Quick reminder that today is the last day you can download a free copy of my latest book, THE LAST APRIL! Even if you’re not interested in reading it right now, please take advantage of this offer. Your download will push this book further up in the ranks. The first week of a book’s life is critical for success!
Happy official launch day for THE LAST APRIL! I’m so excited to share this book with friends, family, and co-workers at my Columbus book launch party on April 15th. For those of you unable to attend in person to enter the event raffle and potentially win a copy of the book, continue reading.
One lucky contestant will win a book box that includes a free print copy of THE LAST APRIL as part of my participation in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza giveaway blog hop. The Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza blog hop is a great opportunity to win prizes by hopping between author / reader blogs and entering their contests.
To win a free book box complete with a signed print copy of THE LAST APRIL, please enter using the Rafflecopter below on April 15th – 30th. Not sure you want to enter this giveaway?
Here is the back cover blurb:
Spontaneous, fifteen-year-old Gretchen vows to help heal the nation from the recently ended Civil War. On the morning of President Lincoln’s death, Gretchen finds an amnesiac Confederate in her garden and believes this is her chance for civic goodwill.
But reconciliation is not as simple as Gretchen assumed. When her mother returns from the market with news that a Confederate murdered the president, Gretchen wonders if she caught the killer. Tensions between her aunt and mother rise as Gretchen nurses her Confederate prisoner, revealing secrets from their past that make Gretchen question everything she knows about loyalty, honor, and trust.
The Last April is an entertaining, thoughtful novella of Ohio after the Civil War, meant to encourage readers to reflect on themes of fear and hope in uncertain political times.
If you want another chance to win a print copy, you may also enter the Goodreads Giveaway for THE LAST APRIL.
We are in the final editing days for The Last April, my new young adult historical fiction book with a planned release of April 2017. My beta readers and editor have sent feedback and I’m crawling through the manuscript making updates. In the meantime, I wanted to share the first chapter of The Last April for your reading pleasure.
Join me on Patreon to see the proposed concepts by my cover artist! You are under no obligation to contribute, but with your patronage I can release an audiobook in 2017 or early 2018. Thank you to my supporters so far!
Here is a snippet of the first chapter of The Last April:
Everyone else would remember that Saturday as the day President Lincoln died. Gretchen Miller would remember it as the day the ragged man collapsed at her feet.
Gretchen was tugging at weeds and swatting at gnats when a thud made her whip around. The war was over, but Confederate supporters were everywhere. They lingered after General Lee’s surrender, and President Lincoln’s reconciliation speech, and in pro-Union Columbus.
Gretchen snapped up from her hunched position to lean back on her barefoot heels. Her skirts puffed out with the movement. She slapped them down, annoyed.
Sharp sunlight made it difficult to see. Gretchen thought she saw a collapsed man just yards from her hem. She dragged her straw hat by the strings so it shaded her eyes.
A man’s limbs sprawled across the oak tree roots. Gretchen could not tell his age or condition from where she crouched. His back was to her, his dark head resting on his outstretched arm. He was not moving.
“May the angels have charge of me,” Gretchen whispered. She patted the revolver in her skirt pocket.
His leg twitched.
Gretchen’s heart leaped. That dark, matted hair gave her a turn. Maybe it was her brother Werner, returned from war at last. A hundred men from the Grove City area had answered President Lincoln’s call for soldiers. Everyone was afraid of the number that would return.
Gretchen grabbed her skirts as she scrambled to standing. She flailed her arms at the log farmhouse she called home. She could not shout, in case the man had faked his injury and was waiting for an excuse to attack.
Her aunt, Tante Klegg, stuck her head out the kitchen door. “What is it?” Tante Klegg’s heavy German accent was strident in the quiet morning. It matched the severity of her hair braided and twisted tight against her head.
Gretchen put her finger to her lips. She cupped her hands around her mouth so her whisper would carry. “There is a man.” She waved at her aunt to come outside.
Tante Klegg tiptoed across the rocks Gretchen had overturned gardening. She held her skirt layers high above her ankles, muttering.
The man remained quiet, only his twitching foot letting them know he lived. Gretchen did not know if that meant he was dangerous or that he was too injured to move.
Gretchen brushed a strand of reddish hair from her mouth as the breeze picked up. Though it was April, the humidity was heavy and stifling. The wind still carried the scent of cooling bonfires from yesterday’s elaborate celebrations.
Last night, Gretchen had danced until her feet ached and sung until her voice was hoarse. She had been ready to do anything to help her country heal. She held onto the president’s words of reconciliation. She hoped everyone could see the Confederates as prodigal brothers and sisters. She hoped the Confederates would be humble and welcomed home.
