I've read a couple of good MG books
lately. Lauren Wolk's WOLF HOLLOW is a powerful book about guilt, responsibility, the rippling effects of malice, and the loss of innocence. The narrator is a woman looking back on events that happened when she was 12, living happily on a farm during WWII. Apparently Wolk wrote it as an adult book and the publisher talked her into releasing the book as middle-grade fiction. Frankly, I found the book so tense that I'd have been traumatized by reading it at, say, age 10. It's extremely well done though. I recommend it.
I also read THE BLACKSTONE KEY by Kevin Sands. It's a middle grade book set during the Restoration, and it's a good read for adults as well as kids. It's interesting to see how some MG and YA books cross over to adults well and some don't. I don't know what the difference is. In this book, an apprentice apothecary and his friend break codes to solve a mystery.
I also read a good YA book
, E. M. Kokie's RADICAL, which is about prepper culture. It's in first person, and that can make it hard for a writer to convey details about the MC, who's unlikely to be narrating about themselves. In Chapter 1 of RADICAL, Kokie does a clever thing with that problem. I like clever. It's a timely book, given the growth of the Sovereign Citizen movement and the paranoia that leads a small number of people to amass a large number of guns.
Now I'm reading the new Louise Penny mystery. This series is set in a small town in Quebec and has a wonderful sense of place.Writing
I've been doing what feels like a last round of revision for a new book. I've worked on this on and off for a while so you may have heard me talk about it before. The MC is a 15-year-old boy who's marooned on the streets of a quasi-medieval city. To earn a few pennies, he pretends to be able to tell fortunes. Then he accidentally tells a true fortune for the prince and is taken into the palace to be the royal fortune teller. Good news: food and a warm bed. Bad news: He can't tell fortunes.
Anyway, when I revise, I run into two issues over and over. (1) My enjoyment of humor often leads me to undercut the story's tension with a joke. (2) I have a hard time being mean enough to my characters. Actually, undercutting tension with humor may be part of #2 too. I'm uncomfortable when things get bad. Also I tend to lay out my plot first, and while concentrating on it, I skim over the real emotions a real person would feel in the situation. So I have to go back and think about those and make them clear and real.
Fri, Sep. 16th, 2016, 12:30 pm
New book cover
Here's the cover for the YA fantasy I have coming out in November from Loose Leaves Publishing. Gorgeous, no?
As a follow up to what I posted yesterday, when Zharmae closes at the end of August, my rights revert to me and I will put the e-book for FINDERS KEEPERS back up on Amazon. I've put a e-book short story up there, so I know how to do that.
I'm uncertain if I'll create a paperback because I don't know how hard that will be. My point is if you want to be sure to get a paperback, you need to buy it before the end of the month.https://smile.amazon.com/Dorothy-A.-Winsor/e/B001KHN33I/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
In the meantime, I'm writing promotional material for DEEP AS A TOMB, revising a book tentatively titled THE WIND READER, and reminding myself of how to self-publish FINDERS KEEPERS. I am leaning new stuff. Yay!
Fun moments in small press publishing: the publisher of my first novel is closing its doors at the end of the month. All rights revert to me, so I think I’ll self-publish that one. In the meantime, my shiny new publisher is forging ahead with the book due out in November, which takes the sting out a little.
OTOH, I was just on the phone with a beta reader talking about a book I'm drafting, and she cried when she talked about my ending. :-)
My husband just sent me an excited text. He’s at a bridge tournament in Council Bluffs, and Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are there playing.
I'm drafting some blog posts to offer to book bloggers in the fall when DEEP AS A TOMB comes out. People do such "blog tours" these days because regular book tours are expensive. I'm having a hard time thinking of things to write about. I have 4 posts so far:
1. Good writing comes from writing what feels true
2. Conducting ethnographic research on engineers and writing YA/MG fantasy are totally alike
3. The historical practice of fostering (which plays a role in Deep as a Tomb)
4. Passive vs active writing
Is there anything at all you'd like to read about that I'm capable of writing?
