Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Ghost Tour is Coming . . . and you don't want to miss it!

THE GHOST TOUR for my friend and crit partner Carolee Dean!!!

Begins Next Wednesday, October 3rd

right here on this blog! 

Scroll down for all the fabulous blog stops and a myriad of jewelry prizes!

Coming October 3, 2012
The FORGET ME NOT Ghost Tour.

Visit the following exciting blogs to learn about the ghosts of Raven Valley High School, get sneak peaks of the poems, and win special book themed jewelry and other prizes (available to residents in the US and Canada only).

GHOST POSTS will go live on the dates below but until then you can check out these cool blog sites.

And be sure to watch the book trailer!

October 3
The Nine Circles of Raven Valley High (Poem):
Discover the connection between the Nine Circles of Raven Valley High and Dante's Inferno-Purgatorio. Discover which ghosts live where, and why.

Blogger: Kimberley Griffiths Little
Link: Kimberley's Wanderings

Prize: Forget Me Not bracelet (by Sherri Erler)

October 5
Paranormal Activity Video:
Watch Video footage of the Girls in the Stacks as they travel to RVHS looking for ghosts.

Bloggers: Girls in the Stacks
Link: Girls in the Stacks

Prize: Raven Necklace (by Shauna Mellady)

October 8
The History of Raven Valley High:
Find out about the history of the school as a convent, military institute, and private university, and then discover why it sat vacant for ten years.

Blogger: Brenda Drake

Prize: Raven Skull Earrings (By Shauna Mellady)

October 10
Interview with Elijah McCall:
Explore his fascination with Shakespeare (he spent a month speaking in iambic pentameter) and learn why he can see ghosts.

Blogger: Elana Johnson
Link: Elana's Blog

Prize: Shakespeare Mask Necklace (by Debi Hennigan)

October 12
Exclusive interview with the Ghost of Ernest Hemingway:
Ally Cassell records her experiences in a moleskine journal, just like Ernest used to do. Find out why he's the only one she can confide in.

Blogger: Lisa Schroeder
Link: Lisa's Blog

Prize: A Hand Painted Raven Journal (by Kristen Hodges)

October 16
Poe-Pac Mash Up:
A "Raven" inspired poem Ally wrote about 2Pac as a substitute teacher.

Blogger: Damaris Cardinali
Link: Good Choice Reading

Prize: 2Pac Poster and Poem (artwork by Christopher Jochens)

October 17
Raven Mania: Learn interesting pieces of Raven Mythology. Discover the names of the ravens that belonged to Odin, the Norse god of death and poetry and find out why they were referred to as Observation and Memory.

Blogger: Heidi
Link:Open Book Society
Prize: Observation and Memory Glass Bead Necklaces (by Debi Hennigen)

October 22
Interview with main character Ally Cassell:
Find out how she ended up trapped on the hallway and her plans for getting out.

Blogger: Kari Olsen
Link: A Good Addiction

Prize: Raven Feather Book Mark (by Shauna Mellady)

And if you live in Albuquerque, please come to the book launch party:

Alamosa Books
8810 Holly Ave. NE
Albuquerque, NM
Saturday, Oct. 27
6:00-7:00 p.m.
music, food, costume contest,
raven trivia challenge, and prizes

Doesn't it sound awesome and spooky?? I mean, an interview with Hemingway and hunting for ghosts!!!

Mark your calendars! (And I've read the manuscript while Carolee was writing the book and it's FABULOUS!!! She is a rising literary rock-star!)


Monday, September 24, 2012

GIRL POWER!!! The Historical Fiction Version!

