Monday, March 31, 2014

I've Been Reading The Horn Book

Okay, I'm talking about the January/February issue and not the current one. But if you haven't read it, you're going to have trouble finding it now. Not to worry. I will share favorite bits and and a few thoughts.

The Articles

What's New About New Adult?, which you can read. I would probably have at least taken a look at this particular piece even if blogging colleague Liz Burns wasn't one of the authors. (Along with Sophie Brookover and Kelly Jensen.) A concise description of NA from their article: "New Adult — aimed at an adult audience but with strong appeal for teen readers — has recently garnered much buzz. Story lines tend to follow the contours of contemporary genre romance novels, but starring younger characters." They also say that NA has "more drama and explicit sexuality than even the most daring YA."

I heard muttering about some kind of new category of book for older than YA readers for years before New Adult turned up on the scene. I was expecting it to be rooted in college-age and twenty-something experience of starting jobs and being out in the world, though, and not limited to romance and sexuality, which is all I'm hearing now. I was thinking things like Lonely Werewolf Girl. Yeah, I got that wrong.

Owl Moon Redux by Jane Yolen. I am not a poetry person, but I found this article on different ways Yolen could have gone with the text of her book Owl Moon fascinating.

What Makes a Good Horse Book? by Anita L. Burkam, which is also on-line. Guess what? I was a horsey girl. Billy and Blaze. The Black Stallion. Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio, which I remembered as Queen of the Palio. Another article I just had to dip into. And what did I find? Maxine Kumin wrote a horse book for kids!

The Reviews

A lot of Horn Book reviews deal with  apocalyptic, paranormal, and fantasy titles or some variation of same. As a general rule, there are also a lot of dead parent or dead somebody stories. This probably reflects what's being published rather than any kind of direction from the magazine. There's a limit to how much the-future-is-a-dreadful place and dead Dad reading I can do.

Some other types of titles that caught my eye:

Year of the Jungle, Suzanne Collins' picture book about her father's tour in Vietnam.

Jane, the Fox & Me by Fanny Britt. A graphic novel with a character who is into Jane Eyre.

The Day My Father Became a Bush by Joke van Leeuwen. This book actually sounds a little over my head, but I was grabbed by this line--"...then she meets a captain who's AWOL because he's unable to use the imperative mood." He couldn't give orders?

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. Eccentric art genius.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by NESCBWI colleague Melissa Stewart

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Weekend Writer: Salvage Operations

A Baking Metaphor

Yesterday I made the cookies you see to your left. No, they were not supposed to come out like that. I got distracted when I realized I was out of dark chocolate and would have to use regular and ended up using three times as much as I needed. I couldn't scoop any out, so I doubled everything else, hoping to make things work in some magical way. As you can see, the first batch of cookies were shapeless blobs. Not magical. Not any good magic, anyways.

But I had a lot of cookie dough, and I didn't want to waste it. So I tried dumping it all in a cake pan thinking that if worse came to worse, I could break it out of there, freeze the crumbled result, and we could eat it with ice cream until Halloween. And after I took it out of the oven, I thought that was what I'd have to do.

But when I got up this morning, I discovered that someone else (well, it was my husband) had been able to cut tidy bars out of the pan for breakfast. Sure enough, I was able to take a disappointing mess and turn it into bar cookies.

So What's The Metaphor?  


Well, writing projects often don't turn out the way we originally envisioned them. And that can happen after putting a lot of time and effort into them. Did a novel requiring a lot of research not work out or find a publishing home? That material might be turned into a piece of nonfiction. Published essays frequently turn into books of nonfiction a few years down the line. Writers may realize that a novel should have been a short story. I have a middle grade manuscript I couldn't place, and I've made one pass at turning it into a book for adults. I'm working on an essay right now that was originally a workshop proposal.

It's as hard to see words and time go to waste as it is to see butter, flour, and cocoa. Writers who are trying to support themselves with their work can't afford to just forget about projects that aren't panning out. They have to salvage them somehow, if they can.

