#WriterProblems: Finding that Balance Between #Worldbuilding and #Character Development

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Happy May to you, my fell creatives!

As I mentioned last month, I got something of a stick in my craw, a monkeywrench in my gears, a fly in my ointment, and other such little irritants over some story series two friends recommended to me. These irritants led me to create this rant/debate/discussion/whatever you want to call it that we’ll be getting into today, so buckle up, my friends–this one’s going to be a bit raw (in a good way (I hope)).

First, a little context.

My podcast You’ve Got Five Pages…To Tell Me It’s Good has me constantly asking the questions about what as readers, hooks us into a story and what, as writers, helps us create that hook. By looking at first chapters only, I am expecting a book to somehow get my attention in those opening pages. Usually, one of two things will do the trick: either a fascinating setup for the story, or fascinating characters I want to hear more about. Ideally, we would get both, but I know this will not always be the case. The lovely P.J. Lazos recently reminded me that there will always be stories that take their time building up interest and intrigue (Outlander was her example). She’s certainly not wrong! How often have we come across stories where “the good stuff” showed up later on? So I won’t knock a book for that approach. Yet I do think something in those opening pages encourages a reader to keep going. When that something peters out…well, that’s why we’re here today.

So, the books in question: one was all about epic battles with fire and ice and lightning–

–while the other was a trip down Pride and Prejudice Lane, only from Mr. Darcy’s point of view:

Both series sounded promising to me from the outset. One’s providing insight into the silent character whose heart is a mystery to the characters around him, while the other alludes to a mysterious Ascension, the physical lifting of six gigantic islands the size of Australia into the air in order to save humanity from drowning in the now Endless Ocean.

So, on the one hand, you have a character-centric story; on the other, a plot-driven story.

Is it necessarily bad to have one or the other? No, not…not necessarily. But it’s certainly tougher to appeal to readers. Jeff Gerke is pretty blunt about this matter in Plot versus Character: A Balance Approach to Writing Great Fiction:

The problem is that each kind of novelist is usually as awful at the one thing as she is terrific at the other thing. The plot-first novelist tends to create characters who are flat, unrealistic stereotypes: cardboard cutouts who, despite different moods, agendas, genders, and occupations, seem eerily similar to one another–and the author’s personality. The character-first novelist produces wonderfully vibrant characters–but often has no idea what to make these interesting people do.

This point came home as I read each series. Here’s the blurb for Skyborn, which is both succinct and totally encompassing of the story at the same time:

Six islands float high above the Endless Ocean, where humanity’s final remnants are locked in brutal civil war.

Their parents slain in battle, twins Kael and Brenna Skyborn are training to be Seraphim, elite soldiers of aerial combat who wield elements of ice, fire, stone and lightning.

When the invasion comes, they will take to the skies, and claim their vengeance.

Aaaand that’s what they do. So there’s no false advertising, at least.

Now again, I want to be clear: this series, to me, had a really cool premise. After all, SOMEthing like an apocalypse must have happened to lead to this Ascension that allows SIX continent-sized land masses to remain perched atop giant beams of water high above an endless ocean. How could such an event affect these different lands? What kinds of people would live on each land, what kinds of wildlife? Would they have different habitats, like deserts and rainforests and such? Plus, these islands had strange prisms that could help power metal wings one could strap on–where did those come from? How do they shoot fire and stuff? Does that mean they have advanced technology, too? Where and how does all that history affect this world’s present?

I had so many questions about this epic place filled with epic war. And oh yes, there’s lots of fighting with ice and fire and lightning and such. This author knows how to write a battle, and there are a LOT of battles across the trilogy. Plus, he included some very interesting themes at work involving God and free will, the needs of the many over the few, and so on. Such themes fit very well in a world where people flew like angels.

And yet, I was bored. Why?

Because I didn’t care about the characters. There wasn’t enough about them to make them feel like actual people.

Readers meet these twins just as they are watching their parents battle in the sky and die. And the next thing you know these twins are now going to school to be Seraphim. We don’t really explore how such a traumatic event affects these two. They were growing up to be Seraphim, and they’re still going to be Seraphim. The first book almost immediately takes us away from whatever sort of everyday setting there could have been for the twins to process their grief so we could instead see “underdog kids in school” situations while they train to be Seraphim. Grief? What grief?

