Congratulations to Brighton Anderson who won the contest! Brighton will be a character in Penumbras. So watch for his big literary debut :)
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!
Eliza shocking the sensibilities of the upper classes at Ascot.
Well, last October we did My Fair Lady at school. This has always been one of my favorite plays but now I love it even more. Artistically, I think it was one of the very best we've ever done at my current school and I was so proud of the kids! I was also blown away by what the parents and our tech director did with the costumes, props, and sets. Really amazing job. I've been sort of busy so I haven't posted pictures until now. I'm still busy, but I just the got bug to post, I guess.
One of the stars of the show was the set. It was a turntable--engineered so that it simply rotated. The study set was on one side. The other side became the ball room, Ascot, etc. It was light enough that one person could move it easily. Yes, the Tech Director is freaking awesome to make this for a middle school show! You can see it being rotated here.
Professor Higgins out collecting dialects to transcribe. This kid was a.maz.ing. Seriously. I have rarely, if ever, seen a middle school student perform with as much authority and confidence. This guy nailed a very difficult role. Acting, accent, even waltzing!
Higgins singing "Why Can't the English?"
If Higgins is the head of the show, Eliza is the heart and my Eliza was stellar. This girl integrated singing, dancing, and acting so seamlessly--and did it all with such charm and apparent effortlessness. She absolutely sparkled!
Eliza going to see Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering.
Middle school kids sometimes wear their hats too low, but it's still a pretty shot of Eliza.
Eliza's father tries to swindle Prof. Higgins.
"Just You Wait 'Enry 'Iggins." She nailed this one.
In Hartford, Heresford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen...
"The Rain in Spain."
"I Could Have Danced All Night."
Mrs. Higgins introducing Eliza to her friends at Ascot. The girl playing Mrs. Higgins was amazing. I have no idea where a young teen from Nashville learned to channel an upper-class British matron, but she was wonderful.
Some of the Ascot scene. I loved every minute of this. The costumes, the affect of the kids--everything.
Eliza and Col. Pickering right before the ball. My Col. Pickering was so much fun! He caught the flustered, lovable side of the character so well.
Higgins meeting his old student, Zoltan Karpathy, played to toadying, sneaking perfection!
Higgins and Eliza dance.
Pickering describes the triumph to the servants.
Eliza feeling overlooked (and rightly so)
Freddy waiting outside for Eliza. If you had seen this kid perform, you would have wanted to adopt him. He sang amazingly well (especially for a middle school boy!) but also brought a wonderful sweetness to the role.
Eliza singing "Show Me" to Fredddy.
Higgins discovering Eliza's gone.
"I should not have thrown the slippers. I should have thrown the fire irons." Mrs. Higgins has some absolutely wonderful lines here.
Eliza finds her voice and stands up to Higgins.
Higgins in the tour de force, "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." This is a challenging--and rewarding--musical monologue.
Higgins realizes just how alone he'll be without Eliza in his life. He plays her voice on the gramophone but finds it lacking, of course.
Eliza turns the record off and speaks....
And a carefully crafted final pose that will respect both middle school sensibilities and also the ambiguity that Alan Lerner tried to keep when he adapted the book from Shaw's play.
It's been a while since I've blogged. Kind of got off track with the break and now, at school, we're in full swing for The Little Mermaid, which opens in 3 weeks. I hope to have a Middle School Mondays post up on Monday.
There is also a great deal happening on the writing front. The Kindling sequel is now officially named Middle School Magic Volume 2: Penumbras. I did that big font in lieu of a deep announcer voice. Today, the ARC of Penumbras will be formatted and that will soon be out. In the meantime, compulsive reviser that I am, I am still tweaking and polishing and will continue until my editor insists that I stop sometime in March. Actually the thing I'm doing with the manuscript right now is one of my favorite things so I'll write more about that later.
But there's something I want to touch on for a minute. Actually, two somethings. I got my sales statement for The Kindling the other day and my first royalty check should come in a week or so. This incredibly exciting to me and also a bit solemn.
Now, please don't take anything I'm going to say as a complaint because it's not. But there are some realities of writing that most people don't understand. I began working on The Kindling in April of 2009. I have a full-time job and other responsibilities, so it's not like I was working on it for eight hours a day. I'm also fairly slow and OCD about revisions. Still, the fact remains that I typed the first words of that book just under 4 years ago and I am now anticipating my first check for that work.