So while you're writing, keep thinking about options. You might need them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Promo Friday: Making Google+ Work For You

First off, why get involved with Google+?

Nobody's over there, right? Well, your friends from high school probably aren't. Or your neighbors or members of your church. If you're interested in professional-type content rather than pictures of cats, Google+ might be the place to find it. It's definitely an easy place to organize it. Google+ allows you to organize your contacts into "circles," categorized the way you want to categorize them. I, for instance, have self-publishing circles, marketing/promotional circles, and blogger circles. I can easily bring up each circle so that content is all I see on the page in front of me. I can take in a lot of information, easily.

How about getting my information out on Google+? Last week, I said I was going to check out Julia DeNeen's tutorial on crafting content for Google+. What you want to do on Google+, as with any other social platform, is get a message out to as many people as possible so you can develop some name recognition. DeNeen's tutorial can definitely help you do it.

This past week I've been doing only a few of the things DeNeen suggests, and I've definitely seen an improvement in my plus 1's (people sharing my posts) and an uptick in people adding me to their own circles. People, particularly people I don't know, sharing my content gets my name out in front of more people I don't know. People I don't know adding me to their circles so that my posts will be coming up on their walls regularly means that they'll see my name over and over. Name recognition.

What have I been doing?

  • I've been reposting all my blog posts at Google+ for a while. After watching DeNeen's tutorial, I've been much more serious about introducing them with a summary. That way, readers don't have to click through to my post to find out what it's about. This makes a great deal of sense in terms of the little I know about communication theory. The receiver of a message shouldn't have to work too hard. Without a good summary to give receivers an idea of what's on the other side of that link, they're forced to do the work of discovering it themselves. A lot of readers won't. (Myself included.)
  • I link to Google+ users whose work I'm discussing in my post in the summary. I had no idea how to do that. Never even occurred to me to try.
  • I now know how to use bold text.
I'll have to watch the tutorial again to figure out how to use images. But given the results I've had with what I have been doing, I think it would be worth it.

Next week I hope to cover everything I've been doing wrong at Twitter.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Talking Fish

I  just stumbled upon this great bit of information: Santiago Cohen, who did the cover and illustrations for my very first book, My Life Among the Aliens, as well as its sequel, Club Earth, has a picture book coming out this November, The Yiddish Fish. Terrific news. 

Bless S.C.'s heart, he still maintains my book covers at his website.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

April Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

April 1, Jacqueline Davies, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00

Thurs., April 3, Janet Lawler, Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford Literacy Coalition Book Fair, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford  3:30 to 5:00

Thurs., April 3, Annabel Monaghan, Westport Public Library, Westport  7:30-9:00

Sat., April 5, Janet Lawler, Granby Public Library, Granby 10:30

Sat., April 5, Katie L. Carroll, Bank Square Books, Mystic 2:00 to 4:00

Thurs. , April 10, Joan Verniero, Westport Public Library, Westport 10:00 to 11:00 (This sounds like a program for adults by a children's author)

Thurs., April 10, Jody Casella, Jennifer Castle, Kim Purcell, Phoebe North, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Sat., April 12, Gordon McClellan, Bank Square Books, Mystic 11:00 to 1:00

Sun., April 27, John Rocco, Bank Square Books, Mystic 2:00

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: When To Do What

The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science by Kevan Lee at Buffer suggests that when considering managing time we might want to keep in mind when we do things. Some times are better than others for particular activities.

Creative vs. Analytical Work


We've discussed here that willpower can be depleted. Our biggest store of self-discipline is early in the day. We try to duplicate that morning boost of willpower experience by breaking our day into units, so that we keep starting over again. The Unit System! Lee suggests that that early period of the day is best for creative work because that's when the prefrontal cortex of the brain is most active. A "study looked at morning and evening MRI scans and observed that mornings showed more connections in the brain—a key element to the creative process." He says this study also indicated that "analytical parts of the brain (the editing and proofreading parts) become more active as the day goes on."

