Resilience

Happy Post Easter/Resurrection Sunday!

Chag Pesach Samech!

See this? This might look like an ordinary budding tree to you, but to me, this is a cavalry charge.

This year, winter seemed to linger like a bad odor. Palm Sunday looked like this.

Winter’s (hopefully) last gasp. But the cavalry is here. Winter is defeated! Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, Winter.

Look at these flowers. They made it through last week’s snowstorm. So did we, like we made it through the Polar Vortex’s visit earlier this winter. (Polar Vortex, you will not be missed. Don’t write and don’t text. I will not accept your calls.)

The Seder I attended on Good Friday was another reminder of resilience, as the story was told of the Exodus led by Moses after the people of Israel were released after hundreds of years of slavery. (Check out Exodus chapters 5—15 in the Bible for that.)

This brings to mind the resilience of many during wars and other horrible events. (Columbine [check out Laura Bruno Lilly’s blog post about that], the Manchester arena bombing in 2017, and the recent fire at Notre Dame come to mind.) Perhaps in events like the above you felt like you survived by the skin of your teeth, barely holding on to hope. Hardly a triumphal march, you think. Yet you’re holding on. That is victory.

With the coming of this Easter, my family is especially grateful for the resilience of one of our own, whose sudden onset of mysterious seizures led to two recent hospital stays. For many days we waited by the bedside, hoping, praying. And now we rejoice at the release from the hospital.

This is sort of an awkward segue to the announcement of the winners of Caroline Carlson’s The Door at the End of the World. (See this post for an interview with Caroline.) But in a way, it isn’t. Caroline’s book is about adventures at the end of something. Easter and Passover are reminders of the adventure at the end of struggle and heartbreak. Reminders of the promise of a new life, a new beginning.

  

So, the first winner, thanks to Random.com, is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Sharon Van Zandt!

The second winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Marian Beaman!

Sharon and Marian, I rejoice with you! Please comment below to confirm.

  

Cross image from christianitymalaysia.com. Passover greeting image from americangreetings.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: The Door at the End of the World

Hello! Help yourself to a breakfast pastry and have a seat. With me on the blog today is the awesome Caroline Carlson, who is here to talk about her middle grade science fiction novel, The Door at the End of the World, which debuted on April 9.

  

The Door at the End of the World was published by HarperCollins. Like the cover? The cover artist is Poly Bernatene.

Caroline is represented by Sarah Davies. She also is a member of steaMG. See this post about that organization. Be sure to stay till the end for information on a giveaway of this book. Yeah!!!!! Now let’s talk to Caroline!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Caroline: (1) I love to bake because baking feels like the exact opposite of writing a book: you just follow the instructions in the recipe, and a few hours later, you have a finished product! Books don’t work that way at all.
(2) My least favorite noise is the sound that Styrofoam makes when you lift it out of a cardboard box.
(3) When the zombie apocalypse comes, I would prefer to be one of the first people eaten so I don’t have to deal with all the stress of trying to survive in a zombie-ridden dystopia.


(4) I have been told that I have natural ghost-repelling qualities.

El Space: Wow! An awesome ability to have! You’ve written books about pirates and detectives. Now you’ve written a portal story. C.S. Lewis once said that a faun carrying an umbrella was the image that started his writing of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. How did The Door at the End of the World come to be? Is this a stand-alone or the start of a series?


Caroline: The Door at the End of the World came to me in a way that most stories don’t: It started with the title. I’d been wondering what it would be like to write a book about the end of the world, and then I thought, What if the end of the world isn’t an event? What if it’s a place? What if it’s where our world meets the next world over? And what if there were a door between the two worlds that you could travel through? Would you need a passport? Would someone stand guard at the end of the world to make sure people weren’t sneaking through the door illegally? What if there were a whole series of worlds, all connected by doors, each with its own unique characteristics? The story really took off from there. It’s a stand-alone novel, but I barely scratched the surface of some of the eight worlds my characters visit, so maybe I’ll set another story in this universe someday.