With a stranger at her feet, Gretchen realized such things were easier said than done. She gripped the revolver and held out her other hand to stop her aunt from advancing. Holding her breath, she crept closer.
The man perhaps could have been her brother, once upon a time. His body was gaunt, worn thin by trials Gretchen suspected she would never understand. His left hand did not bear Werner’s distinctive strawberry-shaped birthmark.
This was not her brother.
If you missed it on Instagram (Facebook, Twitter), I completed the first draft of my novella last week and dove right into editing! I’m so excited, that I’m breaking my monthly posting schedule to share the happy news! Now onto my favorite part: editing.
I love editing because there is material to work with. I can print things out, cut them up, move them around. For this novella, I’m doing a combination of analog and digital editing techniques.
Digital Editing Tools
I keep the manuscript in Microsoft Word and sync it across devices using Google Drive. I edit for passive voice, readability (grade level), and adverbs using the Hemingway App. I bought the desktop version, but it’s very buggy, so if you need an editor I’d use the free online version. This will allow me to submit a manuscript edit to my editor, who will find things I couldn’t, even with the digital tools.
Caveat: Digital editors will never replace a human. I use Hemingway to help find my blind spots. I default to passive voice and adverbs, so luckily, this tool helps me. If you have different writing crutches, you might need to look elsewhere for help.
Analog Editing Tools
I have my little desk calendar to tell me how many days in a month I spend on writing (first image in this post). I also created a bullet journal tracker for editing each chapter. Details below!
Typically, habit trackers are for days, weeks, or months. Whatever the unit of time, assign it as your table column headings. For editing, my columns are each chapter, 1 – 33. So it’s almost like a month anyway.
The rows are the habits you’re tracking, or for editing, the lenses you use to edit your work. I have rows for:
- Plot holes
- No prose contractions i.e. narrative should not have contractions but dialogue can
- Ready for editor
- Ready for beta readers
I have space on the page to add more lenses as they come up. I’m through chapter 6 and haven’t thought of anything yet. I have a list of questions I need to address before the book ends, or little reminders I forgot because it took me three years to write the first draft. For instance, by the last chapter, one of the rooms in the house no longer exists. So half of the chapters I’ve touched included me removing that room and shifting where the characters are interacting.
I shared this with the Bullet Journal Writers Facebook group and got a positive response, so I wanted to share in case it might help you with your writing!
Tomorrow, we’ll return to my regular monthly blog post: I participated in a monthly writing challenge (six word stories for thirty-one days). With the release of this book coming in April, I expect to break my monthly posting schedule quite a bit.
Here are some additional resources that can help you:
- The Complete Guide to Bullet Journaling for Writers
- Amanda Hackwith’s Keeping a Bullet Journal for Writers
- Bullet Journaling for Fiction Writers <– This was very helpful for me!
- NaNoWriMo Bullet Journal
- Keeping Your Writing Organized with a Bullet Journal
- 14 Bullet Journal Lists to Supercharge Your Writing
- Bullet Journal Your Novel: Free Your Mind and Write
Today we’re spotlighting a newly released young adult historical from Annette Oppenlander. She writes historical fiction for teens, like me! When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories. Website | Facebook | Twitter
Read to the end to enter her blog tour giveaway!
Escape From the Past: The Duke’s Wrath (YA Historical)
Some medieval swear words, mild romance, i.e. a few stolen kisses, mild violence
When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that
1) He’s been chosen as a beta, an experimental test player.
2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And
3) Survival is optional: to return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.
Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets’ nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.
Praise for the Book
“Fast-paced compelling YA debut.”
Giselle Green, #1 bestselling author of A Sister’s Gift”
“A wonderfully crafted romp to the time of lords, ladies, and knights.”
Lee Ann Ward, author and former Senior Editor of Champagne Books
“Escape from the Past is chock-full of the tiny details that make a story feel realistic and immersive, from the leather ribbons used to fasten shoes to the slimy gruel that formed the bulk of the peasants’ diet….those who love historical fiction or medieval fantasy will certainly enjoy Escape from the Past.”
Mike Mullin, author of the Ashfall trilogy
$25 Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon eGift Card or Paypal Cash (Ends 9/25/2015)
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com eGift Card or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
Disclaimer: I have my Amazon Associates ID included with the direct purchase links I’ve provided in this spotlight, which means if you purchase this book, I will earn a couple cents for helping you find it.
Back in July 2014, I read about Booktrack from Jane Friedman’s blog and simply had to try it out. A “booktrack” is exactly what it sounds like… a soundtrack for a book.