Conclusion? Writers who have a number of projects underway may want to work on the ones that involve generating new material earlier in the day and the ones that require revision-like activities later.

Don't Care For Mornings? Try A Routine During Another Part Of The Day.


What about those of us who don't see ourselves as morning people? Set your time and stick with it. "Routine," Lee says, "reinforces neural circuitry, and the more you work at the same routine, the stronger those connections become." So you can compensate for not using what scientists consider the best creative time by maintaining a routine.

As For Me


I like to do a sprint in the morning before I actually get started working. Stopping after a short, intense burst of work gives my mind something to dwell on while I'm doing the less challenging activities involved with getting ready for the day. After reading The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science, I'm going to be sure that that sprint involves new writing and not editing, research, or formatting manuscripts. I can do that much later in the day.

Monday, March 24, 2014

We'll See Where We Go From Here

I am a big fan of Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlet, which I described as being a "combination of mainstream fiction and screwball comedy." I sought out her book, The Name of the Star, for that reason and because it was a contemporary thriller. I can take or leave that genre, in general, but I'm interested in it when combined with YA.

I have to say that I found The Name of the Star slow getting started. I'm not giving anything away by saying the story deals with a Jack the Ripper copycat murderer. He's carefully mentioned in each of the early chapters, but those chapters are used primarily to get main character, Rory, established in her English boarding school. I liked the premise behind the Scooby Gang that is hunting the killer, but this particular case seemed a little weak to me.

That being said, The Name of the Star is the first in a series, The Shades of London.  I'm going to pick up a copy of The Madness Underneath, Book 2. As I said, I liked the Scooby Gang, and I think it's possible that after The Name of the Star set up the universe, succeeding books could end up being stronger.

Another interesting point: That slow start I mentioned above definitely makes The Name of the Star YA. It's all about secondary school, getting along with other students, getting away from Mom and Dad, and does that boy like me? It doesn't read like an adult book whose adult protagonist has been replaced with a teenager.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Weekend Writer: Covers

Last week I wrote about hybrid authors, authors who publish both traditionally and as self-publishers. Among other things, self-publishing means being responsible for your own covers, something I found difficult with Saving the Planet & Stuff. I knew what kind of feel I wanted in the illustration, but I had trouble hunting around on-line for illustrators who projected what I was looking for. I also realized that there was a difference between an illustration and a book design. I found book design mystifying. Fortunately, I found someone within our family's circle who was able to take care of both the illustration and the design. (Someone who appears to have taken down his website.)

In the March/April issue of the SCBWI Bulletin, author Chris Eboch has an article Cover Design in which she discusses for self-published authors the very issues I was dealing with. She describes pulling together a couple of other authors to help study recent fantasy covers in order to pinpoint the elements she wanted for her book, The Genie's Gift. In her case, she found both an illustrator, Marlo Garnsworthy, and a designer, Alan Erickson. And Chris explains how design differs from illustration. Design involves "choosing and placing text elements," which includes fonts. Fonts are important in terms of their appearance and their placement. And as I learned, some of them are copyrighted. You can't use just any font.

Chris points out that self-publishing can be expensive, something I think many inexperienced writers don't realize or consider. Editing and covers are the two big expenses. They're the two elements of a book that show big time, if they're not well done. Chris says to expect to spend several hundred dollars if you need to hire an artist for an illustration. I've seen the price range of $600 to $2500 in a couple of different places. And then, remember, that that might not include design.

So, writers, once you get the book written, you have a whole new task ahead of you.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Promo Friday: Are Writers Blogging All Wrong?

I've suspected that many writers make a number of mistakes related to blogging. Julie DeNeen at Fabulous Blogging discusses just one in Most Bloggers Think About Social Media the Wrong Way.

