Books By The Banks ~ Cincinnati, Ohio

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Great day on Saturday at the Books By The Banks Book Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio!

 

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Met with lots of readers and shared a table with Mindee Arnett, author of Avalon and The Nightmare Affair (a YALSA Teen Top Ten nominee.)

Of course, I also bought books… here I am with Marc Brown, author of the Arthur Series and TV show that my children grew up watching.

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I’m buying books for my niece and nephew, the next generation of readers. So much fun!!

What I’m Reading

I usually have several books going at a time. One on audiobook, one on iBooks and one or two good, old-fashioned paper or hardcover books. Here’s what I’m reading at the moment.

Euphoria by Lily King

The Fiery Cross (Oulander Series) by Diana Gabaldon – I’m also watching the series on Starz. These books are over 1000 pages long, so they are taking up a lot of my reading time.

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo – YA

The Smartest Kids in the World : And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley

Recently Finished

Just One Night by Gayle Forman – YA – This is a novella wrapping up the Just One Day and Just One Year series.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager and Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (I am VERY hooked on this series, obviously. Did I say that these books are VERY long?)

The Edge of Nowhere and The Edge of Water by Elizabeth George – YA

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz – YA

 

 

People who don’t read

I am slightly suspicsious of ‘people who don’t read.’ Especially when they admit to it freely. It seems almost shameful; something that you would want to hide. But people often tell me – “Oh, I don’t read” – when I mention what I am currently reading. The first time it happened was when I asked the mother of one of my daughter’s friends in elementary school if she wanted to join my book group. She said “It sounds like fun, but I really don’t read.” I was frankly stunned speechless. It seemed almost paramount to admitting that she didn’t brush her teeth.

More recently, a friend told me that the last book she read was “Fifty Shades of Grey” (over a year ago) and that she’d only read that because of the hype. ?!?!? I want to be clear that these are nice, seemingly normal people, but they have a dark and dirty secret. Actually, no, it’s not a secret because they freely admit to it.

I am really sad for ‘people who don’t read’ because of everything that they are missing. I absolutely LOVE to read!! The best think about having an e-reader is that I am never without a book. My bookshelves are literally overflowing with books, but I’ve been know to get panicky if I finish a book and don’t have something at hand to read next. I am currently reading four books simultaneously. One hardcover, one on my iPad and two audio books. If I am driving and listening to an audiobook and am in a really good part, I’ve been known to sit in the parking lot of my destination and even be late for an appointment so I can listen to the story, And that is really the crux of why I love reading. It’s the magic of story.

Story can take you places and make you feel things you’ve never felt before. It can open you up to new thoughts and ideas. It can challenge you and also take away the cares of the day. Although I admit to being a yarn snob (read some of my craft blogs) I’m not a reading snob. I’ve read my share of bodice rippers and People magazines in addition to “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “A Farewell to Arms” and enjoyed them all for different reasons. So it doesn’t always have to be fiction, but it’s my favorite.

My current book group is small, but composed of avid readers. In my last group, some of the members wanted to take the summers off from reading because they wouldn’t have time….isn’t that when we are supposed to have more time? We just finished “The Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline. It’s a wonderful tear-jerker which also provided information on a part of US history that I wasn’t aware of. I listened to it on audiobook and if you’ve never listened to an audiobook, I highly recommend it. The readers are talented performers who use different voices for all the characters adding another dimension to the story. I’d love to hear what you’re reading. I may have to add your recommendation to the pile of books waiting under my bedside table to be opened and enjoyed.

World Book Night 2013

Back in April ~ I can’t believe how time has flown ~ I participated in the World Book Night giveaway. I requested one of the children’s or YA titles, but those seem to be very popular, so I was given a romance novel, Montana Sky, by Nora Roberts to distribute. Of course, I read it first and now I’m a new Nora Roberts fan! I am definitely not stuck in one genre for the books I read. Here I am picking up my books at Kids Ink Bookstore in Indianapolis:

 

 

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And delivering them to Coburn Place Safe Haven, a medium-term residence for battered women and their families.

