Monday, October 29, 2012

MMGM: Selling Hope, and interview with author Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

I'm so pleased to welcome here today Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, author of the delightful Selling Hope. Hope is the daughter/lovely assistant of a quirky vaudeville magician in 1910 (quirky, as in quotes Frost and Thoreau during his act). Besides having a totally awesome name ;), Hope is one of those hard-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside characters that I can't help loving, and the story of how the coming of Halley's comet impacted her life is everything a middle grade book should be: funny, sweet, suspenseful and brimming with difficult decisions. But I'll let you learn more through Kristin's answers! 

Welcome, Kristin!
What are some qualities that you share with your main character, Hope? In what ways are you most different?

Hope hears these old, hokey vaudeville jokes in her head throughout the story. While I don’t exactly do that (thank goodness), I do use humor to combat adversity, like Hope. But Hope makes some very questionable decisions that I’d like to think I’d never make. When she decides to run a hoax and cash in on others’ fear of the fast-approaching Halley’s Comet, she makes a series of choices that I don’t think are smart or even fair. But she’s also way more street-savvy than I am, and her capacity to forgive outshines mine (unfortunately).

If you had a Vaudeville act, what would it be?

I know for sure what it wouldn’t be – singing! Eesh, I’m horrible. I think I’d like to have an act like Winsor McKay’s, the illustrator best known for the original version of “Little Nemo.” He was a storyteller, and while he spun yarns, he would illustrate his stories on stage. It was the precursor to modern-day animation, and I’d love to see it and try it! (Watch a video about Winsor McKay here.)

What was the strangest topic or question you ever had to research?

Oh, so many! I’ve researched what a tuba sounds like underwater, how to properly eat a 
crawfish, and how to pilot a hot-air balloon (all for THE 13TH SIGN). For SELLING HOPE, I researched how a knife-throwing act works, how to pick a lock, and how quickly Halley’s Comet travels through the universe. I adore research, though, so thankfully, when I find something that needs investigating, I happily dig in!

What was the most interesting fact you discovered in research that you weren't able to use in the story?

SELLING HOPE takes place in 1910, a year when Halley’s Comet was highly visible from Earth. Mark Twain, who was as famous during his life as he is now, said in 1909, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.” And sure enough, in April of 1910, he died. I tried cramming that interesting tidbit into every nook and cranny of SELLING HOPE, but it just never seemed to fit.

When you were thirteen, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer! But I always thought that a writer was a writer + another thing. (I suppose that was my parents’ way of promoting job security! ) My older sister was (and still is) in advertising, and I thought that sounded nifty. At one point I wanted to be a veterinarian, but then I found out what they have to do for sick animals. And when I started out in college, I was in aerospace engineering (I am fascinated with space). But everything I’ve ever done, job-wise, had something to do with writing. Once I figured that out (and it took me far past the age of 13 to do so), I focused on what I love to do.

What do you love most, and hate most, about being a writer?
Love most = the readers! I am a firm believer that a story comes to life in the hands of a reader, and when someone contacts me with their thoughts/feelings/emotions on a story I wrote, it is feeling of human connection that is both rare and sweet.
Hate most = self-promotion. But I do it, because, well, see above! 

Can you tell us a little bit about you new book?
I’d love to – thank you! THE 13TH SIGN is also middle grade, but it’s my debut fantasy. It’s available for preorder now, and releases January 8. Here’s the jacket copy:

What if there was a 13th zodiac sign? 

You’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign. 

Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s. 

What about the rest of the world? 

What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change, and infuriating the other 12 signs?  

Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives, including her own, depend upon it.
Faith, thank you for inviting me to be a part of your blog! I really enjoyed it.

Thank you for joining us, Kristin! It's been a treat, and we look forward to reading your new book!