There is no dialogue, so it’s not like a true audiobook. Instead, a cursor moves along the page so you know how fast you should be reading (I believe you can change the reading speed to suit your needs), and you hear the different supporting noises for the words on the page.
I was hooked when I read/heard a sample of Alice in Wonderland, and wanted desperately to create one for Haunting Miss Trentwood. The first chapter is rife with ambient sounds… whispers, the wind blowing, dirt falling on a coffin, a ghost crawling from his grave, teapcups clanging, screams, and heartbeats. It wa a blast to make and took me a couple of hours because I was particular about the proper sounds.
How do you create a Booktrack?
When you sign into Booktrack, you’re given the option to add books to your bookshelf, or create a project of your own. The steps I took to create my booktrack included…
- Adding a chapter of text, including the chapter heading
- Selecting sounds per selected section of text
- Seems like you can select a single word, or multiple pages, and then decide whether to loop the sound
- You search for sounds via their pre-loaded library, which includes music, ambient noises, and more
- Listen to your booktrack and tweak the timing
- “Publish” your project by adding a title, byline, cover, description, and genre
What were my results?
Well, first, I had a lot of fun creating this! It was a blast looking through sounds and syncing them with the text. I published the soundtrack and left it alone… when I checked on it in September I only had a couple reads, so I added the link to my website and tweeted about it. That seemed to help. I also added the Booktrack to the Haunting Miss Trentwood page on this website. When I took the screenshot for this post, it was in April, and I had 326 reads with an average rating of 3.8 stars out of 5. Not bad for an indie author!
Have my sales improved since publishing the Booktrack? It’s hard to say. I had to comment on the Booktrack page to confirm to readers this was only the first chapter, and people should go to Amazon and elsewhere to purchase the full book. Haunting Miss Trentwood is an odd little duck; part humor, part horror, part historical fiction. It’s a difficult work to market, but there is an audience out there.
Give Booktrack a try if you’ve always dreamed of having a book trailer, but didn’t have the video capabilities. I love my Booktrack a lot more than my traditional trailer for Catching the Rose. I can’t wait to finish my next work so I can make another one!
Caroline from Booktrack reached out to me to correct a slight error in my description of the booktrack (very kindly, I might add!). From Caroline:
The cursor along the page, isn’t there to to tell you how fast you should be reading, it tracks your reading speed and automatically adjusts the sound to your reading pace, to make for a customized reading experience.
So there you have it! Booktrack is even more magical than I described, it automagically tracks your reading speed and adjusts the sound accordingly. Let me know if you guys create any, I’d love to read your works!
Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Genre: General Fiction
Length: 215 pages
Summary: Colin Singleton is in love with Katherines. The problem with Katherines is that they dump him. Nineteen times, they dump him. Despairing from his latest run-in with a Katherine, the Katherine, Colin takes a road trip so he can concentrate on his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he thinks will “predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and win him the girl.”
pg 7 -Crying adds something: crying is you, plus tears. But the feeling Colin had was some horrible opposite of crying. It was you, minus something. He kept thinking about one word–forever–and felt the burning ache just beneath his rib cage.
pg 33 – Colin had no response to that. But he just didn’t get Hassan’s apathy. What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable? How very odd, to believe God gave you life, and yet not think that life asks more of you than watching TV.
pg 76 – The act of leaning in to kiss, or asking to kiss them, is fraught with the possibility of rejection, so the person least likely to get rejected should do the leaning in or the asking. And that person, at least in high school heterosexual relationships, is definitely the girl. Think about it: boys, basically, want to kiss girls. Guys want to make out. Always. Hassan aside, there’s rarely a time when a boy is thinking, “Eh, I think I’d rather not kiss a girl today.”
pg 77 – It rather goes without saying that Katherine drank her coffee black. Katherines do, generally. They like their coffee like they like their ex-boyfriends: bitter.
pg 200 – “I feel like, like, how you matter is defined by the things that matter to you. You matter as much as the things that matter to you do. And I got so backwards, trying to make myself matter to him. All this time, there were real things to care about: real, good people who care about me, and this place. It’s so easy to get stuck. You just get caught up in being something, being special or cool or whatever, to the point where you don’t even know why you need it; you just think you do.”
Why should you read this book?
This book had me chuckling on the first page. I follow John Green’s Vlog Brothers, and looked forward to that intellectual snark that keeps me coming back for more, and I was not disappointed. First, let’s address the main character’s name: Colin Singleton.
