Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My next novel—finally named

My next novel has been a long time coming. Having undergone many rewrites, it has been ready for a while, but has been difficult to name. I've finally settled on a title and it will be published early next year.

The three titles in contention have been "The Body in the Freezer" which sounds like a murder mystery. It's not, although there is a body in the freezer that plagues the dreams of our young hero. "Directions Not Included" suggests humor, which it's not, though I think it will elicit a few chuckles. Instead, I've chosen to name it "Call Me Captain" hinting at a wistful yearning for recognition and giving it a poignancy that I hope will affect readers in a positive way.

It's about Samuel Ellingsford Capulin III, age 13, the only son of a middle class family. He fears and disdains his authoritarian and often absent father, a pilot for a commercial airline. Captain, as he wants to be called, sees his mother as weak and doting, with no real life of her own. To hide his anger and feelings of rejection, he cops an attitude of indifference, arrogance, and sarcasm—not just at home, but at school with any peers or teachers who don't earn his respect. The story begins in the office of Mrs. Mahoney, the  junior high school principal, where Captain is frequently sent for his disrespect and disruption of a class. 

When he goes a bit too far, Captain is suspended from school and ordered to serve six weeks of community service in a homeless shelter. The patrons to his breakfast line become real people with stories of their own, rather than the generalized mass of low-life his father derides and shuns. One of the patrons is a girl named Danni who brings her 3-year-old sister to the shelter. She rebuffs Captain's attempts to start a conversation, something he isn't used to. Prettier, more popular girls at school have always vied for his attention. Danni's snubs challenge him, and he becomes intrigued by her secrecy and independence.

When she finally shares one of her deepest secrets with him, he wonders what he has gotten himself into—and why.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Confused by the Massacre in Connecticut

How to be?
What to feel?
So hard to understand
When feelings roil and churn
Crash into each other
And then lay dead
A weight in the pit of my stomach.

The sadness and grief and confusion
Refuse to be reconciled.
With present joy and blessings
I can’t feel one
Without it being swept away
By the other.

Feelings of joy
And depths of gratitude
Flood my soul
When I watch
My grandsons play
Squealing with delight
Over little discoveries.

Feelings of sadness
Fear and guilt
Sweep away the joy
As I remember
Twenty little children
Who can no longer play

And parents and grandparents
Who will never
Watch their little ones
Make new discoveries
Or hear their shouts of joy
And laughter ever again.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Preserve writing time: a poem by Janet Muirhead Hill

Oh, the distractions a writer can find
When novel ideas don't spring to the mind.
Better to sit in the chair and think
Than to leave the room for another hot drink.

Writing gets done when you stay at a task
Not going for coffee or even a flask
Sorting paper clips or posting on line
Should not be a part of one's writing time.

Be true to your designated creative hour
By keeping it sacred, giving it power.
While even a little writing each day
is better than none, it's still fair to say,

All of those other tasks surely can wait.
You have with your muse an important date.
Allow her soft whisper to speak to your soul
If you want to reach your professed writing goal.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ten Years

By this time ten years ago, Raven Publishing, a small commercial press, had two books in print. They are the middle-grade novels, Miranda and Starlight, and its sequel, Starlight's Courage, by author and Raven's cofounder, Janet Muirhead Hill. The next two years produced four more books in the Miranda and Starlight series and a second large printing of Miranda and Starlight—all of this with help from a marketer and friend, Angie Kelly, and our editor and mentor, Florence Ore. Florence has remained an integral part of Raven Publishing through thick and thin since the very beginning.

The fourth year, 2005 brought us other authors. After careful consideration of a manuscript and query from author Dan Peterson for a delightful children's book, Fergus, the Soccer-Playing Colt, the decision was made to expand our vision to help other authors see their books in print. Joan Bochmann's novel for adults, Absaroka, Where the Anguish of a Soldier Meets the Land of the Crow, was published in  December, 2005, and won an IPPY award from Independent Publisher Book Awards in 2006.

Next came An Inmate's Daughter, by Jan Walker and Danny's Dragon by Janet Muirhead Hill, both middle-grade novels that deal with critical issues in a helpful and compassionate way. Then we published A Horse to Remember, by teenage author Juliana Hutchings, and The Orange Slipknot, by Jan Young in 2007. It was about this time that Janet developed a workshop on "Writing True Fiction." something that helped Raven Publishing weather the worst of the economic downturn.

