Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guest blogger: MG author C.K. Volnek

GhostDog_Cover200x300.jpgWe have a special guest today! C.K. Volnek's new novel, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, combines the historical and the paranormal. I asked her to talk about her research process.

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Thanks for allowing me to visit your blog today, Anne.

Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island is a tween ghost story, with a twist of Native American folklore, and based on a true American mystery…the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. In 1587, 117 colonists disappeared from Roanoke Island without a trace.

I don’t remember studying the Lost Colony. For years I thought the first colonists landed at Plymouth. After reading an article on the mystery of Roanoke Island, my muse perked up. What could have happened to them? I had to know the when, where, why and how it all happened. I had to research.

Some may groan. Research means reading, studying, examining facts. I used to hate history. I was awful at it. I could never remember or keep all those dates straight. And besides, what did history have to do with today?

Now I have found research interesting, fascinating, captivating. I can get lost in the past’s events. And I’ve found history has everything to do with today. Every situation has a cause and effect theory. What we do today, can and will determine what happens tomorrow.

As in my research for Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, I found I had to go back a few years before the Lost Colony to understand the full story. Cause and effect…If Queen Elizabeth had not granted Sir Walter Raleigh a charter for the colonization of the land she called ‘Virginia,’ none of this would have happened. If

But it did. In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh dispatched two men to explore the Eastern coast of North America. It proved fruitful and a second expedition with a hundred men was sent out, headed by Sir Richard Grenville. The men built a fort and a number of small houses but soon abandoned their adventure. Grenville, however, left a very hideous crime behind. In his exploration, a group of Native Americans had been invited on board one of the ships. A silver cup came up missing and the Indians were blamed. Grenville sent his men to destroy the entire village of Aquascogoc.

Despite the mystery of the Lost Colony, without this crucial piece of history, my story of Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island would never have been born. I was so appalled at the intolerance and prejudice my muse grabbed hold of the details and formulated her story. It drove my muse to research even more, even searching to find original manifest of the colonists, digging up pictures and facts of early colonial and Native American life, and details as to why Governor White, after going back to England for supplies, returned to Roanoke Island three years later to find a deserted fort and no clues to the whereabouts of the colonists.

My muse then turned to research the flora and fauna of Roanoke Island. A writer must know details of the area to make the story enchanting and believable. I studied what plants grew in the area, what the terrain looked like, and the layout of the island.

Once I pulled all my research together, added my characters, and threw in a ghost and Native American folklore, the plot of Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island became visible. A story, emphasizing how the pain of intolerance and prejudice affects people, flowed from my fingers.

I hope you’ll check out Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island and find out how research built my tale. Even though my story includes a ghost, the history of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island is first-most present and factual.

Thanks again for letting me visit your blog. It’s been fun. I’d love to hear from your readers.

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You can visit C.K. Volnek at her website
and purchase Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Guest blogger: YA horror author Araminta Star Matthews

Kids save the world from their undead parents! This mind-blowing premise is the idea behind Araminta Star Matthew's YA novel Blind Hunger. I'm delighted to have her as my guest today. I asked her to talk about character development in her work.