To learn more about Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays and see the full list of this week's participating blogs, visit the site of the mastermind behind it all: Shannon Messenger

P.S. This post is being pre-scheduled since I'm almost definitely going to be without power here in CT for a few days after Sandy hits. I apologize if it takes me an inordinate amount of time to reply to comments...and please keep us in your prayers! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Real Life Advice for Real Life Writer-Mamas

Don't get me wrong. I love being a mother and I love being a writer. I love the way the two vocations intertwine, and I'm constantly tweaking schedules and making sacrifices so they can work together.

But...there are those days. My compatriots on this wild ride know what I mean. The days where there's a knock at the door and you yell to “throw everything into the basement!” (Inconveniently, I have no basement.) Or the times when you're perfectly aware that your one-year-old is turning the hallway into a fresco, but you're on such a roll writing and after all: she's safe and happy, isn't she?

So here are some real life hints to keep our more sane friends and neighbors and family deluded into thinking we are normal:
  1. Baking soda is the best thing ever. You need to have at least three boxes: one for the kitchen, one for the bathroom and one for the laundry room.
    You know that pan you didn't scrub last night because the baby was actually asleep early so you wanted to work on your outline? Coat the bottom with baking soda and spritz with water; let sit until your scene is finished; scrub; ta-da! Clean pan.
    It also deodorizes everything, eliminating the stench from that onion you were going to finish up but which somehow got pushed to the back of the fridge when you had a great idea for your climax.
    In the bathroom, it can remove odors, scrub out stains in your bathtub, AND—when you didn't have time to run to the grocery store before bedtime—makes a great substitute for toothpaste.
    Then there's laundry... baking soda it can be mixed with detergent to remove stains. Or do you ever put a load of laundry into the washer with optimistic goals one morning and then discover it's still there—reeking--two mornings later (although you do now have an awesome synopsis that you didn't before)? Throw about ¼ cup of baking soda into the dryer with the clothes and they come out perfectly fresh.
  2. Peroxide is...well, the other best thing ever. Mix some with a little detergent for a stain remover even better than baking soda. Of particular interest to writers, it also works on old stains that were missed when you were daydreaming and put the stained jeans into the dryer the last four times.
  3. Another not-so-secret secret: those things called magic erasers really are magic. Seriously, some sort of good wizard brewed wonderful things in a cauldron and out bubbled these little white sponges that are the only things that can turn a fresco painting/crayon mural/sketch-board-where you-just-had-to-jot-down-an-idea-before-you-forgot-it back into a hallway. They're great for about a million other things, too...try searching on Pinterest if you're interested.
  4. Sometimes hairspray will get ink out of your clothes. But if you're like me and ruin every pair of jeans by accidentally writing off the side of your notebook, the best thing to do is stop buying expensive jeans. Get a couple pairs for $3 at Goodwill and recycle them into fun things (see Pinterest again) after you ruin them. It's either that or switch out those gorgeous Micron pens for mechanical pencils, but that's one sacrifice I'm personally not willing to make.

So, share with me, Writer-Mamas (or any other balancing geniuses out there)!  What are your secret life-saving tips?

Monday, October 22, 2012

MMGM: Katerina's Wish--and an interview with author Jeannie Mobley!

A few weeks ago I discovered a gem of a book: Katerina's Wish, by Jeannie Mobley. I've mentioned before that I love stories of immigrants--many of my own ancestors came to America in the past few generations, and reading fictional stories of immigrants helps me to understand what their own experiences may have been. So Katerina's Wish,with its Slavic main character whose father works in a Colorado coal mine (Katerina is from Bohemia, while my relatives from the neighboring Poland and Ukraine found work in Pennsylvania coal mines), was especially meaningful. As a reader, I was so drawn into the tension Katerina felt, longing for her old home while trying to make a place for herself in a new one. 

As a writer, I was incredibly impressed with the author's ability to take what could be viewed as a "quiet story" and fill it with so much tension that you didn't want to put it down. I absolutely loved the characters, worried about them, feared for them, rejoiced with them...yeah, wanted to hug them. And I was enchanted by the use of traditional folktales and legends, the way they were incorporated into the story both to move plot along and to deepen the understanding of the characters' rich traditions.