I am thrilled to anticipate this and very grateful that the publisher published what I wrote and that enough readers cared to buy it that there are royalties at all. Thank you to everyone who bought a copy! I'm grateful beyond words.
Still--that is a long time to work on spec. That's hours and hours almost every evening and weekend. It also means I had to pay for paper and ink cartridges and postage and buy iTunes gift cards for giveaways and a wig for the book trailer and so on long before I saw any money. But it's what many, if not most, writers do.
Different publishers handle this in slightly different ways--mine pays the first check six months after the book is published. Other publishers might do it different. I know one publisher who waits a year! Most publishers have a delay between publication and payment of royalties, and there are reasons for that. Additionally, most small publishers don't give out advances (and, even with the big dogs in NYC, advances are happening less and less these days).
I was also happy to see that my second book sold far, far more copies than my first book. Other authors who have been at this longer tell me this is the consistent pattern. The more you write, the better you get and the more people read your books.
This leads me to the second thing I want to say. A number of people I know assume that, because I have published a book, I must be making good money. That is a common myth, I think.
Once again, different publishers have different royalty schedules. But for the most part, authors are going to make between 10-20% on copies sold. Unless you are a big author, probably 10-15 % net (that's the smaller number for those of you with math skills like mine). Sometimes on net, sometimes on gross. E-books generally yield a little more (incidentally, if an author sells books through their website, they probably make more on those than they would through Amazon or a bookstore. More on that below)--but the point remains that when you buy a book only a small percentage of that money makes its way back to the author.
Again, this is not a complaint. But I don't think most people realize this. Some aspiring authors I know need money and see writing a book as the ticket. That is just about as far from the truth as can be. Writing is not a get-rick-quick scheme. In fact, for most people, it is not a get-rich-anytime scheme. A comparatively small number of people are able to supplement their incomes. An even smaller number are able to live reasonably well by writing. And an even tinier handful make a lot of money. The reason that J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer are big deals is because what they did--writing a best-selling series as a first time author--hardly ever happens. One should write because there are stories to tell--not to make money.
This is why many authors are turning to self-publishing--they get more money and the wait time is not nearly as long. But self-publishing is not a panacea--turning out a good product requires paying for an editor, a cover designer, and there are still no guarantees that people will buy the book in an increasingly crowded field.
In other words, writing is a bit of a gamble from the financial POV. If you want to write, then you need to realize that a) your first book probably won't sell many copies b) it could be years before you see any money from those the sales you do get and c) when you do see the money, it will likely not be all that much. Be prepared for that.
As long as I can remember, books have been precious to me. They have given me hours and hours and hours of delight, comfort, excitement, and satisfaction. Until the last few years, however, I didn't understand all that went in to producing that book for my enjoyment. And I wish I had known. So, I'm going to tell you what I've learned.
If you are a reader, not a writer, you might consider buying books to support authors you like. Of course budgets are tight and there is nothing wrong with using a library or borrowing a copy from a friend. Most writers I know want their stuff to be read no matter how the reader comes to the book (as long as it's not pirated). But when you can, and as you are able, buying a book is a nice gesture. I know sometimes people buy a copy of a book and then loan it out to every family member and friend. There's nothing dishonest or wrong with that. But if you can, buying a book is always going to be preferable from the author's point of view.
I mentioned above that many authors sell their own books through their websites or at book signings, etc. This usually is better for the author because they can buy the book at wholesale and then sell the book and make several dollars in profit as opposed to just the small royalty. I like it because I can sell copies through my website and sell them for less than you'd pay on Amazon or in a bookstore and still make more money per book myself. Woo-hoo for free markets!
Don't ask the author for free copies. One doesn't ask a dentist to give free root canals or a lawyer for free court filings.
A book costs money, but a lot goes into it. In addition to the author's time and work, there are editors and cover designers and on and on. It's not something that can be done on the cheap if you want a good product.
If you read a book you like, tell your friends. Talk about it on Facebook or Twitter or at church. Review it on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com and Goodreads. You might also see if that author has a page on Facebook (most do) or is on Twitter, etc. Following them is another way you can help.
