The Courage to Keep Going

Awhile back (this post actually) I mentioned that I might have news. I do, but not the kind of news I wanted to post here. But the reason why I am, is because I recently read some posts by people who had to courage to write about their pain. So, here I go.

In the post I linked to above, I mentioned that an interested party (code word for agent) expressed interest in my middle grade novel. I felt like Cinderella, finally getting a chance to go to the ball. But after I revised the manuscript at the request of that person (I now know what it means to bleed over a manuscript) and turned it in, I later learned that the interested party was now disinterested.

Cinderella anticipating the ball

You know how it feels when you’ve heard dozens and dozens of no’s, only to finally have someone say yes, but then to have that person turn around and say, “On second thought, no”? One of my sisters-in-law told me, “It’s like the rug was snatched out from under you.” A feeling she has also experienced recently.

Imagine this bear pillow is a rug. Now, imagine it being taken away.

I found myself spiraling into depression—an unfortunately familiar place, where getting out of bed seemed pointless. If you don’t suffer from depression, you might not understand that. And I get it. There are worse things in life than being rejected. But when you’re depressed, everything looks gray.

Some really good friends refused to allow me to stay in that dark place. So, with their prayers and encouragement, I got up. Took in a really entertaining movie (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) with a friend who also has had a hard time. Started a new book. Began revising some of the old ones.

Perhaps a disappointment like this might not rock you. You might even have a “Why don’t you do this?” piece of advice ready and waiting. Believe me, I get a lot of advice. To which I answer with this image:

We all have a path we follow. Some of us go in one direction. Some of us go in another. My path might not look the same as yours. The path I’m on is not an easy one (nor am I suggesting that others are). But it is the one I’m on. Believe me, I’m not a masochist who delights in my own pain. I’ve wanted to give up so many times.

I can’t help thinking of someone who came to speak to my SCBWI group. After 300 rejections for one book (you read that right), an agent accepted her manuscript. It was later published as the first of a three-book series.

Would you have the courage to keep going after that many rejections? That author’s persistence humbles me, especially when I consider that I only have a fraction of that amount. (And I’d thought having well over 60 rejections for one book was bad.) I think the title of a book I’m about to give away says it all: Keep Calm and Sparkle On! That’s what that author did. That’s what I plan to do.

If that’s not a segue, then I don’t know what one is. Let’s move on to the winners of the books that were the subjects of the interview posts here and here. They are Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age by Charles Yallowitz

Cover by Jason Pedersen

and The Wish List #2: Keep Calm and Sparkle On! by Sarah Aronson.

The winner of Warlord of the Forgotten Age is

Is

Is

Is

Lyn Miller-Lachmann!

The winner of Keep Calm and Sparkle On! is

Is

Is

Is

Penny from Life on the Cutoff!

Winners, please confirm below. Thank you to all who have put up with my ramblings over the years.

Jumanji movie poster from dvdreleasedates.com. Path sign from geeksundergrace.com. Book covers and author photos courtesy of the authors. Other photos by L. Marie.

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Check This Out: Keep Calm and Sparkle On!

Hey, everyone! With me on the blog today is the always charming, super splendid Sarah Aronson. She’s here to talk about the second book in her Wish List series, Keep Calm and Sparkle On! (The interview with Sarah about her first book in the series can be found here.) Keep Calm and Sparkle On! was published by Scholastic on December 26. Sarah is represented by Sarah Davies.

   

Now, grab the pastry of your choice, get comfy, and let’s talk to Sarah!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Sarah: (1) People think I’m tough, but I’m totally a softie. I cry at the end of almost every book and movie! Forget about standing ovations! I’m a mess!
(2) I once deadlifted 300 pounds. (Just once. And I’ll never do it again.)

El Space: Amazing! 🤗 🤩
Sarah: (3) I started writing on a dare!
(4) After scoring Hamilton tickets, I ran out the door and promptly fell into a sewer! Luckily, my elbow stopped me from going too far. I was so excited about the tickets that I climbed out with no loss of shoes, jumped on my bike, and rode to work, leaving a bloody trail behind me.

El Space: Oh my goodness! 😱 Glad you were okay. . . . And here you are at book 2 of your fairy godmother series. How much of the series did you plan in advance, before you began writing the first book? Did you plan for a certain number of books or were you leaving it open to inspiration?
Sarah: I just sent my editor the draft of the fourth and final book! From the beginning, we knew we wanted four—for four levels of training. I have loved every minute of the process. I thought of the series like a pop song: verse, verse, bridge, verse!

