Friday, July 3, 2015

Column series: Examining different types of #Kidlit - On @EatSleepWriting

I'm starting to feel like an old hand at this weekly column-writing gig. The way my brain functions, I can get nearly anything done if I think of it as a series of tasks and schedule those tasks in some sort of regular pattern. Seems to be working for my Kid Lit Insider column on Eat Sleep Write.

If you haven't seen it yet, please check out my latest four-column series, taking a close look at writing for various age levels in the kidlit market. To read the columns, simply click on the titles:

What is Middle Grade literature?

What is YA literature?

What is Early Reader literature?

What is New Adult literature?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Diana Reep Uses Spanish-American War as Backdrop for #YAlit novel

Fact is, we haven't had enough YA historical fiction on this blog. Diana Reep is here to fix that, sharing some background about her novel, The Dangerous Summer of Jesse Turner. Hold onto your hats: we're in for some rough riding.

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Teddy Roosevelt’s Volunteers
By Diana Reep

I appreciate the chance to talk about my teen historical adventure, The Dangerous Summer of Jesse Turner. I prefer to write fiction based on action-packed exploits in the past. The Spanish-American War of 1898, although brief, certainly fit that requirement and also was crucial in creating an independent Cuba. My research partner and I were discussing the 1890s in general when we realized the war was a perfect setting for a teen adventure.

President McKinley sent the regular U.S. Army to Cuba, but the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment formed by Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt captured the attention of the public. Volunteers for the Rough Riders, as the regiment was called, came from across the nation—cowboys, students from Yale and Harvard, farmers, and Indians from the western territories.  The challenge in historical fiction is to create vivid characters who live their own lives within the framework of historical events. 

The diversity of Rough Rider volunteers made it easy to develop three teens from different backgrounds who find friendship and loyal comrades amid sudden bloody conflict. Choosing the teen to narrate the story was also easy. Jesse Turner is from a small town in the Missouri area where the famous outlaws Frank and Jesse James and the Younger brothers once lived. Attaching his family background to the outlaw history means he has to face a personal enemy among his fellow Rough Riders along with the deadly hazards of combat. His pals, New Yorker Will and Ben, a Comanche from the territories, share his dangers and struggle with their own personal tests.

The fun in research for me is finding stories that lie beneath the general surface record.  For instance, although the volunteers were called Rough Riders, they had to leave most of their horses behind in Florida because the decrepit merchant ships taking them to Cuba were overloaded with troops. Of the horses that did sail to Cuba, most drowned in attempting to land on the beaches. So, the Rough Riders walked through the jungle and fought on foot. Battles often get the most attention in history books, but just as important were the daily frustrations the volunteers had to face—ugly land crabs, heat, rotten food, fever, torrential rains, and constant wet feet.

Readers who like fast-paced action-adventure will find it in The Dangerous Summer of Jesse Turner. As a writer I hated to leave Jesse, Will, and Ben, and they remain my favorite characters.  

Blurb:  When sixteen-year-old Jesse Turner lies about his age and joins Colonel Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, he expects to prove himself in battle. What he doesn’t expect is a fellow volunteer determined to kill him for something his outlaw father did in the past. Jesse and his new friends, New Yorker Will and Ben, a Comanche from the Indian Territories, share the hazards of a volunteer military force unprepared for war and the reality of deadly combat. Facing dangers from all sides, the three teens depend on friendship, courage, and integrity to get them through the bloody action of the Spanish-American War.

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Purchase The Dangerous Summer of Jesse Turner at Barnes and Noble and Amazon

Learn more about Diana Reep here

Monday, June 8, 2015

Exploring #Picturebook #selfpub on @EatSleepWriting

Over on Eat Sleep Write, I've now got two columns under my belt. Pop on over if you're interested.

Self-Publishing Your Picture Book 1: Kindle Kids' Book Creator

Self-Publishing Your Picture Book 2: Alternatives to Kindle

I'm having a fun time so far, and learning a lot as I go. Let me know what you think, and also if there are certain topics you'd like me to cover.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Heckuva week: A new #kidlit blogging gig and 3 story sales!