On school grounds, the twins are surrounded by cutouts like “snob boy,” “quiet girl,” “smart librarian,” “deceitful politician,” “kindly teacher.” And what really got me is that the very protagonists themselves never really grew out of such descriptions either: the girl Bree was eternally “out to prove herself,” and the boy Kael was eternally “thoughtful and supportive.” Even when the twins’ father who was thought dead in the first two books shows up in Book 3, there’s hardly any interaction between him and his children–and as a result, there’s hardly any emotional resonance. (spoiler alert) And since he also dies in Book 3, the aftershock of his loss amounts to…nothing.

In all of their epic battles, the characters never really transform. Even when the boy twin literally grows wings at one point, it never seems to matter because the girl twin’s got to prove herself again, so off she goes with his support to keep fighting and on and on.

Now for the record, we’ve all enjoyed plenty of stories where the characters don’t really change–heavens, I don’t read any given Poirot or Marple mystery by Agatha Christie for the character transformations. I read for the murder, mystery, and mayhem. The characters are just a part of that plot-puzzle. So, I tried to treat the Skyborn books that way as well–the characters were just pieces to lead me to the puzzle that was this world.

But I also feel like this was part of the problem: I wanted to care about these characters and this world. But since, outside of battles, this world interacted so little with the characters and vice versa, we never really got to see much beyond destruction. And considering the obvious care put into creating this world, this felt like a missed opportunity.

~*~

Now let’s flip to the character-centric.

Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy’s hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley’s persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows—as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

Setting the story vividly against the colorful historical and political background of the Regency, Aidan writes in a style comfortably at home with Austen but with a wit and humor very much her own. Aidan adds her own cast of fascinating characters to those in Austen’s original, weaving a rich tapestry from Darcy’s past and present. Austen fans and newcomers alike will love this new chapter of the most famous romance of all time.

I found it fascinating to see Pride and Prejudice from a different set of eyes and it was particularly fun because, for those who may not remember, Darcy spends the first half of the book more or less skulking about and staring at Elizabeth. What on earth Darcy was thinking in all of that time? Through this retelling, we know it’s not just his observations of Elizabeth Bennet, but also his concerns as a big brother for his little sister Georgiana. Reading from Austen’s original narrator, we as readers do not learn until Darcy’s letter (halfway through the story) of the cad Mr. Wickham’s attempt to whisk Georgiana Darcy away with elopement. So in this retelling, it makes perfect sense that Darcy’s very worried about his sister from Chapter 1 onward, and the very sight of Wickham drives him to fear and anger. In the original Pride and Prejudice, we as readers just don’t understand that concern’s effect on Darcy’s actions in Meryton until later. In An Assembly Such as This, we see the motivations plain as day, and it helps us better understand why Darcy is as he is.

But then, there’s the second book.

The first book ends with the Netherfield ball, and the third book takes readers to Rosings Park and Darcy’s first–and disastrous–proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. So what the heck was going on in the second book?

Darcy goes to a rundown castle for what amounts to a bizarre gothic mystery. Darcy’s determined to find a woman of his own class to marry so he can forget about Elizabeth, so he visits a castle to hang out with a bunch of rich people. Only they are all being snobs, and then there’s some sort of haunting, and some sort of ritual sacrifice and kidnapping of children and just all sorts of mysterious whatnots that should be interesting.

Yet it wasn’t. Why?

The plot of this overall story arc has already been set. We know that this retelling can’t divert from the eventual coming together of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Since it takes Elizabeth’s refusal for Darcy to finally reflect and grow as a character, his character does not really change during this second book, either. So we as readers are simply plowing through this gothic mystery to, essentially, “get back on track.”

And considering how this whole second book could have explored more of Regency England’s concepts of marriage and how such pressures can impact characters and transform them, this installment felt like a missed opportunity.

~*~

Perhaps THAT is my problem in all this. I’m a writer grumbling about the “missed opportunities” I see in other writers’ work when all along those stories aren’t mine to dictate. Perhaps all that author wanted to do was make lots of epic battles featuring angel-like people, or perhaps that other author just wanted to get a gothic mystery on paper and this was her moment. We all have a right to tell the stories we want to tell, so please, PLEASE, feel free to love those stories and approach your own tales your way.

For let’s face it–some readers just want those epic battles, or those dramatic interactions. And others still want to see what happens when vastly different genre elements get tossed together. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, anyone?