Since then, Hill has written and published her trilogy of twins, three middle grade novels. It began with Kyleah's Tree in 2008, a finalist for two prestigious awards. It confronts the issue of self-esteem and the beauty myth, abandonment, foster care, and the dangers involved in running away from home. It wasn't until late 2011 that its companion novel, Kendall's Storm, a Moonbeam Award winner was released in print.  In 2012 Raven published the final book of the series, Kendall and Kyleah in which the twins, separated at a young age, finally meet and confront more challenges together.
2011 and 2012 saw many exciting advances. Absaroka, From War and Wyoming, the audio edition of Joan Bochmann's novel, was published. Florence Ore's poignant and beautifully written  memoir, The Road Between, was published as were two books, Ride the Jawbone and Election Day by retired rancher, lawyer, and state senator, Jim Moore. Raven also published Marcia Melton's The Boarding House, in 2012.All of these excellent authors are a great and much appreciated gift to Raven Publishing.

in 2010 we created "Nesting Tree Books" an imprint to accomodate the writing of two juvenile authors, Sasha Thomas and Kaden Weber.

Raven continues to increase in books, authors, and staff. It is exciting to see that 2013 promises to be another year of "giving wings to great books".

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My sister, my friend

Here I am, sitting in the Longmont, CO hospital, while my sister sleeps.  Joan Bochmann, bearing up under yet another assault on her body, keeps on demonstrating her faith, courage, and grace as  we await the results of tests to define the extent and seriousness of a blockage (another growing tumor?) in her GI track. She endures the pain and discomfort, confusion and debilitation that her illness slams brings with dignity—and expressed concern for those of her family and friends that surround her.

Joan is not only my sister, but my lifelong hero and role model. She was seven when I was born. It's easy to love a baby, and she did, but she has also loved me unconditionally ever since. She has taught me so much by example, by listening, sharing, and by just being the honorable person she is—never judging or condemning me, no matter what choices I made in my life.

She instilled in me, among other things, a love for books, stories, words, and writing. I remember some of the novels she read to me, beginning when I was too young to read for myself. Ralph Moody, Felix Salten, Mary Mapes Dodge (Hans Brinker and the Golden Skates) Dean Marshal (The Silver Robin). She introduced me to books about Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, Gene Stratton Porter's The Girl of the Limberlost, Freckles, and others. There were other books of which I remember small details but, don't know the title or author.

I'm so glad we didn't have TV when I was little. We never would have spent the hours in story-telling games, if we had. Joan led us, my brother, Duane, and I in taking turns making up stories for each other. Joan's were always the best, the longest, and most exciting. The ones I remember involved horses that were not only extraordinarily beautiful, but so smart and intuitive that they saved their riders from howling blizzards, raging rivers, and  attacking bears or lions, and taking their riders safely home when they were hopelessly lost in a a dangerous wilderness.

For many of our adult years, marriages and circumstances put miles between us,physically, but nothing could dim the love and admiration I have for her. In recent years, our love for books and writing have again drawn us together. Although I've written a greater number of books than she has, I believe she is the better writer. Her book, Absaroka, is amazing, and her several essays, short stories, and poetry, even the little exercises we do together and the word games we play, show her talent. She has three books started, which beg to be continued because they are of such human interest. Until she has the strength to do it on her own, we can perhaps work together to develop them more fully.

Why do I want to help her write these books? Why am I glad that she is giftng me the file drawer full of stories and book beginnings that she has written over the years. Not just so that I can keep Joan close to me in whatever is left of my life, but so I can share he beauty and wisdom through her writing with the world.

Joan, my light and joy, my peace and comfort, my sister and friend, my inspiration and motivation for writing and writing well. And for living well. You are still my hero.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"What If?"—A Most Useful Writing Tool

Occasionally, the characters that lead the stories I write come to a halt, peering in every direction, confounded. Or they stand still, staring blankly into space, unable to move—and I experience the dreaded writers' block. My muse has abandoned me. But, rather than sitting and wracking my empty brain for something to write, I know what to do.

