Monday, October 29, 2012

Ten Random Things

Some days, when I have time to write, I just cannot get the words out.

Some days I do feel creative, but instead, need to clean my house, feed my animals, cook dinner for my family, put make-up on for a party.

And some days I need to update my blog, and have NO IDEA what I should write about. *SIGH*

So, here are 10 Random Things happening right now:

1. I am worried about people and animals on the East Coast of the United States, in the path of Hurricane Sandy, and becoming somewhat glued to the television news of it, here on the West Coast. Sending good thoughts your way, everyone!

2. It is almost Halloween, a holiday that I don't really get into that much, because I don't like scary stuff.

3. I do love pumpkins, however, as well as pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice muffins, and pumpkin chocolate chip anything. :-)

4. I need to take my dogs for a walk, especially my new young rescue dog, who thrives on exercise. But is it quite windy and cold out, so I'm sitting inside procrastinating.

5. I am chugging away at the sequel to The Girl Who Remembered Horses, which is about a journey that the main character, Sahara, takes with her horse, and I'd like nothing better than to work on it all day, but I have other things planned.

6. I saw the movie "Argo" last night and I thought it was excellent. Oscars, anyone?

7. Since we got our new rescue dog, we haven't seen our barn cat, Lucy, for a month now, and I'm feeling guilty about that.

8. We pulled out tomato plants from the garden, and hung them upside down in the barn, where they will continue to ripen most of their remaining tomatoes. Every year I am amazed at how this happens.

9. I sent a package off to a young relative this morning for her birthday. I went through my bookcase, trying to decide which book to give her. This was one of my very favorites, and I had quite a talk with myself: "You can't part with that book - you LOVE it." "Yes, but what are books for, if not to share? This one would be perfect for her." "Okay, okay, but I will really miss this one, but perhaps we can have a book discussion about it after she reads it." Want to know which one it is? It's by Sharon Creech, and it's about poetry, dogs, love, and feelings. (You should read it, too. ;-))

10. Is that ten? Good, because it's going to rain. I am now going outside to brave the wind and give my dogs a good run. Then come back inside and try to squeeze in a few words on my manuscript, called (at the moment) Sahara's Journey. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet Lynne Kelly

Animal Lovers - please welcome middle grade author Lynne Kelly, whose debut novel CHAINED is about - an elephant! And a boy. And their special relationship.

It. Is. Awesome. And you can win a copy! See giveaway below:

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:
After ten-year-old Hastin’s family borrows money to pay for his sister’s hospital bill, he leaves his village in northern India to take a job as an elephant keeper and work off the debt. He thinks it will be an adventure, but he isn’t prepared for the cruel circus owner. The crowds that come to the circus see a lively animal who plays soccer and balances on milk bottles, but Hastin sees Nandita, a sweet elephant and his best friend, who is chained when she’s not performing and hurt with a hook until she learns tricks perfectly. Hastin protects Nandita as best as he can, knowing that the only way they will both survive is if he can find a way for them to escape.
How long have you been writing for children, Lynne? Tell us how you got your start as a writer.

Just since 2006, when I got the idea that led to Chained. I was a teacher at the time and started writing what I thought would be a picture book about an elephant, one that I'd share with the kids at school and then look into getting published if it was any good.

What made you decide to write a book about an elephant? Have you always loved elephants? I mean, why not a dog, or a giraffe, or a rhinoceros?

Yes, I've always loved elephants! They're so intelligent and have such strong connections with family and friends. For this story, I'd heard about elephants fighting to break free of their chains when they're first captured, and then giving up forever. I started thinking about a story with a captive elephant who wants to return to her home in the wild, but she doesn't try breaking free of her chains because she doesn't know she could do it.

I’ve heard that when you first imagined this novel, it was as a picture book. Can you elaborate?
Yes, I was thinking it would be a picture book about that elephant who grows up as a show elephant, then finally breaks free and runs back to her home in the jungle. It never occurred to me to try to write a novel, but some people who critiqued it recognized that the story needed expanding.

Tell us a little about the setting in Chained? Do you have first-hand knowledge of India? How did you make it feel so authentic?
I chose the setting because I wanted the elephant to be caught from her home in the wild and work as a show elephant sort of nearby, so her home felt just out of reach. I read a lot of online resources and books about India, but the most helpful information was from people who'd lived there. I elaborate on that more (and about going from picture book to novel) in "The Landscape Unseen," in a recent issue of Hunger Mountain.

