The Calm…

There’s a calm settling down around the house tonight. Rooms cleaned. Shelves, books, and pens organized. I feel collected and ready, a woman standing on the precipice and preparing to lift the umbrella, to dance in the rain, because that calm will break and that storm will come in just a few short hours.

That’s right, we are right at 4 hours until midnight. 4 hours until the 1st of June. Which means it is 4 Hours until the beginning of the #HotandSticky Summer Writing Challenge.

488 words a day for the next 4 months. Sound simple? Well, 4 months over summer vacations, camps, the beginning of school…maintain a writing habit over those 4 months and you should be able to maintain it for the rest of your year too!

So what have I been doing to prepare while everyone else outlines and preps? I’m attempting to create an Excel sheet that shows the day, has a blank for me to input how many words I wrote (and adds it together at the bottom, of course), and a row for the amount of words I SHOULD have at the end of that particular day. Of course, I’m not that tech savvy so this has been going on all day long. Oh well, At least I’ll be prepared…write? I mean, right?

If you want to know more about this fun and frustrating good time, check out all the things Adrian and Dalton have to say about it on their YouTube Channel (Stripped Cover Lit). After all, this is their baby!

Are you participating in #HotandSticky? Let me know down below! I’ll see you guys with an update soon…and a book review or two along the way as well. (if you want to watch my announcement and updates videos for #HotandSticky Summer Writing Challenge, or anything else I’ve done, check them out HERE)

Picture Book Reviews

Hello everyone! I thought that I would do a quick post today and give you some short reviews on Picture Books that we’ve been reading lately. I hope you enjoy them!

 

 moonflute One of the first things we noticed was that there are no illustrations on the end pages (my daughter is keen on them!) However, the book was beautiful enough that she now forgives them. Though this book is an older picture book, both in publication date (1980) and intended audience (probably k-2) we had a lot of fun looking at the illustrations and reading the story together. The story line is a bit of nonsense, but very well written and beautifully dreamlike. I definitely suggest this to anyone Moonflute

Written by Audrey Wood and Illustrates by Don Wood

 

One of the first things we noticed was that there are no illustrations on the end pages (my daughter is keen on them!) However, the book was beautiful enough that she now forgives them. Though this book is an older picture book, both in publication date (1980) and intended audience (probably k-2) we had a lot of fun looking at the illustrations and reading the story together. The story line is a bit of nonsense, but very well written and beautifully dreamlike. I definitely suggest this to anyone with children that are old enough to appreciate and enjoy a good story and good illustrations, and to kids who are musical or don’t sleep easily.

 

I Wish I Had…

Written by Giovanna Zoboli and Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

Very cute picture book. The Illustrations are adorable and each page highlights one animal and one of the highlighted animal’s special skills. While this isn’t a fact filled non-fiction to get kids really understanding different animals, it is great to show diversity and interesting factoids to younger children. My animal adoring 3 yr old loved it.

i wish i had

Night Animals

Written and Illustrated by Gianna Marino

night animals This is a very cute little book with amazing art work and an adorable little story. Though the story is told more through observation than through words, the images and speech bubbles work together quite well. The one problem we had with this book, though, is that there is not a story other than the speech bubbles. My daughter likes short blocks of text and wasn’t too sure about this format! However, it was an adorable book and I really liked that it showed us a possum instead of a raccoon to be This is a very cute little book with amazing art work and an adorable little story. Though the story is told more through observation than through words, the images and speech bubbles work together quite well. The one problem we had with this book, though, is that there is not a story other than the speech bubbles. My daughter likes short blocks of text and wasn’t too sure about this format! However, it was an adorable book and I really liked that it showed us a possum instead of a raccoon to begin with (no raccoon ever showed up actually) because my daughter knows about many night animals but the possum was new to her, which worked itself into a great conversation

 

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

Written by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and Illustrated by Gilbert Ford