What she's talking about here is using blog posts "everywhere, multiple times, until people are so annoyed they start unfollowing you." A lot of people have a lot of the same friends on Facebook and Goodreads and some of those same people are following them on Twitter, too. So using the same blog post everywhere can lead to a lot of repetition. Writers, in particular, have to be careful about this sort of thing when we're doing one of those "my book got a wonderful new review" posts. People receiving these messages multiple times can feel they're getting a hard sell. You don't want to come across like a telemarketer trying to get homeowners to switch electric plans.

DeNeen describes ways to treat the same material in different ways for use in different places. Her plan reminded me of advice I used to read for freelance writers. It sounds like work, but I suspect that it's the kind of thing that you get used to doing and then it goes fast.

Please excuse me now. I have to go look at that Google plus tutorial Deneen linked to.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wendell Minor At Seven Imps

Connecticut author/illustrator Wendell Minor was featured at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast earlier this week. And an exhibit of his work continues at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts until May 26.

My favorite quote from the Seven Imps' interview: "The most important thing that teaching has taught me is that it’s one thing to know your craft, but a very different thing to be able to enlighten and instruct others as to how to learn their own craft."

I heard Wendell Minor speak many years ago when he appeared at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair with Jean Craighead George

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Seasonal Situational Time Management

Last week I wrote about trying to find ways to manage time and work while recovering from health problems. That's definitely an example of situational time management. With any luck, for most of us health problems are a temporary situation that we have to work through like so many other changing situations in our work lives.

This past week at Writer Unboxed, Lydia Sharp described another situation to work through, one that occurs with more frequency, writing with seasonal affective disorder. There are times of the year--situations--when she is able to work better than at others. For her, the year is broken into quarters. She has a quarter when she is most likely to be able to generate new work and a quarter when it's best to revise.

If you read Sharp's post and the comments that follow it, you'll see that she and some others manage their writing time by recognizing that their situation will change over the course of the year and planning what they'll do during the different seasonal situations. One writer even determines whether she'll work on fiction or nonfiction by time of year.

Notice, also, the impact of the "write-every-day" and "Butt in Chair" philosophies on people who are trying to manage writing time while dealing with this type of situation. Not only are they not helpful, they often lead writers who just can't work that way to feel guilty.

Monday, March 17, 2014

CT GreenScene Hosts A Gauthier Q&A

Saving the Planet & Stuff is featured today at CT GreenScene. As you might suspect from the blog's name, the questions I was asked there relate to  environmentalism. Or Connecticut.

Be sure to check out Question 3. Seriously, I obsess over that stuff.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Weekend Writer: The Hybrid Author

Since The Weekend Writer is a series for new writers, I'll send those readers over to the IndieReCon site to study up on hybrid writers. Hybrid writers, like my car that runs on both gas and electricity, operate two ways.  They publish both traditionally and on their own.

Notice that agent Lara Perkins says that among the benefits of being a hybrid author is "hybrid authors often enjoy greater creative control over self-published titles and over the scope of their career since they have more control over what to publish, when, and how." An example? I'm familiar with a situation in which a traditionally published children's author is interested in pursuing publication for an adult work. (Hmm. Another type of hybrid?) Her agent and publisher are discouraging her, wanting her to be firmly branded as a children's author first. The writer is concerned about striking while the iron is hot (she's done well with her first book). Also, branding could be a two-edged sword. The adult publishing world may not be interested in her once she's been branded as not one of them. There's definitely an issue there about who is in control.

Notice that Perkins also writes about the challenges for hybrids. They are essentially "running a small business." It is "a tremendous amount of work." And speaking from experience, I can tell you that while you're doing the tremendous amount of work of running the business, you have trouble finding time to do more writing. For all the control that traditional publishers get over writers, they also take over a lot of the nonwriting burden of publishing.

Understand the pros and cons of both types of publishing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Promo Friday: Would You Buy A Book A Blogger Recommended?