I'm reading HOW TO BE A TUDOR by Ruth Goodman. She takes you from dawn to dusk, describing how people lived in that era. What were their beds like? How did they clean their teeth? How often did they change their underwear? It's fascinating stuff, but the most entertaining part is that Goodman does what I think is called Living History. That is, she tries to live for a time in the way she describes.
One experiment involved trying to figure out if people smelled worse than we do because they didn't usually get in a tub or shower. While filming a TV series, she wore all the period clothing while doing hard work. She rubbed her body down daily with a rough cloth and changed her smock (ie her slip-like underwear) once a week. She changed her hose only three times in six months. Apparently even the camera crew who was going home to the modern era at night found her acceptable to be around.
One of her colleagues did the opposite. He followed modern hygiene routines, showering, using deodorant etc, but wore the same clothes for several months without washing them. He apparently reeked.
I am imagining a YA novel in which the teen character has a mother who does this.
Tue, Apr. 12th, 2016, 09:33 am
I'm working on my last set of revisions, getting ready to change the POV in two chapters from one character to another. You'd think that was easy because events will remain the same, but it's not, because now I have to operate from Myla's interior life instead of Beran's. She has different concerns. How do I show-not-tell them, assuming I can figure them out? I usually talk of her in nature metaphors, so how do I use those? How does she react to and give us insight into the actions of everyone else? It's challenging, and yet I really look forward to each writing session.
Sun, Apr. 10th, 2016, 01:04 pm
Faygo pop was made in Detroit.
This a very cool animation showing the changing borders in Europe over the last 1000 years.
What has happened to me? I haven't felt this dazzled since the first time I saw LOTR.
Sat, Mar. 12th, 2016, 08:24 am
Turns out that if you have Amazon Prime, you can stream the sound track from "Hamilton" for free. I listened to it yesterday and was blown away. First, it doesn't sound anything like you expect a Broadway musical to sound. Then it shows you a group of brilliant, ambitious men at a crisis moment in history. And it blends in Hamilton's private life, which was rich with highs and lows. Enjoy!
Also, Leah Bardugo's Six of Crows
is a fantastic YA fantasy. It's Scott Lynch with teens. Additionally, I'm almost done with Adrian McKinty's latest Sean Duffy novel, set in Belfast during the troubles. Great voice, great setting. Enjoy!
: I'm reading J. Michael Neal's BECOMING PHOEBE about a girl playing collegiate hockey and figuring out the person she wants to be. Lots of hockey details that resonate with the sounds I heard coming from the TV as my Canadian father cheered for the Maple Leafs. In the car, I'm listening to Gantos's DEAD END IN NORVELT, a middle grade novel set in a New Deal Homestead community, a program Eleanor Roosevelt supported that I'd never heard of before.Writing
: Mostly today, I'm thinking about the fun I had writing fanfic. There's something so freeing about writing just for fun, trying things out, sharing an interest with other people. God bless the internet for making it easy.
: I've had trouble finding things to read, so I've gone to various award sites and looked for books that sound like I'd enjoy them. At least that way, I know the book will be well written.
At the moment, I'm reading Ben Fountain's BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK which was a finalist for the National Book Award. I'm about 10% into it. It was hard for me to get into because there are many characters and dense detail, so it felt overwhelming. I'm cautiously enjoying it more now.Writing
: Revising really. One question I've asked myself over and over is it someone read just this one page, would they be able to tell who the POV character is? If they wouldn't, that's a problem. I find it's not enough just to show only what the POV character would see or hear. I need that character's reactions to pretty much everything.
Tue, Jan. 26th, 2016, 12:38 pm
Here's the problem with the revision I'm currently doing. This book was written over several years in fits and starts. With each draft, I changed things, added a second POV, added a second plot thread to go with that POV, etc. Also, as I worked with the characters, I got a better sense of what they were like.
So these previous drafts live like archeological layers in the one I'm revising. There are secondary characters or small scenes that are there because I needed them for a plot or character element that's since been deleted or altered. My editor is like a guided missile pointing at those places and asking what I'm doing there. Or more accurately, what the character is doing there. What does he think and feel? How about everyone around him? How are they reacting?
And that's what I'm working on. In the chapter I'm working on now, the POV character often seems to have no attitude toward events, probably because those events have a different significance now than they did the first time I drafted this scene.