I'll close now, because not only was the book a gem, its author is equally sparkling. I am so happy to have her here today to share a little bit about herself and her book with all of us! Everyone: the delightful Jeannie Mobley!

Welcome, Jeannie!

What are some qualities that you share with your main character, Katerina? In what ways are you most different?

Funny you should ask. For a long time, I felt Katerina was really boring, and that her actions were totally predictable. I couldn't figure out why others found her compelling. Finally, my agent told me: you can't see what's special about her because she's just like you. Once I thought about it in those terms, I began to see she was right. In Orson Scott Card's wonderful writing book Character and Viewpoint, he says exactly this--a character must be enough like the reader that he/she can relate, but different enough that the character feels special. Trina didn't feel special to me because she was too much like me, always facing a lousy situation and turning it into good. When I realized that, I also saw myself a little differently. I have always been lucky, in that I tend to "fall in and coming out smelling like a rose," as my dad put it. It hadn't occurred to me that maybe it hasn't been dumb luck all my life, maybe I have made my own luck, as Trina does. Unlike Trina, however, I have never wanted to raise my own chickens.

I'm with you there! :) And I love your perspective....I often think of myself as boring, too.

The catalyst in the story is a fateful wish that Katerina makes. When you were thirteen, what was your most ardent wish? Did you believe in wishes, or were skeptical like Katerina?

Sadly, I squandered my middle-grade years of wishing on wanting to be thin, pretty, popular, and in the arms of the ever-charming Mike Lee, who was in most of my classes. As none of those things came my way, I didn't really believe in wishes. Had I been less passive in my wishes and more willing to reach for my dreams, it might have been otherwise. It wasn't until I was well into my 20s that I realized beauty is as much about attitude and presentation as it about physical appearance.

What was the strangest topic or question you ever had to research?

I recently found myself looking up information about toilets on trains in the 1800s. Specifically, I had learned that early trains simply had a hole in the floor under the toilet seat, and when someone went, it just came out on the tracks underneath. For that reason, a person was not allowed to use the bathroom while the train was stopped in a station. However, I also found some disturbingly fascinating information about the potential effects of different wind sheer patterns. Enough said, right?

I am oddly curious as to where you found that info... :) You're obviously a hard-core researcher!

What was the most interesting fact you discovered in research that you weren't able to use in the story?

One that I used in the story initially and later had to change, was the remarriage of the Martina after her husband died in an accident. The event was based on an oral history of a woman who remarried on the same day as the funeral, because the priest was in town. If she had waited until the priest returned on his usual schedule, she would have been evicted and had no where to go. I included this in my story, but my editor asked me to change it, leaving a few weeks between the funeral and the marriage. She felt it was too implausible to have the funeral and marriage on the same day. Sometimes, truth is too strange to include in fiction.

What do you love most, and hate most, about being a writer?

I love the first draft. I love sinking into a story and letting it sweep me away. Nothing is more deeply satisfying than that feeling of writing when the story is flowing, and I am the instrument that channels it into words. What I hate most is having to act like a grown up when my critique partners read that glorious first draft and tell me its not so glorious after all. And of course, there is the wallow of despair that comes with rejection. So far, I haven't experienced any viciously ugly reviews, but I'm kinda thinking those aren't going to be a barrel of monkeys either.

What's your best method for handling difficult writing moments or rejection? And what's your favorite way to celebrate?

Did I mention the wallow of despair? No one can out-wallow me. If wallowing was an Olympic sport, I would break Michael Phelps' record in no time. However, when I do decide to finally behave like an adult, I find it useful to seek community and offer supportive to other writers. And getting busy on other manuscripts and blog posts really helps, too.