One last thought. I was recently part of an email conversation where an author talked about how scared she was to write. She's had some set-backs lately that had left her disappointed and not feeling confident. She needed to write a sequel but was paralyzed because she worried that her readers would hate it.
Writing is scary. It means putting yourself out there in a huge way. You spend years writing something, doing the best you can and then put it out there for people to like--or hate.
If you read a book you like, you might email the author and let them know you loved it. Some of the really big names get too much fan mail to respond, but most authors love hearing that readers liked their work. I'm friends with a lot of authors and even those who sell a lot of books will be thrilled to get an email or note from someone. I had a most enjoyable discussion the other night with a young reader who asked me some questions about the finer points of the Magi and some of their practices. That was a lot of fun.
If you read something you hate, that's fine. You certainly don't have to keep it a secret and I'm not trying to say you have to pull your punches. But, when you get on Goodreads or Amazon and start rating it, just remember that there is a human soul behind that book. A human soul with feelings. You can critique it honestly without being nasty or taking potshots. I actually study my reviews carefully and try to understand what I can do better, especially when they are articulated respectfully by people who appear to be thoughtful. Saying, "This book didn't work for me" or "I just didn't like such-and-such" or "In my opinion, the book would be stronger if..." is much different from making cutting, personal, and snarky remarks. You would be surprised how many authors are devastated from reading these reviews.
Okay, well, that's the end of my ramble now.
I haven't had much time to read this year. It has been busier than usual with several projects, including my own writing. So, I haven't had many spare moments, and my reading has been a bit limited. But I had the chance to read A Night on Moon Hill by Tanya Parker Mills. This is women's literary fiction--not a genre of which I generally read a whole lot. However, I am so glad I did! This easily the best book I read all year. It is beautifully written and tells a moving story.
My one quibble was that the villain did sometimes seem a bit overdrawn to me. He was the one character that didn't ring totally true to me. However, the rest of the characters were brilliantly drawn--they became very real to me in a short time.
One thing that makes this book unique is that one of the main characters has Asberger's. I don't have a great deal of expertise with this condition, but my limited experience convinced me that Mills was right on with her portrayal. There is a reason for that as Tanya has a very personal connection with this unique syndrome and I'm glad that such a skilled writer was able to draw on such real experience to craft such a realistic portrait.
In addition to the characterizations being spot on, the prose is beautiful. This is a very powerful book by an extremely talented writer. I highly recommend it!
You can buy the book at Amazon here.
Tanya's website is here.
Today, I'm very happy to be part of a blog tour for Monique Bucheger's Ginnie West series--a series of books for middle grade readers. There is some information about Monique's books, followed by an interview with this busy author!
THE SECRET SISTERS CLUB: A Ginnie West Adventure (BOOK 1)
Twelve-year-old BFF’s Ginnie and Tillie, want to be sisters. Ginnie's widowed dad plus Tillie's divorced mom could equal a lifetime of round-the-clock girl talk and slumber parties. Too bad Dad vowed to never marry again. Ginnie and Tillie form a secret club and come up with the perfect mission to change his mind: ‘Operation Secret Sisters’.
Before long, Tillie seems happier about gaining a dad than a sister. Ginnie suspects that Tillie has turned ‘Operation Secret Sisters’ into a scam called ‘Operation Steal My Dad.’ Things get more complicated when Ginnie stumbles across her real mom’s hidden journals. Ginnie can finally get to know the mother she doesn’t remember and Dad doesn’t talk about.
When Dad discovers she has the journals, he takes them away. Ginnie needs to figure out what the big mystery is before her relationship with her father and her best friend are ruined forever.
If you like farms, friends, horses, and secrets, you’ll love: Trouble Blows West: A Ginnie West Adventure. So saddle up and be ready to ride with Ginnie as she explores the true meaning of friendship.
Debbie Shakespeare Smith, middle-grade author of The House of Chicken
TROUBLE BLOWS WEST: A Ginnie West Adventure (BOOK 2)
Putting her body in motion before her brain is in gear creates a mountain of problems for 12 year-old Ginnie West. She is certain that defending her twin brother, Toran, from the biggest bully in sixth grade was the right thing to do. But Ginnie couldn’t be more wrong.