How long did it take you to write Chained? How long was your journey to actual publication?
The journey from idea to publication was about six years, which isn't unusual, but it's probably a good thing I didn't know when I started that it takes that long to write a book and get it published. But I had a lot to learn about writing, so while reading all I could about elephants and India, I was reading all I could about writing, too, and taking my new chapters to critique groups for feedback. After finishing the novel and doing lots of revisions, I started submitting to literary agents in the spring of 2009. Coincidentally, during the same week in February 2010 I heard from two agents who were interested in representation. I talked to both and had a difficult decision to make, but I ended up signing with Joanna Volpe, now of New Leaf Literary & Media Representation. I did a new round of revisions for her, then she submitted the manuscript to a few publishers. A couple weeks later we had an offer, and Jo set up an auction when another publisher let her know they were also interested in acquiring it. The book sold to Macmillan/FSG in April, 2010, and hit the bookshelves about two years later, in May 2012.

I always love to find out how people choose titles? Was Chained the original title for this story, or was it chosen by the publisher, or someone else?
Often titles do change, but Chained was the title on the manuscript when I first submitted it. At first I was calling it "The Elephant's Path," but that wasn't interesting enough, so I kept brainstorming other titles. Somehow "Chained" came to me at some point and that's the one I stuck with.

This book is written in first-person present tense. Was that the way you envisioned the story from the start, or did it change?
I started writing it in 3rd person past tense, and a few chapters in I decided to try it in 1st person, and I really liked it that way. In the summer of 2008 I went to the Highlights Foundation workshop in Chautauqua, where Patricia Lee Gauch was my mentor. During one of our sessions she said, "Something makes me want to ask you to write this in present tense." That night I rewrote the first chapter in present tense and showed it to her the next day, and we both thought it was working out better; we felt closer to the character and the action seemed more immediate.

As an author promoting her first book, how important do you feel social media is to your career? Is marketing a love/hate relationship with you (as many authors admit) or do you enjoy it? How much time daily/weekly do you spend promoting?
I think it's very important, and I do enjoy it. I've gotten to know a huge writing community online that I wouldn't know about without my social media activity. Writing is a solitary activity, and it helps to have the support of people who are going through the same thing. And it's a great way to meet other book people, like teachers, librarians, and book bloggers. I've bought many books that I heard about from someone's online recommendation, and I'm sure the same thing has happened with my own book. It's hard to say how much time I spend on promotion because it varies a lot; when I'm busy with work or with a deadline, I'll take at least a few minutes during the day to tweet something and reply to others, but when my time's more flexible I'll spend more time on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog.

What are you working on next, Lynne? Anything new in your publishing career you’d like to tell us about?
Two things that are totally different; I'm revising a humorous YA novel with some mystery to it, REASONS FOR LEAVING, about an agoraphobic teen who has to go on a road trip to find a missing friend, and I'm writing my next MG novel, NESSIE MALONE'S GUIDE TO CREATURES THAT AREN'T REAL, about an amateur forensic scientist with cryptozoologist parents.

Okay, as a fellow animal person, I have to ask you this question. What, actually, is your favorite animal?
Elephants, of course! Although they'll crush the bed if you let them sleep with you, so I'm also a dog person.
Lynne - Thank you So Much for stopping by and telling us about your new book! Find more about Lynne here: website/ facebook/ twitter/ goodreads.   
Want to win a copy of Chained? Lynne has generously offered to giveaway a copy. Simple enter the contest using Rafflecopter, below. Open to U.S. addresses only. Good luck, everyone!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 13, 2012

2012 National Book Award Finalists, or Why I Love My Public Library

Besides being an author, I am also an avid reader. And I use my public library A LOT. In fact, I LOVE my library. Why? Well, whenever I hear or see of a book that interests me, I usually do two things: 1) I search for it on Goodreads, where I get a summary and an idea of what people are saying about it, then 2) if it looks like something I might like to try/or read, I search for it in the online catalog of my public library, right from the comfort of home, and 9 times out of 10 they either have it in stock, or it's on order. Then, with a few simple clicks, the book will be available to me to pick up and read in short order. Sometimes, if it's a very popular book with lots of earlier holds on it, I might have to wait a while. But it's a fair trade for being able to keep up with my voracious reading/browsing/book habit. Because basically, all this is free. Aren't I lucky?

