Monthly Archives: June 2011

Research

I have been researching late 19th century France for Sophie lately.  I did a lot of research on the time period and the Dreyfus Affair way back before I wrote the first draft, of course, but while writing, questions arise.  For this manuscript, most of those questions had to do with being Jewish in that time and place.

Research is fascinating, and therefore dangerous.  So many things to learn!  So many reasons to keep reading! 

I’m currently reading a book about the beginnings of the Zionist movement, and I’ve learned some interesting facts that I’d love to weave into a manuscript, or even base a manuscript on, someday.

For instance, Victor Hugo (author of Notre Dame de Paris, known in English as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, among other works of great literary merit) headed an organization in the 1880s that rescued Russian Jews, who were at the time suffering from the pogroms.

Theodore Herzl, considered the father of the Zionist movement, had syphilis in his 20s, and possibly lupus in his 30s.

Max Nordau wrote a book in 1892 called (in English) Degeneracy that argued that some art (including literature) was degenerate, and therefore the artists were degenerate, and the public needed to be warned of degenerate content.  His ideas led to the destruction of art and artists in Germany in the years leading up to World War II.

Can’t you just see the possibilities?  What have you read recently that got your creative juices flowing and the wheels turning?

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Read-Through Thursday: Dead Girl Walking

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

Dead Girl Walking by Linda Joy Singleton

This is the beginning of a series about Amber Borden, a high school student with ambition and drive.  Unfortunately, someone else’s driving mistake almost costs her her life.  Amber finds herself in a heaven-like place with her dead Grammy Greta and her dead dog, Cola.  Grammy gives her directions to get back to her body, and warns her about Dark Lifers, evil beings who suck the life force from people like her who will glow after her experience out of her body.

But Amber takes a wrong turn and wakes up in the body of the most popular girl in school.  Will Amber figure out how to get back into her own body before her body is harvested for organs to save others?  Can Amber save Leah, the girl whose body she currently inhabits?

I got sucked into this story very quickly.  I cared about Amber so early on, in fact, that I almost stopped reading before she “died” because I didn’t want anything bad to happen to her.  I’m glad I continued, though.  Amber’s attempt to save herself, her friends, Leah and members of Leah’s family was definitely worth the read.

I believe there are 2 more books in the series.

My discussion today, however, has to do with the fact that I read this on my Kindle.  As I said, the story was fine; but there were so many typos and missing words as to be distracting.  I really hope this phenomenon is specific to the Kindle version and isn’t in the print book.  So, why is the Kindle version so poorly executed?  How did this happen?  Do publishers think readers won’t care?  Do other electronic versions have the same problems?

Argh.

Okay, don’t let this dissuade you from giving the book a try, whether in print or in an electronic format.  Then come back and let me know what you think.

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Read-Through Thursday: The Notorious Benedict Arnold

Instead of talking about a book I’ve read, this week I’m going to crow about a book on behalf of my friend and critique partner, Steve Sheinkin. This week the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature were announced and Steve’s book, The Notorious Benedict Arnold, is a winner!

Congratulations, Steve!

Honestly, this couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more talented guy. 

Here’s the blurb from the publisher, Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan, on The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery: Most people know that Benedict Arnold was America’s first, most notorious traitor. Few know that he was also one of its greatest war heroes. This accessible biography introduces young readers to the real Arnold: reckless, heroic, and driven. Packed with first-person accounts, astonishing battle scenes, and surprising twists, this is a gripping and true adventure tale.

Among the accolades:

Starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Horn Book Magazine
A School Library Journal, Best Children’s Books of 2010
And now the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award

I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about his next book, due out from Roaring Brook in Fall 2012, so let me just say that I have read bits of it and it will be amazing.  Steve has a way of building tension and excitement even when we already know the outcome.

Okay, what are we all waiting for?  Go out and get The Notorious Benedict Arnold!

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Friends

Today you can read yet another interview of me, by my good friend, Tanya. This post of hers absolutely blew my mind. You’ll have to go see it to understand. Tanya is an amazing person, an amazing mom and an amazing writer (and yes, Tanya, I have those conversations with you in my mind, too).