The remedy for my ailment is to draw a tool from my bag of writing tricks and put it to use. I call that tool my what-if list. I've just come to a standstill that threatens to turn into a writer's block in my current novel, "Fugitives on Planet Eden" (working title). Instead of turning away, I pick up pen and paper to write in longhand, as fast as I can, listing all the "what-if" scenarios I can think of to get my characters moving again.

The "what ifs" can be as outrageous or as mundane as my mind can conceive them. I keep the pen moving, writing everything I think of. When I run out of spontaneous ideas, I evaluate the list and choose one—or two or three or four—of the scenarios that my brainstorming suggested.

This is exactly what I did just now, and voila! I'm back in business. Not only do I see the path my characters will take and the situations they must confront in chapter 24, I also know what is likely to happen in two or three subsequent chapters.

I may even be looking at a sequel or two. And that's okay. It's happened to me before, giving me a six book series, Miranda and Starlight, and the trilogy of twins about Kendall and Kyleah Ralston. (Kendall's Storm and Kyleah's Tree)

Yep, I predict that David and Lletia (my protagonists)—and their possible offspring—will confront many more obstacles, dilemmas, and dangers on Planet Eden. But, we'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daily " tudu"(to do) list

I love it when I hear rhymes in my head. Sometimes I write them down. This one has become my daily to-do list. Let me explain how it works—at least how I am applying it today.

Schedule for each day:

Something new, something old,
Something quiet, something bold
Something selfish, something kind,
Something strengthening the mind.

Something new: write a portion of my new novel first thing every morning.

Something old: edit and rewrite one of the two novels I have finished but need to prepare for publication.

Something quiet: reflect and listen to my thoughts and my subconscious mind (meditation or at least rumination.)

Something bold: Promote Raven Publishing titles! Put my company and my products out there for the world to see. (Marketing seems frighteningly overwhelming, so for me to venture forth in this endeavor is bold.)

Something selfish: It seems as if almost everything I do is selfish, for I love my job, my life, and all the people in it. I'll just list three specific things I do for myself each day. 1) I soak in a warm bath in the beautiful, spacious, and well-lit bathroom my husband designed. It is here that many of my ideas, thoughts, and stories are born. (2) Some days—and I strive to make it every day—I enjoy hikes in the nearby hills or walks in the country side. Not only is this good for my health, it stimulates my mind as well. 3) I go to bed early each night so I can read another novelist's story, as much as I can each night, before falling asleep.

Something kind: These are usually just little things, a kind word, a comforting hug to a grandchild, a sympathetic ear, and time spent looking after the little ones when parents need a break or have to work.

Something strengthening the mind: There is always so much to learn and I enjoy learning. I research facts to support ideas that come up in my stories and I learn a lot from just that. Also, I read and study to improve the skills I must use everyday. Right now, that is mostly focused on areas of marketing and promotion.

With a lot going on in my life, organization—something that does not come easily for me—is a must. This little ditty helps me plan my days.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A planned schedule is important, a daily writing habit, essential.

The more I have to do and the more varied the projects demanding my attention become, the more I realize the importance of a plan of action. Being a morning person, I reserve the earliest morning hours of each day for creative writing time. Or, at least that is the plan. However when other duties are on my mind, it's easy to skip the writing, "just for today," and jump right into the marketing or design or editing or whatever it is on my mind that "must" be done right now.

I have learned, though, that skipping my morning writing wastes time, because the longer I am away from my book, the longer it takes me to get back into it. I have to go back and reread what I've already written. If I've missed a day, it may not take a few pages of rereading to get my mind—and muse—back into it. If I've missed two or three days, it will take longer. If I've missed weeks or months, I will have to reread from the beginning, or keep going back as I write to check on what I've already said or haven't said.

So, my renewed resolution is to write EVERY DAY. Even if it's only a few minutes to a half-hour, it will keep me in touch with my characters and their place in the plot. I find it's best if it's two or three hours, but that isn't always possible. Not having a big block of time, does not mean that I cannot write at all. Making writing my first activity of the day is very important to me. If I don't write then, the chances are slim that I will get to it at all.

Only after I've finished writing, should I move on to other activities. Then I must, to the best of my ability, keep to a schedule that will get it all in. (More on a daily schedule tomorrow)