I'm not great at celebrating--I think modesty (and possibly self loathing) was too drummed into me as a kid, so I always feel embarrassed and conspicuous about celebrating my successes. However, I did a very extravagant, private, happy dance when my first review arrived and it was a starred review from Kirkus. There was impressive fist pumping and arm waving involved, while no one was looking.

Can you give us any hints about any new projects you're working on?

I am currently working on a story set in World War I, about a young, romantically minded girl and an old bitter women's suffragist who get into a debate about a local legend. The legend is the story of Silverheels, a dance hall girl who nursed sick men during the Colorado gold rush, and as my characters debate her role as a woman, they also must decide what their own is going to be in a time of war and prejudice. The working title is Searching for Silverheels. I also have a 1930s hard-boiled detective story that is lighter, and that I'm hoping might be part of a series. And then there is the train book, with the toilet scene. Again, enough said.

I really can't wait to read those and any future work from you, Jeannie! Thank you so much for joining us today and especially for writing such a lovely, moving, and powerful story!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Look! Look! Look!

Thanks to Laurel Garver for tagging me to play "The Look Challenge." The gist: you search your ms for the word "look" and post the passage where you found it.

It didn't take long for me to find the word. The embarrassing truth: The word "look" occurs 10 times in my first chapter. TEN TIMES. Okay, so seven of those use the words as a command. The first scene takes place at a circus, and there's a whole lot of "Look! Look! Look!ing" going on. :)

Below is an excerpt with one of the other three:

I heard a rumbling from beneath me, where the doors opened onto the ring, and supposed that a procession of horses and riders was about to enter. The rumbling grew louder as it grew closer, amplifying into growls and shouts and curses.

Someone sang out, “Ah! Ça ira, ça ira, ça ira!” I had heard the song in the streets, cringed at the refrain that proclaimed “it will be fine,” while the verses predicted the fall of the aristocrats as if that were the solution. Though I tried to lean over the edge to get a better look, Jeanne Marie pulled me back and held me, with Angeline, against the silk of her dress. We almost disappeared into the folds.

“Michel?” she whispered.

My father’s neck pulsed and he chewed at the inside of his cheek in the way he had when he was worried but trying not to show it. “I’m sure it’s nothing, my love,” he said, in far too cheerful a voice. “Why don’t you slip out and take the children home? It’s getting late for them.”

I knew Papa was only trying to keep us calm. “What if they hurt the horses?” I asked. I broke free of my stepmother’s grasp and dashed over to Papa’s side at the edge of the box. He held out his arm to bar my way, but I could see over it: about a dozen angry men in tattered long pants had pushed out of the penny boxes at ring level and surged forward. They hurled insults and trash up at the queen, who stood straight and still, her hands raised to defend her face from their volleys, while her bodyguards batted the trash back out toward the crowd. The queen’s eyes drooped in calm acceptance; there was no way to defend herself from the words.

Now to tag some other writers. As always, feel free to brush off the tag if you don't want to play. And I apologize if some of you have already been tagged!

Amy Sonnichsen
Vijaya Bodach
Paula McLaughlin
Marcia Hoehne
You! (Just leave a note in the comments if you want to play.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Keeping it real with St. Joan of Arc

One of my favorite parts of our homeschooling this year is "Composer Study." Due to Lucy's certifiable obsession with The Nutcracker, we began with Tchaikovsky.... The Nutcracker, naturally, then Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Last week I took a leap and introduced them to the idea of opera with Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans.
I began by telling my girls the story of St. Joan of Arc, then explained how a story is told through singing, sort of combining the two types of theater they already knew (ballets and plays). I found a version of the opera on Youtube and sat them in front of it.
Now, I generally enjoy opera, but I was waiting for signs of restlessness. I mean, they're five and three. The opera is two and a half hours long. And in Russian. But they seemed absorbed. Occasionally Zoe's brow would furrow as she tried to figure out which character was which, who was good or bad and so on, but they barely wiggled.
I didn't want to press my luck, though, so after about 35 minutes, I told them we'd stop for the day and continue later. Together they yelled, "No! No! Please! We want to keep watching!"
Wow, I thought. I mean, opera. Russian opera. My kids really are cultured. I wonder how that happened...
Then Zoe brought me back to reality. "We want to see the end!" she said. "We want to see her get burned-ed!"
Sigh.....yep. So much for my genius children.

