORT and DRIVE. What’s next?

Something that starts with an E, of course. I anticipate the title to be EQUALITY since that was a big theme of the sixties. The youngest Honeycutt child, Jackie (a boy) will turn fourteen in 1960 and will experience some history making moments. I can’t wait to see the storyline evolve as I discover ideas while researching. Just getting started on that now!
Thanks so much Carol for listening and sharing DRIVE with your readers!

And without further ado, take a look at this beautiful cover!

One of the ways we can support our favorite authors is by pre-ordering their books. Guess what? DRIVE is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for pre-order! In 2018 you'll have the opportunity to win the ARC off my blog when I review it--but why wait? Order your copy now!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Fresh Voices in the Blogosphere



A young writer friend recently introduced me to a new blog entitled, Rebellious Writing. Organized by a precocious 14-year-old, the movement's mission is to promote clean young adult literature. To encourage these young bloggers and to promote their writing efforts, I decided to feature three Rebellious Writers on my blog along with two other young women with similar passions. Here are the questions I asked each to consider:

If you had the ear of a publisher or editor who is publishing YA literature, what would you say to her about the current state of the publishing industry? What are your concerns with the books that are being published right now?

"I think smut and low expectations for teens rule the YA world because books have begun to lower standards for teens, one reader at a time. Too often, I read books telling us teenagers that it's okay and perfectly normal to be misunderstood, unintelligent, impulsive, and constantly swearing teens, and that it is okay to write this way, because it is "realistic". When it isn't or shouldn't be.

As a rebellious writer, I want to re-write the standards for teen readers and writers. I want to bring light, truth, and good morals back to young adult, but I can't do that alone, no one can. I am with Rebellious Writing, because I believe that I can make a difference despite my age, and I believe others can too. It is time for teens to rise up against swearing, lust, abuse, and general glorified bad behavior in books. We need to take a stand, and with Rebellious Writing, we are doing just that."
Gray Marie Cox is a Christian Texas girl and author. She is a firm believer in good books for all.
Here is her AMAZING POST that began the Rebellious Writers Movement.
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"I believe that part of the reason that the literature industry is accepting this bad literature is because for the past 50-80 years, the youth culture has been steadily breaking down whatever moral limits that were placed on them. A culture developed between 1920-1950 that tolerated such moral abuses such as swearing, abuse and especially lust in the general culture, then a culture developed between 1950-1980 that accepted these abuses as a fact of life – facts of life that are now glorified in YA today.  

Two generations later, these abuses have become a chokehold on society and the trashy YA only strengthens itNothing short of an outright rebellion is going to elicit change. I’ve made a conscious decision to “scout out” the books that I plan to read for any pitfalls, and I’m helping others do the same. While the monetary impacts are likely to be small at first, the seeds have been planted. In the meantime, I shall weave my tales of fantasy." 


Catherine Hawthorn is an aspiring young Catholic authoress who wishes to follow the footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkein. When not mending plot holes by the firelight or chasing her rebellious muse, she reads everything from historical fiction to high fantasy literature. She is also the email coordinator for the Rebellious Writers Movement.

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"If I had the ear of a publisher or editor, I would want to tell them that their industry has room for much-needed improvement. It's a pain to find clean Young Adult fiction. I want to ask publishers, 'Are you not receiving much of any clean YA submissions? Tell me, does every one of them have sordid content, or are you just ignoring most of the books with pure content because lewdness seems to be all the rage these days?'

"Both reasons are awful. And this concerns me because even if adolescents - such as myself - want that kind of content, they shouldn't have it. Foul language and sexual immorality in YA poisons young minds.

"What do I want to do about this, you ask? I want to write a deep, but also God-honoring, YA novel. Then I want to publish it traditionally. Then I want to keep writing and publishing smut-free books for Jesus. With my teammates at Rebellious Writing and with everyone else who shares the same goal, we can make a difference. Together we strive to spark a revival in the world of YA lit."


Lila Kims is a young Christian writer who wants to someday publish clean novels that both honor God and appeal to readers all across the vast bookosphere. She loves cheese but dislikes tea, and she considers the sky one of the most beautiful parts of God's creation. Lila's favorite stories to read and write are fairy tale retellings. She is one of ten Rebellious Writers.