Any computer programmer or mathematician would recognize the joke at once: here is a young man who is desperate to be known, to be recognized as unique and special. A singleton, in object-oriented programming, is a one-of-a-kind object. You can have a class of an object, say, Car, and then have different objects that belong to the class of Car: Honda, Ford, Toyota, etc. A singleton has only one element in its class or set: it is unique, special. Nerd!Belinda was ridiculously happy to see the intellectual snark and jokes went this far.
Read this book for a contemporary satire on the road trip story, while at the same time feeling heartfelt and snarky, as we all were in high school. A quick read, followed with an appendix where Green asked his mathematics professor friend to go through the math of Colin’s Underlying Katherine Predictability. With graphs and everything. I’ve never been so happy to see a parabola in my life.
There has been a “Lucky 7” excerpt writing meme spreading across the interwebs since 2012 if my cursory Google search is accurate. I thought it would be fun to share some of my progress.
In case you don’t know, the rules of the Lucky 7 meme are:
- Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript.
- Go to line 7.
- Copy down the next seven lines as they are – no cheating.
- Tag 7 other authors.
Now, I’m nowhere near page 77 of my manuscript, so it’ll have to be page 7. These memes always make me nervous… what if they select a part of the book that’s kind of, well, boring? I suppose the idea is to open your eyes as a writer and make every page in your book compelling.
Anyway, here is my Page 7 line 7 excerpt from my young adult Victorian fiction, without preamble or context:
He opened his eyes in time to see wide skirts sweeping from the room. That confirmed it. He wasn’t at Camp Chase. The only woman allowed in the prison had died a few months ago of the very disease she had been helping her doctor husband fight.
Waking up away from Camp Chase should have brought him some relief, but that woman’s harsh accent filled him with dread. He had never heard anyone speak like that before, not even in the prison. Was he with friends, or simply in a smaller, more lavish prison?
“He’s awake?” he heard a younger voice from down the hall, most likely Alina. Whereas the older woman sounded annoyed, Alina sounded excited. “Have you spoken with him? Can we keep him?”
I don’t have seven writers to tag, so please forgive me. I’d love to see excerpts from:
I picked up the Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks from the library last night and have already worked through it and the select exercises provided within. I found it to be a great book because it’s practical, pragmatic, and from the viewpoint of an agent who knows what it takes to make a good story.
There were four exercises in particular that I found helpful: Historical, Emotional, Rebellion, and Wanted.
The Historical exercise was all about picking an era and writing a short blurb about someone during that time. Since I’m working on a Civil War book set in my hometown of Columbus, OH, this felt like it should have been a natural fit. I think because I assumed it should be easy, I think I made it difficult! Here is what I came up with, unedited:
It’s just after the Civil War and a teenage girl has been helping with the effort. A staunch Unionist surrounded by Copperheads at school, she despairs of ever fitting in. When she stumbles upon a wounded soldier, she helps him home to take care of him. His memories are gone, but little by little she realizes he might be a Confederate prisoner escaped from Camp Chase.
Something about this felt super flat. But it was more important to get the idea out there, so I went with it.
Then I tried the Emotions exercise, where you were tasked with taking some emotions you remember from your teenage years, and applying them to a character. This is the result of that exercise:
A Unionist teen is rejected by her Copperhead friends now that the war is won. She buries herself in preparations for Lincoln’s funeral procession [to avoid wallowing in sadness] when a wounded Confederate soldier falls into her lap, forcing her to confront ideas of what’s right and fair as she nurses him back to health.
This feels like it has a little more meat to it, if only because it feels more… human. There are emotions involved, people hurt and needing help, and you get a hint of the protagonist’s personality.
The Rebellion exercise was interesting because it is a lens where you think of a time when you tried/felt like rebelling against your parents…
Forced to stop associating with people she considered her friends, ______ resents her father for breaking her apart from them. She hates these people for following the new rules even while she makes excuses for them. She feels alone, betrayed, unheard, discarded, trapped, rejected, and yet somehow, aloof to it all if it will help her deal.
I didn’t really like that one. It felt kind of whiny.
Want Ad Exercise
The Wanted exercise was fun because it’s all about writing a want ad for your protagonist…
Average-looking, gangly 18-year-old female, unaware of her ability to make anyone feel at home. Questionable manners, average command of English, with a twang from childhood living in countryside. Staunch Unionist, but former friends with Copperheads. Logical-minded. Annoyed by inconveniences. Caring, but clumsy about showing it. Tendency to speak bluntly. Only daughter with younger brother, expected to be responsible and calm while mother fights illness and father returns from war.