This piece appeared last Friday on the blog, From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors


Girl Power! The Historical Fiction Version

Girl Power, huh? You may be thinking, girls didn’t have much, if any, “power” over their lives many decades and centuries ago. Weren’t girls back in the Middle Ages, The Renaissance period, even the 1700 and 1800s oppressed, without choice, without the right to vote, even? Marriages were arranged, ownership of land and businesses not allowed by law. Women couldn’t and didn’t work outside the home (unless you were a maid or a governess, and then mostly for room and board and a pittance salary).
I still remember when the marvelous novel, Catherine, Called Birdy was published. Of course, it won the Newbery Medal and the Golden Kite Award for 1995, and it is a gorgeously written, emotional and heartfelt book about a girl’s life in Middle Ages England – a time period not written about much until Karen Cushman came along who had spent years researching this era. Catherine (or Birdy as she is nicknamed because she keeps birds) is a teenage girl about to be married off to a curmudgeonly old man – and ends up rebelling because she does not *want* to be married to a curmudgeonly old man with nose hair. She makes those wishes known in various ways, using her wit and manipulation to get out of the marriage her father is trying to arrange throughout the entire novel.

BUT. I also remember that there was quite a bit of discussion when the book was published about Catherine’s rebellious and outspoken personality by those who said it wasn’t realistic as it could be because girls of that era were – 99.9% of the time – not given any options or choices in their lives, no matter the aspect. Catherine should have–or would have–rolled over and married the slug.

I remember thinking that same thing about the novel “way back when” myself (I think I was easily influenced by others!), but my opinion has been changing due to more books, movies, and information that continues to come out about exceptional women in our world’s history . . . and maybe that is due to the fact that times have changed because we are talking more about women and their importance! Which is a good thing!

It’s true that back in the Middle Ages up until the 20th century women couldn’t vote, could not own land/property/business, inherited practically nothing from their fathers, couldn’t work other than some sort of housekeeping, and had little say in their lives. At the same time, history is also FULL of examples of women and girls who did remarkable things with their lives. Women who broke away from the norm. Women who were daring and adventurous and traveled and had careers in the arts, in exploration, in science, etc.

Just a very few examples of women who had great influence over their lives and/or their countries, even the world:
Marie Cure
Nellie Bly
Joan of Arc
Clara Barton
Florence Nightingale
Amelia Earhart
Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan
Wives of U.S. Presidents
Mother Theresa
The Queens of Great Britain, Europe, and Egypt!

Countless pioneer and pilgrim women who sailed and traveled and worked the land and fought hardships of every kind over the last few hundred years.

Missionary women throughout history who traveled and lived in every part of the world rendering aid, humanitarian efforts as well as education.

Famous Women in History

Top 100 Most Famous Women in History, Compiled by a Girl Scout!

The problem is that most women were never recognized, respected or lauded for their accomplishments.

And we’ve all heard the saying: “Behind every good man, there’s a good woman!” (Examples in this link in a USA Today article about upcoming movies where they focused on the wife as much as the successful man) 

Most men accomplished much of what they succeeded at because of their invisible wife/woman who supported, encouraged, and usually took risks right along beside them.

Today, more than ever there are dozens, nay, even hundreds of novels as well as non-fiction books published about the lives of girls and teens who influenced the world in some way, or made a better life for themselves and their families.

Carolyn Meyer is probably the most prolific historical fiction writer of our time. She has published well over 50 books about girls who made an impact on the world. Go to the link to see some of her books about girls/teens. And she continues to publish 1-2 novels per year so keep an eye on her!

Then go to your library or bookstore and look/ask for more titles.

Don’t  forget to check out new non-fiction, too, with updated information never told before, like the amazing Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming. 

I haven’t even begun to touch the surface of this amazing category with inspiring and true life stories of real women who actually lived and did change the world.

Have fun taking a research and shopping trip of your own – for yourself, or the girls and boys in your life.

Brand new Non-fiction published this week: STRIKE! Mother Jones and the Colorado Coal Field War (circa 1913) by Lois Ruby.

In the comments, please share your favorite girl/woman in history and a book title about them. If there isn’t one written about them, then go write it yourself! What are you waiting for? 

Kimberley Griffiths Little‘s third middle-grade novel,When the Butterflies Came, will be published April, 2013. She will make her Young Adult debut with Harpercollins Fall of 2013. Meanwhile, she’s busy writing the next book for Scholastic and trying not to eat too many chocolate chip cookies!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fan Mail Friday - a budding Artist's rendition

Last week I went to our local SCBWI chapter's monthly schmooze (which are always fantastic, inspiring, and so much fun) and one of the gals there brought a book her daughter created that was inspired by my recent novel, Circle of Secrets.

