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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Historical Fiction Author Jennifer C. Wilson Knows How to Use NaNoWriMo to Her Advantage


I know a lot of you participate in NaNoWriMo. Even if you've never heard of the National Novel Writing Month challenge, you'll be interested in the post by today's guest. Jennifer C. Wilson has figured out how to make a month of relentless fiction-writing work for her, and her latest novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, is proof.

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A New Novel, Thanks to NaNoWriMo
by Jennifer C. Wilson

In March 2015, I was in Leicester Cathedral, attending the service of compline for my debut novel’s leading man. Rewarded for my early arrival with a front-row seat, I watched his coffin arrive, be carried with solemn ceremony through the doors, and placed on the waiting stand.

There cannot be many writers who get to attend part of their lead character’s funeral, and even fewer historical fiction writers who can claim the same. But there I was. Of course, at that stage, my debut novel was simply a file on my hard-drive, waiting to be worked on, but from the moment I received the pristine white envelope, with the ‘RIII’ emblem on the reverse, I knew I had to get it sorted. Returning that evening to my hotel (by tradition, on the site of the inn Richard III stayed at prior to Bosworth), I opened my notebook and began making plans.

The plotline was thanks to a Writing Magazine poetry competition, to feature ghosts. I started thinking that the spirits of Richard III and Anne Boleyn would have a lot in common if they happened to meet, and the more I thought about it, the most logical place for both to be was the Tower of London. I was lucky enough to visit the Tower twice within six months, in freezing blizzards and glorious sunshine, and gradually ideas began to crystallise. The original poem was awful; I never entered it. But the general arc seemed to flow, and finding a quiet spot on my second visit, the poem became an outline for a novel.

By the time NaNoWriMo arrived, I was ready.

I’ve used NaNoWriMo three times to finish a first draft; I love the manic joy of just sitting down and getting the words out. No self-editing, no re-reading, just onwards to a conclusion that’s never been the one I expected. But there it was: fifty thousand words. It felt almost like cheating, with no need to worry about anachronisms or sixteenth century women using twenty-first century slang, but there was still plenty of fact-checking needed – burial locations, ages, and ensuring people could have met if I’d said they had. This all came later of course, once the bulk of the plot was down, with plenty of time and space for finesse.

For me, NaNoWriMo is the best way to get that first draft ‘out’, and I’m already planning for November 2017. After all, you cannot edit what you haven’t written, however inspired you might be.
Author Jennifer C. Wilson
Two months after compline, my novel was submitted; six months later, it was published. 

NaNoWriMo and a funeral are an odd combination, but hey, with writing, it’s never worth arguing with what appears to work! Although, unless we start looking for more monarchs, I doubt lightning will strike twice…

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London – Blurb
A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.

With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave?


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Learn more about Jennifer C. Wilson on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.
You can purchase Kindred Spirits: Tower of London here.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Like #funny #scifi? Win RED SPAWN DELIVERY at Goodreads Giveaway!


What more need I say? Candlemark & Gleam is giving away three copies of the third book in the Webrid Chronicles series, RED SPAWN DELIVERY.

Webrid’s grandfather always told him not to use his cart unless he was getting paid for it. But this huge, hairy carter on the planet Bexilla let a friend talk him into carting beers and grub to a picnic with her old college roommate.

Worst mistake he ever made. Before he can even burp up his first sandwich, the ol’ roomie stretches out her ten shiny legs, and out pop a hundred spawn. And before Webrid can settle his churning stomach, fifty of those spawn have been kidnapped.

Like it or not, Webrid finds himself on another planet-hopping adventure with snarky, brainy pals Zatell and Stravin and a host of wacky aliens. This time, Webrid’s cart is a playpen -- or it will be, if he can only find those blasted spawn.


Enter the giveaway by clicking here! Closes Feb. 28, 2017.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Author Jennifer Bohnhoff Talks about Mistaken Identities in Middle Grade Fiction


My guest today is Jennifer Bohnhoff, the author of several works of middle grade historical fiction. Her next book, Valverde, is set in New Mexico during the Civil War and will be published this spring. 

