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!

December 7, 2013

Book Release and Interview: A.M. Bostwick

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 12:00 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

abigail bostwickYou are invited to the book release party of The Great Cat Nap by A.M. Bostwick and published by Cornerstone Press. This event is  Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6:30pm at the CPS Cafe on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

I’m going to be there, and I hope you will too. Come, bring a friend, buy a book, listen to the author talk, eat some cookies—it’ll be a lot of fun. I’m lucky to have the author with me on today’s blog. The A in A.M. Bostwick stands for Abigail. Welcome, Abigail!

Abigail: Thank you for having me, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth: Tell us about your book.

abigail bostwick coverAbigail: The Great Cat Nap is a middle grade novel, all told from the point-of-view of a cat. Ace is the feline companion of an editor at a small town newspaper in Lakeville, Wisconsin. When famous show cat, Ruby the Russian, goes missing, Ace is on the story. But Ace bites off more than he can chew when he agrees to play amateur detective and find the lost show cat. Ace has to call on his feline friends, a few dogs, and even a couple bad-tempered rodents in an effort to solve the case. He’ll need to break a cat out of the pound for priceless information and fight a single-pawed battle with animal smugglers to get answers! Ace likes his milk neat, and his jelly donuts thick with icing. My hope is that this book will appeal to not only adolescents, but mainstream mystery readers, feline and animal enthusiasts as well as adventure lovers.

Elizabeth: Where did the idea come from?

Abigail: Well, I’ve always been an animal lover. Some of my earliest memories involve cats or dogs! And some of the first stories I ever wrote as a child were about cats. When I first sat down and seriously tried to write a book, I wanted to have fun with it. I wanted to escape. I drew on my experience as a lifelong cat owner (my own black cat, Boots, inspired Ace) as well as my years as a newspaper reporter to write this novel.

Elizabeth: Did you have to do much research to put the story together?

Abigail: Not a lot! I already knew a lot about small town newspapers, politics, hard crime and felines! Not to mention dogs and their relationship with cats. After that, it was a lot of creativity and imagination – thinking about how a cat might react to situations differently than a human might, how their relationships work to humans and animals and what they would do if they had strong motivation to solve a problem.

Elizabeth: Is this your first experience being published?

Abigail: It is! And it is so thrilling!

Elizabeth: Have you written anything else?

Abigail: I have. I began writing as a child. I’ve always been an avid reader and a writer. Earlier this year, I submitted my first manuscript to agents. I signed with a great one, and am currently working on revisions for a young adult novel to be submitted to publishing houses in 2014. Another novel I wrote earned an award in a contest from the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America earlier this year. As a writer, Ace was my first character, though The Great Cat Nap was not the first novel I wrote. The first novel I wrote was terrible! However, it taught me a lot about not only the writing process, but MY writing process.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Abigail: Staple myself to the chair! I do my best writing in the early morning, usually at my office desk or with my laptop on the sun porch in summer. Getting into my character’s heads is one of my favorite things about the writing process. I spend a lot of time trying to understand what they want, what drives them. Seeing the world through their perspective. I do love characters who get into trouble! I also read a lot. If you want to learn to write, I feel you need to read. And read everything – the great, the good and the bad. Take it apart, find what works and what doesn’t.

Elizabeth: What can you tell me about working with the student-run publishing house Cornerstone Press?

Abigail: It’s been fabulous! I can’t tell you how much it means to have my first-ever novel published by the very university that I graduated from. It’s been a real honor, and so humbling to have my manuscript chosen out of so many. The students and staff have been so supportive, encouraging and wonderful to work with. A real class act.

Elizabeth: Enough about your book, tell us about yourself.

Abigail: I’m a writer, reader and a runner. Besides writing, my other love in life is art. I also adore animals, and spending time with my family and my friends. I live in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where I am an occasional contributing writer for the Tomahawk Leader and live with my husband, dog and thrill-seeking cat.

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?

Abigail: Tea.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Abigail: Ocean.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Abigail: Depends on my mood!

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Abigail: Piano.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Abigail: Goodness…depends on my mood! Again, I love both!

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Abigail: Heathcliff.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Abigail: Death scene.

If you’d like to learn more about Abigail Bostwick and her The Great Cat Nap, come to the book release party: Thursday, Dec 12, 6:30, CPS Cafe, UWSP.

You can order copies of The Great Cat Nap from Cornerstone Press or buy them at many central Wisconsin bookstores.

Contact Abigail at Abigail.bostwick at gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @bostwickAM.

Don’t forget: Come to the book release party for Abigail Bostwick’s The Great Cat Nap: Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6:30pm at the CPS Cafe on the UWSP campus.

December 3, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update

Posted in author, books, NaNoWriMo, writing at 7:09 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Well, it’s December 3 which means that NaNoWriMo is over. How did I do, you ask?  Well, I am not an official “winner.”  The adult goal for the month is 50,000 words, and I didn’t write that much. My word count for the month was:

<drum roll, please>

20,115

I’m actually very pleased with that number. My goal for the month wasn’t  50,000 words; my goal was to finish my story. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that either.  I would say that I am about three-quarters through the first draft.  It is a middle-grade story, which I’m calling Snow White and the Queen.