Last year this Mom and daughter came to my book launch for Circle of Secrets and I got to meet them, chat a bit, and sign a book for them. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the girl's mother much at our local writer's events in the past year so I was completely overwhelmed when she brought this book her daughter had made - and gave it to me to keep! 

This very talented 3rd grader wrote a synopsis for each page of art, telling the story in her own words. I love seeing it come to life in her mind - so much like it is in my own head.

Isn't it gorgeous? I was so stunned and thrilled and amazed. What an absolute treat!




Friday, September 14, 2012

Fan Mail Friday - the Grown-Up Version

First, thank you all so much for your wonderful notes of support and comfort and strength in this time of great trial and suffering in my family.  I truly can't tell you how much I appreciate it.
A little bit of success: I got another chapter written (very short, but who's counting, right?!) I also finished reading a novel and a research book. And I got a massage!!! 
All I need now is a good night's sleep so I can stop yawning so much. Or falling asleep at my desk. 
Fan Mail Friday from an adult - which completely surprised me. Well, I've actually had several emails and messages in the past, but it's always such a delight and a great thrill. 
1. From a woman named Lila: "Wow, this book (CIRCLE OF SECRETS) is AWESOME! I wish it was around when I was eleven! Just had to give you a major compliment on this. Very cool! I'm about a hundred pages through and I hope to finish it today.  When I picked it up, I could not put it down. There is so much emotion to Shelby (MC). I was so much like that at that age. I look back and laugh now but your story brought it back so much. I have no idea how you got so much into your characters thoughts, but it just floored me. And I read a lot of books!"  
Wow, thank you, Lila!!! 
Here's some wild and interesting backstory: CIRCLE OF SECRETS is actually a book that I wrote twice over from start to finish - full 200+ page stories that are completely different from each other
Here's how it happened: I wrote a full draft of a manuscript based on a proposal (a two-page detailed synopsis), revised it for several months, turned it into my editor with excitement, but the manuscript that I was so proud of with some great twists and turns was NOT what she'd been hoping from me. She didn't think the character was very likable. My character was whiny and treated her mother (they've been estranged for a year) badly. She also had trouble with some of the plot, and thought it was too old for a middle-grade novel.
After an in-depth talk with both my editor and agent discussing many aspects of the manuscript I knew it wasn't salvageable in its present plot form. I knew I had to start over. The voice was all wrong. The plot was complicated and all the pieces too tightly interwoven so I decided to start completely over from Page One. SCARY!!!  
There was one piece of advice that I wrote down from my editor that kept resonating in my mind as I began all over again. She wanted Shelby Jayne to be more like a 10-11 year old. Scared, hurting and vulnerable. After much pondering and daydreaming and thinking about her, I was able to go to that place with her and I'm so glad I did. I wrote the next draft in less than 3 weeks and Shelby was there on the page. Her voice came pouring out. And my editor loved the new manuscript! But I knew that the only way I was able to get to that 11-year-old true voice was keeping my editor's words in my head all through the new draft as I wrote every day: "Scared, hurting, and vulnerable."
I revised once, added another 15,000 words (the first draft was a bit spare) and cleaning up, moving some scenes around, etc. Then my editor and I revised together, went through copy edits and were doing First Pass Pages 4 months later. It was a whirlwind! I was terrified the whole thing stunk. I was sure there were huge holes in the plot, things I'd missed. It was all too fast, but my editor kept assuring me it was a beautiful book, and that she'd cried.
CIRCLE OF SECRETS ended up with fabulous reviews in all the review journals, a starred review in School Library Journal, and so many wonderful blogger and online reviews. 
Sometimes writing can be magical - even with a ton of hard work! :-)  
*Sometimes our readers confirm that, too. This message is really meaningful to hear if the story takes adults back to their childhood and brings the growing up experience rushing back in a flood of remembrance.*

Which is exactly what writing does for me. 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Deadlines? Did anyone say Deadline? Escaping into the Open . . .