She quickly figures out that Toran doesn’t appreciate being rescued by a girl any better than Charlie likes being knocked down by one. When Charlie seeks revenge on Ginnie, Toran sets aside his anger and helps her plot a playback prank at Charlie’s house.
Sadly, Ginnie learns that Charlie has a reason for being a bully when she sees his dad drop him to the floor like a ragdoll with one awful blow to the chest. Realizing he's a boy in big trouble, Ginnie switches gears and decides to be his ally, even if he won’t let her be his friend.
I loved this book! I didn’t know a book without zombies could be good! 15 yr-old Amanda
SIMPLY WEST OF HEAVEN: A Ginnie West Adventure: (BOOK 3)
Twelve year-old Ginnie and her BFF, Tillie, schemed to get Ginnie’s widowed dad to fall in love with Tillie’s divorced mom. It worked. But before they could become ‘for real’ sisters, Ginnie stumbled across her dead mom’s journals. Which was totally awesome sauce… until her dad took them away and won’t tell her why. Now all their plans are starting to unravel.
If that’s not bad enough, Ginnie’s favorite uncle drops the mother of all bombshells and leaves her in a maze of uncertainty. While her head is still spinning from that news, a blast from her late mother’s past shows up and makes Tillie goes nutburgers. Ginnie realizes her best friend has her own agenda and Tillie’s plans to merge their families may not be so innocent.
SIMPLY WEST OF HEAVEN is a contemporary MG novel that follows Ginnie West as she tries to make sense of one too many curve balls tossed her way in the most pivotal summer of her life.
Would you like an autographed, personalized copy? Visit Monique's page here to order:
Social networking links:
Purchase link:The Secret Sisters Club: A Ginnie West Adventure
Monique Bucheger was born in Landstuhl, Germany to active duty Air Force parents. After watching her creative writing teacher's astronaut son lift off in the Space Shuttle Endeavor, she recalled a promise to her teacher to write the books only she could write. In January of 2011, her first book made it through the first 3 tiers of Amazon's National BreakThrough Novel Award Contest to the top 5%. In November of 2012 Mrs. Bucheger was offered a 3 book contract for her Ginnie West series. Book one: THE SECRET SISTERS CLUB: A Ginnie West Adventure was published March 8, 2012. Her second book: TROUBLE BLOWS WEST: A Ginnie West Adventure was published April 14, 2012.
Mrs. Bucheger has championed the cause of children as a foster parent to over 120 children and her books embrace and empower people on all sides of the child abuse issue.
Blog Tour Schedule for Ginnie West Adventure Series by Monique Bucheger
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
One of the arcs in my series deals with the effects of living with child abuse and how that affects families. A woman who had been horribly abused as a child messaged me one day that she was a ‘lurker’ on our crit site and that she had read all of my books. She went on to tell me about her horrific family life and said she liked my books, because even though her own family life was a train wreck, she felt comforted by the idea of other people actually living in close-knit families that looked out for others as well as their own. She said that when she read my books, she felt peace and that visiting with the Wests was like visiting good friends. It touched me deeply that my story could bring healing to her.
If you could jump in to a book and live in that world, which would it be?
Honestly, I would jump into mine. I’m a country girl at heart. My illustrator who is an artist, author, and horse-whisperer among many other things calls me a “cowgirl-in-training.” The “Heart of the Wests” farm really exists. It’s a place I spent every minute I could as a teen. The “real” family that lives there now aren’t the Wests, but they embrace the close-knit feel of the family. Only they don’t have horses. I would have to buy one … and I would probably name her “Calliope” after Ginnie’s horse.
When and why did you start believing you could be a writer?
My high school creative writing teacher was my first writing cheerleader. At 18 ½, I married my best friend because I wanted to. We are still married 27 years later. My creative writing teacher was the only one to protest, saying: “You’re too smart to get married so young.” When I asked her what she meant by that, she predicted that if I got married, I would have a bunch of kids and never write my books. 22 years later I had 12 kids and no books written.
Today, I wouldn’t change having the kids, but I do wish I had written more. One day, a few years ago after watching her astronaut son fly off in a space shuttle, I heard her ask: “So when are you going to write those books?” For months the question haunted me. Then I remembered what a fun character Ginnie was and started writing her story.