Book 3

This is what I can tell you about writing a series: You have to trust your subconscious! And always leave space for the characters to impose themselves on the story.

Yes, I planned ahead. But I also took Annie Dillard’s advice and “spent it all” in every single book. While revising each book, I had epiphanies. Details found their way into the story—and I didn’t always have time to think them through before starting the next book. As it turned out, those details became the keys to the inevitable and surprising ending of the series. They helped me figure out what I wanted to say in each book.

Book 1

El Space: What was one of the most fun aspects of writing this second book?
Sarah: The DRAMA! Growing up, I loved theater! When I took that dare to write, I teamed up with a musical friend and wrote three plays for my daughter and her friends. One of the plays was called, The Secret of the Magic Wishing Well, so I have been thinking about wishes for a long time. I incorporated some of the details of that play into the story. I also used theater to say something about the pressure many kids feel when they are constantly treated like professionals when they could be just having fun. As a director, I did not do that. I limited my players to ten rehearsals. As a writer, I was happy to use the tension that happens when friends are forced to compete!

El Space: Many authors have playlists of songs that remind them of their characters. Thinking of the characters in your book, what songs would be on your playlist?
Sarah: I may have structured my series like a pop song, but I don’t make playlists. When I need inspiration, I walk by Lake Michigan. Or I doodle. Or ride my bike. I love music from the Beatles to the Cure to classical and jazz, but it’s not really part of my writing process.

   

El Space: You’ve been given a magic wand, giving you the ability to grant someone a wish. What wish would you grant if you could, and why?
Sarah: If I could make a wish for the world, I would have to start with more wishes! First, I would bring back trust in objectivity—in the truth. Then I would give everyone a feeling of safety and security, and the confidence that comes with those feelings, so that we all can do our best work. Last, I would grant everyone access to the magic of books! When we read, we understand each other. We feel less afraid. We reach for higher goals that make our world better.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Sarah: Pretty soon, I’ll be revising book four! I’m also working on some picture book manuscripts as well as a super secret project that is making me happily ever after. I love having a peach sorbet—a project that is just for me! No one’s waiting for it. No one even knows what it’s about. One of my goals for 2018 is to finish it and show it to my agent and critique group!

Thank you as always, Sarah, for being my guest!

Looking for Sarah? You can find her at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Keep Calm and Sparkle On! can be found at

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes

But one of you will find a copy of this book in your mailbox or on your tablet! Comment below to be entered in the drawing. The winner will be announced on January 15.

Olive the Ostrich believes she would be an excellent recipient of magical wishes. Just putting it out there for any fairy godmothers in the area.

Wish List book covers courtesy of Sarah Aronson. Hamilton image from phxstages.blogspot.com. Lake Michigan photo from livescience.com. Beatles album cover from amiright.com. Magic wand from clker.com. Olive photo by L. Marie.

Check This Out: Warlord of the Forgotten Age

Hello! Happy 2018!

One of my favorite ways to celebrate a new year is to host a giveaway. With that in mind, on the blog today is the awesome Charles Yallowitz.

Those of you who have followed me for a while have seen many posts featuring Charles’s books from his Legends of Windemere series. Well, today he’s here to talk about the final novel in the series: Warlord of the Forgotten Age. Let’s celebrate with Charles by talking with him about this milestone in his series.

Cover by Jason Pedersen

   
El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Charles: 1. I was born premature and required two blood transfusions before I could finally go home. Been told that my head was shaved to allow for the wires and sensors they put on me. Part of me wonders if this introduction to the world is why I have such a visceral fear of needles. It’s to the point where trying to give blood can result in me fainting.
2. Pizza is my favorite food and I use it as a reward for hard work. I don’t get it for myself when I’m working on a project. Once I’m done, I pick a day where I go to the local pizza place and get a few variety slices. My favorite is a Rigatoni Ala Vodka slice.


3. According to my parents, I was given a Gonzo (The Muppets) prototype plushie when I was a kid. The story goes that a family friend in the business suggested they test their upcoming plushie line on me. She showed me the toys, but I was upset that there was no Gonzo. This led to me getting a Gonzo toy a few weeks later with a cape and this soft plastic nose. I chewed that part up a lot and always shared my gum with him, so any value was pretty quickly destroyed.
4. I used to have a habit of watching an anime called Neon Genesis Evangelion when I was depressed. To explain, I get blue and down periods a lot if I’m under a lot of stress. No real urge to do anything and I can’t find a real source of the gray mindset. So, I’d put this anime on, which is strange because it can get really dark and depressing itself. Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t really a happy, pick-me-up series, but I kept watching it for some reason because it made me feel better.

