April 2015 Archives

Most new writers think its

Most new writers think it's easy to write for children, but it's not.
Andrea Brown

castlebhndthorns.jpgThis time it's not Sleeping Beauty in a castle hidden by thorns; instead it's the son of the village blacksmith. Sand wakes up in the abandoned castle and has no idea how he got there. Worse yet, the thorns keep him from leaving. From the heights of the broken castle, he can see the village, but no one can hear him. How is he to survive?

The Castle Behind the Thorns (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014) by Merrie Haskell has magic in the story and in the telling of it.

This is the author's third book. I want to check out the others. Read about them here on her website.

Argh, Mateys - Hook's Revenge

HookCover.jpgHook's Revenge (Disney Hyperion, 2014) by Heidi Schulz is a fun adventure with leading heroine being Captain Hook's twelve-year-old daughter, Jocelyn. Of course, there are pirates and lost boys, a ticking crocodile, mermaids and more. But there's also finishing school...

The book makes me smile. I think you'll agree that author Heidi Schulz did a brilliant job with this story. The book has been published in Britain as Hook's Daughter. There's even a sequel coming out, called Hook's Revenge: the Pirate Code. Pirate-Code-Cover.jpg

Read more on the author's website.

I tend to slip my

I tend to slip my descriptions of setting into the beginnings of scenes, to help the reader picture where the action is taking place.
Bruce Hale

Doubt kills more dreams

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.
Suzy Kassem

Thrills and Chills - The Third Twin

3rdtwin.jpgIt was the title that drew my attention to The Third Twin (Delacorte, 2015) by CJ Omololu. And the insides rewarded me in this fascinating book.

Told from the viewpoint of Lexie, their fun and games with "Alicia"--the made up triplet--go horribly wrong when a boy who "Alicia" escapes from turns up murdered the next night. How can Lexie not suspect her identical twin Ava of killing him when she's shown a video of a girl who looks just like her at the scene? Lexie knows she wasn't there. But Ava denies being there, too.

I loved the multiple twists in this story of a girl caught in a nightmare.

If you like mysteries such as the ones April Henry writes, you'll like this one, too.

Visit the author at her site and you can find out the source of her interesting last name.



Recently, I visited Kansas and Missouri friends for a writing retreat where we each worked on our own projects. Four of us were writing and one illustrating. Because this group used to write together once or twice a week, it was easy to fall into a comfortable rhythm. During meal times and evenings we chatted, played games, and chatted some more. Of course, we took breaks for bird watching, stretching our legs, seeing the fish in the pond get fed, etc.

One of the advantages of a retreat like this is limited cell service and limited household chores (only cooking and cleaning up after meals). That meant dedicated time to focus on work. I caught up on a bunch of rewrites I wanted/needed to do and moved forward in my WIP. I saw others doing research, writing, planning a future book, editing, drawing and painting. Work!

Another advantage of a retreat is the shared information. One gal is working on a low residency MFA in children's writing through Vermont College of Fine Arts. She shared tidbits from lectures. We urged her to get her submission in for an award. We all encouraged another gal not to give up writing. And, of course, we exchanged information about good books--now my "to be read" list is even longer. ☺

A task I was doing was comp titles for a picture book I'd written. One friend asked me how I found them. "I just used Amazon," I said. I showed her there was a lot of nonfiction on my topic, but only one fiction picture book and it was from the 1980s.

The same gal asked a question about her new Mac (she's switched from PC) and the result was I and another made changes to our word doc default, too.

So, work, exchanging information, good friends, fun, food, all equaled a great time! The others enjoyed it too and we unanimously decided to repeat the retreat. THANK YOU, Heather Trent Beers, Kate Barsotti, Jenn Bailey and Lisha Cauthen. It was so much fun being with you all.

Recommendations for planning and enjoying YOUR personal creative retreat:

  1. 1. Choose people you trust and respect. Everyone at our retreat paid her agreed upon share. I love that my friends were considerate and said to the two of us with knee problems, "take the downstairs bedrooms."
  2. 2. Don't invite people who do drama. No one fussed about where she sat, slept, what she ate, sharing bathrooms, etc. People drank, or didn't drink, alcohol as desired, but no one got drunk. A peaceful atmosphere goes a long way to make a productive retreat.
  3. 3. Plan at least two full days for work not counting arrival time and departure time. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and settled in and didn't worry about serious work that day, although we talked about writing and the publishing business. (Of course!) This let everyone unwind. We left Monday morning at check out time--again since we were packing up, no creative work was done. Loved having two solid days of accomplishments.
  4. 4. If you're not used to working with these people, agree on an informal schedule.
  5. 5. Bring some fun games or relaxing activities. But if someone wants to continue working when everyone else is recreating, no nagging.
  6. 6. Keep your group small enough that you can share a bed and breakfast or retreat cabin/vacation house and be the only guests.
  7. 7. Someone needs to be the point person to find and book a venue. We started planning two plus months in advance.
  8. 8. Decide whether wi-fi at your location is important to the group or not. We wanted it.
  9. 9. Share the food expense, meal planning, preparation and cleanup. The only problem we had was too much food. For example, ladies kept adding items to bring that weren't on the agreed list, so we had duplicate snack foods, which returned home. (Or choose a venue that provides food, although you'll still probably want snacks.)
  10. 10. Arrange carpooling because it's a lot of fun to talk while driving, too.

My local writing group and I have been talking about a retreat. I think we need to quit talking and plan!

Payback - Nickel Bay Nick

nickelbaynick.jpgNickel Bay Nick (GP Putnam' Sons, 2013) by Dean Pitchford was a fun read.

Not that 11-year-old Sam Brattle is having a good time. He's just had the worst Christmas ever. And his town of Nickel Bay isn't doing so well either. They mysterious Nickel Bay Nick who has been the anonymous Santa that starts up Christmas for the whole town is a no show this year. Sam's in trouble again, too. This time his running from the police ends up with damage to Mr. Wells' house, and his neighbor is going to make Sam pay for the damages by working for him.

I loved reading about Sam's training and his special assignments and how he changes as a result. It's a story to give one hope.

Nickel Bay Nick received the 2014 Cybils MG Fiction Award book.

Author Dean Pitchford is also an actor, singer, songwriter, screenwriter, playwright, director. Look at his amazing and extensive biography here. You'll definitely recognize songs and movies.

Eerie - Sorrow's Knot

sorrowsknot.jpgSorrow's Knot (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013) by Erin Bow is one of the those books I really enjoyed reading, but don't want to see it as a movie--it'd be too creepy. :-) Probably because the world and its magic are so very believable. The flavor of the book reminds me of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Sorrow's Knot is the story of 3 young people amongst the Shadow People--Otter and her close friends. Kestral will be a ranger and Cricket wants to be a storyteller. Otter knows she will be a binder, yet now her mother won't teach her how to handle her power. There have been hints that Willow and her power are not as they should be, but this and what else is coming is so much worse than anything Otter or the others imagined. Will their village survive if the wards fail and the dead get in? Especially since there is a White Hand in the forest?

The book was a Kirkus Best Book of 2013 and a Winner of the 2014 Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Read about the author on her site, where you'll discover she once was a physicist and now lives in Canada.