Tuesday, January 29, 2019

BOUND: A Review and an Autographed Giveaway

Within the first pages of Bound by Vijaya Bodach, the reader realizes that this is going to be a book that deals with serious issues. The main character, Rebecca Joshi who was adopted from India at birth, was burned six years earlier over 50% of her body; her older sister, Joy, is intellectually impaired; their mother died a year ago and their father has emotionally withdrawn from his daughters. To be honest I thought, is all that drama necessary in one novel? 

Guess what?

It is.


Rebecca struggles for freedom. She wants to get rid of her burned skin--a constant reminder of how freakish she looks. She remembers her first "so-called cosmetic surgery... At age eleven-and-half. Yes, sir. Cosmetic. Because nobody ever died from looking hideous." (p. 13)

And she wants to get rid of her time-consuming and emotionally-draining responsibility for Joy. Rebecca, not their father, is the one who makes sure Joy gets to work. Rebecca is the younger sister who sticks up for her big sister when Joy is called a "retard." Their father, Rebecca concludes, is his own god. 

One evening Joy urges Rebecca to come folk-dancing with her. 
"I'll hold your hand," Joy says. "I'll never leave you." 
That's what I'm afraid of sometimes. I don't want us to be like a binary star system--circling each other forever. (p. 6)
Rebecca wants desperately to go to medical school so she can return to India and help impoverished children. Hand in hand with this desire is her yearning to fling off the burden of always watching over Joy.

Rebecca helps Joy become more independent which relieves her of some of the responsibility she inherited after their mother's death. But as a result, Joy spends more and more time with a man from work and gets pregnant. Although Joy feels letdown by her boyfriend who wants no part of being a father, she quickly becomes attached to her unborn child. Rebecca sees the baby as one more obstacle to her leaving home for medical school and takes Joy to an abortion clinic. 

At the abortion clinic Rebecca removes the ultrasound gel from Joy's belly and remembers her burn treatment.
They soaked me in a warm tub and my dead skin would peel off. What didn't come off had to be scrubbed off. They'd hold me down and rub away the stinking flesh. The nurses always said they knew I didn't have inhalation injuries because of my strong lungs. I wonder how I survived as I scrape the paper towel over Joy's beautiful belly one last time. She doesn't realize how lucky she is the pregnancy is not permanent. She can return to her normal life after this crisis is over. I have not been so fortunate. The massive burns have changed me and my life forever. I'm not even the same person I used to be. (p. 94)

Joy rejects abortion--much to Rebecca's and their father's disapproval. But gradually, Rebecca changes her mind as the unborn child becomes more real to the family. The three return to India to visit a beloved grandmother. In the familiar country of her birth, Rebecca thinks about why her mother put her up for adoption. After she considers the possible scenarios she concludes, "Whatever the cause she didn't want me. But at least she didn't deny me my life." (p. 165) 

The dichotomy between Rebecca's high intelligence but deformed body, and Joy's simplistic thinking yet voluptuous body runs throughout the book.  An additional thread is the mystery of the events surrounding Rebecca's accident. The reader discovers bits and pieces of what happened when Rebecca was 11--but the true story is not revealed until close to the end.

This beautifully written story shows a realistic portrayal of a young adult facing many personal, family, cultural, and moral dilemmas. The satisfactory ending--including the father's change of heart and accepting responsibility for Joy's future--will leave the reader feeling hopeful for Rebecca, Joy and her baby, and their family. 

In our present socio-political climate, I applaud Vijaya Bodach for her brave pro-life position. I hope Bound will be a meaningful tool that counselors will use with young women experiencing an unwanted pregnancy.  


Next week I'm interviewing Vijaya about the backstory to Bound. Leave a comment this week and I'll enter your name once. Leave me another one next week and you'll be in twice. Winner will be chosen on February 8th. Please leave me your email address if you are new to my blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A NEW Emotional Thesaurus Book is Coming!