El Space: In completing the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson said on his website:

I’ve reached the end of the journey and set down my burdens. It’s wonderful, relaxing, and solemn all at once. I love the Wheel of Time. It’s also great to be done.

What are some of your thoughts at the conclusion of your series?
Charles: Wow, I feel like I need a cool quote like that now, but I keep feeling like I’m at a crossroads instead of an exit. Legends of Windemere has been a part of my life for so long that it feels weird knowing I no longer wake up to working on it. Yet the survivors can show up in other adventures. I spent a lot of time planning future series. I keep saying that it’s bittersweet when I write about it, so that’s definitely the best word. Is it great to be done like Sanderson said in his quote? I wouldn’t say it’s great, but I definitely feel proud about making it to the end of such a big adventure for both my characters and myself. Guess just like with the champions, I have to accept the ending and move on too.

El Space: Your series began almost twenty years ago. Looking back at your initial vision for the series, did it come out the way you envisioned it? Why or why not?
Charles: Since this was based on a D&D game, the vision was always a little fluid. Yet the initial version is very different from what I came out with. Merchant of Nevra Coil, The Mercenary Prince, and Path of the Traitors weren’t part of the original idea. Those stories stemmed from me seeing some characters who were interesting, but underutilized. On a more detailed level, the character relationships stayed pretty much where I expected them as far as the champions themselves. I stumbled onto various secrets and surprises as I wrote, which changed the vision and world building slightly. Mostly, it involved how magic and various cultures worked since this series was also designed to set the stage for future series.

    

Covers by Jason Pedersen

I always wanted to have a lot of action, humor, and entertaining characters to draw my readers into the world. I think that’s stayed relatively stable while the pieces have changes and morphed over time.

El Space: Without giving any spoilers, which character(s) was/were the most surprising to you in their development? Why?
Charles: All of my characters have thrown me curveballs from time to time. But the reigning champion has to be Kira Grasdon. It might be weird to pick a supporting character, but the surprising part of her development is that she had any in the first place. Way back when, she was a nameless blonde in the background of Beginning of a Hero. Then she got the name Linny and became a mouthy character in one chapter. At some point, I decided she would be better as a decoy for something and gave her more scenes. Things rolled with her proving to have more sparks with Luke than his original lady love from the game and the entire Bor’daruk culture was created around the newly dubbed Kira Grasdon. So, she’s a nameless figure that managed to grab more and more attention in every edit until she became an essential player. The series wouldn’t be what it is now without her even though I know she’s ruffled a lot of reader feathers over the years.

Kira illustration by Kayla Matt

El Space: Who will you miss writing about the most? Why?
Charles: Luke Callindor will probably be missed the most. He was my character in that D&D game, so there’s a closer bond between us than with the other champions. It was always very natural for me to write his scenes and dialogue, which might stem from me being him for so long. There will be a few other characters like him in other series, but Luke could be considered my first surrogate. That and I always felt like I could do more to him than the other characters without feeling as much guilt or getting in as much trouble.

         

Luke illustration by Kayla Matt; cover art by Jason Pedersen

El Space: What advice do you have for newbie authors who’d like to try their hand at a fantasy series?
Charles: Since we’re talking about series specifically, I would advise that new authors put a lot of attention on continuity. World building is very important to fantasy, so you need to make sure your magical systems, cultures, monsters, and everything else are consistent. It’s hard to keep track of after a few volumes, so developing a system of notes is highly recommended. Readers are very quick to point out inconsistencies in the world, so never be afraid to go back in the series to make sure you’re keeping things the same.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Charles: My next series is going to delve into the world of the Dawn Fangs, which are the day-walking vampires of Windemere. It will reveal their origins and the vampire civil war that ensued between them and the old worlds. Right now, it’s looking like nine books at most, since this is going to be another foundation series for Windemere. Aside from War of Nytefall, I have a one-shot spinoff of Legends of Windemere that I plan on publishing next summer. So, I’m planning on staying fairly busy, even if I take it a little slower in January. Maybe just focus on outlines during that time.

