Happy MLK day, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful day. I've been doing a very specific kind of revising on Penumbras and it's one of my favorite things to do, so I wanted to talk about. I'm sure someone invented this long before me and there's probably even a fancy term for it that I don't know.
One of the things that I really hope to achieve with The Kindling books is to communicate the characters on the page as clearly as they are in my brain. To me, they are so real and I want the reader to sense that as well.
I spend a long time working on the character's voices--the way they say things. One of my pet peeves is reading books where teenaged characters don't talk like real teenagers. It's almost impossible for me to be drawn into books like this and I don't want to commit the same sin.
Because The Kindling books are told through alternating POV, I want the characters's voices to come out, not only when they are speaking dialogue, but also when the chapter is told from their point of view. The narrative is in 3rd person, so it's not the characters speaking directly, but I still want it to reflect the POV character in that chapter.
Lexa, for example, likes making up adverbs. She tends to speak in long, run-in sentences and use dramatic expressions and slightly 0ff-beat similes. She is focused on the emotional aspects of a scene and the relationships between characters. Melanie speaks in clear, precise terms. Her sentences tend to be short and straightforward, almost clinical with occasional poetic language. She favors simple metaphors and her vocabulary is larger and her syntax more advanced than most teenagers. Conner is more sarcastic than both of them. He tends to be a smart-aleck even when the situation is serious. Like Lexa, he tends to use similes a lot, but his tend to be a little less random than hers, but are fairly quirky. He also likes strong, direct verbs and likes to describe action as opposed to emotion.
So, in chapters that are told from Lexa's POV, you will find an adverb or two and long, breathless descriptions. Chapters in Melanie's POV will be shorter and more focused--exact and precise. And so on.
The way I try to achieve this is by saving three copies of the manuscript once it is reasonably polished. In the first copy, I go through and delete all the chapters except Melanie's, for example. Once I have all of those chapters, I read them as if they were an extended dramatic monologue, trying to make sure that everything jibes with Melanie's personality. I do the same thing for both Conner and Lexa. Just today I found some big words in Lexa's chapters that were not realistic for Lexa.
My hope is by doing this that their voices are consistent and realistic. Once this is done, I do something similar for their dialogue. Sometimes I corral my students into reading passages of dialogue out loud to see if it rings true.
At any rate, for me, this is one aspect of writing that is fun--the challenge of trying to get their voices just right.
Join the Twilght Phalanx--an elite group of readers hidden all over the U.S. and Canada, waiting to be called into action on special assignments. Members of the Phalanx will be given access to a special website where they can interact with characters from the book as well as reading advanced copies of the sequel and future books. Currently, Chapter One from the sequel is up!
This weekend's mission is important. Deseret Book, a large book retailer in the Western U.S., is getting ready to clear shelf space for new arrivals. This means they will be returning copies of The Kindling to the publisher, which means they may be less likely to carry the sequel, Penumbras. So, we'd like those copies to be purchased, not returned.
Anyone who buys a copy of The Kindling this week at Deseret Book will be initiated into the Phalanx. In addition to gaining access to the secret website, you (or your child) will also be entered into a drawing to have your name or your child’s name appear as a character in Penumbras and a drawing for a $10 iTunes gift card. (Please note: If you are a minor, I’ll need to get your parent’s permission before using your name.)
You can join by purchasing a copy of The Kindling at Deseret Book between now and January 26th. You'll get one entry into the drawing for every copy you purchase (you’ll also be enrolled on the secret scroll of Twilight Phalanx members!) You’ll also get an extra entry if you share this information on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Just email me a copy of your receipt, or a photo of you holding the receipt, or email me and I'll give you an address where you can mail the receipt. You can contact me here. If you have any problems, leave a comment below!
If you don't live by a Deseret Book, that's okay too--you can buy it online: http://deseretbook.com/Middle-School-Magic-Vol-1-Kindling-Braden-Bell/i/5083457
Many thanks--and I'll be excited to welcome you to the Twilight Phalanx!