I had a manuscript due yesterday. Well, not exactly. It's due to my publisher in October, but back in early August I had my schedule planned out to get the first draft completed sometime this week - and if all went well, maybe even by September 8th. Yeah, yesterday.

The reality? I only have one chapter finished. And I keep rewriting it over and over again, trying not to hate it. (Oy!)

Life happened. Life got in the way. Life--yeah. That.

It's a bit panicky-feeling to think I'm three weeks behind. With 2nd round of revisions looming for my Harpercollins YA and Book 2 of the trilogy to draft no later than October 25th, too.

Did I say I'm panicked? Naw. I meant, TERRIFIED!

I'm also adding something new to the schedule. A trip back to San Diego next week to see my baby brother who has been so ill with brain cancer. I was there over the summer, but I can't put off seeing him again. It's that serious. And that makes me crazy terrified and emotional every single day.

One moment I'm gushing tears and sobbing at my desk.

The next I'm trying to keep my mother's and sisters' spirits lifted.

Or I'm numb. In shock that this is actually happening to my family.

Every day I'm hugging my babies tight. Or escaping into a book because I have to stop weeping and if I keep thinking about this I'll truly go ballistic; throwing things and swearing.

And then guilt rushes over me for whining and complaining when my brother has lost all ability to do anything, even to speak, the cancer has taken over so badly. And yet, he's fully aware of everything that is happening to him, as his life and all the things he loves have been taken away the past year. His music, his guitar, his books, his gaming friends, his navy life he was so good at. He's spent most of the last 6 months in the hospital trying treatments that don't work--or give him terrible side-effects. Frustration, disappointment that no treatments have worked, depression, anger and fear are daily battles for him as well as his wife and three sons who are so young (the twins in Kindergarten). Ironically--unbelievably--my brother was only 5 years old, the baby of 6 siblings, when we lost our father to a tragic accident (plane crash). And yet, it struck me today as I worshiped during church services and heard some incredibly inspiring talks, that he will be the first of all of us to see our father again--a father he barely remembers--on the other side of heaven's veil. I wish I could see that reunion. Father and son embracing, weeping tears of joy, and talking, talking, talking, catching up on all that they both have missed these last 30+ years.

Writing has, many times in the past, given me an escape. A way to cope with life's trials and heartaches. I think I'm ready to go there this week. I hope so. My character, Larissa Renaud, of Bayou Bridge, Louisiana, is reaching out to me from her own heartaches and scars that have come from many sides. And she will be called to do something big and wonderful--and terrible, too. She will learn that her family is in danger. Terrible danger that could kill her mother, her baby sister, and herself, and she will be able to save them. And, as she becomes stronger, the heartache and scars and loneliness will diminish. They won't matter so much because of the person she discovers that she truly is deep inside.

Faith and sacrifice are always stronger than fear and doubt.

I leave you with a writing quote from the beautiful book, Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg:

"All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation--it is the Self escaping into the open."
--E.B. White

I hope I can escape into my Open this week, and write true and write strong. 

Thank you, Dad, for giving me a love of literature, a love of words, a love of writing--your own dream of publishing a book never fulfilled.


Friday, September 07, 2012

3x5 Card Plotting - Questions and Inspiration!

Over the 20 years of writing I've done, I've tried a lot of different methods for writing a book and trying to organize the brainwork it takes before I actually sit down to DRAFT from start to finish.

Things like:

Chapter by Chapter Outlining.
Spiral notebooks. Computer Word Files. Pads of paper. Loose-leaf notebooks
Lengthy Character Sketches
Seat-of-the-pants drafting 
First Draft in 30 Days Method by Karen Weisner 

This last method, the "First Draft in 30 Days" was actually fun to do. The author includes all the charts and templates and specific instructions on how it works at the back of the book - and it *does* work. But, alas, I only used it once, on my ancient Egypt novel. The Egyptian thriller had so many plot points and characters and it was 100,000 words so it helped to organize the story for me. But I got bogged down at times in so much detail and so many templates to flip through. BUT for those of you who are first starting to write or need some fun structure, or you're getting bogged down trying to organize your thoughts and plan out a whole book for the first time this IS a really great method to try so check out the book!

