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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Spring to Me

Spring, to me, is the unfurling of purple irises,
Like me, brought from my childhood home and transplanted to my grown-up one.
Spring is the scent of lilacs right outside my front door,
Of wisteria, dangling from the trees, so lovely and bright, I forget it doesn't belong.
Spring is dogwoods in delicate, white and pink, bloom,
Of the mulititude of Eastern Redbuds, lining streets and backyards as if each branch were coated in mauve.
Spring is baby chicks, so soft and delicate, they fit in my hand.
Spring is my world being born again.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Giveaway: BURNING GLASS by Kathryn Purdie

In honor of Katie Purdie's release day, I'm giving away a signed copy of BURNING GLASS.
This girl is the reason I started writing. We'd been in the same apartment complex while our husbands went to school and had grown really close. When she told me she was going to start writing, I had to start writing, too. I'd always wanted to, but it had only been a dream, that is until Katie inspired me to put pen to paper to "get to work."

It's been wonderful watching and reading Katie's amazing, lyrical writing. She tells powerful stories with complicated characters that I am happy to spend 100K plus pages in their worlds, struggles, and triumphs.

Sonya in BURNING GLASS is no exception. There's mystery, intrigue, the struggle to know her own heart, and an antagonist that I have a definite crush on. Sonya can feel other people's emotions and sometimes struggles to separate her own emotions from others. It can lead to some poor decision making, but also, to having the power of protecting the emperor (whether she wants to, or not). The comparison of "Red Queen meets Shadow and Bone" is spot on.  (click here for  the full Goodreads description).

One lucky winner will receive a SIGNED! copy of BURNING GLASS, but I hope everyone goes out and buys and reads this incredible book. Isn't the copy so pretty?!? You want one, you know it! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Author Interview with Paula Stokes

Paula Stokes of VENOM series, THE ART OF LAINEY, and the newly released LIARS, INC. let me interview her on Sporty Girl Books. I hope you'll check it out! click here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Author Interview with Dianne K Salerni on The Inquisitor's Mark

I am thrilled to have the incredible Dianne K. Salerni on my blog today on the release of The Inquisitor's Mark, the second book in her Eight Day series from Harper Collins! Not only have I learned a ton of craft from Dianne on her blog, but I've gobbled up each book she's published. I was especially excited when I heard of The Eighth Day series because I have an 11-year-old son and I'm always looking for good MG books that aren't all farts and/or super creepy. I reviewed (and loved) the first book here.

It's rare that I read a book in the middle of a series and like it even more than the first one. Too often the middle books drag or I feel like they're simply getting us to the next book and don't have their own story. Not so with The Inquisitor's Mark. Dianne nailed it. This is my favorite book of hers yet. My favorite characters from book one are back (Jax, the Donovans, and Mrs. Crandall) along with a new cast of people, these ones unfortunately related to Jax and part of the Duluc clan. The Inquisitor's Mark is full of fast-paced adventure, humor, real dilemmas, and new bits of magic that fit seamlessly into the Eighth Day world (<3<3<3 the brownie holes, and no, I won't explain what they are, you'll have to read the book!). I gobbled this book in two sittings and recommend it to everyone-especially if you enjoy Arthurian Legends. (But read The Eighth Day first.)

From Goodreads:
After the all-out Eighth Day war in Mexico, Jax, Riley, and Evangeline have gone into hiding. There are still rogue Transitioners and evil Kin lords who want to use Riley, a descendant of King Arthur, and Evangeline, a powerful wizard with bloodlines to Merlin, to get control over the Eighth Day.
So when Finn Ambrose, a mysterious stranger, contacts Jax claiming to be his uncle, Jax’s defenses go up—especially when Finn tells Jax that he’s holding Jax’s best friend, Billy, hostage. To rescue Billy and keep Riley and Evangeline out of the fray, Jax sneaks off to New York City on his own. But once there, he discovers a surprising truth: Finn is his uncle and Jax is closely related to the Dulacs—a notoriously corrupt and dangerous Transitioner clan who have been dying to get their hands on Riley and Evangeline. And family or not, these people will stop at nothing to get what they want.

With suspense, action, and intrigue lurking around every corner, this fast-paced fantasy series will be a welcome addition for fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.