It is so gratifying to get reviews from national journals dedicated to reviewing books in my genre! The last one comes from VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) a journal that is largely for librarians who specialize in Young Adult fiction.
At any rate, here is the quote part: "Bell's novel is an entertaining read about a theme that never gets old: magic. Bell's cast of characters is driven as well as humorous. The transition from becoming a teenager to finding out you possess a hidden talent always makes for good subject matter. This book is an adventure from the very beginning..."
The rest of the review is more of a synopsis of the book, so I didn't include it here. I don't have a link to the review in VOYA, but they were kind enough to post on Barnes and Noble.com, so you can see the source here.
Originally, I had planned on making a couple trailers for The Kindling, mingling live action with still photos. That ended up not working out, so I just used the still footage. (Note: you can see the finished trailers here. More may still come!)
We shot most of the pictures on Good Friday at my school. A whole bunch of my wonderful students gave up a few hours on their day off and came in, which was really quite sweet of them. It was a lot of work, but we had fun as well.
For example, this little moment below. This was going to be a scene showing the three main characters running through the halls, trying to get away from murderous teachers. Sorry it's sideways. I'm not sure exactly what happened. Or how to fix it.
Last night we had the launch party for The Kindling. I have to say that I was terrified. For various reasons, I didn't have a launch party for my first book, so this was my first rodeo, you might say. I didn't know what to expect. My early fear was: what if no one came? Then my next fear was: what if lots of people come and we run out of food? Or, what if it's really lame?
But having a launch party is what one does, and I wanted to do the right thing--observe the right forms and so on. My boss very kindly let me use our school library, which was fun to me since it is a place rife with warm and happy memories. We sent out the evites (incidentally, I found Evite to be more efficient than Facebook, in case anyone wants to know such things) ordered the cake and moved forward.
As we were getting set up, just a few minutes before showtime, it occurred to me that if people did come, I would need to talk. I'm a deeply introverted person, although I've learned to hide that, it remains my nature. And that thought terrified me! Literally, sent hot chills through me. For a moment, I considered hiding. I know some really good hiding places in the school and knew I could hide where no one would find me. But I decided to be brave :)
I needn't have worried. I was so thrilled with the turn-out of people who came--colleagues and students and their parents and friends from church and on and on. I was really touched by the number of kind people who were willing to come stand in line to get a book signed. (you know someone is a true friend when they're willing to buy a book, then stand in line patiently and ask you to sign it). And, since it was just chatting with a few people at a time, it was actually really fun! Even for an introvert.
I was in the signing line most of the night so I didn't have a lot of chances to mingle, but it looked to me like people had a nice time chatting with each other as well.
My sweet wife and her sister (and said sisters's friend), were incredibly helpful in getting everything going and keeping it all running. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were there manning a coloring station to keep small children occupied, which was a huge help. I'm not sure how many people came--I think we had around 100 or so. It seemed like a perfect number--the library seemed full but not crowded, and we had enough food. I wish I had thought to take pictures. Happily, someone with a phone much smarter than mine took a picture of the cake.
The only thing that didn't work out was one tiny thing. I had planned to take a few minutes to publicly thank my wife for her support--not only for the party, but her patience and encouragement with the whole writing journey--the ups and downs and hours and hours and hours. She has been my partner and support in everything, and even though my name is on the cover, she is the expeditor--the one who allowed it to happen, who made some sacrifices along the way and made it possible. I love her deeply and I'm very grateful to her. I had wanted to say that last night, but the traffic was so steady that it didn't work out. I still gave her the flowers I bought, at least.
At any rate, it was a fun evening for me. As with so much else in life--my fears were unfounded and all of that anxiety didn't end up being warranted.
Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate with me! I went home feeling a little like George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life.
Oh--don't forget the huge blog hop I'm participating in--see the post below!
I know how busy authors are, so I am always grateful when other authors are kind enough to review my book. It also makes me a bit nervous because authors are tuned in and aware of details and technique that those who read for fun might not notice. So, I'm always extra-grateful when authors give positive reviews!
