Remembering

As I set out to photograph the flowers around my apartment complex, I couldn’t help remembering my grandmothers: Lela (paternal) and Marie (maternal). Both are dead now, one as recent as 2011. Seems fitting to think of them on Memorial Day. Though neither fought in a war—Memorial Day being a day to pay honor to military service people—they were soldiers nevertheless. Just not in the military.

    

In keeping with my habit of not posting family photos (I’m writing this blog under a pen name after all), I will not post photos of my grandmothers. (Sorry to disappoint.) Instead, think of the flowers I photographed as representing my grandmothers. 🙂

Now, what do I mean by soldiers? Imagine being dirt poor and having kids to raise. You fight a battle against despair every day. But you have to win this battle for the sake of your kids. Both of my grandmothers had large families—my paternal grandmother having nine children, and my maternal grandmother having fifteen. You read that right. Two of my mother’s siblings did not live to adulthood.

My grandmothers didn’t go to college. One grandmother didn’t even go to high school. But all of her children did. College too. Both grandmothers wanted their children to have a better life than they did.

    

When I was a kid, my family spent many a weekend traveling to Pontiac, Michigan, to visit my paternal grandparents, and many a summer’s day driving to see my maternal grandmother in Lake Providence, Louisiana. We never thought about the fact that my grandparents were poor. They loved us, and we loved being with them.

My paternal grandmother taught me to crochet. My maternal grandmother taught me to be generous even if I have next to nothing to give. That was how she lived.

Some people talk about antiques or trust funds passed on to them by grandparents. Neither of my grandmothers had much to leave anyone. But they left something money couldn’t buy—a legacy of resilience, faith, and unselfishness. Not to mention precious memories of time spent with them. Their personalities imprint just about every story I write (and even one that I ghostwrote under a different name).

   

This Memorial Day, I also remember the people of Manchester and the victims of the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22. My blogger friend Laura said it best in this post. She provided excerpts from a post and comments by another blogger friend, Andy, who lives in Manchester. Many of you follow his City Jackdaw blog.

Memorial Day also is a day for me to remember that I’m giving away two books.

    

Thanks to the random number generator, the winner of The World’s Greatest Detective is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Nancy Hatch!

The winner of Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L. M. Montgomery is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Jill Weatherholt!

Nancy and Jill, please comment below to confirm. If either of you would prefer an eBook to a physical copy of the book, please let me know.

Rosie Bloom is shocked to discover that the flowers she planted came up crocheted. She plans to contact the seed company to demand answers.

Photos by L. Marie. Rosie Bloom by Moose Toys.

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Giving Away a Smile . . . or Two

Ever have one of those seasons when you’re so broke you can’t even pay attention? Welcome to my life. Consequently, I was offline for almost two weeks. Internet service providers don’t work for free after all. I haunted the library daily like an overzealous patron. But I couldn’t always get on the computer. And with a 60-minute time limit for the use of a computer, I could only check email and leave.

offline

I missed you. I missed posting on my blog and reading the posts of others.

One good thing that happened during my exile is that I finished a revise of my middle grade fantasy novel. I am now working on cutting scenes out of said revise. The fact that I accomplished so much in a short span of time made me painfully aware of how much I usually procrastinate online.

Meanwhile, I’m back online with a giveaway. Inspired by the kindness of friends who made me smile during a difficult time, I’m giving away two copies of an award-winning middle grade graphic novel called Smile by Raina Telgemeier. Why this book? Mainly because the publisher (Graphix/Scholastic), for some reason, sent me stickers autographed by the author.

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So to celebrate my return online and getting through the revision, two commenters will each get a copy of this book. Due to the cost of mail delivery, I can only send the stickers and two crocheted daisy coasters (in photo below; they make me smile) to people in the U.S. (Yep. Offline I accomplished things like learning to crochet daisy-shaped coasters. The pattern is here.) But don’t worry, those of you who live outside the U.S. and depend on Amazon.co.uk. I can still send you the book courtesy of Amazon.

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Anyway, nice to “see” you again. I’ll announce the winners when I post next week. I’m still deciding on which day I’ll post each week.

What made you smile this week? I hope you’ll find a lot to smile about this weekend.

Book cover from Goodreads. Off button from youthleaderstash.com.

And the Winners Are . . .