According to Do Blogs Influence Purchasing Decisions? at Christian Marketing, blogs do, indeed, influence buyers. "A recent Technorati study (Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report) found that blogs hold a lot of influential power on purchasing decisions of consumers." "...when bloggers like your book, this influences people to buy it."

I found this incredibly interesting because among bloggers I know there have been questions about whether or not we're just writing for each other. How many books can we read/buy? I've also heard some reservations from writers who've done blog tours as to whether or not they were worth doing.

Perhaps Christian bloggers influence purchasing decisions and others not so much?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Can Do Something With This!

We were hunting for an electrical outlet earlier this week when we found these presentation boards, which I'd stowed between a filing cabinet and a wall. They're from a workshop I led for the Connecticut Writing Project, I believe back around 2000.

I don't do a lot of workshops. They're very labor intensive to plan, and then I don't get a chance to use the material again.

Last fall I came up with this idea to flip some workshops I've planned into essays/articles and try to publish them. I did get one started last month. And, now, look! I have more content!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Opportunity For Children's Writers In Connecticut

The Westport Writers' Workshop is offering an eight-session program on Early and Middle Grade Fiction. It meets on Friday mornings and is limited to 7 students.

This organization has a whole series of spring programs coming up.

Time Management Tuesday: Is There A Way To Manage Work Time For The Ill And Injured?

Last week was my sixth week post-op on that surgery I've been whining about here for more than a month. Last week I finally began to feel energy returning to normal. The soreness that had been subsiding very slowly suddenly seemed to be far less noticeable. It began to appear that I was going to achieve some kind of normal, sooner rather than later.

All these issues had been keeping me from working at peak efficiency. Or any kind of efficiency. I was working. You can see above the elaborate revision project I just finished yesterday. But I started that damn thing last November after getting back from Whispering Pines. No, it shouldn't have taken this long. My inability to put in much daily time since the end of January, even though I work sitting down, was hugely frustrating. Part of it was physical issues, but a lot of it was mental. I just could not find a way to get my mind into work mode while feeling the way I was. I was late getting started in the morning and was usually lying down by mid-afternoon.
Is there a way to manage time under these kinds of circumstances? I'm not suggesting surgical patients be able to put in regular eight-hour shifts. But how about finding ways to do enough to satisfy us?

I hunted on-line for material on working while recovering from surgery or even illness. I found a lot on "working out" after surgery (which, truthfully, is of interest to me, too, but doesn't relate to today's subject). I also found information for employers and information on job discrimination. But anything on how to keep your head in the game? No.

Now this is one of those privilege problems. If I worked a traditional job and couldn't take six weeks off, you can be sure I would have been back in the office, at least part-time, a couple of weeks earlier than I was. Or if this house was crawling with kids, I would have found a way to stay on my feet more than I did.

As it was, I just started doing my weekly planning (see left) this past Sunday. I couldn't even get myself to do that.

Oh, wait! Planning may have been my downfall. Or, rather, not planning. Perhaps having a variety of small jobs planned for a recovery period--catching up on reading professional journals, some children's books (I read masses of adult mystery serials), small promotional tasks--would not only mean getting something real done, but feeling that something real was getting done. Which could have an impact on the ability to do more. As it was, I did do small tasks, but not in any kind of organized, planned way. So I never had a sense that I was making progress, becoming more powerful and competent, and ready to move on.

Hmm. Maybe I'm on to a way to manage time for the ill and injured. Can I elaborate on this and then put it in a bottle and sell it?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Some Present Day Nonfiction About Historical Fiction

I have had a modest interest in historical fiction as a reader that goes back a long time. I've thought about writing historical fiction, going so far as to write about a historical figure, but not in his period. So I was interested in a two-part article by Bobbi Miller at Children's Literature Network.

A Conversation: Why is Historical Fiction Important? is very conversation-like with quotes from a large number of people on what historical fiction is. One of my favorites is from Avi: "“Ultimately, what is most important is the story, and the characters.” Facts, according to Avi, do not make a story. “Believable people do…Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction makes truth less a stranger.”

