Uncategorized

Novel Madness 2018–ROUND TWO

To find out about this contest in my sixth grade classroom, go here. Here are the results of Round One, paired with their new opponents for Round Two, which takes place tomorrow. Good luck!

 

 

 

Matilda by Roald Dahl vs. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Frindle by Andrew Clements vs. House of Hades by Rick Riordan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate vs. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech vs. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Reviews

I’ll Give You the Sun

jandy-nelson I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, is one of the best magical realism books I’ve read for Young Adults. It features twins, a boy and a girl, named Noah and Jude. They are coming of age in a world where Jude regularly sees and receives advice from her dead grandmother, and Noah sees the world in the blazing color of possible paintings.

Jude has a ‘bible’ from her grandmother, who referred to God as Clark Gable, that contains spells and proverbs. Jude sums up every situation with one of these bits of wisdom. For example, to avoid serious illness, keep an onion in your pocket.

Both twins have artistic talent, but Noah is exceptionally talented. He’s also a serious misfit at school. This is further complicated when he develops a crush on another boy. All of his observations are punctuated by possible portrait titles. For example, when he’s angry with Jude, he thinks, PORTRAIT: My Spider Sister.

The death of the twins’ mother, as well as Jude and not Noah getting accepted at a special art school, begin to drive the twins apart. The story unfolds as they struggle to find their way back to each other and back to being comfortable in their own skin.

This is a book full of beautiful, lyrical language that evokes strong images. Some of my favorites:

“No woman can resist a man who has tidal waves and earthquakes beneath his skin.”

“Our eyes meet and we both crack up like we’re made of the same air.”

“We’re sprinting at the speed of light when the ground gives way and we rise into the air as if racing up stairs.”

About Writing, Narrative, Teaching Writing

Writing Exercise

anpencil4This week in a writing class, we have a fun assignment. Try it yourself!

*It needs to be one paragraph, exactly seven sentences. No dialogue.

*It should be the first paragraph or the last paragraph of a Young Adult novel, meaning the main character should be a teenager.

*It can be in first person, but you can’t use ‘I’ more than three times. It can be close third person, but you can’t use the character’s name more than three times.

*The paragraph must start with a long sentence and end with a short one, OR it can start with a short one and end with a long one.

Before you decide that I’m waiting for YOU to write MY assignment, here is a first draft of mine:

I love this computer, my dearest friend, closest companion, and hardworking colleague. Flipping open the lid, the screen lights up, notification icons blink. On Facebook, I stare in horror at a photoshopped picture of me, barely dressed, in the arms of some skinny nerd. Four of my closest friends have ‘liked’ it. Change to email before anyone sees me online. An English teacher didn’t get my final paper, some refugee in a third world country needs money, and no message from Thomas after last night’s wonderful date. I hate computers.

Put your paragraphs in the notes below! Feel free to offer me encouragement…

Authors, Authors

Author-Go-Round: Connie Peck

coverConnie is the author of some of my very favorite horse books for Young Adults. Welcome, Connie!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog. I’m Connie Peck and the stories I write are loosely based on a pony I owned when I was young. Do horses really talk? Can a rider actually understand the thoughts of a horse? You betcha! Every animal communicates. They signal danger and good food, play and even anger or irritation. They even communicate with other species. How do you know what they are saying? By watching and listening. You know what your dog or cat is thinking – at least most of the time, and they seem to know what you’re going to say even before you say it.

I always know what my horse is thinking by the tilt of his ears or the angle of his head. His eye changes ever so slightly to tell me different things, and when his muscles tighten, I know what he’s thinking about doinghorse. And my horse understands me in the very same way. Of course we speak verbally as well. I know his whinny when he wants food, or just wants company, and he knows when I call him or whistle that it’s time to go for a ride – or get a snack.

I learned all this from my pony, Midnight, when I was only eleven years old. That pony actually considered himself to be the trainer of our partnership.

A while back I visited a fourth grade class and we discussed writing books. They couldn’t wait to ask me all sorts of questions. Here are some of my favorites.

  1. How did you make up so many stories?

I write about things I that happened to me, or things I would like to happen. Sometimes I daydream and pretend I’m someone else and make up things to do. When you start by writing about things in your own life, your imagination starts to grow. Then making up new stories gets easier.

  1. Do you ever get tired when you are writing a book?

While I’m writing a real good part of the book and I’m so into it that I lose track of time, I can sit at my desk for hours and not even know it. I’m not a bit tired or hungry or thirsty even. But when I do stop to think about something I just wrote, or I have to stop and think about what’s going to happen next, I might lean back in my chair, and then I think I broke myself in half! I try to stand up and stretch my legs and I’m so stiff I can hardly move. But I didn’t think I was getting tired at all when I was ‘In the Zone’.

