Monday, January 21, 2013

The Legend of Ghost Dog Island

A cypress knee sits in the corner of my dining room. Daddy fished it out of the Gulf of Mexico more than fifty years ago when we traveled to Louisiana for a family vacation. He hauled it all the way back home to Missouri as a souvenir for my mother. Now it's mine, and although it is simply a weathered bit of driftwood rejected by the ocean, it is a priceless keepsake for me.

I was only six years old when we made that memorable trip, but so much of it is still fresh in my mind. I think the Louisiana bayous affect people that way. I remember well the Spanish moss hanging from the Live Oaks, and the tour we took of a cemetery in New Orleans, the thick walls and the above-ground crypts. I also will never forget the endless view of water as we crossed the Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge. Forgive me if that's the wrong terminology for it.

When I read The Legend of Ghost Dog Island by  Rita Monette, highlights from that trip rushed back to me. The time I spent with her characters took me back to a very special time of my childhood.

Nikki Landry, the main character in Ms. Monette's middle grade novel, has few possessions that she prizes like I prize that cypress knee. She has her little dog, Snooper, but not much else. It's difficult to accumulate material possessions when you live on a small houseboat. Nikki's mother has her special dishes that she keeps packed up most of the time, although she does bring them out whenever the family is going to stay docked for a while.

Most of Nikki's time is spent with her dog, because she rarely gets to stay in one place long enough to gather friends. She did have a best friend back at their old home in Pierre Part, but something went wrong with that relationship. Nikki often misses her old friend, but she's pretty sure their friendship's beyond mending. Better to pack it away like her mother's dishes. She and Snooper can get along just fine on their own.

But when Snooper goes missing, Nikki reaches beyond the limits of her comfort zone to ask two of the local kids to help in her search. She needs to find Snooper before whatever it is over on the island turns him into a ghost dog.

I enjoyed this novel. The voice is engaging and is just right for the age range, in my opinion. The book is also well written, which is a definite plus for me. 

I did become a little bit confused at one point, because for some reason I had envisioned the orphanage as being on the island - where the witch lives. But I soon realized my mistake, and the way Ms. Monette tied the haunted orphanage in with the happenings on the island worked out quite well. I especially loved the witch; and am glad that Ms. Monette included a pencil sketch of her, because it made her more real, and a bit less frightening than she was at the point of casting spells.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good read. And I'm really pleased about the shoes. If you've read it already, you know what I'm talking about.

Buy Link

Book Trailer
Happy Reading!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, January 7, 2013

Self-Published Picture Books

I made a commitment on January 1 to get back to work with my writing. I've ignored writing seriously for months while I continued to read. I managed to accomplish my goal of reading 100 books in the year 2012, and I've decided to not commit myself to that again. Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful time exploring worlds created by others. But it's now time for me to get back to creating some of my own.

I managed to make a small start on a new beginning for a project I've ignored for several years. I plan to change it from young adult to middle grade (where I intended it in the first place), and I'm already falling back in love with it. I know it's strictly personal preference, but I love the characters in this particular novel, and I wasn't happy leaving them locked in a drawer. I'm going to have to do major cuttings to get the word count down to an MG level, but I'm already exploring ideas on how to accomplish that.

Something else I've considered is what to do with one particular picture book manuscript. This is one that has received quite a bit of positive feedback from agents and small publishers, but no one is willing to commit to taking it on. I've read many comments around the web regarding how difficult it can be to break into the picture book world, especially if your work is a rhyming picture book. I know the rhyming aspect diminish my audience because it won't translate into other languages and maintain the integrity of the rhyme, and I understand and accept that. But, without bragging, I know that my rhyme and rhythm are strong, and this little character has taken hold of my heart from the beginning.

So I've been researching illustration artists. It's a daunting process, to say the least. I have been fortunate, through connections with LinkedIn and Goodreads, to peruse the work of some very talented artists. I'm just not sure if I can afford any of them!

My first thought is to submit the manuscript to my current publisher. I don't know yet if they would even consider it without an accompaniment of illustrations. 

Then I thought, if I'm going to invest a lot of money into the project, why not self-publish it in both hard copy and e-format. I have a lot more researching to do, for I don't know how much that will affect the cost. 

Additionally, there's the matter of hiring a voice artist. I know there are picture books in e-format that do not have the Read to Me option, but my granddaughter enjoys climbing into bed for a nap with my Nook Color, and having the books read to her by someone other than Nana. I usually miss that time together, but it does free up my time for other projects - like writing!

So I'm sort of at a dilemma. I still have a few outstanding queries for this particular book, because I've been very selective on whom I've sent it to, and there really aren't that many agents looking for rhyming picture books.

If any of you have experience with self-publishing, especially a picture book, I'd love to hear from you. I'm probably not going to move on this in the next couple of months, but I'm not going to put it off too much longer.

Happy Writing!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Were The Beatles Simple-Minded?

Were The Beatles simple-minded? Heaven forbid! But they did write and compose beautiful music that was, perhaps, made even more beautiful by its very simplicity.

I had just turned eleven when The Beatles made their USA debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was barely of an age to recognize a bit of their sex appeal, but I was more than aware of their talent. I just wished all those ridiculous, screeching females would shut up and let me appreciate it!

Although some of the music for songs such as All My Loving, and Til There Was You may be complex, the lyrics are anything but. The harmonies nearly brought tears to my eyes even at the tender age of eleven.

I’ve never outgrown my love for the music created and performed by those four boys from Liverpool. I have quite a few of their CDs in my collection, and several of them are among my favorites to listen to while I walk or ride my bike. If someone were to ask me what my favorite Beatles’ song is, I would probably have to say it is In My Life. But lately, I’ve decided that my second favorite has got to be And I Love Her.

The lyrics to And I Love Her, which I understand were chiefly written by Paul McCartney, are so deceptively simple that it’s a wonder the song didn’t write itself back in the dark ages. But that’s part of the magic of The Beatles. They could say something that we’ve all heard a million times and make it unique and special. The accompaniment, too, is uncomplicated, but I don’t know if any music has touched me quite like George Harrison’s lead guitar as it softly repeats those four short notes that serve as background for the verses.

Some writers have the ability to connect with their readers in this simple turning of a phrase, or spare choice of words. They can be stingy with their descriptive passages, and still give the reader cause to pause and reflect on the beauty of the written word. It is something I aspire to accomplish some day, but until then, I will continue to read, and listen, and hopefully learn.

Happy Writing!

Cordelia Dinsmore