May 1, 2014

Author Interview: Eileen Meyer

Posted in author, books, interview, poetry, reading, school visits, writing at 3:25 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

eileen

Today I’m welcoming Eileen Meyer to my series of author interviews. Eileen is the author of the recently released picture book Ballpark, for ages 4 to 8.

Q: Can you tell us about your new book?

eileen ballpark coverA: Thank you for inviting me to take part in your author interviews, Elizabeth. I’m thrilled to see this sweet story become a picture book. Written in rhyme, Ballpark brings to life all the sights and sounds of the big game. A boy and his grandpa are heading to their first big league baseball game together. They’ll cheer on their team, keep an eye out for fly balls, eat some peanuts, and hopefully watch their team win the game! Illustrator Carlynn Whitt’s adorable characters showcase all the fun and action of a day at the ballpark. The book celebrates the simple joy of spending a day together.

Q: How long did it take from story idea until the book was published?

A: This manuscript had a lengthy journey to become a published picture book. In its original form, it was a story about the two main characters and also focused on our five senses, incorporating the experience at the ballpark in what we see, hear, taste, touch and smell. After writing it, in 2008 I had submitted the story to a number of publishing houses with no success.

Then I attended the Illinois Prairie Writer’s Day Conference in November, 2010. There I heard a Marshall Cavendish editor express an interest in receiving sports-related picture book submissions – so I made a note to send the editor my manuscript, Ballpark.

Fast forward to Fall 2011. I received an email from the editor. The editorial team had reviewed my manuscript and they were interested in Ballpark, but the story would need some revisions. The editor wanted to play up the experience between the grandfather and grandson and eliminate the sensory focus. I was excited to revise the manuscript with that in mind. In fact, it was a nice challenge. It certainly helped that the fall baseball playoffs were underway and I sensed baseball fever all around.

The editor accepted my revised manuscript and offered me a contract in late 2011 for a spot on their spring 2014 list. Then, the publishing house experienced some corporate changes – Marshall Cavendish merged with Amazon Children’s Publishing, and some of the final paperwork took a bit longer. All told – I wrote the original manuscript in 2008 and six years later, I’m delighted to hold this colorful and beautiful picture book in my hands!

Q: Your book Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals will be coming out in spring of 2015. Can you tell us a little about this book?

A: I’m very excited about this new picture book; this bedtime story presents the varied sleep habits of 14 different animals. Each animal’s sleep habit is introduced with a short poem, followed by a brief factual paragraph, and all are linked with the story thread of a child settling in for the night and wishing “sweet dreams” to each animal.

Q: Your poetry was included in the poetry collection And the Crowd Goes Wild. What do you find the most fun and the most difficult about writing poetry for children?

A: I love writing poetry. I think the challenge of writing poetry (for me, at least) is the mental work I do before I sit down to write. I like to think about what I’m trying to achieve with the piece and find my way “in” – will the poem be humorous, should there be a punch line or a twist at the end, or is it lyrical in style, more informative, etc. Once I have an idea of where I would like to go with the poem, I like the creative challenge of achieving that goal and creating my best work.

Cathy Cronin, Michelle Schaub, Heidi Roemer, Pat Cooley and Eileen Meyer

Cathy Cronin, Michelle Schaub, Heidi Roemer, Pat Cooley and Eileen Meyer

One very rewarding aspect of my inclusion in the anthology And the Crowd Goes Wild has been the opportunity to continue to work with a number of Illinois poets. A few of us have created a wonderful sports poetry elementary school program and we’ve taken our show on the road to a number of schools this past year. Heidi Roemer, co-editor of the book, helped organize all of us and our team includes Michelle Schaub, Pat Cooley, Cathy Cronin, Patty Toht, and me. We’ve had loads of fun working with K-5th graders, presenting both auditorium programs and grade-level break-out sessions. We all wear our favorite sports jerseys, act out a number of skits for the students, and talk about one of our favorite topics – poetry!

Q: What is your writing process?

A: To boil it down to the most basic steps: I like to think about my project for quite a while and brainstorm ideas, then of course I write an awful first draft, revise – revise – revise, then polish the final draft. If it’s a nonfiction piece, of course there is a heavy research component in the early stages, and that is something I truly enjoy.

Q: To write for children, do you think an author needs to have regular interaction with children? How does that work for you?

eileen schoolA: Yes – our young readers are such a key component to everything we do as we write books for their listening and reading enjoyment. My sons are in high school and college, so they’ve graduated well beyond the scope of what I write for young readers and listeners. I make a point of spending a lot of time with young children during my school and library programs. I enjoy the time together and young kids always make me laugh with their great comments! Most of all, I think you have to be young at heart. I love writing days when I can channel what a 6-year-old wants to read in one of my books. It’s a great day to spend time thinking like a 6-year-old!

Q: Enough about writing—tell us about yourself.