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I imagine that the women who live at Coburn Place and the women of the staff of the residence would enjoy a good romance novel now and then!

Here’s what’s on my Kindle, iPad, Audible and bedside table at the moment. I just finished The Light Between Oceans by ML Steadman (heartbreaking, but beautiful) and am reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson which I’m only a few chapters into, but so far I love it. In YA I’m listening to The Diviner’s by Libba Bray(just started it, but it’s good so far) and just finished Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – I stayed up until 2am reading and then had to read the end so I could go to bed. I guess you could say I loved it. I’ve also read several Nora Roberts paranormal romances too! So many books…sigh. What are you reading?

Summer Reading Recommendation – A Conversation with ASHFALL author, Mike Mullin

A couple weekends ago I attended a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ (SCBWI) conference at McCormick’s Creek State Park. It was a wonderful conference and I left feeling very energized with lots of ideas for my work-in-progress. While I was there, I caught up with SCBWI member, Mike Mullin, author of, ASHFALL, a dystopian young adult novel about the eruption of the Yellowstone Park supervolcano. ASHFALL is getting rave reviews being and is touted as a book for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES. ASHEN WINTER, the next novel in the trilogy is coming out this FALL. Here’s a link to Mike’s webpage. http://www.mikemullinauthor.com/ 

Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the earth forever.

Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when Yellowstone erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.

Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter.  When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.

Conversation with Mike Mullin, author of ASHFALL –

Tracy: I’d like to talk with you from a writer’s perspective. Once you got the idea that you wanted to write about the supervolcano, how did it evolve for you? How do the ideas come? How do you work on getting those ideas?

Mike: The idea came from reading another book, Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of NearlyEverything”, and I thought Ah ha, supervolcano. I’ve always been interested in disaster fiction. I’ve been an avid reader of apocalyptic fiction all my life and I thought here’s an apocalypse. I’ve always shied away from writing about one because it seems like they’ve all been done, and done well. I mean if I want to read a great book about tsunami’s or tornados, or what have you, it’s out there. Plenty of volcano stories out there. So the supervolcano, I thought that maybe no one has written about that and it turned out at the time that I had the idea nobody had. Now there a couple books about super volcanos which is fine, of course.

T: After yours or before?

M: After. Mine is the first and now Harry Turtledove has a novel titled “Supervolcano: Eruption,” which is an adult novel.

T: Do you think your book was part of him writing his novel?

M: No, just a coincidence. They were in the pipeline at the same time. It came out only two months after ASHFALL.  He got the idea from watching the national geographic special on it. He probably started writing his about a year or two after I started ASHFALL.

I read lots of YA (young adult) and I’ve always read YA, so it felt very natural for me to write in that genre. From there it was just a matter of thinking, okay, so I need a teenager and I needed to put him in a situation where his parents wouldn’t be around, because I don’t want the novel to be about the parents.

T: Which is what Margaret McMullan was just saying. ( Award winning author of SOURCES OF LIGHT and keynote speaker at the SCBWI conference.)

M: Exactly. So the idea of having his parents be visiting relatives just flowed naturally from that, from trying to figure out how to structure it to be a good YA novel. As far as finding the idea for the teenager that really came from my research. I did tons and tons of research on volcanos, obviously, but I also knew that I needed my protagonist to have some kind of special ability, something that was special about him to be able to survive this horrible, horrible natural disaster I was going to put him through. But I wanted to write realistic fiction. I didn’t want to have any magic. I thought that the way I would make my book different from all the dystopian novels I’ve read would be by making it intensely realistic. Something that could happen and would happen. So I decided that my main character would be a martial artist. The only bad part was that I didn’t know any martial arts. So I started taking Taekwondo and I thought I would just take it for a while, but it turned out I really enjoyed it and stuck with it and finally earned my black belt just before ASHFALL came out and now it’s a big part of my school presentation.

T: Which is really great!

M: Yeah, I break blocks! Its fun.

T: Which is kind of amazing when you think about it.