  1. Are you famous?

It depends on what you mean by famous?

“Like on TV where everyone knows you.”

Well, my children know me, and my grandchildren know me pretty well. And my mom, all my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews know me, as well as all my aunts and uncles and cousins. And now you know me. So I guess that makes me sort of famous. Besides, I had an interview on a radio station one time.

“Wow, you are famous!”

  1. Are you a millionaire? ‘Cause everyone who writes a book must be rich.

(I tried not to giggle) If you mean really rich, I can say I’m the richest person I know because of my family and friends, and because I live in America where I can choose my own life. But if you want to know if I have enough money to pay my bills, not yet. In fact, none of the authors I know are rich. (They were really surprised and a little disappointed)

  1. I’m afraid of horses and I don’t really like them, but I like cats. Can you write a book about cats?

I write what I know and love and that’s mostly horses. I don’t know a lot about cats, but I have a couple of cats and they can be funny. You can write a great book about cats if you start writing about what your cat does. You can even make up an adventure for you and your kitty. Maybe someday you will be famous. (That got them excited)

I started my latest book, Belt Buckles and Tiaras, not long after this classroom visit. It is a new line in The Black Pony adventures. Annie and Midnight first met Savannah in the first book when they went to the playday. Annie got to know Savannah a little better in the second book, Midnight and the Racehorse. But Savannah wanted to share her own story and tell how Annie helped her out, just by being a friend.

Sixteen year old Savannah Conway has it all, wealth, beauty, and the finest horses on a ranch in Phoenix. But what is the cost? Her movie-star mother has plans to see her winning every beauty pageant she can find. Right up to Miss America.

When her own dreams of training and showing horses clash with her mother’s plans, Savannah feels betrayed, trapped in a life mapped out for her since birth. But when she meets Annie Beck, a plain girl with an exceptional black pony, doors to another way of life begin to open. A life filled with real friends and freedom of choice.

Can Savannah break her mother’s heart and shatter their dreams for a shot at the title of Miss America just for a fling in the country? Is a compromise possible so she can meet Annie’s friends – and James, who rides the golden dun?

You can find BELT BUCKLES AND TIARAS on Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/nwkpw2v) and the rest of my books on my Author Page 

Please visit me at http://conniepeck.wordpress.com and check out Midnight’s blog, too.

And don’t forget to visit these fabulous authors, also on this tour. Write a comment on something you find interesting.

Feb 8 Nina Day Gerard www.ninadaygerard.com

Feb 15, Miracle Austin www.miracleaustin.com

Eve Connelly. Website www.eveconnelly.wordpress.com

Tracy Lawson. Website www.tracylawsonbooks.com

Linda Ulleseit, Flying Horse books and more, website: www.ulleseit.wordpress.com

Authors, Excerpts, Reviews

Author-go-Round: Tracy Lawson

003(48)Hi! I’m Tracy Lawson, and I’m so excited to be featured on Week 2 of this Author Interview-go-Round! I’m the author of Counteract and Resist, the first two volumes of the YA dystopian Resistance Series. Ignite, the third book in the series, is slated for release in summer 2016!

Here’s a quick summary of the series so far:

The Resistance Series takes place in a near-future version of the United States. The powerful Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has enacted a long list of Civilian Restrictions designed to keep the people safe from frequent terrorist attacks, but it hasn’t worked: as the story opens, the threat of a chemical weapons attack is literally hanging over everyone’s heads.

Careen takes the OCSD’s offered antidote, but the side effects cause her to hallucinate. Her erratic behavior attracts the attention of a young law enforcement officer, who mistakenly pegs her as a dissident. Careen doesn’t realize the antidote is causing her confusion…until she runs out on the day of the anticipated attack.

Tommy, recuperating from injuries sustained in a recent auto accident, is unaware that there’s a link between that accident, which killed his parents, and the chemical weapons attack that threatens him now. When he discovers that working out before he takes his dose of the antidote helps him feel more like himself, he defies the rules to regain his strength and his sanity. On the day of the attack, he meets Careen, who just might be the girl of his dreams, and tries to save her by sharing his last dose of the antidote, even though doing so could potentially hasten his own death.

What Careen and Tommy learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action; their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government.003(35) copy

In Resist, the second volume in the Resistance Series, Tommy and Careen are no longer naïve, frightened teenagers who believe the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense can protect them from terrorist attacks. They’ve discovered the OCSD’s miracle antidote’s true purpose: to create a population bereft of free will, incapable of defying the tyrannical OCSD. They join the Resistance, but on their first mission, things spin out of control and soon they’re on the run, dodging the quadrant marshals in a headlong dash for the Resistance’s secret headquarters.