Gosh, this post is LONG.

Know what? We’ll break it off here and finish this off June 1st (I’ve an author interview planned for later this month–stay tuned for that!). In exploring books for my podcast, I did find a book that balances character and worldbuilding without sacrificing either, so we’ll cover that next time.

Plus, I will hold myself under this critical lens. Since I’m revamping Middler’s Pride for a novel release instead of its previous serial release, I need to make sure I’m also balancing the worldbuilding and character development to propel the story forward. Stay tuned!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

You Have Five Pages to Tell Me It’s Good: #Revelator by Daryl Gregory. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Hello, amazing fellow creatives! Here’s to more fun perusing the library’s new releases to see what strikes our fancy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve retitled Story Cuppings to better fit the premise of the podcast.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST 50 PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

Revelator by Daryl Gregory

The first sentence of Revelator by Daryl Gregory alludes to a kid meeting “the family god,” so I just don’t know how the stakes can go down from there. What will you, fellow creatives, make of these first five pages? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

This story’s got a feeling of the Southern Gothic in its voice and style, a dark, murky magic hidden in its green Kentucky valleys. The setting is beautiful, but it is not safe. I find Gregory’s prose in this tale to be positively intoxicating with its various rhythms and inflections, the dropped words and intention alliterations. The first pages not only provide an authentic voice for the little girl Stella, but a sense of true dread as we follow the adventurous child down a path into a church embedded in the mountain. What could possibly go wrong in such a place? I’m going to guess a lot.

As always, I love hearing what’s on the shelves of your own libraries. Libraries Rock!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Author #Interview: Let’s Chat with #IndieAuthor Alan Scott!

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’m thrilled to continue sharing some lovely indie authors I’ve met in our community. This month, please welcome the fantastical Alan Scott!

Let’s begin with your journey as a reader before you embarked as a writer. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

It’s been long and winding path. As a dyslexic, I was constantly told that I was thick and stupid, and that I should leave anything to do with being creative with the written word well alone. (Which is quite funny as I later learned that Agatha Christie, Jules Verne, F Scott Fitzgerald were all Dyslexic) Hence, although I read a lot in my youth, I never did any writing nor was encouraged to. Throughout my twenties and thirties, I continued to read a lot, mainly Fantasy or Science Fiction. It was not until I was in my early forties that I decided to sit down and write Echoes of a Storm and from there I have written 8 books in the Storm Series, 2 sci-fi books and of course my semi-autobiographical novella about being dyslexic in the modern world called. The Rain Dancer. I have spoken to library groups about being dyslexic and being an indie writer. I have also done The Lost Explorers Club podcast. I am now 52, so it has been a long journey. However, it’s one that has been very positive.

What a discovery of such a connection with your favorite writers! It’s wonderful to hear you are now sharing this journey with readers…and hopefully, inspiring other writers, too. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

You are not thick nor stupid. You will just have to wait 30 odd years until technology allows you to tell your tales. Keep reading all those books, it will pay off in years to come.

Let’s continue exploring your reading self a bit more before we explore your current writing self. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

For me it’s a book by an author called Hugh Cook. It was called The Wizards and the Warriors and was the first book in a 10 book fantasy series where all the books had very similar titles for example book two was The Wazir and the Witch. I just loved the way Hugh created his world and the way each book whilst self-contained, built upon the last.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Yes, Richard Matheson’s book I am Legend. We mention short stories later; I am Legend is only about 175 pages, but within those pages it deals with so much and raises so many questions about society, what are monsters and the twist at the end is one of the all-time greats.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Being Scottish, I love Billy Connolly (A comedian) and here in the UK in the 80’s they was a series of shows called an “An audience with….” And a popular star of the time would come and preform to a celebrity audience. An Audience with Billy Connolly has gone down in history as a master class of storytelling and making people laugh. His use of language, timing and showmanship is impeccable. He had people crying with laughter. Not the fake polite laughter you get with some show, but with real howls of laughter. That, to me, was language and storytelling at its most powerful. As writers, I think sometimes we forget that our tales are there to entertain and for people to enjoy. Yes, you can slip in the occasional social commentary (I’ve done it myself) or create 7 new languages each with their own sub dialects. But if your story is boring then no one will read it. If your story is difficult to read, no one will read it.