Just a quick post to announce some prize winners. (Isn’t it nice to have some good news?)

torn_full  author photo 3

The winner of a preorder of Torn by Kate Sparkes is

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Sue Archer!

The winner of the $25 (or some equivalent atAmazon.uk) is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Beatthemtodeathwiththeirownshoes!

Congratulations, winners! Please email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to confirm. Once again, thanks for commenting. Have a great weekend!

Trash or Treasure?

I’ve got some book winners to announce in just a bit. But first, let me tell you about my Saturday. You’re stuck hearing about it, so you might as well nod your head as if you really wanted to hear about it—or at least part of it. Anyway, I attended an ugly Christmas sweater party at my pastor’s house. It was an eye-opening experience. I wore this little number.

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My phone remained in my purse, however, so I can’t supply photos of the other sweaters. Perhaps that’s for the best. Some industrious individuals threaded Christmas lights through their sweaters in the hope of gaining one of three prizes. The guy who won the “most authentically ugly” prize had pinned Christmas potholders (one with teddy bears in Santa hats) to a sweater. Pretty much everyone voted for him. No one else stood a chance. The winner of the “most crafty” sweater was a person wearing a tree skirt and a sweater with tiny Christmas lights sewn into it. Again, a landslide victory. The third prize was a “Scrooge” prize for the person who refused to wear a Christmas sweater! (Wish I’d thought of that!)

I hadn’t thought to “soup up” my sweater with Christmas lights, believing that it could stand on its own merit. After all, it had gained me several “You’ve come to the right place in that” nods at the party. Yet someone had given me the sweater, which once belonged to her mother-in-law. It’s not the kind of sweater I usually wear, except to events like this. Consequently, it resides at the back of my closet until the next party rolls around.

When I arrived home, intending to take a photo of the sweater to show my sister-in-law, I took a closer look at it. It’s very neatly stitched—not a thread out of place. Granted, it has snowmen and birdhouses. But the snowmen are smiling at least. Perhaps it isn’t quite so bad. Still, I can’t help thinking of this old adage:

One-mans-trash-is-another__quotes-by-English-Proverb-49

And of course, this one:

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The flipside—ugliness—is likewise subjective.

Someone put love and attention into designing that sweater. Someone else liked it enough to buy it. One woman’s treasure . . .

As I thought about the sweater and my response to it, I thought about the characters in my novel. Will someone else besides me treasure them? Or will they be roundly dismissed and labeled as “ugly” or “ludicrous” by others as cavalierly as I judged that sweater?

It gives you something to think about, doesn’t it? If you’ve spent time on Goodreads, you know how subjective and cruel some reviewers can be. Some take pleasure in being vicious, under the mistaken belief that they’ll be perceived as smarter than the author. But a person who really is smarter doesn’t have to put someone else down to prove that.

Someone wise once told me that worrying about what someone may or may not think is a waste of time. A better use of my time is to spend it in a more enjoyable way: continuing to create stories I love about characters I love. That’s the only outcome I can control.

You’ve been patient long enough, so let’s move on to the winners of A Gift of Shadows by Stephanie Stamm and Curse of the Dark Wind by Charles Yallowitz. (See interviews here and here.)

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          Charles_author_photo_B&W curse-of-the-dark-wind-cover1

Thanks to the random number generator, which has earned my love . . .

The winner of a paperback of A Gift of Shadows is . . .

Sue Archer!

The winner of an e-book of A Gift of Shadows is . . .

Celine!

The winner of another e-book of A Gift of Shadows is . . .

Laura Sibson!

The winner of an e-book of Curse of the Dark Wind is . . .

Andra Watkins!

Winners please comment to confirm below. Celine, please provide an email address. E-book winners, please specify which format you need. Thanks again for commenting!

Check This Out: Radio Girl

Welcome back to another edition of “Check This Out.” (I feel like a news broadcaster! To get the full effect, picture me peering at you with unbridled sincerity and a coffee mug at my elbow. Oh, and a donut . . . with chocolate frosting. Yeah.) Strap yourself in the time machine, ’cause we’re going all the way back to 1938—to a world on the brink of war.

