October 24, 2012

Week 20: The Next Big Thing

    Through serendipitous circumstances (and by that I mean me cruising Facebook to kill time a couple of weeks ago) I was asked by the talented Rachele Alpine to participate in The Next Big Thing: a game of blog-tag for writerly type bloggers with manuscripts-in-progress. Rachele's contemporary YA, Canary, debuts next fall, so that makes her a real-live author which, by extension, includes her in a group of people I'd like to be in someday. So, of course, I jumped on the word-nerd bandwagon.
      The rules are simple: Last week, Rachele wrote a post on her blog answering the interview questions below about her work in progress and linking the post to the writer who tagged her and five (plus a couple) others for this week. I play the same game. You get to read my enthralling answers and then hold on to your hats until next Wednesday to check out the thought processes of five other aspiring authors, and, in one case, amazing author-illustrator. 
     I know I've mentioned my love of books, writing, and all things etymological here before, but I haven't maintained this as strictly a "writing" blog, so here's a whole new side of this Mamma for some of you blogland beauties to see. :-) Here we go:

Q1. What is the working title of your book?

     The working title of my novel is THE CHRONICLES OF GIDEON HOLBROOK: BOOK 1. I've been through a few titles...The Taffy Family Chronicles, Gideon Holbrook and the Legend of the Black Lake...but I think I like what I'm working with now best.

Q2. Where did the idea for the book originate?

     I have loved writing for...well, ever. I've written hundreds of poems, scads of essays and short stories, dozens of children's picture book manuscripts, but I had never even thought about writing a novel until one day when my daughter was four years old. She has always been very articulate and advanced in her vocabulary and we were playing a story-telling game we call Fortunately/Unfortunately. I would start a story with one sentence, beginning with either the word 'fortunately' or 'unfortunately,' and she would continue with the next sentence, starting with the opposite word. For example: "Fortunately, the alligator was on a leash." "Unfortunately, the leash was plastic." And then chaotic storytelling ensues. This particular day, however, I started the story, "Fortunately for the little girl standing on the rocky shore, she had remembered to wear her raincoat and hat." Then Laurelei continued, "Unfortunately, her brother standing next to her had not." 
      And then I had a vision. I know that sounds very purple-prosish and melodramatic but I kid you not. The little girl in the rain on the rocky shore and her brother, soaked to the skin next to her became, suddenly, full-fledged characters in my mind. We exchanged a few more sentences and I told Laurelei I loved this story and I needed to write it down. I asked her what else she wanted to have happen and she answered, "Hmmm...the boy and the girl visit their grandparents...and there are pirates." Okay! I spent the next two days writing what would eventually, after much poking and prodding and molding and shaping, become the first five chapters of THE CHRONICLES OF GIDEON HOLBROOK (a.k.a.: the boy without a raincoat). 

Q3. What genre does your book fall under?*

*Alright, this game's 20 weeks old so I hope I'm not offending the creator of  these questions by unleashing my inner grammarian and rephrasing them a bit (the last one originally said "Where did the idea come from for your book?" Not incorrect, technically, but clunky). In my not-so-humble opinion, this one should say: What genre does your book fall into

     Why, thanks for asking. My WIP ("work in progress" for you non-writerly types) features main characters of middle school age and would most likely be publisher-classified as an Upper Middle Grade Fantasy/Adventure. I hope, however, that it has cross-over appeal to both the YA and Adult markets. 

Q4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

     I won't pretend I haven't thought about it. I'm a very visual person and an imagery-loving writer. Sometimes, the only way I can work through a scene is by "seeing" the movie in my head. That said, the only one of my characters for whom I have selected a definite, perfect-fit actor counterpart is my villain. I would loooove to see Helena Bonham-Carter in that role.

Q5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Ugh! That's a hard question. Okay, one shot, off the top of my head, here goes:
     When Gideon Holbrook's parents receive a mysterious letter and set off on a secret ocean journey leaving Gid and his sister with their grandmother on an island off the coast of Oregon, Gideon discovers a secret about his family's ancestry that has him wondering who he really is, and racing to save his parents' lives. 

Q6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

     I am seeking agent representation (hello? any agents reading?).

Q7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

     I started over three or four times before completing a single draft. It's a complicated plot. I think it took me three years to finally come to a draft.

Q8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?*
*or To what other books within your genre would you compare your story?

     Avi's CRISPIN AND THE CROSS OF LEAD comes to mind, and maybe...smack me for my arrogance here...J.M. Barrie's PETER PAN? I don't know. I hate comparing my work to others'. 

Q9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

     After my little girl's spark of magic set a fire under me, my thoughts turned to my ancestors and my love of mythology and folk tales. I am a mixed bag of national heritages, but, for some reason, the vague knowledge of some unnamed Welsh progenitors stood out in my mind. I began to interweave my story with one from traditional Welsh mythology, pulling in historical figures and letting my fictional characters grow around them. My own, semi-romanticized ideas of the old-world Welsh culture and landscapes, combined with the newness of a turn-of-the-century, melting-pot-of-cultures, North-Western American town inspired me to push and develop the story.  