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This is a picture book meant more for older children (Elementary aged, 2nd and 3rd grade most likely). The information within is a great mixture of facts and narrative combining with gorgeous artwork to provide the story of George Ferris and his State Fair attraction…The Monster Wheel! The book, and it’s amazingly gorgeous illustrations, begins with the Eiffel Tower from the World’s Fair in 1889.the main attraction of engineering’s accomplishments…and goes through the contest and building of the 1893 World Fair’s main attraction. We very much enjoyed this and my 3-year-old now knows the name of the man responsible for the big wheelie thing Mommy won’t ride. We not only recommend this to children, but to adults as well. In fact, we took it to show some teachers…who are adding it to their lesson plans for next year’s 3rd graders. Presentations will be made because this book provides a FUN learning experience.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus

Written by Judith Viorst and Illustrated by Lane Smith

 519uYsKgzCL._AC_US240_QL65_ This is an absolutely adorable little story! My 3 year old and I love to read children’s chapter books together and this one held her attention all the way through. She asked for repeats, pointed out pieces of the illustrations to me, and discussed proper manners etc with me as we progressed through this book with Lulu, a little girl who has no use for manners to begin with. This is a solid children’s read and I recommend it to ages 1-adult and back again.

 

#HotandSticky Survey

I am participating in the #HotandSticky Summer Writing Challenge put on by the boys over at Stripped Cover Lit, a fabulous and sassy YouTube channel you should all check out!  If you have ever wanted to write something, this 4 month writing challenge might be right up your alley.

In my announcement video (here)  I mentioned trying to decide between something I had already started or coming up with a new idea. Since everyone who responded offered the opinion that I should work on something old, I am here today with a list of synopsis and excerpts…and a survey. Please participate and let me know what you think I should be working on this summer!

 

My House:

The story of a woman who thought she had left her mofia-like family behind, until her father’s final papers are found. Now she must contend with her thug brothers, a new romance, and emotional scars in order to find her place again.

Excerpt –

It was a nice date, if you like going out with the gorgeous, smart type. He took me to a nice local restaurant with a homey atmosphere and just enough city spice to make it sophisticated. During dinner we talked about everything from politics to TV shows. I discovered that Nikolas isn’t just gorgeous, he’s smart, well read and has a great sense of humor. He has a degree in both literature and history and is only working in realty until a good job opens up in one of those fields. I also gave him my pertinent information; I graduated from a college in Ireland with degrees in Music and Literature and teach at a daycare (although I did not tell him that I go by my mother’s maiden name so that people won’t be afraid to leave their children with me). Although we had so much in common, and the conversation was very stimulating, my mind kept creeping back to the house.

I had made the visit that day to try and finally close that chapter in my life, but instead of closure the visit was bringing back memories long locked away in the recesses of my mind and making me want to revisit the past.  As I looked across the table at Nikolas I was transported back twelve years to a family dinner held in honor of Billy’s college graduation. We were all gathered around a table in a restaurant very similar to the one I was in now, sipping our drinks and catching up when Billy raised his wine glass (which held sparkling water, Billy couldn’t ever relegate himself to the taste of wine)…”Attention everybody, I have an announcement to make.” He boomed, effectively quieting our group. Billy took a sip from his glass as he looked around to make sure he had everyone’s attention.

He looked so handsome in his dark blue dress shirt that I had bought him. With his sleeves rolled up and the first few buttons undone, he looked just like one of those mobsters from a 1920s club scene.

“I’ve chosen a job,” Billy announced proudly, looking around to catch everyone’s expressions.

“WHAT??” “WOW!” “WHERE??” “WHAT IS IT??” We were all exclaiming at once, the words almost indiscernible in the cries, but the next thing that Billy said sent a deathly quiet over the family.

 

Vincent:

The story of teenaged almost loves meeting up again in college. She is single, always looking for that special feeling. Always not quite choosing the right guys. Always more comfortable with her books and best friend. He has a serious girlfriend and roommate majoring in psychology. (This is a step away from what I typically write…more contemporary)

 

Excerpt –

 

 

“There is sadness there, just behind her eyes. The look of something lost a long time ago. She wears it well, almost as if she has forgotten the depth of feeling there. For some reason the look deepened when she first saw you. Like a black hole expanding to take In everything to nothingness, then it all disappeared in a dazzling smile of happiness when she realized you were there.”

