Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: ALMOST MISSED YOU by Jessica Strawser

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday WOLF

I'm such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

It's always bothered me that a baker's dozen actually equals thirteen. Now why would that be? Turns out bakers weren't the most trustworthy of shopkeepers back in the day. Air pockets can slip into loaves of bread, and it seems that some bakers took advantage of this, charging full weight for bread that was actually a little light in the ... loaf.

This was such a problem in England that Parliament passed a law in 1266 regulating the weight of bread, the penalty for shorting your customers being that you were nailed to your own doorstep by the ear. Uh, yeah. Shopkeepers decided that was a line they didn't want to cross, but there was no way to be sure that their loaves didn't contain an air pocket or two.

In order to stay within legal limits as well as assuring their costumers they weren't being shorted, it became common to bake thirteen loaves of bread, using the extra 13th as a "bonus" loaf. When a customer bought a regular loaf of bread, the baker also cut a chunk off the 13th loaf, to make up for any air pockets inside the first loaf.

Fascinating stuff, eh?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Natalie Rompella On Plots That Change As The Story Evolves (And That's Okay)

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest is Natalie Rompella, a former museum educator, elementary and middle school teacher, as well as the author of more than forty books and educational guides for young readers. She is also the winner of a Work-in-Progress grant from the Society for Children's BookWriters and Illustrators. Her most recent release, COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS releases November 21 from SkyPony Press!

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

I wish I could remember! I know the idea of sled dog racing came from doing research for another of my books: Famous Firsts about sports that started in the U.S. Ironically, sled dog racing was the last sport I chose. I knew nothing about it until I began my research. Then I fell in love with the sport so much I traveled to Alaska to see the start of the Iditarod.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I’m not even really sure how it all pieced together. My main character has OCD—I’m not sure how that came to be. I believe the baking part came from my own experience of loving to bake growing up. And then a lot of it wrote itself. I wasn’t aware of the twists and turns that ended up occurring until I put fingers to the keyboard.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Definitely. This story used to have the main character moving to Alaska. But it took about fifty pages for that to even happen. Eventually the idea of the main character moving got taken out all together.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

I get tons of story ideas a day. Usually the timing is poor, though (such as in the shower or while driving), and I forget them. I do find that if I need to write something new and get stuck, I will not get re-inspired unless I go do something else, such as go for a run.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

I really bounce around a lot. I often set timelines to stay motivated, so maybe I plan out to work on one chapter of project X on Monday and then work on edits of project Y on Tuesday just to keep things fresh.

I have 8 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?

LOL. Absolutely. My writing buddy is the reason I finished this book!

As I mention in my Acknowledgements, this book had been put away in a drawer. Then I got a call from the SCBWI Work-In-Progress committee that I had won the WIP grant. I immediately pulled my manuscript out of the drawer to see if I could finish it.

At the same time, we had just gotten a puppy: Luna. As is typically done with potty training a puppy, we limited her to a small space. We had just expanded to include the living room/dining room area for her. Because I was doing the training, I also was confined to those rooms of the house to hurry her outside if need be. I set up camp at the dining room table and thought, might as well work on my novel while I’m in here. I ended up finishing it.

Luna is still my writing companion today. When she hears that I’m making coffee, she knows I’ll be headed to my computer. She joins me in my office and “gets to work”/naps. She has heard so many versions of this novel. But really, I do think of her as my muse/writing buddy/lazy assistant.

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Kate Larkindale On Plots Falling Into Place For Pantsers

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Kate Larkindale, author of An Unstill Life and Stumped. She is a writer, marketing executive for a national film agency, and a film reviewer.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

For An Unstill Life, I actually started with a title – The Boyfriend Plague. This is really unusual for me because I usually struggle with titles. But once I had the title, I started thinking about how friendships change and sometimes get destroyed when boyfriends come on the scene. And then I read an article in the newspaper about a school that was refusing to let same-sex couples attend the leavers’ ball or prom and I started thinking about what might happen to those friendships when one of the group decided they’d rather have a girlfriend.

With Stumped, it was a much faster process. I ran a movie theater and we hosted the New Zealand premiere of a documentary called Scarlet Road one night. There was a panel discussion afterward and the subject of the film, an amazing woman called Rachel Wotton, was there. She’s an Australian sex worker who works with severely disabled clients and hearing her speak was inspirational. Rachel told a story about a mother who hired her to work with a son who had Down Syndrome and Stumped came to me the same night I heard her speak.  

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

Again, it was quite a different process for each book. With An Unstill Life, I really struggled to make the story work until I introduced the sister with cancer. Once I had that element, everything else fell into place. Livvie really needed her friends at this difficult time, and they were pre-occupied with boys and couldn’t offer Livvie the support she needed. That opened the door for Bianca to come into Livvie’s life in a way that feels quite natural and organic. Or at least I hope it does!

I wrote Stumped very quickly because I was asked to participate in a challenge by another writer who had missed out on doing NaNo and wanted to gather a group of writers together to write a book in 8 weeks. As soon as I started writing, Ozzy’s voice was so distinctive he basically drove everything. And because he makes some spectacularly bad choices, where the plot ended up going was quite a surprise to me! There were some scenes I wrote giggling with embarrassment, and others where I was practically crying

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

To be honest, I never have a plot firmly in place when I start a book. I don’t outline or plan that much at all. I just know my characters and want to see what will happen to them when I put them into a situation that might challenge them. Like taking away Livvie’s support network at the time she needs them most and throwing a mysterious girl into her path at key moments. Or by putting Ozzy into a wheelchair…

And everything always changes in revision too. The part of the story that actually sparked Stumped has been revised out of the finished book. I also brought a character back to life who died toward the middle of the book in draft one.  

