Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview with Beverly Stowe McClure, Author of LIFE ON HOLD


When Beverly was a child she hated to read. Even though her eighth-grade teacher sent her poem Stars to a high school anthology and it was published in Young America Sings she hated to write. In spite of her rocky relationship with books, she managed to graduate from high school then attended Midwestern State University, where she read more books than she could count. After four years, she graduated cum laude with, you guessed it, a teaching degree. And somewhere along the way, perhaps reading to her sons or reading great Newbery winners with her students, she discovered what shed been missing: reading was fun. Now she reads most every day. She also writes stories and articles for children and teens.

Beverly lives in the country with her husband, two cats, and a variety of wild critters that stop by for a handout or just to peek in the door. Besides writing, she plays the piano, searches for her ancestors, and teaches a womens Sunday school class. She also has the most beautiful grandchildren in the world.


Congratulations on yet another book release, Beverly! How do you keep yourself so productive?

Thank you, Mayra. It is fun to see a new book, after so many months of writing and editing, finally in the hands of readers. As for being productive, I think as an older writer, realizing Im in those supposedly golden years motivates me to stay busy. Each hour of every day is precious to me. I hate to waste time. Maybe my years as a teacher helps too, since Im used to a schedule. Even though I retired years ago, I still write out my plans for each day, not that I always stick to them, but I try. Also, my sons are grown and away, leaving me time for myself, which is rare when you have children at home. I do not see how writers with young kids and even teens manage to write.

I write at least two hours every morning except Saturday, which is catch up day, and Sunday, church day. Sometimes, my words are not worth keeping. Other times, they flow onto the screen and a story forms.

What was your inspiration for Life on Hold? Sounds like a compelling mystery.

One day, I read an article in the local newspaper about a young couple that had a baby while they were still in high school. The girls parents made her give the child away. The teens eventually went their separate ways, married others, and had other children. Years later, a chance conversation between the boy or girl (I forget which one) and a friend mentioned an 18-year-old boy they knew that had been adopted when a baby. The article went on to tell how the former boyfriend and girlfriend, who no longer were married to their spouses, found each other again and decided to search for the son theyd given up. And, you guessed it, the teen mentioned was their son. They went on to have a wonderful relationship with him. I love stories with happy endings. I also imagine this story happens quite often.

Could you share with us what your process was like during the creation of this novel?

Most of the time, my stories start from something I read about, or sometimes a little voice speaks to me, or an event begs to be told. With Life on Hold, I basically started with the plot of a teen discovering her father really was her stepfather. At first, I wasnt sure how the story would end or even how wed get there. The characters carried me along, occasionally as confused as I was; other times knowing exactly where they were going. Im pretty stubborn when it comes to my writing and try to write a little every day, as I mentioned earlier. My schedule is flexible, but mornings are my best writing time. It took me a bit over two years to write the story, including many revisions and then more edits with my great editor. Yes, Im slow, but like the turtle I eventually reach my destination.

Did you hit any walls while writing the book? If yes, what did you do to overcome them?

Not walls exactly, but the final version had many changes from the original as I got to know the characters better. I keep each draft on the chance an earlier edition might have a scene Id want to add back in. When a scene wasnt working, I rewrote it in different ways to see what worked best. Many times the first thought was the best.

Did you celebrate when you typed The End?

I didnt do anything special, but the words The End are two of my favorite words. They give me a sense of accomplishment, because many times in a story, Ill wonder if it will ever end or if I should scrap the whole thing.  

What do you want readers to get out of this book?

Id like for children/teens who are adopted or those that are step children to realize that bringing a child into the world does not make a man a father. (Or a mother, a mother) Holding, rocking, and whispering gentle words to a child when shes sick make a father. Attending her programs at school, helping her with spelling, taking her to the movies make a father. A father and mother show their love by actions: love, discipline when necessary, and always being there when the child has a crisis, whether big or small.

What do you enjoy most about being a childrens book author?

The most exciting thing about writing for children to me is when a child or teen says he/she likes my books. What greater reward can an author wish for?

