A Cool Breeze

The weather’s going to change, right? We’re closing in on autumn but the humidity of summer is clinging to ninety-degree temperatures like it’s still August in Mobile, Alabama. Here’s something to cool you down: Christmas.

If you subscribe to my monthly newsletter (you don’t? Remedy that right now by signing up here), you may have heard that I wrote two short stories this summer for submissions to a couple different anthologies. I’m happy to report that “Courtship and Courage” has been accepted into Bienvenue Press’s Hometown Heroes Charity Christmas anthology to benefit America’s Cajun Navy. Release dates/buying options will be forthcoming.

If you haven’t yet, now is a great time to read Fortitude. “Courtship and Courage” begins the December after the book ends. While written as a novel for teens, it has proven to be a coming-of-age story that readers enjoy into adulthood. Fortitude holds rank as a “Best Books” for kids (grades 5th-10th) from Grateful American Foundation with only twenty-two other historical novels and non-fiction titles. You can read it free in Kindle Unlimited, purchase the ebook for $1.99, or buy a paperback through your favorite bookseller.

And for those who have read it and always wanted a bit more about Claire O’Farrell, here’s the next stepping stone. Yes, that means you haven’t seen the last of her. Stay tuned for more.

Talking Books in Online Readers Groups

It’s been a busy summer around here but there’s always time to talk books. I now have two active “Readers Groups” on Facebook. The first one I started several months ago: Young at Heart MG-YA Readers Group. This is the place to be if you enjoy coming-of-age stories traditionally marketed for readers 8-18. (My personal favorites tend to be the ones labeled 10-14 or simply 10+.) It’s a great group for those who love middle grade and young adult literature as well as teachers and parents looking for recommendations or those who like to reminisce about their favorite books from childhood.
The second group is new as of last week. I officially kicked it off July eighth to coincide with the six-months-until-release of Perilous Confessions, book one of The Possession Chronicles. (It will be here before we know it!) Possessed: Timeless Gothic Reads covers Gothic books from British classics like The Castle Otranto and Jane Eyre to the American standards like House of the Seven Gables and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to the twentieth century offerings from author like Victoria Holt and Dorothy Eden as well as modern Gothics. Classic Gothics, Southern Gothic, Gothic Romance, Gothic family sagas, and more are open for discussion and recommendation. The group is still growing, but we’ve already had some great conversations so far about Southern Gothic literature from middle grade to adult books.

I invite you to join one or both if they fit your reading style. While you’re there, invite a friend too. There is room for all in these virtual discussions.

Literary Reflections

Last Saturday I gave my “Kid Lit 101” presentation to a group of writers in Gulfport, Mississippi. While what is categorized as (upper) middle grade is my first literary love, the past few years I’ve been focusing the majority of my reading time on Gothic—classic Gothic, Southern Gothic, Gothic Romance, etc.—to be sure I’m doing the category justice with my own stories.

Revisiting the books I touch on in the presentation (which are everything from baby books to young adult novels) was like visiting old friends. I haven’t given the presentation in about two years, much less dove so deep into conversation about my favorite coming-of-age genre, so it was refreshing. I remembered why I started writing—awesome books like these. And rereading Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson this weekend helped solidify that.

The past few days I’ve forced a separation for myself from The Possession Chronicles. While I’ve been writing and editing the eight books in the series almost non-stop for over two and a half years, I still love everything about it. I’m not sick of the characters or the story lines. I could happily move to round ten of edits on book six, or any other draft, but I know I need to distance myself from this epic project before I tackle professional edits for book one, Perilous Confessions (releasing January 8, 2019.)

So in the meantime, I’ll be exploring the scary world of the MG/YA manuscripts I wrote as a teenager. Maybe I’ll find a nugget of hope within one of the stories that with major resuscitation (thanks to decades of acquired experience) would be able to bring one of them to life. If not, at least I’ll be able to see how far I’ve come as a writer.

What helps you rediscover your literary roots?

Kid Lit 101

As many of you know, my first passion in the book word is middle grade literature. Though a late reader, I began devouring novels like The Babysitters-Club Series as they were published and ghost stories by Betty Ren Wright in fourth grade, but by sixth grade I was ready for more. I fell in love with the power of words in my middle school library when I found Katherine Paterson and Richard Peck. Bridge to Terabithia was the first book to make me cry and Ghosts I Have Been the first to engage me with history through the guise of my fascination with the Titanic and Gothic-feels. From there I dove into the world of teen books, eagerly awaiting the newest from authors like Christopher Pike on my trips to the bookstore in the mall.

By the time I was fourteen, I was writing my own stories and following the marketplace. I continued to read and collected these authors and never gave them up, even as I aged out of the genres. When I was twenty and landed my dream job at a Books-A-Million, I let them know I wanted the kids’ section of the store. It took a few months, but when the position opened, I embraced the colorful area from baby books to young adult reads. It took several weeks, but I physically handled every book in that corner of the store as I organized and then shelved all the new shipments during the time I was employed there. Most often when someone was looking for a book in one of my categories I could say what shelf it was on without looking. I knew the books, the authors. It was my home away from home.

All this, plus more decades of reading and following the marketplace, and five years serving as Local Liaison for my region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, has helped shape my knowledge of the book world as it relates to children’s literature. I’ve wrapped my years of experience and passion into a tidy presentation titled “Kid Lit 101”, which I’ve been blessed to share at several events, including multiple writers groups and a literary festival over the past few years. This Saturday, June 23, 2018, I’ll present this fast-moving, informative presentation in Gulfport, Mississippi, to Gulf Coast Writers Association at 11am at Gulfport Galleria of Fine Art. Join me if you can.

What are you literary passions?