I don’t know. Writing all of this out makes me realize how much work I have to do to really get back into writing. I’m fighting my looming frustration and sadness, trying to stay positive about this new book attempt and that I’m not a terrible writer. I have a lot of doubts right now, and as long as I don’t think about them, I can write. As soon as I think of my readers, however, I seem to freak out!
Anyway, feel free to send me your thoughts about these exercises! Email me, comment on Facebook, or here at the blog.
Today we have Sean McCartney, who I highlighted before in an interview and when I met him in person at the Ohioana Book Festival. He agreed to share his experience at the book festival, and is giving away a copy of one of his Treasure Hunters books! Read on, dear reader, read on.
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I want to thank Belinda for having me here today. I’d like to introduce myself again. My name is Sean McCartney and I am the author of The Treasure Hunters Club book series. The second book, Breaking the Beale Code, was released on May 7th of this year. Belinda and I met face-to-face at the Ohioana Book Festival and she asked me to talk about my experience there.
To say I was nervous would be an understatement. When someone asked me who my protagonists were, not only did I not remember what a protagonist was, I forgot I was even an author. I’d never been to one of these before as an author or a patron.
I almost talked myself out of going with a deluge of excuses but as I look back on the festival I am glad I was there.
When I walked into building 110, where all of the authors were selling their books, I found my name tag and set up my treasure chest of books. I was sharing a table with another great young adult author. The area was not very large. In fact I felt like I was at the “kids” table for Thanksgiving Dinner.
After I was set-up I stood and waited for people to come in. I watched the other authors and wondered if they felt like I did. They seemed much more confident.
I have to say that, aside from selling a bunch of books, I was able to meet and talk with two terrific authors and people. Kristina McBride, author of The Tension of Opposites and Erin McCahan, author of I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, provided great laughs throughout the day and was a source of tremendous knowledge and information.
The festival held interviews and book readings by many authors. I was not chosen to do any of that which turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise. I was able to stand by my treasure chest and meet readers who bought my books. When I went to the representative from Barnes and Noble and told her my sales, I think she was surprised and stunned.
Overall I can’t wait to go back. I have been looking into other festivals because for an author like myself working with a small publisher, I need to be out there meeting people.
Though the day was long (two hour drive to Columbus and back) and I was on my feet for the entire event, I wouldn’t have missed it. I am looking forward to next year and the continued success of the Treasure Hunters Club series.
Thanks again for having me and please visit my web site at treasurehuntersclubbook.com and drop me a line.
– – –
Belinda here! So some takeaways from Sean’s experience, compared to other authors I’ve learned from, is that having a display catered to your book genre grabs the attention of passers-by.
Having the author standing and smiling, ready to engage? Also a huge plus. Not leaving your post is a great way to make sure you don’t miss readers, and the fact that Sean avoided looking tired I’m sure kept people coming to his spot until the end of the day.
I saw other authors there who sat behind their table reading a book. I did not visit them. I might have grabbed a postcard if they had one and it looked pretty. When you see someone talking to an author, you want to talk to that author as well.
I don’t remember if Sean had a pitch about his books, but his display was so fun-looking that I had to stop by. It was then that I realized I knew this guy! So having a gimmick, as it were, helps. It shows you put thought into your time at the festival, which tells readers that you really care.
If you’d like to win a copy of one of the Treasure Hunters books, leave a comment. We will use a random number generator to determine the winner.
I have been struggling with my genre for almost a year now. I write historical fiction, that much I know because I write stories about fictional people set in a historically-based setting. I use real-world facts to provide the skeleton of my story, fill in details, and let my imagination run wild from there.
My stories also have a romantic element. I write about emotions, fears, hopes, dreams, struggles between personalities. I care about the vulnerability of opening one’s heart to someone else, knowing they may destroy, cherish, or be apathetic to it.
As such, I’ve been saying I write historical romances. Quirky historical romances, if I were to be precise. The quirky is because I bring in elements from the other genres I read for inspiration: fantasy, science fiction, women’s fiction, etc. My last book was pegged as gothic because of the setting, ghostly elements, and suspenseful mini-mystery.
Yet, historical romance doesn’t feel like such a great fit, either. Why? Because I read a lot of historical romances. The Julia Quinns, Candace Camps, Mary Jo Putneys, and Amanda Quicks of the world might raise a brow if they actually read one of my books. Why? I don’t write sex. I’m not interested in writing about it, I never hint at my hero/heroine having sex or even thinking about it. There is sexual tension, of course, or else they wouldn’t be attracted to each other.