All that culture didn't count for much. But the story has such a great hook...I can just picture the dust jacket blurb.
I guess I shouldn't be too disturbed by their macabre taste, right?? I mean, no wonder The Hunger Games was such a blockbuster.

Monday, October 15, 2012

MMGM: The Universe of Fair, by Leslie Bulion

(Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays came to be when author Shannon Messenger decided to give wonderful Middle Grade stories the attention they deserved. Check out her blog for a list of other participants!)

Miller Sanford is trying hard--really really hard--to be good. To be mature--to be responsible. To prove to his very protective mother that 12 is old enough to be on his own at their town fair. But he doesn't expect his perfect plan to prove how grown-up he is to backfire until the best possible day of his life starts morphing into the Worst. Day. Ever.
I loved The Universe of Fair for so many reasons, it's hard to begin. It has a wonderful, funny protagonist who tells his story as only he could. It has a cast of hilarious characters, from an annoying yet lovable little sister to a mysterious old man who just might be a ghost. Unlike a lot of the MG titles I've been reading lately, it's aimed at younger readers, but it never feels like it was--it's just a kid telling about a couple disastrously comical days in his life. The illustrations (by Frank Dormer) interspersed throughout are a great addition to the overall feel, with such spot-on facial expressions that I started cracking up every time I saw one.
Those are the big reasons why I loved it--and why you will love it! But it also has a special place in my heart because I heard the first chapter when the ink was still fresh on the page, so to speak. The author, the lovely Leslie Bulion, is a member of my local SCBWI group, and one of the most incredible, kind, encouraging, inspiring, giving and talented people I've been privileged to know. I loved Miller's voice from the first time I heard it, and I've been craving the entire book for what seems like forever. (Actually just a couple years in reality.)
PLUS, Frank Dormer is a member of the same critique group. I've watched him doodle during meetings, and even his doodles make me laugh.
PLUS, the fair in the story is based on the fair we attend every year, and which is pretty much one of our favorite things ever. Just crack open the book and you can taste the cotton candy and corn-on-the-cob and freshly-made doughnuts...
Mmmm....why does reading make me so hungry?

Friday, October 12, 2012

I am officially a real writer

At least....temporarily.

See, all non-writers have their own writer stereotypes, but there seem to be a few basic molds:

1) The pipe-smoking, pub-frequenting, Old-English-speaking chap with a library full of leather-bound first editions.

2) The cigarette-smoking, wine-drinking, slightly-sociopathic socialite who has as many lovers as works in progress.

3) The tea-drinking, cottage-dwelling, zany recluse, who writes out stories long-hand on yellow pads, staring into the crackling, cozy fire for inspiration, a lazy cat curled up by his or her feet.

I've been almost fitting into that third category for years now, with one, aching lack.

But thanks to my sister Natalie, who lent me her cat for a few weeks while they are visiting Connecticut, I can fully embrace the stereotype. Unfortunately my camera's batteries died, or I would share a picture with you...and I'm too much the zany recluse to go out and buy more batteries.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weirdest research

Last week, the “Lucky 13s” discussed the strangest web searches they’ve ever had to make while researching a story.
Of course it got me thinking...what was my weirdest search?
There were the bits about whether or not Leonardo da Vinci’s weapon plans would actually be viable to attack a small fortress... Or the time I looked up “what were the Grimms’ most violent fairy tales?” And then of course I did a suspicious amount of research on the guillotine for CIRQUE, including some forays into the question of whether or not one of its victims could really smile at you after his head had already been severed (the answer is probably ‘yes’).
But the question that makes me blush the most is for an adult short story I’m working on now, about a young woman in Victorian London who for a time considers becoming a prostitute in order to take care of her orphaned siblings.
My question: “Where would you find a prostitute in Victorian London? And how much money did they make?”
Yeah. LUCKILY, I had a book* in which I found the answer. Because I just couldn’t type that into a search engine without blushing from my head to my feet. Thank goodness for old-fashioned research. Otherwise the Peelers** might be after me.
So, what about you? What was your oddest research question?