1. Did you know that there’s a bookstore called Eighth Day Books in Wichita, Kansas? Wouldn’t that be a fun place to go for a book signing? Can you tell us about your favorite experience at a book signing?
That would be a great place to sign Eighth Day books! I’ve seen the name come up on Twitter while searching for my book title, and my sister does live in Kansas – but nowhere near Wichita, I’m afraid.
My favorite book signing experiences have been ones where kids showed up who’d already read The Eighth Day. (This has happened twice.) What was awesome about these events was that while other attendees asked me general questions about writing and my books, these kids had very specific questions regarding their favorite characters, their favorite parts of the story – and they grilled me for information about the second book, The Inquisitor’s Mark.

2. I imagine that would be wonderful. Kids ask the best questions and definitely put my on my toes. When you wrote your first draft of The Eighth Day, you wrote it as a YA novel and then changed in to MG. Can you tell us how you knew that Jax’s story fit better in a MG world?
As soon as my agent said, “This is really a MG story,” I knew it was true. Part of me had felt all along that I should be writing a MG story, but because my prior two books were YA, I thought I was “branded.” (I now think branding is nonsense.) One of the reasons I knew my agent was correct was the reaction my 5th grade students had to the premise. They knew that I had written about a séance fraud (We Hear the Dead) and a peculiar cemetery (The Caged Graves) and they were interested to hear about those books. But from the moment they learned I was writing a book about a secret day of the week, they pestered me relentlessly to read it to them – which I couldn’t do, since there were inappropriate bits.
I probably wasn’t off the phone with my agent ten minutes before I went diving into the document to slash those inappropriate bits and start making other changes to ready this story for the right audience. (And yes, I did read the revised version to my students, to their delight.)

3. It's great that your class could be a part of your writing. I like that their names are in the acknowledgements. You’ve talked a great deal on your blog about your writing process. As a fellow pantser, I’ve appreciated your insight into your personal process and how your writing style had to change for writing a series. Could you tell us the hardest and the best part about having to write more from an outline?
I’m scratching my head over the “best” part. I’m not sure I’ve found one.
I wouldn’t say I’m a pantster as much as a dot-to-dotter. I know the beginning, the end, and a few high points/events in between when I start writing. Getting from each dot to the next dot is the actual adventure – and the pantstering part. As for this series, what I’ve done so far is try to write up an “outline” for my editor that is really only the “dots” prettied up so that I look like I know what I’m doing.
Unfortunately, this strategy has (so far) failed me for the outline I must write to propose the optioned fourth and fifth books of the series. I am stuck on something important that’s needed for a potential Book 4, and while I would usually “discover” it during the writing of the first draft, I can’t do that here, and it’s worrying me greatly.  I have to figure it out before writing. That’s the hardest part.

4. I'm confident that you'll be able to figure it out first, and soon. You recently began writing full-time and moved away from teaching fifth grade. Now that you have more writing time, do you find it a challenge to be as focused as you were when doing both jobs? What do you miss most about the classroom and what are you mostly grateful for about being able to write full-time?
What I’m most grateful for is that I left a stressful situation where I could no longer teach the way my heart told me was right and where my expertise was no longer valued by The Powers That Be.
That and the fact that I can sleep in late, then work all day in my pajamas.
I miss the interaction and connection with the kids most of all. I see my old students when I attend school events for my own daughters, and there’s always a pang of regret.
Focus is something I struggled with for the first several months. Also, I didn’t understand that I was suffering from the stress of a life change – even though that life change was basically a good thing. Change is still change, and it’s stressful.
I’ve gotten better at viewing my workday as a fluid schedule, just like my classroom was. In 25 years, I never fell into a pattern of  “It’s 10:17 on Monday so we must be doing Spelling.” We spent each day doing whatever needed to be done, rather than adhere to a strict schedule. It’s the same with writing. One day might be devoted to promotional activities; another might be divided between drafting and research or critiquing. I do what needs to be done.
The biggest problem is knocking off at a reasonable hour. In teaching, I never had a problem deciding not to grade a stack of papers because I was tired. Writing full-time, I often push past exhaustion when I shouldn’t.