It's been a crazy few days. And I mean crazy in a good way (for once). Here's the scoop:

1. I've been named the first-ever Children's Lit columnist for a wonderful website called Eat Sleep Write.

2. Dreaming Robot Press will publish my middle-grade sci-fi story "Leafheart" in the 2016 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide. I'm especially pleased about this, both because I was also in the 2015 edition, and because the folks at Dreaming Robot are outspoken advocates of diversity in kidlit.

3. Urban Fantasy Magazine will publish my weird, funny tale called "The Duchess of Fitzrovia," which I wrote a couple of years ago during a trip to London.

4. Strange Musings Press will publish my story "Motherlode" in the anthology Alternate Hilarities 2: Weirder Science. If you're a fan of my Webrid books, you'll enjoy the style of this space mining caper.

Items 2 and 3 are made especially sweet because both were revisions requested by the respective editors. This maintains a stat of which I am exceptionally proud: I have a 100% acceptance rate on stories I've been asked to revise. That's a darn good skill to have in this biz.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gender-bending for the love of science in Catherine Haustein's NATURAL ATTRACTION

My guest today is Catherine Haustein, author of Natural Attraction, a science-based historical romance. She shares her book's complex background.

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Science, Sexuality, and Classification
by Catherine Haustein

I’ve been a chemist for over thirty years and it’s a stimulating and often amusing career—in other words, good novel material. Like Clementine in Natural Attraction, I’ve frequently imagined that things would have gone more smoothly had I been a man. Setting Natural Attraction in a time of strict gender roles illustrates how far we’ve come and what still needs to be done.

I chose to place Natural Attraction in 1871 because it was a time of great social change. The theory of evolution and the discovery of sperm and egg cells were quietly ushering in ideas of social equality. Science was a train riding the rails of certainty and classification. And in the hometown of my ancestors, Singapore, Michigan, USA, ecological disaster was brewing. These coalesce in Natural Attraction.

Picking the best genre for the story was a challenge. I decided to write it as romance, not sci-fi. My family was involved in a Shakespeare Festival for a while and I appreciated the complexity of the comedies and the required happy ending, fitting with a romance. Science is filled with passion, curiosity, and the unknown just like romance and the two are very compatible. I also thought it would be fun to give a scientist a romantic liaison with a preacher to let them explore what they had in common.

Another challenge was giving Natural Attraction a Victorian feel without being weighed down by flowery language. I had Clementine be from a family of recent immigrants from the Netherlands, as my ancestors were. I had some characters use Victorian idiomatic expressions. I enjoyed incorporating a Victorian melodrama and theater into the manuscript and included patent medicines and the use of poisonous dyes in clothing as important Victorian touches.

One aspect I wrestled with was how to address sexuality and the transformation of Clementine into a man. I work in a male dominated field and had an inkling of the isolation she might feel as a woman who didn’t really fit in anywhere. I had help from men, particularly those at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, who offered suggestions on what it takes to be a man and the privilege and culpability that come with masculinity. This book is a romance pitched towards women but the comic look at gender roles should appeal to everyone who’s ever felt stuck in them.

Blurb: Clementine dreams of being a naturalist—a career that leaves no time for romance. To sneak on an adventurous prospecting expedition, Clementine will have to convince everyone she’s a man. A mysterious tonic offers her just that disguise.
But “Calvin,” as she calls herself now, had no idea what she was giving up. When Wesley, the expedition’s gentle preacher, catches her eye, she can’t get him out of her head; not his lush lips, wide brown eyes…or broad chest. Dare she reveal her secret to him? Can she keep her career if she does?

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Natural Attraction is available from Penner Publishing, Lybrary, and other major booksellers.

Find the author at and on Facebook

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan on bringing #Beatles #magic to her #fantasy novel, SCATTERED SEASONS

Creating complementary main characters is a skill which, if mastered, can lead to great fiction. Today Sandra Ulbrich Almazan explains how she developed the women in her new novel, Scattered Seasons.

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From the Fab Four to the Fem Four:
Designing a Quartet of Characters
by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

It happened nearly twenty years ago, while I was reading Mark Hertsgaard’s A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. I read a description of the Beatles’ four-fold synergy and thought I’d like to write a story about a quartet working together to create literal magic. From that idea, I slowly came up with a group of four women who each had a type of magic associated with a different season. They were originally called Season Lords, but I changed their name to Season Avatars for a gender-neutral term.