*What Jane Austen Knew and Charles Dickens Ate. It’s as entertaining as it is informative.
**Peelers: n. slang. the company of British policemen organized by Robert Peel. Also known as “bobbies.”

Monday, October 8, 2012

MMGM: Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke

Of course you and I know that if you see a red button lying around with no instructions to be found, you should definitely not touch it. Of course we also know that at least 50% of great adventure stories would not exist had not their characters touched real--or metaphorical--red buttons...
When Zita and her friend Joseph spot a mysterious red button just sitting on the grass, waiting to be pressed, Zita can't resist. Joseph urges her to be no avail. They're soon sucked into life on another planet, where only hours remain before an asteroid blasts them into oblivion. To make matters worse, Joseph is kidnapped by a group of learned elders who are convinced he will be their savior. It's up to Zita to save him and bring him home--with the help of a quirky and wonderful cast of supporting characters, including a brave giant mouse, an enigmatic genius, and a sesquipidalian robot.
Despite my passionate, long-time love for Tintin, I've been slow adjusting to the graphic novel craze. But ones like this completely tilt the scales. Zita is funny, adventurous, and brave; her story made me and my five-year-old laugh out loud and flip pages until they fanned us with the breeze--that is, until we just had to stop and look and look and look at a few of the brilliantly executed illustrations.
I think I could go on for at least a few more paragraphs...but Lucy is tapping at my shoulder, begging me to find her a green cape and a red button...

Friday, October 5, 2012

For your eavesdropping pleasure

A real-life conversation/drama from the Hough home:

Lucy: Mama, let’s play that you’re Christopher Columbus and I’m Leif the Lucky.
Mama: do know that Leif Ericson died hundreds of years before Columbus was born, right?
Lucy: I know. This is just pretend.
Mama (a.k.a. Columbus): Um, ok. Uh...what are you doing here, you red-headed young man? You don’t look like you’re from India.
Lucy (a.k.a. Leif): This isn’t India, silly! This is America! I found it first!
Columbus: Oh, okay.
Leif: (in a whisper) Mama, you are supposed to argue with me.
Columbus: Oh. Right. What are you talking about? I sailed here, to India! I discovered this land! Where’s the gold? Where are the spices?
Leif: There’s no spices! This isn’t India! It’s Vinland! I came here and I saw vins, that’s how I knew to call it Vinland!
Columbus: Well, what about the Indians? Weren’t they here first?
Leif: They’re not real Indians. Real Indians are...way different. But, um, you can call them that.
Columbus: Well, then, where’s my gold to take back to Spain?
Leif: I told you, there’s no gold. Only vins.
Columbus: I still think it’s India.
Leif: (rolling eyes) Listen. My parents took me in a rocket to outer space. They took me there so I could see what the whole world looked like, because there’s no good maps of it yet. I saw the world, and I know: the world is round. And this is not India. This is America. You’re in the wrong spot.
Columbus: Oh! Well, you must be right then. I’ll just take some of these potatoes and go back to Ferdinand and Isabella.
Leif: Wait! Mama! You’re supposed to keep arguing!

But I had nothing on Viking space ships. I hauled my potatoes onto the Santa Maria and contemplated whether the next day’s history lesson should focus on the difference between North and Central America or... timelines.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"The Next Big Thing"

Amy Sonnichsen tagged me last week for "The Next Big Thing," for which I was very grateful as my blogging well has been running a little dry... ;)

Anyway, here are my answers! Enjoy.

