Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HISTORY AS INSPIRATION FOR FANTASY


In my book, THE ROCK OF IVANORE, one of the main characters, Jayson, is an Agoran/human half-breed. Years earlier, when he was a young boy, encroaching human colonists and a royal decree forced the Agoran people off their native lands. They migrated to the swampy marshlands of Taktani where they managed to maintain their identity as a people despite harsh conditions and disease. These tragic circumstances form the underpinnings of the novel's backstory.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you live in the United States, it should. The story of the Agorans happens also to be the story of the mass coerced exodus of tens of thousands of Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Why my fascination with this particular sliver of American history? I am descended from the Choctaw tribe which used to inhabit parts of the Southeast along with other tribes such as the Cherokee, Chicasaw and Seminole. But there were dozens of tribes living east of the Mississippi River at the time, and many of them were friendly to the white American settlers. But following the Revolutionary War and the formation of the United States, the white man demanded more and more Indian land. Over several decades the Indians were traded, tricked and robbed of much of it. Eventually, the government decided it was time to move them out all together. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act which resulted in native tribes from New York down to Florida being driven to the dry, barren climates across the Mississippi River. Many died from illness, starvation and exposure. History calls this exodus The Trail of Tears.


My great grandmother, Suda Anna Windborn, was a half breed born in Oklahoma territory shortly after this blight in our history. The intermarriage of whites and Indians was quite common in the early nineteenth century and got me thinking about how difficult it might to be a half breed during that time. How could Suda Anna or any other half-breed know to which community she belonged? Would she have any choice in the matter?

Jayson, the Agoran half-breed, feels the pull of both races. He is not fully Agoran nor fully human, but has traits of both. He is more accepted by the Agorans, but not completely. When he falls in love with a human girl, who happens to be the daughter of the king, he is exiled and his people are punished. Of course, none of this occurs in my book. It is backstory, part of the history leading up to the beginning of my book.

I attended a really great lecture once by Tamora Pierce, renowned author of many fantasy titles including The Legend of Beka Cooper and Trickster. She spoke of using historical settings and mythological stories as inspiration for writing fantasy. In creating her books, she oftens draws from the wells of history to help her weave an intricate tapestry for her characters and plots to thrive. So many fantasy stories are based on the Celtic or medieval Europe societies, such as Lord of the Rings and even Harry Potter.  But why not search elsewhere for inspiration?


I drew on the history of Native Americans for THE ROCK OF IVANORE. Here are three more books that draw inspiration from unique periods in history, from Tsarist Russia to ancient China to Central American Mayan myths, you won't want to miss these books.


SHADOW AND BONE
Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt & Co.
368 pp.
Ages 12 & up

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

SILVER PHOENIX
Cindy Pon
Greenwillow Book
368 pp.
Ages 14 & Up

Ai Ling can see into other people's minds and reach into their spirits. But she doesn't know why this power has awakened inside her. She only knows that it is growing. It leads her on an epic journey—one that brings her to the edge of the deepest evil.
Chen Yong has a quest of his own, but then his path crosses Ai Ling's. And there's a connection so strong that neither can ignore it.
Now they must face terrifying demons determined to kill them, and battle through treacherous lands. It is their destiny. But can destiny keep them together?

THE JAGUAR STONES
J&P Voelkel
Egmont USA
416 pp.
Ages 10 & up

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to a family vacation. But his parents, both archaeologists and Maya experts, announce a change in plan. They must leave immediately for a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier. Max will go to summer camp. Max is furious. When he's mysteriously summoned to San Xavier, he thinks they've had a change of heart.

Upon his arrival, Max's wild adventure in the tropical rainforests of San Xavier begins. During his journey, he will unlock ancient secrets and meet strangers who are connected to him in ways he could never have imagined. For fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to this pampered teenager. Can Max rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save the world from the Lords of Death, who now control the power of the Jaguar Stones in their villainous hands? The scene is set for a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, as the good guys and the bad guys face off against a background of haunted temples, zombie armies, and even human sacrifice!