As many of you know, I am a big fan of Angela Ackerman's and Becca Puglisi's blog, Writer's Helping Writers, their Emotional Thesauri, and their incredible online tool, One Stop for Writers. Not only is this dynamic duo dedicated to helping other writers--their materials are excellent. (See their Pinterest board for a simple of their resources.)

Their new book is coming out on February 19!

This is the Amazon blurb:
The bestselling Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression (Second Edition), often hailed as "the gold standard for writers" and credited with transforming how writers craft emotion, has now been expanded to include 55 new entries!  
One of the biggest struggles for writers is how to convey emotion to readers in a unique and compelling way. When showing our characters' feelings, we often use the first idea that comes to mind, and they end up smiling, nodding, and frowning too much.  
If you need inspiration for creating characters' emotional responses that are personalized and evocative, this ultimate show-don't-tell guide for emotion can help. It includes:  
  • Body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for 130 emotions that cover a range of intensity from mild to severe, providing innumerable options for individualizing a character's reactions.
  • A breakdown of the biggest emotion-related writing problems and how to overcome them.
  • Advice on what should be done before drafting to make sure your characters' emotions will be realistic and consistent.
  • Instruction for how to show hidden feelings and emotional subtext through dialogue and nonverbal cues.
  • And much more!

The Emotion Thesaurus, in its easy-to-navigate list format, will inspire you to create stronger, fresher character expressions and engage readers from your first page to your last. Use The Emotion Thesaurus to go deeper to craft compelling descriptions that match each character’s personality and emotional range.
If that's not enough, here's more:

  • Euphoriavindicated, and schadenfreude are just a few of the new entries. You can also browse the Table of Contents to see all 130 emotions in this volume.
  • If you already subscribe to One Stop for Writers this thesaurus will be available to you in February.
  • Angela and Becca are celebrating their new EMOTION THESAURUS (Second Edition) with FREE EDUCATION! Stop in to grab the link to a recorded webinar on showing emotionhttps://writershelpingwriters.net/2019/01/announcing-the-emotion-thesaurus-second-edition/ 
  • The instructive portion of the book has more than doubled and includes new material on how to power up dialogue with emotion, use subtext and other techniques to show hidden emotions, what character development is necessary to determine emotional range so actions are authentic to each person's nature, and more.
You can pre-order on AmazonKobo, Apple Books, and Indiebound. Get read to add it to your stack of Thesauri! 
                  No photo description available.

If you preorder, send a screenshot of the order to this special email address and you’ll receive a bonus PDF of entries that Angela and Becca completed but chose not to add to the 2nd edition.

The dynamic duo, Angela and Becca, presented together at
the CARWA workshop in 2016.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Plan to Persevere

Congratulations to Becky Scharnhorst for winning A Tough Act to Follow and Acting Innocent and to Mel Hager for winning WONDERLAND.

    One of my favorite stories to listen to as a child was, The Little Engine That Could. The voice of the little blue engine who took on the insurmountable challenge of bringing toys, dolls, and “good things to eat to the good boys and girls on the other side of the mountain,” still echoes in my head: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” 

      Fast forward 60 years. I’m a grandmother with dozens of articles and two non-fiction books under my belt. For the last ten years I’ve been working on my first young adult novel, Half-Truths. I have revised the story fourteen times; not including the hundreds of times I’ve rewritten scenes and chapters. 

      Did I know what I was getting into when I first started this project? Definitely not.

      So, besides hearing the little blue engine in my head, what has kept me going for all these years? What keeps me chugging along from one revision to another?


      Plus, a healthy dose of belief in my story.

      Take a minute to list your definition of perseverance as it relates to your writing career. Here’s mine:

1. Not giving up on a reasonable goal. 

2. Making sure that my goal is God-honoring and worth completing.

3. Not allowing myself to be distracted from that goal by other activities.

4. Being willing to sacrifice (time, ego, money, etc.) to complete my goal.

    Now, consider what is the opposite of perseverance? In other words, what will keep you from being the little blue engine who climbs that "I'm published!' mountain? 