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First off, let me thank Anne for asking me to be a guest blogger. Thanks, Anne!   My writing process for Blind Hunger played out very differently than it has for other novels and short stories I’ve written. First off, the story was originally a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) winner a few years back, so I whipped the original draft out in just thirty days. It took another two months to finish the first draft, then a full year of editing before I felt it was tidy enough to submit to a publisher. Normally, my process is very different: I write and plan as I go, adding details and revising/refining my words for months at a time, then allowing my manuscript to sit for a while collecting dust before I start on it again.
                You asked how I’m able to write compelling and believable characters, and thanks for that. That’s quite a compliment. I think that’s about the one place my training as a classic literary novelist comes into play. I have both an undergraduate and graduate degree in creative writing which prepares you to write the next Gatsby, not the next Carrie, if you know what I mean. While I wouldn’t say Blind Hunger is very literary (that is, a story driven by characters and not plot), I would argue that my characters certainly benefited from all that classic training. As a result, they’re three-dimensional with unique personalities. I owe this to an insatiable curiosity and study in psychology and sociology: you have to know what makes a person tick (or what might make a person tick) in order to write that person in a believable way. For example, I’ve never been a teenage boy with abusive parents—far from it; my parents were mostly loving and supportive. So, to create the characters for this novel, I actually drew on my theatrical background—a skill riddled with psychology and sociology--to bring them to life. I literally would sit at my computer and tense up my shoulders, or start gasping for breath, trying to find the right way—the angle—in which my individual characters would react to a given moment.
Their idiosyncrasies required a little more research. I spent time with some local teenagers, asked questions of my students (I teach college writing) about what kind of music the Emo or Goth kids listened to when they were still in high school, and I watched a lot of film and television adaptations of youth culture. Then, when I was sitting at the keyboard entering their personalities into the ether of my hard drive, I would add to my list of theatrical actions whatever I gleaned from that study. Then I was punching away at my keyboard with black nail polish on, or I was playing with this chemistry set my mother got me for my birthday (yes—she still buys me children’s toys, and I love it). It was a good time.
Acting out scenes and characters was kind of a reverse literature lesson for me. In a literature class, I would task my students with pulling out what was important in a scene or amidst a stack of character dialogue in order to write little scripts to play out in class. In this sense, I flipped it. I now acted out scenes before I wrote them down. It allowed me to achieve stronger sensory details if I was, for instance, tensing my own shoulders or gasping in the way my characters were; and, it also helped me to identify what really mattered—that is, what I really needed to show in a given scene.

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  You can visit Araminta Star Matthews here.  Buy Blind Hunger at Amazon and elsewhere.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Global Blog Tag: 10 Random Facts about Anne E. Johnson

Have you ever played a GLOBAL game of tag?
Well, I'm It.
I've been tagged by children's author Miranda Paul.

Rules (if you're tagged): You must be tagged by someone; list 10 random facts about yourself; tag four more people.
Ready or not, here I go!

1. I've been teaching music history and music theory for 15 years.

2. In 1984, my mother made me a birthday cake in the shape of K-9, Doctor Who's robot dog. This picture of it was published in the Whovian Times.

3. My father is a journalist. I think that's why I can write so fast.

4. I'm a pretty good tap dancer.

5. Although I never rode in an airplane until I was 16, as a child I traveled all across the U.S. on car trips with my family.

6. I'm married to a playwright, Ken Munch. A lot of writing goes on at our house!

7. In college I majored in Ancient Greek and Latin. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made. There's no better way to get to know how language works and how it developed.

8. When my mother was in the Peace Corps, I got to visit her in Morocco. 

9. In July of 2012 I will have lived in New York City for 20 years.

10. Because I've lived in NYC for so long, a trip to a suburban shopping mall is an exciting and exotic experience for me.

And I tag the following four unsuspecting writers:

1. Debra Brenegan
2. Gueh Yanting Claudine
3. Roseanne Dowell
4. Cat DeLallo

You're it!
And everyone else: tell me one thing about you!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Guest blogger: Suspense author S.L. Pierce

Please give a warm welcome to S.L. Pierce, who knows how to make you sit on the edge of your seat and jump at a plot twist.  Her new novel is The Devil's Game. I asked her to discuss how she fills her writing with suspense. 

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What makes a good thriller?  I thought I might answer that today with an example.

1)  The noise was coming from the bedroom.  But that was impossible.  No one else was home.

2)  It was faint.  Just the slightest creak.  But it was enough to pull her from a deep sleep.  Out of habit she got up to check the baby, but stopped herself short.  Michael was gone.  Forever.  And the house was empty.  Wasn't it?  

Do you find yourself drawn in by number two more than number one?  Why is the baby gone?  Who is in the house? 

There are two things that make a good thriller (in my opinion).  The first, of course, is making the reader curious.  But just the right amount of curious.  You have to give them little crumbs; just enough to keep them interested but not so much they figure out the mystery too soon and lose interest.  It's a fine line and a good writer has to find that balance. 

Second, and more important, is making the reader care about the character(s).  You can write the most edge of your seat, nail biting, thrilling story and yes, that will get people to start reading, but if they don't care about the character, they won't keep reading.  Look at the example above.  Aren't you just a little more curious about the second example?  Aren't you a little more invested? 