Thanks, Charles, for being my guest!

Looking for Charles? You can find him at his blog, Twitter, Facebook.

Warlord of the Forgotten Age can be found on Amazon. But one of you will win a copy of this book. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on January 15, 2018, along with the winner of another book you will hear about soon!

Warlord of the Forgotten Age cover and author photo courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Legends of Windemere cover art by Jason Pedersen. Character art by Kayla Matt. A Memory of Light cover from Goodreads. Rigatoni ala vodka pizza image from gfcookiesxo.blogspot.com. New Year image from happynewyear2018photos.net. Finale image from grandbanktheater.ca. Neon Genesis Evangelion image from taringa.net.

Happy Holidays 2017

Since next Monday is Christmas Day and I’ll be with family, I decided to post my holiday message today.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I finished my middle grade novel revision. Woo hoo! 😀 😃 😄 I celebrated by moving on to a ghostwriting project. See, that’s how I roll. Actually, I included a couple of hours of Pokémon Ultra Sun game play in my celebration.

With the revision out of the way (and no, I don’t have further news about that just yet), I can sit down and express my shock at how fast this year has flown by. Other bloggers like Jill Weatherholt have noted that fact.

Seems like only yesterday that I went to bed early on New Year’s Eve. That’s right. Didn’t stay up to ring in 2017. More than likely history will repeat itself this year. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Christmas is a week away, and I feel quite unprepared for it. I’ve been in my own little world, with its own rhythm: revise, sleep, eat, revise. Now that I’ve come up for air after a month, I realize how little time I have to do anything in the way of shopping or holiday crafting. Sigh. And I had such grandiose plans earlier in the year. I was going to make a ton of gifts early on, and then sit back and drink cocoa and watch holiday movies all season long. Ha ha! 😆 My crafting plans sound like New Year’s resolutions—made early, broken soon afterward.

But maybe that’s okay too. I have a tendency to get caught up in seasonal expectations that, in the grand scheme of things, really don’t mean much. My mother would much rather spend time with me on the phone or in person than receive a crocheted sweater or yet another potholder made because the season demands it. That’s not an excuse to skip buying or making a gift for someone. That’s just a truth I so often forget, but have been reminded of lately. Kinda takes the pressure off.

What, if any, expectations do you struggle with during the holidays?

Wishing you continued joy and peace this holiday season.

Kitty wonders how much loot she can fit in this mitten ornament. Not much, she assesses. And now she wonders why I didn’t crochet it bigger. I wonder when she’ll realize that it’s not all about her.

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Composed by Franz Xaver Gruber; lyrics by Joseph Mohr

Photos by L. Marie.

The Gift of Words

I’m late posting this week, because I’ve been busy revising my middle grade fantasy novel for an interested party. I hope someday to have news to share on that score. (Sorry to be cryptic.) In the meantime, I wanted to talk briefly about the gift of words before I return to revising.

Being able to tell a story, to use the right combination of words to entertain, encourage, or enlighten is a gift. Every once in a while I’m reminded of how valuable a timely word can be.

Ever have someone affirm you in a way that galvanized you to action? Perhaps you’d been stuck, and someone said just the right thing to get you moving. Perhaps what he or she said inspired to go beyond what you thought you could do. The gift of words.

Sometimes, you only need one word to lift your spirits or to bring about a positive change. There’s one in particular I’m thinking of: Yes. A balm for a soul bludgeoned by too many No’s. The gift of a word.

When has someone’s yes lifted your spirits? What recent story inspired you to go beyond the limitations you thought were the framework of your life? Feel free to share in the comments below. And have a great weekend while you’re at it!

Yes, ’tis the season for crochet projects. I found this mini mitten ornament pattern (designed by Rebecca Lynn Taylor) at Ravelry.

We’ve got snow! At least a little.

Revise sign found at clashesandcollisions.wordpress.com. Yes button found at clker.com. Photos by L. Marie.

’Tis the Season to Go Shopping?

Yes, I know this is the second post in a row with a title that begins with the word ’Tis. Life is like that sometimes. Anyway, is it me or are some holidays feeling kind of tacked on? They just seem to exist for the sake of consumerism. Unlike other holidays, many of which are sacred celebrations. Halloween is always clearly marked by pumpkins, candy, costumes, grinning skulls that shriek at you from store aisles, and lots of orange lights. The Day of the Dead has its sugar skulls and remembrances of those who have passed away. But based on the massive amount of emailed ads I recently received, some holidays have kind of been lost in the crowd while others have taken center stage.

