Archive for January, 2010

Top 100 Chapter Books

January 31, 2010

Librarian Betsy Bird at Fuse#8 is doing an unscientific poll of the Top 100 chapter books. It closes tonight at midnight if you care to participate.  I probably would have seen this before if I hadn’t been so busy finishing the revisions to my YA mystery.    So I decided to throw together a list of my top ten picks.  There might have been some shifting around if I’d given it more serious thought.   And there might be some books by the same author that SHOULD have made it onto the list except that I decided not to list more than one book of any given author.  After I hit send, I realized that I put one book on twice.  (Oops!) So I revised it a bit for here.  Since I have more time today, I’m going to make a few notes:

1. The Grey King by Susan Cooper  (It’s the fourth book in her DARK IS RISING series, but I read it first because that was all the local library branch had.  I loved it all the same.)

2. Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager   (Edward Eager’s books are so much fun.  SAVING THE GRIFFIN can trace its literary roots back to KNIGHT’S CASTLE, HALF MAGIC, THE TIME GARDEN and their siblings.) 

3. The City of Gold and Lead (This is the second book of John Christopher’s original TRIPOD trilogy.  THE WHITE MOUNTAINS comes first, but this one hit me the hardest.)

4. The Silver Chair  C.S. Lewis  (Jill Pole was my hero!)

5. Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth….Konigsberg (I could relate to Elizabeth, and I had my own Jennifer.)

6.  My Side of the Mountain  (Great adventure. A wonderful survival story.)

7. Wolves of Willoughby Chase  by Joan Aiken  (I also adored BLACKHEARTS IN BATTERSEA and NIGHTBIRDS ON NANTUCKET.  I’m afraid the others in the series left me a bit cold.)

8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine   (My most recent title on the list.  For the rest of this list, I was going by the books that I had a deep and abiding passion for back in elementary school.)

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein.  (I read THE LORD OF THE RINGS when I was eleven also, but it really doesn’t fit in as a chapter book.)

10. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol.  (I also liked ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS very, very much.)


Pronouncing the Griffin

January 28, 2010

I’ve noticed on my blog stats that people have a few concerns about pronouncing Italian words from SAVING THE GRIFFIN.  Here’s a quick guide.

If you’re familiar with Spanish, it should be extremely easy because the vowels are similar. 

A: ah as dog
E: ay as in day
I: ee as in need
O: oh as in hoe
U: oo as in blue

RR: roll those r’s.
Checchi: Cakey
C’e: chay rhyming with day.
Mangia: MAHN-jah  (Jah like jog)
Dai: sounds a lot like die, but it is a dipthong: dah-ee.

The C’s and G’s in Italian can confuse.  A ‘ch’ used in combination with i or e will have the hard k sound as will a “c” followd by an “o” or “u”.  Therefore “chi” would sound like “key”.  A “gh” in combination with an ‘i’ or ‘e’ will have the sound of gate as will a “g” followed by an “o” or “u”. 

It may all sound a bit tricky, but in reality, Italian is a much easier language with respect to spelling than English.  In fact, Italians imported “lo spelling” because that concept wasn’t in their vocabulary! As I noted in another post, my first grader could read Italian beautifully even if she didn’t have the first idea what she was saying.  Feel free to ask any questions about pronunciation in the comments section.  I’ll try to get back to you promptly.

Hitting the Send Button

January 27, 2010

Incoming!  Thwump!  That’s the sound of 51,000 words landing in my editor’s electronic inbox.

My YA mystery is done, at least for the moment.  It was a pretty major revision, so I’ll have to see what my editor thinks about the changes and additions.  But my kids, who are in high school and college, liked it.  Now I know that writers aren’t supposed to rely on their families for feedback.  Usually, I don’t, but I needed my young adults’  feedback to make sure my word choices worked. 

Ordinarily there’s a bit of an empty feeling when a project heads out the door.  I don’t expect to start feeling it until tomorrow morning.  That’s when I usually work on my fiction.  But I’ll be staying very busy as I try to catch up with everything that I’ve been putting off in order to meet this deadline.

The Reading Bowl Rap

January 27, 2010

It was so fun to find SAVING THE GRIFFIN in the first verse of the Georgia Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl 2009-10 Rap. A clever person from the DeKalb County Schools managed to work the titles for of the various books into a few short stanzas.  

We’re Deep and Dark and Dangerous
And you don’t need to mess with us
We’re not Saving the Griffin, we’re saving the day
It’s Reading Bowl and we came to play

Reading Every Word Out Loud

January 21, 2010

I still don’t know a better way to find mistakes in my writing than reading each word out loud. It keeps my eye from skimming over my all too familiar words. Of course working my way through 51,000 words takes awhile….