Sunday, April 19, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Win a copy of THE WATER AND THE WILD by K.E. Ormsbee




SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK!!!


THE WATER AND THE WILD
K.E. Ormsbee
Chronicle
Ages 8 - 12


A green apple tree grows in the heart of Thirsby Square, and tangled up in its magical roots is the story of Lottie Fiske. For as long as Lottie can remember, the only people who seem to care about her are her best friend, Eliot, and the mysterious letter writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things are happening on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot's getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless—until a door opens in the apple tree. Follow Lottie down through the roots to another world in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless, and protection against the pain of loss.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I was born and raised in the Bluegrass State. Then I went off and lived in places across the pond, like England and Spain, where I pretended I was a French ingénue. Just kidding! That only happened once. I also lived in some hotter nooks of the USA, like Birmingham, AL and Austin, TX. Now I'm back in Lexington, KY, where there is a Proper Autumn.
In my wild, early years, I taught English as a Foreign Language, interned with a film society, and did a lot of irresponsible road tripping. My crowning achievement is that the back of my head was in an iPhone commercial, and people actually paid me money for it.
Nowadays, I teach piano lessons, play in a band you've never heard of, and run races that I never win. I likes clothes from the 60s, music from the 70s, and movies from the 80s. I still satiate my bone-deep wanderlust whenever I can.
 
 


The Poetry of The Water and the Wild
K.E. Ormsbee

My Middle Grade debut went through a lot of title changes before it became the shiny hardcover book it is today. And I mean, a lot of changes. What began as the cringe-worthy Kiss the Joy turned into Each Chartered Street and then Under the Silver Bough, then Kiss the Joy again, and briefly Silver Tree. Then, at long last, my brilliant editor suggested we look for the title in the book’s opening poem, an excerpt from W.B. Yeats’ “The Stolen Child”:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

And so a title was born. My unnamable book became The Water and the Wild.

As I passed through each new stage in the publication process, I grew more and more appreciative of that final title and what it represented. Not only does it emphasize the wonder of the natural world—a very important theme throughout the book—it’s appropriately taken from a poem. Appropriately, because The Water and the Wild is a story packed with poems.

Much of this poetic flavor comes from Oliver Wilfer, friend to twelve-year-old heroine Lottie Fiske. Oliver is a shy and melancholic sprite who often expresses himself through human poetry. When his own words won’t suffice, Oliver uses the voices of John Donne, Walt Whitman, and William Blake—to name a few. But Oliver doesn’t just use poetry to express himself; he reads it to appreciate and make sense of the world around him. As he tells Lottie, “Poetry is what makes life worth it.”

The Water and the Wild may take its title from the first lines of that Yeats excerpt, but the deepest cutting line for me is the last: the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. This proves true for Lottie Fiske, who is confronted with the terrible truth that she might lose her best friend Eliot to an incurable illness. On her quest to save Eliot’s life, Lottie is confronted with danger, injustice, violence, and disease in a magical world that is as full of weeping as her own human home. But in that world, Lottie also finds hope, friendship, and, on occasion, encouragement from Oliver’s poetry.

Though I might not go around spouting stanzas like Oliver Wilfer, I do believe in the power of poetry. Poems have informed every book I’ve ever written, and I know that they will continue to play an important role in Lottie Fiske’s story.  Poetry doesn’t necessarily provide answers, but it does provide meaning, and it offers camaraderie—a reassurance that you are not the only human who has felt the way you do. When life is hard and unjust, one poet understands your pain. When life is full of joy, another poet understands your ecstasy—even if that poet is reaching out to you from a different continent, or from hundreds of years ago. And I think that’s what makes “ordinary” human poetry so absolutely magical.



Stop by the other participating blogs for more fun surprises & chances to win!

4/20 Laurisa White Reyes

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

DON'T QUIT: WORDS THAT KEPT ME GOING


May 21, 2012 was my big day. It was the day my first novel hit the shelves, the day my life long dream FINALLY came true. It was a loooooong road. How did I get here?