 I find the 3x5 card method easiest for me. And I do want to emphasize that it's NOT a detailed outline. The time I used to spend on detailed outlines was time, I realized, that I could have been actually drafting the real thing. Most of my 3x5 cards only have 1-2 sentences on them. Sometimes just phrases to remind me of my ideas. Or a short, brief list of ideas or character traits. It's really a brainstorming method. Ideas can come out of order and then be put in order in your stack after you've got 20-50 cards and lay them out to organize them.

It also makes the actual drafting from Page 1 - Page 200+ nowhere near as daunting because you're not having to thumb through pages and pages of notes in several locations, either hard copy or in Word documents and files and notebooks. The jumping around can become very confusing and jumbly in my mind.

And once you've finished your 3x5 card brainstorming, the whole book is sitting in only ONE small stack of cards. And you can always add more or take away. All you have to do is focus on the top card each day when you sit down to draft. Or more cards if the writing is going well and you want to write more. I find that this method takes away the fear of the first draft in spades.

A week ago I got an email from Joan Stradling that made my day. Here's what she said after trying the 3x5 card method for the first time:

"I got an idea for a new MG and have been using your 3x5 index card plotting method. You've explained it before, but when I watched your vlog at WriteOnCon, it finally clicked! Sometimes I'm a slow learner, I guess.

"Anyway, I've been madly writing on the 3x5 cards since yesterday (the ideas have just been flowing as I write them out on the cards)! Usually I start by writing ideas down in a notebook as they come to me, but this time I went directly for the index cards. I have to tell you, I'm really loving it!! I can already see how this will benefit me as I go to write the book. In my notebook method, I get lost and have to flip through pages to find what I'm looking for, and if an idea isn't something I want, I have to scribble it out or rewrite the whole notebook page without it (cause I hate seeing the scribble on the page).

"But with the index cards, if I don't like an idea I've written down, I just take it out of the pile! YAY!! And I can rearrange my index cards to the order I want them so I don't have to flip through pages of a notebook. You're a genius!!!

"So, I just wanted to let you know that I'm a new 3x5 index card convert!" 

Here's what I wrote back to Joan:

"I'm so excited that you're cookin' MAGIC with those 3x5 cards. There's something about the tangible cards and the chance to shuffle and just write bunches of notes to yourself. It really IS a type of personal brainstorming. I often brainstorm with my long-time crit friend, Carolee Dean when I'm first thinking about a new book idea just to make sure it doesn't stink or won't work, but when it comes down to scene by scene planning and getting the arc of the plot in place the brainstorming happens with my cards. Even more than when I write the synopsis for my editor. The nuts and bolts are in the 2-3 page synopsis, but the play-by-play action (even in just a sentence or two) happens when I sit there and just start writing stuff down from my computer file. It's amazing the new ideas or plot twists that will start racing through my mind and sometimes I can't write fast enough." 

Joan's follow-up:

"I can't believe how much easier it is to plot and plan with the flexibility of the cards. I plotted the whole thing in the last few days. I'm all ready to start writing now, and I can't believe it! I haven't even touched the notebook. I guess I'll use that for the synopsis and query planning when I'm ready for that step."

So, dear friends, I hope this post helps a bit more!

Happy Friday!


P.S. Questions? Please ask away! Maybe I'll even get brave and show you some of my actual, scribbled cards in a blog - let me know if you want to take a peek! 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

More 3x5 Card Plotting is Here!!!

For all of my new followers (or "older" ones, too!) here is my original post on 3x5 Card Plotting from about a year ago:

And here is the video about it from WriteOnCon from three weeks ago:

I promised more tips and details so here we go!

As you'll see,this is definitely part of The Hero's Journey Method of getting ideas for your novel, defining your characters, the ARC of the story, as well as high and low points. Once you get your 3x5 card plotting done, you'll see all/most of these elements in your cards/scenes.

Going over this checklist can be a great way to make sure you don't have holes - or to identify where you might have holes in your cards. They do NOT have to all be *carded* and filled in and identified when you start drafting because ideas will continue to come to you as you begin writing and the characters take off and come to life. 