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Mistaken Identities in Middle Grade Fiction

by Jennifer Bohnhoff


Most middle school readers wonder if they were adopted. Some actually revel in it: who are these people, and why can’t they understand me? Clearly my own people are elsewhere. Middle grade readers are going through so many emotional, physical and psychological changes that it’s not surprising that they are drawn to books about other children who don’t know who they are. Here are a few suggested books with this theme.

Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is the classic novel of mistaken identity. Originally published in monthly installments between 1837 and 1839, it tells the story of an orphan born in a workhouse in 1830s England. Oliver leaves the workhouse when he is nine years old and apprenticed to an undertaker, but runs away and finds himself in the company of a troop of pickpockets. Through a series of interwoven circumstances, the kind that only Dickens could have created, Oliver’s identity is eventually revealed, and the orphan boy goes from rags to riches and takes his rightful place in the kind of generous and loving family that every middle school child wishes he had. 

Jennifer Bohnhoff
Jip, His Story, written in 1996 by the Newbery-winning American novelist Katherine Paterson, focuses on another orphan, this time a 12-year-old. Set on a poor farm in Vermont during the 1850s, it tells the story of a baby who supposedly fell of a cart and was never retrieved. He is called Jip because his dark skin color made people believe he was a gypsy. Despite the hard work and difficult conditions, Jip gets along well with the other workers on the farm, many of whom are mentally ill, and he enjoys working with the farm animals. But when a man shows up and begins asking questions about Jip’s background, it becomes clear that Jip is no gypsy, and his real identity puts him in grave danger.

The main character of my historical novel Code: Elephants on the Moon may not be an orphan, but she still doesn’t know who she is. Eponine Lambaol thinks she is the only red head in a town filled with brown-haired people because she is Breton living in a tiny village in Normandy, France. It is spring of 1944 and there are many things that Eponine doesn’t understand. Where is her father? Who is the mysterious cousin who has come to live with her and her mother? When Eponine finds her mother and cousin listening to strange announcements on a forbidden radio, she realizes that nothing she’s believed about herself is true.

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Learn more about Jennifer Bohnhoff on her website.
You can purchase Code: Elephants on the Moon on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

J.L. Newton on the importance of environment in her novel OINK


We do love a touch of satire on Jester Harley's Manuscript Page, so it's a pleasure to have J.L. Newton with us today. The target of her humorous novel, Oink: A Food for Thought Mystery, is the world of universities. She wrote a very interesting piece for us about how the environment in your novel's setting can be far more than a backdrop.


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Making Environment a Character in Your Fiction
by Judith Newton

In writing Oink, a humorous send up of the university for its increasing devotion to self-interest, competition, and profit, I also wanted to emphasize the importance of values that are less about profit and more about the common good. I planned to do this, in part, through my characterization of Emily Addams’s campus community. It is comprised of faculty in women’s and ethnic studies who have come together to support each other and to resist having their programs defunded by an increasingly corporate-minded administration.

I wanted to do more, however, to engage the reader in positive feelings about community, and so I decided to suggest the interconnectedness of human and natural life in the very texture of the novel. To feel oneself in relation to the world of nature and to value the smallest forms of life are  precursors to valuing human community as well.

I decided that elements which appear as background—animals, plants, the weather, the seasons—could subtly enforce a feeling of interrelation. There are many animals in the novel, for example, both domesticated and wild, which just appear as the characters are carrying on their lives. As Emily drives to meet with the biologist Tess Ryan, who she hopes will have important information, “a single red-tailed hawk flapped twice, launching itself into air. The sight of a hawk’s glide always brought me to life, making me feel as if I too were capable of soaring.” Many of the characters also look like animals. The Chair of the English Department has a hound dog face which “seemed to sag into his tweed jacket.” The Vice Provost, with her long nose, resembles a hummingbird, and the greedy Peter Elliott, victim of the poisoning, is compared to a pig by another character—although the actual pigs in the novel are far more charming than he.

I named streets after animals or native California plants—Wild Deer Lane, Coyote Court, and Badger Crossing, Poppy Lane, Ceanothus Drive—and  I made the weather heighten people’s moods. Emily feels oppressed by the ninety-six degree heat as she realizes that, with the poisoning of Peter, something sinister has entered into the atmosphere at Arbor State. Later, she gets lost in a tule fog at night, making her feel even more depressed about her inability to discover the culprit.