Here's middle-grade author and teacher Shannon O'Donnell: "I l-o-v-e-d this book, folks. It's fast-paced, brilliantly original in its take on magic, loaded with awesome MG humor and voice, and full of fantastic characters. It was a tough one to put down. For me, this was an easy 5 STAR rating. Two of my three kids (ages 15 and 10) also read it and loved it. It's a sure-fire hit, so don't miss it. I plan to order copies for my classroom and school library." (Read more here).
YA author Jolene Perry very kindly posted a review in the throes of her recovery from the SCWBI convention. "It's completely obvious that Bell spends time around middle-school aged kids because he has that voice down PERFECT. My husband laughed, my daughter laughed, and my son laughed when he paid attention (he's five). It's a great mix of fun and mystery, and I flew through it in a night." (Read more here)
Thanks Shannon and Jolene!
I've blogged before about how my years at NYU while I worked on a doctorate were very difficult ones. For a variety of reasons, this was one of the most difficult periods in my life.
Every day I woke up early and rode the bus to Queens, where I taught drama. Then I rode the train to Manhattan where I went to classes at NYU (the education classes were held mostly in the evenings since many who took them were teachers). I think I usually got out around 9 or 10. Then I had to take the train and a bus to get home.
I was always hungry at this time, especially after classes were done. Any food I took with me had been consumed long before during the day. We were very poor, so I couldn't afford to stop very often at restaurants. And during the winters, it could be bitterly cold. I was tired all the time and stressed out of my mind.
There was a Barnes and Noble nearby and I'd go in there sometimes to warm up or browse the books and forget for a few minutes about stressful things. I'd browse through books and think of how wonderful it would be to be an author some day. That was a dream that seemed impossibly far away given the amount of academic writing and work I had ahead of me for the foreseeable future.
Life went on, of course, and things changed. They got better, as they often seem to.
Because of my time there I was able to get a job that provided better for my family and has allowed us to have a more comfortable, less stressful life. A job in a small private school that gave me some ideas that eventually led to the publication to my book.
So, you have two symbols of two different times in my life: Barnes and Noble as the symbol of those rough years in NYC and then my book, which represents the more comfortable years that followed.
Today, a friend from those NYC days posted a picture in FB. A picture she'd taken in one of those Barnes and Nobles I used to frequent to warm myself and day dream a bit.
Perhaps you can understand why this picture made my eyes a bit misty and gave me chills. (Hint: top shelf, second from the left).
Today I was fortunate to have three wonderful reviews come out! And after my morning, I sort of needed all three of them. I really appreciate people that take the time to do this. Go check their blogs out. They each have good stuff!
"This is a fun book, with adventure, imagination, and touching scenes. It...keeps things moving until the end." Carole Thayne Warburton, Author (read the whole review here)
"The Kindling by Braden Bell is exciting and intense. It is written for mid grade readers, but as an adult it kept me fully engaged and wanting to keep reading....There is so much action, adventure, suspense and intensity. I almost jumped out of my skin, when someone walked up behind me while I was reading." Mary's Book Corner (read the whole review here)
"I laughed, I winced (yes, winced), I felt nervous, I felt excited. I enjoyed the main characters as much as you can like 13-year olds without wanting to strangle them too. This book will highly appeal to that age group and includes great and poignant lessons on good and evil, and choice and accountability." Serene Is My Name Not My Life (read the whole review here)
Super-fun review from author M. R. Bunderson. Very few reviews make me chuckle, but hers was just so fun and full of energy.
"Burning shorts, flying pizzas, evil motorcycle-riding darkhands, and one pretty vicious unicorn--what's not to love? With a battle in Disney’s It’s a Small World ride, followed by a lunchroom food fight to end all fights, you won’t want to put this book down until the final page is turned. (Oh, and you’ll never look at pizza the same again.)
This is a great book to cap off your summer and jump into school mode! And if things start happening that you just can't explain? . . . let's just say it's always best to be prepared."
Read the whole review here.