Q10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

     Pirates. As requested by Laurelei, the villains of the tale are of the seafaring variety, and they come with their own back stories, side stories, and surprises. Making up pirates may have been the most entertaining part of writing this story for me. A couple of my favorites: Birdie, a Jamaican with dread-locked hair and a sinsister-sweet voice, and Dead Danby, a Cockney Brit whose skin hangs loose on his frame like melted wax and who has died at least nine times. 

     And there you have it! I hope to share it with all of you--via your local bookseller, of course--one day very soon. You can check out Rachele Alpine's Q&A on her current WIP here, and don't forget to look for more authorial ramblings of the fabulous variety from these bloggers next Wednesday:

J. Larkin
Erin Shakespeare
Liesel Bendio Potter
Jessica Lorene
Madison LaFond
( I'll post the links to those last two as soon as I have 'em).

Thanks for stopping in, lovelies, and remember: faithful blog readers get cuts in line at my book signing someday.


October 17, 2012

Face Your Fears

     Raw honesty time, gentle readers.
      For basically my entire life, I have always had trouble asking other people for help. Or even telling anyone else when I have a situation wherein I need help. It's the Mammahood-familiar I Can't Be Seen As A Failure/I Must Be Perfect and Do All fear.

     Do you know that fear?

     The crazy thing about giving in to that compulsion to do it all on my own is that, in the short term, my manic achievements are a source of confidence and pride; an endorphin-laden rush of power. But in the long term, denying others the chance to be involved in my life, and disallowing myself to be involved in theirs only creates weakness, loneliness, and isolation. I know that. And still I struggle to let others in.
     The other day I called up one of my oldest friends and asked for her help with something. That may seem mundane and expected and unremarkable to most people, but to me, the fact that I did it and I survived it was a reminder that, even with the realizations I've made about my fear, it's not something I can ever forget about or stop fighting. But the easy part of that comes here: I believe my Heavenly Father (insert your personal deity term here) opens doors that will lead us places where our weaknesses become our strengths, all the time, right in front of our faces. For me, those doors have lately taken the shape of someone asking me to be in charge of an activity or committee or event that I really can't (even though the manic-mom part of me still says I can) make happen on my own.
     My calling in our church right now is to plan and coordinate monthly activities for our women's charitable service organization. Every month I fight the urge to plan all the lessons, teach all the classes, and make all the refreshments by myself. A small part of me still feels that would be easier than picking up the phone and delegating assignments or asking for help. But I do it. I call. And you know what? People want to be involved. They don't call me names and hang up the phone like my fear-mongering subconsciousness tells me they will. They say yes. That lesson, I recognize, is why God opened that door for me.
     This past week, while volunteering in Riley's kindergarten class, his teacher asked me to be the group leader of the Halloween Party committee. I had to roll the words leader (not do-er of all) and committee (not solo party planner) around in my brain a little before I said yes. And later that night when I logged onto Pinterest to start scratching up some ideas, I had to remind myself again: The other parents on this list wrote their names down voluntarily. They WANT to help. Not only is it implausible for you to come up with and make all the games/activities/refreshments on your own--it's also not fair. And so I stopped pinning. I will give each of those other parents the chance to pitch in, and I will meet them and we will collaborate and--who knows?--maybe even uplift each other and encourage each other a little bit at the same time. 
     What fears do you face, blogland beauties? I hope you are conquering them as I am learning to conquer mine.The easy part is that the door has been opened. The hard part is choosing to walk through.

I hope you choose to walk through the doors God opens for you.

October 15, 2012


     No, not the book/movie wherein the soccer players eat their dead teammates while stranded in the Andes (that's Alive, right?). I'M talking about me. I'm alive. I haven't taken fingertips to keypad for over a month on this here blog, and I'm blaming that mostly on my fun bout of bronchitis-while-pregnant, but here I am now, alive and kicking typing. And not only am I alive, but for the first time this fall (my favorite season...I may have mentioned that once or twice...), the land around me feels alive and beautiful, even as it prepares to enter the sleeping death of winter. For nearly two months our valley has suffered heat, drought, and the choking, stagnating smoke of the Sawtooth Wilderness fire, keeping us all (well, the smart ones at least) inside and longing for cool breezes and rain and the damp earth smell of autumns past. A death that is in so many ways alive. And finally it has has arrived!

     We celebrated that earth life cycle this weekend in a way our family has come to love: our third annual outing at the PEAS Farm Fall Festival, where we engaged in fresh cider sipping, pumpkin picking, pig observing, chicken squawking, playground romping and tractor hay riding under a stormy sky.

 Last year at Fall Fest! Look how much my munchkins have changed! 

 Why, yes rugged tractor man who looks like a skinny James Franco, I would like to know more about kale and rye grass and garlic.

I  also indulged in plenty of sweater and cute boots spotting
(look at that adorable yellow hand-knit! I need to learn to knit this winter...) but it is hard to take a person's picture without them knowing it, so, alas, I captured only this one.

     The next day our weekly Sunday drive took us to Garnet Ghost Town, in the Blackfoot River Corridor, where the silence and the chill and the turning of the Tamarack Pines whispered softly of autumn and beautiful decay. And while the baby in my womb kicked and rolled, the kiddos in the back seat giggled and sang, and my husband's warm hand softly tickled the back of my neck, I felt wonderfully, undeniably, alive.

I hope you feel that this fall.