So, as far as fall holidays are concerned, we have

• Halloween and Dia de los Muertos

     

• Black Friday
• Cyber Monday (today)


• Hanukkah

Hanukkah
• Christmas


• Kwanzaa

Do I have that right? Nothing’s missing from that list, right? At least according to the ads that have flooded my email.

An emailed ad I recently received

While I hung out at my brother’s house on the day after Thanksgiving (you know, the holiday with turkey—or ribs if you prefer—that comes between Halloween/Day of the Dead and Hanukkah), I watched a Gravity Falls marathon with the fam. Wave after wave of toy commercials whizzed by. Just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I guess. I don’t see how parents of young children can stand up to the holiday toy blitz and not crumple under the pressure. Oh the humanity! I don’t even have children, and I get toy catalogues sent to me in the mail without even asking for them.

Each year the marketing blitz seems to last longer and longer as holidays get added to claim the attention of our wallets. Did you know that Cyber Monday (or at least the term) started in 2005—only 12 years ago? Black Friday, however, has been around since the ’60s according to this website.

Did you participate in Black Friday (which technically started on Thanksgiving Day)? (I didn’t go anywhere near the stores on Black Friday.) Will you participate in Cyber Monday?

While you think about that, I’ll bring up the giveaway I discussed here. I’m giving away a $30 Amazon gift card. Just in time for Cyber Monday, if that’s your thing!

Thanks to the Random Number Generator, I am happy to announce that the winner of the $30 Amazon gift card is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

(I can cut and paste Is . . . all day.  😀 😃 😄)

Is . . .

Is . . . (Next to the last one.)

Is . . .

Charles Yallowitz!

Congrats, Charles! Please comment below to confirm! Thank you to all who commented.

Cyber Monday images from hdwallpapersys.com and from somewhere on Pinterest. Gift image from vizfact.com. Hanukkah menorah from tucker-tribune.blogspot.com. blogspot.com. Kwanzaa image from pbslearningmedia.org. Day of the Dead image from freepik.com. Pumpkin luminary photo by L. Marie.

’Tis the Season, or So We’re Told, to Be Thankful

With Thanksgiving around the corner here in the U.S., I couldn’t help making a list of things for which I’m thankful. At first, I resisted the idea, thinking that list making at Thanksgiving seemed a little too been-there-done-that. After all, do I really need a holiday to tell me to be thankful? If I’m not thankful throughout the year, how fake is it that I’m suddenly thankful on Thursday? (Well, I’m thankful for turkey!)

But since I’ve got the time, and you’ve come here anyway, here it is. I’m thankful for . . .

* Frost-rimed leaves representing the full spectrum of the seasons . . .

  

* Family and friends far and near who are as dear as family (Actual friends and family are not depicted in this photo. No one I know has a worm coming out of his or her head.)

* Friends who make cards for me . . .

* Blogger friends like FictionFan, who offer to send me free Audible books . . .

* This hand cream. Cold weather is hard on the hands, so . . .

* And chocolate of course. Oh and ice cream.

“Wait a minute!” you interrupt. “Are you really taking this thankful thing seriously? I mean, come on. Hand cream? Dead leaves? Chocolate? Ice cream?”

Well, I am thankful for those. And if I really want to go beyond just surface-level stuff, I’m really thankful to God and to incredibly generous friends who helped me through a difficult season. I haven’t mentioned even half of the things that have happened to me this year—good or bad. Some things I keep to myself.

But I am grateful. And that’s why I’m sponsoring another giveaway on this blog. Just because. No, I’m not crazy. And yes, I know this isn’t Christmas—the gift-giving season. But one way I show thankfulness is to give. Really, I only included the above list to lead up to this point. Comment below to be entered in the drawing to receive a $30 Amazon gift card (or its equivalent in Amazon UK). What are you thankful for, even if Thanksgiving Day is not something you celebrate? If you celebrate Thanksgiving, what are you looking forward to eating on the day?

Once again, the random number generator will decide the winner. I’ll post the name on November 27! Just in time for more holiday shopping (or to buy yourself something you love)!

Now, that’s something to be thankful for.

Turkey from wallyball.homestead.com. Lalaloopsy dolls by Mattel. Photos by L. Marie.