J.L. Newton (photo: Eliot Khuner)
In all of this, I wanted to be accurate. I studied the birds and animals of northern California, and I worked with a weather calendar from October 1999, when the novel is set, to capture how the weather really operated that month in that year. Knowing what hummingbirds really do inhabit northern California made me feel the kind of attention to and connection with nature that I wanted to instill in my reader.

I also set the novel at a time of year that would convey a message. Oink begins on October 11, 1999, in the midst of harvest and Indian Summer, and ends on November 1, El Dia de Los Muertos, which marks the coming of winter, the dying of leaves, and the diminishment of the sun, reminding characters of their own mortality. El Dia also celebrates those who have died, asserts the continuation of life, and demonstrates the power of communities to fortify their members against the forces of darkness and despair.  In the context of conditions such as these— conditions in which we all live—Oink poses an implicit question: do we spend our lives in an individualist pursuit of profit, or do we work toward more communal ways of being?

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Learn more about J.L. Newton on her website.

You can purchase Oink: A Food for Thought Mystery on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Enter the SPACE SURFERS 1st Birthday Giveaway! #YA #scifi #spaceopera


I can't believe it's been a year since Graika and Lerris Rhellog started their adventure to find their Human roots on the planet Soranen. I'm delighted that SPACE SURFERS was published by Alban Lake; nearly 20 of my short stories have appeared their various magazines, but this was my first book for them.

SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY FORM

Space Surfers blurb:

Teenage siblings Lerris and Graika of the planet Soranen want to go into outer space, an act forbidden by their people, the Sor. The Sor, it is believed, are the descendants of the Ellarisor and the Humans, now both extinct on Soranen. When Lerris surfs above the clouds in his minijet, he spots a vessel owned by Lorfallin, a chemical magnate. The ship is spraying a green mist that, it turns out, causes a disease which affects those with Human ancestry, including the siblings’ father.

Thus begins a journey to find pure descendants of the Ellarisor, whose blood might provide an antidote to the green mist. Along the way, Lerris and Graika learn the truth about their ancestry, and some truths about life. This prepares them for the final battle---against the Tust, who have engaged Lorfallin to destroy all trace of Human life. If they win, outer space may be open to them. But if they lose...


Would you like to win a print copy of Space Surfers? You must have a mailing address in the U.S. (international postage is soooo expensive!). I'd love to share Graika and Lerris' world with you.

Please share this contest with your friends. Entries open until Wednesday, February 8 at 11:59 pm Eastern. I'll announce the winners here the next day.

  SPACE SURFERS 1st Birthday Giveaway

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lisa Marie Latino's novel TEN YEARS LATER is a beacon of hope for millennial women


I am pleased to welcome Lisa Marie Latino, whose novel Ten Years Later offers the story of a woman who discovers her strength and adaptability.

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Life as Inspiration: Writing Ten Years Later
by Lisa Marie Latino

Ten Years Later is about a girl that most people, especially millennials who are trying to find their niche in the “real world,” can relate to.

We first meet Carla D’Agostino while she’s in the throes of a major quarter-life crisis. To add fuel to the fire, she realizes her ten-year high school reunion is fast approaching, and her frustration multiplies when she starts comparing herself to her “more successful” peers. Ten Years Later follows Carla throughout her year-long journey of “perfection” for the big night, and we see the highs and lows of what that entails.

I went through various periods of self doubt in the years after college.  I, too, was single, still living at my parents’ home, and went through some very trying times that all entrepreneurs do while forming their own businesses.  As I opened up to others about my frustrations I realized that nearly everyone, no matter their circumstance, was dealing with the same insecurities. That theme-- visions of what one thinks life SHOULD be versus reality-- really inspired me, and since I've always wanted to write a book anyway, I channeled that angst into writing Ten Years Later.

A lot of readers assume Carla and I are the same person because we share a similar background and common interests; we're both New Jersey-based sports fans that are of Italian descent. Obviously, I drew on a lot of my life's experience in shaping a relatable fictional character, but Carla has her own set of unique circumstances that represent the plight of driven millennials everywhere trying to claim their stake in the world.


Author Lisa Marie Latino
The book was originally written for millennial women in their 20's and early 30's who are struggling to find their way; I wanted Ten Years Later to be their beacon of hope and motivate them to accomplish their heart's desires. But as I’m getting to know my readers, I’m realizing that they come from all walks of life. High schoolers to middle-aged men have read and loved the book because any one of its given themes has resonated with them. To write a book that can touch a wide variety of people is very fulfilling. 