A: Thanks, Elizabeth. On the personal side, I’m a mom who is working herself out of a job, which is what we’re supposed to do! I have three sons – one is a sophomore in college, and I have twin sons who are seniors in high school about to graduate. We’re a big sports family –I’ve watched my sons play soccer since they were very young so I really enjoy going to their games. Next year I plan to travel quite a bit to watch their games at their various colleges. When I’m home, I enjoy spending time with my husband and sons. I walk outdoors each morning to start my day and it’s also a good time to do some thinking about projects; I’m also a devoted reader of books and newspapers, and I enjoy traveling, cooking and watching sports. I came to writing children’s books later in life; in college I studied business and then worked for a dozen years with software products and marketing programs. It’s been a rewarding journey.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring children’s writers?

A: Of course, join SCBWI- The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. And get involved in your state chapter – attend programs, serve as a volunteer, join a critique group and get to know the community of writers in your state. Not only will you learn a great deal, but you’ll also enjoy getting to know other writers and make close friends. Writing can be a lonely business, so it’s wonderful to connect with other kindred spirits! I’m very close to a number of friends in my writing groups (two groups – one for all genres, one specifically for poetry) and they are very important to me.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Q: Pizza or salad?

A: I love salads, but can’t resist cheese pizza! So both.

Q: Ocean or mountain?

A: I love hearing the sound of the ocean. It’s always a thrill to vacation near the water

Q: Tree house or doll house?

A: Tree house – I’m a mom of all boys.

Q: Violin or piano?

A: Piano.

Q: Comic story or learn-something story?

A: Learn-something story. I love to research interesting topics and weave the information into my books.

Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder or Hermione Granger?

A: Can’t decide – a tie. I read both series aloud to my kids when they were young, and they enjoyed both immensely.

For more information about Eileen, visit her website: www.eileenmeyerbooks.com

To purchase Ballpark, visit: http://goo.gl/WAkVzG

You can also like her on Facebook: Eileen Meyer, Children’s Author

 

April 23, 2014

World Book Night

Posted in books, reading, World Book Night at 8:48 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

April 23rd is William Shakespeare’s birthday, the UNESCO International Day of the Book, the day of Miguel de Cervantes’ death and World Book Night.

To celebrate, volunteers all over the world are offering free books to reluctant readers, encouraging people to read more.  I was fortunate to be chosen as a volunteer this year.

The book I distributed was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s memoir Wait Till Next Year, a story of baseball, family, and growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s.

Wishing I'd taken a better picture of the book before giving them all away.

Wishing I’d taken a better picture of the book before giving them all away.

The Stevens Point YMCA seemed like a good place to find a diverse group of people who might not be regular readers.

ymca

I was a little nervous about asking people if they liked to read, and then telling them if they did they couldn’t have a free book.  It seemed tricky to me, so mostly I offered the books to everyone who walked by. I explained the purpose of World Book Night and, to my surprise, several people who loved to read gave me the book back and told me to find someone else; they also wanted to spread the love of reading to non-readers.

book giving

I hope the people who got books today, from me and from others around the world, give reading a chance. I am crazy happy to have been a part of World Book Night 2014.

If you would like to apply to be a volunteer next year, to donate to the cause, or just want more information about World Book Night, visit World Book Night US or World Book Night UK and Ireland.

My impression is that World Book Night/World Book Day was started in Spain. The Spanish website is  La Noche de los Libros (I think. I don’t speak Spanish, so can’t read much of the site.)

If you know of any other countries participating and have their websites, please post in the comments below.

Happy Reading!

 

 

April 11, 2014

MBPI: Sensing and Intuition AND Judging and Perceiving

Posted in Myers-Briggs, personality, relationships, writing at 7:44 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

 

I think about these last two categories less in writing my characters and less in my own relationships. I think this is probably because I am mild in each category. I can easily understand “both sides.”

Sensing and Intuiting

Do you pay attention to physical reality, understanding the world through your five senses? If so, you are “Sensing.” If you pay more attention to the impressions that the world makes on you, seeing patterns and relationships between things, then you are “intuiting”.

Sensing people are often pragmatic, paying attention to the facts before them and not always seeing the big picture or the possibilities being offered.

Intuiting people can often “read between the lines.” They see the big picture and aren’t always aware of the small things that form that picture.

Although I tested as an “S” I think I’m almost right at the middle point on this continuum. I am able to operate in each “zone” quiet easily.

Judging and Perceiving

The Judging/Perceiving trait has to do with how people interact with the outside world.

Are you a planner? Do you think about what you want to happen and organize your life in a way to achieve those things? If plans change is it disconcerting? Does it take you a while to adapt to a new plan? Or, are you spontaneous? Ready to do whatever, whenever, with whomever? Do you not need to know what the plan is, and just as soon not have a plan?

People who like to plan also like to have things decided. They are Judging. People who don’t necessarily want to plan things out but prefer to wait and see are Perceiving. They are comfortable waiting for more information before making decisions.

