If your writing goal in 2013 was to publish your book, there’s still time. Book Country is running two publishing promotions… but they end when the ball drops tomorrow night.
Happy Boxing Day! For those of us in the States, today is the day when we return the gifts that weren’t quite right and look for bargains (or, we avoid the mall at all costs). Outside the U.S., today is the traditional day when people give presents to those outside their core circles — employees, the friends one meant to see but didn’t. South Africa changed the name from Boxing Day to the Day of Goodwill, and I love there’s an official day on the calendar when we are compassionate and kind. (I’d love to see the greeting cards for that!)
Today is also my birthday. I give myself a gift of goodwill that’s difficult for me to give most other times of the year: judgment-free writing. And I return to work I’ve done with a kinder eye.
Here’s what I do:
One of my very favorite things about the Cozy Mystery genre is how authors of cozies blend charming hobbies into the backdrop of their books. Because I’m a knitter, I have a soft spot for cozies about knitting.
Just in time for Christmas, I stumbled across A HOLIDAY YARN, the fourth book in Sally Goldenbaum‘s Seaside Knitters series. In this series, a group of knitters in the small New England town of Sea Harbor solves mysteries as they knit up a storm of simple squares, which are sent to South Africa to be made into blankets for orphans. At the end of A HOLIDAY YARN, Sally Goldenbaum includes a pattern for a simple 8-inch knitted square so that her readers can make the same project as the characters that they have read about. Plus there is a call to action to send the squares to the KasCare Knit-A-Square Project. KasCare collects these squares from knitters all over the world, then makes them into blankets to keep South African AIDS orphans warm during the winter.
This holiday season, Brandi (also a knitter) and I decided that we wanted to contribute to the project. We wanted to invite the knitters amongst the Book Country community to join in, too. With permission from KasCare, Obsidian (which publishes the Seaside Knitters books), and Sally Goldenbaum, we’re posting the Knit-a-Square pattern below. This easy pattern is a cinch for knitters of all experience levels! Continue reading
With the holidays approaching, we’re steeped in the Christmas spirit–the smell of pine trees wafting through the chill air, people buzzing about, doing last-minute holiday shopping, and gorgeous holiday displays and decorations.
How do you convey the wonder of the holiday through fiction? We invited author Elisabeth Fairchild to talk to us about writing in the Christmas spirit and her regency novel by the same name.
How do you define the Christmas spirit?
For me, the heart and soul of Christmas is in humanity’s finest expression of light, warmth and joyful giving in the heart of a dark, cold, season of endings. The Christmas spirit warms even the loneliest of souls given we open our hearts to a sense of wonder and celebration, choosing to interact positively with the world around us.
I usually set out to have a memorable Christmas. Often, the best of plans go awry. Writing any book is, for me, a search for heroic and historical truths. In THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, I focused on the Yuletide season’s potential for hope, magical moments and joy in a reality I think we can all relate to–where the best of plans for “the best Christmas ever” are turned upside down.
Tara Sullivan took time for a chat with us about her debut Middle Grade novel GOLDEN BOY. GOLDEN BOY is a harrowing story of 13-year-old Tanzanian albino named Habo, whose family is forced from their small village due to prejudice and misunderstanding. This book stood out to me as a serious and fascinating example of the powerful work that Middle Grade authors are writing. Read on to find out more about how GOLDEN BOY fits into the Middle Grade genre, but also strongly resonates with older teens and adults.
LS: You are a high school Spanish teacher, as well as an author. Tell me about how your experience in the classroom affected your writing.
TS: I have to say, I don’t know that there was much interaction between the two worlds—I write for middle grade readers and I teach high schoolers. The kids are always excited to hear book updates, though, and that’s fun.
LS: GOLDEN BOY has been embraced by the Junior Library Guild and School Library Journal. How do librarians play such a big role in the success of books for younger readers? What about teachers and librarians in the schools? Continue reading
When I dove into Robert Paul Weston‘s middle grade book THE CREATURE DEPARTMENT, about the lovable creatures living inside an electronics factory, I was struck by the immense task middle grade writers face.There is the challenge of appealing to an adult and kid audience, the duty to educate and entertain young readers without being patronizing, and the responsibility to start them on a lifetime of reading and loving books.
We invited Robert to share his writing methodology and the arcane art of tapping into the world of a middle grader.
Tapping into the world of a middle grader is not easy and can be extremely dangerous. If you’ve ever tapped into a maple tree in the dead of January to extract the sweet, sweet nectar within, then you will have no idea how to tap into the middle grade world. Making maple syrup won’t help you. (This is probably a good time to admit that I am Canadian. To me and my people, maple syrup can always be forced into a clumsy metaphor for everything in life. Except this. It can’t help you tap into the world of a middle-grader.) To do that, you must follow these steps:
1. Have as much difficulty as possible dealing with the adult world.
Adults are crazy and misguided. They ceaselessly, fruitlessly chase after A) money, B) influence, and C) “meaningful, authentic experiences.” Fools! If you want to tap into the world of middle-graders chase after the following: A) Clouds. B) Non sequiturs. C) Butterflies as big as hippos with flaming wings and two heads, one that looks like Mussolini and another one with a long neck like a giraffe. Hint: This creature’s name is Siegfried.
