Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First Round of Edits - DONE!!

I have survived my first round of edits, but just barely. I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted, and it has nothing to do with the fight I had with the lawnmower yesterday evening, even though that was one harrowing experience.

Truthfully? It wasn't nearly as bad as I expected after seeing all the red ink for the very first time. In fact, by the time I finished up, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and I'm sure my characters got a laugh or two at my expense, so all is good. Unless my amazing editor had something else in mind with all those helpful comments. We shall see.

Although this was my first experience with an editor, it wasn't my first time with a critique. I honestly enjoy submitting my work to betas for critique. That's one of the main reasons I hang out at sites like AbsoluteWrite and Miss Snark's First Victim. If you haven't tried them, you need to. They are hubs of exciting and wondrous things, and you will be amazed at the wealth of information that can be gained by exploring their recesses.

Do you have a favorite go-to site where you meet with friends and help each other with your manuscripts? If so, please share. I'm always looking for ways to improve my craft, and if we assist each other, it will only make us all stronger.

Thanks for stopping by today. I will be back soon with a short review of my latest read. I'm also going to finish up on a character interview now that I have a few days to breathe before getting back to my current WIP.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cannibal Island is Out!


I can't help but notice that many of the blogs I subscribe to are filled with comments about spring. It's a fabulous time of year - especially if you aren't plagued with allergies. Once the forsythia blooms are blown away in the Kansas wind, my eyes will begin working again and I can get back to editing. I'm nearly finished with it, and I can't believe the changes in Michaela's Gift already. Acquiring an editor was a feat I feared I would never accomplish, and I'm so thankful that I received one with so much  insight into what my novel needed. I will laud her with praises later.

Right now I want to lavish all my boundless exuberance on fellow author, Cornell Deville. His second novel with Musa Publishing, Cannibal Island, is now available, and it will blow your socks off. Well, not literally, but it's a great steampunk adventure filled with action and interesting characters. And villains. And treasure. And fun.

So check it out. Then be sure to let me know what you thought of it. I'd love to hear your opinions. In the near future I am planning an interview with one of Cannibal Island's characters. I went back in time to accomplish this, and I'm still recovering from the trip. That's my excuse for getting behind in my blog posts.

I hope everyone has a blessed weekend. I would be out mowing the grass that has sprouted up to alarming heights over the last week, but it has rained every, single. day. of spring break, so it's way too wet. So I'm going to relax and catch up on my reading.

Thanks for stopping by, and help yourself to a doughnut and cup of coffee before you leave.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's Time to Turn Green

This morning I plan to finish my first round of edits on Michaela’s Gift. While I can’t say it’s been the most exciting part of the publishing experience to date, I will admit that it’s been a lot less of the hassle I was expecting. It took a while for me to figure out why I was looking at the experience in such a negative mind-set, but I now realize it all boils down to the fact that I had a deadline. That’s a first for me in my writing life. It nearly sent me into a panic, but now that I know I can handle it, it’s become a non-issue.

Speaking of boiling – if you didn’t notice it, it’s two lines up – I dropped two corned beef briskets into the crock pot a little earlier. Tomorrow we shall dine on delightful Reuben sandwiches in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. It will be difficult to resist grilling them tonight, but my daughter’s away at a Special Olympics basketball tournament, and I wouldn’t dream of having Rueben’s without her here to share them.

Of course, we’ll only need one of the briskets for our sandwiches. That leaves the other one available for a Reuben casserole. I didn’t plan to talk about food on this blog, but even my characters have dietary needs, so they understand this little side trip.

If you are a fan of Reuben sandwiches, you might also enjoy the casserole. It’s easy to assemble, and has that same yummy taste of the corned beef spices and the tangy bite of the sauerkraut, but the casserole is a time-saver because the entire dish cooks itself and the cook doesn’t have to hover over a hot griddle.

There are a number of recipes available for this dish on the internet. I prefer one I found on the Foods Network site, but look around and you’ll probably discover one that works for you.

I hope everyone has a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day. Take the opportunity to read a book, and since it’s all about the green, you might make it an eBook. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Patricia Puddle - Featured Author

Several years ago, when I was searching for a writing group, a brilliant man told me to check out the Water Cooler over at Absolute Write. He said there were many savvy people over there who were generous with their time and expertise.