5. In book 2, The Inquisitor’s Mark, you use a dual POV to tell your story. We still hear from somewhat defiant and adventuresome Jax, but the new voice is Dorian, a member of the corrupt Dulac clan living in luxury in NYC. I’m currently writing a manuscript with a dual POV. Any advice you could share on writing distinct characters and keeping your readers clear on whose POV they’re reading? On a side note, Dorian was my favorite character. I hope he plays a role in book 3!
When writing dual POV, you need to keep in mind whose perspective each event should best be told from – that is, which one provides the more interesting narrative. I know some authors alternate regularly. I don’t.  In the Eighth Day series, Jax gets POV in the majority of the chapters, while a secondary character (which is different in each book) chimes in irregularly whenever it’s appropriate.
I got some grief from beta readers over the chapter where Jax meets his nefarious relatives because I wrote it from Dorian’s POV. The beta readers felt that Jax should get POV for such a momentous occasion, but I knew they were wrong. (Sorry, beta readers.)  Writing from Dorian’s perspective was the right thing to do because – in this instance – my MC Jax was the outsider, the stranger. I felt it was more important to describe this meeting from the POV of someone who knew all the family’s terrible secrets and who was unsure how he felt about dragging his long-lost cousin into the mess. Plus, when Dorian met Jax, he saw this tough, brave kid worth looking up to. Jax doesn’t think of himself as tough or brave (compared to Riley), so it was important for readers to see him through Dorian’s eyes.
I taught my 5th grade students analogies, and so it was very rewarding when one of them told me, “Jax is to Dorian what Riley is for Jax.”
My advice: Don’t go for the easy when switching POV. Go for the most interesting.
And yes, we will see Dorian again in Book 3!

6. This answer was precisely what I needed. I had added some scenes so I could go "back and forth" more evenly, but the story was dragging. And I completely agree on Dorian being the POV when Jax met her relatives. It was perfect. As someone who is part of a big, close-knit family, the theme of the family ties was a strong one for me—most particularly as I followed Dorian’s story. I learned so much more about Grunsday and what is possible for Kin and Transitioners, alike. What was your favorite new element to develop in book 2?
Oh, it was definitely Jax’ s estranged family!  Jax is simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by them. One minute, they’re like the family he longs for – the aunt who wants to feed him and wash his clothes, the uncle whose smile is just like his late father’s, the embarrassing grandmother who wants to pinch his cheeks … and the next minute, they’re trying to talk him into betraying his best friends. The Ambroses are not all bad, but they’re not the good guys by a long shot!

7. If you could be a Transitioner what mark would you bear?
I need Riley’s voice of command, because my children don’t do their chores the way they are supposed to.

8. I could use that one too. Nice choice. Anything else you would like to share with us?
Just that this book was a lot of fun to write – for all the reasons above, plus the chance to bring back Jax’s friend Billy and give him a bigger role to play. (AND that thing Jax does in Central Park with Riley, which was simultaneously thrilling and awful to write.)

Fast five:
Last thing you drank
Vodka martini. Drinking it now, in fact.
Last thing you ate
Artichoke hearts straight out of the can.
Last thing you listened to
I Just Wanna Run by The Downtown Fiction
Last book you read
Jackaby by William Ritter
Last movie you saw
Stardust with Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Robert De Niro (yes, an old one but really, really fun)

I LOVE Stardust. It's so fun to have you on the blog. I hope you have a wonderful release day!
Where to find Dianne: website, twitter, Facebook
Where to find The Inquisitor's Mark: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N
DIANNE K. SALERNI is the author of The Eighth Day fantasy series (HarperCollins) and YA historical novels, The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH) and We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks). Dianne was a public school teacher for 25 years before leaving the profession to spend more time hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2000 year-old pyramids in the name of book research.

I'm lucky to be interviewing 2 incredible authors today. To read my interview with Sara B. Larson on Ignite, the the second book in her YA series, click here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

REMAKE by Ilima Todd (Giveaway Time)

Although REMAKE hit the shelves and Amazon pre-orders early, today is the official release date for this beauty.
 I told my WIFYR class that when they all became famous I'd post the "I knew her when photo." So, here's the shot of the two of us from 2011. *Go, Plums!*

Today Deseret Book's Fall flyer came in the mail and it gave me chills to see her book on the teen page. Read this book. Buy it if you haven't already and melt as you read about Nine and Kia and Theron and Freedom, or not so Freedom.

If you're a lucky commenter, you can win a copy from me. And I might just be able to twist her arm and get her to sign it for you.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Middle Grade Monday with Author Gayle Rosengren

I'm so honored that Gayle was willing to come on Robin Hall Writes. You will love her, if you don't already, after reading this interview. Her debut, What the Mood Said released from Putman/Penguin Young Readers Feb. 20, 2014.
Okay, let's get to it:)

RH: As I mentioned, I found your book at the library and had to read it because of the cover. I'm mainly a YA reader, but I dabble with MG when my children have favorites or one catches my fancy. And that's exactly what your debut did for me. Were you thrilled with your cover?
GR: I was blown away by my cover!  As a former librarian I know how important a good cover is to attracting a reader and one of the first things I said to my editor when she called to say Putnam wanted to publish my book--after some excited babbles of delight and thanks--was "Please, please give me a good cover!" (That's a direct quote.)  I don't know if that's what spurred the amazingly lovely cover that MOON received or if it would have been every bit as beautiful if I'd said nothing, but I am deliriously happy with it.  I recently saw my second book's cover and it is amazing, too.  The art department at Putnam/Penguin Young Readers is nothing short of fabulous!