Ever tried to write about Christmas in the summer? In the sweltering summer of the American South? Today our guest is New York Times-bestselling Women’s Fiction author Mary Kay Andrews. Her new book is called CHRISTMAS BLISS, and to get it out to her fans by Christmas meant she was writing this heartwarming tale in Savannah, Georgia, in July. Read on to see how she got into the holiday spirit in the middle of the summer.
Writing another Christmas novella seemed like a good idea . . . at the time. When my editor suggested last year that they’d welcome a Christmas novella, I jumped at the chance. After all, my previous attempt at the form had been a success. BLUE CHRISTMAS, originally published in 2006, and featuring the beloved protagonists of my two earlier Savannah novels, SAVANNAH BLUES and SAVANNAH BREEZE, had sold better than anybody expected, and made the New York Times bestseller list. Hundreds of my readers have told me over the years that re-reading BLUE CHRISTMAS is part of their holiday ritual.
I knew these characters, Weezie Foley and best friend BeBe Loudermilk. I know Savannah, where the book is (mostly) set. I even had the basic idea for the story down—Weezie gets married, BeBe has a baby. And a novella, by definition, is supposed to be short—sometimes as short as 90 pages. Easy, peasy, eggs and cheesy. Right?
Not so much. For one thing, I was five months late handing in my previous book, last summer’s LADIES’ NIGHT. Which gave me a late start on writing CHRISTMAS BLISS. Late, as in, I didn’t really get started on it until last spring—which was when it was due to my long-suffering editor. This meant that I was writing a Christmas book—in the springtime.
Join us in welcoming writer Aira Philipps to the member spotlight this Monday! Aira is a recent Book Country convert who writes YA, loves Stephen King, and is the mother of three boys. Check out her book RISE OF THE WHITE RAVEN and get to know her as she talks about writing YA characters and unleashing her creativity in her fiction.
NG: Thanks for chatting with us, Aira! Start by telling us a little bit about yourself & how you landed in the crazy world of writing!
AP: Thanks for having me, Nevena. Gosh, I can’t remember when I wasn’t writing something. I wanted so badly to be able to tell a story like Roald Dahl, or Jean Merrill. I had a pile of notebooks with stories in them I never shared with anyone. I just liked to write. My creative mind took me in so many directions, so my writing was just one of many. I was taking private art lessons and doing community theater, even playing the cello, I never took my writing seriously. Then I settled down raising my three boys, and about the time I found the internet, I started writing again. This time it was much easier to focus and organize my thoughts. I just ran with it.
NG: THE RISE OF THE WHITE RAVEN is the story of a not-so-ordinary 17-year-old girl who has to face supernatural forces and an old prophecy. What’s your favorite part about telling this particular tale?
AP: I really like Deidra as a character. Because she started out being an outcast when she was younger, she became strong and independent. Deidra is able to fit in without giving into peer pressure, and doesn’t need a boyfriend or to wear the latest trends to feel good about herself. I think Deidra is what we all wish we could have been in high school.
NG: Blending paranormal elements in a contemporary setting can be tricky. What is your personal approach to grounding magic in the book?
AP: It all comes down to the first advice given to a writer. Write what you know. I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell, and read any kind of myth I can get a hold of. It’s also the fiction I am drawn to, so the paranormal part is easy enough. The story was already in my head, much of it from my own experiences. I just began to write. For bringing the characters up-to-date, I can thank my boys and all their friends — my house is always full of clowns.
Earlier this year, Nevena wrote about how to choose a genre on Book Country. I wanted to expand on why genre matters, and how finding the right genre makes a difference in getting your book into the hands of readers who want to find your book.
We’ve talked about how once writers choose a genre (or a genre chooses you), it becomes a home. It’s where writers spend days and nights creating characters and stories for the world to embrace. Your genre is the country filled with people who want to read and write what you do.
It’s important to decide where your book fits early in the process. Otherwise, you might get stuck describing your book as a hyphen between a western-romance-mystery-literary-fiction-with-some-vampires and a chase scene, and it’s a lot like 50 Shades meets Harry Potter meets Twilight meets The Help with a protagonist a lot like Holden Caulfield, and set in 28th century France.
Here’s why your genre matters: stores, whether it’s the lovely independent on your street or Amazon, need to classify your book so they can sell it to just the right audience. Please don’t say that the audience for your book is everyone — that’s lazy and untrue. If you’re a romance writer, for example, you know there’s a big difference between the way a contemporary is written compared to a Regency. Just like you’re trying to find other like-minded writers on Book Country, retailers want to introduce your book to like-minded readers (who have expectations of what you’ll bring to the page based on the genre you selected).