I LOVE this point! Readers will forgive much if the story engages and intrigues; that’s why I enjoy working on my own podcast, You’ve Got Five Pages…To Tell Me It’s Good. If we as writers cannot engage readers from the get-go, all the flowery prose and profound ideas in the world will not keep them.

So at this juncture, let’s venture into your writing life. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I self-published Echoes of a Storm over 10 years ago and don’t get me wrong I am very proud of that book and it holds a very special place in my heart. However, I made a lot of mistakes, which most likely cost me over the years. Since Echoes I got myself a really good proofreader, my writing style has improved a 100 fold, and the pacing of my stories is a lot better.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I don’t do a lot of research as such. However, I served 12 years in the Royal Air Force, so I have all that experience to draw upon when writing military characters. I’ve been that guard, standing in a guard box at 0200hrs with the raining pouring down on a cold Novembers night. I’ve also got a commendation in the New Years honour list for my work the Royal International Air Tattoo in 2000 . I have been dyslexic all my life and drew upon my experiences of that for The Rain Dancer I have also read a lot of very good fantasy authors like James Gemmell, Richard Matheson (when are they going to do a film that does justice to that fantastic book – I am Legend), Franz Lieber, Terry Pratchett, and many more. All of which have influenced my writing.

I can see by your Storm Series that you enjoy writing both novels and short fiction in a single universe. What is your process for choosing which stories are told in which form?

I started to write short stories and publish them on Amazon as a way of promoting my novels. Then after a year I realised I had enough to put them into a book and hence Stories for a Storm Filled Night came about. I thought it was just going to be a one of thing. Then I got thinking about one of my antihero characters that people really seemed to like. A man called Solomon Pace (I still don’t know why people like him) and suddenly stories involving him started to swirl around my head, and I started to write them down. That is how one of my most popular books came about Tales of Solomon Pace. There is something fantastic and very freeing about writing standalone short stories, that can be place in chronological order which enhance your main novels. You can explore different facet of your main story or a character personality in ways that you just cannot do in a novel. Due to pacing, size or editing issues. The third book of short stories Tales of Salvation and Damnation was a bridge between my two trilogies.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

As an indie writer, simply finding time to do it.

Amen to that! I’m currently working on expanding some fantasy storytelling myself while also drafting some short stories for publication. My frustrations with word count and worldbuilding leads me to ask your opinion on the following point: Writing short fiction in fantasy can be extremely challenging due to the restrictions in word count: agree or disagree?

100% disagree. You can write fantastic fiction in only a few words. For example *** Jane kissed her husband passionately on the lips, before placing his severed head back into the fridge. Humming a happy little tune that was currently playing on the radio. She turned off the device, before picking up her car keys and mobile phone from the kitchen table, grabbing her coffee cup, quickly drained it of its contents, and walking swiftly to the front door and exiting her home. Jumping in her car, she started the engine and made her way carefully out of the drive, and onto the road. Where she drove in happy silence along the quiet suburban leafy area in which she lived. The tranquillity was broken when her mobile went off. Jane picked up the phone and answered. “Hello Detective Inspector Jane Grant speaking.” *** Yes, I know it’s a bit rough and needs polishing. However, as an example of the length of short stories it works. You could stop at the first para and have a very short monster horror story, or you could stop at the end of the third para and have a slightly longer psychological horror short story. Or you could add 10’000 words and keep adding layers. For me the skill with short stories is to try and give hints and suggestions for the reader to pick up on and then let their imagination fill in the gaps.

You share your perspective well! You remind me of some wonderful writers who’ve done brief stories in the past: Joy Pixley and J.I. Rogers come to mind. I agree that with the right word choices, you can pack a lot into a tight space, for you can trust your reader’s imagination to fill in a lot of gaps. Sometimes we cannot help wanting to share more detail, though. 🙂 Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing definitely energizes me. When I am in the zone and the plotline is being built in my head and the characters are doing their thing. It’s brilliant. When I write, It’s like I am a director making a film and the characters are my actors. I have a general idea of what I want to happen, but there is always a great deal of improvisation by the characters. Which has lead to a few intriguing and thought-provoking outcomes.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your writing and reading journeys with us, Alan! Let’s end on a fun one here. I’m a HUGE fan of building music playlists for my writing time. Do you have any artists/composers you’d like to recommend for other writers looking for mood-setting music?