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

Youve heard it before, but its true. Hang in there. Never give up. I have enough No thank you letters to paper my whole writing room, but some of them also contain a word of encouragement. Cling to those comments. Use them to improve your story. Keep writing. Learn more. Attend conferences, Online ones if you cant get to live ones. Keep writing. Yes, Im repeating myself, but if you stop writing when times are tough, youll never be published. If youre persistent, one day, youll succeed. Hint: Dont expect to get rich, unless you write a blockbuster. Enjoy the writing. For me, the finished story is the reward.

Whats on the horizon? 

My chapter book, Kate, Little Angel Sometimes (title will be changed) is scheduled for a May/June 2013 release from 4 RV Publishing. January 2013 is the release date of my Tween paranormal A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat, MuseItUp Publishing. My orphan train story, Scattered to the Winds, is under contract with Twilight Times, and Guardian Angel has Weird Noises in the Night, no dates set yet.

Is there anything else youd like to share with my readers?

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read my thoughts. I hope they help you in some way. Visit me on my blogs. I love comments. If you read my books, please let me know what you think.

Thank you, Beverly!

Thank you, Mayra. It’s been my pleasure, sharing my work with everyone.

Find Life on Hold on Amazon
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Review of Conjure, by Lea Nolan



Conjure
by Lea Nolan
Published by Entangled Publishing
Find on Amazon
Book description: 
Be careful what you search for…
Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry–hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.
When a strange girl appears, bent on revenge; demon dogs become a threat; and Jack turns into a walking skeleton; Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before summer—and her friends–are lost forever.
My thoughts:
Conjure is one of the most entertaining young adult novels I’ve read in a long time. It is a light, fun, and sometimes spooky read filled with sympathetic characters, intriguing hoodoo magic, and turns and twists that will keep you turning pages until the very satisfying ending–one that is open and hints at what will happen in book 2. That said, the novel pretty much stands on its own and only one problem is left unsolved.
Fifteen-year old Emma is an utterly likable character, strong, brave, sensitive, and forever loyal to her beloved twin brother, for whom she will go to he ends of the world for in order to save him from the terrible curse that threatens to destroy him.  Her brother Jack is just as likable but very different from her; he’s quirky and quick-witted and at times impossible and selfish just like brothers usually are. The romance subplot between Emma and Jack’s best friend, Cooper, is sweet and refreshing and adds spice to the main story–not that it needs any extra spice. Plenty of dialogue make the pace move quickly and there’s lots of interesting information about hoodoo.
I usually dislike the use of flashbacks in a story but Nolan did a good job with them. I also enjoyed the Southern setting descriptions quite a lot; they certainly bring to life the South Carolina Lowcountry with its steamy, white-sand beaches and lush vegetation. Adult intrusion is kept to a bare minimum, so the story is centered around Emma, Jack, Cooper, the old hoodoo ‘witch’ who helps them and the mysterious beauty who has suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared in their lives and who has Jack mesmerized.
There are lots of exciting scenes in Conjure, especially when the teens are forced to bend the rules and cross the line for the higher good. Though there’s magic, witchcraft and curses involved, this isn’t a horror story and the tone is kept light throughout. There’s no bad language or sexy scenes either; Nolan keeps everything pretty sweet and proper. I certainly look forward to reading more from this talented YA author.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book Review: HUMBUG WITCH, by Lorna Balian


HUMBUG WITCH by Lorna Balian
ISBN 978-1-932065-32-9
32 pages, 6 1/2"x8 1/8", ages 4-8
Hardback, $12.95
Paperback available
This title is available in: English Spanish
Purchase from Star Bright Books

What can a little witch do when her witchy spells and potions don't turn out right? She just keeps on trying... until it's time for bed.

My thoughts:

This is an ADORABLY CUTE picture book! It kept a smile on my face all the way to the very satisfying, surprising ending. A pity my daughter is already a teenager. I know she would have loved it and asked me to read it to her again and again if she were younger.

Our little witch has everything a horrible, witchy witch should have, from her pointed black hat to her long stringy hair to her ugly black shoes with gold buckles, and more. But the problem is, no matter how hard she tries, she can't get her magic to work. She can't make her broom move an inch; she can't turn her car Fred into an alligator; she can't even make her magic potion to explode. What else is there to do? Well, she starts taking off all her witchy items one by one, until it's time for bed and we realize our witch isn't really a real witch but a little girl who's been playing all along.