 Conversation Continued: Why is Historical Fiction Important? is more analytical. "Other popular genres have distinct rules that govern basic premises...In contrast, historical fiction defies easy explanation and definition. For some, historical fiction is first and foremost fiction, and therefore anything goes. Others condemn the blending of invention with well-known and accepted facts and consider the genre contradictory at the very least..." is just one example.

Both pieces are followed by a resources with links and recommended readings.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Promo Friday: "Marketing Done Right Is Just Finding More Readers"

Not much promotion or promotion research done at Chez Gauthier today. However, I can refer you to an IndieReCon video podcast, Write, Publish, Repeat: How to Turn Your Art from a Hobby Into a Real Business with Johnny Truant, Sean Platt & David Wright.

Now, I was listening to this while I was working in the kitchen, so I'm not clear on which guy said what. But some interesting bits (quotes or paraphrases):
  • Work is art at first. At that point, treat it as such. Then it is a product to be sold. At that point, treat it as such.
  • Think of marketing as a funnel. The widest part of the funnel is where people can be exposed to you, all the aspects of your social platform. The narrow part of the funnel is the subgroup from the large part who will really be directed to your book.
  • Many people treat marketing as something inherently evil instead of something that can be evil.
  • "Marketing done right is just finding more readers." That is in quotation marks on one of my little slips of paper that were left on my kitchen counter.
  • Entrepreneurial writers should track how long it takes them to write something. When they're done, they should then think about how much time it took and whether it was worth it in terms of return. If they're not satisfied, they may want to try writing something else. Maybe any writer should consider doing this.
All good thoughts.

I had a thought totally unrelated to the book business after I'd finished listening to this thing, though it was a video podcast, and I could have watched it: How many people have time to sit in front of a computer and watch a video? I am talking about the masses of work-related videos out there, not...ah...I can't think of another word for porn. If I didn't have periodic episodes when I was alone working in the kitchen for an hour or more, I'd never be able to find the time to listen to any kind of podcast. And watch one? How? How?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Someone Is Observing Women's History Month

I wish I had pulled things together so I could have planned a series of posts for Women's History Month. Fortunately, someone else was more on top of things. A group blog entitled Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month will be posting on new books about women during the month of March.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Using Word Count To Help Manage Time

I was wandering around last week's IndieReCon (I still haven't finished browsing the offerings there), when I came upon what was called on the schedule How to Write Fast: 2k to 10k, 2 Years Later by Rachel Aaron. (It's called something different when you follow the link.) Write fast! I thought. If I could do that, wouldn't it have a big, big impact on how I spend my time?

I also recalled hearing about other writers who do use word count to help them manage time. They set themselves a word limit that they must do each day and don't stop working until they've met it. Word count for time management isn't something we've discussed here, so I checked out this IndieReCon offering.

I am not going to address quality and the issue of whether more is less or less is more. Is it better to write a few brilliant passages or crank out some serious volume of whatever quality that you can at least edit in the future? I'm going to try to stick to word count with no value judgement.

Author Rachel Aaron got started writing about word count back in 2011 with a post at her blog called How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day. In it she says there are three elements to increasing word count. The first two I found particularly interesting.
  • Know what you're going to write before you get started. This means doing some planning at the beginning of each writing session. Serious plotters/outliners may say they've already done this. Organic writers, such as myself, might want to create a daily pre-writing planning routine. I'm still revising right now, so it will be a while before I can try it.
  • Analyze how you're using your writing time. Over a period of a couple of months, keep track of your word count and determine what time of the day it is highest. Then try to make sure that you're able to work then.
  • Try to find something to excite you about every scene you have to write. Word count goes up when you're writing the fun scenes. (Sometimes known as candy bar scenes.)
Aaron says in her IndieReCon piece that after two years she isn't writing at the 10,000 word rate she'd first hit when she came up with her system. That would produce 5 to 6 books a year. She's writing at a rate that produces 3 to 4. That's still fast writing.