Like many writers, I've wanted this almost my whole life. I was born to be a writer. Once, when I was 5 years old, I woke up in the middle of the night, fished a piece of cardstock from the trash, and scrawled my first poem on it.

That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with words. I wrote plays and coerced my brothers and cousins to perform them for our parents. I wrote poems, short stories, essays. I won third place in my high school writing contest. When I was about 14, I set a goal for myself and wrote it in my journal:  I would publish my first book by the time I turned 30.

As an avid reader, I could think of nothing more exciting than seeing my name on a shelf at Barnes & Noble. I spent countless hours practicing my signature, getting that sweeping 'L' just right. Later, I earned my B.A. in Creative Writing. I kept on writing after I got married and started having kids, writing for magazines and newspapers. I had my own editorial column that ran in three papers for awhile. I even had a short stint as a book editor for a homeschool publisher.

Why did I spend so much time NOT writing novels? Because I didn't think I could. I lacked confidence in my own abilities. Eventually, I simply got sick of producing what I called disposable writing. My articles would appear in a magazine or newspaper, a few people might read them, and then they would get discarded and forgotten. (This was before the immortality of the internet took off.) I wanted to write something permanent. It was time to finally live my dream.

My first attempt at a novel stunk. But I learned a lot in the process. My second attempt came from the bedtime stories I told to my son. These stories eventually became The Rock of Ivanore. It took an entire year to write the first draft, and several months more for the revisions. As an anxious new writer, I sent the manuscript off to 50 publishers. I figured that if I got 50 rejections, then I'd know it was no good. I had no idea what a slush pile was or how many thousands of manuscripts every editor has to wade through to find that one gem worthy of getting published. I didn't have a clue how the publishing industry worked. I was so naive!

Every day I'd run to my mail box praying for that magical letter that said "Loved Your Book! Let's Publish It Tomorrow!" Of course, it never came. Over the next year I did receive six requests for the complete manuscript, but eventually The Rock of Ivanore was rejected no less than 46 times. The remaining publishers didn't even bother contacting me at all.

I was ready to give up. I was discouraged. By the time I went to the SCBWI Editor's Day in Long Beach (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), two years had passed since I sent out that first submission. One of the speakers was Jay Asher, author of the New York Times bestselling YA novel 13 Reasons Why. He said it took ten years to find a publisher for his book, and he told all of us in attendance to NOT GIVE UP. I took his advice and started writing another novel.

Then, one day I got the following email out of the blue. The date was June 12, 2008:

Hi Laurisa,

I'm sure you never thought you would hear back from Tanglewood, as it has been a couple of years since you sent me this manuscript. Anyway, I just unearthed this manuscript a few weeks ago, and while I think it needs some rewriting (the beginning is too slow), I think it has real promise. So I want to make sure that it is available before I go any further.

Best,
Peggy


Was it available?????!!!!!  YES!!!!

Needless to say, I screamed, I cried, I got down on my knees and thanked God. It's been a long road from that email to actual publication. Nearly four years will have passed by the time The Rock of Ivanore finally hits the shelves in May, six years since I first submitted the manuscript. But the journey has been well worth it. In that time I've completed a total of ten manuscripts, and I hope to one day publish them all. The best part is that I am living my dream -- maybe I didn't do by the time I was 30 (I'm well beyond that) but because of Tanglewood Press and my family's support, I've finally done it.

So, what can I say to writers who are still waiting for that first acceptance of their book? The same thing Jay Asher told me. Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep submitting. And DON'T GIVE UP!

Well, there it is. My story. If you are on the path toward fulfilling your dream, there will likely be times when you get discouraged, maybe even feel like quitting. DON'T.