Don’t confuse these traits with being organized. Both types can be organized—or not.

As with all the MBPI traits, judging and perceiving form a continuum, with people nearly in the middle and some people being strongly one or the other. I have a mild Judging trait. I plan. I like to have decisions made, especially big ones. When plans change suddenly, I try to go with the flow, though I sometimes find it uncomfortable.

If I am in charge of something, I make decisions and plan every little detail. In fact, for my college classes, I start the semester with detailed lesson plans for every day I will teach. If class is canceled because of snow or illness, I’m a little thrown off. Of course, I quickly re-bound and re-plan. I find responsibility stressful, and I combat that stress by planning and making decisions.

So, when I’m not responsible for something, I try to remain that way. I can be spontaneous, accept change and lack of decision-making when someone else is in charge. I enjoy not being in charge. I don’t know if this is a judging quality or something else, but that is how I am. I don’t avoid responsibility but neither do I seek it.

In my mind, Perceiving people are more relaxed. They don’t have to plan or have decisions made. They seem to stress less than me, but maybe they just stress differently.

Knowing Myers-Briggs categories is helpful in both developing fictional characters and supporting real-life relationships. I think the key for all categories is to being understanding. People are different; we are made to be different. Don’t expect or demand others to be like you. What a boring world that would be!

I’m no expert at MBPI, so if you’d like more information on these traits, visit the Myers & Briggs Foundation.

 

March 29, 2014

MBPI: Thinking and Feeling

Posted in Myers-Briggs, personality, relationships, writing at 11:20 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Today I continue my discussion of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory as a way to develop more depth to written characters and as a way to improve your own relationships. I am no expert, so for more information consult the Myers-Briggs Foundation.

Myers-Briggs uses the terms Thinking and Feeling, which I don’t care for.  “Feelers” do, indeed, think, and “thinkers” do, indeed, feel. So, I’m calling these categories “T” and “F”

As with all Myer-Briggs categories, the T/F designation is a continuum. Some people are strong Ts, some mild Ts, some in the middle, some mild Fs and some strong Fs.

The T/F category deals with how people make decisions.

Fs take into consideration how people will be affected by the decision, what others will think about the decision. This is a major element in an F’s decision-making process, though it is not the only element. I am a strong F, which is apparent because I am constantly thinking about my family in every decision I make. What should I make for dinner? Craig will like this, but Tom won’t. Of course, other things affect my decision: what ingredients do we have at home? will I have to go to the store? do I have time to go to the store? what is the expense? etc. So, my decisions are based on many things, but what other people will think of the final decision is a big part of how I make my decision. If I work late, how will that affect everyone else? If I sleep in? Even with things that should not, on the surface, affect others, in my head I’m guessing how they will feel about it.

Ts put less emphasis on what others think. They approach decision-making in a logical, objective fashion. They don’t want to be influenced by what others think, and, in fact, consider it a poor decision-making strategy. Ts pride themselves on their objectivity. They often take a long time to make a decision, gathering all the necessary data, so that when they make a decision, it is well-thought out and correct. How their decision will affect others may be one of the data points, but it also may not. T’s are more concerned about being right than being popular. Ts are sometimes shocked by people’s responses to their decisions. Because Ts consider their decisions logical and objective, they think everyone else will see them in this way. When they make a decision that others disagree with, they cannot understand why others disagree and try to change the other’s mind. “Let’s agree to disagree” doesn’t work with a T, because they need to fix the other person’s incorrect opinion.

When an F makes a decision that is going to be unpopular, the F is prepared for that response. The F feels bad for making others unhappy with the decision, but other factors weighed heavily and the F can explain those factors. If others object a lot, the F may reconsider the decision. The F may realize that she did not guess correctly how the decision would affect others. Ts can change their mind, but usually only when the data they used to make the decision changes or is shown to be inaccurate or incomplete.

This is the only Myers-Briggs category that has a strong gender bias. Most women are Fs and most men are Ts. Because of this, society expects women to think about others and men to be objective and logical. Life is hard for female Ts and male Fs. Female Ts are seen as ruthless and uncaring, and male Fs are seen as wimpy and wishy-washy.

One way of making decisions is not better than another way. In fact, having a mix of Ts and Fs in a group will probably create a healthy and diverse approach to decision-making.

Your place on the T and F continuum is what is natural to you, similar to your place on the extroversion/introversion continuum (discussed in my last post, see below). Trying to change a T into an F or an F into a T will not work.

An F who  is forced to give up her people-based approach to decision-making because she has been convinced to do so by a T is going to feel like she isn’t sticking up for people. She is going to feel like a bad person, untrue to herself and neglectful of others.

Similarly, a T who is forced to accept decisions based on what other people need and want, not based on the logic of his/her set of data points is going to feel useless, broken, like he/she is not valued.