M: I enjoy it. I like breaking stuff, what can I say. Also, I met there (at the Taekwondo Dojang), Ben Alexander who’s this fifteen year old third degree black belt. This was back when I was just a white belt and he was really patient and would explain things over and over again. Just a really great kid. He’s kind of small – he comes up to about here on me (indicates mid chest). I’ve got probably 80 pounds on him and tons of reach. He’s so friendly and helpful but then we have at our dojang what we call Friday night fights. We strap pads on our hands and feet and chest protectors and helmets and then we try to kick the crud out of each other. It’s awesome! Ben Alexander can pretty much kick me in the head and knock me down any time he wants to. He’s that much better. Even now, he’s still a third degree black belt, and I have my black belt now, but he’s just so much faster. I thought, ah ha! That’s the guy I need to have in my mind as I’m writing my character and that’s why my protagonist in ASHFALL is named Alex after Ben Alexander. I don’t know why I didn’t like Ben (the name, not the boy!), but he didn’t feel like a Ben to me so I used Alex.

T: So do you find that ideas just sort of pop into your head; that they come to you that way? And when you’re actually starting to write – let’s talk about that, too. Do you do an outline? I know one author says he throws all the ideas into a box and then takes it out and storyboards it. What’s your process?

M: Before I wrote ASHFALL, I had a YA horror novel that I ‘pantsed’. I had the idea and the characters and just wrote it as I went and figured out where it was going as I was writing. (Mike’s wife, Margaret sees my confusion about the term ‘pantsed’ and interjects ‘By the seat of your pants’ to clarify for me. I am obviously not up on writer jargon!) And that novel was so bad that I sent it to three literary agents and two of them quit the business forever!

When I was doing ASHFALL, I actually plotted it out. I wrote a very rough, chaotic five page outline before I started writing. And planned things like here’s how I’m going to get his parents away and planned it basically all out. Darla was in that outline.

T: How true was it?

M: To what I actually ended up writing? Not very. I wound up diverging from it. And some of the best parts of the novel are where I allowed myself to diverge from the outline. Many people tell me that their favorite part of ASHFALL is chapters 37 and 38 and when I’m asked, I usually say chapters 37 and 38.

T: Tell me what happens in those.

M: It’s when Alex and Darla meet Katie and her mom on the road.

T: Is that with the little girls in the snow suits?

M: Yeah. Exactly. With the blond hair. They were never in any outline, or any plan. I wrote that while I was out in Portland visiting my uncle Chuck who was then dying of stage four colon cancer. When I’m drafting, I try to write absolutely every day. So I would get up in the morning at 5 or 6 and write for a couple of hours until my uncle Chuck would get up about 10 or 11am. He’s very sick at this point. He died two weeks after I left. Then I’d put my writing aside and spend the rest of the day with my uncle Chuck. The thing that affected me most deeply about that wasn’t so much watching my uncle Chuck die as watching his family around him; his kids and his wife who were just trying to shower love on him even while they are obviously already grieving; deeply into this grief process. And so I think from that I wrote this woman who had just lost her husband and was trying to protect her children and found that she couldn’t. I know that really worked because one of the revision techniques I use is to either read my work aloud, or better yet, have it read out loud. And so I’ll volunteer to drive Margaret, my wife, to her education conferences. So I’m driving her to this education conference in Pittsburg and she’s reading the draft of ASHFALL out loud in the passenger seat – because it’s really better if you don’t read and drive.

T: Yes, I’ve tried it, but not a good idea.

M: And I hear this little noise and I look over and she’s doing this kind-of quiet crying thing and there’s just tears streaming down her face and I thought, YES, I’ve nailed it! I’ve made my wife cry. I’m a great writer and a terrible husband.

T: (Laughs) But that is exactly what you want. You want to get that emotion. So when in the writing of ASHFALL, or maybe it wasn’t during the writing, did you start getting ideas for the sequels?