Being part of the Resistance presents them with new challenges. Not everyone working for change will prove trustworthy, and plans to spark revolution go awry with consequences greater than they could’ve imagined. Tommy and Careen’s relationship is tested when their philosophical differences and the pressures of interpersonal rivalries and jealousy put a strain on their romance. Can they make time for each other while trying to start a revolution?

I love to talk to readers, and I’ve answered some interesting questions at book festivals and school visits. I’d like to share some of them with you:

How did you get the idea for your books? This question can be answered with a question. I was mentoring a friend of my daughter’s when the initial idea for Counteract came about. Chase is a pretty sharp guy and an excellent writer—and when he was in high school I had a lot of fun working with him and editing some of his short stories. We had finished working on a story about baseball, a broken nose, and a broken heart, and were ready to start something new, when he suggested we write scenes in response to the prompt: “What if everyone was on LSD and all thoughts were communal?” It was certainly thought provoking! Chase created the characters Tommy and Eduardo, I created Careen. Right away, we knew we were onto something. The story morphed and changed a lot before it became the finished version of Counteract—but that was how it all began.

What kind of research did you do while writing Counteract? A high school student asked me this question when I visited her English class, and I have to admit I totally fell for it. I responded, “Oh, I did lots of research.” Several people in the class looked surprised, and a few began to giggle. It took a second before I realized they’d asked if I’d tripped on LSD as part of my research, so I quickly qualified my answer. “I totally Googled LSD!” Actually, my browser history might look pretty odd to anyone who didn’t know I was researching a book about a society paralyzed by the fear of terrorism and an oppressive government. I’ve Googled guns, explosives, detonator cord, terrorist attacks, torture methods, and even a floor plan of the Capitol building. Don’t call the NSA on me, okay?

Did you get your ideas from another series? Is this story going to turn into another love triangle like Team Edward and Team Jacob in the Twilight series? When I was writing Counteract, and then Resist, I made every effort to craft a story that was different from the other popular teen books, like Hunger Games, Divergent, and Twilight. I even avoided reading The Hunger Games until I was finished writing Counteract so I wouldn’t be influenced. Love triangles are great devices in fiction, and Careen, my heroine, does attract the attention of two different guys, but it’s not the main focus of the story, and it does have a twist you won’t find in Twilight.

At almost every school visit, someone will ask how I chose the color orange for the CSD antidote in my book. One student noted that CSD is the same color as hallucination-causing drug that was used on Tris in the Divergent series.

At first, I’d envisioned the antidote as red, but when I saw the red liquid in the glass vial, I thought, ‘oh, no—everyone will think it’s vampire blood. This isn’t a vampire story.’ What other color could I choose? I eliminated blue, green, and purple, because cool colors are happy colors. I couldn’t use yellow (that’s when I pause until someone in the class starts to laugh) because it looks like pee. So that left orange, and that worked, because orange means caution and danger. I’d bet Veronica Roth arrived at her orange antidote using a similar process of elimination!

In the first chapter, you say something about Tommy being in an accident. I want to know more. Why didn’t you tell about the accident? This has to be one of the most amazing questions I’ve ever had, because it came from a very bright eight-year-old! My books are geared for ages 12 and up, and I don’t usually get questions from elementary-school children, but Bennett, who is the son of longtime friends, had been reading his older brother’s copy of Counteract before school that morning I visited his combined class of fourth through eighth graders.

I explained, “Bennett, you and I have known each other your whole life. But if we’d just met, and I said, ‘Hi, I’m Tracy Lawson, and I’ve come to speak to your school today. Back when I was born in Cincinnati in nineteen sixty something…’ you’d get bored and tune me out. I shouldn’t try to tell you my whole life story at once. Same with Tommy. I need you to get interested in him, and his immediate situation, before I tell you his backstory. What chapter are you on right now?” Bennett replied he’d just started Chapter 3. “Okay—you’re just about to learn about the accident that killed his parents and put him in the hospital.”

Counteract and Resist are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s online store in both print and ebook editions.

Amazon buy links:

Counteract: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013ZBPH7Q

Resist: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013Z7URKM

Barnes & Noble:

Counteract: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/counteract-tracy-lawson/1120081568?ean=9780996610803

Resist: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/resist-tracy-lawson/1122581420?ean=9780996610827

Signed copies are available through Tracy’s website at http://counteractbook.com/lawson-publishing/

The audio book version of Counteract is nearing completion—so look for its release in February!

