Monday, April 14, 2014

So... I Have A Book Coming Out!

Yup, you read the title right!

I unofficially announced this on Twitter last week, but here's the official post:

My debut middle grade novel, WISHING FOR WASHINGTON, will be released this summer through my small business, Frolloway Press.

Woo hoo!!

I know it's all pretty vague right now, but trust me, more details will be coming soon, including the actual release date and a summary. I'm working on a whole bunch of things at once right now. And you know what? I love it.

My decision to self-publish was one I made over the course of many months. Actually, close to a year. I wasn't necessarily set on self-publishing this particular book from the start, but I became quietly interested in the idea of going indie a while ago. A few factors contributed to this:

1) The biggest reason is that, as regular/long-time readers know, I'm chronically ill. I have been on a sickening rollercoaster the past two years, going from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital, taking a year off work and then finally cautiously returning to a part time job.

I'm sure there are traditionally published writers who are also chronically ill who still manage to do everything just fine. I, personally, felt like I couldn't make a promise to meet deadlines and carry out responsibilities, not knowing if I'd suddenly get hit with a few weeks or months of daily pain. I wanted the freedom of being my own boss. I still have self-made deadlines that I've been meeting so far, but it's a lot less pressure for me this way.

2) I like to be in control. I guess this goes along with the feeling of not having control when your health stinks, but I'm okay with giving up some pretty "big" things, like having my book on store shelves, if it means I can decide things that are more important to me. The exact day my book releases. What exactly my cover looks like. How soon to release a second book.

I have a business plan (including a marketing plan) and a calendar filled out for the next eight to ten months. And it feels awesome to plan all that out!

I can't wait to share more with you all as it unfolds. I appreciate the support I've receive so far, too. You guys are great!

ONE LAST THING: My book isn't the only one to release in 2014, obviously. So, instead of making this all about me, me, me... feel free to share any other 2014 releases you're excited about!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why Did You Love That Book?

I've been thinking a lot about the books that children choose to read. I work with kids, and it's always interesting to see which books they take out of the library, buy at the book fair, or borrow from their teacher.

Everyone has different tastes. I've seen kids reading fantasy, adventure stories, contemporary stories, graphic novels, joke books, and various other non-fiction books. (The girls seem to prefer how-to books on crafts, while the boys seem to gravitate toward non-fiction about things like sharks and spiders, from what I've noticed.)

No single book is going to attract everyone, and no reader is going to love every book.

With that in mind, I've thought about which books really grabbed me as a kid. I can't narrow it down to just one book, but there were three series that I absolutely loved:

1) The Babysitter's Club

2) Sweet Valley Twins

3) Abby Jones, Junior Detective Mysteries

I enjoyed the first two because they were familiar. They were longer series that featured the same characters over and over, so I felt like I knew the babysitters and the Wakefield twins in real life.

But the third series was short, only three books. I read them over and over. I really connected with the main character, Abby, and I basically wanted to be her. (I went through a very short phase where I considered being a detective when I grew up, all because of those books.)

I'd love to hear what your favorite books were as a kid, and why you loved them so much. Did the characters feel like old friends? Was the setting or situation something you would have liked to experience yourself?

Monday, March 10, 2014

You Share A Name With My Character!

I've recently made a new acquaintance who shares a name with one of my characters. One of my favorite characters, in fact. It's not an insanely uncommon name, but it's not one you hear everywhere. So, when this person introduced himself, I might have been grinning like an idiot. Which might have been creepy.

If you're a writer, you probably understand this. Our characters feel real. We think of them just as often as we think about actual people in our lives. It's part of the job.

If you're not a writer, this might sound weird. It might sound like no big deal, like someone sharing a name with an imaginary friend you had as a kid. Or a stuffed animal, or a doll, or whatever. But a character (especially a major character) is more than that. Think of them as the toy you loved. Maybe that one doll you had to bring to the table for every meal, or that stuffed animal that you dragged around by its ears since you were a toddler.

That special one.

That's what characters are like to some writers.

We don't always have physical representations of our characters, (unless our books have been made into movies, and there's merchandise to go along with it, but that's not majority of writers), so it's hard to express how significant these fictional beings are to us. We don't have a string of wallet photos like people do for children or grandchildren. (Is that still a thing these days, with smartphones and all?) We don't have many ways to show it.

So believe us when we say, it is usually totally awesome when we find out that you share a name with one of our characters. It might make us smile like we're morons. Just go along with it, okay? We appreciate it when you understand.

Any writers or non-writers have any related experiences to share?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Overheard Conversations

A few years ago, I was heading into a Subway restaurant when I overheard the conversation of two people passing by. They were a father and daughter; the girl was maybe 5 or 6 years old.

"Daddy, let's get Subway!" she said.

"No, sweetie," he responded. "Daddy doesn't like Subway."

The little girl gasped. "How come you don't like Subway?"

"Because," he said, a firmness in his voice, "Daddy just doesn't like it, okay? Just like how Daddy doesn't like..."

That was all I heard. They were out of my range of hearing, and I was about to open the door to Subway, anyway.

Like I said, that was a few years ago, but it is still bugging me that I didn't hear the rest. Why doesn't he like Subway? What was he going to compare it to? "Just like how Daddy doesn't like..." What? McDonald's? Burger King? Something else, maybe, that isn't a fast food restaurant?

Overhearing conversations is one of my favorite ways to get ideas for characters. I don't go around eavesdropping on people, but I do love when I happen to be around interesting people while going about my business. The "Subway" man and daughter haven't inspired me to write anything in particular, but other situations have.

