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Posts Tagged ‘Lord of the Rings’

dianna sanchez Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Dianna Sanchez. Dianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop, frequent participant in Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, the Author’s Guild, Broad Universe, and New England Speculative Writers, and former editor at New Myths magazine. Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from New Mexico, she now lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

Dianna has published one novel, A Witch’s Kitchen (Dreaming Robot Press, September 2016), and the sequel, A Pixie’s Promise (September 2018). Her short fiction appears in the 2017 and 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guides.

sanchez book Dianna Sanchez’s latest book, A Pixie’s Promise, is a fun middle grade read (ages 8 – 12). A quick summary for my readers: Petunia’s tired of being overlooked just because she’s six inches tall. She gets lost at home among her gazillion brothers, sisters, and cousins, and her own parents don’t remember her name. When her best friend, Millie, offers a vacation at her house, Petunia jumps at the chance. Cooking for Millie’s witch of a mother and babysitting a tree should be easy, right? But when an epidemic of spickle pox hits the Enchanted Forest, and Millie’s mother comes down with a mysterious illness, Petunia must pitch in to brew cures as quickly as she can, even if that means using up all her pixie dust. It’s a good thing she has friends to help.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, A Pixie’s Promise?
The protagonist, Petunia, was a supporting character in my first novel, A Witch’s Kitchen, and I really wanted to spend more time exploring her character and giving her the spotlight she so desperately craves. Petunia’s a six-inch-tall pixie from a large family with twelve or so siblings and an exponential number of cousins. I was inspired by my own large extended family and my abuela, who can never keep all our names straight. Petunia feels lost and overlooked, both within her family and in the culture of the Enchanted Forest where she lives, and she’s always trying to find ways to gain attention. She gets into fights and tells really bad jokes, but she’s also fiercely loyal and deeply determined to succeed.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
That’s a terrible question! That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite! Even though Petunia is the focus of this book, I still have a soft spot for Millie, the protagonist of A Witch’s Kitchen, and a deep fondness for Millie’s half-brother, Max. I love pushing the boundaries on Millie’s prickly mother, Bogdana, and I really enjoyed playing with their house ghost, Horace. I even love my villain, Cretacia! That’s one of the reasons why I choose a different protagonist for each book. Sagara, a math-loving elf, will be the protagonist of book three, An Elf’s Equations, and Max will star in book four.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
I’m indie-published by Dreaming Robot Press, an awesome little publisher that specializes in science fiction and fantasy for middle grade readers. I love the flexibility of working with a small press. They allowed me to design the cover for my first novel and used a sketch by my then-ten-year-old daughter as the basis for the cover of A Pixie’s Promise. They Kickstart each novel and anthology they publish, which is a lot of fun and a great way to connect with my readers. The disadvantage, of course, is that I have to fight to have my book carried in bookstores and rely heavily on social media to promote my books, which eats into my writing time.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I’m a hybrid, actually. I usually start with a basic plot outline and a well-fixed beginning and ending. Then, as I write, the story begins to change and grow organically. I have a bad tendency to kitchen sink my novels, throwing in ideas as they occur to me. That leads me to a lengthy revision process, when I have to significantly prune and reshape my work. I suppose you could call this a sculptor’s process. I start with a wire frame, spend my first draft throwing clay at it, and then carve and smooth and refine until I have the final manuscript.