Thinking about this made me wonder, you know, maybe I’m writing historical romances for young adults. After some soul searching, I realized there are three ways to tell that I’m writing historical romances for young adults.
1. I include enough historical detail to keep the attention of a fifteen year old, and not much more.
I make no claim to being a historian. I am, at best, a hobby historian. I’ve always loved learning, I am a very disciplined sort of researcher and can access a lot of information in a short amount of time. I had two journals full of handwritten notes from multiple primary and secondary sources for Haunting Miss Trentwood.
Yet the one complaint I hear more often than anything else about that book is I could have gone into a little more detail. Just another paragraph or two in a few spots. My point is that I had more than enough information with which to choke the story. Should I have included a little more? Yes, if it would have helped the story. It is not my goal to provide a history lesson, it is my goal to entertain, without stretching the facts of history as we know it today.
For The Rebel’s Hero, I do plan on writing an author’s note at the end of the book because there will need to be more historical background. I’m covering a part of the Civil War that you just don’t hear about as often, and I won’t be able to cover it in as much detail as I’d like within the actual story.
2. My protagonists are coming of age.
Now, Mary from Haunting Miss Trentwood was in her mid-twenties when the story occurred, which is a bit older than the traditional coming-of-age story. The fact remains that in the story, Mary goes through a change and comes into her own, as it were. She has a romance, deals with family struggles, and makes decisions about who she wants to be and what she can do to become that person. Pick up any young adult book, no matter the genre, and it will be addressing the same issues. Think of Libba Bray, Ann Rinaldi, Laurie Halse Anderson.
3. My stories are fairly straight forward.
If the protagonist is in a love triangle, you will probably be able to guess who they will pick before the end of the story. I don’t like tricking my readers into thinking they’ve figured someone out, and then writing a sort of “Gotcha!” where the character suddenly runs off with someone else. I believe I do this because in every love triangle I’ve seen in real life, only the third wheel sees the love triangle. The couple who is actually falling in love has no idea that third wheel is there.
When there is conflict in my stories, it is something where the hero and heroine need to work together… after or while they work through their interpersonal struggles. I find this is a common thread in young adult stories as well: the hero/heroine don’t quite understand one another, but they are attracted and WANT to understand each other. They go through the growing pains of attempting to become a couple, and their bond is strengthened by a common goal. Again, it is the relationship that is important to me, the coming of age within a relationship that occurs.
This isn’t to say that a young adult historical fiction doesn’t have plot twists and turns, of course.
There are other ways, I’m sure, that are pointing me in the direction of young adult. But these are the three that came to mind immediately. What are some other ways to tell if you’re writing (or reading) a young adult book?
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This is part of the ROW80 bloghop.
So far I’ve kept to my goal of writing at least 750 words a week! Huzzah! To celebrate, here is the (first draft) of the first 850 words of the new book, The Rebel’s Hero. I would love your feedback. Are you getting a good feeling of the era, the setting, the situation?
One night, when the dense Virginia farm air buzzed with gnats that spoke of a heavy summer rain, Howard announced he had found Tempest’s husband at long last.
Tempest cocked her head to the side and shook it as though she had gotten water in her ear. Everything was as it had been mere moments ago, yet she had the distinct feeling of the world tilting on end.
Though it was dusk, and the orange sun sank lower still into the farm’s horizon, the dining room was brightly lit by candles perched in silver stands, and in the chandelier that swayed overhead. The combined brightness of the candles burned Tempest’s brown eyes so tears gathered at the corners. She cleared her throat and glanced meaningfully at the old slave Elijah who stood in the corner of the dining in his typical hunched fashion, pretending he hadn’t heard a word.
Howard never spoke of such things before the slaves. Said it was none of their business, his private matters. Which meant Howard felt far too comfortable with where he led the conversation.
“I hadn’t realized my supposed husband was lost,” Tempest quipped, smoothing butter onto her bread before dipping it into her chilled mint soup. She popped the sopping piece of bread into her mouth, focusing on the clarifying mint scent to help her stay alert to Howard’s newest scheme.
Across the table from Tempest sat her mother, Sophronia, just to the left of Howard. Sophronia pulled her lace shawl over her stooped shoulders and smoothed the fabric of her hooped skirt across her lap. Her pale face looked especially wan in the candlelight, and her white-blond hair had all but lost its luster in the ten years since she had married Howard.
Howard glared at Sophronia rather than Tempest for her outburst.
This elicited an apathetic, “Tempest, don’t talk to your step-daddy like that,” from Sophronia in her velvet southern drawl.
“I’ll stop if he does,” Tempest muttered.