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"As a generation, us young adults have turned aside from morals and laws and wish to please ourselves. We don't want to hear about consequences or sin, but prefer to do (and say) whatever we want. Writers, aiming to appeal to the youth of today and make their characters and situations “relatable”, then write like what we have become, which only furthers the downward spiral…until smut happens. Very few writers are willing to risk being unpopular by writing something different, and readers, avoiding cleaner literature for fear of being preached at, continue to reach for books with suggestive content. I believe that it is possible to tell a good story without being explicit, using coarse language, and (at the other end of the spectrum) being preachy, and we need to support and purchase from writers who do so. I write, and encourage others who write, clean YA literature in all genres."
Julian Daventry grew up in a house with books in every room, and acquired a taste for reading at an early age.  After reaching her teen years, the amount of "readable" material lessened greatly, and she began to write the stories she so desperately wanted to read. When not writing or blogging, Julian songwrites, runs long-distance, and rides gigantic horses. 

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"I’m sorry that our world is the way it is, where trash sells and gold doesn’t. I truly believe that most publishers are people who want to produce good literature, but are held at the whims of the market. They settle for sub-par because their readers demand it with pitchforks and torches. 

"It seems there are two extremes writers tend to swing towards: perfect characters, with no flaws, or gross, twisted characters, with no recourse for their actions. The result from either end is a trashy, unhelpful book. We need characters with flaws, but who try hard to fight against their shortcomings. 

"I want to write books with redemption. Characters who fall hard, but are given a second chance. People who, when they learn the difference between right and wrong, strive to make right choices. 

"I also want to support and commend, in whatever way possible, the endeavors of other authors who write these kinds of books. By doing this, I can show the publishing industry that clean books do have a market and that they do sell."

Sarah Rodecker is a Christian twenty-something ailurophile who loves food, books, and making things for others. With seven first-draft novels completed, she is focusing on editing her first book, The Dawn of a Hero.
She also leads her writing group, The Order of the Pen.

I hope these young writers will inspire you as much as they have inspired me! Please check out their blogs as well as the Rebellious Writing blog. 

How would you answer the questions I posed?






Monday, December 11, 2017

Shared WIP Tag IV: Questions on Writing


Congratulations to my Grand Prize Winner, Charlene Lutes, who won a Hattie doll and an autographed copy of Hattie On Her Way; and to Connie Saunders who won an autographed copy of the book. Thanks to so many of you who entered this giveaway. Make sure you check out Clara's blog for a wonderful writerly giveaway!

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I am embarrassed to admit that I'm almost two months late for the final installment of the Shared WIP tag. Better late than never! (If you're curious, you can find the previous posts here.)



1. What do you do to get yourself in the story?

I usually re-read a few scenes prior to the one I'm working on. Sometimes I complete an exercise from a blog that I'm following or one from Donald Maass's excellent book:


2. Do you do anything extra- art, covers, character journals, glossaries, playlists, etc to help you with your story?

I have several journals (some written in long hand, some in files on my computer). I also use picture from Pinterest a lot, such as this one:

Fredi Washington refused to "pass" for white as Hollywood suggested.
Therefore she was type cast as mixed race and never allowed a flourishing career.
b-1903; d-1994

3. What is your writing process?

Simple answer: Write. Read. Revise. Repeat as often as necessary. 

Expanded answer: I try to write forward as much as possible. That means not going back to tweak previous chapters or scenes, not editing as I go, or not stopping to look up details. I have found that it's a really good idea to let your work rest before tackling revisions --but sometimes I'm too impatient. I am currently reading my manuscript aloud to a neighbor which is extremely helpful. I can't believe how many errors I'm finding!

Extra answer: I am a serious plotter. I need a road map to figure out what I should write next. As a result, I create outlines in Word, move chapters around on One Stop for Writers and Scrivener. Then I feel free to let go and write.

4. Anything you would like to share about yourself or your writing that you would like to share?

Both my protagonist, Kate Dinsmore, and I want the same thing. But you'll have to read the book to find out what that is!

5. What keeps you going when you start to worry you'll never finish?

   a. I love the story and believe the theme will touch readers.
   b. My "Aaron" friends.

6. What inspired you to start writing and how long have you been at it?

When I was in junior high my mother used to tell me that "I had a way with words." Her praise and confidence in my abilities inspired me. The answer to the second part of your question gives away my age! Since I first started sending poems to magazines when I was in high school, I suppose I've been at this for over 50 years. (YIKES!). My first published article was in the mid-1970's. 

7. What author is your writing style similar to?

I honestly don't know! I'm trying to be as scrupulous in my research and as intergenerational as Joyce Hostetter, and as able to employ imagery through similes and metaphors as Linda Phillips. But you'll have to ask them, after Half-Truths is published, if I was successful!

8. What writing goals do you set and how do you reward yourself for meeting them?

My writing goals change depending on what stage I'm in with my book. When I'm crafting new chapters, then 1500 words a day is great. Right now I'm revising and I think more in terms of spending 2-3 hours a day on it.

My reward is anything that tastes like this:

Or, checking my email or peeking at Facebook.