M: Actually when I was doing the outline, before it was ever written, I had a rough idea. I realized that I had way more story than would fit in one book, and that ASHFALL would probably work best if it was really tightly compressed. ASHFALL takes place over six or eight weeks; just a real short snapshot of Alex’s journey and I really wanted to end on a real note of hope where the reader would have some confidence that Alex had a future. And the volcanic winter after an eruption like I’m depicting is going to be brutal and at least three years, possibly as long as ten years. So I couldn’t finish on that sense of hope that I wanted. So I did do a very rough sketch of this is what belongs in the second book and this is what belongs in the third book and as I was drafting ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER I would keep track of the things that didn’t fit and I kept outlining SUNRISE, the third book, off and on all through the process. When I actually sat down to do the outline to send to my publisher to sell SUNRISE, it was just a matter of putting everything place. Formalizing it rather than creating it. So I’ve had a rough arc for the trilogy since before I wrote ASHFALL.

T: Do you find that while you were writing ASHFALL that you wanted to start writing ASHEN WINTER?

M: Oh, all the time. Ideas come all the time. You get random ideas. You think ‘here’s this really cool idea, I should go write this.’ The way I deal with that is I open a new file on my computer and I write down everything I know about this shiny new idea and then I go back to work. Because you can’t sell an unfinished novel! So the nice thing about that is that I have fifteen or twenty of those little files with chunks of novels or ideas. Some of them are just a few paragraphs and some that are ten or fifteen pages with scenes all written out. When I finish the ASHFALL trilogy I’ll open them up and see which one I’m most interested in writing next.

T: So you don’t have writer’s block most of the time.

M: No, there are definitely days when I have trouble with that, absolutely. What I typically will do – what works for me – it to get out of the house, go for a bike ride, go for a walk, get some kind of physical activity. Sometimes sitting down in an unusual place. I’m a nomadic writer. Anywhere where I’ve got my lap top, I’ll sit down and write. Sometimes I just walk into a new place and sit down and start typing.

T: When I do talks, one of the things that I always say is that imagination is really the most important thing. Einstein said it – of course you have to be able to have a good craft – but having the idea is the key. So any words of wisdom to pass on to writers or people wanting to be published?

M: All I really tell students in my talks is read a lot, write a lot, submit or self-publish your work. It’s that easy and that difficult. Michael Grant says sort of the same thing. I heard his school presentation a few weeks ago, except he says ‘Live a Lot’, so that you can have something to write about.

T: Right, like Margaret (McMullan) said, it’s boring to write about someone sitting in a room alone.

M: Exactly.

T: Okay, great! Thank you so much!

World Book Night

Here I am picking up my books from Big Hat Books and Arts in Broad Ripple for World Book Night! I am going to use the books to host a book group this summer at the Westminister Neighborhood Ministries children’s summer camp. We’ll be reading “Because of Winn Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo.  I think I’m more excited than the the kids! If we finish “Because of Winn Dixie” then I will have them read “Indian Summer.”

Thursday I did an author talk at the Canterbury School Book Fair for third graders. Very fun! One of the other authors brought her dog, Martha, who was fabulously well behaved and sweet. Of course the kids loved her! Its hard to compete with a dog. 🙂

 Then on Friday I went to the Christamore House Author Luncheon, a benefit with five authors speaking and selling their books to fund the Christamore House children’s programs. Books, Books, Books ~all to benefit kids! Yeah!

Reading for Literacy

I am doing an Author Visit to Stephen Decatur Elementary School on Friday, May 6th for 400 students and parents at Moms and Muffins. Yes, you read that right – 400! That will be my largest group so far. I am very excited. Okay, I’m a bit nervous, too. My topic is Reading for Literacy and I am, of course, trying to make my talk both fun and informative. The ultimate goal is to get the kids exicted about reading. Here’s something interesting I learned in doing my research:

“The single most important activity for building the skills to be a successful reader is reading aloud to children.”  ~ 1983 National Commission on Reading

Reading aloud to children improves reading skills, writing skills, speaking skills, listening skills, attitudes about reading and even math skills! And we shouldn’t stop reading to our kids when they get into middle school. We should read to them up to eighth grade and even beyond. Share funny or interesting excerpts of what you are reading with your teens. I know you might have to wrestle them to the ground first to get them to listen, but it’s for their own good. The Read~Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is a fantastic guide for parents interested in learning more.

Reading = Knowledge