El Space: Without giving any spoilers, what can you tell us about your world building and how you came to develop characters like Lucy and the worlds mentioned in your book?
Caroline: There are eight different worlds in the book: a magical world, a high-tech world, a world covered in oceans, another world that’s full of cows, and our own world, just to name a few. Each of the worlds is special in its own way, but the world called Southeast, where a lot of the action is set, is a little bit . . . ordinary. Lucy, the heroine, is a little bit ordinary too. It’s her job to file papers and stamp passports at the end of the world, but she doesn’t get to go on any grand adventures, and she knows she only got the job because her parents and her older brother are very famous and important. Over the course of the story, though, Lucy meets a couple other ordinary kids, and they discover together that even though they’re not famous or important, they’re capable of doing truly extraordinary things—like saving eight whole worlds from destruction.

 

El Space: That sounds awesome! How did the process of writing this book compare to the writing of The World’s Greatest Detective or any of your Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates books?
Caroline: I’m usually the sort of writer who plans a book before I start writing. I outlined each of the three novels in my Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, and I had to make an extensive and complicated outline for The World’s Greatest Detective, which is a murder mystery. When you write a mystery, you need to know exactly how the crime is committed, how the criminal will cover their tracks, where all the clues and red herrings will appear, and how the detective will put together all the pieces to arrive at the solution. I can’t imagine writing a book like that without planning in advance!

    

    

When I wrote The Door at the End of the World, though, I didn’t outline at all. Most days I’d sit down to write without knowing what was going to happen next in the story. For a writer like me, who loves structure and planning, it was kind of a terrifying experience. But it was also invigorating, like reading a favorite book for the very first time. I didn’t know what would happen on the next page, but I kept writing because I was excited to find out. Fortunately, it all came together in the end, and a few rounds of thorough revision with my editor helped to make the story nice and tidy.

El Space: Kirkus likens your book to those by Diana Wynne Jones and Eva Ibbotson, How do those comparisons make you feel?
Caroline: That was one of the nicest compliments I’ve received on my writing. Both women are among my literary heroes, and Diana Wynne Jones’s work in particular was a huge inspiration for The Door at the End of the World. As a young reader, I sped through her Chrestomanci books—a series of stories set in linked parallel worlds that were painted so vividly—I felt as if I’d visited those magical worlds myself. The worlds-wide adventure that my own characters embark on is very much intended as a tribute to Diana, and I hope that readers who love her books as much as I do will enjoy this story, too.

    

El Space: What will you work on next?
Caroline: I’m not sure what my next published book will be, but right now I’m working on another middle grade fantasy novel that’s full of magicians, spies in hot-air balloons, and an opinionated talking goat.

Thanks, Caroline, for being my guest.

Looking for Caroline? Check out her website, Facebook author page, Twitter, Instagram, and steaMG.

The Door at the End of the World can be purchased at your local independent bookstore, as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, and Powell’s. But two of you—that’s right, two—will be given a copy of this book, simply by commenting. Winner to be announced on the day after Easter—April 22!

Henry is hoping that this door will take him to one of the worlds described in Caroline’s book. I fear that he is doomed to disappointment.

P.S. My heart goes out to the citizens of Paris and those all over the world saddened by the recent fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Author photo and book cover courtesy of Caroline Carlson. Author photo by Amy Rose Capetta. Other book covers from Goodreads. Zombie from somewhere on Pinterest. Henry photo by L. Marie.

Mentors

Do you have a mentor? Many people talk about the need for one in fiction and in real life. Before I ever had one, I remember having an idealistic view of what having a mentor would involve—someone who offered sage advice and remained in your life for years. But my experiences with mentors have been mostly brief.

In fiction, the mentor is one of the archetypes in Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey breakdown, which was popularized by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey. The mentor has one job:

The function of the mentor is to prepare the hero to face the unknown, to accept the adventure.

(The above quote came from this site. I have Vogler’s book, but can’t find it right now. This photo of the book is one I took awhile ago and had in my WordPress library of photos.)