Young children 4 to 8 will surely love this story that teaches simple vocabulary and sequencing. They will also have fun identifying the various 'witchy' objects on the page. With Halloween just around the corner, this is the perfect picture book to give to your child as a holiday gift. The illustrations are cute and whimsical and full of Halloween colors. Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided this review copy by the publisher via NetGalley.com. This is my honest opinion and I didn't receive any financial compensation. 



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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

“Studying Mythology? Consider Reading These Contemporary Fiction Novels for Added Insight,” by Patricia Garza


From the stories of Hades and the Underworld to Persephone and Zeus.
Thousands of years ago brilliant minds like Homer and Plutarch told and wrote the tales of characters like Zeus, Hades and Persephone. The stories ranged in theme, moral and purpose, but had such far-reaching, universal appeal, many of the motifs can still be found in the literary works of today. At its core, mythology served as a way for humans to analyze both themselves and life as a whole—something people still do—either independently or in classes— to this day.
Humans seem to have this innate desire to make sense of their existence and the world around them, and that is reflected in the arts such as writing, music and dance. That being said, it comes as no surprise to me that several contemporary teen fiction/young adult novels mirror these thoughts and ideals. Below are just some titles to consider if you are looking for some added mythological context. Many of them use the myths and characters in modern settings, which eloquently displays their timeless relevance.
Iris, Messenger
Centered around middle-schooler Iris Greenworld, this book by Sarah Deming puts ancient Greek gods and goddesses like Dionysus, Aphrodite and more in modern day Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Throughout the novel, Iris learns some lessons in self-confidence and strength, while also instilling some morals of her own onto the gods and goddesses. She also learns of various myths. It’s a great take on a traditional coming of age novel as it has an element of escapism I think many adolescents crave, while giving a cool, relevant history/culture lesson all at the same time.
Overall, it’s a story about self-discovery, which, if you think about it, is all the myths really were to begin with. Trying tales of a species trying to make sense of its existence.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Really any book in this series is a great example of the juxtaposition of the modern world and ancient characters from myths of the past—this one just happens to be my favorite. Taking place in New York, the story centers on Percy Jackson—a demigod who is just 12 years old. The ever-present reminders that they are, in fact, in modern times, such as the presence of magical sneakers and references to a Las Vegas Casino, help the reader connect to what might otherwise be a foreign, unrelatable topic.
It keeps readers grounded in reality, while giving them just enough room to slip into the fantasy realm. Overall, just like the other works mentioned, it helps remind people that no matter how far we’ve come as a species, the human experience will remain the same—same hopes, fears, dreams and emotions curse through us as they did through the people around during the heyday of these myths.
Oh.My.Gods
Authored by Tera Lynn Childs, this book examines the life of Phoebe, a high-schooler with dreams of attending USC. When a strange, unexpected turn of events places her on a secret island in Greece, amongst peers who have god-like superpowers, she is forced to find her inner strength in order to persevere. Along the way, she is faced with her fair-share of distractions, because after all, everyone has their own “Achilles heel.”
That is perhaps the biggest take-away from this book, that regardless of era or culture, people are imperfect and must rely on a sense of self and willpower to succeed.
Psyche in a Dress
Call me bias, but this book just might be my favorite on the list. It follows the life of Psyche—a young woman struggling to find her identity. I find it so compelling, because it gets right down to the fact that the struggle of self-acceptance is far from a new concept. It is an age-old dilemma that, women especially, struggle with.
All about lost love, and loving one’s self, this is a great read for anyone trying to have faith in themselves as an individual.
Nobody’s Princess
Written by Esther Friesner, this story recounts the tale of Helen of Troy—only this time from a different perspective. Although unlike the other books listed this novel does not take place in particularly “modern times” its approach is definitely contemporary as it allows the reader to hear and connect with Helen’s inner feminist. Unlike the traditional tale where Helen is seen as an object, she is given real personality and character here. She’s an individual with her own thoughts and feelings and girls everywhere can connect with her.
This is a must-read for anyone who can relate to the feeling of being ignored and overlooked—a timeless emotion far too many people experience….
So, whether you’re studying it for a class, or just interested in it yourself, you might consider reading one of these books. They offer new, fresh perspective on age-old tales we’ve all heard.
Patricia Garza is a freelance blogger and education writer that can offer suggestions on anything from choosing between accredited online colleges to picking a major. She welcomes your comments below.

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