It took me very little time to discover that he was right. I love the friends I have made over at AW, especially the ones in the children’s forums. It’s a great place to learn the art form, but it is much more than that. It’s also a warm, caring community of writers that support each other in many ways.

One day I was expressing my pleasure with the folks over at AW with the aforementioned man who originally led me there, and thanking him for that favor, when he told me I needed to check out some of the posts by a member called Trish. He said he loved her stories, and thought I would, too. He was right, as usual.

Today, Trish has graciously accepted my invitation to come over and join us for a little while and to tell us a little about her work. You’ll discover for yourselves why I am so fond of this beautiful lady, and why I fell in love with her characters. I first knew her as Trish, but her real name is Patricia Puddle, so to avoid confusion, I’ll address her as Patricia.

Good morning, Patricia, and welcome to my world. I’m so excited that you agreed to come all the way up here from Australia to tell us a little bit about your writing, and about your life outside of writing.

Hi Melody, thank you so much for inviting me. Yes, I love Absolute Write Water Cooler. I found it on the web because I wanted to write children’s stories but I didn’t know where commas went or how to spell.

As you know, I left school at the age of fourteen, still unable to write properly. I can’t believe how bold I was, posting my chapters on Absolute Write’s ‘Share Your Work’ forum. (These chapters are now published as Star-Crossed Rascals and Rascals Sing at The Opera House.) The first chapter I posted on Aw was The Damn Brickfield. Of course, most writers told me I couldn’t use the word ‘damn’ as it was a swear word in America, so I changed it to darn. If it wasn’t for the encouragement from you, Michael, and other AW members, I wouldn’t have known how to learn. Michael was the first person to comment on my first post and I can’t tell you what a thrill that was. Instead of criticizing my bad spelling and grammar, he said he thought my story was hilarious, though later he suggested I buy a book on grammar and also to Google commas. He also edited my chapters and so did you and others, which encouraged me to keep learning. That day, I walked around with the biggest grin on my face and told everyone in my family that at least Americans liked my stories.

I took Michael’s advice and bought The Pocket Basics for English by Lyn Magree. I took this grammar book with me everywhere, still do. I also studied hundreds of children’s books and joined Critique Circle, where I’m still a member. Molly has now evolved into an animal lover and the younger Molly has been turned into Polly, (full name Pollyweena Grubble, who’s best friend is Gertie McDougal, the other rascal.)   Pollyweena even has her own twitter account, but she spelled her name wrong and has three e’s. Here is her twitter account if anyone wants to follow her:!/pollyweeena

So far, I have four published children’s books, which are available on Amazon as eBooks and paperbacks. There are two Rascals books: Star-Crossed Rascals and Rascals Sing at The Opera House, a Molly Gumnut book titled Molly Gumnut Rescues a Bandicoot, and Velvet Ball and The Broke Fairy. Velvet isn’t illustrated like the other three books as it’s for older children. Nine-year-old Velvet has alopecia and is bullied at school, but when she meets up with a weird little sprite called Roseberry, the two girls set out to tackle the bullies. Trouble is, Roseberry didn’t pay attention at magic school and has no Idea how to do magic, nor does she care about learning. Velvet ends up with yet another problem because the bullies think Roseberry is just a doll and kidnap her.

When I first read your work over at AW, I must say, I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants. You have an amazing knack for capturing the personality and antics of a young, boisterous child. Does that come mostly from observation, or were you the type of child you are so good at bringing to life in your writing?

Um, well, I have to admit that most of the rascal’s tales are true events of the things that I did as a child. I didn’t intend to be naughty, but I was accident prone and always in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had spent some time in hospital with childhood illnesses at age six and seven and I got quite behind with my school work. This caused people to think I was a slow learner and I ended up being the class clown to cover my embarrassment of not knowing how to write or do math. I’m not sure if I had ADHD or not, but I sure fit the profile back then, though I was quite a cunning child. When I accidently broke the bathroom wall in the girl’s bathroom, I managed to get away before I got caught.

Oh, Patricia, I remember reading about that incident. It’s one of my favorites, actually. I didn’t know that you actually did that! What other trouble did you cause?