**In fact, just yesterday as I was gathering my cards to start drafting my new book, an epiphany came to me as to how I could make a plot element become extra motivation to solve the mystery/problem for my main character as well as make it part of her inner, emotional element. I'd been wondering if I even needed that particular plot & character element for my MC's mother (she's 6 months pregnant), but now it's going to work even better in the story's mystery and plot as well as a much needed element for that elusive emotional residue. It's not just a peripheral, "I'll throw this in just because it might be kinda cool, or I need to flesh out the Mother character". Now that element is NEEDED to make the story work on so many more levels. Cool, eh? I was pretty excited. And all because I'd had my cards spread out on the rug and was picking them up in order. Our subconsciousness (The Muse) keeps on working and figuring things out.

- Opening image

- Meet the hero or heroine
- Hero/ine’s inner and outer desire.

- Hero/ine's past wounds, problems
- Hero/ine’s arc
- Inciting Incident/Call to Adventure
- Meet the antagonist (and/or introduce a mystery, which is what you do when you’re going to keep your antagonist hidden to reveal at the end)

- State the theme/what’s the story about?

- Allies

- Mentor
 (possibly. May not have one or may be revealed later in the story).
- Love interest 
 (may or may not work for MG books, of course!)
- Plant/Reveal (or: Set ups and Payoffs)

- Hope/Fear (and Stakes)

- Time Clock (possibly. May not have one or may be revealed later in the story)

- Central Story Question
 or Problem 

- Crossing the Threshold/ Into the Special World
- Threshold Guardian (maybe)
- Hero/ine’s Plan
- Antagonist’s Plan
- Training Sequence
- Series of Tests
- Picking up new Allies
- Assembling the Team
- Attacks by the Antagonist (whether or not the Hero/ine recognizes these as being from the antagonist)
- In a detective story, questioning witnesses, lining up and eliminating suspects, following clues.


- Completely changes the game
- Locks the hero/ine into a situation or action
- Can be a huge revelation
- Can be a huge defeat
- Can be a “now it’s personal” loss

- Recalibrating – after the shock or defeat of the game-changer in the Midpoint, the hero/ine must Revamp The Plan and try a New Mode of Attack.
- Escalating Actions/ Obsessive Drive
- Hard Choices and Crossing The Line (immoral actions by the main character to get what s/he wants)
- Loss of Key Allies (possibly because of the hero/ine’s obsessive actions, possibly through death or injury by the antagonist).
- A Ticking Clock (can happen anywhere in the story)
- Reversals and Revelations/Twists
- The Long Dark Night of the Soul and/or Visit to Death (aka All Is Lost)
- Often can be a final revelation before the end game: the knowledge of who the opponent really is. 

**Now we're coming up on the Final 25-30% of the book:

-Answers the Central Question
-Final Battle and Resolution. It can often be one continuous sequence – the chase and confrontation, or confrontation and chase. There may be a final preparation for battle, or it might be done on the fly.
-The hero will make a new, FINAL PLAN, based on the new information and revelations.
-Final showdown between protagonist and antagonist. It is often divided into two sequences:

1- Getting there (Storming the castle)
2- The final battle itself

- Thematic Location - often a visual and literal representation of the Hero/ine’s Greatest Nightmare
- The protagonist’s character change
- The antagonist’s character change (if any)
- Possibly allies’ character changes and/or gaining of desire

- There could also be one last huge reveal or twist, or series of reveals and twists, or series of final payoffs you've been saving (as in BACK TO THE FUTURE or IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE).

**I've got one of these twists in my book CIRCLE OF SECRETS and my upcoming  WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME. I've got one planned in this new book, too, which will be a final scene or an Epilogue.

- RESOLUTION: A glimpse into the New Way of Life that the heroine will be living after this whole ordeal and all she’s learned from it.

Hope this outline helps in your own plotting or 3x5 card scribbling, throw them on the floor, and pick them up again adventure!

Final Installment (at least for now) on 3x5 Card Plotting tomorrow!

Thoughts? Ideas? Questions? Fire away!!!



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