Oh yes. I love using music when I write and for each book, I produced a soundtrack. Some examples of the music I use are:

For my main character Nathaniel West:

  • Got you (Where I want you) by the Flys (from the Album Rock Band classics)
  • The Seer by Big Country
  • Behind Blue Eyes by the Who.

For one of my characters called Jane:

  • Deadlock by Tristania (from the album World of Glass)
  • Weak by Skunk Anansie

The last stand of the old guard:

  • Open Book by Gnarls Barkley (from the album The Odd Couple)

For my character Mancer:

  • Don’t let me be misunderstood by Nina Simone

For the Queen:

  • The Other Side by Sirenia (from the album Nine Destinies and a Downfall)

For my character Kathleen:

  • The Howling by Within Temptation

For a battle:

  • Pretend Best Friend by Terrorvision

For Twever the magnificent and his invisible psychopathic pet Ardo…well, there are more but I won’t bore you with them.

No worries, Sir! I’m just thrilled to have more music to seek out for inspiration. “Behind Blue Eyes” has always been the theme for one of my own characters as well, so seeing you share that song here immediately got me excited. 🙂 Thank you again, and Godspeed to you on your future wanderings through story-lands dark and fantastical.

~STAY TUNED!~

Blondie is tidying up her third chapter and I’m tidying up my notes about Death on the Nile and how this story’s adaptations reveal a common writing problem many of us face. We’ll see who finishes first!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#KidWriter Blondie Returns with Chapter 2 of The Elementals! #DragonStories #ProudMom

Greetings one and all! I’m having a smile and then some as I rediscover my research on the humor found in everyday misadventures. While I complete that blog post for you, please enjoy Chapter 2 of Blondie’s dragon-filled adventures. x

Click here for Chapter 1 of Blondie’s story!

Forward: Hello, everyone! As I promised, here is chapter 2 of The Elementals. Enjoy!

Blondie the dragonmaster

CHAPTER 2

“Where is she?!” Inferno huffed. “She’s been gone for nearly an hour!”

Rainbow gazed at the sky. “She’ll be back any minute now.” she said.

“That’s what you said one bloody hour ago!” Inferno shouted.

“Oh, shut up you two. Here she comes.” Boulder said sternly. Hurricane glided over to where the other dragons were hiding, bleeding in several places.

“Hurricane!” Rainbow yelled, “Where have you-“

“I don’t want to talk about it.” she murmured, glumly shuffling to a tree.

“What did you do to yourself, you soggy fish?” Inferno glared at the soaking dragon. “Where’s Gila?” Comettail asked hopefully. Hurricane just stared at the sea.

“Oh.” Boulder whispered. A screech wailed behind them.

“Come on! We can’t just sit here!” Inferno hissed. “RUN!” The five of them scrambled madly to the middle of the forest. Wingbeats fluttered after them.

“In here!” Rainbow headed towards a hollow in a willow. Everyone soon was squished inside. The screech sounded again, but it seemed frustrated. The wingbeats faded away into the distance.

“Wow. That was close.” Hurricane sighed, relieved.

“Thanks, Mr. Willow.” Rainbow patted the bark.

“What are you thanking a bloody tree for?” Inferno said.

“Mr. Willow told me about his hollow right before whatever-that-was got us. You should be more grateful!” Rainbow huffed, insulted.

“I oughta-” Inferno snarled. A shrill caw pierced the air. Comettail jumped.

“S’okay, Comettail. Just an ol’ crow.” Boulder said, glancing outside. “C’mon, everyone. Let’s get out of this hole.” Hurricane grunted as she hoisted herself out.

When everybody was out, the caw sounded again. A large, black bird was perched on a twig, its black pearl eyes staring at them.

“Uh, hi!” Rainbow greeted the crow. It cawed again, flying off into the underbrush. The crow’s head popped up again, cawing at them to follow.

“I think it wants us to go with him.” Comettail said uneasily. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“C’mon, guys! Let’s go!” Rainbow said enthusiastically.

“Wait, you sheephead! It could be a trap!” Inferno yelled. But she was already gone. “Dratted dragon will get us all killed, I’m sure of it.” she grumbled as she tore after her.