This is a difficult balance, especially as most women are Fs, most men are Ts, and most marriages are a mix of the two. Mild Fs and mild Ts will probably not have much trouble, but a couple who are strongly different may have trouble agreeing on important decisions.

Fs get along pretty well, as their focus is on what the other thinks. The problem here might be an inability to come to a decision.

Ts can get along well when they use the same data for decision-making. Ts who value different things will have a difficult time agreeing.

As a writer, knowing the T or F status of your characters is extremely important. Fictional characters are continually facing conflict and making decisions. The T/F status will affect how they make decisions, how they respond to others’ decisions, how they argue, etc. For realism and depth of characterization, this Myers-Briggs personality trait is one of the most important to consider.

March 23, 2014

MBPI: Extroversion and Introversion

Posted in Myers-Briggs, personality, relationships, writing at 2:09 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Before we got married, my husband and I attended some pre-marital counseling sessions that used the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBPI). After answering a lot of questions, we were each assigned a four-letter personality profile.  These profiles represented our inclinations in four different areas.  Our counselor felt that knowing these things about each other would help us avoid misunderstandings based on personality. He was right. The MBPI has helped me in my marriage, all my relationships, and my writing. People are different, and I believe diversity is what makes the human race successful and interesting. Frankly, I find it fascinating.

In the next few posts, I am going to talk about the four main designations of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. I am no expert. I will be simplifying ideas. If you want “better” information about this psychological assessment tool, I suggest visiting the Myers-Briggs Foundation.

Extrovert vs Introvert

As you probably already know, extroverts are outgoing and introverts are shy. This isn’t a black and white designation, with everyone being one or the other. Instead, think of it as a continuum. On the shy side, some people are more shy than others and the same is true for the outgoing. Some people are right in the middle.

Let’s go a step deeper into what it means to be an extrovert or introvert. It’s all about energy.

Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. They like being active, doing things. My father was an extrovert and a teacher. In retirement, he often led workshops at conferences. He’d talk about the buzz he’d get from being at a conference, talking to others, being surrounded by people. The large conference experience, for him, was positive and renewing.

His description of a conference was mindboggling to me, the introvert. Introverts get their energy from being alone. It doesn’t mean I don’t like being around other people, because I do. I go to conferences, but they are incredibly exhausting. I’ll meet people, chat, do the conference thing, then go back to my hotel room and collapse. After a quiet evening alone, I can summon the energy to go out and socialize again.

I like being alone. I like when the house is empty. I don’t put on music or the television. I like silence. For me, this is comforting and wonderful. This is how I recharge. I don’t want to be home alone all the time, but I need this sort of time if I am going to have the energy to function in the world.

My father was not as comfortable being alone. This doesn’t mean he avoided it, but when he was home alone, he would have the television on or music going. Quiet, alone time exhausted him. If he needed to re-charge, he would go to his favorite restaurant/bar. He was friends with the employees, and he loved to sit and chat with new people too. This is how he re-charged.

The extremely introverted need more alone time to re-charge than the mildly introverted. The extremely extroverted seek more social situations than the mildly extroverted.

Why is this important to a writer?

You need to know what sort of characters you are writing. Who is an introvert? Who is an extrovert? To what degree? How they respond to being left alone or being forced to socialize will add depth and authenticity to their character. Many writers are introverts, and they need to make sure their out-going characters don’t seek isolation to re-charge. That isn’t how it works.

How can knowing this help your relationships?

If you are an introvert married to an extrovert, or vice versa, you need to understand how this makes you different in terms of energy. You need to let your spouse re-charge in the appropriate way. An introvert is not trying to hurt your feelings when s/he needs to be alone. It is a matter of survival. In the same way, an extrovert is going to need to be around more than just you, the introvert. Don’t be hurt that you aren’t “enough.”

Two extroverted parents with an introverted child need not worry about how much time their child spends alone. That child has different needs than they do.

Even people of the same sort, two extroverts or two introverts, are likely to be at different points on the continuum. A mildly shy person might want to “go out” more often than the extremely shy person.

Knowing the energy/re-charging needs of people in your family won’t solve every problem, but it can help inform your discussions.

March 10, 2014

Writing Process: A Blog Hop

Posted in author, blog hop, books, interview, NaNoWriMo, reading, writing at 2:47 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Tinney Heath, author of A Thing Done, invited me to participate in this blog hop and answer four questions about my writing process.

What are you working on?  Presently, I have two projects going:

Snow White and the Queen is a middle-grade fantasy novel, offering a new twist on the traditional fairy tale. Hidden from the Queen and raised in the dwarf kingdom, Snow White leaves the kind but memory-challenged dwarfs to discover her identity.  Mischievous elves, a devoted will-o-wisp and a loggerheaded huntsman all help Snow White become what she was always destined to be.  I finished the first draft of this story in January. I’m on my third or fourth revision. I hope to be sending it out soon.