This is now my 4th interview, all from writers I “met” during the Blog Crusade hosted by Rachael Harrie. I took a chance and put myself out there and it has paid dividends.

As I mentioned last week, I have gained writing-bloggie friends and critique partners and beta readers. This is as good a time as any to send virtual shout outs to the people who have recently critiqued all or part of Sophie (in the order in which they read it):

Suzanne Lilly
Eric Etkin
Gail Aldous
Steve Sheinkin
Tanya Reimer from Life’s Like That
Christy from erica and christy
Catherine Johnson
Laura Diamond of Diamond, Yup Like the Stone

These are all talented writers, following a similar path to my own. We are all on the journey to publication (except for Steve who has been living the dream for some time now) and we are very lucky to have found some support and friendship. There are others who have helped me in some way (you know who you are). I’ll honor them another time.

Now for an update. Sophie is steeping, having recently gathered critiques. I am reading, critiquing, and helping another friend with a new project.

Who are you happy to share a journey with (whatever that journey may be)?

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Balancing Act

Did my life really get busier in the past few months or does it just somehow feel that way?

My children’s social calendars, school and extra-curricular activities. Yardwork, now that we bypassed spring and have landed squarely in summer. Social Media. Critiquing. Writing.

It doesn’t sound like that much listed that way. Under critiquing I should add that I’ve had the honor and pleasure to make some new critiquing friends in the past few months. Last week I gave critiques to 3 different friends.

The good news is that I finished a draft of Sophie and sent the first 5 chapters to 2 critiquing friends. I guess I should send them more, so we can move this process along, right?

On a different note, the awesome JC from J.C. Martin, Fighter Writer posted an interview with me on Wednesday. Check her out and say hello.

Does anyone else feel like life has become closer to overwhelming these days? How do you balance all the disparate elements of your life? Any tricks to pass on?

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Read-Through Thursday: The Sea of Monsters

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

I am reading Book 2 in the series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, at the request of A-Read.  Last summer he read the first book, The Lightning Thief, and I read it more or less simultaneously.  We had a lot of fun discussing it together, so when he finished The Sea of Monsters, he requested I read it, too.

These are middle-grade (MG) books about a boy named Percy who thinks he is the dyslexic, troubled son of a single mother.  It turns out that he is also the son of Greek god Poseidon, and that there are other half-bloods in the US, constantly fighting mythological monsters for their very survival.  It also turns out that his dyslexia is a common trait among half-bloods and that all those monsters were responsible for him being kicked out of school after school.

In the first book, Percy sets out on a quest to retrieve Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt of power with his friends, Annabeth – a daughter of Athena – and Grover – a satyr.  In this second book, both Grover and Camp Half-Blood are in trouble, and Percy and Annabeth will attempt to save them.

I have three MG manuscripts on a shelf, so I relish this opportunity to pick apart a popular MG book and figure out what makes it so good.  I believe there are many qualities that make the Percy Jackson books so successful – qualities they share with the Harry Potter books.

These books are action-packed, epic and funny. 

Percy never has long to ponder what he’ll do next or why something is happening.  As soon as he sits on the beach to figure out how he feels about all that’s happening, a stranger in jogging shorts comes out of nowhere to give him advice and gifts (like a thermos filled with the four winds). 

Percy, like Harry, has heroic qualities that kids can either relate to or that they wish they had.  No matter what stands against him (the god Ares, cannibalistic giants, or a half-blood former camper with wicked sword skills), Percy will do whatever it takes to save his friends and his mother.

Characters are funny, through their dialogue and actions, and are sometimes put in humorous situations.  For example (A-Read shared this during a car trip), Percy tells his Cyclops sidekick, Tyson, to find them some donuts in the wilderness surrounding their tent, mostly to get Tyson out of the way so he can talk to Annabeth.  Tyson leaves the tent calling, “Donuts.  Donuts!  Where are you, Donuts?”  (Or words to that effect.)  A-Read thought that was pretty hysterical.

So, what are some of your favorite MG reads and what makes them so special?

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