     Here are some obstacles I thought of:

1. Abandoning the idea because it takes too much time and effort.

2. Listening to self-doubts and fears.

3. Listening to the nay-sayers who mock the goal. 

4. Not being willing to make changes suggested by serious, constructive feedback.

5. Not being willing to put in the time and effort it will take to revise, revise, revise.

6. Not having the tools and abilities to reach your goal AND not trying to obtain them. (i.e., diligently practicing all types of writing, take classes, attend conferences, join a critique group)

7. Rejections from agents and/or publishers.

     When I began my novel, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I had an idea that I loved: a story set in the early 50’s in Charlotte, North Carolina about the unlikely friendship between Kate Dinsmore, the granddaughter of a rich, society woman, and Lillian Harris, her grandmother’s teenage black help. Their friendship uncovers a century worth of secrets, including their shared ancestry.

     Although I’d written two non-fiction books, when I began Half-Truths, I didn’t know how to write a novel. So, I did what you’re supposed to do: I read craft books, attended writing conferences, and received dozens of critiques. I also didn’t know much about African American or southern history. So, I read books (many of which are listed here) and interviewed African Americans who lived in Charlotte during the time period. Each book and interview took time, but they all enriched my work.

      One of the influential books I listened to was Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 by Juan Williams. Besides giving me a fuller understanding of the scope of the civil rights struggle, it also provided a meaningful example of perseverance.

     Civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King, had their eyes on the prize of obtaining equal rights for blacks. Did they always know what they were getting into? Maybe not. Certainly some, like Dr. King, Medgar Evers, and the protestors who were beaten and imprisoned, ended up losing more than they’d anticipated. But did they believe in the equality they were working towards? 

    Without a doubt, they did. 

    I for one, am glad they persevered. 

     My need to persevere as a writer is minuscule compared to those who unfailingly fought for equality and persevered in the face of discrimination, danger, and death. 

    But, as I begin the next step of my publishing journey—finding an agent--I have a plan: I must persevere. I have no choice.

    And I must believe in my story.

    I'm looking forward to being able to repeat the little blue engine's refrain as she came down the mountain:

    What about you? How will you persevere in meeting your writing goals in 2019?

    If you are reading this blog and aren't a writer, I'd love to hear your stories of perseverance also!


(This post first appeared on Write2Ignite's blog.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wonderland: A Review and Audio Book Giveaway

Browsing a recent Recorded Books catalog, I was pleased to find Wonderland (Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 2018), by North Carolina author, Barbara O' Connor. I hope one of your students, children, or grandchildren will enjoy it as much as I did.


The book opens with10-year-old Mavis Jeeter leaving Hadley, Georgia for the same reason she's left so many other homes--her mother's job hasn't worked out and she decides it's time to move on. Mavis is brave and spunky--but because of their frequent moves, she never ends up having a best friend. The reader quickly figures out Mavis's internal goal: to live somewhere long enough that she can have a "true" best friend. 

Therefore, when she meets Rose Tully, the shy daughter of her mother's new employer, Mavis announces, "You'll be my new best friend." Since Rose doesn't feel like she fits in with the other girls in their exclusive Magnolia Estates neighborhood, that suits her just fine. 

The story sweetly shows their ups and downs in navigating this new friendship. Since Wonderland is written from multiple-POV's, the reader gets to see the agonies each girl suffers when they feel as if they've blown it with the other person. The author does a great job of showing their gaffes as well as how the two girls forgive one another. 

The main conflict centers around Mr. Duffy, the elderly gatekeeper at Magnolia Estates whose dog recently died. Since Queenie's death, Mr. Duffy has become depressed and increasingly forgetful. Rose and Mavis love Mr. Duffy and fear that he's in danger of losing his job. When Rose's arch-enemy, Amanda, discovers a loose dog in the woods behind her house, Mavis is convinced that "Henry" (as Amanda names him) is the answer to all of Mr. Duffy's problems. 