RH: Could you tell us a little bit about the process of creating your cover (if you were able to give suggestions or if Putnam did it all, etc.)?  
GR: Putnam did ask for any photos I might have of the farmhouse, but other than that, I think they had a vision from the beginning of what the art should look like.  My editor, Susan Kochan, worked closely with the art director to have artwork that would evoke the feeling of Esther's enthusiasm for life and her love of the farm, and I think they captured it perfectly as well as beautifully.

RH: Did Jonathan Bean, who did the illustrations at the start of each chapter (which I love!) also draw the cover? His drawing style fit so well with the feel of your writing.
GR: No, Mr. Bean didn't create the cover art.  That was the work of talented artist/illustrator Zdenko Basic.  The chapter art by Jonathan Bean was a thrilling surprise that came later.  I agree that his black and white art showing the seasons and settings--Chicago or farm--are a perfect match for my story.  

RH: When reading What the Moon Said, I could picture Esther and her mother rather well. I come from a family of five girls and two boys, and the family dynamic you created felt real to me. I especially liked the letters Esther would write to Julia. I felt for Esther and her need for her mother to demonstrate her love. I read on Literary Rambles that Esther came about a little from how you imagined your mom at ten and then bits of you trickled in and then she became her own self. How many revisions did it take to really discover Esther and her family?
GR: Amazingly, not all that many.  It wasn't so much that I changed Esther's character as that I allowed it to evolve and grow over  the course of the year, much as it would have in real life.  The character I had the most difficult time with was Ma, because I needed to show her through Esther's eyes yet embed hints (for example the information Julia shares in a letter about how Ma blamed herself for the death of her little sister who resembled Esther so much) as to why she might hold herself so aloof from Esther.  I needed to make her brusque without making her seem mean.  It was a tricky tightrope walk sometimes and I had to rewrite scenes that centered on Ma several times to get them "right".

RH: Your grandmother was from the old country and superstitious like Esther's mom. Did you grow up believing some of the same things Esther did? Or were many of the superstitions ones you researched?
GR: Nearly every superstition I used in the story was one that I learned from my grandmother while I was growing up.  Like Esther, I sometimes wondered how she kept track of so many!  I did do some research on Russian superstitions and added a couple of things--primarily the bits about the fairies, because there was an experience from my girlhood that I definitely wanted to use in the story but didn't want to use exactly the way it happened.  Here's the real story: when I was about eight years old my grandmother told me I wasn't to play with a new girl from down the block because she had a mole on her face which Grandma referred to as the "mark of the devil".  I had to use this event, but no way was I going to insert the devil into my story, so instead I used the fairies that pervade many Russian folktales and superstitions to explain Ma's fear.  Fairies, after all, could do plenty of damage, and in What the Moon Said they were the cause of Ma's fear of Bethany.

RH: What the Moon Said is set in Chicago and Wisconsin early in the Depression. I have a huge respect for people who write historical novels. The need to be accurate terrifies me so much that even in my contemporary novels I create fictitious locations. Can you tell us about your research process and how much time it took? Was there anything you couldn't find that you have to guess about? What surprised you most in your fact finding?
 GR: The need for accuracy in historical fiction was the single most difficult aspect of writing Esther's story.  Like you, I am much more comfortable writing about make-believe places and events where I can't be caught in a mistaken detail.  I did lots and lots of research on everything from the cost of a stamp in 1930 to what crops are planted in southern Wisconsin and in what months and when they are harvested. I fretted over every detail fearing I'd make some unforgivable error and lose all credibility and get blasted by reviewers. But every time I read any part of the manuscript I found myself questioning new details and then fact-checking them.  There were three phases to my research.  First, the conversations with my mother about her childhood, especially on the farm; then I read books about the Depression; and finally I did detailed research online. The internet was an incredibly useful tool.  I do confess to making up the name of the town the farm is set near.  I wanted the freedom to make up the details of the community without getting snarled up in the "facts" of a real town's history.  Luckily, too, I had the comforting reassurance of knowing that amazing copy editors at Putnam were watching my back and double-checking anything that raised any sort of flag for them.  But yes, writing historical fiction adds a whole extra layer of work and stress to the writing process.