What is your working title of your book?

Where did the idea come from for the book?
This is officially the most evolved of all my stories as it first began when I was 14 or 15 years old and decided to write a Cinderella retelling set during the French Revolution. The melodrama was worthy of Anne Shirley’s writing club--even after the main characters escaped to England, they died bravely and tragically at the end.
It didn’t take me long to laugh at how ridiculous it was, but I still loved the settings: Paris and London, and the basic idea: nobles must escape from the revolution.
Then I came across a mention in Jane Austen of a place called Astley’s Amphitheatre--and a bit of research later I discovered that Astley’s was the world’s first circus. Also, a perfect place to run away to if you happened to be an endangered noble...

What genre does your book fall under?
Upper middle grade historical fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Um... I’m going to have to be loose with ages here. How about a young Audrey Tautou as my mc, Juliette, and an equivalently aged Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood in Harry Potter) as her friend Zander. And David Suchet as the illustrious Mr. Astley.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
While the French Revolution brews around her, 15-year-old Comtesse Juliette de la Marche is concerned only with finding her missing diplomat father, a quest that takes her from the center ring of London’s first circus to the edge of the guillotine’s blade.

Will your book be self-published or be represented by an agency?
I plan on taking the agent/traditional publisher route.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started (officially) in November 2011. After getting halfway through, I decided to make some major changes and start again. I did that one more time, and finally wrote “The End” somewhere around July, I think.

May we see an intro?
Well, you asked so is the first paragraph:
If common blood is red and noble blood is blue, then what runs through my veins is the clear purple of a fresh spring violet. I’ve always considered this a great advantage.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I think it would appeal to the readers of the novels of Laura Amy Schlitz and Karen Cushman, though my setting is very different. It has something of the intrigue and adventure of The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen, the fun and fancy gowns of regency novels like Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl, and the high stakes you see in any book set during a great war. Honestly, though, it reminds me most of old-school historical fiction like The Witch of Blackbird Pond or The Scarlet Pimpernel (of course).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Mostly it was reading the stories of real people from the French Revolution. I sobbed over the history of the young prince, Louis XVII, and wanted to give some of the worthy nobility a happy ending. And of course Mr. Astley and his circus, once discovered, just begged for a story of their own.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Hints of romance, daring escapes, a mysterious clown, pickpockets, a family of Gypsies, and lots of delicious food all play a role. I personally think the food is the best part.

Now to tag some other writers so I can peek into their stories:

Paula McLaughlin
Vijaya Bodach
Anne Marie Schlueter

Yes, I know this is only three. It just seems, from browsing through my Google reader, as though a lot of writers have already been tagged, possibly multiple times, and it's hard to keep track. So if you want to be tagged, leave a comment and I’ll write you in! (And if the tagged authors don’t want to play, I have a standing rule that they’re free to ignore the nudge.)

Rules of The Next Big Thing:

*Use this format for your post
*Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
*Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Monday, October 1, 2012

MMGM: Keeper of the Lost Cities

It's Monday! It's October! And tomorrow is the release day for Shannon Messenger's KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, a book that I have been pretty much in love with ever since I read the ARC from Book Expo America. I mean: staring at it, thinking it about it all the time, telling everyone I know about it, puppy love.

If you will imagine the drum roll, I will provide the publisher's description:

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.

It's getting all sorts of crazy great reviews already. My personal reaction was something like: Wow, I love this book. This book is SO good. You know, I have hardly read ANY books with such great interweaving of action and emotional plots. Gosh, these are great characters. I love these characters. Did I mention how awesome these characters are? Yes? Did I mention the plotting? Oh. Well, it's STILL amazing.

Most of the original gushing was to my husband. Then my mom. Then my sister(s). Then I picked up the phone and it was a wrong number... ;)

Anyway, order it today. Or call your local indie bookstore and have them hold your copy. And if you have kids, you might want to hire a babysitter tomorrow...