Want more behind the scenes info and updates about the Resistance Series?

Follow Tracy on

Twitter: @TracySLawson

Facebook: http://facebook.com/TracyLawsonAuthor

Also please visit these awesome authors: 

Eve Connelly, www.eveconnelly.wordpress.com

Nina Day Gerard, www.ninadaygerard.com

Miracle Austin, www.miracleaustin.com

Connie Peck, conniepeck.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Meet My Characters

YA BlogfestToday I’m being hosted on Apryl Baker’s Blogfest! I like doing these events because it gives me an opportunity to show a different side of my characters, to do something different. In this post, a fictional patroness interviews the key characters of my three flying horse novels to see who might be the best barn leader. Check it out!

My Crazy Corner‘s YA/NA Blogfest

Uncategorized

YA Blogfest

YA+BlogfestWelcome to this year’s Young Adult Blogfest from Apryl Baker! For the full range of authors and giveaways, click over to My Crazy Corner.  Apryl has veteran authors and brand new authors joining her for this epic two-month event. From NYT and USA Today bestselling authors to brand new authors. Meet new friends and reconnect with old ones! Each author has created a unique post for their book(s), including buy links and giveaways. Check it out!

If you are eager to read MY brang new nrver-before-seen post, you have to wait until August 28.

In the meantime, sign up to win a free autographed copy of ALL three of my flying horse books!    Flying Horse GIVEAWAY!!

Reviews

Watersmeet

bookWatersmeet is the first novel in the Watersmeet series by Ellen Jensen Abbott. It is tagged Young Adult, but unlike some of today’s YA books this one can be read by younger YA readers. It’s about a girl who lives in a land with mythical creatures–including centaurs. You know how I am about horses, centaurs, unicorns, pegasi–you get the idea. On Amazon and Goodreads, this book gets a lot of rating abuse. I think those low stars are from YA readers who are expecting something edgier/more violent/sexier. Watersmeet is not like that.

Abisina is a human girl, heavily discriminated against because of her coloring and her absent father. Luckily, her mother’s healer skills are valued and Abisina is tolerated. An event turns the girl’s life upside down when she is forced, under penalty of death, to leave her village and find Watersmeet, where her father lives. She finds cruelty and discrimination as well as loyalty and love.

The world Abisina travels through is rich with history and races of creatures. The reader learns along with the girl as she encounters new things. Something I enjoyed was when Abisina is forced to realize the depth of her own prejudice–something many of us never fully understand. Discovering your own prejudices and overcoming them is an excellent theme for a YA book, and you don’t need violence and sex to accomplish it!

 

Authors

Eolyn Character Interview

High Maga 2Today I’m posting a special interview. This is fictional journalist Ian McFae interviewing the characters from High Maga by Karin Rita Gastreich. Enjoy!

Love and Magic in the Highlands of Moehn

An exclusive interview with Maga Eolyn and Adiana of Selkynsen

By Medieval Times correspondent Ian McFae

 Moehn seems an unlikely setting for one of the kingdom’s most ambitious projects. A rough-hewn province, its villages are clusters of earthen homes; its people humble in dress and aspect. Cultivated fields grow haphazardly across rolling hills. Wheat and lentils struggle amongst scattered saplings in a constant battle against the ever-encroaching forest.

Today I’m visiting an Aekelahr, the first community of its kind in over a generation. A half-finished wall marks the perimeter. Inside, small stone buildings house living quarters as well as a herbarium and library. At the center, a young fir tree has begun its reach toward the sky. On the southern side of the complex, insects buzz through a large garden of fruits, vegetables, and fragrant herbs.

My hostess, Maga Eolyn, survived the purges against magas and is often hailed as the last Daughter of Aithne. Her companion, Mistress Adiana, is a talented musician from the province of Selkynsen. You may, perhaps, remember her performances from the days of Mage Corey’s Circle. Though similar in age, Eolyn and Adiana seem very different in disposition. Maga Eolyn comes across as formal and soft spoken, reminiscent of a lynx that prefers the forest deep. Adiana, on the other hand, is restless as a songbird in spring.

MT: Thank you both for hosting me today. I’m going to start with a question that may seem obvious, but that many of our readers could probably use a refresher on: What is a maga?

Eolyn: Thank you for visiting us, Ian. A maga is a woman trained in a tradition of magic unique to Moisehén, first discovered in ancient times by Aithne and Caradoc. We seek to understand the natural world, the spirits of plants, animals, and rocks, and to use that understanding for the betterment of our people.