Another time, I wet my pants because a teacher refused to let me go to the bathroom, so I stuffed them down the back of the radiator to dry. Though I managed to put them back on when they were dry without anyone seeing me, I had stunk out the classroom and the teacher and headmistress couldn’t work out where the stink was coming from. Then there was the bubble-gum my best friend and I collected and chewed up to make a giant ball. Silly me went home and told my mother, which made her ban me from playing with my friend ever again. That’s where I came up with the title for Star-Crossed Rascals. I invented a really mean character called Great Aunt Mabel so that the rascals were more endearing and didn’t look to be just naughty, disrespectful brats, which is what Gertie actually is in the story.

You’ve published four books now, and I guess I should tell our audience that they are (chapter books or picture books, I don’t know which, Trish). Of these four, which is your favorite, and why? If it is because of a character, could you tell us why you like her/him particularly?

Three of my books are illustrated chapter books, not picture books. The only one not a chapter book is Velvet Ball and The Broken Fairy, which is Junior Fantasy Fiction for kids aged eight to twelve, though Velvet also suits younger children and also adults. I’m writing the sequel at the moment and also editing the sequel to Molly Gumnut. Then I’ll write the third Rascals Book.

Aside from writing your books, you also draw the illustrations. I know you are also artistically talented in several other ways, besides. How long have you been drawing, and were you professionally trained?

Haha. No, I was never trained to draw. I used to doodle in class when I should have been paying attention to my lessons, but I was so far behind that I never caught up. I remember my last few days at school at the age of fourteen, a teacher sneaked up behind me and snatched my drawings from me, then she sent me outside for the rest of the lesson. After publishing Velvet, I got some quotes for illustrations for the rascals, but the cheapest quote was $3,000 and only for twelve pictures. No way could I afford that, so I had a go at drawing them myself and was surprised that I could still draw. I love doing the illustrations, though they do take as long to do as the writing and editing of the whole book.

In addition to your hilarious characters, Patricia, you introduce your readers to some adorable and memorable animal friends. I know why you do this, but I would love for you to share this part of your life with the readers here. I so much admire you for this work that you’re involved in.

Well, like you, Melody, I love all animals. My husband and I have had guinea pigs for ten years. I’ve had many other pets too. We adore the furry little creatures and I write about them. I also volunteer for a wildlife rescue charity. Mainly I man a phone from my home for a large area, but sometimes I’m privileged to care for an injured or orphaned animal. I once had a baby bandicoot and he inspired me to write a Molly Gumnut adventure. I fell in love with him and didn’t want to release him back to his own territory because there were four cats living there. He’d been handed to me by the owner of that property after one of her cats attacked him. I did ask her to keep her cats in at dusk and dawn and encouraged her to put up a large cat enclosure, which she said she would do.

Then I tried to imagine what a child would feel like if she had to give a furry friend back to where a cat lived. I guess I’m still a child in the head. LOL. I had named the bandicoot Furble and if anyone would like to see him, I have a few short movies on Youtube under my name Patricia Puddle. I add lots of things I learn about animals to all of my stories.

You portray the young child so well, but do you have any plans to venture into the middle grade sector? I ask because I know some of your characters are growing up a bit, and I would hate to lose sight of what they’re up to. And if you aren’t going to continue with them, are we going to be meeting more of their friends any time soon?

I’ll continue to write all three series and they will definitely grow up. I have great plans for all my characters. However, Velvet is nine and I’m writing the sequel at the moment. By the third Velvet book, she’ll be a teenager, so it will be a Fantasy Adventure Love Story, with comedy and danger, of course. Molly, Polly & Gertie will all grow up to be mischievous teens, too. I can’t wait for that because you wouldn’t believe what I got up to as a teen, so I have plenty of plots for them.

Patricia, up to this point you have chosen the self-publishing route. Is this working out well for you? I don’t really know a lot about that aspect of writing, so I would love to hear any ideas you would care to share about obstacles one might come across by going this way, or possibly you are finding it to be a less stressful way of getting your work out to the public.