While the magic concept was important, even more important was creating a group of characters with different but complementary personalities. There are different tropes for doing this, such as the Four Element Ensemble, the Four Temperament Ensemble, or even using blood types.  (Warning: all these links lead to the fun but time-sucking TV Tropes website.) I chose a simpler method, which I’ll refer to as “Brain-Body-Heart-Soul.”  This was also inspired by a description of the Beatles. (Fans may disagree on who played what role within the group. I see John as the brain, Paul as the body, George as the soul, and Ringo as the heart.) Each of the four Season Avatars plays one of these roles within the group.

Gwendolyn, the Spring Avatar, is also the leader of the group. Her job is to heal people and coordinate the magic shared by the Avatars so they can perform tasks togethers. As a noblewoman, she’s had the most formal education of the four, so she’s the “brain.”

Jenna is the Summer Avatar and has plant magic. She’s the most sensual of the quartet (so she’s the “body”) and frequently has to remind Gwen to have fun and not focus constantly on her duties.

Ysabel, the Fall Avatar, has animal magic. As the heart of the group, she’s friendly and warm. She’s a diplomat who wants everyone to get along and will mediate when the others argue among themselves. Gwen and Jenna tend to argue a lot, so sometimes they need a go-between.

Finally, Kay, the Winter Avatar with weather magic, is the soul of the group. Although all of the Avatars originally obtained their magic from the God or Goddess associated with their season, she is the most pious and the least likely to question her God’s will.

Of course, it wouldn’t be satisfying to make each character one-dimensional, a person fit only for a certain role and no more. Each of the Avatars comes from a different type of family and a different background. Some of them have talents in non-magical areas, such as music, drawing, or sewing. They all have different personal challenges to overcome as they learn to work together. Each of them will get her own book, starting with Gwen in Scattered Seasons, to tell her part of the overall story.

I look forward to introducing them to you.

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Learn more about Sandra Ulbrich Almazan on her blog or on Facebook.

Purchase Scattered Seasons on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

#SciFi is no joke: Milo James Fowler seriously serializes his Captain Quasar novel

Always a pleasure to welcome Milo James Fowler to Jester Harley's Manuscript Page. I admire anyone who writes as well and as consistently as he does, who shows such determination to get his work out there, and -- most important -- who isn't afraid to put some funny in his science fiction. I'll let him tell you about his latest project:

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Meet Captain Quasar

by Milo James Fowler

For me, writing fiction is all about the characters. And when I create a protagonist I enjoy, I can't help but write more stories for him.

When I came up with Captain Bartholomew Quasar back in the spring of 2010, I was going for a mash-up between William Shatner's James T. Kirk and Dudley Do-Right from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (but in Quasar's case, things seldom ever go right). He's one of those classic pulp heroes with a heart of gold whose narcissistic tendencies often land him in hot water. The captain hasn't changed a whole lot in the dozen other tales I've written, but his relationship with Hank and the other characters is deepening with every story, as Quasar realizes he needs them in order to continue being as awesome as (he thinks) he is.

I don't write hard science fiction with a whole lot of actual science in it. I focus on the characters, and everything else I just make up—or I rely on osmosis to filter enough jargon into my brain from all the SciFi that I've read. I do my best to aim for universal themes and relatable characters, and I try to shoot for a high entertainment value that transcends any barriers to enjoying these space opera tales.

I hope readers can laugh at Bartholomew Quasar and root for him at the same time. He's ridiculous, but there's something about his fallible nature that most of us can relate to on some level.

My debut novel Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Space-Time Displacement Conundrum started serialization on April 20. 

Captain Quasar is out of time.
Pursued by vengeful Goobalob toll collectors, savage Arachnoid bounty hunters, and formidable Amazonians, Captain Bartholomew Quasar must do whatever he can to keep the crew of the Effervescent Magnitude out of harm's way. All in a day's work—except time is not on his side.
Torn from the present to relive his past, he vows to keep mistakes from occurring the second time around. But is he doomed to repeat the past? Or can he erase his regrets?
Villains will be vanquished. Lives will be lost. Bonds will be betrayed. Heroes will be heroic.
Join the crew of the Effervescent Magnitude for a hilarious time-travel space adventure the likes of which you've never seen.

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You can learn more about Milo James Fowler on his website.
Read more about the series and subscribe to it here and read the teaser/prologue right here.