They eventually found Rainbow in a clearing absolutely FILLED with vines. The crow sat on top of the biggest one, cawing nervously. “Look! There’s a dragon caught in there!” Rainbow pointed a claw towards a lump in the center of the vines.

“Oh my foxes…” Boulder whispered.

“Red Dragonroot. The most poisonous plant of all time.” Comettail stated, shivering.

“Well, don’t just stand there! Help me!” Rainbow said.

“You’re the plant dragon! Don’t look at me!” Inferno shouted.

“Shut up!” Hurricane boomed. Everyone looked at her in shock. “Rainbow, try to coax the vines to let that dragon go. If that doesn’t work, Inferno can burn them.” she recited, as if she had been thinking this up all along.

“Hmph. At least I can make something pay.” Inferno grumbled.

Rainbow grunted as she conversed with the Dragonroot. “It’s not working!” Rainbow cried, ” And I have the MOTHER OF ALL HEADACHES.” “Burnin’ time.” Inferno grinned as her claws glowed a bright orange. She sank her talons into the nearest vine. It shriveled into ash. Comettail scooped up some Red Dragonroot ash into a glass vial he kept in a pouch around his waist. “Could use this stuff for later.” he said.

Sooner than later, all the vines were burnt. In the center laid a jet-black dragon, groaning as she stood up.

The crow screeched gleefully and landed on her shoulder. “Thanks, Pitch.” the dragon wheezed. Pitch nuzzled against her snout.

“Who the bloody heck are you?!” Inferno said, her claws still sizzling.

“Why, my name is Raven.” the black dragon said. Her voice sounded like a spilling waterfall, one word flowing over another. It was almost entrancing. She also had one silver diamond earring.

“Uh, what particularly were you doing inside a cluster of Red Dragonroot?” Comettail squeaked.

“I was on a quest, of course,” Raven explained like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “For the Forest Shard.”

TO BE CONTINUED…….

Make sure you stay tuned for chapter 3 of The Elementals in February!

We’ll hold you to that, Kiddo! And I better finish that research…

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Special #December #Podcast Series! Blondie Shares #TwelveDays of #MiddleGrade #ReadingRecommendations: Wizards of Once by @CressidaCowell

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’ve always been thrilled to see how much my three little Bs love to read, but it makes my heart melt to hear my daughter Blondie say she wants to do a podcast with me to share her favorite books. When I said we could make a little “12 Days of Christmas” style series in December, Blondie whipped through her books and picked twelve for us to study. She even designed our banner with her favorite fantasy creature. x

So here we are! I’m blessed to have such amazing kindred spirits in my life, and I am so very blessed to have a daughter who loves storytelling as much as I do.

On the twelfth day of Blondie’s Books, my daughter gave to me:

Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

That’s right! We’ve come full circle by returning to the author which jumpstarted this series. 🙂 What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

Why did you pick this book, Blondie?

I was reading the How to Train Your Dragon book series at the time and I was in a Cressida Cowell craze. I read the first few words and was instantly hooked! Cressida writes her books well. If you have a loved one who is interested in fantasy, this is the author for them.

Thank you all so much for sipping the many flavors of my daughters’ favorite story-brews! May your own holidays be full of adventure and magic that only you–and the young readers of your life–can spark to life.

Until we meet again in 2022…Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Special #December #Podcast Series! Blondie Shares #TwelveDays of #MiddleGrade #ReadingRecommendations: Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’ve always been thrilled to see how much my three little Bs love to read, but it makes my heart melt to hear my daughter Blondie say she wants to do a podcast with me to share her favorite books. When I said we could make a little “12 Days of Christmas” style series in December, Blondie whipped through her books and picked twelve for us to study. She even designed our banner with her favorite fantasy creature. x

So here we are! I’m blessed to have such amazing kindred spirits in my life, and I am so very blessed to have a daughter who loves storytelling as much as I do.

On the eleventh day of Blondie’s Books, my daughter gave to me:

Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

Why did you pick this book, Blondie?

I picked this book because it’s one of the most popular series, and I like cats. The people who write these books did a marvelous job on portraying the surrounding wilderness and the cats themselves. I encourage any cat lover in your life to read this book!