The Stepsister is a steam-punk Cinderella story narrated by Drusilla, who is so obsessed with science and her father’s death that she is oblivious to the daily doings of the rest of her family. It’s the Cinderella story, told from a new perspective, with surprising plot twists that come, in part, from the steampunk world.  I’m about half-way through the first draft.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

My fairy tales offer more in the way of character development than that found in traditional fairy tales.  When I read, I am most interested in character, and when I write it is the same.  I focus on the development of personality, which then makes the behaviors of characters both understandable and believable.  Although I follow the basic fairy tale plot, both of my stories include additional conflicts and subplots which, I hope, give the stories more depth and make them more interesting.

Why do you write what you do?

I write what I would like to read.  I love adaptations of fairy tales, so I wanted to try my own hand at that.  My favorite of these so far is Marissa Meyer‘s The Lunar Chronicles, which I recommend to everyone.  I love historical fiction too, and my first three novels are all in that genre.

How does your writing process work?

I write linearly.  First chapter, second chapter, on and on to the end.  In my head, I know the big scenes and what will happen at the end, and I write to those places.  I have both electronic files and paper notes in which I keep my tentative outline, research details, and other things that I don’t want to forget.

I work best when I have a block of two or three hours to write.  Unfortunately, as a teacher and a mother, I don’t get those blocks of time every day.  My goal is one afternoon or one morning a week.  Each semester, that is a different day, and I try to schedule and stick to that block of time. No cleaning, no errands, no appointments.  Three hours, once a week is for writing.  The rest of the week, of course, I think about the story I’m creating. Walking to work, I think.  Lying in bed, I think.  In the shower, in the pool, in the car driving my children to all their activities, I think.  When my writing time comes, I’m ready to go.

In between those blocks of time, I sometimes do revisions and small additions to what I’ve already written.  These quick-edits can be done in a shorter time period and they keep my story pretty clean.

In my once-a-week writing session, I average about 1000 words.  This isn’t much, but it adds up over time.  My adult novels each took about three years to write. My children’s stories have taken less time.

In November, I participate in NaNoWriMo, which increases my word count considerably.  I devote more evening and weekend time to writing, and spend less time cleaning, cooking, and being with my family.  Since it is only one month a year, I don’t feel as guilty.

The Blog Hop

tinneyMany thanks to Tinney Heath for tagging me. Tinney’s A Thing Done, tells the story of the  jester who became a pawn in the feud between two noble families in thirteenth century Florence. Her story is suspenseful, beautifully written, with exquisite historical detail.

I now tag Anna Belfrage and Christopher Cevasco, whose writing processes I look forward to reading about.

anna belfrageOn March 17, visit Anna Belfrage:
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing and time-consuming interests, namely British History and writing. These days, Anna spends almost as much time writing and researching as she does working, which leaves little time for other important pursuits such as cooking and baking.
Anna Belfrage is the author of The Graham Saga – so far five of the total eight books have been published. Set in seventeenth century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, The Graham Saga tell the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him.
Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.

chris cevascoOn March 31, visit Christopher Cevasco:
Christopher writes fiction inspired by history. His short stories have appeared in Black Static and the Prime Books anthologies Shades of Blue and Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War and Zombies: Shambling through the Ages, among numerous other magazines and anthologies. From 2003 to 2009, he was also the editor/publisher of the award-winning Paradox: the Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction.  He is seeking representation for a recently completed historical thriller about Lady Godiva and is currently working on a novel of English resistance and rebellion in the years immediately following the Norman Conquest.

Learn more about Christopher at his website: http://www.christophermcevasco.com/blog/

March 2, 2014

Author Interview: Wayne Croning

Posted in author, books, interview, travel, writing at 3:19 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

croning
Today I’m welcoming Wayne Croning to my series of author interviews. Wayne is the author of Karachi Backwaters: my love affair with boats and other adventures, the true story of a boy growing up in Pakistan in the second half of the twentieth century.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Wayne.

Wayne: Thanks, Elizabeth. Honoured to be here.

croning bookElizabeth: Karachi Backwater is the nonfiction account of your own life, part memoir, part coming-of-age story, part travelogue. Can you give us a short summary of your story?

Wayne: You summarized it well. It is a coming of age story; of childhood adventure, friendships and a love for boats and boat building. It is a story about growing up in the 70’s , of a simpler time, when kids had to be more inventive to keep themselves entertained. It is a glimpse into what life was like in the golden years of Karachi. A simple time, an innocent age.

Elizabeth: You are now a resident of Canada. How did that move come about?

Wayne: I moved to Canada in the summer of 1992. Most of my family already lived in Canada. I wanted to hopefully start a new and better life here. The typical immigrant’s dream.

Elizabeth: How long have you been writing?

Wayne: I have been writing on and off for about seven years and have written several short (unpublished) stories.

Elizabeth: What made you write this book?