 

Vincent slowly tore his gaze from the girl whose heart he had yearned for since childhood and who was currently talking to his girlfriend, to look at his friend. “Sanji, have you been reading those psychology books again?” he teased, trying not to peak his old friends curiosity any more. Anne was the one thing in his life that Sanji didn’t know all of the details of. “I wouldn’t have any idea about her losses, we haven’t even seen each other in years. I only just began to talk to her again.”

 

Sanji took in his friends intense look and decided to let that strain of thought go for the moment. “Ok, so what’s for dinner? Its your turn to cook, remember?” Vincent’s laugh was the only answer he received as they began walking toward the girls.

 

 

Sylvester:

Seeing a nameless threat looming over the future of Earth, Sylvester’s true love sent herself to a different world in order to rescue people she doesn’t know. She has no memories of her fiancé, is re-born (literally) as a baby on Earth, and grows up without memory of why she came to be there…not that she thinks there’s anything odd about that.

Excerpt –

As a child, Brianna had dreams of another world. One where magic was as natural as air and people watched and waited for her. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, Bri knew these people. Sometimes she could remember their names, and would excitedly turn to them, but she would always wake at this point, dream memories niggling at her brain until she pushed them aside. As she grew the dreams became more in depth, more real. She would wake smelling the scents of otherworldly kitchens, feeling the softness of otherworldly grass.

 

She began seeing the people from her dreams out of the corner of her eye, in broad daylight. She would sense them watching her, urging her to something she couldn’t understand, or rather, felt as if she couldn’t remember. In defense, she turned to the things all teenage girls find interest in: sports, music, books, friends, and, of course, boys.

 

A children’s story or MG to be named later

Possibly the 2nd in the adventure stories featuring Paulonious Punk or something along those lines. (If you have requests, feel free to leave them in the comment section!)

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite now! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WFQKTN5

Poor Little Fat Pigeon

It’s ok, poor little fat pigeon, the wind is being pushy today. Wait a moment, gather your breath, and try again. You’ll make it to the top of the stop sign for sure this time! There your friend waits patiently. She doesn’t laugh at your struggle. No, she keeps a watchful eye out and dutifully scoots over a smidgen so you have room when you land atop the sign.

Panting, eyeing the crazy woman in the car that’s been sitting a bit too long at the stop sign, you settle your wide load down next to your lady friend. It’s ok, little fat pigeon, we’ve all been there.

 

Please, stop feeding our local pigeons french fries. The mortality rate is rising at astounding speeds, despite the STOP sign perches. 

Stories

There are other worlds out there, other places left unexplored by human beings. They exist within realms we may not even know about as of yet. And they exist in magical portals that we call ‘stories.’

These stories can help us learn, help us calm or excite our senses, and help us cope with all manner of things. Like right now, I am reading instead of allowing anxiety over a job prospect to overwhelm me. I write when I need to empty myself of ideas, inspirations, anxieties, mental images, emotions, or anything else that might arise and threaten to overwhelm. I write or I am cranky, I read or I am cranky. I need words, I am addicted to stories, they mold my life.

What do stories do for you? 

Author Reflections: Tim Baker

I don’t usually read thrillers or noir but when I saw this debut novel I just had to request a copy. Europa Editions was not only kind enough to set me up with the gorgeous paperback, they also invited me to be part of the blog tour! So, without further ado, here is Tim Baker, talking to you about Fever City

 

How I wrote FEVER CITY

Tim Baker reflects on the origins of his debut thriller, FEVER CITY, in which a frantic search

for a kidnapped child collides with a plot to kill the President . . .

By Tim Baker

A couple of years ago I was working on a mystery set in Manhattan in the 1950s that involved

the murder of a disgraced NYPD detective turned private eye. A secondary plot concerned the

kidnapping of the only child of one of America’s richest and most hated men, and the subsequent

cover up of the crime.

But as I moved forward with the manuscript, an unexpected thing happened. The secondary plot

began to emerge as the principal one. The kidnapping story seemed to possess a power and

intensity all of its own.