There was a whole big family dynamic in An Unstill Life I dumped in revision. A lot of the things Livvie does in the finished book actually happened to her older brother in the first few drafts. But I wrote him out eventually, along with Livve and Jules’ dad.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Ideas come to me all the time. Most of them don’t come to anything much, but every now and then, two things rub up against one another and ignite a spark that won’t go out. I’m a huge fan of documentary films and I often find myself thinking about them afterward. Some of my best ideas have come from documentary films.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

There’s always one that won’t stop nagging at my brain. That’s the one I have to write, even if there are others floating around in there. Especially if I already have a scene or two in mind.  And once I start writing, things tend to escalate.

I have 8 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?

Eight cats? That’s a lot! I have two and they are as different as you could possibly imagine two cats to be. Lola is super friendly and loves being around people. You will often find her on a chair next to me or curled up at my feet while I’m writing. Frankie is almost pathologically shy and runs away if anyone comes within a few feet of her. She’s enormously fun to watch out the window when she doesn’t know I’m watching so I take little breaks while I’m working to watch her play. Take a look at the pair of them!


 



Monday, November 13, 2017

Where I'll Be This Week & NaNoWriMo Check-In

I've got a busy week this week - three appearances and (hopefully) will be finishing a draft of HEROINE. So yes, I'm busy! But, as always, I'm happy to be so.

TODAY! November 13 @ 7PM I'll be at Lakewood Public Library to discuss writing and the processof publication to help celebrate NaNoWriMo.


On Thursday, November 16 @7PM I will be at Geauga County Public Library (Geauga West Branch) to talk about my journey from aspiring to published writer, as well as give a little overview of all my books. You do need to register for this event so call the number below or follow this link to do so!

If you're located in Central Ohio and are looking to get a jump on the Christmas shopping I will be signing and selling at both of these events, as well as at the Cardington Holiday Bazaar on November 18, 9-3.

I just got back from the AASL (American Association of School Librarians) Conference in Phoenix, where I got to meet Daniel Jose Older and Alexandra Bracken. We had a great panel and I got to sign in both the Harper Collins and Follett booths, which was a good time. Although once again I ended having to explain that I might be funny and charming, but my books are not funny. Or charming.

Really my entire persona is misleading.

So how did I do on Nano while traveling and putting together these week's podcast episode? Not bad at all. I've written 19k words already this month, putting me slightly ahead of schedule and also pushing HEROINE into the home stretch. Nano helped me finish GIVEN TO THE EARTH last year, and it's going to top off HEROINE for me this year - thank you, Nano!


If you're doing the Nano thing and want to take about a 40 minute break to hear from another author and how they have managed their career, listen to the newest Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire podcast episode, featuring author Tori Rigby.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: ULTIMATE SACRIFICE by S.E. Green

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Vickie's small town life has always been predictable... until the little neighbor girl turns up slaughtered in the woods, with evidence of a Satanic ritual surrounding the crime scene. Suddenly Vickie's family - her older brother's relationships, her younger brother's anger outbursts, and the fact that she babysat the victim - is of interest to the entire country.

With reporters camped on the road and her life under a microscope, Vickie works to clear her family's name, but begins to learn things she isn't sure she wants to know, such as how close her father was to the dead girl's mom, and some of the extracurricular activities that her parents' circle of friends participated in when they were teens themselves.

As her supposedly normal family unravels before her eyes, Vickie begins to realize that the people she knows best may not be who she thought they were.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Here's something interesting - because I majored in Religion in college, I learned Koine Greek so that I could read the New Testament from the source. And while that particular language has kind of slipped away from me since then (you try finding someone to speak Koine Greek with in the Midwest) I can still nail down a word or two that we've inherited in English.

One of these is a little piece of punctuation that everyone loves - the apostrophe! And what does that word mean?

If you know anything about Greek plays (and why don't you, I ask?) you know that there was a word that applied to just about everything contained therein - for example, an ode is composed of a strophe, antistrophe, and an epode. And no, there won't be a quiz later. But if you ever walk up to me in public and reiterate any little piece of knowledge I bestowed on you during the WOLF I'll be totally flattered.

What does this have to do with apostrophe? A lot, I swear.

In Greek plays, an apostrophe was when the actor addressed someone who wasn't there, whether they be offstage or simply uh... not there. Is Hamlet's speech to Yorick technically an apostrophe? Um... yeah I'm not as smart as I pretend to be so you'll have to ask someone else that question.

So what do we use an apostrophe for in English? To smash up our words, of course. "Do not" becomes "don't" - and the apostrophe stands for... the "o" that's not there. 

And while I know you're getting ready to blindside me with the ownership argument, (as in Mindy's pants) let me put it down in the ground with Yorick. Old English used "es" to denote ownership, and we dropped the pesky "e" and put in... the apostrophe to show that we went ahead and ditched the "e."