What was your favorite book as a child?
That’s almost as bad as asking which character is my favorite! I devoured books as a child and worked my way alphabetically through the SFF section of my local library. The books that I came back to over and over were Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders and Harper Hall series, and a little-known book called Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle. I think what drew me to these particular books was the common themes of determination and personal transformation. Schmendrick perseveres and finds his magic. Frodo and Sam persevere all the way to Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Lessa goes from downtrodden scullery maid to leader of a weyr of dragonriders. Maris, the protagonist of Windhaven, changes all the rules of succession so that she can become a flyer. This last, in particular, inspired me to push my way out of the various boxes society tries to place me in. There were very few women (about 25% my freshman year) and even fewer Hispanic women at MIT, but I refused to let those labels define me or prevent me from succeeding.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m working on An Elf’s Equations, which is proving to be quite tricky. Originally, it was the second half of A Pixie’s Promise, but my publisher cried foul when I turned it in to them because there was entirely too much packed into one novel, and Sagara had largely taken over that second half even though Petunia was the protagonist. I’m now revising with Sagara as the viewpoint character, which has been slow going because I hadn’t done any of my usual character arc workup. All I knew was that she loved math and was something of a misfit among the elves because of it. But a lot of deep work on Sagara plus a very inspiring trip to Sweden and Finland have got me chugging along again.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Daniel José Older has a wonderful essay refuting the standard advice that you must write every day. Certainly, that would be lovely, but like most people who don’t live in a monastery or on a desert island, I have a complicated life, and much of my time is devoted to my family. I can’t have a set work schedule because I never know from day to day whether someone will be home sick or has a doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointment or desperately needs silk roses for a school project, or the car gets sideswiped and needs repair, or both heating valves in our house break… all the tiny emergencies of daily life that I must cope with. Thanks to Older, I refuse to feel guilty for the days when I get no writing done, and this makes me far less anxious and more able to work when I do find the time.

Want to learn more about Dianna Sanchez and A Pixie’s Promise? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of A Pixie’s Promise.

Thanks to author Dianna Sanchez for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Carole McDonnell on January 1, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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KathrynSullivan pic Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Kathryn Sullivan. Kathryn writes young adult science fiction and fantasy. Her Doctor Who-related works include the essay, “The Fanzine Factor,” in the Hugo winning Chicks Dig Time Lords and essays in Children of Time: Companions of Doctor Who and Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Doctor Who Stories By 160 Writers. She also has reviews in the Star Trek-related Outside In Boldly Goes and Outside In Makes It So. She is owned by a large cockatoo, who graciously allows her to write about other animals, as well as birdlike aliens. Kathryn lives in Winona, Minnesota, where the river bluffs along the Mississippi River double as cliffs on alien planets or the deep mysterious forests in a magical world.

She also mentioned, she couldn’t find enough stories with girls as the main characters when she was growing up, so now she writes stories where girls are the explorers, the wizards, and the ones who solve problems and rescue people.

kathryn sullivan book Kathryn’s latest book, Agents, Adepts & Apprentices, is an imaginative read for those who love short stories. A quick summary for my readers:  From EPPIE Award winner Kathryn Sullivan come stories of magic and off-world adventure sure to appeal to readers of all ages. Here are tales of wizards training apprentices and interstellar operatives protecting “primitive” worlds. How does one university cope with a student from very far away, and where do some wizards get their supplies? And what’s the deal with the cat whiskers?

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Agents, Adepts & Apprentices?
Several of the short stories in Agents, Adepts & Apprentices were inspired by things in the real world. “The Demons’ Storeroom” resulted after I was at a garage sale and wondered how a wizard might view the items there. “Transfer Student” was written while I was in college in the days before ADA and was my take on how an alien might try to maneuver around my campus. “Goodbye, Jennie!” was inspired by a newspaper article about a meteor shower.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
I think Salanoa, the wizard on the cover of the book. There’s a few short stories with her as a little girl (“Horsefeathers” and “Curses, Foiled Again”) when she’s learning to become a wizard, and a brief appearance by her as an adult in another story. She’s very determined, very smart and a good teacher. She appears again in my two YA fantasy books.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
Zumaya Publications is a small press that publishes both in trade paperback and in electronic formats. The advantages to publishing with a small press is that you have input to the cover art—and Zumaya found a wonderful artist who produced a gorgeous cover. Zumaya handled getting the book out in several electronic formats. Small presses are much more savvy about ebooks, which means the prices for those are much more reasonable than those books with the big traditional publishers. Royalty rates with small press are much better than with the big traditional publishers. The disadvantage is that small press books don’t have the distribution of the big traditional publishers.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
With the short stories in this collection, I was definitely a pantser. Some of those stories just started off with a character or a scene and went from there.