Despite my attempts to rein in its influence and focus on what I considered to be the ‘main story’

– that of the murdered PI – the kidnapping component kept growing with such urgency that

eventually I felt compelled to focus on it alone, and abandoned the other parts of the novel.

As surprised – and excited – as I was about this development, there was still something missing,

but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was like a word on the tip of your tongue; the more you tried

to remember it, the further it drifted from your mind.

I tried various shifts to the story and explored new plot ideas, but nothing seemed to connect with

the kidnapping in an organic way. After a year of trying, I put the novel down with regret but

also knowing I would return to it when the time was right.

Meanwhile, there were other writing projects that kept me busy. I started travelling for various

film assignments, and one of my trips took me to Los Angeles. As someone who had never

owned a car in his life, I expected to hate the city but instead fell in love with it.

Yes, it was sprawling and unanchored, but it was surrounded by natural beauty and was

culturally diverse. And there were a multitude of neighborhoods, each with its own community,

ambiance and mood. Above all, there was the torrid, slap in the face heat. It was as if the whole

city were running a mighty temperature.

It only took me a couple of days to understand that I needed to change the setting of my

kidnapping story from Manhattan to LA. I went back to the work-in- progress, and was impressed

with the results. Changing the terrain also accelerated the tempo and deepened the mood to a hot,

high-gloss noir.

The change in mood and setting also imposed a change in the timeframe, lifting the story from

the ‘50s to the next decade. The 1960s were a pivotal decade not just for the city of Los Angeles,

but for the whole country. For the world. So much was at stake. So much was possible. So much

was lost.

As I continued writing the novel, I finally felt the inherent authenticity and authority in the story

that I had always been searching for. The pace of the story continued to pick up and events and

characters from the ‘60s began to appear and assert themselves. It was sometimes an eerie

sensation, like having your finger to the planche of a Ouija Board as it zooms from one letter to

the next, always just ahead of your eye.

The lessons I learnt were important ones: that you should always follow your instincts, and be

flexible with your preconceived ideas. It seems to me it’s not just a good rule for writing, but for

living as well . . .

FEVER CITY by Tim Baker is out May 10 with Europa Editions

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimBakerWrites

Artsy Animals

Do you like random facts? Do you enjoy animal artwork? Do you love tiny little books that can conveniently be carried with you virtually anywhere???

THEN I HAVE JUST THE BOOK FOR YOU!!

9781607748328

*Slightly smaller than actual size*

Maja Safstrom is an architect and illustrator from Stockholm who has worked with Ten Speed Press to bring us a small book with a big impact. Coming at a mere 6.3×0.7×7.8 inches in dimension, The illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts combines pen and ink/black and white drawings with facts about several different animals, all seemingly hand lettered. This book gives us not only  peek aat nature, but  look at the author’s nature journal (of sorts).

The book is very well made, the cover binding feels nice and fits very well into a hand, the interior pages have the look and feel of thicker art paper, and the entire piece feels like a work of art lovingly created for the audience.

If you enjoy Maja’s style of artwork, as I do, I highly suggest also following her on Instagram!

I’ll leave you with a  fact to ponder while you’re waiting on that page to load.

“Penguins laugh when they are tickled.”

You’re welcome and have a marvelous day!

Girl in a Box – A Story Prompt

I had a half sleeping dream last night, a blur of images that seemed perfectly odd and delicious…something that might make a great story, short or otherwise. The problem, then, is that I’m not sure where to go with it and I think that one or two of you guys might create something more interesting with this so….I’ve decided to throw the prompt out there! YAY!!

Here are the guidelines…

  1. If you choose to use this prompt and post a short story or excerpt…please link back to this post.
  2. Let me know that you’ve used the prompt and leave a link to your post so we can all go enjoy it!

 

Writing Prompt:

Jenny paused outside of the large glass windows of the first store she came to. Inside, there were enormous pastel colored triple helixes slowing twisting and turn all around each other as if they were suspended in an antigravity tank, or that video on DNA they’d watched in science class. This was clearly not your average mall. She was beginning to grow concerned about what would come next. Maybe, she mused, I don’t actually want to turn in my application to Girl in a Box!