It's official - I have gleaned through extensive research and scientific methodology that:
Today is the official Launch day for my new middle grade book,
BEST FRIENDS FOREVER: AWWII Scrapbook, published by the wonderful folks at Marshall Cavendish.

Here is what the reviewers are saying:

“This heartwarming tale of steadfast friendship makes a wonderful access point for learning more about World War II and Japanese internment.”
--School Library Journal, Starred Review

“Because this novel is written in the form of letters, artwork, and clippings for a scrapbook, readers will be in for a real treat with what feels like a firsthand perspective. Issues such as what does an American look like, racism, poverty, and more are encountered by these two best friends feeling their way through a complicated time.”

“Their account of wartime terror is made more poignant by their resolution to make their lives beautiful and meaningful. The faux-diary format is sure to appeal.”
“Setting the intense personal story of friends and enemies against the big World War II events is a great way to tell the history.”

Check it out, people!


Going Backwards

Have you ever read a novel that started off one way and then somehow morphed into
something totally different mid-book? That kind of stuff throws me as a reader.
But as a writer, I can see how it happens.
You start out with a bunch of newbie characters, then you put them into difficult situations.
They react, and how they react shows what their true character is like. Before your eyes, your
little newbies are growing up (*sniff, sniff!) having opinions, growing a backbone (or not) and becoming
At least that's the way it is for me.
Other writers might experience it differently. Maybe their characters come to them fully-formed but then the further they go along in the novel, the characters end up changing or going in directions the author did not anticipate.
This is why, when writing a novel, some 'writing days' are spent reading.
Today was a reading day. I hadn't planned on it, but I'd gotten to a place where I needed
to be reminded of where my MC had been and how far he'd come.
Writers have to stop sometimes and read from the beginning -
to make sure Main Character in Chapter One matches Main Character in Chapter Twenty-One. And if he/she doesn't, you have some 'splainin to do, Lucy.

Death in the Movies

WARNING: This post is not for sensitive/squeamish readers

So last night the teen son invited me to watch Lucky Number Slevin and since my social calendar was amazingly free, I did. He also said it was a fine movie for his 14 and 12 year old sibs, so I let them watch too.
Let me first say, there's a lot of blood.
And shooting.
And dying.
And more than a little skin.
I kept yelling my son's name every time someone got knocked off or was doing something, erm, private.
"Sorry!" he'd say. "I forgot about that!" "That's the last time!" "Oh! Well, I mean THAT's the last time!"
It WAS a good plot-twisting story and (sadly) my younger kids thought nothing of the blood. However, at one point, someone (don't want to give too much away if you are going to watch it) is killed by a clear plastic bag over their head. Now THAT bothered them. And it bothered me as well. And I'm sure just the thought of it bothers you.
Why did that one incident affect them when 10 shooting deaths didn't?
I think because they could relate to that suffocating feeling - who hasn't had a blanket or pillow or something tossed over our heads/mouths accidentally (or by one of those type of friends who think they are being "funny") and had that panicky feeling?
Not many people (hopefully, thankfully) can relate to the blood-spattering gun play we see on TV every day. (And maybe it's partly BECAUSE we see it every day (on TV/movies) that it doesn't touch us as easily. )
And WHY, you may be wondering, am I writing about such a gruesome subject?
Definitely not because I'm going to write about people being killed in my middle grade novels!
But I'm interested in what moves children, what affects them. And I think one ingredient in that is how
well a child can relate to the main character's feelings - those universal truths that are the same for everyone. Basic experiences that we all, as humans, have all gone through. If we as writers keep those basic human experiences in mind as we write, we will created characters/stories that our readers will relate to on a gut, been-there type of level.
The fact that my children were unaffected by all the shooting/bloodshed - well, that's a subject
for a different post all together. (rolls eyes and shuffles off...)

CRAZY HEART and Character love

My hubby and I saw Crazy Heart last night. And Jeff Daniels did earn his Oscar.
But as far as the movie went, *shrug*
I just didn't get invested in the characters much. I felt somewhat distanced and didn't care.
On the way home, the Hubster and I compared this movie to WALK THE LINE and we
both agreed that WTL was waaaaaaaaaaaay better as movies go. I CARED about Johnny Cash.
So why didn't I care about Bad?
As a writer, I NEED to find this out. I want readers to fall in love with my characters, to root for them, to be invested in them. What did WALK THE LINE have that CRAZY HEART didn't? IMHO:

1. Sympathy - We didn't see Bad BEFORE, when he was still wet behind the ears, full of hope and excitement. It was easier to fall in love with "Johnny" because of his sad upbringing and because of his early, eager years. When CRAZY opens, we see an overweight, alcoholic, chimney smoking, greasy-haired, past-his-prime country music star. If I'd seen Bad in his prime or in childhood flashbacks, maybe I would have related to him better.
In "The Writer's Journey" Christopher Vogler talks about establishing The Ordinary World, in which the main character is introduced and is hoped to be portrayed as "relatable." We don't have to even like the character but we have to be able to "understand his plight and imagine ourselves behaving in much the same ways, given the same background, circumstances and motivation." I think a little bit of backstory could have helped achieve this in CH.

2. Physical attractiveness - Face it, throughout CH, Bad is not attractive. The movie star Jeff Bridges is a hunk, but his character, Bad, was pretty scummy. Even when Bad cleaned up his act, he still looked like he needed a shower, a haircut and a generous amount of deodorant. Under this same heading was his constant smoking, which, I understand was part of his character, but it just added to his scumminess. Take it out of the intimate scenes and maybe I would have found him a smidgeon more attractive.

3. Realistic relationship - I'm sorry, but I just couldn't buy that cute Maggie Whoeversheis, whom I always think is Katie Holmes, would fall for this drunk, sweaty, much older guy. Maybe
I don't believe it because I didn't see his attractiveness (see #2.) If we could have seen him really clean up and look sharp for her a few times, we could see a glimmer of hope of what he could be, what might keep her trying in this relationship. Or maybe if we'd known more about her and what makes her tick - maybe then we could have seen how she'd fall for this guy. Or, if there was a scene in the beginning of their relationship that showed a glimmer of something really admirable in him, he'd win us over, along with the cute girl. But all he did was be nice to her cute kid and make biscuits.

4. Fill in the blank. What makes you root for a character? or not?

Thank you Richard Peck!

I attended the incredible Anderson's Breakfast today where the guest speaker line up was: Pam Allyn, Jordan Sonnenblick, Francoise Mouly, Patricia McKissack, Henry Cole and ended with none other than Richard Peck.
Each speaker was funnier or sweeter or more insightful than the next. But having just come out with a book that features a photo of my deceased mother on the cover (no, no, don't be silly, she wasn't deceased at the time of the photo!) I particularly treasured one thing Mr. Peck said.
"No one a writer has ever known, dies."

He was telling me that my mother, with her girlish laugh, her self-effacing humor, and her quirky ways, can live on through my stories.
How wonderful is that?

Thank you, Mr. Peck.