Wayne:  My two children Marjorie and Aaron will never know what life was like in that age and that city. I wanted to preserve those memories especially for them, which is the main reason for writing this book. Also the book is dedicated to my (late) best friend David who shared in most of the adventures.

Elizabeth: Although the story is about your own life, did it require research to get the geography and time line correct?

Wayne: Memory, memory, memory. As I wrote, the memories came flooding back. Music and old photographs helped in the process. Geography and time line are all imprinted in my brain. It was all too important to get this down on paper, before I too start to lose my memory.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process or schedule?

Wayne: I wish I had a fixed schedule. Unfortunately, I work full time, rotating shifts, and it is very hard to set down a regular time to write. I try and write on my days off and luckily have a week off every month, so this helps. I like to look at old family photographs and somehow carve a story out of them.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us what you are working on now?

Wayne: I am currently writing several short stories; one is a collection of ghost stories passed down from my grandpa; another is a true story of a Jewish girl who escaped a death camp in Europe and somehow escaped with another couple and ended up in Karachi during the Second World War; yet another, is my account of a family trip to India about seven years ago.

Elizabeth We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Wayne: Tea for sure.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Wayne: Ocean. I love the ocean.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Wayne: Hiking

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Wayne: Piano. Even though I play neither.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Wayne: Mystery.

Elizabeth: Hester Prynne or Scarlet O’Hara?

Wayne: Scarlet O`Hara.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Wayne: Can I say yes to both? Okay, Love scene.

Karachi Backwaters can be bought on Wayne’s personal website, http://www.karachibackwaters.com/

or through McNallyRobinson Booksellers in Winnipeg

or at Alibris.com

Thanks to Wayne for joining me today.

February 24, 2014

Winter, Wisconsin, 2013-14

Posted in weather, Wisconsin, writing at 9:48 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

I try not to complain about the weather.  When Andy and I were deciding where to settle down, we both chose Wisconsin.  So, I’ve chosen to live in a place that has a real winter.  Mostly, I like winter: the clean feel of cold air, the beauty of a fresh snowfall, cross country skiing in a lonely forest.  I grew up with a change of seasons, and I would miss it if I lived in a warmer climate.

Because I live just over one mile (1700 meters) from work, I try to ride my bike in good weather and walk in bad weather.  This winter has been a challenge, as there have been a number of days below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius), with a wind chill near -40F (-40C).  I’m hardy, but I’m not that hardy.  I’ve had to drive, which I find depressing.

Snow? Yes, we’ve gotten some snow.  Last Monday we received a little over 6 inches (16 cm) of snow.  This was on top of the several feet (about a meter) of snow we’d already gotten. The problem with this much snow is that when you shovel, you have to lift your shovel more than waist high (almost shoulder high) to get it off the driveway.

Note the mailbox (bottom right) to get a perspective on the snow's height.

Note the mailbox (bottom right) to get a perspective on the snow’s height.

This picture was taken on the gorgeous, sunny Tuesday after Monday’s heavy snowfall.  We were predicted to get another 6” to 12” (16 – 32 cm) on Thursday.  I’m happy to report that that storm missed my town, though other parts of Wisconsin did receive heavy snowfall that day.

OK, so why am I writing about the weather on my “reading, writing, no arithmetic” blog?  The cold weather and the snow has made it hard for me to do anything.  I summon the energy to go to work and teach.  I cook meals and clean (sort of).  Our Christmas letter / New Year’s letter has become a Valentine’s letter (mailed today, more than a week after Valentine’s Day).

I was going to include some weather statistics in this blog, but I couldn’t find any in a three-minute search, so I haven’t. Meh.

Writing? Writing is the activity that always gets short shrift in my life, and I haven’t done much since early January. Ech.  I’m blaming the weather.

It has been a harsh winter all over the United States and a dangerously mild winter in Europe (flooding in England).  How has this weird weather affected you?

February 1, 2014

Author Interview: Marci Jefferson

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 5:37 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

marciToday I’m welcoming Marci Jefferson to my series of author interviews. Marci is the author of Girl on the Golden Coin, a novel of Frances Stuart, which will be released February 11th. I met Marci at the Historical Novels Society Conference I went to in June, and I’m pleased to have her join me here today.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Marci.

Marci: Elizabeth, it was wonderful to finally meet you in person in June and I’m delighted to be your guest today! Thank you for having me, and for helping me get the word out there about my debut novel.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us a little about Frances Stuart and your novel, The Girl on the Golden Coin?

marci bookMarci: Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war. Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

Elizabeth: What first attracted you to Frances as a main character?

Marci: I first learned about the Royal Stuarts during a stay in London over a decade ago. Someone happened to point out the Banqueting House, stating that’s where Charles I was beheaded. Since, up to that point, I thought kings ordered all the beheadings, I felt compelled to study the Royal Stuarts independently, to understand their fascinating rule. Frances Stuart initially stood out as a woman who embraced her personal liberty in defiance of kings. A few years later I read The Other Boleyn Girl and became obsessed with the desire to do for the Stuarts what Phillippa Gregory had done for the Tudors. I picked up my independent studies again and soon realized Frances Stuart’s independent streak matched the collective spirit of the Restoration age. Since she also happened to be the model for Britannia, I realized there was no better subject for a novel of Restoration England.