P.S. Go get a library card. Chances are, if you have a library, you can take advantage of this in your community.

But I digress. What did I do this morning? Well, I looked up all of the books that were nominated  as finalists for the 2012 National Book Awards, and ordered quite a few of them!


Fiction FinalistsJunot Diaz, This Is How You Lose HerDave Eggers, A Hologram for the KingLouise Erdrich, The Round HouseBen Fountain, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkThe Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers


Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group USA, Inc.)
Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King (McSweeney's Books)
Louise Erdrich, The Round House (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown and Company)


2012 NBA Nonfiction Finalists


Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956 (Doubleday)
Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House)
Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4 (Knopf)
Domingo Martinez, The Boy Kings of Texas (Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press)
Anthony Shadid, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


2012 NBA Poetry Finalists


David Ferry, Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press)
Cynthia Huntington, Heavenly Bodies (Southern Illinois University Press)
Tim Seibles, Fast Animal (Etruscan Press)
Alan Shapiro, Night of the Republic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Susan Wheeler, Meme (University of Iowa Press)
2012 NBA YPL  Finalists


William Alexander, Goblin Secrets (Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Carrie Arcos, Out of Reach (Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Patricia McCormick, Never Fall Down (Balzer+Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Eliot Schrefer, Endangered (Scholastic)
Steve Sheinkin, Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
(Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press)
I love to sample all kinds of books, don't you?
Tell me, do you have a good library system where you live?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Putting My Words Where My Heart Is

October is National Shelter Dog Month. I didn't know that until just today. But the month didn't matter. I fell madly in love with a dog at our local shelter 10 days ago, and ended up bringing her home.

If you've read any of my books, or even the descriptions, you probably realize that dogs play a role in each and every one of them. (And this from a self-described cat person LOL.)

In my first book, Finding Chance (Mondo Publishing 2007) a girl named Alice finds a lost and hungry dog.  Here's a great illustration from that book, by talented artist Nancy Lane.

In The Horse Jar (Mondo Publishing 2009) a girl's hope and dreams and plans for a horse of her own become all tangled up, when an incident with her best friend's dog, a dachshund named Spunky, changes everything.

In The Girl Who Remembered Horse (Musa Publishing 2011) a horse novel set in the future, dogs are also figured prominently in the plot, and play an important role in society.

In my two most recent novels, a lost yellow Lab bring together two teenagers, and a character named Aunt Trudy volunteers at the animal shelter, and also raises a houseful of strays, including cats, dogs, and horses (Six Degrees of Lost  Musa Publishing 2012.)

My newest release, Walking the Dog (Musa Publishing 2012) is a story about two kids dealing with some very adult problems, and features therapy dogs, animal shelter dogs, and a special animal shelter cat.

I guess I put my words where my heart is. I feel strongly about rescuing animals. I have volunteered at our local shelter - walking dogs and petting cats - and somehow those experiences seem to sneak into my novels. With the thousands of homeless animals out there, waiting for their special someone, it breaks my heart to see puppies advertised for sale on Craig's List, when there are so many animals being put to sleep at shelters across the country. (Maybe would-be dog breeders should spend a week or two volunteering at their local shelter. It might open their eyes.)

But enough soap box from me. Because of an ad on about a medium female retriever mix with this description: A sweet girl, brought in by animal control. She was just covered in fleas, poor thing, so we treated her right away. She is young, around 10 months, and deserves a home where she will be well cared for. - I stopped by the animal shelter on my way home from town.

As I entered the double doors where large dogs were barking loudly, I saw her huddled up on a thin yellow blanket. Behind a chain link gate, she shivered, scared out of her wits. She was smaller and more fine-boned than I had expected, and absolutely beautiful. As we slipped a leash on her and brought her out of the kennel and into a quieter room, she stopped shaking and looked into my eyes. As I stroked her soft coat and ears, her tail wagged slowly. I was smitten.

She had a three day waiting period at the shelter, to see if an owner came forward. No one did. Someone else had put a "pre-adopt" on this dog, but when the day came to pick her up, they didn't want her either. But it didn't matter. I knew she was mine from the moment I laid eyes on her. It was love at first sight. When the shelter called, I was up there as fast as I could drive.

Isn't she beautiful?

We named her Jessie.

Thinking about adopting a new pet? October is a good time. Make it a point to stop by your local shelter today. You just might fall in love, too.