As you know, Melody, I did submit my original Molly stories to publishers, but after many rejections and hundreds of rewrites, I decided to self-publish because I’m in my fifties now and it takes years for an author to get known. Also, one of our beautiful pals from AW, who had just acquired an agent, suddenly died before her wonderful story got published. She was about my age and this gave me a push and I decided to self-publish. By this time, I realized I wasn’t as dumb as I thought I was, so I learned how to make an eBook and published Velvet with Amazon Kindle and Smashwords. (They both give great instructions and are always there to help). When I came to publish The rascals and Molly, it was harder because I had to learn how to publish illustrations in eBooks and paperbacks, but as before Amazon, Smashwords and CreateSpace all helped me to learn. I loved that I could create my own book covers, keep all my own work and even edit the eBooks after publication. They all started selling straight away and though it’s slow, I’m getting more and more fans all the time, especially children and elderly folks. They seem to like my books too and buy many.  I sell many myself to folks in my town and village, plus I donate to libraries and schools, and do Giveaways, but that doesn’t get my ranking up on Amazon, so promoting sales there is my main aim. The best way to do that I’ve found is on Twitter and Goodreads, but I try not to spam folks. I just befriend people and if they want to buy it’s up to them. It’s surprising how many check out blogs, though. I also buy books through Twitter and Goodreads, then back through Amazon.

So do you have a website we can visit? I love the pictures you send me of some of the little creatures you rescue, and I know others would probably enjoy them, too. Being from the U.S., I never even heard of several of them.

Yes, I have a blog, website, YouTube channel, Amazon Author Page, Smashwords, Facebook, and more, but you can find most links on my blog.

Wow, Patricia, you’re a very busy lady. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share with us today. I wish you the very best of everything in your writing future. You are a very classy lady and I consider myself fortunate to call you friend, even though we have never met face-to-face.

Thank you, too, Melody, for taking time out of your very busy schedule. I truly appreciate it, but I sure hope you’ll let me interview you in return so I can add your wonderful story to my blog, dear friend. I’m so happy we met six years ago, and Michael too. It’s good to keep in touch even though we are all very busy with our writing and families. Oh, and don’t forget to look out for my next Molly Gumnut Book. It’s one you and Michael critiqued many years ago, and you both feature as characters in it. LOL. Though I won’t tell you who you are. I’ll leave you to guess.

Phew! I need chocolate now. Oh, and coffee. Where shall we go, Melody? The doughnut shop? Don’t you dare tell what I did with that box on doughnuts. LOL. Or that when I posted my chapters on AW that I kept frustrating folks because I'd keep editing them again before they had a chance to critique them. Oops, I think you all wanted to strangle me for that, but you still critiqued them, didn’t you?

Ah, Patricia, I will always critique for you. All you have to do is ask. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Lucky Seven Meme comes to call
The Lucky Seven Meme
I've been tagged by my fellow scribe and all-round creatix Derek to take part in Jaycee's Lucky Seven Meme. Here be the rules:

1. Go thou to page 77 of your current MS
2. Get thee hence to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let each and every one of them know
(Unwritten rule - share the literary love)

This is my first foray into this type of fun game, so I hope I do it correctly. The seven authors I am tagging are:

5. MJWare

Sadie was waiting for my response, but I couldn’t figure out anything that wouldn’t make her even madder. So I turned away. That must have been the wrong thing to do, because she began beating her feet on the side of the barn again. She sure did have a lot of temper in her.
“Dang it, I got a splinter.” Sadie pulled her foot up and cupped it in her hands. She began digging at her heel with her dirty fingernails. She’d probably get an infection.
            After a moment she looked up at me. “So, what do you want to talk about since we can’t discuss your legs?”
            Just like that, her mood changed. She was like one of those mimes that moves his hand up and down in front of his face, changing from frown to smile. Maybe that was for the best. I turned my gaze from her dirty foot and looked out over the fields. “Where do you suppose Goober is by now?”
            “Probably back on that old man’s porch,” she said. “Want to go get him? It’s not that far to town. Just under three miles.”
            My look must have revealed what I thought about walking that far, especially since we’d have to do it twice. Sadie stood, sending dust motes flying. “We don’t have to walk,” she said, her voice excited. “I’ll saddle up Freckles. She doesn’t mind being ridden double.”
            I scrambled up and dusted off my seat. “We can walk. I don’t really like horses all that much.” I hated having to admit that, knowing how much she loved them, but I couldn’t tell Sadie that horses terrified me. She already believed me to be the biggest chicken in the world.
            Sadie’s laugh wasn’t mean. “Of course you don’t.” She started down the ladder. “But I will get you on one eventually. I guarantee you’ll fall in love.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Voice - Does Your Manuscript Sing?