And though I didn’t make either goal, I’m still pretty happy about how much I wrote. And the story! It is coming together in a way that pleases me.  Really, what more can I ask for?

December 1, 2013

Author Interview: Cindy Thomson

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 2:07 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

cindy headshotToday I’m welcoming Cindy Thomson to my series of author interviews. Cindy is the author of  Grace’s Pictures, the first in the Ellis Island series of Christian historicals. Brigid of Ireland was her first historical novel and tells the story of a pagan girl embracing Christianity in 6th century Ireland. Cindy is also the author of two nonfiction books: Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland, and co-author of Three Finger: the Mordecai Brown Story.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Cindy. Can you tell us about your most recent novel, Grace’s Pictures?

cindy book coverCindy: Thanks for having me, Elizabeth! Grace’s Pictures is set at the turn of the twentieth century in New York City. It was a fascinating time when immigration was reaching record numbers, the difference between the extremely poor and the extremely wealthy was vast with a small number of people in between, and a time when the police department was still corrupt. But there was another side too with folks reaching out to help by forming immigrant aid societies. During this time the Brownie camera was introduced, which brought photography to the common person for the first time, making it possible to take quick snapshots out in public. I imagined that could cause some trouble. Here is the blurb:

Grace McCaffery hopes that the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise that the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader. A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her, Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness.

Elizabeth: Grace’s Pictures fits into several categories: historical, romance and Christian. Is there one genre you feel best describes it?

Cindy: Others have also described it as suspense. I just call it historical. It has not been advertised as romance, although there is a love story.

Elizabeth: What first made you interested in historical fiction?

Cindy: I have always been interested in genealogy. I write for genealogy magazines. It’s been said that one in four Americans can trace at least one ancestor through Ellis Island, so I chose this setting because I think it speaks to our history as Americans. The sacrifices our ancestors made for us by overcoming huge obstacles (Grace grew up in a poorhouse in Ireland) helps us appreciate our lives today. Grace comes to America a frightened immigrant, and she has to deal with some scary circumstances. Learning how to overcome them along with the negative messages in her head, lies her father told her about herself, transforms Grace in the end.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

Cindy: I try to make my stories as historically accurate as possible. There are some historical figures in the story such as Jacob Riis, the author of How the Other Half Lives, who helped expose the conditions in the tenements. At the beginning of the story Grace has her picture taken on Ellis Island by Augustus Sherman. If you have seen any of the photographs of Ellis Island immigrants, chances are they were Sherman photographs. He was an Ellis Island registry clerk who took these photographs as a hobby. The immigrant aid societies of the time were doing important work, and while Hawkins House is fictional, it represents the efforts many people were making. The police department was just as corrupt as I portray, and the Hudson Dusters were a real gang of cocaine addicts.

Elizabeth: What are some of your future plans for the Ellis Island series?

Cindy: Thanks for asking! The second book, Annie’s Stories, is due to release next July. Annie is the housekeeper mentioned in Grace’s Pictures. Grace and Owen make an appearance in this book. In Grace’s Pictures I feature the new Brownie camera. In Annie’s Stories I feature the new children’s book of the time, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There is a strong bookish theme in this story that I really enjoyed exploring.

In addition, I’m working on bringing the stories that Annie’s father wrote for herdescribed in the novelto readers. The first one will be exclusively for my newsletter subscribers. (You can sign up here: www.cindyswriting.com.)

I’m also plotting out a novella that will be connected to these stories, and again, my newsletter subscribers will the first to know when it’s available.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Cindy: Basically, in the morning I go through email, post on Facebook and Twitter, and follow up on marketing ideas. After lunch usually is the time I start writing, but truly it depends on my schedule and deadlines. Deadlines force me to work whenever I need to. I did a large part of a rewrite on my last book while I was on a long airplane trip (to Ireland!)

Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

Cindy: I’m a former teacher who writes full-time from a fabulous home office. I’m really blessed to have this loft workspace where I look out on trees. Like I said, genealogy is something I enjoy, but it’s so very addictive I have to be careful it doesn’t suck up too much time. I love to read a really good book. I’m also a huge baseball fan. I have three grown boys and a daughter-in-law, and a keen interest in all things Irish.

Elizabeth: Where can readers meet you in person?

cindy book talkCindy: I attend many Irish festivals in and around Ohio. People who are interested in Irish culture are often interested in reading about it. Plus they are so much fun! I am available to meet with book clubs, either in person or via Skype or telephone. On this page readers can find out how to have me come speak to their group or club: http://www.togather.com/cindy-thomson

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?

Cindy: Tea

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Cindy: Wow. Tough one. I seriously can’t choose. That’s one thing I love about Ireland. You are never far from either.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Cindy: Oh, come on! Both!!

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Cindy: For me it’s to listen to because I can’t play. I would say piano, but then again, there is nothing like an Irish fiddle. (Natalie MacMaster, anyone?)

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Cindy: I truly read across all genres.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Cindy: Darcy.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Cindy:Love!

To learn more about Cindy and her writing at:

www.cindyswriting.com

www.facebook.com/cindyswriting

www.twitter.com/cindyswriting

Buy her book here: http://bit.ly/17ZXbnO

Thanks to Cindy for joining me today!

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