PBH recommended mother/daughter read! Creative hurdling
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November 2017: In This Issue

  • Playing by Heart recommended for mother/daughter book clubs!
  • Skype visits for book clubs
  • Special offer, because autographed books make great gifts!
  • A way to share, and even read, my books for free
  • This month's Amazon review excerpt
  • Calling all fantasy fans!
  • Overcoming creative hurdles

Playing by Heart recommended for mother/daughter book clubs!

     I'm honored that Playing by Heart has been included in a list of twelve books recommended by Virtue Works Media's TOTALLY Feminine GENIUS Generations Book Club™ for mother/daughter groups with girls ages 11-15 and up. 

     The TOTALLY Feminine GENIUS Generations Book Club™ has a separate list of recommended titles for mother/daughter groups with girls ages 16-20 and up. You can find both lists on their website, where you can also download and print a pdf of their discussion guide. I encourage you to share the info with parents and grandparents of teen/tween girls

Skype visits for book clubs

     Speaking of book clubs, my own Not for Kids Only Book Club (which reads books for children and teens), selected Playing by Heart for their November read. As part of our discussion of the book, I shared some "behind-the-scenes" stories about how I wrote and researched the novel.

     I'd love to speak with other book clubs that enjoy historical fiction or young-adult novels. I'd be happy to arrange a visit with any group that reads Playing by Heart. If the club meets in the Chicago area, I may be able to attend the meeting in person. If not, I'm offering a free 30-60 minute virtual visit via Skype. I'd appreciate your help spreading the word to interested groups. Book club members can either reply to this email or contact me through my website for details.    

Special offer, because autographed books make great gifts!

     With Christmas just around the corner, I encourage you to consider buying books as gifts. Lots of websites that sell books have Cyber Week deals all this week. And I have a special offer for my newsletter subscribers: if you buy the print edition of Rosa, Sola or Playing by Heart, email me your name, mailing address, and the name of the book recipient and I'll send you a personalized autographed bookplate and bookmark to show my gratitude.  Please be sure to allow for postal deadlines to ensure you get the bookplate and bookmark in time for gift-giving.

     If you'd rather give the gift of a personally autographed book, you can purchase a copy directly from me by paying in advance using PayPal. For the book to arrive in time for Christmas, I must receive your payment by Tuesday, Dec. 7: $20 for Playing by Heart;  $12 for Rosa, Sola (prices include local sales tax and shipping)A free bookmark will be enclosed with each book, too. Reply to this email or contact me via my website for details.    

     Several of my fellow CatholicTeenBooks authors are also offering holiday specials. You can find details on the Books for Catholic Teens Facebook page. (You should be able to access the page even if you're not a member of Facebook.)

A way to share, and even read, my books for free!

     If you haven't purchased either of my books yet, or you'd like to help others discover them, I encourage you to check to see if they're available at your local public library.

Many libraries across the country purchased my middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola, when it was first released in hardcover, and those copies are still out there. I found this one at the Seattle public library on our visit there this summer. The story is the same in the hardcover and paperback editions, but the paperback has a new cover and a Discussion Questions section. If your library doesn't already own Rosa, Sola, they can acquire the paperback rather inexpensively. 

     Since Playing by Heart is a relatively new release, it's currently available at very few libraries. However, several Illinois libraries have recently purchased it in response to reader requests. If it's not currently in your library's collection, I encourage you to ask them to acquire it. Feel free to mention that Playing by Heart received a favorable review from Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association. That can sometimes make a difference.

     If you do ask your library to purchase one of my books, please let me know their response, either way. I'd like to keep track of which libraries have already been approached.  

This month's Amazon review excerpt

     In my last newsletter (which you can find here if you're a new subscriber), I talked about how reader reviews are crucial to the success of a new book. Not only are potential readers greatly influenced by reviews, but the Amazon algorithms only promote titles that have at least FIFTY predominately 4 and 5-star reviews

     I'm happy to say that Playing by Heart has garnered 5 new Amazon reviews since I sent out my last newsletter. The book currently has 27 reviews there, with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars

     As promised in last month's newsletter, to show my gratitude to those who take time to post an online review, I'm sharing one of those reviews here. A BIG thank you to TO Smith who posted the following 5-Star review on Amazon on October 2! 

Wonderfully crafted historical fiction set in Italy. Rich details and compelling story of two sisters who struggle to live the lives they want due to the constraints on women in 1800's Italy.

     This lovely 2-sentence review is proof that a review needn't be long to be effective!

     I'm grateful for every review posted so far. However, I'm still far short of the FIFTY reviews my publisher would like the book to have. So if you enjoyed reading Playing by Heart, please consider posting an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads, or wherever you bought the book. You needn't have bought Playing by Heart on Amazon to post a review there. (I'd actually prefer you purchase the book through an independent bookstore because indies do so much to help support authors.)  

     Here are links to three sites where you can post a review. 

Calling all fantasy fans!