What was your favorite book as a child?
I found my dad’s science fiction collection at an early age, and the books that stuck with me were James Schmitz’s Agent of Vega, James White’s Sector General series, and a series that my dad borrowed from a friend and handed to me: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Lord of the Rings was much richer than the Edgar Rice Burroughs series I had read in my dad’s collection. Sector General, being a series set around an intergalactic hospital, had aliens as different as large caterpillars and multi-tentacled creatures working together with humans. Agent of Vega had an intergalactic agency which had women as main characters (which was not usual back then). I still see the influence of those books in my short story collection.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a middle grade/YA book set on a colony planet where the main character wants to be an explorer like her grandmother, who discovered the planet.

Want to learn more about Kathryn Sullivan and Agents, Adepts & Apprentices? Check out her :  Website and Facebook page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Agents, Adepts & Apprentices from Amazon or Zumaya.

Thanks to author Kathryn Sullivan for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Jennifer R. Povey on December 11. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Thanks to author Gail Z. Martin for stopping by and sharing her views on the Young Adult market. Enjoy!

0061-eWomenNetwork The View from Outside the YA Fence by Gail Z. Martin

At book signings, I frequently am asked, “What age reader is your book right for?”

That’s a hard one. It depends on the reader. So I ask, “What age is the reader you have in mind?”

Sometimes, the person is concerned that my books might be too adult for a teen or tween. Sometimes, they’re concerned that my books might be too juvenile for an adult.

How do I answer? It depends.

I wrote my Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings Cycle series for adults, as I did with my new book, Ice Forged. But frankly, although my mother lived to be 89 years old, I would never have suggested that she read them. They’d have given her nightmares, and she would have feared for the welfare of my soul. They were too dark for her.

On the other hand, I’ve got three teenage children. Each of them was ready for different stuff at different ages. My oldest daughter had a teacher who decreed, in eighth grade, that she could only read college-level books for class credit. While that might have been great to challenge her vocabulary, the teacher seemed to have forgotten that many of those college-level books dealt with themes and world views that were over the head of even a very precocious 13 year-old. We spent that year having a number of “teachable moments”, and still found that there is no way to fully impart understanding to someone who just hasn’t lived long enough to understand certain perspectives. (That teacher remains on my “naughty” list for sheer cluelessness.)

My middle daughter listened in on all those teachable moments, and picked different books that led to different long car discussions. My son wasn’t interested in reading anything too edgy, although we’ve had those “teachable moment” discussions on video games.

As I head back into stores with Ice Forged, a novel where the adventure begins when the world ends, I’m sure I’ll get more people asking, “Who did you write this for?”

So here’s my personal set of questions that I ask of parents when deciding whether or not my books are right for their teen or tween:

–Has he/she read fantasy books with some detailed battles, scary elements and character deaths? (Like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter?)

–Do they like supernatural elements?

–Are they comfortable with more mature themes like death and betrayal?

–Are they OK with some cursing? (Swear words and vulgarities appropriate to the language style of particular characters.)

Gail Z Martin Ice Forged As I said in the beginning, I wrote my books for adults, and that’s the target market. At the same time, I’ve picked up readers age 13 and up who had the maturity and the reading experience to enjoy the books. I get letters from readers of all ages who loved the books and the characters. Did my youngest readers pick up on everything I put in the books? Maybe not (but then again, there were probably some adult readers who missed things, too). What matters is that they had a good roller coaster ride of an experience and hopefully left still hungry for more of the genre.

Likewise, well-written YA books rightfully attract large adult readers because they have depth and yet retain their sense of wonder. I’m a big fan of Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson books and other books that I read right along with my kids and loved. And I’ve also questioned and challenged the unrelenting darkness of some YA (and adult) books, because I don’t believe that being “real” is the same as being depressed, cynical and bitter.