What do you do when you feel like that? What words of encouragement have helped you stay on course?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card - Introducing WHAT EVERY 6TH GRADER NEEDS TO KNOW


10 secrets to connectWhat Every 6th Grader Needs to Know
by Connie Sokol and Rachelle Christensen

Is your daughter asking questions about friends, peer pressure, school, and even her weight? As a mom, are you wondering how to answer them? Welcome to the club. But you can relax. Because we’ve asked real sixth-grade girls to dish on their top secret questions. And, we’ve provided time-tested real-life answers that work. Add to that an enjoyable format. The “Just for Girls” section speaks right to your daughter in words and ways she understands. The “Just for Moms” section talks straight to moms, giving you information, resources, and easy-to-share answers. We include tips for how to start, handle, and enjoy the conversations no matter the situation. Create connected conversations with your daughter as you explore these life questions together. Get plain facts and jumpstart questions. Discuss the provided scenarios so she can practice responses to use in real-time. Download decorative cards with positive statements and fun fill-in sentences. Use What Every Girl Needs to Know About 6th Grade to make it happen. Together, answer questions and create connection. You got this.

Enter the Goodreads

add to goodreads

Praise for What Every 6th Grader Needs to Know 10 Secrets to Connect Moms & Daughters

"At a time when so many barriers are straining mother/daughter relationships, and our daughter's esteem is being attacked from every side, “What Every 6th Grader Needs to Know” gives mothers the tools they need to communicate (even about the tough stuff). It gives daughters the confidence to know that they have what it takes to survive the unique transitional years. Whether your relationship with your daughter is strained, or you want to strengthen what is already strong, use this smart and savvy information. You and your girl(s) will learn how to thrive through the teen years.” --Heather Ann Johnson M.S. Adjunct Faculty, BYU, Mother to 5 girls

“With conflicting messages today, it's easy for moms and daughters to get confused and overwhelmed. This book bestows all the wisdom you want to pour into your daughter's heart and mind in a fun, non-threatening way. Dread turns into confidence as you realize you have the tools to face those teenage years TOGETHER and have a ball doing it.” --Rachel Skinner, Mother of nine, Social Worker

“This book provided a wonderful bonding experience for me and my daughter. As parents we always think we know how our child is doing. Then we get into a deep conversation and realize that compared to what we thought, they are doing either so much better or are suffering so much more. But they hold those feelings back to protect us. Sometimes they fear that talking about it means more pain, but this books shows that talking is healing, especially when we know how.” —Karrie Glazner, Mother of Three Wonderful Kids


connie sokol1Author Connie E. Sokol Connie E. Sokol is a mother of seven and a favorite local and national speaker for over fifteen years. She is a core contributor on KSL TV's “Studio 5 with Brooke Walker” and a national blogger for "Motherhood Matters" at www.ksl.com. She is a former TV and radio host for Bonneville Communications and newspaper and magazine columnist. Mrs. Sokol is the author of twelve books including Faithful, Fit & Fabulous; Create a Powerful Life Plan; The Life is Too Short Collection; 40 Days with the Savior; and Caribbean Crossroads. Mrs. Sokol marinates in time spent with her family and eating decadent treats.
rachelle 

Author Rachelle J. Christensen Rachelle J. Christensen is a mother of five who loves connecting with her children and wrote this book in answer to questions from her two daughters. She also has an amazing husband, three cats, and five chickens. An award-winning author, she has written several mystery/suspense novels, and she solves the mystery of the missing shoe on a daily basis. Rachelle graduated cum laude from Utah State University with a degree in psychology and a music minor. She enjoys singing and songwriting, playing the piano, running, motivational speaking, and, of course, reading.

$25 Giveaway Enter to win an Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 5/1/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by readinglight.com. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Friday, April 10, 2015

HELP YOUR KIDS FALL IN LOVE WITH WRITING!

TEACHING KIDS TO WRITE WELL: SIX SECRETS EVERY GROWN-UP SHOULD KNOW
Laurisa White Reyes
Skyrocket Press

Revised and Updated 2nd Edition

A must-have addition to every homeschool library.

First published in 2009, this revised second edition tackles the challenge so many parents and teachers face--how to help their children master the skills needed to write well. Author of four published novels, editor of Middle Shelf Magazine, and homeschool mom of five children, Laurisa White Reyes gives solid, easy-to-follow suggestions on creating a learning-friendly environment in the home and how to cultivate a joy of learning--and writing--in every child.