I don't know how well relying heavily on word count for managing time will work, given the situational problems writers often find themselves dealing with. Word count for a WIP goes out the window if you have to plan a presentation or revise for an editor. Plus Aaron is a self-published writer. Being able to write multiple books a year is important to many self-pubs, particularly the more entrepreneurial ones who are truly trying to make a living with just writing. Other types of writers who have income sources through teaching and making appearances or just a regular day job won't  feel a need to produce as much that quickly. But given all the demands on writers' time, doesn't being able to write more quickly sound very attractive?

Aaron has written a book about writing faster, which I just bought. I'll check it out and be posting on anything new I find there.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Miss Peregrine Books

I don't know why I passed on reading Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs for so long, or what led me to finally read it a couple of weeks ago. The book was, I think, formulaic, but an example of a well done formula story. Definitely an enjoyable read.

The formula? Young Jacob believes there is a mystery surrounding his late grandfather and manages to get himself to Wales, where Grandad had spent some of his youth during World War II. Needless to say, Jacob works out what his grandfather was part of and, in that way so beloved in books for the young, learns that he is part of something he never expected, too.

Serial ending.

There's a definite up side to reading the first in a serial so long after everyone else has. There's a chance the next book has already been published, and you can binge read. Sure enough, the second book in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children serial, Hollow City, was published very recently and sitting on the new book shelf at my local library. This book was covered in the March/April issue of Bookmarks, which just happened to arrive as I was finishing Hollow City. Reviewers appeared to like Hollow City more than Home. I go the other way. Hollow City is a journey story, which usually has a lot of natural narrative drive. But Hollow City seems to be another formula story, the kind in which the protagonist is given something to want and then all kinds of obstacles are thrown in his way before he can get it. It's not a formula I particularly enjoy.

However, Hollow City has a good ending as serials go. By that I mean I was surprised by two things that happened at that point. It's one of the few serials that leaves me interested in reading the next volume.

I kind of wish I'd waited even longer to read these books, so I could binge read the third one, which isn't out yet, too.

Here's an interesting bit about these books: My library has them shelved with the adult books. No idea what that is about. The books are finding readers there, though.

Oh, look: The Book Wheel just posted about Hollow City, too.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Weekend Writer: Story Vs. Situation. An Illustration From House Hunters.

Earlier this week, Liz B. from A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy and I were discussing an episode of House Hunters over at Facebook. We'd both seen a show involving a couple who used what Liz called "alter egos." Husband and wife were of Italian heritage and would occasionally start talking to each other in stereotypical elderly Italian voices. They referred to themselves as something like Luigi and Lucinda when they were in old person Italian mode.

Liz and I were in agreement that this was an odd aspect of personality to want to expose on TV. However, the real estate agent for the episode, who was a friend of the wife, said the house hunting couple used the Luigi and Lucinda characters to help them work out disagreements. This made sense to me, though I still wouldn't have wanted strangers, or maybe even anyone else, to know about it.

What does this have to do with us? Well, Lucinda was pregnant. And while Liz and I were going back and forth about this, I pointed out that some day after that child is born, s/he is going to hear those voices coming out of Mom and Dad. I suggested it was a book idea.

But what kind of a book idea? 

That set-up--a child with parents who speak to each other in funny voices--is a situation. It is not a story idea because it doesn't describe something happening to someone and, even better, suggest why it matters.

Situation: A child has parents who speak to each other in accented, elderly voices.

Story Idea: A child, realizing the accented, elderly voices his parents sometimes use when speaking to one another actually belong to the spirits of people from the past who have forced themselves into mom and dad's bodies, must find a way to free his folks and bring happiness to his family for the first time.

A situation is static and doesn't give writers much to work with. A story idea is far more dynamic. It gives writers a direction to work in and even gives a hint of some action.