9. What does a regular writing day look like?

I prefer to write in the morning when I'm freshest, but life doesn't always co-operate. I'd like to think I could write, take a lunch break, and then go back to it again--but usually other commitments or lack of brain power keep me from a second writing session.

10. How many writing ideas do you currently have saved on your computer/flash drive?

Not that many. I have ideas for a prequel and some ideas for first readers/picture books. But mostly I'm focusing on Half-Truths. If you asked me how many drafts or lesson plans for teaching writing...now that would be a different story. 

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There you have it. I FINALLY completed this 4-part series. Apparently the ring-leader for this Shared Tag, Julian Daventry, will be egging us on to new blogging heights in February. If she'll have me--dragging my feet as I am--you'll get another round of posts then. Meanwhile, here are the other bloggers who shared this adventure:


Monday, December 4, 2017

Hattie On Her Way: A Review and TWO Giveaways!

Congratulations to Linda Phillips. Random.org selected her name to win an audio book off last week's blog.

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Several weeks ago I pulled one of the books I received at Highlight Summer CampHattie on Her Way (Candlewick Press, 2005) off my TBR shelf. Written by my friend and fellow blogger, Clara Gillow Clark, this girls' middle grade novel weaves together some troubling family situations in a very sensitive manner.


The Review

A sequel to Clara's first book, Hill Hawk Hattie, this book opens in April of 1883 with Hattie arriving at her grandmother's house. Right away, the reader hears her voice:
Pa said hawks don't crash into mountains or trees. He said they fly alert, watchful. But suppose a hawk got itself blown off course, ended up somewhere strange, somewhere it didn't rightly belong? Could it find its way home, fly back to its nest in the hills again? (p. 1)
The imagery of hawks and the theme of Hattie yearning for home repeat themselves. Surrounded by secrets, Hattie tries to get used to living with a grandmother she doesn't know in the house where her deceased mother grew up.
If she [Grandmother] thought we were on the same side together, she might share the shadowy secrets of Grandfather, and why the keys had gone missing and the silver was squirreled away, and why she didn't wear black, and where all the furniture and pictures had gone, and why she had hurried Pa away, and mostly why Ma had run off and never come back. It was a powerful lot to find out. And that's why I had to stay here and behave properly, though sitting so close to Grandmother made me even more lonesome for Pa and Jasper and my real home. (p.28)

A young next door neighbor, Ivy Victoria, pretends to befriend her. Ivy doesn't know that Hattie's mother is dead but relays the town rumor that her mother ran off with her father because her Grandmother killed her Grandfather. This theory only lends credence to Hattie's over-active imagination. 

Hattie's relationship with her Grandmother warms up when she sings Hattie the same songs she sang to her mother. That new closeness makes Hattie think,
Somehow I knew it better not to tell Grandmother about Ma's fairies becoming real to her. "Can you hear the fairies in the hemlocks?" Ma would say to me. All I heard was the wind. "See their gossamer wings?" All I saw were rainbows on raindrops or crystals of frost. She would tilt her head and smile. "They wish me to sing and dance with them," she would say. "Will you dance too, Hattie Belle?" The fairy make-believe was mostly enchanting.  But I didn't want to dance about in the clearing with invisible things or answer them like they were asking me questions or telling me what to do." (p. 63)
On the day that Grandmother unlocks her mother's bedroom, the two of them inspect her mother's dollhouse where she made up imaginary fairies rather than played with dolls. When her Grandmother finds little dresses and cloaks that her mother had made,
A sick feeling came over me like we were caught in a blinding snow together, and I shivered. "She sewed little dresses and bonnets for my clothespin dolls," I said. "She just liked to do it, sew dainty things." I reassured myself that Ma's fairy world had been make-believe and enchanting for both of us until just a few months before she died.
"Yes," Grandmother said slowly, thoughtfully as if she'd stumbled onto something a bit troubling and sad.  (p.121)
In the end, Hattie discovers the truth of the mental illness that plagued both her grandfather and her mother. This "madness" is dealt with in a very sensitive manner and enables Hattie to make an important decision. 

Girls in grades 4-6 will enjoy this historical novel. The only scene that may trouble some sensitive readers is a seance towards the end of the book.  

Two Giveaways

Clara is generously sponsoring this give away. The first winner will receive a Hattie doll plus an autographed copy of the book. The runner-up will receive an autographed copy of the book. What are you waiting for? This is a great holiday gift for the younger sister, daughter, niece, or granddaughter in your life! Please leave me a comment by December 8. Share this on the social media of your choice or become a new follower of my blog, and I'll never your name twice. PLEASE leave your email address and tell me what you did.