"As a parent who has homeschooled my children, I can say it's a great resource for parents who are interested in making sure their kids learn excellent writing skills." - Rachel Tolman Terry, homeschool mom & author of Sister WhoDat, NY Agent


Just $1.99 for Kindle
(Print & Nook Available Soon!)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

WHAT IS SPECULATIVE FICTION?



If you've heard the term Speculative Fiction, you might already know what it is--or maybe not.  The simple definition is that Speculative Fiction is nothing more than Science Fiction and Fantasy. But that is like calling everything sweet candy. It covers it, but not really.

Just like "candy" includes chocolate, gum drops, jelly beans, mints, lollipops (and on and on), Speculative Fiction is nothing more than an umbrella covering many different types of literature.  For this post, I will focus mainly on Fantasy. But first, let's get Science Fiction out of the way. SF is fiction that involves some sort of scientific element--usually machines or technical gadgets (think space ships, advanced weaponry, futuristic transportation, etc.) Some examples of SF  using the mechanical element would be Star Wars, Ender's Game, Terminator, Iron Man, Time Machine, and War of the Worlds. Science Fiction may also involve alien species, other worlds or planets, or humans that have been medically altered in some way. Examples include the X-Men (who are genetic mutants), Avatar, and E.T.. That's a brief summary of Science Fiction.In a future post, I'll delve into it a little deeper.

Let's talk fantasy.  Most people accept that fantasy involves magic. That's mostly true.  But a more accurate description might be "fiction involving fantastical elements."  This might involve magic, super powers, the supernatural, alternate histories, etc. There are a lot of fantasy sub-genres. I will try to define the most prominent ones. Some sub-genres overlap.

High Fantasy: (also called Sword & Sorcery):  Fantasy set in a make-believe world or civilization, usually involving magic and mythical or supernatural beings. Sometimes high fantasy might include a "real" time and location as well as a make-believe one.  Examples: Lord of the Rings, Eragon, Earthsea, Harry Potter, Dragon Riders of Pern, Chronicles of Narnia.

Contemporary Fantasy: Similar to High Fantasy, but set in a contemporary, real setting. Examples: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Sookie Stackhouse, The Graveyard Book.

Urban Fantasy: A sub-genre of Contemporary Fantasy set in a city. (May also take place in the past or future.)  Examples:  Fallen, The Mortal Instruments, Neverwhere.

Dystopian:  Usually set in the future, the term "dystopian" is a play on the word "utopian."  A utopia is a society where supposedly everything is perfect. Dystopian novels are set in societies that appear wonderful on the surface, but are, in reality, twisted. Something really bad is happening under the surface. Dystopian also includes stories where society has been severely altered for the worse, either from war, disease, natural disaster, or some other cataclysmic event. Examples: Hunger Games, Unwind, Ashfall, 1984, Brave New World.

Paranormal:  This genre houses a whole host of definitions. In essence, Paranormal literature includes almost anything that is beyond normal existence.  This includes werewolves, vampires, mermaids, and any number of "monster"-type characters. But it also includes characters who are ghosts, offspring of gods, and who have any number of possible supernatural powers. Examples: Wildfire, Twilight, Shiver, Paranormalcy, Farsighted. (note: Paranormal Romance are romance novels involving Paranormal elements.)

Magic Realism:  Stories where the fantastical elements are viewed by the characters as normal or not fantastic and that occur in the real world.  The author describes these elements in a straight forward manner. Examples:  One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Kingdom of this World.

Dark Fantasy: Horror-type novels involving any of the above genres. Often told from the monster's point of view.  Examples: The Vampire Chronicles, The Dark Tower, Faerie Tale.

Other sub-genres which are self-explanatory are Historical Fantasy, Pre-Historic Fantasy, Mythic Fantasy and Superhero Fantasy.

What are some of your all time favorite fantasy books?