I watched The Voice last night. It isn’t one of my favorite television shows, but a couple of the contestants caught my eye in the preliminary rounds, and I tuned in to see if they were still around. Besides, some of those coaches are easy on the eyes.

The competition has progressed to the battle rounds. During these rounds, two members from the same team sing together on a stage set up to represent a boxing ring. But they are competing against each other while so doing. It’s kind of like a duet to the finish, if you will.

Christina chose Chris Mann and Monique Benabou from her team. I have to admit, Chris Mann is probably my favorite contestant. His voice sends shivers down my spine, and I can envision him playing the lead in a variety of musical productions. He’s truly remarkable in his level of control over his voice.

Monique is also a fabulous vocalist. She’s strong and expressive, and the amount of emotion she projects into her performance makes her as much a joy to watch as to hear. The viewer can’t help but see how much she loves what she is doing.

Together, the two stole the show for me. Christina is one very smart woman to have put them together for the battle round, because of the stunning beauty they produced on that stage. It wasn’t just the blending of their voices that made the moment so special; it was the way they pulled it off together. For me, they were by far the stars of the show. So it kind of irritated me that Ms. Aguilera pitted them against one another. She knew one would be eliminated.

One thing that stood out for me during last night’s viewing has to do with my work as a writer. Two of the contestants were given a song choice that I, in my limited knowledge of music, didn’t think was the best choice for them. The coaches all commented that they did a great job, but the whole performance fell flat for me. I could not hear the harmonies, and some of the notes ran on for so long that their voices seemed to waiver. It began to hurt my ears.

The contrast between the two groups reaffirmed the lessons I’ve been trying to learn concerning voice. It isn’t just what you say, although that is extremely important, but it’s also the way in which you say it. These two skills have to work together, or your work isn’t going to be your best. And even though most people read silently, they hear your words in their head, so you have to make a pleasing sound that is believable and a joy to their inner ear. Your characters need to not only attract your reader by their own actions, but in the way they connect with every other character in your story. There needs to be a harmony between them, even if they are mortal enemies.

I like the analogy between music and writing. It works for me. Others may not see the connection, and that’s okay. But if any of this makes sense to you, I’d like to hear your thoughts. I know voice is something that many of us struggle with, and it changes from work to work. What works for you?

Friday, March 2, 2012

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

During a discussion on a website I frequent, I commented that I do not particularly care for first person present tense in MG or YA novels. Then I picked up May B. at the library, and had to retract my words.

Caroline Starr Rose has painted a vivid picture of the life of a young girl growing up in the Kansas prairie. The form she has chosen to tell this girl's story is clever in its deceptive simplicity, because it conveys with deadly accuracy the character of the girl.

It's a quick read, but a lovely tale of hardship and hope. I highly recommend it.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Totally Joe by James Howe

I hope everyone is experiencing a productive first day of March. I finally have begun the first edits on my YA novel, Michaela’s Gift, and the adrenalin is flowing around here. However, I’m still taking time to read.

I don’t know why the last three books I’ve picked up at the library have all been boy books, but that’s the way it turned out. It wasn’t anything I planned. I usually go to the new books section in the children’s area and sort through the meager choices until I find something I haven’t read or that looks interesting. I guess that says something for great, eye-catching cover art.

Totally Joe, by James Howe, was a surprising read. I didn’t think I was going to like it. It’s written as a type of journal, or an alphabiography, I think is how the MC refers to it. The young boy, who is nearing his thirteenth birthday, has been given an assignment by his English teacher, and the book is the daily details of his life over a period of several months.

As I said, I didn’t think I would like it, but the writing was so poignant that I was sucked right into it, and the style worked perfectly for the unfolding of the story. Through the kid’s journal entries we learn about the relationships he has with his family and his close group of friends, who call themselves The Gang of Five, even though there are only four of them. They’re all a bunch of misfits, but together they make a remarkable team of, if not exactly superheroes, then at least I would classify them as world-altering powers. They managed to change their world, at least.

It’s an enjoyable read, and I highly recommend it.