Elizabeth: It seems I read somewhere that Frances Stuart was a bit of an airhead.

Marci: I’m certain you did read that! But reading her letters you realize that just wasn’t true. At first I saw her as many historians saw her, as a simple girl who eloped to avoid sleeping with King Charles II. When I read what the French ambassadors and poets and diarists thought of her, I realized she was a very complex person. As I studied the historical events and the kings she interacted with, I realized how close she was and how involved she might have been. By the time I finished the book and realized the sacrifice she made might have saved England from disaster, I had developed a deep respect for Frances Stuart. She was very intelligent, but I believe it suited her purpose to let people underestimate her.

Elizabeth: You did a great deal of research to write this story. Were there certain areas in which you allowed your imagination and creativity to run free?

Marci: Yes, Elizabeth, sometimes I let that research take over my life! But I’m glad you ask about imagination. Believe it or not, I had to push my imagination into overdrive for each and every scene. For each historical fact I learned, I uncovered a new set of questions. It is one thing to know what happened, but another to decide how it made a character feel, and yet another to make the reader feel it through the right choice of words. I couldn’t let Frances Stuart walk down a hall without knowing if her footsteps would echo or fall softly into carpet, whether she was nervous or bored, how the walls looked and even what it smelled like. You can’t glean that sensory or internal detail from floor plans or historical records. Even after years of research, this is ultimately a work of fiction, and therefore a heavy dose of my own imagination.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process or schedule?

Marci: I work part time as a Registered Nurse, so most of my writing is done on my days off. This is much easier now that both of my kids are in school. Other than that I squeeze it in whenever I have a chance. Thankfully my husband and children have been very patient with me.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us what you are working on now?

Marci: A novel about Marie Mancini, who was Louis XIV’s first love. It will be royally wicked!

Elizabeth: Sounds intriguing. Enough about your writing—tell us about yourself.

Marci: Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing myself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, I realized I’d neglected my passion for history and writing. I began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught my fancy. The plot for Girl on the Golden Coin evolved slowly after a trip to London, where I first learned about the Stuart royals. I am member of the Historical Novel Society. I reside in the Midwest with my husband, making hair-bows for our daughter, trying not to step on our son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Marci: Tea all the way and every day!

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Marci: Ocean

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Marci: Shopping

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Marci: Violin

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Marci: Fantasy

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Marci: Darcy

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Marci: Death is easier to write, but love is easier to read.

Thank you, Marci, for visiting.

You can learn more about Marci Jefferson and her book, Girl on the Golden Coin, at  www.marcijefferson.com or follow her on Twitter: @marcijefferson

Girl on the Golden Coin is available at:

Barnes & Noble

Books a Million

IndieBoundAmazon

January 1, 2014

Best Books of 2013

Posted in author, books, reading, writing at 12:58 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

2013 was an excellent year of reading for me, one of the best in recent memory. I read 111 books last year, finally surpassing 100, my goal since I started keeping track of my books each year.

Normally, I list my favorite books in the order that I read them, but last year was a year in which I discovered some new  (to me) authors, so I’m going to start with these wonderful writers.

First, I discovered Susanna Kearsley, writer of time-slip historical love stories. Her books are beautifully written with wonderful characters, in interesting historical time periods, and clever ways of getting modern-day heroines to discover or re-live past events. The books I read by Susanna Kearsley this year were The Rose Garden, The Winter Sea, Shadowy Horses, The Firebird, and Mariana. Mariana is probably my favorite although it is a close call with The Winter Sea, which you need to read before The Firebird which is perhaps in third place. Or maybe it’s a three-way tie. Wonderful, wonderful books that leave you floating on a cloud of contentment. The emotion I felt at the end of Mariana was so powerful I actually burst into tears, I was so overwhelmed. She’s still alive and writing, and I’ll be reading everything she publishes.

Next, I discovered Georgette Heyer, a writer who published in the 1930s-1960s. Her books are Regency “romances” and I use that term to show that the love story is central plot but neither Kearsley nor Heyer have detailed sex scenes and they are not “sleazy” romances. Heyer’s books are hysterically funny, and nearly always involve getting the heroine and her love interest into a tangle that seems impossible to unwind. The situations are clever and funny – they remind me of Shakespeare comedies or 18th century French drama. I read everything our public library had by Heyer and got some for my Nook as well: These are her books I read in 2013: April Lady, Sprig Muslin, The Nonesuch, Arabella, Bath Tangle, Black Sheep, The Corinthian, A Civil Contract, Cotillion, Frederica, Friday’s Child, The Grand Sophy, The Reluctant Widow, Sylvester, The Unknown Ajax, The Black Moth, and Envious Casca. I read them so fast, one after another, that I can’t remember which is which. I most likely will re-read some of them. What a pleasant thought!