Revising YA Mystery: Done?

January 16, 2010

It took a writing binge of epic proportions, but I completed a draft of the YA mystery very early on Saturday morning after putting in a marathon day on Friday.  Deadlines can be a powerful thing.  This one was  self-imposed.  I knew that my technical advisors–aka college-age daughters–would be able to read the book if I got it to them for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.   

Essentially, I addressed fifty pages of line edits in about 13 hours.  Just to give you an idea on speed, the first 130 pages or so took almost two months. But during that time, I also heavily revised the first chapter, wrote two entirely new chapters, recast several scenes and celebrated the Thanksgiving and Christmas. holidays.   

Things aren’t perfect, but they’re working.  I need to slide in a few more sensory details without slowing down the action.  I also have to create some of those brilliant transitions.  But  one of my daughters made suggestion on how to handle a few of them. 

I might have reached the Nitz-picking stage! The basic plot looks like it’s working.

Something Brilliant Goes Here

January 12, 2010

I’m still working away at the revision to my YA mystery.  I’ve reached page 100 out of about 175.  For this revision, I have a new favorite tool that I picked up from Leslie Connor, author of WAITING FOR NORMAL, at a recent SCBWI Michigan retreat. When she get completely stuck on something, she’ll write “Something Brilliant Goes Here”  on the manuscript and then move on.  Since I’m doing a final revision, I will definitely struggle for ten minutes or more on a tough transition.  But I feel happier about going on than I used to because I’ve laid down a marker in my manuscript and made a promise to myself.

YA Mystery Revision: Halfway There!

January 7, 2010

With respect to numbers of pages, I’m halfway through the revision of my YA mystery.  But in many other ways, I could very well be within a week of a semi-polished draft.  I’ll have to draft a few other new scenes, but they won’t be anywhere near as hard as what I’ve already accomplished.  At least I’m thinking not. I blew through fifteen pages today!

The Origin of Prince Eduardo’s Tale

January 6, 2010

Three nights ago, Michael had asked for an extra bedtime story when she’d walked past his room.  So Kate had leaned against thedoorway and started in on another one of her fantastic tales.
   “Remember how you and Mom decided not to climb all the way up to the monastery ruins with me and Stephen this afternoon? Well, I guess you didn’t hear us scream when this rose up out of the ground and…” She’d talked on for several minutes, making up scary details about the prince as she went. 

           Saving the Griffin

When I start a new project, I don’t usually begin with an outline or character sketches the way some people do.  Instead, I tend to write the opening scene or scenes up until the end of the character’s first day.  That gives me a chance to get to know the people in my projects in a way similar to the way that the readers might.  Then I begin work on the outlining and character sketches.

When Michael caught sight of a creature with wings and fur, in my first draft of the first chapter,  it made sense to me that Kate would first dismiss the sighting and then tease him with stories about Italian monsters.  I decided to develop that further with Michael having the tendency to more than halfway believe in the stories even when Kate told him they weren’t true after all.

So after essentially making a promise to the reader that Kate told believable tall tales, I needed to deliver the goods.   Readers would have to believe that Michael really was frightened by what Kate came up with.  In this case, the easiest thing for me to do was cheat. 

Back in 1998, my family was driving back from a Reformation Retreat on the Rhine in Germany.  We decided to stop in the Black Forest on the way home since our kids always had November 1st and 2nd off from school for the All Saint’s Day holidays.  We found a little gasthaus in Staufen through the Rick Steves’ Germany, Switzerland and Austria guidebook.  After dinner, our family took a hike up to the ruined castle that overlooked the town.  Our five-year-old son didn’t feel like climbing all the way to the top, so he and his dad found a comfortable wall about halfway up.  

That night the kids asked me to make up a story for them.  I often did that on the fly.  Sometimes I let them each pick a word.  But it was right after  Halloween, and I thought a spooky story would be fun, especially since the kids missed out on Trick-or Treating.  So I looked at my son and said, “Remember how you and Dad didn’t climb all the way up to the castle ruins with the rest of us?  Well, I’m surprised you didn’t hear us scream when…”  The rest of the tale unfolded much as it did for Kate in SAVING THE GRIFFIN.   

When I finished, my son looked absolutely horrified.  I told him that it wasn’t true.  The girls told him it wasn’t true.  But I found out the next morning that he’d insisted on climbing into bed with his sisters that night just in case.