Stay tuned for more storytellin’ and carol-singin’!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Special #December #Podcast Series! Blondie Shares #TwelveDays of #MiddleGrade #ReadingRecommendations: Scary Stories for Young Foxes by @cmheidicker

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’ve always been thrilled to see how much my three little Bs love to read, but it makes my heart melt to hear my daughter Blondie say she wants to do a podcast with me to share her favorite books. When I said we could make a little “12 Days of Christmas” style series in December, Blondie whipped through her books and picked twelve for us to study. She even designed our banner with her favorite fantasy creature. x

So here we are! I’m blessed to have such amazing kindred spirits in my life, and I am so very blessed to have a daughter who loves storytelling as much as I do.

On the ninth day of Blondie’s Books, my daughter gave to me:

Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

Why did you pick this book, Blondie?

I picked this book at first because I like a scary story now and then and I LOVE FOXES! I read it and it is now one of my favorites!! The stories progressively get creepier and creepier each chapter. It is a good book for the spook and animal lovers.

Stay tuned for more storytellin’ and carol-singin’!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Special #December #Podcast Series! Blondie Shares #TwelveDays of #MiddleGrade #ReadingRecommendations: Foxcraft: The Taken by @Inbalinka

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’ve always been thrilled to see how much my three little Bs love to read, but it makes my heart melt to hear my daughter Blondie say she wants to do a podcast with me to share her favorite books. When I said we could make a little “12 Days of Christmas” style series in December, Blondie whipped through her books and picked twelve for us to study. She even designed our banner with her favorite fantasy creature. x

So here we are! I’m blessed to have such amazing kindred spirits in my life, and I am so very blessed to have a daughter who loves storytelling as much as I do.

On the seventh day of Blondie’s Books, my daughter gave to me:

Foxcraft: The Taken by Inbali Iserles

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

Why did you pick this book, Blondie?

I found this at a library and the only reason I picked this book was that there were foxes (my favorite real animals) and magic. This now is one of my most favorite book series of all time. I strongly suggest readers read this book. It’s VERY hard to put down this book when you start reading it!

Stay tuned for more storytellin’ and carol-singin’!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Special #December #Podcast Series! Blondie Shares #TwelveDays of #MiddleGrade #ReadingRecommendations: Catalyst by @sarahbethdurst

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’ve always been thrilled to see how much my three little Bs love to read, but it makes my heart melt to hear my daughter Blondie say she wants to do a podcast with me to share her favorite books. When I said we could make a little “12 Days of Christmas” style series in December, Blondie whipped through her books and picked twelve for us to study. She even designed our banner with her favorite fantasy creature. x

So here we are! I’m blessed to have such amazing kindred spirits in my life, and I am so very blessed to have a daughter who loves storytelling as much as I do.

On the sixth day of Blondie’s Books, my daughter gave to me:

Catalyst by Sarah Beth Durst

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the player here.

Why did you pick this book, Blondie?

I first found this in a bookstore looking at Wings of Fire books. The book cover looked interesting, and I couldn’t decide on a WOF book, so I got it. I’ve loved it ever since. There are funny tidbits that Durst adds that I just love in this book! I encourage all to read this book and maybe you’ll see animals a little differently.

Stay tuned for more storytellin’ and carol-singin’!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

Special #December #Podcast Series! Blondie Shares #TwelveDays of #MiddleGrade #ReadingRecommendations: Endling: The Last by @kaaauthor

Welcome back, my fellow creatives! I’ve always been thrilled to see how much my three little Bs love to read, but it makes my heart melt to hear my daughter Blondie say she wants to do a podcast with me to share her favorite books. When I said we could make a little “12 Days of Christmas” style series in December, Blondie whipped through her books and picked twelve for us to study. She even designed our banner with her favorite fantasy creature. x

So here we are! I’m blessed to have such amazing kindred spirits in my life, and I am so very blessed to have a daughter who loves storytelling as much as I do.

On the fourth day of Blondie’s Books, my daughter gave to me:

Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate

What does a reader experience in those opening pages, and what lessons can a writer take away in studying but a few paragraphs? Let’s find out!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the player here.

Why did you pick this book, Blondie?

At first, when this came out and it was on a library shelf, I just picked it up and thought, “It has a dog on the cover and the story sounds interesting. I guess I’ll try it.” Little did I know that it soon became one of my favorite series! It turned out to be full of interesting plot twists, suspense, scary moments, heartwarming scenes, and sad parts. This book series is full of all of these and much more. I really enjoyed reading this!

Stay tuned for more storytellin’ and carol-singin’!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!