Carol

With me on the blog today is yet another in the multitude of friends from VCFA—the fun and fabulous Carol Brendler, author of Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer (illustrated by Ard Hoyt—Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009), next year’s Not Very Scary (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), and a third book I’ll mention in just a minute. Carol is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Carol is here today to talk about her upcoming release, Radio Girl, published by Holiday House. It debuts in less than a month—September 5! If you’re hip to old radio shows and swing music is your thing, then you’ll be glad you tuned in.

radiogirl_coverHere’s the synopsis:

Can a girl from a middle-class Irish Catholic family living in Newark, New Jersey, in 1938 find fame and fortune (or even a job) as a radio star?

Tune in to this unforgettable historical novel to find out. Poignant, often hilarious, it’s the story of a family in crisis. Just as artful deception, smoke and mirrors characterize radio reality, so lies, secrets, and profound misunderstandings mark fourteen-year-old Cece Maloney’s life: her secret job at a radio station, a cheating father, an aunt who may be romantically involved with the parish priest, a boy-crazed best friend, and a ham radio operator and would-be soldier both lying to their parents. The worlds collide on the night of Orson Welles’s famous “The War of the Worlds” broadcast. As thousands flee in panic from the alleged Martian invasion, Cece must expose the truth about the radio hoax and confront the truth about her own and her family’s dishonesty.

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Orson Welles

Crazy keen, huh? One of you will receive your very own hardcover copy of Radio Girl to have and to hold from this day forward! More on that later. But first, let’s welcome Carol! 

El Space: Please share four quick facts about yourself.
Carol: 1. I love to dance the polka. 2. I don’t especially like polka dots, though. 3. I played the flute in high school band (and I still have my flute). 4. I was terrible at it.

El Space: If only this were a video—you could have given us a polka demonstration. But moving on, what were the challenges or joys of writing historical fiction?
Carol: The joys for me are many, but I especially liked learning the social history of the late 1930s. It’s fascinating to read about the fads and trends, and daily life from when my parents were kids.

RadioTV407_045-mA radio from the 1930s

El Space: I’m so impressed that you had the 1930s lingo down so well! You’ve really captured the glamour and excitement of the era. So, how is Cece like you? Different from you?
Carol: Cece and I are not much alike. I can’t whistle very well, for one thing, and I’m told I whistle in a minor key, no matter the tune. Cece is also quite bold, whereas I’m a wimp. I would be a quivering wreck if I had to ride all the public transportation she does to sneak off to NYC!

El Space: For those of you who are wondering about the whistling, in the book, Cece is known to be quite the whistler. Now, Carol, a radio station in my area used to broadcast classic radio programs like The Shadow on Saturday mornings. What old radio programs, if any, inspired you?
Carol: I like listening to the old serials, but the comedy shows are the most fun to hear. Some of them didn’t really stand the test of time, as far as the humor goes. The old Fibber McGee & Molly programs are a riot, though, but even so, the early shows (1930s) weren’t quite as funny or polished as the later episodes.

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El Space: And you mentioned Fibber McGee & Molly in the book! Awesome. So, what are you working on now?
Carol: I’m working on several projects, including a few picture books, and I’ll be tackling another middle-grade novel soon about a girl who lives in a traveling circus and has never lived anywhere else.

El Space: What advice do you have for aspiring middle-grade authors?
Carol: READ! Everyone says that, I know. But I would add, don’t read passively. While you’re reading a book you wish you’d written, analyze it like crazy. Compare passages, diagram it on paper, dismantle it, contrast it to others you’ve read. Take note of the places that move you emotionally or make you laugh, and really STUDY them to see how the author pulled it off.

Great advice! Thanks, Carol, for being my guest! You can find Carol at her website, at the EMU’s Debuts blog, and Twitter. Do check out Carol’s website to learn some great facts about the 1930s.

You can get Radio Girl at these fine establishments:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound
Powell’s Books
The Book Stall

One commenter today will get a hardcover copy of Radio Girl. Please comment below on Carol’s book, a favorite movie from the 1930s, or an old radio program you’ve heard to be entered in the drawing. To win the book, there are stipulations: you must be a follower of this blog or at least someone who regularly comments. Also, if you are a past winner (within the last few months), you are ineligible for this drawing. Sorry! All eligibility will reset as of September. The winner will be announced on Sunday.

Fibber McGee and Molly photo from pdxretro.com. Radio photo from adsw.org. Orson Welles photo from Wikipedia.