In real life, the mentor has a similar task. As an undergraduate, I had a professor whom I thought of as a mentor: Leon Forrest, who also was a literary novelist, which gave him serious street cred in my book. I wanted to be just like him. But as is the case with many mentors in a hero’s journey story, he died at the start of my writer’s journey. 😢

After that, I had some growing up to do as a writer. As you know, part of the growing up process involves figuring out who you are and who you’re not. After my days as an English lit/writing major, I quickly learned that the literary track—the one paved with GANs (Great American Novels) for adults—was not for me. Instead, I gravitated toward writing for children and young adults. Ironic, huh, that by growing up I would discover a commitment to writing for kids.

In my grad program, which was chosen after I came to the realization of where I belong, I was given four advisors—four mentors if you will. (They’re all still alive by the way. I’m sure they’re relieved on that score. Thankfully, many mentors live.) But each was given only a six-month stretch to help me on the journey to graduation (though I tried to cling to them all after graduation). While in the program, I also had a student mentor—someone who had been in the program for a while and could help me navigate the journey. But she graduated soon after I arrived at the school.

Today I am seemingly mentorless. Seemingly, because I realize I have a Mentor, one whom I meet every day in prayer. He’d been there all along, even in the days when I yearned for significance as a GAN (Great American Novelist).

The fact that I have been mentored gave me the desire to be a mentor to some young writers. Though some preferred only a brief stint as my mentee, I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a mentor, however briefly. And I never once called anyone Padawan.

If you’re not currently a mentor or are without one, do you think you’d like to be one or at least have one? While you think about that, I will move on to the winner of War of Nytefall: Rivalry by Charles Yallowitz, which this post discusses.

 

That winner, according to the random.org generator, is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

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Is . . .

Lyn Miller-Lachmann!

Congratulations, Lyn! Comment below to confirm.

Henry is torn between two possible mentors: the ever exciting Malik or the always chill Olive. My advice? When in doubt, have ice cream.

Frog-shaped mint ice cream is the best!

Divine Days book cover from Amazon. War of Nytefall: Rivalry book cover and author photo courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Mentor memes from somewhere on the internet. Other photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: War of Nytefall—Rivalry

Thank you to L. Marie for being a great host and helping me promote my newest book, War of Nytefall: Rivalry. This is the third volume of my vampire action-adventure series, which takes place in the same world as Legends of Windemere. Okay, I think I covered the promo bases, so let’s get to the meaty stuff. Wait . . . My name is Charles E. Yallowitz. Knew I forgot to introduce myself. Oops.

The overarching story in War of Nytefall involves the Vampire Civil War that takes place right after the Great Cataclysm. During this global disaster, a vampire named Clyde is about to be executed by the followers of the Sun God. Magic is going haywire, so their spells actually turn him into a new species. Unlike the old-world vampires, Clyde and his “children” don’t lose their strength in the sun, they possess heartbeats, can eat regular food, and each has a triad of powers in place of the ability to cast magic. Since his blood can turn old-world vampires into what are called Dawn Fangs, Clyde sets off a war with those who consider him an abomination and a threat to their society. Every volume touches on a different event of this lengthy, but slow-moving war that happens in the shadow of Windemere. It’s the old-world vampires versus the Dawn Fangs . . . most of the time.

A twist in War of Nytefall: Rivalry is that someone has shown up to threaten both sides. The Vampire Queen has been a rumor for centuries, but has revealed her existence by kidnapping the leaders of both factions. Her intention is to choose a Vampire King from the strongest of their species and then conquer the world. Well, there’s another goal, but that’s more personal. Either way, she has turned herself into a common enemy of the old-world vampires and the Dawn Fangs. This isn’t an easy thing to write about considering the characters, especially Clyde, have monstrous tendencies towards violence and grudges. Why wouldn’t he just take out his most hated enemy, Xavier Tempest, and deal with the Vampire Queen later? Taking out the leader of the old-world vampires would end the war and give him victory. So, how does this story even work while keeping the war going to the next volume?