It wasn’t funny anymore, the way Howard talked about her lack of a husband when all the other girls her age had married and born a child already. She was eighteen. She had more than enough time. Didn’t she?
Sophronia straightened her shoulders in a half-hearted shrug and sipped soup from her spoon.
“You’ll want to know the unlucky man’s name,” Howard said with a self-satisfied smile. His voice was deep with the relief of a thousand nights spent racking his brain with plans to get Tempest married and off his hands. He laced his fingers together and leaned back in his chair so the wooden legs creaked beneath his paunchy weight.
Tempest flicked her head to the side so one of her blond ringlets flew from where it rested on her shoulder. She did not particularly want to know, but she had just stuffed her mouth full of bread and couldn’t bring herself to say anything to stop him from speaking.
As long as it was not the one man Tempest could not stand to be in the same room with, no, the same house, the same county, to be honest, all would be well. She would find a way out, as always, and continue on her merry, pampered way.
“Walter Leonards’s agreed it would be beneficial to all if you were to marry him.”
Tempest choked on the bread in her mouth, audibly. Throwing her napkin in front of her mouth, she coughed up the bread, wincing at the way Sophronia half-frowned at her. Sophronia did not need to say a word, Tempest knew what she was thinking.
Come now, Tempest, you know better than to do such things. Surely you have outgrown such tomboyish behavior. You are a lady. Act like one.
Or rather, the Sophronia of old might have thought such things. Funny, how Tempest missed the sound of Sophronia scolding her. So many years had passed since Sophronia had cared enough to scold.
“In fact, Walter’s right pleased. I think this will be the match of the decade!”
Tempest glared at Howard, enraged by the way he could speak that sentence as if he and Walter were doing her a favor. Howard had to go and pick the one man she could never marry. Of course he would. Just to see my reaction.
“You’re pulling my leg,” Tempest said, shoving her chair away from the table before Elijah could help her. “You’re making fun of me.”
Howard put his hands behind his head. Damn the man, he enjoyed watching her squirm. “Walter,” he confirmed.
Tempest closed her eyes. She licked her lips and gasped her air. Walter. He used to poke her with lit matches when they were little. He once put a centipede in her shoe when they had been playing by a crick. To this day, she swore Walter had lamed her pony just to have it put down. Did one grow out of such meanness?
“No,” Tempest said, her voice breaking over the word.
Howard half-stood, resting his palms on the table that pressed into his stomach as he leaned over it. “You will marry him, or be thrown from this house. I’m not like your daddy, I don’t tolerate such wildness from females.”
Tempest looked at Sophronia, who kept her gaze on her soup. Sophronia’s hand shook as the spoon it held hovered over the bowl.
“Say something,” Tempest whispered.
It was on this solitary day that a rose petal fell. It was not known whether it happened to be dropped by a hand, or whether it had fallen by the properties of gravity. Suffice it to say, it began this story.
So, what do you think? Don’t forget to check out the other ROW80 peeps.
I’m so excited to introduce a fellow Ohioan author to you! His name is Sean Paul McCartney, and while he says he isn’t related to the Beatle, I like to pretend that he is. His first book in the series The Treasure Hunters Club is called “Secrets of the Magical Medallions,” and introduces the four teens Tommy Reed, Jackson Miller, Shannon McDougal and Chris Henderson. The series is a cross between The Hardy Boys and Indiana Jones,with a touch of National Treasure.
I’m sure you know the drill with my interviews by now, so let’s get started!
How do you transform your passion into focused research?
First I want to thank you so much for having me.
I wanted to write a series that would appeal to even he most reluctant reader. So I looked at stories I liked growing up and decided I would take the mystery of the Hardy Boys and tie that in with the action and adventure of Indiana Jones and National Treasure and The Treasure Hunters Club: Secrets of the Magical Medallions was born.
How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?
Actually the characters drive the research. The Treasure Hunters Club is always looking and researching lost treasures. It also helps that they have a guide in the form of famous treasure hunter “Diamond” Jack Reed, but really it is Tommy, Jackson, Chris and Shannon’s overall curiosity that keeps the story going.
How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?
I teach history so I try and sneak the facts of history in my story like Michael Crichton or Dan Brown. The key for me is to teach the readers without them knowing they are being taught. That is why in the first Treasure Hunters Club novel I go to great extremes to show how research is done and what goes into it. The club uses the library and books as well as the computer. I want the readers to see that answers are not always in front of them and they have to really look to find it.
My books are meant to give kids a fun and exciting ride and allow them to imagine they are part of the club on the adventure.
Thanks Sean for taking the time to answer my questions! If you’re excited to learn more, contact Sean at seancoach AT juno DOT com.
