Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Slowing Down

     So according to the newspaper sales fliers, August starts the official Dog Days of Summer.
     Soon versions of this late summer sentiment will show up on the back-to-school sales ads — 'Dog Days of Summer Sale' with captions like 'Hot Buys' and 'Sizzling Savings'. Until now, I've been ignorant as to exactly what are Dog Days. So after a quick research trip to Google, I found where that term originated:
        'The Romans referred to the dog days as dies caniculares and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They named Sirius the "Dog Star" since it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). It's also the brightest star in the night sky. The term was also used earlier by the Greeks, as referenced in Aristotle's Physics.
        Dog Days were thought to be an evil time when 'the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures grew languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies," according to Brady's Clavis Calendaria, 1813.
       Madness, fevers, and hysterics? Yes, I can relate. This happens to me when the temperature gets above 90.
       August is a busy time, too. School starts. The cogs in the publishing world turn a little faster. For me, it's a good chance to stay indoors and finish the project I've been working on all summer. With that, I'm taking a blog break until Sept. 1st. Instead of regular posts, the next five Fridays will feature a themed post with links to some of my favorite articles on writing. I'll be linking to posts on Developing Characters this Friday, August 2nd.
        Stay cool and see you in September!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Setting as a Living Thing

     I love this photo. It's a visual summary of what every great setting should have: depth, mood, and a story of its own.
     We road-tripped through the country one evening after dinner to this spot, to this barely-there cemetery at the end of a dusty, white gravel road, hidden amongst a grove of old-growth oaks and maples. Some of the markers had been eaten away by the elements and the encroaching trees and shrubs. If you looked into the woods at the perimeter, you'd see more gravestones here and there, ones that hadn't been swallowed by ground cover and rotting timber. It was dark in those woods. Coupled with an eerie quiet, the place seemed ageless and a bit chill-inducing in the approaching dusk.
     In The Fire in Fiction, author Donald Maass writes, "It is the combination of setting details and the emotions attached to them that, together, make a place a living thing."
     Leaving the cemetery, we drove to the next town over to get ice cream. Even while we sat outside on the cement tables and enjoyed our root beer floats, my thoughts returned to the graves and the shadowy woods, and the feelings associated with that lonely, quiet spot among the trees. I look at this picture now and I can easily recall those same emotions one year later. As Maass suggests, bringing real-life experiences to the fictional worlds we create help them come alive.


Monday, July 15, 2013

A Week in the Woods Revisited

   I'm back from northern Minnesota, having spent last week there writing, reading, hiking and loving the sights and sounds of the north shore of Lake Superior. It's beautiful country, made all the more special by the peaceful cabin the woods where we stayed with our gracious hosts, John and Erica.
     Since I've been gone, I haven't yet announced who won the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop that ended last week. The winner is:

Jennifer Mathis

    Thanks to everyone who entered. If you've followed me by GFC or Twitter, I look forward to catching up with you in the next few days.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Whatcha Reading?

   I'm packing a ridiculous amount of books to read while on vacation next week, more than I can get through even if I were reading half the day away. And there's so many I've been saving for this point in the summer that now I can't choose! Hardly a life-or-death decision, but my bag begs for me to show it some mercy.
     There's Save the Cat by Blake Synder, which I'm halfway done with now (highly recommended for structure-challenged writers!). Also, Marcelo in the Real World; The Best of Edward Abbey; Following Atticus; Men and Dogs; and May B, by Caroline Starr Rose.
     See? Ridiculous.
     What are you reading?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Within the Pages: Destiny Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Destiny, Rewritten
by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Published by Katherine Tegen Books,
 imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2013.

     I knew I'd like this book even before I opened it. What book-crazy kid-turned-grown-up, who spent much of his or her childhood roaming the aisles of libraries and bookstores wearing this same look of wonder wouldn't adore this cover? And the back cover sums the cover art perfectly: 'Possibilities, everywhere. It was exactly the kind of place you never wanted to leave.' Cover art aside, Destiny, Rewritten is a charming addition to the middle-grade market. This book makes me want to find my very own volume of Emily Dickinson's poems in a used book store and fill it with personal commentary and anecdotes. Read on to find out more about why you should read Destiny, Rewritten:

     First, the summary from HarperCollins's website: 

     'Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has been told for her entire life that her destiny is to become a poet, just like her famous namesake, Emily Dickinson. But Emily doesn't even really like poetry, and she has a secret career ambition that she suspects her English-professor mother will frown on. Then, just after discovering that it contains an important family secret, she loses the special volume of Emily Dickinson's poetry that was given to her at birth. As Emily and her friends search for the lost book in used bookstores and thrift shops all across town, Emily's understanding of destiny begins to unravel and then rewrite itself in a marvelous new way.'

Character Who Would Have Your Back: Emily, of course. She makes things happen, even if it means embracing acts of deliberate randomness (like sleeping on her left side instead of her right, stepping on sidewalk cracks, etc.) to change the course of her destiny. She's forgiving, too. When someone alters her prized book, it doesn't take her long to admit it was meant to be.

Character Who Makes a Great Sidekick: Emily's best friend, Wavy. She's loyal, smart and doesn't think twice about engaging in the risky business of skipping school when Emily needs her most. And some of the instances when she and Emily add to each other's sentences, creating crazy scenarios in the uncanny way that best friends can, well, they're some of the best parts in the book. 

Character Who's A Tad Annoying Yet Lovable: Emily's live-in cousin, Mortie. When he's not helping Emily and Wavy navigate their way between bookstores, he's nose-deep in his spy book. He's the tag-along little brother type with a good sense of direction and soft spot for stray dogs. 

Why I Read Destiny, Rewritten: Last fall, I went to the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference where editor Molly O'Neill mentioned this book. Since then, there had been much blog buzz about Destiny so I picked it up shortly after its release. I'm so happy I did!

What are you reading now?

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