Saturday, December 13, 2014

2nd Annual Local Author Fair at Mysteryscape

Today I had the privilege of participating in the 2nd Annual Local Author Fair sponsored by independent bookstore Mysteryscape in Overland Park, Kansas. The event hosted more than a dozen local authors signing and selling their books. I participated in the inaugural event last year and was pleased to be invited back again.

I sold seven copies of my Otter and Arthur books and enjoyed the conversation with other local authors, many of whom I remembered from the year before.

It is wonderful to see a local, independent bookstore supporting local, independent authors. While it seems like an obvious fit, there are times when the former doesn't support the latter. I'm grateful for Mysteryscape and its support of local authors.

Monday, December 1, 2014

National Novel Writing Month Winner, 2014

Woo hoo! For the second time, I've become a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) winner. For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo is, as it says on its website, "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30."

I first dipped my toe into the NaNoWriMo pool in 2012, successfully scribing my rough draft of what became Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, my sequel to my middle-grade fiction Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone.

I gave it another stab in 2013, but came up just short on my word count as I toiled away on Abigail's Atlantis, a still unfinished middle-grade fiction. The story bounces back and forth between a twelve-year-old girl's summer working with her grandfather at a sea turtle rescue center and a twelve-year-old boy's life in modern-day Atlantis. The latter may or may not be all in Abigail's head.

Although I'm not done with that book, when November 2014 rolled around, I couldn't resist taking another shot. I'd been hit with a recent brainstorm - an adult historical fiction based on the real life of blues singer Robert Johnson. Let's hope that 2015 sees the completion of that book, and/or Abigail's Atlantis. In the meantime, thanks to NaNoWriMo for providing the catalyst for me to jump in and crank out rough drafts of my hopefully someday completed novels.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What I've Learned from Newbery Award-Winning Books

The Newbery award was established in 1922 as an award for outstanding American children's literature. In May 2013, I began a quest to read ALL the Newbery winners. My intent was to learn more about writing middle-grade fiction, having already penned Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone (2012) and, at the time, writing its sequel, the now-out Otter and Arthur and the Round Table.

Having read nearly every winner from the last 35 years, I've learned a little something about how to win a Newbery in the modern era:

1) Write realistic fiction.
2) The main character should be a human, most likely a child from age 10-12, and an orphan.
3) Don't write down to kids.

Anyone who's followed my posts on the Newbery winners is well aware of my opinion regarding #2. It seems absurdly formulaic, but about half of the Newbery winners over the last 35 years have centered around a character who has lost one or both parents. Certainly this is rich territory to explore for an author - but it would be nice to see the Newbery committee branch out a bit in acknowledging more of the vast repertoire of other traumas faced by the under-teen set.

Having said that, #3 is still a very valid point. When I set out on this endeavor, I was slightly concerned about reading "books for kids." However, these are generally books which, while they center around kids, are good reads for any age. Still, in considering point #1, it is surprising that more of these books haven't tapped into a more imaginative spirit generally associated with children's books.

For a list of the Newbery winners and links to reviews of those I've read, click here.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

New Dave's Music Database book: The Top 100 Albums of All Time


The Top 100 Albums of All Time

is available at Amazon.com for $13.95.

Ah, the music list. Music journalists love to create them and fans love to shred them. However, by aggregating hundreds of best-of lists, Dave’s Music Database has stripped away subjectivity in favor of cold, hard numbers. Commentaries about the albums consolidate the views of multiple experts instead of serving up single opinions. It all makes for one definitive, inarguable best-of-all-time list. Okay, maybe not – but here’s hoping you’ll find value in this list, even if that’s in dissecting, disagreeing, debating, or debunking it. Rock on and read on.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander,
Is the 2015 Newbery winner -
The award for best American children's literature.


The book follows Josh and Jordan Bell,
African-American, middle-school-aged twins
Who love basketball,
Their father,
And Sweet Tea.


Except the latter.
That's the nickname Josh gives
His brother's girlfriend.
Josh is none too happy
That a girl has come between them.


Josh also learns that his father,
Who'd played professional basketball,
Quit the game for health reasons
And he won't see a doctor
Despite fainting spells.


Dad blames the doctors
For taking his own father far too young
Instead of the heart disease
He's apparently inherited as well.


Written in verse
But reads like prose
The Crossover is a quick read
But not a simplistic tale.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Love Is a Mix Tape: A Review

image from antonia-monacelli.hubpages.com

I just finished reading the New York Times bestseller, Love Is a Mix Tape (2007) by Rob Sheffield. The book reads like stream-of-consciousness journal entries written by a music fanatic. I can definitely relate. See my reading, Ways to Spot a Music Geek.

As is par for the course, when I review books on my Writ by Whit blog, I am looking for what I can learn as a writer. My closest related work to Mix Tape is my unfinished Music Lessons from the Pit. (See a sample chapter here). The events are inspired by people and events from my coming-of-age years in the 1980s. While highly fictionalized, my goal is to capture real feelings and emotions in the context of the music of the moment. Each chapter comes from a song title, generally under-the-radar indie-rock and alternative-rock hits like New Order's "Blue Monday" or The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go." Check out a sampling of songs referenced in the book here.

Similarly, Sheffield's book surrounds autobiographical events with the music that framed them. Each chapter kicks off with the rundown of songs collected on a mix tape. Sheffield then uses that as a springboard for unfolding his saga, which is mostly about meeting Renée, marrying, and then tragically losing her to pulmonary embolism.

Obviously the death of his wife at such a young age is the overriding theme of the book. However, Rob gives his tragic tale its unique spin by giving the reader insight into how music played into his relationship with Renée - and how he used it to cope with her loss.

Learn more about this book and others written by Sheffield at RobSheffield.com. Here a sample from Mix Tape here:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Otter and Arthur and the Round Table now available!

You can buy signed copies directly from me by clicking on the button below. Copies are $12.00 each with NO postage & handling charges or taxes.

The book is also available from Amazon, but is priced at $12.95 and will still having postage & handling and taxes added to the price.