     My fellow CatholicTeenBooks author Corinna Turner's new fantasy novel, ELFLING, has been accepted for an Amazon Kindle Scout campaign. I invite you to go to the Kindle Scout site to read the excerpt and click "nominate" if you like the book. If ELFLING gets enough nominations, you'll receive a free copy of  the entire Kindle book! And Corinna will get a book contract with Kindle Press! Now that's what I call a win/win.

Here's a summary to whet your appetite:

"She must find her father… or die.

Alone on the streets of London, young Serapia Ravena seeks her father, her only hope of survival. When the elusive Duke suddenly returns to the city, Serapia finds a loving father who quickly thwarts her uncle’s murderous plans. But it soon becomes clear that he hides a dark secret, one that threatens his very life, and his very soul. The search for his salvation will bring Serapia face to face with her own mysterious heritage."

Overcoming creative hurdles

     Before I get into this month's creativity topic, I want to share a resource for fiction writers that I came across a few days ago. This Writer's Digest article contains 5 tips on fiction writing, plus a free download of 26 literary devices and terms. The article also includes the following graphic depicting "What You Need to Write a Novel:" 

     Of course, the image is a bit tongue-in-cheek (and personally, tea is my caffeinated beverage of choice). It's probably meant to tie into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which ends today. Still, there is truth in it. A deadline can be extremely motivating. And you can't write a novel without a story idea, which leads me to my creativity topic for this month: Overcoming creative hurdles. I hope that sharing my recent hurdle-jumping experience may help some of you, whatever your creative outlet.

     I mentioned in my September newsletter that I'd finally started working on a new project, a short story I've been wanting to write for a while. Sorry to say, but despite setting aside regular writing time for the project, at the beginning of this month I still hadn't started the story.

     Part of what was holding me back had to do with my goals for the project. I plan to give the finished story as a gift to my current newsletter subscribers (that's YOU!) and as an incentive for new subscribers to join my mailing list.

     I had the story setting: it would take place in the same world as Playing by Heart to give readers a taste of the novel. I thought the story might serve as the foundation of a sequel to Playing by Heart, too. But I soon realized that would be a spoiler for anyone who hasn't read the novel.

     I also had my story characters: the same ones who'd appeared in Playing by Heart. But I lacked one of the key elements in the above image, an idea.

My first hurdle:  Finding a story idea

     I'd thought that knowing my setting and characters would easily lead to an idea. I did, in fact, brainstorm a number of ideas, but none of them felt right.

     The answer finally came while I was discussing my problem with a friend who is also a writer. She mentioned that some of her favorite scenes in Playing by Heart were the ones where Emilia performed for an audience. My friend loved the melding of music, pageantry, and plot tension. As we talked, it occurred to me that I could retell one of those scenes, a pivotal one that occurs early in the novel, from a secondary character's point of view without creating any spoilers.  

     I found the idea exciting because it would allow me to explore how another character viewed Emilia and the world they lived in. However, the short story would have to consist of more than simply retold scenes from the novel. To stand on its own, the short story needed a story arc with a clear beginning, middle, and end. That meant the main character had to have a problem (or problems) of her own, and at least a hint of a possible resolution by the story's end.

My second hurdle:  Identifying the story problem

     I spent several weeks writing character sketches, drawing mind maps, journaling, reading books on writing, etc. I eventually came up with a general problem but I couldn't figure out how it could be resolved in the span of a short story. 

     At some point, I'd jotted down a possible first sentence. About ten days ago, I was feeling so frustrated by my lack of progress that I sat down at the computer and typed in that first sentence. That led to a second sentence, and then a third,and so on. Finally, I'd found some momentum!

     I hope I'm not "jinxing" further progress by discussing this here. Because of hosting Thanksgiving last week, I haven't gotten very far into the story, but I'm finally hopeful that I'll be able to continue moving forward. 

    I want to share several things I learned from this experience:

  1. Every project has its own process. My novel Rosa, Sola began as a short story called "Rosa's Prayer." With that story, I knew before I started writing it where I wanted my main character to be emotionally by the story's end. I still don't know that for my current work-in-progress, and that's okay.
  2. Expecting short story writing to follow a formula is counter-productive. I unconsciously assumed that writing my new story would be much like writing "Rosa's Prayer" and other short stories I've written. But, at least for me, there's no formula and trying to find/follow one only leads to frustration.
  3. There's no shame in being a "pantser." Writers who plot out their stories in advance are often called "plotters" while those who "fly by the seat of their pants" are called "pantsers." I'm a very logical, organized person, and given my undergraduate degree in Math and Computer Science, I keep thinking I "should" be a plotter. But so far, that hasn't worked for me. And that's okay, too. 

     I have to admit, it isn't as scary being a "pantser" with a short story as it is with a novel because the time investment isn't as great. So, for now, I'm having fun with my current work-in-progress, discovering the story as I go along. I've blogged several times at TeachingAuthors.com about how focusing on fun improves our productivity, most recently in September when I shared this image:

     I hope all of you will focus on the joy of the process as you carry out your creative pursuits.

     And to all you NaNoWriMo participants: here's to finishing strong!

Happy creating!


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