MT: Sounds noble. Yet not too long ago, the kingdom made a concerted effort to rid itself of everyone who had learned this tradition.

Adiana: Fools will be fools. And kings more so, when given the chance.

Eolyn: When the magas rose up against King Akmael’s father, Kedehen, the consequences were many and brutal. Here we are trying to put that past behind us and create a new future in magic, not only for the young women who have joined our Aekelahr, but for all of Moisehén.

MT: Tell me a little about the women who live here. How do you choose your students?

Eolyn: We accept anyone who comes willingly and demonstrates an aptitude for magic, as well as respect for the traditions and teachings of Aithne and Caradoc. Right now we are a small community: five young girls, Maga Renate, Adiana, and myself. But we hope to grow.

MT: So, Maga Eolyn, you teach magic, but what role does Adiana have? Why bring a musician to the Aekelahr?

Adiana: Aithne and Caradoc, who discovered magic, recognized music as a form of Primitive Magic, the most ancient and complex magic given to our people. It’s true that I was never trained as a maga, but I know music, and I love teaching the girls. This is the one gift that I can offer in support of Eolyn’s effort.

MT: So you left the cosmopolitan city of Selkynsen to settle in this remote and rather backward province. Do you ever miss your home?

Adiana: I miss the wine. There is no better wine than the wine of Selkynsen.

MT: But you don’t regret your choice?

Adiana: Not at all. This is the most wonderful community I’ve ever been a part of, which is saying a lot since I was a musician for Mage Corey’s Circle. And let me tell you, that was amazing! But Eolyn has built a strong family her out of a most unlikely collection of orphans and misfits. We love each other and care for each other. The girls who study with us will one day be some of the most powerful women in the kingdom.

MT: It’s common knowledge that this Aekelahr would not exist without the very generous support of King Akmael. How did you convince the son of Kedehen to finance this endeavor, to even make it legal again for women to practice magic?

Eolyn: My Lord King and I were brought together by very unusual circumstances when we were children. It was on the basis of that friendship that he eventually decided to reverse some of the rulings made by his father.

MT: Friendship. A carefully chosen word. Some would call it love.

Adiana: Well he is in love with her. Madly. No doubt about it.

Eolyn: I cannot speak for the King’s heart, but I can assure you there is no romance between us.

MT: Yet there was romance at one time. Would you deny this?

Eolyn: Of course not. Akmael – I mean, the King – and I were involved for a brief period some years ago, but that ended before he married Queen Taesara. We have not seen each other since.

MT: King Akmael and Queen Taesara are expected to arrive in Moehn in the next few weeks, as part of their summer progress. Any chance of old flames reigniting?

Eolyn: No. Absolutely not.

Adiana: I would say so. Definitely. Yes.

Eolyn: Adiana, please.

Adiana: I’m just saying! Look at her, Ian. What king wouldn’t be in love with this woman? She’s beautiful! And I know she still has feelings for him. You should see how nervous she’s been with all the preparations. It’s driving the rest of us mad.

Eolyn: Perhaps this would be an appropriate moment to bring the interview to a close.

MT: As much as I’d like to delve deeper into this question, we are, I’m afraid, at the end of our time today. I’m certain our readers will be anxious to learn what happens in the coming weeks, Maga Eolyn, when you and King Akmael are reunited.

Readers of Medieval Times, I will be back soon with full coverage of the King’s long-anticipated visit to the province of Moehn. Until then, this is Ian McFae signing off from the highlands and wishing you a most magical day.

Find out more about High Maga here!

 

 

 

Uncategorized

The Wolf and the Sorceress

coverThe Wolf and the Sorceress; The King’s Magician by Brian Pemberton

The sorceress, Nemeila, crash landed in the woods as baby–in a spaceship. She is rescued by a wolf. Now if that doesn’t hook your interest right away, I don’t know what will. Nemeila is taken in by a woodsman and his wife and is raised as their daughter. But that’s not the end of the story. We meet Nemeila’s real mother and an evil sorcerer who is her nemesis. Nemeila’s adventure includes traveling to another land to rescue a prince when the sorceror kills his father. In addition to the wolf, the story includes a dragon, an eagle, and a horse. While the animals can’t talk, I enjoy how the author puts their thoughts into words for the reader.

This novel is perfect for middle grade readers and up. The character of Nemeila instantly makes you root for her. Parlan and Tyler, the prince and his friend, are also well developed characters. The conflict is great, plausible with just the right amount of magic.

The very best news of all is that the author is planning five more books in this series. We don’t have to leave Nemeila and her wolf yet!