So that’s my two-cents. Personally, I think that categories like “YA” are arbitrary designations used mostly to help booksellers and libraries determine where to shelve books. I know that when I was a teen, long before the “YA” designation, I was chomping through some books that would have turned my mom’s hair white had she but known. At the same time, there were a few books I picked up and put back down again because I found them to be too much. (I’ll admit that it was probably a mistake to read Deliverance when I was 10.)

Ultimately, we find those boundaries for ourselves. We delight in sneaking a peek at the “forbidden” books that mom thinks are too much for us (but that we’re actually ready for), and hate some of the books our teachers think are developmental but are just plain despondent. But that’s part of the joy of reading, as we discover uncharted territory and find what speaks to us.

So don’t get too tangled up with categories. Read the books that speak to you, regardless of genre. Don’t worry what other people think about what someone “your age” should be reading. Read what you love, and don’t let people pressure you into reading books that detract from your love of reading. At the same time, stretch yourself occasionally to read something uncomfortable, even upsetting, if the story is worthwhile. A good book can change your life.

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013. Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books). For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit http://www.AscendantKingdoms.com  Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin  and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here: http://a.pgtb.me/JvGzTt

Thanks again to Gail Z. Martin. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and another new feature coming in February. Have a magical day! – Vonnie

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IMG_2217 I’m back after journeying through a small part of Alaska, British Columbia, and the Canadian Rockies. Spectacular is the only word I can use for the mountains towering above the roads and waterways of this beautiful part of North America. Snow-covered, glacier-topped, or just sheer cliffs of rock – the mountains were inspirational.

And journey is the most appropriate word for this trip. The untamed nature of the landscape, the chill of icebergs and glaciers, the smell of the dense forest, and the wild animals who populated this wilderness area made these past 2 and 1/2 weeks a journey of distance and spirit.

I’ve always been a fan of journey stories where the reader follows the main character as he or she ventures down paths, across oceans, or over mountains on a quest for treasure, knowledge, powers…  – or maybe to rescue a captured friend. So much so, that I wrote my own journey story, Enchanted Skean – Book I of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir.

Finding a publisher for this Young Adult novel became another sort of journey with lots of twists and turns including: finding an agent only to have the agency close, not being able to find another agent, submitting the manuscript myself to publishers, being told twice that it was between my YA novel and another – only to come in 2nd, and finally, to finding a small publisher interested in publishing the book in both print and eBook formats.

In celebration of the forthcoming publication of Enchanted Skean, I’ll be including a bit of trivia from the works of JRR Tolkien (a master of journey stories) in my blogs starting today. So here goes:

1- Where must the One Ring be destroyed? Okay, that’s easy for most of my readers. Here’s another one. 2- What was the name of the mountain range The Fellowship tried to cross unsuccessfully, and ended up traveling through the Mines of Moria instead? Still too easy for some of you. For The Lord of the Rings savvy here’s the last trivia question. 3- What was the name of the mountain The Fellowship was climbing when snow and avalanches made them turn round and head for the Moria Gate?

I encourage each of you to begin a journey. It can be traveling to a new place, reading a book that takes you to other worlds, or just putting one foot before the other on your life journey.

Answers to the Tolkien trivia:

1- Mount Doom (also known as Orodruin or Mountain of Fire).

2- The Misty Mountains.

3- “The narrow path now wound under a sheer wall of cliffs* to the left, above which the grim flanks of Caradhras towered up invisible in the gloom… They heard eerie noises in the darkness round them. It may have been only a trick of the wind in the cracks and gullies of the rocky wall, but the sounds were those of shrill cries, and wild howls of laughter. Stones began to fall from the mountain-side, whistling over their heads, or crashing on the path beside them…before long the snow was falling fast, filling all the air…” [The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter III: The Ring Goes South]

* As a nod to Tolkien, I have a range of mountains called The Sheercliffs in Enchanted Skean.

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