The story has a happy ending--Mavis proves to be right--but there are enough obstacles that get in the way of that perfect solution to make the story interesting for elementary school girls. 

A neat addition to this friendship story is that Henry has his own POV. Readers will enjoy "hearing" Henry's thoughts and "feeling" his emotions as the greyhound longs for freedom and a person of his own to love him. 

I asked Barbara about her reason for including Henry as a POV character and she said, 
I know that most kids love dogs and have no problem thinking of them as an actual character in a story. I needed Henry (the dog) in order to add another emotional layer to the story. I needed the reader to know Henry’s feelings and motivations for his actions. Having a third POV character also kept the story moving forward but in differing, yet parallel, ways.
I enjoyed Mavis's child-like optimism that her plans would work and her persistence to come up with a "Plan B" when they didn't. In the end, she has gained what she wanted--but not exactly in the way she had expected. Rose's character arc--from a shy, quiet girl to a brave 5th grader who speaks her mind to her mother--is believable and worth cheering for.  

Besides Rose, Mavis, and Henry, the secondary characters including Mr. Duffy and the two mothers are well developed. Mr. Duffy's colorful language, Ms. Jeeter's petulant complaining, and Mrs. Tully's constant criticisms of her daughter and Mr. Duffy, show all these secondary characters well--and serve both Mavis's and Rose's journeys. 

The story will help young readers to consider what truly makes a best friend. In the end, as all three main characters reach a new normal I thought, "Is this Rose, Mavis's or Henry’s story?"

That will be for the reader to decide.


I am giving this book away in conjunction with the winter issue of Talking Story in which Barbara is our expert. Leave a comment here and I'll enter your name once. Leave it through the newsletter and you'll have two chances to win. Hurry! Giveaway ends January 21. 

Here is an audio excerpt as a teaser.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Two O'Dwyer and Grady Books and One Giveaway

Congratulations to Linda Townsend and Barbara Younger for winning copies of Run to the Light from last week's blog.

Eileen Heyes, a North Carolina author and writing instructor, sent me these two companion books. Based on her father's stories about his life in the movies during the depression, these books will appeal to readers in grades 4-7. Their fast pace and easy readability make them great choices for reluctant readers.


Billy O' Dwyer and Virginia Grady are eleven-year-old actors. For them, home is a movie studio and their days are filled with make-up, costumes, and re-takes--rather than with school. From the beginning the reader sees two kids who not only know how to act for the camera, but know how to put on an act for adults. 

They are also super sleuths. When a movie actress is found dead and Billy's friend and mentor, Roscoe Muldoon, is declared to be the killer, Billy and Virginia decide to prove Roscoe's innocence. In a light and breezy style that moves the story along, the pair find clues, pursue red herrings, and are instrumental in finding the real murderer. 


The partners are at it again. This time, they discover a skeleton while looking through an abandoned house for props for a skit. The mystery is not a whodunit like in Acting Innocent, but rather who is the rightful heir to the house and the treasure that the deceased owner (John Wilkinson) squirreled away? 

The duo are divided. Virginia becomes convinced that Eddie Talbott who worked for Mr. Wilkinson because his rich, son, J.J, deserted him, should get the property.  Billy--who keeps wanting the investigation to be over and gets dragged in deeper by Virginia's love for sleuthing--feels sorry for J.J. who has been estranged from his father for several years. 

On top of that, they're not even sure what the treasure--which Mr. Wilkinson wrote about in a poem--really is. The story includes fake wills, a dangerous boat chase, and of course, discovering the treasure.

The two young thespians provide enough drama to make this a page turner that both boys and girls will enjoy.


I am giving away both of these titles through Talking Story, the quarterly newsletter which Joyce Hostetter and I co-publish for educators and media specialists. Our winter issue is on Dormant Readers (also known as reluctant readers) and will come out next week. (Click here if you wish to subscribe). Leave me a comment here and I'll enter your name once. Leave a comment through the newsletter and I'll enter your name a second time. A winner will be drawn on January 21. 


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