If nothing else, it's helpful to pay attention to the rhythm of a conversation. How long of a pause is there between each person speaking? Do they cut each other off? Do they make sounds like sighing or grunting in their dialogue?

And if I only hear part of a conversation, maybe it's better that way. I can fill in the rest.

"Daddy just doesn't like it, okay? Just like how Daddy doesn't like Quiznos. Sandwiches are evil, you know that."

Anyone else enjoy overhearing conversations? Have you gotten any good ideas that way?

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Characters Now Eat Seafood (Re-Post)

I'm going through old blog posts from the archives and have decided to re-post a few. Here is one from 2010:

I hate seafood. It's unfortunate, because I live in such a seafood-loving area. I've never been able to stand the smell and the texture of the food. Luckily, I married a man who doesn't like seafood either, so I'm not forced to be around someone else eating it in the house.

Because I find seafood so repulsive (no offense to those who enjoy it, which is most of the world, I think), I never wanted to make my characters eat it. I couldn't stand to write something like, "the waiter brought them their food, the smell of FISH wafting through the air..." because, ick, I don't think I could finish the scene. My characters aren't me, and thus, they don't have to hate seafood too. But it was much more convenient for me if they did hate it, so I wouldn't have to write about it.

But unfortunately for my sad, picky-eating self, I wrote a story in which the main characters love fish, and for a reason. My latest story (well, back in 2010... remember, this is a re-post) is about pets who can communicate with humans. There's a scene where the human protagonist eats lunch with a group of animals. The dogs are eating chicken or some other meat, the birds are eating seeds, and the cats... are eating fish. Of course.

I wasn't going to make the cats allergic to fish, or not in the mood for fish, or plain don't like fish like their dear author over here, but I had to be authentic. (Well, actual authenticity would involve everyone eating bland pet food, but I wanted it to be a little more interesting than that.)

So, I detached myself from my central characters and gave them permission to like things that I really don't like. Sure, I've had my differences with my characters before -- how boring would it be if I only wrote about a bunch of Shelleys? -- but I'd never made them love a food that I totally hate. The mark of a picky eater and picky writer, I guess.

Any readers find it hard to read about something that you really can't stand? Any other writers find it challenging to make your character like something that you definitely do not? Anyone else hate seafood?

Monday, January 6, 2014

A "Medley" Of New Things

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

The past month was crazy busy for me, hence the quietness on the blog. But I'm back and ready for an exciting new year!

I anticipate a bunch of new things coming up in 2014. In fact, something big has already happened, three days into the new year -- we adopted a dog, Medli.


She's a two-year-old chocolate lab mix. She's a total sweetheart (loves everyone -- adults, children, dogs and cats) and is proving to be a fast learner. I think she's going to make an awesome writing partner!

Besides the new addition to our family, there will be a few more exciting changes this year, or at least that's the plan. One of those changes might be something writing-related. I'll be sure to make an announcement once everything is in place. For now... I've just got a lot to look forward to!

How was your holiday season? What are you looking forward to this year?

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Boy In The Girls' Bathroom (Re-Post)

I'm going through old blog posts from the archives and have decided to re-post a few. Here is one from 2010:

A few weeks ago, I subbed for an elementary school art teacher who had a kindergarten class at the end of the day. For those of you who teach or sub, you probably know that kindergarten can be adorable and fun... but they can also be exhausting and difficult.

I had one boy in particular who made my day a bit challenging. We'll call him David. My initial impression of David was that he was a sweet little five-year-old, eager to please. He handed me a folded piece of paper that read, "I Love You." Awww, right? Until the girl next to him started to cry, because he had ripped off the corner of her paper to use for the note!

(Off topic story real quick: That wasn't the only note I got from a kindergarten student that day. Another boy gave me one that said, "You are a nice teacher. I live near Giant." Priceless!)

So, I kept an eye on David, who was still a sweet kid, but just had a knack for getting in trouble. He asked me if he could go to the bathroom, so I let him go. A few minutes later, he returned to the classroom, doing that I-have-to-go-potty dance.

"What happened? You didn't go to the bathroom?" I asked.

"There was a spider in the boys' room!" David cried. "Can you kill it for me?"

"I can't, David. I have to stay here and teach the rest of the class. I can try to find someone to take care of it for you..."

Then he pointed to one of his friends. "Can I take him with me to the bathroom? Maybe I won't be scared."

I gave him permission to bring his (male) friend to the bathroom with him. They came back to the classroom minutes later, neither of them doing a potty dance. Good sign. But when a little girl tapped me on the arm and said, "David and [his friend] went to the bathroom in the girls' room," things did not look good for David.

Because, just in time, another staff member happened to walk in. When I told her the situation, she was fuming. She pulled David aside and gave him a strict and memorable lecture.

"Don't you ever, ever, EVER, go into a girls' bathroom again! Not even for the littlest reason! A girl should never go into a boys' bathroom, so you should never go into theirs! Ever!"

Did I mention she said "ever"?

I let my writer hat creep onto my head for a moment, and I wished that David was one of my characters. I would take this situation in his early childhood and burn it into his memory. I imagined David as a high schooler in gym class, playing basketball with his classmates when the ball bounces out of the gym and into an adjacent room. The girls' room.

"Go get it, David," someone says. "No one's looking."

But he remembers kindergarten too well. Don't you EVER.

That's the thing about working with kids. I often wonder how much of what they're experiencing now is going to stay with them years down the road. And when I build my characters, I also take a glimpse into their childhoods to see what significant moments have affected them. It might not be as silly as going into the opposite bathroom, but then again, we as adults do remember the strangest things!

Any thoughts on specific childhood memories, either in your own life or (if you're a writer) in your characters'? Writers, have you given any thought to your adult characters' childhood?
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