Author Interview with Laura Bendoly

My writer’s group is full of amazing people full of clever words and heart-wrenching plots. Today, I want to share my interview with fellow Columbus young adult writer (contemporary, not historical), Laura M. Bendoly.

Read to the end to find out the winners of THE LAST APRIL from the April Showers blog hop and Goodreads Giveaway.

What should readers know about your writing style?

I’d say my work is character driven. I begin most stories from the point of view character and start to imagine how she would observe the world. What her vocabulary is like, who she’s interested in, who she is nervous around, what she eats, when she goes to sleep, how she prepares breakfast. Once there, the style evolves to suit that character. Sometimes it’s slap-dash informal, all unfinished sentences and a lot of slang. Other characters urge me to write much more formally, and I always put humor in the voice of a secondary character.

There is usually a mystery to solve, either as primary plot or secondary, and also some degree of magic. I use magicians, alchemists, dragons, healers, mermaids, angels, prophets, and saints as vehicles of extraordinary action. These aren’t typically the primary event in the story, because the climax needs to be human in scope and reasonable in its resolution. But there’s a fair degree of the supernatural in a secondary character who helps out.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Huh — when I find the book that stole my plot/character/awesome ending. Hate that. Of course it happens to every writer. But whey does it have to happen to me?

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Reader’s block, never. Writer’s block, all the time. I don’t stop writing, I just tend to get blocked in that I write in circles. I sometimes repeat the same scene again and again and don’t realize it.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Find a secondary art form you love as much as writing. That keyboard will make you a crazy person who no one wants to be around. (I found photography!!)

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have researched Russian art, folklore and mythology, Scottish/English and Irish fairy tales, I’ve gone to grave sites and holy stones, I’ve traveled to many libraries and bought a lot of expensive books, I’ve read a lot in French. I researched Laerka at least four years before it went to press. It will be more like five years’ research with my WIP. It’s not for everyone but I really want to know my subject.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I base them on the culture I’m writing about (Russian, Irish, French, etc), I try to make the name sound like something that character does. For example, my current work has the protagonist Irene. She is quite like a nature goddess, or nature queen. Queen in French is “reine.” Sounds like the ending of “Irene.” Aslo, Irene sounds like “serene,” which my character is. See how it goes?

What is your favorite childhood book?

I loved and still adore The Little Prince. One of the best fairy tales for all ages. Breaks my heart every time I read it. Also The Giving Tree. Tears are starting to come right now.

How long does it take you to write a book?

A first draft can be as fast as four months, but the whole finished, edited version, at least two years. I rewrite most pages three times.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I believe in writer’s boredom. Everyone gets bored in their own head. You need fresh ideas and clean space. It’s good to vary your writing location.

Tell us about your latest release!

Laerka is Southern Gothic tale of rescue involving a group of teenagers and a Russian crime ring that sells girls to night clubs in Savannah, Georgia. One particular victim, Laerka, is a Danish girl who transforms into a mermaid when in water.

The Russian crime boss who masterminds the trafficking changes into a “Vodyanoy” dragon when he hunts girls for the illegal skin trade. Savannah native sixteen-year-old Stella Delaney finds Vodyanoy’s first victim floating face down in the marsh.

Can she save Learka from this fate? Is she in danger, herself? Could Laerka be a crook herself? She and the traffickers share the same prison tattoo so who in this forbidding landscape can be trusted?

Purchase your copy today.

Thank you, Laura, for sharing your answers with us! I’ll be sharing my answers to these questions next month!

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway: THE LAST APRIL book box

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.

1865 Civil War (2017)
YA Sweet Drama

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.

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If you want another chance to win a print copy, you may also enter the Goodreads Giveaway for THE LAST APRIL.

First Chapter Reveal from THE LAST APRIL

The Last April, An Ohio Civil War Novel

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.

 

Editing Bullet Journal Tracking for Fiction Writers

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
  • Research
  • 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:

Check out Annette Oppenlander’s “Escape from the Past” YA Historical

Escape-from-the-pastToday 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) 

Content

Some medieval swear words, mild romance, i.e. a few stolen kisses, mild violence

Summary

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)

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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.

Create a Booktrack (Soundtrack for Books) to Market your Book

booktrackLandingBack 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.

Haunting Miss Trentwood on Booktrack as of April 2015
Haunting Miss Trentwood on Booktrack as of April 2015

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…

  1. Adding a chapter of text, including the chapter heading
  2. Selecting sounds per selected section of text
    1. Seems like you can select a single word, or multiple pages, and then decide whether to loop the sound
    2. You search for sounds via their pre-loaded library, which includes music, ambient noises, and more
  3. Listen to your booktrack and tweak the timing
  4. “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!

Update!

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!

Reading: An Abundance of Katherines

abundanceofkatherinesTitle: 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.”

Excerpt:

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.

Crossposted from my Goodreads account.

Lucky 7 Excerpt from my Young Adult Civil War manuscript

letter-writingThere 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:

  1. Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript.
  2. Go to line 7.
  3. Copy down the next seven lines as they are – no cheating.
  4. 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:

  1.  Drew Farnsworth
  2. Caitlin O’Sullivan
  3. Eliza Wyatt
  4. Evangeline Holland

Relying on Writing Exercises

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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.

Historical Exercise

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.

Emotions Exercise

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.

Rebellion Exercise

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.

Best,
Belinda