Interested in being interviewed?
I’d love to profile you on Worderella Writes, especially if you are an indie author, and most especially if you are an indie historical fiction author. I look forward to learning more about you and your upcoming projects!
Summary: Stuck in a relationship and job where he is a whipping boy, Richard Mayhew breaks free of his daily not-caring ritual when a bloodied girl dressed in rags literally drops at his feet. By helping her, he loses track of his entire existence (literally), and must embark on a journey through “this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London he knew.”
pg 7 – There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar apart: first, Mr Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr Croup; second, Mr Croup has eyes of a faded china blue, while Mr Vandemar’s eyes are brown; third, while Mr Vendemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr Croup has no obvious jewelry; fourth, Mr Croup likes words, while Mr Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike.
pg 49 – To say that Richard Mayhew was not very good at heights would be perfectly accurate, but it would fail to give the full picture. Richard hated clifftops, and high buildings: somewhere not far inside him was the fear–the stark, utter, silently screaming terror–that if he got too close to the edge, then something would take over and he would find himself walking to the edge of a clifftop and stepping off into space. It was as if he could not entirely trust himself, and that scared Richard more than the simple fear of falling ever could. So he called it vertigo, and hated it and himself, and kept away from high places.
pg 93 – Varney looked like a bull might look, if the bull were to be shaved, dehorned, covered in tattoos, and suffered from complete dental breakdown. Also, he snored.
Why should you read this book?
I love Neil Gaiman. This is the second book I’ve read by him (Stardust was the other). I saw the movie MirrorMask and loved it. Gaiman’s tone is clever and funny; when you read his books you feel like he is sitting there telling you a story, rather than you reading a book (especially so with Stardust, where the characters are more archetypal). His descriptions are precise, accurate, and oftentimes hilarious because he doesn’t give any of his characters a break; see my excerpts above for an example.
If you like Doctor Who or Monty Python, this is a book for you. If you write fiction that takes any hint whatsoever from fairy tales, mythology, or legends, Gaiman is an excellent example to read to get a feel for what other writers are doing. (Another good example would be Marquez, but I’ll save that for when I review Of Love and Other Demons.) Gaiman, to me, is what I imagine the Grimm Brothers were to their contemporaries. All three men take inspiration from life, make the most mundane or horrible facts fantastical, and demand in the nicest way possible that you get something out of the story by the end. I highly suggest reading the author note at the end to really drive this point home.
Title: The Glass Harmonica
Author: Louise Marley
Genre: Paranormal Historical Fiction
Length: 369 pgs
Summary: The year is 2018 and Erin is the premiere virtuosa on the glass harmonica, an instrument that, over the centuries, has been known to make its player and select members of the audience go mad. Though she publicly denies these rumors, secretly she is terrified they are true once she starts to see visions of a girl who does not exist.
The year is 1761 and Eilish Eam, an Irish orphan, has been plucked from her unlucky existence to play Benjamin Franklin’s new invention: the glass armonica.
pg 116 – It was the terror that lurked in [Erin’s] nightmares, that stalked her when she was weakest, most vulnerably. It was the fear that made her snap answers to stupid questions, made her impatient and angry at the probing and pushing of interviewers and reporters and historians. She was afraid. She wasn’t afraid of her wraith, of ghosts or visions or manifestations. What she feared was that, like her predecessors, like the ancestral virtuosi who had first played her precious and mystical instrument, her nerves were breaking down. She was afraid she was going mad.
Why should you read this book?
This book is well-written: all the characters have backstories and motivations, and the setting is fully realized. Despite this, I felt no connection with the characters. I read the entire book, but I never felt drawn to the story, wondering what would happen next. And I should have, because this was an interesting idea. As a musician, I loved the history of the glass harmonica; as a historian, I thought Marley’s depiction of Benjamin Franklin was great; as a scientist, I loved the idea of applying music to neuro-therapy. As a writer, I thought something was lacking, which may be because the back cover copy made the story seem more action-oriented, a time-travel similar to The Lake House (which defies so many laws of physics and time-travel, even).
A pleasant read, the one thing that really annoyed me was Marley’s use of “’twas” and “’tis,” beyond the 1761 dialogue. For example: Eilish pushed the basket again, trying to make her two seed coins clink together. Talk brought no food. ‘Twas money she needed. In my opinion, Marley should have stuck with a first-person narrative for the 1761 story, and third-person for the 2018, if she wanted to write like that. But then, another reader will find it charming, and think I’m crazy for not liking it. Such a subjective profession this is…