Marissa Meyer is the other author I discovered this year. She doesn’t have a lot of books under her belt (she’s younger than me by quite a bit), but what she’s written so far is spectacular. She is the author of the Lunar Chronicles. The first book in the series is Cinder, a science-fiction re-telling of the Cinderella story. The second book is Scarlet, which continues the Cinderella story while adding elements of the Little Red Riding Hood story. These books are aimed at the female young adult market, but if you don’t read them because of that, you are missing out. My boys and husband enjoyed them. Fast-paced, funny, and really, really clever. The third book of the Lunar Chronicles comes out in February. Cress adds a Rapunzel-like character to the story. The final book of the series is Winter and won’t be released until 2015. When she’s finished with the Lunar Chronicles, I’ve read that Meyer is under contract to write the story of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. She’s an incredibly talented writer. I can’t wait to follow her career.

As this blog has started to go long, I’m attempting one-sentence summaries for the rest of the books.

Other Young Adult titles that made my list:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Can a book about teens dying of cancer be funny and uplifting? Yes, it can.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by by Mary E. Pearson

In the near future, a dying teen is given new life, illegally, by her parents who save ten percent of her original brain and put it into a fabricated, superior body. Deep philosophical questions about self and morality handled in an exciting story.

Children’s books. Don’t overlook a book because it is intended for children. Some of the best books I read each year are marketed to children but are worthy of an adult audience.

Splendors and Gloom by Laura Amy Schlitz

Historical fantasy set in 19th century London pitting orphans and a rich girl against a sorcerer puppeteer and an enchantress. Exciting and clever. A Newbery Honor book.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is a captive gorilla who gives a death-bed promise to save a baby elephant. This book is so beautiful that I am almost in tears remembering it. The first-person voice of Ivan is brilliantly constructed. 2013 Newbery Award winner.

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

What happens when a squirrel survives being vacuumed? It gets superpowers, of course. DiCamillo wins again with quirky characters and creative storytelling, incorporating protagonist Flora’s favorite comic book format into parts of the action.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

When her father goes missing and robbers destroy their home, a young girl tries to solve the mystery from the homeless shelter where they now live. Mix in clever clues and the poetry of Langston Hughes, and you’ve got a book that is gripping, smart, and eye-opening.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I re-read this twice a year with the my children’s literature class and it gets better with every reading. If you’ve never read it, you should. The 19th century language takes a little getting used to, but the story is a classic for a reason. Long John Silver is a brilliantly created character and if the plot twists are easy to follow it’s only because they’ve been copied by other writers for the past 150 years.

Adult novels:

A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

This book was criticized by many, but I found the writing incredible. Rowling’s characters are brilliantly drawn and there are so many of them! The story itself is hard to read because of the painfully honest way she portrays everyday personal conflict. It isn’t Harry Potter, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Taken on its own terms, it is very nearly perfect.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

In the late 19th century, three sisters try to survive on the meager wages they earn in the ballet school of the Paris Opera. Each of them has different dreams and designs for achieving them. Their characters are well drawn and intriguing. Dance, pain and poverty, love and sex, and finally, a murder, make this a gripping read.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

This is the story of the servants who work for the Bennet family of Pride and Prejudice. Austen’s story is but a shadow against this new novel, mirroring, only slightly, the events taking place among the servants. The story could have been dark and bitter, profiling as it does the difficult lives of the lower class, but Baker makes clear that love and hope exist for everyone.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This story is narrated by the 13-year-old son of a Native American who is brutally raped not far from home. His parents disappear as parents and the boy seeks to understand the crime, discover the criminal, and revenge his mother. Erdrich so perfectly captures the mind and actions of a teenage boy. Painful, gripping, exquisitely written.

Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go

As I was reading, I thought it was one of the best books of the year. It is a dual time period piece following a modern-day character who must discover if he is a descendant of a certain woman in order to inherit a fortune—but he must discover this in a certain time period. The other story follows the beautiful but doomed love story of the woman who might be his great-grandmother. Fast-paced story, intriguing characters, absolutely horrible ending. Or is it? I wanted so much to talk to someone about the ending, but nobody I know has read this book.  So, read this fascinating story and let me know what YOU think of the ending.

Adult Nonfiction

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

This isn’t the most well-written book, but I found it utterly fascinating. In his auto-biography, Daniel Tammet, an autistic-savant and a synesthete who recited 22,514 digits of pi and who was able to learn the Icelandic language in a week, writes about his life, his abilities and his disabilities.

Well, my summaries lengthened as I wrote, but I guess that’s OK. I hope I’m given you some titles for your TBR pile. Let me know what you think.

Wishing you a happy New Year and a 2014 full of good reading!

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