Not convinced?  It really hits home with me when I think of one of the bestselling and prolific writers out there today.  I'm sure you know who I mean.  I used to love his books, but for the last few years I haven't been able to read them.  Why?  Because he hasn't made me care about the characters.  His story plots are great – fast and fun.  But the characters are flat.  Boring.  Unrealistic.  And I just don't care about them. 

Thriller readers, think about that the next time you read the first few pages or download a sample.  What makes you keep reading and what makes you put the book down or delete the sample without buying.  I'll bet it's lacking one if the items mentioned above. 

Writers, look at your opening; can you make the reader invest a little more in the story with just a few extra words?  Take a few sentences and give it a try.

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You can visit S.L. Pierce at her blog.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Buy links for Greek Myths Revisited

Greek Myths Revisited, an anthology published by Wicked East Press, is now available. It contains my story "Table Manners," a sci fi re-telling of the bloody, crazy myth of Tantalus, which is all about how jealous the gods get when men are too proud and ungrateful.

You can buy it from Pill Hill Press Shoppe

or from Amazon

(This is definitely not for children!)

Friday, September 2, 2011

New children's sci fi story published!

Delighted to have a link to "The Silver Visitors," just out in the new issue of Spaceports & Spidersilk. This is my third piece for them.

You can read it for free HERE!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

MuseItUp MG/YA Blogathon Schedule

Fun, fun, fun! Don't miss a single post!
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on C.K. Volnek 
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Barbara Bockman

Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Kim Baccellia
Kim Bacellia - “Crossed Out” on Shellie Neumeier
Barbara Bockman - “Driven” on Pembroke Sinclair
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on C.K. Volnek

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Lawna Mackie
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Meradeth Houston

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Marva Dasef
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Rebecca Ryals Russell

Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Kim Baccellia
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Barbara Ehrentreu

Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Marva Dasef
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Lawna Mackie
Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on C.K. Volnek

Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Kim Baccellia
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Shellie Neumeier 
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Rebecca Ryals Russell

Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Kim Baccellia
Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Shellie Neumeier 
Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on Marva Dasef

Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Sue Perkins
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on C.K. Volnek

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Shellie Neumeier 
Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Chris Verstraete
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Pembroke Sinclair

Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Kim Baccellia

C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Shellie Neumeier 
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Lawna Mackie
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Sue Perkins
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Pembroke Sinclair
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Meradeth Houston

Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Sue Perkins
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Chris Verstraete

Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Shellie Neumeier 
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Chris Verstraete
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Meradeth Houston

Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Marva Dasef
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Lawna Mackie
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Sue Perkins

Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Barbara Bockman
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Pembroke Sinclair
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Meradeth Houston
Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on C.K. Volnek

Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Barbara Bockman
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Sue Perkins
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Chris Verstraete

Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Marva Dasef
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Shellie Neumeier 
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Pembroke Sinclair

Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Pembroke Sinclair
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on C.K. Volnek

Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Shellie Neumeier 
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Sue Perkins
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Meradeth Houston
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on C.K. Volnek

Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Marva Dasef
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Pembroke Sinclair
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Chris Verstraete

Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Barbara Ehrentreu
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Shellie Neumeier 
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Sue Perkins
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Meradeth Houston

Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Kim Baccellia
Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on Marva Dasef
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Lawna Mackie
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Pembroke Sinclair

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Barbara Bockman
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Sue Perkins
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Meradeth Houston
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on C.K. Volnek

Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Marva Dasef
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Lawna Mackie
Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on Shellie Neumeier 
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Meradeth Houston

Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Kim Baccellia
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Barbara Bockman
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Marva Dasef
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Lawna Mackie
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Chris Verstraete

Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on Barbara Bockman
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Shellie Neumeier 
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Chris Verstraete

C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Kim Baccellia
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Marva Dasef
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Lawna Mackie
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Sue Perkins
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Chris Verstraete
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on C.K. Volnek

C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Barbara Bockman
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Meradeth Houston
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on C.K. Volnek

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Kim Baccellia
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Marva Dasef
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Barbara Ehrentreu
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Lawna Mackie