Archive for February, 2010


February 25, 2010

It’s official!  SUSPECT, my YA mystery, will be released October 1! Here’s a description from the publisher:

Seventeen-year-old Jen is scheduled to spend the summer helping Grandma Kay run the Shoenhaus, a Victorian bed and breakfast. But Grandma Kay’s plans include a lot more than housekeeping; she intends to solve a real mystery from the past involving the disappearance of a young woman.

And the victim was Jen’s own mother.

Ellen disappeared without a trace when her daughter was still young. For years, Jen received holiday gifts in the mail and letters signed by her mother. But then the communication abruptly stopped. Now Grandma Kay is convinced the letters were forged and that her daughter-in-law was murdered.

The stage is set for an elaborate Mystery Weekend. Family members and friends and even her mother s old college roommate assemble and are assigned roles to play. As the drama unfolds, Jen makes an important off-stage discovery, a diary written by her mother. Soon Jen’s worst suspicions are aroused: Could a member of her own family be responsible for her mother s disappearance?

Author Kristin Wolden Nitz has penned a satisfying story that artfully combines all the necessary elements of a great mystery: believable, well-drawn characters, a unique setting, well-laid clues, and a final rewarding solution.


Finding the Way Back into a Novel

February 18, 2010

I was in the middle of a major rewrite of a middle grade fantasy when the revisions for my YA mystery landed on my doorstep.  I had every intention of spending ten or fifteen minutes a day with the fantasy so that I could jump back into it fairly quickly.  In the past, I’ve totally lost the momentum of a story during extended interruptions.  It was a good idea that didn’t work. The demands of the Christmas season quickly gobbled up that time.  And honestly, the creative corner of my mind was fully engaged with the characters  in SUSPECT since this was not a matter of tweaking a few words and phrases. For example, I deleted an entire scene that didn’t work with my editor with a few quick clicks. 

So how can you get back into a novel after an extended absense?  I’ve found that it’s a good idea to go back to the beginning in order to get reaquainted with the characters instead of trying to jump right back into the spot where I left off.  For one thing, I suddenly have a lot of distance from the project.  This also gives me a chance to see what’s on the page and what’s still in my head.   As I edit and revise,  I start thinking like my main character again.  After about two weeks of work, I’m just about ready to start pressing forward again.

Locked-in on the Olympics

February 14, 2010

I am endlessly fascinated by the Olympics.  I will watch almost any event.  This afternoon it’s been Nordic combined, biatholon, and luge.  And yes, I will be tuning in for the more popular figure skating tonight. 

While I love watching these people step onto the world stage and give it everything that they have, I am very grateful that I can essentially have as many chances as I need to perfect a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter and a novel.  Yes, there can be some tough deadlines here and there, but it is quite a different thing.

Naming Characters II

February 10, 2010

In an earlier post, I wrote about some of my naming problems for a protagonist.  When I ran my list of new names for that person past my various critique groups, I got a wide variety of answers.  Elisa was a favorite with many, but my son shot that one down in something less than a heartbeat. Since he and I have similar reading tastes, I had to take him seriously.  I also did a ‘find and replace’ on the names to put them into the manuscript and see how they felt.  I used my reading aloud trick, too.  None really worked for me.  So I went back searching for German girls’ names on the web and found Calyn, which shares a lot with Katrin.  In fact, the shape of the mouth when pronouncing the consonants R and L are quite similar. 

Do I have a winner?  Maybe.

First click of the day

February 10, 2010

Fuse #8 continues to be one of my first clicks of the day as I check out her unscientific poll of the top 100 chapter books.  Sometimes I kick myself that I didn’t add a book to my list.  Today, I discovered that I’d read and adored four out of five on the list even though none of them were in my top ten.  (My misunderstanding of the definition of chapter books meant that I hadn’t put THE THIEF on my list. And I absolutely adore Megan Whelan Turner’s Attolia books.)  So check out 85-81.

Fuse #8’s Top Hundred Countdown Begins

February 8, 2010

I have a feeling that I’ll be checking the blog of librarian Betsy Bird quite regularly as she counts down the top 100 chapter books.  This morning she had 91-100.  Ms. Bird not only lists the books, but also puts them in context.

One of my top ten picks, ELLA ENCHANTED, was there.  I learned from the post that that Gail Carson Levine wrote picture books for nine years before switching over to novels. So let that be an inspiration to all struggling writers everywhere.  As Jane Yolen has observed, “Bone-headed stubbornness pays.”  Somehow Ms. Levine’s background didn’t suprise me.  Authors of picture books really love to play with words. 

THE EGYPT GAME was also on the list.  And that reminded me of two other books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder:  THE CHANGELING and THE VELVET ROOM.  If I’d had time to meditate for a few weeks on my picks instead of turning them in right before the deadline, I would have put THE CHANGELING in my top ten.  It’s one of the rare children’s books that successfully covers years and years of a character’s life.  One of the reason’s that it can do this is that it mostly shows what happens to Martha Abbot when Ivy Carson is there.

Naming Characters

February 3, 2010

Naming characters is always a challenge, but often trying to change the name at a later date is even worse.  Characters can be stubborn.  In fact, one named Werner in DEFENDING IRENE refused.   I offered him at least twenty other options. 

Katrin Ladurner from my current work in progress has promised to be equally stubborn, especially since she was the first main character from the first novel that I ever attempted.  A few years ago I went back and did something that had always sounded like sheer insanity to me: a complete and total revision in which I started with a completely blank page and started writing it from scratch.  (For more on this decision, click here.)

A good friend pointed out to me that Katrin was simply too close Kate of SAVING THE GRIFFIN.   Even though it’s hard to make this change, I know that my friend and fellow writer was right.

Here are three of my current favorites.  Feel free to make comments in comment section on any of them. 

Ariane Ladurner
Maren Ladurner
Elisa Ladurner

Or I’m open to other names with a Germanic sound.