       

Mostly, this comes down to Clyde not being a reckless idiot. Yes, he’s the strongest vampire and hasn’t lost a fight. His confidence and brutality are incredibly high, so he could make short work of everyone around him. Yet, he doesn’t know what the Vampire Queen is capable of or if she has something else going on. Also, Clyde is a man who has always had a gang to work with, so he doesn’t even realize that there’s a discomfort towards working alone. This is why he needs Xavier on his side even if he does have the strength to win. What Clyde has in brute strength and cunning, Xavier has in magical power and intelligence. So, they actually work well as a team, which is why they used to be friends. It’s almost like they are being forced to fall into ancient habits in order to survive even though they really want to kill each other. Left alone with the Vampire Queen, neither man is sure they can survive. One could see why the war has been raging slowly for decades here because Clyde and Xavier are both cautious.

That only covers the character motivations though, and most readers will accept that if it remains in the realm of possibilities. I’ve established that these two are careful survivors, so a temporary alliance makes sense. Of course, this brings in another problem: How do I write this without making Clyde and Xavier good friends and endangering the war with a truce? If they get along so well, then you can’t really believe that they hate each other enough to continue fighting if they survive the Vampire Queen. On the other side of the coin, you need them to get along enough to work as an effective team. My answer to this came in two parts:

1. Clyde and Xavier settled for insults instead of punches. You can demonstrate that the bad blood is still there by how they talk and act. Maybe they don’t really try to protect each other from harm, but only step in to prevent death. Insulting names instead of real ones is an option. There has to be at least some animosity that can grow as the climax nears since stress can make them more hostile to each other.

2. I accepted that they might mellow out a bit in regards to the hate. This is something I considered while planning this story. It wasn’t something I liked, but I knew it was a strong possibility. Hard to truly hate a man who you just survived an ordeal with. This is why I had to come up with an event that will reignite the hate in a later book. Xavier and Clyde do accept that they cannot coexist and will continue the war if they survive, so they’ll need another push. A real nasty one too.

I have to admit that this was probably the hardest aspect of the book. Putting everything else together was a cinch, but I had to keep an eye on the overall story. You see in many stories that enemies will unite against a common threat, so I did some research. A big part of this was seeing what not to do because it didn’t make sense. Won’t say what that is because of spoilers, but this one part really did take up a lot of my attention. It even forced a few outline rewrites because Clyde and Xavier were getting too chummy. Needless to say, I’m happy with how this shaky alliance has come out, but I’m also nervous. One false move on something like this and I’ll have to rethink the future. Part of the job though.

Hope everyone enjoyed this post. Catch you in the comments and check out War of Nytefall: Rivalry on Amazon!

About the Author

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. Truthfully, his tales of adventure are much more interesting than his real life, so skip the bio and dive into the action.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

L. Marie here. Comment below to be entered into the drawing for a copy of War of Nytefall: Rivalry. Winner to be announced on April 10. Double post this week, y’all.

Covers and author photo courtesy of Charles Yallowitz.

Back from Retreat

All last week I was at the Highlights Foundation Retreat Center in Honesdale, Pennsylvania—the main reason why I didn’t post last week or do my usual blog visiting. I was there for another Unworkshop—a fancy way of saying that I stayed in a cabin and wrote, instead of attending a workshop orchestrated by someone else. I went with four friends who also were there to finish a middle grade or young adult novel or at least to discuss strategies for getting back in the writing game.

 

You know how the first time you go someplace, you take a million photos of random things like trees and rocks?

   

Everything you see is viewed with wonder because you’re away from home and eager to see fresh sights. Well, I didn’t take as many photos this time. Oh, I still have photos of trees and rocks and the occasional building. But this time, I was more focused on getting things done. Oh and resting too. I needed that time away.

   

  

I met a bunch of lovely writers. Ate great food. Took walks.

But my guess is you’re probably here to find out who won the preorder of A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity, a middle grade time travel novel written by Nicole Valentine. If you’re confused by that sentence, click here.

  

This novel will be released in October 2019. A preorder of it, however, has been won by . . .

by . . .

by . . .

by . . .

by . . .

Charles Yallowitz!

Congratulations, Charles. You will receive this book upon its release this fall. Something to look forward to when the cold weather returns! Please comment below to confirm!

Thank you to all who commented.

Henry was upset that I was gone for several days and had left him behind. So he refused to face forward for this photo. (Yes, he gave me the turned back like a cat.) But at least he brought flowers.

Author photo and cover courtesy of Nicole Valentine. Other photos by L. Marie.