Read the blurb for Ten Years Later:

Carla D'Agostino is not your typical heroine. Stuck in a seemingly dead-end job, single, and still living with her overbearing Italian-American parents, Carla is thrown for a loop when she realizes her ten-year high school reunion is fast approaching. True love, a career as a sports radio talk show host, the perfect body--every dream remains frustratingly out of reach no matter how Carla strives and schemes. Out of reach, that is, until unexpected events lead her right back to where she started, and Carla discovers that all she ever wanted was right in front of her the whole time. "Ten Years Later" is a witty, unpredictable tale of one ordinary young woman's race for the top as she throws caution to the wind and decides to go for her dreams.

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Learn more about Lisa Marie Latino on her website or follow her on Instagram as @LisaMarieLatino.

Ten Years Later is available in paperback and as an ebook.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Most Profound Gaseous Emission in Literary History: #AnthonyBurgess' First Line


Some thoughts about a great novel's opening 

by Anne E. Johnson

Pfffrrrummmp.

So runs the first line of Anthony Burgess’ 1963 novel, Inside Mr Enderby. The onomatopoeic coinage
represents flatulence, of course. It becomes even funnier when one reads the second line: “And a very happy New Year to you too, Mr Enderby!” That’s the narrator, out of sleeping Enderby’s earshot, inviting the reader to observe the novel’s subject.

Mr. Enderby (or Mr without the period, since he’s British) is a poet. He’s also middle-aged, slovenly, and constipated of bowel and pen. His tale, the first in a series of four novels about him, begins in the second section of Chapter 1. The opening section the one starting with the airish effluvia is an introduction to the character in second person, as if the reader were being guided through a writers’ zoo, gawping at a curious creature labeled Poet:

Yes, remark again the scant hair, the toothless jaw, the ample folds of flesh rising and falling. But what has prettiness to do with greatness, eh?

Although Enderby does not consciously hear the commentary we read, he is at one point described as giving a “posterior riposte.”

In fact, Burgess draws a constant connect between Enderby’s intestinal plumbing and his verse output. His work station, or “poetic seat,” as Burgess calls it, is the porcelain throne itself. The choice is both meaningful and efficient: It is meaningful as a metaphor for the often painful struggle of the writer to actually produce anything. It is efficient because, although Enderby the man can rarely “go” successfully, Enderby the writer makes use of the bowl beyond its traditional function. In one passage, his failed drafts are “crumpled into the wastebasket on which he sat.”

Burgess, it should be noted, is the poster-child for preferring strict metaphor to simile. Although it creates more work for the reader, who sometimes has to puzzle out what is meant, the mental toil pays off. That quoted phrase above about the wastebasket would have been mundane if Burgess had written that Enderby tossed the draft “into the toilet as if it were a wastebasket.” Because Burgess lets the toilet simply be a wastebasket, the image is more powerful.

Do not think, however, that this approach of bathroom fixture re-identity is in the interest of delicacy. Remember, the novel does start with a fart. 

Pfffrrrummmp.

Anthony Burgess
Burgess’ first line could not be more appropriate for the story of a writer seeking recognition. Enderby struggles to produce what he thinks of as worthy writing. When he writes at all, he scrawls on toilet paper. His current project is a huge epic poem, which he amasses by collecting non-execrable lines (those he deems worth saving from a swirling, watery grave) in a mournful heap of TP squares in this bathtub. As a result of this unique editorial method, Enderby also cannot bathe, and so the cycle of self-loathing is reinforced.

Another reason the first line works is that flatulence is funny and gross. Enderby himself is funny and gross. This book is funny and gross. And it’s all an analogy to a writer’s life which often is, by turns, funny and gross.

Flatulence also drives people away. Just as Enderby is alone and lonely, writing is a solitary job. The obsessive practice of it, like the overconsumption of pinto beans or garlic, can render the writer socially toxic.

Inside Mr Enderby is not only a hilarious and bittersweet portrait of a fictional character. It is also a truthful, humbling reminder to all of us writers: from Shakespeare on down, our words are nothing but flatulence of mind and spirit. Only some do not, shall we say, smell as sweet as others.