Any future plans for writing something not in the Ginnie West Series?
I’m glad you asked. I have just finished the novella that will introduce the first book of my second series: Ryding Through Troubled Waters. Book 1 is a third finished and Book 2 is mostly finished (I will do a final edit and tweaks after I finish the first book.) Here is my quick pitch:
When his parents return from their second honeymoon in matching mahogany caskets, nineteen year-old Cale Ryder not only inherits the family ranch, but his three teenage brothers and kid sister. Thrust onto the fast track to fatherhood, Cale doesn’t have time for a lot of nonsense and quickly lets everyone know there’s only room for one alpha dog in the fight to keep the family together. While battling a busybody aunt, child protective services, and the rigors of ranch living to provide for his siblings, he tries not to wonder what life would be like if he could do what he wanted, instead of what everyone else needs.
What's your advice to inspiring writers?
Hmmm. As a teen, I was part of a group called The Young Author’s Program and I remember meeting a published author who kind of sneered when asked that question by a kid in my group before replying: “Don’t quit your day job.” That always bugged me.
Of course, she may have had good intentions, and I saw sneering where she meant caution, but I say: Write the book you want to read. And if need be, learn to write it better. Just don’t give up.
To paraphrase Tracy Hickman, “Being an author isn’t about being published, it’s about being read.” When you write what you love or have passion about, others feel it. If you aren’t confident with the end product, get an editor to help polish it, but don’t give up.
What is your favorite scene in your newest novel, Simply West of Heaven?
In Simply West of Heaven, I like the chapter in which Ginnie figures out her dad’s secret. I also liked the denouement. I still both laugh and cry when I read it. It came out far better than I had imagined … mostly because quiet, timid, mouse-like Tillie turned into ‘Super Tillie,’ pushed me out of the way, and took over the scene.
Which scene or characters were the most difficult for you to write and why?
Tillie (Ginnie’s best friend and future sister) is a tender-hearted soul who has pinned her hopes on certain things happening. When that situation is threatened, she can’t cope and goes to a dark place in her mind. It took me a few days to write those chapters and I had a constant headache from crying. I really felt for Tillie.
One of my critiquers encouraged me to really explore Tillie’s devastation. Tillie embodies three abused girls I knew as a tween/teen, one of whom found me on Facebook shortly before that and asked me some hard questions as to why our classmates had treated her badly. Her home life was tragic and yet, she was shown little compassion at school. I have carried a lot of guilt for years knowing she needed help, but being 12, I simply didn’t know how to help her. I’m sure that was a catalyst for my becoming a foster parent. As it turns out, she considered me one of 2 friends she had from that time, simply because I had stood up for her a few times when our classmates teased her. That made me feel better, but I wished I had offered her more invitations to play at recess or on a sleepover or something more meaningful.
Do your characters really talk to you?
Of course, don’t yours? And sometimes they keep me up all night writing their stories. Seriously though, some messages need to be shared and some situations need to be resolved.
What makes your novel standout from the crowd?
My series is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Which honestly are mostly decisions to do right or hard things when other people can’t or won’t. I love fantasy stories as much as the next person, but there is something about gathering one’s courage and /or conviction’s and being able to depend on one’s inner strength that trumps defeating one’s enemies with a magic wand.
However—if I’m being chased by an evil wizard—I probably wouldn’t throw away a magic wand—at that point, more tools in the tool belt are better than less.
I read your book—and loved it. One thing that struck me about The Kindling is that it parallels a lot with my series, minus the magi powers. And I have to say, I loved your opening scene.
Thanks for having me on your blog today.
Do you have a 140 character tweet you’d like to share?
Please check out Simply West of Heaven. A MG novel by Monique Bucheger with lots of heart. http://moniquebucheger.blogspot.com/
Thanks, everyone, for participating in my Giveaway! I went in and added the information from the comments section to the Rafflecopter widget. And, the winner is: Roberta P. Congratulations, Roberta! I'll email you and get your mailing address.
Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks again for dropping by.
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Please don't steal my words! Whatever I lack as a writer, it's still one of the few skills I have.
If you foolishly disregard this warning, I will send this guy after you. He's 6' 6".