RH: Your verb choices were precise and strong. From page one I knew you could create a vivid story. Can you tell us about your drafting (pantser/plotter/detailed outliner) and revision process?
GR: I am a plotter who works from a rough outline.  First I get an idea; then I let it simmer on the back burner of my mind for a while to see if it holds my interest/passion and if lots of sub plots sprout from the main idea.  If it does and they do, I start making lots of notes about the main character, their family, their friends, and the setting.  Then I create a crude outline--really more of a summary broken down into chapters.  And when I know how my story is going to end, I begin writing the first chapter. It always takes ten times longer than writing any other chapter since I am still feeling my way a bit and I'm laying the foundation for everything else that is going to follow in the book. If the first chapter isn't solid, it won't grab the reader, and the rest of the story won't grow organically from it.

RH: Could you tell us what you're working on now?  
GR: I just finished the final copyedits on my second book which will be coming out in August of 2015.   It's another historical fiction novel for middle graders, but it's from a more recent time period.  It's called Cold War on Maplewood Street and takes place in Chicago during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. 
Now that it's officially out of my hands, I'm working on a contemporary story (also MG) about loyalty and how far it should go.

RH: What were your favorite books growing up?
GR: Little Women, Trixie Belden mysteries, Anne of Green Gables, Taffy's Foal, Heidi, A Wrinkle in Time, The Wheel on the School, and Charlotte's Web are just a few of the many, many books I loved as a girl. 

RH: My ten-year-old son is writing a book. Do you have any advice for young aspiring writers?  GR: Tell your son I said, "Way to go!  I'm very impressed.  Writing is hard work--but when it's your passion, there's nothing that you'd rather do."  As for advice, I always tell aspiring writers to keep a journal--not necessarily about their daily activities; that can get boring pretty quickly.  But about highlights/lowlights of family events, personal disappointments and triumphs, and especially the feelings that accompanied them. These are great to draw on later to remind us how a ten or twelve-year old thinks and expresses his feelings.  The other reason to keep a journal is to jot down ideas for stories, and to paste in pictures from magazines that suggest settings or stories, as well as to keep track of ideas for unusual characters.  A journal is also a great place to keep a list of the books they especially loved reading including a few notes about why they loved them. All of this is not only going to be a great resource in the future but is a fun way of nurturing the blossoming writer within them.

RH: Thanks so much for being here and sharing so much of your writing experience with us. I can't wait for Cold War on Maplewood Street and am looking forward to your MG contemporary.

Gayle has a great website with all kinds of links to exploring the world where Esther lived. Find all that goodness here.
Find What the Moon Said Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, or better yet, at your local bookstore.

Gayle grew up in Chicago. Like Esther, she enjoyed school, was an avid reader, and loved dogs and horses. She attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where she majored in Creative Writing and was the editor of the literary magazine. Gayle never outgrew her passion for children's books, and she worked as a children's and young adult librarian at a public library for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, enthusiastically sharing her love of books with young people.

Also like Esther, Gayle eventually moved to Wisconsin, but by then she was a mother with three children. She worked in the reference library, and later as a copyeditor, at American Girl. During this time period she published short stories for children in Cricket, Ladybug, Jack and Jill andChildren's Digest magazines.

Now Gayle writes full-time in her home just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, Don, and slightly neurotic rescue dog, Fiona. She is living her dream, she says, writing books she hopes will make the same difference in children's lives as her favorite books and authors made in hers. What the Moon Said is her first novel.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer School is Now in Session

That's right, I'm taking summer school. I enrolled for Nerdy Chicks Rule Summer School: Building Character organized by authors Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan- Quallen.

The first class started today and was led by the amazing Kathryn Erskine (National Book Award Winner for MOCKINGBIRD among other brilliance). She challenged us to walk in our characters shoes. One of the activities we did was to take the Meyers Briggs test for our character. You can find one free here.

You can read her post here, but what would be even better is if you join me for summer school. You'll have access to exclusive webinars and great worksheets to use as we explore our characters and complete our "homework." The program is free and registration is still open here.

I hope to see you in class!

This week I'll be at The YA Club Tuesday and Mormon Mommy Writers Thursday.

Keep writing and believing in yourselves because you guys rock!